January 31, 2012

Snapshot: 2

my first car on the day I sold it / july, 8, 2009

1986 Chrysler LeBaron convertible.... turbo... in sparkly copper. It hasn't been the same without you baby!

January 30, 2012

DIY: Poodle Chandelier

Meet my "Poodle Chandelier", an easy DIY for transforming any (low heat) light fixture... if you're the kind of girl who likes a fluffy and fun pendant- like me!

When we moved into our current apartment/ home a few years ago there was a lot to love. It has been well maintained with much of the original 1920s detail and character, but there was one tiny superficial thing that I knew right away was not for me. The brass(ish) chandelier in the dining room. I'm oddly obsessive about little details and I started fixating on replacing this light fixture before we even moved, browsing through catalogues and online shops looking for the perfect thing that would bring a fun flare to the space. Sadly our budget was totally tapped by the move and there wasn't any wiggle room for a light fixture or the electrical work of installing a new one.

I brainstormed ideas for how to work with this existing cheap brass fixture (spray paint, knit some kind of "cosy", ribbon) but the idea I kept coming back to which would convert the chandelier and wouldn't even damage it was wrapping the whole thing in pipe-cleaners.

Sounds crazy- right? Big Smith thought so too but I could not be stopped. I went ahead and ordered a bunch of inexpensive white jumbo chenille sticks (aka giant fuzzy pipe-cleaners) and, at 7 months pregnant, I stood on the dining table and meticulously wrapped the whole lamp from head to toe.

It was very easy but it did take some time and patience (and a bit of arm strength to hold them up over your head for the better part of an afternoon). There is no glue or tape so it's perfect for renters or anyone who is timid to commit to trashing their current lighting. 

I started with the arms, wrapping tightly from center of the light out to the "candle" and tucking in the loose ends whenever I ran out of a section of pipe-cleaner. Next I did the body of the fixture working from bottom to top. Finally, I wrapped the whole chain chord and coiled the end of a length of pipe-cleaner around the brass rosette on the ceiling totally covering all of the brass. My original chandelier also had little brass (plastic) covers on the tops of the "candles" and I removed those as well for an all white look.

 The final result is fluffy, silly, and I think it makes a beautiful and unique centerpiece to our dining/ play room. Guests have compared it to a parade float, a bouquet of flowers, and a bunch of cobwebs but I'm sticking with poodle-as-light-fixture. I love it so much that I have no more plans to upgrade!

January 28, 2012

Fishy Fever

I keep hearing about everyone being pregnant. It might be one of those things, like when you decide you like a saffron color and then suddenly it seems to pop up everywhere. It's just being drawn to notice what is already percolating in your brain... or in this case my heart. 

Little Smith had a playdate on Friday and my baby mama friend told me she's ten weeks, my cousin and best friend is twenty-two weeks, several women in the toddler classes I take have bellies bursting with second babies. I posted about this a bit previously, but more so than ever all this baby talk (plus my little boy growing out of babyhood) is giving me some serious baby fever!

As much as my heart says baby, I don't think we're quite ready for one (giant sigh). Big Smith asked me if I'd settle for a new fish... and yeah that's a pretty crappy consolation, but I like any new pet so after a lazy morning at home we headed to the pet store.

Little Smith is funny when he's in a new environment. I sometimes worry that he clams up when there's other kids around or with lots of stimulation. I could tell he was enjoying watching all of the birds and fish but he gets very serious. He did a lot of pointing and brow furrowing but zero smiling.

Since there are two designers in this marriage, making a decision, even on a fish, always involves far more discussion that the situation warrants. We finally settled on a Red Velvet Swordtail... which is exactly the same type that we already have.

I wanted LS to stay awake so that he could watch the fish get released into our tank. He got a new ball to occupy him and we talked loudly and pointed out all of the cars and trucks but we lost him about five minutes before pulling into our driveway.

Big Smith sat in the car while he slept and I went inside and had some tea and leftovers... and peace. Peace is rare and wonderful and I had to remind myself how much fewer of these quiet moments I would have if once I have another baby. 

The new fish is settling in nicely and already making friends. Little Smith loves staring at them so they actually come in handy when we need a change of pace (which happens a lot in this wet weather).

fish gazing... woah!

Yes I am still aching for a baby (yeah... didn't think a fish was going to do much for that yearning). But as corny as it sounds, having a low key day like this where I can be with my little family and also have some time to myself does make me realize that I should enjoy what I have in this moment.

I'm a project person, finding happiness in the moment is not easy for me, but I do have something like that right now. LS is asleep after a good day and Big Smith is reading with the cat. I'm finishing this post, pouring a glass of wine, and making a vegetarian version of this for dinner. Tomorrow I know my mind and heart will still reach to find what's next, but for this moment I do have what I want.

January 27, 2012

Indulgent Macaroni and Cheese

I consider myself a healthy eater so most of my favorite recipes don't start with twelve ounces (yes twelve ounces!) of cheese. Every once in a while though I like to indulge in some comfort food and since I grew up as a vegetarian my number one comfort has always been some bubbly macaroni and cheese. My rule about food is that I try to make most of it myself from scratch so that even if it's fattening, I know it's coming from real food and not fillers. Who knows if it works but I feel pretty good eating this mac and cheese... no guilt here!

Macaroni and Cheese: adapted from Linda (my food mentor!)

for the bechamel sauce:
  • 3 tbs butter
  • 1 cup minced onions
  • 3 tbs flour
  • 2 1/2 c milk
  • peppercorns, thyme, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, salt
for the dish:
  • 3 c bechamel sauce (above)
  • 1lb pasta
  • 4oz parmesan
  • 12 glorious oz grated fontina (or cheddar or really most other cheeses)
  • 1 c buttered bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper to taste
Boil water and cook pasta, set aside. Tie the herbs and spices in cheese cloth and steep in the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat stirring frequently.

Mince the onions and saute with the butter until they're very soft. Stir in the flour and cook two to three minutes. Stir in the hot milk and whisk until smooth.

Grate the cheeses (to make grating easier freeze the cheese for twenty minutes before grating) and set aside.

Butter a casserole dish and layer 1/3 of the cooked pasta, 1/3 of the fontina and parmesan, and spoon 1/3 of the sauce. Repeat using all of sauce and cheeses. Mix bread crumbs with melted butter and sprinkle over the casserole.

Bake at least 20-30 minutes until golden brown at 350 degrees.

I like to serve this dish with a green salad to balance the richness of the cheese. I'm enjoying some leftovers for lunch and it's delightful. Little Smith has rejected every pasta I've given him but never met a cheese he didn't like so I thought this would be perfect...

Nope, not a hit. He'll stick to black bean and peas thank you!

January 26, 2012


We had another one of those crazy warm days where it feels more like spring is around the corner than the dead of winter. I was tired but I knew we should get outside since so many days are too cold to venture out and being housebound with a toddler (when your house isn't that big) is challenging.

We drove into Cambridge to a park by the river. It's across the street from the apartment that I lived in for eight years when I first moved to the city. I was on the fifteenth floor and had an amazing view; steeples of Harvard buildings, the Charles river, and this park.

Our park routine is pretty well established, we head straight for the swings, I plop Little Smith in one of them and we swing... and swing... and when it's time to get out he cries and reaches back, hoping he'll get a few more pushes. It usually works.

I lifted him up and tried to pull his legs through the openings in the rubber saddle, but this time he flailed and started crying. I gave him a few pushes and he still cried. I lifted him out and we stood for a moment watching another little boy on his own swing.

We walked over to the area of soft foam rubber where water sprays from a pole in the summer. Little Smith got down and stood holding onto the pole. Then he started walking, exploring the limits of the park, going in circles. He's gotten better and better at walking each day so this wasn't really new, but somehow looking at him all on his own, away from me in this open space, making his own decisions, it all felt very different from where we've been.

It's not just that I'm surprised that he's growing up and things are changing, although I guess it always does surprise me how fast it all happens, it's that we've been so connected this past year. I've been lucky to be home with him and we really haven't been apart so far. At home he's been crawling then walking free for months but out in the wide open world he's clung to my side. I carry him. I push him. He's part of me. Now I can see that we're two separate people. He's running in circles in the park and I am standing alone, watching, separate.

Little Smith turned fourteen months this week and this month has without question brought the most change. He learned to walk, he is talking more and expressing more of his own thoughts and desires. I'm incredibly proud of him and excited to watch as he grows into himself and apart from me, but as much as it's beautiful and natural, it is also painful.

He toddles to the edge of the park where the fence separates the grass from the swings. He reaches for the wrought iron rail and falls forward, hitting his forehead and sliding to the ground in tears. He's only a few steps away and I scoop him up in my arms. He clings to me and stops crying. We're separate, but we're still together.

January 25, 2012

House Tour: Dining / Play Room

Welcome to our Dining Room / Play Room where we spend much of our time, especially on dreary winter days. We are somewhat challenged for space and we needed to find a way to make our dining room also work as a play area for Little Smith and a storage space for his growing collection of toys. It's funny that we use the most formal room in the house as a play space but it gets used far more than it ever did before! It's my favorite room because it has wonderful light so I enjoy spending time here as does Little Smith. I really wanted to preserve a functioning space for us all to eat together in addition to play and at least for right now, this room accommodates both perfectly.

The house was built in the 1920s and I love all of the paneling and the built in china hutch in this space. I enjoy a mix of traditional and modern design and since the room itself is quite traditional it's fun that the furnishings are so clean and simple.  The overall idea was to be playful and bold but without much color so that our favorite dishes (on display in the hutch) and all of the toys would contrast and provide bright pops of color.  The paint scheme is crisp but also conservative; woodwork is all painted a bright white and above the chair-rail is a muted historical blue.
left: large toys are stored along the far wall, the chandelier is a DIY project  right top: the high chair by Bloom sits at the head of the table and swivels to take advantage of the view  right bottom: the glass and metal table slides out to double in size for larger gatherings 

I've actually had the table and chairs for a long time. The plastic chairs designed by Phillippe Starck get mixed reviews for comfort but they're definitely more comfortable than they look! Actually they work better than ever now because they can be stacked and put off to the side to allow Little Smith crawl and roll under the whole table.

The chandelier is a DIY project that I tackled last year and I'll be posting on that in the near future. It's a fun and unique focal point that people either love or hate- I love!

The china hutch is my baby where I display my favorite dishes and vases. I change them out every now and then but I enjoy seeing all of the color behind the glass doors. We use the drawers below for silverware and table linens, plus the occasional puzzle or toy.

top: the built in china hutch houses many favorite colorful dishes and serving pieces  bottom left: two rows of hand blown glasses (the all blue are a wedding gift from a Vermont artist and the multicolored were purchased in Venice)  bottom right: vintage childrens' dishes and vintage berry casserole and custard bowls handed down from my mom

The curtains are a simple sheer white from Target a few years ago. I love that they let in tons of natural light and you can actually see through them to the view beyond, but they do screen out some of the direct sun and soften the room at night, plus Little Smith enjoys hiding behind them.

We recently got the toy storage cubby at Ikea and I'm so happy we did it before the holidays when we got so much more stuff! It's basic but it works well for Little Smith to get out toys he wants on his own. Generally he dumps everything out across the whole floor so it's great to have bins to throw it all back in at the end of the day. Large toys are lined up along the opposite wall and luckily we don't have too many for now.

a collection of favorite children's toys are displayed on the top of the toy cubbies just out of reach - for now. clockwise from top left: vintage wooden car which was mine as a child, vintage candy dish with letter blocks,  most toys are stashed in cubbies and bins (beyond chairs) at an accessible height , vintage nesting blocks gifted from cousin Kamy

The floor tiles are the typical foam mats you see in most day-cares but we got them in charcoal gray and white which is somewhat unexpected. We were worried about keeping the white clean but I think the gray almost shows more food. They do need to be cleaned frequently since Little Smith is a food flinger.

All of the wall art are black and white prints of pin-hole photographs by Big Smith aka James. He builds his own site specific pin-hole cameras and I hope he will do a post in the near future about his work because it's amazing!

the palette is intentionally muted in black, white, silver, and blues to contrast the brilliant color of the toys and dishes. clockwise from top left: glass and stainless steel table, pin-hole photography by Big Smith aka James, antique silver fish gifted by aunt Linda, plastic chairs by Phillipe Starck for Kartell and floor mats by Great Mats

As you can guess, this room is not always this tidy. There's often stacks of mail on the table or hutch and lots of toys all over the place, but I actually find that it's pretty fast and easy to pick up everything and enjoy Sunday breakfast as a family or a cup of tea at nap time. It's a room that the whole family enjoys. Thanks for taking a peak inside our home!

January 24, 2012


I teach on Monday nights. It's just once a week and since it's at night Big Smith is able to get out of work early enough to be here by 6PM (if you knew how much he works you'd know this is a miracle!) and put Little Smith to bed so that I can get to my class in Boston by 7PM. I get home very late and it makes Tuesdays rough, but it's a good thing to be forced to look presentable and get out of the house at least once a week.

I also just love teaching, the students are enthusiastic and hopeful about architecture and design and it helps remind me of why I wanted to be in that world in the first place. It's easy to lose the love for something once it's your job, even in a field where loving it is pretty much mandatory. Now that I'm not working (outside the home... I hate that expression) things are a little different and it's more about staying connected than curing a jaded outlook. Either way it feels like an honor to introduce a classroom of people to new ideas and images that will change the way they perceive their environment.

Since I do most of the thinking, writing, and sorting through pictures for these blog posts at night, being out of commission on Monday and generally exhausted on Tuesday makes a Tuesday post too tall an order. I could get really organized and plan in advance but that's just not me- yet. I've seen many places where people take one day a week to post a single image so that's my new Tuesday plan.

I'm going to post a single image from past or present, probably with the date, maybe with a caption or even an explanation if I just can't help myself! Here we go:

honeymoon: telluride, co / july 5, 2008

Yes, we went camping on our honeymoon and it was honestly one of the best trips I've ever taken... ahhh memories!

January 23, 2012

Pushing Snow

We are those annoying people that like the snow. Yes I know that the beautiful white dusting which makes everything look new and fresh only lasts a few days before it's a slushy, muddy, or worse yet icy mess. It's worth the trade off when you see the whole world transformed in an hour. Snowfall is one of the few things that still feels like magic even as an adult.

Big Smith is borderline obsessed with snow. He's very into skiing so I'm sure that's where the fixation started, but as long as I've known him he has a running tally of how many inches have fallen and where. At first it was cute, then annoying, and now I've made peace with his snow reports and it's just a part of life.

He was so excited to get Little Smith out in the storm this week-end. They both got bundled up and went out to our backyard to play... but it didn't go well. Little Smith HATED it.

not so much of a snow bunny 

He cried and generally looked miserable until finally everyone gave up and he came back inside to hang out with Mama. He dried off, sulked for a bit, and then decided he was pretty happy to be warm and yell at the cars out the window from his high char.


I know that Little Smith is just a baby and everything is new to him so there's still hope that he'll grow into an appreciation of winter weather, but it did get me thinking about all of plans we make for our children and how often those actually work out. I guess dreaming about a life full of adventure with our imaginary kids is what it took for us to make the leap to have one, but now that this real kid is here he's his own man and he might not be anything like either one of us.

It's exciting to watch him start to have opinions and I can't wait to see more of who he's going to be. I'm realizing that it's likely that nothing we imagined will actually play out, at least this first year has been more full of surprises than boxes checked. Embracing the unexpected makes for a pretty good adventure of it's own though!
independent man

Our snow has already turned ugly and after having the third round of "debates" with Big Smith over the heat (he likes to save money and wear a hoodie and I like to have a warm house and a barefooted toddler) my fondness for the winter months is being challenged. Hopefully I can keep the love alive through February and then coast into March. Stay warm!

January 22, 2012

Deconstrucion of the Graphic

You may have noticed that I added a little colorful graphic to my blog title. It's nothing special and I primarily did it because I was frustrated trying to work the spacing out in blogger (the web world is a mystery to me) but I thought I'd share my process.

I went to graduate school for architecture at MIT. This experience scarred me in a number of ways but one of the leftover injuries is that I can't look at anything with a simple aesthetic objective. Everything has to have meaning and be rationalized in some way. In the old days I would have gotten out my watercolors and just painted some streaks (ooh, fun!) but now everything involves a thesis and some head scratching, regardless of how silly.

My idea here was that I wanted to do something with children's blocks (corny symbolism about transitioning from architecture to raising my kid) but I didn't want the end result to look too literal so that this corny symbolism wasn't so obvious. I also love color so I picked some of my favorites from Little Smith's block collection. These ones are made by Djeco.

I tried out a bunch of ideas but decided to keep it simple and set them up in a line on Little Smith's high chair since that was where the light was best. He's helping me out as you can see.

After shooting the blocks from a bunch of angles I settled on an overhead view that I liked best.

I thought I might want to keep the shadows so I used Photoshop to crop, adjust, skew, and erase bits of the image. I also obviously flipped it upside down.

The shadows weren't doing much for me so I ended up just clipping around each of the blocks to give me a clean outline. I also didn't love the colors so I modified them a little by adjusting the hue and bringing down the Saturation.

This result was "chunkier" than I wanted and still was too clearly blocks so I squished and stretched the image, still in Photoshop.

Then I sat around for a while copy and pasting the individual blocks to make the image wider. There was no rhyme or reason here (luckily graduate school didn't cook all of the fun out of me) and I just played with the composition until I liked it. Here is what I ended up with.

It's kind of an elaborate process for something so simple but the process is my favorite part of any project and Big Smith was brewing a batch of beer so I had some time to waste. Enjoy the rest of your week-end. We did get out in the snow finally but when I post the pictures you'll see that it really wasn't a big hit :(