winter survival

February 17, 2014

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photos:
1) grapefruit cookies i made for valentine’s day
2) a bag of grapefruit cookies and chocolate for a friend
3) the sun! reflected in a puddle at gallop park
4) shopping for my niece’s baby shower, so many adorable baby clothes
5) love these baking cups, they also make little colorful, cardboard loaf pans that you can bake in
6) my sister made this…i have incredibly talented sisters
7) the huron river from a bridge at gallop park…see? winter really can be beautiful

Ann Arbor consistently makes it into top ten city lists: best places to live in the US, best drinking water, best college town, best cities for aging, best city for singles, best place to raise a family, happiest cities in the country (we’re fifth!). (If you want to learn more about Ann Arbor rankings, check out this 2012 article from annarbor.com: http://www.annarbor.com/news/ann-arbor-often-placed-on-top-ten-lists/)

This past week we made it onto another top ten list, Ann Arbor was ranked the sixth snowiest city in the U.S. Gah! I like snow, I do. I love the change of seasons. I love the first flakes. I love the beauty of a snow covered landscape. When I can finally talk myself into running outside during the winter, I do love being out in it.

But we have had more than what we’re used to this winter. We are exhausted from cleaning the sidewalks and driveways. We have ice dams on our roofs that threaten to leak into our houses when they thaw. Our city streets are getting narrower and narrower as snow accumulates along the sides, and I am starting to get annoyed with my neighbor who parks at the end of my driveway, making it difficult to get out due to the snow build up in the street.

I don’t want to be irritated with my neighbors and I’m tired of the cold and the gloom. I’m tired of having cold feet and shoulders hunched against the cold. I’m tired of layers. I’m tired of the dry heat from the space heater in my office. I miss the sun.

Surving this winter without being an obnoxious whiner baby, or continuously grumpy, has been a challenge. I have fb friend who is ceaselessly gleeful about the snow. I thought maybe trying to change my attitude about the snow to be more like Julie’s may help. I tried, for about a week. “Oh the lovely snow!”, “Oh good, more snow!”, and then no. I couldn’t keep it up.

I’m really very tired of the snow.

So now I’m working on the distraction survival technique– keeping as busy as possible so I don’t have time to fret about the snow. So far, it has been mostly working, except that since it is winter break for the public schools this week, my fb newsfeed is full of sunny photos from Florida and Hawaii and today’s forecast? 4-6 more inches (10-15 cm).

Gah!

motawi tileworks, ann arbor

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I have been aware of Ann Arbor’s Motawi Tileworks for years, and thought I was familiar with their work. But I have also confused them with Pewabic Tile/Pottery of Detroit. Perhaps because Newal (pronounced somewhat like Noelle, I think). Motawi trained, after art school, at Pewabic.

I associated Motawi with earth tones, trees, landscapes and was so surprised when I looked at their tiles on their website. Motawi is so much more. Their colors are often vivid and I learned last week that they experiment with new palettes often. They have partnerships with the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, Charley Harper, Yoshiko Yamamoto and with Louis Comfort Tiffany design.

Most of their designs are original, such as this swallowtail, this koi pond, and this tile titled, “tropicana.” I love the tiny black birds.

Motawi sells installation tiles as well as gift tiles (that include an indent in the back for hanging). They also have a weekly 11am tour, which my friend Cath and I attended last week. The tour was wonderful and included the history of Motawi, as well as the Motawi Tilemaking process, and ended in the “seconds” section where prices are greatly reduced (seem to be 50% off).

I was surprised to see how many different people work on each and every Motawi tile. I counted 6 from start to finish, and that doesn’t include the design work.

I really loved the amazing tile fireplace pictured above. It was designed for, and installed at, an Architectural Digest conference.

Our tour was a little crowded with about 15 people, but we were told summer tours are usually quite full, with many out of town visitors in each group.

It was fun to get out and learn more about my this local business that produces nationally known tiles, and to see an artist making a living at her craft.

I did not end up buying any tiles; there were just too many to choose from and I have to decide where I want to hang them. Cath purchased the tree tile pictured above.

I can’t wait to visit the gift shop, and the seconds shop, again soon!

My photos don’t do the tiles justice. I think the best photos are on the Motawi Tile facebook page. Or, even better, you can see Motawi tiles up close and in person at galleries all over the US. See their list of locations here.

If you’re interested in more information on Nawal Motawi, read this great Ann Arbor Observer article from 2011. (It includes a cautionary business tale.)

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photo 111: great depth of field

photos:
1) massimo vitali beach photo
2) helen levitt street photos (so love her photos)
3) john pfahl nature photos

I started writing about my photography class in past posts, and never finished, like so many projects in my life. Sigh. The class ended April. So I thought I would go back to those posts.

There were 12 assignments, I have written about 3 of them (I skipped assignment 3, panning motion, because my photos were so boring and terrible…):

photo 111: assignment 1, he is the eggman
photo 111: assignment 2, stop motion
photo 111: assignment 4, shallow depth of field, and not so shallow barbie

Great depth of field was not one of my favorite assignments, because it required photographing a scene with everything in the photo, from fore to rear, being in acceptable focus. I just couldn’t come up with a scene I liked…It was January in Michigan and everything was dull and grey. Plus, getting the light right was difficult. As I said, January, Michigan, and I didn’t have a tripod at the time.

I posted some of the photos I took for this assignment in one of my earliest posts, snow day. The photos above are much better examples. To be fair, these photographers have pretty amazing cameras and lenses…

When shooting for great depth of field, you need to use the smallest aperture (f-stop) your camera allows, usually f16 or f22. Small referring to opening in the lens, which is a greater number because it’s really a fraction 1/16 and 1/22. So f22 is a smaller aperture then f8. So confusing!

Since you’re using a small aperture, it’s best to photograph on a sunny day so you have enough light. You don’t want to use a shutter speed any slower than 1/60 because that will make your photo fuzzy, unless you use a tripod.

Or you can just point your iphone and click and be happy.

The only classmate photo for this assignment that I can remember was of a tree line across a field of snow. The trees were tall, slender and dark and in nice contrast to the white snow and light grey sky. At first, I thought it was a black and white photo, but no, January in Michigan.

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I credit the British ready-to-wear brand Boden, with luring me out of the dark. Truly. I spent most of my adult life wearing mostly black, every day.

My sister was in the same rut. She realized it was a problem when she and her 2 year old daughter were lounging in their pajamas one morning until my sister finally said, “Time to get dressed!” and her daughter replied, “Yes, time to put on your black clothes, Mommy!”

Haha. Yes, my niece is brilliant. She doesn’t miss a thing.

Somehow I stumbled across Boden a few years ago and I’m hooked. Color, pattern, style, quality and detail. Sometimes items don’t work, no matter how badly I want them to, but return shipping is completely free, and there is great feedback from buyers to help you decide on a purchase and a fit before purchasing (something that, annoyingly, J. Crew does not provide on its web site).

I receive compliments on most every item of Boden clothing I wear. I am not exaggerating. I was once getting out of my car and a woman walking her dog yelled across the street to me, “I love your skirt!” Even something as simple as an emerald green cardigan gets compliments.

I always thank those giving the compliments and tell them about Boden. Few have heard of it. This is a fairly small town, but not THAT small…David Byrne was just in town performing for heaven’s sake. But it is not the most fashion conscious town, which I actually like. It gives a girl a lot of flexibility.

I shop for Boden online because I hate shopping in person, but I know Nordstrom’s carries Boden. I don’t know about any other US stores.

They also have the great kids clothes under the brand of mini boden.

Boden is pricey for my income…I’m putting a child through college and another one is soon to follow. But I do try to get a few items each season, which I wear over and over again. If you join their email list, you can get promotional pricing. I just bought two tops at 25% plus free shipping.

This is one of the tops. I love the color and pattern and neckline, but the fit was odd. And I’m not crazy about the fabric. Stiff, thin cotton. I’m returning it (for free) and trying it in a smaller size to see if it remedies the fit issue. I wish it was a knit fabric, but I just love the color so I’m willing to try again.

This top I am keeping. I love it for it’s cut and comfort and funky colors. I may get another in a different color.

I am now lusting over the Boden autumn collection and thinking perhaps college for my children is unnecessary…KIDDING!…mostly.

(Boden is NOT compensating me in any way for my praise—though I so wish they would…in clothing!)

Do you have brand that you love for style, quality, uniqueness? Please enlighten this small town girl!

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photos:
1. mangos
2. blik eames decal
3. charles and ray eames © 2011 eames office, llc
charles and ray Eames “pinned” by chair bases, 1947, as seen in american masters charles & ray eames: the architect and the painter.
4. converse sneaker made with lucienne day textiles
5. nigella lawson’s old fashioned chocolate cake

My son finished his exams Thursday and christened the beginning of summer by having friends over for a fire in the backyard to burn homework, and to roast hot dogs and marshmallows. (Though earlier in the day he said, “I miss school already.”)

The Ann Arbor Summer Festival started last night. Three weeks of free outdoor concerts, food stalls, late night outdoor movies and many other amusements. I noticed they added some free outdoor yoga classes starting at 5pm on the lawn adjacent to my office. Maybe…

There are also free noontime concerts on Thursdays a few blocks away from my office, Sonic Lunches, sponsored by a local radio station. UM graduate Darren Criss was the star of the most recent one. I wanted to go, but didn’t want to wait hours to get in the door of the Michigan Theater. Most concerts are outdoors and not so well attended. But Darren Criss is now a superstar, having conquered Broadway and now starring in Glee. He also wrote and starred in “A Very Potter Musical” which he created while a student here. Such a talented guy. He has quite a fan base here in AA.

In addition to a free-for-summer child who loves school, the start of summer and the anticipation of the AA Summer Festival, also making me happy this week include:

1. Mangos. I didn’t like mangos for a long time due to my experience with some with stringy texture years ago. My brother had me try one a few months ago and it was amazing. Love them. But still need to learn how to properly cut one…as it is now, my hand turns into a sticky, slimy mess and much of the fruit is left on the stone.

2. I have some Blik decals on my office walls, but I may have to replace them with these decals based on Ray Eames textiles. I’ve been thinking about the Eames lately as they are featured in a current exhibit on modern design at the Cranbrook Institute where they met. I plan to attend at the end of the month.

3. Converse sneakers made with Lucienne Day textiles make me happy. But it makes me unhappy that I discovered these years after they were produced.

4. Nigella Lawson’s Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake that may daughter I made this week. I was in the mood for cake. She was in the mood for chocolate. It was better the next day after having been refrigerated.

5. Have you seen these Openculture videos on the Bauhaus, Modernism and American Design?

6. Six Words You Should Say Today, from the Hands Free Momma blog. I love simple suggestions for better parenting. As my sister said, filing this one away with the other important scripts! (One of the best scripts was given to me by my friend, Suzanne, who told me to practice saying over and over again, “I’m sorry, but that would be just impossible.” The period at the end was the most important part.)

7. Libby Callaway’s home featured in the Selby. I probably couldn’t live here, too much going on. But I love looking at it. I love that she’s taken a pretty modest house and really turned it into a spectacular and unexpected space. So much to love here, the chevron rug, the closet, the clothes…though, I’m no fan of antlers, bones or dental casts…

8. Convos with My 2 year Old: Episode 3
Not as good as the first one, but it did make me laugh

Happy weekend to you!

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photos:
1. random photo of ant mural in ann arbor, on the back side of the now vacant borders building. did you know borders books originated as a single book store in ann arbor? in this town where brains count more than money, you were revered if you worked there…with your 3 phds, making less than minimum wage…because in order to work there you had to pass an impossibly rigorous literature test, or so i’m told. i miss borders.
2. the nasturtiums are starting to bloom.
3. the homemade gelato truck that we are going to lojack, for both the truck, named ingrid, and for the gelato.
photosource: annarbor.com (see direct link below)
4. played with these this last saturday. two robotic prosthetic hands, one with the fake flesh off and one with it on. kidding. only one robotic hand, the other is a real one…that we are going to attach to a robot. kidding. it’s just zach’s hand and we are going to leave it on zach, which makes him happy.
5. the basil is growing!

1. My friends and I are going to lojack this ice-cream truck. I want the truck almost as much as I want the homemade gelato that is sold from it. All local ingredients. I want to try the sesame fig and the salted caramel flavors. I will keep you posted on our success.
http://annarbor.com/business-review/hello-ice-cream-ann-arbor-entrepreneur-launches-italian-style-ice-cream-business/

2. From the Onion. This made me laugh because it is so much my life right now! “Man On Cusp Of Having Fun Suddenly Remembers Every Single One Of His Responsibilities.” The photo is the best.
http://www.theonion.com/articles/man-on-cusp-of-having-fun-remembers-every-single-o,32632/?utm_source=Facebook&utm_medium=SocialMarketing&utm_campaign=standard-post:headline:default

3. I guarantee you will smile—the fashion, the dancing. I want to be there. As I said in a comment to shutterbean.com today, I call being the woman in the orange extra bell bottom flowing pants– I call her hair, her clothes and her moves. And you?
http://www.good.is/posts/how-to-dance-properly-to-daft-punk-s-get-lucky

4. It’s graduation speech time, and here is one I love. I think his sentiment about realizing you don’t know anything so keep your mouth shut,
but sometimes you do, so open it up,
applies to old folks like me as well as those graduating infants.
http://www.upworthy.com/obamas-speechwriterstand-up-comedian-gives-a-graduation-speech-not-surprisingly-its-badass?c=ufb1

5. A teacher friend posted this on facebook. Teachers who got the last laugh. You have likely seen it by now. My favorite is the teachers who took selfies on a student’s confiscated iPhone…tee hee hee
http://www.buzzfeed.com/jessicamisener/33-teachers-who-got-the-last-laugh

6. I don’t know much about Viola Davis. I have not seen one of her movies. But after viewing this Elle magazine Women in Hollywood award speech, I have decided I love this woman. I love strong women who reach back and reach out. Plus she’s beautiful. I could never give such an eloquent, fearless, compelling, seamless, off the cuff speech.
http://www.elle.com/video/viola-davis-women-in-hollywood-speech-video-1226838796001

By the time you read this, I hope to be on the road on my way to northern Michigan. It won’t be very warm, but still, being on Lake Michigan will make me happy in any weather. I hope you have found bits of happiness this week– if not, hugs to you.

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I’m not sure where this week went. You know exactly what I’m talking about. It was just Friday and here is Friday again, and a holiday weekend.

“Boo” to time going so fast; “Hooray” for the holiday weekend.

Some things, in addition to a holiday weekend, that are making me happy this week:

1. Hats by Pooka Queen, to rival any worn by princesses at royal weddings.
This California based artist is an Ann Arbor girl making a name for herself in the west coast fashion world, and soon the rest of the world. It is hard to say which is more beautiful, the art or the artist.
Visit her web site and etsy site for more exquisite pieces including hats, jewelry and accessories.
http://www.etsy.com/shop/pookaqueen
http://www.pookaqueen.com

2. I hate shopping for pants. I even hate the word, “pants”. That whiny short “a” sound. It’s grating.
It’s difficult for me to get a good fit and one that doesn’t emphasize features that I would like to de-emphasize. BUT, this is the happy part, these Banana Republic Sloan Fit slim ankle pants work for me. I ordered them in a long so they are just slightly longer than those in the image above (I’m 5’9″). I wondered about returning them for ankle length, but my daughter says no, the longs make my legs look very long, so I’m keeping them.

3. I don’t have a lot of time for watching television, but, Arrested Development – SUNDAY! I am nearly giddy about it. (If you don’t watch, this where to find the never nude)

4. I had dinner with my former mother’s of daughter’s group this week. The group was put together by a clinical social worker, who led the monthly discussion of parenting daughter issues and eventually grew into parenting of daughters and sons and marriage therapy and personal therapy…whatever we need to talk about. This group, these women, made me a much calmer (I didn’t say “calm” I said “calmER”), better parent and helped me through some very difficult situations. I started attending when my, now 19 year old, daughter was 5. We stopped meeting a few years ago when most of the daughters had graduated from high school. Oh how I miss this group!

5. Convos With My 2 year Old video on youtube. I’m looking forward to more. Funny…and creepy.

Happy weekend to you!