September 25, 2012

The Field Was Indeed Outstanding

Sunday was the perfect day for what has now apparently become an annual tradition: a dinner with Outstanding in the Field, a traveling dinner-on-a-farm extravaganza. It was beautiful, romantic, and completely delightful.

One of my favorite things about this event is that you form these intense four-hour relationships with the people sitting around you. There is no pressure to keep knowing anyone you meet and for some reason that really creates an extra intimacy. We had a totally wonderful conversation with the couple sitting across from us. They were lovely, funny people - and it is so pleasant to think of there being these great people out there in the world somewhere. Other fun company? These guys:

Or, rather, these guys:

Aren't they gorgeous? They are organically raised cattle from the farm next door... don't worry, we didn't happen to eat any of them.

With dessert came this moonrise, bringing with it a cloudless and chilly night. We quickly realized that we were woefully under-dressed, and had to scurry away to get some tea at the nearest coffee shop... where we promptly ran into our dinner companions who were doing the same thing to keep the cold away.

All in all? A perfect way to spend a day outdoors.

September 22, 2012

September 21, 2012


Lara has been playing with interior and exterior spaces in her artwork recently. Some of this is inspiration from the way her school's yearlong theme - castles - has tied into learning about perspective drawings in art class and thinking about space design as they transform their classroom into a reasonably functional medieval city-state complete with working drawbridge and moat at the door. (Incidentally? Man, I love that school.)

First, a perspective drawing of a super-minimalist room. It is so totally great, with its mix of detailed ink, patient and technically varied watercolors, and that hilariously wild zig-zag of crayon on the door (aka "I got tired of coloring everything in," which is the kind of refreshing honesty you would love to hear from, say, Rembrandt, and his whole "meh, I don't really feel like painting the hands" deal...):

I really love it - it's now framed and hanging in the office.

And now a series of row houses, which make me happy because, hey, this is what houses look like to a city kid - none of this peaked-roof-with-a-front-yard nonsense that is the only type of house ever illustrated in any book. I also like how the doors get progressively more functional - she is working on taking more and more advantage of the third dimension:

September 19, 2012

Office Redo!

So I think maybe posting about the desk lit a little fire under my posterior because - voila! - the office is now a happy little room:

The thought was to ignore the walls in terms of matching stuff and base the furnishings color scheme around black, white, gray, and natural (you know, like raw wood). The rug is a chenille-jute mix from West Elm that I have loved for the last year and am so happy about. And look - the little stump table has found its perfect place as a mini coffee table next to the futon. Some of the art above the futon is from our ongoing slow collecting and some is made by friends and family (including one from Lara, which I'll do a separate post about soon).

Just for comparison, this is what it started out looking like:

A cool Asian scythe from my sister-in-law's travels (thanks, Lex!), an old rusty metal document box, ceramic vase from a potter we used to practically buy out at the Lincoln Center craft fair every year in NYC, and a white textured tile Lara made in her ceramics class (have I mentioned that ceramics are a bit of an obsession around here?):

My stencil painting of Lara with her bike adds a pop of yellow on the wall next to the desk:

September 13, 2012

Hacker Hats Off

Thanks a bunch to the IKEA Hackers blog for featuring the desk I hacked! Man, oh man, has that site got some fantabulous ideas for cool mods.


Well, I finally did it. After being obsessed for months with the stump tables that have been popping up all over the place, I made one of my own from a free Craiglist log. Dare I say I am totally in love with this thing? Even though I don't really know where to put it in our tiny house?

Making it wasn't so much hard as time consuming and messy: lots of elbow grease, lots of patience, lots and lots and lots of sanding. Did I mention the sanding? There was quite a lot of it. But the thing is a beaut, so in retrospect it definitely seems worth it.

September 11, 2012

Hacking IKEA

Ok, I've been waiting and waiting for the office to be finished before posting it on here... and then I realized that it just ain't happening any time in the very near future. So I wanted to at least share my glorious desk hackery. Why glorious? Because for the first time ever, we not only have enough desk space, but we have a desk that isn't made out of IKEA particleboard! It's, um, made out of IKEA butcher block instead.

The combo? A 96 inch butcher block, a Vika Alex drawer thing that used to hold up my old craft table, and six Vika Moliden legs = the perfect desk.

I was worried about weight distribution because the butcher block weighs about 200 pounds, so I was originally going to use eight legs to hold it up. But that was super duper aesthetically displeasing, and I was psyched to remember that we still had that white drawer unit. So I put four legs in the back, two in the front, and anchored the front more with the drawers. The butcher block comes raw, since it's intended for kitchen use, so I sealed it with four or five layers of water-based poly. Also, all the cables and modems and surge protectors and things are hanging off the underside of the tabletop in the back, dangling from screw hooks, which keeps them off the floor and makes them nearly invisible from most vantage points in the room.

Next on the office-decor to do list is actually hanging all the pictures instead of just resting them on random surfaces in the room, and getting some kind of cover or something for the futon which will remain the guest bed for the foreseeable future. So, any camouflaging-that-old-futon tips anyone want to share?

September 9, 2012

Vacation IV - Wrapping up at Storm King

After a lovely visit to some dear friends and their new baby, we swung up to the Storm King Art Center, a ginormous outdoor sculpture park. Misha and I had been there B.C. (before children), but figured nature + good weather + giant metal sculptures = good time for everyone. Good call, us!

There's definitely a picture of college-age me oh so cleverly "lifting" this sculpture (Suspended by Menashe Kadishman) up from our earlier trip:

It's a cool feature of the place that the changing topography affects the way the sculpture looks. For example, we remembered this one (Spheres by Grace Knowlton) from before - except it was more than ten years ago, and back then? No trees.

It was really a wonderful day, even though we only got to see about a quarter of the place. We're making plans to come back in the fall to check out the foliage - and the cool landscape-based sculptures we missed. One actually looks a lot like those grass waves we saw in Cape Cod!

September 8, 2012

Summer Vacation, Part the Third

Ok, truth be told, I was a little apprehensive that Newport wouldn't be such a great place with kids. I mean - they're not exactly the stately mansions audience, you know what I'm saying? But, as it turns out, when you've got ideal weather, a beautiful beach, and really cool rocky ocean outcroppings, you really don't need anything else.

Our room was an awesome double-decker at the Harborside Inn - perfect since we could stay up and watch TV after the kids fell asleep in their little upstairs hideaway. Although I must admit that falling asleep every night at 8:30 like we did the whole rest of the trip certainly has its well-rested charms. Here's the view from above...

... and here's the view from our balcony. Gorgeous, ideal weather. Just amazing.

After that, just bleached sunlit rocks, dark water, and tide pools splashed with bright yellow seaweed:

Stay tuned to see us take in some culture in the last leg of our trip. Hint: an hour north of NYC.

September 6, 2012

What We Did After Boston (Part II of the Summer Odyssey)

Defying the chilly weather, we meandered down to the middle of Cape Cod. Our first stop? A thin sliver of beach on the north shore of the peninsula. Too cold for actual beach stuff - but just right for taking in the striking scenery.

The diffuse light, the stark colors - it just felt like we were on a film set somewhere.

So what do you do when the weather makes the beach look like the set of some North European drama about struggling fishermen? Well, if you're me, you plan ahead, book a hotel with a totally awesome indoor wave pool (pro tip: it's the Cape Codder), and then sit back and watch the kids go wild while your intrepid spouse braves the so-called heated pool water!

Dinner at the Black Cat in Hyannis. Ok, time to get controversial. We had lobster roll after lobster roll on vacation, and this place? Hands down the best lobster rolls in all of New England. And some pretty decent chocolate ice cream, apparently:

Actually, the picky-eater brigade mostly subsisted on grilled cheese sandwiches, but we didn't hear any complaints.

The next day we ventured out into the wilderness - or at least into the local salt water marsh preserve. And when I say preserve, I mean really preserve. On the actual marshes we walked on a little raised wooden platform that was straight out of that Bradbury story, A Sound of Thunder. The view off that platform? This amazing sea of grass that is covered with each high tide and so ends up growing into these dune-like wave-like patterns:

It's completely extraordinary, and we took endless photos of it. When I'm feeling deep and serious, this landscape totally acquires a moody Terrence Malick quality. But also, I can't help thinking of Woody Allen's Love and Death - "The wheat! The wheat!"

September 5, 2012

What We Did on Our Summer Vacation (Part I)

We drove around New England, that's what! The plan was to drive slowly, on scenic byways, avoiding the big roads. Honestly? I cannot recommend this enough. It was totally awesome. Check out this beautiful park we found in Connecticut off the Merritt Parkway on our drive up:

So first, a few sun- (well, ok, and rain-) soaked days in Boston, where we explored the Public Garden and its swan boats. Have you guys read one of our house favorites, "The Trumpet of the Swan"? Ok, seriously, run out and get a copy right now - it's the perfect mix of E.B. White's masterfully crafted sentences and a very sweet story about a mute swan who learns to blow a mean horn. One of the places that swan ends up? The Boston swan boats - so you can imagine the excitement of checking them out in person.

Check out this nice picture Lara took of the ducks (and see if you can pick out those white blobbies in the background - they are actual trumpeter swans!).

The Public Garden might just be my favorite place to go with kids on a nice day in "our fair city".

Green, full of climb-able trees, banked by ice cream trucks and balloon sellers - what's not to like?

Although just walking around the city is good too. Who knows when you might stumble onto a cool fountain?

But the best part was getting to see some of the far-flung family.

Thanks for the squash lesson, Uncle Max!

And thanks for being game enough to let the kids play baseball in your house, Tanya and Senya! You guys are braver than I am...

Stay tuned for more adventures, as we leave Boston and slowly drift south down the coast. Can you guess where we ended up next?