Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Mountain Morning

Every year sometime toward the end of September I have a little ritual. It involves me, a crisp autumn morning, my favorite mountain park, and my journal.

I come here to reflect over the year, and to think about the future.

Some years I have big decisions to make, and I seek this park for the peace and quiet it offers--a chance to get away from my computer and cell phone and just listen to my heart.

And listen to the rushing mountain river, too.

This year I didn't have decisions to make, per se, or even big goals to set for the future. Mainly I just sat in the sun and rested.

I thought about what I've journeyed through over the past 12 months or so, and where I'm headed.

And I'm not sure if it was the beauty of the scenery, or the fresh quality to the mountain air, but up in that canyon I had the wonderful sense of new beginnings, like a turning of the season. A clean slate. A clear morning.

Needless to say, it was a good way to start the day.

What introspective insights do you have this fall? Share your comments below, or email me at

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Just because I recently graduated from the Institute of Fine Living doesn't mean that I'm finished converting old relics into new fall favorites.

For instance, do you remember this sweater? I blogged about it here.

As you can see, it has gone through a transformation.

Because this is what it looked like before. Perfectly plain, which is all fine and well. But boring. Very, very boring.

Boring, that is, until the stripes happened.

And the buttons.

And a snip-snip down the center (I'm quickly on my way to turning every sweater I have into a cardigan...).

This is perhaps one of my favorite fall projects thus far. And it cost me $3.00 (for the buttons). If you recall, this is a $96 savings from the J.Crew sweater that inspired this design. With the added bonus of being a) good for the environment (reUse!) and b) a fun and creative challenge.

Furthermore, this latest success in converting what I already own into trendy new fashions has me eager to keep searching my resources for buried treasures just waiting to be discovered. Because this process is more than just an attempt to stay in style. It is part of a lifestyle of mindfulness and innovation.

Naturally I have more to say on this latter point, but I'll save that for another post. Right now I'm going to go enjoy my new sweater.

Previous Related Posts:
A Dollar Saved
Mine, Only Better

Monday, September 28, 2009

Day 28: Institute Review

This was the last morning of Mrs. Marple's 28-day course at the Institute of Fine Living, and I couldn't help but get a little nostalgic about the past four weeks.

To put it simply, I got in touch with my feminine side. maybe I was already in touch with it. But I Really dived in this time with all of the fun projects...

...and cooking lessons...

And pink with more pink.

I know that I'll take many of Mrs. Marple's lessons with me going forward, like her reminder to drink morning tea out of fine china on a Tuesday just to make an ordinary day special, and her constant coaching about how to use the resources we have to make new and beautiful things.

And even though the class is ending, she gave us one final assignment, which was to create a project that showcased our best work from the Institute. A project, she encouraged, that will remind us of what we've learned for weeks and months to come.

I have just the perfect thing in mind.

And I can't wait to share more about it soon!

Thank you, all, for joining me during this month-long course. And thanks to Mrs. Marple for being such a good teacher!

See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Day 25: A Dollar Saved...

One of my favorite sayings of late is actually an old adage. An adage that I hadn't heard until recently, and now can't get out of my head. It says:

A dollar saved is easier than a dollar earned.

So when I saw this Adorable cardigan in J.Crew's fall collection
(by the way, I think Everything in J.Crew's fall collection is adorable. It's probably a good thing we don't have a store around here!), I wondered how I could get my hands on one while still abiding by the adage.

If you guessed that I started rummaging through my closet, you'd be right. It just so happens that I've been hanging onto this merino-blend bland beige sweater for years. And every season I wear it less and less.

You might notice
that it is conveniently the same hue as the J.Crew cardi.

Next I located my yarn/tapestry needle, which you can find at almost any craft store.

Then I raided my yarn stash in search of a color for the stripes and came across this gray ball of scrap yarn that I've probably had for 7 years. It is too scratchy and...well...acrylic to make anything of substance with. But it's perfect for embellishment!

Never one to trust my ability to eyeball a straight line (although believe me I've tried many times, always with disastrously crooked effects), I decided to measure and tape off a line for my first stripe.

And yes, I know they have all of these wonderful products
like tailor's chalk and washable fabric pens...but I have found that many, many solutions can be uncovered using masking tape.

I guess that kinda makes me
like one of those guys who lauds the perfection of duct tape. Anyhoo...

It was time to start the striping. Normally when stitching onto a knitted fabric it is recommended that you use a v-shaped stitch to match the original weave.

But I'm a rebel,
so I went for a straight stitch instead. Fashion purists be warned!

So far I've worked my way across the front of the sweater, and a portion of the back. And the whole time I was stitching while watching the new Office episode, my husband was watching me.

Finally he said "is it really worth it?"

To which I replied, "Why yes--it's precisely $98.00 worth it."

Truly a dollar saved is easier than one earned.

Stay tuned for show & tell of the finished cardigan, coming soon!

Previous Related Posts:

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 24: Trendy

Normally I'm not really the trendy type. But lately I've seen all of these beaded necklaces strung with ribbon...

...and then layered with other necklaces like pearls and stones and golden beads. And I want the look.

I want it bad.

So I raided my bead box. Yes--I have a bead box. In my opinion every woman should have one. Like a hair dryer. And a toothbrush. They're that important.

And lo and behold, I found just what I needed. Wooden beads from an old necklace that was precisely the Wrong length--perfect for stringing into precisely the right length.

So I snatched some black ribbon (also a household staple in my opinion...) and started to string, tying knots between each bead to give them a little breathing room.

Voila! One ribbon-beaded necklace that I can tie around my neck (with the option of altering the length depending on my garment's neckline--a bonus of ribbon...) whenever my heart pleases.

But now here comes the fun part. The layering part. What would black beads on black ribbon look good with? I asked myself.

Why, pearls and gold, naturally!

And so I layered them all together and now am officially the trendiest girl in the house.

Okay, so I'm the only girl in the house.

The tricky part, of course, about being trendy is that what is "in" today will almost certainly be "out" next season. This is why I'm growing even fonder of Mrs. Marple's advice about repurposing what I already own. This beaded update cost me nothing, which means that when ribbon-stranded necklaces go out of fashion, I won't be mourning money lost.

And I'll probably find a new way to use those beads.

Previous Related posts:
Pretty Things
Five Things I'm Loving This Friday
Creative Hour: Turquoise Earrings

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 23: Mine, only Better

If there is one point about fine living that Mrs. Marple Really wants us to learn, it is that we probably already own just what we're looking for.

Like my pink shoes, for instance.

Since I'm wearing a purple and gold dress to an event next month (you've seen previews of it here), I definitely needed some fancy shoes to go with it.

So rather than head out to the closest shoe store,
I decided to see if I could upgrade something from my closet.

First I cut a few strips of purple leftover from the fabric I made my dress with, and trimmed the edges to resemble ribbon.

Then I applied some fray check solution to the edges because I'm way too lazy to stitch them. (Fray check is a sewer's best friend. As is stitch witch tape, the seam ripper, and anything fusible.)

Then I gathered along one of the sides like this, and sewed the folds together. What I had created roughly resembled a fan.

Then with MacGyver-esqe skills, I used an Exacto-knife, bobby pin and paper clip to create and attach the rosette (I promise that I'll write up formal instructions, minus the ad hoc paper clip, and provide them soon!).

And what I ended up with is my regular pink shoes, complete with a charming embellishment that coordinates perfectly with my new dress.

And with the purple shirt I'm wearing today.

And with my jeans.

Okay--so I may never take the rosettes off again.

Mrs. Marple would be proud.

**on a side note: I showed my creation to my husband, who promptly shook his head and said "who does that?", of course. And maybe you...

Previous Days at the Institute:
Day 17: Make it Work
Day 21: Upgrading the Ordinary
Day 14: Alterations

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 22: Show & Tell

I am happy to announce that I overcame my "motivational malaise" from Friday and finally finished my newest cardigan! Just in time for cooler weather--

Made from 100% merino wool, this is sure to keep me warm throughout the fall and winter.

And I love how versatile it is. I can wear it with layers and belts, and open or closed.

My favorite is with the belt. I love how the A-line swings out a little at my hips. (And yes--the photo is blurry. I tried to retake it, but then accidentally dropped my camera and broke it. That's right--it's broken. I guess you know what I'll be shopping for today...)

Anyway, back to the sweater...have I mentioned that the pattern was free?

I found it on Best Place on Earth for knitters.

Mrs. Marple was pleased that I finished it, although she wouldn't say it was her favorite project in front of the whole the class.

She didn't want to be rude to the other students. But of course I know it was her favorite. She'll tell me later, in private, I'm sure.

Any minute now she'll ask me to stay after class....

Any second now....

In just a moment...

okay...maybe you better not wait. Have a good day!

Previous Related Posts:
A Knitting Binge
Creative Hour: Golden Dangles
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