Two girls. Two plus years of friendship.

One store devoted to making life a little more bearable.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Gifts to reduce the waste, increase the love...

I will confess that I am what my mother generously calls a "gracious gift giver." That means that I want to find the very best, most perfect present for the ones I love--and even the ones I just know. A great deal of energy goes into producing these perfect gifts. A G*R*E*A*T* deal. Why do you think I am so tired all the time?
The best gift that anyone can get oooh and ahh when I reveal the gift that I have either:
a) Scaled Kilamanjaro
b) Sold my left kidney
to procure.
Not really, but you get the idea. I guarantee I have laid awake at night wondering if I did the right thing and I have probably cried anguished tears of self doubt, knowing that whatever I bought, made, scaled a mountain for could have been more perfect if only I had thought about it a little bit harder and cared a little bit more.
I have just described one downside of the condition. The other is that I kind of expect other people to care the way I do, so when I open a random gift of lima beans or mustard-colored wellington boots, I am more sorely disappointed than any self-respecting adult should be. My attitude is something like, "Yes it is the thought that counts. Where was the thought?"
This is a disease.
I believe it is hereditary, but not contagious.
You should be fine.
In this holiday season, I am working on worrying less, buying less, using less.
My family will not be receiving an assortment of gifts, each wrapped in coordinated papers chosen specifically for the person by considering their tastes, age, and what they wanted Santa Claus to bring when they were three.
They will be receiving gifts of use--most handmade, many of them things that used to be other things. WHETHER THEY LIKE IT OR NOT.
And how could they not with options like these:

Lorena Barrezueta creates these containers (and lots of other shapes and sizes) from molds of take out containers and other disposables. I think they are brilliant and the perfect reminder that when we rely on a throwaway culture, we miss the opportunity for quality and color in these yummy glazes.

This darling print is by Arian. Is there any sweeter way to represent the principle of fair trade? I am dying to hang this in my office--but I won't blame you if you get there first.

Talking Squid made this purple pillow from recycled t-shirts. I have mentioned before that my husband likes to wear his until they fall from his back. Now he knows that even the scraps can be useful. And in this case, they can accent a chair beautifully.
He may never give up his old ts.

And speaking of t-shirts, look at this darling reversable(!!!) dress for baby by Texas North. It is made from recycled adut t-shirts and solves the age old problem of the spare outfit--at least in some cases. Brilliant!

Proof enough that lots of things can be reinvented...even my Christmas consumer additude.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A new me

On the 26 thousandth day of Christmas, my true love (the computer) failed me and I couldn't keep up with the daily features. But now we are both back and how.

I thought maybe it was too late to offer you any buying advice. However, judging from the hopping nature of our etsy store (thank you thank you, one and all!), people are still buying holiday gifts. You might ask why I am surprised. After all, I have a long list left to buy and I started in APRIL. Yes APRIL. In fact, the first Christmas gift I bought this year was also the first thing I bought on etsy and the beginning of the journey toward a Love & Squalor store that keeps me up late at night--in a great way. Here was my inaugural purchase:

It is from a series of photographs by Alicia Bock, entitled Sing a Song of Distant Shores and in about a week it will be given to my brother-in-law, who lives near and loves a very distant shore. I am not a fan of the beach, but this photograph makes me want to love the things that do not come natural to me--like open, empty, boundless spaces, like salt and light and golden skin, like fearlessness and grit and solitude.

Tonight I had every intention of writing a blog about gifts that recycle, that make new. But as soon as I saw this photograph again, I was made new. I was transported. And on the 26 millionth day of Christmas, when my list of things to do and buy just surpassed neverending, I needed the renewal. And the grit.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

For the RECORD, these are great gifts...

On the sixth day of Christmas, my true love gave to CDs. That's right. These lovely gifts are made from those things called records that some of you may remember. If you were not born in after 1991, like most teenagers. (Seriously, i don't feel that much older than I was when I was seventeen. Well, my internal monologue hasn't changed much. But I must be older because I was born when Mr. Rogers was not only alive, but only middle aged.)
But back to our regularly scheduled program. Each of these little beauties is made from an old record. Just look what incredible things a creative mind can do with a piece of vinyl. Music lovers, I think the words you are looking for are "shock and awe."
Love the vintage, toile-ish feel of this cuff in combination with the more rocker vinyl base.
Definitely know a couple of people for whom this combination is heaven.

Aren't these the height of cool?
I am imagining my teenage brother-in-law, a university student who is very sweet AND the height of cool (seriously, he's 6'5''). Wouldn't these look great with snacks on his coffee table during parties? Wait. He is in college. What do you think are the chances that he has a coffee table? Or party snacks?
What time is it? Same time as always. Time to ROCK n' Roll.
ooh an added bonus, check out this fab listing by Retro Grandma. Now this little beauty knew Mr. Rogers when he was just a boy.

Retired Records
I've said it before and I'll say it again, but this is A-MAY-ZING.
I don't think there is a better gift for the connoisseur of music--or wine. Again, I am reminded of my in-laws. They know lots about all the stuff I know nothing about. I may know how to recognize cool, but like this wine rack, they just know how to be. And that is cool.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

What a Card! (a brief pseudo-diversion)

Okay okay. It looks like I have abandoned my holiday gift guide march to Christmas day. But looks can be deceiving. In reality, I am providing a gift for those of you (read: me) who might have yet to send (read: purchase) holiday cards for your nearest and dearest (read: the thronging masses.)

It turns out that on the 5th day of Christmas--this girl realized that she had better get it in gear if she wants to update the whole world on her comings and goings this year AND offer warm wishes of love and happiness. Or the thronging masses could start reading this blog.

On to the guide...

I have loved this card for ages. I have been waiting for the holiday season so that I could feature it. That is how much I love it.

I found this card when I was in the etsy forums, offering people the opportunity to be featured. I had lots of people respond. Heidi's "Tonttu" card, featuring a Finish version of a Christmas elf, was love at first sight. I can't ever resist pig-tails.

Kiss 'n Tell Handmade Correspondence

What an appropriately named shop to be selling this mistletoe card. Love the sentiment. But this one goes to a more discriminating audience. My darling husband--yes. My aunt Edna--no.

Pepperina Press

Pepperina press is a perenial favorite here. Love the colors. Love the sentiment--though cold, it ain't, here in Austin. Love the whole image!


Because some years you feel like a grinch. Some years you don't.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

For those who are feeling a little KOI...

You know who you are. You don't blink. You bat your eyelashes. You aren't shy. You're koi. I mean coy.

Have you ever seen something like this?

Because some babies are shy and some babies are koi.

Elyssa & Heather

Okay, I know this is a shark, but it's a pretty cute shark and that is a feat in itself, no?
The scales are added individually!?!

Amy Giacomelli

Simple, elegent, a bit of a suprise....koi.

Monday, December 3, 2007

For the foodie (or anyone who enjoys eating sweet treats)

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me... felt food, of course. My two-year-old nephew loves to "cook" and grocery shop. I have included some things he might soon find in his cart or his kitchen.

And then, I also feature some meal related jewelry because...well, it caught my eye. Personally, I don't have anyone to buy a utensil bracelet for but I do so hope that someone does. It's awesome.

Posie and Me

Mermaid Sparkle

(I l*o*v*e the vintage button "frosting" on this brooch)


(this one is richard, the vegetarian's, favorite. yay for veggie pitas! yay for felt pitas, too!)

And finally...

Told you it was awesome!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

For the PRICKLY people in your life...

On the second day of Christmas... our holiday gift guide suggests gifts for the more prickly people you know. Be honest. You know who we're talking about. Everyone has a somebody in their lives who is just a little bit...spikey.
Hope you enjoy!

Zesty beads

Mary Ink

Sleeping Forest Studios

The Black Apple

(Don't you love a diptych?)

Saturday, December 1, 2007

L & S Inaugural Gift Guide

Welcome to the Love & Squalor inaugural gift guide. In the spirit of the old advent calendar my sister and I loved when we were kids, we'll offer you a few treats for the 24 days leading up to Christmas.

Today, gifts for your Golden Girl:

Willarie: a modern take on children's clothing

Sojourn Curiosities:
wearable journies of the mind, body, and soul

Modern Printed Matter

and finally, our inspiration for this first edition: the original Golden Girls

that's right, all four lovely ladies are here thanks to Kezzaroo

Monday, November 19, 2007

E.A.S.T. is Eden

The East Austin Studio Tour or EAST took place this weekend and it was fabulous. (Yay Austin!) I thought that nothing could top STITCH last weekend, but EAST is a horse of a different color.

First of all, it is organized so that you can wander through neighborhoods in East Austin and peek into more than 70 different working artists' studios. They work in every medium you can imagine. They are organized. They are messy. They work on scrap paper. They tear whole sheets. They are funny. They are deadly serious. They are artists.

Of course, STITCH had artists too. In fact, I saw these slip cast ceramic cups (in an alluring rainbow of colors) at both events. But I think the thinkg about EAST that is fascinating is that you get to see the work and the artist in its natural habitat, that is the studio. There are no booths or tables neatly wrapped in brightly coordinated tablecloths. EAST is not a fair or a shopping experience. It has the grit of plaster and sawdust. It tastes like charcoal and oil. It smells like sweat.

In a city that is "divided" by geography (and economics and the color of skin and a sense of culture), it felt radical to walk the neighborhood and wave at everyone we met. In a country "divided" by so called culture wars, it felt radical to celebrate art while drinking beer in lawn chairs. EAST was just a little bit of heaven on earth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

S*T*I*T*C*Hin Good Time

This weekend (yes, I know it is Wednesday. yes, life is occasionally a little overwhelming.) I attended the Stitch Austin Guerilla Craft Bazaar at the Austin Convention Center.

Like lots of people I know--well, lots of etsy people--I am trying to complete a large part of my holiday shopping by buying from independent artists and sellers. Like lots of etsy people I know, I have been trying to talk up this plan with friends and family who are yet to catch on to the handmade revolution.

Stitch was heaven for an independently minded buyer.

Not only was I able to procure a He-Man necktie for Katie's brother (will definitely post pics if ever i get my hands on any), but I was also G*I*V*E*N TWO awesome bumper stickers, one for me and one for Katie, that said:

Don't blame me, I voted for Etsy and My handknit sweater is an honor student at

I have a very well loved car that is currently completely free of embellishments. I think that one of these is an appropriate first. I will pass the second one along to someone else who loves etsy--and drives all over town.

Another highlight was when I met Fort Cloudy in person.

Well, actually, I swung by her booth, told my husband, "Oh my god, that is Fort Cloudy. I recognize her from the etsy forums," hid behind him like a I was that a kid who is both scared and excited to see the cool babysitter coming, and finally browsed her racks. He had a nice conversation with her about her participation in Stitch and other craft bazaars.

Fort Cloudy had a wonderful assortment of garments for grown ups and little people. I particularly liked the bibs for babies with an imagination. Fort Cloudy has the ability to create an image that is almost cliche--and then completely upend one's expectations. The perfect example is the mer-bunny on the bag pictured. As Fort Cloudy says in the listing, "Don't let his fangs scar you. He's swimming his way right out of the seaweed bed and into our hearts."

The whimsical embroidery was refreshing after seeing lots of (admittedly amazing) silkscreened tees. The He-man tie had totally depleted my budget for the evening, but I have a feeling that I will be back by the etsy store sometime soon to complete my Christmas shopping.

Rarely does my husband express interest in a piece of clothing. When he does, I have to seize on it--and seize on the chance to replace any one of the holey (or is it holy?) t-shirts that he has been wearing since he was 12. Just kidding. Of course, I can't get rid of these treasures.

I guess I will just have to learn to S*T*I*T*C*H.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Quickie...

Players: A young man and woman. They are married.

The Scene: a family room filled with "well-loved" furniture. The whole room has a broken-down, lived-in look. The girl inspects a package that has just arrived. She opens the outter box.

Girl: (Gasping). I think that this box is from Tiffany's.

Boy: Really? Who sent it?

Girl: (reading a small card) It's a belated wedding gift from K----.

Boy: Well, that's nice.

Girl: (holding the signature blue box up, marvelling) Seriously, I don't know that I have ever seen anything from Tiffany's in real life. Not ever.

Boy: (shrugging) Well, I guess I better put this frito bag down before I touch it, huh?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Confessions of a Methodist Princess

Things at Love and Squalor Designs are changing dramatically.

(It is okay to gasp.)

For nearly three years, Katie and I have worked together (some of the time in a tiny cubby hole that we shared with three other people) and it has been an experience full of love--and squalor too.

It was not "love at first sight" if you will. (Not like the other person I am married to, see post below) In fact, I was terrified of Katie for the first several weeks that we worked together. I avoided her and even went out of my way to schedule my lunchtime so that we would never happen to run into each other in the cafeteria and feel compelled to sit together. (I am a nice person, really. See additional post below about possible anxiety disorder.)

Like a scene stolen from a great chic flick, I found myself trapped at a lunch table with her and to my great surprise, I found one of the great soul mates of my life. We work long hours together. In fact, at the end of one 80 hour week she did say, "I have absolutely nothing left to tell you about. You are caught up on my whole life. I have to have a chance to go out and live a little bit more, just so we have something to talk about again." She laughs at the same stuff--actually, she's much funnier than I am. Maybe most importantly, she cries about the same things. Her heart breaks over the same tragedies. And she has been the best kind of friend.

Last week, I left our shared workplace.

I will be working for the United Methodist Church. I'm a double preacher's kid with a sister who is applying to seminary too. Richard calls the church "the family business" and likes to say that I'm a Methodist princess instead of the Mafia type. Starting this new job is a wonderful opportunity for me.

Also it has a kick-a** title--Director of Congregational Excellence. Doesn't that sound a tiny bit like a euphamism for the inquisition?

To celebrate my new role, I bought myself some beautiful notecards from Natural Historie.

They feature two gothic spires and a rose cathedral--the likes of which Richard Wilbur wrote about when, in his poem For C, he described consolation as, "'A Passion joined to courtesy and art, which has the quality of something made, like a good fiddle, like the rose's scent, like a rose window or the firmament."

The masters who built cathedrals used stained glass to tell the wonderful, mysterious stories of their faith. They built those gothic spires to show the world their passion and their skill. In the detail of their art, they captured something celestial here on earth.

Personally, I think everything in Natural Historie (and its companion blog, A Field Journal) is pretty heavenly too.

As for my confessions, here they are:

  • I hate pot luck dinners. I can't stomach any kind of mayonaise salad. I'm not even in love with fried chicken. This is difficult because Methodists love pot luck dinners. The more mayonaise salad, the better.
  • When I was a kid, my sister and I always fought on our way to church. Often, we still do.
  • My dad always asks my opinion about his sermons. Then he tells me why I am wrong. It's our Sunday tradition.
  • I am really glad to be leaving my old job.
  • I am really sad that I don't see Katie every day.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

At First Sight

The following ad appeared in the most recent edition of the "shot in the dark" section of the fabulous Austin Chronicle :

Library Help?

@ Pinnacle campus, you were tall slender

with english accent in library.

Had trouble finding a book.

I was studying by the window.

We met eyes before U caught the lift.

Fancy a coffee sometime?
You: man. Me: Woman.


I happen to know a tall, slender English guy who studies at the Pinnacle Campus for his teaching certificate. He was at the library on the date in question. And here is the clincher...he often has trouble finding things!

Now, some women might be threatened by the fact that their husbands were just "called out" in a personals column. Some women might worry. But not me. I ooze self confidence.

And I *also* happen to know that my husband has never fancied a cup of coffee in his whole life.

Seriously, though, I know that Richard wasn't making eyes at this poor girl. And I do feel for her. In fact, I know exacty how she feels.

When I met my husband, I knew immediately that I wanted to be with him for the rest of my life. He stood in a doorway, wearing jeans and a yellow t-shirt. He was indeed tall and slender with a beautiful accent. I loved him at first sight.

I spent this morning thinking a little about the woman who saw my husband and liked him enough to write a shot in the dark ad. I spent the morning thinking (and shopping) with love at first sight in mind.
I found this pair of hedgehog hair clips at Meeting Street Designs. Their names are Harry and Heidi and it was love at first sight--according to their maker.

I love Heidi's lipstick and flowery hair bow--or is it quill bow? As my sister and I often quote, "a lady needs a few things." Even a lady hedgehog. I think that any little lady would be lucky to own these darling hair clips.
Next, I ran across Annie and Olive, an adorable shop with an adorable name. I love everything in this store, but particularly liked the idea of the Surprise Heart listing. Annie and Olive list a number of small heart pendants, some in pretty paisleys and others in bright corduroy. Purchase this listing and Annie and Olive will send you a heart in a surprise style.

I just love this idea. On one hand, it is such a romantic notion--the surprise of a unique gift sent just for you, a small heart winging its way from another part of the world. On the other, it seems quite practical. Anyone who has loved another person knows that each heart is full of surprises.

Even married people find something new in each other sometimes.

When I read the ad seeking Richard out to him, he hugged me and said: "Me: man. You: woman in my arms. Fancy a life together?"

I met him and it was love at first sight. I followed him across Western Europe to win his heart. Now, that we're married I know that I would go to the ends of the earth. And so would he.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fight like a Girl.

Gentle Readers,

Perhaps you've wondered where I have been recently. Perhaps you have even missed me in my absence. Or perhaps you did not notice the absence. If indeed the latter is true, resist the urge to tell me so.

I took a break from blogging last week to start spending some free time AWAY from the computer or the television or any other appliance that could be enjoyed by sitting down. I got up and got moving.

Here is the proof:

Let me remind you that exercise does not come easily to me. I am neither lithe nor limber. There are no long, lean muscles in my arms or legs. In fact, I am fairly convinced that the strongest muscles in my body at the moment are indeed all found in the seat.

However, this month is Breast Cancer Awareness month. (Yes, I am catching the tail end of it, I realize, but unfortunately my powers of organization are about as well developed as my tricepts. Besides, breast cancer awareness may be highlighted each October, but it is a subject serious enough to warrant action year round.) Lots of studies suggest that moderate exercise decreases one's risk of breast cancer dramatically.

One more reason to tie those tennies and hit the pavement.

Please note that my newfound (nearly week old) commitment to exercise did require several new outfits, including the one pictured above--appropriately pink, I think!

In fact, shopping is another great way to fight Breast Cancer--one that comes much more easily to me than a couple of sets of jumping jacks.

Lots of great etsy sellers have created special listings with profits going to Breast Cancer research and treatment.

I bought this art card from Stiletto Heights:

She did a series of several for charity and I was lucky enough to grab this one. I love the vintage screen queens--like Garbo and Monroe and Hepburn (both of them--actually) and this original art card really captures their glamour and mystery so well. This card is even more beautiful in person. I can't wait to frame it. If only this exercise would lead me to that kind of hourglass figure!

Nevertheless, any good workout ends with a nice cool shower. This soap by Kopah is the perfect way to scrub down for a cure.

This soap is appropriately pink grapefruit scented and couldn't be a prettier reminder of the need to be aware. I love grapefruit and after sweating it out at the gym, I really appreciate a fresh clean scent. I think these are the perfect way to pamper yourself just a little! Oh and don't forget that just before or after a shower would be the perfect time to do a self exam.

Finally, I want to highlight Paws For Beads--a shop that typically donates profits to animal welfare charities, but which has created the following ornament for Breat Cancer Awareness. I love the gold leaf!

Is there a more beautiful way to remember that Breast Cancer effects women in all places, at all stages of life, in all the months of the year? I don't think so.

In all the Halloween hoopla, I hope you don't forget to hug the survivors in your life and hit the pavement (and the stores!) for your own health.