Artsy

Reclaiming My Time

My Facebook memory this morning was from last year’s New Years Eve Bash when I wore my favorite LuLaRoe dress and danced the night away and drank too much vodka and re-created Kim Kardashian’s best party trick.

Behold the many talents of the big booty.

Behold the many talents of the big booty.

This year’s was much less wild - bra was off by 6:30pm, romper and favorite sweatshirt were on, Chinese takeout was procured, and I was cuddled up on the couch with needlework and a Shaun the Sheep marathon with my kids until we stuck sparklers in potatoes in the backyard.

Life is beautiful and amazing when it’s a mix of wild and calm, loud and quiet, staying in and going out, acting up and slowing down. Being intentional with my time and thinking about how I want to really use it is something I've been thinking about a lot in 2017 and something I'd like to continue to implement in 2018.

My dear friend Rachel gave me this  Emily McDowell mug  for Christmas and I've been drinking everything out of it, from coffee to cocktails, because it's sentiment is so spot on for me some days.

My dear friend Rachel gave me this Emily McDowell mug for Christmas and I've been drinking everything out of it, from coffee to cocktails, because it's sentiment is so spot on for me some days.

There were a lot of important feminist moments in 2017 and I have several favorites, including this one. In what was arguably one of the most poignant political moments of 2017, Democratic Representative Maxine Waters spoke up to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin when she was testifying before the House Financial Services Committee in July. After he repeatedly spoke over her during her allotted period to intentionally run out the clock, she kept repeating over and over, "I'm reclaiming my time." It was recorded and widely reported and brilliant and meant so much more to all of us. Waters had been speaking out against the Trump administration for months before this and women all over the country had been applauding her voice and efforts, myself included. But this particular incident stood out because it resonated beyond this original context.

Like the Washington Post wrote soon after the incident:

Who among us, after all, hasn’t lost irreplaceable time to a uselessly meandering meeting, a pointless conversation or a draining social interaction? Waters’s phrase rang out as a rejection of that made manifest, delighting all of us who have been spoken over, ignored or had our time wasted by others. In a year studded with absurd examples of men interrupting their female colleagues, a dignified woman’s firm insistence on being heard and getting straight to business was a welcome and empowering surprise. And for many women and people of color, the phrase “reclaiming my time” felt particularly poignant, with the idea of reclamation specifically speaking to both the present and the past. Society has been wasting not only their time but also their voices, agency and potential — for years. Yes, there is the ongoing silencing and underrepresentation of women and people of color in boardrooms and business offices. But there are also centuries of being unable to vote, run for office or participate in public life. There are decades of enforced or de-facto segregation by gender and race.
Reclaiming My Time, 2018, cross-stitch in vintage hoop. I've spent the past few weeks stitching for myself and for a commercial gig and it's felt really, really good. This beauty is my own pattern and thus imperfect, just how I like my art. Lucky for you there are several cross stitch patterns out there if you want to stitch one yourself (including  this one  from my favorite Subversive Cross Stitch).

Reclaiming My Time, 2018, cross-stitch in vintage hoop. I've spent the past few weeks stitching for myself and for a commercial gig and it's felt really, really good. This beauty is my own pattern and thus imperfect, just how I like my art. Lucky for you there are several cross stitch patterns out there if you want to stitch one yourself (including this one from my favorite Subversive Cross Stitch).

2017 was the year I truly learned the importance of reclaiming my time. 2018 is the year I'm taking it seriously.

Here's to reclaiming my time from the internet trolls

Reclaiming my time from those who spend theirs tearing me down

Reclaiming my time from feeling shame over my cellulite

Reclaiming my time from feeling like an imposter

Reclaiming my time from those who expect my labor and expertise for free

From not asking for what I’m worth

From saying yes too much

Reclaiming my time from seeing unwanted penises and predatory sexual contact

Reclaiming my time from thieves of my joy and frauds and liars and fake friends

Reclaiming my time from what others think about me

Reclaiming my time from the guilt of motherhood

Reclaiming my time from diet culture and healthism

Reclaiming my time from other women’s internalized misogyny

Reclaiming my time from keeping up appearances

From striving for perfection

From pretending to be something I’m not

From exercising out of fear

From hiding my body to make others comfortable

Reclaiming my time in the sun and the dirt

Reclaiming my time in a bikini

Reclaiming my time in the kitchen

Reclaiming my time in the yoga studio and in the foothills

Reclaiming my time in the bathtub with my books

Reclaiming my time in front of the camera

Reclaiming my time by pausing and stitching and being still and moving my hands

Reclaiming my time in 20 second hugs

Reclaiming my time in my head and my heart

 

 

 

Write Your Own Obituary

Last summer I was asked by the Boise Public Library to teach a "write your own obituary" workshop for their November Death in the Library series. As you may or may not know, I have some unique qualifications that make me the ideal person for such a job. 1) I used to work with dead bodies at a funeral home in Oregon 2) I went on to study the history of American death culture in graduate school AND wrote my thesis on the architecture of the American funeral home 3) I was hired by Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis to give art historical walking tours and I continue to give walking tours around Boise cemeteries and 4) I'm a writer.

But most importantly, not on this list, I'm a human and I'm a mother, two things that have made me even more aware of my own mortality.

A week or so ago one of my favorite authors, Cheryl Strayed, wrote this status update on her Facebook page, inquiring about the thoughts about death from all her fans:

At what point did you start seriously contemplating your own mortality? I mean in a real way. At what point in your life--if you have indeed reached this point in your life (some of you likely have not and some perhaps will never reach it) did the actual, vivid understanding that you and anyone you love may very well die today? I walked around in a cloud of never-imagining until my mom died. And then--every single day since then, since I was in a kid in COLLEGE--I've had the ...active, present thought that I or someone I love might die today. Today. It's not a neurotic fear thing. It's not a horrible monster that rules my life. I don't make decisions based on this feeling. It's simply an awareness of a presence and that presence is the stone cold fact of our mortality. Is it weird to have this daily awareness or do you also have this daily awareness? Is this awareness unique to people who were close to people who died young? (It would in some ways seems so.) Do you have this feeling even if you've not lost someone young? If you're a parent, did this feeling come/increase when you became a parent? Does this post feel utterly foreign to you because you hardly think of your own (or anyone's) mortality at all and you think I'm a mad hatter? I'm curious. I've always wondered.

For me, becoming a mother has made me so aware of this tenuous line between life and death that we all walk daily. Like Cheryl, I don't obsess over it (usually....unless I hear sirens within the 10 minutes my husband has left our house to bike to work or my kids have left our house to walk to school two blocks away because I am a bit neurotic and anxiety-ridden and please say YOU DO THIS TOO RIGHT), but it's something I'm constantly aware of.

I have had two miscarriages in the past three years and I've written about them before, often during October, which is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Making and growing babies is a miracle, as all mothers can attest to. Things can go so wrong in such an instant and in so many ways, that we are the luckiest - those of us with children who are down the street at elementary schools and sleeping in cribs in the other room. Honestly, birthing my dead babies into a toilet felt more like giant chunks of my heart just fell out of my body and, maybe, to the rest of the world I could just flush it away but to me, it clings and swells and informs every moment of my life since. I imagine that's the case with all deaths of those close to us, and although people experience grief in such diverse ways, it likely informs every moment of life after.

My writing workshops in November were amazing and the most thought-provoking conversations came up, about how obituaries tell specific stories of our lives, depending on who writes them. If they are funny, is that trivializing the intense pain of losing someone and downplaying the ritual? If we gloss over the hard or negative parts of the deceased's life is that preserving a false memory? When a person is gone, do we care where they went to college or worked or do we want to read more about how they grew the most beautiful roses in town and changed minds with their activism?

I set a goal for myself to write my own obituary as practice before the end of 2015, but I was too busy living and enjoying life to sit down with pen and paper and take on such a serious task. But also? It felt so solemn and scary to write my own obituary at the age of 40. And then I started thinking that, as a writer and a blogger, I have put so many words out into the world at this point, and that those words - THESE WORDS - are a true testament to my life story. I am, in effect, writing my own obituary on the reg.

At the age of 25 I became the only female mortician's assistant to pick up dead bodies at night for a small funeral home in Corvallis, Oregon. It was as weird and dark as it sounds. In fact, it may be even weirder and darker than you could ever imagine. I recently told some of these sad and heartbreaking, gruesome and hilarious tales as a celebrity storyteller for Starry Story Night for the theme 'departure' here in Boise - a fun public storytelling event at the Boise Contemporary Theater. So, instead of writing my body removal tales, I'll let you listen, because sometimes actions speak louder than words and sometimes it's better expressed in spoken word.

And sometimes it's all of these things and moments and living so much life while always on the verge of death that makes us beautifully human. So whether or not you put fingers to a screen and write or stand in front of an audience and talk or hug your kids or run up mountain trails or knit fingerless gloves or bake cakes or fix cars, we are all writing our own obituaries.

Make yours one worth reading.

** It's about 15 minutes long and you might not want to 1) have your kids in the room and 2) be eating your lunch - just fair warning. You may also want to have a tissue handy, because the audience cried, and so did I.


Bind Them As A Sign, Fix Them As An Emblem

A few months ago I stood silently in a crowded marketplace in Boise, Idaho, in a black bikini, a blindfold, with a chalkboard sign at my feet and three Crayola markers in my hands. I said nothing, but you heard me loud and clear. My silence spoke to your heart and you stood up beside me and said, "Me, too."

I haven't erased the chalkboard since I hand-penned this sentiment four months ago and I just may never.
 
And then I started talking about that hour stand for self-love and telling stories about activists who came before me and the history of dieting and feminist literature and motherhood and sadness and joy and saying yes and saying no more. I've been preaching these things for years and writing about them here in this space, but now more people were hearing them, and media all over the world were sharing my story. The tales were coming out of my mouth and spilling onto the page. My words spoke to your soul and you kept reading and listening and said, "I've got a story, too."

Photo courtesy of Melanie Folwell Portrait + Design

One of my favorite posts from the media frenzy when all I could think was OMG THIS LIFE and FUCK YES.
 
Within three weeks of the video going viral my Facebook friend requests maxed out at 5,000. My Instagram followers have gone from 200 to over 2,000. The body positive community in the Boise Rad Fat Collective has grown from 30 to 730. The video stands around 130 million views at this point, making it indeed one of the most viral internet videos of all time. 

Illustration by a young fan and California artist Lexi Lozano, 2015


So many exciting things happened in 2015 to me, because of you. I got courageous and super brave and showed some vulnerability and you did, too. You have written me letters and emails and stop me in public restrooms and call out at the grocery store and share tears. You drew hearts all over my body that day in the market with my daughters' markers and later the sweat and tears and a warm shower washed them all down the drain, only not really. Those hearts have been etched into my own swollen heart and you kept sending them to me on the internet, in words and emoticons. I started drawing hearts with markers on my children each morning, and them on me, because the symbol has become such a powerful reminder of self-love in our home.


In October my friend and Presbyterian minister Marci Glass wrote a sermon about binding as a sign and talked about the mark making that people did on me that day in the market, and how I've continued the practice in my home with Sharpies and my children. That Sunday in church, she told her congregation beautiful stories, as she always does, some about historic body practices and tattooing and one of them was about me:

She said she has started drawing small hearts on her kid’s bodies each day. She says something to them while they eat their cheerios, something like “I believe in you” or “you are valuable”, “when you make a mistake you are still beautiful”. “trust your instincts”, etc.
 

She wrote that it is “something for them to look at while they are away from me, growing and leaning in to their own separate worlds from mine, and remember that they are good and strong and there is no wrong way to have a body.”

She said her children have started returning the gesture, drawing hearts on Amy and on her husband.

“Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

The author of Deuteronomy is asking us to do what my friend does with her family. It doesn’t have to be with sharpies or tattoos. It doesn’t have to be tefilin or prayer shawls. We are called, however, to take these words into our very selves so that we are changed by them.

That day in the market people wrote words, not just hearts, and, like Marci said in church that day, I took those words into my self so that I am changed by them. So, as a reminder, especially for those hard days when things are just HARD, this morning I had one permanently inked.


On this last day of an extraordinary year, a fellow Boise artist whose illustrations and tattoo work I've admired for a decade drew one small heart just on top of those stretch marks on the dimpled fat of my right thigh. A thigh that has never failed me through four decades as I have learned to stand up, walk, run, jump, and kick. A thigh that I exposed to the world in all its imperfections. A thigh that many people examined critically and felt the need to write horrid mean things about, but also that many people felt the need to write heartfelt warm things about. Here's to continuing to expose those thighs, our hearts, and our kindness - to ourselves and each other. I'm planning to continue the revolution in 2016 and I hope you'll join me, because I'm just getting started.

Digital artwork by Boise artist Amy Granger, 2015. She told me that the profiles behind me are the other women I'm inspiring to follow my lead, take my hand, and stand beside me, herself included. So she created this to hang above her desk as a reminder every day, and shared it with all her friends and fans so they could do the same, and I cried my eyes out. Again.
 
There are a few great lists out there written by some amazing activists with suggestions for personal resolutions revolutions in the new year, like this one and this one, with lots of great ideas. One very simple thing you can do for yourself in this new year is take tiny steps toward being more body positive and kind to yourself. And I've got just the place to help you find out how. If you'd like more education, more tips, more kindness, and more love, I encourage you to ask for an add on Facebook to the Boise Rad Fat Collective. And if you're already there (thank you!), add just one friend who you think is ready for more positivity in their lives, who is ready to begin living with an open mind and heart.

Photo courtesy of Melanie Folwell Portrait + Design

I'll keep writing and talking and standing, if you promise to keep showing up. As the uber-talented Caroline Caldwell said so eloquently:

In a society that profits from your self-doubt, liking yourself is a rebellious act.

2015 was spectacular. Let's keep going with the rebellion in 2016.

Get Off

I never thought the day would come when I'd be writing about erections on the internet, but I also never in my wildest dreams thought I'd become famous for standing in a blindfold and my black bikini in Boise in the name of self-love. Life is strange and amazing. And here I am sharing stories of boners and body shaming.

[photo courtesy of Melanie Folwell Photo + Design]
 

As the cumulative views of the video of my stand for radical self-acceptance in August near 130 million, making it one of the most viral videos of all time, the response to my courage and message that all bodies are valuable has been overwhelmingly positive. I've received thousands of emails thanking me for my bravery and compassion. Strangers have told me their stories of self-loathing and eating disorders, surgeries and sadness, joy and healing. The media and people on the street and new fans on the radio have all shared the same sentiment.

[One of my favorite Rad Fatty Merit Badges just received in the mail from UK artist Stacy Bias. Her body positive art celebrates the creativity and resilience of fat folks surviving stigma. ]
 
There have been, though, some people who have felt it their prerogative to share other viewpoints about my stand, my self, and mainly, about my body. The only negative feedback I heard during my hour blindfolded in the marketplace was the word "inappropriate" in reference to how I was dressed from one or two folks in the audience that August afternoon. I later saw in the photos and video footage some serious side-eyes from women giving me leery looks of disdain. The minute my blog post took off and the video reached 50,000 views and the local media picked up the story, though, things changed. Suddenly my story and images of my half-nude 40-year-old mom bod were EVERYWHERE. I was on national media homepages, websites, Twitter, Instagram and all over Facebook. And thus began the hateful vitriol. They made all sorts of assumptions about what kind of mother I must be, how smart I am, where I must be from, what I eat, and how little I obviously exercise and have sex. And most of the negative comments about my physicality have come from men.

Disgusting.
This is what an ugly ass fat bitch who needs to lose some weight looks like.
No one should be proud to have boobs on their back.
Feminists do look like that - fat, ugly and disgusting.
Her legs look like an old awful leather jacket.
What's wrong with her boobs? They're so saggy and look like she's hiding Oreo cookies in there to eat later.
Gross! She needs to keep that cellulite under wraps. She looks like an overripe pear.


Guess what, assholes? YOU JUST PROVED MY POINT.

Conversely, I also have attracted just as vile stuff in private messages, stating the reverse. Notes about how hot I am, how much they'd like to have sex with me or marry me.

I love your sexy legs.
Have you ever considered doing porn? You should, because you're a big, beautiful woman.
I've watched your video over and over and jacked off every time.
Do you have a boyfriend? Because I'd love to show you you're beautiful every day.
What man doesn't appreciate you? I'll help boost your self-esteem.
Girl, you damn hot.
I want to fuck your knees.
You shouldn't feel bad about yourself because you're thick and fine.

Guess what, creeps? YOU ALSO JUST PROVED MY POINT.

All of you who have responded to my performance art piece in these ways are part of the overwhelming majority of people in this country world who need this message so badly. You are, sadly, part of the reason I put myself out there in the first place. Regardless of how I'm dressed (or undressed), you have no right to shame my body.

I am not here for your lack of a boner.

Images of my body placed on the internet do not give you the right to make assumptions about me. This includes selfies, which are often misconstrued as vain and selfish, based on our misogynistic culture. They are especially a popular tool for self-acceptance and challenge the idea that we, as girls and women, need a justification to be seen. I am not asking for you to find me attractive, but I am asking that even if you don't like how I look, you don't deny me the respect of being a valuable human. Like fat activist Kath Read wrote in a blog post recently about this very phenomenon, many men only treat women with respect if they find them attractive.  It’s the Nice Guy phenomenon.  Those men who are only “nice guys” to the women they want to sleep with. Which leads me to this:

I am not here for your boner.

Nor did I stand half-nude in the market because I was desperate for a man to come and save me from my self-esteem woes. I don't need a boyfriend or a good lay or you to tell me that you want to bury your face in my big juicy ass. Not only do I not need it, I don't want it. Your messages are unappreciated and unwelcome, just like your asshole friends up above.

It's never okay to shame women for what we are wearing, or not wearing. Just like a little girl in a spaghetti-strapped tank top is not responsible for "distracting" little boys at school, a big girl wearing a bathing suit in public is not to blame for the bad behavior of big boys with a computer. Mini skirts are not "asking for it" and leggings are not "too revealing." This is not a new game, nor is it a new problem. Women's bodies have been objectified by men for centuries and, in fact, this is not my first experience with horrible male internet trolls, but it has been by far my worst. I have very thick skin and know that it's easy to make rude and unkind and irrational comments on the internet behind the safety of our screen. The horrible things written usually come from fear, lack of education, and self-esteem issues of the writer who is misplacing them onto me, but it still hurts a little. And it makes me angry and fired up.

Big boys all over the world would like to control what I, as a woman, do with my body. But I make the rules. I get the final say. And I will use my blog, my voice, my body, and my clothing (or lack of it) to say it.

[Another of Stacy Bias' Rad Fatty Merit Badges in my collection.] 
 

I glorify love. I glorify happiness. I glorify acceptance. I support health at every size. I support the fact that there is no wrong way to have a body, regardless of gender, age, ability, size, health or nationality. And that you alone have the right to sovereignty on what you do with it, put on it, and put in it. I glorify this one wild and precious life. I support this body.

[This Is What A Feminist Looks Like tee courtesy of the University of Idaho Women's Center]
 

And, since this album has been on repeat in my car for the past few months, it's become a bit of a soundtrack to a revolution, in my mind at least. So, as the badass P!nk says so succinctly what I tried to above:

I'm not here for your entertainment. And you don't really want to mess with me tonight.

Making Your Own Way

Nearly six years ago I got a surprise email from a woman I'd met only once before. She was the sister-in-law of a dear friend of mine, a fellow University of Idaho alumni, and a local interior designer in Boise. She wanted to meet for coffee and talk about a proposition. I'd recently been laid off from my job as a curator at the only art museum in Idaho. I was blazing my own trail and cobbling together the career that I really wanted, including being my own boss in the local art scene, a writer, and a burgeoning body positive activist. I'm always open to meeting new people and taking unexpected paths, though, and thought, why not?


I pride myself on having an intuitive read on people and a savvy sense, so after a long conversation over brunch at a little bistro at a garden nursery in Boise's North End, I knew I'd met my entrepreneurial match. Kristin had an idea - she'd seen a lack in the art and craft scene, particularly around quality holiday bazaars. I couldn't agree more, I said. Boise needs something a little edgy and indie and high quality. I think we should start one, but I need you. I've got the business experience and organizational expertise, but I need your curatorial eye and connections in the art world, she said.


A lot of research, organization, hard work, long hours, and creative sessions later, Wintry Market | Handmade for the Holidays was born. And here we are, celebrating our fifth birthday this weekend. Since the beginning, we have prided ourselves on hand-selecting our vendors for the best quality and diversity in one marketplace, while charging a modest booth fee and taking no artist commission. Kristin and I spend hours doing tax paperwork and making Excel spreadsheets and working with a local artist to design our poster each year. We write blog posts and Facebook updates and promote on the radio and craft press releases. Our assistant, Anna, is the creative genius behind our amazing website, where she volunteers her time. You'll see our husbands there up on ladders and our parents babysitting grandchildren and hanging signs and my 11-year-old daughter Lucy selling art at my booth, including embroideries she stitched with her own little hands. The behind-the-scenes work that goes into this successful local event is extraordinary and so worth it, as all the best small business endeavors are. Over 1,500 flock to our free event each November on the weekend before Thanksgiving and shop. They meet the artists in their neighborhoods and buy earrings for themselves and hand-crafted candles for their grandmas. Their kids hang out at our free art stations and snap photos at our photo booths and eat lunch at local food trucks in the parking lot.


Our very first Wintry Market was at Ballet Idaho with around 30 vendors one snowy weekend five years ago and we've grown to take over the entire historic El Korah Shrine with 63 vendors, both upstairs and down, and a full bar for your cocktailing pleasures. This year we're excited to partner with the Boise Public Library to bring you a free 3-D printing workshop where you can make your own tiny jewelry treasure. The annual Boise Holiday Parade will be happening in the neighborhood on Saturday morning as well, so bring the little ones, wave to Santa, and stop by to meet the makers afterward, including Kristin and myself. She'll be upstairs near the stage at Inspire Me Gifts with darling stockings she's been slaving away at over her sewing machine and I'll be downstairs at Ticky-Tacky, selling subversive cross-stitches and thrift store monster paintings. You may not find us at our booths much, though, as we'll be running around like happy little elves, stocking toilet paper in the bathrooms, helping with parking, chatting with vendors, (hopefully) sipping a cocktail in the Oasis Bar and spreading the truth and love about making your own way in the Idaho grassroots art scene.  Because not only do we at Team Wintry believe that to be true, we've proven it to be a successful business model and a way to give back to our art community, making it the best kind of business to be in.

 {I take unloved and discarded landscape and still-life paintings from thrift stores and rummage sales and illustrate and paint quirky monsters in them giving them a silly new life. $20-$40 at my Ticky-Tacky booth at this weekend's Wintry Market!}
 
{As a radical feminist artist, I often incorporate needlepoint, particularly cross stitch, in subversive ways. These stitched up bits of craftivism are all unique and available at my Ticky-Tacky booth at this weekend's Wintry Market, $15 each.}


Weighing In

I've been active in the body positive movement for nearly seven years now. In early 2009 I Googled the words, "why am I fat and happy with it?" and after scrolling through pages and pages of diet industry links and how to be happier by losing weight, I finally stumbled across two blogs that forever changed the way I look at my body and the world. I will always be indebted to The Curvy Fashionista and the Fat Heffalump for leading me down a fat acceptance path of revolutionary feminist thought that has helped create the person I am today. I devoured book after book and blog after blog and researched like mad for the following three years, working internally on my voice and self-love, getting stronger day by day. It was showing up in my art and writing and, by early 2012, I was ready to take it public in a big way.

I applied for Ignite Boise, an innovative public presentation event where a few lucky speakers stand up and have 5 minutes and 20 Powerpoint slides to share an idea with the 800 Boiseans who pack the house at the historic Egyptian Theater that night and, later, the world via YouTube video. I offered up a program titled "Accepting the Big Ass: How to Be Fat, Fit and Flabulous," proposing a brilliant and subversive spin-off of a 2011 blog post by Dianne Sylvan called 10 Rules for Fat Girls. Ignite Boise said yes, and I was scared shitless as I stood shaking on stage and told the entire audience that I was fat and that I weighed 250 pounds. It was liberating and terrifying and I'm still pretty damn proud of that performance.

 
A few weeks later I wanted to do something guerrilla art related to celebrate International No Diet Day on May 6th. I had long been a follower of fat activist Marilyn Wann, who had created some body positive art called a YAY! scale, a traditional bathroom scale turned craftivism that gives you affirmations rather than numbers when you step on it each morning. I thought it was such a fantastic idea that I took my old scale and disassembled it, making my own radical piece.

I decided to sneak it in to Modern Art, a yearly event put on inside a mid-century boutique hotel, in which rooms are rented out to local artists to use as an impromptu gallery for the night. There's live music, drinking, dancing and performance art and it's a super popular Boise event that draws thousands of people to the small downtown hotel.

I placed my version of the YAY! scale along with a sign right near the women's restroom off the lobby. I tucked it into a corner, perfect for people waiting in line to use the only bathroom in the place. The spot was too tiny for covert photographing, but I secretly watched people read the sign and stand on the scale and laugh with joy about their "measurement."


Beautiful
Caring
Smart
Kind
Adorable

Instead of an arbitrary number.

 
Right before my Ignite Boise talk I had stood on this very scale before covering those numbers up with positive words, because it felt important to disclose my exact weight to the audience. I could reclaim those numbers like I had reclaimed the word fat.

I do, in fact, still keep another scale hidden in a cupboard alongside my YAY! scale, mostly used over the years to weigh my baby/toddlers to make sure they are getting enough to eat and on the right growth track. Sometimes it's used to weigh heavy packages for shipping estimates around the holidays. Every once in a while, though, I pull it out to weigh myself, especially if I'm about to speak/write about body positivity, because being honest in my work as a fat feminist is a source of pride.

Last year I wrote a story for Mamalode magazine called A Love Letter to 226 Pounds, about renewing my drivers license and the lady at the DMV refusing to update my weight. Again, part of my reclamation of my body as my own is sharing that number with the world, and not being ashamed of it.


In keeping with that spirit, I just pulled out my scale today. I'm down to 210 pounds, forty pounds less than I was three years ago when I stood on stage at the Egyptian Theater. There are many reasons for this. I've been pregnant three times since 2008. I've stopped taking birth control pills after twenty years, a medication that makes me gain weight. A few years ago I also stopped taking SSRI pills for panic attacks from an anxiety disorder that I've been able to manage sans medication. This is something I have gone through several times in my life - meds like Celexa and Paxil have historically caused me to gain 30-50 pounds within the first year on them, and later I've always shed that same 30-50 pounds when I go off of them. I'm also officially in perimenopause and my symptoms are wacky and intense, including severe morning sickness/nausea that makes me either vomit, not want to eat very much most days, or both. Weight loss is not my intentional goal, it is just something my body is doing naturally right now, finding its own rhythm at this place in my life journey, and I'm okay with that.


(This is how I really feel about the archaic brand name of my thrifted vintage bathroom scale hovering over those arbitrary numbers. Health at every size FTW!)
 
While just like proudly telling the world that I am 40-years-old, I will always powerfully declare that I am also 5'5" tall and 250 226 210 pounds and that I (usually) wear a size 22 20 18 and a 40C bra. And the freedom that comes with sharing those numbers is amazing. But none of these numbers really measure me. I'm more than a number on a scale. I am, in fact, so much more than my body at all.

I hope you know that, too.

Drawing Hearts


Immediately after my stand for self love at the Capital City Farmers Market ended, I wanted to look at my body to see what words were written and take in all the loving hearts people made with markers on my body. As I had used washable Crayola markers from my daughters' art kit, some of the marks were already being lost due to sweat running down the rolls of fat on my back and in between my legs. It was nearly 90 degrees that late August afternoon, and, as we stood in the alley, Melanie captured much of the words on film while we basked in the glow of tears and humanity and joy over the love we had just witnessed.
 
 
As I got home, I stood naked in front of the mirror in my bathroom and looked lovingly upon the canvas that was my body that day. My husband, Eric, read off the words to me that people had written while I scrawled them quickly on the back of a public library checkout receipt. I dreaded taking a shower and losing the feeling of those felt tips on my skin, the warmth of a revolution.
 
 
Soon after my blog post dropped with the video that has now gone viral and been viewed cumulatively nearly 115 million times around the globe, I began replying to the messages of love that began pouring in to my email, Facebook messenger account, Instagram, blog comments and more with simply a heart emoticon. To me, that heart - the simple symbol I'd asked people to draw with a child's marker on my skin and the one I can push a button to leave on any social media post - had become the symbol of the rebellious body love revolution.
 
It turns out others felt the same way. So many of you responded to me that you shared in my message of self-love and were fed up with a society that profits from our self-doubt. You told me how you would've drawn a heart on me if you would had been there (including a handful of celebrities like KEVIN BACON OMG), and sent me the emoticon as your heart for my body and my message.
 

It may be the piece that fat activist and deputy editor at xoJane magazine Lesley Kinzel wrote about my radical art performance that really hit the nail on the head about the hearts. I recommend reading her article in its entirety, but at the end she sums it up with this:
 
She changes the framework, she stands up with confidence and a blindfolded smile and invites them to comment in the context of her own struggle for self-acceptance, and in the shock of this unfamiliar ground, they can only respond with love. They are kind, with no strings attached.
 
What if we looked at everyone around us with such care all the time? What if that was how we looked at ourselves? What a home for all bodies we would build, if only we could be psychically drawing hearts on one another’s skin every time we looked at each other.
 

 
A few days after I ceremoniously washed the marker from my body and watched it swirl pink and purple and blue down the drain and forever into my soul that hot August afternoon, I began drawing hearts on my children. Daily, we get out the Sharpie marker, and as a reminder that all bodies are good bodies, we say something kind to one another and each other, and draw a heart.
 
I believe in you.
You are valuable.
You are interesting.
You are beautiful.
When you make a mistake you are still beautiful.
Your body is your own.
You have say over your body.
You are creative.
Trust your instincts.
Your ideas are worthwhile.


 
I usually pick one of these affirmations each day to say while I look in their eyes or over a bowl of Cheerios. And then I draw a small simple heart. Something for them to look at while they are away from me, growing and leaning in to their own separate worlds from mine, and remember that they are good and strong and that there is no wrong way to have a body. And you know what? They've started doing it back - to me, to their father. Drawing hearts on us and their siblings, reminding us all that every time we look down at a little pen scribbled heart on our skin to follow our own.
 
You are capable.
You are deserving.
You are strong.
You can say no.
Your choices matter.
You make a difference.
Your words are powerful.
Your actions are powerful.




40 for 40

On August 1st I was at the city pool with a very dear friend talking about how I'd be turning the big 4-0 in less than two months time and how I should probably do something epic. Or go on a major vacation. Or buy something spectacular. Instead, I started thinking about how it might be sweet to do forty things. Tiny but beautiful things with people I loved. So I started to make a list under the newly discovered NOTES feature of my iPhone (yes, I'm a bit of a luddite).




My friend contributed his idea to start my 40 for 40 list, so #1 on my list reads, "Go out for a tiki drink with Zac" at a fun Boise bar we love, dressed in our greatest tiki attire, celebrating a kitschy era we appreciate. From there, the list grew to include things like having coffee with my friend Rachel, seeing Brandi Carlile in concert with a few of my favorite ladies, taking my eleven-year-old daughter Lucy to the fanciest French patisserie in town, having my first solo art exhibition, entering my herbs and garlic in the state fair, and browsing the feminist art section at Rainbow Books.



After a summer busy with camping and late night patio parties, I wanted to enjoy one last hurrah to my favorite season with our annual backyard movie night littered with neighbors and friends. I wanted to try paddleboarding with my daughters for the first time and wear fishnet tights and my FAT BABE pin while riding my bike in Tour de Fat. I infused my own vodkas to make a new signature cocktail, had ice cream cones at Fanci Freez, sexted (AHEM) my husband, and found the new baby anteater at Zoo Boise riding on his mama's back.

 
 
Sometime around August 15th, I saw (my new friend) Jae West's video go viral for all the best reasons and thought about it hard with all my fat activist and feminist thoughts and talked about it with some of the best people and came up with a plan which read, in simple non-sensational text in the NOTES section of my iPhone as #2 on my list, "body positive performance art downtown."

{photo courtesy Melanie Flitton Folwell}

Little did I know that my small subversive and personal experiment, one of the 40 things I should do before I turned 40, was to become one of the most life-altering and amazing accomplishments of my time here on this earth. I'm so damn proud of what we've achieved together in the body positive movement over the past month. We have ignited a revolution of love in honor of ourselves and each other.


{photos courtesy Melanie Flitton Folwell}
 
People are often saddened by the thought of turning forty, scared of what being middle-aged means. I say, 40 MIGHT JUST BE MY BEST YEAR YET. Tomorrow, September 25th, I celebrate 40 spectacular trips around the sun and look forward to an even brighter future, given the way we've changed the world, my friends. Thanks for the best birthday present a girl could ever imagine.

THRIFTY: Homemade Bath Goodies

Every year for the holidays, the girls and I love making homemade and handmade gifts for our friends and neighbors. Often it's baked goods, like my family-famous pumpkin bread, candy or cookies. Some years, though, we get a bit more ambitious and want to make something new and offbeat, not your traditional Christmas goodies. This past year was one.
 
 
As always, I love to use inexpensive ingredients and reuse and repurpose items. This fall we had harvested our lavender plants, dried the flowers, and put them in the freezer to preserve. I had also saved this bath sachet recipe on a Pinterest board several years ago and knew these would be perfect.


 
 
I had a box of powdered milk in my pantry, as well as oatmeal, rubber bands and twine. I ran to my neighborhood Dollar Tree and grabbed a few boxes of baby washcloths, which were 4 for $1. You could, however, just use any scrap of fabric you have, cheesecloth or muslin.
 



I think the images do justice in place of written explanation on how to make these (read: SO EASY). I typed up these little directions, printed them off, cut them and attached the to the sachets.

OATMEAL LAVENDAR MILK BATH SACHET | Tie the twine to hang the bundle under the faucet as hot water fills the tub. Squeeze the sachet to release the herbal properties into the water, or swirl the sachet around in the tub. The tub is now your giant cup of herbal tea! Once the bath is over, shake the wet herbs into a flowerbed, compost, or other container for disposal. The washcloth is yours to be used again!


In addition to the bath sachets, Alice and I whipped up some brown sugar coffee scrub. Every day after drinking my pot of java, I dump the grinds onto a large tray in the garage to dry. Once dried (this may take a few weeks because you really want them to be very dry), you mix the coffee grinds, brown sugar, olive oil, a tiny bit of vanilla extract, and a few shakes of cinnamon. I used a version of this recipe, but quadrupled it to make a lot more. Having a plethora of baby food jars from Arlo, I spray painted the lids a festive red, filled them with this yummy scrub, and tied on a cute paper tag. This scrub is ideal for dry hands and feet and works really well. It makes a huge mess of coffee grinds if used in the tub, though, just FYI. For this project, I had all the ingredients on hand, and repurposed the jars and paper tags, so it cost me next to nothing. Both projects turned out great, were fun to make in the kitchen, and so easy for the girls to help with. They'd be perfect for Valentine's Day or Mother's Day, too!

ARTSY: Needlework for Wintry Market

We're celebrating our fourth year putting on Wintry Market | Handmade for the Holidays, an upscale and inventive indie art/craft holiday fair. I'm co-creator and co-organizer with my friend and local interior designer, Kristin Montgomery.
 
This year's Market will consist of innovative and original items produced using traditional art/craft methods created by 48 vendors from around the Treasure Valley. Also part of the Market will be a Kid's Craft Workshop by Bricolage, coffee by Joe 2U, baked goods by Boise's Bakery, food truck by P. Ditty's Wrap Wagon, local live music curated by Go Listen Boise and a winter-themed photo booth. For the locals, Wintry Market will be held Saturday Nov 22 (10am-5pm) and Sunday Nov 23, 2014 (10am-3pm) at the El Korah Shrine on the corner 11th and Idaho Streets in downtown Boise. Admission is free to the public.
 
In addition to organizing the event, I also operate a little vintage booth called Ticky-Tacky. I typically sell mid-century home wares and quirky items, and this year I'm adding some hand-stitched artworks to my usual fare.




As an artist, my work blurs the boundaries between fine art and craft. For me, the repurposing of found materials adds both tactile and historical elements integral to the contemporary story each piece tells. I learned needlework and cross-stitch from my mother as a girl.  My foundations with fabric, combined with my academic background, have allowed me to explore traditional women’s handiwork in a non-traditional way. Needlepoint has been an important part of America's past and a recent resurgence in the art/craft has proved its duration and importance in our lives. 

As a writer, words and storytelling are also ways I express myself. Combining contemporary text, often song lyrics from female pop stars like Katy Perry, the Dixie Chicks, and Taylor Swift, with stitching can be both playful and powerful. It speaks to history and generations, telling stories of women throughout the years - the (presumably) older ones who lovingly hand-crafted the vintage tea towels and linen napkins in the 1950s with the pop star girl power of twentysomethings today.


 
I've also made a handful of these lovelies, of course, inspired by Julie Jackson of Subversive Cross Stitch, of which I've been a fan FOR YEARS.
 

This year my ten-year-old daughter, Lucy, will be joining me. I've taught her how to embroider as well, passing along the craft, and she's decided to have a little booth called Embroidery by Lucy. She's making these darling little initials, some Christmas tree ornament sized and some larger to hang on a wall. Be sure to stop by our booth, as she'll have all 26 letters of the alphabet.


ARTSY: Dia de los Muertos Skulls

I'm a huge fan of the Dollar Tree just a few blocks from my house in Vista Village shopping center here in Boise, especially around the holidays. Their décor is killer, and so much fun to be creative with without costing much at all.


 Last year I saw (too late) these large felt skulls, probably 18" tall by 12" wide in both white and black for a dollar a piece. By the time I thought about crafting them up to make darling Dia de los Muertos skulls and went back to the store, they were all snatched up.


This year I bought three, one each for Lucy, Alice and I to try our hand at. While I originally thought I'd get out my embroidery thread and needles for some cute stitching, I quickly changed my mind because, um, crafting with kids is sometimes hard enough without making it harder (am I right or am I right?). A faster, easier method of getting the same colorful details as thread? Brightly colored Sharpies.


Pull up some sugar skull and face painting images of Day of the Dead from the Internets for inspiration. Add in a few tubes of glitter glue, sequins and leftover Mardi Gras mask making feathers. Voila! Cutest decorations to grace our front window during any Halloween season we've had. (Pro Tip: the plastic hanging hook that the price tag was attached to? Don't rip it off. Use it to hang your skulls on a tiny suction cup hook on your window!) I even ran back to the Dollar Tree to snatch up three of the black skulls to craft up next year before they ran out. Again.

KIDDOS: Boise Bench Junior Master Gardeners

As School Garden Coordinator for my daughters' little elementary school on the Boise Bench near our home, I have spent the last two years learning about, building, and growing our school's first veggie garden and native plants garden. I wrote (and received!) a $2000 grant from the Whole Kids Foundation and received a training grant from the Boise Urban Garden School (BUGS) as well. Bringing growing and earth-friendly practices to children has become somewhat of a new passion of mine and has been so much fun to implement.
 

Part of this adventure included learning about the Junior Master Gardener certificate program. It's just like the adult version, but a bit more playful and can be taught as a community club or a 4-H program. Also, the leader can be an invested parent like myself, and isn't required to have Master Gardener certification. All I had to do was purchase the teacher's manual and some textbooks for our kiddos and find some interested children around ages 8-12 and we were set. My friend Kelly offered to be my co-leader, which has been a great help having baby Arlo around, and we quickly got 6 kiddos who were interested. (We could've opened it up to so many more who have expressed interest, but we just can't manage that many with the two of us.)


The curriculum is so much fun and we began meeting for an hour and a half every Thursday during the summer at Borah Park in Boise, where we also rented a community garden plot for our little gardeners. We've organized field trips, like the one pictured above to the Boise WaterShed Educational Center for a wastewater treatment plant tour, and even made some "crop art" out of seeds and recycled wood to enter in the Western Idaho State Fair (we won a third place ribbon!).


The kids have had a blast planting flower seeds, weeding, capturing bugs, journaling in the garden, and doing art projects like pressing flowers and leaves and making them into cards, as pictured above. (Really, the little girl above was having fun, I promise.)


We have invited guest speakers, like Jan the Worm Lady, from Capital City Public Market, to come and teach us all about worms, their importance in our gardens, and help the kids build a worm compost system.


Our crew continues learning and finishing up the projects and lessons in our book until February, when they will all graduate with their Junior Master Gardener certification. Next week we are having an apple harvest party here at my house, picking, peeling, coring and baking an apple dessert from our little urban mini orchard. After that, we are creating a scarecrow for the Idaho Botanical Garden's fall festival Scarecrow Stroll. Soon we'll be wedding and cleaning out our garden and will start meeting in our homes after school each week, but you can bet will still be digging around in dirt, brought inside in buckets.

ARTSY: Art Party Boise


When Tahirih Cahill of e11even Shades Studio contacted me in February about coming over and showing what her mobile art studio, Art Party Boise, was all about, I was super pregnant. Like, ready-to-pop-dilated-to-3-centimeters pregnant. So, as excited as I was about learning more about her cool small business idea, I had to wait until May to act on it.


I knew that my super artsy daughters, Lucy and Alice, would love a mother-daughter date night painting, and Tahirih agreed. She sent me several samples of paintings she thought the three of us would like, and be able, to do. Of course I picked the quirky little owl with hipster glasses.


The concept is brilliant: Tahirih or one of her staff artists (that's right, she's had to hire two new gals to help her out given the popularity of her mobile studio of late) comes to your house, or business, or the park, or wherever you choose, brings the supplies, and teaches you how to paint a lovely acrylic piece for your home. There are various sizes and styles to choose from and the idea is that everyone is an artist. She's right.


She got the idea from talking with a fellow mom friend, who wanted to do something fun with her other mama friends, a ladies night out with wine and the like, but all the things that make it hard for mamas to get out - like newborns and the cost of babysitters - were a problem. So, why not bring the mamas night to the mamas in her own comfortable place, making it less expensive and easier? What a great idea! The prices range from about $10-$25 per person, and include all the supplies and you leave with your own masterpiece.

 

It was a bit of a challenge to find something to paint that would fit the range of 'talent' from my six year old Alice to my thirty-eight year old self. Tahirih did a great job - and walked us through our owl process. I put out some snacks from our new Trader Joes - organic strawberry lemonade and a bowl of kettle corn - and daddy took Arlo for a walk. The whole art party lasted about an hour and a half.
 



Here's our completed paintings, all hung in a row above our play kitchen in our family room. The cattywampus arrangement wasn't intentional, but I kinda dig it. Fits the playfulness of the paintings and the play area and, well, our family style. In order from left to right is mine, Alice's and Lucy's.


Alice, my ever self-critical artist, didn't love how her owl turned out at first. She said it looked nothing like Tahirih's and looked like a bat. We thought her puffed out wings made her look like she was about to take off in flight. I think she's perfect. Like Tahirih said, "There are no mistakes in art." I couldn't agree more. And, I think, we're all sold on a girls birthday painting party for next spring.

Find our more about Art Party Boise on her website or Facebook page. Thanks, Tahirih!


ARTSY: A love poem

love is:

the smell of his sweat, knowing... glances, a rash from his beard, staying in bed all day, hungover breakfasts, running away, crying through vows, sharing one car, proofreading thesis, U-hauls, Wall Drug, Graceland, swelling bellies, death, heartbreak, blood, vomit, growth, care, learning
 

and:
 

her big brown eyes, April, thunderstorms, cradling in hospital beds, Minneapolis, ticks, fear, introversion, owls, airplanes, anxiety, books, sweetness, curls, math, so much kindness
 

and:
 

her tiny features, daycare, dance parties, big sisters, camping, chaos, fast, funny, speech therapy, fearless, blond, puzzles, Idaho, cuddling
 

and:
 

two pink lines, nausea, exhaustion, sadness, worry, ultrasounds, heartbeats, rolling, lolling, quickening, stretching skin, exploding hearts, belly kisses, tiny blue onesies, joy



*A valentine to my family. I wrote this a few weeks ago for a contest called Speak To Us Of Love, hosted by jenny wren designs and Rose & Odin, two makers of art extraordinaire. I won some fabulous prizes, but the best part? I cry every single time I read this.

CULTURE: Remnants of Boise exhibition


In April I was asked to help coordinate part of an exhibition of architectural artifacts for Preservation Idaho in conjunction with the City of Boise Department of Arts & History. This year, 2013, marks Boise's 150th birthday, or our sesquicentennial. In honor of that, the City has rented this really cool historic storefront on Main Street and named is the 'Sesqui-Shop.' For the entire year, new exhibits, lectures and events will grace the space each month.



For Remnants of Boise, the City put together a huge number of historic photos of neighborhoods throughout time. On behalf of Preservation Idaho, Dan Everhart and myself put out a call to the public for parts of major buildings which had been lost over time. As a result, I drove around town picking up some major sandstone elements and other quirky artifacts.




Here you can see some metal roof shingles from the old Territorial Capital, a door from a historic home, and an arched window from the old Veterans Home, along with photos of the building and what is in the location now. Most of the time, sadly, it's a parking lot. Oh, urban renewal (sigh).

You can purchase an exhibition catalog of sorts, with many of the stellar historic photos of Boise from BOISE 150 here and/or check out the cool virtual 360 tour that was part of the exhibition here.

KIDDOS: Ceramica birthday


As always, I make Lucy and Alice have a joint birthday party, since they turn a year older just two weeks apart. So far, at ages five and nine, they still love this idea. I'm going to milk that until I no longer can.


This year I took the easy way out of birthday party planning and splurged on a 'destination party' for the first time ever. In the past, as you've seen here on the blog, I always do it up fun and big in our backyard or at a park. For several reasons, I just didn't have the energy this year, and decided to take ten girls to Ceramica, just down the street in the Vista Village shopping complex.


Ceramica is a paint-your-own ceramics studio, a place the girls adore but I rarely take them. We've made some really cute platters with handprints for grandparents 'gifts, but in the past they've been a bit too young for art making like this.




I made my favorite easy cupcakes, these vanilla ones from Fannie Farmer's Baking Book, and handmade goody bags with a pencil, tiny notebook, and colorful bracelets from our gift stash at home. We reserved the private studio room for free, where they let us set up the treats and gave us our very own artist helper. Turns out, the party cost about the same as I would've spent at a home party, much to my surprise. It's only $5 a kiddo for the studio fee at Ceramica, and I pre-picked out 5" blank tiles for each of the girls to paint ($4 each). Plus, both Lucy and Alice got a large birthday themed plate, complete with all their friends' signatures and thumbprints as keepsakes, all for $96! It was so worth it. The girls thought it was the most fun birthday ever.

ARTSY: Carousels: Art & History in Motion


This spring we took the girls to Idaho Falls to visit their grandparents for a weekend. In addition to taking them to see Ramona Quimby, the play, at the local arts center, we also go to catch this wonderful exhibition on the history of carousels at the Museum of Idaho.




There was a real, working carousel as part of the show, which the girls got to ride indoors. Displays showing how the carousel animals are carved and painted, photos of historic carousels, and unusual lighting and hand-pedaling features were among the highlights. This show is only up through May 27, 2013, so if you're in or near Idaho Falls, I highly recommend it!

ARTSY: Hello Home


Hello.


I originally saw a version of this on Pinterest and was smitten. I love my 1950s ranch house and think that a home is a welcoming place. I've always said that grabbing the front door knob of a building is shaking the hand of an old soul.



So I commissioned this dark brown vinyl 'Hello.' from an old high school friend of mine, Kristi Day, who runs a darling and affordable vinyl and crafty design shop out of her home in Burley, Idaho. She quickly worked something up to my specifications, sent me a proof, I paid her via Paypal, and it arrived in my mailbox within the week. I love it. Hello, home. And thanks Kristi!

ARTSY: Freak Alley

Freak Alley started around ten years ago in an alley in downtown Boise between 8th and 9th Streets and Bannock and Idaho Streets. Local graffiti artists got permission from business owners to decorate and tag the alley with their unique and funky brand of art. Recently, the Boise Mural Project got the right to paint larger murals as a sort of extension of Freak Alley on the sides of two buildings in an adjacent vacant lot. The girls loved having an afternoon downtown, eating our favorite breadsticks and soup from Zeppole Baking Company and checking out art. I admit, I like it, too. Make me feel like I live in a much bigger city than Boise.






KIDDOS: Handmade Play Kitchen

For Christmas this year, I was super excited to make the girls a play kitchen out of a recycled piece of furniture. I'd seen some cute ones on Pinterest, made from old entertainment centers and night stands. In September, I found an used, unpainted little boy's tool table at the Idaho Youth Ranch for $13. I new it was perfect, and loved the pegboard backdrop, which would be perfect for hanging tiny pots and pans a la Julia Child. We hid the kitchen in my mom's shed.

We (okay, rather, my mom) painted it red, green and white using leftover house paint she had in the garage. I bought a used faucet at Second Chance, our local architectural salvage shop and my mom had an old mixing bowl we used for the sink. I used the black plastic wheels off of a toy car to make oven knobs and Eric picked up some pegboard hooks at the hardware store.


I hand-painted on the stove burners, and all the other supplies I took from around the house and the playroom. I collected all the girls play food from various locations and put it together in bins underneath the play kitchen. I hemmed a vintage kitchen curtain to fit on a tension rod under the sink to hide them. Vintage aprons, pot holders and a rug were picked up for super cheap at garage sales. I mounted an old phone and some shelving we had around the house on the wall to complete the ensemble. And that darling mosaiced mirror was a birthday gift to me from my talented artist-friend, Reham Aarti. Eric and I spent hours perfecting the little kitchen set-up on Christmas eve, and decided at the last minute to put the girls' table and chairs in the playroom to complete the dining atmosphere. It's provided hours of imagined play for every kid that's stepped foot in this house since Christmas. And the whole project cost around $25!