Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

If you want to see some real drama–of the falling-to-the-floor and writhing-in-agony variety, just mention the words “art museum” to my kids. They love art, but art museums–not so much. We managed to go to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston through bribery (chocolate-chip cookies) and by bringing an extra kid (our fun cousin Lucy).

It was well worth the cookies. The just-opened museum extension by architect Renzo Piano was stunning (with emerald green bathrooms), the courtyard a midwinter tropical oasis, and Sargent’s “El Jaleo” as startling as ever.

The museum offered not just one but three art projects for kids. We made embossed drawings, painted watercolors, and constructed crowns, shields, and swords in the museum’s new art room. We went home happy and with arms full of art.

A Stencil for Your Sweetheart

Finished these heart-stenciled drawstring bags just in time for Valentine’s Day. Whew. Tomorrow I’ll toss in some trinkets and goodies for my little sweethearts. (Later, I figure they can stash their school valentines in them.)

All the materials came from stuff around my house: stray pieces of fabric, ribbon, and some muslin. I cut a heart stencil with freezer paper and vinyl alphabet stickers to block out the letters. (For a visual, click here. For information about using freezer paper stencils on fabric, here is the complete how-to).

I improvised the drawstring bag (although I did measure to keep things relatively straight). Thank you to Kate K. for loaning me a tapestry needle–a perfect implement for threading a ribbon through a drawstring bag.

Here’s a side view–with the candy that inspired me. (By the way, Sweethearts are Made in the U.S.A, specifically by the New England Confectionary in nearby Revere, Mass. So this V Day, buy American.) Happy Heart Day, everyone!

Little white houses

I’m not sure how best to describe these: whitewashed Monopoly houses scattered on an oversized board game? Typewritten pages folded into paper houses? Stencilled with bits of poems from Emily Dickinson and tossed about the village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, the houses are the creation of Peter Krasznekewicz, who is currently a junior at Deerfield Academy. (You can see a slideshow of the project here.)

If you live near Boston, it’s worth the field trip to visit and wander around. But if you don’t catch the installation this fall, the Little White House Project will move to the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Mass. in the spring, and maybe to the Boston Children’s Museum. After that, the houses will have a second life: the artist plans to “up-cycle” the structures as material to be used in the construction of a Habitat for Humanity house.

The Glass House

This past weekend, we visited the glass house–as in Philip Johnson’s 1949 little gem, not Billy Joel’s album circa sixth grade. Johnson lived to be nearly 100 (he died in 2005) and the house and its grounds have just been opened to tours this year by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Located in New Canaan, CT, it’s a great architectural field trip from New York, or if you happen to be heading that way.

Johnson’s other building experiments on the property aren’t as impressive–but he was a friend of Frank Stella, and so am I (figuratively, in my case).

Although the McMansions of the super rich have mostly devoured the town, there are still about 90 modern houses sprinkled about. Visit the Irwin Pool House (designed in 1960 by Landis Gores) in lovely Irwin Park for a complete survey of the modern homes in the area.

The Harvard Five in New Canaan: Midcentury Modern Houses by Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores, John Johansen, Philip Johnson, Eliot Noyes, and Others

Cottage Part 1: Patchwork Tablecloth

The clouds are cumulus. The sky is robin’s egg blue. The kids are at home asking about what to do next. Must be summer.

I, for one, am dreaming of lake days at my cottage. Did I say my? I meant at your cottage. Feel free to invite me.

This patchwork tablecloth made out of colorful bandannas is a fun project from Aesthetic Nest. The AN version looks like perfection, wafting in the breeze. Mine less so. As AN points out in the instructions, not all bandannas are made to the same size. I found that the white ones are the runts–an inch smaller all around, making things a little more irregular.

But the imperfection is what I like about the project–it doesn’t require seamless seams to look breezy, whimsical, and summery.

I made a square of 4 bandannas to cover the little table on my back porch.

And a larger square (3 by 3) for my mom’s table at–you guessed it–her summer cottage. Not that I’m hinting, Ma, but my bags are packed.

P.S. I bought the bandannas at Play Time Crafts in Arlington Center–a place intimately known to any Arlingtonian who has shepherded a kid’s school project. But if you’re from close by and haven’t been, you should check it out. If the teetering aisles of crazy inventory don’t charm you, the sweet-and-sour staff will win your loyalty.)