Wednesday, February 29, 2012

for Lent

this was taken when Mark moved in last summer (and while we were planning our wedding). Unfortunately, we've never recovered.
Anyone who knows me (and now anyone who knows Mark and me together) knows that I am always trying to be neat and tidy.  Meaning, things rarely actually are. This is a product of several factors. The first, obviously, is that I don't spend enough time working on the issue to resolve it completely.  It's true, since Mark and I got married seven months ago, our tiny apartment has not been completely tidy, everything in its place, once. Not a single time. That's pretty scary. Nice that we can use our wedding and married life as a marker for this type of progress, though (or lack thereof). We did get very close, once, last fall (if you don't count the closet). A second factor (and the really important one) is that there are too many things in our apartment and not enough places for them all. This is caused by my habit of keeping things I already have and my other habit of bringing things I don't already have, home. So, at least we can be clear, that the habits and factors causing our general untidiness belong to me.

In any case, it makes our lives together difficult. Home should be a place of respite, and, I think for us that requires room for creativity. Mark and I are both creative people. He's a poet, a musician and a writer-- and I'm a quilter and a crafter and cooker and a baker. All of our creative outlets require space. Which is already hard to come by and my habits don't help.

I'm not going to go into the theological aspect of Lenten discipline because I spent the last four years in seminary considering the theological aspect of things and now I'm just going to try to do things. Also, this is my blog and I will write about what I want. So I'm just going to jump in and say really fast that clean apartment = space for creativity = exercising passions and utilizing talents which God has given us. And as a separate justification, cramming our apartment with more things than it should hold (or can hold) is not good stewardship of what God has given us and indicates an unhealthy reliance on material things.

So for Lent, we are giving things away. There are other bloggers out there doing 40 bags in 40 days, and the concept here is very similar. The difference is, I am not going to focus on doing a bag a day, but tackling 40 different areas or known collections in our apartment and purging things that we do not use, do not need, and honestly, do not have room for. My plan is to be absolutely brutal. I have done this type of thing before and allowed myself to keep things every time that this time I will not allow. Also, the idea of 40 bags of stuff overwhelms me, but thinking of the freezer or a box of stuff is easier to handle. We've already gotten started, so some things are crossed off the list:
  1. bathroom medicine cabinet (I only kept 2 lipsticks and 4 nail polishes)
  2. underneath the bathroom sink (No excess here. Also, cleaned and organized - and the bathroom is done)
  3. Moses' toys & treats (Not even Moses needs 8 identical tennis balls.  It doesn't matter if they're in good condition)
  4. tea (We still have a lot, but Mark doesn't have many vices and it's all wonderfully organized)
  5. cloth napkins (Put at least 3/4 of the collection into the bag for the thrift store. Funny, cause I bought most of them there in the first place...)
  6. cookbooks (Now all fit on one shelf. Also, moved to a more accessible and visible location so we will use them more)
  7. media cabinet (We had been collecting a lot of junk here, and now the junk is gone)
  8. DVDs (Didn't purge much here. But Mark did reorganize his collections)
  9. important papers drawer (Major win. Our messy 'important' drawer is now super organized in an important binder.)
  10. magazines (Another monster win. Why do I have so many subscriptions when I rarely get to read through a magazine? I'm letting almost all of them go. Out of 8+ Ikea magazine files, I'm donating all but 2 - you know for Mother Earth News, Cooking Light, and Ready Made)
  11. tanktops
  12. pajamas
  13. T-shirts
  14. fabric... dun Dun DUN
  15. silverware drawer
  16. notepads/journals/notecards
  17. under the kitchen sink
  18. unfinished projects
  19. sweaters
  20. books
  21. dishes/kitchen cabinets/above the fridge
  22. pantry
  23. socks/underwear
  24. paperwork: filebox
  25. shoes
  26. the massive mound of sewing stuff eating our loveseat
  27. holiday decorations
  28. camping gear
  29. patterns
  30. ribbon
  31. sand
  32. spices
  33. our cars
  34. jewelry
  35. Mark's music folder
  36. medicine drawer
  37. towels
  38. tool box
  39. china hutch
  40. freezer
I'll update the list every once and again and show the progress.  It'll motivate me to continue!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

trying not to fail

Moses: "me loves the sun."
I'm still working out the tension issues on my machine. I completely dissembled the foot plate? and am in the process of hunting down that elusive bobbin screw. I've googled my fingers numb looking for an online fix, but everything I've read on my machine says that bottom tension is meant to be self-regulated. I don't accept that my machine needs to be taken into a shop- I just don't really sew that much. But, I also can't stomach the sight of the stitches on the back of my fabric. The bottom stitches are so awful!

So, until I can work it all out, here's a photo of Moses, lying in the sun and doing nothing else. He just loves the sun. He's not really napping, he's just enjoying it. It's not exactly patience- I think that would be a photo of Moses executing the 'stay' command (we're working on it). But really, I need to adopt this attitude instead of feeling panicky about 'getting behind' on my blog. I would like to put up new posts Monday through Thursday with legitimate content and Friday with a single image, giving myself the weekends off to catch up and create. But, if I miss a day, that doesn't mean that my blog will be a wash (there is such a thing as 'failing' at blogging. Believe me. I know). I just need to keep plugging away when I am able and any visitors I might have (hi, Mom! hi, Elaina!) will just read what is added, when it is added and not point a finger if it's not exactly on time.

Phew. Glad that's off my chest.

Monday, February 27, 2012

spring is coming!

From the signs and sights on our Sunday afternoon walk, Spring is on it's way!  I can honestly say I'm not that sad about our absent winter. What, no getting stuck driving in the snow for 12 hours?  Aw, shucks. I'm sad not to repeat that experience (NOT. I was terrified the whole time). Here's what we saw!
blossoms or berries?

Moses enjoys the sunshine more in spring.

things are beginning to flower!

cherry blossoms are already pink.

I see buds!

surely, daffodils in bloom are signs that spring has sprung.

and... Moses found a baseball while on our walk. I think that if people are playing baseball, it must be spring.

Friday, February 24, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
. . . . . . . .

{this moment} ritual from Soulemama

Thursday, February 23, 2012

building a blouse, pt. 2

I mentioned previously that I am working on finding the perfect spring/summer blouse pattern.  On my second try, I used a pattern I had purchased more than a year ago, a Cynthia Rowley for Simplicity (pattern #2593).  I'm pretty pleased with how fast this turned out (about an hour and a half!), and how well it fits!

The multi-size option of Simplicity patterns is really awesome. Often, I will have a hard time finding certain tops or dresses to fit me in bust, waist and hips. With this blouse, I cut a size 16 for the bust, but a size 22 for the hips! Imagine if I had to make the blouse all one size...

Because I had not made a garment to completion using a paper pattern in such a long time, I didn't want to cut into any of my nicer fabric for this blouse.  I used a very loose weave cotton (I am sure it is 100% cotton, and it has the feel of linen) that was given to me by one of Mark's great-aunts who discovered that I loved to sew.  I love the pattern on the fabric, but there was a minor problem with discoloration, so I thought it would be a great choice for the first iteration of this blouse.

The pattern features a gathered neckline...
binding for the neck and arms...
and a 1/4" hem on the bottom.
I like the blouse enough that I will try another variation (one option is a rolled neckline-- cute!), and the blouse I made wasn't too difficult and fits pretty perfectly.  I also love how well it goes with one of my new-to-me thrifted cardigans (my favorite thrift shop was having a sale the last time I was there, 50% off all coats, jackets and sweaters!) that I picked up for just $3.  The cost of this look?  Fabric that was given to me, cardigan, and pattern that I bought forever ago on sale? $4.99 plus tax.

fits me, top to bottom!
if I walked by you, would you hear my clothes shouting, "Spring is coming!"?
That's a deal I can't overlook, and the colors make me feel like spring.  Although I'm going to keep looking for the perfect blouse, this one is not too far off.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

slow farming

I've been farming... but very, very slowly. My sewing machine is having some tension issues, and because I have a drop-in bobbin without a front-loading bobbin case, there's no visible screw to adjust tension in the bottom thread. To complicate matters, my blocks have been consistently smaller than 6.5" square. As a matter of fact, they have been mostly 5.5" square. So... I reprinted all of the templates and am actually considering re-doing all of my blocks!

I'm also now at least 5 blocks behind... I'm a slow farmer and now I have to re-do all my work!  Yikes.  Nevertheless, here are the newest (not redone yet) blocks.
"Windmill," block #108

"Attic Windows," block #1

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

building a blouse, pt. 1

Sewing is a skill that I list in my repertoire.  However, once you know anything about sewing, you know that there are a lot of different kinds of sewing.  There's quilting, a sometimes complicated and frequently time-consuming skill (with many different variations in and of itself), there's hand-sewing (which I do NOT list in my repertoire), and of course, there's garment sewing.  The latter, I have not counted as one of my skills in quite some time.

I guess now I'll have to.

As I've been sewing more frequently (Farmer's Wife blocks with Leslie), I've been thinking more and more about how to make things that are useful in my life and more and more those ideas have branched out away from the small items that I love for how fast they can be whipped up and therefore produce a sense of accomplishment in me.  I've been the sewer of small things for quite some time-- cloth napkins, zipper bags, wrist rests, bunting.  And I've been the incomplete sewer of large things (how many quilts do I 'owe' as Christmas gifts from years past?).  So, I've been seeking something intermediate.  Enter, the cotton blouse.

I love cotton blouses that can be worn under cardigans.  The knits are covered in my wardrobe, for the most part-- camisoles and t-shirts in every color-- but the sleeveless cotton blouse?  The loose, yet fitted, breathable tank?  It's hard to find those at Target.

My first attempt was pattern-free.  I used the instructions and tutorial from Made by Rae, posted on Sew, Mama, Sew. Because I wanted a blouse that could be worn to work, I did not include the ruffle.  Because I wanted a blouse that could be finished faster, I did not include the pockets!
No pockets, but I did make a two-inch wide hem at the bottom.  It works because I've got a short torso.

My variation was made from this awesome orange polka dot fabric (DS Quilts for Joann's), that I envisioned with a bright blue cardigan or even a fuschia one.  After finishing all the steps save the bottom hem, I realized I wasn't really happy with the tent-ness of this bouse on me.  The back was not only not fitted, it was enormously baggy!  I extended the pleats in the back from 2" (front) to 8", which seemed to help.

2" pleats in the front
8" pleats in the back!
If I were to make this blouse again, I would definitely do the optional under-arm divots.  I would also deviate from the instructions when cutting the back piece- I think the back doesn't need pleats and could be made, fitted, with far less fabric.

While the top fits, and I still love the fabric, I'll have to keep hunting for a perfect Spring/Summer blouse that will be a wardrobe staple. I'm sure there's a pattern/blouse out there for me that I'll be able to happily make in ten differently patterned cottons for a new Spring/Summer wardrobe!

Stay tuned for 'building a blouse, pt. 2' (and maybe 3, 4, 5... until I find the perfect one!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

a story about cauliflower

So, as I mentioned before, Mark and I follow the Weight Watchers points plus program (when we are being good).  If you are not aware, potatoes are relatively high in points plus value, yet highly desirable in American culinary society (ie, my tastebuds.)  As a substitute, cauliflower often does the trick.

We experienced this awhile ago when we tried a cauliflower puree with butter and cream cheese instead of mashed potatoes.  Yes, we could tell the difference.  But despite this difference, we felt satisfied with the cauliflower puree.  It was tasty and it filled the space of mashed potatoes and it was a vegetable, meaning we could tick off more boxes (shout out to daily health guidelines).

So I was eager, if anything, to try another recipe using cauliflower to substitute a high point food.  In this case, the high point food was pizza crust!

I originally came across this idea on pinterest, and ultimately used the recipe found here.  Although I did think it was tasty, I wasn't completely satisfied with the substitution this time.  I would try  the recipe again, but I would bake the crust on foil on top of a wire rack, instead of a jelly roll pan to keep the cheese from burning (or at least, an attempt to keep it from burning).  Then, I would adjust the oven temp to make sure the crust got really brown without burning before it was topped.  I would also make the crust thinner.  I think that would help a lot!

a big bowl of 'riced' cauliflower.

Shaped like a pizza crust!

it almost looks like pizza crust... I think this is a little too thick, though.

Looks like real pizza, doesn't it?

Friday, February 17, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
. . . . . . . .

{this moment} ritual from Soulemama

a quick before and after

I mentioned previously that I need to feel accomplished when I make things.  Either a meal that turns out yummy or a sense of completion in a sewing project.  Recently I felt a quick win when I finally successfully re-covered my ironing board with- you guessed it- a thrifted vintage sheet!

I wonder what makes those ugly brown stains on ironing boards?

The before photo isn't great, but you get the gist.  Cheap Ikea ironing board, non-standard size, not much padding.

Better already!
And much nicer to look at while ironing!

Oh yes. This will do.
 I love projects that are pretty and functional.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

a few recent mini projects

I work.  And, when I get home, much earlier than many people do from a traditional work day (it helps that my commute is non-existent, though), I like to eat dinner and decompress.  It takes work for me to prepare to make things.  I have to clear space, first.  I have to locate supplies.  And that all has to be coordinated with what Mark is doing and where he is doing it in our shared space.

So, I don't really get around to making things until much later in the evening.  And, as you can imagine in a space our size, there's no sleeping when there's noise and no sewing without noise.  So, there's no late-night sewing in the living room while Mark sleeps next door in the bedroom.  It leaves precious little time for making!

That means, I have to make the most of the time I've got.  And, I need to feel successful in my projects- if I only had long-term projects that were always works in progress, I'd never feel successful.  I need quick wins sometimes.  It's why the Farmer's Wife blocks have been such a hit over here.  It's why I don't mind starting new, small projects while other larger projects are still in the works.  And, it's why I make things even when I'm at home sick.

I was home sick a few weeks ago and pulled out the embroidery (which is nice because it requires little space and can be done in bed).  I have little patience to go with my little time, so I couldn't be bothered with printing out a template or finding a pencil to trace with.  I made this by holding my fabric (just a scrap I found) up to my laptop screen and dotting along the line of the 'm' with a fabric pen (I got lucky finding that one).  I love how it turned out, and now it lives on the wall with my fabric hoops (and my empty hoops, another example of the work in progress!).

I ironed it when I was done stitching... next time I won't.  It flattened the stitches a bit.

What do you think?

stitches aren't perfect... but they've got character!
The wall is starting to come together.
I mixed green and yellow embroidery floss to get a color closer to what I was looking for.

a day to celebrate love

my love, dressed to the nines
And also, a day to be spoiled by the one I love, apparently!  My day was filled with flowers (first at work, with instructions not to bring my lovely tulips home, then again at home with a pink mixed bouquet!), Trader Joe's chocolate, a special song written by my love and then the excitement of a real dinner date.  We got dressed up.  I wore high heels and make up.  Mark wore a tie.  The meal ended with chocolate cake.  Now that's a date (am I right?)!

Although I appreciate being treated to all of the special things Mark did, I have to say it is always my favorite when he writes me a new song.  The first time he played me a song he wrote, we weren't even officially dating yet.  I was turning 26, home to Texas for a week with my family and spending my birthday in the hospital, where my mom was admitted for dangerously low blood pressure.  I was having a pretty crummy day, and very worried about my mother.  Mark had been texting me and told me to check my email, that he sent my gift to my g-mail account.  It was a recording of him singing New to You, posted privately on YouTube.

I had never received a more thoughtful gift and know that the ways he expresses himself is one of the reasons I fell in love with him.

Since my birthday song, several written in the distance of a long term relationship, and his proposal song, I've enjoyed hearing him play on a regular basis.  I think, though I appreciate his music in all its forms, that I can't help but appreciate the songs he writes for me the most.  What can I say?  I love to hear how he sees us.

After six months of marriage, it would be easy to get to that state of comfort where romantic notions cultivated during wedding planning are a thing of the distant past.  But Mark knows just how to take how we are and how we've changed and make it sound like, well, we were meant to be this way.  He's real about us in a way that doesn't make me feel either like we are over-romanticized or that we need to somehow overcome how we are.  But, he also makes me love us even more than I already do.

Here's to a day celebrating love that is cultivated through the work and partnership of both of us, everyday!

I clean up okay, too. 

I love it when he wears dress shoes.

playing my valentine's day song

before we left for dinner
"But I love Italian!  You sure I can't come?  I wish I had a Valentine..."

Monday, February 13, 2012

we've been cooking

...aka hand making in the kitchen.  As far as I am concerned, if it's not pre-packaged, doesn't come with microwave instructions, or isn't from Whole Food's global cuisine hot bar, it's handmade.  We've been doing an excellent job of constructing recipes at home lately, many from our favorite light recipes blog,
mincing red onions for skinnytaste's potato salad

Pollo in Potacchio
Strawberries-- in winter.  I know, I know.
Trader Joe's Teeny Tiny Potatoes for Skinnytaste's potato salad
This was a modified Skinnytaste recipe that went from veggie side dish to pasta dish!
I think it's fairly common for families to struggle to prepare nourishing meals throughout a week when it's also filled with work, school, social activities, exercise and down time.  Mark and I are no different, although we are lucky that between us there is just one full time job and this semester just two classes. We are taking the opportunity to re-set our habits of eating and getting our food to the table (so to speak. Currently, the table is covered with sewing!).

For about six weeks now, we have been meal-planning on Saturdays, together.  Mark will cook one or two meals a week and help with recipes I select for the other nights of the week.  We have been really good about eating out only once a week (with maybe an additional coffee or sandwich added to that). After we decide on our menu for the week, taking into account sale items at our local grocery stores, we make our list of groceries, adding household supplies and pet supplies.  Then we go out and get all the shopping DONE!  We usually try to include a combination of meals that can be made fast (like broccoli rotel soup, stay tuned) and some recipes that require the slow cooker (Mark's favorite).  We have also been trying to tip the scales in the direction of fresh produce instead of processed foods.

With the exception of Better'n Peanut Butter and Mark's two-box per week habit of Special K (or Trader Joe's semi-equivalent anything with the clusters), we've been really enjoying our peaches, bananas, strawberries, pineapple and apples.  Mark and Moses, especially the apples.  Me, especially the peaches.

So, that's it. It's really helping us both to keep track of our Weight Watchers points and be successful in becoming more healthy and losing weight.

Friday, February 10, 2012

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.
. . . . . . . .

{this moment} ritual from Soulemama