Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Pinterest and Kitchen Things

Let's talk Pinterest for a bit. Like most people, I have a love/hate relationship with it. I'll forget about Pinterest for months, and then I'll go on a big binge of pinning. I certainly love a good Pinterest, You are Drunk post, which highlights the ridiculousness of some of the projects pinned there. It is a wonderful place to catalog ideas (especially recipes and remodeling plans). Recently, I used a group board to gather baby shower ideas, and it worked really well for that. But here's what kind of bugs me. Everyone and their brother is on Pinterest, and now everyone and their brother thinks they're crafty. Should I be excited that more people are getting into crafty stuff? Probably. But a little part of me is kind of bugged by the fact that some of those same people who are suddenly crafty are the ones who used to talk about my quilting group as if it were a gathering of grandmas. We've been crafting for years, you know? There is also a big problem with lack of attribution, which bugs me in the same way it bugs me when someone tells me they purchased something from Etsy instead of from an Etsy seller. I know it's silly - just had to get it off my mind.

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I've had a lot less business travel this month, so I've been spending more time in the kitchen.  Yay!Pinterest helped me find some new recipes that were big wins in my house. The first was this Melt in Your Mouth Parmesan Chicken. The recipe uses Greek yogurt with Parmesan cheese and spices for flavor. I'm usually a little leery of baked chicken, because I tend to cook it too long and dry it out. Not a problem with this recipe. It turned out great. This is now on my frequent rotation.

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In an effort to get us out of the cereal and rush out the door rut, I was really interested in trying an overnight oatmeal recipe. This one turned out really well and made good use of the apples I had from my Green Bean produce delivery. I used steel cut oats, and it turned out wonderful and creamy. My kids ate it up, and I could not be happier to have one thing already done in the morning before I woke up. Delightful! A perfect fall recipe.

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Speaking of fall recipes, I saw this Pumpkin Muffin recipe using just cake mix and canned pumpkin, and I knew I had to try it. (I heard through the comments that this may originally be a Weight Watchers recipe.) Because it seemed like it might be a little bland, I added freshly ground cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and chocolate chips (they were organic so totally healthy, right). This one was a huge win! They have stayed moist for days, and the kids absolutely love them.

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Last time we had a gathering at my Dad's house, they had these delicious bread and butter pickles from Amish country. Right then, I decided making pickles needed to be on my to-do list. So this past weekend while the kids were watching Snow White (solo parenting + rain = movies for the kids), I worked on some pickles of my own. I used the Traditional Bread and Butter Pickle recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving aka the canning Bible. I have yet to taste them, but they sure do look pretty. Oh, and I learned that it smells like armpits when you make pickles. I guess that's to be expected when you're boiling vinegar and mustard seeds.

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One more thing...after having saved this link forever ago (like since 2009), I used Little Birdie Secrets 15 minute pizza dough recipe. It worked perfectly! We had my niece and nephew over for dinner last weekend, and all the kids made their own pizzas. They had a lot of fun shaping their dough and putting on toppings. It was a major success, and we've already made more pizzas this week! Too much pizza....never!

Once I get the piles of laundry off my dining table, I am going to dive into baby quilt making. Hooray! And some cross stitching patterns and supplies will be accompanying me to various kid activities for a while. I'm really happy to get back into some handwork with a fall vignette I have planned. I'm using this chevron pattern, this sweet little fox, and this deer and forest scene.

Thanks for bearing with this poorly written and rambling post.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Howdy...an update and some children's books

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Oh, hi.  I haven't been here in...oh...almost a year. There is a good reason for it.  Last fall, I made the super scary and exciting decision to start my own business.  I am doing the same type of work I have been doing for ten years, but now I am working as an independent contractor.  So far, it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made.  My job is one that requires occasional travel and work weeks that are typically more than 40 hours, so it is nice to get paid for every hour that I work.  It has been really fun for me to learn about taxes and contracts and all of the things that go along with self-employment.  I do enjoy spreadsheets, so tracking all my expenses is fun.  (I know, it is kind of a sickness.  My first contract ended up being a lot more travel than I thought (A LOT), and it was nuts trying to keep afloat.  My house was a disaster for months, and I regularly went to the Laundromat just to get all of our clothes done quickly.  Although I liked the work and my colleagues, I was relieved when that project ended, and my new contract began.  Luckily, this one allows for a much better work/life balance.  I have finally been able to clean up the piles of stuff that had gathered around the house, and it is great to be home most days to get my 2nd grader on and off the bus.  The best part of making the move to self-employment is that it has renewed my love of my work...I had almost forgotten that I really do love what I do. 
 
 
All of that work meant my poor sewing machine gathered dust.  I still made time for crafts with the kids and stitched up the occasional stuffed animal in need of repair (there is always one), but that was the extent of it.  That is...until my sister-in-law asked for help sewing some things for her first baby's nursery.  It lit a little spark and got me dreaming of new projects.  My sewing machine is currently taking up permanent residence in my dining room so I can work in little bits of time as I find them.  I have a few projects lined up...a baby quilt (of course), a dress or two for my daughter, and another quilt top that needs to be finished up and gifted.  And I'll be attending the #OHcraft Sew-in in November, which will be a wonderful opportunity to spend some time stitching away.
 


My goal is to blog here on a semi-regular basis.  I can't make any promises.  As life gets busier, my family takes priority during my free time.  But there are times when I have had thoughts to share, little poems floating in my head, things to ponder, projects in progress and such that I would have liked to put into words and images.  I miss taking pictures and writing and all of those things that blogging helps me do on a regular basis.  There are new things I want to learn, too.  Like painting with water colors.  I have never worked with them, but I figured a little internet and YouTube searching could get me started.  Also, I got tired of just sitting around during my daughter's piano lessons, so I signed up to take guitar lessons during that time.  I have always wanted to learn so I could sing and strum by a fire somewhere.  Total folk song hippie-style.  My husband plays a little, so I can use his guitar for lessons.  I am so pumped!  There will be some major Indigo Girls jams happening here soon.  We went to a Weezer concert over the weekend, and now I want to learn an electric guitar riff they played that will probably take me a year or two or three to learn.  I just hope my weird tiny baby hands don't make it too hard.
 
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So that's the latest and greatest.  My kids are at the best ages (4 and 7) right now.  Their grandmother remarked that they act like best friends when they play, and they really do.  I mean, they piss each other off the way all siblings do sometimes.  But mostly, they love being around each other and playing together.  One thing they both love to do is read books or have books read to them.  On a recent trip to the library, we really struck gold.  We randomly chose books of the shelves, and there was not one dud in the pile.  That is so rare!  So I thought I would share them with you, because good library finds need to be shared.  We'll start at the top of the pile and work our way down.
 
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A kid gets a 'bug' (an actual bug in this story), and the pills are dispatched to find it in the kid's body.  The bug escapes, but in the end, he catches a germ.  This was such a creative story, and my kids asked me to read this over and over and over.  It was the favorite of the bunch without a doubt.  Very fun illustrations!
 
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The main character tries to count all of these different animals to go to sleep, but none of them work out.  It turns out the sheep really are the best fit.  This made for a sweet bedtime story.
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I am sucker for any Caldecott winner.  The illustrations in this were breath-taking, and the story was sweet.
 
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My 2nd grader really loved this one.  A messy, creative kid is stuck in a very neat and tidy family.  She makes a wish that seems to go wrong but works out in the end.  Adorable.
 
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This book is a visual version of the telephone game...one family member sees a dog outside, and as each family member takes a peek, the dog gets bigger and bigger.  The brave kid leads the dog through an adventure, and it gradually gets back to regular size.  It's a little hard to explain because it's so visual, but I highly recommend.
 
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This last one is the classic story of the older sibling wanting time with his mom who is too busy caring for his baby sibling.  He dreams of sending the baby away in a rocket ship, but as it turns out, he really does love his sibling.  The kids loved this story...they could probably relate to the main character's feelings!
 
Hopefully, I will be back here soon.  In the meantime, happy reading!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012

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It's Halloween today, and it's also our city's beggar's night.  It is rainy and freezing outside.  My kids are not that crazy about the idea of going out in the weather and, truth be told, neither am I.  Luckily for them, I bought candy that they like, so I figured I might just set up a fun scavenger hunt in the house for them to find candy. 

Thinking back to last year's Halloween, I can see how different things were for me.  I was so overwhelmed with work that I couldn't even think about anything other than store-bought costumes.  And I am in no way dissing store bought costumes at all.  There are some really cute ones, and just because you can make something doesn't mean you have to, right?  This year, we're going with a combo of store bought + handmade.  My little guy really wanted to be Batman, so I purchased a costume at Target.  Unfortunately, the mask was too big, and the cape was super lame.  I traced another cape we have to make a pattern, scalloped the bottom edges, and it was a easy way to make a black satin Batman cape.  He loves it!

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I tried to re-work the mask from the costume, but that was an utterly comic failure.  So I found myself at Target again this morning to pick up a simple eye mask.  I'm working on an easy black fleece hat (did I mention it's freezing?) to which I'll affix Batman ears.

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Lauren has decided to be a gumball machine for Halloween. I saw this costume on Inchmark, showed it to her, and she was all about it.  The picture above is from our first version.  I glued a bowl into a bigger bowl filled with pom poms and added a hanging string, but it didn't go over well with Lauren.  The bowl edge kept hitting her chin, and tears are not a good costume feature.  I reworked that part by using a hot glue to stick a ton of pom poms onto a paper plate in a giant mound.  Not only does it look better, but we can not stick that on the outside of her coat so she can stay warm tonight.  Make it work!

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I don't think we carved pumpkins last year. We didn't even make it to the pumpkin farm this year - these are lovely, cheap grocery store pumpkins. A stormy grey Sunday provided the perfect backdrop for carving pumpkins last weekend. Lauren chose the design for the one on the right, and Eli decided he wanted a dragon pumpkin. He is obsessed with the movie How to Train Your Dragon (it really is cute). I searched online for a template, drew it on, and that's how we got a Toothless pumpkin.

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We had an extra pumpkin, and we made it into a friendly ghost.

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Hope everyone has a safe and fun Halloween!

(For Instagram folks, these pictures are old news...sorry!)

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

do Good Stitches quilt

do Good Stitches quilt front

This quilt was a collaboration of the Imagine do. Good Stitches circle. These ladies are so talented, as you can tell by the beautiful blocks that they put together. Since I was the quilter for this particular month's quilt, I decided to use a block designed by Alissa Haight Carlton for Sew Mama Sew's Modern Block of the Month series. We were to use a white background and bright colors. I have major triangle angst, so this was my way to trying to tackle it. Points, matching, precision...these are not my strong qualities! I loved seeing the blocks pop up on Flickr and was even more delighted when they started showing up in my mailbox!

feb 2012 do.Good block

These blocks were really fun to put together, and it's a great one for using up pretty bits of scrap fabric. These are my two contributions to the quilt.

feb 2012 do.Good block

I have to confess that it was pretty thriling to tackle these triangles and see a few sharp points turn out!

do Good Stitches quilt back

The back was some fabric from my stash that I think I picked up from JoAnn some time back, and the quilting was simple meanandering lines on the diagonal. I hand stitched the do.Good label on the back and sent it off to Threading Hope, which is the group's charity.

These do.Good quilting circles are putting lots of love and beautiful quilts out into the world. Earlier this year, I had to step down from the quilting circle, because my work and life commitments were overwhelming for a while. Happily, there have been some changes since then! Last Friday was my last day at my job, and I have entered the world of self-employment. I'm staying in the same field, but this opportunity gives me much more freedom. I feel really fortunate to have a contract at a time when many are seeking employment. And I hope that this change will free up more time for me to spend with my family and on creative endeavors.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Just for me

at the lake

I can't help myself
this need
to pull the zipper down
tooth by tooth
and show you all my secrets
I ebb (confidence)
and flow (regret)
An endless cycle
because the moon
refuses to stop its dance
around the Earth
One day, I say,
I'll learn to keep
a piece
just for me

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ohio Still

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This quilt has a very special destination this week. It will be hanging in an exhibit by the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild at the International Quilt Festival on April 13-15, 2012. I'm so excited to be a part of the first display of modern quilts at an IQF show. Our exhibit is based on modern interpretations of the Ohio Star, a traditional quilting block. And the work our guild members have created is absolutely spectacular. You can see a few examples of the other quilts that will be on display here and here and here and here. They are expecting around 18,000 people to come to the show the weekend, and it's wild to think about that many eyes on our work. What an honor!

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I'm really pleased with how this quilt turned out. I started it knowing that I would use three stars of varying sizes, but the rest was mostly improvisational designed. The herringbone centers were really fun to put together, and they add interest to the otherwise neutral palette.

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I pieced the binding to blend in to the design with the exception of a few pieced strips to balance out the colors. That strategically pieced binding is starting to feel like my 'thing' now. I do love it.

When we agreed to participate in the show, we had to fill out individual loan agreements for our quilts. I had to do things like place a value on my work and create an artist's statement. Very legitimate artist-y kind of things. Artist...first I had to accept that I fit the criteria for that word before I could craft a statement. I have always dreamed of being an artist of some sort but would never actually have thought to call myself one. In the end, I decided that if the IQF considers me an artist, I guess it must be so.

Below is the artist's statement that I submitted with my quilt:

"This quilt was made as part of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild’s project to modernize the Ohio Star block. My main goal in making this quilt was to reflect what I love about Ohio. While state has three major metropolitan areas, our agricultural roots are strong. Various shades of brown and tan represent the land and fields of Ohio. The green and blue represent pastures and sky. I chose to make three stars in different sizes, each with a pieced herringbone center square. The use of mostly solids, improvisational piecing, and machine quilting reflect some of the techniques used in the modern quilting. The overall quilting design is a series of intersecting lines in light blue and tan, and the binding is pieced to blend into the design. I am so honored to be a part of this series, which shows how the modern quilt movement, much like the state of Ohio, is rooted in rich tradition."

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If you're planning on coming down to the IQF show on Saturday, April 14, I do hope that you will join the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild at our Modern Meet-Up at the Hyatt Regency hotel at 8:00 pm. We have some great sponsors and amazing door prizes, and we would love to meet you! You can read more about that over on our blog.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Words from the road

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photo by Lauren taken during a walk yesterday.
words by me last week.


Being a working mom means I do a lot of juggling. I handle everything from laundry to permission slips, drop offs and pick ups, conference calls, deadlines and dinner. This week, I traveled the length of Ohio on Interstate 75 multiple times. I missed family dinners and bedtimes and a field trip. It isn't always like that. I'm fortunate to have a job that allows me to work from a home office and some flexibility in my schedule. But then again, some weeks look like this week.

I arrived at my site yesterday after an early wake up and a three and a half hour drive, conducted a long presentation for a room full of people, then drove another two and a half hours to my hotel in the next city. My evening was spent in my yoga pants answering emails, writing reports, organizing, and reviewing until I looked up at eight o'clock and reminded myself to eat. I grabbed a quick dinner and stopped into a bookstore to pick up a birthday gift for a party Eli is attending this weekend. I treated myself to about 30 minutes of leisurely browsing before heading back to settle in for the night.

But here is the gift of this week. Today's meeting is later in the day. I am writing this from a Cracker Barrel sipping a hot cup of coffee, having just read my hotel-provided USA Today. I am sitting next to a couple with their newborn baby. The baby is sleeping in his carseat while both parents are looking at pictures of that same baby on their cell phones. They are pointing out their favorites to each other. They are emitting the joy that comes from those first falling in love weeks of new parenthood. I am happier just having seen this. There are other people here, workers on hold due to the rain, family members meeting up and talking about other family members, older men dining alone.

Sometimes on these rougher weeks, I let myself fantasize about the life I would live if I didn't have a job. I would have a rocking body since I would be at the gym every day. We would eat all organic, from scratch dinners every night. I'd have a plot in the community garden where I could grow my own vegetables, which I would preserve myself to use during the winter. My kids would be in the best activities, and we would craft together every day while they wore clothes made by my hands. Did I mention that in this fantasy we have won the lottery, hired a a gardener, personal chef, personal trainer, and a live-in housekeeper. Yes...it is truly a fantasy.

This is today's reality. We just mailed in the last payment on my student loans. They took a full decade to pay off, and I thought this day would never come. Those loans allowed me to get a degree. To work as a nurse, where I became intimately acquainted with the delicateness of life. Where I learned what matters. Those loans let me pursue a career that would lead me to this current position, which allows me to make it to most of the school parties and field trips and after school activities. It's not perfect, and it's not my passion, but it works for today. And I am grateful for the gift of this leisurely morning. For saying yes to the second cup of coffee. For the adoring smiles of new parents gazing at their sleeping child. For spending time with this notepad and pen. And that will make today's long meeting and three and a half hour drive home a little easier to swallow.