Wednesday, February 29, 2012

things I made in february

A few things I made in the past month:

leather cuff bracelet
leather cuff bracelet
I've always admired leather cuff bracelets. The problem is that I have scrawny little wrists and bracelets are always too big for me. In fact, one of Larry's nicknames for me is "T-Rex" (and not because I'm a beast in the mornings, though that, too, is appropriate) because I have such wimpy little arms. So I wanted a cuff bracelet, but knew that one sized for a normal adult would a) overwhelm my wrist and b) slide off. Enter my sewing machine, a thin piece of leather, some metallic silver thread, and grommet-style snaps, and in 10 minutes I had whipped up a couple of DIY leather cuffs. This isn't the most expensive-looking leather (probably because it wasn't expensive!), but I like that it's extra thin and soft because it makes the cuff a lot more comfortable to wear. Will they last forever? Probably not, but at $3 in materials each, I can always make another one!

Speaking of T-Rex, have you seen T-Rex Trying? Hilarious!

DIY felt ball flowers
Porcelain milk bottle vase by Alyssa Ettinger.
DIY felt ball flowers
A few years ago, I bought a bag of multi-colored felt balls thinking that I would make them into a garland for our Christmas tree. I quickly realized that it was going to take a million balls and cost a fortune to make a garland long enough to wrap a tree. So I used the red balls to make a garland for our mantle and ended up making our Christmas tree garland out of felt circles.

This left me with a bunch of leftover felt balls that I had no use for...
in progress
Until I was going through my art supplies and found some green floral wire! Aha!

For the past few years I admired those yellow ball flowers that showed up on all the design blogs (which after googling "yellow ball flowers", I learned were called billy balls or craspedia). I even bought some dried ones last year for a vase in our library. But I wanted more, and while I'm not usually a fan of fake flowers, I think these guys may even be cuter than the real thing and they're easy to DIY. (Use a thick upholstery needle and some elbow grease to poke a hole in the felt ball, then insert the floral wire with a dab of glue.)

Several people asked for a tutorial for this project. The stamps are made using a block of rubber and block-carving tools that are easily found in the printmaking section of your local art store.

wax on wood
wax on wood
You might not know it from the art that's currently available in my shop, but abstract art is my first true love. I've been experimenting lately with mixed results (but the process sure is fun!). This one is wax, gouache, and seed beads on wood.

Also, my studio is now covered with bits of colored wax. D'oh!

blueberry muffins
There's a reason I keep blueberries in the freezer during the off-season - so I can tell winter to F off have a little bite of summer in February!

valentines 2012
800 paper hearts for Valentine's Day! They're still up and I'm tempted to keep them up year round!

DIY rope bowl embellished with embroidery thread
DIY rope bowl embellished with embroidery thread
I had some rope leftover from the first rope bowl I made in December and decided to make a second smaller bowl, embellished with metallic embroidery thread. (I also got smart this time and wrapped the mixing bowl I was using as a guide with aluminum foil to protect it from hot glue.) It's currently in my bathroom being used as nest for my Lush bath bombs - which now that I look at it, would make a pretty sweet alternative Easter basket.

blueberry muffin french toast with blueberry-maple cream cheese frosting
Chaps, a restaurant in Washington state makes something similar that was recently featured on Diners Drive-Ins and Dives. As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to recreate this recipe for myself. Just bake your favorite blueberry muffin recipe in a loaf pan (you will need to double or triple the baking time). Soak slices of the bread in an egg/milk/vanilla/cinnamon/sugar/salt mixture (I never measure) and pan fry. Top with cream cheese frosting (add some blueberries and a squirt of maple syrup, to taste).

yarn-wrapped bottle
yarn-wrapped bottle
yarn-wrapped bottle
As part of my Handmade Holiday, I became obsessed with making yarn-wrapped Christmas balls. I made nearly two dozen of these things and once Christmas was over, I had plans to wrap other things with yarn - like a yarn-wrapped vase. When I saw Elise's take on this, I knew I had to copy her black and white color-scheme.

I'm always planning projects that use beer bottles (we typically have a surplus of these...), but when it comes down to it, a beer bottle looks like a beer bottle no matter what you do with it, and beer bottle decor looks like something that belongs in a dorm to me. So I used a square-ish olive oil bottle for this project and I think it makes a nice shape for a vase. (It's from Safeway brand olive oil.)

A few tips if you want to start wrapping things with yarn: 
1. Use all cotton yarn, no synthetics or blends. Glue doesn't stick to synthetics and you will be very frustrated if you try to glue acrylic yarn to anything.
2. I used a really thin smooth mercerized cotton yarn for this project to give my bottle a sleek, modern, non-fuzzy look.
3. My favorite glue for just about everything is Scotch Quick Dry Adhesive. It dries super fast which is great for projects like this where you don't want the yarn slipping while the glue dries. And, I learned that it even works on glass!

I've got a lot of creative ideas lately, so hopefully I can keep up the momentum in March...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

awaking the beast

I am not a morning person.

I never will be a morning person.

This is something about myself that I've accepted I cannot change. I'm a night owl through and through.

Even as a child, I was aghast when my friends told me they woke up at 6 am on weekends just so they could watch cartoons. First of all, cartoons suck. Seriously, I was never into them, even as a kid. Second of all, sleep is way more important. Third of all, why are you waking up WHEN IT'S STILL DARK OUT? That's not natural!

As a teenager and college student, I loved sleeping in. This is probably pretty normal behavior for adolescents.

People told me, "Oh, once you get a job, you'll never be able to sleep in. Your body will automatically wake up early, even on weekends." or "Oh, once you get older, you'll become a morning person."



I'm 33. I still like to sleep in. I freaking HATE mornings.

Seriously, do NOT talk to me in the morning. Do not try to coax me out of bed. I will be mean to you. (I'm sorry about that, but I just can't help it.) Also, if you utter the phrase "Good morning, sunshine!" or "Rise and shine, sleepyhead!" within my earshot, I *will* punch you.

I've learned over time that my body's clock prefers for me to sleep between the hours of 4 am and noon. Yes, I realize that this schedule does not work with society's expectations, so I've spent much of my adult life trying to fight it. But I am most productive between midnight and 4 am. That is when I catch my second wind and my creative burst.

When I worked in an office, this was obviously a problem. I was always trying not to be late to work. I slept through my alarm quite a bit. I turned the alarm up so loud the neighbors complained, and I still slept through it when it was blaring away right next to my face. I got a second alarm clock. I slept through that, too. I had bosses and co-workers who were extreme-morning people. Why is it that morning people always turn their noses up at night owls as if we are slackers? Just because I get into work later does not mean I don't work just as hard once the sun starts to set.

(Oh, and hey, morning people? At least my bedtime is not equivalent to that of a baby's!)

Part of the problem may be that I don't drink coffee. I made it through five years of architecture school (and many many all-nighters including staying awake in the studio for 72 hours straight) without a single cup of coffee. I tried taking a no-doze once and it made me feel like a strung-out jittery crack addict. I never did that again. I stayed awake through sheer willpower and by chewing spearmint gum (and the occasional cookie).

I guess what I'm saying is that my sleep habits suck and they have for a long time. Even when I do get up "early" I don't know what to do with myself because my brain does not seem to fully function. I sit around and stare at the walls until it becomes a more appropriate hour for getting things done. Sometimes I allow myself the luxury of reading a book in the morning. But guess what happens? I end up falling asleep.

So, as my 30 Day Challenge for March, my goal is to set a regular sleep schedule, get up "early", and have a bedtime. This is going to be harder for me than it sounds...

Alright, morning people, here is my schedule, so please don't laugh at me (I apologize for that crack about a baby's bedtime. Also, I'm sorry if you like cartoons):

8:00 am Out of bed! Seriously, no snoozing!
11:00 pm In bed. Do something relaxing, like read a book. (Or drink wine.)
12:00 am Lights out.

I realize that a wake-up time of 8 am is much later than most people get up for their day jobs. I realize that some people get up early and do things like *run* and *work-out* and still get to work before 8 am. I am not those people. Also, baby steps...

Now here's my problem. Like I said, when I get up early I don't really function well and I don't know what to do with myself. I'd like to start working earlier in my studio, but I feel like I need an hour pre-work to get going. What should I do with myself during this time? Suggestions?

What do you morning people (or recovered night owls) do to start your day? How do you find momentum to keep going through the morning? HELP.

Monday, February 27, 2012

great falls

great falls park
I don't want to be someone who goes on and on about the weather...but lately, it's been in the 60s. In February. In Virginia. This is not a normal winter. We usually get cold weather and snow here. (Not Syracuse cold - been there, done that. But cold enough.) I'm not complaining though. If it didn't mean that Earth was about to burn up, I'd be all for winter never existing at all.

The unseasonably warm weather calls for getting my butt outside. Nature, fresh air, and sunshine - I always underestimate how much my body needs these things to survive the winter months. Our whole family has had a bad case of spring/cabin fever lately, so we laced up a our hiking shoes, packed up the dogs, and headed to Great Falls for a romp in the woods. The ranger at the entry booth even had a stash of dog biscuits for the pups!
great falls park
Great Falls Park has been one of my favorite places ever since childhood. Every time I visit, I'm blown away that something like this is a mere 12 miles from my house. And every time I visit, I take the exact same photo. I can't help myself. No matter how many times I've seen it, it's hard to tear my eyes away from this view:
great falls park
The pups had a grand time inspecting holes:
great falls park
great falls park
And checking out the view:
great falls park
great falls park
The mighty Potomac:
great falls park
Gravy wasn't so interested in having his picture taken. His expression in this picture kills me. He wanted to play with a little boy who was yelling "TEN NINE EIGHT SEVEN SIX FIVE FOUR THREE TWO ONE. ZERO! BLAST OFF!!!"
great falls park
Happy boys:
great falls park
Signs of climbers:
great falls park
Gravy is not a fan of stopping for any reason or taking breaks. He becomes very impatient and starts making a very annoying sound:
great falls park
"Hey Dad, stop trying to take pictures of Mom's boobs, and let's get moving!"

There were definite signs that spring is on its way: daffodils in bloom and frogs everywhere. (And mosquitos. Shit!) I've never seen so many frogs, but the remaining parts of the canal that still have a bit of water in them were full of frogs. We're talking dozens and dozens of them. I was fascinated watching them puff up their little cheeks and sing BUD WEIS ER ribbit ribbit ribbit!
great falls park
It was a bit hard to photograph them (evidently, I didn't have an appropriate frog lens with me), but trust me, they were everywhere:
great falls park
We had the place almost to ourselves, which was a nice change. We sadly often avoid Great Falls because it gets so crowded during the peak season.
great falls park
great falls park
great falls park
great falls park
A view across the river to the Maryland side:
great falls park
I seem to always end my hiking stories with a photo of the dogs post-adventure. Once we got home, I busted them sleeping like this:
what is going on here?

Until next time...
great falls park

Thursday, February 23, 2012


feed me steaks
gimme caaake!
i love cheese

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

indulgences + sacrifices

sunday nights in the tub
Yesterday was Fat Tuesday. Mardi Gras. A day of indulgences.

Today marks the first day of Lent - a period of forty days that many people use to give up a bad habit or start a good one. In Christianity, it marks a period of sacrifice and penitence. While I don't celebrate Lent for religious reasons, I am a fan of using the weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter to complete a challenge. (A 40 Day Challenge in lieu of a 30 Day Challenge!) I typically give up meat for Lent. This year Larry is joining me.

Actually, Larry has one-upped me. He is giving up meat AND beer for Lent. Will he survive? Will I?
Will we end up stuffing our faces with crab and wine instead?

We'll be eating a pescetarian and vegetarian diet. Seafood is allowed. We're both looking forward to eating healthier and trying more fish recipes. Hopefully, we won't end up eating cheesy pasta and cake every night. (Caaaaake! I've been having a serious and insatiable craving for cake lately.) Bring on the lentils, bring on the beans!

I've already planned out our dinner menus through the end of Lent, and thought I'd share how I attempt to schedule our meals:
march 2012 meal plan - veg
I love this calendar method. It really helps prevent the What's for dinner? Let's just eat Cheerios! scenario. As you can see, it's a messy process and we don't stick to the calendar 100% of the time since I haven't planned for meeting friends/family for dinner, going out to eat, getting lazy, or any of the other things that inevitably pop up throughout the month - when that happens, we just adjust accordingly.

breakfast tacos
Breakfast Tacos. Which look surprisingly like regular tacos, but are actually stuffed with scrambled eggs and refried beans.
Over the weekend, Larry and I gorged ourselves with a big brunch at Chef Geoff's (mimosas, eggs chesapeake, chicken and waffles). We made breakfast tacos for Presidents' Day breakfast. And last night we drank up all the beer in our house, and it made me think about Mardi Gras indulgences and also daily indulgences - the little treats that get you through the day. I'm especially a fan of these kind of things during the cold, dark winter months that I hate. Treating myself throughout the winter is necessary to my survival!

Our current indulgences:

DELICIOUS BEER | Our new favorite is Bear Republic Hop Rod Rye.
Another fun one is Southern Tier Brewing Creme Brulee Imperial Milk Stout. This beer smells and tastes like liquid butterscotch. Also, it is 9.6% ABV and has cows on the label. And it temporarily satisfied my craving for caaaaaaaaake!

sunday nights in the tub
Currently obsessed with Philip Seymour Hoffman movies - such a talented actor!

A NEW SUNDAY NIGHT TRADITION |  A hot bath, candles, and watching a movie on my iPad in the tub. Add a drink (wine or a cocktail), a bath bomb, and perhaps a manicure. You know that amazing relaxed feeling you get on vacation? That's how my Sunday night baths make me feel - it's like a vacation once a week.

nutella x2!
NUTELLA | My love for Nutella began when I was a college student studying abroad in Italy. I'm pretty sure that we were given Nutella as a snack during orientation on the day we arrived in Florence and I fell in love. I subsequently "invented" the peanut butter and Nutella sandwich. My love for Nutella has recently been rekindled, and I've been putting it in everything lately.

GREEK FOOD | It seems our fridge is never without a container of salty olives from the olive bar. I could eat a plate of these with some cheese for lunch every day. And yesterday, my mother and I had an amazing Greek lunch at Nostos Restaurant - the best Greek meal I've ever had. So glad to have this restaurant in the neighborhood. Already looking forward to going back!

MOVIES | I'm not a big TV watcher and I never even had cable television until Larry and I bought our house. Consequently, I'm way behind on seeing movies from the last decade or two. However, I'm currently obsessed with catching up on all the movies I've missed out on through HBO GO on my iPad. And Larry and I often spend winter evenings on the couch watching a movie OnDemand. I've watched 15 movies since the beginning of the year. Favorites include 50/50, Moneyball, The Ides of March, and The Way. This movie made me yearn for a trip back to Spain. (I studied abroad in Spain, too.) Also, Larry and I are now dreaming of hiking El Camino de Santiago. (Added it to the Life List!)

(Did anyone else hate Midnight In Paris? Ugh. I just don't get Woody Allen films. We almost had to turn this movie off because we hated it so much, so I can't believe it was nominated for Best Picture. Also, I want to punch Owen Wilson right in his crooked schnoz. So annoying.)