Saturday, January 28, 2012

Real quick

... because I need to meet up with Leslie soon.

First up, Ron came up with this genius idea to make pizza crusts in bulk (ie, five or six at a time), bake them up, and then FREEZE them so we always have one or two on hand.  Basically, he made five pizze bianche ("white pizzas"; we ate one) and then shoved them in the freezer for later.  NOTHING is better than bread: French bread with butter, croissants with chocolate or jam, pizza crust with or without marinara ... it's all good.  I love bread.

Also, stopped at Anthro in between meetings at school yesterday.

(I love fountains almost as much as bread.  Maybe this is why Rome is my favorite city in the world?  No city on earth has as much good bread AND countless fountains.  huh.  A pattern.)

They (Anthro) have this awesome crochet apron.

I have an ivory crochet apron that I bought at a consignment shop (literally for $4--maybe $3?), BUT it's not lined with solid fabric underneath.  If you look, this apron has a mustard yellow lining (on top of the mustard yellow dress).

Another difference? On mine, the edging around the bottom flounce is this icky pink color.  It's not AWFUL ... but it's definitely not the color I would've picked. (I would've done the whole thing ivory.)  So now I want to go through my fabric or stop by Jo-Ann to see if I can buy fabric to line my own.  It can't be that hard.  (It can't be more difficult than this, anyway.)  Due to the whole pink issue, maybe I can get that done by Valentine's day?  I also still need to cut out and assemble all of my Valentines ... dammit, why didn't I think to start that earlier today?

Also, I found a new app I love: pixlr-o-matic.  It's not dramatically different from Instagram and Hipstamatic, but (unfortunately) it offers even more filters, etc., than I already had AND it's free!  (Bad because options become time consuming, aka "too much staring at phone not enough looking ahead/around at real world.)  I used it for the first two pix here. 

Need to start those Valentines ...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pix of the day

Progression of my paperwhites:

Nothing makes winter feel more bearable than 50 degree sunny days and forced bulbs.

Last but not least, the first course of tonight's dinner that Ron made for his dad's bday: steamed mussels in a gorgeous, spicy, runny, garlicky red sauce.

I don't have a picture of the homemade ravioli in marinara.  My plate was a mess and it would've looked grosser than the mussels.

Hardest lesson of the semester tomorrow: Descartes' rationalism.  The only thing that's going to hurt more than my feet tomorrow night will be my voice.

Time for bed!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Life between weekdays

Nothing beats Terrain after school on a Friday.  It was a slightly bizarre experience: Other than the people who work there, there was me ... and no one else.  Ok, I did see one lady in the green house, but then she disappeared and I think I was the only person there.  Usually, it's pretty packed.

I have to say, their plants looked really good on this particular visit.  It looks like orchids and ferns are The Thing right now. I'm not sure if they're trying to quietly coordinate with Longwood's upcoming annual Orchid Extravaganza.  (btw, if you've never been to their orchid event, then you should go.  I was really taken with it last year. The best part was the "orchid curtain" around the doorway of the music room in the Conservatory.  I think you can see a picture of it on their website.  Every year is slightly different, and I doubt it'll be a disappointment.)

I never get tired of anything glass--I love the way it photographs.  (Are you hearing me, Annie H.?  There's something to get your creative juices flowing: Give yourself an art assignment to take some cool pix of your--and Dennis'--work.)

Remember the overpriced velveteen pumpkins from this post (scroll doooowwn if you follow the link)?  They had two tossed carelessly into a clearance bin.  Well, three, actually, but the third was split open (revealing that they're stuffed with white RICE--not beans! HA! Would never have guessed that).  They were dusty orange and marked down to $14.95.  I really, REALLY thought about it.  Ultimately, I put mine back while swearing up and down that THIS would be The Year that I make my own--no need to buy them.  Yeah, yeah, yeah: We'll see how that goes.

Later on Friday night, Leslie came over for Ron's pizza before we (wait for it ...) left to go see Beauty and the Beast in 3D.  Yup. That's what I did Friday night.  Some justification for my actions: When I was in fourth grade and Leslie was in preschool, my mom gave us B&B for Christmas.  Because there's a five year gap in our ages, I probably watched that movie a thousand times because it was one of the few things that we could watch together.  (Five year age gaps are *HUGE* when you and your siblings are little kids, but the gap closes shockingly fast as each year goes by.)  Leslie and I were cracking up in the theater because we still have every word of dialogue memorized.  I know. That's so sick, right?  I seriously have not watched this movie since my high school babysitting days ... why does my brain hold onto that stuff, but not the name of the new student I've already called on three times in the past fifteen minutes?  Totally ridiculous.  Anyway, yes I will be honest: It was awesome to relive 74 minutes of childhood.

It snowed overnight into Saturday.  It was enough snow to be pretty without paralyzing Philly and the outlying suburbs. (I'm sure Septa was off-line for 36 hours, but that's to be expected.)  At some point on Saturday, I found my resolve to finish what I started last Saturday (or, depending how you look at it, January 2010):

The heart garland!  It's a project two years in the making ... although it only took two hours to cut out 100 hearts and thirty minutes to actually sew them together.  I'm serious: If I go back to school, it'll be to study the psychology of procrastination.  It's totally fascinating.  The odds of me actually making that commitment (and magically finding the money for it) are slim to none.

You can buy clear thread for your sewing machine, but I just switched my stitch to a zig-zag and used white.  I have a lot of leftover hearts that I'll use for Valentines that will get mailed out.

I made a second one for my banister--it's all pink and white without red.  I think it looks a little wimpy for this space, but it's only going to be for--what?--two or three weeks at this point.  My Bono heart coordinates pretty well with it.  Maybe I'll retake this with natural light tomorrow.

To end the weekend, we're having Joan's Wicked (ironically, it's vegan) Chili.

This is one of our favorite things to make.  It's as good (we think better) as any chili with meat, and it makes a HUGE amount.  You can serve it all week or freeze half for later.

1 large yellow onion
4 medium carrots
1-2 green bell peppers, chopped
2 T olive oil
3 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
6 oz tomato paste
2 cans garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 12oz can of corn, drained
1 16oz (?) package of frozen, shelled edamame (thawed)
2-3 T chili powder (depending on how hot you want this to be)
2 T curry powder
1 T ground cumin
1 T brown sugar
3-4 vegetable stock or water (doesn't make much of a difference)
salt and pepper to taste

- Saute onion, peppers, carrots, salt and pepper
- Add tomato paste and stir continuously
- Add spices and stir
- Add remaining ingredients; simmer until it's heated through and thickened slightly.
- Don't forget the wine (for drinking, not cooking)

So there you have it.  Let the week begin.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My 100th post ... scratch that. I already missed it.

Don't get excited. Not only did I mistakenly think that THIS was my 100th post (it's my 101st), but I don't have anything dramatic or life-changing to report.

Here's some stuff going on around the house.  (Can you tell why I went through Fluff withdrawal with my return to school this week?  It's strange--and undesirable--not to be around them for so many hours in a day.  Sad? Yes. True? Yes.)

Penny, reliving her kittenhood by convincing herself that she still fits in the sink.

Not sure what's going on here, but cat people know that I couldn't have forced them to coordinate like this in a million years.

These paperwhites may be the only bulbs that come up for me this year ... the ones outside are confused with the vacillating weather.
Oh, and speaking of Leah (featured prominently on my windowsill), I never posted pictures of my visit with her last week.

Little Leah greeted me all wrapped up in the shower gift that I gave to her and her mom.  I held her for the whole afternoon and she just slept the whole time.

I love to see Laurie so happy.  Seriously Leah, we've been talking about your arrival since 10th grade. So glad you're finally here!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Everything's better with a sister.

Always. It's true.

Even when the older sister doesn't feel like being nice or sharing.

 Luckily for big sisters, little sisters tend to be pretty forgiving, even if they're perfectly entitled to be otherwise.

Random stuff and a craft

Love this:

Last Friday night, Ron and I went to Panera with our friend, Amy, and her daughter, Maya.  I still don't know if Maya liked sharing the backseat of Amy's car with me, but she didn't seem to dislike it terribly.  I can't wait for her to start talking.  She's definitely going to be a big talker.  (At least, that's what I keep wishing for ... don't know if Amy appreciates this or not.)

I am SO EXCITED about these:

Waaaay back in 2009, Anderson Cooper mentioned these cookies on Regis and Kelly.  They're sold daily at Momofuku's Milk Bar, and I've ALWAYS wanted to try them.  They're called compost cookies because they have EVERYTHING in them: chocolate chips, potato chips, pretzels, etc.  Apparently, Anderson was totally obsessed with them.  I made it to NYC at the very end of 2009 (for a totally non-cookie related event) and never made it to Milk Bar.  For some reason, I remember Milk Bar being in Soho. I was staying in midtown (only very briefly) and didn't feel like braving the subway to get there.  I can definitely tell you that their current midtown location didn't exist in 2009 or I definitely would have gone there upon arrival.  (I really hope I don't get a comment like, "Uhh, you're clearly a country bumpkin: Milk Bar's been in midtown for a decade and is the OLDEST NEWS EVER.")

ANYWAY, Milk Bar is selling compost cookie mix at Williams-Sonoma.  I carried one of the boxes all around the store with me the other night, but I forced myself to put it down.  Later, I decided that I'm definitely going back for it.  My excuse is Valentine's Day: If I make them for Valentine's Day, then they're not a totally unjustified splurge.  It's probably cheaper to figure out how to make them with ingredients I already have (the box says you have to add your own chips and pretzels), but I've fallen heard for the packaging.  Which is so not helpful.

Speaking of Valentine's day, I've been meaning to work on a garland of felt hearts ... for two years. I bought all of the supplies for it in between snow storms during January of 2010.  Everything sat untouched for two years until last Saturday.  The two years of procrastination can be explained very simply: Cutting out 50-100 felt hearts sounds really frustrating and boring.  I looked around for a large heart-shaped "hole-punch" for fabric last year but to no avail. Honestly, in the time I spent searching for that I could've just cut out the damn hearts by hand.  Last Saturday morning, I looked at the felt stacked on my shelves and thought, "Dammit. This is getting done.  What is the MATTER with me?"  (Can you tell this is metaphor for a larger theme in my life?)

Of course, nothing gets off to an easy start. I knew the easiest place to work would be the floor, but when I sat down to get started, I realized that my floor was covered with 1) cat fluff  2) dust  3) wooly stuff shedding from the new kitchen area rug  4) cat fluff  5) more carpet fluff.  Come on, Crafters of the World: Can you think of anything dumber than working with FELT on top of cat and carpet fluff?  Neither can I.

So, out comes the vacuum ... along with the Crazy Lady who possesses my body, mind, heart, and soul when I have to clean anything. Oh, the ranting and raving: It's totally exhausting. PLUS, on this occasion there was all the guilt--underlying the ranting--that comes from thinking, "Oh geez.  Shouldn't I dust everything before I vacuum?? LOOK AT THIS PLACE.  WHY IS IT SO DAMN DIRTY IN HERE???  WHY AM I ALWAYS CLEANING SOMETHING???"

At this point, Ron is hiding under the bed upstairs with the cats.

Once the vacuum was put away and the Crazy Lady had safely departed (only to return, I'm sure, sometime later this week), I could finally get down to business.  It took about 2 hours to cut out approximately 100 hearts. I have no idea how many I need for a garland to drape across my front table, but I figure that 50 oughtta do it?  My intention was to make TWO garlands: It was my mom who found this on a blog two years ago and asked me to do it.  I guess she got tired of waiting:

She made her own out of paper the same weekend.  You know, I took pictures of my mom's mantle at Christmas, but I don't think I ever posted them?  Here they are:

Since she's painted the mantle white, it's looked perfect for every season.

The garland just needs to be sewed together. I can't decide if I want to sew the hearts "sideways" like my mom or if I want to line them up side by side.  I'm leaning toward the second option, although I'm thinking that may be a little harder to do.  I have enough hearts to do both ... maybe I'll just try it both ways?

School's back in session, and I really need to get out of this "go-to-bed-at-2am-wake-up-at-9am" routine.  Maybe I can get a two hour head start on switching this up for tonight?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Snow Globes!

Maybe you saw these at Anthropologie during Christmas season: "snow globes" inside salt shakers and mason jars.  I've seen a lot of people replicating them in Blog Land (these are really cute), so Leslie and I decided to try making our own this past weekend.

We knew we wanted to attack this project with a mindset of Complete Overachievement.  A small frosted tree in a jar wouldn't do it for us: We wanted icy ponds, small rock formations, spotted fawns, and moss.  When Leslie came over to my house, we realized that we had plenty of trees, animals, moss and pebbles ... but nothing for icy ponds.  So, I (that is, Ron) tore apart my Physicians Formula compacts and popped out the tiny mirrors under the makeup.  Then, we realized that we had to run to Michael's anyway ... and found tiny mirrors discounted in the Christmas clearance aisle.  Bottom line: plenty of icy ponds.

I believe the project commenced around 9pm after watching an hour of My Cat from Hell while gobbling Ron's homemade pizza.  (That cat man is AWESOME.  We learned that my cats are "bush cats"--they like to hide under things--and my mom's cat is a "tree cat"--ie, she likes to sit up high and watch goings-on from above.) It took two back-to-back movies (Little Women and Pride and Prejudice) to finish the whole project.

I did three--this one is my favorite.  We bought the jars at the dollar store and Ikea and spray painted the cheap plastic white lids metallic gold.  It's hard to see, but there's an icy pond in the front surrounded by moss covered rocks.  We sprayed the moss with adhesive and glittered it to make it appear frosted. You know those tabletop Christmas villages that light up? You can buy a huge pack of the trees at Kmart for $5 (wait until they're 50% off to buy them), and the smallest ones easily fit in the jars.  The pebbles are also from the dollar store. Underneath the rocks and icy pond is ivory lace as the base of the whole scene ... you can't really see it here.

There's a little bluebird in the trees above the fawn--this is a weird angle, and the depth of field + flash doesn't help much.

Not very creative ... basically the same set-up here: icy pond, moss covered rocks, frosty trees, and a glittered moose.  The plastic animals are really cute as is, but IF something can be glittered, THEN it ought to be glittered.  (I've never really thought about the applicability of Kant's categorical imperative to crafts, but maybe there's an untapped connection here?)

This one was trickier to put together than the first one.  Although the mouth of the first jar was narrower--and thus trickier to precisely place things in the bottom--it was easier to lay out the whole scene in the end. (Sounds like a contradiction. I know.)  This second jar was short and squat enough to really just be flat-out tricky.  Hence, I think this final product is my second favorite.

Finally, I had a glass canister in the basement that's missing a lid (because it smashed to the floor a year ago ... I saved the canister to do a terrarium, but my one attempt failed).  Something tells me I'm going to be ripping this one apart and redoing it at some point.

I wanted the lace in the background to create a frosty, etched look. But I was really tired and had burned my fingers too many times with the glue gun and the final effect is less than desirable.  I'm going to have to rip the damn thing out and use a clear craft glue to seal the lace to the glass.

If I could get the lace flat, I think I would really like it.  The stream is pretty, no? Now I just need to get some pictures of Leslie's ... I took these the morning after we finished putting them together.

We were all pretty exhausted after a night of Extreme Crafting.

They even sleep the exact same way.
Meanwhile, it has been CRAZY warm outside and I have been LOVING it.  This really has been the best winter ever (*knock wood*).  The only sorta bad thing?  My bulbs are coming up ... 3.5 months early.

*sigh* Something tells me a coldsnap is going to finish these suckers off before they get another two inches taller ... and then I won't see them again until 2013.  C'e' la vie.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What are you grateful for?

Or, to be grammatically correct, "For what or whom are you grateful?"

I was thinking about this post five weeks ago when Thanksgiving rolled around, but I never sat down to actually write it.  I feel like now is as good a time as any to ask this question, what with the new year and all.

I've always felt sort of underwhelmed by each passing new (calendar) year.  When I ask myself why and really dig for an answer it's because a small voice in the depths of my mind is rolling its eyes (because voices have eyes? who knows) and saying, "Duh. THE New Year started at the end of August when school started again."  When I think about it some more, I remember that my birthday always coincides with the first week of school ... so really, the January 1st New Year always seems to be four months late and completely irrelevant in comparison to the Double New Year that totally overwhelms me at the end of August.  A lot of people go through a champagne-induced existential crisis around 2am on January 1st, but I do all of that much earlier in the year between August 27 and September 4th (or whenever Labor Day ends).

Resolutions, Smesolutions.  WHY do people make resolutions in JANUARY?? The only thing more absurd is making resolutions in FEBRUARY.  As my sister pointed out the other day, "Why would ANYBODY commit to doing ANYTHING of ANY difficulty during the coldest, darkest, windiest, crappiest month of the whole year??  And February's EVEN WORSE!"  For real.  Why do we do this to ourselves?  We're already down ... why knock ourselves out?

While everyone else is complaining about the gym and force feeding themselves steamed broccoli, I spend a lot of time trying to remind myself why I can't afford to allow the lack of sunlight to depress me.  For example, as I lament my limp and lifeless hair and curse my genetic history (thanks, Mom), I try to end on the thought, "Well, at least I have hair. Because it would be AWFUL to be 28 years old and not have any.  And I'm sure there's a bald, 28 year old woman out there somewhere."  It's a little thing called "Perspective." I'm not proficient at this technique, but I do ok with it.

Here are five things, in no particular order, that I am really, REALLY grateful for (not including people/pets/relationships).  On my worst day, I seriously thank the Powers That Be for these things.
  1. Contact lenses/glasses (but especially contacts; I was saying to somebody the other day--maybe Tiff and Shane?--that I never would have lived past the age of 12 if I had been born, say, during the Dark Ages with the same vision I have now ... I would've fallen into a pit I couldn't see or simply been eaten by a wild animal that could see me a lot better than I would've been able to see it).
  2. Indoor plumbing, especially for heated water. And flushing toilets. (We'll count that as one.)
  3. Tampons (come on: you know you're grateful too)
  4. Any and all major appliances (including, but not limited to, washer/dryer, dishwasher, refrigerator, etc. If you think this is stupid, go ask your grandmother what life was like before these things existed).
  5. Good health (including, but not limited to): two arms and two legs and two feet that work (except for the whole bunion issue, which is still really minor), 10 fingers, and a brain that works sort of well most of the time.
Looking at this list, there's still two things left out and I'm afraid I'll jinx myself if I don't include them:
  1. Roof over my head
  2. Reliable car parked out front (because taking the bus everyday where I live would be awful. ALTHOUGH, if I had to take the bus, I would be happy that a bus exists).
I'm still leaving a lot of stuff out. I'm thinking about face soap and moisturizer. If you think that's dumb, ask the average woman from the Dark Ages how she washes or moisturizes her face. Answer? SHE DOESN'T! How awful would that feel?

Again, depending on perspective, one could argue that most of the above are luxury items and I seriously need to reevaluate my life. On the one hand, this may be true. On the other, this is the life that I know, and it's too late at night to explore the randomness of, "Why me? Why this life?"

Ok, so let's switch gears.  Here are five more things that I'm really grateful for but that I could totally (physically) live without if they were taken away from me ... although I would probably cry a lot before accepting their absence (ie, out and out luxuries):
  1. Swimming pools
  2. Perfect skinny jeans (thank you, Mossimo for Target), boots, and cardigans
  3. My treadmill with multi-room DVR in the basement
  4. Microsoft Word and RefWorks (YOU try writing a dissertation without cut and paste and "highlight/DELETE" ... you use that last one a lot) ... if you ask anyone who wrote a diss before 1990, they all did it without any of these things ... which means--technically--I could do it too, but nobody would rationally wish for those circumstances.
  5. My camera ... and let's be honest: the camera is pointless without a functioning computer. So put that on the list.
  6. What the hell ... let's keep going here: Coffee! and tea! and CAKE!! and CANDY!! and BOOZE!! (Please tell me that you see the absurdity of #2, #3, and #6? Do I need to point it out?)
  7. U2
  8. Anything sparkly, ie, jewelry (just say it, already)
  9. Kelly Ripa
  10. Magazines
  11. Nail polish

Some of this year's Christmas gifts: earrings from Sarah and a bracelet from Katherine
Looking at this last list, I am aware of how frivolous all of these are while sadly aware that losing ALL of them at the same time would totally and utterly suck. (Sorry, Mom.)

And it's at this point that I reach the bottom line: No matter how I cut it, it's easy to admit that I'm absurdly, sickly privileged. So much so (that has to be grammatically incorrect) that I'm wondering if I even want to post this anymore because it's flat-out embarrassing.

What are you grateful for?