Thursday, January 29, 2009

this american life

today i am thankful for:

1. health insurance.

2. a husband who believes the best about me even when i don’t.

3. npr and ira glass, whom i found inordinately funny this morning when he asked if i, the listener, was one of those people who had listened to npr for years but never pledged, inculcating my children while they sit bored in the backseat – and i thought, omg, i’m going to be one of those parents! i was one of those children who grew up on npr, bored in the backseat, and now i love it – and i’m sure i will be one of those parents who inflict npr on their children as well. and isn't inculcate a great word?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

pretty and functional, right up my alley.

this was also a small project this weekend that i have been meaning to do. this creative idea was stolen from my mother:

i like it because it is crafty and functional without looking like some nifty crafty organizer thingy you'd buy at a holiday bazaar and pawn off on some unsuspecting b-list relative. i also like it because it makes my everyday things like artwork. brian actually even liked it, a lot i presume, because he kept commenting on it. or maybe he just liked that we finally have something (anything!) hung on a wall in our master bedroom.

it took about a half an hour to complete and no swearing at all which is my kind of project. i used the glass in a frame i had as a template to cut a rectangle from a piece of canvas, about 2-3 inches larger all around than the glass. i sewed on five random shank buttons from the button jar all in a row. they are about 1½-2 inches apart and kind of large-ish in diameter, and you need the shank so there is some depth for the chains. then i ran a length of heavy-duty thread across the back from one side to another in a kind of Z pattern, pulling the canvas really tight around the glass so it would not shift. i was not so concerned about the sides but i didn't want the top to wrinkle funny and maybe drape from the weight of the necklaces. then i just reassembled the frame and hung it on the wall by my dresser and voila, we finally have something mildly decorative.

Monday, January 26, 2009

condensed, sadly (but nicely streamlined)

the big project around the house this weekend was moving my sewing room downstairs along with all the assorted sewing/crafty crap i have collected over the years. this meant the downstairs closet had to get cleaned out, which was good because it was just storage for a bunch of stuff that did not need to be stored in the house. um, luggage? my upstairs closet also had to get cleaned out which was good because there was a lot of stuff that i just had not dealt with since we moved in six months ago. including stuff that just got thrown into boxes that really ought to have been thrown in the trash but just seemed vitally important at the time. and a bunch of brian's stuff that mysteriously migrated from the museum, how did that happen?

this is what i ended up with, sharing space with the guest room, which really feels a lot better now that the huge dark bookcase is out of there (the books went upstairs onto the ledge in our bedroom) and the futon looks like a real bed:

small notions in the top two drawers which previously housed random scrapbooking crap that now has a new home. isn't it nice to clean stuff out? the bottom drawer is scrapbooking paper, and the boxes behind are my sewing box (random stuff like the cams for the elna, extra knife blades for the serger, the buttonholer that i haven't figured out how to use yet) and two boxes of scrapbooking stuff. on the shelf is the cd box i repurposed years ago to hold my working patterns (those currently in rotation), a box of zippers and a box of elastic/velcro/bias tape, tailor's ham and seam roll, and the "reference" books and magazines i've collected over the years pertaining to my various hobbies obsessions. the small corkboard is a must for keeping pattern instructions handy while sewing a new project.

the shelf i repurposed from our old entertainment center that was in the original sewing room. i was going to hang both shelves but at the moment i like the spare-ness of just one, and (i think) i have enough space with just the one. hopefully it will also force me to keep things neat and tidy. this room also gets great light during the day but like all our bedrooms the overhead lights are crappy and dull at night. hence the torch lamp with the reading light which was previously down here and stayed, because i tend to like to sew at night when it is quiet. the ironing board will come down here also in the next day or so but i think i am going to have to get another over-the-door board for our bedroom/clothes ironing. we'll see how all the tromping up and down the stairs works out or if i can be counted on to pull the ironing out of the clean clothes basket before it goes upstairs.

still not sure if i am going to bring the knitting basket down or leave it upstairs in our room and i still have to re-hang the pictures i took down while we were moving stuff around. even with bare walls the room just feels good. even though it is smaller than my previous beloved space i am somewhat excited to get to work on a project in there. i think it is because the drawers under the table will make it so much easier to sew and scrapbook, because the little stuffs are not hidden in my sewing box or in the closet but usefully, easily within reach. the biggest thing i lost is large space to cut out patterns, but really, i can do that on the island in the kitchen or on my table if i move the machines.

in other news, rather coveting this cd from fiction family. nickel creek plus switchfoot equals beautiful. i wonder if i have enough change saved for a new cd?

Saturday, January 24, 2009

again with the pears.

i was going to make cobbler from the leftover pear pie filling but i decided on muffins thinking brian would like that better. turns out he apparently "only" likes blueberry muffins. too bad for him because they turned out delicious. more for me i guess.

i adapted the double blueberry muffin recipe from butter sugar flour eggs. it is my absolute favorite dessert cookbook and probably the most beautiful cookbook i own. maybe the most beautiful cookbook in the world. in case you don't have your own leftover pear pie filling, here is how you make it:

½ c. golden raisins
2 T. minced crystallized ginger
2 c. diced ripe pears
1 T. melted butter
1 tsp. lemon juice
¾ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

combine raisins and ginger in a small saucepan with enough water to just cover. simmer until liquid is completely absorbed, about 15 minutes. combine raisin mixture with pears, butter, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg, stirring to coat evenly.

8 T. butter
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
3 c. pear pie filling (above)
1½ c. flour
½ c. whole wheat flour
½ c. milk
½ tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ginger

preheat oven to 375º. cream butter until smooth. add sugar and mix. add eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt, and mix together.

in a shallow bowl, mash about ¾ cup of the pear mixture with the back of a fork. add to the batter and mix well. with the mixer running at low speed, add 1 cup of flour and half the milk, mixing well. add the remaining ½ cup of flour, whole wheat flour, remaining milk, and spices, and mix well. fold in remaining pear mixture by hand.

spoon mixture into muffin tins, about ¾ full. bake until golden brown and risen, about 25 to 30 minutes. makes about 20 muffins.

they did not rise very much and i don't know why, maybe the whole wheat flour and the pears were just too much for the baking powder? i may have to play with the recipe. they taste heavenly, especially warm. nicely spiced but not too overdone. cakey and crumbly but not too sweet. just the way i like my muffins. yum.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

pear pie

this week i am thankful for:

1. my husband, still, for being patient with me even as i am a cranky, hormonal bitch to him.

2. good friends who make me laugh and listen with understanding and without condemnation.

3. flexible recipes that still taste good even when i forget ingredients. i made this last night and forgot the sugar in the filling and overdid it on the pears, so it was un-sweet and the flavors were somewhat diluted. i love pie. i love how easy it is to make and how flexible it is to create. i love that even though i forgot the sugar, it still tasted delicious. like breakfast instead of dessert. i may start forgetting the sugar all the time.

gingered pear pie with golden raisins

2½ c. flour
2 T. sugar
1 tsp. salt
½ c. chilled butter, diced
½ c. chilled shortening
¼ c. plus 2 T. buttermilk

¾ c. golden raisins
¼ c. plus 2 T. minced crystallized ginger (about 2½ oz.)
3 lb. ripe medium pears (about 7), peeled, cored, and sliced into ½-inch dice
½ c. sugar
3 T. melted butter
2 T. quick-cooking tapioca (i used cornstarch)
1 T. lemon juice
1¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg

1 egg
2 T. milk

combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. cut in butter and shortening until mixture resembles coarse meal. drizzle buttermilk over mixture and stir until moist clumps form. gather and divide into two balls, pressing flat into disks. wrap separately and chill one our. let stand at room temperature to soften slightly before rolling.

combine raisins and ginger in a small saucepan. add enough water to just cover and simmer over low heat until liquid is absorbed, about 15 minutes.

preheat oven to 400°. combine pears, sugar, melted butter, tapioca, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl; stir in raisin/gigner mixture. roll out one pie crust disk and transfer to pie plate. trim edges and fill with pear mixture. roll out second pie crust disk and cover pie, crimping edges to seal and slashing to vent. glaze top or sprinkle with sugar.

bake until crust is golden brown and juices bubble up through slashes, about 1 hour. cover edges with foil if browning too quickly. serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

afternoon project: upcycling

turned my childhood twin comforter into a comforter/bedspread for our full-size guest futon:

all it took was two king-size flat sheets (purchased on sale by my lovely hubby) and a package of batting, 45"x60". it's basically a duvet with large (14") flaps on the sides, batting in the flaps to make it comfy and warm. it was either this or store/donate the twin and buy a larger comforter, and this was cheaper. i'm inordinately thrilled with how it turned out, i almost want to sleep in the guest bedroom just because of it.

in other news, lots of swearing when it came to using my serger. as usual. i have a pfaff hobbylock 797, a 5-spool serger. we just haven't bonded yet, after three years. granted, two of those three years it lived in my closet because i couldn't figure out how to thread it, but still. that seems like not bonding to me. currently my problem is getting the machine to sew a 5-thread safety seam (3-thread overlock with a running stitch seam) without the left needle breaking against the presser foot. seems the presser foot wants to slip around, but everything seems tight as can be. right now i'm using a 4-thread overlock which is nice, but isn't the point of a 5-spool (versus four) serger that i can do that 5-thread seam? and i can't. any tips would be appreciated.

Monday, January 19, 2009

apparently i need to step it up a notch.

brian recently told me he did not want to eat meat anymore for dinner, which leaves me scratching my head a bit to come up with meals. i tend not to be a very creative cook, much like other parts of my life. (see especially: sewing.) i'm a very good copycat and great at putting my own spin on things but atrocious at coming up with them on my own. i'm content that this is my creative lot in life and i make the best of it but it sure does suck when it comes to thinking of what to make for a man who once told me that souplantation was a restaurant full of appetizers and where was the real food?

so i got some scallops and some tilapia at the store the other night and made scallop crostini caprese, a little recipe card that i picked up at the store. super easy. basically bruschetta with a scallop on top. brian's comment (besides that it looked delicious) was that it looked so nice!

the tilapia i just broiled in the oven and served with a lemon-rosemary vinaigrette, basmati rice, and broccoli. also super easy, another supermarket recipe card. we have two huge rosemary bushes in our front yard so i thought i'd get fancy and snipped a sprig of rosemary to garnish his fish and twisted a lemon on the side. he asked what the green stuff was, was he supposed to eat it?

* update: the point was not so much my lack of creativity in cooking but my lack of creativity in presentation. brian was alternately thrilled and confused at how "fancy" things looked on the plate, because though i love to cook i generally do not run a gourmet restaurant at dinnertime and do not do frilly things like drizzle balsamic vinegar or garnish with "weeds" (his term).

Thursday, January 15, 2009


i went south this past weekend to visit my mother, so this week i am thankful for:

1. fun times visiting my family and friends. i got to spend time with my best girl alice and my girlfriend krista, which was really nice because i don't see krista often and alice is great fun. my family is fun too, and my mother's brother and his wife were down from seattle as well as my grandparents and my sister. we ate good food and played cards, which is what my family does. everyone was down for my mom's birthday, the big 6-0.

my sweet grandparents have been married for 61 years!

i have not seen my uncle harry and his wife mary since brian and i got married. harry is hiding behind mary, who is a whole lot of fun. it was really great to get to see them and spend time with them.

i learned a new game called golf (not solitaire golf), which is insanely easy and pretty fun. my grandma, who swears - whether we play cribbage, rummy, or anything else - that she hasn't gotten good cards in ten years, of course won. she is a sneaky one, that lady.

2. generous moms. i had made another one of this blouse, this time in a plain white batiste. heaven knows a basic white blouse is a wardrobe staple. at least it is in my wardrobe. i wanted to jazz it up some and my mother's machine does fancy embroidery stitches that mine does not. i also put some fancy (for me) buttons on. it is still a basic white blouse, but now with this:

it is kind of hard to tell i think, but the embroidery stitch is little leaves on a vine. i did it in white sulky embroidery thread, which is 100% rayon and shiny so the tone-on-tone embroidery stands out. i had never used sulky thread before and i am not sure i love it. the thread kept breaking and i don't know if it was the tension or the machine or the stitch or what. maybe i was doing something wrong and i didn't know it. the embroidery turned out very pretty though and i really like it. that is basically why i love sewing, because i can make something like a basic white blouse and put my own special little touch on it, just for me.

3. safe driving and nice weather. even though we are a bit farther north now than we were in marin county, the drive is actually 30 miles and 30 minutes shorter. it was a beautiful sunny day both on the way down and the way home. i was very surprised to see some snow still, at the very tips of the san bernardino mountains:

every time we drive down together, brian gets excited when we get to san dimas, because of bill & ted's excellent adventure. (i get excited because it means the end is near[ish].) so i had to call him and tell him how EXcellent it was that i was in san dimas.

pyramid lake (in the angeles national forest, near the grapevine) looked pretty good to me. i have never stopped there but i always want to. i really like mountain lakes like that. someday...

these signs always crack me up. what, you thought sacramento and san francisco were like 100 miles apart? nope, they're right next to each other. no, really! also, i have a bridge for sale if you're interested.

* yes, i understand the sign. they still make me smile.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

lost in the holiday muddle

my t3 seemed to have gotten lost in the muddle of the holidays since christmas and new year's both fell on thursdays. christmas was a blur and new year's was cleanup around the house and the sad taking down of the christmas decorations. so to get myself back on track, this week i am thankful for:

1. my husband. i am often thankful for him and sometimes it feels like a cop-out to use it here. on the other hand i am thankful for him for different reasons at different times. often lately it has been difficult to be thankful for him because my emotions are so haywire, because this pregnancy has really been kicking my butt. fortunately he is my rock, the constant, true thing in my life, even when i am hormonal and awful to him. he has been gone on a business trip this week and while it's nice to have some time to myself without the demands of marriage and living together, i miss him. the time apart reminds me of why i fell in love with him and chose to navigate life with this wonderful man.

2. baby kicks. when we got pregnant i swore to myself that i would not make this a "mommy blog" or go on and on about being pregnant. it feels like it has taken over my life and i didn't want it to take over my blog (at least, not this one). it's impossible to keep the baby out of here completely because of how being pregnant seems to consume everything and as i mentioned it is beating the crap out of me. i cannot wait to be done with being pregnant, and then she kicks or somersaults or something and it is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

3. chocolate truffles. somehow there seems to be a minor proliferation of truffles at my house, which is kind of odd because i'm not a chocoholic or anything. man, are they ever good. one pretty much does it for me so it's not like i'm gobbling them down by the dozen or anything. and wow, how is it that a little thing like a bite of a chocolate truffle can just turn your day around? yummm.

how to get into bed without waking your wife: a primer

i am more of a morning person than my husband, so i generally go to bed much earlier than he does. it's okay, because even if i stay up, i'm not much good after about 10 pm anyways. i'm a pretty sound sleeper so brian doesn't usually wake me when he comes to bed, but there was a period of time a couple years ago when i was not sleeping so well and he would wake me every single night.

the "problem" is that brian sleeps with a ton of pillows including a very large, long, fluffy one called a body pillow. when he came to bed there would be much arranging and shuffling and wiggling and organizing of the pillows, thereby waking me. one evening a couple years ago he decided he had a great solution and would get into bed without waking me. he arranged all his pillows ahead of time, so he just had to get into bed and go to sleep.

so he comes to bed at 1130 pm or something, i'm fast asleep, it's completely dark, and he decides that crawling over the pillows will also wake me, and besides, he has a better idea. WAY better. he is going to stand sideways on his side of the bed and fling his body through the air over the pillows, much like an olympic high jumper, thus landing quietly in bed on the other side of the pillows and not waking me up. what a kind and thoughtful husband he is!

except he is not an olympic high jumper. he is not even a wannabe high jumper. he has had no high jump training at all. in the dark, he misjudged where he was and how to jump and whacked his head on the headboard and YELLED (of course). not to mention the loud and disturbing THWOMP when his body hit the mattress. and he had a sore head and a splitting headache and all i could do was laugh at his misery.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

the danger of drinking and walking at the same time

when he got in to louisville, kentucky, last night (business trip), brian immediately went out to t.g.i. friday's for something to eat. he hadn't eaten all day because he had been travelling, and apparently he hadn't drank anything either, because four beers made him pretty tipsy.

so tipsy, in fact, that he couldn't find his way back to his hotel. at 11pm. in 31° weather.

and called his wife to find out how to get back to his hotel. because, you know, i know louisville like the back of my hand.

Monday, January 5, 2009

brian recaptures his youth

yesterday we drove to roseville so brian could introduce me to sonic burger, a drive-in he "discovered" while in college in texas and oklahoma. what he really wanted to introduce me to was whataburger and rib crib, but neither of those are in california, so he had to settle for sonic.

brian often criticizes california for being insular and self-important, and i don't think he's always wrong in that. though i've lived here my entire life and love it, i know my state has it's fair share of cultural awareness issues. because i've never lived anywhere else, i sometimes am [unjustly] accused by my husband of not understanding what the rest of the country is like. generally this happens when we discuss food and restaurants. brian feels there is no decent fast food in california and "settles" for jack in the box. i adore in-n-out. he says the only reason i like in-n-out is because it's a california thing and i don't know any better fast food like "they" have in the rest of the country.

saturday i was craving in-n-out, so we went to burger king first so brian's mouth would be full while we were in the drive-thru at in-n-out and i wouldn't have to listen to him whine about the bad taste of california people. but apparently he had never actually had a double-double (animal style, oh yummm)? because he wanted a bite of mine to see how it was. and here he was moaning and groaning about it the whole time and he had never tasted such heaven? he said it wasn't too bad, for a basic burger (what was he expecting? confetti and mushrooms?), but i think he secretly loved it and just didn't want to let on. i think he would have eaten the whole thing if i hadn't fussed at him. score one point for me.

yesterday we drove 25 miles to the second-closest sonic burger to our house - the closest was in woodland, 23 miles away. i wanted to go there but he said no, it's easier to go to roseville. whatever. we printed out directions and off we went so i could experience my first drive-in. he couldn't take me to whataburger for their amazing ketchup but at least he could take me for a damn good burger served in my car by a girl on roller skates, just like old times. he could be bitter about california's dearth of fine fast food establishments but by golly at least he got to take his wife to a sonic.

i spotted it first, right next to a gas station. we turned in and lo - the sonic was in the gas station. i kid you not. brian just about shot himself on the spot. we went in and ordered and sat at a small table inside the gas station for lunch. brian moaned and groaned about being bitter and this is what the world is coming to and HIS WIFE JUST LAUGHS, SHE CANNOT STOP LAUGHING AT HIS MISERY, WHY ME GOD. i think i laughed for about five minutes straight, he was so bitter and hysterical.

some days i want to fill up the bathtub and hold his head underwater, because he is such a MAN and doesn't listen and doesn't do things right (read: my way) and isn't like me, and i get so frustrated that marriage is such work - and then we have an afternoon like yesterday, and i am so thankful that he is such a man and not like me.

because, me? i would have looked at the street view on google maps to know what i was looking for and known we were going to a gas station and opted to go to the one in woodland instead, the one he pooh-poohed, because that one is actually a drive-in like it is supposed to be. at least, it looks like it on google maps.

and the burger? not bad, but not nearly as good as in-in-out.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

cute. but do not try at home.

i got the idea here but i don't think i would do these again. they came out very cute (though certainly not as cute as the inspiration) and i really like them, but they took much more time and generated much more swearing than i can tolerate in my crafts. i think they took about an hour each. the people who are getting these (belatedly) had better appreciate them. is all i have to say.

this is the idea that started it all. for alice and her fiancé brad, who are getting married in august, so they have something special for their tree for their first christmas together. these generated the most swearing.

two cute party dresses. i thought the beads on the wire hangers (which were such a b!tch to make, i should have gotten a clue right then) would be cute but i don't like it so much, IF i were doing these again i would not bead the hangars.

i also did a little man's tee shirt and a pink onesie, for next year's family ornaments, but i already packed them with the christmas stuff. i just hope i can find them when i need them next year.

on the bright side, they were uber-cheap to make. they take virtually nothing in the way of trims and i just cut them from felt squares which are so cheap. a mixed bag of sequins was 79¢ and i had the seed beads, wire, and some random trims already anyway. i did have to buy craft glue but that was only $3.99. if i were making a lot of them i think they would come out to 50¢ or $1 apiece. dunno how much those others sell for but i'd bet it's not cheap.

on a different note, totally loving on these:

a housewarming gift from kelsey, who brought them home from her fall trip to holland. gorgeous. thanks, gal.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

2009 to-do list

2008's year of living gently will continue into 2009. i think it is not a bad theme for one's life instead of just one year. for 2009 i am giving myself a concrete, finite list of things to focus on.

- build a planter box or two (raised beds) outside and plant a vegetable garden and an herb garden.
- paint the downstairs bedroom.
- breathe once in a while.
- get a pedicure before baby arrives. can't have icky toes in the delivery room!
- send one card a week to a friend.
- create and maintain a system for dealing with the paper/mail/crap that comes into my house and collects in my kitchen.
- learn to manage roses.
- learn to enjoy being pregnant and being a mother.
- create and maintain a healthy exercise routine.
- let go once in a while.
- speak and act kindly and generously, even (epecially) when i do not feel kind or generous.
- cut our grocery bill by at least $50 per month.
- decorate our master bedroom.
- paint the family room wall.