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We’re off today to spend the weekend with friends and family. First a stop in Illinois to see J’s mom and stepdad, and to drop off the pups. Then on to Kansas City to go to a friend’s wedding. I am so incredibly excited, partly because we get to have a pup-free night in a nice hotel (the first pup-free night in over two years), but mostly because I’ll be seeing my best friend from high school for the first time in almost 8 years! That’s way too long!

So, goodbye for now….I hope you all have a good weekend, and I’ll see you back here next week!

 

Kansas City

(vintage postcard image courtesy of http://www.epodunk.com)

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I am sad to say that we spent most of our Easter Sunday gathering up all of last year’s information to send to the tax man. Not exactly my idea of a fun or relaxing day, but it had to be done, and since we’ve been rather busy lately (and will continue to be for at least the next week) we had to seize the only opportunity we could foresee having. But at least it’s done.

We did manage to have a bit of fun on Saturday night. J and I met up with a group of friends who we rarely get a chance to see since the move. We all gathered at an Italian restaurant in a near-by suburb and then headed to the Royal Theater to hear some music. The opening band was Bleu Django, one of our favorite local groups and an amazing Django Reinhardt tribute band (if you’ve never heard of Django, you can have a listen here), and the headliner was the Red Stick Ramblers, who neither of us had ever heard before. It was a great show and an awesome way to spend a Saturday night. How did you spend your Easter?


Natural Dye Easter Eggs

I have so many fond memories of Easter from my childhood: egg hunts, chocolate bunnies, patent leather shoes, and little oval shaped cakes with sugared bunny faces purchased from the local bakery. Although it’s no longer a holiday we typically celebrate at our house, I cherish the memories of many happy family dinners, and part of me wishes I could return to those times.

We did manage to have a small gathering at our home last year, and I got a chance to revisit an old tradition. These eggs were dyed with natural, vegetable dyes that I made myself. It was so much fun (although a little more work than the PAAS dyes I remember using). The colors were not as vibrant as I had hoped, but in the end I liked the earthy, subdued tones, and it was certainly fun to experiment with whatever I found in the fridge!

To all of you who celebrate this holiday, I send joyful, happy Easter wishes, and may you all enjoy a wonderful spring season!

I had a rather productive day yesterday. It started off like this:

Pumpkin Puffs

I finally got around to making the pumpkin muffins I’ve been craving. Toni at SimpleSparrow posted her recipe for them last month, and it’s taken me this long to give them a try, but they were definitely worth the wait….Delicious! In my typical fashion I forgot to add the cinnamon-sugar topping, which would have made them even better, I’m sure, but even without the added decadence, they hit the spot.

After breakfast, I finished another project that’s been in the works for a while now. Last year I bought two sets of stacking paper-mache boxes (like these, but square) to use as gift boxes. The plan was to paint the insides and cover the outsides with paper or fabric. I finished one set for J’s mom (so cute, with yellow insides and blue polka-dotted outsides…I wish I had taken pictures), but never found a use for the other, so they’ve been sitting in their naked state on my sewing table holding various bobbles. Then during my last trip to Michaels, I found the perfect paper (this one from Martha’s line). And the best part was that it had been clearanced for $1! I can’t believe I didn’t buy them out, but J was with me, and I was trying to show some restraint for his sake. So yesterday I finished covering the last one, and I’m pretty happy with the way they turned out.

Covered Boxes1

Covered Boxes2

I also started my next little embroidery project…but I’ll have more about that next time. Until then!

…and here’s the evidence:

First Day of Spring2

Despite the 30 degree temperatures and the frost, I walked out my back door this morning to find all kinds of little green things popping up out of the ground. Some are in the beds that the previous owner planted, and others are just out in the middle of the yard. I don’t know much about plants (yet), so I have no idea what any of them are, but I am so excited to see things blooming! I can’t wait till everything is green and lush again!

First Day of Spring1

I’m celebrating with cupcakes, green fonts, and cheesy monkey pics:

World’s Cutest Leprechaun
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

 

How are you celebrating?

Watercolor Doodle

Here it is, my first crafty attempt to celebrate National Craft Month. It’s a work-in-progress, and to be perfectly honest, it has been a WIP for a few weeks now. As I’ve made clear in the past, I am no artist and should never be mistaken for one. But every now and then I get a “wild hair” and have the urge to pick up a pen, pencil, or brush. The last time I exhibited this behavior, I ended up with what I would consider to be a cute little flowery, penciled doodle. Thinking it had potential to be something more, I went out an invested in a good set of artists pens, black ones in several different tip sizes, and traced over my pencil marks to darken the image. I then scanned it into my computer, hoping to someday be able to embroider well enough to make it into a pillow. And there it stayed.

But I still had the original, which just happened to have been done on watercolor paper. So the other day I dug out my watercolors and went to work. I have a hard time trusting my own judgment when it comes to color choices, so I keep walking away from it and coming back to add another color, then walking away for awhile again, then coming back and….well, you get the idea. Hopefully it will eventually be good enough to put in a humble frame and hang in some hidden corner of my house.

The inspiration for the design came from thrifted, Canadian coloring book from the 60’s. It’s full of amazing designs, and only a few of the pages are marked on. One of these days I’ll have to scan some of the pages and share them with you. After all, what good is having such an incredible find if you can’t share it?

You all know how I feel about the word “craft.” However, I am willing to put those feelings aside for a month in order to celebrate National Craft Month. Who knew such a thing existed? (Obviously I didn’t, since it took me until the month was one-third over to catch on.)

In honor of this worthy holiday I plan to start (if not finish) many of the projects I’ve been planning in the recesses of my mind, and I encourage you all to do the same. I hope to share my endeavors with you here, and I hope you will all share yours with me as well.

And just in case you’re in need of a little inspiration, here are a few of my favorite go-to spots for inspiring ideas:

MarthaStewart.com – Martha and I have a love-hate relationship. I hate her corrupt past, her personality (very annoying), and her morning television show. But at the same time, part of me wants to be her. I want to live her cooking, crafting, decorating, writing paradise-of-a-life. Regardless of my personal feelings towards her, she and her staff have put together a virtual encyclopedia of crafty ideas covering the gamut from making your own picture frames to block-printing your clothing. I could spend hours on her site gathering ideas (oh wait, I already have).

Craftzine.com – Want to learn how to make “yarn” from plastic grocery bags? How about making your own dry-erase doodle board from a windowed envelope? Craftzine.com is THE site to go to for a conglomeration of good (well, interesting at least) ideas from around the web. You’re sure to find something that will make you look at the things you have lying around your house in a new and crafty way.

Craftster.org
– An everything-under-the-sun kind of site for crafters and diy-ers around the globe, Craftster.org is the perfect place to see what other people are doing with their spare crafty time. All the ideas are user-submitted, and it can be a bit overwhelming at first, but pour a cup and hanker down for an afternoon of inspiration hunting and you’re sure not to regret the time lost.

Hope that helps get you started. Now, go get your craft on!

It was a strange one. I stayed home from work on Thursday due to what I believe was an allergic reaction to something I ate. It’s never happened before (and I’ll spare you the details), but I think I’ve narrowed the source down to a package of (sadly) delicious low-fat muffins I got from Whole Foods. I had been eating them every morning for breakfast, and if it hadn’t taken me until the day they were gone to realize that they were the cause of my discomfort I probably would have continued eating them – they were that good. I was even tempted to buy more while grocery shopping yesterday (after all, it’s not like I know for sure that they’re the culprit, right?)

So, since Friday is one of my regular days off, it was kind of like a long weekend for me. It just didn’t feel like long weekends usually feel (you know: relaxing, productive, kinda busy, but in a good way). I’m sure this is partly due to the fact that I was unwell for a good portion of it and partly because I had to go in to work for a few hours on Saturday, but mostly I think it had to do with my state of mind. For some reason I felt absent from my own life, like I was just going through the motions. Has this ever happened to you? Where you go into auto-pilot mode and wake up a few days later asking “what happened to my weekend?”

Even in my comatose state, I did manage to accomplish a few things:

I finally finished my first attempt at embroidery. I used this pattern from Vintage Transfer Finds, but since I don’t have a light box or a transfer pencil and couldn’t get the vintage dress-maker’s carbon I had lying around to work, I ended up just using the pattern as a guide and free-handing the bird onto my material with a disappearing pen. Then I added the branch in an attempt to make the bird look like it’s about to take flight. It’s by no means perfect, but I’m fairly satisfied with it as a first attempt. I would also have liked to make the bird blue, but I was limited to the embroidery thread I had lying around (which I believe is leftover from my friendship-bracelet-making days).

My First Embroidery

 

And it looks like I picked the perfect time to learn a new hobby. J just bought himself a PS3 and a game called Ratchet and Clank, so you can guess where he’ll be spending all of his free time for the next few months. (And after spending Friday evening watching him test the new system, I had a night of frighteningly strange video game related dreams. No more gaming before bedtime for me.)

Despite our respective distractions, J and I managed to do some work in the office. As I mentioned before, we had been stalled by a “stuff” dilemma, which we (temporarily) solved by dumping all of the office stuff into the dining room, to be dealt with at a later date. After that we had enough room to finish taking down the old wallpaper and tearing out the rickety homemade shelves and the poorly installed chair rail. Now we just have to prime and paint the walls, pick out and order the cabinetry, find a new light fixture, replace the door, get new blinds, and buy a desk. But at least we already have the paint!

Finally, last night we all (all four of us) cuddled up on the couch and watched Death at a Funeral. In typical Brit-humour fashion, it had us laughing out loud at times and a little repulsed at others. Overall, a fitting ending to a very strange weekend.

How did you spend your weekend?

Last night I made a recipe that’s been a staple in our house for the last couple years. It’s incredibly simple to make and tastes amazing! Here’s the recipe, originally from the June 2006 issue of Real Simple magazine. Instead of a whole chicken, I used boneless breasts (trying to keep it on the lighter side, ya know).

Barbecue Apricot Chicken

Along with the chicken, I decided to try something new. J hates sweet potatoes, and I love them, so I’m constantly looking for recipes that will make them more palatable for him, just so I can have them now and again (without having to make two different meals). I recently found this recipe in a Whole Foods Market publication, and although he was skeptical, J actually liked it. The best part? It has only 161 calories per serving and only 3 grams of fat! You gotta love that.

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

Scalloped Sweet Potatoes

1 Tbs. unsalted butter

1 medium onion, thinly sliced

2 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth

1 c. low-fat milk

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme

1/8 tsp. nutmeg

1 bay leaf

3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 13×9-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Melt butter in a large saucepan over med. heat. Add onion slices and saute until soft. Add broth, milk, garlic, thyme, nutmeg, and bay leaf and bring to a simmer. Cook until reduced to just under 3 cups. Remove bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Add sweet potatoes to liquid and return to simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Pour mixture into baking dish and bake for 40 minutes. Sprinkle cheese over potatoes and continue baking another 20 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

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