Thursday, April 29, 2010

Monster on the prowl

I think the gatos are just as happy as the people that the snow is finally all gone and the temperatures are in the 70s. They have been playing, chasing bumble bees and rolling in the dirt. Now if I could only teach them to mow the lawn!

Can't let Winston get all the love. So here is a picture of Alven "helping" me take photos of new totes for my shop. I finished all 6 crab totes tonight so look for the in the shop this weekend and next week.

Don't forget to stop back on Saturday for the May Day surprise!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Got crabs?

Not that kind of crabs!

The cute little crustacean kind. This is another Ikea fabric, but a new one for me. I have six totes in the works. I love the little row of tiny crabs that worked out perfectly to be on some of the handles. Look for these to start showing up in the shop at the end of the week.

Also, I will be hosting some May Day fun, so stop back here on Saturday to see what it is!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Simple solution

Like most seamstresses, I have piles and piles of miscellaneous fabric hanging around, some scraps, some samples, some impulse buys for projects that never came to fruition. With my new serger, I sewed around the edges of squares varying in size from 10 inches to 14 inches. Viola! Casual, every day cloth napkins. No more disposable paper napkins or paper towels for us.

I got this idea from my friend Staci who has made these, sans the serger. The reason I haven't made them before now is because I have a phobia of uncontrolled string. Yes, I said "uncontrolled string." It's really not so much of a phobia, but a general disgust, especially if it's wet or touching my skin. I can hear you wondering, "What is uncontrolled string?" Think old, fraying towels or raw edged fabric that has gone through the washing machine and dryer. I cannot stand it. It gives me the heebie jeebies. It's irrational and I have no logical reasoning behind it. It just grosses me out. But, the serged edges are the perfect solution.

These are free, eco friendly, cute and washable - with none of the dreaded fraying and unraveling.

I also put two new totes in my shop today. Both are made from Ikea fabric from the Gunilla line. These are the new, extra large, long handled versions. So cute.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


Have you discovered yet? If you don't have time to get completely sucked in, I suggest you avoid it because it is engrossing! I am a total nerd when it comes to home decor and especially rearranging furniture. I am embarrassed to admit that I bust out the graph paper, draw a room to scale, then cut out scaled versions of all the furniture. Then I spend hours positioning and repositioning the scraps of paper until I find a suitable arrangement before I so much as move a rug.

Now there is Start with a room, which you can make completely to scale. Add doorways, windows and closets. It is literally as simple as clicking and dragging elements into place. Now add flooring from the hundreds of choices, paint the walls and start adding furniture. Here's my current living room setup:
Why did I create my living room, more or less exactly as it is now? Who knows? But it was fun.

Then, with the click of a single button, you can make a 3D rendering of the room. It's magical. Spin it around, get a feel for it, take a look from every angle.

The only complaint I have is that there is limited control on things like furniture coloring, but you can just your imagination on that. I don't really have a black leather chair with a red velvet ottoman, but I do have a brown leather chair with a matching ottoman. The versions available work just fine as placeholders.

The usefulness does not end at creating your current rooms and rearranging furniture. You can connect rooms to build an entire house, restaurant or office. Add a yard with landscaping and everything. The possibilities are endless!

I did a little dreaming and made a master bedroom complete with enormous walk-in closet, raised claw foot tub, shower with multiple wall-mounted jets and reading area with fireplace.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I'm coffee-making impaired

Have you seen the commercials encouraging employers to Think Beyond the Label? They give examples of people with silly disabilities to challenge negative ideas about employing workers with disabilities. One woman is "fashion deficient," and there are two men, one who is labeled "copy incapable" and one with "volume control syndrome." The punch line, delivered by a woman in a wheel chair, is that even she has a disability - not the wheelchair - she is "coffee-making impaired." I can relate.

People have always noted that I make a very strong pot of coffee. I don't think that is a bad thing. I like strong, bold flavors. If you don't, you shouldn't have any of my coffee. Recently, however, my coffee making skills seem to have been steadily declining.

Two weeks ago I could not get the grinder to work. I fiddled around with it for a while, finally coming to the point where I had to decide whether or not to keep messing with it and chance not getting it to work, or give up with time to buy a cup on the way to the office. As I was about to put the grinder away, I realized what the problem was. I hadn't plugged it in. Duh.

Then last week (after successfully plugging in the grinder) I dumped the grounds into the pot - without a filter. Whoops. Even after rinsing everything down, I had very gritty coffee that day.

The nail in the coffin of my morning coffee making was hammered home today. I have a mug with a drop down basket. To use it, you heat water in the teakettle, put course grounds in the screened basket and flip the handle to lower it into the water. When it is the strength you prefer, flip the handle again and it pops the basket up into lid so it stops steeping. All was going well this morning, until I flipped the lid to screw it on the mug. The basket popped open, dropping the grounds directly into the boiling water with a splash.

Three strikes and you're out, right? Today, as the scalding water splattered onto my hand, leg and foot, I was considerably more concerned that I didn't have time to make more - or to stop on my way to work - than I was about the burning of my skin. Sounds like I should probably to try to go coffee-free for a while and see how that goes. Based on my cravings all morning, it won't go well.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Mine, all mine!

It's pretty ridiculous that I make and sell totes online but the only ones I carry say Target or HyVee on them. I've been meaning to make myself some for a long time now but every time I get finish a few, I end up putting them on Etsy instead. I love it when my shop is full, especially of totes made from unique fabric in bright colors.

This fabric is from Ikea - you're shocked, I know - and it reminds me of Dr. Seuss trees. So whimsical and interesting. It's really hard to resist putting them up for sale, but imagining myself carrying them at the downtown farmers market is enough to finally say "These are mine!" I used all of this fabric that I have, but I will definitely be getting more next time I'm in Minneapolis or Chicago.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A tulip, totes and trama

This tulip popped up in the rocks along the front of the house. We've lived here for almost three years and nothing has ever grown out there. Apparently, this little tulip's bulb took years to finally grow a flower. It's cute, but it does look a little weird and lonely in that big area all by itself. It makes me happy though.

I was busy, busy, busy today and I feel really good about everything I accomplished. I won't bore you with the whole list, but I did finish 11 totes and started 4 more! Two were gifts, five are in the shop already and the other four finished totes will be added to the shop over the next week. Here's a peak:

I started making the totes a little deeper, a little wider and with extra long handles. I was getting request for the really long handles over and over again so that will be the norm from here on out. Being able to put the bag over your shoulder makes even the heaviest load of groceries a little more manageable. I'm still loving my serger sewing machine. It makes the totes go so fast!

I also ironed my arm today. This is a terrible picture, but it's the inside of my forearm and the burn is about 2 inches long. I reached past the iron to pick something up and laid my arm right on the edge. For the record, I DO NOT recommend touching any part of your body to the iron. Ouch!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lunatic lunch hour

I have an hour for lunch each day and only live 5 minutes from my office. My normal lunch hour consists of going home, having a leisurely lunch and possibly squeezing in a couple of chores (or a nap!) Not today. It went a little something like this:

Drive home like a crazy person. Run the recycling out to the curb, hoping they didn't already pickup on my street. Back in the house, frantically grab all the legal documentation of my existence plus two extremely unfortunate photos of myself and jump back in the car.

Mad dash to the post office. Wait in line for a couple of minutes. Explain to the friendly postal worker why my marriage license is not in English and, subsequently, why the legal translation was notarized in North Carolina when I live in Iowa. Finally finish that, turn around and see 20 angry people in line behind me and wonder what the deal is. Back in the car, realize that today is April 15th - tax day - and understand why there were so many hostiles glaring at me while I took 15 minutes of their valuable time. In the mean time, take a call from my boss, who is leaving the state but doesn't think he has the presentation I wase to have ready for him before I left for lunch.

Back at home, grab the mail, sign for a package, put all remaining vital records back in the file cabinet. Frantically make a PB&J and grab a fruit cup and run back out the door. Five blocks from home, I got paranoid that I left the garage door open, turn around and go back. While closing the garage door, I notice that my badge for work is laying in the driveway. Jump out, grab that. Then get stuck behind the recycling truck (glad I didn't miss it - but get out of my way!) Back to work, only 4 minutes late. Whew!

If I could get this much stuff done every hour of every day, imagine the things I could accomplish.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I'm in love

with my new (to me) serger sewing machine. I've had it since December and it has been sitting in my sewing room, taunting me, chanting "you're too dumb, you're too dumb." I opened it up and tried to figure out how to thread it a couple of times. Honestly, I never even plugged it in because it scared me so much.

I'm usually pretty fearless - especially with power tools. (Yes, I consider sewing machines and sergers power tools.) I asked for a drill for Christmas while I was in college. My boyfriend was skeptical, apparently thinking I was just going to drill random holes in the wall in my apartment. I have used it (constructively) a million times.

A few years ago it was a jigsaw for my birthday. Again, people laughed at me and wondered what I thought I was going to do with a saw. I immediately made a regulation set of cornhole goals (or bag-o or bags or bag toss - whatever you call it in your area). When those didn't fit in the trunk to go to and from the cabin, I wanted to make a travel set, but didn't feel like hand sanding the whole thing, so I ask for a belt sander. Thanks, Dad. Now the completed travel cornhole goals are smooth as glass.

(This is my friend Stacy at our Halloween party two years ago. She was Juno and is not really pregnant and drinking wine!)

Whoops, that turned into a long tangent. My point is, if I can pick up a saw or a sander with no help or training, you'd think I'd be able to figure out a serger sewing machine on my own.

On Saturday my mom's family gathered at my aunt's house for a late Easter celebration. My aunt Linda is the best seamstress I know, so I enlisted her help. The machine was being finicky and not working correctly but Linda has the patience of a saint and got it going. I brought it home and after a couple of hiccups, including a broken needle, it's running wonderfully! I've even rethreaded it myself a couple of times. I made the bodies and handles for 8 totes yesterday - before lunch! It's so much fun and saved me a ton of time, not having to French seam everything. I haven't been this excited since I successfully made goat cheese myself.

HUGE thank you to my aunt Linda for having the patience of a saint getting it working and showing me how to use it. I bought fabric yesterday to make her "thank you" totes. Also, thank you to Cheryll, my former boss, who dug the serger out of her closet and sold it to me for a ridiculously low price.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Spinart roll-ups

I made these spinach and artichoke roll-ups for dinner, but they would make a great appetizer too. They are very similar to spanakopita but sound better than "spinach pie" to a picky eater.

  • 12 sheets phyllo dough
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 (10 ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and well drained
  • 1 (14 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Stir the mayonnaise, cheese, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper, spinach and artichokes in a small bowl until the ingredients are mixed.
  3. Layer 6 sheets of phyllo together, spraying olive oil between each sheet. With the short side facing you, spread half of the spinach mixture on the pastry to within 1-inch of the edges. Starting at the short sides, roll up like a jelly roll. Repeat with remaining phyllo sheets and spinach mixture.
  4. Cut each roll into 10 (1/2-inch) slices. Place 2 inches apart on lined baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown around the outside.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sweedish Red

Just posted a couple of these totes on Etsy. I made these a little wider than normal so they are nice and roomy. Check them out! I finished 6 of the 12 totes I had in progress.

Weekend up north

As I suspected before going, our trip to Minneapolis to see friends was primarily spent eating and drinking, which I thoroughly enjoy!

Friday night we started at Barrio Tequila Bar. This is a Macho Camacho made with blood orange ancho 1800 with a splash of cava. I also had a Mama Cita made with tequila hibiscus punch and cava. Both were good, but a few people at the table had the Enter the Dragon margarita made with passion fruit and muddled with hot peppers and it was very good!

Next we headed to Palomino. The giant lobster raviolis were amazing as we the appetizers, soup, salad and drinks. To say I had a food baby at the end of the night is a gross understatement!

On Saturday, we were understandably slow to get moving. We made it to Ikea around noon and I managed to leave with under $250 worth of stuff - mostly fabric for totes for my Etsy shop. We did get the pillows, a dutch oven and tea jars I mentioned in this post.

French Meadow Bakery for lunch included a salad, mac & cheese and a HUGE piece of triple chocolate cake with delicious frosting shared between three of us. If I lived in the area, I'm afraid I'd never leave there. We missed the breakfast by a few minutes, but my friend tells me it's even better than lunch.

The afternoon included some resting, looking through recipe books and a trip the grocery store to pick up some things for Sunday brunch - because we obviously had some sort of eating disorder while we were there.

Saturday night we went to Chino Latino for dinner and drinks. It's sort of a fusion of Asian and Latin American cuisine. Typically, I'm more of a vodka tonic kind of girl, but I ordered a Kama Sutra Mama to drink. It was so pretty and festive that I felt like I was on a tropical vacation instead of 250 miles north of home. By far the most impressive part of the meal was the Good Time Dynamite Scallops with Japanese sioli. Very spicy but perfect when paired with the fried wonton skins. Yum!

On Sunday morning, Cavan and Scott made us breakfast: orange craisin matzo pancakes and scrabbled eggs with leeks and fava beans. Yum! I knew we ate a lot this weekend, but when I write it all down like this, I fear we look like gluttons. Ah well, it was fun and delicious!

On Sunday we went to the Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. Our friends that we were visiting got married in the conservatory and it is a beautiful place.

Did you know that allspice is an actual plant? I didn't. I'm not sure where I thought allspice came from. I guess I thought it was a blend of all spices? Not sure. But now I know, and you do too, if you didn't already.

There is a sloth that lives in the conservatory. He was napping, as I assume he does almost all the time. It was kind of like Where's Waldo because we knew he lived there but we couldn't find him until the very end.

The zoo has a decent size primate area. We saw three gorillas. They are so massive and expressive. It makes me sad to see them penned in but how else are people supposed to learn about them, fall in love with them and then make an effort to protect them in the wild?

Thank you, Cavan & Scott, for a great weekend!

When life gives you lemons

Here are a couple of ideas for new logos for myself that I've been playing around with. What do you think? Obviously keeping with my lemon obsession.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Little totes, little totes

Everywhere I turn, I can see them
Little totes
Little totes

Some women are dripping with diamonds
Some women are dripping with pearls
Lucky me! Lucky me!
Look at what I'm dripping with

Little totes!
(Best sung while drinking bathtub gin!)

I have 12 totes in various stages of completion. Tonight, my goal is to get at least half of those done. Two for the shop and four that I am making as gifts. I have been unmotivated lately to sew because the weather has been so nice. Thunderstorms are on the way, so temptation to ignore them should be low. I also want to have these 12 done, so I can move on to all the new fabric I got at Ikea this weekend. A few I've already made totes from, and a few completely new ones!

Library thing

Have you seen yet?

I'm reading my 16th book since Christmas. I've always been a fast reader. I remember teachers in elementary school accusing me of not reading during designated silent reading time because I'd finish way before anyone else and have to just sit there. I go through books so fast that I am constantly searching for something new: a new series, a new author, a new genre. I will read about anything from fantasy fiction (most recently the Sookie Stackhouse series that HBO's True Blood is based on) to nonfiction ethnographies (currently Mama Lola). I really love satire and humor narratives, but I've ready everything David Sedaris, Sarah Vowel and Chelsea Handler have written. Travel humor is another favorite, but again, I'm out of books by J. Maarten Troost and Chuck Thompson.

Enter You can input your entire library of books at home, add ones you've read, but don't own and create a wishlist of books. The website then will make suggestions for other books based on authors you enjoy, genres, similar tags and what other people who have read the same books as you would recommend.

I haven't purchased and read any of its suggestions yet, but I will soon. You can see some of the things I've read recently on the widget on the right side of this blog. I'd love to hear any suggestions you have for books.

The other fun thing LibraryThing does is make word clouds out of the tags you assign to books in your library. I'm not very good about tagging everything, so mine is very small right now, but here it is:

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Zuppa Toscana Soup

This soup has become one of our mainstays, frequently making it on the weekly menu. It is very similar to the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana soup, but less fattening and even tastier. Enjoy!

1 lb spicy Italian sausage
1/2 jar Real Bacon Bits
1 qt. water
2 cans chicken broth
1 large potato, cubed
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 med onion, chopped
2 c kale, chopped
1 c fat free half & half
salt and pepper

1. Brown sausage, drain and set aside.
2. Put water, broth, potatoes, garlic and onion into a pot, simmer over medium heat until potatoes and onions are tender. Around 20 minutes.
3. Add sausage and bacon to pot, simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Add kale and half & half to pot. Season with salt and pepper. Heat through (a few minutes will do) and serve.

Couple of notes: We usually use the whole bunch of kale, which is closer to 3 cups. A few extra dark leafy greens never hurt anyone! The recipe serves four but goes great with breadsticks and, coupled with an extra potato, can stretch a little farther than four servings.

If you don't want to use the entire bunch of kale for the soup, make kale chips! Chop into large pieces, wash and dry thoroughly. Spray with olive oil, season with salt and anything that sounds good. Garlic, Greek seasoning and onion powder are all good choices. Lay the pieces in one layer on a baking sheet and pop under the broiler for a few minutes. They will crisp up like chips, taste great and are much better for you. Yum. Now I wish we hadn't used all the kale in the soup...


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