Archives for July 2009

Design Book

I can’t believe I haven’t gotten around to sharing this yet. This is one of those things that’s been in the back of my mind for years now, but I kept thinking that I had to have covered it already. I couldn’t seem to find anything, so I figured I better just get it off my chest already.

Back when we first bought this house, we knew that every single room needed fairly significant renovations. The layout of this place is an open floorplan, so not only did every room need serious work, but each room had to work together and I could not go through systematically one room at a time. I had a million decisions to make and they all had to be made together.

At the same time, we were going from an apartment to our first house, so we had A. LOT. of furniture to buy. On a serious budget. Which meant that I needed to be prepared to pounce on any bargain I found and couldn’t waste time by running home to take measurements. And garage sales aren’t really known for their generous return policy.

Design Book
I had to make myself some way to keep track of every decision I was trying to make, so I started by making myself a cute little book. I gave every room in the house a few pages, and separated them with little tabs.

Paint Swatches
The first order of business was coming up with a color scheme. Mine was inspired by a peacock feather (remember this was over two years ago. I was totally original at the time. :wink:). Each room on the main floor uses a combination of these colors in different proportions. Over the past two years, these swatches must have gotten switched. My walls are not navy and my ceiling is not pink. It’s the top group.

Design Book fabric and measurements
I included fabric swatches I really liked, and pictures of furniture that I saw online or in magazines so I could keep my eye out for a cheaper option. I also included complicated measurements for trouble spots I had to work with.

Design Book Shopping List
I also made lists of specific items I was looking for, and what their maximum sizes could be, for each room of the house. It’s a little impossible to keep track of all the furniture you’re comparison shopping for when you really need Everything.

I carried this book with me everywhere for the first year we lived in this house, and once I didn’t have to consult it every day I stuck it in the glove compartment so that I had it around if I needed to double check the size of that one niche that still needed a vase.

This book was such a serious lifesaver. I seem to be allergic to making returns – it’s hard enough for me to get out the first time, let alone a second – and this simple book saved me from making any missteps and saving my sanity over that long, stressful, renovation process.


Crafting FAIL

Just in case any of you were operating under the delusion that everything I make works out perfect every time…..

Crafting FAIL

Styrofoam melts in the oven. Thought you should know.


The Canon

I’m finally finished organizing my recipes. Well, as finished as I’m ever going to be. I like experimenting with new dishes too much to ever just cut myself off completely and say, “Nope. I’ve got the 30 recipes we like to eat. That’s enough for me.”

Since it’s been a while, let me catch us up in a nutshell.

Bear’s Aunt Liz wrote a cookbook, and the real genius of it is in the meal planning. She has a theme night for every night of the week to narrow down the options and make it easier to decide what to cook from every single recipe in your repertoire.

I decided on the theme nights I wanted for us, and then I made notebooks to help me organize everything. Then I set about on a mission to fine tune all my recipes and get them just the way I wanted them, then I would add them to their proper categories and the recipe would enter “The Canon.”

I created a whole bunch of word documents, and every time I got a recipe just right I’d type it up and copy paste into whatever categories applied. Once I got all the recipes I make on a regular basis all typed up, then I printed them all out, put them in page protectors so that I can clean up any spills, and sorted them into their little categories.
The Canon

I even did this with my side dishes and it saves me so much time. Now I can turn to one section for veggie sides, and another for starchy sides.

The Canon closeup
Some meals are so simple that a full-on recipe is overkill, so I have an “Ideas” page at the beginning of each book for things like Fried Chicken (that I could make in my sleep) or Grilled Cheese Sandwiches (that anyone could make, but often doesn’t get considered as meal-worthy).

The Pizza Night notebook has the occasional recipe in there – crust, sauces, etc. – but it’s almost more a selection of shopping lists, or reminders that when I get sick of BBQ chicken pizza, I can throw bacon on the top and all of a sudden it’s a whole new thing.

I also keep a notebook full of magazine clippings and internet printouts – recipes I want to try. The mistake I made last time was including in my cookbook every recipe that looked interesting and that led to a lot of wasted flipping through and some very unpleasant discoveries when those recipes didn’t work out.


2009 Year of Pleasures #29

Copper Birds

Earlier this summer I was tooling around a beach town with Karen, my cousin/favorite shopping buddy. We were walking past this shop that was obviously serving a clientele that did not include me. Lots of things you’d see at your grandma’s house, doilies draped without irony or juxtaposition, tapestries, framed shadowboxes of nautical knots, images of cats rendered in every color and medium, and there in the back on the clearance table was this little bird family.

I snapped them up for $1 for the little ones and $2 for the mom and dad bird.

Karen, a beacon of fashion and style, gasped at my luck and pointed out that these birds would fit in perfectly at Anthropolgie or Urban Outfitters, just at 10 times the price.

Lesson learned. Do not turn up your nose at the grandma stores.


Good weekend

flip flops
We have been just awful about getting out and enjoying where we live. Since we moved here over two years ago we’ve poured every spare second into working on the house, and now that we have Atti, getting out is super complicated. Along with all the usual paraphernalia that comes along with kids, we have to imagine every scenario we might find ourselves in, and come up with a plan for Atti’s mobility. Strollers don’t work everywhere, we can’t carry him the whole time, a shoulder harness is a pain to get on and off quickly…it’s usually a combination of strategies and being prepared to cut trips short when our arms give out.

But I also refuse to allow my child’s disability to shut him off from the world, so we are trying to figure it all out in baby steps.

On Saturday we tried to go to the beach, but that was a huge mistake. The beaches here in July are swarming with tourists, and this week there was some big faith healing event at the amphitheater. We ended up having to park ten blocks away, and we didn’t even make it to the street before we decided to give up.

So the next day we aimed a lot lower, packed up a simple picnic, and just hung out at the park for a few hours.





Nap time with Dad

through the trees

napping baby

That was much better.


The Long Form

I don’t really know if it’s because I’m a mom now, or because I’m getting older and (hopefully) maturing, or just a new attempt at mindfulness inspired by this wonderful craft blogging community, but for the first time in my life I’m actually attempting to sync up with the rhythm of the world around me.

I’ve never been an outdoorswoman. I’ve never really been one to watch the seasons change and marvel at Mother Nature’s chaotic order. Or seek out that version of order in my own life. But now, now I’m trying to be aware of time. Aware of what I’m missing when I get caught up in my own head. Aware of the tender mercies and spots of beauty presented to me with every new morning.

It doesn’t help that I really don’t care for summer. I’m a total wimp about the heat, I’m a dark-haired red head with red head skin that does not appreciate the sun, and I’m afraid of deep water. Summer doesn’t have a ton to recommend it to someone like me. But I’m trying.

So we’ve been busting out the grill whenever we can bring ourselves to face the heat of the backyard, lounging on the outdoor couch, eating warm tomatoes from the vines, making homemade lemonade, and I’ve been trying to pay attention to the rhythm of these summer days and follow their example.

Summer is long slow languid days, and so that is what I’ve been working on. Long, slow, projects that I get to work on while reclining.

To be hand-bound
Hand binding some quilty projects – with the bulk of the fabric pushed as far off to the side as I can manage so that none of it actually touches me.

Cable pillow
Knitting projects on a small scale – so none of the knit actually touches me. It is hot here, y’all.

Atti's stocking in progress
And stitching stitching stitching until my eyes go as crossed as my stitches. I can’t put this down.

It makes for uneventful blog material when I go weeks without finishing any projects, but working on those long-term projects just seems to fit with the flow around here these days.


Taking my show on the road.

Next month I’m going to be speaking at the Sunstone symposium. Sunstone is a fantastic magazine that focuses on the Mormon experience through academic scholarship, literature, and addressing of social issues within the church and without. It doesn’t seem to have the rule that everything it prints has to be strictly devotional, so you’ll often find articles inside that make you think deeply about your beliefs and how you apply the gospel for yourself. Since my own faith is more of the searching, questioning type, as opposed to the humble obedient type, I so appreciate the forum Sunstone provides to learn and grow and deepen my faith in the open and sometimes messy way that seems to work for me.

I’ll be appearing on three different panels. One on raising a child with special needs, another on online resourses for Young Women’s leaders (thanks to my work at Beginnings New), and another on “mommy blogging” (oh that term makes my skin crawl – it just sounds so dismissive to me) with my friends at Feminist Mormon Housewives.

The conference is August 12 – 15 in Salt Lake City, so if any of you are planning to attend I’d love it if you said hello! I could use the support. It’s a little intimidating to come into such learned and accomplished company with just this little blog to recommend me.

Necklace in progress

Meanwhile, I have to get busy writing three different speeches, but the harder thing is going to be trying to find something to wear. This post-baby figure of mine has not budged in 18 months, and nobody seems to make nice clothes for the post-baby body. I would really like to find something that isn’t too tight in the wrong places without hiding all my right places. So I think I’m going to have to make it myself. With the perfect jewelry of course.


Things I’m loving right now…

Here’s what I’m spending my time on while it’s been too hot to be productive:

This game.

These puzzles.

This webseries.

This music. (Seriously. Listen to the first track. Amazing)

And this music.

These TV shows.

These really awesome podcasts.

This book.

This audiobook.

These dresses. But only to look at, unless they somehow go on 75% clearance.


2009 Year of Pleasures #28

It has been SO. Darn. Hot. here over the last couple of weeks. Too hot to cook, too hot to wear clothes you’d be seen in public in, too hot to touch another human.

There are only so many nights that you can scrounge around to make a dinner out of cold cereal and crackers, so we had to do something creative.

Fondue Party

We bought a fondue pot a few weeks ago and this seemed like the perfect time to bust it out. I just love fondue. Nibbles of cheese and carbs is like heaven on a platter to me. When we were first married Bear would throw me a carpet picnic on special occasions. We’d lay on our bellies on the living room rug and stuff our faces with grapes and fancy crackers and little bits of cheese and deli meat. This fondue party made me so nostalgic, and made me promise myself I’d bring back the carpet picnic tradition.

But this eating a solid pound of cheese was pretty great in its own right.


Garden Bounty

Garden Bounty

This gardening thing has a real learning curve. I may have failed with sprouting seeds, but my bulbs all went off like gangbusters, and once I bought the seedlings and got them in ground, I managed to keep them alive, mostly, despite the fact that some have been trying their darndest to die ever since.

So I messed up at the beginning part, I got really good at the middle bit, and now that I’m at the end I seem to have stumbled again. The heat has arrived with quite an entrance, and most of my garden is starting to shrivel.

Being the garden newbie that I am, I guess I didn’t realize that harvesting is a skill of it’s own. I naively thought that you just pick it when it’s done. Without really thinking through how you know something is done. Tomatoes are easy, and I’m seeing the benefit of that. I’ve eaten nothing at lunch but Cherry Tomatoes with goat cheese and Parsley Oregano Vinaigrette for over a week now. And then fried tomatoes for dinner. [Note to self – share these recipes]

Lettuce is another story. I seem to have gotten greedy and allowed everything to bolt in my attempt to let it get bigger before eating it. I’m hoping that it will work out that I’m now seeding for a fall crop, but I was SO mad at myself that I didn’t get to eat any lettuce for my trouble.

I had the same problem with my cucumbers. I’d heard plenty of warnings (which I just went on to ignore) about lettuce bolting, but no one ever mentioned that cucumbers would yellow and bitter too. Once again, I couldn’t resist watching the cucumbers get bigger and bigger until I missed my window.

At the beginning of the year I laid out my goals for the year, and in some ways I’ve done really great, but in others not so much. I really wanted to learn to improve my drawing (and I still do) but I just couldn’t resist the call of the garden. I think I’m going to sub that in and call 2009 the year I picked up gardening and leave drawing for next year.

But for it to count, I think I’m going to have to do better at the beginning and ending bits. Maybe next month I’ll give seedlings another try for a fall crop of carrots and greens and get to redeem myself.