Archives for January 2012

Year of Pleasures: cats

It’s been a while since these kitties made an appearance here on the blog, so I thought I’d better fix that.

Now that the heat of summer is gone, they make little sniffing attempts to explore the backyard whenever I’m outside. Gizmo’s the most brazen, totally living up to the gender stereotype of being a boy as he rolls around in the dirt and eats grass while prissy little Jem doesn’t want to get her paws dirty.


Superbowl Showdown Giveaway

Football with the boys
Football is a second religion in our house. It was a major force in Bear’s life as he played from 8 years old through college. Despite his best efforts, I have not exactly become a fan, but I am a supportive enough spouse to plan some good times around his passion. And heaven knows I am always down to through a party.

This year we all have the opportunity to have American Express sponsor that good time. My friends at AmEx approached me to participate with a bunch of other bloggers in having a Superbowl Showdown. Whoever gets the most retweets gets their Superbowl Party paid for. It’s probably a good thing I don’t know who the other bloggers are so I can keep my trash talking to myself.

So this is kind of a sweepstakes within a sweepstakes. If I get the most unique tweets, I get a party, and for retweeting, you could win

250 dollars!!!

[Read more…]


Tutorial: Make a Blanket Cape

Blanket Cape Refashion
In my obsessive reading of fashion blogs lately, it’s been fun to educate myself on some clear trends that in other years have sailed right by me. This year it’s capes and plaid prints. I would never never ever have shelled out cash on a cape if I’d only seen it on a hanger. But seeing it in action on my favorite fashion blogs, with a pair of slim pants and a great boot? Fabulous.

I was specifically inspired by this jacket from Keiko. So bold, so classic, so cozy.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 1
I’ve had this old stadium blanket kicking around for, seriously, decades. I have no idea where it came from, but it’s been like a bad penny my whole life, every time I think I’m rid of it it pops up again. It was too small to use as anything other than maybe a baby blanket, but why would you ever want to wrap a baby in lumberjack themed wool? This project is what it had been waiting for all those years.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 2
I folded the blanket in half with the fringe ends hanging down. I cut through the middle of the top layer and cut a neck hole. I made my neck hole enormous because I was cutting around a couple of moth holes, but it ended up inspiring me in the end.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 3
This step might take a little fine tuning, but don’t be afraid to just give it a couple tries. Try on your cape and decide how wide you want the waist to be and how large the sleeves. Mark your tailoring and sew on those lines. Cut about 1/3″ away from the seam and set the scraps aside for later.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 4
I sewed some black double fold bias binding along the sides of the front opening, just to give it a little bit more of a finished look.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 5
Take all those scraps you cut out from under the arms and sew them all together, leaving one end of fringe in place.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 6
On the end that doesn’t have the fringe, fold the right sides together and sew the end closed.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 7
Turn the strip inside out and iron to crease the fold line.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 8
Pin your collar strip to the right side of the neck hole you cut for the cape. Mine just ended up fitting perfectly, but if yours isn’t the right size, just trim the strip or enlarge the neck hole until it fits.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 9
Add a couple of button holes on the end with the fringe.

Blanket Cape Tutorial Step 10
And sew on a couple of buttons on the other end.

Blanket Cape Refashion
I only messed with a collar because I ended up cutting the neck hole way too big, and I only did that because of how worn the blanket was. It all ended up working in my favor, though, as I now have this trendy wool cape, that somehow also looks vintage and 60’s inspired. A total happy accident.


Broth Braised Potatoes

Braised Potatoes
I cook a lot of meat for the men in this house, which means I also cook a lot of potatoes. And sometimes, I need an option besides mashed potatoes – again. I came up with this recipe one Thanksgiving we were spending with tons of extended family. There were already three different versions of mashed potatoes – with skin and without, with garlic, with cream, with butter, etc. – so I decided to try something totally different and just threw a bunch of stuff in a pot. The dish barely even made it to the table as people kept sneaking nuggets before dinner was ready.

Broth Braised Potatoes
2 1/2 lbs red potatoes
1 onion
4 garlic cloves
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1 1/2 C beef broth
2 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar

Rough cut potatoes, onions and garlic into bite-sized pieces. Combine all the ingredients together in one pot and let simmer together covered for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

You don’t want to boil these potatoes, so you might need to adjust your fluid levels. The potatoes should be braised, which means cooked in a few inches of liquid – not covered. This method makes a really fluffy potato as it’s steamed by the yummy broth mixture.

I think I’m going to have to make a note to myself to try a version of this in the spring with lemon and greens, you could add whatever your favorite flavors are and it will all be melted together and delicious by the time it’s done.


Year of Pleasures – Handicap Parking

Handicap Placard

We finally went to the trouble of filling out forms and visiting the doctor for his precious precious signature, and now we are let into the exclusive club of people who get to park closer. This is just the greatest law ever. Do you know what a colossal pain in the butt it is to try to get a toddler into his wheelchair when you are sandwiched in so close to the cars around you that you can barely get the door open?

I am also discovering that there are a WHOLE lot of people who abuse this privilege. I have watched as time and again three obviously able-bodied people debark from their enormous pickup truck while I’m left driving around trying to find a spot that will give me a little breathing room. There’s a special place in hell for those people.

I fully plan on using this parking pass as a perk for anyone I can talk into taking my child for a day. “Oh? You’re going to the zoo? If you bring Atti I’ll let you have the parking pass.” I think it will be in high demand.


My dream farm

My dream place
Some day I will own a farm, and when I do, I think it just might be here. I drove through the country with my brother when he was in town, and it made me fall in love with this area all over again. People often think that Modesto is a bummer place to live, but they are wrong. I live in Eden, where everything grows, the land is inexpensive, and I’m just over an hour a way from three big cities. I get all the benefits of both country and city life.

I’m pretty much a city girl. The country life would be a big learning experience for me, but I’m eager for it. I can’t stand the suburbs. To me that’s like all the worst parts of city life without the freedom and space of the country. If I can’t live in a loft downtown, than plunk me down in the middle of no where.

La Grange, CA
This area is La Grange, an actual ghost town about 20 minutes outside of Modesto, and closer to Bear’s work than our current spot. I think we’d buy something tomorrow if we felt like we were going to stay there forever. Right now we’re still feeling a little up in the air to commit to something as long term as a farm, and it would have to be very long term because I have some big plans.

I want a huge orchard with three or four trees of a whole bunch of different fruits and nuts. Cherries, peaches, nectarines, pears, apples, almonds, all grow beautifully here. I want a massive herb garden done up so I can relax with a book among my favorite smells. I want yards and yards of vegetables, a barn with a sheep and a goat and a whole mess of chickens, and honey bees. I want berry brambles of every kind so I can make pie after pie oozing with juice. And I want a little cabin where I can steal away to write undisturbed.

I want Atti to be able to play with animals and have incentive to move and work that comes from something natural. I want to teach him to appreciate where food comes from, teach him to not be afraid of work, and I want to build a house that fits our family without Atti having to tackle stairs. As he gets bigger I don’t want there to be any part of our lives that is off limits to him, so that means we need a place without a second story, or a basement. Which means building it ourselves.

But that’s part of the dream too. Being able to custom design a house from the ground up, in a way that exactly fits the needs of our family. Until that day I’ll just have to take the occasional drive and think about what I would do with all those rolling hills.



Intellectual Property for Crafters – A Case Study

If you’ve been craft blogging for any length of time at all, you’ve probably seen something you made end up somewhere else. Some people are good-natured but haven’t thought through the consequences of what they’re doing, sometimes it’s something totally innocent, and sometimes it’s outright theft. From a legal point of view, there are three different categories that explain this phenomenon. Simultaneous Invention, Derivative Work, and Plagiarism. In one week back in 2009, I had all three happen to me. It’s been long enough that I think it’s safe to talk about it now.

Simultaneous Invention

Terrarium Ornament
My theme tree in 2009 was the Woodland Christmas tree, so I had a new woodland flavored craft coming out every day during the month of December. Like always, I try and vary the medium I use, create new designs, and allow myself to be inspired by popular trends. Terrariums had been all over the internet over the last year, and when Michael’s carried these jumbo sized glass ornaments, it was a simple leap to make a terrarium ornament. And I was not the only one. Amy at Design Sponge and I posted this idea within a day of each other. A few days after that Heather at Dollar Store Crafts posted her version. It was an idea whose time had come. None of us had any reason to be angry with anybody else, and of course none of us were.

Derivative Work
Brown Bird's Nest
Earlier that year as I had been seeking out design inspiration for this woodland tree, I had come across a Little Wire Bird Nest from Cathe of Just Something I Made. She used pearls and wire to make these tiny intricate little charms she used to decorate other projects, and I thought I could do something similar that would suit my purposes. I was definitely inspired by Cathe, and of course gave her the credit she deserved, but I made enough of my own changes that it became something new. It wasn’t wholly original, but it was something different. That’s derivative work.

Snowflake Ornament on tree
This happens a whole lot to craft bloggers. A whole lot. Often by other craft bloggers who think it’s OK to reproduce a tutorial completely as long as they use their own photos. It’s not. If you are not contributing something new to the process, and not giving credit where it’s due, it’s stealing.

When another blogger does it, I tend to forget about it. It’s usually not worth the confrontation unless someone is a really big blog and making a lot of money off your content. But that’s not usually the way it works. Except this one time.

During this same week I got an email from a reader in Australia, pointing me to the magazine HomeLife, which was featuring my snowflake tutorial, credited to someone named Francesca Newby. [Update: Apparently you all have made enough of a fuss for me that they’ve taken this down. But since nothing on the internet is ever gone for good, you can see how it used to look here.] This was the most clear-cut case of plagiarism I had ever seen, especially given that every precise measurement was exactly the same. To be legally safe all they would have had to do was add a new piece, or leave off a piece, or make something a fraction of an inch larger or smaller, but they didn’t. It is exactly my snowflake.

I called a lawyer friend, I sent emails, and I was ignored. Basically, since it’s international it would have taken a whole lot more money to go after them than I would have made on it. So I’m out of luck. That snowflake has been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, so at least it got it’s proper moment in the sun with my name next to it, but it is absolutely galling to know that someone else got paid for my work. I hear HomeLife is a major magazine in Australia. They absolutely should have known better, and they at least could have responded to my emails with an apology. But all this time later, nothing.

I kept quiet about it for so long because I was debating legal action, and I didn’t want things to get complicated with other media outlets, and it seemed so much more prudent to stay quiet. But now I feel like it’s worth talking about as instruction. This does happen, and since we’re the little guys, there’s not much we can do about it. When you stand up for yourself and you still find yourself beaten, the only solace a crafter can take is that there are always more ideas where that one came from. We need to take heart that we’re more than one good idea, and just keep sharing beautiful things with the world.


What I’m Eating – Yogurt with Fresh Fruit

Yogurt with fresh fruit

I’m not usually a big yogurt fan – the texture is a bit hard for me to eat sometimes. But it’s so dang good for you that I keep trying to find a way that works.

Whenever I get home from the grocery store, after I put everything away, the very next thing I do is chop up all the fruit I bought. I know I’m not alone when I say I would often buy fruit with the best intentions, and then let it rot in the fridge because I couldn’t be bothered to chop it when I needed a snack. So now I typically have a bowl of chopped fruit in the fridge. Depending on the season it’s made up of fresh berries or stone fruit, and right now I’m into winter melon territory.

Instead of just sneaking a few pieces of melon whenever I get snacky, I’ve started generously topping my yogurt with it. Yogurt is pretty great to eat when you use it like a dressing on a fresh fruit salad.


Breakfast Burrito

Breakfast Burrito
I have become such a Californian. Once upon a time I would get sick of burritos for every meal, but now, that’s like saying I get sick of *food* every meal. Latin food has such an endless variety of options, but what really blew open my closed mind was discovering the miraculous sausage Chorizo. It’s salty and spicy and always gives me heartburn, but it is a burn that is so worth it. And grounded with the potatoes, it provides a little kick to all my breakfast favorites, folded up in a convenient portable container.

Breakfast Burritos
sour cream

Start by dicing the potatoes and tossing them in a pot of salted boiling water. When tender, drain.

Remove the chorizo from it’s sausage casing, crumble it into a pan and cook. When I’m making these for my family I just crack a couple of eggs right into the cooking sausage. The oil from the meat lubricates and flavors the eggs and the whole thing is incredibly delicious. If I was cooking this for a breakfast buffet for guests, I’d cook everything separately.

Pile the potatoes, chorizo, eggs and toppings of your choice in the middle of a warmed flour tortilla, fold, and eat.

I always overstuff my burritos and end up eating them with a knife and fork, but that’s OK by me since it means I get another chance to layer on the sour cream and salsa.


Year of Pleasures – Monogrammed Necklace

Monogram Necklace
Since I make almost all of my own jewelry, I don’t have to many great pendants I can just toss on for a casual day. I’m working on changing that, and for starters I lucked into this little monogrammed necklace as part of my great Cost Plus jewelry find. It was the last one, it cost $4, and it was my initial. Serendipity.