Monday, January 31, 2011

{etsy find: crochet animals}

I have always been jealous of the cute and adorable creations that crafters are able to make from a bit of yarn and a crochet needle. Having tried crochet a few times myself in days past, I know how addicting it can be. However, I never attempted something so adorable as a crocheted stuffed animal... the most I could make was a long piece of crocheted fabric, which I called a "scarf," just to give it some structure in this world.

Fortunately, there are others who can create much cuter things than my long reams of fabric, and so here are some of my favorites dug up from the shops of etsy:

Don't they just make you want to pull out your old stuffed animals and cuddle with them again? I especially love that monkey in the middle row, by LaPetite2101... all of her creations are just adorable. But it's hard to pick a favorite among the group.
And, of course, being the Star Wars geek I am, I was thrilled to find that little set of Star Wars crochet characters by LucyRavenScar... so funny! I want them all right now. :)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

{homecoming and birthday suprises}

Tanner came back from his work trip to Seattle yesterday, which also happened to be his 25th birthday, so there were many reasons to celebrate.

To surprise him, I cleaned up his apartment, organized his book shelves, hung some stray paintings that had been lying around for months, and scattered notes around the mirrors, tables, and even the kitchen fridge.

I left him a box of cake mix and cooked a batch of his favorite snickerdoodles.
I left the daisies he sent me on his kitchen table and made a Happy Birthday banner to tape across his hallway arch. The banner was a very simple design, just paper triangles attached to ribbon with tape to create a bunting. I'm sure with more time I could have made it out of more sustainable materials, but for the time being, it served its quick DIY purpose.

He was delighted by the surprise, and in retrospect, it was probably wise that I cleaned up the apartment, because his friends from home drove up to spend the weekend with us. We hung out laughing and playing Liar's Dice until past midnight-- at that point we realized Tanner hadn't opened his presents yet, so we teased him he'd now have to wait another 364 more days since it was no longer his birthday.

Being the compassionate friends we are, though, we reneged this rule and he amassed a small collection of fun gifts: It's a Trap Family Guy Star Wars spoof, two more expansion packs for Killer Bunnies, a couple Great Big Sea CDs, season three of Avatar the Last Airbender, and the most entertaining gift of the night: a Ninja Turtles snuggie. It had giant pictures of the turtles emblazoned on the front, and giant sleeves that made Tanner look like some kind of cartoon priest. He playfully trooped around the room in the snuggie, intoning, "In nomine Patris et fillii et Spiritus Sancti... in the name of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael...."

The others were amused by the idea of Killer Bunnies, and so Tanner and I made the executive decision to teach them how to play at the early hour of 2:00 am. At this point everyone was quite sloshed, and it was fairly entertaining trying to teach a very complicated card game to a group of people who kept cracking up over the silly cards, such as "Show Me the Bunny" and a card with a DeLorian on it, entitled, "Bunny to the Future."

Tanner's friend Mike picked up on the game the quickest, though he was intent on making it more of a gambling/ strategical game, capitalizing on the trading aspect and trying to make his Bunny fortune in the world. Though that may not have been the original intent of the game makers, it certainly made for a humorous game twist with lots of temporary alliances being made between players. As Mike noted at some point during the game: "This reminds me of Monopoly. But with death!"

It was an entertaining night, and I think a good birthday for the boy. He also loved the new addition to my card collection that I presented to him that night, a sweet inside joke we've been swapping for a while:

And so I'm turning in early tonight to catch up on the lack of sleep last night... after a round of Killer Bunnies, that is.

Friday, January 28, 2011

{daisies make life less stressful}

My interview (round one) was scheduled for this morning, at the very vague time of "sometime between 9:00am and 1:00pm." I've been stressing for a few weeks about this interview, and now that the day has arrived, I got to stress about it all morning. I was just hoping I would get the call at 9:00 am and I wouldn't have to walk around on tip-toes, jumping every time the phone rang. But 9:00 passed, and 10:00... and 11:00....

My boss Brian started having some fun at my expense. He decided it would be hilarious to start calling the store every ten minutes and ask for me, so my name would be paged on the intercom and I'd think every time that it was the interviewer. (Thank God he didn't carry this one through, as I was already jumping at every phone ring).

But at 1:05 the phone call was finally for me.
At that point I had moved on to working on other things and had almost (almost....) forgotten about the interview.
But I had a nice chat with the interviewer, told her some awesome things about yours truly, managed to make her laugh once or twice, and now I'm simply playing the waiting game to see if I made it out of a pool of 16 people and onto round two.

Brian, of course, found the opportunity to stop me in the hall every ten minutes and ask nonchalantly, "hey... have you heard that Jack Bruce song, 'Waiting on a Word'?"
and later.... "Or how about 'Right Here Waiting'?"
or... "Do you happen to remember the lyrics to, 'The Long Wait'?"
"Ahhhh," says I, "I see where you're going with this."

But to make a stressful day sweeter, a care package arrived from the boy, who sent his best wishes and a bouquet of daisies...... a delightful end to quite a long week.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

{do you miss me?}

Posting might be a bit scarce this week.

You'd think I'd be super productive, as my boyfriend is out of town so I have plenty of time to get some stuff accomplished... right?
Then why is it that I still have five handwritten sheets (front and back) of to-do items this week??

First, I'm interviewing for a job promotion, which has me rather stressed and running around like a manwoman, not to mention I have rewritten my interview answers no less than 10,000 times, so I have a full 2" binder full of interview crap and data I've accumulated.

But my interview is tomorrow, which means I can breathe easy again for the weekend.... at least until the next interview. (If I get a second, that is.)

Second, I have been working very hard giving this little blog a facelift! My old site on Wordpress was a bit limiting in how much I could design what my blog looks like, and it tended to frustrate me, as I am a very visual person. I found a new platform to build from, and it allows me complete control over the template, the arrangement of widgets, links and pages, as well as the ability to do HTML coding, to add some technical design elements.
So that's another thing. I'm teaching myself HTML coding. Doesn't that sound exciting? In my barest bits of free time I've been poring over lines and lines of internet code trying to get all the links, pictures, and tabs to work the way I want them to. Whew!
At any rate, the new blog is looking pretty awesome (in my opinion), so I hope you like it! I'm open to feedback, so opinion away!

More to come when this week (longest. week. ever.) is finally over!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

{a spoonful of sugar makes our skis go down...}

My sister and I went on a spontaneous ski trip this weekend, which entailed driving three hours at 8:00 am, skiing for four and a half hours, then driving three hours home. A full day if I say so myself.
Can you see the snow bunny?
I love ski season. When the fall temperatures drop into the low digits and the smell of snow comes into the air, my need to get out onto the slopes is like an addiction, pounding at my senses until I get my fix.

There's something wonderful about pulling on layers of warm clothing, wiggling fingers into gloves, strapping on a helmet, and listening to that resounding click! as your boots snap into your skis.

Then it's just the silent sound of snow muffling the world around you as you take off down the slopes, carving powder up in heavy waves and feeling the stinging wind of winter brightening your nose with frost.
Neon track suit and cowboy hat? Love it.
Today's ski fix has been resolved, but already I'm ready for the next.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

{blastin' bean dip and burly burritos}

My Picky Critic doesn't like beans. When I first asked him for a list of foods he would eat, one of the items I asked about was burritos.
He said, "no, I don't like burritos."
This surprised me, because what's not to like?
When I acted shocked, he amended, "well, it depends what's in it."
I said, "ok, what kind of burritos do you like?"
He seemed to think about this for a long moment and then decided, "chicken and cheese."
That's it? Not much to work with.
But to be honest, I'm not a big fan of beans in my burritos, myself, and besides beans and chicken (unless you're vegetarian, like myself...), all you have to work with are veggies, and he hates those.

So, here's my favorite lunch recipe so far: a burrito that smooths out the texture of beans to make them more appealing, and adds a lot of delightful flavors, plus zucchini and cauliflower!

Before we start on the burrito, we have to make the Blastin' Bean Dip, which is going to be the base of the burrito (but also makes an awesome chip dip on its own for Super Bowl weekend!!}

{blastin' bean dip}

1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, diced (I pureed this; guess who doesn't like onions?}
1-2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup white puree
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 (15 oz) can pinto beans (I pureed these, too)
1 cup salsa
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a medium-sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until they are slightly translucent, about ten minutes. Then add the garlic, white puree, chili powder, cumin, beans, and salsa. Stir well to combine, reduce heat to med-low, and cook for 10 minutes.

{burly burritos}

1/2 cup Blastin' Bean Dip
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
Wheat tortillas
1/4 cup shredded low-fat cheese

Spoon the bean dip and rice into the tortilla, then cover with cheese and optional veggies (I like them, anyway!). Roll 'em up and wrap them in parchment paper to warm up at lunch tomorrow! Yum!

My rating: 5/5
My Picky Critic's rating: 2/5 (He's still not a fan of onions... they are hard to puree. And the bean flavor is still evident. He actually rated the burritos 3/5, but when I said skeptically, "you like them as much as the pancakes?" he said, "no... I was just trying to be polite." So much for burritos. At any rate, I think they're delicious.)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

{lions and wardrobes, but no witches}

The boy and I went to see The Lion King musical the other night for our Christmas/ anniversary/ his birthday present. If you recall, we actually bought each other tickets for Christmas (great minds think alike...) but he managed to sell his set to a coworker who was also eager to see it.

In retrospect, I almost wish we had gone twice, because the show was amazing. Julie Taymor's vision for The Lion King is beautiful, with stunning costumes and a resonating African heart at the center of it all, something that seems to get lost beneath the comedy of Disney's movie. I love that all the orchestral pieces from the movie have been remade with chants, lyrics and rhythmic African songs for the musical, dressed up with lithe giraffes on stilts, birds on wires, lions with ornate headdresses, and dancing zebra.

My favorite character is Rafiki, who was played by a woman from South Africa, speaking almost entirely in dialect the whole show. Her opening song The Circle of Life, with its rising sun and cocophony of animals appearing onstage, caught the audience in rapture. In fact, when the giraffes and elephants starting making their appearance through the theatre, the entire audience burst into applause. It was a magical beginning to a magical show.

The dialogue runs very similar to the 1995 Disney movie, but the songs are what makes it special and unique. Watching the grasslands chant, the trees and rocks sing as the lionesses dance among them truly transports you to another world. My sister once summed it up in this way: "When you're cast as a rock or a tree in the school play, it's the worst part you could get. In The Lion King, being a rock or a tree is awesome!"

So that's my pitch. If Lion King runs anywhere near you (or if you're in New York... it's been playing sold-out shows since 1997) go see it!

Photo by Frank Rizzo

In other news.... I've started a P90X workout routine again. I followed it fairly religiously a year ago and managed to lose two pant sizes and something like ten pounds by the end of it. It was pretty awesome. Then I signed up to work aboard a tall ship for four months and all my good habits went to shame. You'd think I'd get plenty of exercise doing manual labor on a sailboat for four months (which is true), but alas, we also had an amazing cook who made us at least three full meals a day from scratch, and since I adore food, I indulged. (Who wouldn't?)
Needless to say, I gained back the weight, then spent three months losing it again when I returned to civilization, and now I'm getting slack again... (ah, the rollercoaster of shame).

So, I'm doing P90X again. The boy and I tried the regime together last October and managed to survive about a month before we started cursing at Tony Horton and decided that playing video games on the couch was way more appealing.
But I'm taking another crack at it, so we'll see how the results go. So far I'm on day three and I'm having trouble doing simple tasks, like tying my shoe, without noticing pain in muscles I didn't realize I owned.

And so life stumbles on. Wish me luck on the endeavors to make it an interesting journey...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

{blockbuster blueberry muffins}

I love muffins. How can you possibly go wrong with something so scrumptious? So when I saw a recipe in Sneaky Chef which claimed you could make blueberry muffins without butter and with white beans, oat bran, and wheat germ, I thought to myself, I must try this. Because surely anything with white beans, oat bran and wheat germ in the recipe must be disgusting.

But I was wrong! These muffins are quite delightful, and though they are a little "grainier" and drier than your average blueberry muffin, at least this one you can feel good about when you down six of them in one sitting. (Not that I would do that.... heh heh)

{blockbuster blueberry muffins}

2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup almond or canola oil
1/2 cup white bean puree (I got a can of Great Northern Beans, dumped it in my food processor, and used the smooth, creamy result in the recipe)
2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup flour blend (to make this mix, blend 1 cup all-purpose white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, and 1 cup wheat germ. Use the extra to use in other recipes that call for flour!)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup oat bran
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp flaxseed (I added this to the recipe myself, since it's such a good health booster)
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a muffin tin with paper liners, or spray with cooking oil.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together, then whisk in the oil, white bean puree, and vanilla.
In another bowl, whisk together flour blend, baking powder, cinnamon, oat bran, flaxseed, and salt.

Fold the dry ingredients into the wet, mixing until flour is just moistened. Don't overmix or the muffins will be dense.

Lightly mix in blueberries.

Fill each muffin cup to the top and bake for 22 to 25 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
This was a super easy recipe to make, so I'll definitely be making it again, even when I'm short on time. Something to note, however: the recipe only makes 6-8 muffins, so if you're expecting a big batch, you'll want to double the ingredients. I wish I would have, as all eight were gone the same night I made them. (Heh heh, oops...)

My rating for this recipe is 4/5. I'll definitely make again!
My Picky Critic boyfriend gives this recipe a rating of 3/5. Here's the ironic part: I was excited about this particular recipe because he actually likes blueberries! But... as he was trying this one, he happened to mention, "baby, I don't really like eating whole blueberries... maybe if they were pureed I'd like them a little better..."

(Head slap)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

{i heart organizing}

I was thinking of sharing some more recipes with you, or perhaps new additions to my card collection, but this morning I was aimlessly surfing through my favorite DIY, Etsy and creative sites when I stumbled across i heart organizing.
Seriously. I'm totally drooling over her household transformations.
For those of you who know me, I'm a bit of a nut when it comes to organizing, and when the organization is paired with a little creativity, I'm in my element. I'm pretty sure I was an interior decorator in a previous life. As much time as I spend at work redecorating spaces, and at home reinventing spaces, it really should be my full time occupation.
At any rate, i heart organizing is a site created by my secret twin (I'm pretty sure) as she is amazing at creating and organizing beautiful spaces, taking beautiful pictures, and all while raising three beautiful boys. I'm totally jealous. Take a peek at her site, or her blog about her family, and you will be jealous, as well.

As if that weren't enough, do you remember I mentioned one of my big projects for the future is to create my own craft room? I literally have the sketches all planned out already, I just need a permanent space to create it. The ideas I have listed include:
  • A clean desk with all supplies within arm's reach, whether it be on shelves, on bulletin boards, or magnetized above the desk.
  • Hanging cups on a metal bar to hold pencils, scissors, etc
  • Jars screwed beneath the shelving to hold small thumbtacks, buttons, paper clips, etc
  • Metal spice tins magnetized to the wall to hold other small items
  • Bins for paper storage, magazine storage, scraps storage, and photo storage
  • Shelves for albums, books, etc 
And what did I discover? Jen at i heart organizing has already created my perfect space! I finally discovered where to find those hanging cups that I've been looking for, for so long! (IKEA, of course)Check out her transformation:

Can I say how much I love this? Not only those hanging cups I've been drooling over....

But also the adorable homemade bulletin board (in a photo frame! What a great idea!)

AND the spice containers I want, plus cute wire racks to hold magazines...

So kudos to Jen for putting into action what I've been planning.... hopefully I'll have my own before/after shots soon! And this is definitely another blog I'll be keeping up with...

{all photos courtesy of i heart organizing}

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

{banana waffle pancakes}

Today I'm sharing with you another recipe from Missy Lapine's Sneaky Chef, as I continue my quest for finding healthy foods that my boyfriend will eat. Fortunately, breakfast is one meal he really enjoys, so I have a lot of options to work with.

Today's specialty? Banana waffles.
Er... except I don't have a waffle maker, so at my house we call them "pancakes."
It is a very thick batter, and I can see how waffles would probably turn out a little better (the pancakes remain slightly gooey inside) so if you have a waffle maker, I suggest using it.

Without further ado....

{top banana waffles}

4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup orange puree
2 tsp maple syrup (plus additional for serving)
2 large bananas, mashed (I only used one ripe banana since I didn't have two, and the recipe still tasted very banana-y)
2 tbsp ground walnuts (I put them in my food processor)
3/4 cup flour blend*
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
Milk, as needed

* The flour blend consists of this mixture: 1 cup all-purpose white flour, 1 cup whole wheat flour, and 1 cup wheat germ. Mix together and store for up to three months. (This blend is healthier than white flour alone, obviously)

Preheat waffle iron (or skillet) to medium-high and spray with oil.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together egg whites, vanilla, salt, orange puree, maple syrup, mashed bananas, and ground walnuts.
In a large bowl, whisk flour blend, baking powder, and cinnamon.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, stirring until blended. Batter should be thick and lumpy. Add a little milk if too thick. (Especially if you're making pancakes)

Spoon 1/3 to 1/2 cup batter onto the center of iron (or skillet). Close the top and cook until the waffle is lightly browned, crisp, and lifts off the grids. (Or, cook pancake until sides begin to bubble, then flip.)

Word of warning for pancakes: since the batter is so dense, it takes the pancakes a long time to cook through. They don't burn easily, though, so don't be afraid to leave it on the burner for longer than you're used to with boxed pancake mix. I made the mistake of flipping them back and forth too often (thinking they were done) and that toughens up the pancakes and makes them chewier.

Makes four large waffles (pancakes). Served drizzled with syrup.

Here's the review from my Picky Critic: "they're a little chewy (my bad) and taste a little too much like banana (he doesn't like banana... next time I'll try blueberries) but overall, I like them."

At any rate, we both ate all the pancakes this morning, we got a 1/2 cup of sweet potatoes, carrots, wheat germ, and walnuts in our systems, and I thought they were quite hearty!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

{penguin in disguise}

While trying to come up with a logo for this budding greeting card enterprise of mine, Tanner suggested that I pick one of my favorite bird cartoons and try to integrate it into all the cards in some way, to create a theme. I picked the penguin, since he was my favorite to draw, and with a little creative brainstorming, we came up with a series of cards of the penguin trying to act like the other birds.

While Tanner tried to beat Call of Duty: Black Ops (unsuccessfully - there was a lot of cursing at the TV, if I recall) I sat at the coffee table and sketched, inked, and colored cards. (My next big project is to create a craft center for myself so that I don't have to sit on the floor every time I want to be creative.)

Here's the result of a night of drawing penguins:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

{this one's for the birds}

If you remember my post from Jan 4, I had fun new project to share, and now I have some results to show you!
I'm making a line of cards (with Tanner's help -- he's my self-appointed "manager" who tells me what's hot to make: "we need more roosters, baby. And flamingos! And next will be sealife... manta rays... fish... and then mammals!") that features some fun little cartoon birds.

These are just some basic ideas to be fleshed out a little more in the future. For example, I may do cut-outs instead of colored pencils, and I need to get some sturdier cardstock for the finished product. But these made me giggle so much that I have to share them, anyway. Enjoy!

And my favorite...

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