Saturday, April 2, 2011

Now here!

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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Scrappy clutches

I just keep on keeping on with my crafty kick!

I recently made two scrappy clutches from the site This project, each time, took me several hours. Like maybe five. Each time, I did it on a Saturday and basically fell into a sewing trance where come hell or high water, I was not going to stop until the clutch was DONE, damn it.

Except, well, I did. Quit that is.

The first time, I simple missed the last step. Just didn't notice it! I kept looking at my purse with this one interior flash not sewed down and thought, Hmmmm, really? I guess that's normal?!

What an idiot! Finally a few hours later I checked the tutorial again to see it needed some top stitching to finish it up. Who'da thunk?

The problem was that my clutch is so small and fat, it seems impossible to get it in a good position on my machine to accomplish that top-stitch. It would stitch through the material but not feed it. I tried it several ways, and then gave up. Both times.

But oh well. They're still cute and functional, and if I ever stop being stubborn, I'll figure out how to actually put that finishing touch on them!

What do you think?

I'm enjoying using them! They're the perfect size to hold my wallet, phone and lip-gloss. I can keep all that stuff in them and then throw the clutch in a bigger bag if need be -- a diaper bag, my work bag. And then my essentials are easy to find.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Read 25 books: The Year of Pleasures

Finished a book last night, finally! It's been a while since I made it through one.

 It was The Year of Pleasures, by one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Berg. She's sort of a guilty pleasure author, although I don't feel it's quite fair to her to attach that label to her. She writes about women, mostly in their 40s or 50s, living ordinary lives, stumbling through relationships or common life happenings. Births, deaths, marriages, divorce. In this book, the protagonist, Betta, is 55 and newly widowed. Her husband was her life, a fact that sort of irked me. She had worked as a children's book writer, a fact that is mentioned a few times but never expounded on, never something that seems important to Betta. That struck me as off. Writers, even when they're not writing, typically think about writing, right? But she doesn't put pen to paper once during the book.

Instead, what she does is sell her brownstone in Boston for an obnoxious sum and moves to the Midwest, to a town she has never heard. This intrigued me. My husband and I used to have these grand plans in college to move to a place called Carefree, Arizona. We talked about it for months as if we were actually going to do it. It felt very romantic and adventurous, our plans to move to a city in the dessert based solely on its quirky name. But we never did do it. We graduated, we scored great internships, and our lives began in a much more realistic, down-to-earth kind of way. So in a sense, I appreciated Berg's plot because it held that sense of excitement that we rarely experience in "real life." But it also felt, of course, a little unreal. Not the idea, but the execution. Things worked out a little too perfectly, and sometimes nonsensically. She finds the perfect house in the perfect town and buys it with cash. She quickly meets characters she connects with, including with little trouble, finding with her old collage roommates. In "real life," these woman likely would have grown apart. Not in the book. Her three best friends are largely the same as who they were back then, and they're still best friends, and they're somewhat suspended in time, just waiting for Betta to call.

The problem is that some of these people and relationships are never fleshed out. It feels a little bit like Berg doesn't know where she's going or what the point is. Why is the 9-year-old kid from next door in her life? What's his purpose in the story? What does he teach Betta? I seriously can't answer that. Or the two 20-year-old men she befriends? They have some nice moments together, but if they fulfill some part in Betta's life or move her forward in her grief, I can't really say. Even among the best friends, only one is crystallized. Another has only one character-enhancing scene with Betta; the last is barely more than a name taking up space. There is also this ongoing thread of found scraps of paper from her deceased husband, each containing a single word or phrase. And these phrases make no sense to Betta. Or to me, the reader. And if there is ever a revelation about why he wrote down these nonsense words for Betta to find, what he hoped to convey through them, or what they actually mean, it is lost on me, never really explained. That was disappointing.

I'm being pretty harsh and the truth is, while the book left me a little stumped at the end, trying to piece together the holes and make sense of the way things worked in the world Berg created, I did enjoy reading it. Berg is pretty sentimental about very small things -- delicious food, the textiles in her character's home, the fleeting feelings and memories that are sparked in our minds. I don't mind this sentimentality. It seems to me very much the experience of being a woman. So these writing moments kept me going.

But in the end, it just didn't come together like most of her books. There were too many glaring holes in the end, too many relationships and situations that I look back at now and think, why did you take us through that if it didn't lead to any advancement in a character's life? It's sort of stumping.

I'll read Berg again, though. And now I must pick up something else! I'm pretty far behind in my goal of reading 25 books. Time to play catch up.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Who to write a letter to?

One of my 20 Little Things is to write hand-written letters once a month. I'm not doing so well in this area.

Part of the problem is that I feel honestly like it is weird to write someone you speak with or Facebook with or text with a hand-written letter. It feels very formal. What is there to say if you see my status updates on Facebook? It almost feels like I need some grand reason for writing on paper. Our world is so willy-nilly with communication now, everything is so fast and casual that I am quite stumped at how to find the right tone for a real letter. And the right recipient.

I'd thought about writing to a company or store that I love. But when the time comes, I can't think of one that I want to write to! Is something wrong with me? Can you imagine yourself writing a letter to some store you really loved, just to say you loved it? Why does doing so make me feel like some creep?

The fallback is always Grandma. Grandma writes US letters, and we don't email with her, so it's either that or the phone. She probably wouldn't mind a hand-written letter every month. But I'd like to shake it up.

Who should I write a letter to? Who was the last person you wrote a real letter to? Give me some ideas, pretty pretty please!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

I Heart Faces -- Week 22 -- Barefoot week

This was taken last summer in Old Montreal on our first day of a week long vacation. Luke was often barefoot back then. Now, he's a little shoe lover. He loves to put on shoes to go for a walk, to go to the park, to just go. He'll bring me his shoes sometimes -- like, hint hint, Mama! Or he'll walk around in my shoes, even my heels! I'm actually a foot hater -- something about feet gives me the shudders. But this little baby's feet, I could kiss and pet all day.

See more fun "Barefoot" photos at I Heart Faces!

Oh, and, this week, instead of making it a photo competition, the blog is raising awareness for a great organization called Soles 4 Souls. Go check it out here! 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day

Yesterday we walked into town to let Luke dip his feet in the fountain. He loves that. He also made some friends and frolicked in the grass in front of the war memorial. I never actually realized my town HAD a war memorial, so while he scampered about, I stepped up to read the plaques surrounded by flowers. Kind of fitting to find it on Memorial Day weekend.

My Dad did not serve in the military -- he was too young for Korea and I think too old for Vietnam. I don't know if he was in the draft or not. I'll have to ask him. But both my grandpas also lived into the 1980s and 90s. Whether they were in the military or not, I don't know. If so, it wasn't something talked about. One grandfather died when I was just two, the other when I was 19. We never really talked about much at all.

So when it comes to Memorial Day, it's not so much a personal thing to me. Growing up, Memorial Day meant one thing: that the pool at the country club was opening, and it was time for the summer swim season to begin. We might have had a BBQ or something like that, but nothing much was made about remembrance or military sacrifice or the freedoms we take for granted.

But I've been choked up a few times this weekend thinking about those very things. Once was reading this post called "We Remember and are thankful," at Lovely Bud. She writes about her husband who is in the army and how blessed she is that each time he's been deployed, he's returned home to her. How we should not only remember those who fought but their families at home, waiting, praying for their loved ones to come back. I cannot image what being a mother and wife in that situation would be like, how strong you would try to remain for your children while on the inside worrying yourself to pieces.

Then another kind of rememberance spoke to me: one of a mother who has lost her child. Not to a war involving guns and tankers and bombs, but a war of the body, a tiny heart that was fighting for its life. From the blog Out of a New Habit, the talented heart mom Stephanie talks about the birth of her baby girl one year ago. Little Kaia Belle lived only 34 days. She died of a congenital heart defect.

Here's what her mother writes: "Kaia, I miss you more than words could ever explain. I can't believe how much our lives have changed because of you. And I know that your lifetime of work was done in only 34 days, and then you were allowed to go Home. I pray that you are flying with the butterflies and playing with the other lions up there..."

OK, in that case, "choked up" doesn't cover it. Remembering you today, Kaia. What a beautiful little girl you were.

The final time was this morning at church when we saw a short video about a soldier who died in 2004 fighting overseas. He was 22. He was married only a few months before his deployment. In the video, his widow and his mother each read a letter they received from him shortly after this death. I cannot fathom the grief of those women, and also the pride.

Sometimes I profess to hate my country. It's said in jest over things like bad maternity leave laws, or the concept of the Tea Party, or so many other little things that irk me. But the truth is, I know what marvelous freedoms I enjoy. To wear and say what I want, to marry whom I want, to decide whether or not I'll work, to know that there is a justice system and law enforcement that works much of the time to protect me. That I can write this very blog with no reason to worry that I'll be censored or prosecuted for speaking my mind. That I can worship God in openness. By no means are things perfect here, but this land is indeed great, and it's thanks in no small part to the soldiers and elected officials who serve us, to those brave men and women who never get to come home, and to all the mothers out there surviving a kind of grief I can only hope I'll never know.

Happy Memorial Day.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Six dates with my husband, anniversary edition

Four years ago, May 27 was a very hot day. Perfectly sunny. Couldn't ask for better weather for a garden wedding.

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I felt so pretty.

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And really really happy.

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I'm a lucky girl. My husband is kind, responsible, funny, intelligent, hard-working. He vacuums, does the dishes, takes care of our lawn, folds the laundry, picks up. He's an amazing father who takes time to play with Luke, read to him, tell him things. He listens to me when I am crazy. He supports me. He makes me feel pretty. He loves me.

To celebrate our four year anniversary, we both had the day off of work. He bought me flowers in our wedding colors (pink and orange). Gorg.

He gave me chocolate and a skirt and bracelet from a store I like. They were almost just right.... But I did return them. I'm bad, I know. He tried!

After I bought my new skirt, we went to dinner. We tried to get a family photo first. That didn't work out very well.

Trying to coax him up to sit with us. He wasn't having it.

So it was just us two.

That knitted shrug was the one I wore at my wedding! Made by my dear friend and maid of honor, Kelly, who also snapped that family photo for us!

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After the picture taking was done, we went to dinner at the Forest Grill, the restaurant of the year. It was wonderful. Especially my entree. It was a vegetarian dish with gnocchi and something green and something drizzly and I don't know WHAT I was putting in my mouth but it was freaking delicious. Dessert was also to die -- a bread pudding with bits of chocolate just mingling around and melting into a gooey, sugary, bread-y, creamy wonderfulness. The only hitch with dinner was that the two glasses of wine I ordered did not cost $9 each as I thought but $17 each. Um, whoops!

After dinner we found a bar with a guy playing live music and we sat and listened and talked before coming home. It was a great anniversary date! I cannot believe four years have gone by. We have our ups and downs, bad times and good times. But I love my husband and our family and our life. I'm very very lucky. I suppose the word is blessed.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I heart Faces -- Week 21 -- Yellow

First time I'm doing the I Heart Face photo challenge. Fun times.

I snapped this last March in South Carolina. We were so excited to go to his sister's wedding and stay in an ocean-side house. Who knows when I'll get to stay on the ocean again?!And then it looked like this the entire time. EXCEPT for an hour of sunshine that appeared out of nowhere, get this, right in time for the wedding! Nutty eh?

Anyway, the weather sucked, but I sort of love the gray photos. And this one I really love the facial expressions. Give a little baby a plastic beach toy, and boy, you better watch it.

Also I like seeing how small Luke was. A little scoop of a baby. 

See more photos featuring yellowy yellow at IHeartFaces.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Plant an herb garden

I haven't been cooking at home as much as I should or as I like. We have a cafeteria at work, and I've been taking too much advantage of that fact. It's bad for my health and spirit -- really, isn't it a bummer to eat so much cafeteria food? So I need to get back to cooking a few nights a week, ensuring we have a good amount of leftovers. And now I have another really good excuse -- last weekend, I planted my herb garden!

I don't know what the heck I'm doing. Sort of free wheeling it and hoping that a combination of dirt, water and sunshine is enough to sustain these guys. Are there other things I need to know? My friends told me last night that "You can't mess up herbs," and then shared stories about how theirs "never took." Um, what? Level with me -- are they easy or not?!

Mine are all in individual pots, except the dill and thyme, which share a container. I'm also growing basil, cilantro, oregano, Italian parsley and rosemary.

See all the herbs in there? No? Yeah, silly me forgot to get a pic of just the herbs!

I need to get some recipes going! Instead of doing what I'm doing now -- wander into the backyard once a day to snip off a leaf or two of each herb to smell, inhaling deeply. Aaaaaahhhhhh.

Are you growing any herbs this year?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Oilcloth book cover

Added 6/9: This project was featured as in the Prudent Baby Project Pool! Very cool, thanks Prudent Baby!

We really put off our Mother's Day gifts this year. It was mid-day Saturday before we finally decided on a game plan. I had purchased some lovely oilcloth a few weeks back and had finally figured out a use for it. Oilcloth book covers! (From where else but Prudent Baby?) So my husband went to the bookstore and picked up two copies of The Help, which I keep hearing great things about. The idea was that we'd give each mom the book wrapped up in its very own book cover.

The idea fell apart about 11 p.m. that night when after completing one I realized a) I didn't have enough oilcloth for two and b) the first one I made somehow was too small to fit The Help into it. D'oh!

At that point, I threw the towel in and decided to go to bed. I would just keep the book cover for myself. The next day I searched for something that would fit in it, and behold! (Isn't it funny to say Behold!) My Bible fit really well! And honestly, doesn't it actually make more sense to put a Bible in a book cover than some random novel you will likely read once and then sell in a garage sale?

So behold! (again!) my oil cloth book cover.

What do you think? I really wanted a wider ribbon. But first my husband bought me some that was way off
(love you honey!), It was, first of all, not even fabric. So I had to dig out something from my drawer here, and this was all I had. I love the colors together! Overall, really love that my Bible has a cozy new cover. Makes me want to read it more, and that's a good thing.
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