Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Just a peek...

We are making progress on the moving front. The key is figuring out what you are good at and then divvying up the work. Dustin is good at taking Ikea furniture apart and then putting it back together again. He carries a drill around and takes things out of walls and then puts them back into new walls. He will wake up at 7 am and then work steadily until midnight, without complaint.

abandoned hook
{wall hook}

I am good at taking things out of boxes and organizing them neatly in their new homes. I work furiously for awhile and then I have a tendency to sneak into other rooms and fall asleep for a few hours. I don't even need a bed - give me a blanket and a relatively clear corner and I can nap. I call this "pacing myself" which sounds much nicer than "being lazy."

pots and pans
{pots and pans}

We are both really good at eating pizza. I can't even tell you how much pizza we've eaten over the last few days, because frankly it's embarrassing. We eat it cold, out of the box.

pizza, cold
{pizza, cold}

I can't wait to share pictures of the new place, once it isn't just a sea of boxes. In the meantime, I have nothing for you. No food is being produced, no clever projects are being made. It's all boxes, all the time. Give me a couple days.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Quick break!

The moving is going well, and we're loving our new place. But it turns out I was being overly optimistic to think I could blog through the move. There's just too much to do! It took everything we had yesterday just to make sure we'd have access to clothes this morning.

I'll pop in with some pictures of the work in progress soon. Pinky swear.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday flowers (moving edition)

We got the keys to our new apartment today (squee!), which means we've been systematically tearing apart our old apartment for the entire week, in preparation.

My flowers from last week are going strong, and I appropriated a few of them for a tiny arrangement. My mom found this beautiful milk glass bud vase in a thrift store and snatched it up for me (she knows me well) and I needed to get it into circulation ASAP, even though there isn't much point in putting flowers around the house when everything else is already in boxes.

milk glass bud vase
{milk glass bud vase}

I've got my fingers crossed for a nice smooth move this weekend. I'm aiming for no more than 2 moving related freak outs. Because aiming for none would be unrealistic.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Favorite rainy day legwear...

Two layers of thick tights* topped with a dress and a long, warm cardigan. I love public transit, but it makes apparel tricky when we're in the midst of a rainstorm. Jeans inevitably get wet and then take hours to dry, so I avoid them.


I wear my clumpy but warm Uggs (the only time I wear them out in public) while I wait for the bus. A woolly hat (brimmed to keep errant rain drops off my glasses) and a giant scarf help out as well. When I get to work, I shed the extra accessories and swap the boots for a pair of ballet flats. Reverse the process to get home, adding gloves if necessary. Easy-peasy.

*The opaque red tights are from Urban (I remain loyal to my Old Navy tights, but they have a limited color selection, so I'm forced to look elsewhere sometimes) and the lace overlay tights are from Forever 21. I can't find the exact pair online, but they have lots of other fun options and it's worth checking out the selection at your local store. As you would expect, the consistency of their sizing is a bit lacking (I have one pair that is a bit small and one pair that is a bit large), but they don't run easily and they're still nice and comfy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I'm blushing...

Heart of Light has been nominated for a Poppy award in the handmade accessories category! I love the Poppytalk blog, and I'm thrilled to be in such good company.

corsage pin

Hop over and check out the other nominees (you can even vote for your favorite) and celebrate handmade!

Bathmat, take II

Remember my wonky bathmat?

Over the weekend I sewed a better version. The wonky one will now be our backup.

new bathmat
{new bathmat}


* (Almost) straight edges! I laid the towel and the sheet on top of each other on my largest cutting mat (right sides facing IN) and smoothed them out flat. Then I laid a smaller cutting mat on top and traced around it with washable fabric marker. Then I pinned it. I usually avoid pinning, but I learned my lesson last time. It is very difficult to get nice straight lines when sewing bulky fabric if you don't pin.

*More absorbent - I sandwiched an extra layer of towel in between the front and back for a plusher feel. I just cut it a smidge smaller than the outer layers and slipped it inside before sewing the quilting.

*Nicer quilting effect - I didn't freehand it this time. I used a ruler, drew some straight lines in random places and then sewed along the markings. Apparently I remain incapable of sewing a straight line without a visual aid.

new bathmat
{new bathmat}

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The weekend, briefly

Why is it that three days weekends never seem long enough? The rain has finally moved in so we spent most of our time inside, strategizing about the upcoming move (this is where living with an architect comes in handy - we have a scale plan of our new place and we can just move the furniture around to see where it fits).

We ate quesadillas with as much Tapatio as possible.


I played around with yarn (because it's been way too long since I've picked up my crochet hooks).

bobble stitch
{bobble stitch}

We had friends over for homemade pasta.

ravioli filling
{ravioli filling}

And watched the rain come down and down and down.

mandarin-quat in the rain
{mandarin-quat in the rain}

Friday, January 15, 2010

Friday flowers (and thank you)

We went to the Farmer's Market and splurged on three different bouquets to mix together (still only $12 total - you have to love the market). Frilly pink lisianthus, deep fuchsia ranunuculus and tall white snapdragons play well together.

snapdragons, lisianthus, ranunculus

And thank you all for your helpful words of wisdom and encouragement last Friday. I'm happy to say that we signed a lease on a new (two bedroom) apartment yesterday and we'll be starting the moving process next week! Crazy, right? The homebody in me is pacified because it is literally two doors down from our current beloved apartment, which minimizes moving issues and means I don't have to adjust to all new neighbors. It's the best of both worlds.

snapdragons, lisianthus, ranunculus

So I guess that means this is the last week of Friday flowers in my little apartment. Although you might not notice the difference because we'll obviously have all the same furniture.

Don't worry - you'll be getting LOTS more information (and pictures!) in the coming weeks. I'm going to have moving on the brain. I will try my best to post pictures of things other than cardboard boxes, but I can't guarantee anything.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Tiny tip - perfect graham cracker crust

I find graham cracker crusts to be much more daunting than regular pie crusts. I didn't grow up making them, but D's favorite pie is key lime with graham cracker crust so at least once a year I try my best.

This year I came up with a new method. You just dump most of your mixture in a glass pie plate, then take a second pie plate (we have an aluminum one lying around that now I know to never return) and smoosh it down on top. Apply pressure to pack the crumbs down. With the pie plate still firmly in place, add additional crumbs to the gap in the top edges and use your finger to tamp them down.

graham cracker crust
{graham cracker crust in process}

There's no picture of the finished product (because we dove in before I could get one) but it was the best looking crumb crust I've ever made.

Graham Cracker Crust (from an old recipe pamphlet my family uses)
* 1 1/4 cups graham cracker crumbs (a bit less than half a box of graham crackers)
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 6 tbs butter, melted

I toss the graham crackers and the sugar in the food processor and pulse until I get fine crumbs. Then I add in the butter and pulse until it is combined. Make into a crust as described above. Bake at 355 F for 8 - 10 minutes.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Reading, lately

I was a gluttonous reader over the holiday break. I went to the library and checked out an enormous stack of books and dove right in.

My favorite one of the bunch?

{Mark Haddon, A Spot of Bother}

It was so amazingly funny and touching. It focuses on family tensions (um, do I ever read about anything else?) during a transitional period (a daughter prepares for her second wedding, the father has just retired). I wanted to tear through it as quickly as possible but somehow also make it last as long as possible. That's the sign of a good book.

I haven't read his first(?) novel yet, but it's on the list.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New plates!

I love the plum and turquoise Sasaki dishes that D's grandmother gave us years ago, but there are times when a simple white plate is exactly what you want. I started browsing the whiteware collections at Macy*s, hoping for something to go on sale. Dishes are expensive! It's hard to justify buying new ones when we already have a complete set on hand.

Goodwill to the rescue! A few weeks before Christmas I went to Goodwill looking for lace trim to repurpose. I struck out, but I did happen to find a set of 6 place settings (each has a dinner plate, salad plate, bread plate, cup + saucer) in a beautiful matte white china. It is certainly used, as evidenced by a few chips and scratches, but I love it.

white plates
{white plates}

The best part? It was a half off blue tag day and I got the entire set for $12.50. Score.

white plates
{white plates, stacked}

People sometimes ask me how I find stuff at the thrift store and all I can say is that a lot of the time I don't. If I'm in the neighborhood I'll stop by and browse and frequently I don't pick up anything. I just look successful because I don't post when I come up empty handed (because posts that say "I went to the thrift store again but didn't find anything" would get terribly repetitive). The key is to drop in regularly, avoid getting discouraged and have an open eye (be willing to look past minor repairs, paint touch ups, dirt, etc).

General cleanliness tips - if you purchase clothes or sheets (my favorite source of vintage cloth) put them in the dryer IMMEDIATELY. I openly admit that I am terrified of bedbugs, but the high heat of the dryer kills them dead. Apparently 10 minutes is all you need, but I play it safe with 30 on maximum heat. I wash them as well, of course. Dishes get plopped in the sink right away and soaked for 30 minutes in a 10% bleach solution. This is what we use to remove DNA from stuff in the lab, so I can guarantee that it's effective.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The weekend, briefly

The freakishly nice weather continues on here. 70 and sunny all weekend, so I threw the windows and doors open and enjoyed it.

A few different sewing projects. One for the home ...


And some for other people ...

ruffle pile
{ruffle piles}

A trip to the fabric store yielded some fun silk twill. I don't know what I'll do with it yet, but it was on an amazing sale ($5 a yard instead of $20!) and it drapes like you wouldn't believe.

new fabrics
{new fabrics}

I spent some time admiring my favorite tea cups.

tea cups, stacked
{tea cups, stacked}

And eagerly tracked the progress of my little mandarin-quat tree. I can hardly wait for them to ripen.

mandarin quat

Friday, January 8, 2010

Style resolutions, updated

Curious to see how well I did with my style resolutions from last year? Hop over to Tea for Joy to find out.

Friday flowers

My flowers from New Year's Eve are still hanging on, barely. I don't have any new pictures of them, sorry. People frequently ask how I make the flowers last and I don't have any genius tips. I do try to remember to dump out the old water and add new every other day. Keeps them from getting gross.

new year's eve table
{another angle}

I'm all awhirl because we're considering a big change - upgrading to a two bedroom apartment!

We had initially thought this might be the year that we purchased a small home, but it definitely isn't. I didn't even post about the house hunt because it was generally depressing (we looked at one place that had safety posts in the front yard because it was so close to a freeway offramp that there was a serious risk of drivers crashing right through the living room - and it was still slightly out of our price range).

I love our little one bedroom apartment, and I love the concept of small space living, but with both of us doing quite a bit of work from home (and work that involves piles of drawings and stacks of sewing) it has become very difficult to keep the crazy out. I think if we have just one extra room that will function as an office/guest room we'll be good to go for many more years.

The price is good - we got into our apartment during a rental boom and right now we're in a rental recession, so upgrading won't be a huge difference financially. It's the moving that scares me. My heart starts to thump (in a not good way) just thinking about it. My mind starts spinning thinking of the time it will take, the boxes I will need, the weeks of re-organization and re-painting. I think Dustin would move every year without any qualms. I, on the other hand, would like to stay in one place for the next couple decades, just to minimize the hassle.

There will be quite a bit of discussion this weekend. Stay tuned.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Almond crescents

I didn't get around to doing much baking this year. At 2 pm the day before Christmas Eve I had a brief panic when I realized I hadn't started and I needed supplies. I took a deep breath, went to Trader Joe's and bought several boxes of cookies and then came home a took a long nap. It wasn't the same as homemade, but I enjoyed the feeling of being fully rested and sane.

almond crescents
{almond crescents}

But I couldn't let the season slip by without any kitchen time, so I made D's favorite Christmas cookies for New Year's Eve. This is a family recipe and we call them almond crescents but they are very similar to Mexican wedding cookies. They are not terribly sweet and they have a wonderful, crumbly texture. I think you are supposed to add almond extract, but I have a violent opposition to it and I don't see why it's necessary when the dough is largely composed of actual almonds.

The dough is a cinch, but shaping the crescents is a bit time consuming, so make sure you have some music on before you start working. These also freeze beautifully (after being baked), so you can make them ahead of time and then just let them defrost when you want them.

Almond crescents
{almond crescents}

Almond Crescents

Beat until soft:
1 cup unsalted butter

Add gradually until light and fluffy:
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Beat in:
2 egg yolks

2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 - 1/2 lb ground almonds (I buy the almond meal from TJs to save time)

Roll into crescents by hand and place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 until the bottoms are just golden brown.

Cool slightly, then roll in powdered sugar (per the original recipe) or superfine bakers sugar (our modern preference).

To freeze, let them cool completely and then seal tightly in freezer bags, pressing out as much excess air as possible. Remove cookies from the bag and place them on a plate to defrost before serving.

almond crescents
{almond crescents}

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Ribbon, organized

I always get the itch to clean out and organize right before the new year. An ill timed episode of Hoarders* shifted me into high gear last Monday. I tore everything out of our storage spaces around the apartment and dumped it on the floor. Then I sat in the middle of the mess and started sorting and boxing. Several large mugs of tea and a couple of TV breaks later, we were in much better shape. I only cried once.

And I thought of a new way to store my burgeoning ribbon supply! Which involved a trip to Ikea that was less than pleasant because apparently everyone else was on the hunt for organizational supplies as well. But we survived. We did not break up and we are still speaking to each other and we managed to only buy the items on our list and we got 50 cent hot dogs for lunch to celebrate. That's basically the definition of Ikea success.

ribbons, organized
{ribbons, organized}

I purchased one curtain rod set ($6.99) plus one extra set of hardware for double curtains ($3). D cut the metal curtain rod into two pieces with his Dremel. The regular curtain rod hardware is perfect for my wide but squat spools, while the one designed for double curtains gives me just enough extra space for my larger spools of skinny ribbon.

{ribbons, organized}

I order my ribbon from the manufacturer in bulk, so the spools are enormous and a bit difficult to accommodate. If you just have normal size spools, you could use a paper towel rod rather than a curtain rod, which should eliminate the need to use the Dremel.

*I have now officially been banned from watching Hoarders, ever again. I think I'm equal parts sad and relieved.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Extra holiday bits

We started our family Christmas with a toast in our antique sherry glasses that belonged to my step-grandmother. We had sparkling cider for those who don't drink and champagne cocktails for those who do.

christmas toast
{christmas toast}

Normally I would just dish out champagne plain, but it turns out when you make orangettes you are left with the most fabulous orange flavored simple syrup. Throwing it out would be a sin. So we poured it in a jar and kept it in the fridge and stirred a spoonful into our champagne. Heavenly. I tried to get fancy and decorate the rims of the glasses with orange peel, but I gave up and just chucked it in the bottom of the glass, along with a couple cranberries. Works for me.

The night before New Year's Eve we decided to host at our apartment. It was a completely non-fancy dinner, but I couldn't resist dressing up the table.

new year's eve table
{new year's eve table}

After I dug up all three of the candle holders we own I realized that they weren't going to cut it. So I dug around a bit more and pulled out some of the glass jars that have been taking up space in our cupboard because we have a hard time just throwing them out.

new year's eve table
{new year's eve table}

I picked out a variety of sizes (which turned out to be easy - I didn't realize how out of control our jar collection has gotten) and popped a votive in each one. We also gave everyone a champagne glass, a squat wine glass and a tall water glass, to add to the overabundance of glassware.

new year's eve table
{new year's eve table}

We missed the New Year by one minute (distracted) but we toasted anyways.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The holidays, briefly

So ... "sporadic posting" became a complete blog fast and as much as I missed everyone, it was a nice little break.

And it was so incredibly busy.

There was Christmas...

reindeer candelabra
{reindeer candelabra}

orange, silver
{orange, silver}

holiday bounty
{holiday bounty}

Followed by a week of relaxation and recuperation (and quite a bit of obsessive organization) ...

the day after
{the day after}

paper punch, tags
{paper punch, tags}


A festive New Year's Eve at home ...

new year's eve table
{New Year's Eve table}

And a lovely lie in, followed by a late breakfast, the next day.

new year's breakfast
{New Year's breakfast}

It's back to work and back to normal for us. D and I had a (scheduled) strategy session yesterday afternoon, to revise the budget and think about goals for the upcoming year. Yep, we're dorky.