Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A new year

I am an utter failure at doing nothing. Yesterday I cleaned the apartment, boxed up a bunch of stuff to cart off to Goodwill, found an awesome but totally beat up table by our dumpster and felt compelled to rescue it despite the fact that I have no idea where we will put it if we can ever fix it up (pictures coming soon) and then I reorganized all my crafting supplies and went to the library to check out a dozen books.

Are you tired yet? Me too. So in the late afternoon, I sat down for some much needed holiday tea (a gift from a darling friend who knows I have an addiction), leftover cookies and a big bout of thank you note writing.


It feels good to get the house all calm and quiet for the new year. I am so not a big New Year's Eve person. D and I have some nice champagne chilling in the fridge, but that's about it. I usually don't even bother to make resolutions, although I'm thinking about doing it this year.

Where do you stand? Do you make resolutions? Or ever stick to them if you do?

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Camping in my apartment

So today is the first entirely free day I have had in almost two months. Seriously. Between family obligations and work, I've barely been in our apartment. I swore I would lie in bed until noon and then just sit around drinking tea all day, but naturally I am out of bed and itching to start re-organizing the apartment. It's a disease, I tell you.

I'm also tempted to run down to the stores and see if the deals are really as good as people say they are. Are they? Do any of you know? Is it worth a peek?

Meanwhile, I'm sipping tea and contemplating cleaning and making spaces for new things. Isn't this little candle holder darling? It was part of my Christmas loot from D. He actually got me a set of three different designs and they just make me smile every time I look at them. They are designed by David Weeks for Kikkerland.

See, if I reorganized the apartment, I would probably find the perfect place to put them.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What he got

I love buying gifts for D. He's pretty easy to shop for, to be honest. This Christmas, he got...

The Lucha Loco calendar, to go with the book he got for his birthday.

A set of mixed design pint glasses, from Etsy seller BreadandBadger. These are so awesome. Super high quality and all done by hand.

A couple of tee shirts from Etsy seller MisNopalesArt. Hilarious graphics, all printed on American Apparel shirts.
The new Sidestepper CD, which we've been eagerly waiting for.
Plus a fun architecture book, as usual.
Can you tell I usually go a little overboard with the gifts? I start buying stuff in October, so I end up ordering too much by the time Christmas gets here. Of course, it helps that I'll enjoy some of these gifts just as much as he will.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Another last minute gift

What do you give a 10 year old with a serious detective obsession?

How about a personalized detective notepad?


And some disguises (cut out of wool felt)?


We considered adding a trench coat and some crazy dark sunglasses, but we're trying to keep this strictly in the detective territory without letting it veer off into a scary flasher-esque costume.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Meal planning notepads, part II

Still whipping up a couple of last minute holiday gifts...

The meal planning notepads have evolved. (Click the picture below to see the full sized image.)

Want to make your own? Click the picture to see the full size image, save it to your desktop and then print it as a full page document. Print out as many pages as you would like (I make my pads with 50 sheets, which means I print 25 pages) and then cut them straight down the middle.

Bonus points: I perforate the sheets right above the grocery list portion using my beloved rotary cutter with the perforating blade. This makes it easy to simply tear off the bottom portion to take with you to the grocery store.

Create the notepad as described in this post. For more detailed instructions, see Sarah's post, where I got the idea from originally.

Use magnetic backing (I picked up some rolls like this at Home Depot) to allow you to stick them to the refrigerator for easy access.

I made a personalized version of these for each of the families on my Christmas list. Hopefully they go over well.

*This tutorial is provided for personal use only. Please do not sell this tutorial or create items for re-sale using this tutorial. Tutorial may be re-published only with my permission.

Sell out?

So on Friday I mentioned that we do not have a tree, despite our plethora of Christmas ornaments.

Well, last night I stopped at Home Depot for magnetic backing (this has been the full extent of my holiday shopping by the way, people - I have been way too busy) and I ended up walking out with a Christmas tree.

A fake one.

I'm almost embarrassed to admit it because I adore real trees, with the scent of pine filling the house. But you know what? I do not adore having to haul a dead tree out of my tiny apartment and down the stairs and out to the dumpster. Last time I had to do this it involved a hacksaw (I thought it would be easier if I took the tree apart before trying to move it) and ended in tears of frustration. Plus weeks of finding crunchy pine needles in my socks. Not okay.

So now I have a lovely, incredibly realistic, pre-lit tree that comes apart in three pieces and folds into a box. I'm officially a sell out.

If you're interested in fake trees, check out the GE Just Cut line. They are made out of some amazing synthetic material that looks and feels just like a real tree - not that weird paper confetti. Ours is something like this and it was on sale at Home Depot for $125.

I feel a little guilty, but I'm loving having the tree in my living room. I'm decorating tonight, if I can pry myself away from my craft table.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Not your mother's christmas ornaments

D and I do not have a traditional Christmas tree. Well, this year we don't actually have a Christmas tree at all, because we ran out of time, but that hasn't stopped me from adding to our ornament collection. As a nod to D's heritage, (but mostly just because we like it) our tree decorations are Mexican themed. Not meaning we have little glass blown tacos (although I would totally buy them, if I could find them), but we generally go for Dia de los Muertos-esque decorations. We have a great collection of little skeletons and skulls and I have some homemade ornaments using loteria cards. As a side note, I should mention that D's mom, who is Mexican, finds our Mexican themed tree completely bizarre, but kind of funny. I just don't want to mislead you into thinking that this is some kind of authentic Mexican tradition.

And now we have these guys.


As I've mentioned, we kind of love lucha libre, particularly after we were lucky enough to go to a real show while we were in Mexico last summer. So these little luchador masks, which I based on actual masks and then cut out of felt and glued together, will be making it onto our tree. Whenever we end up actually getting one, that is.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Tool belt apron tutorial

Okay, guys. This is my first tutorial, and it's pretty basic. If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments and I'll respond. It's instructions for making a tool belt apron like the one I mentioned in an earlier post.

The tool belt apron was one of the first things I ever made and there is no pattern. That should give you an idea of how simple it is to make. If you can cut fabric (even somewhat poorly), iron fabric and sew semi-straight lines, you can easily bust one of these out in an hour or so. After you've made one (or if you have any experience sewing), the time comes down to about 20 minutes.

These are one of the projects that are ideal for using up vintage sheets. Make sure your sheets are all cotton, otherwise they can be hard to iron. Cut out a rectangle of fabric from the top of the sheet, so that you still have the top seam intact. It should be approximately 23 inches wide and 17 inches tall, but exact sizes don't matter much.


If you have a side seam left on the sheet, cut it off. I use a straight edge and an Olfa cutter to make it easy, but you can use scissors if that is what you have. I do a quick check to see if my rectangle is at least roughly even at this point because I am not terribly good at cutting things out properly.


Make a double fold along the bottom edge of the fabric and iron it in place. This is going to end up being the hem on the top of the pocket.


Once you have it ironed, sew a straight stitch the whole way across to make the hem. Then take your fabric back to the ironing board and fold the bottom edge up to create the tool belt pocket. The folded part of the hem should be on the inside of the pocket so that you don't see it.


I usually make the pockets about 7 inches deep, but you can play around with it to see what suits you. If you want a slightly longer apron (I'm only 5"6) you could make a slightly shorter pocket and it would work fine. (If you aren't using a sheet, repeat the step for hemming the bottom edge on the top edge).

Once you have your fabric lined up the way you want it, iron it in place and then make a small double fold along both short sides. These will be the hems on the sides of the apron. Press them well and then sew a straight stitch along both sides.


At this point, the apron should look something like this.


You have all the edges finished and one long pocket running across the front. Now you just sew in pockets wherever you want them by running straight stitches from the bottom of the pocket up to the top hem.


I usually make a couple of skinny pockets along each side, leaving a relatively wide pocket in the middle. The skinny pockets are perfect for stashing wooden spoons or spatulas.


Here's a close up of how I sew the pockets. I try to aim for running the seam right into the seam of the hem. You'll notice that I use white thread. This is partly because I love contrasting seams and partly because I am so lazy that I hate having to switch out the thread on my machine and I tend to use white for everything.

Once you have as many pockets as you want, you just grab a long piece of twill tape. How long depends on how you want your apron to tie. I usually make it long enough so that I can wrap it around and tie it in the front, which means I need almost 90 inches of twill tape, but if you just want to tie in the back you could get away with using a lot less. I picked up white 3/4 inch wide twill tape at my local fabric store for 79 cents a yard, so it doesn't make this into an expensive project.

Place the twill tape along the middle of the top portion of the apron and sew it in place along the top and bottom edges of the tape. I don't have a picture of this because it was dark when I did it. Sorry.

And voila!


The stamps on this apron were done using my lino cuts and fabric ink.

The nice thing about this project is that it isn't very fussy. None of the measurements need to be very exact, and even if your seams aren't straight, it still ends up looking adorable (I just tell myself the crooked seams add character). And it's so darn cute that even D likes it when I wear it around the kitchen. In my book, an apron that a guy is into is a pretty good thing.

Feel free to let me know if you need any clarifications. I've never tried explaining one of my sewing projects to anyone and I'm not sure how clear this is when you read over it.

*This tutorial is provided for personal use only. Please do not sell this tutorial or create items for re-sale using this tutorial. Tutorial may be re-published only with my permission.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Gingerbread junkie

There are few things that make your apartment smell as delicious as baking gingerbread. An annual gingerbread house party is a serious tradition in my family, and we usually make giant houses using the custom cookie cutters designed by my stepfather.


This year, due to time restraints, we scaled it back and used the Martha Stewart gingerbread house pattern. The houses are teeny tiny and cute. I used her dough recipe too, and I highly recommend it. Very spicy and it rolls out great. Just make sure you chill it well or you'll end up with a big sticky mess.


We do not glue our houses together with royal frosting, because we are hardcore and we use caramelized sugar. That's right - boiling hot syrupy sugar, which will give you burns like you have never experienced. It is probably one of the strongest substances known to man. I think they would use it to build real houses except it is too dangerous. I wish I could find the picture of me from last year, holding our house upside down by one wall to demonstrate the sturdiness. Amazing. I won't even tell you how to do it, because I don't want to be responsible for your injuries.

The houses all set up, with an excited child as a blur

The decorating in progress

Of course, this means I knocked out my two biggest holiday traditions in one weekend. Do any of you lovely readers have fun traditions you participate in every year?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday traditions make me happy

Back in high school, my girlfriends and I started an annual holiday party. It's always potluck, with a gift exchange and a craft activity (with the exception of one super lazy year while we were all in college when we just ordered pizza and watched Crocodile Hunter).

I am incredibly proud to announce that this Saturday we had our 10th annual party! We kind of rock. Despite all attending different colleges and now being spread out in different cities, we've managed to keep it together.

Here was my gift for the exchange - a toolbelt apron (tutorial to follow in the near future) stamped with one of my linocuts and some of the meal planning/grocery shopping notepads I've been making. (This trio of hand creams was part of the gift I got for the gift exchange and I've been LOVING it).


Here is the apron in action. You knew I was going to pose in it before I gave it away.


For the craft this year, Kris taught us to make pomanders. Mine is now proudly hanging over my dining room table.


I totally phoned it in this year and purchased desserts from TJs so I have no fun recipes to share today. When you see tomorrow's post, you'll know why I was too busy to be whipping out homemade pies.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Happy early birthday, D!

What do you get for an adorable road biking architect who loves weird graphic design and Mexican wrestling?

A Topo Ranch tee shirt with a flying gopher, naturally.

The most awesome coffee table book ever. Seriously. You must see the photographs.

A bicycle crankset tee shirt from Etsy seller rattrappress.

An incredibly useful reference book. I've finally learned that when buying books for architects, you need to look for drawings, floor plans, and ideally, section diagrams.

Plus, the ever awesome happy hour at the Border Grill to celebrate.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bubbly buddies

I learned a lot in college - how to casually toss Foucault into a conversation, how to bang out a 5 - 7 page essay in under an hour, and how to open a champagne bottle without losing most of the precious bubbly or taking out someone's eye with the cork*. Key skills, people, key skills. And you can probably guess which one comes in handy most often in every day life.

I always keep at least one bottle of champagne (sorry - sparkling wine) in my fridge, but with the holidays approaching I like to stock up for quick hostess gifts and impromptu gatherings.

Roederer Estate is perfect for bringing to dinner parties, giving as a gift, or for special occasions where you only need one or two bottles. At $20, it's still a pretty good deal.

Ballatore is a more frugal option, excellent for making champagne cocktails (1 shot of vodka + 1 shot of pomegranate juice + champagne to fill the glass) or for passing off on unsuspecting guests who have already gone through enough of your good stuff to not be too discriminating.

I'm always looking for new favorites. Suggestions? *The trick to opening a champagne bottle? Untwist that little wire thingy and toss a dish towel over the top of the bottle (not totally necessary, but a good precaution, particularly if you are already a couple of bottles into the night). Grasp the neck of the bottle with your left hand, so that you are holding the dish towel loosely. Slip your right hand under the dish towel and gently wiggle the cork back and forth, tugging a bit as you go. The cork should pop out pretty easily and you should be safe from any cork injury lawsuits.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

All I want for Christmas...

is a fabulous loft/retail space, located in Chinatown, listed for a cool $3.285 million. Somehow, I don't think it will fit into my budget.

All pictures from

See the entire slideshow here. Seriously - the gorgeous rounded doorway, the hardwood floors, the roof deck that overlooks my beloved downtown LA? Not to mention all the colors and the perfect location (Chinatown is home to Spring Street Smokehouse, which you should visit, if you care about ribs at all). I would use one of the retail spaces downstairs to open up my fantasy boutique, and one of the others to open up the bakery of my dreams. So it's an investment, really. Right?

Listing found via the ever informative Curbed LA.

Monday, December 8, 2008


I've been admiring Etsy seller Leannegraeff's adorable designs for a while now.

These vintage-y camping tea towels make my heart flutter.

And now she has tea towels printed with antique Christmas ornaments!

It's like she has a list of things that I love and she's methodically working her way through. What's next - tea towels with vintage Dansk dishware? Or maybe Polaroid cameras?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Chipping away

Years ago, D introduced me to the fabulousness that is lino cutting. We stocked up on huge sheets of linoleum a while back and we both dip into our stash from time to time. It's perfect for when you want to use a specific drawing over and over again on different surfaces, so we usually use our lino cuts for card making.

This season I'm planning on branching out into fabric printing, so I whipped up a couple of quick linocuts for that purpose.


Here is one of the finished blocks, with a quick test print. The actual prints will look better, because I use an ink roller to get more coverage. For test prints, I simply use a stamp pad and a piece of paper. The test print shows me what adjustments need to be made to finalize and polish up the linocut before I use it on anything important.

The process is pretty simple. You pick a picture you want to carve (it has to be a reverse image, so keep that in mind) or you can draw directly on the linoleum. My drawing skills are sadly lacking, so for this one I just took a picture of our silverware, reduced it to a shadow image in Photoshop, and adjusted the size. To transfer the image, I slipped a piece of carbon paper between the print and the lino and then traced the image. The carbon paper lets your lines show through on the lino, so you have something to work with. Then you go to town with the cutting tools. We have an amazing set of Japanese cutting tools, which I can't find online, sadly, but these ones would work fine. A word of caution - it is very easy to slip and cut yourself, so work carefully. We buy unmounted lino because it is cheaper, and then D glues it to scrap pieces of wood to make it easier to print with, but you can buy premounted lino if you prefer.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

List love

Lists are my thing. I like to make lists of things I've already done, just so I can cross them off and feel giddy.

So when Sarah of Small Object (one of my all time favorite sources for crafty inspiration - she is so generous and always shares tutorials and great ideas) posted about a way to make your own notepads, I was instantly hooked. I ordered the padding compound immediately and then put it to use.


This stuff is awesome. I ordered mine from Amazon, because I am lazy and hate having to type my credit card information into random web sites. It came a day after I ordered it.

Now I have meal planning lists, things to do and places to go lists, and I spend lots of time making lists of other lists I can make. Yes, I'm obsessed. People will definitely be getting notepads in their stockings this year.


Here is another view so you can see the top and the backing. I used a bit of cardboard from one of our Anchor Steam six pack holders. We always save those because they come in handy all the time.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Simple, cozy casserole

I would love to take credit for this recipe, but I can't. D dreamed it up a few weeks ago, when he was craving baked ziti and we realized that neither of us actually knows what baked ziti is - I'm pretty sure this isn't it. It just sounds good, right? We've made this dish three times since it was invented, and we're seriously in love.


D's baked pasta (makes 6 - 8 servings)
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce (we recommend the pesto and sundried tomato marinara from Whole Foods)
1 (12 oz) container of the best ricotta you can get, preferably fresh
Some snips of fresh basil, if you've got it around
2 good quality raw sausages, optional (we use the hot pork sausages made in house at WF)
12 ounces of your favorite penne pasta* (we use multi grain flax from TJs)
Small handful of grated cheese (pyranno is my fave)

1. Get your pasta water on the stove so it can start heating up while you do everything else.

2. Slice the skin on the sausage and dump the meat into a skillet to cook. You could probably just slice the sausage but I'm still a little freaked out about sausage skin for some reason.

3. Pour your marinara sauce into a medium bowl and add the ricotta, the chopped basil and a dash of salt and pepper. Stir it around. Sneak little bites to make sure it tastes right.

4. Put the pasta in the boiling water and cook till it's just slightly less cooked than you actually like it to be. Drain.

5. Stir the cooked sausage into the marinara mixture.

6. Pour half of the marinara mixture into the bottom of an 8x8" pan. Layer the cooked pasta on top. Pour the remaining marinara over the pasta. Sprinkle with the grated cheese.

7. Bake at 375 F for about 45 minutes, until the sauce bubbles and the cheese melts.

You'll be amazed at how fast this all comes together. It's super easy and doesn't take much concentration - perfect for a weeknight.

*Sorry, I use a food scale for measuring pasta, so I don't know how many cups this is. Pasta usually comes in 16 oz bags, so 12 oz would be about 3/4 of the bag, if that helps.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Heart hoodies

I have a longstanding, unholy addiction to hoodies.

This one, from Etsy seller ellainaboutique looks like the perfect, snuggly choice for winter weather.

While you're over there, feel free to fall madly in love with this adorable little ruffle tank.

Can you tell that I am absolutely addicted to grey?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Getting there...

I am almost back, I promise. Thanks for all the sweet well wishes. My stepdad is improving every day, and we're doing our best to facilitate his recovery by making sure he has a family member with him 24 hours a day. It's going to be a tough process, but it reminds me of how lucky we are to have each other, and how important family really is.

I got back into my office today only to realize that it is December 1st! Eek! I am one of those dorky, annoying people who always makes/orders all my Christmas gifts during the month of November. And currently I have absolutely nothing done.

Thank goodness for the blogosphere. The wonderful sfgirlbybay posted about Chronicle's big online sale. You get 35% off when you use the code FRIENDS at checkout, plus you get free shipping on orders over $35. Hurry up and order because the sale ends on Friday, December 5th. Chronicle has the most amazing books, but I can't share my coolest purchases with you because then they wouldn't be surprises anymore. I saved over $60, which I guess gives you some idea of how excited I got about shopping. However, here are a few of the things I didn't buy that you should check out...

I've been drooling over the Apartment Therapy book every time I hit the bookstore lately

Desert Realty by Ed Freeman

I don't have a cube anymore, but I still think this is pretty hilarious

Coming up: I turn my apartment into a craft factory. Expect sewing, linocuts and more. Also, Etsy awesomeness.