Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Threads for Thought sale

Don't usually bother passing along sale information, but this one is seriously worth it. Remember those tanks that Kristina recommended and I subsequently fell in love with? Threads for Thought is having a 30% off sale through December 1st (tomorrow). Persevere through the terrible website (it deleted my entire cart again), ignore the lackluster photos and use coupon code "Holidays30Off". My favorite tank is here, but I'm also quite fond of the v-neck tee.

I actually bagged up all of my other tanks and sent them to the thrift store after I discovered these. They're that much better. And no, the company doesn't give me anything and they don't even know I'm obsessed with them. So far I've managed to dissuade myself from writing them a love letter.

The long, engaged weekend

Um, you guys are amazing. I'm incredibly overwhelmed and touched by your comments yesterday. Thank you all so much for sharing in the excitement, truly.

I honestly wasn't sure where to start with this - we didn't have a super traditional engagement situation and it was a little complicated. Do I start with that? Or with a schlocky story about us and how we met? Plus, do I want to take up prime crafting post time during the holiday season to babble about myself? Tough decisions.

But then I started my usual process of pulling photos from the weekend and found myself writing a little bit more than usual. So here is the story of the weekend, organically. Good enough for now.

The weekend was a bit of a blur. Shocking, I know.

I was lucky enough to be able to take Wednesday off and I spent the entire day cooking in my kitchen, quietly. It was wonderful, soul renewing, especially because it felt like the calm before the storm, a day alone before this big life change (spoiler alert - I already knew we were going to make the official announcement on Thanksgiving, so it wasn't a surprise). Also, I got my hair cut and realized I'd forgotten how very good an expensive hair cut can make you feel. I had to run to the store for garlic and wait in a long day-before-Thanksgiving line and I was all smile-y, chatting it up with other customers instead of groaning audibly. I allowed the roving wine expert to talk me into another bottle of champagne, flipping my hair ever so slightly. Note to self, haircuts are totally worth the expense.

thanksgiving kitchen
{thanksgiving kitchen}

On Thanksgiving, we strapped the giant door to our car and drove, slowly, slowly, slowly down to Orange, afraid we might take flight if we went over the speed limit. Having never actually driven the speed limit on the 405, we were somewhat curious about how long it would take. Answer - not too terribly long, especially if you have a ring nestled in your bag and feel so anxious/excited that time is alternately speeding way up and then slowing way down. Disorienting, to say the least.

thanksgiving apps
{thanksgiving apps}

At my parents' house, D set to work making the door into a table. I flurried around the kitchen, determined to get the meal on the table on time, to make everything perfect. I snapped at my mom, but just once and then I made myself some strong tea and told myself to get it together. We set out plates of appetizers, large garden roses, plopped into a vase because we ran out of time to arrange them. People began to arrive. I tried to chat through the lump in my throat. We set the table, heirloom lace and linens overlapping to cover the giant door, now table. Silver and grandma's china. Linen napkins. Mismatched chairs for twelve.

beautiful turkey
{beautiful turkey}

The turkey emerged early, eager to get started. My mom used Alton Brown's Good Eats method and I'm pretty sure that we'll never go hunting for another recipe again. Fast, beautiful, perfect. I had been terrified that the (23 lb) turkey might be late, holding up the whole show. I couldn't explain to her why I was worried, so she probably thought I was crazy, but she was nice about it, getting the turkey in the oven right on my time table.

People filled their plates. Champagne and cider were poured. Immediately before we raised our forks, D stood and made the announcement. (I slipped my ring on under the table as he spoke) Our mothers cried. I turned bright red, mostly unable to speak, people hugged us. Glasses were raised, the ring was examined, congratulations were given. Wanting everyone to know on the same day, we drove over to my stepsister's house for dessert, made the announcement to the family, all hung out on the couch for a few hours, recovering. We emerged into a perfect night - cold and crisp and absolutely clear, filled with stars.

And there is this - I was overwhelmed. I was supposed to be happy and excited, but it was all hidden beneath a layer of stress from having such a big day, from having what had previously been so private suddenly become so public. I needed to decompress, badly. I got a little teary, and not in a good way. I felt a little bit like a failure at being engaged, already. We went home and collapsed.

The next day, we woke up late and ate leftover sandwiches with a side of cranberry orange relish.

thanksgiving friday
{thanksgiving friday}

I re-read Harry Potter, just for fun, while eating pie in bed. D didn't complain even though I probably left crumbs.

pie, book
{pie, book}

We went to a really hard yoga class and sweated a lot (I wore my ring and it was fine). We drove up to the vineyard to pick up our wine club shipment. We tasted several cabernets and pretended to be wine experts. We ate cheese and crackers and it finally hit me - I was so happy, so excited, so calm.

wine tasting, feet
{wine tasting, feet}

We sat in the chilly air for a long time, feeling like kids. Except better, because we were a little tipsy. We took lots of pictures, including the fist pump shared yesterday. And some less exciting ones, like this.


We drove home and spent the rest of the weekend just the two of us, which is exactly what I needed. A little reminder that even though this is all public, it's still just us. We ate lots of leftovers and washed lots of dishes and felt different, somehow.

glass, china
{glass, china}

It was lovely.

About the ring - it was my grandmother's, who gave me my middle name and who died shortly after I was born. It is from the 1930s and it is a little bit art deco and sparkly and worn nearly paper thin in the back because she wore it her entire adult life. D and I both agree that we couldn't have picked something better, and I'm honored to have it. We had it painstakingly repaired but held off on replacing the band because I couldn't bear to do it right away. I love it.

About the wedding - I am really excited about being married, but a little freaked out by the whole wedding planning thing. This will probably pop up here and there on the blog, but I'm not planning on turning this entire blog into wedding planning central. We'll see how it goes. You'll probably also have to put up with some of my musings on how I came to the point where I wanted to get married, after having been in love with the same person for most of my life and feeling no desire to formalize it. Good thing you guys are patient.

Monday, November 29, 2010


Kids, we're doing this thing ...


Also, I got a really awesome new haircut.

Still processing everything, back tomorrow ...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Little paper leaves that I printed on neutral cardstock. I traced over the gray outlines with metallic paint pen, for subtle shimmer. Punched a little hole in each one and then cut a slit so they can be slipped on and off a string.

thankful leaves
{thankful leaves}

The idea is to hang them on the mantle and people can choose to write down little things they are thankful for on the back. Over the top cheesefest? Maybe. We have a tradition that we go around the table and share something we're grateful for before we start eating, so it isn't completely unexpected for us. They'll be decorative even if they are left blank.

thankful leaves
{thankful leaves}

Here is the file I used, if you'd like it. I didn't draw the leaves myself, so don't get impressed with my art skills. They are traced and slightly modified from a coloring book page (found here).

thankful leaves
{thankful leaves}

More quick paper projects:
Punched out paper napkin rings (Thanksgiving 2009)
Super simple printed paper napkin rings (Thanksgiving 2010)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Preparing ...

So. Thanksgiving. Otherwise known as my absolute favorite holiday. Christmas without the consumerism, and with more gluttony!

thanksgiving table
{thanksgiving table 2009}

So far I have:
Procured the necessary groceries (except for Pippin apples, which are crucial to my favorite pie, and which I haven't been able to find - anyone in LA seen them somewhere?)
Chosen the wines (D picked the festive beers)
Purchased a gigantic office door that will serve as a table*

On Wednesday I will: 
Make pies
Roast sweet potatoes, assemble dish for reheating
Blanch green beans, refrigerate
Cube and dry bread for stuffing (20ish minutes in a 300 degree oven)
Make cranberry relish and sauce
Make dough for dinner rolls
Roast pecans, nibble
Post about my leaf project, if I actually finish it

On Thursday I will: 
Wake up early, drink tea
Make the drive home
Pick sage from the garden, chop and saute it with mushrooms, garlic, onions
Mix the stuffing together
Toss the turkey in the oven
Reheat sweet potatoes
Saute the green beans with shallots and garlic
Bake the rolls
Set the table
Drink champagne, revel

Last year I lead up to Thanksgiving with a little holiday sanity series, which I made sure to re-read this year. It's easy to swept up in the rush without stopping to slow down and actually allow yourself to feel grateful, to savor the little bits, to love your family even when close proximity to them makes you a little crazy.

Holidays, managed (part 1)
Holidays, managed (part 2)
Holidays, managed (part 3)

and for the pictures ... Thanksgiving last year

* You can squeeze in with 18" of space per person around the table if you all like each other - if not, you'll want 24-30" instead. We have 12 adults and one skinny kid - our current table was not going to cut it. A solid core office door came up on Craigslist and it measures 36" x 105". We'll rest it on sawhorses and cover it with the heirloom tablecloth and no one will be the wiser. We couldn't face carrying the door up to our apartment (it's going to my parent's house, so it would have to come back down in a few days) so we just padlocked it to the gate in our parking space. Classy. Fingers crossed that our landlord doesn't complain.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The weekend, briefly

I felt like I barely sat down this weekend, and I certainly have fewer pictures than usual. I didn't even make it to the grocery store for my pre-Thanksgiving shopping, but I did manage to grab a couple giant bags of fresh cranberries while I was out on another errand. That kind of counts.

A simple breakfast.*

sunday breakfast
{sunday breakfast}

A bit of pre holiday sprucing up.


Playing around with more holiday ideas, metallic paint pens.


* We get tons of dark leafy greens in our CSA box (spinach, kale, chard) and I'll frequently give them a quick blanch and then saute them with some shallots and garlic. We eat them with dinner but the leftovers get popped in the fridge. For breakfast, I saute some sliced potatoes, toss the greens in the pan to warm up and then scramble some eggs right in. Perfection.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Friday flowers

Picked this up at TJs, loving the mishmash of textures and colors.

fall flowers
{fall flowers}

I usually end up pulling out a lot of the greenery, but I liked the dark green of the leaves against the peaches and yellows.

mixed bouquet for fall
{mixed bouquet for fall}

I'll be doing lots of Thanksgiving planning this weekend, nailing down timing and picking out side dishes. I love a good cooking schedule - everything gets an assigned time slot in the oven and the schedule gets posted in the kitchen the day before. Huge meals are all about the game plan.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Holiday TOMS

So you guys remember my reluctant conversion to TOMS, right?

After some intense back and forth debate (in my head) I gave in and purchased two pairs. For the holidays. I think I'm probably crazy, because my feet are not nearly dainty enough to look adorable in these. I could have purchased a nice pair of flats for what it cost me to buy these two pairs and I would probably look much more pulled together.

{holiday TOMS - images from website}

But Moroccan geometric designs in silver and herringbone in glittery GOLD? I really didn't stand a chance. They have arrived. I love them.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eating ...

Our CSA box brings us cauliflower frequently. D used to be skeptical (albino broccoli!) but he's been converted. I only ever roast it. I know - I'm boring. At least I mix up the seasoning sometimes.


Over the weekend, I tossed a head of cauliflower and a couple chopped potatoes with some olive oil and a few spoonfuls of cumin, turmeric, coriander, sea salt and a dash of cayenne. Roasted at 400 degrees until tender. Probably 30 - 45 minutes, but I honestly can't tell you because I was doing other stuff the whole time.

"four phrases" napkins
{cauliflower + potatoes, roasted}

Other stuff like hand printing napkins. The one above is a teeny tiny sneak peek at a set that I've been planning to introduce to the shop for the last six months. Have had all the supplies for the last three months. Finally got some printed over the weekend. Hopefully it won't be another three months before I manage to get them listed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Super simple printable napkin rings

I starting thinking of this paper napkin ring design while I supposed to be working on something else. Naturally I dropped my other project and made a quick template for these instead. I'm picturing these on the Thanksgiving table - they'll take you 20 minutes, tops.

thanksgiving 2010 paper napkin rings
{thanksgiving 2010 paper napkin rings}

Download the template here (you have to download to get the printable version). You'll need Acrobat Reader. Type the names in the provided fields (font is embedded for you) and print out on nice paper. I used 68 lb cream cover stock. Cut out, slightly around the printed outlines.

paper napkin rings
{paper napkin rings}


Add some Zots. You could use double stick tape, but Zots are the absolute best, in my opinion.

paper napkin rings - finished
{paper napkin rings, finished}


paper napkin rings
{paper napkin rings}

Add a sprig of fresh herbs for extra points. Yours will probably be less dehydrated, because I went out to my balcony to get that rosemary and realized I haven't watered my plants in several weeks. They're mostly dead. Whoops. Why is life so hard to get right?

Monday, November 15, 2010

The weekend, briefly

So much inside time this weekend, getting stuff done. I did leave the house (once for happy hour, once for yoga, once for groceries) so I wasn't completely shut in. That time of year is hitting - I find myself wanting to do a million things, and I simply don't have time for all of them. I make lists, over and over again. I dog ear recipes, thinking of plans. I love it.

waking up
{waking up - planner, glasses}

ribbon, piles
{ribbon, piles}


washing up
{washing up}

happy hour
{happy hour}



christmas wreath 2010
{christmas wreath 2010}

I'm publicly admitting that I've been thinking of my Christmas wreath (and working on it on and off) for several weeks now. You guys, I can't help it. I have no resistance when it comes to the holidays. I was going to try to avoid talking about it, but then I realized that will give the impression that I can do two months work in two weeks time, which is kind of unfair to everyone. So, I'll start sharing in bits and pieces, hopefully without overwhelming you with all the holiday talk.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday flowers

A very simple mixed bouquet, in a new (to me) milk glass vase (thanks, Mom!).

mixed bouquet
{mixed bouquet}

Sitting on the sewing chest, which now lives next to the couch.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Best carrot cake, seriously

My current favorite carrot cake recipe (from Smitten Kitchen). No need to modify anything - it's perfect as it stands. As Deb suggests, do use the box grater rather than the food processor to do the carrots, even if it is tedious. I've made these as cupcakes and they were wonderful but I had quite a bit of batter left over. They will rise, so don't overfill the cups (like I did). This time around I wanted a cake and the recipe perfectly filled two 9 inch rounds.

carrot cake, vintage stand
{carrot cake, vintage stand}

I topped it with crushed walnuts, the national sign for carrot cake. You can free hand the circle, of course. But that always makes me nervous, so I take a rather more obsessive route. 


Cut out a stencil, lay it lightly on your (refrigerated*) frosted cake, top with walnuts.

carrot cake topping
{carrot cake topping}

Remove the stencil gently and fill in the two little bars by hand. It's like cake decorating for pre-schoolers!

carrot cake top
{carrot cake top}

P.S. I get that sort of rustic frosting finish by using an offset spatula. A million times easier than trying to use a regular knife, truly.

* If the frosting is chilled, then your stencil is less likely to stick to it and cause a mess. Of course, the walnuts are also less likely to adhere, but you can press them down gently with your fingers after you take off the stencil.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

New skirt!

I have been meaning to make a skirt forever. Lest you think that is an exaggeration, I scrolled through my archives to see when this fabric was purchased. January. Maybe not forever, but way too long for a project that takes less than two hours.

print skirt
{print skirt}

The fabric is silk twill (was marked down from $20 a yard to $5) and it feels amazing.

I used the wonderful Freshly Picked elastic waist skirt tutorial but made a few changes of my own.

The tutorial calls for the length of your fabric to be double the width of your waist. This gives you a very full skirt, which looks adorable. On everyone else. I tried it on while it was pinned and quickly realized it wasn't going to work for me. I ended up using 1.5 times the width of my waist, and I love it.

I didn't have elastic quite as thick as I'd like for a defined waist band (3" would be ideal, I think). I was worried that my 1.5" elastic wouldn't really make a statement and would look lazy. So I made a simple fold over pocket and hid the elastic altogether.

To get the most out of my fabric, I cut two pieces for the skirt panel rather than one. I wanted the skirt to be a bit shorter, to wear with tights. My fabric was 45" wide, which meant that folding it in half gave me enough  length (22.5"), even once I allowed for the upper pocket for the elastic. That meant I could use the entire piece of fabric, rather than cutting off something twice as long and narrower. Sewing up one extra seam was definitely worth it.

Elastic waistband skirt

For a quick summary of the steps I used, you can click on the link below the picture. Please note that I'm 5'6, so if you are very tall or very modest, this might not work for you. However, I had enough length to easily make the pocket for the elastic and I had a relatively deep hem, so you could certainly make a skirt a bit longer than the one pictured here using the same technique.

EDIT - I just noticed that if you're a newbie sewer, you might want a couple of additional tips, because I don't go into great detail on this step by step.

1. The iron is your friend. Every time you make a fold that you're going to want to sew, press it well. Every time you sew a seam, press it. For an open seam, like in step 3, you should press it twice. First press it flat to strengthen the bond between the top and bottom thread, then you should gently open the seam with your fingers and press it open, so that it lies nice and flat when you wear the skirt.

2. Pins. I hate pinning because it always seems like a tedious waste of time, but it was useful here. When you need to sew a folded seam, iron first to get a nice crisp fold, then add a few pins to keep it all in place. As you sew on the machine, pull each pin out just before you sew over that area. Once you're experienced, you won't need to stop the machine or even slow down much to do this.

I think that's it. If you have questions, feel free to ask in the comments! I'm certainly not an expert on sewing clothing though, so don't expect too much.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Christmas cards! (+ a link to a really amazing giveaway)

I'm going to talk about the holidays now. Please forgive me. I usually try to contain myself until we're a bit closer to Thanksgiving, no matter what crazy advance prep is going on in my head (or how much wreath assembly is taking place on my coffee table). But Christmas cards must be discussed earlier, especially if they are of the custom letterpress variety and are finally getting me off the Christmas card bench and into the action.

I loved my Satsuma Press letterpress calendar last year (still enjoying it as the months dwindle) so I made sure to get my order in for next year's edition early. And then Lynn, who is the genius behind Satsuma Press, mentioned that she was rolling out a line of new custom holiday cards. I never send cards, because it requires effort and I never find any that seem worth it. But these ...

christmas cards 2010!
{christmas cards 2010! - "it's fruitcake weather!"}

These deserve to be sent. We spent approximately two days intensely debating what short phrase we should use on the cards. Twelve million points to anyone who recognizes the quote on our wreath cards, above.

In the end we picked two different designs with two different phrases. Now we just have to decide who gets what. I think that what appeals to me about these cards is the feeling they give me. They feel special, right down to the texture on the paper. They feel the way I want the holidays to feel - unhurried and well thought out and simple.

If you want to nab a set for yourself, Lynn is generously offering a giveaway for three winners over on Oh So Beautiful Paper. I would jump on that if I were you. Quickly, because the deadline to enter is Friday.

christmas cards 2010!
{christmas cards 2010 - side by side}

Lynn puts so much love into all her work, and I was pretty floored over my package of goodies. The details are always just right. I'm super excited about adding her letterpress gift tags to fancy up bottles of wine and little brown paper wrapped packages.

satsuma press package
{satsuma press - package!}

Must. wait. till. after. Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 8, 2010

The weekend, briefly

First of all, thank you all so much for the sweet words last week. I was literally shaking as I clicked publish on that post, terrifying of sending quite so much of myself into the world. But somehow getting the words shaped in my head and seeing them out there and hearing back from you made the week much easier. Thank you for your comments and emails and thoughts, truly. Dealing with a brain injury can be lonely for everyone involved, and I so appreciate you giving me a chance to share my experience, and for those of you who chose to share yours in return.

Lots going on this weekend, which seems to be the default lately. We had a couple birthdays to celebrate, terriers to cuddle, things to be made.

tags, square
{tags, square}

carrot cake, crumb coat
{carrot cake, crumb coat prep}

circe, nose
{circe, nose}

pizza, shared
{pizza, shared}

sunday night light
{sunday night light}
Not pictured: a massive fall cleaning. I'm sure you'll be thrilled to hear that all the baseboards in my house are now dust free and that I scrubbed all the wooden furniture and we spent almost 3 hours at the laundromat. I know - fascinating. I even took all the cloth cushion covers off our furniture and washed them. Turns out they aren't machine washable and getting the cushions back inside required a feat of superhuman strength and they are now clean but oddly warped. Guess what? I'm still happier with them this way. And I always meant to get new covers for those cushions anyways.