Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Lack of Fun Stuff

I feel bad that I started this to keep track of what I was doing, and now none of it is going up on here. But I swear I have a reason... it's the stupid holidays. Everything I'm making right now is "FOR" somebody. :( So, if I don't want them do see it, which I don't, then I can't post the pictures of it. I'm going to have to remember my camera for when I give people things so that I can take their pictures with them. That way, maybe I have new models :)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Long time Coming

So, I've been so overwhelmed with work and life lately, that keeping track of my craziness has taken a bit of a back burner. But yesterday, upon my return from an oh-so-relaxing trip to Boston, I held a little dinner for my work friends in honor of Assistant Manager Jenni's 29th Birthday. So, that means I cooked... and cooked... and cooked way way way too much food. It has become more and more obvious to me that my Scandinavian heritage is much more pronounced than I was aware. But, anyway, the menu and the use of the delish organic and local food lately:

Appetizers were bruschetta (I cheated and got it from Trader Joes, but as Matt said, I could just eat it out of the jar with a spoon.) on fresh baked bread. Mmm. Then we had some salad. Oddly, this week we did not get any lettuce greens, so I bought some organic lettuce at the store. I had a possibly picky, non-veggie eater coming, so I chopped up the red pepper, cucumber, and organic mushrooms and put them each in separate containers so that there was a sort of "salad bar" option :) Gotta love that I just tried to figure out how to spell smorgasbord before choosing salad bar and then just now gave myself away at my Swedish-ness :)

Then the main course and dessert: I made a pretty plain, but still really tasty baked mostaccoli. I usually put some mushrooms and peppers or onions in, but left it plain for the aforementioned non-veggie eater. Then the birthday dessert, which used up the local IPM apples I'd been saving up from the last couple of shipments and the cranberries from last week's shipment to make an apple cranberry crisp. So yummy!

Anyway, it was delicious and everyone had a good time... including Kaiser, despite his fear of my apparently terrifying kitchen. :)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dear Johan

Okay, so, I've been ridiculous with knitting lately, which I will get to hopefully sooner than later, but for now, this is what needs to be said:  

Dear Johan

I carry you in pieces--
your blue eyes on bracelet baubles, 
that blonde hair reflecting off Midwestern hay bales, 
your voice in moments of radio songs.  
But mostly I carry you 
in the shocking seconds
when I'm overcome 
by the hole in my heart
where your life belongs.  

My Lutheran soul
can't learn the chorus to grief hymns
and I boil over
with tears, 
double over
with pain
when I think of you 
on that basement floor, 
when I think of the machines
that kept you breathing
those two long days, 
when I think of your hands
on my guitar
and the way you made me feel.  

I'm sorry I never told you
that I loved you.  
I was wrong.  


Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Musical Crafting Inspiration:  "Naked" by Tracy Bonham and "Old Letters" by Company of Thieves
Three days off in a row always makes me more productive... and I like to think it makes me more creative.  I think I'd make an excellent "stay-at-home" partner.  Too bad I have to work and am thus crabby 3/4 of the time!  So, the weekend's creativity started in the kitchen... I've been a home-cooking machine.  I made homemade mac and cheese this week... yum.  And tried out the mustard greens that came in last week's box... learned something very important:  I hate mustard greens.  As a vegetarian, it pains me a little to dislike a green... they're ridiculously good for me and so versatile, but mustard greens are just not my cup of tea... so bitter.  Blech.  Anyway, they looked pretty cooking and on the plate, but my eyes and taste buds did not agree.  

Later in the week I made Japanese Vegetable Stew inspired by the daikon radish we got.  I learned something important again... Miso is apparently extremely difficult to track down at 7 p.m. on a Thursday.  Finally found it at my fourth store (Whole Foods, in case you're wondering or looking yourself)  and was able to whip out the delish veggie soup with a miso base.  I doubled the recipe, cause I like me some left over soup, but I would recommend that you cut down on the sesame oil, as it was extremely potent, masking the miso flavor somewhat.  I also added a turnip to the recipe and used bok choy instead of the napa cabbage, just on preference.  My last tip would be to only throw in enough pea pods for the first serving and to throw them in for only about 1-2 minutes, as I let mine cook with the rest of the soup, and they got extremely mushy and slimy... gross.  I ended up picking them all out when I went to put the leftovers in the fridge.  Otherwise... really tasty.  I was a little leery of the use of sweet potato in a veg soup, with that much saltiness, but it was probably my favorite part... though the turnip was also an excellent idea on my part.  You could probably substitute the turnip for the Daikon if you can't find it at the store.  

Now, on to the craftiness.  I'm working my butt off to stay ahead of the impending holidays.  So far, I feel like I'm winning.  I have 7 people crossed off the list of 30.  Yay!  So, I was on a sewing kick these last few days and here are the results:   

This is my first attempt at a sewn scarf.  I'm all about the knitted scarves, but I have so much random "end piece" fabric and remnants left over from other projects that are not really big enough to do much with, aside from quilting them, and we know that I'm not the world's best quilter.  :)  So, the remnant scarf.  I've seen these all over on crafting sites and in crafting magazines, so I took a shot.  It turns out that I have a lot of red, black, and white fabric with some yellow accents.  Handy how the color scheme just worked itself out!  Anyway, here I am modelling the lovely scarf.  I fortunately had enough black fleece left over from a previous project that I could do the backing as well.  Yay!

This is my mama's bag.  It's purple corduroy and the fabric circles are appliqued.  I'm slightly addicted to applique, particularly after I learned the "dryer sheet method."  The liner is the same wild fabric of the applique circles.  I actually bought the remnant thinking it looked like something my mom would like, but had no use for it, but I think it goes perfectly with the purple corduroy and it's a sneaky wild side to this bag. 

This is the "wildcard bag."  I have so many things I'm doing for holiday gifts, that my list got a little unruly, so I just started writing "bag, hat, scarf, etc." by all the names I'm quickly adding.  It's a bit daunting, but I feel like it's going better than years past attempts.  Anyway, this bag looked a little "French inspired" so I added the words in fabric paint.  I printed off a font I liked and free-handed the lettering.  I think it turned out well, actually.  If you end up getting this bag for Christmas it's because I think you're exotic and sophisticated, not because I couldn't think of what else to make for you :)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Knitting Together

So much has happened over the last week... I'm at the point where I need to pick and choose, and ultimately, I choose crafts over food.  So, while the spinach, garlic and yellow cherry tomato pizza we made earlier this week was fantastic, what really feeds me lately are the needles and yarn that yield product in the end.  

I realized that I needed to make a list of who will be receiving what for the holiday season this year.  It's going to be an extremely low-key holiday for us, as I work directly before and after Christmas, so much of our gift giving will happen long-distance.  With that and the possibly self-flagellating decision to include the option of an "original knitted piece" by me as an award for our employees of the month at work, I have discovered possibly the most amazing knitting pattern ever.  And I feel some definite satisfaction in that I took a failed pattern, changed it, fixed it, altered it to meet my needs, and created what I think is hatly brilliance.  With that, I introduce "Violet."  (By the way, I really could use some new knitwear models... any volunteers?)

The official name of this lovely hat comes from the lovely Violet who was the first employee of the month for my department.  And the reasons I love it are:  chunky yarn, chunky needles, and cables.  It looks fancy, but isn't.  Amazing.  And, now, onto  my more heartwarming and exciting story. 

I have finished the zig-zag scarf!  And the completion of this most perfect scarf coincided with the most fantastic knitting meeting I've yet experienced.  I met her on the train.  She was maybe 75 or 80, Swiss, lovely.  She was watching me knit and when I noticed, she shared that she used to knit when she was younger.  We struck up a wonderful conversation and chatted the whole ride home... I almost missed my stop, actually.  And in the end, she asked if she could give me some mohair she's had for years, as she can no longer knit, and she wanted me to have it.  I'm hoping for a call, as I quickly ripped out a page of my notebook and scribbled my number on it. 

And now, the scarf I was completing as we shared this moment of knitterly communion:  

Again, I request some new models... it's slightly embarrassing to continue taking pictures of myself... 

And a close-up:

More to come on the intended Asian vegetable soup and mustard greens with cornbread that are planned for the menu this week.  

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Last week's produce box had fewer "unfamiliar" food friends in it, so much of the cooking was life as usual.  There were some fantastic heirloom tomatoes, including a giant yellow one.  Mmm.  I used that one on a delish egg salad sandwich on homemade oatmeal bread.  And the pineapple made it's way into several different meals.  Also fabulous.  But I was a little perplexed about what to do with the cabbage.  I'm not a huge cabbage fan and Paul down right dislikes it.  So, I was scouring the cookbooks for some cabbage recipes.  There was one that I found that was intriguing.  Potato vegetable curry.  We got two gorgeous purple potatoes, and it just needed some sweet potatoes and coconut milk.  So, tonight I finally got the rest of the ingredients and made the curry tonight.  Mostly a success.  It definitely needed more coconut milk for the amount of vegetables that were in it and I need to figure out how to make it spicier next time.  But the potatoes were delicious and the sweet potato in the curry was amazing... I definitely will try it again, but with more coconut milk and maybe some red pepper flakes or a jalepeno.  Any suggestions?  

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Great Pumpkin Experiment

I have a secret... a shameful and embarrassing secret.  It's about an addiction... sometimes denied, always satisfying.  I'm addicted to craft magazines.  The really cheesy holiday ones are best.  Particularly Halloween and Christmas.  I love them, buy them voraciously, squirrel them away for reference the following year.  But I always buy new... to compare, you know.  

Well, it seems this halloween has a bit of a craft magazine trend... gothic, romantic, turn-of the century, wonderful.  I love it.  All of it.  The costumes are historical, the decor is old fashioned, and the pumpkins, well, they're black and covered in glitter.  I can do that, I think to myself as I see the adds for $40 glitter-covered pumpkins from Pottery Barn.  So, I hit the Dollar Tree... my favorite source for craft goodies.  Shameful, again, I know.  Whatever.  I don't judge your dirty little secrets.  Here is an example of the crappy, foam-core pumpkin "decor" I found... 

Buck a piece, friends.  Damn good buy, I'd say.  But only for experimenting with black paint and glitter!  Otherwise, waste of money and crap-tastic looking on your table.  So, we begin:  

I painted them first with a layer of Black acrylic paint...  

I missed a step, but once they were completely painted black, I painted over with a layer of black craft paint with glitter in it... some weird decorative paint I got last Christmas when I was making decorations for my tree... it's hard to find black Christmas decorations.  I'm a little bit dark, even when it's not Halloween.  

Once the black paint dried, I mod podged the heck out of 'em and covered them with black glitter.  In case you were wondering, I found the big jar of black glitter at Hancock Fabrics.  It was pretty great, I have to admit.  Or maybe it was the wine...
Nope... it was the glitter.  Close-up shot.  Pretty!  Two of the pumpkins got this treatment, and then two of them got a nice treatment with the silver puffy paint.  I haven't used the puffy paint in a LONG time (I think since last Christmas helping out a co-worker with stockings for her and her hubby) so I made a couple of splatters, but I was able to cover them up... the second one I did turned out better... 
Here's one of each kind... the sparkly one (which you can't really see with the camera) and the first "viney" puff painted one.  I think they look really awesome.  

And here they are in their current resting place... the trifle bowl filled with pebbles, next to the armadillo.  I think it says a little something about my mental stability.  You can see the second puff-painted one in the bowl... it has little dots that look like they're dripping from the top of the punkin'.  

So that's the latest experiment.  I might need a break until Sunday.  But there will be more food-related goodness posted at that time, so stay tuned for my culinary feats and fiascos as well as what are sure to be more and more crazy craft-magazine inspired and plain-old random projects.  

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Crafting Inspiration Songs of the day:  "Lay Me Down" by The Frames and "Acoustic Guitar" by the Magnetic Fields

So three days off in a row is a regular luxury for me, which means... craftstravaganza takes over the house.  Poor Paul has to come home to a crazy woman who has lost her mind to the lure of fabric and the hum of the sewing machine!  But I've been ridiculously productive, so here's an overview of the great crafts I've made over the last two days.  

The monster bib:  Monster bib was made for Prego Friend #2, as she is a kooky, tattoo-artist, loving all things video game, monster-y, and goofy lady.  Baby will look adorable in the cute little monster friend, and maybe the drool will end up on the bib instead of the baby! (or the super cute clothes I've given him so far... seriously, people, I go crazy with buying baby things)

The girly-quilt:  Girly quilt was created for Prego Friend #1 who is expecting a little lady this winter.  It's made of cotton flannel, and I was excited to find a remnant of organic soy batting to make it nice and fluffy and warm as well as better for baby's health, avoiding the lovely toxins present in so many textiles.  I free-formed the "blocks" of solid color on the back, making a kind of tetris-y pattern that I ended up loving.  I was especially excited about how well it came out due to it only being my second attempt at quilting!  The "quilted" part is pretty simple-- I just followed the lines of the fabric blocks with a zig-zag stitch.  This was decided after several failed attempts at curved-line quilting!  

The froggie gown:  Here is the finished product of the froggie gown with the successful stamp.  Seriously, everyone I know is reproducing, so I'm in full gear with baby-item production.  I usually hit up the thrift store for items in good shape that are just in need of some love.  This gown was a gross barely-blue with some staining around the collar.  I gave it a dye-bath in black, but it turned out this nice charcoal-y gray.  Then came the little stamped friend!  I'm getting pretty good with the rubber block stamps.  It was an evolution from the stenciling so that I could have a re-produceable product.  I have all kinds of ideas in mind for this little friend!  

Suzanne's Bag:  This is a bag made specifically for a woman I work with.  I've made quite a few little bags for myself and for friends, and when she saw them, she immediately asked me for a "horse bag."  Okay, I don't do horses.  I don't draw them, I don't ride them, and I don't particularly get along with them.  But I love Suzanne, so I went on the search for the perfect horse fabric... it sounds weird, and led to weird things.  There's some seriously ugly horse fabric out there, my friends!  But I  stumbled across this nice brown corduroy with embroidered horses on it, which was by far the least distressing fabric I had found, so I brought it home.  I had the liner fabric already, left over from making children's dress-up clothes for work, and it had that "western" feel, so I went with it.  Even though I'm not a horse fan, I'm a fan of this bag, and I hope Suzanne will love it.  I'll find out tomorrow!   (And no comment's on my modeling skills!)


My next installment will be "the great pumpkin experiment" where I take crappy, fake, dollar-store pumpkin "decor" and paint it, glitter it, and hopefully turn it into a fabulous halloween centerpiece... cross your fingers, people.  Sarah's playing with glitter, and that's always a risky endeavor!  

Sunday, September 27, 2009

First Steps

This is a new beginning.  An attempt for me to work through my working through, so to speak.  I've struggled with the writing down of what it is I'm working on, and this is an attempt for me to universally track all my endeavors and to look at the ways I can try to more fully enjoy the simple moments of my days.  Starting today...

Yesterday was the first delivery of my produce box from Newleaf Grocery.  It's an organization devoted to finding and providing local and organic produce to the city of Chicago.  Lovely.  I'm attempting to be more and more of a locovore, and since my work schedule doesn't lend itself nicely to me attending farmer's markets in the area, I thought this would be a good way to get some diverse and local produce.  It also means I don't have a choice in what arrives at my door, so I'm forced to be creative and learn to cook with new things.  So in the box was the following:  apples, pears, kiwi, bananas and galia melon.  Mmm.  Zucchini, broccoli, onions, radishes, kale, turnip greens... okay, slightly more intimidating!  I've never made kale or turnip greens, and I'm not a huge radish fan, so it was a little scarier seeing the veggies inhabiting the fridge.  But the goal of this was to break out of my comfort zone, so this was a good chance for me.  So, last night, I used some of the broccoli and used up most of what produce I had left in the fridge from the previous trip to the store and the zucchini was easy... sauteed that up with some onion, pepper, and mushroom and plopped it on top of some pesto tortellini.  Not much outside of the comfort zone there.  But I was determined to use that kale for something first, so I hopped on-line and found a recipe for Kale, Cannellini, and Potato soup.

So after a quick trip to the store (we did need to go anyway, so it wasn't totally a new trip) for some cannellini beans, fingerling Russian potatoes, and carrots, I was good to go.  I pretty much followed the recipe, but because of the fingerling potatoes, I doubled the number, since they're about half a normal-sized potato.  I eliminated the sage and used dried rosemary and thyme.  I also used the seeds from a dried cayenne pepper we grew last season instead of the seeded red chile pepper.  I also used vegetable broth and a half-cup red wine, instead of the white, as I didn't have any white wine in the house.  When that went in, I freaked out a little, as the winey smell the soup was giving off was a little disconcerting.  I thought I may have ruined it, but in the end, it was delicious!  Paul used up some ciabatta bread we had and made home-made croutons to put in the soup, which added another layer of yummy texture.  It was amazing, and I was really proud of myself for taming the kale.  I was a little annoyed with the "deveining" of the leaves, as the stem of each leaf is thick and mealy.  But it needed to be chopped up, anyway, so I treated it a bit like I would treat fresh herbs, rolling and cutting the leaves with scissors.  This method worked quite well, I must admit.  

I also finished a new stamp block carving of a little frog and tested it out on paper.  Really cute.  So I tried it out on a bunting I had dyed grey, but unfortunately the paint color was just too light, so I'll have to rinse it out and try a darker color.  It may provide some nice "shadow" effect if the paint doesn't all wash out.  But either way, it will be much cuter than the plain dingy blue of the bunting before it was "doctored" to give to pregnant friend number 1 or 2.  

And finally, the main craft of the time being continues.  I'm working on a wavy ribbed scarf pattern... one of the free ones from the craft store that suggested a fisherman wool.  Instead, I'm using a soft brown merino wool from Frog Tree yarns, which is a company devoted to fair trade wool products.  It's the worsted merino, #118.  I'm slightly addicted to this scarf, and am afraid I will chicken out on giving it away to the intended recipient when the time comes.  Here's hoping I'll be able to part with it's lovely, wavy, wooly, soft goodness!  

So, the experiment trudges on.  I'll be doing some organizing and more cooking tomorrow... hopefully conquering the dreaded radish and finishing off the baby quilt for pregnant friend number 1.  I also have a baby bib to work on, and, of course, the continued addiction of the wavy ribbed beauty!