Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Falling leaves make me smile

Some trees in my neighborhood are really letting loose and, for the past two days, the leaves are falling like giant orange/yellow snowflakes! No photos, sorry, although I did pick up a couple of pretty leaves on my lunch time walk with the bad dogs. I haven't decided what to do with them yet, but I laid them out on the top of the washing machine to keep the dogs from eating them.

I also picked up pine cones from my neighbor's yard, although I'm pretty sure they are going to end up in the grapevine wreath that lives on our front door. The spiderweb and tiny leaf (that blew into the web) need company for Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cute stuff for a good cause

Just a short message before we return you to our regularly scheduled... lack of posting. Ha, like anyone noticed.

My brother's good friends have set up a blog where they are selling handmade goodies to help raise the money to pay for their darling pup's knee surgery. I hate to think of animals needing surgeries like this because you know they hurt and can't tell you and don't really understand why. :(

Anyway, check out the knit goods and the super awesome coasters (8-bit Toad, anyone?)!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

This makes me a little sad

While blog browsing, I found something that... well it kinda makes me sad. Strawberry Shortcake has had a makeover for a new generation. It started about a year ago, I must have missed it while I was busy loving the Star Trek reboot.

Not only is she now a bright shade of fuchsia, she has long flowing hair and shows off a more trim figure. This new Strawberry is tiny, like some kind of fairy, and lives in 'Berry Bitty City,' not Strawberryland. The cast of characters has been streamlined to five super best friends who have also been made over... and have super girlie jobs like dancing, shopping and hair styling. Then, of course, there's the token nerdy, "super smart" friend who runs a bookstore. I think I might gag.

At least she still has her pink cat, Custard.

As a child of the 80s, I was all about Strawberry Shortcake. I had the Berry Bake Shoppe and several of the dolls, including Purple Pie Man (also missing from the reboot). I think what bothers me most is these are characters for children but they've been made to act like grownups... they have jobs. It just seems unnecessary.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

As my Nana used to say...

It is H.O.T. hot outside!

Close to 100 forecast for the next three days. Now that DH started a 60-day contract job (YAY! more on that later) a 20-minute drive from home, I'm back to the old routine of going home to walk the dogs around the 'hood at lunch... no matter what the weather. Because we're tough... which is what I told them when I resolved to walk the third block of the 'loop' of our neighborhood... it works out to about a mile.

Oh, so almost two weeks ago now I realized I had a voice mail from my friend and coworker, Allison, saying that her husband's firm was looking for contract help on a project. DH called the guy in charge of hiring, he put DH in touch with the staffing firm they use who set up an interview the next day... and the next day called DH back to say they wanted him to start ASAP! So he worked 4 days last week, had a 4-day weekend...

(Happy Independence Day!)

...and then has another 4-day week. Such a relief, on many levels! We're hopeful that they'll like him enough to keep him around once the project phase is completed and/or his contract is up. YAY!

My walk with the bad dogs got my blood pumping in the heat, so I'm only in the mood for fruit today... enjoying some tomato and cucumber salad (from my garden, which has gone berserk), with a little Ranch dressing that showed up unexpectedly out of the office fridge. The highlight of my day (I know, sad) will be one of my all-time favorite snacks... sliced apple with peanut butter.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

So much to do, so little time

I have lots to say but little time to share it! I'll think to myself, I really need to put this in blog form and then it doesn't happen. (grins sheepishly) If anyone wants to know how to make sweet tea or jalapeno poppers or how not to trim a tree, I have photos and posts in my head!

DH and I have started a website business. The website has been around for a while as a Bulletin Board owned by a friend. DH helped him keep it running because he understands teh html, teh php and other things that I don't. ;) Anyway, I digress... our friend grew tired of people asking for t-shirts and other perks that would've forced him to handle money and turn it into a business, so he handed it over to us... to turn into a business. Yay! but starting a business is hard work! So much paperwork, so many forms and things to keep track of and so many fees! It falls right in with our hobby of photographing off-road endurance races, though, so we did more of that this past weekend too. DH takes the photos, I take video and Brother K comes along and does some of both.

We're still working on our house and I'm still working on sewing projects. I took time away to actually crochet not too long ago (okay, it was in April) to make this sweet little bunting for Allison's nursery. She was sweet enough to include it in a series of posts she's done on the decorating process.

Well, that's mostly what I'm up to. The garden is happy, we've harvested many yellow squash, wax beans and cucumbers, but only one cherry tomato so far. It's been super hot here! I'm hoping to get a few sewing projects finished and make progress on house projects these next few weekends.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The birthday aftermath

I apologize for not providing photos, but gratuitous food pics are rude if you aren't close enough to stop by for a slice.

My boss brought in a cheesecake from a deli near his house, run by a Russian fellow who ran a deli in NY for many years.

DH took me to Clyde Cooper's Barbecue for lunch. I had the chopped bbq plate with steamed cabbage and potato salad. The potatoes were good, but I was there for the cabbage and the freshly fried pig skins that accompany every order. I like mine with a generous dash of Texas Pete and I didn't even bother with the hush puppies that came with my order. Nom, nom, nom.

As I mentioned yesterday, my parents took us to dinner at The Angus Barn, along with my brothers, my favorite Gunnery Sergeant and my grandmother. I was pretty stuffed on my wedge salad, 7 oz. filet and sweet potato... and the Bad Penny. If it is your birthday they bring you your own lemon poundcake, 3/4 scale.

My dad also made me a cake... because homemade cakes are kind of my thing. I tried to not be rude about it, but one year he got a Costco cheesecake and it was not my thing. His mom, my Nana, always made us cakes for our birthdays. I generally make cakes for everyone else's birthdays and, although I don't have to have a cake, I prefer homemade. My dad made a chocolate cake with German Chocolate frosting in the middle and milk chocolate frosting all over.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that DH's mom visited over the weekend, so we could go visit some of her relatives over in Winston-Salem. She took us to The Mellow Mushroom for 'our' birthdays last Friday, since we hadn't seen her since Christmas and DH's birthday was three months ago. The Lonerider Shotgun Betty was delicious.

I won't eat for the next three days. Maybe.

Thursday, April 29, 2010


Today is my birthday. I don't say so to get well wishes, although if you think happy thoughts for me, I appreciate it!

I'm not usually reflective and I don't fret over getting older... but the past year has been one of the hardest but also one of the most rewarding. I'm also fighting a cold or something, so have had a killer sinus headache for a couple of days now.

I could mention all the exams I took last spring/summer... or how DH still doesn't have a job, but I try to remember to count my blessings.

He's the one thing I'm most grateful for.

Even when we're pale and pasty from the winter.

He does have wonderful, strong arms... and a great smile... and I'm partial to the greying hair. Mostly he's my best friend and my favorite person and I'm really glad he's been around to help me celebrate the past 12 birthdays. We're headed to Raleigh's Premier Steakhouse for dinner with the family tonight and I'm going to listen to the Drive-By Truckers all day.
Maybe with some Old Crow Medicine Show thrown in, for good measure.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Pens & Needles... & a shout out

Pens & Needles is my etsy shop. It was originally my brother's idea, oh, two years ago. He draws and paints and I knit, crochet, sew and make some jewelry.

Just a shout out for Mor Aframian and ReDress Raleigh :) I've donated several Pens & Needles knit and crochet items to the MorLove and Redress Raleigh booth at the Green Bazaar on the Bicentennial Plaza from 11am to 5pm this Saturday, April 17. Proceeds will benefit the Amani Baby Cottage, an orphanage in Jinja, Uganda. The Redress fashion show is Saturday night and is SOLD OUT! I'm missing it to go camping and help DH take some photos and video, but I'm sure it will be amazing!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Thrifty Garde Robe

For much of last year I was signed up at the Wardrobe Refashion blog, to "abstain from the purchase of 'new' manufactured items of clothing... to refashion, renovate, recycle pre-loved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium."

That part was pretty easy, there hasn't been a lot of money to spend anyway! The second part of the pledge was to share photos and descriptions of my projects on the WR site. People all over the world have participated and I loved the inspiration! I also followed several people to their own blogs and enjoyed their posts about things other than sewing.

The founder of WR recently decided to change the format and part of that change involves a subscription to view tutorials and other things. Totally within her right and I don't know what costs she incurs to run it but, needless to say, there is still no money to spend on my end and the subscription is roughly $10/month. One of the other (quite prolific and talented) contributors was also dismayed by the change and, worried that the egalitarian nature of the shared projects would suffer, decided to start a new free site devoted to refashioning.

Without further ado, I introduce The Thrifty Garde Robe! I've signed on to be a contributor, along with about 20 other people, with several great projects already posted. I have lots of other projects going on around the house this spring, but I'm hoping to get back to the sewing machine soon!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Patrick's Day (and a plug for St. Baldrick's)

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

To interrupt for just a second, I wanted to share that this Sunday, March 21, my baby brother is participating for a second year in the St. Baldrick's Foundation fundraiser for kids with cancer. From the St. Baldrick's website: Volunteers shave their heads in solidarity with kids fighting cancer and family & friends give generously - worldwide. The St. Baldrick's Foundation uses the donations to fund more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the United States Government. The big man has upped the ante this year by offering to also shave his beard!

I love St. Patrick's Day... we've had temps in the 60s, flowers are blooming and everything outside is turning green! We always have a good time celebrating our Irish roots (and Scottish, where St. Patrick was also born), whether we're hiking, hanging with friends or running a 5K, like I did two years ago! I'd really like to attend the parade in Savannah, Georgia, some day, since it is supposed to be one of the biggest and, besides, I love that town!

Needless to say, we have a good time (most of the time!) and we love a good Irish Pub. Although I don't go around pinching other people, I'm wearing my favorite green t-shirt and socks and we'll, hopefully, find some shepherd's pie or corned beef for dinner! Today is also my girl dog's birthday (7!) and the not-so-old girl will get a special treat, as well. She ran that 5K with me on her 5th birthday.

These photos brought to you, courtesy of DH and our new 35mm lens.

Friday, March 12, 2010

More happy for Friday

because I love these rainy spring days that don't really require a jacket or an umbrella... after all, I won't melt.

from etsy

This makes me laugh

and I can always use more of those...

Have an awesome day and a great weekend!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The western desert is the best

Last Monday, I flew out to southern California where DH (who'd been in Oregon with some friends the previous week) was picking me up for a week in the desert. Our week in Johnson Valley was pretty incredible. The clear desert nights were really beautiful and the ‘camp,’ known as Hammertown, was huge. Basically, a city sprang up from out of nowhere for the week of events!

One of our friends (the OR guys) even towed his camper, so instead of sleeping in someone's enclosed trailer... basically on the floor, like sardines, we were much more comfortable than anticipated! In the windy desert, and with the hard rains they've been having in So Cal, something with a bathroom, shower and coffee maker was a welcome surprise!

One of the OR guys was co-driving in the King of the Hammers desert race and we were going to support the team and just have a good time. Everyone was friendly and we certainly didn’t want for food or a drink or a seat by anyone’s campfire.

More about the week and the race later...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Fun with textiles

I love making scarves, hats and things to give as gifts, but nothing beats Amigurumi in terms of being SO much fun and super rewarding... they're so darn cute! Amigurumi is the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures.*

I made a little piggie for our goddaughter, Sammie, for Christmas this year. Last year I made her a little yellow duck, so the farm animal theme is cute. The duck was a real success, given my novice crochet skills a year ago... and the fact that the pattern was for a fuzzy baby penguin! Basically, I figured that I could make it into any bird I wanted and then used a much smaller crochet hook than the pattern called for... it turned out well despite being completely 'wrong.' I still LOL about it.

Patterns are easy to find on the internet and many are free.** Instructables.com and crochetville.org are the sources for the two I've used and google finds all sorts of tutorials. The pig only took an evening in front of the tv to make! There are also patterns to buy on etsy and, if you're not the crafty type, there are shops like this one.

*from Wikipedia
**to make for yourself or to give them as gifts, of course.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

So that was a bummer...

Yesterday, I mean. To make up for it, I'll share my favorite comfort food recipe!

The recent and extended cold streak we had here in Raleigh was a perfect excuse to make a batch of Potato Soup. More accurately, this is the (in?)famous "Gutter Runner's Potato Soup" of Pirate4x4.com fame. You can google it, if you like. I modify the recipe, although only slightly, because the original calls for celery and I prefer to use chopped greens instead. I am a good Southern girl, after all!

I usually halve the amounts of the original recipe, because it still makes way more than we can eat without giving away or freezing some. So my recipe is for a 'half' batch, which is still 8-12 servings, depending on the audience. Feel free to double the amounts and go back to celery, if you prefer. I think the amount called for is "5 stalks". Oh, I also add a little thyme, along with the basil... maybe a 1/2 teaspoon or so.

1/2 lb of bacon, chopped
3 lbs potatoes, cubed
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 cup of chopped carrots
3 cups chopped kale
30 oz. chicken broth (or a 15 oz can of broth and then an equal amount of water)
2 tsp salt*
1 tsp pepper*
1 T minced garlic*
2 tsp basil*
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes*
2-3 tsp hot sauce* (Frank's, Tabasco, Texas Pete... whatever you like)
1/2 stick of salted butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream

*or season to your taste

Saute chopped bacon in a large stock pot until crispy. Remove to paper towels.
Pour out most of grease, leaving drippings in the pan, but save the grease for later use.**
Add chopped onion to pan, saute until clear.
Add potatoes, carrots, broth and seasonings. Bring to a boil.
Add chopped kale and allow to wilt on top before stirring them in.
Allow to simmer for 2 hours, stirring occasionally and adjusting liquid, if needed. This allows the soup to thicken without the aid of flour or cornstarch.

Return bacon to the pot and add butter and heavy whipping cream, simmer an additional 30 minutes.

**In case you do not know to do this, already... you can keep it in the refrigerator and use it to cook eggs, cornbread, fried things, etc., for excellent flavor.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sometimes you just need to throw things

A recent post by Dana at Mamalogues has been on my mind... and I'm using her example of the Trebuchet to get something off my chest, so to speak.

This week marks one year since DH was laid off and, despite several extensions, the end of his unemployment benefits looms in our minds. As far as we can figure, anyway, we need to make it work strictly on my salary... and for a while.

These frustrations and limitations include the fact that we had to put DH on my insurance policy... which was inexpensive enough to do. Due to some past health problems other folks have had, the only way my firm can afford to offer benefits is to offer a catastrophic policy and we contribute to our own HSAs. Our current financial situation means I can't contribute very much and, since adding DH, the deductible for a 'family' is much higher than for an individual. So we can't really afford to use it except for basic stuff because we can't afford the total deductible. Which means we have to put off things we want to do and maybe, potentially, preventative care we need to do. I read as much of the House health care reform bill as I could stand and I'm not optimistic that even a combined version or whatever the Senate has proposed will make the situation any better. Without addressing the true problems of the pricing games the insurance companies and hospitals play, nothing is free and we'll all pay more in the end. If the mandatory basic coverage has to increase and the company can't afford it without us paying more or my salary going down... well that dog won't hunt.

So, now back to Dana's Trebuchet. Pile up the problems that make me want to scream and fling them far away. My 'fling' list is short... after making a longer list, I realized all the things that bug me come down to one simple problem. Then, count my blessings, the things not to fling.

To fling:

A lack of empathy. I don't want to be in the middle of other people's drama or problems unnecessarily, but I (hopefully) have the heart and patience to listen if someone really has something to say. Even if it doesn't apply to my life, I try to feel for what other people are dealing with on a daily basis. Basically I don't feel like I have many people to turn to when I'm having a particularly rough one. Then again, many of those closest to me have it as bad or worse... who am I to complain. Ugh.

Not to fling:

Snuggle-y dogs on a very cold night. We've had lots of cold nights lately and, although there are only the two of them, I'm certain the very-bad-dogs snuggle enough for at least three dogs.

A laugh shared with a friend. My best friend, DH, in particular, but any friend or even the person in front of me in line at Harris Teeter. Laughing with children is extra credit.

Monday, January 18, 2010

'Can'structing Wall-E

My firm participated in the local CANstruction competition this past Saturday. There are only four of us and the rules allow for a team of five, so with some shift help from Allison's hubby, DH (he brought us lunch) and brother K, we spent about eight hours building Wall-E for the "cartoon heroes" theme. The local newspaper, the News & Observer, has a few photos up from the build day, including one of my boss and me building Wall-E's arm.

Nathan, my boss, took a few photos once we were finished and had cleaned up the rolls of tape and empty cartons of Ghirardelli chocolates we used for his treads! The entries will be judged Tuesday and the exhibit officially opens on Saturday, January 23, 2010. It will remain up until February 14, and all the food will be donated to the Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina.

Friday, January 15, 2010

My Friday

Inspired by Pinewood Castle's January Daybook post, this is my Friday morning...

Outside My Window: The parking lot at work, the guys across the street washing cars. Forecast today is a high of 60!

I am hearing: Typing and clicking... and Chatham County Line's "Route 23"

I am wearing:
Friday uniform - dark jeans, Clarks (similar to these), camisole and long-sleeve t-shirt.

I am Thankful For:
Being alive. A roof over our heads and food in the pantry. Family.

I am Pondering: Be united in your convictions and united in your love, with a common purpose and a common mind. There must be no competition among you, no conceit; but everybody is to be self-effacing. Always consider the other person to be better than yourself, so that nobody thinks of his own interests first but everybody thinks of other people’s interests instead. Philippians 2:2-4

I am Thinking:
about lunch :p

I am Reading:
Finishing up Prince Caspian, as I make my way through the Chronicles of Narnia in order. I don't know why I didn't do this sooner! and this article DH just sent me...

From the Kitchen:
Last weekend was productive, big pots of chili and potato soup... leftovers for lunches this weekend. Last night I made Swedish meatballs with cream sauce, roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli for dinner with my brothers and parents. It was a huge hit.

I am Creating: a beret from a pattern I won in a giveaway.

Towards Rhythm: Waking up and going to bed (at the same time each day, eventually), lunch with DH most days.

I am Hoping and Praying:
for the people of Haiti.

In the Yard: We finally took up the tomato cages and pulled up dead tomato and pepper plants... everything has been pretty much frozen for weeks now.

Around the House: Took the tree down last weekend, we should probably take the lights off the outside of the house. The wreaths with greenery and berries will stay! We've been repairing drywall, ugh more sanding to do!

On Keeping Home:
Weekly, I mean daily, cleaning of dog hair is never ending. Organizing and purging of unnecessary stuff is ongoing. We need some bins to help organize the attic, probably will build more shelves up there, too. I have a potted plant that I brought indoors for winter that's suffering... need to figure that out.

One of My Favorite Things:
Two, really. The wagging tails of the very-bad-dogs when I return home from work at the end of the day.

A Few Plans for the Weekend:
Lights down, sanding drywall, and CANstruction tomorrow!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The good, bad and the ugly of my 2009.

About a year ago I wrote down some goals for the year. Unforeseen events kept me from completing several, at least not 100%, but I learned a most-valuable lesson, there. Planning ahead is good, but rolling with the punches and focusing on TODAY is also good. In keeping with the lesson I learned, not to mention the fact that several of last year's goals are not yet complete, I'm not going to actually make a list for 2010.

I still love my job and they treat me well. Becoming a salaried, as opposed to hourly, employee and having paid time off made a significant difference in both the income I take home and my mindset. We had concerns about our field, DH and I both have architecture degrees, and worked to build our emergency fund in case our worst fears were realized. They came to fruition on January 15, 2009, when DH was laid off along with about two dozen others at his place of work. It was sad and disappointing, but we were more concerned for colleagues with a single income and families for whom to provide. We were just grateful that the savings we'd worked so hard, in 2008, to accumulate allowed us to not lose our minds! Between tightening things down and the unemployment extensions, we have been able to cover everything and still save up the leftovers for unexpected expenses, like the leaking water heater we had to replace in September. If the goal was to be more 'grown-up' about our finances, we definitely achieved that. We still worry for friends in the industry... my job is secure but municipalities and the state government aren't funding projects they've awarded already, so even busy firms may not have things to do in six-months' time.

I didn't really get to do much traveling this year, other than for work. DH took a hiking trip through part of the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains with Brother K and our friend, Paul. I don't think any of them had jobs at the time, so a week in March was a perfect time to do some serious work in the backcountry! The Great Smokies don't allow dogs, so it was also a perfect opportunity for DH, at least, to check it out. He also took a trip to Mountain City, TN, in September for an offroad/rally race! He went with cameras in tow to document the inaugural event (there will be a 5 or 6-race series in 2010) and get to know some of the east-coasters involved in the sport. We have friends out west who have been into this stuff for years, including the Baja 1000. We're planning to make a trip in February to Johnson Valley, CA, for the King of the Hammers offroad race to watch some of them (east coast and west coast) compete.

See how I go from thoughtful, outdoorsy architect-ish to downright redneck-ish, just like that? Yeah, that's normal around here. I promise, the rest of this 'year in review' is much more concise, too.

We made lots of progress on our patio and back yard, thanks in part to help from friends and DH being at home to get some things done! We're still not 100% with the patio because the dyed concrete slabs we've started making, ourselves, for the stair treads are time-intensive. We're also still finishing the cosmetic work to our laundry room and working on design ideas for the future renovation of the whole house. These things take time and we're in no rush to add on at this point.

I did not finish my exams (to become a registered architect) but made significant progress, passing 3 of the 4 I took. DH and I did study for and pass the LEED AP exam and he was able to determine that he's completed his internship requirements, so we plan on studying together for the rest of the ARE exams, starting soon.

I did, in fact, make and modify several articles of clothing with the machine my parents gave me last Christmas! Interestingly enough, I found a whole world of blogs devoted to such things. In May I took the Pledge at Wardrobe Refashion for four months and then kept it going for the rest of the year. I found so many great people there; creative, funny, interesting people whose blogs I now read regularly. It was so inspiring to see how people express themselves with fashion that I started a new project in July, Raleigh Street Fashion. It is still small, by blog standards, but growing and I'm really happy with the things I've learned and the people I've met because of it.