Christmas Presents are Complete!

I finished and mailed Christmas presents for the two most understanding ladies in my life! Because I didn’t think through my first idea, it took a while for me to narrow down something special for each of them. I’m happy with how both of these gifts turned out.

Both are made from a fat quarter from Heather Bailey‘s Nicey Jane fabric line. I received the fat quarter in a swap and wasn’t inspired to make anything from it until these projects came up.

The first is a journal cover (and a 5 year journal). I didn’t think this through all the way before I started sewing, so I had to make some changes along the way.

I had to make fabric bands to hold the cover flaps onto the journal itself because I didn’t make the cover tall enough to accommodate a sewn fold over flap. (poor planning) 

On the inside of the cover, I wrote a special note with a medium point Sharpie marker. Those things are GREAT, but it takes some patience on fabric because they are so thin.

The second gift was a little stash-buster as I sewed some scraps together, then onto note cards.

I made 6 total along with envelopes, then made a stationary holder to keep them in, making sure to size the holder large enough to accommodate greeting cards.

I really like how the fabric adds to the beauty of both these gifts!

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Friendship

This is day 16 in the Reverb10 Project.

Friendship. How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?

She said to me slightly more than a year ago while I was walking in my kitchen talking to her on the phone:

“I don’t understand it.

But, if it’s important to you,

then I support you in it.”

It nearly brought me to tears that day.

It nearly brings me to tears to think about it now.

It has reverberated over and over for me through 2010 in more ways that I would have imagined.

The love.

 


25 Random Things About Me

This is going around Facebook, and I absolutely love reading the lists of people I know. Here is my list:

1. I love to read.
2. I would nap every day if I could.
3. I had my tonsils and wisdom teeth removed within two months of my 30th birthday.
4. I’ve never had a broken anything (beyond heart) or stitches (except for during labor but those don’t count).
5. I used to regularly fall out of my office chair in Rochester because I’m so damn clumsy.
6. I’m a grammar and editing whore…Mr. Turk would be so proud!
7. I cried like a baby when I was 32 and a cap came off my tooth at work. My friend Jakki knew not to laugh and immediately called the dentist for me.
8. I’ve had two cavities in my life.
9. Intolerant people piss me off…really, how does a gay couple’s marriage threaten me or my marriage?
10. I miss my best friend from high school.
11. I would drink a cup of coffee and eat a generous slice of apple pie every morning for breakfast if I could.
12. I nearly moved to Italy with my son for a Roman dentist I was in love with.
13. I absolutely love being a mom, but sometimes I wonder why God let me be a mother when I miserably fail at it sometimes.
14. Even though my brother Jay hasn’t spoken to me in at least 15 years, I brag about his accomplishments whenever I can to anyone who will listen…YES he is an animator for The Simpsons.
15. If I could teach English, History or Business at a community college tomorrow, I would stay up all night long making lesson plans.
16. I love to cook for guests and my family, but can’t make gravy to save my life.
17. I would take a homemade ugly birthday cake any day over a purchased store bought one.
18. I am so proud that I earned two college degrees, started a career, bought a house and had a son all without a man. (Well, a man was involved for the latter but only briefly.)
19. I only completed my master’s degree because a family member showed up every single Monday night for two years to watch my son so I could go to school. They all came to my graduation ceremony too.
20. I am always surprised when my husband tells me I’m beautiful.
21. I was on speed dial with the principal my son’s kinder year.
22. My husband and I don’t share money. Absolutely none.
23. You couldn’t pay me to stay home and take care of my kids all day long. God didn’t build me that way.
24. When Jack wanted to know how babies came out and how babies got in, I told him.
25. I would be happy listening solely to National Public Radio and never listening to music.

I would add one more that I was surprised I didn’t before.

26. I love my step-parents and think of them as bonus parents not as people married to my parents.


Oh what fun!

What a busy weekend we had.

We started with teching in the Pinewood Derby car Friday night. It was running really well and fast, so Jack and Aaron felt confident for the morning’s race.

pinewood-derby

Unfortunately, Saturday morning everything that could go wrong went wrong. The derby race was supposed to last between 1.5 and 2 hours, but 3.5 hours later we left. It was very painful for everyone, and I think it was really unfortunate for the boys because no one could hardly tell what was going on. Additionally, it seemed as if Jack’s car had been dropped over the night and was running horribly. It was a huge downer for all, but sometimes that is just how they go. Jack and Aaron had a good time working on the car, and Jack has a great looking car as a result.

My cousin Julie and her family – Dan, Maggie and little Owen – came down for the weekend as well. We had a great time swimming and playing Wii at our house. Dan curls, and they brought a game with curling. Unfortunately for Dan, he got stuck on my team. Troy’s team beat us handily two times. Dan and Julie are both allergic to cats and dogs, but they medicated themselves well before coming and were able to stick it out for a good 5 hours before leaving!

julie-and-dan

Owen kept busy by taking kleenex’s out of the box and dusting which, of course, I encouraged.

owen-dusting

Jack has a little crush on his cousin Maggie. Two years ago, they were in my cousin’s wedding together. Maggie took to being smitten, and Jack and Maggie were awfully comfortable in the chair together for much of the evening together.

jack-and-maggie

Sunday morning, then, I made homemade pop tarts courtesy of Chez Pim. We used traditional pie crusts with combinations of the following: Nutella, raspberry jam, lingonberry jelly, chocolate chips and cream cheese. I would make them much smaller next time as a little goes a long way AND it is nice two have two different kinds of small pop tarts rather than one giant one.

pop-tart-1 pop-tart-2

pop-tart-31

Once I started cooking on Sunday, I didn’t stop as I had friends coming over for an appetizer dinner that night. We had crab rangoon (in an open wonton shell), sausage stars (in an open wonton shell), edamame, spinach artichoke dip and assorted crackers, and mini pizzas on whole wheat crusts (tomato, feta and basil was one combination and tomato, arugula and fresh mozzarella was the other combination). These pizza crusts are going to become a standard in my house…I made the boys taco pizzas with them before company came and then polished the other six over the evening. I couldn’t believe how easy they were to make and how yummy!

It was a really fun night and lots of good food! We started the evening drinking mexican hot chocolate spiked with Kaluha or Bailey’s Irish Cream and then switched to wine.

Jack and I both had the day of for the MLK holiday, so we slept in late and cracked open the Wii Fit. That was really fun…Jack is very good at the hula hooping portion. Much better than I am. We took the dog for a nice walk and even went up to Marshalltown to visit my friend Dini with her two baby boys. Jack really was a very good entertainer of the boys.


Second Graders, Frosting Bags and (Avoiding) Walmart

Its been more than a week, and I have survived 11 second graders making gingerbread houses, secret santa and a Mario Kart Wii shortage everywhere except for Walmart (which in case you’ve forgotten, I HATE…Walmart, not Mario Kart or Wii).

First, Saturday evening after Jack’s friend birthday party, I called my BFF and told her to remind me next year when I think it is a good idea to have a party with children at my house because it will be fun and cheaper than going someplace else. I told her to remind me that $100 is NOT too much to spend, that it is worth every single penny and that to interrupt me if I every start to talk about becoming an elementary school teacher. Since she already upholds this philosophy, it won’t be difficult for her to remind me. THANK GOD!

The kids weren’t that bad aside from all the wrestling, but 11 kids for two hours takes a lot out of you, particularly when you give them frosting bags with tips. Stupidly, I forgot that just because Jack has used a frosting bag and tip and knows that you MUST twist and hold from the top, it doesn’t mean that any other 8 year old know this technique. Thankfully, all the kids were able to make it to the sink before the frosting overflowed onto the floor.

These kids were genuinely fun, just maybe not ALL at one time while they are hopped up on candy and frosting.

Jack chose a chocolate chip cookie bar tower for his cake which saved me a lot of time and energy.

brownie-tower

I chose to take part in Secret Santa at work because Secret Santa is fun. I like finding the right gift for my giftee. This year I’ve experienced two problems. The first is completely selfish and indulgent. I got what I asked for: mechanical pencils and Nutella. I was thinking those little packets the size of peanut butter packets at Perkins (say that 5 times fast) , but I got a regular 13 oz jar of Nutella.

Me+13 oz Nutella+a fork=6 oz of Nutella

Of course, I keep forks in a baggie in my desk drawer for my lunches. Of course, the Nutella jar was taunting me sitting there between my monitor and my keyboard.  And, of course, one of my favorite things EVER is being the first person to dig into a smooth, silky mess of peanut butter or NUTELLA! Aaron once got into a little pickle because he dug into the peanut butter without offering me the opportunity, but this is not about issues that I discuss with my therapist…

The second Secret Santa problem is this…my giftee’s wish list included a .5mm z4 Bic pen, movies and Scrabble. I thought the pen should be no problem, but I was wrong. A movie ticket could not be accommodated in the $10 Secret Santa budget, so I opted for specialty popcorn from a store nearby. Scrabble was a toughie…I was hoping to find some word-ie type of fabric to sew up into something fun. Unfortunately, I could find nothing word-ie that was not babyish as well. I found fabric with dominos, bingo and crossword puzzles, but not a single Scrabble related theme.

My next thought in Jo-Ann’s was buttons! Make something and sew on buttons that would fit the theme. Nothing. Ribbon is next to the buttons. Nothing. Scrapbooking supplies surely would have something suitable. Nothing…until I found these capital letter stickers that were BROWN and SQUARE. I found a pack of 8 blank greeting cards and two pieces of fun scrapbooking paper. With my 50% off coupon for the greeting card pack, my total purchase with tax was only $4.83. What a bargain!

I was counting on Aaron for help since he is typically far more creative than I am when it comes to paper items…remind me to post about some of his handmade Christmas cards to frat buddies. I needed him to make something that could resemble a Scrabble tile rack. Just as I suspected, Aaron came up with a pop-up three dimensional tile rack, but it wouldn’t quite work given the time constraints (about 60 minutes for 8 cards). While he cut paper, I dug out Scrabble and added numbers with black ink to all the tile stickers. The previous night, I searched for good 8 letter words (7 tiles PLUS the tile on the board). So, this morning, my recipient got a pack of greeting cards with a Scrabble theme.

scrabble-greeting-cards2

Secret Santa left this in the mail room…

from-secret-santa

I’ll be looking for a used Scrabble game on craigslist.com because Santa’s final gift is this…

scrabble-name-plate

As it turns out, Santa has completed his shopping for the boys in our house, but mom and dad have not. I have had a serious lack of inspiration for Jack’s xmas gift after getting him the BEST birthday present ever – a new snowboarding sled and a helmet. Both of these boys have their birthdays in Nov. and Dec. so that makes it that much more difficult. I did get an inspiration the other day with Mario Kart Wii only to find out that no store in all of Des Moines had the game. I went online and everyplace was out – Target.com, Amazon.com, Bestbuy.com. Ebay was asking too much. The one place it was available was Walmart.com. I searched for another hour online…craigslist, facebook, etc.

For one hour I asked myself again and again if my boycott of Walmart should “ruin” Christmas. Then I thought, good god, I volunteer with the Cub Scouts despite my well documented distate for discrimination against gays. What more do I have to do? I succumbed to the motherly urge to not ruin Christmas only to find that my hour saved me and ruined Christmas – Walmart.com was sold out.

This morning, I searched some more and my last search (before Walmart) was proved fruitful! Bestbuy.com had it in stock, but you can never be sure at Bestbuy.com because sometimes items look like they are in stock only to have the out of stock show up at checkout. It looks like I saved Christmas AND avoided Walmart! Yippee!

Here is a picture of one of Jack’s gingerbread houses from school…he cleverly made a door that opens and put a waving gingerbread boy inside. In this picture, it looks like ET. I think he sorta looks like ET in person too.

gingerbread-house


Kettles, Carbon, Cocoa and Parties

Well, tonight I attended an informational meeting on our soccer club’s board of director’s opportunities. There are plenty of opportunities there, but also a lot of good work that needs to get done so the soccer club can flourish and grow. As Jack appears to be turning into a gifted soccer player, it may be a good way to give back since I certainly canNOT coach and mowing lawns is not one of my favorite activities.

I’ll be ringing a Salvation Army bell this year with Jack, and Troy if he is here the weekend we ring. I first did this many years ago with my friend Peggy in Rochester. We froze our asses off because it was below zero if I remember correctly, but we had one person drop a $20 bill in the bucket! It was very exciting. Anyone can sign up online to spend two hours for a good cause!  Even if you get cold, you feel GREAT!

I’ve been seriously considering NOT sending xmas cards this year because of the carbon footprint and waste involved. The $80 or so dollars I would normally spend on the cards and postage could be dropped into a red kettle along with taking Jack and Troy shopping for Toys for Tots. I may make an email card which I know is considered tacky and sending cards to those I don’t have email addresses for. Tacky and give to good causes or not tacky and wasteful???

Since taking a job here in Des Moines, I have reduced my carbon footprint by 90 miles x 4 days x 50 weeks!!! Now, my carbon footprint for work is 4 miles x 5 days x 50 weeks PLUS 20 miles x 5 days x 50 weeks on MASS TRANSIT! Merry Christmas Earth!

I’d like to follow up on my last post about the new pie recipes. The chocolate pecan pie was NOT better than traditional pecan pie. It was not bad, but it wasn’t better. What is more is that I always forget that baking cocoa is a killer on the caffeine (i.e. my dessert kept me up until 2:30 am Friday morning which caused me to actually consider getting dressed and going out to the mall which had opened at midnight). The apple cream pie recipe was GREAT! I cut the cream in half and upped the sliced apples to about 6 cups and it was absolutely perfect.

My mom is coming this weekend to celebrate Jack’s birthday. I remembered tonight while cooking dinner that my mom loves the Christmas task I dislike – physically setting up the Christmas tree and flaring out all the branches. I love decorating it, but detest the boring details involved in the setting up process. I am so lucky!

Normally, we wait until after Jack’s birthday party to set up the tree (his friend party is Sat. the 13th) to keep his birthday his own, but he decided this year to set the tree up before his friend party because of his birthday party theme…I will be helping ELEVEN 2nd graders build gingerbread houses from graham crackers in two hours. UGH!!! I really should have asked my mom to come for that because I am going to need a lot of help. Jack wants two things for his party – building gingerbread houses and bobbing for apples OH and he earned enough points to invite ONE friend for a sleepover that night. OH and he also thinks having a drawing dragon contest is a good idea. When I told him that all his friends may not like drawing and focusing on the competition is probably not a good idea, he thought I wasn’t quite in tune with his friends and their drawing as I should be.

Did you read the part when I said ELEVEN 2nd graders – I usually have more than I can handle with my ONE second grader. What was I thinking? I was thinking that Jack turning 8 means inviting 8 friends which means having 9 second graders at one time over. That was overwhelming enough, but at least between two tables and a counter, I could physically position them all. Well, paring down the list from 10 to 8 proved so difficult that I caved, and we are inviting 10 kids over. Imagine frosting, candy and graham crackers EVERYWHERE! UGH!

Sometimes I am a good mom!


Lilly Bud Naturals and Food Group

My friend Chersten started her own company, Lilly Bud Naturals, to provide human and environmentally safe cleaning products for the home. It all started from when her daughter Lilly was young, then Bud came along. Well, Bud’s name is actually Jon, but so is Jon’s dad but we call him Joey instead. At any rate, please comment if you have a son that you do NOT call Bud!  Everyone I know calls their son Bud as a nickname.

Here is the link to an article in the local Rochester (MN) newspaper! I don’t know how long the link will be live, so check it out fast!

Cher and I worked together for many years. In fact, she was my formal mentor after I started. She was in charge of taking me out to lunch occasionally to check in on me, make sure I was feeling good about my position, etc. It was great!

Eventually, Cher, Warren (another work friend) and I decided that we needed to formalize our love of good food and friendship. Thus, one afternoon at a potluck for a departing colleague, Food Group was born. We met for about two years about 8 times a year, almost every month, with three rules:

1. The host/hostess selects the menu along a theme, cooks the main dish and makes suggestions for accompanying dishes, dessert and wine. (That sounds like more than one rule, but it really isn’t since selecting the theme can really only count as a small fraction of a rule.)

2. EVERY recipe has to be NEW to the person who is cooking/baking it. (As far as I know, this rule was only broken once by someone I invited to a dinner party. Instead of making something, she bought it from the store. I shamed her relentlessly as a result.)

3. The host/hostess can invite anyone else to the dinner party outside of the core Food Group group. (Eventually, we added two others to the Food Group second layer, but they eventually broke up and it just became awkward.)

Food Group was truly a highlight for all of us as we ventured into new recipes, new food selections and shared friendship. When I invited Aaron as my date to Food Group, it was a big deal. (Normally, I selected a girlfriend to join me…it was a coveted invitation that I passed around.) One of my favorite times to hostess was when the theme was a traditional Hanukah meal. Give me a plate of potato latkes, some applesauce and some sour cream and I am in heaven!!

When I moved away to Iowa, it was the beginning of the end. Shortly thereafter, Warren moved away to Alabama. It truly was a great time as we all had growing families at the time.

I’ve decided that I am going to keep a thanksgiving journal in November…a written tally of what I am thankful for each day in November. Today, October 29, I am very thankful for the opportunity to have grown friendships over a love of food and wine!