Monday, February 28, 2011

Meet Me on Monday

Through CouponQueen over at Living on Less I've found about "Meet me on Monday" by Java at Never Growing Old which is a neat way to get to know other bloggers through five questions every week.  Here goes!


1.  What are you wearing right now?
2.  Do you have any freckles?
3.  What is your favorite Lifesaver flavor?
4.  What is the last movie you saw in the theater?
5.  Would you rather live without tv or without music?

1.  Considering I woke up half an hour ago and decided not to attend any of my classes, I'm still wearing what I went to bed in.  In fact, I'm still in bed!
Columbia Sportswear Women's I2O Pant, Grill, X-SmallBROWN Cami Tank Top Women One Size Fit XS S M

2.  I no longer have any freckles, likely due to the fact that I'm not in the sun 24/7 like I was when I was younger and did have freckles.  Unfortunately it appears that those who don't have freckles are star-less.  I had no idea I would be discriminated against due to my lack of freckles..

3.  Seeing as how it's been years since I've had a Lifesaver, I really only have memory to tell me what I liked.  I do believe it was cherry, as I'm a sucker for the "red" flavors.
Lifesavers Candy Five Flavor, #21063 - 14 Pieces / Pack, 20 Packs

4.  Boy was this a tough one.  I think it was "Inception" which I thoroughly enjoyed.  But it also could have been "Harry Potter 7: Part 1" or "Due Date"....... clearly my memory is not the best.  And we don't see movies too often, as you can tell since all of these were holiday season movies.  We were stuck in Moscow for Thanksgiving and Christmas so we had to do something!

 Inception   Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1  Due Date

5.  While I am an avid viewer of medical dramas, I definitely could let it go.  Music, on the other hand, is an incredibly huge part of my life and I don't think I would ever choose to live without it.  The connection with our mood and music is something I take full advantage of (and no one wants me in a bad mood!).

Woodstock Peace Collage Music Poster Print - 24x36

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dear Friends

Tonight I was reminded of how much I require fellowship, and how simplicity is always best.

My good friends Chris and Christine (who also happen to be our next door neighbors) invited us over for dinner.  While we live steps away, it's been weeks since we've actually spent time with them.  Between four busy work schedules on top of school, it's difficult to find a spare hour or two.  Finally it was decided upon a Sunday evening, and I'm definitely glad I could carve out five hours to relax and enjoy the company of dear people.  All we did was eat a delicious meal of rice and lentils and sofrito on corn tortillas.  I love simple meals that are incredibly flavorful, and this was a great take on the usual rice and beans I make several times a month.  We shared great conversation over a few drinks and even brought out the hookah.  It was an excellent evening.

I think it's incredibly important for everyone to have some time to spend with friends, and to choose those friends wisely.  As I've gotten older I've realized that one cannot find good friends easily.  Many have backstabbing behavior that is terribly damaging.  Others are flaky.  And still more move away and no longer keep in contact.  It can be frustrating and is definitely more difficult than the childhood meeting on the playground.  Loneliness is a common occurrence for me.  But through all these problems I realize how blessed I am to actually find a few good friends out in the sea of damaging people.

To those of you who are my near and dear friends, I appreciate you more than words can express.  Thank you for being there.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Opening up shop

I opened an Etsy shop.

Yep, I sure did.  As I've been discovering how much I love spending time creating with my sewing machine and decoupaging with all sorts of leftover pieces of paper and fabric, I realized it was time to start sharing my projects with others.  This way, I can make all the crafts and bags I want :)

I've chosen to specialize in the area of vegan and environmentally friendly products, with an emphasis on ethical business practices.  Since I've had experience in this area and am passionate about it, I thought this would be the best way to go.  I have hopes that my ideas and vision will spread to others through my blog and store.

I would love it if you all decided to check it out, give me feedback, etc.  I'm currently still developing ideas and trying to get more up in the store.

Here it is!  You can also see my Etsy mini shop on the left hand side of my blog.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Some encouragement for dreamers

Throughout my life, I've had visions.  As a young girl, I had a vision for how I wanted to look.  How I could make my hair look better, my face look better, my body look better.  I also envisioned parties.  I constantly planned these get-togethers, seeing them in my head as extravagant ordeals with beautiful decorations like those I would find in the endless piles of party planning books.  My room could look perfect and the functions of daily life would go by smoothly (with the help of elaborate schedules, to do lists and other various charts).

As an adult, I still find myself with incredible visions.  When I moved in to my current apartment, I wanted a certain style, a kind of beauty in simplicity.  As with party books, I was constantly perusing decorating blogs, magazines and books.  But when it came time to bring the home together, it was difficult to transfer this vision into reality.  Going to various stores, I would see fabulous decorations and small elements that could supply detail, but affording it was another story.  Nothing is more frustrating than being unable to follow through with what you see in your mind.

I encourage everyone to figure out ways to get past your "vision blocks" whether it be financial or otherwise.  Sometimes we let our own attitudes get in the way, our feeling of "it will never happen" or "I will fail, no matter what."  This is, as one close friend of mine says, self-destructive speech and must be stopped.  We all have dreams, and visions, ways that we see our life going.  It is only a matter of being willing to put in our work to get there.  Thinking negatively will only set you farther back.

My home is beautiful.  I have been able to delve deeper, to use my creative skills to transform a living space into a place of beauty and love.  It is incredibly challenging to bring it all together at times, but with effort and support, one can move past roadblocks and fully embrace what they want to do.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Buying in bulk: Not just for the large family

Photo Courtesy of Trade

When one thinks on the idea of purchasing goods in bulk, it seems to make sense especially if one has a large family.  You can purchase large amounts of a product at a much lower cost.  But what if you are a smaller family unit that won't be purchasing as much.  Are there still benefits that make it worthwhile?

I have mentioned many times how I've become more aware of the waste produced from packaging.  And while someone may think that buying in bulk would save them money, it doesn't necessarily become a packaging saver.  You still have to put the goods into something and oftentimes it can end up being a plastic bag.  As a cashier at the local food co-op, I've picked up on the ideas of some customers who have a system down for reducing waste and cost.  Reuse your packaging.

Such as today.  I needed more dish soap and instead of purchasing a whole new bottle and throwing out the old one, I simply filled it up with the bulk soap and voila!  Bottle saved and new soap.  It is absolutely incredible the amount of bags, boxes and bottles you can save if you reuse the ones you already have.

So the answer is yes, there are definite benefits to shopping in bulk for those with even the smallest of households.  No matter how many live under your roof, you can make a huge contribution to living environmentally friendly on a small budget.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A short mountain vacation

Over President's Day Weekend, we decided to head up to my grandparents cabin for a "little" family get-together.  For those of you who aren't aware, my family is incredibly large, with seven children in my immediate family.  But it's always fun to get almost everyone together at the cabin with the cousins and hang out in the snow.

One of the highlights was getting to take my two youngest brothers cross-country skiing on Sunday.  Since the weather has started going towards spring-time, skiing hasn't really been an option lately so it was nice to go out for a little while.

They have improved a lot since the first time we had them try out their skis back in December.  I'm so proud of them!

Erik isn't really one to take a serious picture :).

Friday, February 18, 2011

I probably should unplug the glue gun once in a while..

I've been putting off homework with some new projects.  There's a lot of variety with them, as I've just been exploding with creativity lately.

I absolutely love making different soaps and bath soaks.  But the best part is decorating the recycled jars with old magazine photos and fabric craps.

These earrings are probably my new favorites.  They're perfect, simple and very pretty.  And they basically go with anything.

And... My new hair clips.  I did a little more detail on the edges this time, giving it a very "real" feel and then did some contrasting fabrics.

The only bad part about all these new things is that sometimes I forget to turn the glue gun off or unplug the sewing machine.  Today I came home and realized that my glue gun had been plugged in and automatically on for probably two days.  Yikes!  Talk about a potential burn down--not to mention a huge energy waster.  And I was just congratulating myself on keeping the heater off for the last few days..

Thursday, February 17, 2011


About two weeks ago I decided to start training with my friend Rachel for a half marathon.  I got a nice little cold so my first week of training was killed, but this week I've been following a regular training schedule.  Boy, is it work.  I've been a casual runner on and off for the last three years.  Sometimes I would get really into it and go regularly, but more often than not I wasn't running.  So this is an excellent challenge for me.

I've realized I need goals in my life to really achieve anything.  I get all sorts of ideas about exercising more, crafting more, writing more, reading more, keeping up on my homework, etc.  But simply wanting it isn't good enough for me.  I must have something to work towards.  A schedule.  Something to keep me disciplined.  Otherwise I just end up with half finished projects, a half messy house, and half-read books (of which I currently have five on my bookshelf).

I would love to hear some of your ideas for keeping yourself goal-oriented!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


I had a bobbin breakdown yesterday.  If there is one thing a sewer cannot stand, it's bobbin problems.  The thread in the back gets all tangled and sometimes you have no idea what is going on until you've gone several inches.  It's completely obnoxious and frustrating.

After doing some research, it seems like the front bobbin loaders (which is what I have) are much more difficult than the top loaders.  You have to make sure the thread is going the correct direction before you place the bobbin in the machine.  All sorts of things could go wrong and cause problems.

Singer has an excellent resource for troubleshooting and basic operating instructions, including how to properly load a bobbin.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Goodwill: A safer place

I recently made a trip to Goodwill in search of a belt.  I should have known I would be there for more than just a belt..

Because of the WSU and UI campuses, we have an amazing selection at our Goodwill.  Many clothes still come in with the original tags!  It's incredible the things that people toss aside, no longer caring to keep because they have grown tired of it.  I end up doing the same, going through my own clothes and finding that I don't ever wear a certain shirt, so I'll give it away.

While reading through the blogs I follow, I found a post on Eco Friendly Fashion about a video called "The Story of Stuff".  It spent roughly 20 minutes describing the entire process of creating consumer goods.  Ouch.  I feel as though I have completely bought in to all the schemes used by large corporations.  It was a little discouraging to watch how I contribute to the system.

But there is hope.  Places like Goodwill, Salvation Army and other thrift stores are excellent places to get started.  I encourage everyone to do their clothes shopping at thrift stores simply because of low environmental impact.  It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to continue buying brand new items when you can just as easily make a responsible purchase.  Of course, underwear and socks are good to buy new.  But when you like "new" clothes as much as I do, used is the way to go.  You can also find cookwear, dishes, books, decorations..the list is endless.

Not only is it eco-friendly, it's a budget helper.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A sushi frenzy.

Because I work today and we're trying to save money for spring break, Erik and I decided to have a day early and low key Valentine's Day celebration.  It consisted of sushi, veggie tempura (mmmmmm), strawberries dipped in a chocolate mousse type of thing and champagne (I'm not certain it was real champagne, but it was delicious).

Sushi at home seems terribly intimidating, what with the rolling, the seaweed and the special rice.  I can't imagine how one would feel if you had to put actual fish in there!  But really, it isn't that difficult.  I found this awesome website that gives many detailed instructions from an actual sushi chef.  It even includes recipes for Vegan and Kosher sushi!  I will let Marisa help you out with suggestions on sushi.  One thing though--Be patient.  You need cool rice and you can't roll up your sushi too fast if you're just beginning, otherwise you could end up with a mess.

As far as tempura, I'm not usually one to eat deep fried foods (except for chips, of course) but there is something about vegetable tempura that I absolutely love.  I have it on rare occasions and use grape seed oil so it higher in the polyunsaturated fats (the good fats) and the bad fats are practically non-existent.  So you can pretend it's good for you :).  The recipe I used was very basic.

Tempura Batter
1 Egg (you can try an egg substitute if you would like)
1 cup Ice cold water
1 cup all purpose flour

Beat egg in a small mixing bowl.  Add the water, making sure it is very cold.  Gently mix in the flour, being careful to not over stir.

For the actual frying, I went from experience.  You are supposed to deep fat fry between 160-170 degrees Farenheit, but I don't own a kitchen thermometer and don't really care to spend the money on one if it's not absolutely necessary.  If you are in the same boat, here is what I suggest;  Heat the oil in a large-ish pan (I used the stainless steel dutch oven my grandma gave me for Christmas) over medium high.  Once you can tell that the oil is pretty hot by hovering your hand over it, spoon a small amount of batter into the oil.  It should brown a little fairly quickly, but not be smoking.  If it doesn't cook fast enough, the batter will soak up the oil.  If it cooks too fast, you will burn it (and end up "testing" your smoke detectors).  When you think the oil is at the correct temperature, dip thinly sliced vegetables of your choosing into the batter and place in the oil.  Be sure to flip it over so you cook each side.

Dessert was my own creation.  Put about 1/4 cup cream or mascarpone cheese into a bowl.  Add 1/8 cup cocoa powder, 1/8 cup agave, 1/8 cup milk and a tablespoon of Kahlua.  Whisk it together until light and fluffy, adding more milk for texture or any other ingredients for added flavor.  Then dip your strawberries or another fruit of your choosing.

 It was an excellent Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Crafts. a new workspace, and a ficus.

Today I went shopping for some new craft supplies.  I wanted to get that initial shopping trip taken care of, and with it being tax refund season I had some extra money on hand.  I had no idea I would go completely crazy in there.  It's like being a little kid in a candy store--I wanted one (or two) of everything!  Thankfully I managed to make it out of the store without bringing the entire store with me.  I am going to have so much to keep me busy now.  I can't wait to share my projects.

I finally have a little work space set up.  This is one of the things that's difficult to do in my small apartment, but I was able to put it together pretty well.  I found a few pretty boxes to put all my supplies and fabric in so they aren't all over the place.  I also have a great little bulletin board to keep fabric scraps, patterns and pictures of "artistic inspiration."

I also have pictures of my (very well used) yoga mat bag.

Oh, and Erik bought a 6ft fake ficus.  I have no idea where we're going to put it since he's currently sitting with it on the balcony (it was an exceptionally nice day).  And, no, that isn't a bong.  It's for smoking hookah.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A few adventures.

I have had a blast this winter.  We've done so many neat things!

Climbing the Tower at the Rec Center.

My youngest brother visited before Christmas and we took him ice skating.

This year I actually learned how to ski--and loved it!  It was cross-country though, not downhill which suits my fearful little self much better :).

Simple Sacrifices.

I love chips.

Most people who know me have been perfectly aware of this for quite some time.  I am known for eating nearly an entire bag on my own.  I'm not a sweets fiend, but when it comes to the salty, fried goodness of a chip I simply cannot say no.

I was discussing this one day with a co-worker and she said she is starting to feel like she just doesn't need them.  I asked if she just didn't like them and she responded "I don't like the bags they come in."  It kind of threw me for a loop.  While I recycle bottles, paper, and plastics of all kind I had never thought that my chip addiction made for excessive waste.  The bags simply aren't recyclable.

As I eat other foods that are in packaging that don't say they can be recycled, I wonder if it's really worth it.  Is it worth it to have a candy bar?  Is it worth it to buy a box of macaroni and cheese?  Are my cravings that much more important than the needs of others?  Are they more important than the waste I am creating?

Reading "Living More with Less" has made me realize; Life is full of many small decisions that are very important.  We cannot live simply without having to make all these small decisions.  Choosing the car to drive five minutes to a store that I could just as easily walk to.  Not purchasing tomatoes until they are in season locally so I'm not contributing to the extra fuel it took to get them here.  And not eating chips.

Many small sacrifices I hadn't even thought of.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A business all my own.

In an effort to get away from always having to work for people, I'm considering the idea of selling my craft and sewing projects.  If nothing else, it should provide me with an excellent hobby and many Christmas and birthday gifts for the next year or two.  Here is a book I'm currently reading to gain some insight into this kind of business.  If you're interested in this kind of thing as well, I encourage you to take a look at this informational tool.

Initial investments are rough.  And what if things don't take off the way you had hoped?  Starting a business is difficult, no matter how small.  However, I must say that I prefer the work involved in creating handbags and Vegan bath and beauty products to ringing up groceries day after day.

Will this actually work?  Who knows.  But I'm willing to start small and see how it goes.

Life is an adventure.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Life isn't fair.

Doing the right thing has consequences.  Purchasing healthier food can be far more expensive than choosing highly processed foods.  A mother leaving an abusive relationship with her children will face severe financial difficulties and a whole lot of emotional baggage.  But when it's all said and done, the end result farther down the road is much better than what it would have been had the right thing not been chosen.

I have made hard decisions.  The right decisions, but hard ones nonetheless.  And in the end, it will be better but the process of getting to the end is difficult.  Life isn't fair.

Oh well.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

This last month and half I have found myself in a binge.  A spending binge, an eating binge, a drinking binge.  And I must say, having to look at how I have completely gone above and beyond my budget for the month is terribly embarrassing, even though I am the only one looking at it.

We all know that balance is the best.  That too much of a good thing is no longer "good."  But what is it that brings us to overindulgence time and time again?  Is it our culture?  Is it emotional, mental or physical? It's a painful process to realize what you have done and take on the consequences (6 lbs added and less financial freedom for the next few months).  It's even more painful to realize that you cannot stop.

But I have hope.  I can overcome these obstacles.  It can be done.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Creating Meaning

I have found my hobby.  Crafts.

As a child I loved making things.  Salt dough, paper, cardboard and acrylic paint made up a majority of Christmas gifts year after year.  When I got a little older, I was in 4-H and learned how to do some serious "crafting" such as sewing clothes.  I truly enjoyed going to my aunt or grandma's house to use their stamping supplies.  Since I was no "artist," I had to figure out some other way to enjoy myself.  But as I grew older the time to dedicate to projects dwindled.  My schedule filled with dance classes, school, music and theater.  Clearly those were very valuable experiences as well, but I have always felt something was missing.

And then I got a sewing machine for Christmas.

Erik's mom, Lee Ann, is such a dear and gave me a sewing machine with all the accessories.  My delight could hardly be hidden.  Shortly after Christmas I found a simple project (a yoga mat bag) and headed to the fabric store.  Picking out exactly what I wanted, matching thread to the material and carefully placing it in my basket was like a child in a candy store.  Watching that bag take shape as I sewed the pieces together was an extraordinary experience.  I was making this!

After that project, I have sought out other things, such as a large tote bag and my grandma gave me a gift of several sewing project kits including decorative pillows.   And now I am moving on to things away from the sewing machine, such as hair pins, jewelry and wreaths.  Seeking out all sorts of things I could make on my own makes me feel accomplished.  I am creating.

I am.

My new tote bag.  The fabric is pre-quilted, giving it a Vera Bradley look.

One of my flower hairpins.  I singed the edges of the fabric so it would curl.