Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bulk Food Bags

You know that book, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, where the mouse is forever being reminded of something else he wants to do?

(Paraphrased) "If you give a mouse a cookie, he'll probably ask you for a glass of milk. And if you give him a glass of milk... he'll want to look in the mirror to make sure he doesn't have a milk mustache. And when he looks in the mirror, he'll notice that his hair needs a trim..." and so on and so forth.

Sometimes I feel like that mouse.

I go upstairs to get something for one project, and I get sidetracked into a totally new project.

Today, for example, I went into the office/sewing room to look for tabbed dividers for a 3-ring binder. And when I came out 45 minutes later, I had made these:

Like the mouse in the book, when I entered the office I noticed my basket of fabric. And it reminded me that I wanted to make little sacks for bulk foods from the co-op. The inspiration came from an internet article written by a former student's mother.

I started with three small sacks for the bulk foods I buy in small batches, like nuts. Now that I've got the hang of it, I think I'll make some larger ones for foods like rice, lentils, and beans.

Cat fabric. No surprises there.

The ties are sewed into the seam, so they'll never get lost!

I just need to finish the ends of the ties with a little hand-sewing, and they're done!

I've been meaning to do this for awhile now, to avoid bringing home more plastic bags. If you have a grocery store in your area that sells food in bulk, you should consider making your own bulk bags!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Still Cold... But Oh! The Sun!

We've reached our high temp for the day:  7 degrees. At least the sun is out!

Poor Milo is so bored. He doesn't understand why he can't go out when the sun is streaming in the window. It feels warm from the inside!!

Every night we hear him taking out his frustrations on his chewing box:

The chewing box is a box we intentionally left out when we moved in. Milo loves chewing on things, so having a box that he's allowed to chew keeps him from chewing up other things like library books, computer cords, and gift bags (all things he has destroyed in the past).

Spring can't come soon enough!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


It's cold outside. Very, very cold.

Ted and I went to the gym this morning when it was about 0 degrees. The streets are white with salt residue (after being white with blowing snow yesterday), everything is covered with snow, and it is so cold that any uncovered skin begins to sting within a minute of stepping outside.

Even the garbage truck was delayed by the snow and cold.

It was sunny and clear when we woke up. I'm not sure what's happening here with this cloud cover. :(

We've been told by folks around here that this is an unusually snowy winter. I saw on the news the other night that we've had 22.4 inches of snow so far (although this was before Tuesday's snowstorm). The average for this time of year is 9.5 inches, and the total for most years is 22.5 inches. So we've already surpassed what the Cincinnati area usually gets in an entire winter, and we're on our way to setting some records, I believe. It just won't stop snowing!

UPDATE: I just heard on the weather channel that we're up to 27.7 inches of snow so far this winter.... with more coming tonight (just a measly inch, though). I was out running errands about 20 minutes ago and my car thermometer said 10 degrees.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Closet Clean-Out: Transformation #1

In case you haven't watched the news or don't live in the U.S... it's been COLD! So painting projects are currently on hold, as it needs to be at least 50 degrees to spray paint. I did pick up a couple of rejected paint pots at Home Depot the other day, though, so perhaps I'll do some hand-painting in the basement...

Anyway, I started my first sewing project from the Transform box, and I'd say things went relatively smoothly, given my lack of sewing instruction. Thank God for YouTube, right?! :)

So, if you'll remember, this slip made it into the Transform box because it's too long and too white:

First things first, it needed to be hemmed. After watching a few instructional videos on the internet, I got started by cutting off the existing hem:

Yikes! No going back now...

I don't have a serger, so I tried zig-zagging the raw edge. That did not go so well:

After several attempts, I finally gave up on that and just rolled the hem, sewing the raw edge all folded up into the new hem. I had my favorite helper there, as always.

This was an initial failed attempt. I actually sewed the
hem from the inside of the slip.

It wasn't perfect, but remember, no one is supposed to see the slip anyway!

I was actually pretty proud of myself for sewing this slippery fabric with only a few thread tangles and fabric bunches.  However, my helper did not have the patience for my many mess-ups and stitch-ripping breaks.

Once the slip was shortened, it was time to dye it a darker color! I got these Rit dye packs in black from Michael's, and after mulling over the various dying options I decided to use the bucket method. I was too worried about staining the inside of our landlord's washing machine.

Have you ever dyed fabric? You have to stir constantly... for 10 to 30 minutes according to the package directions. So the downside of the bucket method is that I had to stand over the sink, stirring the dye bath... After about 10 minutes I decided the slip was dark enough.

Pretty cool, huh? From here it was as simple as rinsing, hand-washing, and air-drying. The fabric did not darken all the way to black... perhaps if I had stirred for 30 minutes... But it is a nice plum color now. :)

These pictures were taken on the same carpet. Ah, the importance of good lighting!

I'm excited to try out my 'new' slip with one of my dresses. Especially now, in the winter time, when there is so much static cling.

Transformation #1 = COMPLETE!

Saturday, January 18, 2014


What was perhaps inevitable has happened.

I got Ted's stomach bug.  And it's a nasty one.

Hopefully I'll be able to finish up a couple projects I have in the works in the next few days here, but for now, I'm pretty much good for nothing. So wish me a speedy recovery (it's already been 3 days), and I look forward to sharing a few more makeovers with you when I can stand up without waves of nausea. :)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Book Review: The Rosie Project

Today I thought I would recommend a book for you. Rarely do I sit down and read an entire book in one sitting, but yesterday I did exactly that!

Ted was down with a 24-hour stomach bug all day, so between ginger ale deliveries and pillow adjustments I sat on the couch and read a book. A whole book!

It's called The Rosie Project, and it's written by Australian author Graeme Simsion. I heard about it on NPR a few months ago when they were previewing an upcoming author event in Cincinnati. At roughly 300 pages, it's an easy read, like watching a movie.

In fact, it was originally written as a screenplay, so it actually does feel like watching a movie as you read it.

It's clear from the first page that the main character, Don, is an adult on the autism spectrum. He reminds me so much of Sheldon on The Big Bang Theory that that's pretty much who I pictured in my mind as I read this.

Just do your best to ignore that improperly placed comma. 

The plot follows Don as he tries to find the perfect wife for himself using a data-driven questionnaire that he developed. Then he meets Rosie, who is absolutely the opposite of what he is looking for, and you can pretty much guess what happens from there. However, there is a simultaneous plot that evolves surrounding Rosie, which I will leave secret. ;)

It's a cute story and an easy read, so if you're looking for a nice no-brainer to read on the weekends or an upcoming vacation, consider picking up a copy of The Rosie Project!

P.S. There is a tiny bit of foul language in the book, so if you're turned off by that, well, I guess skip this one. But you'll be missing out! :)

P.P.S. Ted is feeling much better today, in case you were wondering. I just dropped him off at work.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Coffee Table Makeover

One of the nice things about being home during winter break is that I get to tackle a few projects from my ever-growing list. Here's the project I've been working on for the past few days.

I bought this coffee table at the local antique/junk shop for $20. I don't think it's antique, but it was a good size, sturdy, and had nice curves.

In the course of painting all those curves, I nicknamed our table 'Marilyn'.

She was pretty beat up around the edges, and I wasn't loving the black paint. Also, she came with drawer pulls on her sides, which I thought was odd, but they were painted black and not that noticeable. I didn't think to take these pictures until after I had removed them, but you'll get to see them later...

I knew she needed a fresh paint job, and I agonized over the color... Something bold? Something neutral? At first I wanted something that would pop in our mostly light blue and beige living room, but then I thought about this table's future and figured I should stick with a neutral color to maximize her potential.

I finally decided on a light gray. I know, boring, but hey, this was after much careful thought and consideration. Once I had the paint mixed, it was to the basement with her (aka my workshop)!

Here she is, ready for her makeover. 

Before sanding I donned the recommended safety gear (don't want black paint dust up my nose or in my eyes).

I gave her a good 'roughing up' so the primer would adhere.
She roughed me up, too.
The next morning my arm was aching from all that sanding.

Sanding the black paint down was the worst. It was all over the tarp, the bottom of my shoes, my hands, my pants... subsequently tracked through the house.... Anyway, I wiped the table down real well after sanding and painted on one coat of primer.

Step 2:  Primed and ready - bye bye black!

The primer dried over night, and I was able to apply two coats of paint the next day. Once more night of drying and....

Ta-da! The light was not great for photographing today, but you get the idea. As soon as I got her upstairs, I wished I had gone with a bold accent color. She kind of blends in with the rug. Oh well. Live and learn. It was a pain in the you-know-what painting all her curves, so the plus side is this neutral tone will go with anything and won't have to be re-painted when we move or change up our color scheme.

You can see how the color is a little 'wah-wah' against the pale rug. Orange would have really popped!

In the pictures above you can see that I put her hardware back on, too. Before, the hardware was painted the same black as the table and blended in. I decided to give Marilyn a little something special by spray painting her hardware gold. I'm not sure why our table has drawer pulls, but now that they're gold, I really like them!

It feels good to check one project off my list. And now that I have most of a quart of primer and light gray paint left, I'm looking around the house to see what else I can makeover... I think this little girl is next:

I might learn from my mistake, though, and give her a good kick of  color!  ;)

*In case you are wondering, I used ACE Premium Royal Sealing Primer (with stain blocking) and ACE Cabinet, Door, & Trim semi-gloss paint in Ivanhoe. The guys at ACE Hardware recommended the cabinet/door paint because it's extra-tough and will resist chipping and wear.*

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Closet Clean-Out, Part 1

Well, I'm getting down to business with my New Year's Resolution #1. I said I was going to clean out my closet, consign whatever I can, and then buy only what I need. The point is to get more wear out of the things I already own and maybe make a little money by selling the things I don't really wear.

Our master bedroom has 2 closets, both of which are mine since Ted claimed the closet in the guest room. Every girls' dream, right?

(This is obviously not one of those blogs that teaches beautiful organizational skills.)

To start my closet clean-out, I labeled 3 boxes for sorting the clothes that are coming out:

The 'Transform' box is for those clothes I don't often wear, not because I don't love them, but because there's something just a little wrong with them. But, if I think I can fix that little problem and make them more wearable, then into the 'Transform' box they go! For example, this sweater:

I love the pattern, the color, and the coziness, but from the beginning the fit has not been great. The weird cut under the arms makes me look boxy when I wear it. I found this tutorial on the web, though, and I figured it couldn't hurt to try taking it in myself.

Other projects that made it into the 'Transform' box:

This slip, which is heavenly soft and silky but never gets worn because it's about one inch longer than most of my dresses. Also, the white color really screams, "Hey! I'm wearing a slip!" whenever it peeks out the bottom. So I figure I can hem it myself (doesn't have to be pretty as it will *hopefully* never be seen) and dye it a darker color. Transform!

This old sweater is too short in the torso and too long in the arms, but I have big plans for it:

I'm following the rule: "For every new thing I bring in, one old thing comes out."

Since it has a nice pattern on the sleeves, I'm going to cut them off and use them as 'boot socks'. Boom! Into the 'Transform' box it goes.

"Soon I will be a boot sock."

So now that I have some projects to work on, let's focus on the "one in, one out" rule as I find a place for some recent purchases...

As with many women, shoes are hard for me to let go of, but here are a couple switcheroos I forced myself to make during my closet clean-out:

Crocs: Milo's favorite chew-toy.

(Those red ones are actually kinda cute, but they're stretched out and fraying...)

As you can see, now that I'm out of the elementary school classroom, I'm trading out some frumpy flats for some fun heels!

Not every item that came out of the closet had a new item to trade in. Some clothes just needed to go because I haven't worn them in years. And there's a reason they've stayed for years:  they're just so hard to part with!

Oh, tight white pants. We had so much fun in college.
You made my butt look so good. But 10 years makes
a big difference in the hind-quarters, and I'm not
sure my 30+ butt looks quite the same in you.
So long.

First prom dress! How can I part with you!? I have been waiting for
the proper occasion to wear you again (thank god you are stretchy),
but for 16 years you have been wadded up in my closet.
That's not true, I did wear you twice in college.
Maybe you can stay just a little longer...

In the end, I had a pretty good haul in the 'Consign' box. Step 2 is driving to the consignment shop (once the temperature warms up - it's cold out there right now!). Hopefully some of it will sell, and I'll be able to tuck a little money away for 2014. 

Keep your eyes peeled for some posts about the Transformation projects... those ought to be interesting.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Sweet Citrus Brussels Sprouts

I never ate Brussels sprouts until I was an adult. Growing up, I probably felt the same way as most people do - Brussels sprouts are gross (even though I'd never had them)! They get a bad rap.

But I fell instantly in love the first time I ever had them. This is how they were prepared that time, and this is how I always prepare them, although I love to eat them many other ways, too. If you've never given Brussels sprouts a second glance, give them a shot! Try them this way, and I guarantee you'll be a convert.

Sweet Citrus Brussels Sprouts
Serves 4ish

  • 1 lb Brussels sprouts
  • 2-3 Tbs. butter or olive oil
  • 1 half lemon (or the whole lemon if it's not that juicy)
  • About 1/4 - 1/2 cup nuts of any kind (sliced almonds, whole almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts - whatever is floating around in your pantry)
  • Honey or Maple syrup
  • Coarse salt
Start with a pound of Brussels sprouts. This could feed 4-6 people as a side dish, but I usually make this amount just for Ted and me (there's always a little leftover, which makes a great snack!).

Wash your Brussels sprouts, then cut off the ends, and cut each one in half from top to bottom. The Brussels sprouts in the stores right now are small, but in the summer when they're HUGE I usually make an extra cut to quarter each one. They cook more thoroughly that way.

Once your Brussels sprouts are cut, melt a couple tablespoons of butter over medium-high heat in a large skillet. You can use olive oil, but Brussels sprouts are such a decadent vegetable, why not go for real butter this time?

When the butter has melted, toss the cut Brussels sprouts around the pan until they're all coated. Then spread them out to make sure you're making the most of that hot pan surface.

Flip them around occasionally to evenly brown them. The more they brown, the sweeter they get. Once they start to brown, toss a handful of nuts in - this gives the nuts time to get a little toasty, too.

Keep cooking those Brussels sprouts and nuts until they're as brown as you want them, tossing them occasionally. I consider mine done when they're bright green, pretty well browned, and starting to get soft. This takes 5-10 minutes on the stovetop. You can always taste one to see if they're cooked through - be careful, though, they're hot!

Once they look done to you, turn off the heat and drizzle in about a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup.

Stir that around to evenly coat (there should be enough residual heat in the pan for the honey or maple syrup to sizzle). At this point I usually taste one of the loose Brussels sprout leaves to see if I added enough honey or maple syrup. Be careful not to over-sweeten! You want just enough sweet to bring out the flavor of the Brussels sprouts.

Finally, season with coarse sea salt and squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the top. Once you've mixed in the lemon juice, transfer the Brussels sprouts to a serving dish. You don't want the citrus lingering in the hot pan or it will turn bitter.

E voila! A delicious side dish for your next meal. I hope you give it a try!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back Home

All our bags are packed,
We're ready to go...

Photo courtesy of J.H.

Ted and I had a change of plans. We were going to drive up to New Hampshire to spend a couple weeks at the lake house, but then epic storm Hercules hit the Northeast. When faced with poor driving conditions, short daylight hours, and 2 unbuckled cats in the backseat, we decided against the 10+ hour drive (and subsequent 15 hour drive from NH to OH).

Instead, we headed home for a couple weeks of quiet comfort before classes start. Here is how the first two hours of our drive went:

Despite a loud and annoying start to our 8+ hour drive, the cats did eventually settle down and are now glad to be home:

Minnie, "getting her texture" on the rug at home

Milo snuggling with daddy while we watch a movie
It's snowy and cold here today after raining all day yesterday. The temperature read -4 this morning, and I suspect there is ice underneath the snow on the roads, so we're staying home! Good thing I have some projects to work on... Hopefully I'll get some blog posts up about those soon.

Stay warm out there!