Sunday, November 29, 2015

1000 Things To Be Thankful For: 21-40

  1. This silly kitty
  2. When you know someone doesn't have time to spend with you, and he makes time anyway
  3. An afternoon of flipping through a new cookbook
  4. When the heat kicks on right before you get out of bed, making your bedroom nice and toasty
  5. Special pillows that eliminate back pain
  6. Piles of clean laundry
  7. Leftovers I actually want to eat
  8. A shopping basket full of fresh veggies
  9. A steaming cup of cocoa after running errands in the drizzle
  10. The peaceful stillness of a cloudy, rainy day
  11. The right outerwear options for the ever-changing fall weather
  12. A cozy chenille blanket to wrap up in on the couch
  13. A hodgepodge coffee mugs collected over the years
  14. That magical (and fleeting) moment when all of the dishes are clean
  15. Stumbling upon a quote that perfectly captures your day/mood/life philosophy
  16. An arsenal of supplies for spontaneous crafting
  17. A stocked pantry
  18. The satisfaction of watching a lace or cable pattern emerge from your knitting needles
  19. The luxury of spending a morning or afternoon puttering around a bookstore or craft store
  20. A good cry--either the kind that results from having your faith in humanity restored or the kind that flushing out an excess of stress hormones
Want to see more thankfulness?
Click here for 1-20.
Click here for the original 1000 Things.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Thanksgiving Part II



Today, some scenes from my Thanksgiving with my parents and the beginning of a new project: 1000 Things to Be Thankful For. Check out the original project here.

The spread.
The star of any Thanksgiving table: cranberry jelly in pristine can-shape.
The dessert table.

1000 Things to Be Thankful For (#1-20)
  1. Supportive family members
  2. A quick text from a far-away loved one
  3. Enough space for a dinner table big enough for 6
  4. A futon so I can comfortably host guests in a 1-BR apartment
  5. The luxury of time enough to improve my cooking/baking skills
  6. Affluence enough to feed more people than just myself
  7. Affluence enough to spring for the special urinary health cat food
  8. Inside jokes
  9. Package delivery when I'm actually at home
  10. Thrift store treasures
  11. Cozy hoodies
  12. Flowers bought already arranged in a Mason jar
  13. The Little Toaster Oven That Could
  14. Matching pajamas
  15. Soft slipper socks
  16. A leisurely chat over a meal
  17. A window that faces a strip of woods in the middle of suburbia
  18. A glimpse of suburban wildlife
  19. Pumpkin spice latte mix
  20. Good news from the doctor's office


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Thanksgiving Part I


Last year was my first year cooking (most of) Thanksgiving dinner for my family. I know a lot of people find The Big Meal stressful, but I really enjoyed carefully selecting the recipes, collecting decorations, and planning out what should be cooked/baked when. This year, my mom and I are roughly splitting the cooking/baking work, and we'll be eating at my place again. For the curious (or those still figuring out their menus!), here's what we'll be having, with as many links to recipes as I could track down.

What is Thanksgiving without a little kitsch?

Turkey Breast with Mushroom Marsala Dressing (courtesy of my mom)
Brussels Sprouts, exact preparation TBD (courtesy of my mom)
Green Beans Marinated in Apple Cider Vinegar Salad Dressing
Cranberry Jelly a la Can
---
Mexican Chocolate Pumpkin Pie (recipe in November issue of Better Homes & Gardens)
Spiced Parsnip Cake 
A Dessert TBD (courtesy of my mom)

The beginnings of a table setting.
A few notes about the menu:

  • Growing up, my dad's aunt always made Brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving, and he always ate exactly one. This tradition prompted him to call her Aunt B.S. until he learned that b.s. stands for something other than Brussels sprouts. 
  • Three desserts is also a Thanksgiving tradition in my family. If you're really going for it, you finish your meal with a small piece of all three. 
  • We like to add a kitsch factor to our meal by serving cranberry jelly from the can still in the shape of the can, and my parents, my brother, and I all have a special serving platter just for the jelly.
  • Pimiento cheese and Mexican chocolate may not seem very traditional, but they are two of my true food loves. If I find a way to work them into a meal, it's happening.

The Real MVP
As for the subtitle on my Thanksgiving Menu graphic, the universe has decided to up the difficulty level on this year's dinner by putting my oven out of commission. I put in a work order a week ago, and it seemed to be working on a test run, but yesterday I found out that there's a part that needs to be replaced. It currently isn't the safest thing ever to use the oven, but the stove top is fine. I have a gas range, and I don't play around with gas, so the oven is right out. I was having a minor freak-out until I realized that all of the baking dishes that I need fit in my toaster oven. I use my toaster oven All The Time, so, once again, it is stepping up to the proverbial plate as the real (kitchen) MVP.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

A Soft and Subtle Mobius Cowl


Since I am currently enchanted with all things 'Dressing Your Truth,' when I spotted this yarn with its gently blended, muted colors, I knew I had to have it. The Mobius structure gives it a gently flowing appearance, and it feels soft and comfy against the skin. It's the sort of accessory that you put on in the morning because it's chilly outside, but you end up wearing it all day because it's just so cozy.

Materials:

Gauge: 19 stitches and 26 rows = 4"


Directions:
  • Cast on 117 stitches.
  • Beginning with a RS row, work 5 rows in stockinette stitch.
  • Beginning with a WS row, work 4 rows in garter stitch (2 garter ridges).
  • Switch back to stockinette stitch, and work until piece measure 8" from edge of second garter ridge, ending with a RS row.
  • Work 4 rows in garter stitch (2 garter ridges).
  • Work 4 rows in stockinette.
  • Cast off, leaving a low tail for sewing.
  • If you want to block your cowl, this is the time. Don't wait until after you've sewn the cowl together; the Moebius curve will make blocking extremely difficult.
  • Align the two edges of the work so that one edge has the right side showing and the other has the wrong side showing. This is what will create the Moebius curve.
  • Use your tapestry needle to sew the edges together with mattress stitch. Weave in other end.


Saturday, November 14, 2015

A Gentle Reminder

Who am I?

Who am I? by happilyintended on Polyvore

I'm about a week into my 30 Day 'Dressing Your Truth' challenge, and I'm having some mixed emotions. About half the time I look in the mirror, I think, 'Wow! I look so pretty!', and the other half of the time I think, 'I look so girly...'

Growing up, 'girly' wasn't a good thing. (This wasn't instilled in me in my home, btw, but it was the attitude of the other kids at school.) There was only girly in the sense of, 'You throw like a girl.' Expressing a soft and feminine style was for the weak and superficial. Other girls would judge you, and boys thought you were high-maintenance. I started playing soccer in large part because the cool girls seemed to be doing it, and I was tired of being ridiculed for being slow and unathletic. The only time it was acceptable to look pretty would be at a special occasion, like homecoming or prom.

Day 7: Got a lot of compliments! A little positive feedback never hurt anybody.

Reframing what it means to dress in a way that is soft and subtle has been a surprising difficulty of the process so far. It's easy to think, 'Oh, it's just clothes,' but matching your outside to your inside turns out to be a challenging thing to do. For many years, I used clothes as a force armor to protect my soft, gooey heart-center, and it can make feel very vulnerable without it. Overall I'm enjoying how I look. I feel really pretty and really comfortable (MAJOR for Type 2s), but I was not expecting dressing soft to require so much courage.

Have you ever changed your look and felt happy with it and insecure about it at the same time? Were you able to power through and come to a place of complete acceptance? Is complete, 24-7-365 acceptance of your appearance even possible?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Live (and Dress) Your Truth

Image via Dressing Your Truth Store

A couple years ago, I found Carol Tuttle's website while tooling around on the internet for resources on chakra balance. I started reading one of her books and learned about the 4 personality types. Intrigued, I decided to type myself. As I read, I thought, 'Oh man, there's going to be a quiet, introverted mouse-person type, and that will be me.' Sure enough, the soft and subtle Type 2 fit me to a T. I felt like I had confirmed that I am destined to fade into the background. I was stuck with the exact traits that people throughout my life have tried to get me to reject: quiet, introverted, detail-oriented, sensitive and slow. I would never naturally become a bright, bubbly person, nor would I morph into a bold go-getter.

And then something interesting happened. I calmed down and read about Type 2's a little more objectively. It sounded like... these were people with things to offer the world? Not just doormats? And it sounded like they didn't need to force themselves to be louder or more gregarious to have value, but they have worth just as they are. Most surprisingly of all, some of the qualities that I like most about myself were actually classic Type 2.

Anne Tuttle Brown, Type 2 Beauty Expert. Image via New Money Mama.

I saw that there was a 'spin-off', if you will, of energy profiling called 'Dressing Your Truth.' I dabbled in it as much as one could without buying the program, and I bought some 'soft and subtle' clothes and accessories, but it was never something that I was serious about. When I moved to Northern Virginia, it really went out the window. The DC metro area is fairly conservative and traditional--think lots of J. Crew. (Not that there's anything wrong with J. Crew!) I tried to fit myself into more of a classic-but-modern, neo-preppy, young professional look with more structure and bolder colors. I really wanted to fit in, and I really wanted to be taken seriously, so I slowed the flow of my Type 2 outfits to a grinding halt.

Then, about a week ago, came the email. 'Dressing Your Truth' was offering a 14-day free trial period. I figured, 'Why not?', and I signed up. I wasn't expecting to like it as much as I did. What I had seen before didn't feel terribly modern to me, but what I was watching was updated and really, really lovely. I found myself wishing that just about every piece shown in the Type 2 course was in my closet. I loved the idea of quietly celebrating my personality with my wardrobe choices every day. And, honestly, I really needed the reminder that I am good enough exactly as I am.

The lighting in my closet is terrible, but you can get an idea of what's in my first real attempt at a Type 2 wardrobe.

To wrap up a post that is already a bit too long, suffice to say that I'm all in: I'm taking the 30 Day Challenge and 'dressing my truth' for 30 days. I'm curious to see what emotions will pop up throughout the process and how I'll feel in a month's time. I intend to post about it periodically throughout the challenge, but, at the very least, I'll wrap up the 30 days with a before-and-after.

Have you done 'Dressing Your Truth' or similar programs? How did it go for you? Any fellow Type 2's out there?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

On Cooking For One


Cooking for one is a pain. It seems like you're either trying to measure out 1/6 of 1/4 of a cup of something, or you have so many servings of leftovers that having to eat that dish one more time feels like torture. In nearly a decade of cooking for mostly one and sometimes two, I've learned a few tricks:


  • Use a recipe template instead of a recipe. If you know some seasonings that nicely complement a favorite veggie or proportions of ingredients to whip up a marinade, you can cook a single serving size.
  • Cook recipes you LOVE, but only seasonally, so you still have a bit of the novelty factor on serving six.
  • I'd say, "freeze extra servings," but I don't think anything ever tastes as good defrosted from the freezer as it did when it was fresh. (But maybe I'm just bad at freezing stuff.)
  • Give your taste buds a break. You might be happier about eating the same dinner two or three nights in a row than eating the same for dinner then lunch then dinner then lunch.
  • Learn to transform your leftovers into something else. This topic is very popular this time of year, as home cooks try to figure out what to do with All. That. Turkey.


How can you transform one meal into the next?


  • Plan ahead. Do you want to try a new recipe for mushrooms, but you also love them tossed in with pasta sauce? Great! Make this week 'The Week of the Mushroom,' but keep your taste buds interested by varying the mushrooms' presentation.
  • Figure out if you can go ahead and cook the whole package, or if you need to reserve some uncooked in the fridge. Think outside the (recipe) box--if the mushrooms will be cooked in both recipes, could you cook them separately in a small skillet and toss them in at the end to let the flavors marry? Uncooked foods are more likely to languish in my fridge than cooked foods, possibly because feeling like I'm one step closer to a prepared dish can override end-of-the-work-day lethargy.
  • Commit to actually using up your foods. You did all that planning and prep work, so make it happen! I tend to have increased cooking inertia as the week rolls on, so, if I have set the stage for easy weeknight cooking by meal planning, grocery shopping, prepping veggies in advance, etc., I tend to keep cooking through the week. If I haven't down any of the ground work, I tend to turn to peanut butter and jelly or prepared foods.

Case in point:
This weekend I tried a new recipe: Curry Chicken Apples. As I am wont to do, I considered the recipe more of a suggestion than a directive, and I cooked the chicken on the stove instead of stuffing raw chicken into the apples. (I have a thing about touching raw meat, and that thing is that I avoid touching raw meat at all costs. Part of why I am mostly-vegetarian.) While I was cooking the chicken, I thought, 'Y'know what I haven't had in awhile that could use raw chicken? Sloppy Joe's. Hm... I'm going to have a lot of leftover curry chicken... I bet this would make a tasty take on a Sloppy Joe if I added tomato paste!' Then I started wondering which names are most common for males in India.

I'm not following my own guidelines, because I didn't plan ahead, but it's good to always be open to a lightning bolt of inspiration. If you keep a pantry stocked with cooking essentials, inspiration might not even require a trip to the store.

What are your pantry staples? How do you get excited about leftovers?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Songs Just Perfect for Today





The second one really brings back some memories from high school, mostly of questionable fashion choices.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Alphabetical by Author: Nickolas Butler

Image via Amazon

Admittedly, it's been awhile since I actually read 'Shotgun Lovesongs' by Nickolas Butler, so this review won't be terribly detailed. In short, I loved this book. It hit just the right note of sentimental and uplifting and, even though not many of us have best friends who are also rock stars, the characters are relatable. And they aren't just relatable; you'll actually feel for them and want to see them succeed. Rather than stick to just a single narrator, the narrator shifts between the main characters from chapter to chapter, so you get everyone's perspective. There is no bad guy, and there is no good guy. In other words, they're just like you and your friends--trying to do things the right way, but sometimes stumbling. And because of that, you're going to feel all the feels.

Definitely an author I will circle back to when I'm done with this whole alphabet project.

Next up: 'Telegraph Avenue' by Michael Chabon

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Style Your Stitches: Vera Cardigan

Have you ever made something to wear and then realized you have no idea how exactly you're going to wear it? I know I have. I'm starting this occasional 'Style Your Stitches' series to:

A. show off my finished projects a bit.
                        and
B. challenge myself to figure out how I'll wear them.

First up is the Vera cardigan from 'Perfectly Feminine Knits.'

 With a t-shirt and jeans, it's just right for casual weekend outings at which you could get away with a sweatshirt, but might rather kick it up a notch.

With a printed blouse and dress pants, it read almost like a blazer, but much cozier.

How do you style your knits? Ever went shopping to buy new clothes to wear with something you made? Or is your closet a museum of unworn sweaters? Anyone else notice that broken rib stitch is EVERYWHERE this fall?

Monday, November 2, 2015

'Put A Word On It' Thanksgiving Wreath


I so enjoyed my Halloween bat wreath that I decided to make another one for November/Thanksgiving. I like a rustic, harvest vibe for Thanksgiving, so I went with a grapevine wreath instead of using a styrofoam wreath form. Purple might not be a traditional Thanksgiving color, but I chose the purple flowers because I wanted something that would pop against my orange door. Materials and directions below:

Everything you need except a Sharpie

Materials:

  • Grapevine wreath form (Joann)
  • Silk flowers with a least three blooms (Michaels)
  • Wire cutters
  • Scissors
  • Wired ribbon (Michaels)
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Sharpie


Directions:

  1. Using the wire cutters, separate silk flowers and remove leaves as shown below.



  2. Thread the stems through the grapevine wreath in the center bottom, and then trim ends.



  3. Wrap the ribbon around either side of the hanging loop at the top of the wreath, and secure with hot glue. I folded under the raw edges to minimize fraying. The back of your wreath should look like this:



  4. Cut a long section of ribbon, and trim one end into an inverted 'V.' Starting with the last letter, write the word, 'thankful' in Sharpie. To make the letters stand out a little more, I went back and thickened the portions of each letter written with a down-stroke.
  5. Thread the ribbon around a center piece of grapevine, and then tie in a knot.
  6. Trim the end of the ribbon without writing into an inverted 'V.' 
  7. Because the ribbon is wired, you can adjust the two tails so that your writing is clearly visible and the two tails are reasonably symmetrical.