Sunday, October 2, 2016

1000 Things to Be Thankful For: Hospital Edition (260-1325)

The red-and-white ribbon seems to have multiple meanings; one of them is DVT awareness.

Those of you that know me in real life know that I had one hell of a summer, and not in a good way. First, my cat had emergency surgery to remove what turned out to be a horrifying volume of bladder stones. They could have easily killed her, had she not had the surgery. And, speaking of things that could easily kill, I went to the ER in (what I imagined was) an ambulance with sirens blaring, in the midst of what turned out to be a pulmonary embolism, two days after my last post. I was in the hospital for 4 weeks. Sometimes things were scary, and sometimes things were painful, but, more than fear or pain, I mostly felt gratitude. Overwhelming gratitude that I survived something most people do not. Something that most people did not think possible to survive.

When I started "1000 Things to Be Thankful For," I figured I would wrap it up around Thanksgiving, but there were so many things that went exactly right for Dolly Llama and myself that I finished the summer with quite the abundance of blessings. I can't imagine that many (or any) of the people I now think of as my hospital family will ever see this, but I wanted to publicly express how much everything they did for me means to me. My list runs somewhat chronologically, starting with DL's health crisis and moving into my own.

Edit: In the original draft of this post, I name-dropped some nurses and techs who are especially dear to my heart, but then I took them out. I felt like it implied that others were less-than, and I couldn't have that, especially because there's a pretty big chunk of time that I don't remember. Should anyone from the hospital read this, please know that I haven't forgotten the things you did for me, big and small. If you won't ever forget me, it is more than safe to say that I will never forget you.
  1. Discovering the bladder stones before anything got too scary
  2. Being able to get Dolly Llama in to surgery immediately
  3. Getting my furry baby home, safe and sound
  4. A very smooth recovery--no torn sutures or other complications
  5. Realizing that I needed to call 911, however that happened
  6. Having the ability to actually make the call
  7. Not remembering anything about the first 5 days of my hospitalization, including the symptoms that prompted me to call 911 in the first place
  8. - 269. The paramedics who spent a lot of time trying to stabilize me before transport
  1. - 271. The police officers who went to apartment to try to figure out how to get in touch with my family
  1. The amazing coincidence that one of them somehow knew that I teach for PWCS and used the school info to get in touch with my parents
  2. - 278. The ER team who spent even more time trying to stabilize me
  1. - 287. The people who collectively did 3 hours of CPR on me
  1. - 292. Surviving 5 cardiac arrests
  1. Dr. Arani, for figuring out what was causing all the cardiac arrests
  2. tPA, the hardcore clot-busting drug
  3. Donna, the nurse who actually administered the tPA
  4. The many prayers sent up for me by the staff of Sentara Northern Virginia
  1. Successful clot-busting with minimal collateral damage
  2. Being cleared by cardiology shortly after the clot-busting
  3. Full neurological function, despite very low oxygenation
  4. The coincidence of my brother being in town
  5. My brother's girlfriend, who I had not yet met, but who went with him on his first trip to the hospital, because that's what you do
  6. My friend Jason, who followed up his first shift as an ICU nurse with visiting me in a totally different ICU
  7. A safe 4-hour journey for my parents
  8. The police officer who came to visit, just to be sure I was ok
  9. - 409. The wonderful dialysis team, who sometimes had to really work for their money with me
  1. - 418. Nine successful rounds of dialysis
  1. - 423. Five blood transfusions and the anonymous people who donated them
  1. A blood transfusion that I choose to believe came from my sister-from-another-mister, who coincidentally had given blood shortly before I was admitted to the hospital
  2. A huge care package from family in North Carolina
  3. - 427. No complications from intubation (twice)
  1. Dr. Robinson, who took me flipping off SpongeBob Squarepants as a sign that I was ready for extubation
  2. Ice chips
  3. Graduating from ice chips to ice water
  4. My friend Ashley, who everyone assumed is my sister, and who had my back on everything from Saltines to cat snuggling to plush lungs
  5. - 443. The ICU nurses, who I know took such wonderful care of me, though I don't remember a whole lot about being there 
  1. - 456. The IMCU nurses, and all the times they took extra time for me and who made a totally abnormal situation seem totally fine
  1. The central lines that were maybe a little disturbing to look at, but saved me a ton on needle sticks
  2. - 469. The nursing techs who helped me hold together something resembling dignity
  1. Landing in a hospital where the staff cared about me so much that would log in to Epic and check up on me online
  2. - 473. The nursing team who was on the front lines with me the day I had a flash pulmonary edema (Sorry, guys...)
  1. Dr. Arani, again, for saving my life, again, canceling my code, and carefully checking my lungs for damage
  2. Everyone who came by my second ICU room to "yell" at me for going back there
  3. Late-night talks with night shift when I couldn't sleep
  4. Anytime anyone put lotion on my back
  5. Anytime anyone attempted to help me wash my hair
  6. Anytime anyone tucked me into bed with 6 or so pillows 
  7. How safe I felt the whole time I was in the hospital, even when things weren't going well
  8. The self-adjusting hospital beds--heaven, especially when I couldn't move around much at all
  9. - 497. Everyone who came to visit me, especially those who were brave enough to visit me in the midst of dialysis 
  1. - 501. The dietitians who helped me find things I could stand to eat
  1. - 507. The physical and occupational therapists who got me moving again
  1. The chaplain who made a point to check up on me and was always so kind
  2. - 608. Breathing treatments, which often made me feel better than any other treatment or medication I was getting
  1. When the breathing treatments stopped making me feel noticeably better, because I was in better shape
  2. - 615. The respiratory therapists who administered the breathing treatments, and who were often a source of good conversation and hospital tips
  1. - 621. The night shift x-ray techs, who are so good and quick at their job that they barely wake me up
  1. Forming bonds with all of these groups of people, who made it clear that they were following my progress and rooting for me
  2. The food service worker who got me fruit punch from the cafeteria instead of sticking me with Crystal Light
  3. - 651. The many cards I got from family and friends, some from relatives I haven't seen in years
  1. - 663. The ICU staff at VHC, who don't know me at all, and yet were still praying for me and monitoring my progress
  1. - 763. All of the people tracking my progress via Facebook
  1. - 787. The prayer chain at my parents' church
  1. - 1285. The prayers from my friends, family, and coworkers
  1. - 1290. The office staff for Dr. Arani and Dr. Robinson, who all know exactly who I was I ever set foot in the office
  1. Dr. Dibadj, my primary nephrologist, who kept me updated on all things kidney function, and who never doubted that they would heal (but had a totally workable back-up plan, just in case)
  2. Dr. Chan, my primary hematologist, who, after my second trip to the ICU, gave me the orders of, "Just be boring."
  3. Dr. Chutuape, who was a little late to the party, and who was at least as interested in my mental/emotional state as he was in the rashes he was called in to investigate
  4. Bill, who handled all of the insurance wrangling and set up home health care for me
  5. Lucking out on insurance--I just happen to have a $3000 out-of-pocket maximum with my current plan
  6. My at-home care team
  1. The friends who brought me meals
  1. Lucking into a primary care doctor I happen to really like
  2. Warfarin
  3. Having good enough kidney function that I will probably switch to Eliquis in the next week or so
  4. Normal results on all of my urology tests
  5. Days when no one asked me about my pee
  6. Graduating from physical therapy ahead of schedule
  7. Clearing that last little bit of fluid from my lungs
  8. Finally getting to the cornea specialist who was able to give me a diagnosis
  9. How easy cornea surgery is--over before you even realize you're technically having surgery
  10. The incredible amount of support I've gotten from my work friends to help with a very less-than-ideal sub situation
  11. Coming back to work and seeing a bat "mural" on my door
  12. Getting back to work as early as I did
  13. Reading the notes on my bat mural whenever I feel like I won't make it through the day (so at least once a day)
  14. Spending a lot more quality time with my parents than I normally would 
  15. The luck of my dad happening to be on sabbatical this fall
  16. Being well enough to spend some quality time by myself
  17. Routine "clot hunt" ultrasounds
  18. Feeling energetic and emotionally stable enough to write this post!


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

What's Cooking: Chocolate-Dipped Apricots and Tomato-Cheddar Pie

One of the best things I have ever made, for real for real.
I actually wrote this whole post before tasting the tomato-cheddar pie, and it turned out to be so good that I didn't think my writing really captured how delicious it is. Seriously, it is so good that you should click this link RIGHT NOW, go to the grocery store, and then finish reading this post while the pie is in the oven. I don't have the words to do it justice. Just make it. You will thank me when you taste it.

These are pretty good, too.

While you're waiting for your pie to cool, you can make the chocolate-dipped apricots to distract you from the tantalizing pie smells. They don't take long to come together, and they feel like a decadent treat without being completely terrible for you. To get started, soften 1/3 cup of semisweet chocolate chips and about a half teaspoon of oil in the microwave. This should take about a minute or a minute and a half. Stir until all chips are melted. You may find that you need to heat the chocolate a bit longer to get it all to melt, but you want to err on the side of having to make return trips to the microwave rather than overcooking. Dip the dried apricots in the melted chocolate, and then lay them on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. There's enough chocolate for about 18-24 apricots, depending on the size of the apricots and how exuberant of dipper you are. If you like, you can dust the dipped apricots with cinnamon, ginger, or sea salt for a little added depth of flavor. I personally love to pair garam masala with dark chocolate. Pop the cookie sheet in the fridge, and let the chocolate solidify for about 12 hours before you dive in.

Definitely a cloth-napkin-worthy dinner. I sliced a plum and a Saturn peach as a side/dessert.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Butter Yellow and Cornflower Blue - Fall Accessories Set

Before Dolly Llama came home after her bladder surgery, I took a trip to Fibre Space in Alexandria to check it out. I had never been there before, but I had a feeling from their online presence that I would totally love it. (I did.) Based on store samples, I selected the patterns for this hat and scarf, and then selected the pattern-appropriate yarns that spoke loudest to me. I also spied the Noro Silk Garden that features (more or less) both the yellow and the blue I had selected for a hat and scarf, knew that it would have to become some mittens, but bought it on a return trip after selecting a mitten pattern on Ravelry.

Ravel it!

A good indication of my stress level and/or exhaustion level is my ability to follow pattern directions. When I'm bringing my 'A' game, I interpret the directions correctly, and I catch mistakes logically. When I'm toeing the line of burnout, I don't do either of those things, and end up ripping out stitches. Sometimes repeatedly. This hat was the first project I worked on after DL came home, and I crocheted it 75% to completion twice before actually following the directions correctly. Anecdotal evidence that lack of sleep makes you dumb.

Ravel it!

I had better luck with this scarf. (I had caught up on some sleep before starting it.) I like that this pattern features lots of lacy, scalloped motifs, but they're all flat, so you don't feel like you're being strangled by ruffles when you wear it. It's the perfect weight for a crisp fall day or for wearing indoors.

Ravel it!

The color variations in these mittens make it possible to refer to these three pieces as a set. Granted, I may have more crochet stamina than most, but I finished both mittens less than 24 hours after purchasing the yarn. I estimate that each mitten took about 2 hours start to finish. These mittens are just the thing for when it's a bit chilly for bare hands, but not so cold that you need some serious gloves.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Favorite Things: The Pioneer Woman

Image via Google Play

Monitoring a post-op kitty who loves to snuggle means watching a lot of TV. Over the past two weeks, I've worked my through the "Good Eats" and "Ace of Cakes" collections on Netflix. When I finished "Ace of Cakes," I didn't know what to watch next. I thought, "Well, maybe I don't need to be watching so much TV anyway." And then I was doing a little research for a round of meal prepping with my mom. I wanted to make a dump cake, but I couldn't remember who long they go in the oven. I Googled, "dump cake recipe," and up popped Ree Drummond's recipe on her Pioneer Woman blog. I read the post, and I loved how her writing conveyed being perhaps a bit embarrassed about baking something definitively unhealthy and processed, but not so embarrassed that she wasn't willing to share it with readers. (And really talk up how tasty it was.) I thought, "I think I can get on board with any woman who knows the value of a good dump cake," so I started watching episodes of "The Pioneer Woman" on the Food Network website.

Image via The Pioneer Woman

Watching Ree prepare meals for her family and friends reminded me of something that I couldn't quite identify for several episodes. She puts a lot of care and thought into her cooking, and the finished project is typically served in a pretty and purposeful way. It took me awhile, but eventually I realized that the feel of "The Pioneer Woman" is a lot like the feel of a luncheon I went to years ago at a Texan relative's house. The lunch was women only, and she served what she referred to as "lady food": chicken salad, cheese straws, that sort of thing. The table was set in a lovely way (tablecloth, cloth napkins, etc.), but it wasn't so precious or fussy that it was intimidating. I felt special and welcome while I was there.

It was clear that Susan had put a lot of thought into the occasion. Well, not the occasion perhaps so much as the guests. She wanted us to have good food presented nicely, but, more important, she wanted us to be comfortable. This is what I see Ree doing for meals big and small. Her cooking is not solely an expression of what an amazing cook she is; it is primarily an expression of love.

A modest collection of cloth napkins

On the infrequent occasions that I entertain, I hope to hit the same note. I, too, want to put together a nice event, but I also care more about the comfort of my guests. But why define that level of grace as "for guests only"? I also want to have the feeling of being comfortable, cared for, and just a touch fancy in my home on a random Thursday. I typically eat dinner sitting on the couch with my laptop. It would not be hard at all for me to set my little pub table and just eat there instead, sans electronic devices. There's no reason why I can't use a cloth napkin while I'm at it. (This was an epiphany that prompted the purchase of some Pioneer Woman napkins.) I can care for myself as much as I care for my guests.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Etsy Shop Preview

I have been saying that I'm going to open an Etsy shop for months, so one of my goals for the summer is to actually do it. Well, banning more cat-related emergencies, I think I'm at the point where it's safe to say that I can open on Friday! The "first wave" of stock will be what I think of as "yarnware"--crocheted beakers (seen above) and Erlenmeyer flasks (seen below).

Eventually I plan to add green beakers and Erlenmeyers, but those aren't likely to be in stock for a week or two.

Current state of green yarnware
I also want to add digital prints, digital patterns for yarnware, and beaded jewelry to the mix, plus whatever else I dream up over the coming months. Ideally, I want to update the shop weekly for the rest of the summer (or until I run out of stock!).

Monday, July 11, 2016

A Tale of Four Scarves

You may recognize these scarves from my post about lazy blocking. They're all projects that I finished this spring and didn't feel motivated to wear in the climbing temperatures, so they had languished, unblocked, in my knitting bags.

Traveling Cable Scarf
Ravel it!
At some point, I decided that I wanted a purple scarf, so I picked up a ball of sock yarn and got to work. Specifically, I picked up a ball of Wisdom Yarns Naked Sock in Lilac Road. I have a feeling I based this project from a pattern I saw online, but I can't seem to retrace my steps and recover the original source pattern. Anyway, it's a pretty standard traveling cable pattern, so it wouldn't be hard to do a little Googling and improvise your own. 

Knotty Scarf
Ravel it!
I saw the Knotty Scarf in the summer issues of "Love of Knitting" and thought, "Ooohhhhh... I have to make that!" I used Red Heart Boutique Unforgettable in Tidal. The pattern is written for sport weight yarn, but I used worsted. As I recall, I cast on the same number of stitches so that I would be able to do the cabled loop as written, but I didn't do as many decreases and increases on the plain end to keep the scarf a reasonable length.

Loch Cowl
Ravel it!
My Loch cowl was inspired by a pattern for mittens in "Handmade in the UK" from Emily Wessel of Tin Can Knits. I had to do a little improvising beyond just following the lace chart, but it wasn't too hard to take a chart written for something that gets smaller at one end into something that stays (more or less) the same width throughout. The yarn is some pretty fancy stuff: String Theory Hand Dyed Yarn Merino DK in Twilight.

Laurel Leaf Cowl
Ravel it!
Both the pattern and yarn for this cowl came from a yarn store in Salem, Massachusetts. I love to pick up a skein of sock yarn when I'm traveling. Knitting with the yarn and wearing the finished project reminds me of my trip. This project gets extra-special bonus points, because the yarn is local and is from a yarn company that's really leaning into the association of Salem with witches--they're called Toil and Trouble.  

Believe it or not, I have even more finished objects coming in the next couple of weeks! My cat had emergency surgery a couple weeks ago, so I have spent a lot of time waiting for results, waiting for phone calls, and monitoring a sleepy, doped-up kitty. You just can't beat knitting and crochet for helping to ease stress and pass time. I have had plenty of anxiety to work out, so I have gotten a lot done!

Friday, July 8, 2016

This Weekend

The Queen Anne's Lace crochet scarf from Fibre Space

"The Secret Lives of Bats" by Merlin Tuttle

Tex-Mex and a strawberry basil dump cake! Tamale pie, King Ranch chicken, and black bean quinoa salad (not pictured).

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Lazy-Person, Big-Batch Blocking

Blocking is the knitting equivalent of ironing. It gives a nice, flat, clean look, but it's not very fun to do and a bit tedious. Blocking is best accomplished by pinning a wet finished object to a blocking board, having slightly stretched the material into the desired dimensions. You then allow the item to air dry, "locking in" the shape and size.

However... With the speed at which I knit, the available real estate in my apartment for blocking, and a cat who really enjoys licking wool and wool blends, the best method is not my preferred method. I instead do what I think of as a lazy person's blocking procedure, and I often block more than one thing at once. (I realize that serious knitters will probably give me some side-eye over this.) It works for me in part because I don't really care about crisp, precise edges. I don't mind if things look a little softer. Also, while I do a good bit of lace knitting, I'm not knitting the kind of shawls that demand really serious stretching and blocking to look nice.

If you want to give my method a go, here's what you need to do:

  • Lay out your knits on a table that can readily withstand some moisture, like a folding table.
  • Liberally spray everything down with water. You don't want your items to be dripping wet, but you do want them to be quite damp so that you don't have to do too much manhandling in the next step.
  • Lightly stretch and smush your items so that any lace patterns are nicely defined and edges are flat.

An eclectic mix, I know.
  • Place a towel over the top.
  • Place your heaviest books on top of the towel. I like to place the very heaviest books on the ends and the less-heavy books in the middle.
  • Wait about 24 hours (or however long it takes) for everything to dry.
  • Remove books and towel, then admire your work!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The $17 Pantry Redo

While I was out and about picking up things for my kitchen facelift, I grabbed a few items to organize my pantry, too. I love the look of dry goods like flour, rice, and beans in large glass jars, preferably with beautiful, handwritten labels. However, I didn't really want to plunk down a good chunk of cash on said glass jars when I unearthed some plastic containers while organizing the kitchen. I didn't have quite enough of the plastic containers for my needs, so I picked up another set at Ikea.

I did not want to compromise on my labels--I definitely wanted chalkboard labels. Luckily, since chalkboards have been popular for ages, JoAnn Fabrics had a plethora of options. Almost too many options. I went with Jar Jewelry Chalkboard Stickers intended for Mason jars. They come with chalk, but, after one attempt at pretty chalk writing, I realized that there was no way it was going to work for me. I scrapped the chalk and picked up a white marker on a trip to Michaels to check out the decorative letter selection.

While the labeled canisters pack some visual punch, there wasn't much to them: write the label, slap it on, fill the canister. Most of the time I spent on the pantry went into taking everything out, wiping down the shelves, organizing everything kinda sorta by grocery store aisle, and then putting it all back in. For me, this wasn't more than about 20 minutes of work. I try not to buy a bunch of prepared foods, because I inevitably feel heavy and lethargic when I eat them. I also don't often make food impulse buys, because I always shop with a list. If I don't have a list, I get very overwhelmed and frustrated very quickly, and probably leave the store with a frozen pizza and beer. Consequently, I just don't have that much food to wrangle.

The piece de resistance in the pantry is the small clipboard and notepad hanging on the inside wall. Most of my shopping lists are constructed while perusing recipes on the computer, and I tend to assume that I always have things like olive oil or salt on hand, so they don't make the list. Inevitably it's those staples that cause me to make a second trip to the store! Having paper and pencil at the ready makes it that much easier to write things down as soon as I run out, and all I have to do is check the clipboard before heading out to the store.

Friday, July 1, 2016

100th Post! Salmon Pasta Salad with Dill

I had thought I might write about my cat's emergency surgery and the blessings that came out of that for my 100th post today, but... I just have the words for that right now. She's doing well, but, now that things seem like they're going to be fine, I am starting to process the emotion of it all. Not really something I need to splash all over the internet.

As I was trying to recreate a pasta salad I had eaten at Whole Foods for lunch today, it dawned on me that a recipe would make a much better 100th post. It's more lighthearted than veterinary surgery, and it allows me to give you something to show my appreciation other than just something to read--a recipe card! You can easily modify this recipe to suit your tastes. Any kind of pasta will do, you can vary the type and amount of mustard to suit your tastes, and/or you could use fresh dill instead of dried.

Click on the recipe card for a larger, printer-friendlier version.

A note about canned salmon: If you haven't used it before, you should know going in that sometimes it's packaged in a very bare-bones (um, almost literally) way with skin on and bones in place. I had not encountered this before, and it really kind of freaked me out. One word: vertebrae. After a little research, I confirmed that it is cooked and ready to eat, and you can eat the bones if you were so inclined. (I wasn't.) This type of packaging is referred to as "traditional pack."

Thursday, June 30, 2016

1000 Things to Be Thankful For: 161-259

This is my 99th post. I had been planning for my 99th post to be about the day trip I was planning to take with my mom on Tuesday, and then my 100th post would have been this list plus one more thing that I am grateful for... but then some things came up. Stuff of the costly medical persuasion, but also the stuff that results in enough gratitude to merit its own stand-alone post. So I've had to adjust my plans a bit. I may work out a 100th post tomorrow, I may not. I may do a little more processing of the week's events over the holiday weekend and come back to it Tuesday.
  1. Adaptable relationships
  2. Plenty of rest
  3. Courage to go out of my comfort zone
  4. Interspecies friendships
  5. Bats
  6. Actually laying eyes on a binturong
  7. Stumbling upon a delicious restaurant
  8. A really good egg sandwich
  9. Osprey sightings
  10. Spotting a great blue heron in flight
  11. Animal web cams
  12. A sunny window in an air-conditioned cafe
  13. Working A/C in my car!
  14. Day trips
  15. Homemade pickles
  16. Farmers' markets in full swing
  17. Jeans every day!
  18. Plenty of kitty snuggles
  19. HGTV on Netflix
  20. Baby animals
  21. Fireflies
  22. Fireworks
  23. Catching up with friends
  24. Road trips
  25. Flip flops
  26. Painted toenails
  27. The feeling of sand under my feet
  28. Popsicles
  29. Cook-outs
  30. Fresh fruit cobblers
  31. Picnic food
  32. Long days (as in extra hours of sunlight)
  33. Long walks
  34. Days bookended with birdsong
  35. Moving at a slower pace
  36. Visiting with family
  37. Discovering a new yarn store
  38. Finally finishing projects that languished all school year
  39. Sundresses
  40. Spending an afternoon in a bookstore
  41. Huge glasses of iced tea
  42. Starting the day with yoga
  43. Not teaching summer school!
  44. Clean sheets
  45. No assessment data to collect
  46. A cold drink at the hot and humid zoo
  47. Fans that spray a fine mist of water
  48. Fresh corn
  49. Fresh tomatoes
  50. Making a big mess in the kitchen on a weeknight...
  51. And having all of the next morning to clean it up
  52. Second breakfast
  53. Spontaneous IKEA trips
  54. Leisurely drinking cinnamon coffee...
  55. And not having to plan out subsequent bathroom trips
  56. Logging fun stuff in my bullet journal
  57. The arrival of fall knitting and crochet patterns
  58. Days without an agenda
  59. Working on things for school without a deadline
  60. Discovering new blogs
  61. Discovering new books
  62. Daydreaming
  63. Visiting a farm
  64. Fresh flowers
  65. The perpetual "youth" of faux florals
  66. Braids
  67. Afternoon tea
  68. Meetings that feel more like work-family reunions than meetings
  69. Visiting vineyards
  70. Celebrating milestones
  71. Treasure-hunting at consignment shops
  72. Blonde highlights
  73. Cozying up in my bed during a thunderstorm
  74. Baking from scratch
  75. Drinking a lavender lemonade
  76. Time to stare off into space and daydream
  77. The satisfaction of organizing a space
  78. Watching gulls squabble over prime sitting spots
  79. When the school stuff hits the Target Dollar Spot
  80. The sound of cicadas
  81. Sleeping just the right amount
  82. Running into a box turtle on a hike
  83. Doughnut peaches
  84. The occasional actual doughnut
  85. The scent of honeysuckle in the air
  86. Driving around on a day when the sky is full of giant cotton-candy clouds
  87. Live music, preferably outside
  88. Lobster rolls
  89. Running into friends
  90. Having a fancy lunch out, just because
  91. Going somewhere new
  92. Planning parties (even if I don't end up throwing them)
  93. Ending the day pleasantly sleepy instead of exhausted
  94. Sitting on a porch, drink in hand
  95. Eating on patios
  96. Successfully avoiding sunburn
  97. Mosquito-free rivers, thanks to #5
  98. Eating oysters
  99. Feeling like the world is my oyster

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Finisher: Kayleigh Tank

I finished the first of what I hope will be many works-in-progress this summer. I actually only had to sew the seams and weave in the ends, which, in and of itself, can be a battle, and, on top of that, I had run out of yarn. And the yarn I used was discontinued. I really only took action on it when I did because I realized I had some yarn of a similar color on hand, and it wouldn't ruin my plans if I used a little bit of it for seaming.

I had this run of sweaters coming out too small, and I was worried that this one would be no different, but I think it's really a very good fit. While the yarn I used is cotton, it is a pretty bulky, textured cotton, so this is really a top for a day that's going to be full of air-conditioning. Maybe a day spent at an art museum. I'm "modeling" it with skinny jeans, but I think it would also be cute with cut-offs. You'll want to wear a tank top underneath, because the eyelets in the leaves are not exactly small. If you spied by goat-and-monogram necklace, I got it from Kim's Jewelry on Etsy.

Particularly since the yarn I used is now discontinued, I'm not going to any details here. However, if you want to know the pattern I used, etc., you can check out my project on Ravelry.

Monday, June 27, 2016

The $50 Kitchen Facelift

Immersing myself in home decor shows and magazines has, oddly enough (*sarcasm*), resulted in wanting to fix up my apartment. However, since this is the summer of less, I'm going for an approach that is both light on labor and light on cost. To borrow some verbiage from "Fixer Upper," I set a kitchen budget of $50 all-in.

My version of "demo day" involved organizing all of the cabinets and drawers and doing a thorough deep-cleaning. Throwing in some new accessories won't do much to brighten things up if I can't find anything and there are still spills from meal-preps past dotting the stove top. (Yeah, I could stand to step up my housekeeping game.)

Once all of the cleaning was done, I brought in my new accessories: dishtowels, a spoon rest, artwork, a cheeky coffee scoop. Aaaaand... that's it! Less than a day of effort to do all the organizing, cleaning, shopping, and staging, and my kitchen feels clean, bright, and pretty. The colors in my kitchen are brighter than anywhere else in my apartment, but bringing in some floral print and some detailed, feminine artwork helps soften the overall look and make it feel a little more connected to the other rooms.

Not the most luxurious or dramatic kitchen makeover ever, but under budget, and I'm quite pleased with the end result.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Crafternoon: State Silhouettes

The only two states in which I have lived are probably also the two states most full of themselves: Virginia and Texas. When I was younger, I was horrified by the idea that someone might recognize me as a Southerner. I was positive that any hint of accent when meeting someone new would conjure images of Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel, and I Did. Not. Want. That. However, the older I get, the less I care what people think, and the more I embrace the geographical area known as The South.

The project is inspired by some prints I saw in an old issue of "Country Living." It's perfect for an afternoon, because you'll have it completed in less time than it took you to go buy the materials. Make one for yourself, or make one for someone who recently moved or is especially proud of their state and/or hometown.


  • Caffeinated beverage
  • Word processing software of your choice
  • Cardstock
  • Printer
  • Scrapbook paper (2 contrasting designs/colors)
  • Scissors
  • Pencil
  • Glue of some kind
  • 8.5" x 11" frame


  1. I like to start all of my projects by making either coffee or tea. For this project, I went with Celestial Seasonings Antioxidant Max Green Tea with two turbinado sugar cubes. Caffeine is an essential part of my creative process.
  2. Do a Google search for an outline of your state.
  3. Select a relatively simple version of your state, and then copy the image into a word processing program. If your state is taller than it is wide, stick with portrait layout. Since Virginia is on the long-and-skinny side, I used landscape.
  4. Resize the map so that it will fill most of the paper; print onto cardstock. If you don't have cardstock, it's not the end of the world, but a heavier paper will make tracing easier.
  5. Cut out the state shape, and then trace the template onto a piece of scrapbook paper. Erase any stray marks, then cut out the state.
  6. If you're using a new frame, use the paper insert as a guide for cutting down another piece of contrasting scrapbook to the dimensions of the frame.
  7. Glue the state onto the center of the paper you just trimmed.
  8. Allow the glue to dry before slipping it into the frame.
  9. If you want to get really fancy, you could place a sticker or draw a heart around the place you live.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Favorite Things: Fixer Upper

Image via
I'm late to the party on this one, I know, but how great is "Fixer Upper"? Chip and Joanna Gaines are the definition of relationship goals, and the homes they fix up are gorgeous. "Fixer Upper" has all the elements of a hit home show: choosing between properties, demo day, and a big, dramatic reveal--no wonder it is so insanely popular! I also love how everyone on the show is so nice and understanding. I'm about halfway through Season 1, and I have yet to see a client blow up over an unexpected cost or a crew member buckle under the pressure and act poorly. Not everything goes smoothly, but all of the adults involved seem to be committed to behaving like actual adults, and they keep the mood as lighthearted as possible.

I don't think there's any way to watch this show and not get an itch to fix up your own space. (Or, y'know, buy a dilapidated home in Waco and let the Gaines family handle it.) However, most of us watching at home can't just grab a sledgehammer and start swinging. Most of us probably can't gut our existing decor and run out to buy all the stuff necessary to stage our homes like Joanna either. So what to do with the desire to fix things up?

  1. Clean. Have you noticed how all of the Magnolia makeovers feature a lot of white, natural light, and open space? You really can't have that feeling with clutter and dust everywhere. Get crazy and wash your windows, too, for maximum brightness.
  2. Declutter with baskets. Baskets of all stripes can be found anywhere, and they pop up a lot on "Fixer Upper." Clear a surface or two by corralling the stuff that doesn't really have a home in baskets, and increase the feeling or airiness you got started by cleaning. 
  3. Put a letter on it. Large cardboard, wood, and metal letters abound at craft stores. Get yourself one, decorate it if you wish, and then either hang it on the wall, or just perch it on a shelf. Instant "Fixer Upper" style, but it's about as personal as a copy-cat project gets.
  4. Practice your penmanship, and then label everything. Have you noticed the abundance of chalkboards and chalkboard labels? Joanna (or someone on her staff) has really pretty casual-but-fancy script that adds a charming touch to kitchens and gardens.
  5. Add some flowers. Real is always better than fake, but nice silk flowers will get the job done, too. Flowers and plants up the style quotient of your home kind of like jewelry and accessories improve your outfit. They have no purpose other than looking nice, so incorporating them into your decor sends a signal that you really care about having a beautiful and inviting home.  

If that's not enough, and you need both your wardrobe and your home look like Joanna styled it, check out this article from "Country Living." And if you're really looking to go all in on Gaines's style, you can check her makeup essentials on her blog.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Finisher

Frequently Asked Knitting Question: Isn't it too hot to knit in the summer?
Answer: Not if you have air conditioning.

I tend to do a lot of knitting and crocheting in the summer. As always I have several projects on hooks and needles in various stages of completion. A Lofty Goal would be to use up my stashed craft supplies; a more Reasonable Goal might be to simply finish those projects that I've started. Since it is the Summer of Less, I will go the reasonable route.

This is what I'm working on, minus a few pattern-less projects that I'm making up as I go:

Image via Ravelry

As I was uploading this picture, I thought, "Y'know, I think I've blogged about this sweater before..." It has been in progress for about a year, so it's entirely plausible. Anyway, I'm using a soft, light brown cotton/wool blend.

Image via Ravelry
I started this vest around Thanksgiving, and I'm a little over halfway done. It's hard to see, but it has pockets, which is a fun and exciting feature to knit. Mine will a light heather rose pink.

Image via Ravelry
This is something I started just in the last week or so. I'm using a soft green chenille yarn that is probably meant for baby blankets. I decided that I wanted a solid cardigan for a couple reasons: I'm not in love with the over-sized polka dot effect of the two colors, and I didn't want to weave in as many ends.

Image via Ravelry
The only summery knit in the bunch, this tank actually only needs to be seamed. The yarn I used is a textured cotton in a shade of green slightly more yellow than the color shown here. 

What are you working on this summer?

Friday, June 17, 2016

As the end of the school year approaches, I always find myself setting goals for the summer. They're usually pretty lofty: Become a blogging and Etsy sensation! Run a 5K--no walking (nevermind I can't even run a mile)! I usually also have some sort of major life event involving a moving van and/or airplane in the works. What ends up happening is that the summer becomes all about The Major Event, and then, once that's over, it becomes all about being disappointed in myself for how little progress I made on my Lofty Goals.

As I started planning this summer, I realized that I don't want anything Big. I want a summer of less. My goals are more along the lines of "eat a lobster roll" and "declutter my closet" than radically changing aspects of my life. I would like to be generally healthier, but I don't need to be able to run a certain distance or studiously monitor my diet. I would like to have less stuff, but I'm not interested in experimenting with hardcore minimalism. I would like to do more of the little things that fuel me (crafting, reading, walking) rather than banking on a vacation or move to recharge my spirit.

To kick off my summer of less, I'm going to really get back to basics. Like biological-necessity basics. I'm going to focus on two things that are completely essential, but are often the first to be compromised when we're stressed: oxygen and water. Starting Sunday, I will meditate and drink more water. I have been giving myself the excuse of "too tired--just want to go to bed" to avoid meditating, and I am so absorbed in my love affair with caffeine that I seldom drink plain water. Literally anything would be an improvement (which I say as a positive thing rather than self-admonition), but setting a goal to meditate daily and drink a glass of water before each meal feels right.

As I move through the summer months, I plan to keep building on my self-care habits while also pursuing some of my other projects. You are, of course, invited along for the ride, and you can certainly play along with me! What are you doing to make this a healthy and happy summer?

Saturday, May 7, 2016

This Week's Meal Plan

Prepped to prep!

With the unexpected popularity of last week's post about meal-prepping, I thought I would share my game plan for this week. (Click the planner below for a full-size view.) For anyone concerned about time investment, it took me about an hour and a half to construct my meal plan, make my grocery list, AND write this blog post. I start with what's already in the freezer and then fill in the gaps with recipes that share similar ingredients and/or utilize ingredients already in the fridge or pantry to develop my menu.

Click to see full size
What I'm Prepping on Sunday:

  • Trail mix (dried berries, chocolate chips, raw almonds)
  • Green beans (cooked in package, then drizzled with vinaigrette)
  • Applesauce cake
  • Popcorn (popped on the stovetop, then tossed with combo of herbs and spices)
  • Ratatouille
  • Tortellini bake

What's Already in the Freezer:

The Game Plan:

  • Defrost marinara sauce and 3 sweet potato burgers in fridge Saturday into Sunday.
  • On Sunday, prep and bake applesauce cake.
  • Chop veggies and herbs for ratatouille and tortellini bake.
  • Prep tortellini bake, put in oven with applesauce cake.
  • Start ratatouille on the stove, then put in oven after applesauce cake is done.
  • While ratatouille and tortellini bake are finishing up, start popcorn on the stove.
  • Fill small containers with trail mix during remaining cooking/baking time.
  • When popped, toss popcorn with whichever herbs and spices I'm in the mood for.
  • At dinner time, cook burgers and fries in the oven on a cookie sheet. 
  • Cook green beans in microwave, then dress.
  • Finish up burgers with a quick pan-fry to add some crunch/crispiness to the outside of the patties.
  • When everything has cooled, package into single-serving containers. Put everything perishable in the fridge. 
  • On Monday, transfer all meals for Wednesday through the end of the week to the freezer.

Worth Noting:

I'm breaking some of my own "rules" this week--I'm going to have a rotating cast of characters going in and out of the oven on Sunday, and I will have some minor prepping to do during the week. Having to do anything at all during the week is usually my downfall with meal planning, but I think I can manage it. All I need to do is pop ratatouille topped with a raw egg into the toaster oven for about 20 minutes. Since I would want to reheat it regardless (and I really love ratatouille with an egg on top), I'm pretty sure I've got this.