Awakening

Is it spring or what?! A thick, yellow dust covered our little world last week, and while I hate the pollen and the allergies it produces, it’s a sure sign of budding flowers, warmer weather and my innate desire to spring clean! So bring it on!!

The sum or parts of my family are on the tail end of several weeks on the road (mostly weekend trips), and I’m happy to say things are now slowing down so we can enjoy our home, reconnect with friends and enjoy an awesome springtime. Our travels took us to Florida, Texas, the Dominican Republic, Las Vegas, Bald Head Island (NC) and Beaufort (SC). Needless to say, March and April were a blur…living out of suitcases and using too many travel toiletries to count. I’m ready to make a significant investment in fresh fruits and veggies at our local grocery store.

Spring is inspiring in so many ways. Besides the obvious thaw from winter, it is flush with awakening…nature is coming to, inviting us to come out and play. Five years ago at this time, I was 6 months pregnant, filled with a need to prepare my home and life for our little girl and our transition from a couple into a true family.

This year, my nesting phase is back with vengeance. I’ve been cleaning out closets and organizing the house, preparing to purge our unnecessary “things” in an upcoming neighborhood yard sale (Saturday, May 3, if anyone’s inclined to buy our outgoing treasures). I’m hoping to put a few of my painted furniture pieces into the sale, as well. Here’s a sneak peek at my latest project, an Annie Sloan chalk-painted china cabinet…more to come as I complete this fabulous piece.

sneakpeek_chinacabinet

Our house recently underwent a much-needed maintenance update: fixed nail pops, re-stained front door, filled and touched-up nail holes, and resealed moldings and baseboards throughout. I’ve gotta say it looks pretty spiffy; the house appears brand new…and I’m glad we’re here to enjoy it.

The flower beds are prepped and ready for their spring mulch. My to-do list includes “buy/plant flowers”…which will likely happen later this week after “return library books” and “get groceries!!!” are accomplished. Aside from that, I finally remembered to schedule someone to remove a dead tree from our back yard…sadly, it has been gone for a few summers now but it sits just out of view from our back windows so I kept forgetting about it.

It sure is nice to get some of these things checked off the to-do list. Maybe once the garage sale is over I will reinstate a weekly meal plan, get back to painting and sewing, and keep this blog better updated…fingers crossed!

 

 

 

 

For the love of Jared Leto

On the heels of his recent Oscar win, I’m sharing a few snippets from my personal archives for my “fans of Jared Leto” friends…

30 seconds to mars marquee

Ben and I were lucky enough to spend New Year’s Eve (2010) with 30 Seconds to Mars at their show at The Palms, Las Vegas. At the time, I was only familiar with a few of their songs, however I quickly became a fan of Leto’s intense musical skills. He is immensely talented – both on the screen and on the stage. And he’s just, ahem, pretty.

The concert was the crazy! Aside from the musical enchantment, the fans were incredibly…how do I put it?…dedicated to the band. Fans sported temporary tattoos to mimic Leto’s own ink and crazy get-ups including vinyl catsuits and lots of mesh (not us, of course). So. Much. Fun!

I’ll apologize up front…the videos are dark, light is bad but the sound is okay. Hope you enjoy these quick clips of the live show!

30 Seconds to Mars, “Kings and Queens” (excerpt; right after midnight so the stage is packed with revelers the band invited to join them for the countdown)

30 Seconds to Mars, “Hurricane” (excerpt). Admittedly one of my all-time favorite anthemic songs…he hits a super-smooth, haunting note at the end of this clip. Crush!

30 Seconds to Mars, covers “Bad Romance” (excerpt)

Winter Wonderland in NC

For North Carolina, at least the central part of the state, a snow storm is truly rare. Where we live, the threat of snow empties bread/egg/milk shelves, and a mere dusting sends schools and businesses into an almost laughable tailspin (laughable if you’re a transplant from the north or Midwest). We just don’t have the means to manage the roads, and honestly, no part of the country can really manage ice in great quantity.

This winter, our kids have had the great fortune of several snow days…some justified, some not so much. This past day, however, has certainly made up for those laughable days of the past few weeks. We got snow! Lots and lots of beautiful snow fell Wednesday, followed by an overnight coating of ice, and then another few inches of the pretty fluffy stuff throughout today!

Needless to say most of the state is immobile. But we have made the most of it – having prepared with a decent food supply and other “power-outage-potential” materials – and today has been a fun-filled day of exploration and snow play. I even had to resort to “rustic” means to knock the ice off our DISH satellite…using a very long fishing pole, no less! LOL!!

All that said, I’ll share some of our favorite spectacles and moments of the day!

DSC_0075 DSC_0020 DSC_0017 IMG_2974 IMG_2976 IMG_3012 IMG_2982 IMG_2983 DSC_0052 DSC_0037 DSC_0019 DSC_0022 DSC_0001 DSC_0024IMG_3019 IMG_3046 IMG_3039 IMG_2971

*That last shot of the snowy ground…those are two bushes which were split in half this morning by a sheet of ice which slid off our metal roof above the front porch. This also happened four years ago, and I had to dig out one of them to replace it as it died. Not feeling great about the chances for these two fellas…

Back in the Saddle with Big News and Shoe Goo (UPDATED!)

Well, hello there stranger! It feels good to be back online. I took a brief (2 months?!) hiatus from blogging to enjoy the holidays, travel and focus on my family. To say the last few months has been a roller coaster is an understatement.

To make the long story short…after several weeks of negotiations (and more than a few emotional ebbs and flows), my husband’s company was bought out by a well-known, publicly traded media company (click here to see press release). Woo-hooooo! It’s a win for both companies, and the team is excited to be part of a revolution in the industry.  I’m elated to have my husband back (physically, emotionally and spiritually, ha!), and Gemma is enjoying the extra attention and playtime she’s getting from daddy. We’re looking forward to a quick family getaway this weekend to Wintergreen (Virginia) to ski, ice skate and make great memories!

And while I’m on the subject of cold weather, we’ve had our fair share of freezing temps this winter…even a few snow/ice days (rare, for NC). While packing for our weekend trip, I found my favorite pair of snow boots. They are comfy, warm and unfortunately, the outer rubber shell has cracked. Honestly, I’ve only worn these boots a total of 12-15 days in the last 6 years!

When I first noticed the problem last spring, I contacted the manufacturer and learned the boots have a lifetime warranty for defects (and Columbia admitted these were a defective style). I was pleasantly surprised to get a brand new replacement pair of boots in the mail a few weeks after submitting my documentation. However, I was bummed I didn’t get to choose a comfortable style (to address my wide foot) or color (to coordinate with my existing winter wardrobe). The new boots are okay. Wouldn’t have chosen (bleh) brown or a boot with the higher ankle shaft (as the top of the shaft on the new boots digs into my calf when I walk). But they were free…so I really shouldn’t complain, right?!

old boots new boots

I’ve worn the new pair a few times (even despite the fashion-clash…oh, the horror! LOL) but held onto the old boots with hopes I might be able to repair them. So earlier this week I found myself fresh off an REI-run where not one, not two, but three employees were eager to help me find a solution to heal my broken boot.

cracked boot

We settled on a fix-it collection of 1) Shoe Goo (a waterproof adhesive/sealant; $6, REI), 2) ParkTool TB-2 Emergency (bike) Tire Boot (a thin, reinforced adhesive tire boot film; $3.50, REI), 3) Tenacious Tape Patches (round adhesive patches similar to duct tape; $2.95, REI), and 4) a 10-inch piece of bicycle inner tubing from the REI recycle bin (FREE thanks to the bike shop attendant).

boot repair options

After closer inspection, I decided the Shoe Goo and Tenacious Tape patches would likely be my best options. So here’s how my experiment went…

Step 1. Cleaned the surface of the boot. Stuffed the toe of the boot with paper towels.

Step 2. Used a popsicle stick to apply a thin layer of Shoe Goo to the open crack base layer and between all open edges of cracked rubber. Cut a piece of Tenacious Tape patch to roughly the size of the cracked opening and wedged that piece inside the opening to seal the inner soft shell and create a new base layer for the next step of Shoe Goo. 

Shoe Goo to inner shell

Tenacious Tape patch to create new base layer

Step 3. Used a popsicle stick to apply another layer of Shoe Goo between the layer of Tenacious Tape patch and the outer rubber layer. I made a make-shift compress using popsicle sticks and rubber bands to keep pressure on outer rubber layer and then let the first layer of Shoe Goo dry for 2 hours. Repeated this step and let dry for 3 hours before removing the compress.

Shoe Goo under compression

Step 4. Cut another piece of Tenacious Tape patch and affixed to entire cracked area to seal Shoe Goo, making sure to press all edges to ensure tight seal.

Tenacious Tape seal

"Fixed" boots

I’m hopeful this will give extended life to my winter boots, and our weekend on the mountain will be a great test of the waterproofing and durability/adhesion capabilities of the Tenacious Tape.

I’ll post a follow-up next week with the results of this project. At least I know I have a back-up pair of boots waiting for me at home if this doesn’t turn out as I hope it will! Until then, I hope y’all have a great weekend!! Stay warm and snuggle with your loved ones!

UPDATE (2/10/14): Despite my well-intentioned DIY attempt to fix my favorite snow boots, I am sad to report it was not a success. I can safely say the boot itself became an epic fail. Not only did the spot I fixed begin to tear around the edge of my glue/tape but new cracks began to open on the other boot (in no less than 4 different spots). Its clear the rubber on these boots was indeed defective (as Columbia admitted), and I was possibly too optimistic I could salvage them. I’m happy I got another weekend out of them before tossing them out. Now to break in my replacement pair (and just in time as we’re expected to get another bit of snow or ice this week…yay, grrrr!).

more cracks in the rubber

more cracks in the rubber 2

Special Delivery: Gift Cards

This year the families from Gemma’s preschool class combined forces to get the teachers gift cards to their favorite stores and restaurants for Christmas. Here’s an idea for how to package those cards and give the teachers a little something extra for all care and guidance they give our kids!

gift card boxwood planters

Materials:

  • Boxwood or other potted plant (We found mini boxwoods in wood planters at Trader Joe’s.)
  • Gift cards
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Drinking straws
  • Scissors
  • Optional: colorful tinsel garland, small ornament(s)

Step 1. Wrap your gift cards in pipe cleaners to resemble bows on a present. Wrap your gift card vertically with one pipe cleaner, leaving a long end to thread through a drinking straw. Wrap a second pipe cleaner horizontally from behind, twisting or making a bow with the ends on the front.

Step 2. Insert straw in dirt of potted plant; you may wish to cut your straws to create varied heights for the “presents”. Insert your pipe cleaner/gift card into a straw.

Step 3. (Optional) Tuck some tree garland around the base and add a few ornaments (we used a foam craft gingerbread ornament which Gemma made at home).

gift card boxwood planter

This is a fun way to package gift card presents for anyone on your wish list!!

Norwegian Krumkake

The holiday season is the best time to celebrate traditions and feed your soul. My celebration couldn’t be complete without some good old-fashioned baked goods, and this year I’m including a family favorite which represents my Scandinavian heritage. Krumkake (krmk), is best described as a fancy waffle cookie and simply translates to curved cake in Norwegian.

Krumkake recipe

krumkake

My mother and grandmothers made this delicate treat each holiday season, and as a child I’ll admit it wasn’t the first item I chose from the dessert tray. No, I lunged for anything with sprinkles, chocolate or caramel. However, as an adult, I have come to love this crispy, sweet-tasting cookie and decided to make a batch myself. Lucky for you, I’m sharing my recipe (a slight variation from the one pictured above) and some tips you can use to make your own krumkake.

To make krumkake, you will need a special krumkake iron, available online from Villa Ware through Amazon or other specialty retailers (~$100). I received mine as a gift from my mother, who incidentally uses a traditional stove-top iron vs. my electric, non-stick iron. Your iron will come with a wooden cone to roll/shape the cookies. You’ll need a large cooking space, a timer, and a spatula to remove the cookie from the hot iron once it’s done. As you can see below, I wasn’t sure what type of spatula would work best. The slotted, stiff spatula did the trick.

krumkake_materials

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (softened to room temperature)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 6 tablespoons milk

Step 1. Preheat krumkake iron. Grease iron with cooking spray or shortening.

krumkake_iron

Step 2. Beat eggs with a hand mixer or Kitchen Aid mixer.

krumkake_eggs

Step 3. Add sugar, butter, vanilla and cardamom and mix well.

krumkake_sugar krumkake_butter

krumkake_vanilla krumkake_cardamom

Step 4. Add flour and milk, alternating a little of each and mixing well as you go. The batter should have the consistency of a thick pancake batter.

krumkake_flour krumkake_milk

Step 5. Spoon a tablespoon-sized dollop of batter in the center of each krumkake plate and close the iron. Let the batter bake for 30-45 seconds.

krumkake_batter

Step 6. Open the iron and use a spatula to remove the cookie from the plate and set on a towel/countertop. Use the wooden mold to roll the cookie into a cone shape. Allow cookie to set a few seconds before transferring to a cooling rack. The cookie will be soft when you remove it from the oven and will crisp up as it cools. Repeat until you’ve used all the dough.

krumkake_baked krumkake_baked spatula krumkake_roller krumkake_rolled

Step 7. You may wish to sprinkle with sifted powdered sugar for additional sweetness, or serve with berries, jam, whipped cream or Nutella. Be sure to store krumkake in a covered cake pan or other airtight container (to avoid humidity as they will stale quickly otherwise).

I love the traditional krumkake cone however I also love waffle cones with my fro-yo and ice cream. After making about half the batch, I decided to experiment a bit using some nesting bowls to create some krumkake bowls for my frozen delights. I was pleasantly surprised to see these turn out so well!

Instead of rolling the cookie on the cone, I simply placed the warm cookie over top of the smaller glass bowl, then cupped the larger glass bowl over the top to mold it into a bowl shape. I let each one cool for 30 seconds before transferring to a cooling rack, placing them upside down to keep their shape until they cool completely.

krumkake_glass nesting bowls

krumkake_bowl mold

YUMMO!!!

krumkake_fro-yo

Yield: 24

Special Notes:

Tea Time

Well that was the silliest tea party I ever went to! I am never going back there again! Said no 4-year-old little girl ever!

Last week, Gemma hosted five of her classmates at a special tea party playdate complete with mommy’s fine china and lots of sugar cubes. Oh, and an hour of dress-up time pre-tea!

From the moment she hopped out of bed, Gemma was a ball of energy. She happily downed breakfast, helped me prep the table, and hopped into her leotard with no foul or fuss to await her friends’ arrival.

waiting for her tea party

Aside from the girls in her class, we also had the pleasure to visit with a few younger siblings and a group of great mama’s and grandma’s. It was wonderfully packed house as the girls tried on dresses and fairy wings and loads of jewels from the treasure chest. Gemma was a good host, letting her guests choose their accessories first, and finally settled on her chef uniform for her attire. There were puzzles, ponies and dolls strewn throughout the house, as the girls explored the playroom and kept busy entertaining themselves. However,  it wasn’t long until the tea table, filled with cookies and fruits, beckoned them. So to the table we went!

tea party guests

The girls got to select their tea flavor – either Passion Fruit or Baked Apple Cinnamon – and judging by their request for refills, I’d say their apple cinnamon choice was a hit…or maybe the sugar cubes kept their thirst alive! The girls were perfectly polite and it brought me great joy to see Gemma engage with her peers throughout the morning.

As the adult host, I must admit I was amused overhearing the conversations between mothers and daughters as the elders asked the little ones to be very careful with the fine china tea cups and saucers. I had to admit to them I was not worried…considering I spent the night before taking price tags off of all but five settings. Needless to say, the cups and saucers were part of our wedding china set (we got hitched in 2005) and most had never been used before. Over the years I’ve adopted a rule to use it if we’ve got it…and in this case if I haven’t used them for my adult friends, Gemma might as well get some enjoyment out of them.

It’s safe to say every little girl deserves a tea party with her best girls. And if you’re thinking of hosting a tea party yourself, I’ll share a few tips to help you prepare a fun, colorful and inexpensive partyscape for your special occasion.

Tissue Paper Poms

I’ve always wanted to make tissue paper poms and this tea party was the perfect excuse. I love the simplicity of the tutorial from Bramblewood Fashion blog. The author, Ashley, offers clear pics and instructions for fool-proof poms in just five easy steps. G and I chose red, pink and turquoise to compliment the holiday decorations we already have throughout the house.

tissue paper garland for tea party 1

tissue paper garland for tea party 2

Easy-peasy Placemats

The easiest items of our crafty tablescape were the placemats. We simply placed paper doilies on sheets of scrapbook paper. Voila! The scrapbook paper lets you create any theme, color scheme or mood for your party. And if you don’t want the frill of a doily, place a smaller, solid-colored square of paper on top of the larger, patterned scrapbook sheet, and you have a modern alternative.  Next time we plan a tea party, I’ll be sure to laminate these babies so we can reuse them.

tea party placemat partyscape

I’ll also give a shout out here to my grandmother, Lorraine (Weigelt) Schossow Black, who crocheted the white tablecloth I layered on my green cloth. She passed away in 2011, and I’m fortunate to have several pieces of her handiwork throughout my home. She was the original crafter in our family; she made cloths and doilies year-round and sold them at festivals and shows throughout eastern North Dakota. I have great childhood memories watching her work in her rocking chair and seeing her stretch the pieces on a large board to keep them taut for starching. This craft, along with many of her other talents (knitting afghans, playing the organ, making lefse and canning foods, are almost lost arts these days.

Coffee Filter Garland

The last element of our DIY tea party decor was the coffee filter garland I hung in the window. My only regret was not making more to fill the windows.

coffee filter garland

Coffee filters are great for party garland since they’re easy to find (probably in your kitchen now), inexpensive (in case they’re not in your kitchen now), and are built to withstand water (which makes for easy dyeing). The only con is they don’t absorb colors strongly…i.e. the colors are muted or pastel (perfect for baby or wedding showers), so keep that in mind if you try this at home.

Here are 5 steps to create your own coffee filter garland.

What you need:

coffee filter garland materials

  • Coffee filters (I used the smaller size filters since that’s what I had in the house)
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • Cake pan (one for each color; or wash same pan between each dye job)
  • Baking sheet/jelly pan
  • Paper towels
  • Sewing machine/thread

Step 1.  Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Place 2 cups of water in shallow baking pan/dish and add 8-10 drops of food coloring. Make a pan for each color you desire. (or plan to reuse same container and dye each filter set individually).

Step 2.  Separate coffee filters and set each filter into colored water one at a time. Separate each filter from one another and add them individually; this will help you separate them later when you need to take them out and lay them to dry. Let the filters soak for 5-10 minutes until they absorb the level of color you desire. You may wish to add more food coloring to deepen the color; be sure to mix in thoroughly the additional color so your filters absorb the same color evenly.

coffee filter garland dye job

Step 3.  Set a paper towel on counter, remove filters one at a time and lie them flat on your paper towel to allow excess water to drain from filter. I was able to lie four filters on each paper towel sheet with only a slight overlap at center edges. Repeat this step by placing a new paper towel on top of your previously removed coffee filters and keep stacking your filters between sheets of paper towels. I recommend starting a new stack for each color to avoid cross-color-contamination (lesson learned the hard way as my pink filters absorbed some of my turquoise color).

coffee filter garland drying 1

Step 4.  Place your paper towel/coffee filter stacks on a cookie sheet and place in oven for 8 minutes. The heat will help speed up the drying process. Remove cookie sheet from oven and remove filters from between paper towels. Lie filters on dry surface (I used my island countertop but a dining table would work, too). Allow filters to dry for 30 minutes.

coffee filter garland dry 1

Step 5.  Thread your sewing machine and place it on a straight-stitch setting. Let out 10-12 inches of thread before placing your centering your first filter under the needle; this thread can be used to tie your garland to a curtain rod or hook later. Sew straight across the center of your first filter then place your next filter (and each thereafter) as close as possible to the end of your previous filter and sew them together.

While the filters seem fragile, the paper fibers are strong hold up well to sewing. I had no issues with tearing or the presser foot bunching the filters on the feed dogs; if you have trouble with this you may try to adjust your tension slightly. If you are hanging your garland (as I did above), you should measure the length you’ll need to ensure your garland is long enough/not too long (mine was too long but I didn’t mind it wisping on the floor). Since this garland is likely for one-time use, you need not worry about closing your last stitch (as that process might just be too much for the filter to withstand anyhow).

coffee filter garland sewing1

coffee filter garland sewing2

coffee filter garland sewing3

coffee filter garland
For more tea party ideas, click here…..whatever did we do before Pinterest?!