Monday, November 30, 2009

Tandoori Chicken

One of my current obsessions: tandoori chicken, masala sauce and a little garlic naan (not pictured). Garlic naan is a soft, warm, tender flat bread. Tandoori chicken is marinated in yogurt and barbequed in a tandoori oven. Masala is indescribeable. I love it.

I waited thirty-four years to try Indian food, and now I can't stop thinking about it.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dia de los Muertos 2009

My altar for Dia de los Muertos was very simple. I was out of town for so much of October, and I was still trying to finish the dragon/lizard costume until almost Halloween. I just didn't have the time to gather everything I wanted to add. I included photos of my Grandma Bozeman and my Grandaddy Turner because I could get to them very quickly. The dinosaur and truck represent a close friend who died at twenty. I believe they are both items that I gave him. The rubber stamp is the quote "We do not remember days, we remember moments." I included the cake plate because it reminds me of  my grandma. The skull shaker and placemat were both given to me by my friend Jen, who has been celebrating this holiday with me for the last thirteen years. I found the fabulous backdrop last year at JoAnn. It's a Dia de los Muertos themed flannel.

I believe that some people are disturbed by my happy skeletons and the fact that I celebrate this holiday, so I thought I'd explain mt reasoning.

Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico on November 1-3. Families go to their loved ones gravesides, decorate elaborate altars, prepare favorite foods, etc. I am familiar with the general idea, but I have very much adapted my celebration.

I still keep the happy skeletons because they remind me not to be afraid of death, and they just look so joyful with their bright colors. I have never dedicated an altar to one person as is traditionally done, though. I discovered Dia de los Muertos in the fall of 1995 when the art department at my college had an altar on display. I lost my PawPaw the year before and my Grandma just a few months earlier.

So in my windowsill outside my dorm room, I placed a begonia in a jelly jar, an American flag, a couple of photos, and a package of ramen noodles (my grandparents introduced me to them). It helped me release some of the grief that I'd been holding inside. Just a few days later, the close friend of the dinosaur was killed in motorcycle accident.

The following year, the grief was still intense. I asked for (and received) permission to use a table in our dorm hallway for an altar so that several of us could participate. Jen wanted to remember her grandma, and Cathy's father had just died. We put up a few items about a week early. Over the course of the next several days, the altar transformed. Rather than anyone thinking it was morbid, anytime someone new saw it, she would run to her room and come back with an object to memorialize someone she loved. It became such a beautiful tribute to loved ones for so many women.

So, I do not see it as morbid when I embroider sugar skulls or skeletons like I have been off and on the past month or two (great patterns available at Sublime Stitching). I don't think it's depressing to display photos of people I loved who are no longer with us. I don't believe it's sacreligious when I call the display an altar because "altar" has more than one meaning.

I hope this gives you a better understanding of the holiday and why this American chooses to celebrate (in my own way).

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Our Nature Table - Autumn 2009

We finally got around to making our nature table. We don't have trees in our yard, so we picked up leaves and acorns at a park one afternoon between trips down the slide.
The smooth rocks were put in Abigail's stocking last year by Santa Claus. She has ten and enjoys playing with them.
The painted rocks are from a painting session we had at my Mama's house in August. Abigail and I hunted all over their "farm" for just the right rocks (which are quartz and granite in Georgia - in Kentucky we mostly have limestone), and my mom had some acrylic paint. Mama, my sister-in-law, Abigail and I painted all afternoon. We left our samples with them to remember us, and we brought theirs home for our nature table.

The fabric is a velvety fabric I found in a remnant bin at a fabric store about a year ago with the nature table in mind.

I'm on the lookout for sweet gum "balls." They look like a cross between pine cones and cherries on a stem. I haven't found any in Kentucky yet.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making of a Dragon costume

For Halloween this year, Abigail chose to be a lizard.

My husband and I took her to JoAnn so we could decide on a pattern in early September. We picked out several and then let her chose one that she wanted. One of the patterns we chose contained six different costumes - a mouse, a dragon, a panda, an angel, a monkey and a devil (Simplicity 2506). They were all cute and we thought she might like the monkey. She did want to be a monkey, and carried the pattern around for a few days telling us she was going to be a monkey.

Then one day, she announced she was going to be a lizard. I let her walk around for another few days before I bought any fabric. I didn't want to risk have scales on a monkey!

I took Abigail to JoAnn a second time to let her pick out corduroy for her costume. (The pattern called for rayon cord with contrast in broadcloth. Since I could find no one who could explain what rayon cord was, I bought cotton corduroy. It seems to have worked well.) She chose the bright teal. I thought for sure she would pick pink, and I was rooting for the forest green. I believe in promoting individuality and creativity, though, so a teal lizard/dragon it was. I eventually found some lime green broadcloth to match.

There were times when I really regretted tackling this project. It was harder than I expected it to be. And then I read about BreederMama's hooded sweatshirt costumes and felt really stupid. (I did decide to leave on the footie covers because we happened to have teal socks and teal crocs.) I got very fed up with it in early October just before we left for our long trip, and decided to take it with me. I hoped that someone might let me borrow a machine once I was in more relaxing surroundings.

That didn't happen, but when we got home I was in a better place to deal with it. We got home on Sunday, October 25 and on Monday my sewing group met. I took the costume, asked for advice, and ended up spending most of the day ripping out the last couple of steps I'd finished before leaving for the trip (once again, the lesson of quit when you're frustrated). Anyway, I'd managed to sew the arms on in such a way that Abigail wouldn't be able to move when she got into the costume. Once I had an experienced seamstress standing over me, I got it done correctly.

My favorite part was sewing on the wristbands. They're just like wristbands for sweatshirts, made out of cotton knit. I had a hard time understanding how to pin them correctly, but once I started sewing it all made sense. They look so professional! (As long as you don't look too closely.) 

Abigail really enjoyed going for tricks and treats. We went over to her aunt's house so she could go with her cousins. Her daddy, her aunt or I walked with her to the first three houses or so, and then she got the hang of it and started running up and yelling "Trick or treat!" This is the same child who will cling to me through an entire playgroup without looking at anyone. It all depends on perspective, I suppose.

After our dinner of chili and pumpkin bread, and a very long walk to get candy, Abigail ran around her aunt's house laughing and playing and eating some more. Then she had a huge lizard/dragon tantrum. Of course, she also kept announcing she was an alligator, so this photo could be of either one.

Oh, and I keep calling her a dragon because this costume reminds me of the dragon costume my Mama made for me when I was around the same age that got passed around to numerous cousins, siblings and neighbors before it was lost.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Yesterday + Today

Please pardon the photo. I know it's awful. I have a tough time photographing double page layouts. This is from the second assignment in Ali Edwards' Yesterday + Today class. This assignment was to write about six memories and pair them with photos from our childhood. I have a few childhood photos already scanned and haven't had a chance to scan in more yet. I mostly just described what was going on in the picture or memories of things I recognized in the background. Sometimes a photo triggered another memory and I wrote about that too. So I didn't entirely follow the assignment, which was supposed to be words first.

The templates for this class come in both Word format and in jpgs so they can be used in Photoshop Elements. I have been using PSE for nearly five years for my photos, but I have not figured out how to make the digital elements that Ali supplies work for me. I hope I figure it out soon. That's really part of what I wanted to learn from this class.

Regardless, I'm writing and scrapbooking stories that I have not done until now. That is a victory in itself.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Gorgeous Blogger Award!

Kelli at A Mountain Mama has given me a blogging award. I so appreciate being included and the sweet things she said about me. And being called a gorgeous blogger? So awesome.

I've received two awards in the past but never wrote about them because I couldn't figure out how to post the award image on my blog. I decided if I couldn't even figure that out, then maybe I didn't deserve the award! I'm going to try and find these awards again, though because I so appreciate that anyone thought of me.

I'm supposed to write about six things other don't know about me, and nominate five other bloggers. So I will share six things my readers may not know about me:
  1. I got my navel pierced when I was twenty years old and kept it until I was thirty one and way too pregnant. I was afraid the hole would stretch if I left it in.
  2. I love dried pineapple. I can't get enough of it. I would love to learn how to dry it myself because it's expensive and difficult to find.
  3. I have eaten popcorn almost every day since I've been a stay at home mama. I've always been a fan, but now it's a staple.
  4. I have collected cows since I was in 8th grade. I have stuffed animals, rugs, figurines, blankets, towels, mugs, etc. Fortunately, the collecting has tapered off in recent years, but for a while it was a little crazy. And no, I'm not sharing the reason for the obsession.
  5. I am introverted. I enjoy socializing and if I push myself I can even be outgoing, but I find it exhausted. I really need some alone time to recharge. I love public speaking though, and hope someday to be able to incorporate it into my career again.
  6. I'm terrified of heights. Even while watching movies, I have physical reactions to perceived height. That said, I enjoy roller-coasters and mountains and insisted on climbing the lighthouse in St. Augustine. You won't catch me ever bungee-jumping though.
Other gorgeous bloggers:
  1. Stevie @ TwoBoyzTwoDogzTwoCrazyParents - I've known Stevie for five years now, and I admire the way she lives her life with such passion. She's an amazing photographer and I appreciate the glimpses she shares on her blog.
  2. Robin @ Do You Not Know What Causes That? - I met Robin originally because she teaches childbirth classes in Louisville. When I searched for classes, I just happened to come across classes taught by the author of several pregnancy books that I'd been reading. I am so thankful that I found her. I enjoy reading about her life with eight kids and often find inspiration for my own life.
  3. April @ Capture the Memories - I love how April shares her life and details that will be memories for her family.
  4. Monica @Without Filters - Monica's philosophy is about sharing with the blinders off. I'm inspired by how honest and real she is.
  5. Amy @ The Salt and Pepper Diva - Amy is so adventurous in her cooking, and she always has wonderful photos. And she is just so sweet!

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Visit with a Friend

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them." Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I've mentioned several times lately, my friend Heather came to visit us last weekend. We've known each other since second grade and we've been close friends for the majority of that time. We had most of our classes together all through elementary, middle and high school. We briefly went to college only about thirty minutes apart. We've always had each other's back, even when we were out of touch. Now that we've had children around the same time, we've grown even closer.

Heather has one son who is nine months older than Abigail and a son is eight months younger than Abigail. While Abigail and I enjoy attending playgroups, and she does have (much older) cousins, this was the first time we had children around her age in our home for a significant length of time. I guess you could say it was her first slumber party. She really didn't know what to do with them at first. Until now, we've only been able to see one another for a few hours three or four times a year. Fortunately, the last time was in October, and Abigail had good memories of playing on the slides at the Chick-fil-A with Daniel and Brandon (or "Danielle and Brannon" as she calls them).

We spent Friday night getting used to one another and watching more Max & Ruby and Toot & Puddle than any of the adults could stand, but it did mean a little less commotion. Three toddlers in a small space was definitely interesting. The boys enjoyed our goldfish pond, and Abigail informed them that they could feed the fish as she asks to do nearly every single day.

My husband made his yummy homemade pizza and we fed the kids wienie dogs wrapped in bagels. (We're not that talented - it's a premade appetizer from Costco.)

On Saturday, we took Heather to one of our favorite restaurants - Lemongrass - where you can order your choice of Thai, Vietnamese or Chinese food. She had not had Thai or Vietnamese food before and we ordered three different dishes so she could gain some confidence in ordering on her own in Georgia (where we're from and she lives). I would love to tell you what we ordered, but I only know them as the noodle dish my husband likes, the ginger chicken pot dish and the garlic and black pepper dish with lettuce. We ordered lettuce wraps but they never arrived. Oh well.

When we got home, Abigail and I taught the boys one of our favorite pastimes - painting rocks.

For dinner, Lee made hamburgers and hot dogs on the grill. Several of the burgers had cheese on the inside. To fulfill Heather's second foodie request (the first being Thai or Vietnamese food), Lee made pretzel rolls to serve as hamburger buns.

On Sunday, Heather and I took the kids to the Louisville Zoo. She said she'd heard me talk about it so much on my blog and Facebook that she wanted to see it firsthand. Her boys seemed to enjoy the snakes and turtles and posing on the statues, just like Abigail does. (She loves looking at every single snake while I pretend that I'm ok with them. I don't want to give her any of my phobias.)

Abigail loved having a friend to walk through the zoo. Early on, we noticed Abigail and Brandon holding hands. After walking this way for a while, he snatched his hand away. She then spent the next twenty minutes or so trying to get him to hold her hand. "No, you have to. You have to, Brannon!" I'm not sure why she thought he had to hold her hand all the way through the zoo, but she insisted that it was not because she thought he was a baby. (Good thing. He's bigger than her.)

When we got home, we painted placemats using hand prints and leaf prints (we gathered leaves while at the zoo). Leaf prints are not as easy to do as I thought they would be, but I'll discuss that in another post. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening watching Bolt, Up, and Piglet's Big Movie and eating the grilled chicken and pork chops with mashed potatoes that my husband made for us.

As with any visit involving small children, there were stumbles along the way, but overall I think we had such a great time. It's the longest we've spent together in years, and it was so wonderful to see new friendships forming with the next generation. I can't wait to do it again!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What I Wish I Knew

When I was born, I had four relatively young grandparents and three great-grandparents. Both of my parents grew up really only knowing the three great-grandparents who were alive when I was born. My Mama had only one living grandparent from the time she was eight years old, and my Daddy got a lot of raising from his Daddy's mother. I don't remember my Daddy's grandaddy very well - I must have been about four when he passed away - but my two great-grandmas lived until I was about ten.
So until I was ten, I had six grandparents. How could anyone be so lucky? The thing about being young, though, is that you think everyone will live forever. And no matter what you think you will remember, there's a good chance it will slip through by unless you capture it. I know that my grandparents told me stories about growing up and about their lives. My Daddy actually remembered a lot about what his grandma told me, and still felt like he didn't remember enough. He told me when I was very young to listen and remember when loved ones told me their stories.
I really did try to capture my family's stories. In high school, I tried out for the literary magazine by interviewing all four of my grandparents about their experiences during the Great Depression. When I was sixteen, I gave each of my grandmas a book to record their memories. I gave Grandma Bozeman (my Mama's Mama) a blank book that she gave back to me a few months later filled at least 2/3 of the way with her life story to that point. I gave Grandma Turner (my Daddy's Mama) one of those Grandma Remembers. . . style books so she only had to fill in sentences and had lots of prompts to help her out. I don't know where the book is now, and I doubt she ever filled out a single bit of it. I tried conducting a few interviews with tape recorders and video cameras over the year, too.

I lost my maternal grandparents when I was twenty years old. Even though I had tried to capture their stories, they were still telling these stories to a child and censoring them for a child's understanding. And even though my Grandaddy Turner didn't pass away until I was thirty-three and my Grandma Turner is still living, I found it very difficult to gather their stories. They were (and are) reluctant to tell anything personal. I still find myself hungering for stories of the past.

This week in Yesterday + Today with Ali Edwards, we are focusing on the present, but in gathering our own stories, we are considering what we wish we knew about our ancestors. In thinking about what I wish I knew, I can better understand what I want to document today. I can also focus on what I want to ask my parents, my aunts and uncles, and even my siblings about their stories.

  • Birth stories. I am fascinated by childbirth and how the perception of birth has changed over the years. I would also love to know about early newborn days and breastfeeding. I recently learned that my Grandma breastfed my Mama and my aunt (her fifth and sixth children) and I felt such a kinship with her.
  • Everyday details. What they ate. What their daily lives were like.
  • Friendships. Who were their friends and why were they friends?
  • How they named their children.
  • What were their hobbies? How did they spend any free time? Did they have free time?
  • What were their greatest challenges?
  • What were their greatest successes? Their greatest failures?
  • What were their relationships with their families like?
  • Did they go on vacations? Where?
  • How did they see themselves as mothers (or as fathers)? How did they parent?
I'm sure there is more, but I haven't come up with anything else yet.

What do you wish you knew about the generations who came before you?

Looking Back. . .

I know I've spent most of this week remembering the distant (for me) past, but today I thought I'd explore the past through this blog. I've only been writing here for a little less than a year and a half, and I rarely view my archives, so I thought it might be fun to do.

A year ago this week, I was a little obsessed with Trader Joe's (a natural foods grocery store). I'd just been to one on a visit to Chicago, and got to experience Candy Cane Joe-Joe's for the first time. (You can see my original post here.)

I still don't have a Trader Joe's in Louisville, despite my joining a Facebook group called "Bring Trader Joe's to Louisville" or something of that sort. Last week, though, my friend Heather brought me a box of Candy Cane Joe-Joes from Atlanta. I'm savoring them and slowing doling them out. Who know when I'll get more?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

25 Years Ago Today, part 2

I remember being woken up early on that Sunday morning by Mama. It was earlier than we normally got up for church. She asked "Do you want a baby brother or sister today?" Well, of course, I wanted a baby sister! I had two little brothers and that was quite enough.

I always thought that the shock of losing her grandma the day before sent Mama into labor, but she told me years later that she had been having back pain before she got the phone call. (It's funny, because when she told me that, months after I'd had my own daughter, I remembered having back pain the day before I thought my labor started too. Something to remember for the future.)

Mama got our clothes on us, and got some snacks together. We were meeting Grandma and Grandaddy Turner (Daddy's parents) at the hospital because Mama's family was having a memorial service for Grandma Schroeder. At least that's how I remember it.

I remember it being 7am when we left our house. The hospital was forty-five minutes away, and Andy was born within five minutes of getting to the hospital nearly five years earlier. No chances were going to be taken. It may have been later, but it seemed so early to me.

I remember that Mama packed apples and fruit roll-ups for our snack. I remember bringing my Cabbage Patch Kid, Maddie, and snuggling her tight in the hospital room. Hospitals just seem so scary when you're a little kid.

I remember walking up and down the halls with Mama, looking at the nursery. I remember being sent out of the room a little before 1pm. I was told much, much later that Mama's labor was stalling, so the doctor decided to break her water. Ross came within half an hour after that.

I remember that for some reason, Grandma and Grandaddy didn't think about the fact that we only had apples and fruit roll-ups to eat, and our dinner that night was Oreos and cereal when Daddy got us home. I remember being hungry.

I remember being shocked and a little hurt when we were told we had a new little brother. I remember wondering what had happened to my baby sister Sarah Elizabeth that I'd been waiting to meet. I remember seeing that cute baby boy and absolutely falling in love with him.

looking at my new baby brother for the first time

When Mama and Daddy told me a few months earlier that we were getting a new baby, I had been inexplicably upset. I cried. All I could think was that we had this family of five and it was so nice. I didn't like change. And the next morning I woke up so excited about the adventure that was starting and I couldn't wait to meet our new family member.

It's been twenty-five years since I met my cute little baby brother and I still love him so much. I'm so glad he joined our family.

Happy birthday, Ross!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

25 Years Ago Today

Twenty-five years ago today, I remember standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes. I was nine, about two months from being ten. It was a normal Saturday afternoon.

We had a pet squirrel that fall and I was looking forward to my Mama bringing him in to school on Monday to show to my class. I don't know if it was show-and-tell (do they have that in 4th grade?) or if it was just that my teacher thought it would be fun for me to bring in the squirrel we'd been hand-raising for the last few months.

I remember the phone ringing and Mama answering it. I don't remember if it was PawPaw or Grandma Bozeman. I do remember that whoever it was called to let Mama know that her Grandma Schroeder passed away earlier in the day. I remember Mama crying and crying. I remember standing at the sink and not looking around or moving. I remember the tears silently coming down my face. I think I was afraid if I cried as hard as I felt like doing, it would make things worse.

I remember Braxton and Andy (my brothers) coming in and not understanding. They were only seven and four. I remember that Mama was nine months pregnant, and Daddy was worried about her being so upset. My memory of the day is jumbled with memories of orange and quilts and polka dotted navy blue and I don't know if we were looking at quilts Grandma Schroeder had made or I was remembering her and those are the images that stuck with me. I remember being so so sad.

I remember that we had visited her in March or April in Louisiana and that she was so sweet to us. I spent one day in her room while she told me all about her life. I regret that I was only nine and didn't know well enough to write any of it down.

Grandma Schroeder and me, Spring 1984

I remember when Grandma Schroeder still lived in Georgia in Grandma and PawPaw Bozeman's house. She lived in the back bedroom and she kept vanilla wafers (in the crinkley bag) in a cabinet near her bed. She gave out tight hugs and cookies. She so often in my mind is wearing a navy blue dress with white polka dots. I still have a few pieces of that fabric in a quilt that either she or my Grandma Bozeman (her daughter) made.

This day and the next were two of the most momentous days in my young life.

Monday, November 16, 2009

For Today. . .

Outside my window... a sunny day with scattered clouds.

I am thinking... about making my first apron.

I am thankful for... an exciting and welcome visit from a friend.

I am wearing... jeans and along-sleeved T-shirt covered in acrylic paint from a toddler art project.

I am remembering... what a quiet house sounds like.

I am going... to the mailbox to get today's mail.

I am reading... an article about vaccination in this month's Wired magazine.

I am hoping... I have a full yard of fabric to make the apron.

On my mind... how to tame temper tantrums - mine and hers.

From the learning rooms... two women can disagree on details but still be the best of friends.

Pondering these words... "We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are." Anais Nin

From the kitchen... chocolate chip cookies (from me) and monkey munch (from Heather)

Around the house... more cleaning that I didn't finish last week.

One of my favorite things ~ a new Strawberry Shortcake comforter made by Heather for Abigail that I have now confiscated.  

A few plans for the rest of the week:  cleaning, organizing, apron making and turkey buying. Thanksgiving is coming soon.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Blogs You May Not Know About

I often write about specific posts that I enjoyed reading, but I thought today I would highlight a few blogs that I frequent. I don't think these blogs have hit major-celebrity status yet (ala SouleMama or Dooce) but they are a few of my must-reads. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

  • Without Filters by Monica - I discovered Monica's blog when we took Library of Memories together at Big Picture Scrapbooking in 2008. She writes about motherhood, scrapbooking, photography and sometimes a little quilting. She's so talented and I enjoy cheering her success.
  • Capture The Memories by April - I found April through Library of Memories in 2007, I think. April also writes about scrapbooking, photography, and motherhood and I enjoy her persepctive.
  • What Do We Do All Day? by Mom and Kiddo - A friend of mine suggested Mom's blog and I enjoy reading about her activities with her son. Her life in Brooklyn is so different than mine in Kentucky and yet it's fun to see the similarities between us.
  • The Breeder Files by Breedermama - Breedermama writes about motherhood, writing, and crafting, among other things. She has a fresh voice that I admire.
  • A Mountain Mama by Kelli - Kelli inspires me as a mother and I enjoy reading her positive outlook even when she's struggling. Also, her lifestyle reminds me so much of the way I was raised, and I love visiting her mountain home.
  • Dou-la-la by Anne - Anne writes about birth, breastfeeding and motherhood. Her blog advocates being educated about your options, and I'm passionate about that. Just a warning, though, sometimes she has graphic childbirth photos posted. They don't bother me, but I wanted to make sure you knew.
  • UK Lass In US by Dawn - Dawn writes about sewing, knitting, and other crafts she does for herself and her kids. She also usually posts English to American translations which I really get a kick out of. (I recently learned that peckish means "a wee bit hungry" and I feel better for it.)
  • The Artist, The Mom by Angela - Angela is a Waldorf handwork teacher, so you know her blog is filled with crafty fun. She is gentle and calm, and her posts make me stop and consider.

Please consider visiting these ladies to see for yourself and tell them I said hi!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to Get Over a Funk

As I've mentioned previously, fall is my general funk time of year. I wish I meant funk in the "I'm so funky" good way, but no. So what do I do to break out of this funk?
  • Put on feel-better music. For me, this is usually REM. My favorite album of ALL time is Automatic for the People and I'm not lying when I say that I have at times listened to this album all day long for weeks. So maybe it doesn't get me out of my funk, but it does help me get through it. (I also listened to it while I was in labor and I think it kept me from killing my husband for hitting every single bump in the road during the forty-five minute drive. Really, he was perfect that morning, but the road was awful.)
  • Play dancing music. I really really like crunk when I need a lift. You know, Lil' John, "Get Low," "Yeah" (Usher). I recently discovered that crunk is based in Atlanta hip-hop (give me a break, I haven't lived in Georgia for ten years), so that may kinda explain it. Unfortunately, most crunk is not acceptable music for a two year old. Although she does enjoy listening to the Black Eyed Peas with me, and they're close enough.
  • Coloring or painting. There's just something about picking up art supplies and getting lost in creating for no reason. I had a lot of coloring books in my early twenties because I didn't have to think much while I followed the lines someone else had put there. Now, I kind of like to doodle on plain paper in part because I don't want Abigail to feel obligated by coloring books yet.
  • Changing direction. Getting focused on something new can help so much to lift my spirits. I spent much of October feeling great because I was in a different setting (and so much of it was at the beach). I tried to keep my focus once we got home, and Heather deciding to visit has definitely helped. I am so focused on making sure we're ready for her visit that I'm not thinking about anything else! Of course, that also means fun home stuff is getting put aside too. That's ok. We'll be ready by tomorrow night!
  • Looking through old photos. Remembering the good memories. And remembering some bad. And remembering that Mama always said "This too shall pass" and it always did. And remembering that one time that she didn't say it, and I survived that too. Ali's Yesterday + Today has been really good for me this year.
Of course, I'm focusing here on the getting-out-of, not the getting-through-and-getting-by. That's for another day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Handmade Home

I received my copy of Handmade Home by Amanda Blake Soule in mid August. I've been meaning to write about how much I love it, but instead I decided to do some crafting from it.

I really wanted to make the picnic blanket as my first project. I had kind of hoped that it would be similar to the picnic blanket that she posted on her blog long long ago, but it really wasn't. The one I remembered had pockets on the back to put rocks in so as to hold the blanket down in a breeze. The new blanket uses quilt binding for the edges and then they are used as ties for the whole blanket. It sounded like a great idea, but I have little patience right now for binding.

So instead, I combined the top of the picnic blanket from Handmade Home with the backing from this picnic blanket designed by Erin from House on Hill Road.
Here, you see one of the pockets on the back. Three are from one pattern and one doesn't match. I had a reason for that, but I don't remember what it was. I'm sure it could just be chalked up to my general orneriness with following directions.

My backing is just a flat sheet that I cut to size (60" x 60"). Amanda's pattern calls for a bed spread, but I didn't have one on hand, and I did have a small collection of flat sheets I'd been collecting from thift stores with Amanda's books in mind.

My hubby isn't crazy about the patterns and asked if I sure of the decade, but I like the retro feel. Some of the sheets are nicer than others and have better thread counts, but I don't think it's that big of an issue.

We've already used this at the zoo, the beach and in our front yard. I'm looking forward to all the memories we'll create with it as a backdrop.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Goals and Ambitions

I have been thinking lately about goals (and not just because it's prompt #6 for the class). I mentioned my to-do list last week - goals for the day. I haven't made a list in several days because I felt so defeated by them each day. Even marking things off wasn't helping.

That's weird, too, because usually crossing things off your list is a sign of accomplishment. I remember in college one semester I had to take a bunch of incompletes (I didn't finish the classes until after the next term started). I had a major life event, and couldn't concentrate, and ended up only finishing one class. So when the next semester started, I had not only my full load of classes for the semester, but a near full load to finish from the previous semester. The only way I made it through was to break each task into tiny bits and write down every step I had to do. My to-do list was four or five pages long. And I got it all done. (My advice is to NOT take that many incompletes, though, no matter what you have to do.)

I have so many things I need and want to accomplish and I have a hard time remembering that I don't have to live my whole life right this minute. Does that make sense? I start thinking, "I have this goal and I haven't done it yet and I'm already in my mid-thirties!"

Um, yeah. I'm in my mid-thirties. That's really not that old. But since I've lost close friends who never made it to thirty, I still feel this sense of urgency at times.

My current goals are:
  1. finish cleaning my house for a visit with Heather this weekend (yes, that Heather)
  2. finish the dozen or more unfinished scrapbooks and quilts and various sewing projects I have in my craft room
  3. have scheduled daily craft time with Abigail
  4. exercise
  5. finish layouts for the Yesterday + Today class so I can post them
  6. learn how to use a unique blog template that has some Fun Mama personality
  7. Write. Seriously write. It's time.
Well, my house needs to be ready for my friend and her two toddlers by Thursday evening. My house is toddler friendly for my child, but you know how you're never sure if other people will be ok with your house? Seriously, Heather used to help me clean my room. You'd think I'd know better. . .

I can't decide if I want to finish Abigail's first year album, our St. Augustine album, our honeymoon album, my 30th birthday album, a quilt I started ten years ago, or scrap all of that and start on Christmas presents. As if I'll finish anything I start in the middle of November. Maybe I should finish some Christmas presents from last year?

I know I talk a lot about doing stuff with your kids, and we do. We do play dough. We draw. We play with blocks. We paint. We do a lot. But it feels haphazard and I'd really like to be able to tell her "This is what we're doing today." I'm considering doing it as an advent calendar this year. I really want to have a craft calendar in place by January, at least.

Exercise. Bleh. I do feel better when I exercise, but then I feel like I should be doing something else. I started reading The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd as my exercise bike book (only allowed to read it there) but that's not working. I recorded a bunch of Ellen shows on my tivo so I can watch them while I'm biking. I used to watch Angel or The X-files while I biked because they kept me tense and involved (and made me forget it was painful) but they are SO not appropriate for a two year old. I guess I'd better get some walks in before the weather turns.

My Yesterday + Today layouts are actually going fairly well. I have pictures printed for two of them (we're on week 6), and the journaling done for one. Actually, one page is almost completely done. One problem I'm having is that I haven't scanned as many of my childhood photos as I really need, and another problem is that I really want to use the digital elements and can't figure them out. I keep forgetting to ask my husband to remind me how to unzip files. How basic is that?

One thing I'm hoping to pick up from Blogging for Scrapbookers is how to make my blog look more like Fun Mama and less like a basic blogger template. I see so many cool photos in banners and I have NO idea how to do that. I hope to pick that up soon.

And as for writing. . .All I've ever really wanted to do is write. So I've been an archivist, a tour guide, an event planner, a paper pusher, a mail deliverer (don't ask), a staffing specialist and a mommy. Ok, so all I ever really wanted to do was write and be a mommy. For a year I wrote a column for an online scrapbooking magazine and I really enjoyed it, but I didn't go anywhere with it. I'm not sure that now is the right time, because I am being a mommy all day long. I love it, but I can't help but think that when I'm home and she's at this magic age might be the best time for me to focus on writing. I'm not sure how I'll work it out, but I am committing to it publicly. Wish me luck.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Heather's tote bag

My dear friend Heather had surgery in August. We've been friends since we were seven years old, and trust me when I say that's been a long time and that we've been through a lot together. We've had fights that completely embarrass me now.

And she's been there for me when I couldn't have even thought to ask. Seriously. The morning after the worst night of my life, I woke up to her sitting beside me on the bed. She found out about my personal tragedy on her way to work, and came to my house to make sure I was ok. That's loyalty.

So when I found out she was having surgery and I knew I couldn't be there since we live 400 miles apart right now, I wanted to do something special for her instead. I decided that she might actually get the chance to read a few books and enjoy a few treats while she was resting, and that a nice tote bag to hold it all in was a worthy gift. Unfortunately, I am not as good as she is and didn't get it to her in time.
Hopefully, the yumminess of the bag makes up for my slackness. I wanted something that said "Heather" to me, and this blue and the dots and the flowers did it for me.

Actually, I think I want one for myself.

The pattern is the tote bag from Bend the Rules Sewing by Amy Karol. The pattern calls for a panel of a striking pattern with a matching inside pocket, but when I got finished my husband thought it looked better inside out. I think I agree. The pocket does kind of pop.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Fall In Georgia

I love fall in Georgia. The air is crisp, the sky is blue (usually, it was raining on this day), and the leaves are turning. This is the pond behind my parents' house - a view I experienced nearly every day of my life. I took this picture in October when I was visiting.

Pumpkin bread

Have you ever had a recipe not turn out the way you'd hoped? I've been baking since I was about nine years old, and I've had my share of adventures. There was the time that I accidentally made pink oatmeal cookies that one of my brothers loves to bring up. (Is it my fault the red food coloring and the vanilla looked the same?) He says his friends at school still thought they tasted good, so all was not lost.

Many of my mishaps have been because I had oven complications, like not being familiar with a new oven, electric over gas, or glass instead of metal. These things happen.

So for Halloween, I decided that I wanted to make pumpkin bread to take to my sister-in-law's house where we were going for dinner and trick-or-treating. I don't remember ever making it before, even though I love it, and I couldn't find my Mama's recipe. Unfortunately, she wasn't sure where her recipe was either, so I decided to look online for a new one. I found several but most of them didn't call for any spice and I felt like there should at least be cinnamon and nutmeg.

Finally, I found a recipe called Downeast Maine Pumpkin Bread. I don't know a lot about Maine, but since I discovered SouleMama it has a romantic draw for me, so I thought I'd give it a shot. The recipe called for all of the spices I thought it should have (cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg). There were a lot of good reviews. I had all the ingredients. I was set.

My first mistake was in not printing the recipe. Instead, I kept crossing the kitchen to check the recipe from my laptop. My second mistake was not waiting until my husband got home from work. Baking with a recipe I'm familiar with can be challenging when Abigail wants my attention - a recipe I've never used before was giving me fits. Then I couldn't remember where we'd put our ground ginger or the whole nutmeg. Finally I located those in the very top and back of our baking cabinet. Then I realized that we only have glass bread pans, not metal ones. And the recipe calls for 3 small pans and I only had two large ones. Then I only greased the pan before adding the batter instead of greasing and flouring.

The recipe calls for the bread to be baked for 50 minutes or until done by the knife test. After 50 minutes, I remembered (was reminded, actually) that if you use glass pans, you should lower the temperature and bake longer. So I lowered the temp and kept checking. For another half hour. Finally, the bread seemed like it might be done and I took it out.

When I cut into it, the bread seemed more like a pudding than a bread. It was so dense and thick. It didn't have the light, airy texture I was expecting at all. Oh well, I thought, a bum recipe. Better luck next time. I made some ginger cream cheese to top the bread and all was well.

Over the next few days, I thought about my mistake. Next time, I could use a different recipe (Alton Brown's looks good, but calls for fresh pumpkin). Maybe I could use a bundt pan instead of bread pans. Fresh ginger instead of ground might be nice (or both). I had used Saigon cinnamon (which is hot like cinnamon candy) but the flavor didn't come through, maybe I could use more of that. I just knew a different recipe would have the bread texture I was looking for.

On Monday, I stopped by the neighborhood grocery on the way home from sewing group to pick up some milk, and decided to grab another can of pumpkin so I could try again. That's when I noticed.

When I was buying my ingredients before Halloween, I knew I needed 15 ounces of pumpkin. It sounded like a lot, so I grabbed the largest can. On Monday when I was buying more, I actually looked at the can. The large can has about 29 ounces of pumpkin.

That's right. I used a 29 ounce can of pumpkin for a recipe that called for 15 ounces. None of my excuses worked anymore. It was just flat out careless of me. How I've managed to buy canned fruit for pies all this time, I don't know. Maybe I usually look? At least now I know why my bread was a pudding.

Extra pumpkin makes it more healthy though, right? Right?

(edited to add: This post is for the prompt for day four of Blogging for Scrapbookers, although I probably would have shared this story anyway.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Five Magazines I'm Enjoying

I am a reader. I love to read almost anything, and I have this tendency to have to read everything if I see it. I read headlines in the grocery line. I read cereal boxes. I read memos upside down. I am not trying to pry or be nosy. I just can't help myself from reading the printed word. My husband says it's an addiction. Maybe.

My first love is books, but my nephew says I talk about books a lot on this blog, so I thought I'd share the five magazines that I'm enjoying these days. I don't necessarily subscribe to them but I usually like what I find.

  1. Creating Keepsakes - I have subscribed off and on to this magazine since early 2000. I first saw it on the newsstand at the bookstore soon after I got the job. I've always been into handmade heirlooms, so I picked it up and a whole new world opened up. I loved Simple Scrapbooks more, but since it's gone now I've found things to love again about CK.
  2. Mothering - I first heard about this magazine when my doula mentioned it to me soon after Abigail's birth. I wish I'd taken her suggestion then to subscribe, but a friend has started giving me her back issues on occasion (thanks, Abbey!). It's a much more gentle and calm parenting magazine than so many of the others out there and discusses issues I care about.
  3. Mary Jane's Farm - I recently discovered this magazine in Borders or Tractor Supply or something and ordered a sample issue. It is what Mother Earth News can be, but without all the tractor articles. It's about farm life, but is open to urban farming. It's about hand-crafted goodness. It includes recipes and craft ideas. So fun.
  4. Living Crafts - I've seen this magazine in JoAnn, and mentioned on several blogs. I haven't picked up a copy but I love thumbing through it. I keep looking for a craft I already know instead of one I have to learn. It's heavy on the knitting, which I'd love to learn but haven't. Once I find a good sewing project, though, I think it will be all over for me.
  5. Family Fun - Actually, I want to put Wondertime here, but it was a victim of the economy (I guess). Family Fun has always been a great source of craft ideas and I enjoy finding features about creating fun playrooms. I really like their books with collected ideas too.
Bonus: Bitch Magazine: Feminist Response to Pop Culture - I've been reading this magazine since about 1997 when Ms. took a hiatus from publishing. I hesitate to write about it because the title sounds offensive, but it's meant in the sense of getting together to talk (and also in claiming offensive words) and get things off our chests. I enjoy the sense of fun this magazine has - it is about pop culture after all.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Public Or Private?

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I'm considering starting a private blog to write in more detail about my family. I still haven't made that decision, but oddly, the second prompt in Blogging for Scrapbookers is all about public vs. private information and how much we choose to share online.

I try to be careful on this blog about what information I share.  I don't discuss where we live, other than it being rural and near Louisville. I don't show photos of children's faces (which can be difficult at times - two years old is not exactly a cooperative age). I try not to talk about days when we struggle or when I'm frustrated with parenting - I don't think it's fair to put that kind of thing out there for my daughter to discover when she's older (although I don't mind scrapbooking it, but that's private). I don't mention when I'll be out of town, and I try to make sure I have posts lined up for when I'm gone. I do use our first names, and the names of some of my friends. I don't think this is a security issue, but I know some people prefer to use nicknames. To each her own definition of security, I suppose.

I would like to use blogging to capture little moments in time, though, both for my scrapbooking and for my memory. Perhaps I will decide not to scrapbook every single moment that I capture, but I'd like to remember it. I know I could use a traditional journal/diary, and I did for years, but at this time blogging is more immediate for me. I didn't even consider, until Shimelle mentioned it, that I can always write those things in draft and then decide not to publish. It's funny that I didn't think of it, considering how many blogging ideas I have in draft at the moment (it's not pretty).

This isn't much different than scrapbooking, actually. Of course, I choose who may view my scrapbooks far more selectively than I choose who views my blog, but there are still times that I don't want to share everything on a page. Perhaps I don't want to hurt someone who may end up seeing the page at some point. Perhaps it's still too personal to reveal. The options are not recording it at all, using hidden journaling or choosing to journal that aspect in a traditional journal rather than a scrapbook. Or sometimes my solution is to have a private scrapbook outside of my Library of Memories where I record more personal stories with revealing journaling.

What's your solution for personal journaling in your scrapbook or with your blog?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Blogging For Scrapbookers

As if taking Yesterday + Today wasn't keeping me busy enough, I learned about a class by Shimelle Laine called Blogging for Scrapbookers (I understand there's still time to sign up, so click the link if you're interested). The idea is that blogs are handy for capturing the details of our daily lives and make scrapbooking (now or later) much easier. Scrapbooking and blogging are so similar - just words + photos, as Ali Edwards says. The class is $15 and started on Monday, November 2nd, so don't delay.

Because of the nature of the class, there may be new people visiting here, and to you I'd like to say Welcome! I hope you like what you find, and that you'll visit again. Please feel free to comment as I've tried to make it easier. That means no word verification!

My goals for this class are:
  • writing more meaningful posts
  • adding more photos (I realize blogs with photos are more interesting to read, and I'm really working on it)
  • capturing more details of our days and the funny things Abigail says and does. I haven't decided if I will start a new, private blog to do this or if I will share it here. I know some bloggers have one blog for everything and some have two to keep things personal. We'll see.
  • perhaps even blogging more often
Wish me luck!

Simpler Scrapbooking

As I've mentioned, I'm taking the Yesterday + Today class with Ali Edwards at Big Picture Scrapbooking. I'm a little behind, since I was out of town for the majority of October. (Isn't it funny how I can manage to post nearly every day when I'm not home, but can't post at all when I am home? Note to self: post more often before anyone catches on.) Anyway, I haven't done any of the layouts yet (there have been four assignments) and I'm just now reading week 5's handout (new content is posted on Thursdays).

Week Five's lesson is about layouts without photos, a subject I've struggled with. I have done quite a few layouts without pictures, but they all seem to be missing something. Then Ali mentioned something that I thought was pretty cool. She suggested adding something to your album that can go straight into a page protector without any embellishment at all.

Oddly enough, this is something that I already do. I think I started it when Abigail was about a year old and had started drawing. Rather than mounting her drawings on cardstock for a scrapbook layout, I made sure that some were 12x12 (on white cardstock) or 8 1/2 x 11 and I just wrote her name, the date and any important details (what we were doing, if she described her drawing, etc) on the bottom or back and slipped the sheet into a page protector. Then the whole thing goes into her volume in our Library of Memories.

Since then, I've started adding more non-scrapbooked pages to our Library:
  • the 8 1/2 x 11 marketing flier for the last house we lived in
  • a marketing flier for in my hometown (it's a historical neighborhood that has walking tours)
  • weight and height chart from the pediatrician's office
I'm also considering adding a few notes and letters from friends when we were growing up. I may be the only kid in the world who did this who saved nearly every note that was ever sent to me. I've asked several of my childhood friends, and have been told they saved the notes until we were adults and then threw them away. This, of course, means that there are no notes out there that I wrote, but I know that the content of ones I wrote is not that different than the ones I saved.

Periodically, I also print  emails from friends who send exciting news (or just day-to-day chit-chat). Two friends, in particular, sent their birth stories out with pictures of the new baby. Both of the emails got printed, along with a photo or two, and added directly to our People We Love - Friends volume in our Library of Memories. Sometimes I print the email on neutral cardstock and sometimes it's printed directly on copy paper.

I certainly enjoy creative scrapbooking, but I know some people see the creative aspect as a stumbling block. For me, it's more important to honor the words and photos, and do it in the easiest way possible. I hope this has given you a few ideas.