In lieu of flowers

I titled this post a half hour ago, and then I went about addressing some Thank You cards. Now, coming back to it, “in lieu of flowers”, I recognize why it seemed so easy for me to type.

I used to write obituaries for a local newspaper, and when a family wanted money donated to a charity in someone’s name, they would write “in lieu of flowers, please send a donation to XXXXXXX”.

So now I feel a little awkward, but I’m also stubborn, so I’m not changing it.

* * *

This will be the first of my wedding posts. I actually, technically eloped, and my husband and I decided to do that because neither of us are good at being the center of attention and because we just made our second cross-country move in a year, and we thought paying under $2000 for everything was a fabulous idea.

Despite myself, I got a little bit of the bride fever, and I went on a DIY, crafty frenzy. At one point, I had planned on making my own dress, but I came to my senses in time. After all, eloping usually happens quickly, and ours certainly did.

Although my parents did drive up that week, so we had a post-elopement ceremony to celebrate with our families, carrying flowers down the row of courthouse benches seemed a little silly to me. Still, I had read from a lot of folks over at Off-Beat Bride that it might be helpful to have something in your hands.

Did I mention this happened theday before our scheduled courthouse bonanza?

I rushed to Michael’s!

I stayed there for about 2 hours!

And I wound up with two ideas. The first was a rustic stick (bear with me) with a heart-shaped blackboard at the top, almost like a lollipop. I had it in my mind to use that as a center, buy some whimsical white wire, some butterflies, and make it into a kind of…bouquet…thing.

The second idea won out. I bought a cute white lantern (they are so in right now it seems) with butterflies on it and decided to plan on what to do with it when I got home.

Cue that night. I tossed and turned, trying to decide how to make the lantern unique. At one point, I entertained the idea of going back to Michael’s the next day to buy the whimsical white wire and butterflies and go with the original idea. And then I came to my senses because I was getting married the next day.

Instead, I decided to make the lantern unique.

By adorning the inside with trinkets that represented meaningful memories to us. I put in a magnet from Seattle, where we met, a Packers hat (a mini one!), my painted Space Marine (John), and some dice. Did I also mention that we are Super Geeks?

To make it a little more fancy, I tied some velvet ribbon at the top as a handle, and voila!

It was great. It was so us. The photographer loved it. And we ended up using it as a centerpiece for our Exhibit (pictures and explanation to come later). The best part for me is that we can still use it! Take the artifacts back out, put them in their respective homes, and we can have a cute little decoration that will always remind us of that 3 minute ceremony that was our courthouse elopement.

Wind Chimes

Married!

I have a plethora of fun crafty things that I did for my elopement/wedding ceremony with family that I hope to post here over the next few days, but suffice it to say, I was too busy to be posting anything.

Before I get to the wedding themed things, though, I wanted to make my post about making wind chimes.

1. I was super freaked out about doing this, but it turned out to be fun and pretty easy.

2. They came out great

3. I might sell some

While at sea…

This blog has fallen to the wayside in the wake of “This Ship is Sinking”, my blog about TFA and being a first year teacher. But life happened, as it is wont to do, and I am no longer in the classroom. Instead, I have joined the ranks of job hunters, and I have been fighting boredom tooth and nail.

At first, I filled  my time with applying for jobs. Within a week, I had applied to over 60. But then it became depressing.

I struggled with what to do – I felt guilt at not pouringall of my energy into job applications, but it is a joyless task. Then I started thinking about the fact that, living in a house now, I have a large sewing/craft room.

First, I sewed a skirt.

I sewed my very first skirt!
The skirt!

The skirt took about an hour, if I take into consideration looking up an easy pattern online, cutting, and then sewing.

But then I still had every other day ahead of me.

Cooking, of course, was always an option, but I find very few dishes require love and care for a whole work day. So I saved cooking for late afternoons.

And then Mother’s Day was looming. I asked mom what she wanted, and she said – “I want baritone wind chimes. I have a lot of tinkly ones, but I want a deep one.”

I looked them up online that night, and my eyes flew out of their sockets at the $150 price tags (and those are the cheap ones!). It was then that the insanity came to full fruition, and I had the idea to make them.

When I brought this up with E, he politely and delicately attempted to steer me in a different direction. But after a few hours of pouting and demonstrating that I actually had an idea on how to do it, he caved (of course), and we went back out to get supplies.

Those supplies were: copper pipe (10 feet), a pipe cutter, sturdy outdoor rope, a power drill (because somehow we did not yet own one), a wooden support plate, a bag of smaller wood plates for a striker, and some other decorative items. All told, after cutting the pipes, drilling the holes, painting the wood, and giving it all a good coating of enamel, I’d say it took about 2.5 hours. And the results were great!

Just in case, I won’t post a picture yet, since Mother’s Day has not yet arrived. But they will come, rest assured.

So what did I learn? That I can totally do this crafting thing.

A New Recipe, and I Want to Scream

Life really likes to throw curve balls. No. That’s not right. Life likes to throw knuckle balls and spit balls, then follow up with a fast ball, and finally throw a curve that swings in low and knocks you on your ass. That is what life likes to do.

And normally, I am standing at the plate, bat at the ready, my eyes focused on the prize.

Lately, though…lately, it has been too demanding. I cannot continue to juggle all of these required, important, necessary things. Not everything can be so required, important, and necessary. Not everything can take priority.

At work, my boss is consistently unaware of what is going on, preferring to let me do the work for the department. Then he asks for an update and plays boss for a while. When he is unhappy with a decision I have made or work I have done, I suggest ways for us to combat the issue -perhaps I should direct such decisions to him? But the minute I suggest that, he says “no, no, I want you to learn and make the decisions”. Translate: I like it that you do all the work, and I can just play boss when I am bored.

Fine. Whatever.

At home, E and I talk about work. And we spiral down the “whose position in the company is worse” road, until we both have nothing but one word answers for each other. We answer questions with “nothing” and “okay”. We don’t find peace or comfort because we just feed into each other. And then we end up resenting one another because we don’t feel heard, and awkward, silent nights pass by with nothing good brewing between us.

Today it was even worse because, due to winter conditions, we both worked from home, so our frustration of work that is usually confined to the office spilled out into our living and dining rooms. Now not only are we unable to be supportive of each other, but we’re having our work frustrations right out in the open. There’s no screen between the work and our slightly-less-frustrated time at home. To borrow a line from Frodo, we’re “naked in the dark.” This has resulted in a lot of angry, short responses from both of us. “I wasn’t paying attention, what did you say?” “Nothing.” “Okay, fine.”

I am so frustrated, and I am so unhappy.

But then just now I received a call from an unknown number, and it was a woman calling me about my resume on Career Builder. She said she thought I would be a perfect fit for the job, and I regretfully declined, since I am hoping to move back East. It meant so much to me just that she wanted me…it made me feel more confident.

So I decided it was time to write a post!

Earlier this week, I decided to make something with some frozen tortellini that I had bought on sale. I didn’t want a lot of sodium, so I opted out of a traditional sauce, choosing instead to just saute some vegetables for a light sauce.

1 package of tortellini, 3 roma tomatoes (diced), 2 zucchini (sliced), 1 can of white beans, 1/2 cup of cheese

While the water boiled, I threw the zucchini in a tbsp of olive oil and another tbsp of balsamic vinegar to cook for a while. Just before the rolling boil, I threw in the tomatoes and beans and some minced garlic. These were heated in the pan while the tortellini started to cook, and the tomatoes made a nice watery base. Once the tortellini was cooked and drained, I tossed it in the pan with the veggies, mixed it all together, sprinkled on some cheese, and took it off the heat.

It was a simple and filling meal, with a little bit of everything. E was happy with it; I was happy with it, and the ultimate calorie count (since I’m counting those things now!) was not too high.

Some days I wish I could just cook and craft. But I am grateful to have a job, and I’m even more grateful that that job makes me an ideal candidate for jobs just like it! Ha ha. Here’s to new recipes, and the ability to refrain from screaming. And to be wanted!

Forgot to mention: pair this recipe with a nice Cab Sauvignon, and you’re all set.

The final outcome of tortellini stuff

 

Officially a Stitched Bitch

Unlike most of my previous endeavors, which often took on the following pattern: diving in head first, realizing the water is too deep, and desperately clawing my way up, I have taken this project of learning my sewing machine at a comfortable, steady and very slow pace.

When E presented me with the sewing machine on Christmas Eve of last year, I felt a heavy responsibility fall onto my shoulders. I had longed for a sewing machine for months, years, even. I had stated this yearning many times before, and E had obviously been listening. And then he spent a nice sum of money to answer my wish on one of my favorite holidays.

So that means that I have to use the machine. And that means that I have to learn how to use it.

As soon as my eyes fell on the words of the large box under the tree, I knew that I could not jump into the deep end on this project because I would fail quickly, and the machine would sit in our extra room collecting dust. That would be unfair to E, so thoughtful and giving. I could not follow my normal pattern.

It just so happened that E’s mom also sent us a load of gifts, which included a wall calendar that I could not find it in my taste to hang in a public area (flowers are not part of my motif). E had also planned ahead and placed a book on sewing with the machine, so using the projects inside as a guide, I went about giving myself small goals with manageable deadlines. Manageable goals were things like “learn the parts of the sewing machine” and “wind a bobbin”. So far I have exceeded or at the very least met all of those goals, and it has officially paid off.

Yesterday I threaded my machine for the first time, and I stitched a line on some extra cloth that I purchased at Goodwill.

I actually threaded the machine correctly the first time, but my craft handicapped mind was convinced that I had done it wrong, so I ended up going through the process three times. It was after the third time I realized that I had, in fact, already threaded the machine just fine.

The machine is threaded

So with the machine threaded, which carried the deadline of 2/20/2011, I decided to do myself one better.

I decided to stitch a simple line on a piece of cloth. Since I have not yet purchased an iron, I did not want to sew a hem or something that I would have to iron. I simply threw a piece a piece of cloth on the machine and sewed a line -a straight one at that!

So I have made my first stitch, and I now know how to use my sewing machine, at least at the most basic level. The more complicated parts of sewing will come next, things like cutting patterns and measuring fabric. But as of yesterday, I can at least (attempt to) wind a bobbin, put thread in my machine, and stitch in a straight line.

I know that there is a lot more to learn, but I feel confident that by taking it slow, and adding on to my skills one-by-one, I will be able to create things in time. For now, I am raising my glass to stitching a straight line with thread.

Navy thread on some cheap cloth

Not Quite as Bleu

A healthier take on a cordon bleu

I joined Spark People recently, and I’ve been nabbing a lot of recipes from there. They’re already put into the nutrition tracker, so it makes counting calories, etc a lot easier.

That’s where I found this recipe for “Chicken Cordon Bleu, California Style”. Traditional cordon bleu is chicken, ham, and swiss cheese breaded and sauteed to a rich, creamy, calorically heavy delicacy. This version takes a chicken breast, one slice of deli ham, a slice of swiss cheese, tomato, and avocado.

It’s amazingly simple, but I managed to screw it up, anyway.

To prepare the chicken, you’re supposed to pan fry it in a little bit of oil with some salt and pepper for seasoning. Then, when it’s cooked, pile the other ingredients on top and bake on 450 for about 10 or 12 minutes.

I oven-roasted the chicken.

It still came out pretty tasty, though, and I suppose a bit healthier. The avocado kept it smooth and creamy, the tomato added some freshness, and the cheese added some tang.

I served the breasts on small spinach and tomato salads for presentation. I guess being so close to V-day, I thought I should do something a little fancy.

I would rate it a 6 on a 10 scale. It was extremely filling, and according to the recipe, it packs in about 585 calories. Considering the cup of risotto at 700, I’d say it’s worth it. I would be curious to see how well I could imitate with vegetarian options…

In other news, I have to learn how to thread my machine by next weekend.

Also, GO PACK GO! Packers won the Super Bowl. I dedicate my dinner to them.

The Long and Winding Bobbin

I have put off sitting at my sewing machine again, but today I had a few hours to spare, since E was playing Xbox with the guys. I also feel like absolute crap with a throat/chest/nose congestion thing, so sitting in front of a machine seemed like a doable feat.

In speaking with my mom, I learned that I probably have a genetic predisposition for failing at bobbin winding. And having wound a few now, I think that winding a bobbin really is some kind of innate 6th sense. I was born without this 6th sense, but with the wonders of an electric sewing machine, I managed to overcome at least long enough to wind 5 bobbins.

My first attempt was actually successful, leading me into a hideously false sense of security. That warm, fuzzy feeling was dashed when I tried my second bobbin. It came out horribly uneven, making an almost triangle of thread. I felt bad for the poor thing, like its very existence caused it pain, and not knowing what else to do, I manually unwound the bobbin and returned the thread to the original spool. This was time consuming, frustrating, and probably the wrong thing to do, but I did it anyway.

My pyramid of thread

To be perfectly honest, I am not sure that the last 4 that I wound were actually done correct, but they were not as obviously warped as that 2nd one, so I am keeping them. I also failed to make all of them full. Learning curves! Learning curves, every one of them.

My Little Bobbins

Either way, it’s done. And that means my next project is to actually thread the machine. And then sew a stitch. But before I do that, I have to get a steam iron. Ugh. I hate ironing.

Risotto and a Little Disappointment

Last night I made my swiftly becoming famous risotto, though where I usually include shrimp, I used mushrooms.

I love risotto because it is versatile –it can take on many flavors, and you can put almost anything in it.

It’s also time consuming. Stirring for 45 minutes has to burn some calories, though, so it’s ok. And I hope it does, since risotto packs a walloping 900 calories per cup. Give or take a few hundred, depending on what you’ve put in it.

And I can almost make it now without looking at the recipe. Butter and oil in the pan, simmer onions to translucent, add the rice and coat with butter and oil, add white wine and broth a 1/2 cup at a time, then add the vegetables. When the rice is done, remove it from the heat, add more butter, some spices, and cheese, and there is your deliciously caloric meal.

It was worth it.

I started using Spark People, a free diet and exercise planning website that helps you track caloric intake and how much you work out. Day two today, and so far I went 1/3rd over my calorie count yesterday, and I am lacking in a lot of nutrients. A slice of cake, by the way, is 300 or more calories. Yikes. I will remember that next time my office has a shitty baby shower.

Which brings me to the disappointment.

Sometimes it’s hard not to take the little things that go wrong personally. My NFC Championship shirt didn’t come in today, like it was apparently going to. Does that mean that the Packers specifically wanted mine to be late and not wearable for Super Bowl Sunday? No. But it sure as hell feels like it.

Did the Universe decide it didn’t like me, then give me Hydradenitis Suppurativa as a sort of practical joke? I honest can’t say –probably not. But today, I think that it mocks me every day because of it.

It’s just been a day of the world laughing at me. There’s a great X-Files episode, call The Rain King, and one of the characters says that on the day of her divorce, all of the clouds outside looked like they were laughing at her. That’s how I’ve felt all day.

But I can point to my accomplishments, anyway. I made some awesome dinner last night. I’ve worked out two nights in a row, and one of my two-week goals is to write in a journal three times a week, so I’m doing that, too. I am working hard to be positive. But it IS hard work.

Sushi tonight. My deadline for winding a bobbin is next weekend, so I should have an update on that soon. Eventually. I hope. Maybe once I’ve shaken off the Winter Blues.

I’ve Mustered a Flatline

Welcome to Seattle winter, ladies and gentlemen. If you’ve ever contemplated the consequences of stepping just a tad over the edge of a cliff, you know what every day in Seattle during the winter is like. It’s a constant battle between your self-preservation instinct and your other self-preservation instinct, which realizes that if you have to endure one more day of half-assed rain at a steady 45 to 50 degrees, you will kill someone and be put in jail.

The drive for any sort of endeavor, even simply be an active and contributing member of society, dies with the first week of clouds rolling in off the Sound. With the exception of the holidays, when the city is brighter for all of the lights on display, it is dreary and painstakingly boring time of year.

So it is that the best crafting project I can think to mention is fixing the increasingly large hole in the couch with some thread made for denim because I have been unmotivated to find some real, heavy-duty thread. I didn’t bother taking a picture. Suffice it to say, it looks like a couch that had a hole and was fixed with denim thread.

As for cooking, I’ve been as lazy as possible for the past week. E made dinner on Sunday night, after we had a large meal at a friend’s house to watch the Packers game (NFC Champions!!!). Last night I made an old favorite, “cheesy rice and beans” –I will freely confide that the recipe is from an ex. *GASP*

This was a standard in my apartment with said ex. It’s easy and sticks to your ribs. You make the rice, and towards the end of the rice’s cook time, you add beans and whatever else you want, then add the cheese right at the end. The secret is to use a tablespoon of cream cheese to make it ultra-creamy, and voila –calories!

The version I made is my personal favorite: a Mediterranean styled dish. I use garbanzos, tomatoes, and black olives, with Italian blend cheese and Feta. I have also had versions with a Mexican twist, including black beans and some spices, and a rather bland version with just beans and cheese. The great thing about it is that it is a blank canvas that can be covered with just about anything and still be good.

And, like I said, it’s filling.

Tonight we’re having hotdogs. Because, really, the thought of doing anything other than the very basic necessities at this point is like drilling through my skull to scoop my brains out with a spatula. Think about it.

Chapter 1: Knowing Your Sewing Machine

The first time I ever made a B on a school assignment, I had a mini breakdown that involved writing the letter B on a sheet of paper multiple times and doing whatever I could do to that paper to destroy it. I think toothpaste was involved.

Over time, I came to understand that a B was not only still a passing grade, but also still above “average”. And more than that, I learned that there were more important things than grades. Of course, eventually I got my first C, and it was downhill again. But don’t worry: my final GPA in high school and college was an A, so I kept up my dream of good grades.

When it comes to non-academic pursuits in life, I have a greater tendency to not excel and to give up after failure. So I am taking this “parts quiz” in stride. I got a B.

However, to make myself feel better, here are the reasons I think I made a B on this quiz:

1. Following my S.E.W. book that E got me for Christmas, it gives a list of important machine parts according to the author. I was using this list to test knowledge.

2. The aforementioned book also focuses on a mechanical machines, not electronic, which is what I have.

3. The book also does not list all of the parts that my machine manual lists.

Ok. There it is. The part on the list that I missed was the “bobbin winding tension disk”, which is not surprisingly right next to the bobbin winder. But I could not determine what the little metal bit on the other machine was, so I assumed that was it.

This brings me to what that metal part is: the thread guide. The be fair, that part is not listed in the S.E.W. book as one of the parts that I should know. That’s my excuse, in more specific terms.

I have to say, though, I am really happy to know my machine this well. The best part is that I can describe what each part is for, and I think that is what is really important. It also means that the next step is to actually suck it up, face my fear, and wind a bobbin.