March 11th, 2013 :: :: permalink
Hello out there. Hopefully this explains why I’ve been absent for so long. It took two home tests and a trip to the doctor to convince us, but on January 15th, Dustin and I got the happy news that we were expecting. We were both excited, yet fully terrified. A human being was going to be here in nine months. How do we prepare for something that huge, yet tiny?
Well, before I could start my usual type-A planning, morning sickness, along with a few other first trimester symptoms, knocked me off my feet and onto the sofa. I decided to pick up knitting since it required very little movement and I could do it from the comfort of my lovely couch.
The last few months have been full of so many changes. Engagement, marriage, the loss of Dustin’s dad, and last week…hearing a new little heart beat for the first time. Every month seems to bring a new surprise and we’re trying to take it all in.
As for now, I knit.
Thank you to Nina (a local Chicago knitting shop) for helping me learn to knit.
January 16th, 2013 :: :: permalink
This year I wanted to make Christmas gifts that were out of the ordinary. I overheard one of my friends at work saying he was going to make a terrarium for his mom. I didn’t even really know what a terrarium was, but decided to do a little research online. There were so many cool designs and each one was unique in its own way, so I quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Of course this was only a week and a half before Christmas and I had never made a terrarium before, but a little urgency never hurt anyone. Dustin and I have a different ideas of how well I work under pressure.
To begin, I ordered and scavenged for supplies. Some things, such as the little figurines of people in various poses, were specialized and had to be purchased online. While I waited for everything to be shipped, I painted a brightly colored instruction card, which came out doubly bright due to the psychedelic cold medication I was on at the time.
Most of these terrarium supplies can be found at Joann’s Fabric, Hobby Lobby or Michaels. I used moss, charcoal (to help prevent mold), rocks, potting soil, jars (some terrariums use lids and some don’t) and little HO scale figurines. Since I was crunched for time and it was freezing in Chicago, I didn’t feel like venturing out for moss, so I ordered it from Etsy.
Just a “common sense” note that I learned the hard way: softly place the rocks in your jar. I shattered my first jar when I poured the rocks in. Luckily enough, I had an extra mason jar sitting in the cupboard.
There are quite a few HO figurines to choose from to bring some human life to a terrarium. The figurines are usually used by model railroad hobbyists. Another note: Baby Jesus and nativity scene figurines are hot commodities in December.
Here is the order in which I filled my terrariums. Most of our family lives outside of Chicago, so I used metal pieces from Michael’s (found them in the jewelry section) to keep everything secure. I also carefully filled the jars with damp paper towels once I was finished, to keep the moss alive and in-place while it was being shipped. They all made it to their recipients in one piece.
The jar above was for my sister. She loves books and reads more in a week than I do in a year (sad!). I liked that the figurine is upside down, since my sister is juggling a new job and a big move to Chicago. Seemed appropriate.
This terrarium with a dancing couple was for Dustin. It feels like we had a whirlwind of a year with an engagement in March and a wedding in August, so I wanted to create a relaxing environment deep within the greenery (cheesy, I know).
I thought about painting the lady to give her a little tan like me, but time did not allow and I had to smile at myself for thinking it was perhaps a bit racially insensitive.
I found decorating to be my favorite part of building my terrariums. It felt like I was creating a little home for each of the figurines and I wanted my gift recipients to feel happy when they looked through the glass to these peaceful little worlds.
You do have to water them periodically, but otherwise they are, in fact, fuss free.
January 8th, 2013 :: :: permalink
Citrusy sweet lemons have always been Dustin’s favorite weakness. So much, that I had to hide my lemon juice for cooking, otherwise it would be empty in a few days. On his birthday I wanted to pamper him, so I appropriately chose lemon cake with lemon buttercream frosting as his birthday treat. I topped it with a slice of lemon and mint leaves.
Happy Birthday Dustin!
December 25th, 2012 :: :: permalink
December 24th, 2012 :: :: permalink
It’s only been four months since our wedding in Cork, Ireland, but during the whirlwind of preparation and the butterflies, I had forgotten some of the small details of the day. Looking through our pictures makes it feel like it was just yesterday.
That morning I woke up a stressball, something likely expected by most who know me. I immediately started to clean my room and prepare for it to be taken over by our hair and makeup artists and female guests. The weather was rainy, but there were small peeks of sunshine through the clouds, so I knew the sun was in there somewhere. I secretly prayed that the weather would clear up just long enough for us to say “I do.” Thirty minutes before our ceremony, after almost a full day of rain, the clouds opened up and the sun finally revealed itself.
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December 6th, 2012 :: :: permalink
When I shop for groceries, I read the labels of almost every product I purchase. As time goes on, it gets much easier to shop when you become loyal to a few good brands. With all this concentrated effort toward making healthy choices, I never paid that much attention to my cosmetics or personal hygiene products.
A few months ago, I started to look up some of my cosmetics on EWG, an online database that rates the toxicity of your cosmetics and also tells you the possible long term side effects. It was startling. Some of my products that touted being natural were rated moderate or high in toxicity. Some affected the respiratory system, some the reproductive system, and some even had cancerous side effects.
I wish I was one of those girls that can go cold turkey, but I unfortunately can’t. Instead, I have been slowly transitioning from a lot of my conventional makeup, lotions, cleansers and beauty potions to more natural products. I even stopped chemically straightening my hair a year ago. It has not been an easy process. After a lot of sampling and research, which I’m sure I’ll continue learning from, I’ve found a few products that work well for me.
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September 21st, 2012 :: :: permalink
On August 29, Dustin and I were married in Cork, Ireland. The day after our ceremony we ate a late breakfast with our families, grabbed a few pieces of left over wedding cake, and said our goodbyes. We set out for the airport and suddenly realized that we had very little planned for our trip to Greece. We had been thinking about our wedding so much that we didn’t really know what to expect on our honeymoon.
We arrived in Athens at midnight, short a couple of suitcases that were lost somewhere between Ireland and Greece. Unfortunately the bags we were missing contained all of Dustin’s belongings. The next morning we woke up to the noises of a busy city below us. We started our day at the Acropolis Museum and then explored the Parthenon. Dustin was still wearing the same clothing from the day before, but was in good spirits.
As designers, we were intrigued by the Parthenon and all the tricks its original architects played to correct some optical illusions and create others. Back in design school, Dustin had a professor who seemed obsessed with the Parthenon, so he enjoyed seeing all of he little details he had heard about years ago. The building was very dramatic, especially as we walked up to it from the main steps, when all of those little details worked at the same time to make the building seem impossibly large. Most amazing was that the whole thing was built thousands of years ago but is said to contain very few straight lines. Everything was made to curve slightly for optical reasons.
There was so much history in one location. We had a very knowledgeable guide for the day, who freely discussed art, Greek history, politics, the economy and immigration. Although I couldn’t absorb everything she was saying, I think the key points were: everything originates from Greece & politicians are sketchy no matter where you live. We only spent one day in Athens, but that turned out to be perfect, because we saw what we wanted to see and Santorini was next on our list.
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August 29th, 2012 :: :: permalink
Dustin and I are getting married today in the low-key setting of the Ballyvolane House garden near Cork, Ireland. I’ve been asked quite a few times why I chose Ireland…I thought about fibbing and saying Dustin was Irish (the red hair would work in my favor). But the truth is that Dustin is marrying a crazy person.
Ever year we take one big trip. This year I thought “why not mix a vacation in with a wedding…in four months?”
Our immediate family is following us across the Atlantic to be with us on our wedding day, so I really wanted to make them something special from the two of us.
My search for ideas started by looking up boxes on Etsy. I came across some awesomely textured and weathered cigar boxes. Each box was unique in its own way. I knew I wanted to use them as the basis of my gift. Etsy has been our best friend in this whole process. After finding the boxes, I found fabric to line them to give them a vintage suitcase vibe.
I created and hand cut labels for each gift I put into the boxes. If I ever do this process again, perhaps for my sister, I will use simple square labels! I used a needle and thread to attach the labels to ribbons that I wrapped around each gift.
I created stationery with a short activity list and wedding schedule, a medieval map, and a thank you card. Since I only had to put together a few boxes I bought special paper from Neenah Paper.
I started with placing a embroidered handkerchief in the gift box with a label that read “Just in Case”. I kept one handkerchief for myself…just in case. Next, I dropped in a bag of M&M’s customized with our initials and an icon of a tree (from a stamp I originally used for our invitations). Finally, I found the cutest little chocolates that look like sardines. My dad plans to go salmon fishing while he’s in Ireland, so it seemed appropriate.
I finished by adding the stationery and closing the boxes with purple ribbons.
Special thanks go out to our families for coming all the way to Ireland with us. I also appreciate all the well wishes from our friends and extended family. You will be with us in spirit.
The next time we speak, Dustin and I will be married!
July 26th, 2012 :: :: permalink
July 6th, 2012 :: :: permalink
I have been craving bread pudding for a while and a recent trip to a local farmers market created the perfect opportunity to get all the necessary ingredients. I have only had bread pudding a couple of times throughout my years, but I really like the moist french toast texture and the not-too-sweet flavor. While roaming about the market, Edna (my sister) and I brainstormed how to make our own bread pudding, while Dustin ignored our sisterly rambles and giggles and tried not to get heatstroke.
This was our first time at a farmers market, so everything looked especially appealing. I was sure I wanted to use a fruit of some sort on the bread pudding to add a bit more texture and visual appeal, but with so many choices the decision was tough. I settled on wild blackberries because I still have memories of picking and eating wild berries as a child with my dad in Germany. The berries from the market seemed less tart than I remember.
Edna and I came across the most beautiful pretzel bread and started talking about different ways to use it. We weren’t a hundred percent sure how it would work out, but we wanted to try using the outer crust of the bread as an edible bowl for our pudding. We ended up buying eggs, jam, and an array of veggies and fruits. Our rule after we got home was to eat at least three fruits and veggies a day so nothing went to waste.
The recipe is pretty simple: 4 small breads, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 eggs (beaten), 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, 1 cup milk, and a handful of blackberries.
The outer crust was just tough enough to keep it’s shape after we carefully tore out the soft, fluffy bread inside. In a bowl we mixed the melted butter, beaten eggs, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and milk together with the pieces of left over bread. Then we let it sit for 5 minutes. We placed the moist bread mixture back into it’s original bread shell and tossed in some of the wild blackberries. Edna poured some of the left over liquid from the bowl on the pretzel bread shell, along with some sugar to make it a little softer and sweeter. Then we put our stuffed pretzel bowls in the oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.
Dustin lucked out this weekend and was tasked only with making the whipped cream. Everything came together perfectly and was fairly simple to make. Using the outer shell of the bread as a bowl made for easy cleanup and created another little tasty treat. Who wouldn’t love that? Who?!
Full recipe follows.
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