Saturday, February 27, 2010

Projects: The K Family's Coat of Arms

This is our couch and the lovely new pillows we picked up at PB:

I love the pillows, but I think the couch needs a few smaller throw pillows to give the space a more cohesive look. I'm really not sure that's the best word. What I mean is that I think it needs patterned pillows that contain the colors of the couch, the wall and a little bit of gold to tie it all together. Make sense?

Initially, all I could think about was this pillow (it doesn't exactly meet the aforementioned criteria, but is colorful and lovely)...

...which I have been in love with since I first saw it several years ago. Cat Studio's geography line is awesome, but it's also a little pricey for a decorative pillow. So, a few weeks ago I decided to attempt my own embroidered pillow. I'm that dumb.* I went to our local library and checked out the Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Embroidery Stitches, made a run to JoAnn's to buy floss, fabric and one of those round things you use to keep the working surface tight, and then got to work. Notice that I didn't buy a pattern. Oh no, I decided to make things even more complicated by designing my own. Keep in mind that when I started drawing my pattern I had not even practiced a single stitch.

You know what, though? I'm really enjoying it. I've only been stitching while watching the Olympics at night, so it's been a slow process, but I finally finished outlining the shapes and I've even filled in a couple of the objects (alright, most of one and all of another). Instead of doing a geography theme, I picked symbols that represent each of us: the letter K, a bicycle, a calculator (G's request because it "represents both math and computer science"), French horn, trumpet, tennis racket, globe and a book. Yes, we are nerds.

Here's the template I labored on for three hours two Saturdays ago:

The template itself was no small project. I searched Google for images of the items I wanted to include, printed them, simplified them, and then traced them with pencil onto a sheet of tissue paper. After tracing them with pencil, I went over them again with a thin Sharpie. I think the pattern turned out okay.

And here's the work in progress as of this morning:

I'm not going to lie. It took a long time to trace all of those shapes with black floss. I was a little too eager early on and spent a long time outlining the shapes, only to develop a minor case of wry neck. Since then, I've been good about spending only an hour on it most nights.

My fill stitches are far from exceptional, but they work. Unfortunately, they're loose enough that I'm not going to use the finished piece as a pillow, though. I fear it would unravel quickly, and that would be embarrassing. Instead I'm going to frame it and hang it somewhere. It's not perfect, but it's fun and I've been working hard on it. Plus, it's unique. If anything, it's unique.

This, of course, means I'm back at square one and I need to find throw pillows.

Have you ever taken on a big crafty project with no background experience? Tell me all about it. I can't be the only one!

*I should note that I have a problem with taking on large crafty projects that take on a life of their own and then sit in dark closets for long periods of time. And yet I keep finding more opportunities to start new projects.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Musical Goodness

This awesomeness is courtesy of my friend, Laura, who always finds the best YouTube videos:

This will be G and me in 60 years, except I'll trade my horn for his trumpet. Oh, wait, he doesn't let me touch his trumpet - and with good reason, his trumpet still looks brand new, and my horn looks like I used it for juggling practice and took a sander to its finish. Wishful thinking.

Three posts in one day must be a record for me.

Home Projects: Picking the the Perfect Gray-Blue

It's official: blue-gray paint is a pain in the butt to work with. Once again, I have multiple paint swatches decorating the walls of our basement. And once again, I'm not totally committed to any of the options we've chosen.

We started with this:

The polished limestone doesn't look very bluish-gray on my screen, but it does on the wall. There's too much gray in it, though, and while it looks okay covering small sections of the wall, I'm afraid it wouldn't look good covering all of the walls - it's a big room.

Last weekend I picked up a pint of this:

It looked awesome in the store. So, so awesome. I was really excited about it until the clerk handed me the sample can of paint she had just mixed and the color swatch taped to its lid looked totally different than the paint chip. It turns out that Mt. Rainier is actually a baby blue. I'm going to put some on the wall tomorrow and see how it turns out. Maybe I'll be surprised and it will look like the paint chip. Maybe, but I'm not getting my hopes up.

P.S. I'll post about my embroidery project tomorrow morning.

Things I Like: Røros-Tweed

The summer after I finished college, I lived in Hamar, Norway and worked at a history center. One weekend midsummer I took the train up to Røros, a UNESCO site. The town is neat to visit, but I cut my trip short because I couldn't handle the "affordable" accommodations in the area (log cabins with incredibly old mattresses, one sheet (the top sheet) and no pillow PLUS the possibility of random strangers being assigned to share my cabin with me = not good for this woman). Anyway, while I was there I fell in love with these blankets:

They were initially very attractive because I had just spent the night wearing multiple layers and wrapped like a sausage in my one sheet (with a shirt wrapped around my head turban style in an attempt to keep my hair from touching the mattress), but I also loved the way they felt on my skin. I had no idea that wool could feel that amazing. Unfortunately, I was living on an extremely tight budget so I couldn't justify buying one. Like everything else in Norway, they're a little pricey.

My mom, who has an incredible ability to retain bits of random knowledge, remembered that I loved them and surprised us* with one after her trip to Norway last fall. It hasn't left our bed since. It has an amazing ability to keep me at a perfect temperature. It feels incredibly soft. It's beautiful. I had to wait six years for mine, but I know I'll have it forever. The quality is amazing. Buy one. You'll initially feel a little guilty when you fork over the money for it, but you certainly won't regret it. This, my friends, is a good investment.

*Who am I kidding? I don't share it with anyone, including my husband.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

My New Alarm Clock

I've been making good progress with my dissertation writing (awesome, I know!), so I feel like I can spend a little more time updating the blog (which is why there are two posts today!). I'm sure my 2 readers will be thrilled. ;)

I've had a really hard time waking up recently. Our morning routine usually involves me getting up to turn off our alarm clocks (which we keep on the dresser in an attempt to get us up and moving - doesn't work so well), crawling back into bed and promptly falling back asleep until I hear G start the shower. For the past few weeks, I've been falling asleep again and not waking up until just before G leaves for the day. It's been rough.

Last Monday, however, we came up with an awesome plan to get me moving. Now, when G gets up every morning he goes into the kitchen, fills our tea kettle, puts it on the stove, puts out one of my two teapots (thanks G&G B!) and then starts his regular morning routine. Five minutes later, the kettle obnoxiously starts whistling and I have to get out of bed to turn it off. It's a brilliant plan. It also means I get my morning green tea asap as the water is ready to go.

We're so clever.


A couple of weeks ago, I went to one of our local high schools for my political party's precinct caucuses. I arrived hoping to cast my ballot for the straw poll and then bug out before they started talking about the party's platform and policy issues. Let's face it folks, I hate unorganized meetings and listening to people ramble about pointless topics for long periods of time. I decided to vote and then go to yoga.

As I walked into my room of 7 people (so, so much different than 2008), I was approached by my precinct's chair who asked me if I could assist a deaf woman in the room by typing the conversation that took place. I couldn't say no, so I sat down and got comfortable for the meeting.

Note: It turns out the woman I was helping was also legally blind and very invested in Minnesota's political scene. She asked me to nominate her as a delegate for the upcoming convention, and to find out whether or not there would be someone there could assist her for the meeting. I asked about accommodations, and was surprised when the precinct chair said they didn't think that was possible due to budget cuts (he even pondered out loud as to whether they would have someone there if there weren't budget issues AND asked the entire event's organizer who agreed with his response). I typed his response to the woman, and she just laughed it off, saying she would be okay. I was not okay. I then nominated (with her permission) her to the accommodations committee for the upcoming meeting. I figured it was the best volunteer position for her to make her needs known. Jerks.

Sorry about the rant, but it still bothers me.

After the meeting started and we had cast our ballots, the chair asked who wanted to be nominated as a delegate for the next convention. The woman I was helping eagerly raised her hand, but no one else did. In fact, I made it clear that I did not wish to attend the meeting. Somehow my name was added to the list and I have been inundated with phone calls from various candidates and volunteers ever since. I am not attending the meeting and I am so annoyed that I was nominated. They call at all hours of the day. It's gotten to the point where I just don't answer my phone if I have an incoming unidentified number from a metro area code.

I'm annoyed with my party. I hate saying it, but I'm just annoyed. I'm totally committed to most aspects of its platform, but I hate how disorganized it is at this level. I'm most annoyed by the fact that they didn't think they'd be able to offer assistance for the blind-deaf woman. In fact, I'm going to email the SoS right now and voice a complaint.

Apologies again for the rant. Also sorry if I've ignored your phone calls. :)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Weekend Goodness

Let me introduce you to my new favorite brand of wine, Öko:

I picked up a bottle of pinot grigio last night, and thought it was absolutely heavenly. Try it. You should also feel more than welcome to bring a bottle (any varietal is fine) with you the next time you come over for dinner or game night. I won't turn it away. I might even let you have some.

We've had a quiet Saturday. G spent his afternoon at the library, and I ran errands. We're about to sit down to a dinner of turbot, roasted fingerling potatoes with garlic, and mixed veggies. I'm looking forward to more Olympic events tonight, watching The Invention of Lying, and working on my embroidery project (a topic for another post).

I promise to post again later this week...

Happy weekend, Friends!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Cosemetic Safety Database

I have a million and fifteen things I need to accomplish today, but I feel as though this blog is due for a posting.

I can count on my mother for almost anything. One of her favorite things to do is send me articles about maternal health (no worries, not pregnant, she just is always thinking ahead). Today PHN mother just sent me a link to an article that discusses the relationship between mothers who use products that contain phthalates (I had to quadruple check that spelling) and children with behavioral disorders. Scary business.

The article included a link to The Environmental Working Group's Cosmetic Safety Database. Have a blast looking up all of your skincare products - few things are more insulting than looking up your "all natural," sulfate free, paraban free products and discovering they still don't have exceptional ratings. Good, but not what I was expecting.

Time to tackle my to-do list, which includes finishing and submitting some writing to my adviser, introducing myself to a group of 17 Czech musicians (it's going to be a long weekend!), and organizing and reorganizing 6 full scores of music.