30 September 2008

Comment Solicitors

Call this a rant, or whatever you will--maybe I'm in a whining mood because I don't feel very good--but I've decided lately that I don't like when there is a question posed at the end of a blog post. I'll be reading along, enjoying what the author has to say about saving a penny, budgeting, party-planning, you name it, and then at the end they ask something like, "What about you? What do you do to save a penny?"

I think I may be guilty of this myself--perhaps in my early days of blogging I was a little desperate for comments or something (I mean, comments are one of the great things about blogging), but after spending some time in the blogging world and collecting a pretty significant list of blogs that I read daily, I've decided that asking a question at the end of a post just bugs me. If people want to comment, they will comment--asking the question just makes people feel like they have to and makes the author seem too desperate.

If you like to ask questions at the end of your post--please still do it. Don't let my annoying rant stop you (like it would anyway). I try not to be negative on the blog, but I'm breaking my rule today.

What about you? Do you like to read a question at the end of a blog post?

25 September 2008

A great client

For the past few months I have been sewing bags and bags and bags for my best and favorite client, Ellen, of Classichound. Have you been to her website? She sells beautiful handmade collars and leashes for "fashion hounds and their people."

I'll admit (sorry Ellen!) that I have never been a huge dog lover. In fact, my husband will tell you that I'm still scared of all dogs even as an adult. That is not altogether true. Occasionally a dog makes me nervous, and somehow I passed my fear onto my boys, which makes me sad, but that is a topic for another day.

So, that said, learning more about what Ellen does through Classichound and Handmade4hounds (the Etsy street team she started to raise awareness and money for greyhound adoption) has made me appreciate dogs, dog lovers, and especially greyhounds for their beauty and unique body shape, more than ever before. (I still don't want to own a dog, but that is mostly because of an aversion to picking up their poop)

"Their unique body shape?," you ask? After cutting out and sewing on many greyhounds on these fabulous bags, designed by Ellen herself. . .(the grey ones are all sold out--sorry, but this one above, and several others can be found here)

. . .I have come to appreciate what a beautiful dog a greyhound really is.

I'm so glad that I met Ellen (thanks Tara!) and have been able to form such a comfortable, successful working relationship with her. Thanks to her and these bags, I have been able to expand my sewing skills--especially in applique!

She sends me boxes of beautiful Amy Butler, Michael Miller, and Alexander Henry fabrics, and I get to sew them. What more could a seamstress ask for?

23 September 2008

Monday Fun Find #13

Monday Fun Find is one day late this week. . .

Since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought I'd suggest an idea for any little girl who wants wants to be a princess AND for her mother who wants a costume that will have a second life as a warm, cozy nightgown after Halloween.

The one pictured here is for a Snow White costume/nightgown, but Melanie also makes them in yellow (Belle), pink (any princess), blue (Cinderella or Wendy), or white (angel, Sleeping Beauty).

The nightgowns are made of flannel-backed satin, a unique, soft and silky fabric and are beautifully sewn. She has a variety of sizes available. Check out her Etsy shop for a sizing chart.

Happy Monday!

22 September 2008

Sew, Mama, Sew

One blog I read daily is Sew, Mama, Sew! Kristin, the creator of the blog, owns an online shop selling beautiful fabric. The great blog authors are often posting neat tutorials, projects, and sewing tips, and they also have a fabulous forum where you can ask and answer all questions sewing-related.

Today, my storage basket liner tutorial is featured on the blog. Check it out here. I have wanted to do an online tutorial for a long time now. And now, here it is!

21 September 2008

Football musings

If you happen to love BYU Football like we do at our house, you might have fun reading these pre- and post-game recaps written by my sports-loving little sister, Doge. She is a non-paid intern at a sports betting site, which is where these articles make their debut (who's betting on BYU you ask? well, people who think they might bust the BCS I suppose). Since you have to pay for a membership on said sports betting site, we begged her to post them on her blog, and she obliged. She's a great writer. Once basketball season begins, she's also going to blog about the Jazz, and that should be fun to read. Stay tuned for a link.

And while we're on the subject of football, did anyone watch the Oregon Ducks lose another quarterback yesterday? As one sports announcer said, "The only thing worse than being a crash-test dummy these days is being an Oregon QB". Kind of a lame quote, but funny nonetheless. So, all you fans (and semi-interested non-fans), count with me: since the sad day that Dennis Dixon went down last season, there have been four others who followed him, making 5 quarterbacks out due to some sort of injury (mostly blown knees). The guy who stepped in yesterday in the middle of the 4th quarter was a true freshman who literally removed the red vest he was wearing in order to give up his redshirt year. You can imagine, since he was a redshirt player, that he had VERY little time practicing with the team under his belt, yet he came in and almost led them to a victory.

There must be a serious conspiracy going on at Autzen. Maybe the Ducks need to start recruiting some quarterbacks that don't have chicken legs. Most of their guys are pretty scrawny, and apparently their scrawny legs can't hold up to whatever the practice and playing fields are made of over at Autzen.

Okay, that's enough about that.

***If you clicked on that link for the game recaps and found that it was no longer there, just surf through her archives and look for the post on September 19th. For some reason she doesn't label her posts, but I think she should start (hint hint Doge). Also, her real name is Allison for those of you wondering what kind of weird name is Doge.

16 September 2008

My favorite sandwich

You could say it's a BLT, with the B replaced by a really good slice of C. Tillamook cheddar cheese that is. Oh, how I love Tillamook cheese. I also think that this classic CLT is only good in the middle of tomato season with a fresh grown tomato, open face on whole wheat bread (slightly toasted) with mayo, a piece of crisp lettuce and lots of salt and pepper. That's how I like it. Yum.

Don't get me wrong--I love a good BLT as well, but these are so much easier to throw together and your house (and hair) doesn't stink all day from cooking bacon.

The credit for these sandwiches has to go to my mom (or maybe my dad?), as we ate them a lot when we were growing up.
I LOVE them. I can eat one everyday for lunch, but again, only when I can go out and pick one of these first:

(These are two tomato plants that ended up sharing the same space)

13 September 2008

The Book Thief

First of all, thanks for Chelsea for recommending this book so highly, and thanks to my husband for buying it way before I ever knew I wanted to read it so that all I had to do was take it off the shelf in our bedroom. I'm not one who usually likes to buy books, preferring to check them out from the library, but I am now very glad that we own this one.

Found in the book, written by the narrator (who is death):

It’s a small story really, about, among other things:

  • A girl
  • Some words
  • An accordionist
  • Some fanatical Germans
  • A Jewish fist fighter
  • And quite a lot of thievery
For me, reading this book made me endlessly thankful to be alive, living in America, at a time when life is generally easy, pleasant, and there is much joy to be found every day. The characters, jew and non-jew alike, who lived in Germany during Hitler's reign, suffered greatly in many ways and their lives are brilliantly depicted through Zusak's unique writing style. Their ability to find joy while in the midst of such suffering and oppressive leadership was remarkable and inspiring.

On the ration cards of Nazi Germany, there was no listing for punishment, but everyone had to take their turn. For some it was death in a foreign country during the war. For others it was poverty and guilt when the war was over, when six million discoveries were made throughout Europe.

As I read this book, main characters Liesel, Rudy, Rosa, Hans, and Max were a significant part of my life. I thought about them even when I wasn't reading. I'll admit, as the story came to an end, I cried like I haven't in a long time. Even though they were fictional characters, they represented millions of people who lived during that terrible period in history.

In this story, words represent joy, life and freedom. And while reading, I found within myself a new appreciation for joy, life and freedom.

**In this post, I mentioned that the narrator of this book is death. This is a very important detail to remember as you begin the book, because otherwise the beginning can be very confusing. Another thanks to Chelsea for giving me that info.

10 September 2008

What's for dinner?

Remember this goal? (#2)

Having discovered another delicious way to use whole wheat flour, I thought I'd share it here.

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

(makes enough dough for 2 pizzas)
1 1/2 cups warm water
2 packets (or 1 tbsp + 1 1/2 tsp.) yeast
3 tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 cups white flour

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
drizzle of olive oil

1. Add yeast and sugar to warm water in bowl of mixer. Mix and let sit for a couple minutes until foamy.

2. Add salt, oil, and flour until you get a soft dough. Knead with dough hook, or by hand, for a few minutes until dough is soft and pliable.

3. Cover and let rise for 15-20 mins. Split the dough in half if you're only making one pizza. Freeze the other half for dinner another night.
4. Roll out and put on toppings. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 mins.

You can substitute any amount of wheat flour for white flour that you desire. We have tried many different ratios and like the one listed in the recipe the very best.

Now with a freezer full of shredded mozzarella cheese, pizza sauce, and pepperoni, pizza is our family's go-to meal about once-a-week. We're pretty boring--sticking to pepperoni most times, but occasionally we change it up with bbq sauce, grilled chicken, cilantro, and red onions. Yum.

It's very homemade looking--but pretty tasty.

**My sister recently tried making this dough and found that her wheat flour didn't have great flavor perhaps because it was too old or had gone a little rancid. If you live in a warm or humid climate, you may want to keep your whole wheat flour in the freezer. You might also substitute whole wheat pastry flour for a smoother dough.

08 September 2008

Monday Fun Find #12

I discovered these when I was browsing the Etsy Handmade Kids Challenge. If you want to see some amazing art, furniture, toys and accessories for kids and their rooms, check it out. You get to vote for your favorites AND you might win a $350 shopping spree on Etsy. (I want it!). Hurry, because the voting ends today, Sept 8th at 11:59pm EST.

Alphabet Magnet Set

Jen Skelley's original illustrations are found on these magnets.
F is for fox, J is for Jellyfish, and my favorite--H is for helicopter (because Owen used to call them "topter-topters").

These would make your fridge so much fun.

If the whole set seems to be a little out of the budget, you can also buy your favorite letters individually.

Happy Monday!

05 September 2008

Three tools you shouldn't can without

This has been a week of canning.

I really do love this time of year when the peaches, tomatoes, apples, and everything else are finally ripe and ready to be picked. I always get a little giddy when it's time to preserve the local produce to enjoy all year long.

Peaches, salsa and applesauce have been the staples for a few years now. I always want to try other things, but haven't ventured into canning green beans, making pickles or chutney quite yet.

So, if you love to can, here are my three favorite tools:

1. The Ideal Fruit Canner

My grandma gave me this before I moved to Oregon. She used it for many years before she decided she was ready to retire from canning. I can't believe how much easier this makes the whole process, because you don't have to boil a whole huge pot of water. Instead, you use 2 quarts of water which steams the bottles and preserves them. I've been searching the internet for the company that used to make these, but they no longer exist. I did find one here, and trust me, it would be worth paying the shipping from Hong Kong. These things are amazing.

2. The serrated peeler
I discovered this tool after reading Cook's Illustrated last year. If you've ever canned peaches or tomatoes and had to immerse each piece of fruit into boiling water for 2 minutes in order to make them easier to peel, you know what a HASSLE that really is. It's also such a mess. So this tool allows you to skip that step entirely and peel those fragile fruits without bruising them. I have the OXO brand, and if time is really money, it has proven to be worth way more the 7 bucks I paid for it.

3. Magnetic lid lifterThis one might be a no-brainer, but this tool really is helpful. When the lids are hot in the simmering water, you really just want to be able to grab one with this tool and lift it out. Again, an easy solution that makes the process much easier.

Happy canning!

This time of year wouldn't be the same without my canning buddy, Tara (if you move far, far away you will still have to come back for canning week). Oh, and Mindi, my former canning buddy who really taught me the whole process--I miss you more at this time of year than ever!