something for nothing

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Tip more than you should. Be kinder than necessary. Remember what matters most. Simple truisms for good living, but lately I’ve been caught up on the “it’s what’s inside that matters most.” It applies 100% if we’re talking about people (The Little Prince says, “Beauty cannot be seen with the eyes — it must be felt with the heart,” and I couldn’t agree more) but what about when we’re talking about cream-filled cupcakes, books, gifts, and/or buildings?
I mean, doesn’t the outside count at least a little bit? I don’t like cream-filling, I know I won’t like a book about bondage or vampires, pretty wrapping paper always helps, and good architecture makes me soon. So there. I feel a little guilty about this confession but it’s true: sometimes the outside really does matter.
We’re visiting my family in Washington DC for the Fourth of July, and Jon’s parents are watching Kinzie for the week.  I wanted to thank them with something festive and sweet, and so I made firecracker rice krispy treats.  My own invention, simply dip rice krispies into white chocolate and cover with sprinkles.  A gift is even sweeter when you get to enjoy some of it, and so Jon and I snuck one (err 4) before giving the batch away.  I definitely recommend making these for others (errr yourself).
Speaking of making something for yourself — I found vintage spice tins at an antique market, and I decided to make them into magnets.  A super easy project with three steps: 1) paint the tin 2) decorate with stickers 3) add a magnet.  Voilà!
We’re flying out tomorrow, and it will be the first time Jon and I have seen fireworks together.  Can you believe that?  Every other year we’ve gone to his parents cabin where the fireworks are whatever we light-off the dock 🙂

Something for Nothing image made with the Rhonna Designs app 🙂

love goes round

“Girrrrl, you get around.”  Has anyone said that to you before?  Today was a first for me.  I was at the DMV getting my Minnesota license, and after the reviewer checked my information, he looked at me with a twinkle in his eye and said those somewhat creepy words.  More amused than angry, I wanted to know why I gave him that impression, and so I asked him what he meant.  His response? “Girl, you’ve lived in 5 states in 10 years — I’ve never seen that before – like I said, ya getta around.”

When he took my picture, I was wearing my brand new ‘wifey’ tee, and he commented that I was “all around original with that t-shirt and all my travels.”  I left the DMV thinking about original t-shirts and, before you know it, I drove myself straight to the fabric store to make something uniquely me.
What to do with the gorgeous greens and flaming reds and fancy florals?  A t-shirt that changes what you love based on where you stand:Image
Jon and I are going to Phoenix this Friday (just 2 days!) and I’m planning to get all kinds of use outta this top when I see my baby sister and my best friends.  Quick and easy way to show everyone the people and things I love, right?

sew much goodness

Sewing & cooking & painting – oh my!  That jingle is meant to be sung to the tune of lions & tigers & bears – oh my!  Nonsense, right?  Whyever would I be as frightened of domestic activities as Dorothy (Wizard of Oz, of course) is of a haunted forest? The simple answer is that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing with a needle, a spatula or a paint brush.

Okay, okay, okay – I lie (but only a little bit, promise).  My mom considered the kitchen “her” room, and she called the family to dinner only after she had fully prepared the meal and set the table.  Our home was famous for being consistently stocked with cookies and cakes and whatever else my mom’s latest edition of Food&Wine deemed popular.

I’m digressing too much.  Point is, my mom never taught me or my siblings how to cook.  Cooking was her therapy — something she did to relax – and the skill was never passed on or shared.  When I went to college, I reaped the benefits of a delicious cafeteria until I discovered 100 ways to cook a meal in the microwave.

Everything changed when I met Jon.  My new crush didn’t know any microwave secrets or own any pots&pans.  He preferred eating out for breakfast (Bruegger’s Bagels), lunch (Qdoba or Quiznos) and dinner (a few rotating spots).

The meal routine was fun when we first started dating, but as we began spending more time together, I wanted to have dinners at home (a little just-the-two-of-us time, if you will).  And so, drum roll… I read cookbooks, watched UTube tutorials, became addicted to Pinterest, and, eventually, taught myself to cook.
My high school offered sewing and cooking and pottery and painting, but I figured I would spend four years filling my schedule with traditional things like biology and calculus and English.  Unfortunately for me, the ‘staying away from anything domestic’ trend continued through college.  10 years later, I can write an essay on the topic-of-your-choice-in under-20-minutes but I cannot hem a skirt.  Houston, we have a problem.

My domestic instincts didn’t kick-in until my MA was framed.  Great to have the degree, but what about making this house a home?  Geesh.  It’s a whole new ball game.

Jon came home work a few weeks ago with a hole in his jeans, and I instinctively wanted to fix it.  Hear that? Wanted to. Some sort of ‘let me take care of you’ gene that makes it more reasonable to stitch and sew than head to Nordstrom.  Well, Christmas came and a sewing machine was under the tree and soon ‘seamstress’ will be added to my list of skills.
Are you still reading this? I might just feel like typing because the whole point of this letter is simply to tell you that I’ve finally found patterns and bought fabric and am ready to embark on my stitch&sew career.

I’m a little excited.

That’s all (and that’s enough, right?)

ho ho ho

Feeding four grown men three times daily keeps me whisking, swirling, and mixing around the kitchen like a sister of Rachel Ray.  Since the men in question are burly sweethearts from the North Woods, they spent the day chopping wood and building sheds, and they return home with the appetite of Paul Bunyon himself.

My mother-in-law, Jane, has been feeding the men for over 30 years, and so I offer to take over whenever we visit.  Let her spend the day hiking, reading, painting, and enjoying the day far far from the kitchen (for once).

My commitment to feeding the men had me up before the sun to prepare the coffee and the daily menu.  Cinnabons, chocolate-chip banana-bread cookies and muffins were on the table before 8am.  Now, finally, I can sit down to reflect on our Christmas vacation.  Mind if I share some highlights?
Quite the carb fest, right?  Even so, delicious and absolutely necessary when you keep busy from morning to night.  Yesterday we had a lazy morning play Yahtzee in our pajamas.  Jon had never played before, but he secured a massive win with *2* Yahtzees in the first round:
My brother-in-law Ryan is a true woodsmen.  The man can chop a tree and turn the wood into just-about-anything-your-heart-desires.  You need a mailbox? Bam. An arch for your wedding? He’s got that (he built ours).  He’s worked with wood since he was a boy, and when I learned of his craft, I suggested he open an Etsy shop.  I’m working on an official website and bio for him, so I spent the afternoon playing interview in his shed:ImageImageImage
Jon planned to spend the afternoon shoveling snow off the roof of the house, shed, and boat dock, but I convinced him to break and just play in the snow.  What’s a wife for, after all?  Gotta convince the guys to have some fun.
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Can you believe Christmas is tomorrow? I wish it was next week and we could prolong all the excitement and cookies just a bit longer.  What about you? Are you ready for Christmas?

the chaos of stars

Lucky for me, my husband doesn’t read this blog.  That means I can say anything I want about him.  You won’t tell, right?  Okay, good, because I’m too excited to keep this a surprise.

For better or worse, Jon’s birthday is December 26.  Year after year we spend December 25 eating cookies, opening gifts, sledding, playing with the dogs, and running around in the snow.  The morning after, for Jon’s big day, we sleepily sing happy birthday and try our best to eat cake (except we’re usually too filled with cookies to do much damage).

My sweet husband is as humble and kind as they come, and he never complains that everyone is gone for his birthday (friends fly home), that he only gets half the gifts (not from me, of course), or that everyone (including him) is too tired to celebrate.
I started Christmas shopping for my favorite man well before Christmas, and I made sure to get him a variety of practical (work-related) and fun (baseball-related) gifts.  When it came time to wrap, everything got tied up with a red, green or white ribbon.  And then, of course, I panicked — what would I do for his birthday?

Well, well, well.  You see that collage up top?  I made it with an app on my phone, and it got me thinking it might be fun to put photos on canvas for the apartment.  A few minutes later I started playing with a video app and thought it would be neat to make Jon a film.  And then, voilà!  – I decided to make a collage combining out favorite memories and inside jokes.
Jon is turning 29, so I printed my 29 favorite photos of us, wrote sweet notes on the back, and then pasted the images onto a canvas.  So you’re wondering how he knows what I wrote, right?  Don’t worry- that’s where the video comes in.  Before I pasted everything, I made a video explaining why the pictures were important to me and what was written on the back of them.

What do you think?  Will he like it?

a whimsical jaunt

Simple words contain incredibly vast and imaginative worlds.  Nicknames, for instance, recall happy memories about a person that is near and dear (Baboozle for Jon).  Other words (for me, CENTER! and PAWS!) bring back memories of inside jokes and inspire laughter.  Still more, words that represent a special food (gelato brings me back to Italy), place (Phoenix makes me think of my sister), or time (2012 reminds me of the engagement) bring a comforting joy each time I stumble across the unique combination of letters.

Then there are words without a personal story or connection that somehow manage to make me smile for the sweet and happy things they stand for.  Whenever I encounter these words in texts or speech, I almost always feel grateful that someone created a single word to symbolize the incredibly nuanced and/or detailed thing that the word describes.  Today, just for fun, I made some of my favorite words into artistic prints:

Remember the DIY fall candles I made a couple weeks ago?  I’ve been using them near constantly, and today I noticed that they were just about burnt out.  I made new candles as a replacement, but this time I used spray paint to make them a little more festive for the holidays. What do you think?
If you want to make your own, it’s as easy as 1) spray paint a mason jar 2) place a wick in the bottom and 3) fill with wax.

Happy Friday, everyone!

urban tree house

What would you do with 100 million dollars?  I overheard a couple discussing how they would pay bills, buy a house and maybe take a vacation.  Boring, right?  I mean, 100 million dollars?  You could surely come up with a few things more fun than paying your bills.

I would build a tree house in the middle of downtown that reaches higher than any of the skyscrapers.  A pool-slide would wind from my sky-high bedroom down into the lazy river surrounding my tree house.  The lazy river would wind through the city and connect with my favorite brunch spot.

Getting the picture?  I could wake up Sunday morning, jump on the slide, and then lazy down the stream to brunch.  Perhaps sip a mimosa while I float back home.

I was eavesdropping on the 100 million dollar couple while shopping for a get-well card.  Per usual, I got distracted by nicknacks and found myself wanting colorful pinwheels, florescent paints, and other items of questionable importance (but guaranteed fun).  The worst deterrent, however, was all the Christmas decor — It’s not even Halloween, and here I am looking at holiday cards, stocking stuffers, and make-your-own-ornaments.  I was like a kid in candy land: defenseless.

Luckily, I specialize in making things I want for a fraction of the retail cost, and so I took my favorite find of the day, a Christmas calendar, and made it with wooden blocks, spray paint, and stickers.

If you want to make your own dice, you will need to use the following numbering system:

Die #1: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Die #2: 0, 1, 2, 6, 7, 8

Now, tell me, what would *you* do with a 100 million dollars?

pants on fire

A soap bubble explosion in the kitchen put Martha Stewart on my official “do not trust’ list.  Fizzy bath bombs went off like rockets in the night when I followed her instructions.  Not a pretty look for my kitchen.

To be fair, it was sort of fun to relive the volcano explosion experiment from 7th grade, and my apartment now smells like a soap factory.  Not the worst, right?

I tried to make Bath Fizzies, which I was told would look something like the picture below.  I wanted to keep mine clear, however, and so I opted for no food coloring (only difference).

Here are pictures from what actually happened — first, the mixture began puffing up up up from the mold:
and it eventually covered the entire plastic:
I had faith that the puffiness would settle over night, and that the magic fizz bombs would appear by morning.  I was wrong. After 12 hours, the mixture turned into a crumbling piece of… well… fizz:
I’m calling out Martha, but I think it’s a lesson for the blogging community in general.  How often do bloggers post about projects, recipes, or other activities gone terribly  wrong?  I know this isn’t the first time *I’ve* gotten disastrous results by following a blogger’s suggestion.

I think it’s time for a revolution – let’s stop posting about how we made THE BEST cookie, art project, outfit, etc, and just be honest. Maybe say: this cake was OKAY but I would never make it again – it was too much work and confetti cake from a box tastes the same.

That might be an extreme example, but what I’m advocating for here is honesty.

I’m also a fan of resilience, and so I turned the experiment around and made something much easier — alphabet soap.
4.5 4 5 6 7 8

ace in the hole

Quick fact: Researchers at Berkeley refer to Darwin’s work as “survival of the kindest.”

Darwin believed that charity evolved to ensure the survival of family and build prosperous communities.  The idea of helping family seems instinctive, but the argument for community is that individuals benefit from a stimulating, creative and progressive environment.  People reach their full potential when their community inspires and motivates them to fully develop as individuals.

Our inclination for altruism is so engrained that we’re capable of becoming addicted to the good feeling it provides.  Jordan Grafman, neuroscientist at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, published a study confirming that philanthropy provides the same high as eating chocolate cake, having great sex, or winning at the blackjack table.  Philanthropy just feels that good.

My hands spent today crafting a paper wreath for the holidays, but my mind was working overtime to plan a fun random act of happiness for tomorrow.  The wreath is below, and I’ll share my super silly experiment with you right after it happens (as always):ImageImageImageImageImage

gimme s’more

Fall weather makes me want to sit around a bonfire and roast s’mores with my closet friends.  In a best-case-scenario, we’re sitting below a starry sky with caramel swirl marshmallows and ghiradelli chocolate.  We listen to Lorde on the stereo until the sun comes up, and then we take the canoes out to watch the sunrise on the water. Image
Sounds like a perfect weekend, right?  It’s based on actual plans for an upcoming cabin weekend, but, as for now, I’ll do my second favorite fall activity: read inside while I listen to the rain fall in the streets.  In this best-case-scenario, I’m drinking mulled apple cider and surrounded by candles. Image
Jon and I took a drive out to the country to see the changing leaves, and the trip inspired me to make fall-inspired mason jar candles.  Perfect for keeping me company while I’m reading on rainy days.  If you’re interested, the process is detailed below:
Fill the outer rim of a mason jar with fall leaves:
I used double-sided tape to secure a candle wick at the bottom of a mason jar:Image
My wick stood straight for the majority of the project, but toward the end I secured it between two knives:
I melted soy wax in a microwave-safe bowl:
And then poured the wax into the mason jar and around the candle wick.  When the wax dried, the candle looked like so: