Guitar Girl!

I finished another embroidery project today: this one was designed by Lucky Jackson. Check out her awesome blog 365 Lucky Days. You can buy this pattern and other great patterns here.

My next embroidery project is going to be one of my own design. In fact, I have it all set up and am ready to start embroidering; however, since it's part of the wedding plans, I won't be able to share it on my blog for a long long time.

I find that sewing patterns by other people is like tracing and teaching oneself to draw. Or reading writing by someone else in order to become a better writer. Hopefully, Jackson's pattern will help me a long in my next project.


The 10 List

A moment of gratitude to end the week. What small, almost-unnoticed or wonderful, monumental moments are you grateful for in your life?

1. The smell of cut grass.
2. The smell of spring rain.
3. Pink petals raining down from the trees.
4. Knowing that those who seem the happiest work hard for their happiness through focus on physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual health (there's a comfort/inspiration in that fact).
5. Escaping from jury duty unscathed.
6. Food carts and bubble tea.
7. The blossoming of a new book club!
8. Being inspired by a friend who is an artist and full of light and energy.
9. Making handmade wedding invites and knowing that these are some of the most important invitations I'll ever make in my life!
10. Being able to listen when someone just needs to talk.



Super Girl!

Here is Super Girl! Isn't she adorable? She was a gift to my dear friend Jamie, who is having a little girl in late June. Her own little Super Girl.

This is not my design. It is from Imagine Gnats. You can buy this pattern from her shop on Etsy for $5 here.

So freakin' adorable I could poop! (How cute is that?!)

I want to make a little boy next for my same friend's soon-to-be-3 son. He will face the opposite direction and the two Super Heroes can hang out side-by-side.


How to make paper flag pendants

Today, I hosted a baby shower for a great friend of mine. My methods of decorating were as follows: paper flag pendants, house plants, annuals (that I can now plant in my containers and enjoy for the rest of their season).

For the pendants, you will need: adorable scrap-booking paper, scissors, twine/kitchen thread, mini hot glue gun, mini hot glue sticks.
Step 1: To save on paper, I simply cut the scrap-booking sheets into halves from corner to corner, creating four triangles.

Step 2: I assembled my twine, scissors and hot glue gun and hot glued the twin to the backs of the triangles, following as straight an edge as possible.

Step 3: I hung the pendants!!!!

This was super easy, and they're really cute. My friend and guest-of-honor loved them, and one guest said, "I wouldn't take them down."

I want some for my wedding, but I think that I will sew some fabric ones in case it's damp/raining.


10 list

another stressful week at work. 37 million dollars cut from the current budget for next school year. this after several years of consistent cuts. the result is the elimination of numerous teaching positions, including 12 positions at our school, or a 17% cut in teachers. I won't know if I have a job next year until July, maybe August.

so in these times of stress and anxiety, it's MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER to savor life and live fully and mindfully in the moment. because, what else can we do, right? we can be told that we need to worry and then worry. or we can accept grim realities as possibilities, nod at their existence, and then continue to love, laugh, learn, create, grow, and give.

so here are a mere 10 things that I want to share with you this week that I am grateful for.

1. Helping students dig through stacks of poetry and discover poems that they enjoy.
2. Fresh homemade bread, made from scratch by my sweetie.
3. Amazing vegetarian chili made from scratch by my sweetie.
4. Tulip season.
5. That tax season is over and that we got a refund! Whoo hoo!
6. Learning new embroidery stitches.
7. The beautiful dark pink cherry tree in bloom outside of my classroom window.
8. Having the house to ourselves for 10 days while our roommate visits his family. Love our roommate but it's nice to have the house to ourselves.
9. My amazing friend offered to throw me a bridal shower!
10. Our house. Seriously. Yesterday I was remembering last August when we first looked at the house and how you couldn't stand to be upstairs for longer than three or four inhales. The carpet and subfloor were saturated in dog piss. The walls were a putrid salmon color. We've worked hard this year, and now it might look like a bright Easter egg (because of my color choices), but it's our egg. And it's bright and clean and happy that we live there.

What are you grateful for in your life?


Clipping chickens wings

Or, why did the chickens cross the road?

So, the other day, on the way home from my run, what do I see, but three little chickens crossing the road. First goes the curious one. Then goes the old lady. Then goes little sister, who follows wherever the other two may go. And I decided, while cars stopped to let my chickens cross, that I was going  to clip their wings.

And we did.

I used to think that it was this painful operation that involved breaking the bones in their wings, but with a simple snip snip of some feathers, they lose their ability to fly over the fence or fly into your garden. For me, I find this the  more humane choice, because I can give them free reign in their area of the yard without worrying about them destroying my pea shoots or whatever other little tasty morsels might await in my garden. Let alone getting squashed by a car on their way over to the neighbor's greener grass.

Here's a great tutorial.

I can't find the hilarious tutorial. There's one out there where they show the chicken reacting, and while she certainly does not look like she's in pain, she does look a bit like someone just shat in her cereal. If you find it, please post it in the comments!


34 by 35

Here is my 34 by 35 list of goals.
Deadline: Jan. 15, 2013 (not even a whole year!)

1. Wedding favors, embroidery design, and labels.
2. Handmade bridesmaid gifts.
3. Creative aspect for the ceremony that is true to me. Perhaps a poem?
4. Be super organized and thus more ability to relax as people start to arrive to town: create a calendar and stay on schedule.
5. Help with handmade invites and create a way to display photos.
6. Enjoy every second of our wedding day.

7. Build an herb spiral.
8. Build a pond.
9. Landscape around redbud and apple tree.
10. Strawberry (and borage?) patch
11. Prep garden for spring 2013 planting
12. Try vermicomposting (again).

13. Slaughter 1 chicken myself.
14. Get baby chickens.
15. Help build new coop in side yard.
16. Get ducks.

17. Go to beekeepers meetings
18. Learn more about TPH management
19. Get a colony for new Langstroth hive

20. Get a new passport
21. Save money for Fiji
22. Go backpacking this summer

Physical health:
23. Run a 10k
24. Get bike fixed
25. Bike to yoga 1x per week-2x per month
26. Run/bike/hike 12-25 miles per week

27. Renew teaching cert.
28. Clean kitchen top-to-toe
29. Paint trim inside house
30. Make bedroom and closet curtains
31. Sand, stain, paint, and make front porch look pretty.

32. Learn to knit and finish at least one project
33. Read 10 books, including one on film.
34. Continue to develop identity and readership for blog

There they be. Next, look at the big list and see what you can make room for this week. Keep this list somewhere near you, where it will be visible, rather than letting it disappear like a list of resolutions that never materialize. Hang it on your fridge or place it in the journal where you write your to-do lists. As often as possible, try to connect your to-do list to these goals.

This week is a busy one:
1. Get ready for baby shower that I'm hosting on Saturday: grocery shop, organize activities, clean house, make quiche, finish gift.
2. Fill out reimbursement materials and fax to district
3. Finish taxes
4. Send transcript to TSPC to renew teaching cert. (goal 27)
5. Run 15 miles
6. Create a wedding schedule.


green smoothie challenge

For the past five days, I've been trying out green smoothies. Not only are they surprisingly delicious, they're really fun to drink in front of 14 and 16 year-old kids who totally freak out when they see what you're ingesting. "Ew! What is that!" One kids told me that my smoothie "looked like Satan." Nice.

You know you need to eat your greens. Spinach has lots of dietary fiber and is a good source of Niacin, Zinc, and Vitamins A, C, E, K, and so forth. You really can't taste the spinach if you make your smoothie right, not to mention the benefits from all of the other healthy fruits that are added. They're easy, quick, and a great spring breakfast.

Here are the recipes from my first 5 days.

day 1: "surprisingly yum"
2 handfuls of spinach
1 1/2 cups of frozen strawberries
1/2 of a banana
a few pomegranate seeds

Refreshing and light, I could really taste the banana more than anything. Not very sweet, yet oddly sweet enough. I drank a small glass (about 6 oz) for a bedtime snack and then for my breakfast, I added:

aprox. 1/3 cup vanilla almond milk
the other 1/2 of the banana
1 tsp. of ground flax

This is my first purchase of almond milk, along with my first endeavor into green smoothies, and yum. Great breakfast.

day 2: "that can't be healthy"
2 1/2 cups of blueberries
1 banana
4 handfuls of spinach
1 1/2 cups almond milk
2 tsp. flax
around a dozen pomegranate seeds

Yum, delicious when fresh. Not quite as good when not fresh. Drink this one right away.

day 3: "Whoa, that's green!"
1 generous cup of pineapple chunks
2 bananas
2 generous handfuls of leafy green lettuce
2 cups of water

At first this one smelled like lettuce water. It tasted good, but I wanted more richness to it. So I put in another banana. After all, I'm making two servings. If you like bananas and pineapple, you'll love this recipe!

day 4: "almond milk makes all the difference"
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 1/2 cup almond milk (vanilla, unsweetened)
1/2 cup water
1 banana
2 handfuls of spinach

Really, I love these way better with some almond milk. They're delicious, they're creamier, they seem a bit sweeter, and they have calcium and vitamin D. This one might be my favorite of the week.

day 5: "the best even better"
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 ripe banana
2 cups almond milk
2 handfuls of spinach

This made yesterday's green smoothie even creamier, richer, and more delicious. If you want something refreshing and light, use lots of frozen fruits with water for almost an icy-like effect. But for a smoothie, go with almond milk. Plus, it's more filling that way


10 List

Our tulip magnolia in full glory
This week, with my freshmen, we read two of Pablo Neruda's "Odes," celebrations of the ordinary and wonderful. Beautiful, shining poems about enjoying the little things in life. Wonderful celebrations of gratitude.

Here are some of the things I would consider writing odes about:
1. That I got to speak to three out of four of my bridesmaids on the phone this week, even though they are all far far away. One called me from the Sea of Cortez!
2. Getting to spend quality time with a friend who I haven't been able to spend quality time with in way too long.
3. Pickled onions.
4. Sunshine! And a weekend forecast that promises more.
5. How my chickens run to me every time I go outside, asking for treats and some affection. They are such silly girls.
6. Being able to work from home today.
7. Seeing a bald eagle swoop over the river and into the forest while hiking near my house last week.
8. Spying on my fiance while he builds me a St. Johns-bridge-inspired archway/gate outside in the side yard (where the chickens, ducks, and duck pond will live someday).
9. Spring sunsets with clouds wreathing Forest Park.
10. Dandelions.
One of our bees enjoys a dandelion

Ode To an Artichoke by Pablo Neruda
The artichoke
of delicate heart
in its battle-dress, builds
its minimal cupola;
in its scallop of
Around it,
demoniac vegetables
bristle their thicknesses,
tendrils and belfries,
the bulb's agitations;
while under the subsoil
the carrot
sleeps sound in its
rusty mustaches.
Runner and filaments
bleach in the vineyards,
whereon rise the vines.
The sedulous cabbage
arranges its petticoats;
sweetens a world;
and the artichoke
dulcetly there in a gardenplot,
armed for a skirmish,
goes proud
in its pomegranate
Till, on a day,
each by the other,
the artichoke moves
to its dream
of a market place
in the big willow
a battle formation.
Most warlike
of defilades-
with men
in the market stalls,
white shirts
in the soup-greens,
artichoke field marshals,
close-order conclaves,
commands, detonations,
and voices,
a crashing of crate staves.

with her hamper
make trial
of an artichoke:
she reflects, she examines,
she candles them up to the light like an egg,
never flinching;
she bargains,
she tumbles her prize
in a market bag
among shoes and a
cabbage head,
a bottle
of vinegar; is back
in her kitchen.
The artichoke drowns in a pot.

So you have it:
a vegetable, armed,
a profession
(call it an artichoke)
whose end
is millennial.
We taste of that
dismembering scale after scale.
We eat of a halcyon paste:
it is green at the artichoke heart.


made from scratch: sweet potato tacos

What you need:
a large sweet potato
5 roma tomatoes
1 jalapeno pepper
1 shallot clove
3 green onions
as many garlic cloves as you can  handle
extra sharp cheddar
lemon zest
fresh squeezed lime juice
corn tortillas

What you do:
1. roast the sweet potato to delightful perfection (or if short on time, microwave it)
2. slice tomatoes, pepper, shallot, and green onions into chunks; peel garlic cloves. broil on low for 15 minutes, then on hi until just starting to blacken.
3. while broiling, chop olives (I used a can of black olives, minus the ones I ate) and cilantro (a healthy handful). douse with lime juice, a teaspoon of cumin, salt, and a teaspoon of lemon zest.
4. take broiled veggies out of oven and place into blender/food processor. puree.
5. taste everything. does it taste delightful? if not, add what you feel it needs: more cumin, more salt, more garlic, more spice.
6.grate a bit of cheese.
7. cut roasted potato in half and loosen from skin with a spoon. (I then drizzled some fig balsamic on it for shits and giggles.)
8. lightly brown tortillas in some oil. form into taco-esque shapes.
9. stuff with each ingredient to your heart's content.
10. garnish with pickled onions.

Each ingredient should taste wonderful separately. Imagine how it will taste when you're done.

This recipe was inspired by last week's episode of The Splendid Table on NPR. Since the recipe wasn't published, I just made up my own.

Much of my cooking of, passion for, and sharing of food is inspired by The Everlasting Meal. Buy a copy. It's an amazing book. Seriously, this meal could not have happened without these two sources. The book helped me catch The Splendid Table when the interviewee was speaking of a fridge-full of well-made condiments and his love of pickled onions, reminding me of the book.

Other delights from my kitchen of late: homemade cauliflower soup using left-over stack, pesto made from cauliflower cores and the stems of greens, and picked onions.


34 by 35

Sometimes you just need to play in the sun.
Goal setting is important. We all do it. I think some of us love making to-do lists. We love setting goals and challenges for ourselves. I keep several lists. One is rather large and daunting. It includes things that aren't so fun, like paying taxes, and then there are goals that are more creative, like planning the gifts for my bridesmaids.  I also often write a weekly breakdown that I've been publishing here, and that helps sift the larger goals into smaller, day-to-day goals. It helps me keep my eyes on what I really want to accomplish or focus my energies on. Then, I have my day-to-day to-do list. These are often based off of the larger goals: going to the craft store to buy supplies for invitations, running 3 miles to meet my weekly goal of 12, etc. And they're also based around general maintenance: cleaning the chicken coop, watering the plants, doing laundry, etc.

I really liked doing the 12 by 2012. It helped me stay focused and feel accomplished as I was able to check them off. Recently, I found this: a list of goals leading up to one's birthday. This seems like a great way to replicate the 12 by 2012, and I'd love it if a few of you joined me. You could comment on this blog by writing about some of your goals, some of your accomplishments, and some of your set-backs. These goals can be large and inspired, or they can be--and some of them should be, especially if you're older than, um, 10--smaller so that you're able to keep yourself motivated by making some strides forward by being able to check off the smaller goals and able to focus your energies more on the bigger goals.

So this week, I'm going to write my 34 goals (current age) by 35 (age I'll be--gulp!--on my next birthday). I am going to base goals around some of the following categories:
Academic/intellectual: brain exercise!
Physical health: feeding/loving the body
Community service
Creativity: feeding the soul

Don't forget, if the sun comes out for the first time in a long time, to run outside and play. Your goals will be there when you get back! This was the tune of my entire weekend.


how to roast an amazingly tender chicken

Yesterday, I roasted a chicken and the meat literally fell off of the bone when it was finished. Here's what I did:

You will need:
a local, organic, fresh chicken
some savory herbs and aromatics
some roastable veggies
a generous glass of wine
a few tablespoons of butter
freshly ground pepper
a roasting pan with a lid

Do this:
1. Rinse your chicken. And if you're feeling inclined, thank it for its life and its nourishment.
2. Put into its cavity the herbs and aromatics. Yesterday, I used a few sprigs of rosemary, two delightfully huge bay leaves, and an apple core.
3. Place the bird on the roasting rack.
4. Cut up the roasting veggies, including at least one onion and as many leeks as you can handle loving (3 is a good number) and place them around the bird. Seasonal veggies are optimal. Suggestions would be turnips, parsnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes/yams, and squash.
5. Rub butter onto the birds breast. Season with salt and pepper.
6. Pour wine and a cup of water over the bird.
7. Roast covered at 375 for 50 minutes. Baste generously.
8. Turn the oven down to 300. Roast for an hour.
9. Turn the bird over. Stir the veggies. Baste.
10. Cook for another hour, basting occasionally and checking for doneness.

De-licious. With the leftovers, you can:
Boil the carcass for chicken broth.
Blend the roasted veggies with a touch of cream and thyme for soup.
Make sandwiches.
Eat gravy over biscuits and eggs.

Everyone says "yum" except the ladies!