Friday, February 25, 2011

Today is a Big Day

Today is a big day.
Here's a look at a few things that will happen in my life today.

1.) I will go to fed ex and send off a large box that's filled with some of the most gorgeous crochet projects I've ever seen from the amazingly talented contributors to the book I'm writing for Chronicle Books. In that box is also my manuscript. Friends, it seems that I've written a book. It is scheduled to come out in Spring of 2012 and you can expect to hear more about it as we get closer!

2.) I will pick up a refund check from a wedding vendor who mislead us, and so many others, when we signed a contract, and with whom I have been battling since early fall to get our money back. I am positively elated to have him out of our lives after this morning.

3.) I will help finish another issue of ReadyMade and send it off to the printer.

4.) I will receive my wedding dress, in one piece, along with my sister's bridesmaid dress.

I feel as though any of those on their own would make for an eventful day, but having them all together is making me incredibly grateful that it's Friday, and that I have little else to do tomorrow than to pack for a trip to LA/Palm Springs to attend the TEDActive conference next week. Getting to go and enjoy some warmth and a sure-to-be-amazing experience seems like a pretty fantastic reward for finishing such a large amount of work.

I am quite sure that I have more thoughts on all of these topics, but instead of rambling on incoherently, I will simply leave you with the lovely image from the Wheatfield and plan to tell you all about the dress on Monday!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Apple Trees

With the warmer temperatures we had last week, it was nearly impossible not to start dreaming of all of the things that we want to do in the yard this year. One of my big goals is to add more fruit—we're covered with vegetables that Josh does a great job with in our raised beds, so I'm trying to plan for more sweet things to balance out our harvest (I use that term lightly!). On the list are rhubarb, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and, of course, apples.

During an interview for work I did a few weeks ago, I learned of Trees of Antiquity, a company that specializes in organically grown fruit plants with a focus on heirlooms. Apparently I am not the only one to have heard of them because much of their inventory is already sold out for the year—I missed out on blueberries and blackberries but we were able to order two apple trees after the extremely helpful owner and I went back and forth a few times about what would grow well in Iowa.

We're getting a Pippin and a Jonathan, both semi dwarf, which will come in a few months. They won't bear fruit for 2-3 years, but I love the thought of nurturing them in our side yard all with the goal of having homegrown apples to bake in pies, turn into apple butter and apple sauce, and to eat out of hand. Not to mention that the trees will be pretty outside of my office/guest room window!

The general plan for the yard this year is to add privacy (we have a rather low fence) and to add more greenery in the form of wildflowers and grasses, herbs like sage and lavender that will attract helpful pollinators and smell lovely, and maybe some shrubs.

As someone who hardly knew a thing about gardening last year, just the fact that I'm this excited about getting out into the yard feels momentous. Not to mention that I also now know that we live in Zone 5, which is very helpful.

Friday, February 18, 2011

My New Swingy Skirt

Somehow, I feel like it was Sunday, then I looked up and it was Thursday night, which means this week was a total whirlwind. But I've been looking forward to showing you the skirt that I made last weekend the entire time—almost as much as I look forward to it being warm enough for me to actually wear it.

After dealing with my perpetual sewing machine fear, and having a friend fix my machine (only to learn it wasn't actually broken), I decided to just do it. I'd seen this darling and super easy free pattern from Anna Maria Horner and thought it would be the perfect entry point for sewing clothes. I prepped my fabric and made the skirt. Just like that.

I even loaded a bobbin All By Myself!

I am not sure what changed because I still can't locate the user manual for my machine and I still mostly feel like I'm closing my eyes and hoping for the best, but I think I have gotten over a hump here. I enjoyed the process a lot and am giddy about the girliness of this skirt. And I think I have a base of confidence now that can surely only improve over time. 

I have plans for a blouse or a dress soon, and they both involve real patterns, so we'll see how that goes!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Chocolate Covered Cherry, Cranberry, Cashew Clusters

I am having dinner with my friends Virginia and Dan tonight and when I offered to bring dessert I knew that creating something that involved chocolate was a priority—it's Valentine's Day after all, and Virginia doesn't consider non-chocolate things to be dessert.

I wanted to keep things simple, but also making something delicious, and after seeing this peanut butter cup post last week, I decided to do an easier version of that. I simply melted a combination of dark and semi-sweet chocolate (which totaled about a standard chip bag full) over a double boiler on the stove. Meanwhile, I lined 9 muffin cups with paper liners and filled them with an assortment of dried Bing cherries, dried cranberries and cashews (salted would have been yummy, but mine were plain). I then spooned the melted chocolate over the fruit and nuts. I sprinkled some raw sugar on top for a bit of sparkle and let them set for about a half hour in the fridge.

We enjoyed these last night for dessert and let me tell you, so much deliciousness for so little effort! I brought 6 of them with me to NYC from Des Moines this morning and am already looking forward to dinner tonight, and planning to make these again (and again) in the very near future.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Planning My Sister's Dress

Right around the time that I was finishing up the stitching on my wedding dress I decided that my sweet sister should have a handmade dress too—both because it would go well with my dress and because I thought it would an excellent way to include her in that aspect of the wedding. Everyone was in favor of this so we've spent the past month or so narrowing down color options, trying to get to a combination that would look great on her and be somewhat near the color palette that I had chosen.

Above, you can see where we landed. We went with the rose color, with a tone on tone floss, and accents of a lighter ballet pink floss and beads. The dress will also be stitched in that lighter color. I LOVE this and it's quite possible that I might need to make myself something similar to this one day in the future.

The shape of the dress is simple and, I think, very lovely, and the lovely ladies at Alabama Chanin are assembling it right now. Once they are done, it will come to me (with my dress!) and I'll work on doing eyelet embellishment around the bottom third or so.

I cannot wait to see it—and stitch it!

P.S. In other stitching news, I'm working on sewing myself a spring skirt (despite the snow). I should be done by Monday, so I look forward to sharing it with you if all continues to go well. Stay tuned and enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

How to Make a Mini Heart Garland

 My super talented friend Sarah has a handful of lovely Valentines Day crafts on her site, including this lovely mini heart garland template that's available as a download.
You can choose any (or all!) of these hearts in a pdf, and then turn them into a simple garland with just the help of a needle and thread. I love the one in the middle with the tiny polka dots and plan to make a few cards out of a sheet that I printed off. I'm thinking an abstract assortment of hearts on a plain white or kraft paper card will be a sweet way to share a little love.
I particularly enjoy these hearts because they prove—just like my invitation bunting—that you can do a lot with basic materials like paper and scissors. And sometimes, remembering that is the most empowering thing!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Simple Pleasures: What I've Been Cooking

After being away last weekend and then heading straight into a busy work week, I can't tell you how nice it was to be home this weekend (and to sleep lots and lots!). And in thinking about the food that we ate this weekend, I realized that it's been a while since I shared much food around these part—so I'm going to do that today! Here are a few of the best things that I've made over the past month or so, in no particular order.

Above is baked apples. I know, sounds sort of boring, but there is something so lovely about this particular simplicity. I like to bake them with cinnamon, maple syrup, and a bit of apple juice at 350 for about an hour. They are delicious topped with a bit of vanilla ice cream or light coconut milk, as I did here.

Buckwheat Noodles with butternut squash and a whole mismash of other veggies—cooked and raw to give it a nice mix of textures. I threw in some water chestnuts and bamboo shoots for fun, and mixed the whole thing in a sesame sauce (which is like this peanut sauce, only made with tahini).

Simple Buckwheat Crackers that are sort of chewy and crunchy at the same time. They also happen to be gluten free and are excellent dip scoopers.
Lemon Scented Brown Rice Risotto with Squash, Artichokes and Arugula. I didn't add any cheese to this, but it would be even more heavenly with goat cheese or feta stirred in. The flavor on it's own is bright and zesty, perfect for a freezing cold day.
Roasted Root Vegetable Salad that was seriously one of the best salads I've ever made. With a side of skillet cornbread of course!

Friday, February 4, 2011

All in the Details: My Favorite Accessory

One of the very favorite parts of getting dressed for nearly every wedding that I've gone to in the past few years has been deciding on what earrings to wear. (I can't believe I just wrote that sentence because I didn't realize it was true!) For my sister's wedding, we had coordinating earrings made for all of the girls in the wedding and Katie decided which pair went to each of us depending on our personalities. It was so much fun and I still count the earrings that I wore as one of my very favorite pairs.

For  Virginia's wedding, I went back to the same designer, Sherry of Pequitobun, and bought myself a lovely pair of gold medallions with a tiny piece of shell dangling off. Again, I love them and wear them probably once a week.

So when it comes to starting to look at accessories for my wedding, naturally this is where I start. (If I could figure out a way to not have to pick out a pair of shoes, I'd be a happy girl!) I am absolutely adoring the pair above, which are again from Sherry. I love that there is a bit of sparkle, a bit of dangliness, and also color. I don't know if they would be too much or too dark with my dress—since I haven't seen it put together yet—but they are a top contender for sure.

 The pair that is currently ranking almost as high as the first pair is this lovely number from Kendra Scott. A coworker has been wearing a lovely pair of crystal studs from her since the holidays and I'm so glad that I checked out the site—there are so many wonderful options, and all extremely reasonably priced. This pair is $55. Pretty good I think!

This pair is from Sarah Perlis, a fantastic jewelry designer who, as far as I can tell, can do no wrong when it comes to what she makes. I love the simplicity of these, especially with as much embellishment as my dress has, though they are a little (okay, a lot) out of my price range.

Knowing me, I will probably commit to two pairs when it comes down to it because I think that trying them on with the dress will be key in my decision making process. (I'm not wearing a necklace, for sure, because the trim of my dress is beaded.) Plus, I have no doubt that I'd enjoy wearing any of these on any regular day of the year! 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

More Crocheted Goodness from ReRae Shop

I've been working on a big, non-day job project which I am this close to being ready to tell you about, but in the meantime, I thought I'd share a bit more work by one of the lovely ladies that said project has enabled me to work with. (I first blogged about her here, but I can't help myself from sharing more!)

Rae lives in Minneapolis and is an extremely talented designer. I love her crochet work a Lot, and I am constantly amazed to see the new creations that she comes up with. When I was trying to figure out what to do about the bunting for our wedding invitations, I came across this crocheted word garland that she custom makes. So pretty and elegant, right?

And she's recently started doing these monogrammed pennants, which are so sweet. I think that the materials and the neutral colors that she uses makes all of the difference here because it's nice that the monogram isn't hitting us over the head, which in fact, I think makes it that much more fun.

She also has a few completely lovely pillows that I very well might add to my registry...

And darling pincushions that make me question whether I need another one (or two) to keep in various rooms in my house. 

Could be helpful I think! In totally unrelated news, I hope that everyone who is dealing with snow and/or ice is very careful and very safe. I am definitely comforted to know that it's February, which means we are one month closer to being done with winter for the year!