Sunday, January 30, 2011

Snowshoeing in Tyler State Park

Warning: You may suffer from snow-covered tree picture overload after reading this posting. 

Yesterday morning Nick and I ventured over to snowshoe in Tyler State Park.  We are so lucky to have this amazing park right across the street.  No matter what season, we are over there enjoying the beauty and serenity that the park has to offer.  I have to admit that it's much more peaceful in the winter when we pass far fewer people on the trails, but it was still nice to see fellow snowshoers, cross-country skiers, and photographers on and around the trails.  Apparently snowshoes aren't too common around here, as almost every car that drove by us on our walk over to the park had the driver turning their head to try and figure out what we were wearing on our feet.  I think we may have even convinced a few people to invest in some snowshoes!  I can't get enough of our snowshoes, which Nick got us for Christmas.  They are awesome and a great way to enjoy the outdoors in the winter.

Most people that I talk to have no idea what snowshoes are or why you would use them.  The basic idea behind snowshoes is that your weight is distributed over a larger area, prohibiting you from sinking a far into the snow as you would if you were just wearing boots.  Basically, they allow you to go hiking even when there is snow on the ground.  The folks at EMS suggested that Nick get us some trekking poles as well.  They make it easy to keep your balance and make it a lot easier to walk through all of that snow.  I don't think I would like snowshoeing without them.  Plus, you can get adapters for the bottom of the poles so they pair as hiking poles.  This will be perfect for our roadtrip to Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon later this year!

It's about a mile to get to Tyler from our house.  We cut down the distance a bit by first cutting through a retaining basin and then through the woods that surround our development.  These evergreens line the walking trail that winds through our development.  We can see them from the couch in our living room and they always look so pretty when it snows, even if we lose a few limbs each year because of the weight of the snow.

The snow was clinging to the side of the trees in the woods.  We couldn't figure out why this was, but our best guess was that it had to do with what way the wind was blowing at the time. 

I love the way that snow lays on nature.  We got about 15 inches on Wednesday, on top of the 5 or 6 inches that we already on the ground.  On Friday, we got an inch of fluffy snow that coated everything, making it super white and clean.  Doesn't this bush look like it has balls of cotton all over it?  I love the way the branches look against the white background of snow.

I'll admit, I don't know the names of trees and birds, but I can recognize when things look neat.  Whatever kind of tree produces these light brown leaves in the winter looks awesome against the black brown of the rest of the bare trees and the snow.  This leaf was only covered by the snow that we got on Friday, making it almost glow.  Unfortunately my camera doesn't do this justice, but you get the idea.  Look how crystallized the top layer of snow looks!

If you couldn't already tell, I am obsessed with trees.  Especially crazy-limbed ones like the one below, and the winter is the perfect time to see the true craziness of trees since the leaves aren't in the way.

Tyler has one of the best disc golf courses in the area.  Nick and a few buddies played a round a few weeks ago, when we only had about 4 inches of snow on the ground.  I'm not sure how they would handle 2 feet.  It definitely would be much harder to get the disc in the basket with all of that snow!

Here you can see the teeing area of one of the holes.  There is a small wooden map to show you where there are obsticles and water hazards, as well as where the basket is.  More often than not, I end of throwing my first throw right into a tree.  It's sad.

This is one of the trails that we use for running and biking in the warm weather.  This hill kills me when we're running.  It's steeper than it looks in this picture, and with the route we take, is usually toward the end of our runs.  Soon we'll be taking these trails to train for the Broad Street Run!

Here I am posing with the snowy trees.  I love my new snowpants, even if they are super big.  They are the kind with suspenders, which I insisted upon getting so I didn't have to keep pulling up my pants.

Below the trail is a ravine that leads to the Neshaminy Creek and one of the dams that they set up in Tyler.  There was a layer of ice on most of the creek, and the water flowed out from under it over the dam.  It looked awesome!

Here's a picture of the creek above the dam.  It looked like a huge skating rink!

This goose was the lone member of the local wildlife that we saw all morning.  He was all alone chilling by the edge of the creek, contemplating something, I'm sure. 

A lot of the trees were bent over from the weight of the snow, causing makeshift tunnels.  This one had fallen over but was being held up by another tree.

I just can't get enough of the snow on evergreens.  By the time we got back to our development, we had been gone for 3 hours and traveled about 3 miles.  I have been wanting to go snowshoeing since our last major storm after Christmas and I'm glad we finally got the opportunity.  We're supposed to get another storm this week, so I have my fingers crossed that we'll be venturing our again!

Happy Winter!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Sewing Supplies

Isn't a hobby always more fun when you have pretty supplies to work with?  As soon as I started sewing, I knew that I needed a pretty box to keep all of my stuff in.  I checked out the boxes in Joann, but they weren't fun enough, so I turned to Ebay.  Ahhh, Ebay, land of the wondrous treasures.  Of course I found one that I loved and was super excited when I won the auction.

Isn't it awesome?  Unfortunately I can't remember who I bought it from. 

As I got into different projects, I found that I needed a seam roll and a tailor's ham for pressing.  I wasn't about to invest in the plain old tailor's ham and seam roll that Dritz sells.  Why are they so boring?

So, I turned to The Cupcake Goddess and she had these awesome pressing tools!  Aren't they so fun?  And she included neat little instruction tags that explained why there is a wool side and a cotton side on each seam roll and tailor's ham.  I never knew that you used the wool side for low heat and the cotton side for high heat, but it makes total sense now.

Don't they look like best pals?  They certainly do make pressing a whole lot better.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fabric Storage Cart

Since we were in Conshohoken picking up Nick's very pretty brand new Toyota Matrix (his car died a couple of weeks ago), we decided to swing by Ikea afterwards and test out the storage space.  We only had a half an hour before we needed to head back home, so it was one of the quickest and most organized Ikea visits we have ever had.  I wish I could say it was the quickest, but we once were able to be in and out within 10 minutes.  I doubt this will ever happen again.  The key to a quick Ikea trip is to not go up to the showroom.  Even if you tell yourself that you're going to walk quickly through some sections and only go to, say, the kitchens, you are kidding yourself.  You will get stuck looking at things that you have absolutely no interest in buying.  This is part of the magic of Ikea.

I picked up a simple rolling cart that had basket drawers.  It fits perfectly in the closet in our office.

Once Flick realized that there was a space underneath, he needed to investigate.  I hope it meets his standards!

The sample that was put together only had three baskets, and now that it is put together I realized that we can fit another basket on the bottom.  Even better!  It's nice that I can roll it out if I need to get to the large filing cabinet that is to the left of the cart, but I like that I can keep it in the closet and pull the drawers out if need be.

Now we have a reason to go back to Ikea.  Isn't that always how it works?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Pilgrim's Progress

I don't know about you, but I'm kinda a house show junky.  I can't get enough of House Hunters, Property Virgins, Property Ladder and, my new fav, Income Property.  After seeing so many houses, I can honestly say that they just don't make houses like they used to.  I'm not talking about the quality of the house, but rather the character that was included when building older houses.  This character is painstakingly restored in so many of these house shows, and the owners of the house really value it.  Ever notice how houses that have been built in the past 20 years have absolutely no character?  McMansions... yuck.  How sad it will be for the coming generations to not have a charming style to restore in their houses.

Isn't life all about these great little details that you get to uncover?  Isn't life about the little things?  This is why I have decided to dedicate Thursdays to the love of all things pretty.  To kick things off is this pretty edition of Pilgrim's Progress, Nick's prized find the antique table at a local book sale. 

Isn't it awesome?  I kinda love how it fails to have the title of the book on the front of it.  I also love the quote on the front: "May blessings be upon the head of Cadmus, the Phoenicians, or whoever it was that invented books."

But my favorite part is the Caxton Edition banner.  Is that a scroll flying toward the sun?  How awesome is this?!

Nick thought it was so awesome that I embroidered him a replica for his birthday last year.  It turned out ok, but some of the details were lost in translation.

And here they are posing together.

Come back next Thursday for more pretty things!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Fabric Organization

With the craziness of sewing Christmas gifts, my fabric stash got out of control for two reasons: 1) After I finished each project, I basically just threw the leftover fabric on my tiny desk and it quickly became a few 3-foot piles, and 2) I have a problem with needing to get to a $35 total on so I get free shipping.  Why wouldn't I want to pay for more fabric than pay for shipping?  It's a no brainer to me.  Unfortunately, our house is at capacity for storage and I have very little room to keep a fabric stash, and what stash I have is always hidden away in a filing cabinet so I always forget what fabric I already have.

My first step to organization involved finding an appropriate place to put small fabric scraps.  I found a really cheap sewing one-a-day calendar at Barnes & Noble after Christmas, and on January 13th, I came across a pattern for a soft basket by Star Dust Shoes.  I spent some of Saturday and Sunday whipping this up, and it is perfect for me to keep by my machine and throw small scraps in. 

To remedy some of my fabric stash issues, I only used fabric that I already had.  A while back, I found this toile in the remnants bin at Joann and I snatched it up.  I have always loved toile.  Does this mean I'm an old lady at heart?  Here's a close-up of one of my favorite parts of the fabric.  Too bad it's hidden on the bottom of the bag!

The inside liner and handles are made from a medium weight muslin that I had for who knows what reason.  The inside called for quilted cotton, so I quilted some batting in between two layers of light muslin.  How resourceful!  The basket was quick and easy to sew up, even if it was a little smaller than it looked in the calendar pictures (and probably smaller than it looks in my pictures).

This morning, thanks to having off for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I tackled the actual stash.  Up until this morning, I had folded all of my scraps into the larger left over pieces of fabric, so I had to go through each folded piece to find the scraps.  I then separated the fabric into a few piles: small scraps, medium scraps, leftover fabric (bigger than a scrap but had already been cut into), and never-been-cut fabric (I'm ashamed to say that this pile was much bigger than I originally thought).  Here's the organized mess, along with the yarn for the afghan I'm knitting.

Then I got to organizing.  All of the small scraps went into the soft basket that I made.

All of the medium scraps went into a random basket that I found in the closet.

The yarn went into a crate.

And as much of the leftover fabric that I could fit went into the filing cabinet in the closet.  Some of the never-been-cut fabric I bundled, tied string around, and labeled so I knew for what project I wanted to use the fabric.  The rest of the never-been-cut fabric I had no idea what I originally intended to use for, so it just got stacked up in a pile.  The next time we go to Ikea, I'll pick up a rolling cart that can fit in the closet.  I think this is the best option to get the fabric off the floor but also be able to see the full stash if I need to.  Right now, this unsightly pile is what I'm dealing with until we get to Ikea.  At least I can get to my computer now!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sunday Night Feast

All of my life, my dad made his own spaghetti sauce.  We were never a sauce-out-of-a-jar kind of family, and quite frankly I find the sauce in jars disgusting.  Doesn't matter what brand, it's all inedible.  This sauce has ruined all other sauces for me.  I can't go to a legit Italian restaurant without thinking that my dad's sauce is much more tasty.   Before I moved out of my parent's house, I wrote down my dad's spaghetti sauce recipe as he made it since he didn't know the exact measurements.  Isn't that always how it goes?  My grandmother has made legendary rice pudding for the past 40 or so years, and my mom and aunts always wanted her to write down the recipe, but she never measured when she made it so she had no idea.

I guess you would call my dad's recipe semi-homemade, since the base of the sauce is a pre-made spaghetti sauce, although it's in a can, so I consider it completely different than the jars.  Since I've been making the sauce myself, I've tweaked the original recipe a bit.  Here is the recipe in it's current state:

Dad's/My Spaghetti Sauce
1 diced spanish onion
4 diced garlic cloves
1 28oz. can Don Pepino Spaghetti Sauce
1 1lb. 12 oz. can Furmano's crushed tomatoes
1 6oz. Contadina Tomato Paste
1 palmful dried basil leaves
1 palmful dried parsley
1 palmful dried oregano
1 palmful finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 palmful garlic powder
1 bay leaf
1 squeeze honey

If fresh parsley is available at our produce store, I include that as well.  Basically you saute the onions and garlic with a splash of olive oil until the onions start to break down.  Then add the tomato products and herbs.  The honey goes in at the end for a little bit of sweetness.  After everything is combined, turn the heat to low and let it simmer while you cook your pasta.  I usually double the recipe and it makes enough for 5 dinners for me and Nick.  Trust me, it's delicious and definitely worth the extra few minutes to make your own.

Don't worry, I'm not always wearing strange things on my face while at this stove.  What am I wearing this time, you may be wondering.  The goggles that I'm wearing are called Onion Goggles, and are one of the best gifts Nick has ever gotten for me.  I have super sensative eyes when it comes to cutting up and cooking onions, and these babies have foam around the rims so none of the fumes can get to your eyes.  Also, check out the awesome Anthro apron that one of my pal's got me for Christmas!

Here's a shot of the sauce with everything combined.  It's thick with small chunks and a ton of flavor.  Delicious!

My family has never bought garlic bread in the frozen food section either.  Why bother when you can just sprinkle some garlic powder, garlic salt, and oregano over some buttered bread and throw it in the toaster oven?  Here's a shot of our yumsy Sunday Night Feast.

Trust me, it was delicious.  For dessert, we had some of the chocolate chip cookies that I made on Friday night.  I can't claim any responsibility for the recipe, but I started using it about 5 years ago, and now feel no need to eat any other type of chocolate chip cookie.  The secret ingredient is pudding, which makes them soft on the inside but still have a little crisp on the outside.  They are amazing and addicting.  One of my co-workers compared them to crack.  I hope not from experience.  Do yourself and your family a favor and whip up a batch.  They will be gone the next day, guaranteed.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Happy Birthday, Flick!

Well, actually, it was last Tuesday, but I'm just getting around to posting about it.  Our little boy has turned 2, I can't believe it!  To celebrate the occassion, I made him a mouse from a wool skirt that I found at Goodwill.  I used the pattern in Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Sewing and Fabric Crafts. The pattern was pretty straight forward, although a few steps were skipped over.  I'm hoping that the more complex patterns don't skip steps!

I found a vial of cat nip that came with a cat toy that we got for Flick when he was a kitten and didn't need nip to act like a total crazy, so I filled a sachet with nip and stuffed it into the mouse before I filled it with batting.  He's a little misshapen, but Flick LOVES him, especially the tail, which he uses to throw the mouse up in the air while playing with him.

Here's Flick working the bag.

And romping like a total nutter.  Success!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

One Down, Nine to Go

I spent last night admiring the snow and finishing up one panel for my afghan.  I had a small portion of this one completed before the start of this year, but I'm considering it part of the 10 that I wanted to knit this year.  I already had two panels completed: one orange and one charcoal gray (although it looks blue-ish in these pictures), and I added the green panel to the mix.  I'm really liking how the colors look together so far.

Don't you love how knitted things look up close?

Unfortunately my camera is the worst at taking pictures in low light, which is pretty much every picture I try to take during the week in the winter, and also the worst at taking pictures of details.  Needless to say, I'm in the market for a new camera, especially since we're going to be taking a cross-country roadtrip in August.  I was looking at DSLRs and I had pretty much decided on a Canon Rebel 2ti, but was a bit concerned about having to switch lenses and carry around the extra weight of multiple lenses while hiking (which we are going to be doing a lot while on vacation).  On the same exact day that I had accepted the extra weight and was ready to deal with it, FujiFilm announced their new Finepix HS20.  The HS20 has pretty much every feature that I liked in the Rebel 2ti except you don't have to change lenses.  Sure, it has fewer MPs and will take a slightly worse picture, but I think it's a better choice for what I am going to use.  Now I just have to wait until March for it to hit stores!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Potholder #2 is Complete!

Last night I finished the second potholder of the set for my mom's birthday present.  This one went much quicker, and turned out just as nice.  One day I will master mitered corners!  I did a little better at freehand quilting.  This time, I moved a little quicker, which seemed to help me not have so many sharp edges.

I ran out of the liner fabric, so I had to use some leftover green, which didn't exactly match the back of the potholder and wasn't dark enough to look like it was supposed to be a different color green.  Oh well, lesson learned for next time.  All in all, I'd say my first try at freehand quilting was quite successful.  Now I need to figure out what quilting project I'm going to do next.