Tuesday, May 31, 2011

I Spy Bags for St. Chris Patients

Aren't days off great for getting to all of the things that you put off?  Back in April, I ran an activity during Take Your Child to Work Day at my workplace where the kids made I Spy bags. (Learn how to make your I Spy bags—it's really easy!)  The kids were able to make one for themselves and make one for a patient at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children.  During the activity, the sewing machine that I was using to sew up the bags broke, and we were left to hand sew the opening in the bags.  Since this took way longer than it would have using a sewing machine, we were only able to hand sew the bags that the kids were making for themselves.  That left me with the task of stuffing and sewing up the rest of the bags.

The kids who attended Take Your Child to Work Day were also encouraged to bring a book for a patient at St. Chris.  Since the date hadn't been set to deliver the books and the I Spy bags, I of course put off finishing the rest of the bags so I could work on other more timely projects.  Before I left work this past Friday I received news that the delivery date would be June 7th, so I moved the I Spy bags up to the top of my "Memorial Day Weekend To Do List."

I am glad to say that they are all now finished and packaged up for the kids at St. Chris.  During the activity, the kids were able to make 14, and this weekend I made 36, making a grand total of 50 I Spy bags for St. Chris patients.  I'm beyond excited that we are able to donate so many!

This project allowed me to officially cross off my resolution to complete 14 items for charity.  Not that I'm going to just take it easy for the rest of the year though.  We're not even halfway through yet!

Summer Salads and Salsas

Yesterday was Memorial Day, aka the unofficial start of summer, and to celebrate the glorious weather that we had all weekend, Nick and I whipped up some delicious meals.  Is there anything better to eat in the summer than fresh fruits and veggies?  They're so refreshing, especially when eaten al fresco, as we have been by using our patio for meals all weekend.

We are lucky enough to live right by Tanner Brothers Farm, where we buy all of our milk and produce.  It is insanely cheap too!  The only downside is having to listen to country music while you shop.

On Sunday we picked up a ton of fruits and veggies to make a corn salsa, pasta salad, and fruit salad, three of our summer favorites.  They're all pretty easy to make, but chopping up everything takes a bit of time.  Here are the recipes for you to enjoy:

Corn Salsa

This is basically pico de gallo with corn added.

4-6 large ears of corn
1/2 red onion, chopped finely
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tomatoes, diced
1 jalepeno, minced
1 large bunch cilantro, chopped finely
Garlic salt, to taste
Juice from 2 limes

Boil the corn and then cut off the kernels.  After everything is chopped up, combine in a bowl.  We ate ours as a side dish, but then decided that it really needs the saltiness of a good tortilla chip.  Next time!  I kept a bowl of black beans on the side for me to add to my salsa since Nick isn't a fan.  They add a nice layer of flavor if you're into them!

Pasta Salad

This is actually my mom's recipe that we tweaked a bit by adding in grape tomatoes. 

1 box tri-color rotini
8 oz. Zesty Italian salad dressing
1/3 red onion, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely chopped
4 oz. freshly shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 small container of quartered grape tomatoes (optional)

Like the corn salsa, you basically chop everything up and combine in a bowl.  We had this for dinner tonight after a day full of kayaking and it really hit the spot.

Fruit Salad
I feel a little silly listing out a recipe for fruit salad.  Basically you pick up all of the fruits that you love, chop them up, and combine in a bowl.  Our favorite fruits to include are cantaloupes, strawberries, nectarines, pineapples, and plums.  Although we love bananas and grapes, they don't make it into our fruit salad because the bananas tend to get mushy and the grapes tend to get sour.  In our opinions, they just don't play well with the other fruits!  But if you love them in your fruit salad, go for it.

After this weekend, our summer is shaping up to be filled with yummy and colorful salads.  What are your favorite summer recipes?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day Weekend Sewing Plans

I feel like it’s been forever since I posted about something I made.  Sad how that my day job gets in the way of my hobbies!  My Runabout Jacket is just about finished.  All I have to do is attach the lining to the outside fabric, hem the sleeves and jacket, and make and attach the buttons.  No sweat!  Here are a few sneak peak photos at the almost-finished product.

Check out that topstitching, not done with a double needle, by the way!

Now that that beast of a project is almost over I’ll be able to focus on the Crescent skirt and Ginger skirt sew alongs!  I’m way behind on my Crescent skirt thanks to my silly error of cutting out the wrong size.  I was planning on just making a muslin of the waistband, but, after seeing how long View C was, I'm switching to View B.  Plus I'm different sizes in my waist and hips, so I want to work out all fitting issues before I start the real deal.  Part of me doesn’t even want to think about the Ginger sew along until I have made some progress on the Crescent.  I have a four-day weekend thanks to tacking a personal day onto Memorial Day weekend, so I’ll hopefully get some hefty sewing hours in to catch up.  I haven’t even selected my Ginger fabric yet!  I’m headed to Joann after work armed with coupons to pick something out.

I’d also like to take another stab at the Crepe fitting issues that I’ve been struggling with.  Sneakfuzz was kind enough to give me a few fitting tips after seeing my muslin on Flickr.  I’m going to follow her advice and see what happens. 

As for Project Ridgway, we’re taking a few weeks off before we start a new session in the beginning of June.  We’re going to focus on dresses this time.  I’ll be dipping into my Lisette patterns and making the Passport dress.  Casy from Casey's Elegant Musings just whipped up her version of the Passport dress and I’m thankful that she said it went together very smoothly.  If all goes well, I’ll whip up the muslin before our first class on June 8th and hit the ground running! 

If you’re keeping track, here is what I intend to work on in the coming weeks:
1)  Runabout Jacket: Sew the lining to the outside fabric, hem the sleeves and jacket, and make and attach the buttons.
2)  Crescent skirt: Make muslin of waistband in correct size, fix fitting issues, cut and sew final skirt
3)  Ginger skirt: Make muslin, fix fitting issues, cut and sew final skirt
4)  Crepe dress: Fix fitting issues, cut and sew final dress
5)  Passport dress: Make muslin

Totally doable, right?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: My Engagement Ring

Tuesday marked three years since I received my very awesome engagement ring from my very awesome (now) husband. I made the image super big so you could see the details.

This image is borrowed from our amazing photographer, Misty Dawn Pfeil.

You will notice that it's not a diamond.  I'm concerned with the whole blood diamond mining thing, but I also didn't want a diamond because I've never really been too fond of how they look.  The stone on my ring is called tektite, which is actually a glass that is formed when a meteor hits the earth.  The metal is made from recycled platinum pieces of electronics and old jewelry, so my ring is pretty eco-friendly!  I first heard about tektites in my Marine Biology class in college.  I really liked the look of it, and my professor commented how neat it would be to have an engagement ring with tektite.  She was already married, with a diamond engagement ring, so it was too late for her.  But not for me!  I told Nick about it and thankfully he remembered it 4 years later.

As luck would have it, we saw some tektite on display in the National Museum of Natural History this past weekend.  From their display:  “Some large impacts squirt molten droplets of target rock into the atmosphere—and sometimes even above it.  These droplets may land thousands of kilometers from the impact site, sprinkling vast areas of the Earth, known as strewn fields, with chunks of glass called tektites.”  Below is a diagram from the museum that might help explain matters a little better.

Pretty cool, huh?  So essentially the glass in my ring came from outer space!

There is a huge amount of tektite in Moravia, Czech Republic, which is where the tektite in my ring, more specifically called a moldavite tektite, came from.  This glass was formed 14 million years ago!  If you look really closely you can see air bubbles that were caught when the glass was forming.  That is some pretty old air trapped in there.  And look, here are some uncut tektites at the museum from the very same area! (Please excuse the photos taken through glass!)

Below is what a slab of tektite looks like when you cut into the rock.  Tektites are either green or black or somewhere in between.

How I got my ring is a pretty fun story!  Nick used to freelance for one of the local weeklies in town, and one week he told me that they were doing a feature on which steakhouse was best in town.  He was assigned Barclay Prime, all expenses paid.  Awesome, a free delicious steak!  Did it occur to me that it was a little weird that they were asking him to do a food story when he had never done one before?  Nope!  I was only concerned with free and delicious steak.

We had a very early 5:00pm reservation.  I found this weird, but Nick explained it by saying that we were going so early to get the chef at their prime: right at the start of their shift.  Looking back, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, but at the time I wasn’t suspicious so I trusted this theory.  We parked a couple of blocks away and Nick was practically running to the restaurant.  I had to hold him back at a slower pace—after all, I was in heels.

We got to the restaurant and the two hostesses were super nice.  One complimented me on my dress and the other told me I smelled nice.  What wonderful service!  We were sat in a table right next to a beautiful bookcase.  And then we proceeded to feast.  Remember that I was under the assumption that the paper would be paying for all of this!  I got a filet, of course, and we ordered sides of tater tots, truffle whipped potatoes, asparagus, and truffle mac and cheese.  We were even given a selection of steak knives to choose from, each constructed in a different country and embodying different qualities in a knife.  I can’t remember which one I chose, but it was the nicest knife that I’ve ever cut a steak with.  We also ordered a slice of peanut butter pie and smores for dessert.

After we were finished eating, the manager came over to our table and asked how everything was and then told us that their decorator wasn’t a fan of the color scheme of the books on their bookshelves, and that since they’d be needing to get all new books, we were welcome to pick out two and take them with us.  What’s better than free steak?  Free books!  I had been eyeing up a book about Amelia Earhart since we sat down, so I quickly snatched that one off the shelves and Nick picked this hulking book with the bland title, “The Book of Great Books: A Guide to 100 World Classics.”  I asked him why on earth he would want that since it’s probably just a listing and brief description/excerpt from the books and not the entire texts, but he just said he thought it looked interesting.  His loss, I thought!  Doesn't it look insanely dull?

After paying the bill, which was quite high for us since I had just finished grad school and Nick was still a newspaper reporter, we walked across the street for a sit in Rittenhouse Park.  There was a polka band playing and since it was still late Spring/early Summer, it was the perfect temperature, making it a nice evening to just sit and people watch.  We sat for a minute and then Nick suggested that we check out our books, so I happily opened mine and started checking it out, when he pushed his into my view and told me to check his out.  I obliged even though I had very little interest in his boring book, but when I opened the book, I saw this!

Then Nick proposed and clearly I said yes.  Since it was still early we were able to make it to both of our parent’s houses to show off the ring and good news.  It was an excellent day, even though I quickly realized that we had to pay for our feast of a meal.

So I’m sure you’re wondering how Nick pulled this off without a hitch.  It all started when I was close to finishing up grad school (my rule was that we weren’t going to get engaged until I was finished because at that point we would be able to afford to move out of our parent’s houses) when Nick ordered some tektite online and then took it on a short trip down to Jeweler’s Row.  He found a design that he liked at one of the jeweler’s, but everyone told him sorry, we will not set non-precious stones (because of the potential for breakage).  Frustrated, Nick took to the internet and found Leber Jeweler in Chicago, who was willing to set the tektite.  With the design in mind (pretty much the Amelia but with flat edges), after corresponding with their very kind staff, Nick mailed the tektite to them, they made the ring, set in the tektite, and then they mailed it back.

Then Nick came up with the plan on how to give me my ring.  He had to drop my ring off at the restaurant, along with the book that he hallowed out and the Amelia Earhart book, two days before our reservation.  They locked it in their safe (apparently this is a common occurrence there), but Nick was still a little worried about leaving it there after all of his hard work to create it.  Shortly before our reservation time, the manager took the book with my ring in it out of their safe and then placed them strategically on the bookshelf next to the table that we’d be sitting at.  It was a total leap of faith that I would a) not pick the book with my ring in it, and b) choose the Amelia Earhart book that he planted for me when the manager said we could choose books to keep.  I had mentioned Amelia Earhart a couple weeks before so he knew that, with that still fresh in my mind, I would go right for it.  And I totally played into his plan.  The manager came up with the story about the color scheme not working, which was completely believable to me.

Nick also included a nice little booklet that explained the story of my ring.  Here's the hilarious front.

And the inside, which tells the story.  Doesn't Nick tell it so well?

Many things could have gone wrong that would have completely foiled Nick’s plan, but all went smoothly.  I had no suspicion at all what he was up to, and am pretty impressed that he was able to pull it off.  Nick designed my ring all without any input from me because he wanted it to be a surprise.  Didn't he choose well?  I get so excited every morning when I get to put it on for the day.  I hope you feel the same way about your special jewelry!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Visiting Our Nation's Capital, Part II

(In case you missed it, here’s Part I, in which we visited the National Museum of Natural History and dined at Founding Farmers.)

The next morning we had brunch at Busboys & Poets, a restaurant devoted to Langston Hughes.  If you don’t know his story, Langston Hughes got his big break by dropping some of his poetry in the lap of a poet who was dining at the restaurant where he worked as a busboy.  Who was the poet?  One Nicholas Vachel Lindsay.  Weird, no?  I indulged in a mimosa and French toast while I enjoyed the laidback atmosphere of the restaurant.  Sometimes brunch places are a bit too snooty, something Busboys & Poets definitely isn’t. 

Sunday’s main agenda item was a visit to the relatively new museum, the Newseum.  The idea behind the Newseum is a bit different than any other museum that I’ve been to.  Basically they take a look at how media covers certain events.  From their website: The Newseum “educates the public about the value of a free press in a free society and tells the stories of the world's important events in unique and engaging ways.”  Pretty cool, huh? 

You start out by viewing an orientation video in the basement of the Newseum, before moving on to the G-Men and Journalists exhibit.  This exhibit, obviously, focused on the FBI and how they handled some of the most notorious criminals in history: gangsters, spies, bombers, etc.  I was surprised at how many big news stories I had forgotten about, like the DC Sniper and Jayson Blair.  They had the Unabombers actual cabin on display!  (Speaking of the Unabomber, I never knew that he got that nickname because he targeted universities and airlines.)  There was a small section on the Waco, Texas incident, which has fascinated me since childhood.  My parents didn’t allow me to watch the TV movie since it probably wasn’t the most appropriate thing for a 9-year-old to be watching.  I can’t pinpoint why it’s so interesting to me, but I guess it’s the combination of my fascination with cults (and how people get sucked in) and conspiracies.  I didn’t know until Sunday that the Davidians set the fires and not the FBI (although this is debated, I believe the FBI on this one.  David Koresh was a total nutter).

From the basement, you take a glass elevator to the top floor of the building, where there is a terrace with awesome views of the city. 

The first exhibit that we saw on the top floor was Covering Katrina.  We had some exposure to what life in New Orleans looked like during and after Hurricane Katrina from the news and, when we visited New Orleans in September, Nick and I saw an exhibit at their art museum featuring photographs of New Orleans during and after the storm.  The Newseum exhibit featured news footage and interviews of members of the media and artifacts from covering the storm, including flood-ruined cameras and reporters’ notebooks. 

While weaving through a few floors, we came upon a huge gallery of the history of news coverage.  There were a million front page newspapers from the beginning of newspapers up until present day, including this old Philadelphia Inquirer from during the Civil War.

Then we arrived at the 9/11 Gallery.  The gallery included a timeline of the day’s events, a tribute to the only journalist to lose his life during the attack, and a short film that featured interviews of the journalists who covered the attacks in New York, along with their footage.  There was a single box of tissues in front of a two story wall covered in front pages of the newspapers around the world that covered the attacks.

The Newseum was slightly emotionally draining for me.  Seeing the devastating footage of September 11th and Katrina started to weigh on me.  Even though they are completely different situations, both are overwhelmingly sad. When I look at what happened in New Orleans, I can’t help but think, “We did this to ourselves.”  And that is awful.

The Newseum wasn’t wall-to-wall upsetting though.  One of my favorite exhibits was The President’s Photographer about the White House photographer who is able to catch the President in his everyday life.  We were introduced to the exhibit by a video on the huge 100-foot Big Screen Theater.  One of my favorite images featured in this exhibit is of Barack and Michelle Obama taking a freight elevator up to the inaugural ball.  There are times to be serious and there are times to be silly and there are times to just simply enjoy the company of those around you, and I think this exhibit does a good job at reminding us of that. 
Image Source

To drill this point home, the President’s Photographer was followed by a small exhibit focusing on the First Dogs.  I loved this.  Hands down my favorite out of this bunch was Bill Clinton with Socks on his shoulder.  Are we surprised that in an exhibit focusing on dogs I choose the one picture with a cat in it?  I think it’s a little weird that they strapped a leash on him and walked him around like he was a dog.  Nevertheless, I love a good cat and owner picture.
Image Source

We also got a chance to view the Pulitzer Prize Photography Gallery, which got a little heavy at times.  Being a photojournalist seems like a pretty tough job.  There is a fine line between having to do your job—in this case, capture a moment in history—and act as a human.  Some of the photographs depicted awful situations, including homelessness, famine, and war.  Next to the photos was a description of how the photographer got the shot.  Next to one picture of a young, starving African girl with a vulture lurking in the background, the description told of how, after taking that heartbreaking shot, everyone asked the photographer why he hadn’t picked the child up.  The photographer was so emotionally wracked by this that he took his life less than a year later.  It’s very easy to make judgments about situations looking in, but having to live through the situations, document them, and then deal with the reactions by many is a very difficult thing.  I definitely don’t think I would be able to emotionally handle that job.

After hours of attempting to remain composed, I was sufficiently hungry for a late lunch.  We headed over to Matchbox in Capitol Hill for some absolutely delicious brick oven pizza.  Mine came with double pepperoni, and the pepperoni was toasted perfectly so the edges were crispy but the middle was still warm and chewy.  For dessert we shared some doughnuts covered in powdered sugar and a little cinnamon.  It was the finale of our very delicious food tour of DC and it didn’t disappoint.

Since we still had a little time to kill before heading to Union Station to catch our train home, we drove over to the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.  And it’s right across the Tidal Basin from the Washington Monument.  How nice of the folks in Washington to think of perfect photo opportunities.

The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is impressive.  We couldn’t recall something as big and classy existing elsewhere in this country.  His statue is huge too!  There weren’t too many people around when we were walking to the Memorial, but when we got up to the portico we were surprised to find a bunch of school tour groups hanging out.  On a Sunday?  It was pretty packed, but the sun going down and a nice breeze blowing through provided for a relaxed viewing of this beautiful structure.  The strange thing is that the Memorial is open until 11:00pm.  I would love to one day see the Memorial at night.

We cut the viewing of the Memorial a little short to allow enough time to get back to Union Station.  After a short wait in line, we were back aboard a lovely Amtrak train headed back to the City of Brotherly Love.

With good planning, we were able to pack in a lot during our short stay.  But there’s still so much that we want to see!  I predict another weekend trip to DC sometime in 2012.  Perhaps we’ll make a theme out of our trips and go the next the world will supposedly end.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Visiting Our Nation's Capital, Part I

Being that it’s a mere 3 ½ hour drive (pending traffic cooperation) from where I have lived all of my life, I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t set foot in our nation’s capital since I was in 7th grade on a field trip.  As a 7th grade tourist, I was a little unimpressed.  There was no doubt in my mind why it was labeled the worst field trip out of the cycle of three, the other two being New York City and Williamsburg, Virginia.  How is DC supposed to compete with NYC and Busch Gardens?  I’m glad that, as an adult, DC moved to the top of the field trip rankings.  What a fun weekend filled with museums, culture, good food, and good company.

Instead of driving and battling the horrendous DC traffic, Nick and I decided to take Amtrak down.  Our trip started out rushed and a little frantic due to me leaving my office late to meet Nick and having to run to 30th Street to catch our train, but we were quickly able to relax on our two-hour train ride.  Amtrak is so nice and clean and the people who ride it appear to be conscious that they are in a public space and therefore shouldn’t be speaking and laughing loudly to the person next to them.  Maybe this was a fluke, but it was a delightful break from my life as a daily SEPTA rider.

Upon arriving, we met up with our friend Matt who whisked us out of the city for dinner at the Lost Dog Cafe, where Nick and I shared a delicious chicken taco pizza.  The next morning we rose early and ventured off into DC via another example of public transportation done right: the Metro.  Having ridden on all of SEPTA’s modes of transportation, except for their buses, I think I have a pretty good picture of what it considers standard: dirt, stink, and confusion.  The Metro embodied none of these.  When we sat down in the car I was shocked to see that they had carpet covering the floors.  Carpet!  What is this, Disney World?  As I’m sure it does for any child who visits, Disney World marked the beginning of my love for public transportation.  As a child of the suburbs, I was amazed at the efficiency of their monorail and bus systems.  Sadly I hold all public transportation systems up to this standard, and few ever come close.  But I’m not sure even Disney World has carpet on their monorails. 

A short ride later, we arrived at the Federal Triangle stop, which was a short walk away from that day’s destination: the National Museum of Natural History

We checked out the hall of Human Origins before tagging along while our friend gave a tour of the Ocean Hall (that's him in the red volunteer vest).

He was an excellent tour guide and we learned a lot.  Afterwards, since he volunteers there and has super security access to the behind-the-scenes stuff, he took us up to one of the vaults to see how specimen are stored. These cases move along the floor to allow for optimum storage space.  You just use the controls at the end cap to move the whole unit.  Super cool.

We happened upon the very extensive vault of insects. 

Look how tiny and evenly spaced those ants are!  It was awesome.

At that point we were getting a bit hungry, so we headed out of the museum and over to The Old Post Office for lunch.  We all ended up with some sort of middle eastern cuisine and then got the most deliciously huge cookies for dessert.  Once our bellies were full, we headed back over to the museum to tackle the rest of the halls.

We started checking out the dinosaur section but had to pause because we were getting a bunch of calls from back home.  Nick’s mom graciously agreed to feed Flick while we were gone and while she was there our carbon monoxide detector started going off.  That’s definitely not a call you want to get while on vacation!  The firemen came and took readings of our entire house.  Thankfully, they didn’t detect any traces of carbon monoxide, so it appears that the detector was faulty.  I can’t imagine how terrified poor Flick was with the detector going off and the firemen tromping through the house.  He doesn’t like to hear alarms or sirens on TV let alone in our house.  I am very thankful that Nick’s mom was there to not only hear the alarm but to then comfort Flick once we found out there was nothing to worry about. 

With that taken care of, we focused back on the dinosaurs and the rest of the first floor.  Then we moved things upstairs and checked out the gems, bones, insects, and butterfly exhibits.  The Butterfly Pavilion was awesome!  The folks at the museum set up a tropical environment where the butterflies and moths fly freely, landing on the beautiful flowers, plants, and even the museum guests as we walked through.  It was a great opportunity to try out our cameras too!

These moths were HUGE.  This guy was about as big as a man's hand.

This little guy was perfectly content perched on our friend's shoulder for a bit.  Later we saw a guy with a butterfly that was perched on his head.  

We spent pretty much the entire day at the Natural History museum and were able to see the entire thing.  Along the way we even saw these “under construction” signs that looked just like WPA posters.  Classy!

We then headed back on the Metro to tidy up for dinner at Founding Farmers, which I have been excited to dine at since we started planning this trip months ago.  It is a farm-to-table restaurant, a type of eatery that has been getting a lot of attention lately from foodies because of their seasonal menus that feature fresh and local ingredients.  Nick and I are huge fans of JG Domestic in Philly and Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore, which also use the farm-to-table model.  To start, we all shared the popcorn of the day, fried green tomatoes, and flatbread with tomatoes, goat cheese, and pickled red onion.  For my meal, I got the Straw and Hay Pasta, which had long noodles, asparagus, bacon, mushrooms, and peas.  It was amazing.  The sauce was super light and the bacon had the most intense (but good) smokiness without being too tough.  Nick got the southern pan-friend chicken (which came with the most amazing waffles and macaroni and cheese) and Matt got arctic char and some veggies.  Both meals were fabulous (I would know, I sampled both).  For dessert, I got red velvet cake, Nick got a black and white milkshake, and Matt got the sorbet of the day, strawberry basil.  We left full and extremely happy with our food choices.

From there, Matt drove us around to show us the town a bit, including some landmarks and memorials.  We then headed back home where Nick beat the pants off of us in a game of Scrabble.  He is a master of the game, having refined his play over the past 20 odd years.  We retired for the night happily tired from the day’s events and looking forward to the next day’s agenda.

Check back tomorrow for the rest of our DC adventures!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Four Score!

My fourth panel is finished!  I finished a healthy portion of this panel during a pre-Easter viewing of The Ten Commandments (it's crazy sharp on Blu-ray) but then my productivity dropped off for a few weeks.

Although I do love how relaxing the simple stockinette stitch is, it's so tempting to sleep on the train ride home!  Most of my knitting is done on the train, but every now and then I'll spend the night in front of the TV knitting.

This panel looks almost identical to the very first piece of knitting I ever finished: a gray scarf for Nick to wear with his winter coat.  The yarn I used for the scarf was a bit thicker and it looks awesome with his black pea coat!  I'll have to remember to schedule a fashion shoot once it gets cold again.  Don't worry, I definitely don't want to rush through Spring and Summer.  I am sick of this constant rain and am ready for the warm sunshine!

I know I promised to unveil my Runabout Jacket this week, but it's not quite finished yet.  I got a migraine on Tuesday that pretty much kicked my ass for two days straight, and last night I was prepping for our weekend trip to DC, so I didn't get to work on it as much as I wanted to.  I didn't want to rush it and do a crappy job since I've spent so much time on it.  It's going to be too warm for it this weekend in DC anyway, so I'm not too disappointed that it's not finished.  I'll be all the more excited when it gets finished next week!

I'm excited to have fun with our new cameras in DC.  We plan on visiting the National Museum of Natural History, the Newseum, the National Gallery of Art, a bunch of monuments and landmarks, and a few awesome restaurants, including Founding Farmers.  I'll be sure to share our pictures when we get back! 

What do you have planned for this weekend?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Embroidery Floss

I feel like this is kind of cheating, but how awesome does embroidery floss look when it's organized?

When I was in fifth grade I had a floss organizer that was packed to the gills with amazing colors.  Not for embroidery, but for making friendship bracelets.  A few years later friendship bracelets fell out of vogue.  I wonder where that organizer ended up?  I cringe to think that I probably threw it out during one of my room purgings.

Now I am slowly rebuilding my collection, which is primarily from an assorted pack from Michaels.  One day it will surpass my once-upon-a-time collection!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

My Fabulous New Work Bag

Commuting on the train to work requires me to carry a ton of crap at all times, so I need a bag big enough to accommodate said crap.  Last week my work bag finally bit it by ripping pretty much the entire way up the back of the bag.  It was time to bag shop!

Zappos is my go-to source for work bags.  They have a great selection and I can narrow down the size of the bags easily.  I need to fit the following things in my work bag:
  • One 24 oz. Nalgene water bottle
  • One 16 oz. travel coffee mug: I am in love with my Thermos leak-proof stainless steel mug.  I make my coffee around 6:00am and the coffee stays warm until at least 11:00am.
  • Small purse to hold wallet and pill bottles: I get frequent migraines and I have seasonal allergies so I always make sure to keep these on me.
  • Lunch box: With the exception of a treat every now and then, I pretty much always take my lunch.  Thankfully my wonderful husband packs it for me each night.  Isn't he the best??
  • Craft bag: Most often this will contain knitting needles and yarn, but sometimes I mix it up and throw in an embroidery hoop and some floss.
 It may not look like much, but it's a lot to fit into one bag.  Shortly after starting my search, I happened upon, and fell in love with, this amazing tote.

It is made of coated canvas so I won't have to worry about my stuff getting wet on the days when I have to make a rainy trek to my building.  There are pockets on either side of the bag to hold my water bottle and coffee mug.  I'll no longer have to put up with my bottles falling over inside the bag!  The front has a pocket with a flap, and the back has a narrow pocket (perfect for a magazine or thin paperback) and a zippered pocket.

Here's a closeup of the front the flap and lining canvas.

And a closeup of the main body canvas.

The inside is packed full of pockets too!  There are two wide pockets on the inside front, which perfectly hold my cell phone, tissues, and gum.  On the inside back is another wide pocket, perfect for my iPod, and a zippered pocket, which holds my keys and train pass holder.  Speaking of my train pass holder, it still works out perfectly!  I attached the hook onto the inside zipper and the strap is still long enough so it can sit on the top of my bag for the conductor to see.  Isn't it nice when things work out?  Inside you can also see my craft bag and the small tote that I use as a purse.  And there's still plenty of room for my lunch box and anything else I might have to take home with me, like if I were to take a trip down the subway to visit Duross & Langel and Lush on my lunch break.  I'm not saying that will happen, but in the event that it does, I will have room to carry my one or two (or ten) purchases home in my tote and not have to carry an additional bag.  This is all hypothetical of course.

My tote arrived on Friday thanks to Zappos bumping my order up to next day shipping.  Aren't they great?  They have the best customer service.  When I pulled it out of the box, Nick agreed that it was awesome and said that it looked like something I would sew.  I told you he was the best!  The great thing is that the coated canvas is thick and durable and will definitely last me a few years' worth of commutes.

I looked super stylish carrying this bag to work this morning.  I'm finishing up something else that will increase my style points even more!  Stay tuned for the unveiling later this week!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Pretty Things Thursday: Our Family Crest

It's Nick's birthday today, so I thought we would honor it by admiring some of his handiwork.  He made our family crest as a Christmas gift to me in 2009.  It was a complete surprise, but I think he included the same things I would have chosen.  Isn't it awesome?

The tiles were made at the Moravian Tile Works, which was founded by Henry Chapman Mercer, who built the Fonthill Museum, where we got married.  The slab of wood that they are mounted on is from a local woodworker in Upper Bucks County.

The top tiles are pretty self explanatory.  I love that the handshake symbolizes our marriage since we love to shake hands when we make a decision about something.

The four square tiles in the middle are symbolic as well and are arranged strategically to represent the qualities that we consider a balanced life.  The top left tile, which depicts Fonthill Castle, represents home, while the bottom right tile represents travel and adventure.  The top right tile represents an appreciation of nature, while the bottom left tile, which depicts the open book logo from our wedding, represents an appreciation of culture.

At the very bottom is a tile that says "Plus Ultra" which means "more beyond."  We borrowed this motto from Henry Chapman Mercer.  Its place on our crest represents that we still have a lot to look forward to in our life together and that our relationship will always keep growing. 

I think it's pretty fun that we have a family crest since that kind of thing is usually reserved for royalty or rich people (in case you were wondering, we are neither).  If you had a family crest what would you include in it?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Crescent Skirt Oops!

Don’t you wish that we could switch week days and weekends so we could only work for two days and then have off for five?  I think that is the only solution to accomplishing everything that I want to do during my non-work time.

Between playing with our new cameras and Mother’s Day festivities, I again had only a little time to sew this weekend.  I decided to work on my Crescent skirt since I’m way behind on the sew along.  Check out my sweet set up.  For the Pendrell sew along, I had printed out all of the instructions since I didn’t take part until after it was over.  This time around I set up my netbook on the table with Pippi.  This worked out great!

I decided to make a full muslin of the skirt before I cut into my more expensive Anna Maria Horner fabric.  I liked making a full muslin of my Runabout Jacket because it’s like a test run of the pattern.  I can make all of the stupid mistakes and work on the fitting issues on cheap fabric and not have to worry about ruining something that is expensive to replace. 

I spent Friday night tracing my seam lines on the muslin pieces, so come Sunday I was all ready to start sewing pattern pieces together.  The only thing I managed to get together on Sunday was sewing the waistband pieces together.  Which leads me to my first lesson learned during this project: when labeling the pieces of muslin that you cut from the pattern, label them in the same way that the printed pattern pieces are labeled.  For some reason I labeled mine in every direction but the way it was printed, which meant that a lot of the time I had to reference the original pattern to figure out what way was up.

I also discovered that it's best to pin and then open the garment up like it will be worn prior to sewing a seam.  I ended up sewing pattern pieces together backwards once or twice.  This could have very easily been avoided had I taken the 3 seconds to double check that everything was put together correctly before I sewed.  I should get "double check everything" tattooed on my hands as a constant reminder.  It appears to be my biggest problem yet.

On Monday night I sewed the waistband facing and then sewed the skirt pieces together.  The next step was gathering the skirt in a few places.  This was my first time doing this and I was a bit nervous about it, but with Tasia’s excellent instructions, all went well.  It was starting to look like something!  In my excitement I held the skirt up to me to test drive it before I sewed up the back seam, and that’s when I realized: I had cut the wrong size!

I was really really frustrated at this set back, especially since a couple of times while cutting out the muslin I had noted to myself how close to my actual skirt size the Crescent was, which never happens.  This should have been my first clue!  I’m hoping this is the biggest lesson that I learn in this project: measure twice and then CIRCLE the size that I need to cut out on the pattern envelope.

I went to bed pretty annoyed and angry with myself.  Upon waking up yesterday morning I decided that all was not entirely lost.  I only have to remake the yoke of the skirt to get through the fitting issues.  Otherwise, the work that I did on the too-small skirt will still be applicable when I make the skirt with the fashion fabric.  I should be happy that I realized my mistake now, but I can’t believe I did something so careless as to cut out the wrong size of the pattern by accident.  I guess that comes with the territory of sewing in the evenings after work!  All in all, I am happy with how the skirt looks, even if there is a two-inch gap down the backside.  Even though I didn't press up the hem, it seems a bit long.  I might switch to the slightly shorter view for my real skirt. 

I’m really hoping to someday get through a project where I don’t make a major mistake.  What is the most frustrating sewing mistake you have made?