A Possibilities Day

Today is one of those days that invites dreaming.  The sunshine and perfect temperature, the breeze coming through the windows, and the puffy white clouds all chase away the complications and consequences of doing the things you’ve wanted to do for awhile.

I’ve completely given into this day.  All our windows are wide open to bring the day inside, and I’m letting myself dream about ways to “fix” the problem spots in our apartment, and just life in general.

To start off, I made a pitcher of cold-brewed coffee (if you haven’t had this, you must try it.  It brings out the coffee flavor beautifully without the bitter taste associated with hot-brewed iced coffee. Go here for instructions on how to brew it. Or here. Or here.)

Next I began re-imagining this space, possibly using an indoor, wall-mounted garden and a corner cabinet:

When we moved to DC, we didn’t have room for our plants in the car, so we had to leave them with a friend. Picture this: in order to get them to Jen’s house, I packed them in a crate. This includes a very large aloe (see below), and three smaller houseplants (two vines and spider plant). The backseat and trunk of the car were packed so completely that every inch of space was used and the broom had to be strapped to the bike rack on the back.  Ginger in her crate and her litterbox were at my feet (her crate was later moved to my lap), leaving just enough room for me to squeeze my feet in if I didn’t plan to move them for the entire six-hour drive.  My other plant – the one I’ve had for nine years, which was coming with us, and a wreath which Elizabeth made for me out of old books (and is absolutely fabulous, but would not fit in any box) were balanced between my lap and dashboard. With all these accoutrements, David then lifted the crate of plants onto my lap, where I carefully placed my head between aloe branches in such a way as to minimize scratches from the spines.  On my right branches touched the window; on my left they nearly reached David. In this manner at 3:00am we drove the crate of plants the 15 minutes to Jen’s house before heading to DC.

So this weekend we brought them home, and this time we were able to strap them into the back seat.  While they were at Jen’s, she (with my complete blessing) kept them on her porch, so they look a little straggly, but they are decidedly alive and here, which was the goal.  Yesterday I cleaned them up a bit, so today was for letting the air, sunshine, and general wonderfulness help them rejuvenate.  There’s still a ways to go, but they’re getting there.

Finally, I am trying something in my closet, that I’ve been considering for awhile.  I’ve heard recommended in a number of places the idea of turning your hangers around backwards.  When you wear something, you put it back on the rack with the hanger facing normally.  Then, after some period of time, you have a more accurate idea of which clothes you actually wear.  My biggest worry has been that this will cause unnecessarily tangled hangers, but as I said before, today is not a day for worrying, so I’ve gone ahead and done it. This is part of a larger intention to pare down my closet, motivated by Project 333.  I don’t intend to go the whole nine yards and actually get my closet down to 33 items, but I would like to remove anything I don’t use.

Additional things of interest found today include:

New Blogs:


Midwestern Sewing Girl

Plus 3 Crochet

Sew Much Ado

The 36th Avenue

New Books:

A Moveable Feast

Jitterbug Perfume

New Ideas:

Typewriter key magnets

Air plants

Journal bandolier

Yarn bowl

Hanging light bulb vase

Happy Wednesday!


Guest Post: The Summer I Moved Away

This entry is a guest post by Kristen, over at Kristen’s Blog of Shenanigans. Kristen and I participated in a blog swap, hosted by 20 Something Bloggers, and the subject of the swap is summer.  So take a moment to read Kristen’s post here, and then share a comment about your favorite summer memory!  And don’t forget to head on over to Kristen’s blog to read the post I wrote.

As summer comes to a haltering end, I can’t help but be completely ecstatic. You see, I’ve always been an autumn kind of girl.  And I can’t stop thinking about last summer. Why, you ask?

I mean, this one wasn’t so eventful. In fact, it was kind of crap. It was sort of a “back to reality” kind of summer, due to the fog I have been living in for the past year. It was last summer that was memorable. That was the summer that changed my life.

Last summer I moved four hours away from my home in Albany, New York to be with my longtime boyfriend Brian Patrick Delaney in Rochester, New York. Not only did I make a semi-big move away from my family for the first time, but I decided to pursue a college education for the first time in six years as well. I was excited and scared all at the same time, and for anyone that knows what those two emotions are like to intake at the same time: it’s pretty much a heart attack.

Everyone made me feel really good about the move. In fact, my parents threw me a surprise going away party a day before I moved, with all of my relatives there. I never thought that I’d cry like a big baby in front of an audience, but it happened. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.

My parents drove with me to Rochester N.Y., which would be my new location. Brian and I followed them as I got a nice view of my dresser and bed for four long straight hours. When we got there, our parents and us all had dinner.

Things have only gotten better since I’ve been here for a whole year. We finally got our own apartment (for six months), and I’ve been doing great in school with a 4.0 average. My boyfriend isn’t doing too shabby either. We certainly do make a great team and moving to Rochester is definitely one of the best decisions that I ever made. It makes me more grateful when I go back home, and sleep in my old empty room. But I have a new room now.  🙂

Chili of Wonderfulness

I’ve been perfecting a chili recipe for awhile now, and I feel like it’s in a particularly good place, so I’d like to share it with you.

It can be made in a crock pot (which I prefer) or on the stove (if you don’t have a crock pot, or if you forgot to remove the bubble wrap packing from the move before you turned it on*.)

Approximately 2 lbs of lean ground beef
1 large can of diced tomatoes
1 small can of tomato paste
2 regular sized cans of beans (I like one of dark kidney beans, and one of small white beans.)
1-2 fresh peppers (I’ve used a green and a yellow pepper with much success, but most recently I used just one gypsy pepper, which came out very delicious)
3 large carrots
Approximately 3/4 of a medium sized yellow onion
1 small zucchini
Optional, depending on the size of your pot: 1 small yellow squash
4-5 cloves of garlic.
Either 1/2 packet of chili seasoning or a generous amount of chili powder, salt, black pepper, and whatever else catches your fancy, such as basil, oregano, cocoa powder.)

Start by browning the ground beef in a large pan.  While it’s cooking, drain as much juice as possible from the large can of tomatoes (because of all the veggies, the chili will be watery if the juice is not sufficiently drained.) Pour the tomatoes into the pot and add the tomato paste.  Drain the both cans of beans (I like to dump them into a colander and thoroughly rinse them) and add the beans to the pot.  Stir beans and tomatoes together. When beef is cooked, remove excess grease and add beef to pot. Squish the cloves of garlic with flat of knife blade and mince. Add garlic and half of the seasoning to pot. Stir to get an even distribution of ingredients.  Dice vegetables to about 1/2 or 1/4 inch pieces, add remainder of spices and stir until an even distribution of ingredients is obtained.

In crock pot: Cook on high for 2 hours, leaving lid on, then stir and reduce heat to low, cook for a remaining 3-4 hours, until the deliciousness overwhelms you. If you need to cook for a longer time, only cook on high for 1 hour.

On stove top: Cook covered on medium-low heat, stirring every 20 minutes or so, for about 2 hours or until the deliciousness calls out to you.

*Note: If you do manage to heat plastic in between your ceramic and metal crock pot elements, you will notice because there will be the smell of plastic burning.  Quickly turn off and unplug the pot, and move the ingredients to a stew pot on your stove top to continue cooking.  Quickly remove any unmelted plastic, taking care not to burn yourself. To remove the melted plastic, use a plastic scraper while the pot is warm (but not hot).  Alternate cycles of warming and scraping as it cools until it is almost entirely gone.  Turn on the kitchen fan, and heat the metal element on high until there are no more fumes (and avoid the kitchen during that time). Wipe off as much of the discoloration as possible.

I would love to hear your variations on chili or your favorite crock pot dish.

Settling in…

We’re finally starting to feel as if DC is home.  Admittedly it’s still a shock when we drive down the street and see the Pentagon or any of the many postcard-familiar monuments we now see every time we go out.  But our place officially feels like home (instead of someone else’s home that happens to have all of our stuff).

David’s working like crazy.  The move brought about a back-log of work that he’s try to catch up with.  I, of course, am seeking work.  After looking at my options, I’ve decided to do something that ten years ago I would have told you I’d never do.  I’m sewing for a living.

As a kid, people would ask why I wasn’t considering fashion school and didn’t I want to be the next fashion star? (Project Runway wasn’t underway until I was in college, or I’m sure it would have come up.) I’d tell people who asked that I was afraid sewing for a living would make me lose the joy in it.  Time will tell whether there was truth in that, but I’m hopeful that sewing is the right choice for several reasons:

  1. So far when I do something else “for a living” I haven’t become passionate about what I’ve engaged in; I know I’m passionate about sewing.
  2. Doing something else leaves me without any time to sew, so there’s no sewing to be taking joy in.
  3. It’s something I can take pride in.  I’m an excellent seamstress, all bragging aside, and I particularly take care with the details and the finishing work.  When I make something for someone I know it’s excellent work and that they’re getting everything they’re paying for.

I’m getting started with a boutique that has shown interest in my work and is giving me a trial to see if it works out. I’ve heard from a couple of bridal shops that may be interested in contracting me as well.

This is the sample piece that they’ve asked me to do as a first piece.  The collar will have a closure, but it will be added by the boutique owner.

Since I was sewing anyway, once finished the blue dress above, I decided to try a project suggested on a blog I follow, The Crafty CPA.  I think it turned out really well:

Ginger has been settling in well, too.  She likes that David and I are both working at the house, and has settled into a regular routine that involves breakfast the moment I get up, then a nap, and once it gets dark, going out onto the porch for a bit.  Lately she’s found some very odd napping places:

Moved! We’re Now Residents of Virginia

So we moved to DC last weekend, after several weeks of insanity.
First, there was packing.
At this point our dining room was full of boxes and the furniture moved to the living room:
Then, off we went to Austin, Texas for a week (because that’s what normal people do when they’re about to move). We went for Austin Blues Party (ABP).
We danced, hung out with friends, ate fabulous food, and generally had a wonderful time.
We came back from Austin with 36 hours until the movers arrived.
So we left Cleveland at 3:30 am on Friday and arrived in Alexandria at our new apartment at 10:00am.  Thanks to our wonderful movers, the transition happened fairly smoothly:
Now all that was left was a MASSIVE amount of unpacking.  Beginning with the 15 kitchen boxes (not pictured, because their contents are in those cupboards):
The Post-Its, naturally, are to identify where what goes during and after unpacking.
We are about 95% unpacked now, but we have a big week.  This weekend is our first DC exchange as locals.  Red Hot Blues and BBQ starts tonight and we are hosting six guests for the weekend.  We intended to host no more than three, but we signed up with the hosting program to house two and then agreed to host a couple of friends.  And then there was a misunderstanding with housing and we ended up being assigned four guests.  So we have a full house.  Ordinarily we like hosting as many as we can – it’s our way of paying back the hospitality we’ve received in other cities.  With the move, though, we figured we’d still be living among boxes.  As it turns out, we have room for everyone we’re currently committed to, and we’re looking forward to a fabulous weekend.

CUBE 2011; Chicago Underground Blues Experience

Apparently we lost May as well.  We’re in a flurry of preparing for a move to DC and everything else seems to fall by the wayside.

I am, however, at this moment in Chicago, as we spent the weekend here for the Blues Festival and the late night dances organized by the local scene, which altogether comprises the event we call CUBE.

As a group, united by Twitter, we attended and moved around the festival, dancing on the lawn or asphalt, whichever suited the stage. (I’m sure photos will crop up on Facebook, which is fantastic, as I took none of the event.)  Per the usual, we ate amazing food, most particularly at Orange and Nohea.

Digging into a dish at Orange called Caprese benedict.

Rosco Street – where Anna (our host) lives

Last night (Sunday), we had an out-of-the-ordinary jaunt.  We had a BBQ dinner with a group of ten friends, and then walked down to the evening dance venue, which was in a restaurant.  But neither David nor I had our dance shoes with us, so after a few dances each, we decided to mass-transit it back to our hosts place.  Usually I do the navigating, but we use David’s iPhone. (My palm is amazing for calls, texts, and email, but the maps and browser are not on par with the Apple’s genius.) Last night David got us directions back to Anna’s house, but he didn’t ask me for her address; he just put in the street she lives on.  When we got three-quarters of the way to where the directions were taking us, I asked to take a look at the map, because we appeared to be no where near where we wanted to be.  As is happens, appearances were completely correct — we were an hour (by foot) from Anna’s apartment. 

So we took stock.  Looking around was not particularly reassuring: lots of graffiti, no one out on the sidewalks, seedy-looking bars on two of the street corners, and bars over all the windows.  Most of the signage was in Spanish.  David called a cab company: they could have a cab there in 20 minutes or so.  I checked the bus schedule: the next bus was due in 26 minutes.  Having no other options, we hung out on the abandoned street corner until the bus arrived, at which point we gratefully boarded.  We didn’t make it back to the dance – by the time we got to Anna’s place, we had lost an extra hour and we were exhausted.

Miraculously, because we got to bed so “early,” we were up this morning at 6:30am, and trekked on down to Starbucks (which was the only place open) for some caffeine to tide us over until a breakfast place opened. 

I will leave you with this: on my way to take a very large cup of coffee (read: fuel) to our host who had to work this morning despite getting in very late from the dances, I encountered this sign on a bookbinder’s studio:

“Studio hours 11ish to 7ish frequently”

These are the business hours I want for my life.

What Happened to April?

So we had a busy month, with only a tiny bit of dancing, and no exchanges, which is a first in a long time.
We were hoping to go to the lindy-hop exchange in DC (DCLX), but neither of us registered early enough, and although we were on the waiting list, we never made it.  So we had several weekends at home. It was a nice change of pace, but we’re looking forward to attending Cbus6 in May and Show Me Blues in June. 
There was a quick trip up to Ann Arbor Easter weekend, to attend a workshop taught by two good friends, Renata and Paul. It was Renata’s first formal teaching experience, and she did a fabulous job.  Both of them, actually, taught really well together.  
We also made it down to the Columbus area this weekend to visit friends and family, and to see a “rock ballet” titled The Seven Deadly Sins.  The ballet was magnificent.  There were separate pieces for each sin, and the Shadowbox Live band played for the pieces and between them.  Some were better than others –  of the seven pieces, I have to say that Sloth, Envy, and Greed were probably the best done, but they were all very impressive.  (Note: Evil Dead, the Musical is also coming to Columbus, Ohio in June, July, and August. Not only that, but on our way into the ballet, we ran in to a friend of mine from high school, Whitney Thomas-Eads, who is in the production!)

We joined Megan and Aaron for the ballet and breakfast the next morning. They made blueberry and currant scones fresh for breakfast (Megan makes the best scones). For lunch we met up with my parents and visited my family for a bit.  We saw some of Rick’s soccer game (he’s an excellent defense-man).  And we had coffee for a bit with Elizabeth.  It was really lovely to see all my folks back in Granville. We finished up the trip by having dinner here in Cleveland with Emm, so it was a fully-scheduled weekend.