30 March 2010

spring fashion week - wednesday

over the past few days i've found several blog round-ups, and really enjoyed going through and seeing how everyone interprets the challenge or answers the question. it's like watching project runway or top chef (guilty pleasures), but just the good part at the end where you see the finished products. =)

so, when i went rabbit-holing on a friend's blog and ended up on emery jo's fashion week, i really wanted to play along. this round-up doesn't require making furniture/renovating a house/sewing anything/cooking fabulous foods--just getting dressed. i'm totally in. =)

so here's my wednesday look:

blouse: thrifted (originally banana republic)
jeans: thrifted (some italian brand)
scarf: thrifted/vintage
shoes: dsw
earrings: peru

i'm pretty sure every pair of pants i own was thrifted. madison has some amazing goodwill stores. it's dangerous that there's one on my way to work. =)

24 March 2010

evolution of room design

thanks to the ikea room designer and photoshop, i've been playing paper dolls with my sister E's bedroom for the past few weeks. the goal is to take her currently chaotic, holding-facility-reminiscent, sometimes cave-like bedroom, get all the unnecessary stuff out (and there will be a lot), and make it a fun, organized, productive space for a 15-year-old freshman girl who's the only kid left in the house.

here's basically what the room looks like now, viewed through the windowed wall at the front of the house, with bookshelves next to a bunkbed along the wall with the door (south), lower bookshelves by her dresser (east), tall dresser between the windows (north), and a closet off in the northwest corner:
except, in real life every non-floor surface (bookshelves, dressers, a shelf above the windows, the not-used-in-five-years top bunk) are covered with stuff, and there are bright colors everywhere--E's blankets, the ceiling (vibrantly sky blue), the north wall (lime green--and i cringingly admit that that was my doing, when i was 15...).

since the goal is to do this as thriftily as possible (< $150 all told), we need to keep as many elements of the room as we can. so, retaining the bed, dresser and original wall paint, here's the first rendition (viewed from the bedroom door, facing north):

in real life, i promise that the green isn't so obnoxious. however...it is a bit of an eyesore. not to mention that taking down the shelf that currently spans the green wall above the windows will leave lots of visible holes and paint damage, so we have to repaint anyway. however, it has the major elements that we'll keep throughout: little to no furniture at eye level, adding a desk, and sticking with the bright, saturated colors that embody E so well.

this second rendition also keeps the original paint job, further reduces the tall furniture by getting rid of a vertical bookshelf, and swaps out the antique dresser (part of a set--keeping them together will get E and our mum more money at their garage sale), while also introducing purple accents. the blue on the closet represents replacing the sliding wood doors with curtains (that i already have, from my dorm days); while the color it adds is nice, the idea was vetoed by our mum because the doors provide the only insulation between the bedroom and the attic. also, while i wasn't keen on using the dresser as a bedside table as well, since it seemed to limit the space, i know E and i know that fewer surfaces will lead toward less clutter. this layout seems to work well, and so for a while i just played with color and accessories more than floorplan.

this change to orange and purple was inspired by the rug (which i am in love with and wish i had a place for in our home and which also conveniently is on clearance at jcpenney's) as well as by a colorguard flag that is mostly orange and copper and purple in color. (our brother gave E the flag a couple christmases ago; it was in the madison scouts drum corps' 2007 or 2008 show, i don't recall which). E really wanted to display it in the room, and thought that between the windows would be a good place. i like the color-striping of orange, purple and silver on neutral walls, but sticking with just these two main colors makes it feel staged, like everything comes in a set, rather than natural. (plus, can you imagine how much work it would be to tape up all of those skinny little pinstripes? ugh.)

this design won't happen, mostly because the piece that is my favorite--the marimekko canvas on the wall over the bed--costs about three times our total "budget" for the room redo. (i say "budget" because, when last it was discussed, the parents weren't interested in putting any money into this project, leaving it all up to fifteen-year-old E, who is saving up for trips to Japan and Australia with dance and band respectively and, though excited about the prospect of a fun room, not willing to part with $150 for it). this was totally just for my taste--i moved out of this very bedroom for good five years ago, but if i were coming back, this is what i'd want it to look like: simple, mature colors, no fussy patterns, and that marimekko daisy print that i've loved for years.

i took a break from this project for a few weeks, came back last night and came up with this (view is from bedroom door). for a feasible room for E, it's easily my favorite thus far. =) the painting on the wall (snagged from etsy here) is a visual stand-in for the colorguard flag, since they have similar colors and proportions. moving the twin bed to a daybed position between the windows really clears up the corner it's always been stuck in. bed risers (also dorm leftovers) will give more storage underneath for E's dance costumes, which have to be stored flat. the teal desk and a dresser next to it [not pictured] i scored for free (yay!). i'm excited about making a plush upholstered "headboard" for the space between the windows, as well as a new cover for the currently rainbow-tie-dyed beanbag. the headboard and beanbag cover would be the same color--i just couldn't decide if i like a coppery-orange or metallic purple better, so i'll leave that decision for E. to top (bottom?) it all off, my favorite bit--and the only really big purchase--is the rug, which ties in all the orange-copper-purple shades and rings in at only $70. =)

so, there you have it! the evolution of my design for my little sister's bedroom. =) i've yet to hear back from E as to what she thinks of this latest development, but like i said, it's my favorite. not to mention the least expensive. =) one last look...

so bright, light, airy and fun!

19 March 2010


this post is my contribution to the roundup from AllisonO's O My Book Week. i've never done anything like this before, but thought it would be fun to play along. =)

books! where to begin? i've always been a bookworm, but have found myself through college reading less and less for my own personal enjoyment. =/ quite a bummer.

when i was a kid, a picture-book-age kid, my favorite book was Make Way For Ducklings. ducks were my "thing," and i liked that the story was all about them. the illustrations are charming and i love the way ducklings line up behind their mother. boston was also a familiar place, since we visited family there often, and i liked that you can go to the boston public garden and see the statues of the duck family (usually with masses of children clambering all over them). loved it!

as i got older, i read everything. everything. i remember in seventh grade, going through the middle school library and pulling out novels at random, and remarking to the librarian in surprise when i finally read a book that i didn't like. =) i loved the little house on the prairie series in later elementary school, and started getting into sci-fi and fantasy through junior high. those were my escapist books--magical worlds and profound philosophical and scientific thoughts. i read/devoured/loved A Wrinkle in Time and its sequels by madeleine l'engel, The Golden Compass by philip pullman, c.s. lewis's The Chronicles of Narnia, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy by j.r.r tolkein, and j.k. rowling's Harry Potter series.

looking at my bookshelf now, i find my personal books gathering in a few distinct categories, and that amuses me: cookbooks, christian books, classics, fantasy, and what i call "doctor" books. not all the cookbooks are mine, but between the husband and i we have 15, two of which are devoted entirely to soup, two just to pie, and one solely to brownies. =) similarly, most of the christian books aren't mine, but those that are--my bible and The Irresistible Revolution by shane claiborne--are much loved. interestingly, both were gifts from friends--not the "i got you a present!" kind of gifts, but the "you haven't read this? i must give you a copy!" kind (thanks char!), and fulfilling in the way that only good books can be. most of my fantasy books are still back at my parents' house; my husband's science fiction--good stuff, classics like The Hitchhiker's Guide books and Dune and Ender's Game that i am just now getting into--fill a shelf. i have a surprising number of french classics (and even some in french), including The Count of Monte Cristo, Les Miserables, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. my "doctor" books include a vast rang of topics that somehow relate to want i want to do with my life--engaging titles like kidder's Mountains Beyond Mountains, gawande's Complications and Better, ehrenreich's Nickle and Dimed, menchu's I, Rigoberta Menchu, perry's Population: 485, and mother teresa's A Simple Path as well as more academic texts like The World Food Problem, An Introduction to the U.S. Healthcare System, How Many People Can the World Support?, and Sana! Sana! Mexican Americans and Health.

i love books. i love reading. i love how browsing someone's bookshelf can tell you a lot about the person they are. i love the way a talented author can construct a world and characters so enticing that you are irresistibly drawn in. i love the way a talented author crafts their words, with meaning and sound and even aesthetics on the page all coming together in a thing of beauty. (side note: the first time i read Love in the Time of Cholera by gabriel garcia marquez, i hated it. i found the characters immoral and unappealing, not something i was at all interested in. someone convinced me to give it another shot...and i loved it. there is beauty and fluidity and elegance in his words--and that's just an english translation! one of my life goals is to improve my spanish to the point that i will be able to read the original. i also own One Hundred Years of Solitude--didn't care for it nearly as much, but i'll certainly be giving it another chance.)

14 March 2010

happy pi day!

in my earlier college years, when i went back to visit my parents i would mysteriously find all the necessary pie-making ingredients waiting on the counter. by the time my dad came home from work in the evening, there would be a pie cooling. thus, he dubbed me the "piefairy." (i have a hunch he was the ingredient fairy, but that name never stuck.)

for reasons i can hardly understand myself, i haven't made pie very much of late. tragedy, i know. however, today being pi day (3.14--the irrational number and march 14th), i made one to celebrate--and of course i used my pi plate! actually, i'm making two pies today: a snack/dessert pie that my husband brought to the church council meeting because it was his turn to bring refreshments, and a pizza for dinner tonight.

this pi-day pie is one of my favorites. it's sweet and sticky and chewy--very like a granola bar in a crust. it is best warm and slightly gooey, in my opinion, though it keeps quite well and isn't as oozy and messy on the second day. this has also become our "first picnic" pie--it feels just perfect for the first picnic of the year right about now, when the winter cravings for dense, warm comfort food haven't yet subsided but the sun and mud and smell of things growing won't let you stay inside.

butterscotch oatmeal pie
adapted from "pie: 300 tried-and-true recipes for delicious homemade pie" by ken haedrich

1 pastry pie crust - use a favorite recipe or a store-bought crust
the topic of pie crust will be another post, because there are a bunch of things to consider--butter or shortening? all-purpose or pastry flour?--as well as technique debates, so i don't even want to get into it right now.
2 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
i've made this pie with both granulated and brown sugar. it comes out nicely either way.
3/4 cup corn syrup
the original recipe calls for dark corn syrup, but light works just as well. for a bit more flavor, i used a mixture of corn syrup and honey.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup oats
the original recipe calls for either old-fashioned or quick cooking; in general, i prefer the texture of the old-fashioned, and that's what we tend to have on hand, but that's totally a matter of taste and convenience.
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
my husband doesn't like coconut, so i have omitted it twice now and the pie doesn't suffer for it. however, the coconut is a delicious addition, if your pie audience will eat it.
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butterscotch chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

prepare your pastry as directed and place in a 9-inch standard pie pan. place in the freezer for 15 minutes, and heat oven to 375

combine the wet ingredients: eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter and vanilla. mix (medium speed with an electric mixer, or vigorously by hand) until well blended, about 30 seconds.

stir in the dry ingredients: oats, coconut, flour, butterscotch chips, and nuts.

i tend to mix all the dry things together in their own bowl--i'm usually multitasking and waiting on something else at the time--before adding to the wet ingredients. i haven't found it to make any difference; it just improves my workflow.

pour the filling into the chilled pie shell.

place on the center rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. rotate it 180 degrees (and remove crust shield, if you use one) and bake for another 25-30 minutes.

when it's done the crust will be golden brown, the top will be dark golden brown and crusty, and the center won't jiggle in waves when you nudge the pie.
yes, i forgot to take a picture of the finished pie. i also almost missed the bus to church this morning because i was cleaning up my baking mess. make it yourself and see how amazing it is.

transfer to a rack to cool; serve warm or at room temperature. i highly recommend packing this for a picnic and eating with fingers--it's sticky and crunchy and will make a bit of a mess, but it's wonderful. =)

11 March 2010


every entry i write on here, i select the same font and size.

none of the posts turn out looking the same.

i give up.