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Monday, August 18, 2014

taco (salad) tuesday (and I know it's Monday)

 easy peazy guac: one avocado, scoop of salsa, and squirt of lemon juice

I sauteed half a chopped onion with cayenne pepper and chili spice (what's that called?). I added my ground beef and cooked it and then drained it. While it was draining, I threw my romaine lettuce in the cast iron skillet to get wilty and some flavor. 

I then made a bed of lettuce, added the meat, the guacamole, and grated some Colby Jack cheese on top. I added a spritz of red wine vinegar and olive oil, and it was finished. Super easy, and lots of good nutrients. :) 

Happy Cooking!

finished cafe coffee toddler pullover

Yesterday evening after work, I just sat on the couch and finished these sleeves. I was planning to pick up stitches and knit a garter stitch collar, but I think the rolled edge boatneck is just darling. What do you think? Leave a comment below and I'll decide whether this baby is finished or needs one more thing, :)

Instructions to follow soon. Happy Knitting!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

creating a canopy

So, crazy story. I found an adorable bed frame at Restore last spring. It was perfect. I'd been hunting Craigslist up and down for this exact bed frame. I'd found a few, but they were so, SO far away and I had no way to go all the way across the state for a good deal, because I was asking friends to help me pick it up. So, one day in Restore (the Habitat for Humanity store), I found this frame. I was so excited! It was exactly what I'd been looking for. It needed to be refinished or painted or something, but I figured that would be part of the fun. I was still living in a dorm, and had no place to put it, but I got it anyways. I had a friend who was going to let me store it at her house, but I had to keep it temporarily in my dorm room until she was free.

The bed frame looked exactly like this, but it was just a dark wood stain without the paint:

A few months later, right before school ended, some lovely friends from church said that they liked refinishing furniture, so I brought it to their house for them to refinish while I was studying abroad in Spain.

Went to Spain, had an awesome time, hiked, traveled around, bought lots of blankets from a particular blanket vendor who was my favorite. He was really sweet and we'd always chat for a while.

Got back to the States and went to pick up the bed frame. Whatever finish had been on the frame previously would NOT come off, so he just recommended that I paint it. I was totally fine with that, so my roommate and I packed it up in her car and headed back to our new place. :)

We set the bed frame up, and played around with where in the room it should go. A few days later, my dad and brother brought my mattress down. I'd been sleeping on a pallet on my floor next to my bed frame, which was fine, but I was definitely excited about the bed. 

We needed plywood to support the box spring, so we made a trip to Lowes, and purchased and cut the wood to size. We came back to the house, and put the boards into place. 

It was time for the moment of truth! We pulled the mattress out of the hallway and tried to put it in the bed frame. The operative word is TRIED. Because the bed was an antique, and handmade, and everything I wanted in a bed frame, it was not a modern, standard mattress size!
It was only about 1 inch too short and too narrow for my mattress to fit, but there was no forcing it to work. Disappointed, I asked my dad what I could do. "Get a custom mattress." But the very word "custom" is out of the price range of a college student.

So we de-assembled the bed frame, put it in my dad's truck to give away, and just laid the mattress on the floor and he headed home.

A few days later, my roommates came bouncing into the house with a metal bed frame they had found while dumpster diving. While it wasn't my favorite, antique, handmade frame, it was useful. My roommate's boyfriend helped me set it up a few days later when I finally decided that my dreams of an antique frame were not going to happen.

Life happened. I got more settled. I went to work. I fought the ants that continue to invade my house. I organized my desk. I still wanted to do something with my bed, but I wasn't sure what to do with it. 

Then I saw this picture on Pinterest:

It's so inviting and comfortable and cozy looking! Some pictures I see online and they look nice, but they don't look like something that I would like calling home. But this did!

I had a gorgeous blanket with the tree of life pattern on it from my favorite blanket vendor from Granada in the Arab Market. It was folded up, draped over a chair in the living room, so you couldn't see how lovely it was. So yesterday, I set off to AC Moore to find supplies to some how hang my blanket up like the one in the picture. Unfortunately, there's not many tutorials on how to create your own canopy. In fact, there's not any. Lots of pictures. Lots of canopies you can buy, but no how-to instructions. I just decided I would have to figure it out.

About an hour later, I had this: 

I also hung up my picture of a flamenco dancer that I got in the Arab Market, as well, and a picture of a little girl painted by Diego Rivera. 

Because there's a lack of knowledge or instructions on the internet about how to make this super simple way to turn this:

to this lovely canopy, I'll explain.

It is a matter of balance. BALANCE is the most important thing ever in this project. I screwed stuff into the walls and took it out several times because the distance was too great or too small and the blanket would slip through off. If you balance it correctly, it just hangs there nicely. :) 

So I used a picture frame kit that I got at AC Moore for $3 and a curtain rod from Target for $13.

For the main, first drape, hang up the curtain rod following the instructions on the box. I got a standard 28-48 inch rod and adjusted it so that the length was about five inches shorter than my bed was on each end. 

The structure of my room helped me with the next step, but you can totally hang the picture frame wire from the ceiling if you don't have the little soffit. I then used a screwdriver to screw the wire brackets to the walls, each a few inches narrower than what I had done with the curtain rod, leaving the wire slack, but not hanging low.

I then pulled the fabric through the wire, and TADA! 
(and washed the sheets, and made the bed, and plumped the pillows and then tada, but you get the idea).

Eventually, I'll find my twinkle lights that I know I have somewhere with the blanket so it will look even more cozy at night, but for now, I'm really happy to have something above my bed other than a beige wall. And best thing, was that it was super easy and didn't cost nearly as much as it would have for me to go find and buy a wooden bed frame. 

If you have any questions, or want to post pictures of your homemade canopy, just post below :)

Happy Sunday! (and happy nesting!)

Monday, August 11, 2014

cafe coffee baby pullover progress

As I'm sure many of you experience, some weeks are crazy, filled with errands, long hours of working multiple jobs, running from one place to another, traveling to visit friends and family, etc. Last week was like that for me, but this week has been very restful. And it's only Monday! :) 

I'm sitting at home on my couch listening to knitting podcasts from Never Not Knitting and admiring other knitters' projects and working on my Cafe Coffee Baby Pullover. I will posting a pattern once it is finished. This was one of those projects that I had all intentions of following a pattern for, but in the end, I only really used the pattern I found to figure out how many stitches I needed to cast on and how to establish raglan sleeves. In the end, I actually created my own way to make sleeves because when I reread the pattern, I wasn't remotely following it. So, out of that mistake, I'm getting design my own baby sweater. 

But in all reality, it's more like a toddler sweater. Maybe a really big baby could fit in it, but it will probably be more suitable for a 1-2 year old. Its relaxed fit, machine washability, loose neck, and soft fabric will be perfect for a messy, adventurous toddler who has more opinions about his clothes than a non-verbal infant would. It could be worn with a t-shirt and toddler jeans (why is anything in a small version instantly so much cuter?) or with khakis and a button-up shirt for a fancy day :) or whenever toddlers have "fancy" days. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

summer garden tours

One of my favorite things about spring and summer is all the gorgeous garden tours. I did several in Spain, primarily in the Alhambra and Generalife, but also just wandering through the Royal Gardens in Madrid, a random garden in the center of Malaga, and a few gardens in downtown Dublin.

Last weekend, I got to tour Wing Haven, a serene little backyard garden near downtown Charlotte, NC. Wing Haven was created and cultivated by Elizabeth and Edwin Clarkson. 

They started in 1927 with a house on a bare clay lot and exchanged bricks, bird baths, trees, and other plants to create a green haven for birds and butterflies and other wildlife. As time passed, they purchased the lots next door until they had 3.5 acres of gardens. 

They also took in birds that neighbors and friends brought them that needed care when they were injured or abandoned by their parents. 

One bluebird in particular, Tommy, was more of a house bird and remained a favorite family pet as he flew around the gardens and always returned to perch on Elizabeth's or Edwin's shoulders. 

The garden was full of elegant symmetry, which was juxtaposed with the rambling trees and vines that grew overgrown to provide shelter for the wildlife. 

Fountains were at every turn, with birds (and bugs) bathing in the refreshing water. 

And Peter Rabbit stopped his munching the grass to stare at us until he decided we weren't a threat, and then returned to his grazing. Because it was designed for the animals, the staff encourage everyone to be very quiet to promote a sense of peace. It's refreshing for people and I'm sure the bunnies and other creatures decide to stay within the walls because of the protection and food offered there.

If you get the chance, it is a lovely haven from the noise and bustle of the city. Just wear bug spray. I didn't and I definitely regretted it. :) Where have you gone this summer? What are your favorite summer retreats?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Cafe coffee baby sweater

Yesterday I finally unpacked and organized my yarn. I decided I really wanted to make a top-down raglan baby pullover. I wanted it to have stripes. I only had two yarns that were the same weight, so I decided to take the plunge and stripe beige and gray. As I worked on it today in the library, I was pleasantly surprised about how everything was coming together. I made a mistake with the increasing for the sleeves, so I just redesigned them. Also, for being a fingering weight yarn, this project has gone by very quickly. When I finish it, I'll post an outline of my pattern with a link to the original I based it off of for reference. :)

For whatever reason, this sweater reminds me of quiet afternoons in a cafe drinking coffee. Maybe it's the warmth of the beige from the wood floors and the cool gray of the metal stools. 

The contrast of the beige and gray has made the gray look like a dusty blue. It really shows how color context changes how we perceive the warmth or coolness of a color. Do you have any favorite baby projects or gifts?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Daisies and dinner: making a home

While enjoying the busyness of work, I've also been finding great joy from creating a home. Having a place to call my own and being to welcome people into it for meals, and prayer, and late-night talks, and spend-the-nights, has been amazing. 

One of the responsibilities and joys of a home is grocery shopping and cooking. Aldi's has become my favorite grocery store because there I am able to purchase healthy, raw ingredients for yummy food to feed anyone that comes by.

The other night I made spicy turkey meatballs in my cast iron skillet. 

Ground turkey
1/2 onion, chopped finely
Italian breadcrumbs
Generous sprinkle of crushed red pepper flakes
Sprinkle of garlic powder
Marinara sauce

Mix meat, onions, breadcrumbs, and spices together in a bowl while about 1/2 inch of vegetable oil is heating in the skillet on medium heat. Roll meat mixture into 2 inch balls. Drop into hot oil. Cook for about 5-7 minutes, turning them over ever two minutes to cook evenly. Once finished, place them on a plate with a paper towel in order to soak up excess oil.

Boil water for pasta. Cook pasta according to directions on box.

Mix marinara sauce with a tablespoon of pesto sauce and heat over medium heat.

Drain pasta. Serve meatballs and sauce over the pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, if desired. And it's always desired :)

Salad and summer watermelon go great as sides. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Spain and things I learned there (or rather, amazing Jesus moments)

Basically, I have some amazing Jesus provision stories from Spain. 

Firstly, one night, I ate dinner with the host family of a friend. I had purchased a painting of a flamenco dancer (wise choice, right?) and I didn't have money for bus fare. I could have walked, but it was getting dark, and I wasn't familiar with that side of town. Some background: I had successfully taken several buses before this evening. I knew which numbers stopped outside my apartment building. One of them included the number 4. However, I did not know that, unlike every other route I had taken, you paid for each half of the loop. Normally, I would just get on the 11 bus, and ride the loop until we got to my apartment building. It didn't really matter which direction around the loop we went. Anyway, so my friend gave me a coin so I could take the bus. We agreed that once I had wifi in my apartment, I would message her to say I got home safely. 

So, I get on the 4 bus. It's getting late. A few stops go by. I have no earthly idea where we are. A few more stops go by, and I'm now the only person on the bus (besides the bus driver). He gets up, opens his little door, and proceeds to tell me I need to get off his bus. I explain to him where I'm going and that his bus is supposed to go there, right? It's now dark. We are outside of the city. I recognize nothing of the area. It's mostly deserted offices and maybe a factory or something. He disagrees with me and says that I have to pay for each half. Panic is rising in my chest. I open my coin purse and show him the two coins I have (about half of what I would need to get home). He shrugs and points to the door. I ask him the best way to walk back to the town. He points. Terrified, I get off. I crossed the street and hurried in the direction he had pointed. I kept praying, "Jesus, please get me home safely. I don't know how I'm going to get there. I just want to get home." 

Then I saw a McDonald's. In Spain. Not in the capital. In an area outside the city. And I remembered that my mom always told me and my siblings that if we were lost, to go talk with a woman with young children because they tend not to move very quickly with their strollers and diaper bags and children in tow in case they ended up being sketchy and we needed to leave. It's 11:30 pm, but in Spain, families are still eating dinner with their small children on the patios and playgrounds. I saw a family with four or five children and a baby. They looked nice. So I went up to them and asked them to clarify the directions back to my street. They told me it was more than an hour's walk from where we were and that I should definitely take a bus. "It's not a good idea to walk from here. It's too far and too late." I agreed with them but explained to them that I didn't have another coin to get back on the bus. Immediately, all three adults starting pulling out cash for me asking me how much I needed. I just wanted the one coin to get back on the bus, so that's what they gave me. And they told me which number/which direction I should get on. I head back to the bus stop after thanking them. 

I was truly near tears with relief. But then, horribly, the only bus that was there was with the driver who'd kicked me off before. I decided I'd rather get back on his bus even if he made me nervous than wait at a deserted bus stop outside the city. He looked upset that I was back. I paid him my coin and sat down. I prayed the entire ride home. When I got back to my apartment building, I was shaking with relief, I could barely get the key into the lock. When I was upstairs in my apartment, my host family seemed un-surprised by my late appearance. I told them what had happened, that I had been lost and without money or a phone. My host dad just told me that walking was great exercise and it wasn't really that far. 

The next day, my host mom's best friend who was one of her neighbors gave me an old cell phone they had so that I would be able to call them if I got lost again.

I was just so grateful that Jesus provided generous people in the place I needed them most and He watched over me while I got back to my home.

Second Jesus moment, I had decided to use the free weekend that we got from school because of a holiday (Corpus Christi) to go to Ireland. The airport in my city was too small to get a flight to Dublin, so I took a bus to Malaga and spent a few days there. I knew nothing about Malaga, so I just looked for a relatively inexpensive hostel with female only rooms (seemed like a good idea when I was traveling by myself). I got to Malaga, made friends with the taxi driver who agreed to pick me up in a few days to take me to the airport. (That way I wouldn't be trying to hail a taxi at 4 am in a sleeping city). 

Anyway, I'd been praying that I would meet some Christians and get to talk about Jesus with someone. So, I discovered that my hostel was two doors down from Pablo Picasso's birthplace and only half a mile from the new Picasso museum. I went to Picasso's birthplace, listened to the audio available, and chatted with one of the women working there. Then I asked around and got directions to the museum.  The first three times I went down that street, I passed it. Eventually, I found the door (which totally looks like a back door, by the way) and got a ticket. The first exhibit was a video of Picasso painting in the air and making ridiculous faces while he drew naked women. The woman next to me started laughing and saying something about what a terrible man he was. In English! I wasn't sure if I'd heard correctly, so I asked her a question in Spanish. She looked utterly baffled. So I tried English. 

We hit it off. I got to meet her and her sister, who were both artists from Northern Ireland. I asked them if I could tag along with them through the museum since they seemed to know so much more about the stories behind the art than I did. I pulled out my notebook to write down their suggestions of artists and writers to research. They were such wealths of knowledge of the art world. Turns out, one of the women, is Rosie McClelland, who has exhibited her art at the Royal Hibernian Academy in Dublin, Ireland. Her sister, Geraldine Snape, is also an amazingly talented artist who works primarily with pottery and cool crafty things. 

Gerrie and I were looking at a sculpture, and she mentioned something about Jesus. I asked her about it, and she told me she was a Christian. I excitedly told her I was, too. She smiled, and said, "I know." It was just such a blessing to find someone when I was alone in a new city looking to make friends.

Happy Wednesday! Please share any stories that you want to below!

New home . . . new beginnings

So sometimes a long silence is necessary . . .

College, and work, and study abroad are my reasons! I recently got back from traveling to Spain (and a weekend trip to Ireland) and studying in Spain and I've just moved into a house with a few friends. It is such a blessing to feel more settled in this city. After living in a dormitory for two years, it was time to get more settled and practice more adult habits (i.e. cooking normal adult food on a regular basis).

This post will mostly be about settling into my new residence. I'll talk later about Spain and those adventures. 

Last weekend, I found an adorable bedside table and a quilt rack from The Venue with one of my roommates. 

This lamp was a hand-me-down from my piano teacher, Shelley. I painted the brass base with white paint and I found the lampshade at Hope of Glory, a local thrift shop for $1. 

Most of the boxes have been emptied. Thanks to several friends (and family), my bed is assembled, and almost everything is settled. 

The desk and chair are actually both from Restore. I repainted the chair to match the desk.  I was amazed how much a few coats of paint can help an older piece of furniture. Unfortunately, because I was too eager to get started on the painting, I neglected to take a before picture. It was simply an average kitchen chair with worn out and scraped off finish, a honey wood color. It would have been pretty before the several years it has seen in someone's kitchen, so it was definitely time to paint it. The quilt above the desk is one I posted about a while ago here. I started that quilt a while ago (more than a year ago) and it finally has a place to go in my new bedroom. The purple quilt on the rack was my first quilt when I was fourteen. The pink one was made for me as a little baby by my grandmother. 

I found this little succulent at the Umbrella Market (basically a mid-week farmer's market with tents over the tables) today. It fits perfectly in the kitchen sink window next to our cow salt and pepper shakers and my little candle. 

My life has become very busy with the routine of working, which is great. I work from home in the mornings for an editing job and in the afternoons, I work at the gym. So I've been cooking and nesting in the mornings, and learning how to make food that packs well. After not really having access to a kitchen for two or so years, cooking is awesome. I've made spaghetti (from a can of sauce with adding lots of my own vegetables and meat), banana bread with chocolate chips (and applesauce), plenty of salad, sandwiches, beer can chicken (more on that later), and chicken pasta salad. Currently, I'm making whole wheat pita bread pockets and tzatziki sauce, which I will complete as a gyro with some chicken, lettuce, red onions, and feta cheese (seriously, this stuff is the best). We also had some fresh blackberries from a nearby farm from the Umbrella market. 

 If any of you have suggestions for good meals to make on a budget or meals that pack easily, please leave a comment! :)