Monday, February 28, 2011

reading with daddy

Kris is home from his adventure, and the kids are soaking up every ounce of Daddy love. Four nights might not seem like a long time for him to be away....especially given that his adventures used to last for weeks on end. That was before kids, though. A bush plane would drop him in the wilderness somewhere in Alaska or he'd be in the middle of Siberia or Corsica with no contact whatsoever. I'd go on with life, praying for a safe return.

Strangely, this is harder. Telling the kids that Daddy will be home in a few days when they don't yet grasp what "a few days" means. Explaining that we can't call him because he's a mile deep in a canyon. B woke up every morning looking for him. She thought naptime counted as a new day.

I love the fact that my kids have the kind of relationship with their Daddy that 4 nights away is painful. I also love the moments of reunion.

ps. As I'm writing this, I'm thinking of a couple of friends whose partners are frequently gone for long stretches of time....weeks, months. Work travel. Military deployments. How do you do it?? I'm humbled.

Friday, February 25, 2011

make a bow tie for your little guy

There's nothing like a bow tie to make any little dude look like a gentleman. Kind of like wearing pointy-toe shoes with jeans... It dresses you up without being too fussy. Spring is near. Easter is coming. Why not raise the fashion bar?

I've stumbled upon various tutorials for sewing your own bows (hair bows and bow ties) and finally decided to give it a whirl. I was excited to discover the process is easier than it looks. The first bow I made took me about 45 minutes start-to-finish. The second one took about 30 minutes.

I plan to make a few more with some cute fabric scraps (yay! another use for scraps!). If you want to give it a try, check out the tutorials I found most helpful (here and here).

I used quilt-weight cotton fabric and felt (to give it some shape), and I scaled the pattern down since Miles is a little bub. My short piece is about 3x4", the neck piece is 13" and the bow piece is roughly 3x9"

I sewed some Velcro to the neck piece to fasten it and adjust the size as he grows. Overall, I did a mix of machine sewing and winging it with a hot glue gun. In reality, if you don't like to sew, you could glue all the seams. They're all hidden anyway, so it would still look fabulous!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

fixing the clutter corner

In our old house, we had a junk drawer. That place you stash ballpoint pens and extra batteries and band-aids and spare keys and coupons and loose change and birthday candles....and....and....

Our new house doesn't have a junk drawer. The kitchen is larger. There are more cabinets. But there's no logical drawer to designate for miscellaneous "stuff." No one spot that makes sense. So, when we were unpacking from the move and got to the box marked "junk drawer," I tossed its contents into a basket and stashed it in a corner on the counter.

That was 8 months ago, and it's been bothering me ever since. The basket is too deep and it collects stuff too easily. I'm tired of Kris or B saying "where is my....?" and having to reply "it's probably in the basket."

In reality, we don't use most of the stuff in that basket because we don't know it's there. So, I decided to dump it all out and keep only the things we really, really use: scissors, tape, pens, cell phone chargers, etc.

The rest got trashed, donated or put in other parts of the house where they belong. I found toothbrushes, bike tire irons, a tent repair kit, Halloween cupcake decorations, old business cards, magnets, granola bars, and a duck call (you know, like, for hunting?? which neither of us do).

After paring down, here's the result:

Now we can see what we have and use it.

By the way, see that mint green color on the wall? That's next on my to-do list for the's going bye-bye.

Monday, February 21, 2011

when at first you don't succeed...

Our weekend: Cloudy skies. Long sleeves. An intermittent, hard rain that washed the desert clean.

I drove to the grocery store in a wind and rain storm to get some milk for the kids, and for my coffee. During the short walk from my car to the doorway, the wind nearly blew me over. The ends of my hair slapped me in the face. A palm frond cartwheeled in front of me like a tumbleweed. This couldn't be more perfect weather, I thought.

I cut through the baking aisle on the way to dairy, and I saw it. The unflavored gelatin. I knew I had to try, try again. I grabbed it, some light corn syrup and a candy thermometer.

Kris is heading into the wilderness for 4 days, and I'm nervous about that. I'm always a bit nervous about his adventures; a good nervous. The kind of jitters that remind me I'm alive and sane....because what sane person's heart wouldn't beat a little faster when their love is out-of-reach and off climbing mountains and descending canyons with ropes?

But also nervous because my body remembers that weekend not long ago when I thought maybe I'd lost him forever, and nothing felt safe. My mind has gotten over it. Emotionally I'm fine. But there's residue in my nervous system. That fight-or-flight response is still easily triggered.

I cope with stress by creating. Write. Cook. Craft. Photograph. Make something pretty. Look for the joy in small things. So I tried marshmallows again. I figured Kris could take some on his trip, and I'd have a few to savor while he's gone.

Kris entertained the kids so that I could follow the directions closely this time. And they turned out beautifully. I still wouldn't call the process "easy," but it wasn't that hard, really. Just sticky and messy. But one taste and soooooo worth it. I think I'll get through.

My love. He'll be sitting on a rocky ledge somewhere, surrounded by his climbing compadres, with his wife's homemade marshmallows floating in his Swiss Miss. Can you see it?

P.S. Also, I know I promised you all a story about my spaghetti catching fire. I'm going to post that on The Daily B facebook page. So, if you haven't already, go to the column on the right and hit "like" so you have access to all the extras.

Friday, February 18, 2011

in other parts of the world

Last night was "multicultural night" at B's school, and we found ourselves wandering the halls, looking at artwork, watching dance performances and saying "in other parts of the world...." many, many which she responded with a little furrowed brow and a waterfall of questions.

How do you explain to a 3-year-old, who by all developmental definitions is completely self- and family-focused, that there is this whole vast world out there that she has no concept of?

I thought about this little guy, pictured above. I met him on a trip to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam in 2006. Such a sweet, sweet, happy kid. He also is very self-focused and is acutely unaware of the world outside his little village and the metal shack he calls home.

I wanted to tell B about him and so I dug out my old travel photos. She said she wants to go on an airplane and meet him.

We're not heading to Vietnam with the kids anytime soon. But we are applying for their passports today so that we can begin to show them a few little corners of the world. To show them what words are so inadequate to describe at times. 

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Some days are for doing, while others are for being. I tend toward the former, and am trying to rest more and just be present. To notice things without judgment or imposing my agenda.

I'm trying, like Miles, to find a warm patch of sun and just sit in it. Feel the breeze on my skin. Marvel at the desert landscape and embrace the paradox of 80 degrees in February.

You know, he's not thinking about the laundry in the dryer or that sticky part of the kitchen floor that needs mopping or paying the bills.

Friday, February 11, 2011

valentines tea

This project began with a trip to the mall. I rarely, rarely go to malls. They're just not my scene.

But, I decided to make a pilgrimage to H&M when my sister was in town recently. And that involved going to the mall (and also turning a blind eye to the backstory in India for the $7 shirt I bought. I know. I know.)

So, one of the things I hate about the mall is how vendors now stand around at these little carts aggressively trying to sell you stuff. What happened to the days you could just wander around and munch on a giant soft pretzel in peace?! 

This one lady grabbed our attention and asked if we'd like to sample some tea. B said "YES!" before I could say "No, thank you." and so we found ourselves pausing and sipping some "lemon-lime blueberry kampai bliss"...and it was in fact very tasty. B wanted more, and so I forked over $15 for 4 ounces of the loose tea.

When I got home, I realized we never found our tea ball in the move, so I had no way to make this very lovely, pricey antioxidant-rich tea. So I stashed it in the pantry.

Sad story, right? Well, it would have been had I not seen THIS tutorial pop up over at Design*Sponge. A simple idea: use cotton muslin to stitch your own heart-shaped tea bags.

B needs Valentine's gifts for her teachers, and this seemed like the perfect thing. I picked up a half yard of unbleached muslin for 64 cents and made about 10 bags. B helped me fill them with the loose tea, and we made little tags for each.

So, in the end, we got 5 teacher gifts for $15.64

Not too shabby!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

cheap & easy bedroom makeover

The master bed is the epicenter of our house. The life force. The birthplace of chi, or whatever. The beginning and end to our daily stories.

It could be the sleep deprivation, but I glance at that bed wistfully all. day. long. Sometimes I work there, propped up against pillows with my laptop instead of at my office desk. It's just a calming, soothing place.

My entire house can be slathered in peanut butter. There could be dirty diapers hanging from the ceiling fans. Dishes piled high in the sink. But, the master bed is always made up in my house. Always.

Ok, that's a lie. It's not always made. But I do try to make the bed most mornings. It's a 30-second chore that kicks the day off on a good note.

I also contemplate bedding more than I probably should. You might remember we've been using this set since not long after we moved in. But I'd been wanting to change it up. Try a different color scheme.

So let's just say I was feeling groovy the day I saw City Scene bedding on HauteLook for 75% off and clicked "add to cart." Once it arrived, despite the low price ($50 plus shipping), I had some buyer's remorse. The blue was a taaaaaaad blue-er than it looked online. But, Kris really liked the mod pattern, and so we kept it as our "backup" bedding.

Yesterday I decided to give the backup bedding a whirl. The kids LOVE when I change sheets, because it's the only time I let them jump on the bed.

See that red mark on Miles' forehead? That's where he tumbled into the headboard. But instead of crying, he just said "uh-oh!" stood back up and started jumping again. 

Side note: For those of you who know my father-in-law....what do you think? Doesn't Miles look like him here? 

The bold blue definitely created a new energy in the room. It makes the walls look a little greener. The whole space is more vibrant. Yet, at night, when the natural light is no longer pouring in, it still is soothing. 

A good place to collapse after a busy day.

Monday, February 7, 2011

just hang out

Things are a little upside down over here.

I'm burning the candle at both ends. Work deadlines. Writers conference deadlines. A steady stream of houseguests (whom I adore...I don't stress about any of them, but I do worry about making sure they're welcomed with clean sheets and non-filthy toilets. And I'd prefer they NOT have to navigate around 5-foot-tall piles of laundry. But there's no guarantee.) And sorting through 2010 paperwork for tax preparation. Tax time is no fun for anyone, but it's especially no fun when you're self-employed. And when you lived in two states in 2010 and bought and sold a house. I hate it. Hate. Hate. Hate. HATE it. I'd rather clean toilets.

The good news is that the deadlines are slowing down very soon, and the tax paperwork will be out of my hands, and I can get back to focusing more energy on the blog and some home improvement projects I've wanted to tackle. We picked out a paint color for the kitchen. Yay!

And somehow, last night, in the midst of Superbowl festivity, Kris and I signed up to compete in a triathlon relay in a few months. In Mexico! I'll be running. Which is appropriate, don't you think? I'm always running. (Kris is biking, of course.)

So, yeah. Busy times. Just hang out a while. Pull up a chair. Grab some popcorn. 2011 is just getting started.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

a blessed DIY fail

Aren't these handcrafted marshmallows lovely? Can you tell how light and fluffy they are? Like little drops of heaven, I assure you.

I didn't make them.

I did, however, TRY to make my own homemade marshmallows. I HAD to. Last week was a toughie. Several people I love were (are) dealing with major, earth-shattering crises, like life-and-death stuff, and I worried myself into quite a funk. I forgot to enjoy the blessings.

Side Note: Do you know that song by Dar Williams called "The Blessings"?

If you're gonna get your heart broke, you better do it just right,
It's gotta be raining, and you gotta move your stuff that night,
And the only friend you can reach isn't a good friend at all,
And you know when he says "Now who dumped who?" 

that you never should have made that call.

I had the blessings, there's nobody there, there's nobody home,
Yeah, the blessings, at the moment I was most alone
And aimless as a fulltime fool, the joke was on me,
I got all those birds flying off of that tree, and that's a blessing.

And the blessings were like poets that we never find time to know,
But when time stopped I found the place where the poets go.
And they said, "Here have some coffee, it's straight, black and very old,"
And they gave me sticks and rocks and stars and all that I could hold,

I had the blessings, a moment of peace even when the night ends,
Yeah, the blessings, can we meet? Can we meet again,
At the crossroads of disaster and the imperfect smile,
With the angel in the streetlamp that blinks on as I walk on amile, the blessings.

And the best ones were the ones I got to keep as I grew strong,
And the days that opened up until my whole life could belong,
And now I'm getting the answers, when I don't need them anymore,
I'm finding the pictures, and I finally know what I kept them for,
I remember, I can see them, see them smiling, see them stuck,
See them try, I wish them luck and all the blessings...

Now, don't get me wrong. I don't believe a good marshmallow fixes all that's wrong with the world. It can't heal someone who is facing life-threatening illness or job loss or any other of the dozens of heartbreaks that enter our reality here on this broken earth. But when you're depressed, nothing tastes good. Everything is dull. And that's how I felt for a few days. Dull. Numb. I sort of mentally crawled into a hole and whimpered.

And when I crawled out, I had an insatiable craving for marshmallows. GOOD marshmallows. We have a bag of Jet-Puffed in the pantry and I plopped a couple into my mug of Ghirardelli hot cocoa and was sorely disappointed in the flavor. 

I remembered I had recently seen a tutorial over on Prudent Baby to make your own. I seemed to recall the words "easy" and "anyone can do it!" You know how making stuff is therapeutic for me, so of course I tried it. But you also know I'm not one for precise measuring and following directions, so it's no wonder my marshmallows turned out like this:

My first mistake, I believe, was trying to make them with vegan gelatin. But really, the errors are too many to count. I didn't use a candy thermometer. I used dark corn syrup instead of light. I stopped the whole process halfway through to feed the kids a snack and change Miles' diaper, and I let B stir in the sugar and can't be sure she didn't add a few extra cups.

All in all, it was a DIY FAIL.

Yet, I still craved marshmallows. So I bought some delicious ones at Whole Foods. And the world does seem a little brighter. I'm ready to focus on the blessings again.


P.S. I love when you guys comment, so please tell me about some of your kitchen failures. If you do, I might come back online and tell you about the time I set the spaghetti on fire.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I'm glad we're understanding each other...

B: I want to watch the Clifford movie.
Me: I want to eat carrots.
B: I want to watch the Clifford movie.
Me: I want to eat carrots.
B: I want to watch the Clifford movie.
Me: I want to eat carrots.
Me: I want to eat carrots. *munch munch*
B: I want to eat carrots.

True story.
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