Monthly Archives: August 2012

The Kindness of Others

There are days in my life when I need someone to remind me how good my little corner of the world actually is.

Not the very bad days…the days when I collapse in bed and cry myself to sleep are usually a lost cause. I just lay there, knees to my chest, and wait for morning, knowing that nothing anyone can say will reach that part of me that’s hurting so bad.

It’s not the the days when everything seems to go right, either. Of course it isn’t. On the days I feel productive and loved and I fall asleep happy, I can remind myself. No help needed then.

No. It’s those in-between days. The ones where I feel like I’m swimming against a semi-strong current. It’s not pushing me back–I don’t feel like I’m losing ground–but I just can’t seem to get ahead either. On those kind of days, nothing seems to go right. My outfit doesn’t quite match as well as I wanted it to. The plans I was really counting on fell through. The dinner I was super pumped about making for myself turns out awful.

I am a very firm believer in karma. Treat others with respect, speak kindly to them, and you will receive much of the same in return. So are those bad days–the ones that make life a little bit harder but not quite unbearable–a product of me pissing off the universe?

Probably. As hard as I try, I consistently feel like I owe much more than I’ve received. I snap at people who were really only trying to help. I am sarcastic more than my fair share, and I take advantage of the compassion that others have shown to me. I’m stubborn as hell and needier than I care to admit.

No matter how much I may deserve those days, they still hit me like a physical blow. They knock the air out of me, and I’m unsure of where to turn. String more than one of those days together? I’m starting to doubt myself like crazy and wondering how on Earth this is going to get better.

Sometimes, more often than not, I get lucky on the days like that. Someone in my life will have impeccable timing and reach out exactly when I need it most. And not only because I have awesome people in my life who are willing to be my savior on those nights, because I absolutely do. But usually, the person who saves me has exactly zero idea that my world is on the verge of a (perhaps overdramatic) collapse.

They just appear. Out of nowhere, with exactly what I needed to drag myself out of the hole I was so willing to sink into not 5 minutes before.

An extra-long phone call from that best friend I’ve been seriously missing. A Sunday afternoon dinner invitation. Sitting next to that coworker I’m only kind of friends with in that meeting I’ve been dreading all week and having their snarky comments and perfectly timed eye rolls turn it into my favorite meeting all month. An e-mail about nothing but how much a friend misses eating at Jimmy John’s.

I am lucky. Beyond lucky, actually. You all make my heart happy. I don’t say it enough, but I need you, perhaps more than you have imagined. Maybe you have imagined it–maybe I’ve even told you before. But you deserve to hear it again.

Thank you. For getting me through those days when I can’t seem to pinpoint why I’m feeling depressed. For listening to me ramble on about my little problems and offering whatever solution you can. Thank you for hugging me and loving me back and giving me your addresses to send baked goods to.

You all rock.

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Quilt Part 2

I did it guys!! I totally made progress on this gigantic project!

It was actually really therapeutic, to just sit there and sew row after row of squares together. I hit a groove, sewing a few sets of squares, pressing those seams, then sewing those pieces into a full row before pressing the rest of the seams and moving on to the next. By the time I hit row 16 (!!!) I totally had it down. Then I just had to turn those 16 rows into one giant, queen-sized rectangle.

Prepping the rows on my coffee table. (Woah blurry photo, sorry about that.)

Sewing squares together.

I actually took a break partway through, getting the top half of the quilt sewn together before calling it a night. It helped keep me from going crazy. The photo below is before I stitched the rows together.

First half almost complete!

As you can see, that second row from the bottom is a good amount longer than the one above it. I have no idea how this happened, because I was trying to pay really close attention to my seam allowances. It was really starting to bug me, until I realized that it doesn’t actually matter. I’m making progress, and I just lined up the seams as I stitched the rows together so the excess was barely noticeable.

BUT. I almost drove myself crazy making sure I didn’t screw up the pattern. I think it would have helped me to completely lay out the pattern again before I started sewing the squares together. The problem is that I really don’t have a lot of floor space to work with, so I had to make due with just lining up a few rows at a time on my coffee table.

But as I said, once I got into the groove, I felt a lot better. I had a system, and the process went pretty smoothly. On Monday I went and picked out my fabrics for the border, the backing, and my binding.

New fabrics!

I am totally and completely in love with that argyle print on the right. It is going to be my binding fabric, and–except for maybe those keys in the squares–it is definitely my favorite fabric in this project. The green is going to be the border fabric and those dots will be the back.

My next step will be to cut out and attach the borders and sew the backing fabric together. Right now the backing fabric is a 6-yard long piece, so I just need to fold it in half and sew a seam down the side. Thank goodness it is wide enough to just need two panels. I don’t think my mind is up for the math and geometry required to put together more than two pieces.

After that–quilting and binding. I’ve been reading online tutorials like craaazy. And I’m still terrified. Anyone have any good tutorials to recommend or advice to share? The only finishing I’ve ever done is to sew the wrong sides together and flip the whole thing inside out, so I need all the help I can get!

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My Favorite Granola

As far as weekday breakfasts go, I have a few staples that I keep coming back to. Green smoothies, bagels with cream cheese, and granola. Sure, I love normal cold cereals, but there’s something about the crunch of granola that just draws me in every time.

For as long as I’ve been eating granola, I’ve been making my own. I know a lot of people have their favorite store-bought brands, but I’ve never really been interested. This version from Alton Brown has always been my go-to. I have tried a couple of other recipes as I’ve seen them pop up on various blogs, but they have always left me underwhelmed. My mistake–I should have known better than to doubt Alton.

Over the years, I’ve tweaked the recipe a bit from the original. For the longest time, I left out the coconut, because I was a crazy person who thought coconut was real gross. I’ve learned my lesson for sure.

The recipe is easily adaptable–feel free to swap in whatever nuts you have on hand or throw in some chocolate chunks or dried fruit after the granola has cooled. The last time I made it, I switched up the maple syrup for a half syrup, half honey blend (since I was somehow dangerously low on maple syrup), and I found that I definitely prefer the all syrup version much better.

Granola
Adapted from Alton Brown

  • 3 cups rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup whole almonds
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup shredded sweet coconut
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat oven to 250°.
2. In a large bowl, combine oats, nuts, coconut, brown sugar, and salt.
3. Form a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and add the maple syrup and vegetable oil. Mix to combine.
4. Divide the mixture between two large sheet pans. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, stirring the granola and rotating the pans every 15 minutes to ensure it browns evenly.
5. Let cool and enjoy over yogurt or ice cream, with milk as cereal, or as a delicious alternative to trail mix.

I highly recommend doubling this recipe, it goes fast!

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Link Love: Week 3

I am so sorry for how little I have been in this space lately. It has been an insanely long and stressful week in my real life, and my Internet life had to take a backseat. I really hope I will have some motivation to write again soon, though. Here’s some awesome stuff from the Internet to make up for how non-awesome I’ve been this week!

1. We’ve talked before about my Pinterest obsession. Well these girls have taken theirs to a new level. It’s a site of tutorials and step-by-step instructions on how to do things they have found on Pinterest. Annnnd they tell you where things can/did go wrong for them and give you tips on how to avoid it.

2. Chinese food is one of my recently discovered loves. But something about making it at home kind of terrifies the crap out of me. It just takes so many spices, so many liquid ingredients I don’t have or feel like I will never use again (why do I need both fish AND oyster sauce? how is rice wine vinegar really that much different than the three other kinds of vinegar I already have in my pantry?). These Spicy Sesame Noodles from Channeling Contessa look FAB. And easy. Only two of those crazy sauces and no new spices. They may just be my gateway drug into the homemade Chinese food world.

3. Warning…this link contains some pretty nerdy content. Totally awesome things like this:

I want to wear this every single day.

 

And then of course, there’s this:

Ahhh, swoon.

If you don’t get those references I don’t know if we can still be friends. But this Etsy shop is FULL of jewelry inspired by Game of Thrones, the Hunger Games, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. I literally want to buy it all.

4. How is it that more people don’t do this to their houses?!? Or maybe they do…and since it opens to a secret room I will just never know about it. But it’s fantastic, either way.

5. And I will just leave you with this:

I’ll take a hundred, please.

Happy Friday!

 

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Are You a Runner?

No really, are you? I want to know.

Because I am. Kind of. Well, technically I sort of jog, sometimes. But it sounds so much better to think, “I ran three miles tonight.” I get these visions in my head of a graceful person, sprinting their way down the sidewalk, doing that jogging in place thing while waiting to cross the street. But then I say it out loud (yeah, I talk to myself, so what?), and as soon as the words come out of my mouth, they feel like a total lie.

That feeling is magnified by a thousand when I say it to someone else, because then I have to hear them answer back, “Oh really? I run too!” Good God, why is everyone in the world a runner too??

Then in my head I’m going, “Well crap. So do I have to tell them that actually I do more of an awkward half run-half walk, absurd-looking thing?”

Or do I have to explain how slow I “ran,” or that I secretly sort of hate it and conveniently get “too busy” to go to the gym for weeks at a time? That my three miles last night were my first miles in ages and I’m kind of unable to feel my legs today?

I want so desperately to be a runner. Those long, lean legs call out to me, begging for a home on my lower half. The long I’ve definitely got down. It’s the lean part that needs some serious work. So I try to stick with it. It’s hard, but I really try.

It seems that every time I go, I find that I actually kind of like it. (Even though I still also kind of hate it–it’s a weird relationship that we have.) Especially when I go more than once a month (embarrassing), because then my legs get used to it and don’t hate me after. I even kind of get that whole idea of a runner’s high, where you feel so amazing after getting back from a run. I love feeling like that, even though I have a suspicion that I definitely do not fit the normal runner’s stereotype.

Are you one of those people who just sprints around without music? I definitely can’t do that. As much as I love running for the “me time” it gives me to think, I more appreciate it for the chance to pump music directly into my ears and stop thinking. Just turn my mind off and forget about everything for a while. I usually take advantage of it and set my iPod to something I haven’t listened to in ages.

I have a goal to run a 5K. I’m not exactly sure when it will happen, but my hope is that it does before the end of the year. I need a lot more work before then. Every time I have tried running outside, I get a little over-ambitious and think I’ve suddenly turned into this marathon runner who can sprint her way through those 3.1 miles. And then I promptly return to my apartment, lay on the floor, and die for an hour.

So for now, the treadmill will have to do. It works out great, too, until I catch a glimpse of myself in that damned wall full of mirrors that all gyms insist on having. I feel like I’m running along nice and fast and just start thinking, “Hey, maybe I can actually do this!” until I see it. Then I realize I look like a complete fool doing that stupid half walk-half run I mentioned before. Trust me. It’s not a cute look.

But I understand there are approximately zero 5Ks that take place on treadmills. So I’ve got my work cut out for me. I’ll keep at it, at least until I get bored of it again and have to start all over.

Side note–I love Pinterest for its ability to make me feel motivated, and I try to take full advantage of the inspiration I find there. I also love it for giving me things like this:

Hopefully by the time you’ve read this, I’ve put in another few miles on the treadmill. But I wouldn’t hold your breath if I were you.

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