Tuesday, May 31, 2011

guest blogging for Rad Megan

Megan's currently working in Austria doing something terribly nifty so while she's gone, a couple of us are keeping her blog full of craftiness and such. Hop on over to radmegan's In Words and Pictures for my crazy cookie recipe...wasabi doodles!

Monday, May 30, 2011

we like to boogie

Hello again!

I wanted to thank you all for your input and comments on the last post. I really wish there were (was?) a way to contact each of you directly to respond via blogger but I can only do that if I have your email address and I would love to do so, so shoot me an email (jekinthebox) anytime, really (on the google system)!

That said I was thinking again how perception is so weird and wonky even when you think you are being clear. See, everytime I write a post like the previous one, I get lovely, wonderful, song-singy messages and then I feel awful-awful. Not that YOU make me feel awful, goodness no! I tend to lean towards extreme self-doubt and panic that those posts sound like I NEED a pat on the back, like I am pleading for one or two or three when that isn't my intention AT ALL! I just like to think out loud, to wonder and to make connections. I know I tend to trap myself into a comparison game when I'm feeling poorly in the noggin and I thought maybe other people do as well. There was a lot more I wanted to "correct" regarding that post but I let too much time pass as I usually do when I am in a tizzy and now there are other bits of anxiousness clouding my thoughts (like a new part-time job). All kinds of yay and yikes in there!

So when I ramble on and on about insecurities and collectiveness I am really rambling in an out loud voice about the assumed singularity of a person versus the community that is out there. With this new social media age thing going on, we find ourselves tied more and more to gadgetry which may lead some of us (ahem...me) to isolate themselves yet feel connected. Does that make sense? I'm not very good in physical social situations. At least I don't FEEL like I do very well in those situations. I get nervous and extremely chatty and begin telling stories and anecdotes that are all me, me, ME. While at the same time berating myself internally for NOT just shutting up already. It's a nervous thing and I know I do it and I don't mean to sound like it is all about me, the nervousness packs a wallop while the tongue-tied-i-ness strikes and BAM! Story-mode. SO, rather than put myself into such a situation, I happily type away and read the blogs of those I feel connected to while safely tucked away at home in my happy bubble. It is comforting and comfortable and no one cares that I may or may not be in the same jeans and t-shirt from yesterday. No one sees me tear up when  I read something completely moving or has to hear me wheeze away with asthma when my allergies get the best of me. I can read and interact at my comfort level and I feel safe until I feel overwhelmed which may sound like it is often but only because that is when I feel compelled to write more. I mean really, can you imagine if every post I wrote was about how awesome I felt or how content and happy I was? Most of the time I simply feel okay. Things aren't fantastic but they aren't deviating either. I drink my coffee or my tea, talk to the cat, watch the birds, bake or maybe make something. The sky might be gorgeous or the mister and I went on a hike or...or...or? Good stuff. Solid stuff. Stuff I should write about and do but just not every day.

I am rambling again but want to thank you, all of you for your input and your lurking and your emails and such. You make me smile or laugh or nod my head and want to hug you. I want to make you a smoothie or bake you a poundcake and play you a new favorite song and just sit and talk the day away. I wasn't kidding about emailing me, please do. I like this bubble and I like my other bubbles, I think there is time and room for them to mix and mingle and most of all, I like that we all have our own bubbles (or two, or three) and that when it comes down to it, we  all probably make for a pretty great dance party.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

p-p-perception

I had a bad attack of dysmorphic perception last night. It was epic. It usually is.

Back in the days before internet, we (well, I) culled and pulled our self-ideals from the small world around us. In school it was our friends and peers. What they had that you didn't. How they looked and how you didn't. Whether or not you were one of the popular elite, I am certain you wished for different or perceived betterness based on those who passed you by in their up-to-date fashions and convertible Rabbits. Or in my case, those few who could really knock an individual style clear out of the ballpark AND simply oozed creativity.

If you went to college, your perception(s) opened a smidge. Your bubble expanded and you were exposed to new ideas and persons of interest. If you did not go to college and immediately jumped into a work-place your bubble expanded even more due to the collected exposure of people outside your immediate social circle. People of different social-economic backgrounds, education, cultures, ages...the bigger your bubble got the more you (or at least I) compared yourself to others.

I don't know about you but as I aged and ahem...matured I grew more concerned with status of a sorts. I wanted a nice place to live in and call my own, a car that didn't break down ALL THE TIME, money to pay my bills and hopefully have some left over for fun stuff. For the most part, I was content. But...

Change happened. As it happened, the feeling of being content would shift and change. Thank goodness for BUST magazine. In my late 20s and early 30s I would swear there was something wrong with me as I didn't find the ideals of those around me appealing. I had never been a follower of the mainstream and felt more and more an outcast as Cosmo and the like were so ready to inform me. BUST saved me from myself and reassured me that I wasn't alone that there were other women like me out there. Once the internet began clicking around I immediately found a core group of fantastic women on the BUST boards. I have lost touch with most of them but that community and sense of belonging still sings in my heart. They were smart, witty and funny as hell and gosh I adored them all.

Now that the internet is what it is and our bubbles are virtually, universally ENORMOUS, I find that my small world of non-mainstreamers has become mainstream in a sense. I no longer feel alone in my wonky-dorkiness but now I feel lacking even in my comfort zone. Not anyone else's fault but my own. My perceptions of who I thought I would be by now just have not become concrete and with so many talented, creative folk out there taking the blogging/crafting world by storm, the once small fishbowl I felt kinda big in has become a full blown aquarium with tunnels and rooms and I feel lost and unnoticeable. So now not only am I dancing with a dysmorphic dance partner of perception, my wallflower ego is clinging to the sidelines toes-tapping to the rhythm hope, hope, hoping someone asks me dance.

I don't really know where I am going with this but the developmental side of me, the part that thoroughly enjoys studying human nature cannot help wonder how we all fit in. I've been blogging since 2003 and I think so much has changed since I began. The tools out there, the platforms, the business side of it all. It is amazing what one can do and I still feel that it is out of my grasp. Not in a woe-is-me sense more like a huh? I'm baffled by how it works and feel like my brain is too old or I'm too old fashioned or who knows what but how do you do it? And do I want to do it? Should I do it and if not, what then?

This may seem all over the place but I think I just want to say that I think even the most productive or accomplished of us slips and plays the comparison game and wonders where they failed or what they NEED to be valid. Validity, yes, that's it. I need a bit of validation that I AM someone. That I matter. That I am a part of something wonderful. My reality knows this but my perception is so skewed I'm feeling anything but. I know what it is (the reason), but that's a book I'm not ready to open just yet or at least read in public. So I hope that you know that YOU are valid and important and that you do indeed matter, more than you know and if we all took the time to let someone know they inspired us (not via a blogging award or huge public announcement, not that those are bad but make it more personal) I think that our hearts could sing a little louder.

So...wanna dance?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

and then came the cookies

A while back, I entered a cookie recipe in the great Pillsbury Bake-Off. I had an idea and worked on about five variations of the ideas before settling on a cookie to enter. It was chosen because of its overall appeal to my taste testers. There were others we liked a little more but I needed something that could come out tasty consistently all the while looking happy. One of the cookies that didn't make it was inspired by my favorite chocolate crackles. I love the texture of those cookies and was trying to figure out a way to replicate it without making a chocolate treat. 
After much internet searching I found a cake-mix cookie hack (at Tidy Mom) and tried it. Delicious if not a tad too much. I tucked that idea back into my brain and carried on like I usually do. After baking the cake batter blondies I wanted to make a cake batter cookie, so out came the cake mix and the sprinkles and soon, happiness was served.
 
 I used a yellow box mix for these and they held the texture nicely. I would compare them to a thinner, flatter, cake-mixier snickerdoodle. They are super easy to make and your kiddos can play as well.
Enjoy!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

what's for dinner

I haven't been nearly as good at planning a week's worth of dinners lately so you get pics from the first week of the month...
Open faced chicken sandwiches on gorgonzola garlic bread with a quinoa, roasted beet salad.
Soba noodle salad with homemade dressing and chive blossoms with Thai Peanut Butter toasts on the side. 
We were going to be in L.A. this weekend but things didn't work out but we'll be there in a few weekends (June 3...Stacey? Natalie?) Instead we're hitting up a BBQ. Mister is chopping onion and cucumbers for me right now. We're gonna turn it into a salad for the BBQ. Happy weekend!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

my never fail pick me up...

we're on our third day of rain

Mister has taken Rodney to work, the witch-baby is fed, my morning mocha is almost cold already and I think it is grey enough for baking. I didn't sleep well last night, not a good day for the brain unless pity parties are your thing. Hey, it's something I'm really good at when I let loose. Oh, boo-hoo!*

I've got a couple of work articles to put together, a birthday garland and gift to stitch up, an interview outfit to plan and a weekend bag to pack for our quick L.A. juant this week. No reason not to do any of those things, it's just grey and not even 7am and I think there is still sleep in my eyes. How do those of you who live in far-greyer states do it? This third day of ick is bumming me out in a supreme fashion (hence the party, methinks).
I'm also super-super behind on a super secret fun thing in the works and well, if yer anything like me, once you get behind and there is a maybe-deadline the whole thing snowballs out of control and the next thing you know you are pulling an all-nighter that lasts a week or so. I really need to focus. Focusing is NOT one of my strong suits (unless is a pity-party). And since it is super secret, I cannot list all the things I still have to complete but there is sewing and writing and planning involved and no, it is NOT a book though I really wish it were. It should be, shouldn't it? At least that is what people tell me. Oh, boo-hoo!*
Well now, how's this for a ramble and a post? Like I said, it is barely 7am and it has been raining for days and my allergies are on middle-low alert (is there a color for that?) and I'm lacking in any sort of physical activity so my brain is probably not producing enough of the happy hormones which in turn makes me wonderful company. So rather than whiney-whine any more than I have already done, I leave you with yet another pinterest recipe. Gorgonzola Garlic Bread. I know, right? The recipe comes from Thibeault's Table and I used it for garlic bread AND open faced sandwiches. As a result, I've been laying off the bread this week but man, last-last week? It was a bread-for-all kind of week. Enjoy! Oh and we had it with a lemon pepper pappardelle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and green salad with a homemade garlic balsamic dressing. Quite delicious. Quite. I'm kinda over pasta but these noodles are super filling and tasty. The salad is one we have pretty much all the time. Though we are also on a cucumber and cabbage kick, must be the soon-to-be-summer mentality.

*At least I can still make fun of myself...insert crooked grin here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

DIY: yo-yo bot

I've been bitten by the yo-yo bug. It's been pretty hard not to. Without a nifty maker, they are a bit of dealio to make but once you begin using one of those plastic doo-hickies to assist, you'll be making yo-yos in no time and you'll probably make more than you need (way more). So, to combat my yo-yo addiction I've whipped up this super colorful and quirky robot tutorial for you. Kiddos can even make these and if they are too young you can totally include them in the process. All it takes is time, some happy fabric scraps, a yo-yo maker (to speed things up) and few other odds and ends.

Materials
*fabric scraps at least 5" square (47 total)
*needle & thread
*large sized yo-yo maker (optional)
*yarn
*scissors
*large eyed needle
*piece of plain/solid fabric about 10" square
*felt scrap
*sewing machine (optional)
Making the yo-yos is the most time consuming part of this project. I popped in a DVD and got to stitching. You do not need the maker at all but it really speeds things along. You can make your yo-yos all the same color or the same fabric even. I modeled my project after a (slightly evil looking) vintage yo-yo clown I have which is now in storage. Click here for a nifty yo-yo how to sans maker (Heather Bailey is awesome) and here for one using the maker. You will need 47 yo-yos for the doll.
Grab a sheet of scrap paper about 5" X 10" and draw a vague roboty head and body. You can even have your kiddo draw a robot to use an inspiration. You're looking for a head and body shape with no detail. Your kiddo will add that later.

Take your large piece of plain (or small printed) fabric and fold it in half, right-sides facing in. Cut out pattern pieces and pin to fabric. Stitch around pattern pieces with the sewing machine, leaving a chute shaped opening for turning right-side out.
Cut out stitched pieces, carefully snipping off the corners without cutting the thread. Turn right-side out using the chute opening you created and clean up corners with a chopstick, crochet hook or an un-sharpened pencil.

Loosely stuff your two pieces using your fiber-fill of choice. Your kiddos can do this part.
To close the openings, fold the chute channel into the form and either whip stitch closed by hand or try the invisible stitch. My mister taught me the invisible stitch and I'm not sure I can explain it but here goes. Poke needle with thread knotted at the end into the channel at one end of the opening and pull all the way through so the knot is on the inside of the form. Working in one direction, "walk" your needle with thread on each side of the closure, keeping each "step" ahead of the other. Think of it as footsteps on the beach. Each footstep will be a tiny stitch on its own side heading in one direction which is the other side of the open seam.

Finish with a knot or two by pulling needle through the loop of a basic stitch. To trim, poke needle back into the form and pull it up somewhere in the middle of the shape, stuffing and all. Pull the thread tight and snip with scissors. Your tail end of thread should disappear into the form. It's magic!
Gather your felt scrap and fold a rectangle about 2 1/2" long in half. cut out a fat "U" shape to create robot hands. Set aside.
Now it is time to assemble the arms and legs. You and your kiddo can make a game of this playing with pattern and sequencing. Or you can go all random and just thread the yo-yos directly onto your yarn. Each leg will need 15 yo-yos and each arm will need 8. The yo-yo collar is made using the jumbo-sized maker.

Arrange all robot parts to get a better picture of your final doll. This is where you can play with color and order or your kiddo can. Thread your needle with a 10" or so length of yarn. This part can drive you a bit batty as the yarn can be tricky to thread through the eye of the needle. You can switch to embroidery thread for this part. I used yarn because it is pretty sturdy and I am a sucker for frustrating crafting.

Thread your first yo-yo onto your knotted yarn yo-yo opening facing the knot. I forgot to do this for the first leg, it isn't necessary but makes for a prettier doll. Thread the remaining 14 yo-yos for the leg you are working on with the opening facing up towards the needle.
When you finish with the last yo-yo, pop your needle through the bottom of the robot body about an inch in from one side, pulling the needle all the way through and knotting it it's buddy string. Give it another knot then go back down through the top three or so yo-yos, adding another knot under the last one. If you have more yarn, go ahead and thread through another two or three and knot a final knot. This will keep the legs a little more secure and space the yo-yos a bit so they don't all slump toward the bottom. Repeat for the second leg.
To stitch the head on, thread a new length of yarn (about six inches) onto your needle and poke it through the collar yo-yo with the opening facing down. Poke the needle into the top of the body of the robot and back up through the yo-yo. Next, gather the robot head and poke your needle into the bottom keeping left or rightish. Go long with the needle before coming back out and through the yo-yo to the body. Use the pic as a reference. Repeat until you are satisfies with the floppiness of the head. As always, give it a good knot or two before cutting the thread.
For the arms, begin the same way as the feet but before threading the second yo-yo on, whip stitch the felt "hands" in place and pull needle back through. Continue adding yo-yos until you have all 8 on the yarn. Poke needle all the way through the body of the robot to secure arm in place then begin threading the last set of yo-yos keeping the yo-yo openings facing the robot body. End with a whip stitch for the second hand and a knot or two to secure.
Give yer yo-yo bot a squeeze and smile at how cute it is. If you like, you can embroider a face on your robot. I like leaving the face and body blank so that you can give the robot to a favorite kiddo along with some fabric markers and/or paint and they can create their own robot features.

I see a great many more yo-yo bots in my future. How about you?

pinterest strikes again

and has turned me into a cake batter addict...cake batter blondies. sugar overkill, but oh sooooo tasty!

**click here for Gracie's original post.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

what's for dinner: lentil tacos via The Chubby Vegetarian

I probably subscribe to too many blogs. There are days when the sheer number of unread posts throw me into a panic because I cannot seem to catch-up. On those days, I take a deep (a very, very deep) breath and click the Mark as Read button and pretend I have read them all.  But then there are those days when I dance from favorite to favorite in anticipation of something inspiring, happy or pin worthy.
Lately, I  have been on a recipe kick. What's even better is that I have actually been cooking from those recipes.  Two weeks ago, I even planned a menu a la Tara and stuck to it. I have pics to prove it. I do. I was going to do a single post about it all but I think I'll drag it out and feature each dinner on its own. So for now, you get this...Smoky Lentil Tacos from The Chubby Vegetarian. The only thing missing was the sour cream (I'm not a big sour cream fan) and smoked habanera and sun dried tomatoes. I doubled up on chili powder instead and used your average-run-of-the-mill sundried tomaters and I tell ya they were delicious! Click on the links for the recipe and click here to peek at my foodie pin-board. It's time for dinner!

Friday, May 13, 2011

crafting for craft: DIY screen cleaning kit

I've got Ms. Pac-Man fever! Check out the How-to over at craftzine. Seriously folks, you can get everything you need at the dollar store if you do not already have it at home. Wokka, wokka!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

DIY: textured baby cloths

Many years ago I was fortunate enough to meet a most gracious and inspiring woman whose life's work was in the field of infant development. Magda Gerber was her name and she was one of the creators for the RIE theory of infant care and development. She and Dr. Tom Forrest, M.D.  carried a profound belief that an infant knows innately when she or he is ready for each stage in their development. Rooted in respect for the child and Dr. Emmi Pikler's groundbreaking program developed after WWII, the Resource for Infant Educarers philosophy appears to contradict everything modern parents do to create the best environment for their children.  Appearances, however can be deceiving.  I am not so fortunate to be a parent but I have made it my life's work studying infants, children and people in general and have seen what RIE can do. Words cannot describe the profound autonomy and sense of self a RIE child develops. I can go on and on and on about this but I won't...not today at least.

Today I bring to you an easy-peasy tutorial to create your own textured baby cloths. In a RIE household you may see very little traditional playthings, especially for infants. This does not mean that infants are not allowed toys or manipulatives, it just means there are a great less bells and whistles about. Silk scarves, empty cups and balls often make an appearance. In a RIE household, infants and toddlers are free to explore the world around them when and if they are ready. Keeping a few engaging "toys" as it were within reach without forcing them on your young one is key. Stick with me here and I'll share an easy DIY to create your own texture (sensory) cloths for babies. All you need is a small stack of fabric in various weights and textures and access to a sewing machine. Come along for the ride, won't ya?
Materials:
*Six pieces of fabric at least 12" X 12" in various textures
*Scissors
*Pins
*Sewing Machine
*One sheet of 12" X12" scrapbook paper or ruler and blank paper
*Iron
Gather your scraps up and iron out any wrinkles or creases you might have. I used a heavy canvas, flannel, quilter's cotton, a micro fiber cloth, corduroy and seersucker. You can also use wool felt, terry cloth, velvet, etc. Anything with a nice feel and/or knap to it.
Using a square sheet of scrapbook paper as your pattern, cut six pieces (one in each fabric) 12" X 12" square. You can go as small as 8" if you like but keep them large enough to be engaging.
Pair up your fabrics and prints and pin them together, right sides facing in.
 Bring to your sewing machine and stitch all the way around your pinned squares leaving a two inch or so open tunnel of sorts. This serves two purposes. 1) The opening will allow you to turn all that happiness right-side out and 2) the extended "tunnely" bits will tuck nicely back into the form so you can get a clean seam when you close it off. 
 Trim excess fabric, snip corners off without cutting into the threads and turn right-side out.
You may need to use the eraser end of a pencil or perhaps a chopstick to get your corners happy. 
 Pop the tunnel channel into the opening and use a hot iron to press seams flat.
Return to your machine and stitch all the way around completely as close to the edge as you can. You can do either a zig-zag or straight stitch, both work here.
Trim threads and admire your handiwork! next time baby is chilling on the floor toss a couple of these dandy textured goodies just out of reach and watch as your wee one engages with their discovery. Knot a corner of one and baby can use it as a teether. Play peek-a-boo, toss in the air, scrunch it up and have fun! There are oodles of ways you and yours can explore a textured baby cloth**
**Stick with flannel and/or terry cloth and you got yourself a happy set of burp cloths as well!