Monday, December 8, 2008

18 Days Till Christmas!

These are the coolest stars - they're about 8" across, and they were so easy to make! I made my own patterned paper with a variety of stamps (Martha Stewart, PTI, Studio G, TAC), and then whipped out the parts with my Cuttlebug and the Sizzix Bigz 5-Point Star die - it did all the cutting and scoring for me. All I had to do was fold on the scored lines and attach the sections with adhesive. Really, the thing that took the longest was stamping all the paper. I'd love to try these with metal... Hmm, coke cans perhaps? I can't believe I almost didn't keep this die. It's awesome!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Impromptu Road Trip

My favorite trips are the last minute, spur of the moment kind. There's something exhilirating about throwing some clothes in a bag and hopping in the car for a quick little getaway. Today's trip was to Springtown. The drive up was grey and gloomy, and the temperature dropped over 20 degrees along the way. Perfect Christmas weather! We listened to Christmas music and talked about our best childhood memories of Christmas.
And when we made it into town, we had this for dinner:

Hong Kong Inn has the best eggrolls in town! We eat here every time we come to Springfield.

It was sooo good...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Hey, Dave! Look! It's Snowing!

Well, more like raining with a few tiny random flakes struggling to stay afloat, but down here that still counts!

One of the things I miss living down here is distinct seasons. I'm used to Northern weather, where by Halloween you have to wear a coat at night and it's already snowed by Thanksgiving. Here in the South it's not unusual to have 70 degree weather (sometimes even warmer) in December/January, and we rarely come close to having a white Christmas. So I'm pretty stoked about the few flakes we've had today.

Christmas came early for us this year - Seth and I each got our main Christmas gift yesterday. It's our last Christmas here in the States for a few years, which means our last chance to have a big (for us) Christmas. I was able to score this nifty cool gadget with a 40% off coupon at Hobby Lobby:

I had a blast last night figuring it out. It weighs less than 2 pounds, is 5" x 5", AND it's dual-voltage! I've always thought digital cutting machines like the Cricut were pretty cool, but they're just way too bulky for me to take overseas (not to mention pricey!). But this little guy is perfect.

I'm almost done with the Christmas shopping; still need to make a few things. I'm getting excited about seeing my family in a few weeks!

And just in case you didn't catch it, the title of this post is in reference to my favorite Christmas album of all time:

It's a classic!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Meet Fred

Fred (pictured with me to the left) is the newest obsession in my life. He arrived in a little brown box a couple of weeks ago, and I've been smitten ever since.

Besides tinkering with my new boy-toy and teaching myself how to use PS Elements, I've been working on Christmas shopping, finalizing holiday travel plans (we're going up to Illinois for Christmas to see my fam), making a small gifts (embroidering designs onto red and green felt, wrapping the felt around filled glass votives, then packaging the votives in sets), updating my holiday playlist, and making Christmas cards.For our cards this year, I wanted to go with something a little more mod, nothing too fussy or fru-fru. I used an ornament from Basic Grey's new Wassail stamp set, with a sentiment from one of Studio G's new Christmas sets. They're stamped on nice, thick watercolor paper and watercolored with wc pencils and a brush. Clean and simple (although a tad time-consuming). The colors are bright pink, orange, and red for one version, and lime green, navy, and dark blue-green for the other - my take on traditional red and green. The picture doesn't do them justice, but I was in too much of a hurry to set up a good shot .

Hope everyone's holiday plans are coming along nicely! Turkey Day is almost here! : )

Friday, October 17, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

I've been trying to get the apartment packed up (just a couple of weeks left before the move), thinking about this year's Christmas cards (I need to start making them soon), flipping through decorating books (my copy of the new Domino book came in the mail today!), brainstorming possible handmade Christmas gifts (Aimee Ray's Doodle Stitching has some really cute ideas), and making travel plans for the holidays.

We found out that the apartment is going to be listed in the paper tomorrow (eek!), so we have to be ready to show it on short notice. Right now describing it as "messy" would be an understatement. It's at that disheveled stage where there are boxes and packing materials scattered everywhere, with those random odds and ends that you don't know quite how to categorize sitting out waiting for a box. We have the unique situation of having to sort things by "pack to take to China (in suitcases)," "pack to ship to China," "pack to put into storage," "pack to take to Mom and Dad's," and of course "Goodwill," and "trash." Not as simple as just "throw it all in boxes so we can move it to the new place."

Oh, yeah, and we have a friend coming to stay with us for the weekend. Life's never boring around here!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sometimes It's No Fun Being a Grownup

Most of the time, I don't really think of myself as being all that grown-up. I try to avoid accepting the fact that I am "over 30." I think I'm pretty young at heart. But then there are some days when the world around me makes it very clear that I am an adult who has to deal with very adult issues. I become the shoulder to lean on, the source of moral support, and find myself giving advice when either possible option can only be qualified as messy. Sometimes life doesn't give happy endings; sometimes there are no perfect answers.

It's times like these that I feel every bit of my age. But then I find that strength that comes from beyond myself, and I know that it'll be okay.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

It's a Plaid, Plaid World

Yesterday for my birthday Seth and I went to Little Rock for some shopping and general merriment. It was a lot of fun. I think my favorite finds of the day were these black and white plaid shoes and slouchy convertible bag. Love! They were both on clearance and both too adorable to pass up (although, contrary to Seth's opinion, I did NOT buy them so I could wear them together).

All in all, it was a pretty good birthday. The only downer was the whole getting older thing, but I guess it wouldn't be my birthday without that part, now would it? I mean, I've got to have some excuse for getting a jumbo chocolate chip cookie with buttercream frosting, right?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Your Complete Guide to Cooking Electrically

I found this cool little retro cookbook on one of our thrifting expeditions a few weeks ago in Springfield. It was published in 1960, and it's written for housewives who are just venturing into the new and exciting world of electric ovens. I love the intro:
"This book has been planned and written especially for you - the homemaker whose first interest is in her family, who loves to please her husband and children, whose heart grows warm when they like what she cooks."

And this excerpt:
"There's nothing more beautiful in all of kitchendom than a sparkling new electric range. Available in a batch of bright-eyed colors, there's a model to 'pretty-up' any kitchen and please any budget."

Those sure were different times, weren't they? It actually has some recipes that look pretty good. Living in China necessitates a lot of cooking from scratch, so I like to look through old cookbooks for recipes that are easily adaptable to ingredients I can buy at the local markets. I think even if this one didn't have a ton of usable recipes, I'd still keep it for the cover art alone. Kitschy chic!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

It's Hobby Time!

For the past couple of months I've been feeling the itch to pick up a new hobby - but which one? I've always dabbled in crafty-type things; about ten years ago I flirted with crochet (made a scarf or two, but never really learned how to read a pattern), and I started stamping/making cards back in 2001. I've never tried scrapbooking, although the idea of starting an art journal really appeals to me. The biggest factor I have to consider in any crafting endeavor is the availablilty of supplies in China. For example, smooth cardstock is impossible to find - it all has a weird, visible "marbled" texture to it. Forget about chipboard, craft paints, inks, patterned paper, brads, stickers - they just don't exist. So I wanted something that wouldn't require a huge investment, with supplies readily available overseas. I finally decided on (drumroll please)... Embroidery! I found this little starter kit on e-bay:

Next I want to get this book:

We'll see how it all goes!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Happy Times

The smell of hot coffee on a rainy morning.
Magazines full of visual inspiration.
These things make me happy.

I am so antsy to get back overseas and into our new apartment. We already have an apartment lined up, although we've never actually seen the inside (long story). Short version: it's at a price we can't pass up, and we can live there long-term. And best of all - we'll be able to decorate however we like, with one caveat: the apartment comes partially furnished. I've been told the living room has a black leather couch / loveseat combo; not what I would have picked, but what can you do? At least we won't have to worry about the dog getting the cushions dirty! ; ) So any color palette I use has to incorporate those big black pieces. Right now I'm tossing around either pale blue or light warm grey for the walls (paint or fabric; not sure which). Or I might just leave the walls white and put up floor to ceiling bookshelves in a warm brown finish, like these BILLY bookshelves from Ikea:

I've been meaning to put together a home inspiration notebook with all my color swatches, inspiration pics, etc., but in the meantime I've discovered this new feature from Domino called My Deco File. You can upload pics from your computer, or use their "image tear tool" to grab pictures from other websites, and sort them all into different categories in your "books." I would still prefer to have a hands-on notebook, but this is a nice backup.

Poor Seth, if he had his way the whole place would be ultra-modern: stark white walls, sleek black and chrome furniture with shots of brilliant red. Me, I lean a little more toward mid-century modern with a splash of contemporary: organic materials like wood and pottery and lots of textured fabrics; warm colors like brown and orange. I try to include him in the design process, but he pretty much tells me just to do what I like, and he'll be happy if I'm happy. Now that's true love!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Birthday Week

It's birthday week right now in our family. Over the course of a week, we have Seth's birthday, my FIL's birthday, and my birthday. Last night we went out to eat with my inlaws for a group birthday celebration. Lots of fun. Good food, even yummier cake.

Here's a picture of Seth's birthday cake from a couple of days ago. If you're wondering about the quote on the cake, he turned 34 this year... I know some of you will get it. ; )

And here's the card I made for my FIL. This was prototype number 3 - yesterday was not a good crafting day for me. I definitely need to clean up my crafting space so that I quit getting stray ink everywhere - like on my nearly finished, painstakingly watercolored card front. Yeah, it was that kind of a day.

I'm still working on Seth's card; I wanted to try my hand at something a little more elaborate, something I've never tried making before, and wouldn't you know it I've been having printer issues galore. (sigh) Why do I always seem to bite off more than I can chew at the most inopportune times?

Monday, September 29, 2008

Road-Trippin', Across the Universe...

Okay, so maybe not the universe. But definitely across the state line! We just got back from a week-long road trip that was mostly business but with a whole lot of fun thrown in. I'm not even going to discuss the business parts (who wants to read about that?), but the fun parts - let's just say this trip provided some much needed down time.

We spent a big portion of our trip in Springfield, MO. Springfield holds so many special memories for me: being away from home for the first time, falling in love, renting that first apartment as a married couple (green shag carpet, Harvest Gold appliances - priceless!)... Not to mention all the little things like barn swinging, thrifting, caving, and solving all the world's problems while sipping huge mugs of coffee. It's where I really began to find out who I am, although that journey is nowhere near completed.

This time around, we had a jam-packed itinerary. Of course, tradition held that our first stop be the happiest place on earth: Hong Kong Inn.

Hong Kong Inn is a kitschy little fast-food Chinese restaurant that has hands down THE BEST egg rolls around. I always get the Sesame Chicken Plate, and it always makes me happy. We've been eating there for over 12 years now. It's the one "American" Chinese restaurant I actually miss when we're overseas.

After Hong Kong Inn came Andy's frozen custard, Cider Days (where I met the lovely Silje and Rachel of Red Velvet Art - they are both so sweet!), bookstore browsing, coffee, thrifting, more coffee, more bookstore browsing, more thrifting, cd hunting, and a whole lot of reminiscing. (This was all spread out over a few days, of course. We're good, but we're not that good!)

We were also pleasantly surprised at how the atmosphere in Springfield is becoming more and more family-friendly and community oriented. A couple of months ago, we were lucky enough to be in town for First Friday Art Walk. The area all around the square was literally filled with people of all ages, backgrounds, etc., people with strollers, people with dogs, people playing music or selling artwork on the sidewalk. It was such a contrast from when we were in college - all you would see back then were teenage wanna-be "vampires" (yes, they were teenagers who actually ran around the square in black trench coats and makeup pretending to be vampires), a few homeless guys, and drunk college students stumbling in and out of bars. Even Commercial Street, which was known mainly for its homeless shelter, has gotten a total revamp in the last couple of years. It really is amazing how much the atmosphere there is changing.

We're back home now, happy to be sleeping in our own bed again. The puppy is doubly happy to be out of the kennel! No more big trips for a while, at least not that we know of. Of course, that could always change!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Yummy Fall Goodness

Fall is my favorite time of year. I love the cooler weather, the crisp smells, the rich colors as the leaves begin to change... One of my favorite "fall" things to do is wake up in the morning, put on a snuggly sweater, and have a slice of warm pumpkin bread with a cup of coffee. De-lish! I can be anywhere in the world, but while I'm savoring that spicy goodness I'm HOME. I have several recipes for pumpkin bread that I've worked my way through, but today I made one that I thought was particularly moist and yummy. As a testament to its scrumptiousness, you will notice in the picture that we've already eaten our way through 2/3 of one of the four mini-loaves I baked. I can't wait till tomorrow morning!

In case anyone is interested, here is the recipe:
  • 1 3/4 c. all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 15 oz. pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 c. water

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease one 9x5 loaf pan (or 4 mini loaf pans). Sift together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.

In large bowl, beat together sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin. Stir in flour mixture alternately with water. Pour batter into pan(s).

Bake in preheated oven 60-70 minutes (40 minutes for mini loaves), or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. For best flavor, store wrapped in plastic wrap at room temperature for a full day before serving.

It's That Time of Year...

Fall is in the air, and with the changing seasons come life changes, as well. We're gearing up for yet another move, this time from our apartment on the lake to my inlaws' house. We'll stay with them for a couple of months before heading back overseas to our adopted hometown - Shanghai, China. In about a week, the sorting will begin: items to be purged, items to be stored, items to take with us overseas. While this has become a routine cycle in our lives, it inevitably brings with it a certain level of anxiety. However, it means we're that much closer to getting back to our life in China, and that makes it all worthwhile!