November 25, 2014

Self-discovery



Lately, I've been drawn to books about achievement, self-control, and organization. I just finished listening to How Children Succeed - a book I thought would be applicable to raising our one-year-old, but that turned out to be an enlightening study of mostly teens and young adults coming from privileged and less so backgrounds. Now I am engrossed in The Organized Mind, and am steadily making my way through a book about Montessori principles, which I read in small bits when I am in the right mood. 

My interest in these books is not coincidental. For a while now, I have been thinking about my life, my goals, my true interests and passions... and what I am doing about it all. That is, nearly not enough. It is not a recent realization, really. I am generally satisfied with my life: I have a loving husband, a wonderful, healthy daughter, a home, the means to buy what I need without counting pennies. D and I have always wanted for me to stay home with the children while they are small and I am loving (almost) every day I spend with N. And yet... I want to do more. And I know that the only thing stopping myself from doing - being - more is myself. Shocker, right?

A recent post by Drea of ohdeardrea has really gotten me thinking about what exactly in my personality and behavior is hindering my progress in life, and I have identified some key points that I need to address and work on to begin moving forward.

I am afraid to step out of my comfort zone
This has always been one of my major struggles. I am an introvert by nature, which makes me somewhat stressed in situations where I have to interact with strangers, ask questions, and be heard. I tend to fall into familiar and comfortable patterns, re-reading books I like and re-watching my favorite shows. It takes me quite a while to adjust to big changes in my life, no matter how much I wanted them in the first place. I need to remind myself to take more chances, seek out new experiences (small things, I'm not talking about bungee jumping here), and be more proactive in social situations. 

I pity myself too much
Days with a toddler are not always easy, no matter how lovable they are. I feel like collapsing by the end of the day - and I often do! - but, really, I know that I perhaps exaggerate how exhausted I really am. What I need at the end of the day is a break from N... and I get it! D plays with her from the moment he comes home until her bedtime, while I often use this free time to read a book or catch up on blogs (or Pinterest, ahem). Sometimes, however, I do dishes, clean up, and prep food for next day meals, leaving the hours after we put N to bed to relax and catch up on leisurely activities. And I like the second scenario much better, of course, but...

I have poor self-control
I will eat those cookies if they are left in plain view and I will finish that open bag of chips. I have started and failed to maintain exercise routines multiple times and I have resolved to blog more often time and again. I need to come up with ways to keep myself in check... but I pity myself too much! It's a vicious circle... that only I can break, I know.

I am waiting for (divine) inspiration
I often think to myself: "If only I knew what my calling in life is... everything would be so much easier." I am stopping myself from moving forward by hoping to get inspired. Any day now... right? It's as though I am waiting for my life to begin, to take a new turn... But really, this is it. I am a grown woman. I have a degree. I am married. I have a child. How more real does it get? Maybe instead of waiting for inspiration to find me, I need to search for it myself by taking all kinds of different paths.

I take on too many projects at once
I love crafting. I love homemaking, cooking, reading, planning. These are all good interests and ambitions, but I tend to get caught up in beautiful, bright, shiny ideas (thanks, Pinterest) and drop what I was already working on half-way to begin something new. I am working really hard these day on finishing what I started. In fact, I stop myself from buying new project supplies until I use up what I have.

I expect easy success
This has been said multiple times now: the onslaught of social media these days makes everything seem so effortless and accessible. It is easy to get lured into this trap, to believe that bloggers just breezily write about their lives, that their casually snapped photos of their spotless homes and angelic kids just happen to catch the best light possible, that anything is attainable right now. It is easy to forget that real success takes work when in fact the opposite is true: it takes a lot of work to make it all seem so easy. I need to remind myself of this more often.


Wow. All that makes me sound like the laziest person on this planet doesn't it? I actually quite like myself most of the time (hence the self-pity!), but the above points are some that I really want to work hard on to become a better person. I am hoping that blogging can help me to achieve that. Because, who am I doing this for if not for myself? (This said, I love love love comments, dear readers... hint hint.)

Please, let me know: have you ever struggled to overcome some of your character flaws? How did you get around to doing it? Have you already found your calling or are you still searching, like me?

July 11, 2014

Of bare bottoms and German lessons



This morning, I violated my number one rule of day-to-day parenting: never let the nine-month old go bare-bottom in the morning. And boy did I pay for it.

Wait. Wait, you're saying. I thought this wasn't that kind of blog. Well, I guess it is a little. Because when you spend almost every minute of every day hanging out with a baby, some topics tend to crop up more often than others.

I wish I were posting about a new crochet pattern or a fabulous recipe I've come up with, but the reality is that I just spent an hour cleaning poop out of the carpet. Yee-haw.

But wait! It's not all that bad, because I did it while listening to German lessons. See? Combining the mundane (and slightly icky) with the intellectual.

Have you ever heard of German with Michel Thomas? It's great! The Michel Thomas method is based on learning through listening to an audio recording of a teacher (Herr Thomas himself) and two students, without writing anything down or memorizing. So far, it's really interesting and engaging. Granted, I have taken a German class previously, so the material is not completely new to me. I wonder how it would work for someone who has never learned anything about it before.

Happy weekend!

Photo of my flying daughter by me

July 10, 2014

Use-what-you've-got embroidery thread cards

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Over the years, I have ended up amassing quite a collection of DMC embroidery thread. Thread, it seems, much like yarn and headphones, comes out to party when you're not looking and soon turns into a big tangled mess. Then, inevitably, the little paper band with the colour number gets lost. Am I alone in this? Anyone?

I have seen beautiful examples of storing thread wound around clothes pins before - and Pinterest is full of great ideas! -  but I didn't want to buy clothes pins just for this and I thought it would take up too much space (I really do have a lot of thread), so I opted for floss cards instead. Now, I didn't want to buy the cards either, because... why would you buy cardboard when you can have it for free? In my case, I used paint chips to make the cards. Ready for a super-easy, diy floss card tutorial? Turn your favourite programme on, 'cause you'll be here for a while.

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  1. Grab some cardboard or thick paper. Here, I used paint chips in neutral tones, but your possibilities are endless: cereal boxes, old calendar pages of greeting cards, pretty cardstock... whatever you have on hand.
  2. Cut your paper of choice into rectangles. Mine are roughly 4 x 5 cm (1 5/8 x 2 inches), but they're all slightly different, which doesn't bother me.
  3. Use a 1-inch (2.5 cm) circle punch to punch out semi-circles on either side of the rectangle. Using scissors, make two cuts to secure the end of the thread (see in next step).
  4. Wind up your thread. Don't forget to write the colour number in a corner! Repeat 100 more times and enjoy!
organizeembroiderythread_res2

Some further ideas and suggestions:
  • I created an Excel spreadsheet to catalogue my stash as I was going through it. This way, next time I'm about to begin a project, I will know what colours I already have on hand.
  • For now, I'm just throwing the wrapped cards into a shoebox. You can most certainly purchase a nice storage box and organize the threads by colour. How pretty would that be? I need to get on it.
  • The link above also has a great tutorial on how to wind your thread using a drill and a special tool (appropriately called a bobbin winder). I have also seen genius tutorials on how to do the same using a sewing machine. Maybe next time, when I'm tired of my current set-up. :)

So. How do you satisfy your organizing itch? What have you untangled/put away/colour-coded lately?

July 3, 2014

82 Queen

Last time my parents were visiting Charleston, my father said that he wanted to try she-crab soup, a famous local specialty. Always happy for an excuse to eat seafood, we took him to our favourite place where we have had the soup before... only to find out that they have taken it off the menu. Wah wah waaaah.

This time, however, I was prepared. Determined to find the best she-crab soup in Charleston, I spent all of 0.47 seconds waiting for my Google search results. The answer was straightforward and unanimous: 82 Queen.

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We got reservations for Sunday brunch and asked for a courtyard table, which is a must, in my opinion. The place is spectacular! The restaurant consists of 11 dining rooms spread over three historical buildings with an enchanting patio between them. The outdoor tables are set amidst lush greenery, surrounded by palmettos decorated with fairy lights, and pleasantly shaded by a majestic magnolia tree. Some tables are set inside gazebos (with ceiling fans!), but ours was in the open, right under the tree. Such a treat!

shecrabsoup

Naturally, we started with the soup, our very reason for being there. It did not disappoint! Velvety, richly-coloured from the roe, full of tasty blue crab, with a nice touch of sherry and crunchy little sprouts... yum! Served with customary crackers, although I wouldn't have said no to some fresh bread or a biscuit to mop up the last drops.

salmon
jambalaya

After that, preferences were divided between three dishes. D and my mother opted for the pan-seared salmon (they ask you whether you want it medium or well-done), my father and brother went for the jambalaya (pleasantly spicy, full of shrimp, ham, and onion goodness), and I settled on the barbeque shrimp and grits.

shrimpandgrits

I have a strange relationship with shrimp and grits. I always make a point of trying them, even though I'm not such a fan of grits, which are like corn porridge. In the past, I've had plain grits, cheese grits, and grits made into something like corn bread. My opinion always was that there should be a little more shrimp and a little less grits. The shrimp and grits at 82 Queen, however, have won me over. Maybe it was the tangy BBQ sauce, or the bacon... whatever it was, it was good. Maybe the South is slowly seeping into my soul.

I doubt a restaurant that has been running and getting stellar reviews for the past 30-some years needs my approval, but... I approve. Beyond the unassuming façade at 82 Queen street lies a sweet little gem of a restaurant: enchanting, welcoming, and heart-warmingly local. The she-crab soup is only the first course.

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June 22, 2014

What do you do...

... when you pick up a 25-pound box of tomatoes at the farm?

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(That's 120 of them, y'all!)

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You make three lasagnas, can nine jars of crushed tomatoes, and end up with three jars of leftover spaghetti sauce, of course!

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And then you keel over.

Have a great week, everyone!

P.S. There are moments in life when you just have to say "y'all".

April 28, 2014

Yay for CSA!

CSAveggies2

Have you ever been curious about what's going on in other people's kitchens? Cooking-wise, that is. I am always interested to know where others get their food, what it is, and what they make with it. (I am also the creep peering into windows, but that's a whole different story.) Here's a little peek at what's been on our plates lately. Hint: it's mostly green.

For the first time this spring we have decided to purchase a share in a CSA. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture, which is a way to support the local farmer by buying a seasonal share in exchange for weekly produce from the farm. For farmers, this provides the necessary funds to plant, grow, and harvest their crops from one season to the next. For us, this is a great way to eat local, discover new produce, and play with the freshest in-season veggies all week long!

After researching local farms, we decided on Ambrose Family Farm based on their share size, drop-off location, variety, and season duration. There were quite a few great farms in the area to choose from. My limiting factor was that I was planning to walk to the pick-up location, so I was looking for something in an accessible radius.

Now, being new to this I must admit that I was a little disappointed with our first week's share. We have picked the smallest weekly share offered by Ambrose Farm, described as being sufficient for one vegeterian or for two regular-eating adults. The first bag I picked up was exciting, smelled of fresh dirt and green leafy things, and was... well, small. Definitely not enough for a whole week, thought I. Turns out I had nothing to worry about, because these days we're trying to keep up with the veggie invasion, consuming leafy greens before they wilt and roasting asparagus on a daily basis (mmmm.... asparagus....).

This has turned to be a really fun experience. The folks from the farm post a list of what they're harvesting every week on their website and I get to search ahead for some recipes (or just look up what a vegetable looks like, having never encountered some of them). Then, when I get the share, I go over the list once again, trying to figure out which is which. I have learned that when unsure of how to cook something, roasting is the way to go (unless it's salad-like, in which case just eat it as it comes or throw it in a quiche). I have tried some awesome recipes like roasted beets with sautéed greens (who knew you can eat beet greens... and that they're so tasty), carrot-top pesto (ditto), pickled turnips (I used the pickling liquid recipe from this link), and meat-stuffed kale leaves (of my own invention). A world of discoveries, I tell you!

So. Curious to see what this week's share included? Here it is, in all of its unwashed glory:

CSAveggies

Strawberries
Beets with greens
Brussel sprouts
Asparagus (I never get tired of this one!)
Garlic
Sweet onions (not pictured here)
Bok choy
Radish (the white carrot-looking things)
Carrots with tops
Head lettuce in three varieties

(The amounts shown on the photo are just a part of the share, not the entire thing.)

Ambrose Family Farm also offers other items like fresh off-the-boat shrimp, eggs and meat from local providers, jams and pies, casseroles, honey, and other locally produced goodies found at the Stono Market run by the family. We haven't tried any of those yet, but we have been to the strawberry U-pick three weeks in a row - we just can't get enough of the fact that we live in a place where strawberries can be picked in April. Isn't that mad?

What's your favourite spring veggie right now? (Yes, strawberries count.)

March 10, 2014

The [Diaper] Bag

diaperbag1

I never was a purse kind of girl. I had one back in my teenage years, but since it was too small to hold a book, I ditched it. Not a problem because up until last year I almost always had some sort of school bag with me which held everything I needed. In its absence, I used reusable shopping bags, totes, and pockets. Worked for me!

Enter baby stuff.

A few weeks into baby N's life, I realized how tiring and inefficient it is to be running around the apartment, collecting baby paraphernalia and my own wallet/keys/cell phone every time we wanted to go out. I had to face the truth: I needed a bag to keep it all contained. Permanently. I did try throwing the lot into my favourite tote, which resulted in a large tangled mess. I had to come up with something a little more organized, but I wasn't too keen on the generic diaper bag.

Enter Pinterest.

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I found this lovely diaper bag pattern by Amber from Make Baby Stuff.com and instantly knew that this was a diaper bag for me: it looked simple, spacious, and relatively simple to make for the sewing noob that I am. I printed the pattern, gathered supplies... and many days later, after having ripped out the stitches for the twentieth time (no, really), I had myself a bag that I love and enjoy using. Tadaaa!

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I must say this was a good beginner project for me. In the process, I learned how to:

- make an inside pocket
- install a clasp
- make straps and outside pockets
- sew a zipper (I failed, but I get the concept now...)

And I got something useful in the end! Win win! Don't you like beginner projects that actually lead somewhere? I remember looking at all the crocheted washcloths and wondering what ever will I do with these? Of course, if you actually use washcloths, then you probably won't share my puzzlement.

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Here are a couple of things I noticed along the way:

- I should have heeded Amber's advice and added a velcro strip on the back pocket (not pictured here), as it is too flimsy to keep anything heavier than a handkerchief without opening up. Shame, because it is a nice large pocket with lots of potential.

- For a sturdier bag, I would consider adding interfacing to the cotton lining. I did however use a nice sturdy canvas on the outside and am pretty happy with the results. I like that the bag is "baggy".

- I'm thinking of maybe fashioning a divider out of sturdy material (felt or thick interfacing) to better separate the bag's contents. I'll let you know if I try it!

So. If you are in need of a diaper bag (or just a large bag, really), head over to MakeBabyStuff.com and don't forget to share pictures of what you make! Happy sewing!



Materials and resources:
- The Detour Diaper Bag pattern by Amber of MakeBabyStuff.com
- Water repellent cotton duck, cotton fabric for lining, and magnetic snap from fabric.com
- The lovely patterned fabric is called Critter Camp and is from the Fort Firefly collection created by Teagan White for Birch Fabrics. I bought it from fabricworm, but they seem to be out of this particular pattern at the moment.

February 20, 2014

Just when you thought I disappeared forever...



Oh my. I think I'm just going to pretend that I have not ignored this blog for over a year. Nope. Didn't happen.

Not that I had nothing to post about. It has been a very eventful year (more on this in a minute). I just have a horrible track record of... well, record keeping.

And it's not like I've ignored the blog either. It has been there in my thoughts. I must have mentally written a post a week, at least. What? You're saying you didn't get those? Man, when telepathic blogging kicks in, I'll be there at the top of the list, just you wait and see.

While I'm here, I'll just give you a quick overview of my year, shall I? It can be summarized into three main events:

1. I have completed my Master's degree in biochemistry which made me, wait for it... Master of Science. It sounds waaaaay cooler than it actually is, but I'm really glad I got there.

2. We moved to Charleston, SC (yup, crossed the border, and then some), because D, now Master of Engineering, got his first real-life job here. Charleston is a beautiful city and while I sometimes miss Montreal, I am excited about living in The South. Everything is new and different... and flowers bloom in February! The world has gone mad.

3. September has brought a new addition to our tiny family! Little girl N has been a source of great joy for us and we are feeling so very lucky to have her. 

As you can imagine, I am being kept quite busy these days, but I have been itching to share some of my recent crafting adventures. With a bit of luck, I will be more present around here. That's a vague possibility promise! Maybe a post a week to begin with?

See you around!

Above is a photo we took of one of the gorgeous Charleston mansions not long after moving here. Just to clarify... that's not our house.