Friday, December 31, 2010

Daily Ramblings - Happy New Year!

2010 seems like it was really busy and went very quickly.  As the year winds down, there is always anticipation for what the new year will bring.  I don't tend to set myself resolutions as I only end up disappointed, but I like to think of things that I hope to do/achieve in the upcoming year.  I may not get to all of these (just as I didn't manage everything I thought of 365 days ago), but there's no harm in writing some down right?

In 2011, I would like to...
- travel more
- organize my craft room!  
- destash some of the clutter
- finally get around to painting the bathrooms
- hang more on the walls
- get my photography website completed
- work on inventory for my craft site
- complete at least one quilt successfully
- sew more clothing 
- knit more for myself
- go to a museum or three
- sort through my closet and donate what I don't need
- practice baking (not from a box!)
- be better about the gym (to work off what I ate while baking perhaps?) 
- make a ton of grocery bags in anticipation of the plastic bag ban!

I know there's more for this list, and I'll be thinking of more that I want to do I'm sure.  I'm going to take a leaf out of my friend's book here and post it on the sidebar here so I can keep track of my accomplishments, and take you along for the ride of course.

So, Happy New Year from us to you!  What are you hoping for in 2011?  Whatever it is, cheers to a wonderful year ahead.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Daily Craft - Buzz Lightyear, a quilt for a Space Ranger!

Months ago, after I finished my first patchwork blanket, husband suggested to me that I make a quilt for our nephew for Christmakah.  Armed with a minimal amount of online research on how to make a quilt, I set off to find some fabric that would be suitable for a 2 year old boy.  He loves trains and that was my original plan but wasn't impressed by any of the train fabric I found.  Just as I was starting to lose hope, I happened across Buzz Lightyear and knowing that our nephew is a big fan, I knew I had to go for it.

So, here's my Space Ranger quilt - slightly wonky but made with love.  If nothing else, I'm just really happy that all the corners for my squares matched up.  I was told that, when this gift was opened, our nephew was happy to sit on it and informed his mom that his gift was better than hers.  Now if that's not a 2-year old seal of approval, not sure what is!

Please excuse the somewhat rushed photography job here.  I took this the morning that I was packing everything up to send, and there was no natural light because it was the middle of the one week this year that Southern California was buried under rain and didn't see sunlight.  
Things I learned during the making of this quilt (for all the novice quilters like me):
- Do get a rotary cutter and learn to use it accurately.
- Be careful with choice of fabric.  My biggest mistake was picking fabric that was a little slippery to work with (for the striped blocks) and it would have been neater had a picked a more sturdy fabric.
- Get happy with the iron!
- When sewing blocks/strips together, if the seams have been properly pressed to the appropriate side, they "lock" together in the right spot, which really helps with matching corners.
- Don't try to sew strips together late at night when you're tired.  You may find that you pin and sew the strips upside down and have to pick apart the entire seam immediately after.
- There is no such thing as too many pins.
- Making a quilt sandwich requires a lot of space and is a total pain in the derrière (when you only kind of know what you're doing that is).
- Carefully read/write down instructions on how to machine bind a quilt.  Don't do what I did and think you remember what you're supposed to do because it will invariably lead to frustration and sweating.
- Be happy with the end result even if it's not perfect - after all, it can only get better right?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Daily Ramblings - The night before Christmas

Before I head off to gather with my family for Christmas, I want to share my annual charity venture.  There's a charity local to me that provides assistance to families in need throughout the year and every year through the holiday season, my office adopts some families and helps provide them with everything we can on their wishlists for Christmas.

We got a late start on the donations this year, and with only 4 days to collect everything we needed, I ended up walking office to office, cube to cube, and collecting donations.  I am touched by the generosity of my co-workers as I managed to collect $800 in about 30 minutes.  One gigantic shopping spree later, we got these kids (and their parents) all the toys they had asked for, plus books, clothing, food, and about $200 in gift cards for each family.  From one department at work, we even collected 100 or so games for Xbox, Playstation, Wii etc. to turn over to the "Santa's Room" program that the same charity runs to allow the kids from families that weren't adopted to come pick out toys.  

I feel so grateful that I'm a position to help and bring the spirit of the holidays!!  I hope that these families get the Christmas they deserve in these hard times for many.  

Wishing a wonderful Christmas to you and yours!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Daily Ramblings - Happy Anniversary my love!

Three years ago today, I married my best friend.  There's so much I could gush about, but I'll keep it short and sweet. 

Brian - thank you for being my partner in crime.  I love you for being as silly as I am, for making me strive to be better, for your support and loyalty.  It's a little disturbing when you know what I'm thinking before I've even finished the thought, and I wonder how you got in my brain (but I know I poke around in yours sometimes - so there!)  I'm looking forward to the many wonderful things that we have ahead and I'm proud that you'll be by my side.  I love you always!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Daily Gripe - Apologies for my absence

I know I haven't been posting much recently.  A few weeks back, my computer downloaded the Thinkpoint virus, which masquerades as a Windows product.  I've tried a multitude of methods to get the damn thing removed but it's still causing my computer to act up and I'm having one hell of a time trying to upload photos, use the internet, or make my computer sound less like it's going to take off and fly out a window.  Yesterday, my computer decided to get stuck at 8:58am....all day.  I also read somewhere that this particular virus will even disable McAfee, Norton and other anti-virus software.  Talk about evil.

I'd like to wring the neck of the asshat (not a strong enough word but I don't want to scare anybody) that wrote the virus.  So, I'm still working on a fix, but in the meantime I'm resigned to possibly having to reset my computer to factory settings.  I hope you'll bear with me while I try to come up with the best plan of action!  If anybody reading has tips or tricks on how to rid my computer of this plague, I'd love to hear suggestions.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Daily Ramblings - Beginning to look a lot like...

The tree has now been up for a few days and so far no ornament disasters.  Last year, baby cat Deuce was a little too small for the ornaments to be of concern.  This year though, I know he can reach 3ft up the tree if he wants to.  I made the decision to go all plastic on the ornaments, just in case he decides to attempt to steal any, which would have resulted in shattered glass and probably a trip to the vet.  He took it upon himself to sniff the tree when I first put it up, checked if it was edible (because that plastic taste is yummy) but has since left it alone. 

I'm also excited to say that I finally finished all my holiday shopping.  In my attempt to bring in all the bags from the car yesterday afternoon, I successfully dropped a heavy-ish gift on the top of my foot.  The only good thing about that is knowing that if I hadn't dropped it on my foot, I probably would have broken it.  Broken gift or broken foot - not sure which is preferable to be honest!

I'm an hour of sewing away from finishing up my one large handmade Christmakah gift too.  Deuce loves to help me by holding the end of whatever fabric I'm cutting.  He then watches me (for quality control purposes I'm sure).  I'm not 100% happy with how the quilt is shaping up but I'm such a quilting novice that I guess I'm just grateful it's a rectangle really!  Actually, I've been having a lot of trouble with the fabric being somewhat slippery.  Note to self - buy stiffer fabric until I get the hang of this quilting business. 

I think I shall name him "inspector #1" while he's in my craft room.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Daily Ramblings - Shaping up for the holidays

I wonder... Chanukah has already passed.  One blink and it was gone
...if the 9 remaining work days until my break between Christmas and New Year will be the longest 9 days of my life
...if I will need to use my holiday money to buy new pants due to eating all the holiday tasties
...whether the new and very plastic tree ornaments will indeed stand up to the cat
...if I will ever figure out what to get husband for our anniversary (the downside to getting married right in the middle of the holidays)
...if I have something suitable in my closet to wear to my work Christmas party
...if I'll get my nephew's gift made in time to ship
...if my brother's gift will arrive in time to deliver
...if I'll finish my sample knitting this weekend
...if we're doing Christmas dinner at my house or my brother's everybody else's December is shaping up!
    'Tis the season and I'm feeling totally unprepared.  How about you?  ;)

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Daily Review - Not a girly girl

    It occurred to me the other day that I'm a 30-something yet my make-up bag is seriously lacking.  I've never really worn a lot of make-up.  In fact, I probably wore it more consistently when I was 17 than I do now.  As a result, most of the make-up I own is pretty crappy (except the slightly nicer stuff I bought for my wedding day, which was nearly 3 years ago!)

    Out of nowhere, I got an itch to update my collection a little - buy some stuff to even out the complexion, get over my fear of liquid eyeliner, try a new shade of eyeshadow.  I was looking for something that would be suitable but inexpensive, which is when I remembered E.L.F. (  After checking out a dozen beauty blogs and reviews, I figured I couldn't go too wrong with this stuff.  After all, most of their products are $1-$3 each and it seems like most people found it to be very decent (especially given the price!)  Even better, they sell it at Target, albeit a limited collection.  For under $15, I got 8 products to try and I figure that if I like it, I can always order from their extended selection on the website, and if I don't like it then I didn't break the bank.

    For my face, I got the Under Eye Concealer & Highlighter, the Complexion Perfection, and the Translucent Matifying Powder.

    For my eyes, I got the Brightening Eyeliner, Brightening Eyecolor (Luxe colorway) and Waterproof Eyeliner Pen.

    I also picked up a couple of brushes to add to the minimal collection that I already have - the Eye Shadow Brush and Total Face Brush.

    So, for the first time in a long time, I had a totally girly-girl moment and played with make-up!

    The Complexion Perfection is a pretty cool little product.  It has 4 colored powders that you can use mixed together to even out tone, or individually to treat specific problems.  I used the total face brush to use the powder all over my face, then used a little of the yellow and green to neutralize under-eye redness.  I found the powder to be very light and definitely felt like my face was more even-toned after.  

    The Under Eye Concealer & Highlighter is double-ended with little wands for application.  I found the concealer to be pretty good, especially with a little powder to seal it.  On the other hand, not sure if I'll ever really use the highlighter.  It has a little too much shimmer to it, and perhaps could be used in the corner of the eye to brighten.  It says it can also be used as an eyeshadow base, which I think I'll try sometime.

    Did I mention I have a somewhat irrational fear of liquid eyeliner?  I decided to be brave and give this a try.  For a total novice like me, I found it very easy to apply using shorter strokes (i.e. I didn't end up with it all over my eyelid!)  The application was also very smooth and didn't pull on my skin.  It dried very quickly and lasted all night without any problems.  I was thrilled that my attempt went so well.  :)

    I also tried the eyeshadow, using the eyeshadow brush to apply.  I found it to be pretty pigmented and blended nicely.  It was still wearing well at the end of the night, which was impressive to me seeing as I tend to forget I'm wearing make-up and rub my eyes.  I was keeping the look pretty subtle, but here's what the end result looked like.  Based on the number of compliments I received on Friday night, the make-up was looking good!  I'm no cosmetics expert, but overall I'm very happy and can't wait to try out other things from the line. 

    Wednesday, December 1, 2010

    Daily Dish - Leftover Turkey Bake

    I think I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel when it comes to Thanksgiving leftovers.  After sending away various bits and pieces in care packages, we still had quite a lot in the fridge to eat.  Really, I just want my fridge back so I can put some non-holiday related food in it.  Of course, there's always the question of easy left over recipes, and I'm sure you all have your favorites.  This one came to me while driving home last night, and (if I may blow my own horn here for a moment) it was delicious!

    Leftover turkey (cut into chunks)
    Bacon pieces (optional - but we bacon wrapped the turkey so had some left)
    Gravy (can substitute for regular stock if you don't have any leftover gravy)
    Mashed potato
    Grated cheese
    Worcestershire sauce

    Pre-heat oven to 375.  Briefly saute the turkey, onion, peas and carrots in a pan.  Add a cup of gravy (or stock) to coat what it's in the pan and a splash of Worchestershire sauce to taste.  If using gravy it may be too thick.  Add a little bit of water until it's thinned to the right consistency.  Once everything is heated through (which should only take a few minutes), scoop the mixture into a ramekin, or other type of oven safe dish until about half filled.  Add a layer of mashed potato, then sprinkle with grated cheese.  Pop into the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and lightly browned.

    It's truly that simple and took less than 30 minutes from the time I started making it to the time I started eating it!  What are your favorite Thanksgiving leftover recipes?

    Monday, November 29, 2010

    Daily Craft - Knitting patterns are up!

    Pretty much since I started this blog earlier in the year, I've been meaning to link to my available knitting patterns.  It took me long enough, but I'm happy to say they're now up on the patterns page for you to enjoy.  I love stalking checking out the finished projects that people have made from my designs so if you knit any of these, let me know!  :)

    Friday, November 26, 2010

    Daily Ramblings - "Turkey day" round-up

    This year was the first year of hosting Thanksgiving at our house - I knew it was only a matter of time before the family realized we hadn't done it yet!  ;)

    I'd never made a whole turkey before, with my turkey repertoire up until now consisting of deli meat and reheating leftovers.  Having said that, wrapping it in bacon proved to be relatively foolproof and was very successful.  Even Deuce had his own Thanksgiving meal consisting of some turkey giblets, which he thoroughly enjoyed.  The only slightly disappointing part was the mac & cheese, which I'd pre-prepared but then forgotten to take out of the fridge to warm up some before popping in the oven.  I'm thinking that it'll make for great leftovers though so I'm not all that worried about it not being perfect on the day.  After all, getting holiday cooking 90% right isn't a bad deal.  The funny part was opening my fridge this morning and realizing that it kind of looks like we didn't eat anything.  Now we get into the post-Thanksgiving leftover cooking, which involves finding creative ways to re-purpose turkey, stuffing, and mashed potato.

    In addition to being thankful for tupperware and Pyrex with lids, it's only fitting that I make note of (a few of) the other things that I'm thankful for.  I'm thankful for my family - the one I was lucky enough to be born into, the one that I married into, and those that I've adopted along the way.  I'm thankful for the husband by my side, the roof over my head, my friends and co-workers who make me smile every day.  I'm a lucky girl for sure!

    Wednesday, November 24, 2010

    Daily Craft - Almost famous!

    This morning, I woke up to a message on Ravelry from somebody who helps maintain the Malabrigo Yarn Facebook page.  They're adding awesome projects made from Malabrigo, and she wanted to feature my scarf made from this pattern on their fan page.  What a great way to start the morning right?  After all, Malabrigo is up there on the list of everybody's favorite yarns right now (and if you've never knit with it, I highly suggest giving it a try - it's buttery!)

    A half hour later, she messaged me back to apologize.  We'd both missed the fact I didn't make the scarf with Malabrigo at all, but had used Manos del Uraguay.  Ooops!  While both made in Uraguay, just not the same brand.

    And that's why I support early morning coffee....

    Friday, November 19, 2010

    Daily Travels - North Wales (Part II)

    We woke up in Caenarfon to 80mph winds and I was tired as hell on account of the cat spending half the night trying to get up onto the windowsill (read: climbing on me and sticking her tail up my nose) above my bed in the hotel.

    We set off into the town center and arrived just in time for the 2 minutes of silence for Remembrance Day.  This occurs at 11am on the 11th day of November (11th month) - recalling the official end of World War I and honoring those that have died on duty in the armed forces.  If you're ever watching British tv shows around this time of year and wondering why they're wearing red poppies, this is the reason. 

    Caenarfon castle is incredibly impressive, and what's great about these towns is that they were built within the protection of the castle walls.  Both Caenarfon and Conwy are coastal, and defended the northern coast of Wales from attack.  Now, the harbor serves a more peaceful purpose.

    I wish we'd had more time to go inside the castle and wander about, but we were heading for home through Snowdonia National Park.  We'd only just started the drive when we came across this gorgeous little chapel which was so peaceful with such an amazing view - seemed to me about as perfect a final resting place as I've ever seen. 

    Now, onto the rest of the drive.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

    I'm very grateful to my parents for deciding that we needed to do some sightseeing on this trip as it definitely renewed my love for my "homeland".  While it's nice to be back to normal at home again, these images will always stay with me as a reminder of what I left behind.  

    Thanks for joining me on the recap of my trip.  Now back to regularly scheduled programming!

    Thursday, November 18, 2010

    Daily Travels - North Wales (Part 1)

    After taking off from Manchester, my parents had planned a trip into North Wales.  My dad is Welsh (from Cardiff) and despite having grown up in England, I've always had very fond memories of Wales.  It's my homeland and I'm proud of it - even if I have no idea how to even begin speaking the language!

    The countryside is beautiful and it's so hard to give the colors justice in a photograph.  I love how the clouds are casting shadows upon the hills.

    We drove through a little village, Betws-y-Coed, on our travels.  The name means "chapel in the wood" and is pronounced "betus a koyd".

    Next stop was Conwy.  I was bummed that we didn't make it there until dusk as I was hoping to get a chance to stop at the castle (where my friends Holly and Paul got married last year!)  I grabbed a few shots with the light that I had though.

    We made it on to Caenarfon where we staying for the night and grabbed dinner at a local pub.  I was contemplating the dragon sausages (not made from real dragons, but that's not the point) although settled on some fish-n-chips.

    Caenarfon and Snowdonia are next...

    Tuesday, November 16, 2010

    Daily Travels - Time to recap

    It seems like only a couple of days ago that I left for England, but I'm back already!  My trip was a good one and I got to enjoy all the things that I'd been looking forward to, so I think we'll consider it a great success.  :)  Good news is that I'm not really suffering too bad from jetlag, although I've woken up at 4:30am the last two nights for no reason. 

    The flight home was probably the most dramatic flight I've ever been on in my 3 decades of flying.  We were delayed leaving Heathrow due to a passenger being removed from the plane last minute (for reasons unknown to me), and shortly after getting up in the air, an elderly gentleman a few rows ahead of me started having medical issues.  Fortunately, there were 2 doctors on board who tried to treat him as best as they could, but it was decided that we needed to stop in Iceland to get him to a hospital.  The worst part being that he was traveling alone, and didn't speak English.  I can't imagine being abandoned at a hospital in a foreign country without being able to communicate well.  I will say that the Virgin Atlantic staff were pretty amazing about the whole thing and I'm confident that they took care of him once we were on the ground.  I guess I can add Iceland to the list of places I've been, even if it was just on the tarmac in the dark!

    I'm weeding through a couple hundred photos right now, which I'll be sharing over the course of the next few days. 

    My parents have a condo on the river in Manchester's city center.  I wanted to grab a couple shots from the balcony and was greeted by wonderfully stormy skies with a hint of blue.

    Meet Bianca (my parents' little princess).  She likes to travel so pretty much goes everywhere with them.

    We took an afternoon to head onto the Snake Pass in Derbyshire and promptly found snow.  The conditions up there get pretty treacherous for driving so I was happy the roads were clear, although we were traveling slowly just in case.

    We ended our drive at the Ladybower Reservoir, which provides water to several cities in the North.  Unfortunately it was raining so we didn't really get out and walk around, but I was perfecting the art of photography out of the window of a moving car without getting my camera lens too wet!

    Next post, I'll be taking you on our trip to North Wales...

    Wednesday, November 3, 2010

    Daily Travels - Off I go

    Tomorrow I leave for my trip home to see my parents.  I managed to use my interns wisely to get nice and ahead of the game at work, my green card is here (yay!), all my clothing is washed and ready to be packed, the finances are sorted and overall I'm feeling more prepared than usual!  I haven't traveled without my husband for in years, and especially not for such a long period of time, so I know I'm going to have separation anxiety from him (and, of course, baby cat Deuce).  It'll be nice to see my parents though.

    I'm looking forward to....

    - Mom's home cooked meals!  Over the years, I've tried to replicate things that my mom cooks, but hers is always better.  She's already planning to make moussaka for me (yum) and has been asking me for a couple of weeks to think of some of my other favorites.
    - Indian food!  It's not that I can't get good Indian food in California.  In fact, there's a couple of restaurants that I think are great.  It's still better in England though.
    - Fish and chips!  Of course.  There's nothing like eating a big piece of battered cod out of a nice greasy wad of paper.
    - Stocking up on chocolate!  Cadburys, Galaxy, Aero, Yorkies....I could go on.  (Can you tell that there's a food theme going on here?)
    - Photography!  I miss old buildings.  We're going to be taking a trip to North Wales and I can't wait to be snapping photos of castles.  It seems that the standard in Los Angeles is to tear down old things and I miss wandering around centuries of history.
    - Treasure hunting!  OK, well in the not so literal sense.  I'm wondering what is hiding in my room at home.  Time to go through it and find some things I've forgotten existed.  :)

    Pretty much the only things I'm not looking forward to are 22 hours round trip on an airplane and really cold weather.  It's an opportunity to wear those handknits that I don't always get to wear in So Cal at least.

    Anyway, I'll be popping in here to say hi if I get a chance, but otherwise, I'll have lots to share when I get back.  Happy travels!

    Monday, November 1, 2010

    Daily Dish - Shredded Beef

    The beautiful thing about this time of year is that I'm inspired to make lots of things in the crock pot.  There's something so simple, yet wonderful, about popping some ingredients in the crock pot and coming back from work to a complete meal.  It's practically idiot proof!

    Yesterday, I found this BBQ beef recipe and decided to give it a shot with some chuck roast.  By the time I was supposed to shred the beef, the smell of what was cooking had already permeated every room in the house and I was starving.  I think the hardest part of the cooking process was shredding the meat to go back in the pot and cook for longer, rather than shoveling it into my mouth.  It was finished too late yesterday to eat it for dinner, but made for a quick dinner tonight.  We toasted buns, topped with spinach and the shredded beef.  I also sautéed a little broccoli, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, on the side.  Perfect!

    Thursday, October 28, 2010

    Daily Craft - Ooh...Pretty!

    I got these fabric packs and Joanns and I'm coming up with a quilt concept in my head.  Picture these with black for contrast so that the colors pop.  Pretty no?  ;)

    Tuesday, October 26, 2010

    Daily Review - Cold season strikes

    Please excuse my absence for the past few days.  I've been sick and the majority of my time has been spent creating an ass-groove in the couch.  Go figure that husband got a "cold" sometime last week, which consisted of mild sniffling and a complete rebound 36 hours later.  So, when I started feeling it myself, he was happy to tell me that it was minor and would be gone shortly.  Wrong.  Somehow, for me it turned into a full blown cold involving double-digit cups of green tea and strong cravings for soup - despite not really being able to taste any of it. 

    After the umpteenth hour of dozing on the couch, I did take a minute to google some at-home remedies and was bored enough to try a couple.  

    Thyme tea - this involved steeping 2 teaspoons of thyme in boiling water for about 5 minutes with a little bit of lemon juice.  It's supposed to help with respiratory problems and removing mucus (yummy!)  In terms of taste, I rate this as pretty foul.  Then again, it might have helped if I'd strained the thyme leaves before drinking it so it didn't feel like I was drinking a mouthful of dry dirt with each sip.  At the same time, that was an extra step that this sickly being didn't have the energy to take.  In terms of feeling better?  Nothing noticeable, although perhaps doing it more than the once would help...but that would involve drinking that repulsive mixture again, which I wasn't willing to do.  I find that to be kind of amusing seeing as I'm only just starting to get my sense of taste and smell back!

    Tumeric in milk - I found this one to be interesting as apparently tumeric has all kinds of fun healing properties, in particular anti-inflammatory (useful for arthritis) and has been proven to have promise for cancer treatment.  I always just figured it was tasty in Indian food, as if I need more excuse to eat/cook Indian!  Anyway, this involved making a mixture of tumeric with hot milk and a little honey.  It didn't taste too bad either - a little odd at first but I quickly got used to it.  I found the flavor of this mixture to be a lot more tolerable and once I drank it, I did in fact feel quite soothed.  

    I think I'll probably keep sticking to green tea with honey for the main part, but the tumeric mixture wasn't bad and is one I'd do again.  In the meantime, husband is currently cooking me pasta sauce with a ton of cayenne pepper, onion and garlic in it; all of which have great healing properties and will hopefully get me up and going like a normal person soon!

    So, as cold season is upon us, what are your favorite remedies?