Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stolen Moments

The textbook project is nearing the end (that's my constant mantra anyway), and we are all rather burnt out on the topic. Just as I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, a new project is in the works. So really, it's like driving in the mountains; out of one tunnel, around a bend, and straight into the next tunnel. Mr. Flame is burning it up in his own career and I feel like we're in dueling career mode where we're both desperately trying to manage it all and waiting until we get even a small breather.

So I have started to realize just how much I miss my sewing machine and my knitting needles and have started stealing small moments with each. It might be as small as knitting two rounds on a sock cuff or adding two squares to the t-shirt quilt, but it's something...

I got to a good stopping point with job work at about 9 Saturday night. Then I picked up my PTA pile that has been staring me down for a couple of weeks. I finally finished that up at about 11:30 (this is all p.m.) and decided to spend a few minutes browsing some of my favorite blogs that I haven't looked at in months (FYI, the list to the right of this post has some really wonderful blogs, I recommend them all).

Over at House on Hill Road I read that the lovely Erin Harris has three sewing patterns in this month's Stitch magazine. That's great, thought I. As I scrolled through her post, I found that one of the patterns is this:

(That image is straight from House on Hill Road.com, I believe the picture was taken by Ms Harris of the magazine spread. Thanks to both Hill Road and Stitch.)

That, my lovelies, is a cowl that is constructed of silk, silk velvet, and flannel for the hidden warmth layer. Of course, being that I've been searching for a great cowl pattern for a long time, and being a big fan of House on Hill Road, I had to have it. Right now, thought I.

So on Sunday, the Little Flame and I packed ourselves off to Joann's fabrics. First I located a copy of the fall issue of Stitch. Then I located the pattern inside and made certain that I understood the directions. "What are you making me?" queried Little Flame. "This is for me", I happily replied, and I swear five women looked at me with approving smiles.

I had two problems from there: First, the two-color scheme isn't quite my style. Two, Joann's is not exactly a fabric selection Mecca (will somebody please bring back Baers?!). I had to get creative and I had to make do.
I ended up using velor and brocade (I did stick with the flannel lining). I think they turned out wonderfully:

This is a medium grey velor outer with a light grey and pink floral lining. I think it's a bit more stiff than Harris's silk on silk original, but I do love it. It is soft and pretty.

I love this combination, but couldn't settle for just one, so:

That's a dark purple outer with a super soft, super silky gold and dark purple lining. I made this one a bit larger than the pattern (the grey is on pattern). I added two inches to the width so that it comes down farther on my neck with the hood up; and added 4 inches to the length so as to maintain the pattern proportions.

The grey was done first and it took me about an hour start to finish. The purple I did the next day and it took me about 40 minutes including cutting time (I am not a good seamstress, nor am I quick). This pattern is super simple, it is explained well, and the results are fabulous. It's the perfect pattern for stealing just a small amount of sewing time because it is fast and the results are so wonderful. It has a high ROI ;)

Again, the pattern is by Erin Harris of House on Hill Road and it is published in the fall issue of Stitch magazine. Joann's only had a few left, so I suggest getting it fast if you want it.

Special thanks to my dear friend Abby Harvey for taking entirely decent pictures of my non-photogenic self. I think I just learned why my grandmother always told me not to put my hair behind my ears (lol).

Friday, June 11, 2010

Flog that dead donkey

When I grow oldish, I'm going on tour.  I really love concerts.  I love the people, shaking my ass, the travel, all of it. I really love my husband for accepting this about me, even though he doesn't really get into it.

Les Claypool is currently on tour, and for the next few weeks, before he hooks back up with Primus and Gogol Bordello, London's Hot Head Show is warming up the crowd.  Before the show, I was not at all interested in these punks and was unimpressed when they first took the stage.  Within half an hour, they'd won our hearts.  Sadly, I can't seem to find their album anywhere in the States.  The lead singer is nearly unintelligible most of the time, but occasionally you catch lines like "flog that dead donkey" and "suck my nuts".  We really got the impression that he was making fun of us.

The lyrics come through much more clearly in the recordings, and are even better than we thought.  Also, this band has serious musical talent, making them entirely worthy of globe trotting with the man, the myth, the legend himself.   

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Also these

I love these teacup bird feeders and want to make a forest of them, via Cap Creations

Recipe card maker, print out cute recipe cards already filled in, via Skip to My Lou

Finding Time

Lately I feel like all I do is find time for everything.  It's become my tag line: I'll find time for it.  This is frustrating because I feel like the different aspects of my life are completely at odds.  Common problem, I know.  It's summer and all of my plans have been completely changed, which is fine because it's work and I'm growing a company and my own skills (and Ezra's tuition savings), but it means less lazing around with my boy.  That makes me sad.

But there lots of things that are also making me happy.  The gardens are coming along nicely.  Ezra has blue hair for the season.  The pool is heated.  And also these things (mostly found via How About Orange, thanks!):

The Victoria and Albert Museum has launched a free online patchwork quilt pattern maker.  You upload a photo and it helps you create a pattern.  I intend to do it with this picture, taken two years ago in Puerto Rico, and I've always thought it would make a lovely quilt for my bed.
Once the design is done, I want to print this photo on fabric and put it on the quilt sort of in front of the buildings part:
And maybe this one too:

I also really love this pretty dry erase board, it solves a major problem I've had for years! I'm looking for an empty picture frame as I type this.

Also, I'm loving this free Lobster font, and the Google Font Directory, which I just now learned about.

So, I hope this helps you find time for something you love too.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Not Forgotten

Whew, the end of the school year really keeps a Mom on her toes!  Also, the economy is picking up, which is evident by the way my business is picking up.  Read: companies are putting money into advertising once more. 
I'm also trying to finish the socks I've been knitting for Ezra for nearly a year.  I have about 50 rows to go. 

My garden needs weeding, and I have a bunch of work to do now, so this is really just to put something here. 

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Comcast Decision

I've already explained how the FCC has instituted a national broadband plan that aims to increase broadband access and create competition in the marketplace.  What I didn't mention in those pieces is that it is more than just lobbyists who are trying to thwart the FCC's plan.  Comcast and a few other telecomm giants actually sued in an attempt to limit the FCC's jurisdiction on the matter.

They won.

Which ultimately proves that our judicial system is broken and has given in to pressure from corporate America.  Which ultimately means that the people are screwed.  You no longer own yourself, you no longer have the right to expect access to utilities, and you better be prepared to pay big time for the utilities necessary to educate your family and keep yourself employed and competitive in a global market.

We've moved beyond lobbyists greasing the hands of self-serving politicians.  The Supreme Court has given corporations the ability to "donate" large sums of money to political candidates; our lower courts are continuing that trend.

The free market is only free for corporate America.  The cost for the people is steep.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I'll eventually do a proper writeup about this, but I just bought a
new Babylock embroidery machine, and got new sock yarn in. So, the
only writing I'm doing is for clients. My computer is tied up in
searching for embroidery designs ;$

Monday, May 3, 2010

But suicide is against God's will...?

Fox "News" Talk Radio recently interviewed pastor Wiley Drake, a former VP of the Southern Baptist Convention.  In the interview, Drake talks openly about praying for President Obama's death.  He also attempts to apply logic to the idea of praying for somebody to die, and goes on to tell listeners that "many" people are happy to learn that the Christian God allows for such prayers.  I'm not a Christian, but I still call Bullshit.  These same people are often against doctor assisted suicide for terminal patients, and are vocal about their disdain of abortion rights. 
You can listen to the insanity here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRKrGbu7aXQ&sns=em

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Read the link first

I love my job, but sometimes I have to put the vitriol in check when writing on certain subjects.  In this case, the published article is a good one, but leaves out a lot of the issues behind the problem.  Read the article in the link first, then scroll down to read what I wanted to say.

What I said:  National Broadband Plan aims to help U.S. compete in the global market

However did we get here? Lobbyists are holding America's internet access hostage
In February of this year, the Federal Communications Commission announced a plan that aims to increase competition among U.S. telecommunications companies with the intention of driving innovation and increasing access to higher internet speeds.  But the lobbyists won't allow it. 

According to the telecommunications giants, including Comcast and Time-Warner, they shouldn't have to allow competitors to pay to use fiber optic lines that the giants have run.  Of course, they also argue that they shouldn't have to run fiber optics to rural areas where there simply aren't enough customers to make it worth the immense cost of the projects.  However, these same telecomm giants are more than happy to move into areas where DSL, provided by companies such as Qwest and AT&T, has customers frustrated with slow internet speeds.

So, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced its intention and presented plans that will help America's internet access and speeds catch up with those enjoyed in Europe and Japan.  The  FCC also wants to increase competition among telecomm providers in order to drive down the cost of internet access- even in rural areas.  Because if you move to France, you can enjoy higher speed internet than is available in the States, bundled with air-card wireless for mobile devices, and cable television, and telephone service that allows unlimited free calls to over 70 other nations; all for about $35 USD per month.  I have to admit, Insight is ripping me off at $45 per month for a comparatively mediocre speed connection.  Unfortunately, France has more strict immigration laws than the U.S.  We probably can't get in just because our government gave itself over to lobbyists decades ago.

So many political debates in this country center around morality.  Even the healthcare reform argument ended up mired in moral debate.  Americans agree to disagree on so many things, but we keep missing the big picture.  America is a young nation, and we tend to take ourselves too seriously as such.  Europe fights against special interest groups because the people feel that they have actual power to affect the government, and don't waste a bunch of time yelling about other things.  But this new revelation that America is lagging far behind other countries in technology and internet access isn't a moral issue.  It is an issue for the people to take up and unite against giant corporate lobbyists.

There is no good to allowing companies to hold America back in technology.  When we allow lobbyists to get in the way of projects and legislation that push our technology forward, what the American people get is left behind.  We already have a problem wherein school age children do not have equitable internet access, and those who do not have larger barriers to overcome as they struggle to make a better life.  The fact is, we need widespread access to the fastest possible internet connection if our children are going to be able to compete in a global economy.  Heck, we need it now if we are going to compete in the global economy. 

I encourage my fellow geeks to read up on and educate yourselves about this particular fight for the betterment of the lives of the American people.  Educate yourselves, then start educating your representatives.  Tell them that big business does not have our best interests in mind, and are willing to sacrifice the future of America for dollars in the bank right now.  And geeks, the next time you go to the polls, I urge you to vote for the candidates in your area that are most likely to join the FCC in this fight.  If we win, our MMORPGs will run faster.  

Ending the Internet's Trench Warfare by Yochai Benkler

Effort to Widen US Internet Access Sets Up Battle by Brian Stelter and Jenna Wortham

Next Generation Connectivity, a study commissioned by the FCC
The National Broadband Plan site has a test to run on your connection, and an easy way to report Broadband Dead Zones

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mint Makes the Derby

Mint Juleps are the official drink of the Kentucky Derby, and for those (like myself) who do not like Bourbon (I know, that is nearly enough to revoke my privilege to live here), I recommend using mint to make Mojitos.  The problem is that with all the drinking and running around to various Derby Fest-a-Ville events, a person starts to get worn out (Wednesday), before the real fun even starts (Thursday).  As every proper Southern woman knows, even the best Derby hat does not make up for looking haggard.  So, before turning in for some much needed beauty rest, treat your skin to this quick, easy facial.  The herbs soothe and refresh while the honey brightens and detoxifies.

Derby Mint Mask

Using a mortar and pestle, mix 1Tbsp local honey with a few mint leaves and several leaves from a Vick's plant.  Once they are ground to a fairly homogeneous mixture, apply all over face.  Allow to sit 2-5 minutes.  When the honey warms up from your body heat, it will begin to drip.  Wash off using a clean washcloth and warm water.

*Any honey will do, but local honey helps fight allergies.  For the locals, Thienemans garden nursery is where I found my Vick's plant.* 

I like to mix honey with mint and put it in a cup of chamomile tea while I wait for the mask to work.  This Derby week combo helps keep the Belles radiant inside and out. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Creativity should be rewarded

A friend of mine teamed up with her sister a few years ago to create a line of characterized alphabets.  I particularly like the wall slicks for kids' rooms, which are now available through Amazon.com! 

More information is available on their site, Soft Serv Creations
and I have to admit that the Facebook updates regularly make me laugh-http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Soft-Serv-Creations/92550378585?v=wall&ref=search

If you are looking for a baby gift, this is sure to please!

Monday, April 19, 2010


I'm sorry the last post has terrible layout issues, I'm messing around with the blog layout and trying some new things that do not appear to be working. 

A stiff one

I just wrapped up a four day straight gardening blitz.  I fully landscaped the shade bed along one side of the house, fixed up the front beds, worked on the back bed which needs a lot more planted once the wild violets stop blooming and I can pull them out.  I desperately want a TON of ranunculus to grow in the back, they are so very lovely: 

Over my four day gardening marathon, I planted two hydrangeas:

 And two tomatos:

A cantaloupe:
A watermelon:
About 14 herbs:
As well as two pink azaleas, two scarlet rhododendrons, strawberries, garlic and 12 hostas.

We have very rocky ground here, and I woke up this morning almost incapable of moving or speaking, my body is so stiff and sore.  My eyes are a bit swollen from the allergies that mulching caused to flare up.  All in all, I'm not nearly as on top of things as I should be today.  I need to get a ton of work done this week, as next week is dedicated to getting ready for the fillies to run.

Ah, Kentucky spring!  Instead of pouring a stiff one, its my back that's stiff! 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Problems with scale

So, about that loose tooth. It's been a week, and that thing hasn't gotten any more loose. Everything still looks good, the damage to the gum from the swing incident has healed, so it actually looks even better than last week's photo. The tooth is still loose, it just isn't making much progress. I had a Mom tell me at a cookout a few nights ago that that's normal, that her son has had the same tooth loose for a month. Can anybody back that up? Our dentist tells me not to worry as long as it all looks healthy and E's not in pain. Frankly, I think it's gross.

Anyway, being the crafty Mommy that I am, I ran out the next day and made E a bag to put his tooth in once it comes out. A tooth bag. I looked them up online just to double check that I'm not entirely nuts, and lots of people make them. They are cute. Most are made of felt, but I wanted a bag that is washable (bloody teeth do NOT belong in unwashable bags), and also reversible so it can be used for other stuff in the future.

I often think that things are smaller than they actually are. I also often go off half cocked and craft something up without much planning. I have problems with scale:

On the appliqued tooth is a rock that I estimate to be a smidgen larger than one of E's actual teeth. Given my problems with scale, who the heck knows? That pebble might actually be the size of E's kneecap if we are trusting me to judge. Moving on; the stripey fabric is the reversible bag, that white tooth applique is just for kicks. Oh yeah, it also has a drawstring!

And that is the tooth bag in relation to my hand.

The tooth fairy is going to be hard pressed to find a teeny baby tooth in there.

In other crafty news, I made my own version of the Gardener's Hand Scrub recipe that I found on the House on Hill Road blog. I used peppermint Dr Bronner's, whereas she uses Mrs Meyers dish soap-- I just couldn't get myself on board with the dish soap thing. Other than that, I pretty much just followed her directions, then I made a little cardstock tag and tied that onto the jar with ribbon, and viola! I gave it to a neighbor who has been hard at work in her garden these two weeks.

Today, I picked up some lavender Dr Bronner's to make some for me because I have major plans for some serious landscaping and gardening activity to happen around here this weekend.

On a slightly more personal note, for those who know just exactly how much fun I've had sitting on the PTA board this year (seriously, some people take the PTA wayyyyy too seriously)-- I get to run the election tonight! I hope to be celebrating with wine spritzers by 8.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Its Days Are Numbered

E had a regular dental checkup on Monday, during which our hygienist noticed that the gum line over one tooth was a bit bruised looking. She asked me if he had hit his mouth or poked the gum or anything at all to cause it. Not to my knowledge. We asked E all the same questions. No, he said. As the exam progressed, the dentist informed me that we should expect E to start losing his baby teeth any time now. Our hygienist, who happens to be a family friend, chided me accordingly for the rest of the visit.

Tuesday, I noticed that the gum in question looked a bit swollen.

Tuesday evening, we were at a cookout. E walked over and put his head on my shoulder, after a couple minutes of which I noticed that he was bleeding from his mouth, and that the blood was mixing with his saliva and that it was now running down my arm as well as his face.

What happened?! I exclaimed

I hit myself with the empty, plastic baby swing. He replied

Upon investigation, we found this:

Turns out that tooth that had just a little bit of something strange going on while at the dentist on Monday is now quite loose. I checked with our dentist this morning and he informed me that it is not surprising.

That tooth's days were already numbered. Said he.

What's the current going Tooth Fairy rate per tooth these days, anyway?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

What is faster and wilder than a 5 year old boy?

What is faster and wilder than a 5 year old boy?

I have a hunch the answer is a 6 year old boy.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

The View From Here

A month or so ago I had the opportunity to meet Morgan, who is, among other duties, the volunteer coordinator for our local Planned Parenthood office. Morgan has an orchid in her office window.

As I sat talking with Morgan and filling out paperwork to become a volunteer, I thought to myself: "I want an office window, and when I get it, I will put my own orchid it in. I do so love orchids."

Not long after, a job prospect came my way. Which I graciously turned down in favor of growing Divine Writes.

Then I realized:

The view from here is lovely.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

All Grown Up

We brazenly went out into the world and purchased a brand new car. As in, it had 16 total miles on it.

It is the first vehicle Chris and I have ever purchased without any input from our parents.

And while my head is currently swimming, and I am exhausted, I am also not very worried about it. It had to be done. I think we handled it well. I think we made a good decision. I LOVE all the wonderful new safety features that will protect my guys in morning rush hour traffic from now on.

All in all, it really wasn't terribly stressful. We'd done research. We'd been psyching ourselves up for it for weeks (read: a year). We had a sense of what we wanted and what we need. We knew our financial limitations. We were a cohesive team. We took advantage of 0% APR!
We look like exhausted, grown up hell.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Courage That Is Necessary ...

After two weeks of emotional torture, great excitement, and serious contemplation of the good, the bad, the (very, very) pretty, and the cinder block ugly, I have come to a conclusion and acted upon it.

I turned down the job in order to continue to grow my business. Basically, the job does not fully utilize my skills and knowledge and I have too much to give up for a situation that doesn't utilize my skills or offer upward mobility. It was in fact a scary thing to do, but the right thing to do.

I am more committed now than ever to Divine Writes because of this experience, which has been an overall very positive experience. It is my own window that I will be putting my office Orchid in.

The courage that is necessary to embark beyond the notion that survival is based upon the ability to rise at 7 a.m., five days a week.
(So sayeth the Colonel Les Claypool)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Back to the Bonfire

A lot has gone on since I abandoned this space. The most important being that my depression finally became so deep, so dark, so desperate that even I finally recognized what was happening to myself and my family. So, I found a decent doctor and got on medicine that works well to overcome the genetic infinite sadness that I inherited from my Grandmother. So, I'm a lot better, nearly whole. And my family unit is much better, and feels very whole, which is vital as the years of expensive infertility treatments added quite a lot to my depression and my family didn't feel whole and I didn't feel whole and the whole thing was really falling to pieces around me as I struggled to keep them glued back together.

Now Chris, and E, and I are the glue that holds everything else around us together. In a very good, very happy way.

See? Glue.

Along with becoming happy and whole, I started my own company! A little copy writing business that I love very much, and that is growing all the time. For the many friends who have been wondering where I am and why I never answer the phone and rarely return calls, here is the answer:
Chris made the logo; I love it! I have intentions of having that little inkwell tattooed above my elbow.

Which proves that I did NOT turn into a medicated zombie, and that I am indeed still my regular, fiery, The Flaming Maiden: Nicole! self. I turned 30, and my Mom gave me this for my birthday present:
That, my lovelies, is a tattoo on my right shoulder. It is a large (to me) fiery lion. As a matter of fact, it is THE fiery lion that pulls a fiery chariot that carries a fiery Prince, WHO, it turns out, is in fact my very fiery son.

He has learned how to ride a bike this Spring.

Though I don't have as much time as of late, we do still craft. I am currently working on lots of socks, and an afghan for Chris that is a tiny bit like one his mother made him when he was a boy. It rained Sunday, so E and I had time to hole up in the art studio.

I tried to make a pincushion from scrap fabric. I need to reopen it and add some stuffing-- the bottom is rather poky.

Chris's Granny has recently been in the hospital, and very on our minds and in our prayers (she is recovering). A combination of that, and a giant pickle jar induced me to come up with this:

I used a piece of a quilt top that I inherited from Granny's old sewing stash, then I sewed it- wait for it--- using zigzag stitch all around the edges to a piece of-wait for it--- that sort of grippy shelf paper! Do you know what I'm talking about? The shelf liner that keeps the rims of glasses from chipping? Only I have very pretty grippy shelf liner! So now we have a very pretty kitchen grippy for opening jars! And it pretties up the giant pickle jar too!
As an added bonus, Chris informed me that his Mama used to have a quilted jar lid cover that she used on giant pickle jars. Mine is grippy to make it easier to open jars, but it's the same concept. Folks, that's like two sweet things for Chris in one!

Also, he gets to eat the pickles. Unfortunately, we are crazy for giant pickle jars and Ezra and I need Chris to eat two of these jars of pickles as quickly as possible. I hope he's up to the challenge. To be fair, Chris started it. He uses a giant pickle jar to store corks for the miniatures that he carves. I have one giant pickle jar that I store ribbons in (it's so pretty!), and recently had a reason why I need another, though I can't remember just at this moment what it is. Yarn, maybe? Ezra wants one to fill with "pricklies" that he collects on his bike rides around the neighborhood. They are some sort of large, prickly seed pod that falls off, I think it's a ginko tree, maybe. Anyway, he collects them and wants a jar to store them in. He also has plans to grow one of these trees in our yard so that we will have a never ending supply of pricklies. I think we should start it growing in a pot so that it can grow into a sapling before we plant it in the yard so that it doesn't get cut down by the lawnmower.

See? Whole.