Thursday, July 9, 2015

More Vinyl than any one wall should have

A couple of months ago, right in the middle of my busiest month substituting, my husband asked me if I would be willing to do some vinyl work for his bosses.   They were putting in a second office and wanted an inspirational quote wall.   Not just a couple of quotes, but as many as I could fit on the wall.

This is what I ended up with:

The final design is approximately 11'x6' with ten different quotes.  I used Oracle 358 because the wall is textured and I wanted to be sure it would stay.

Hanging a wall like this is a huge undertaking and I learned a lot doing it.  If I could go back, I probably would do a few things differently.  Things like I pieced more than I had to because I was worried about making sure the quotes were spaced properly.  I would try harder to not piece in the middle of words.  Some of those black boxes are in three pieces and took some clean up time with an Xacto knife to get them looking like they should.  I might even have gone to full outdoor rated vinyl as well.   Textured walls just don't like vinyl.   It's hard to get it to stick.

 The design was a challenge, but I'm very happy with how that came out.  I looked for inspiration for quote walls on the internet but just about everything is plaques or only has one or two quotes on it.   There just wasn't anything like this out there.  I could have used more quotes, but I wanted the letters to be large and have a big impact.   The boss said to "use lots of fonts" which is customer speak for "make it interesting, please."  You might notice there's only two fonts here, Playball and Potterybarn.  I added visual interest with the black word boxes.  Playball was a dream to work with.  Loved it.  Potterybarn looks great and paired beautifully with Playball but those serifs drove me nuts.

I enjoyed this job.  It was a challenge to do the physical work, but I loved best getting to exercise my creative muscles.  I love working with fonts.  It's amazing what beautiful things you can make just with text.   Words are lovely, aren't they?

Monday, June 15, 2015

What I've Been Working On

So between me working 40 hour weeks in May and the run up to my parent's 50th wedding anniversary bash, I haven't have a lot of time for blogging.   I've also been busy working on transforming my front room.

When we originally moved in, it was the living room.  It was also 1980's doctor's office mauve.  If you lived in the 80's you know exactly what I'm talking about here.  It was that dusty pink/purple that went with country blue.  I'm sure your picturing the tiny flowers on the wallpaper now.   Needless to say, we painted it pretty quickly.   I went with a lovely sage green.  I've enjoyed it, but it was worn out and needed re-done.  I decided it might be time for a change of color as long as we're going through the trouble of painting.  Then I got thinking about other changes we could make.

So I talked my husband into this:

I know, all that big talk about how "my house shouldn't look like other people's houses," and I go with board and batten wainscoting.   It looks pretty, though.   I'm very happy with it.  The picture ledge is fabulous.   I console myself with the fact that only four people on the planet have that pear picture (I only gave/sold three copies of it.  It's mine. It will also have a red "mat" as soon as I can find the blasted picture file.)  and that paper cut is a custom SVG done by my lovely friend Helena.  She sent it to me to do a cut test.   I loved it so much I framed it.  

Here's a close up of the pillow: 

That bench is right by the front door.   I figured at my age, a little memory prompting can only be a good thing. The words are iron on vinyl.  The fabrics are the leftover pieces from the pillows in the sitting room.   Since I used the same color scheme, it was a great way to tie the two rooms together.   

Here's a terrible picture of the other side of the room.

I'll take better pictures soon.   I have never been happier with my house.  It's been a long process, but I have found over the years that, contrary to popular style fads, the more color I add to my home the happier I am with it.   I would never have been happy with the room if I had painted the space above the wainscoting Sherman Williams Sea Salt like everyone else.   I need color.

Never be afraid to do your own thing in your home.  You do not have to decorate to make the online bloggers happy.   They mostly live in UT; they probably won't visit you anyway.  I read blogs to check the style trends to see if there is anything I might like and to learn some great design lessons.  You can take design tips and use them for the things that work for you.

I'll post better pictures in a bit.  I want to get a new centerpiece put together and I have to paint the eighth chair.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

Many years ago I found this recipe in a magazine.  It was created to sell peanut butter and it does a very good job of it.  It's been a family favorite for three decades.  We love these cookies.  They are a bit more time consuming than a drop cookie, but that peanut butter filling makes it so worth the effort.

 Peanut Butter Stuffed Chocolate Cookies

1 1/2 c flour
1/3 c cocoa
1/2 t baking soda
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c butter
1/4 c peanut butter
1 t vanilla
1 egg

Combine the dry ingredients and set aside.   Cream the butter, peanut butter, brown sugar, and sugar.  Beat in the egg and vanilla.  Sift in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined.   Then make the filling by beating together in a small bowl:

1 c peanut butter
1 c powdered sugar

Shape 1 T of the chocolate dough into a flat, oval disc and wrap it around a 1 inch ball of the peanut butter filling.  Be sure to seal the edges so you can't see the filling.  You can add or pinch off dough as needed to make a smooth ball.  Place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  The cookies should be about 3" apart.    Dip the bottom of a glass or flat measuring cup in sugar and flatten the cookies.   Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes.   Do not over bake.  It's easy to do so watch them carefully.  They are done when the tops look somewhat dry and the dough is set.

Have fun and enjoy!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

He's Not a Loner

I'm a substitute teacher and that means I get to spend time with the teachers at my younger son's school quite a bit.   One day my son came up in the conversation (because I find lunch a good time to check and see if he's up to date on his work) and one of the teachers called my son a loner in passing.  The teacher was trying to be helpful and had a suggestion for helping him find friends, but still the comment bugged me.  I let it go in the moment but the longer I thought about it the more it rankled.

First:  my son is not a loner.  If you see him with his friends he's happy and very involved in the interaction.  You can almost see him recharging from the energy of being around people who like him and enjoy the things he likes.  He brings his best friend over to our house nearly every day after school so they can spend more time together.  At home with the family he's almost never alone in his room.  He's out interacting with us, having conversations and looking for hugs.  If he has the choice, he'll chose to be around people nearly every single time.

Does he have a lot of friends at school?  No.  He doesn't.  He has three, and two of those are more in passing friendships. They don't spend a lot of time together.  His other friends are either home schooled or attend a different school.  This has been very hard for him.   Because he is a little different (he's weird and proud of it) and he's so small, he's a target for harassing behavior.  Kids want to touch his head and tease him.  Nothing that would be overtly seen as bullying, but over time it adds up and it tears him down.   He hates it.  He wants more friends and he wants the kids at school to treat him better.

Second:  When you label someone a loner you are saying that you think they are choosing to not have friends.   Loners want to be alone, right?  But that's not always the case.  Actually, a person choosing to never spend time with anyone and not wanting any friends at all is vanishingly rare.

When you say "he's a loner," you're saying: "He wants that.    No one is doing anything wrong.  I don't have to change what I'm doing. We can all just go about our business and continue ignoring this kid."  "Loner" is a way of abdicating any responsibility for the situation.

I see these kids who are alone at school.  I see the hurt in their eyes as they walk the halls without friends.  I see the way certain children latch on to the teachers, desperate for some positive interaction during the day.  I watch them try to interact with their classmates and be rebuffed.  Do those kids sound like loners to you?  Just because a child doesn't have friends at school, it doesn't mean they are choosing for things to be like that.   Most kids want to have friends.  We are wired as human beings to be social creatures.  When our society blocks a person from that social interaction, it's harmful to them.   The pain can be long lasting and affect their relationships long into the future.

Third:  When you call my son a loner you call up all the denotations our society has for that word.   Loner is what we call the guy who hurts other people.  The one who just snaps and makes the evening news with tragedy and pain.  You make other people think of those kinds of loners and associate them with my son.  Then my son suddenly isn't just a boy who sits alone in class, he's the boy with the potential to cause harm.  They might not say it or think it overtly, but you can't live in America and not have that association with the word loner.   Calling a child loner can make other people treat them differently, as if that child has the potential to cause harm just because the other kids don't want to be friends with the "loner" child.  Kind of messed up, isn't it?

Stop.  Stop calling kids loners.   How about instead we notice who is alone and find a way to help them be part of the group?   Instead of labeling, can we try to heal?  Please, for the sake of my son and the sake of all the children who play alone.

They aren't loners.  They are people who need friends.  Be their friend.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Family Rules--Geek Style

Yeah.  I don't do cute, overly sentimental sayings.  It's not my style and it's also not my style to have my wall say things everyone else's wall says.

What I do enjoy doing is making sure our home reflects us as a family.   We are a geek family.  We love Douglas Adams and Tolkien.  We spend way too much time playing Minecraft and Zelda and lots of other video games.  We do not choose between Star Trek and Star Wars.   We are a dual Star loving family.   Agents of SHIELD is appointment television here for everyone.  And if we have a couple of hours of time on a Sunday, we may just be playing board games.   

So I made a sign that is all us.  I had the the kids help me come up with the rules so it reflected everybody.  I love it, even though it was the biggest pain to make.  The vinyl didn't cut cleanly.  The board warped.  The stupid clear contact paper stuck too well to the vinyl when I tried to transfer.  It was a mess.  Honestly, I should toss it and start over, but after spending hours on a project that should have taken me 30 minutes tops, it's a victory just to have it done.  So enjoy, wonky letters and badly made font and all.  

Then make your own Family Rules.  What does your family love?  Sports?  TV? Movies? Books?  Board Games?  Make your rules about you.   Have fun, and I hope your vinyl cuts properly and your transfer sheets work right.  Also, the font Episode I is badly kerned.  Skip it even if your family loves Star Wars.  

Monday, February 2, 2015

Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Pasta Alfredo

There are nights when I haven't the slightest clue what to make for dinner.  Sometimes that means we get something basic like chicken Alfredo, spaghetti, or even *gasp* buttered noodles (that's what happens when I don't feel like cooking and the 13 year old takes over.)   Tonight when I was lost for what to make, I just started pulling things out of the fridge and came up with a dressed up pasta Alfredo.

Sun Dried Tomato and Artichoke Alfredo

1/2 lb chicken cutlets (should be about one medium chicken breast sliced in half)
3/4 c cream
1/2 c chopped artichoke hearts
1/2 c sun dried tomatoes, cut into strips
1 T garlic
1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese
1 box whole wheat penne, cooked (the company I use packages it in 12 oz packages)

I seasoned my chicken with Montreal Steak Seasoning from McCormick, but a basic seasoning with salt and pepper would be fine.  Then I pan fried it in a touch of olive oil until just cooked all the way through.  I pulled the chicken from the pan and added the garlic.  Cooked it for about 30 seconds and threw in the artichoke hearts and sun dried tomatoes, frying them until they were just turning brown.  I added the cream and let it simmer until it reduced just a bit.  While that was reducing, I sliced up the chicken into bite sized pieces and stirred it back into the dish. Then I stirred in the Parmesan and the pasta.   Lastly, I spread the mozzarella over the top and broiled it just until the cheese started to brown a bit.

If you start your pasta water boiling right before you throw your chicken in the pan, the pasta should be done right about the time you need to stir it into your frying pan.  The whole dish takes less than 20 minutes to prepare, which is exactly about as much time as I want to spend cooking on a weeknight.

As to the flavor, it is really rich.  Next time I might cut the cream with a bit of chicken broth.  My family said not to touch it though.  They love it the way it is.  Even my super picky 13 year old ate it and he doesn't eat anything except Hot Pockets, bread, and oatmeal.  Feel free to add as much artichoke and sun dried tomato as your family will eat.  You could up the chicken amounts if you wish, but with the extra protein in the dairy, it's really not necessary.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bling, Baby!

I've been doing a bit more sewing for pay recently.  Mostly just repairs, but a couple of months ago I was asked to make a blessing dress for a baby.   A blessing dress is for an LDS baby.  LDS baptize children at eight, but we still have a small tradition of introducing our child to our fellow church members by having the father give the child a blessing during our church service.  It's usually the baby's first blessing from the father.    A blessing is when the father places his hands on the child's head and prays for them.  The prayer gives the baby's full name, and then asks for the blessings the parents want for the child in their future life, things like having God's spirit with them, finding a good person to marry, blessing the child to make good choices and have happiness in their life. It's very special and sweet.  Traditionally in the US, babies are blessed in a special white outfit purchased or made for the occasion.

This little dress was made from her mother's wedding dress.  I took apart the skirt and had plenty of fabric and lining to make this lovely little number.  The rhinestone accent is straight off the wedding dress.  Luckily they were originally sewn to a small piece of sheer fabric, so I was able to reuse them in the exact same design.    They are even in the same place they were on Mommy's dress.

I'm very happy with the final outcome and it's even prettier in person.  The mom is thrilled and honestly, that's the best you can hope for when sewing for someone else.