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Amazing women

October 27, 2015

I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by many truly talented and amazing women. I am constantly inspired by all they believe and accomplish.

In talking with one of these awesome women recently, we lamented the fact that often, as a society, we do not celebrate the accomplishments of others.

For example, I was recently able to introduce this very friend to a group of co-workers. This particular amazing woman is head of a very prestigious project in work, something many people work their whole career for. Still a semi-recent college graduate, not only is she doing this job, she’s rocking it! And she is so much more than her work successes. She travels often, loves scuba diving and speaks fluent Spanish. Plus she has a heart of gold. She is inspirational!

In what we later deemed standard fashion, she shied away from the accomplishments I shared, understating my declarations.

We talked about this later. Why is it that we find it so hard to accept others words of praise about our own lives? Why is it difficult to refrain from the “oh stop, it’s nothing” brush-off of what we’ve done? Why is it never enough to say, “this is what I’ve done and I’m proud of it?” She is far from the only one who is uncomfortable being praised, though she more than deserves it.

In college, we used to toast to any and all accomplishments. When someone finished their senior project, cheers! When someone’s research paper was accepted into a conference, cheers! When someone finished a paper an hour ahead of a deadline, cheers! The point is not that we physically clinked glasses every time but that we took the time to celebrate the great things in each other’s lives.

We need to return to this way of celebration. We need to shout from the rooftops the wonderful things we are accomplishing! I am surrounded by women who have done incredible things. Let’s celebrate all the wonderful and inspirational things our friends are doing. Don’t sell short all they (or you) have done or dream of doing. Instead of shrugging off compliments, let’s try to take them.

Tell their stories, inspire others, raise each other up with well wishes and cheers!

To all the amazing and gifted women I know, know that you inspired me every day with your lives. I celebrate you and all you have done and all you have yet to do.

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My 30-day vegan challenge

October 14, 2015

I readily admit I am a sucker for documentaries. Especially food documentaries. In fact, it was a documentary that pushed me to become vegetarian in 2013. Now, two and a half years later, a documentary is again pushing me to make a big lifestyle change, this time to veganism.

I’ve debated going vegan almost since I became veggie, but I’ve always managed to talk my way out of it. Recently, a friend recommended I watch “Cowspiracy,” and it gave me the kick I needed to go vegan. (If you would like to hear the reasons behind my decision, I would be happy to talk with you about them, but that’s not the subject of this post).

I am doing a 30-day vegan challenge starting today. My intention is to stay vegan, but I am using these 30 days to make the transition, to be forgiving if and when I mess up and to figure it out. I know there will be challenges (including cooking for my gluten-free, meat-loving husband who is supportive of my decision) but it is time to face them.

Thankfully, I have friends who are vegan who are more than willing to share recipes and help me through the process. Also, I have found the library to be full of vegan cookbooks! I’ve already checked out a few and will be adding my favorites to my Christmas list.

I will be journalling throughout the entire process, sharing bits and pieces of my thoughts with you.

So, without further adieu, here I go!

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Swap meet secrets

May 29, 2015

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up during my time at swap meets (aka flea markets).

1. Know what you want…

Swap meets can be overwhelming. There can be hundreds of vendors and each stall can start to look the same, leaving you feeling lost and a bit dizzy. By coming in with a clear idea of what you’re looking for, you can eliminate a lot of the clutter of what you’re looking at and hone in on the specific of what you’re looking for.

Swap meet

Focus can help you find what you want.

2. …but be open

That being said, keep an open mind. You might spot a hidden treasure that wasn’t on your list.

Swap meet find treasures

Those metal things in the basket could be cool for an upcycled project.

3. It’s a numbers game

Know the average cost of what you’re looking for, or have a max price in your head. When I went swapping last month, I took my mom for a specific reason (other than it’s tradition and I love swapping with her): she knows plant prices. I was looking for plants for the first time, and mom’s been around the floral block a few times. By having her with me, I was able to refrain from buying overpriced plants and was able to score a number of plants that were priced really low.

swapmeetplants

So many plants!

4. But it’s also more than a number

Don’t let the price draw you in just because it’s cheap. For example, there was a shelf I spotted for $7. I got really excited about it and promptly asked mom for her opinion. “You can find better, or probably even make better,” she said (she’s so honest, I love it!). And she was right. Only after I walked around to the front did I notice how lame the shelf was. I got so sucked in by a low price tag I hadn’t really looked at the piece. I used that $7 to buy more plants!

Swap meet pricing

Jewelry for a dollar is tempting, but these probably aren’t worth it.

5. Cash is king

Most swap meets are cash only, so make sure you stock up. I like to keep a $20 bill in a pocket on its own so I don’t have to rifle through my entire wallet every time I make a purchase. It looks better, especially if you haggle the price down, if you don’t have a lot of bills around.

6. Timing is everything

Head to the market early if you want to make sure to get a specific item (ie hydrangea bushes). Popular items can often sell out at markets, especially if they are seasonal. Or show up later if you’re looking to bring the prices down a bit. Vendors can be more willing to lower their prices when they’re facing having to pack everything up and take it home. The less inventory they have, the less packing (and unpacking) they need to do.

Ready to start swapping with my mom!

Ready to start swapping with my mom!

I hope these tips help! And if you ever want to hit up a flea market or swap meet, give me a call, I’m always game.

Do you hit up swap meets/flea markets/thrift stores? What tips do you have?

This is the bathroom. No joke. Just warning you!

This is the bathroom. No joke. Just warning you!

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Still here

April 3, 2015

Hi all.

I just wanted to reassure you that I’m still here and I haven’t forgotten about the blog! On the contrary, I’ve been thinking about what to write every day, but besides being on deadline at work, Keith and I are still in the middle of moving into our new home, so time is a little crunched.

That’s us after a long day of painting (thanks to Mom and Tyler for coming to help!). We’re still waiting for a load of furniture (thanks Dad and Deb!) and some new carpet, so things are in a bit of disarray. In fact, most of my clothes are still packed in one massive box. But our dresser won’t be here until Tuesday, so I’m surviving on skirts and paint clothes.

Anyway, I promise I’ll come back with some fun DIY projects soon. Actually, I’m already cooking up a few about organizing closets and craft rooms (because that’s my life right now).

Hope all of you have a wonderful Easter weekend!

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‘Cheers’ sequins banner

December 22, 2014
I spent some time last week looking up information on how to create great blog photos since I’m not determined to start using my real camera. The best tip I took away: use natural light. So naturally the first weekend I choose to start focusing on photography is gray and dreary, not to mention the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. And to top it off, the final project ended up in the basement which has essentially zero lights. Go me!
I debated saving the project for a brighter day but 1) I thought my husband might stab me if I left my supplies out for another week and 2) I really really REALLY wanted to make this banner. So I took photos in the dark. I made a promise and I was going to keep it, dang it.
So without further adieu, here is my festive sequins banner tutorial (slightly adapted from A BeautifulMess).
Materials
Elastic sequins in gold; 4 yards wide (approx. 1 1/2 inch), 2 yards thin (approx. 7/8 inch). Ideally I would have used 5 thick and 1 thin but things didn’t quite work out
Cardboard
Cut-out letters
Scissors and Exacto knife
Hot glue
Jute, twine, ribbon or string of some kind
1. Start by printing out the letters you want to use to make your banner. I should have measured my sequins to make the letters double the size (to fit two strips evenly) but I printed before I bought the ribbon. Thankfully I made it work.
2. Trace your letters onto your cardboard and cut them out. I used an Exacto knife, but scissors might work depending how thick your cardboard is.
3. Decide how you want your sequins to lay. I ended up using smaller cuts, especially with the round letters like c and s, so that I could have the sequins lay the same way as much as possible. I did change it up on the e’s because it worked out better, and I don’t think you can see much of a difference between the vertical or the horizontal strips.
4. Start gluing your pieces to your letters. Make sure to leave a little on the top and bottom to fold over the letter. This will give a nicer finish to each letter. I used a combination of wide sequins (approx 1 1/2 inches) and thin (7/8 inch) and it worked really well to fill out the letters.
5. Once the front of the letter has sequins glued on, turn the letter over and glue down the ends onto the back. I was able to manipulate mine a bit to better see the curvature of the c and s.
6. Space your letters out evenly and measure a length of string or cording to use to hang your banner. I just eyeballed mine, but I’d say I used about 3 feet of jute. I started with the middle letters, so the two e’s, and centered them. Flip the letters over and hot glue them to your rope or cording.
7. Finish gluing each of your letters to your cord and let your glue set completely. I cut the jute between the posts of the h, but feel free to leave it. Then decide where to hang your fabulous sequins banner!
I’m really proud of this project. Not only did I do it in time for the holidays (my goal was to have it for New Years, so I’m actually early), but it was easier than I thought and turned out great. That’s a rarity in my life.

I hope you like my festive banner. I promise I’m going to take a photo in the daylight and throw open the basement curtains to give you an awesome picture as soon as I can!
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Best laid plans

December 18, 2014
I had a grand plan for the blog this week—I was going to do a step-by-step tutorial on making a sequins banner. I even said I wasn’t going to make plans any night after work so I would have time to work on it.
Well plans got made, yoga classes were attended and the third Hobbit was seen. Moral of the story: I don’t have a banner for you.
Good news though: I’ll have it next week! I want it done before Christmas since we’re hosting lunch for some of our friends. And I’m promising it to you on here to make sure I have the extra push I need to get it finished.

Goal-making tip 1: Be accountable for your goals. By telling you I’m going to have it made, I now have extra reason to make it beyond just myself wanting it done. Thanks for bearing with me, I promise it will be worth it!
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Spinning yarn

December 12, 2014
One thing I really love about my job is getting to choose the stories I write. I freelance out some of them, and the rest I write on my own. This can include interviewing people and sometimes getting my hands dirty, which I did for an upcoming story.
I thought it’d be fun to write a story about local yarns. Since it’s winter, a lot of people hunker down and knit and crochet (myself included). I thought it’d be cool to feature local yarns. An initial interview with a sheep farmer led to an interview with a second sheep farmer who invited me to her monthly spinning group in Zumbrota. Who was I to pass up an opportunity like that?
So last night I found myself in a super cute fiber arts store in little Zumbrota surrounded by spinning wheels. My patient tutor explained the process and kindly let me use her wheel to spin some of her gorgeous wool. She had some white wool from her own sheep and some purplish wool sent to her by a wool company.
I thought I was pretty good at multitasking, but having to pump my foot to keep the wheel spinning while guiding and pulling the wool with my hands proved more difficult than it looked! The basic premise of a spinning wheel is thus: your foot turns the wheel which spins a bobbin. The bobbin twists the wool in your hands and winds it up, creating yarn. Your job as the spinner is to pull the wool to your desired thickness and try to maintain correct tension while the bobbin spins. Unless you want a more natural look, in which case you can alter the tension and the thickness of the wool.
After spinning with two different types of wool (I never knew there were so many varieties of wool and how to process it!) my tutor took over and, seemingly without effort, began spinning beautiful yarn once again.
Here’s my finished yarn, which my tutor graciously let me keep. She said a bag of wool might cost 60 cents to a wholesaler but could be bought at upwards of $15 from a spinner, so I was incredibly thankful she let me practice with her wool.
Yarn spun from my own two hands (and a foot)!
Doing interviews, reading memoirs and actually spinning yarn myself has given me new insight into just how labor intensive making things by hand can be. And while there are machines that can take raw wool and spin it into yarn quickly, I have absolutely fallen in love with the texture and the story behind hand-spun yarn.
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Making do and making it up

December 2, 2014
Alternative title: Lessons from a cold entryway
What an incredibly fulfilling Thanksgiving weekend! It started with a blast of snow on Wednesday followed by some quality family time on Thursday. No Thanksgiving would be complete without a bit of ice skating (or booting, as I like to call it, since I always go out in my boots) so after a bit of digesting, some of us took to the ice and enjoyed the sunshine.

A friend and I did our annual 5k Moustache Run on Saturday morning and rocked it hardcore! Plus the after party was booming thanks to an awesome dj. My brother and I took my mom to see White Christmas at the Orpheum on Saturday afternoon since it’s her birthday this week (happy birthday mom!). It’s always nice to spend time with family whenever you can during the winter, since you never know when inclement weather will cancel your plans.
Sunday was my day to get some things done around the house. You know you always have those projects where you’re like, “one day I’m going to do this and fix that problem and it’s going to be great.”? Sunday was my day to git ‘er done! Our front door is extremely drafty—I’m talking about at least a ten degree temperature difference from the living room upstairs to the entryway. It’s awful having to go down to the laundry room or craft room in the basement because you have to go through the chilly entryway.
Last year, my roommate and I made do by thumb tacking a blanket around the door. Not very practical whenever we had to use the door, and Sylvia thought the tacks were toys and would often pull out the ones she could reach. But we made do. This year, I made it up!
I hit up JoAnn Fabric for fleece for some sweater mittens (haven’t quite gotten to making those yet, but stay tuned) and thought, it’s now or never! I bought extra fleece, some velcro and polyfill. My intention was to simply take some strips of fleece and, using velcro and some duct tape, simply put the fleece over the cracks around the door. And I’m still convinced this will work, but I have yet to add the duct tape into the mix. Watch this space.
Then I moved to the draft stop. I measured, cut, sewed, stuffed with rocks and polyfill, sewed and stuffed some more, and thought I was finished. Until I brought it up to the door and realized it wasn’t tall enough to reach the draft. Dang it!
Being the intelligent person that I am, instead of ripping the first, short stopper apart and starting over, I simply took a bigger piece of fleece and used the original stopper as stuffing, adding more polyfill to fill it out as I went. The result? A perfectly made-up draft stopper! And bonus: it also doubles as a cat toy (doesn’t everything?).
So my lesson for today is that sometimes you need to stop thinking about one day making the perfect item to solve your problem, or finding the perfect rug for the living room. Sometimes you just need to make it up. I’m so much happier that the entryway isn’t freezing cold even though my initial plans weren’t fulfilled (I have fleece and velcro sitting on my bench just waiting) but if I hadn’t bought the supplies and just done it, the draft stopper wouldn’t have been made and I’d still harbor hate for our frigid entryway.  
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Clearing my brain fog

November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving is tomorrow. Our wedding was over a month ago, December is next week. I don’t understand where time has gone. With the holiday hype starting earlier than ever (I swear I saw Christmas trees out before Halloween), it seems that Thanksgiving is just a blip on the holiday radar.

If I’m being truly honest, I myself haven’t given it much thought beyond making my dish to bring to our family gathering. In fact, I’m definitely at fault for ordering Christmas gifts already (in my defense, I do have to mail them across the ocean next week so they’re under my in-law’s tree in time, but still).

Driving to work in a light dusting of snow this morning, I realized I haven’t taken time to properly think about what I am grateful for. That’s part of the reason my post is late this week: I haven’t taken time to truly think about this time of year. I’m ashamed because I am extremely blessed and have so much to be thankful for. Yet my brain seems to be in a generalized fog: yes I’m lucky, yes I’m thankful, yes I am fortunate.

Not okay. If my above thoughts were put into an essay, I would fail the assignment miserably. Where is the evidence to support my claims?

Today, I am wiping off my brain fuzz and am putting some real thought into what exactly I am thankful for this year.

  • To be surrounded by incredibly supportive family and friends. Our wedding reinforced this for me. Keith and I spent over four years apart and through it all, our families and friends were there to hold us up when times were hard and to celebrate with us when they were good. For this, I am thankful.
  • To be able to go to work with a smile every day. A tumultuous career move earlier this year was one of the best decisions of my life. I feel valued and appreciated in my new job, which I know is hard to find. I’ve made new friends here, I am give the freedom and support to do my job how I best feel it should be done. For this, I am thankful.
  • To know love in many forms. Whether it’s love in the form of a friend, a cousin, my mom, my husband or my cat, I am so lucky to have such great love in my life. And don’t laugh about the cat, Sylvia has gotten me through some lonely times. For love, I am thankful.
While this list is far from complete, it is important to me that I take the time to do this. I wouldn’t be happy with myself if I let this holiday pass without taking the time to really prove to myself with specific examples just how much I have to be thankful for.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone.
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Recent projects: weekend edition

November 17, 2014
This weekend was chock full of crafting! Saturday was the perfect snowy day to begin my endeavors. After checking out the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, I have found a new love. The ReStore is full of lots of random things. My friend and I were greeted by stoves when we walked in, then we ventured over to the cabinet doors, sinks, light fixtures, toilets, you get my drift. Seriously, this place is great for cheap, basic pieces for your crafting needs. I was good and only bought what I needed for a Christmas present. And because of their low prices and discounts, I paid a whopping $1.33!
The Salvation Army and Goodwill were also on my list, and I picked up a few things at each. I’ll show you the Christmas present make once it’s finished, but for now, here are a few of my recent projects.
You’ll remember this chicken wire frame from a recent post. This weekend I remembered to grab some sawtooth hangers so I could hang it, and it makes a fun addition to my little corner spot. I can’t wait until we get our wedding photos so I can add them to the frame. It will either be those or some photos from a trip to Pairs. Stay tuned.

Here is my super simple burlap wreath I made this weekend. All it took was two rolls of burlap, a wire wreath frame and a bit of floral wire and ta-dah, I finally can replace my old ornament wreath that’s slowly been losing it’s baubles.
And finally, here is the finished table I painted in my first experiment with milk paint. Though I didn’t work on this table specifically this weekend, I did help a friend repaint her coffee table with milk paint, so I thought it was fitting.

What do you think of my latest creations? I promise I’m working on taking nicer photos, I just couldn’t be bothered to get out my camera on a Sunday night to take pictures.