Saturday, August 8, 2015

Back in the saddle?


Today I could have slept in. My husband was at an all day training session and our son was at his aunt and uncle's house. I had nothing to do but clean and errands. I could have slept in. I normally would have slept in. But I did not sleep in and I feel so proud.

Instead I got up at 6:30 and went for a bike ride. It was a short ride, but it was the first time I had ridden my bike other than up and down my street.  And considering I really haven't ridden a bike any distance since high school (which was over 20 years ago) this was a big deal!

It was 6.44 miles from my door to the return home and it included time riding on the street. I was so nervous, I almost backed out. But that is why I got up and out by 7 am - I wanted to do it before a lot of people were on the road. 

I rode downtown to one of the rail trail entrances and I rode two miles on there. It was great to see so many other people riding, walking, and running. My town really appreciates the residents and maintains that trail well. Other than the middle aged couple having a rendezvous on one of the benches, it was a very uneventful ride. But it made me feel empowered. When I hit the town line I backtracked and headed home. I was on the street a little longer this time, but it was still early enough that I didn't compete with too many cars. 

I am quite sore right now, but happy. I did something I have wanted to do for years. I conquered a fear (my last bike riding experience when I was a teen is not a pleasant memory). And I want to go out and do it again tomorrow. I want to get back on track and start back with my fitness routine. I fell Off the wagon HARD, but today gave me a taste of what it feels like to do something for myself and I want to indulge in it more. 

Baby I am back!!!


I suppose I could have smiled so I wouldn't look so confused in this selfie. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Just one of those days

Some mornings are just hard.  We may only have one child, but that doesn't mean parenting is any easier for us.  My six-and-a-half year old son is VERY strong willed, always determined to get his own way, and he has our sarcasm down to a T.  These things do not mix well for an easy morning to get out of the house.  By the time we need to leave in the morning my husband has already been out of the house and at work for at least five hours.  If things start to go downhill, they go down very quickly since I do not have another level-headed party to step in and calm us down.  And today was just one of those days....

Things were going great this morning and we were even downstairs for breakfast early.  Then the subject of today's school book fair came up and that's when it all unraveled.  Last year I sent CD to school with money to get a new book and he came home with something way under his age group.  He was in kindergarten and this book was definitely something for a preschooler or younger.  But he loved it and I allowed him to keep it, but I insisted that he had to read it to me instead of the other way around.  And reluctantly he did (reading was a new skill at that time).  This year I asked him to get a book more age appropriate.  "But I love touch-and-feel books!"  I don't care....they are for three year olds, not six year olds.  And if I'm spending MY twenty dollars on a book, I want it to be something less juvenile.  

Oh, how the morning fell apart.  He became disrespectful.  I took away the money.  Voices were raised.  Tempers flew.  A plate broke (completely by accident, but it really did not help my anger or his need to poke at the bear).  Tears were close to being shed (mine, of course).

We finally got through breakfast in silence and when he politely asked if he could have the money back, I caved in.  But I stuck with my condition that it had to be age-appropriate.

As we pulled up to school I apologized for losing my temper.  I hate being away from him all day and feeling like we parted on bad terms.  I told him that I loved him, and when I saw the sign for the fair I added "enjoy the book fair."

He got unbuckled, grabbed his backpack and said "I can't wait to get my touch-and-feel book!" Then he gave me a smirk and leaned forward to kiss me on the cheek.  In the two years that I have been dropping him off at school that boy has never kissed me on the cheek before exiting the car before.  And that's when I knew for sure that kid was a perfect mix of his parents.  Sarcasm and all. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Eggery

Eggery is the art of decorating hatchery shells in the style of the famous Faberge egg. (source: onlineathens.com)

Growing up I remember my grandfather (aka "Norno") making these fabulous, ornate creations out of goose, emu, and ostrich eggs.  He would create clocks, music boxes, and other wonderful masterpieces.  Then he started to lose his eyesight due to macular degeneration and since he knew I enjoyed being creative too, he handed down his supplies to me.  Over time I created my own designs, but nothing as wonderful as his. But they still always had a special place in my heart because I knew it was something he enjoyed doing, too.  

Even though making them brought me much joy, I always said that I would never sell my eggs because frankly, I had no idea how much to charge.  They take so much time, effort, and patience.  I am simply not good at quantifying that.  Instead I just posted my favorites on Facebook for others to enjoy.  But a friend approached me last year about making one for her to give as a gift.  I declined.  I knew it would be time consuming, and again I had no idea what to charge. She settled for some candleariums and seemed to really like them.  
But this year she approached me again and she was very persistent.  Even though it had been ten years since I last made one, I agreed to create a special wedding-themed egg for her.  As I posted my progress online another friend asked me to make two for him as well.  Now the pressure was really on!  I had to get not just one, but three done, and I couldn't procrastinate since Christmas was coming quickly.  

I am happy to say that after a ten year hiatus, I was still able to remember how to cut, paint and decorate the goose eggs.  That's not to say there wasn't any fall-out.  Some eggs were harmed in the process -- but I am very pleased with the final results.  

I present to you the Angel, the Tree, and the Wedding.
(Top row is the front of the egg, bottom row is the back of the egg above it)

Friday, August 22, 2014

One Small Change

When I set out on this journey I had hoped for a few changes, which were probably not much different from others going down the same path. I had hoped my thighs would shrink, along with my stomach and my rear. And I am happy to say that it is happening. Not as fast as I would like, but I know that slow and steady wins the race, so I am okay with this pace. 

But there is one other area that I cannot help focusing on, and that is my calves. As long as I can remember I have had very large calves. Well, I suppose I first became aware of it when I was around 16 and I was walking up the stairs at work ahead of the guy I had a major crush on and he said "Wow! You have really big calves!" What a way to deflate a young heart. Ever since that day I have been so aware of this flaw and it has stuck with me.... even 28 years later. When I look at myself in the mirror my eyes always divert to these giant things above my ankles. Even my "padded knees" are starting to slowly disappear (SLOWLY), but the calves will not change. It's one of the main reasons I do not wear knee-length skirts. My legs just look so awkward with these giant calves.

Each time I watch a weight loss show or see pictures of amazing transformations the first thing I look at is the before and after of their CALVES. I want to see if people even larger than me had any luck slimming them down, and in most cases they do....but these are people that lost their weight through running and strength training. All I do is walk for 45 minutes a day. It's just not happening for me.

But then I had an epiphany the other night. I realized that I need to accept the fact that they will not change. I can lose weight everywhere else; I will eventually start defining muscle in my upper body. But the calves will remain big....and I need to be okay with that. Instead of my hang-ups being large thighs, a fat belly, rotund rear, and padded knees all I will have left are my sizable calves. That's all that I will have left to dislike, and I will accept that.

You know what happened? This morning I looked at myself in the mirror and I thought "Wow, my legs ARE looking a little more athletic today and my calves really aren't that disgustingly big."

And all that changed between last night and this morning? 
My attitude.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Stories

I am a crafter, although for some reason I hate that word.  I hand make a number of things, but I just can't bring myself to say that I make "crafts". I feel that people equate that word with Popsicle sticks and macrame.  So, instead I prefer to say that I hand make "novelties and gifts" since typically the items fall into those categories.  Pretty generic enough.  A customer is buying an item which isn't life changing, or an absolute need-to-have, but they are usually convenient items that are fun and functional.  I don't often think of them as much more than that.

But then I hear the stories and that makes all the difference.

When I hear WHY a customer is buying something it turns my ordinary "novelty" into something much more than that.

Recently with the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings interest in my Boston Strong items, particularly headbands, really picked up.  I know that many people were purchasing something because they planned to head into Boston on April 21st to watch in person.  But occasionally someone would include a note with their order and that made all the difference to me.  Those headbands were even more special as I packaged them up.  For example:

"A friend and I volunteered with the blanket distribution team at the Finish Line last year.  We'll be again this year and can't wait to be wearing these snazzy headbands"
She was there.  She witnessed the chaos and tragedy.  And she was heading back there again, undeterred.

"I'm running the marathon in a couple of weeks and I hope to wear this!!"
That.Is.Awesome

"We just walked away from shopping and walked around the corner of the first bomb when we heard the first bomb.  My son finished almost 2 hrs. before."
I have no words for this.



But it is not just the Boston Strong items that bring forth stories.  Just this week I started work on a custom order for a woman who recently lost her grandmother.  She wanted some accessories for her children to wear to the memorial service that represented the grandmother's favorite flower, the daffodil.
I actually felt pressure trying to find a print that would work for this project and I do think I managed to find an ideal selection.  I finished the bow ties last night and posted a picture to my Facebook page.


The customer saw it and commented that they were "perfect".  Knowing the significance behind the request made this project that much more important to me.  Her story made these bow ties more than just a novelty or a craft.  It made my work something more than that.  I suppose now I can say that I make "novelties, gifts and memories."


Thank you for letting me be a part of your story.



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Previously unpublished post! Holiday Baking - I got this

After I posted a small entry this morning I noticed I had something still in my draft folder.  I was a bit shocked to find this entry that I started back in December!  Apparently the holiday rush hit be a little harder than anticipated and I never got to finish this.  So, here it is...months later, but maybe you can refer back to it in 8 months when planning your holiday baking!



December 21, 2013

So, after my brief freak out about Christmas approaching way too fast, I decided I needed to get my bake on. Each year I like to make a small basket of goodies for our neighbors and the executives that I support at work. I think this year I had 21 people/families on my list.  I was already planning to go in late on Wednesday because of the holiday program at my son's school, so why not just take the whole day and get everything cranked out at once.  Boy I am glad that I did!  Now, I did start some of these on Tuesday night because I like to cool the truffles overnight if I can, but I was definitely busy in the kitchen all day and night when I wasn't visiting my son at school (twice that day)!

Since I posted a picture of my goodies on Facebook (natch), I got a few inquiries into the recipes.  Here is a snapshot of everything together:


So from the top left: Chocolate double peppermint bark and white chocolate bark; Cinnamon sugar almonds
Center: Chocolate peppermint cookies; Butter spritz cookies drizzled with chocolate
Bottom: Oreo balls; Raspberry chocolate truffles.

Now, I debated putting recipes out there because it's embarrassing at how easy they all are, but I will share anyway.  The most time consuming thing is rolling the truffles into balls, otherwise so easy!!

Peppermint Bark
Adapted from Betty Crocker
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Standing time: 1 hour

Ingredients
  • 1 package (12 oz) Giradelli white chocolate morsels OR Nestle Dark Chocolate and Mint Morsels (or other mint flavored chocolate pieces)
  • 1 box of mini peppermint candy canes
Directions
  • Cover cookie sheet with waxed paper or aluminum foil.
  • Heat chocolate morsels in the microwave or over a double boiler.  If microwaving, start at 2 minutes, then stir until smooth.  Candy will retain it's shape until mixed around.  White chocolate has a very thin line between melted and overcooked.  If not entirely melted, microwave for 30 seconds at a time. .
  • Using a food processor or Magic Bullet, pulverize half of the candy canes into a fine powder.  Put the other half in a plastic bag and crush with rolling pin or bottom of small heavy saucepan. Pour crushed candies into wire strainer.  
  • Stir coating to mix evenly.
  • Spread coating evenly on cookie sheet.  Sprinkle evenly with remaining candy pieces.  Let stand about 1 hour or until cool and hardened.  Break into pieces.

Butter Spritz Cookies
From: Instructions that came with the cookie press
Yield: 6 – 7 dozen cookies

Ingredients
  • 1 ½ cups (3 sticks) Margarine or butter, softened
  • 1 cup  Sugar
  • 1Egg
  • 1 tsp Vanilla
  • 3 ½ cups Flour
Directions
  • Pre-heat oven to 375ยบ
  • Beat butter on medium until creamy
  • Add sugar, egg & vanilla; beat well
  • Add flour, 1 cup at a time.
  • Dough will be soft.  DO NOT REFRIGERATE.
  • Press 1” apart on cookie sheet using cookie press
  • Bake 10-12 minutes or until firm but not brown
  • Cool 2 minutes and transfer to cooling rack.

Ingredients
  • 8 ounces softened cream cheese or whipped cream cheese
  • 18 ounce package of Oreo cookies, crushed
  • 2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon shortening


Directions
  •  Mix cream cheese with electric mixer until fluffy. Add the crushed Oreos and beat on high until well mixed.
  • Chill for at least 2 hours in the freezer. Then roll Oreo cookie mix into one inch Oreo Balls.
  • Melt the chocolate chips and shortening with a double boiler or in the microwave.
  • Dip the Oreo balls completely into the melted chocolate using tongs or a toothpick.
  • Put on wax paper. After the Oreo balls harden, keep them in the refrigerator.
  • Makes about 3 or 4 dozen Oreo Balls, depending on the size


Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Chilling time: 1 hour
Yield: 4 dozen

Ingredients
  • 1 (14-ounce) can eagle brand sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • ¼ cup raspberry liqueur
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 2 tablespoons seedless raspberry jam
  • 2 (12-ounce) packages semisweet chocolate morsels
  • Coatings:  confectioners sugar, colored sugar, finely chopped walnuts, nonpareils, chopped coconut


Directions
  • Microwave first 4 ingredients in a large microwave-safe bowl at high 3 minutes.
  • Stir in chocolate morsels until smooth. Cover and chill 1 hour.
  • Shape mixture by tablespoonfuls into balls, and roll in coatings


See previous blog posts for the Slow Cooker Cinnamon Sugar Nuts and Chocolate Peppermint Cookies




So, that was what I made for my food gifts in 2013.  Now it has me thinking about what to do this year!

Little notes

I love getting notes from customers letting me know why they have chosen a particular item from my shop. It's fun to hear that a headband is perfect for their daughter who loves sparkly things, or a key fob really shows off their friend's personality, or that they plan on wearing a Joatmon Creation for a special occasion. Last night I received an order from a woman who volunteered at the Boston Marathon finish line last year and she is planning to be back there again in two weeks, wearing the Boston Strong headband she was purchasing from me. Even though I am not going to watch the ‪#‎Marathon‬ in person, I feel like a little part of me will be there.