"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."
George Bernard Shaw

Monday, August 29, 2011

Mom bought an antique sewing machine!!!

How did she know?!?!

Mom was driving past a consignment shop in Milford awhile ago and saw this lovely piece of "furniture" outside the front door. I say furniture because if it had been me I would have been all "Oh look at the nice little table. I wonder if it has a twin!" But mom knew what probably very few people would- THERE WAS A SEWING MACHINE INSIDE! Or at least, there used to be. She was hoping there might still be something inside. I have no idea how she knew that. The photo above is literally what she saw from the street.


Mom had told me about this a couple weeks ago and then I kind of forgot about it. She went back to see if it was still there on Thursday and bought it for $25. What a steal! But it's kind of heavy so I came over after work to help her get it home from the store (that was a whole separate fiasco). Then we set it up in the driveway to take a look.

Look how big the work surface is!

Some moron painted it white but we're going to try and refinish it this fall/winter (right Mom?! :) This is actually electric (I know it looks much more ancient than that) and came with all the original attachments, manual, feet, etc. Mom found them all in these side compartments that the consignment lady didn't even know about!

The two sides lift up to show little organizers, but under THOSE is a
big open space where lots of things were hiding!

Jackpot!! Everything in wonderful condition.

The original manual, from July 1927. :)

Two heavy tin boxes, and inside....

All kinds of feet and attachments! We decided you'd have to be either an
engineer or my Papa to figure out a machine like this nowadays.

Those things above can make ruffles and all kinds of crazy things. But, one of the coolest things emerged: the buttonholer.

It came in this little rectangular leather case that folds up and snaps all together.
It has its own little instruction booklet and appears to be in perfect condition.

However I also feel like some of its attachments resemble old torture devices.
Kind of sinister looking huh?

So after looking through everything we decided to plug it in and see what, if anything, happened.

Yeah...I don't think that plug is up to code...

The answer at first was: Nothing. Nothing happened. UNTIL, I pressed this:

Turns out these were controlled by the side of the leg/knee while sitting down.
Just press your leg against it and the motor starts whirring!

Unfortunately it didn't all start turning and the needle (which is still in the machine!) didn't go anywhere. BUT I think there is hope. Because the needle does move up and down when I turn the wheel at the end. We just need to get the wheel cleaned and lubricated and I think it might actually "work" some day.

Look how huge those diaper pins are!!

That last photo is the part of things like this that I really love. I wonder what kind of baby the woman had. And if she made diapers for it. There was still a threaded bobbin in the machine with some God-awful red/orange/rust 70s-type thread in it. What was the last thing she made before she put this machine away forever? Why did she decide to stop sewing? Because she couldn't any more or because she didn't want to anymore? Is she still alive today?

This was such a fun little adventure with Mom--almost like a treasure hunt. Can't wait to see what else can come of this little machine!

Granny and Me: Twins??

Click on the photo to really get a good look at Granny's photo.

In the photo on the left is a picture of my Granny when she was about 16. On the right is me at 16. I had dyed my hair "Peruvian Fire" on a whim with Emily's help one night. Once it toned down to this dark auburn it was quite awesome. (Though I did like it even when it was still VERY Peruvian Fire.)

I think we look almost identical. We have the same nose and lips for sure. I've been looking for this photo EVERYWHERE (as well as that original of Granny. We can't find it anywhere!). I was getting some things out of Mom's garage and found a taped-shut shoe box. Inside were tons of photos from high school and many older than that.

It was pretty awesome sifting through all the photos and a whole stack of cards from my 16th birthday. Especially after spending this past weekend with so many people in those photos at Claire's wedding. TONS of band photos. We all look so little!!! And then BAM! Out of nowhere, one copy of this.

The irony of the whole thing is that Granny doesn't think we look alike at all. I think she's crazy!! :)

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How we Spent our Second Anniversary

Photo by Steph Carson.
This year, our anniversary was spent in a way that is unlike any other: on tour. Brian left to join the corps mid-June, and I flew down to Texas on the 17th of June to meet them and primarily so we could spend our anniversary in the same state on June 19th. We knew we really wouldn't get to spend our anniversary "together"--he had to teach all day and I had to cook. But we did have one "special" moment when we rolled into our housing site sometime between probably 2-3 am the morning of the 19th. 

To set the scene: 
We get to the housing site at a very questionably "nice" school and find out we'll be sleeping in the auditorium. Which is fine. They're really dark when you turn the lights off. Usually plenty of outlets and a flat stage to sleep on. But then we walk into the auditorium and find out that it has obviously been locked up since school ended. With no air conditioning. 

So we're thinking we'll hear the AC kick on any minute and set up our air mattress in the back of the auditorium. For some reason everyone else went to sleep and turned out the lights in like 2 seconds. So I'm fumbling around in the dark trying to find my contacts stuff and glasses in my suitcase. We try to settle in and it's obvious we're not getting any AC. And it's not like we can just prop some doors open. It's Texas, and unless you want to wake up with a snake or some insane spider for a bed buddy I'd keep the doors shut tight.

The plot thickens:
So we're down to wearing as little as can still be called decent, keeping in mind we're sleeping in a room with 20 other people. We're lying on our backs trying not to move or touch besides a couple fingers because it's SO HOT in that room. And that's when the noise starts. I questioned whether it was human at first because I've never heard a noise like that in my life. And then it became apparent that a staff member, who shall remain nameless on this blog, was snoring. I seriously thought he might be slowly dying. And it was relentless. It was probably going to continue all night. 

In the midst of this, all the staff got a text from the corps director about the next day's schedule. So one by one around the room we watched all these little spots of light flare up and alarms go off as everyone's phones registered the incoming message. It was quite a funny little choir of beeps and songs. And then on top of that I realized that if you used your imagination the snoring kind of sounded like a chorus of tree frogs. And if you REALLY used your imagination maybe we weren't really in an unairconditioned  auditorium at 3 am listening to the most insane snoring I've ever heard. Maybe we were on a blanket under the stars, listening to the sounds of night. 

And then we lost it: 
Once I shared my tree frog thought with Brian the giggling and laughing began. We couldn't stop. I could barely breathe because there's nothing worse than laughing really hard and having to be as quiet as possible. And the fact that we were exhausted. Tears were literally pouring from my eyes. And every time there was another snore we lost it all over again. At one point we calmed down and Brian looked over and said "Happy Anniversary!" and I realized that it didn't matter if we went out to a fancy dinner or spent every minute of our day together. We had what will probably be one of the most memorable anniversaries ever, sharing his passion for drum corps with me and laughing hysterically. And I couldn't think of any way that would have been better to spend the first few hours of our second anniversary. 

My Roomie Claire is getting married today and I couldn't be more excited for her and her fiance Brad. They are wonderful people and are going to have an amazing life together. I am so lucky that we get to be a small part of their wedding day. I hope they get to have some amazing, unexpected anniversaries together for many, many years to come. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fancy Dinner at Mom's

In July while I was home from tour for a few days alone Mom had me over for a fancy dinner so I wouldn't spend all my time at home by myself. Cindy from downstairs came up too. It was really nice to be around other people outside of work. Mom said I talked like crazy--but it was just so nice not to be talking to the cats! They tend to cut the conversations pretty short. There was a TON of delicious food, but these were the prettiest pictures. :)

Here's a fancy salad that mom made: 

Love avocados!!

Peach martinis with champagne! Summery!

Peach martinis in a pitcher on Mom's pretty countertop.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Registry...from Everywhere at Once!!

This is one of the coolest ideas I've ever seen. MyRegistry.com is a site that will pull registry information from anywhere. And I mean anywhere. You can even register for things on Etsy!!! So say I wanted this as a mobile in our future childrens' nursery (not that I would ever be neurotic enough to plan our future children's nurseries..........), from one of my favorite Etsy stores:


I can do that! You put a little thing on your toolbar that allows you to add anything from any website you're on. It took about 2 seconds to add it to the toolbar.

See it in the top right?

You can tastefully register for cash/giftcards. You can get set up for thank-you card reminders. They also have an app for iPhones that has a barcode scanner. This means that if you're out and about you can scan something that you like, no matter where it's from, and get it added to your registry. If you already have a registry somewhere you can import it into this site and keep it all in one place.

And this isn't just for weddings and babies. Many non-profits use this site as a way to organize what kind of donations they need to keep the organization going. 

I think that this site would also allow you to create a registry with the best prices available on the products you want. The site has a lot of partners already with big companies such as Target, Crate + Barrel, Williams-Sonoma. And they also have sample registry lists if you're stuck. 

I love the thought of being able to register in "one" place, even though your products might be coming from 20 different stores. And some people might not be able to register for the things they really want or need because they don't like a particular store (I'm not a fan of Target's return policies, for example...). Or wouldn't want to give friends and family 20 different partial registries to sort through to find products. 

What do you think? Would you actually use it? I wish this had been around before we got married!!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Breakfast Smoothies aka Green Monsters

So now that I'm working out (more to come on that later) I've started making smoothie/protein shakes again. These are so much better than the ones I came up with a few years ago. And probably healthier too. I thought I'd share in case any of you were looking for a healthy breakfast alternative or snack. Though honestly, I have so many calories in this thing it's probably only suitable for breakfast now. 

Yep, it's green.

I do realize that this probably looks completely unappetizing.

You've gotta trust me on this one!

Breakfast Smoothie
1/2 cup (or so) of plain 0% fat greek yogurt
1/4 cup (or so) of 1% milk (soon to be replaced by kefir)
1 scoop vanilla whey protein powder (I get Whole Foods' generic 365 brand)
Couple TBS of flax seeds (will soon be replaced with GROUND flaxseed. So much easier to deal with)
Large handful of spinach (that's why it's green!)
1 banana
1 cup blueberries
6 ice cubes

I mix the first 5 ingredients together first to make sure all the spinach is really blended well. You definitely don't want to be eating a salad in the middle of your smoothie. And honestly--YOU CAN'T TASTE ANY SPINACH. But you're getting the health benefits of at least a whole serving (perhaps more...I use a lot) such as lots of iron! 

Plus, Finny loves that he gets his favorite treat almost every day now!
He's a weird one.....

Greek yogurt has a TON of protein in it. One cup has about 45% of your daily needs. I can't bring myself to eat it out of the container plain (it's sour and thick and I can't help thinking I'm eating bad cottage cheese...). But this is a great way to incorporate it. 

I also add the protein powder at this stage with the liquids because I've realized that when you don't make it wet, it is puffed up in a cloud all over the sides of your blender and you're standing there wondering what the point of putting it in at all was! 

The blueberries at Whole Foods right now are some of the best I've ever had. And you're getting a ton of antioxidants through them. You could also add some strawberries in there, but I consider them more "dessert fruits" and don't really want the extra sugar. I have some peaches ripening right now and I'm thinking a banana, blueberry, peach smoothie sounds pretty much amazing. 

The cool thing about this smoothie is you're getting 3-4 servings of different fruits and veggies in one meal!! It's easy to consume--you can drink it while you're getting ready in the morning/walking around/on the way to work, etc. And you'll absolutely stay full for several hours.

I mentioned Kefir in the ingredients list. It's something quite interesting that I've learned about recently thanks to the wisdom of Mother Earth News. This article is REALLY interesting. If nothing else read the first page and I guarantee you'll want to continue on. I've thought about getting the bacterial culture to make it myself (you just add the culture to regular milk and it "processes" it for you..) but I discovered you can buy it at Whole Foods (of course you can). So I think I might get some there soon to see if I can stomach it. It's supposed to have a somewhat sour taste and I'm afraid, and probably rightly so, that it's going to be like drinking greek yogurt. So into the smoothie it will go, to be disguised by the wonderful fruits and veggies!!

Any suggestions to make this even better/healthier?

Consideration? It's free of charge. It can echo forever.

I stumbled upon a CNN article several months ago, and haven't made the time to share it till now. You may recall a story of a woman at a White House gathering mistaking the second-ranking army general for a waiter. She only saw the stripes on his pants (which even the general admits were very similar to the wait staff's) and asked him to pour her a glass of wine. So the general did! And then invited her to dinner at his home (I wonder if that has ever taken place). It's not so much the blunder that is the point, but rather how the general handled the situation. If you've not read the article, it's quite interesting, inspiring and thought-provoking. It will take you 3 minutes and you can find it here. There are also examples of Frank Sinatra and an NBA player who had similar characters as this general. At the end it brings up a thought: "Consideration? It's free of charge. It can echo forever." Perhaps it's time to reevaluate how I react to situations/people/things that frustrate me. It may make me feel better to be a jerk, but wouldn't it be better for the universe if we all tried to make the other person feel better? Just a thought. 

An example of how to be considerate. 

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

I'm Buying a Sewing Machine!

No, I do not sew....YET!!! :) This summer I was supposed to be only cooking, but was sneakily recruited by the sewing ladies to help while I was on tour. It was hilarious the way they did it--saying they had heard I wanted to know how to sew, and then teaching me a few basics so I'd feel more comfortable with the machine. Letting me help on a pair of pants or two. And then BAM!! Out of nowhere, telling me that there's nobody signed up to sew the entire time I'm on tour. How could I turn them down? They work so hard, and we can't have the kids in baggy, ill-fitting uniforms! This is what you're going for:

Hi Brian!

As I've mentioned before, I learned quickly that Mary, the physical therapist, was an excellent sew-er (when you put it as sewer it looks like you're meaning sewer system...) and I was able to bow out of any real sewing duties until finals week.

Vintage looking handmade Barbie clothes from here

But I've been interested in sewing for a long time. And I've grown up knowing that my Granny is an excellent seamstress. She would make my Barbies elaborate clothes with snaps and coats and matching skirts and tops out of little scraps of fabric. The dresses above are not from MY dolls, but I'll have to take some photos the next time I'm at Mom's! I have always heard stories of the clothes she made my mom. I know my mom has made herself some simple dresses and tube tops when she was younger. My cousin Carrie bought a sewing machine awhile back and we had joked about her making the chair covers for my wedding. I've mentioned before how we're a crafty, creative family, and I've felt for some time that I could be quite successful in the sewing world.

This past week, I had the opportunity to proofread my first quilting book for F+W and that's when the lightbulbs went off. I had previously wondered how successful I could or would be with making clothing. And if I would even keep up with making clothes. When I started reading about quilting I realized that that is the type of project I've been waiting for. Everything about quilting appeals to me. The different fabrics you choose (and the quite involved/complicated process for choosing them), the pattern you choose, piecing it all together over a period of time. It is all very precise and measured, but at the same time gives you infinite creative possibilities to experiment with color and pattern and size. When I make cards I've realized my most favorite part is choosing the papers I'm going to use. If I had a project I wanted to start and didn't know where to begin, I would sometimes just walk around a craft store until a piece of paper caught my eye. And when I found that right color or pattern or texture, suddenly I could see everything else I needed to find to make the vision a reality. I already have my eye on some fabrics that I think would make beautiful quilts. I keep gravitating towards these two! I'd probably want at least two more patterns/colors, but these are a good start. :)

From Jo-Ann's

Also from Jo-Ann's (brand is Legacy Studio)

Those would be pretty with some gold and coral patterned solids. Maybe a cream backing? SO MANY POSSIBILITIES.

The other aspect of quilting that appeals to me is that I think it would be a wonderfully heartfelt gift. It would take a little research to figure out what colors/sizes/etc. appealed to the recipient, but I think it would be a pretty awesome experience to spend so much time working on a project that you're going to give away to someone else. I know many people o
nly see quilts as "country," but if the book I've just read (and countless others I've now researched) is any indication, quilts can look more modern and fresh than ever. I really think the fabric is the most important part of getting the right feeling. 

Here's one that made me think of our friend Jenny from small group, and her new baby Liam. Their nursery has a woods/owl theme. This would be absolutely adorable in his room!!

So adorable. Baby quilts will be a good place for me to start! From Etsy here.

I haven't seen anything like this yet. Love how it's quilted. From Etsy here.

More modern in black and white. The pattern is so creative! From Etsy here.

So here's the sewing machine I'm thinking about, a Brother XL-3750. Sounds fancy but I don't know if those letters/numbers mean anything! 

I'll be getting it from Amazon thankyouverymuch Jo-Anns...

It's reasonably priced, it can do quilting stuff. There's a few different, more decorative stitches. It has, overall, really great reviews. Some people have had thread tension problems but others were able to fix that. I went to JoAnn's to get some expert advice on a first sewing machine and was incredibly disappointed that the women there are affiliated with Viking and really only wanted to recommend the $400 machine with the automatic up/down needle. They wouldn't even discuss the Brother machine I'd like to get. I asked how they could sell a sewing machine online and not have any information about it in the store, and that's how I found out they were associated with these particular brands only. Are you listening JoAnn?! VERY disappointed. So I'm going with this one, and we'll see what happens. I basically just need some straight stitches through 3 layers of fabric. Can't be that difficult right? And I'll take it somewhere to be professionally quilted, but one reviewer has even done that herself freehand on the machine. If anyone knows anything about this particular machine, or has any suggestions/opinions for a CHEAP comparable one let me know! I have relied soley on Amazon and other website reviews to make this decision!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

On Tour with Blue Stars Part 2: Living

I mentioned in the last post that actually LIVING on tour is much different than working during the day on the truck and going home at night. 

One of the most important things to know is that it will always look like you're living in a refugee camp. Always.

This actually looks fairly neat and tidy.

The picture above is misleading because the gym is big. In some of the smaller gyms they stayed in it's literally wall to wall air mattresses. Towels dry from the basketball hoops. There's daisy chains of power strips and cords everywhere to charge cell phones. Here's Brian and I's personal corner of the staff refugee camp at one school:

We were on the auditorium stage next to drama props. Suitcases, backpacks, towels, blankets, bed. Pretty tidy!

On tour they only get to do laundry about once every two weeks, so there's lots of Febreeze. One guard girl was very ingenious during rehearsal: 

I'm sure these were as good as new when she got back from rehearsal.

Sewing world is set up in the nearest hallway that has tables and outlets. **Note: I was supposed to also be sewing when I was on tour, but found out the physical therapist was sewing genius. I managed to not have to sew one thing until the second to last day of tour!!!**

There's Sally sewing! The kids lose so much weight the uniforms have to be taken in almost constantly at the beginning of the season. 

I've mentioned the schedule is grueling. Here's a typical day: 

Couple things to note: 

--E/S/L is "Eat, Shower, Load." If we're not staying overnight again at the housing site, you have 2 hours to eat dinner, shower, and pack and load all your stuff. Because after the performance it's onto the busses and driving through the night to the next housing site. The fourth meal is typically eaten at the show site. 

--Bus sleep is kind of counted as "half-time sleep." So you should be getting about 7 1/2-8 hours of sleep a night. But any of those hours spent on the busses only count for half. When you get to the housing site and set up camp (takes less than 30 minutes before we're asleep on our bed) you then get floor time till you've made up the 8 hours. 

When we travel we have a whole entourage: 4 charter busses (3 kids, 1 staff bus), 2 semis (equipment truck and food truck), a box truck, souvenir van pulling a souvenir booth, admin van and two RVs (one for staff and one for volunteers). 

4 of these puppies and the staff got the best driver of them all--Pat! 

Bus living is very interesting. Bungee cords become your best friend. You can string them up in front of your seat to hold your wet shower towel, snacks, shoes, anything really. The kids seem to have a lot more stuff to keep track of than the staff: 

Look at all the bungees!

Shower organizers are also very handy on the windows.
When I was first on tour our volunteer RV was broken so we had to sleep in the back of the huge 15-passenger vans. Each person got a bench to themselves. It was actually the best sleep I got while on tour. It's like a little cocoon laying down between the seats. I could stretch out to my full height. I downloaded a white noise app and listening to static all night actually made it really easy to fall asleep. Dex and Gary kept me safe in the back of the souvie van so I never had to worry about what would happen when I fell asleep. Sleeping in THIS, on the other hand, was a nightmare: 

Top right bunk was mine for a time.

The thing about sleeping on the top bunk in the back of an RV is this: even if you have a spectacular driver, it will always feel like you're going 100 mph. So you lean way over and look out the front window and realize you're only going like 55!! How is that even possible?! And when you're towing a trailer with a quad runner on it, the back of the RV will shake and make a noise that sounds like the back is about to fall off. There were times when I would catch myself on the shelf from a dead sleep to keep from rolling onto the floor. The first time we started moving and I was on the top bunk I couldn't do anything but laugh hysterically for the first half hour. It was so comically dangerous I couldn't believe I was actually supposed to fall asleep at some point. But, you saw the daily schedule. I eventually fell asleep. 

The thing about tour is there's lots of drama. Living in these conditions with the same people for months can be pretty insane at times. See practically everyone on tour is extremely passionate about drum corps and the Blue Stars in general. And everyone also thinks they have something vitally important to contribute to the corps (and most genuinely do!). So by default, these passions are bound to clash every once in awhile is such close quarters. The nice thing is that the season ends, banquet is sentimental and heartfelt, and there's just enough time before November camp for everyone to forget their spats and let bygones be bygones. And then they do it all over again for the next season. :) 

Are we going to be at Blue Stars next summer? Are we going to be involved in a professional aspect of drum corps at all? These are all questions that will be sorted through and answered in the coming weeks. Regardless of what is on the agenda for next summer, I know this one that this one will be one for the record books. I can't imagine there's anything quite like your first summer of drum corps. 

On Tour with Blue Stars (aka where we were all summer)

This post has been long overdue. I explained awhile ago in some detail what drum corps is and about the Blue Stars in general. If you missed that one check this out to get some background info. 

Clear as mud now? Excellent. 

So I ended up spending about 20 days on tour!!!! There was one point where I had been away 16 out of 20 days in June-early July. And here's the thing--some people (like our lovely admin staff and head cook) didn't take ANY days off this summer. I cannot imagine. 

So here's a crash course on what it's like to be on tour. It's exhausting. Emotionally draining. Hard, hard work. Fun. Rewarding. Life-changing. The people you meet and friends you make and sense of satisfaction you have from knowing you helped the corps get down the road and these kids' summers become a success is irreplaceable. I'll be the first to admit it was hard to get back to the corps for finals week. I had been settled in at home for about a month and I was not as eager as before to get back to work. But it ended up being a great end to the season. 

First, the summer went SO FAST. I thought our anniversary was yesterday, and now it's the middle of August. (Side note, I'll share the hilarious story of how we spent our anniversary in a separate post.)

So, I spent my time working on the food truck. Here it is, in all its glory: 

It's in the back of a semi!!!
One side has doors that open. Screens on the top. Shelves on the bottom so we can slide food out to servers at a normal height and don't have to carry all the food around the truck. 
And the inside! It's pretty creative how these things are constructed. There would be 4-6 of us working on here at a time. You get to know your cook crew very well--mostly because you're standing within 2 feet of them for 12 hours. And when you're not standing next to them you're bumping into them and rubbing up against them to get to another part of the truck! 

One side is 3 huge stainless steel sinks and cabinets above that hold all the spices, vegetarian special food and gluten-free food. 

The other side is a long stainless steel counter that we chop on. Here we were making broccoli that was steamed and mixed with sauteed shallots, garlic, lemon juice and basil. Delicious!

There is also: 

An 8-burner gas stove (the oven under it is broken but technically there) and a huge convection oven (My best friend. That thing is killer!!)

We have a "regular" fridge, industrial fridge and industrial freezer (industrials seen on left and right below):

Dry storage is in the back. 

More dry storage and a washer and dryer on the other end of the truck.

Being the Blue Star Diner and all, we had lots of blue stars to decorate!
And there you have it! 4-6 of us cranked out 4 meals a day for 200 people and did a damn good job of it. It was just amazing cooking with so many hard workers and our fearless leader Bob. I'll have to do a separate post about how one actually LIVES while on tour. It's an experience! 

Go here for part 2.
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