Saturday, January 30, 2010

Edible Exfoliator

On this cotton ball is an alpha hydroxy mask I made based on a recipe I jotted down from a magazine I was reading in a waiting room a few months ago. It was from the author of this book, which I'm making a mental note to flip through next time I'm at a book store. The recipe for the mask is this:

1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup orange juice (the original recipe actually called for grape juice)
1/4 cup apple juice
1/4 cup sugar
Combine all ingredients and stir until sugar is dissolved. Apply to face using a cotton ball and leave on for 10 minutes or more, then rinse off. Refrigerate the remainder and use before it goes bad (1 week?).
*I used all fresh juices (with the help of a juicer), but bottled could be used, too.

I just did an internet search for homemade face masks and now my head is swimming with more ideas! Finally, a use for sour milk!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Meet Agnes

This is my new (obviously old) sewing machine, and I am pretty beside myself about it. I might just be kidding about naming it; I just typed that on a whim. I like the idea of naming inanimate objects, like I've always wanted a name for my car, but they just never seem to stick. Does anyone else have a name for thier sewing machine? Or car?

What I had before was also a Singer, but a much newer, cheap-y (a little under $200) one I bought new just over a year ago and which began to break down on me about a month ago, during my Christmas sewing projects. And I really hadn't put many miles on it—pretty much everything I've sewn with it I've shown here on this blog, and it does not amount to much. So, piece of junk, if you ask me. Cool thing is, I bought it at CostCo and they have just about the most liberal return policy ever known to man and will allow me to return it, over a year later, used and broken, for a full refund, which will more than cover what I spent on this used one I just bought off Craigslist.

As you can see in the close-up pictures, it's kinda grimy, but I think I can clean quite a bit of that up. It didn't come with a manual or any attachments, and I don't know much about all the knobs and things, but I think I can start here in figuring out and finding those things. As far as I know it works fine and was serviced recently. It was actually my mom who did the leg work and found this machine, and she got the sense that this particular model has somewhat of a following, so that's a good sign. But what really sold me on this machine was when I tried it out. Being a pretty novice sewer, I don't fully get how different one machine can be from another, and have always been a little perplexed by the huge price disparity there is among sewing machines that seem to offer basically the same features. But today, sewing on this machine, I was blown away by how different it felt from the pile of poo one I've been using the past year. It was like there was butter in there somewhere! What I'm saying is, smooooooth. So, I'm pretty happy at this turn of events and reminded how, sometimes, what starts off as a bad thing can really be a blessing in disguise. Thanks Mom.

Update: Speaking of sewing, I just saw these new fabric samples from Heather Ross and am freaking out, I love them so much! And I don't think I've ever seen the "Part 1" of these, now I have to go look at those, too. I generally buy really cheap fabric, cheaper than what these are going to cost, but I've been having all these fancy fabric visions dancing in my head lately that I don't know if I can shake!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Into the Light

Two completely unrelated but interesting things I've recently seen:

1.) The art exhibition (of the same name as this post title) of my uber talented artist friend Christine Gray. It's going on right now over at the Okay Mountain art gallery here in Austin and will be running through February 13th (for anyone who's interested in checking this out, you can check the Okay Mountain website for gallery hours).

2.) A speech given by Jim Marrs, conspiracy journalist extraordinaire.

I have only very recently heard of him, but have been indirectly familar with some of his work for years—the Oliver Stone movie "JFK" (such a great movie) was partially based on a book he wrote on John F. Kennedy's assassination. His ideas likely seem pretty farfetched to some, but hey, people used to think the earth was flat, so who knows. I'm mostly of the mindset that many things are possible and there's not really much I know completely for sure, and I found what Mr. Marrs had to say certainly worthy of my time and consideration.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Random Winter Snapshots

(The lake again, minus the greenery.)


(Pearl onions for Julia Child's boeuf bourguignon--yes, a direct response to the movie, which I actually didn't think was all that great, but still worth seeing for the food talk and seeing Meryl Streep as Julia.)
(Spices for a big batch of chai, enjoyed when it was particularly chilly out.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Getting and Giving

Image source:

This post the other day on Molly's lovely blog led me to the "Craft Hope for Haiti" Etsy shop, where crafters are donating items that are then put up for sale, with all proceeds going to Doctors Without Borders for thier work in Haiti. (Craft Hope, which is, incidentally, run just outside Austin, also has other charitable projects going on that you can read about over on thier website. The name sounds so familar; I'm sure this is a party I'm a little late to, but it's new to me and I'm just glad to have found it). I definitely will be making something to contribute to the shop, but in the meantime I did my duty as a consumer and made a purchase--the sweet little deer pull toy pictured above. The animal is made of papier-mache which is then mounted on a wooden base, and it turns out there is actually a tutorial on how to make these on Martha Stewart's website. How cool, I'd love to make one myself, but I don't have most of the supplies on hand, including the drill, so this project will be going on a back burner for now.
Update: It was remiss of me in this post to not more directly credit the crafter who made this fantastic toy (and only mention Martha Stewart instead!), especially when she called me a rock star (in our near identical-looking posts)! My apologies. Her name is Katie Steuernagle and, in addition to her tutorial on Martha's site, she can also be found here. And although I linked to where I sourced the photo, the real credit for it belongs to her. Many, many thanks to Katie for her donation; I can't wait to get it! She's way more the rock star.

Another way to help out that I came across in the last few days is through buying and selling on Ebay. That link takes you to a page where you can browse through items for sale with part or all of the proceeds going to organizations providing help to Haiti. Or, if you have something you'd like to sell, you can opt to give anywhere from 10-100% of the sale to any of Ebay's many listed non-profit organizations. It's pretty easy to post an item, and a good way to give without really feeling the loss from your pocket book.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Greens, Greens, Greens (and other good stuff, too)!

I've had juicing on my mind, usually shoved way back in a corner somewhere, for some time now. But seeing this the other day was just what I needed to be prompted into action. Lucky for me this didn't mean me having to buy a juicer (not that I wouldn't love to own one, but it's far from a priority right now). All I had to do was pull out my mom's, dust it off, and get to juicing.

This juicer is pretty awesome, and I just read on their website that it can also be used to make nut butter! I just might have to do that. But back to the juicing. For my first concoction, I combined cucumber, celery, spinach, apple, beet, and ginger. It was fine, but really it tasted mostly beety and kind of dirty (as in, like dirt). So the next day I put a little more thought into it and used apple, spinach, parsley, mint, and ginger, a combo which turned out particularly delicious. I'll still make and enjoy more dirty, beety ones in the future--I'll pretty much drink fresh juice any which way, and don't want to miss out on the different nutrients available in different foods--but especially yummy ones are still especially appreciated. And if the baby will drink some, that's always a plus (which she kind of did with the second one--a few sips). I'm on day four now of fresh juice daily, and I hope to keep it up. For tomorrow's I want to incorporate aloe vera.

All these greens brought to mind this cute song (click on track 10, "Greens," from the list on the right), that I saw performed live once and loved. You can also hear it (and see the folksy cuteness of the singers) on YouTube, but the recording is not that great.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Baby's New (old) Book and Very Own Table

(These photos remind me a lot of another blogger's children's book posts...seeped into my subconscious, maybe.)

I found this old copy of "The ABC Bunny" awhile ago at a used book store and have had it tucked away since. Most of the pages are lightly stained and a couple are in pretty bad shape, but just a couple, and it was only $1 and is very nicely illustrated. It is by the same author and illustrator as "Millions of Cats," which I definitely remember from my own childhood. When I got it, the book seemed a little too large for Zoë to handle herself. But now, and with the aid of her very own little table, she's really enjoying it. (You may recognize the table from Christmas; that's when she got it.)

(Yes, that's a bit of polka-dotted drawn-on modesty there.)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Perfect Dip and Kitchen Accessories

I had this dip for the first time on New Year's Eve served alongside cut radishes, and I declare it one of my favorite dips ever.
Based on an outline of the recipe given to me by the lovely hostess that night, I have already made it twice. My directions here are a little rough, but you really don't need them to be that precise.

4 ounces crème fraîche (I bet sour cream would taste good too, but I haven't tried it myself)
Several+ raw walnuts, very finely grated (or very finely chopped)
1/2 clove garlic, very finely grated (to a paste)
1 green onion, thinly sliced
A pinch each of salt and pepper, plus more to taste if desired
Spoon crème fraîche into a small bowl. Thoroughly stir in remaining ingredients, adding walnuts until dip reaches the desired consistency (as much as a handful--the more, the thicker). Also, more garlic can of course be added if desired, and other fresh herbs (like parsley or chives) can be used in addition or lieu of the green onion. Serve with raw veggies, chips, or crackers.

The garlic and walnuts I have been grating with a Microplane zester/grater, which is the easiest way I've found to achieve the desired results. The walnuts you just want to get broken down into tiny pieces, and they grate beautifully into fine shreds with this tool. And the idea with the garlic is to get it into a paste, which can also be done using a mortar and pestle or suribachi, methods which may even be superior as far as results go, but the Microplane does a good enough job for me and I love it for the ease it brings to the task. To those who've never used one of these, they are awesome. Seriously. As one reviewer on Amazon puts it, "It's just a grater. True. But it dazzles me with how amazingly well it does its simple chore. The teeth are unbelievably sharp! Like a magic wand, hard cheese, nutmeg, and ginger turn to fine snow at an easy stroke." Among the reviews are also many warnings to watch your knuckles and be careful of slippage, so just be advised (I've never had an issue, but I wouldn't want blood unwittingly drawn due to my recommendation).

Other kitchen accessories that have caught my eye lately:

  • Old-fashioned stainless steel ice cube trays (awesome, but expensive, jeez!)
  • These and these straws pique my curiosity (and there are glass ones, too--crazy!), but can you imagine cleaning them? Plus I don't really need/use straws too often.
  • Glass fat separator I have never used a fat separator but keep seeing them lately and actually just got one (plastic) for Christmas. This glass one looks very cool, but I'll wait and see if I find occasion to use the one I already have now before really considering it.
  • Glass pitcher with lid This looks nice and holds more than the one I already have, which I like--it looks attractive and the glass is nice and heavy-duty--but agree with the poor reviews about the lid (it doesn't actually seal and it causes the contents of the pitcher to dribble when poured--I just remove the lid to pour).

Yes, there is kind of a theme here. These are all items that you usually find made out of plastic, something I try to avoid, especially when it comes to things that come in contact with food and drink. This article talks about the reasons for that, and I am grateful for having this information, but it can also be overwhelming and depressing, and sometimes gives me a very defeated feeling. Plastic is just so very ubiquitous in our lives, complete avoidance is impossible, or very near it (I mean, the keys I'm typing this on right now are made of plastic, as are the glasses I'm wearing--which I love!). But soldier on I will in my efforts to at least keep it at a minimum, particularly around the food stuffs. I really could go on and on about this (coconut milk, my favorite "black" olives, sardines--they all come in cans which are undoubtedly plastic-lined, and I'm not about to give those things up), but I think I've made my point, and I just heard Enrique sing to himself and Zoë, "Twenty-five years later, Mama's still on her blog."

By the way, I expanded this post and then re-published it, so if you saw it earlier today and thought it was shorter, you're not going crazy! It's me that's crazy with my post-publishment blog post editing. It's actually a bad blogging habit I have--I often find myself kind of obsessively "fine-tuning" posts that are already published (usually right after I publish them, something about seeing the "final" post makes me come up with ever-so-slightly different ways I'd rather put things) but it just doesn't feel right. So I'll vow to cut that out right now, with the exception of for the purpose of layout issues (like if there's more space than I want between photos or something), because the "preview post" option isn't really accurate to how the post looks once published.

Update: Updates are, of course, permissable. And, you know what, I've thought it over, and "vow" is really too strong a word. How 'bout "try" instead? Hee hee. I like the feel of that better. I guess I don't really want to make any hard and fast promises about it, but I did want to share. Don't worry, the irony that I just changed my mind about something I'd already published isn't lost on me. I'm just crazy like a fox I guess (does anyone know where that term came from?).

Friday, January 8, 2010

Putting my stamp(s) on the new year!

Okay, dorky title, I know. And I'll shut up about the new year already (I feel like I'm "new year this" and "new year that" on this blog lately, but I really don't talk like that all the time, sincerely!). Anyway, yesterday I stamped these little pocket notebooks using stamps from this fantastic stamp set I got for Christmas.
Taken from old Webster's dictionaries, this set has the best little images ever--just perfect for stamps! (Don't mind the bite marks Zoë already managed to leave on them; thankfully the actual stamping parts are still perfectly intact.)
I would have a hard time picking a favorite, so I won't. I love them all. And check out this book (and latest addition to my Amazon wish list)! The blank notebooks I bought with Christmas gifts in mind but only ended up giving away a couple of them. So maybe more will be gifted next year, especially now that I have the perfect way to personalize them.

Monday, January 4, 2010

New Year, New Glasses

Months ago, armed with this clipping from a J. Crew catalog, I began my hunt for a new pair of eyeglass frames.
After many strike-outs and when I'd reached a point where I'd actually given up on this particular style for myself, I found these.
Pretty close match, wouldn't you say? But, more importantly, they fit my face well, whereas everything else similar I'd tried on up to that point just didn't. Even though I feel they're a mite trendy, and on a bad hair day I might resemble Garth Algar a little more than I'm comfortable with, I love them nonetheless.

(Above photo found here)

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Ringing in Twenty-Ten

With dressy clothes,

food, drink, friends,

and sparklers!

(Admittedly not quite as thrilling as when I was eight, but fun nonetheless!)