Archives for January 2014

What I’m Into – January 2014

Oh, January.  What a month you were. 

What I Did

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This month will forever be known as our “the wreck” month.  We spent so much time on Autotrader, Craigslist and in car lots trying to find our next car

We also worked hard to get our budget back on track after Christmas last year.  We broke out the envelopes, spreadsheets and watched our mint.com account like a hawk. 

Between me and Lexi both getting sick and several snow days, we also had a lot of family time together.  I realized yesterday afternoon when I went to get the kids from school that I had not been outside my house other than in our yard since early Monday evening!

If you missed the post earlier this week, I knocked out one of my yearly goals this week and finished my first sewing project.  I found I loved sewing and actually, finished my second project this week!  Emma helped me make her a nightgown that you see above.  This second project was actually much easier than the first!

 

What I Listened To

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We’ve been entertaining ourselves with the Frozen soundtrack.  We love the song “In Summer” most.  We also have been singing “Do you Want to Build a Snowman?” during all the snow.  Did you hear there’s a sing-along version coming out this weekend?  We might just have to go.

 

 

What I Watched

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I know I put this in last month’s post, but we continued to race through White Collar and finished up to Season 4 where Netflix stopped.  We continue to enjoy all of the characters on the show and it was great watching Neal evolve at least a little bit through the last seasons. The relationships are just fantastic–Peter and Elizabeth, Neal and Peter and Neal and Mozzie.  All such great dynamics.

I’m also watching Downton Abbey and Sherlock this month since they’ve been back. I had to rewatch Sherlock twice this week to get everything that happened.  So great.  Sherlock was especially good with the little boy at the beginning and his speech was just wonderful—in an awkward and terrible sort of way.

And here’s something I’m not watching: American Idol.  I got out of the habit with the judges last year and even though I hear good things about the panel this year, I’ve been enjoying all the time I have in the evenings without it.  If there’s a must-see performance, feel free to leave it over on the Facebook page for us all to enjoy.  Jen Hatmaker’s list last night about this season nearly has me convinced to check it out, though.

 

What I Read

 

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The Paris Wife – This might be the first book that I just could not get into and sent back to the library unfinished. I can’t pinpoint one thing in particular I didn’t like. All I know is I spent two weeks making such little progress I decided I didn’t care enough to finish and it was wasting my time.

The Secrets of Happy Families – I mentioned this book in yesterday’s post.  I think it’s a great book for anyone to check out.  While a lot of it deals with families with kids, I can see it being applicable to just about anyone.  We’re all a part of some type of family, yes?

Notes from a Blue Bike – This book by blogger Tsh Oxenreider comes out on Tuesday and I’ll be talking more about it next week.  In short, I’ll say it’s a good one.

 

So, that was my January.  What things have you been into?

 

Linked up with LeighKramer.com

What Are We Really Fighting About?

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In mid-December on our road trip to see family for Christmas, I decided to feed my audio book The Secrets of Happy Families into our car stereo.  The kids mostly ignored it, busy with other things, but Scott and I listened in while miles and miles of mountains and farm land passed by.

We came upon a section about how to fight.

The author describes a fight he and his wife got in over what to serve at their child’s birthday party.  She wanted to do a full meal and he wanted to serve snacks.  He came to the conclusion that they were not fighting over pretzels and pizzas, but deeper values.

She didn’t want to appear cheap and wanted to provide for the kids and he wanted save money and keep things simple.  He suggests that most of the time what you’re fighting about is not really what you’re fighting about.  Usually, there is a deeper set of values that are being debated.

Not even hours later, as we still drove home, Scott and I started into our first post-audiobook fight.

(Early apologies for the content of this fight but I know many couples might relate.)

He made a comment about wanting to take me to Victoria’s Secret and buy “me” a Christmas gift.

I can’t remember exactly how my reaction went except it wasn’t an audible “No.” It went something like a huge sigh and look out the window to avoid the conversation.

He was immediately on the defensive, feeling like I was being prudish and unwilling to be fun and intimate with him.

Something different happened though.

He stopped his angry response and said, “Tell my why you don’t want to.”

I calmly explained that it had nothing to do with him, really, it’s just that our budget was out of control already because of Christmas and on the heels of posting about Fair Trade Tuesday, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought of buying anything from there, unsure of what we would be supporting.

Immediately, the fight stopped.  “Yeah, that makes sense,” he said.

I’ve never felt more heard and validated in an argument than that moment.  And honestly—more ready than ever to make a trip to Victoria’s Secret.

For once, what we were really fighting about was clear and we didn’t spend the next 6 hours of our road trip staring out the window holding our end of the silent treatment up.

Does this mean we never argue now?  Not at all, but it did open our eyes to the idea that often what we’re arguing about isn’t really what we’re arguing about and challenges us to pause to get to the heart of the matter.

What I Wore Wednesday 01.29.2014

We have lots of new readers this week, so a hearty “hey, y’all!”  I’m thrilled to have you here. 

If you’re new, I share what I wore through the week on Wednesdays and pair my outfit photos with matching inspirational photos.  I believe God created a colorful, creative world for us to enjoy and reflect.  I’m inspired by color and pattern and it comes out (sometimes) in my clothes.  It’s just a small reminder to me, and hopefully you, of God’s creative character.  You can read more about it here.

 

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I wore this yesterday to work at home while we waited the snow storm.  Seeing this photo below, I wish I would have had a touch of red—perhaps my red Miche bag.

 

Let’s connect so we can do this again  Like AmyJBennett on Facebook.  Follow me on Pinterest (where I post these inspirational pictures), Instagram (where you might sneak an early peek of an outfit) or Twitter.

Linked with The Pleated Poppy

Easy Cheesy Potato Soup Recipe

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I’ve been holding on to this potato soup recipe for months now because I kept forgetting to take pictures.  I’m usually trying to make it for a quick lunch and it totally slips my mind. 

This weekend I grabbed some pictures while I made this for a quick lunch on Saturday.  With 90% chance it’s going to snow in the Carolinas today, it is the perfect chance to share.  It’s ridiculously easy with just a few ingredients.  It’s naturally gluten-free and perfect for lunch on a snowy day.

I based this recipe on this one but substituted the celery (which I rarely have on hand) and added some cheese.

You start by peeling and cubing one potato per person.  I find that two large potatoes will actually feed the four of us.

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Put the potatoes in a pot.  I use my cast iron dutch oven.

Chop 1/4 cup of onion per person and add to the potatoes. I find that one small onion is perfect for two people.

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If you have it, chop 1/4 cup of celery per person and add to the potatoes and onions. If you don’t have celery, like I often don’t, use 1/2 teaspoon of celery salt.

Here’s what it looked like this weekend when I used celery salt.

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Add water to the pot until the vegetables are almost covered but not quite.

Put the burner on high and wait for it to boil.  Once it’s boiling, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft but not falling apart.

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Smash the potatoes, leaving chunks.  How much you mash is really up to your texture preferences.  My kids don’t like big lumps in their soup so I mash mine into small chunks.  Don’t mash too much, though, or you’ll have runny mashed potatoes.

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Now it’s time for cream.  It really doesn’t matter what kind of cream.  It could be milk, it could be half and half, it could be cream, it could be any combination of it that you want.  Personally, I use full heavy cream when I have it.  Pour in 1/4 up per person.

Here’s an optional, but yummy step.  Add in 1/3 cup of grated cheddar cheese per person.  Stir until melted.

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Now, add a bit of pepper and salt generously.  I am always shocked by how much salt this needs. If it’s bland, you don’t have enough.  If it doesn’t leave you wanting another bite, you don’t have enough.  I salt until I can feel the salt on the side of my tongue.  I’m sure that’s not very proper cooking instruction, but it works for me.

As soon as the cheese is melted. it should be ready to serve.

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When I have bacon, I crumble some on the top.  Yum.

This whole process usually only takes me about 40 minutes start to finish with only about 15 minutes hands-on time.  It’s truly become my default lunch option that is fully kid-approved.  Add a quick green salad and call lunch done.

 

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My First Sewing Project – Cutting and Sewing

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I cannot stress how much I’ve learned that sewing an apron has very little to do with actually sewing the thing together.  Sewing is about measuring, cutting, pinning and planning.  If you can get those things right, you are 85% there.

Unfortunately, I often did not get those things right.

The Cutting

As mentioned at the end of my last post, my next steps were cutting the pattern and then cutting the fabric.

I really wish I would have gotten more pictures of this step because I had a few mistakes worth sharing.

The very first thing I learned is what the selvage was on the fabric.  Related to the selvage, is the grain of the fabric.  Yes, this is how very little I knew.

The selvage is the edges of the fabric. You know, that little white line of fabric on the edge?  The grain of the fabric travels in the same direction.

So, the pattern instructions base everything off of those two ideas.  They tell you how to lay it out, whether it needs to be on the right side of the fabric, on the wrong and whether the pattern itself should be on the right or wrong side.

This was my first mistake.  I paid attention to the fabric side, but not the pattern direction so I ended up cutting 4 pieces of pattern incorrectly and had to re-cut them.  Thankfully, I had enough fabric left over.

My other mistake was to not take the notches seriously enough.  The pattern gives you places to notch out triangles so you can later line up pieces of fabric.  When I was cutting, I was like “eh, missed that one.”  How much I wish I would have paid better attention.  I got by but not without a lot of re-placing the pattern on top of the fabric.

And here’s the final thing I did not do I wish I did: write the number of the pattern piece on the back of the fabric.  This also would have helped tremendously.

The Sewing

Finally, the fabric was all cut correctly cut and it was finally—finally—time to sew.

The first step of the apron was to stitch the panels of the apron bib together.

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It was 4 simple, short, straight lines but let me tell you, I felt like I’d just climbed Mt. Everest.  By this point, I’d spent at least 2 or 3 hours cutting and re-cutting.  The very first seam felt like the precipice after a long hike.

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I had oh so much more to go, though.

Next was similarly stitching the panels of the skirt together and I was oh so proud until I realized that I’d entirely stitched them in the wrong order.  My skirt was well, a little catawampus at the top and not the pretty v-shape it was supposed to be.

My machine jammed up right about that time so Mom came to the rescue.

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She removed two of the panels and reordered them the right way.  And I learned my next lesson: you have to eyeball how all the pieces are fitting together as you go. 

Not only did she realize at this point that I’d stitched them in the wrong order, I had too much allowance for the seam. I had sewn it with 5/8” seam instead of 1/4”.  The liner of the skirt wasn’t fitting because it was now too big.  I had to rip the seams out of the entire skirt and sew them again.  Next lesson: learn well your machine.

All of this took me well into the evening.  I truly think I worked on it over 6 hours through the afternoon and evening. 

The next day, I tackled the hardest parts.

I had to pin and the sew the ric rac.

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Remind me never to buy a pattern which requires ric rac.  It’s cute, but not fun to sew on with lots of curves.

The next hurdle was getting the straps turned inside out. 

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These were tiny neck straps that were sewn inside out (as you do) but they had to get right side out.  Mom’s trick was to use a chop stick at the closed end and then pull the fabric on top of itself.  I ended up having to use tweezers to grab the tight fabric.  Unfortunately, I popped a few seams and had to go back at the end and hand stitch those holes back together.

After who knows how long, the straps finally were stitched on and things started moving faster.

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The liner to the bib was sewn on and then the bib was stitched to the skirt.

The skirt was very similar to this: ric rac, straps and then liner.

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During this process, I forgot to leave a hole for the apron to be turned inside out.  I had to go back and take out enough stitches for that. Once I turned it inside out, finally, FINALLY.

An apron:

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I was so happy I had actually done it.

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Yes, there were holes and panels weren’t laying perfectly at spots and seams were showing that probably shouldn’t have been, but it actually looked like an apron.

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I can’t quite remember a time I’ve felt so accomplished.

In all honesty, I’m not sure how much I’ll actually wear it.  I had Scott put a nail up so I could hang it in the kitchen.  It fits right in and I love walking by and remembering the process.

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A few takeaways:

  • I love sewing.  Even though little of it is actually sewing, I really enjoyed the whole process. 
  • More than just sewing, I really enjoyed learning to sew.  It was so much fun to learn something new that wasn’t from a book.  It was great to get my hands dirty, so to speak, and actually have something to show for it in the end.
  • Mistakes were critical to the learning process.  I made a ton of them, but that just means I learned a ton too.
  • If you really actually need an apron, just go buy one.  I spent $40 just in the pattern and fabric and I’d guess I spent somewhere around 15 hours start to finish.  Certainly, it can be done in a fraction of that time.
  • Sewing is less about the end product and more about the experience.  I found that just as I enjoy sitting down to read a book–that it is the process of reading, not the finished book–I enjoyed the process of sewing most.
  • Having help is fun.  Part of me wants to figure out new things on my own, but having my friend JoAnn and my mom’s help was fun. I got to watch them tap into a passion of theirs and share it.  We should all do that more often.

While I can’t recommend sewing for everyone, I do recommend you finally do that thing that’s always seemed interesting, but you’ve never taken the time to learn.  You may find it doesn’t live up to your expectations, but on the other hand, you might just find yourself having fun.