Monday, April 30, 2012

Birthday! (Part One)

As you may have seen last week, Friday was my birthday! I love my birthday, especially because it gives me a good chance to spend time with friends and family. Last week was a little hectic, with a busy schedule at work and the last minute preparations for my birthday plus that of one of my coworkers, one of my college roommates, and my mom, all is quick succession. But, by the time Friday rolled around, the preparations were nearly done and it was time to begin the fun!

I was lucky to receive many texts and Facebook messages from friends wishing me well on the big day. Some people say that Facebook alienates us from our friends, but I think that's definitely not true on your birthday! Ginny's kids, who I think of a bit like nieces and nephews, also made videos of themselves singing Happy Birthday. They're on my FB page if you want to see them, and they're so cute I cried when watching them at the office! And basically every time since... It made me feel very special to know so many people were thinking of me even though we weren't together!

My awesome co-workers took me out for lunch at my favorite spot - Davannis! We enjoyed hoagies, Parmesan Garlic kettle chips and the world's coolest Coke machine. They also gave me a present which was truly perfect!
Jewelry Making Supplies! Given that I made each of them some jewelry when it was their birthday, I guess this was maybe a no-brainer, but it's VERY exciting! I'm looking forward to making some more projects soon.

I had the chance to duck out of work a little early on Friday afternoon, and I definitely took advantage! I headed over to Caribou.
I enjoyed my free birthday drink on the drive home! This was especially important as I was stuck in traffic for ages in some road construction where three lanes were becoming one, adding at least 20 minutes to my trip. Thanks to Caribou, my blood pressure remained in normal range!
I also made a quick stop at Barnes and Noble to pick up another gift for someone else and decided to buy myself a little birthday present. Overly indulgent? Maybe so - the good news is, it was this!
Yippeee! Easy crosswords!!!

In the evening, I had the chance to go out for dinner with two of my dearest friends from grad school. We went to the Macaroni Grill!
Yum! We enjoyed pasta and wine and a set of mini canoli for dessert. It was great to see them and catch up with them. As is common when we get together, we were among the very last people to leave the restaurant that evening. Sorry, waitstaff! When we get to talking, there isn't much to stop us!

All in all, Friday was a wonderful day that made me feel very special. And the fun didn't stop there. I went to bed on Friday night looking forward to Saturday's adventures!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Minnie's Birthday

Minnie's Birthday

Minnie's Birthday by marvelousminnie featuring an ULTA lip makeup

28 years ago today, very early on a Friday morning, I was born! I've decided to mark the day by enjoying some of my favorite things, as you can see above. I hope you have a chance to enjoy something wonderful this weekend! I'll be out celebrating! 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shopping Shenanigans

With all of the birthdays coming up in my circle of friends and family, I feel like I've been shopping like crazy. I've seen some adorable things out and about that I thought I'd share with you.

Here are some finds from my tried-and-true, trustworthy standby: Target!
Look who it is! Everyone's favorite Japanese Panda-shaped cookie. Yum yum yum!
Another score at the dollar spot: adorable thank you notes in cute springtime designs.
And don't forget these brights. They are so lovely, how can you not think, "Summer!!!" I love that their reminiscent of these from Crate & Barrel, but in lovely colors to spruce up your place.
Next, I stumbled upon these cute jammies from Nick and Nora. I can't decide which one I like better - I do love turquoise and red!
And finally, these adorable Scandinavian-inspired patterned lounge pants. Lots of awesome inspiration!

I also had a chance to go to Wal-Mart this week - gasp! I know, there are lots of reasons I don't typically shop at Wal-Mart, but I do go every once in a while. The Wal-Mart located near my office is pretty new, very quiet, and can make a nice little shopping stop. After a particularly stressful day at work yesterday, I decided to take a break to wander the aisles and blow off a little steam. Check this out!
I found these 4 pairs of earrings...
And this modern little red glass dish. Hooray! Love great deals! I hope you have a chance to take on a few shopping shenanigans of your own sometime soon!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The White Necklace

Today is the birthday of one of the other women on my three-person team. We don't typically exchange store-bought presents, though we often make gifts for one another. (She and I like to go to craft stores, or the craft aisle at the Wal-Mart across the street from out office, when we have extra time on our lunch breaks). Our other co-worker had her birthday in January, and she was the first person to whom I'd given a piece of jewelry I'd made. I wanted to take this opportunity to make something!
I actually got the supplies for this as a kit at Michaels. I knew I wanted something that was a pendant for her, but I had a lot of trouble picking out a pendant I really liked. I was having so much trouble, I actually was keeping track for a few days of what color outfits she was wearing to try to help me narrow it down. Ultimately, it didn't work. I saw this white one and I knew it! All I added were the findings (beading wire, clasp, extender chain), along with some miniature pearls that were on their own string. I spent some time putting this together and I really hope she likes it!

Here's a shot of the work in progress. I've never done a double strand before, but this one went pretty well, especially after I got those extra strands out of the way with a bag clip!

Here it is with the matching earrings!
I hope she likes it! I'm nervous that it's too long, or too short, or too loud, or not loud enough, or that it will just break apart in the box. The good news is that, since I made it, I can actually probably handle any one of those problems. Maybe I'll take my jewelry making tools to the office, just in case!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bowling Alone

I recently read the book Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam. I remember hearing about this book many years ago, sometime after it was released in 1999. I then ran across it again during graduate school, but didn't have the opportunity to read it then. Last summer, while I was up north, I stumbled upon this copy at one of my very favorite shops: the Little Apple used book shop on main street in Walker. I snatched it up, excited to do my part by buying it at this tiny retailer in the middle of Lake Country. It sat on my bookshelf until recently, when I had the chance to read it.

This book is about the rising trend of social disengagement observed during the last 20+ years of the 20th century.  Of course, because that's when it was written, it focused on current events. Now, 12 years later, it's somewhat out of date, which is the only reason I wouldn't recommend it. When I look at the turmoil that has faced our country since this book was written, including September 11th, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the ever-multiplying importance of the Internet, and the financial collapse, it's hard to know whether the author would draw the same conclusions today. More challenging for the reader is to know whether the same conclusions could be derived from the data, even if all of the social metrics were the same, given the different state of our world today as compared to 1999.

That said, this book has several redeeming qualities for those who want to read an out-of-date current events book. Most importantly, I think the author does a broad survey of the ways in which people engage in society, including church, politics, clubs, socializing with friends, serving on juries (which I didn't, by the way!). While there may be different ways of connecting to society now than there were in 1999, I think the survey in this book provides a good place to start. There is also lots of historical information, especially regarding voluntary associations and clubs, that is all still accurate though not updated. I certainly learned more about the roles of community organizations in the earlier 20th century than I had ever hoped to know. I think the most interesting aspect of this book is that the author draws a bunch of conclusions about Generation X as the "youngest" people on his radar - since the book is primarily focused on social engagement among adults. While we Millenials, or Gen Y, or whatever you want to call it were alive when the book was written and its conclusions were developed, we were not included in the analysis. This provides readers with an interesting opportunity to decide for themselves whether Gen Y is even less engaged than its predecessors.

What's my answer to that question? Hard to say yet. The author points out that there is naturally a peak in engagement when people become parents: parents are more likely to attend church, coach children's sports teams, or get involved in local school organizations than non-parents. Many members of Gen Y aren't parents yet - and anecdotal evidence suggests that many are delaying parenthood even further than they otherwise might because of the instability created by the economic situation. In fact, to me, the economic situation is the reason I'm unsure as to whether the trends observed in the past will continue. The author points out that part-time employment has been found to be superior to both full-time employment and non-employment (unemployment or working inside the home) to stimulate community service. Are members of Gen Y who can't find  full-time work using their extra time to serve? Are young workers less inclined to take on responsibilities outside of work for fear that it will distract focus from the job that was difficult to get in the first place? Or, are those who are unemployed or underemployed making ever greater use of "networking" opportunities to engage with other professionals, whether in social or service opportunities? I don't know, but I do hope that this work will be updated at some point in the future with the answers to these questions.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Labor of Love

As those of you who read this blog from time to time know, I love to knit! I spent most of 2011 knitting up a storm. The bad news is that, since I hadn't started this blog yet, I didn't take pictures of all of the scarves, potholders and coffee cozies that I knitted. Once I'd done dozens of projects like that, I knew it was time to try the mother of all projects: the blanket. I wanted something I could work on for a while, and I figured it would be cheaper to do one big project, even using a bunch of yarn, than to do several smaller ones. I decided to make this throw.
The pattern I used was inspired by something I saw in an old knitting book of my mom's from the 1970s. The photo above shows a nice view of the seed stitched edge.
 Here's a nice shot of the checkerboard effect. While I love basket weave, I knew that the checked look would be easier to achieve. The main difference between the two are whether the squares are all the same dimensions, or whether some are bigger and some smaller, creating the woven look. Because all the squares are the same size, I was able to use knitting markers in the first row and keep them in the same location as I worked the whole thing. The squares are all 8 rows by 8 stitches.

I began with 4 skeins of yarn. Then, I had to go back for another 4. Finally, the 9th skein did the trick.
This is a THROW blanket that is covering the entirety of my full-sized bed. Yikes! While I hate tiny little throw blankets, mostly because I'm so tall, this one is a total monster. The finished dimensions, which I measured just moments after taking this photo, were 57" wide by 73" long. I used it yesterday while I was watching TV and noticed that, even this acrylic yarn (Impeccable from Michaels) doesn't provide the kind of heat I thought it would. I think this will be just the right weight for summer. And boy, does this thing have drape! It's so heavy that it stretches out when you hold it up. I wasn't really expecting that when I made it, but the draping makes it extra cozy!

After having worked through 8+ skeins of yarn, during a period of about a year, I can say that I'm definitely glad to be done, though this project was certainly a labor of love.

Friday, April 20, 2012


I know there are lots of other bloggers out there who are devoted to Essie nail polish. For quite some time, I've wanted to try it. Every time I spot their display at Target, I marvel at all of the beautiful shades of light pink. I recently had a coupon for a few dollars off a beauty item over $5 - and because I didn't desperately need anything else, I decided this was the time. I agonized over which shade of light pink would be just right for me. Nothing peachy, because my skin is too pale. Nothing to bright, because I figured something more neutral would show fewer (inevitable) chips. I selected Adore-a-Ball.

Here's a photo of my nails and the polish after the manicure on Sunday afternoon. I did two coats, no base or top - I'm just too impatient for that many steps!
Now, five days later, things are still going well. Chipping has been minimal, and I don't think it's especially noticeable:
Up closer, obviously, it's easier to see, but I'm not too worried about people being much closer than this during everyday social and work situations. If I had some kind of big event tonight, I'd definitely need to redo them! While this look might require more maintenance than my standard clear polish, so far it's been worth it!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Spring has Sprung!

And here is the proof: 
Look at this picture of the tree in the front yard at my parents' house. We lovingly refer to it as the "Crap-apple" tree - it's, of course, a CRAB-apple tree. It is fully in bloom and I think that means Spring is here to stay!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Cherish frame

As I mentioned here, I had two photos of me with my parents at my cousin's wedding hanging on the wall in my bedroom. Though I'd worked at hard at picking out frames and mats that suited them, I was never quite satisfied with the look. I decided to do something different and realized that what I really wanted was a double frame.

Initially, I planned to get a white double frame and paint it a light green. When I realized I wouldn't be able to find a cheap, double white frame, I began to think about this one:
This warm wood with red tones is just about a perfect match for my dresser, and it was always my intention to hang this frame just above the dresser. I knew I wanted to dress it up a little bit, so it was time to get creative.

The little metal word, which reads "Cherish" was the inspiration. I've had that little piece of metal hanging around for ages, as it came with a frame I got around the time I graduated from college. It didn't work on that frame but I figured it would work on this one. I then hit up the scrapbooking section where I found these pink flowers with rhinestones in the middle. The pen-tip bottle of Tacky Glue rounded out the supply list for this project.

Next, I centered the word in the middle of the cross bar and then scattered the flowers in the corners. Ta da!
I didn't realize until I put the pictures in the frame just how lucky I was that the light green paint idea didn't work out. All of us are dressed in warm colors, and I think this warm wood shade is much more flattering than a minty green would have been.

Here's a shot of the frame in its new home!
I think it works. A perfect place for pictures of my family!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

White on White

Silver and White

Silver and White by marvelousminnie featuring pointy nails

Check out this set I made on Polyvore.. Although I love bright colors, recently I've been loving whites and silvers. I love the way the details stand out on these neutrals!

Monday, April 16, 2012

The third time's a charm

As you know, I love to knit. I learned how while studying abroad in Norway when I was an undergrad. I didn't do a whole lot with it until I learned that Ginny was expecting her first baby when I was in my first year of graduate school. The first "big" project that I knit was a baby blanket for Miss I, who recently turned 5. Since then, I've had ebbs and flows, but I've been hooked.

Before I'd ever begun knitting, though, I learned how to crochet. It was all the rage among my friends at St. Olaf during our first and second years. But, when I took up knitting, I didn't keep up with crochet and I lost the skill.

This last Christmas, I asked for, and Santa brought, this book:
I've noodled around a little bit with a hook and yarn since Christmas and have been surprised by how easily it has come back - especially since I gave up on using the hold recommended in the book. Don't get me wrong, if you were learning to crochet for the first time, it makes sense to follow her instructions because you'll get better stitches with less effort. But, given that I have some muscle memory, it was easier to let my instincts take over. Now, I've got my eye on a pattern that's going to have a shape in one color sit on a background of another color. With knitting, the technique you would use to achieve this effect, intarsia, is extraordinarily difficult. The crochet instructions seemed simpler, so I decided to give it a try.

Here's my first attempt, a heart:

You'll notice that the heart looks a little by stylized, with asymmetrical sides. I guess it looks cool, but believe me, this was not the desired effect! I was trying hard to make a heart that was as plain as could be. But, I dropped a bunch of stitches which is why the fabric is wider at the bottom than the top. Although this was frustrating, it wasn't a surprise at all. I've been dropping crochet stitches since 2002!

So, I decided to make another attempt. The shape I'm wanting to make doesn't have any curves to it - it's all straight lines - so I decided to simplify. Part of the challenge with the heart was the changing number of stitches in each color in each row to create the effect. I figured square on square would be super simple.
Nope. This one still contains a mistake! It's impossible to make a perfectly straight line in crochet. In this example, the right side of the blue box is as close to perfect as you can get. That technique is correct. The mistake is at the upper left corner with that extra v out there. Grrr!

So, I figured the third time had to be the charm. And thankfully, it was!
This one's perfect! Hooray! I'm off to the races to make a multicolored crochet project. More on that coming soon!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Quinoa Salad

Here it is, everyone: my first recipe post. I'm really not much of a cook. I like food that's simple to prepare. Here's a recipe for one of my favorites, quinoa salad.

When I was in college, I studied abroad in France during the spring semester of my junior year. I lived with a host family, made up of three daughters who were in high school or college, a dad, and a mom. The mom was originally from Peru. Right after I got there in February, we started eating quinoa as a side dish during meals. For those who haven't tried it, quinoa is a grain that's a bit like a cross between rice and couscous. It's native to the Andes, like my host mom, and is super high in protein. As the weather warmed up that spring, my host mom began making "la salade," which featured quinoa, any veggies that were laying around, and a light dressing. This was one of my very favorite things that I ate while living with my host family, and once I was home and cooking for myself, I decided to replicate it. I'm not really a pasta-salad lover, so I think this is an awesome stand-in!

Here are my instructions for making quinoa salad:

First, prepare the quinoa according to the package instructions. Typically, that means one cup of grains for two cups of water. Measure carefully, because unlike pasta, you won't be draining the quinoa at the end. Also, make sure to rinse the quinoa before you start. I know some brands advertise that you don't have to rinse it. I don't trust them. As long as you have a mesh strainer, it's super simple to rinse it and you wouldn't want to go to all this trouble and discover that the quinoa has a sour taste! In the photo above, you can see that we have a long way to go!

We're making progress, but it's still not quite done! Also, if you make this, use a bigger pan than I did. I think ideally you'd use a 1.5 quart, while I used only a 1 quart. If it's a little bigger pan, you can walk away while the water gets ready to boil. You can also use the cooking time to prepare your other ingredients.
Alright, the quinoa's done when it looks like this! I recommend that you check it by moving it away from the bottom of the pan. That's the motion I'm making with the spoon in each of these pictures. It's only in the last one that the space I'm creating isn't filled with water. That's how I know it's ready! Once it's done, you'll need it to cool off at least to room temperature. This salad is a great use for left over quinoa, if you have some. If not, you can make the quinoa the day before and chill it in the refrigerator. Or, you can do what I do: as soon as it's done, I transfer the quinoa to a different bowl and take it into the dining room where I leave it for 30 minutes or so, returning occasionally to stir it. If you choose a big enough bowl (like the size you'll need for your finished product), it should be pretty much cool after that half hour.

Next, get ready to chop your veggies! You can use pretty much whatever vegetables you like and have on hand. My host parents had a vegetable garden and were close with a network of farmers that gave them access to something kind of like a CSA, so they always had tons of vegetables at the house. We ate this salad with any kind of vegetable you can imagine.

I have a roster of favorite veggies for this dish, and since I don't often have veggies lying around (because spoilage is a serious problem when you live alone), I usually use half a cucumber, 2 carrots, and 2 roma tomatoes. I cut then into bit sized pieces - they don't need to be finely diced up for this recipe. I use raw vegetables because that's most convenient for me, but you could certainly cooked. I would recommend that they be no warmer than room temperature.

I also use non-vegetable ingredients. My favorite is hard boiled eggs. I had some Easter eggs left over. I also recommend the eggs that come pre-peeled as this simplifies the process if you're in a hurry! I also add walnuts and raisins for a little extra crunch and protein.

So, when all of the mix-ins are ready,  I dump them into the bowl with the quinoa. I like to put "wet" ingredients in first, but that might be irrational. The quinoa, veggies and others are in the bowl on the right. On the left, we have the sauce.

One of the reasons I prefer this to your standard pasta salad is that mayonnaise-type dressings make me a little nervous. My host father was required to strictly avoid mayo and other cream-based sauces for health reasons, so there was never any question of using something like that at their house. You can put whatever kind of dressing you want on this salad. I make one using a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Once, I found a recipe on the internet that suggested 1/2 a cup of olive oil and 1/3 cup of lemon juice. For me, that was WAY too much lemon juice. I use probably more like 1/2 a cup of olive oil and 1 tbsp of lemon juice, though I'll admit that I don't measure anything and just look at the color when I mix it up in my little white bowl. While I think it's a good idea to mix up the sauce beforehand, if you need to adjust the ratios once it's already mixed with the salad, it's not a big deal. Just add whatever you need more of to the bowl, mix it up, and voila!
This is the finished product! Yum! You can serve this however you want. I often eat it as the main dish, accompanied by cooked broccoli, or salad, or cornbread. You can also serve it on the side of a piece of meat - I tried it with a piece of summer sausage recently which was delicious, though it likely cancelled out any health benefits. Enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Fabulous Jewelry Wall

So, as you may have seen, I've been getting more into long necklaces lately. I've had a little difficulty figuring out where to store them. For several years now, I've stored my jewelry on a necktie rack I purchased for this purpose, and it's mounted on the wall above a towel rack in my master bathroom at the perfect height for all necklaces that are 20" or shorter. So, with my long necklaces, I'd been doubling them up. This "solution" was a loser for two reasons: the doubled up necklaces took up tons of space on the tie rack, and the doubled up necklaces got so terribly tangled up, it was difficult to wear them.

Enter some mini command hooks as a solution!  I had this little bit of wall between my bathroom and closet where I figured these necklaces could hang, out of the way, and not become tangled. I added a couple of pieces of decor.
I recently made a trip to Hallmark where I picked up this adorable greeting card. That's also where I found the silver-tone word "Fabulous." It was meant to be a gift tag, probably left over from Christmas, so I got an awesome deal! The frame that I used for the card used to hold one of two pictures of me with my parents at my cousin's wedding. It wasn't really working, so stay tuned for an update on the new home for those!
Here's another view of it. The solid white on the right edge is my (icky) white painted wood sliding closet door. I think this photo gives an idea of just how narrow this wall is. My master bathroom is to the left.
And one parting shot from the bottom up. As the space is configured right now, it should hold 8 long necklaces, though I think I'll be able to add more hooks, and/or reposition the current ones, if I ever need more room!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

An Unlovely Surprise

Earlier this spring, road work began in my neighborhood. At first, I was actually pretty pumped about it. My apartment building is located between a bridge and a little commercial area. The bridge, which crosses a little creek and associated biking and walking trails, needed to close so it could be removed and replaced. Awesome! While it's a little difficult for me to get north, to the other side of the creek, I  rarely go that direction and the detours are very convenient. And, though I know the local businesses have struggled, traffic has really decreased with the bridge closed. Jaywalking became the norm!

Then came the noise. Jackhammers and more. And the jiggling of my huge apartment building. The first time I felt the building shake while I was sitting at my dining room table, I thought I might barf! It's not as thought it's an earthquake and it doesn't disrupt my bookshelves or things hanging on the wall. But still, this is Minnesota, where the ground doesn't shake.

I thought the noise was unpleasant. Things recently took another turn for the worse. ROAD WORK! Yeesh. Here's a view towards the creek: 
Yep. That's the street, with the crane in the background. All traffic has been routed to the west side of the street. Here's a view towards the neighborhood businesses:
It's crazy bumpy to cross the gravel to get to the paved part - and there is a huge sewer cover in the middle of the lane which only recently got itself a safety cone to prevent unsuspecting passers-by from flattening their tires. It has a little bit of a Wild West feel, don't you think?

And then things took what is (hopefully) the last turn for the worse:
Yep. That's a Port-A-Potty on the lawn at my apartment building. While I know the work crews need a place to use the facilities, I can't help but feeling a little like Hilly in The Help. One day I came home, saw this, and could only ask myself: "Why is there a toilet on my lawn?" At least I can be sure that this one is for a good cause!

PS: I hope you enjoy the photos in this post. I recently got the new Android Instagram App and decided to give it a whirl.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

For Love 21

I know this isn't the first time I've posted about an awesome visit to For Love 21. I just can't resist! I was at the one at MOA recently and here are the great things I found!

These two charming pairs of socks. Preppy dreams come true on the left, work-appropriate boring gray on the right.
 This cool double-stranded long necklace, featuring teal-blue jewels. I love it and couldn't even wait to make this posting before wearing it to work!

This is a close-up on the blue jewels that hang along the necklace. They're the perfect shade of teal, which is why I simply couldn't leave without it!
Then there's this necklace, which was the absolute coup of the trip. I know it doesn't look like much when zoomed all the way out...
But this is what it looks like up close! This was the only one they had in the entire store. I adore it. It's lightweight and very simple, so it goes with any outfit where gold jewelry is appropriate. I also am into the fact that it looks kind of like a monogram, but didn't carry the steep price that comes with a personalized necklace.

For all of the loveliness above, the total bill came in at just under $13.00. Awesome!