Friday, January 31, 2014

The balance

I often have a little bit of an etiquette dilemma when a friend is having a baby. I'm at the life stage where I have plenty of friends who are parents, but only a couple have more than one child. I'm really in the, "We're having our first baby!" moment. It's very exciting, especially because it means there's a baby shower on the horizon. But, I've never been to a baby shower that was held after the baby's birth. I know its important to show up a the shower with a gift in hand - I get it, that's the point. But then, I feel just ridiculous if I go to meet the baby for the first time empty handed. I've done it - seriously weird. Sometimes I'll bring a meal or some other weird token that's really for the parents, but I feel least awkward if I can bring something for the baby. But, I already gave my present at the shower!

So, not too long ago, one of my officemates had her first baby. (Another officemate is expecting right now, due in March with her third. That situation should be way simpler!) I went to her shower, after having made her a mason jar cozy, and I brought her a gift from her registry. Then, several weeks later, her due date arrived and she wasn't at work. And I got the word from her team: she was in labor. Yay!

That evening, I was out with Ginny and we stopped by JoAnn's. (Dangerous, I know). And while there, I found some good stuff:

I bought this fabric kit to make a double layer tied fleece blanket. I thought the planets would be the perfect fit for him as he grows older. I also had no trouble finding a gift bag to match, which was cool!

And, just as they were announcing that the store was about the close, I stumbled upon the charm on the left - the antique gold whale on the copper background. The theme for the nursery had been whales, and I'd really hoped to use a whale print fabric when making the fleece blanket. Unfortunately, that dream could not come true. They only had one whale print fabric at JoAnn when I was shopping. It was a series of white, graphic wales that were tightly patterned together. That part, I really liked. But, the background was the nastiest color of acidic, limey green. It was horrifying. I actually spent some time trying to figure out if perhaps there was a solid that would match it and maybe dial it down a little. Nope. No dice. They didn't have a single solid that even remotely matched. Thanks but no thanks. I will take the planets. So then, when I saw this whale charm, in the $1 bin no less, I knew it was meant to be.

With the findings kit, pictured above on the right, the necklace came together in a snap. I put it in a little box and added it to the bag with the blanket. Off I went to meet the baby for the first time with a perfect gift in hand!

P.S. While making the fleece blanket, I also made a similar fleece blanket for another special baby. My cousin had her second child, a daughter we call Little Susie, nearly a year ago. I haven't seen my cousin since she was pregnant with her first, a now 4 year old son, because she and her family live in Germany. I guess that's my excuse for getting the baby gift across the finish line just before the first birthday. (Also, I timed it right to avoid Christmas traffic at the post office. Whew!) In any case, its so cute, I just had to share!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kjøpt på Ingebretsens

Um what? Yeah, that's right. I wrote a blog post title in Norwegian. What does it mean? It means "Bought at Ingebretsen's." And how does it sound? A little like "Shuuuppppt poe Inguhbritsun's." So what's this really about? Quite a while ago, my mom's sister, my Aunt Lisa, came to visit us in Minnesota from her home in Missouri. During her visit, I went with Aunt Lisa and Mom to Ingebretsen's, a Scandinavian imports store and deli. I found some interesting little pieces of art there, but before I could get them up on the walls, Christmas came and took over everything. So, now that Hurricane Christmas has finally gone back to where it came from, I thought I'd share this with you.

First, I came upon this turquoise post card. I knew I had to have it just as soon as I saw it! The message at the bottom says, "Uff-Da, it's Lutefisk!" I think its a little funny, since I think lutefisk is really gross. But, really, the selling points were the color and the neo-folk art style. A modern day girl in a Norwegian sweater? Sounds like me.

I had this red frame at home already when I bought the post card. It was a bit of an impulse buy at Michaels early in the fall. I liked the raised, tin texture on the front and I knew it would work in my living room no matter what it held. Once it had the post card inside, I grabbed the hammer and got to work.

I also snagged these note cards.
The top one really drew me in - it features a carved wooden lunch box, called a "tine" (say TEE-nuh). If you had a Kirsten doll, you might recognize this concept: she had one for sure! Anyways, I thought that one was extra special and added the Viking ship on the bottom to make a set.

I considered framing them separately, but later decided I really wanted them to be in one frame together.
This is the frame I found. It was a little bit of a challenge finding one that was just right, because these cards are somewhere between 4x6 and 5x7. I thought this would be pretty easy: I'd make two little backing pieces and then fit each one into each slot in this frame.

And then I pulled the back off and discovered this. EEK! It only appeared to be two frames, it was actually one. I had to revise my plan. I used the liner that had come with the frame to trace onto my backing paper, which is the solid, dark red scrapbook paper you see in the upper right corner. Then, I put masking tape loops on the back of each card and positioned them as best I could. I put the frame back together, and then immediately hated the alignment of each image. Rinse and repeat - a few times.

Here's a shot of the images in the frame. You can sort of see the red border, I know it's not exactly perfect, though I think its good enough since the top and bottom are centered appropriately.

Here's the final product, in its new home. Pretty pleased!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Workshop Update

So, I know I haven't posted about a jewelry-making project in quite a while, but I've been busily working away nonetheless. Feast your eyes on these updates!

I found these sweet ombre beads not too long ago.
I snagged these guys at JoAnn's. I wasn't actually drawn to the purple at first - they had a number of colors that were all developed in ombre. There was a coral-y pink, and a teal-y blue that both caught my eye. But, for a long time I had been on the hunt for purple beads to make a purple necklace. I wear a lot of purple, so I knew I needed something in that family to complete my wardrobe.

I had encountered lots of bead choices in that middle purple shade displayed above, but that really was not what I was looking for. It was the darkest purple shade that sold me on these ombre bead sets. You can see, despite the color distortion in the photo, that I actually used all of the darkest purple beads and only a few each of the lighter shades when making my necklace. It doesn't exactly look like ombre from the front, but I'm pretty okay with that since it matches more of my purple clothes.

I also did a little bit of jewelry repair not long ago.
These earrings were part of a combo with a necklace that I bought at Charming Charlie. From the moment I saw them, I considered the possibility of replacing the earring hardware so that they would be lever-back rather than fish-hook style. That became not an option but a necessity when I got them home and removed them from the card. Though you can't see it super well in the photo above, there was silicone-type gel on the hooks that would not come off. EEK!

 Lever-backs to the rescue!

So, here's the finished product: it's functional, since there's no solid goop preventing the hook from going through the hole in my ear, and its perfect for work since it's comfortable when answering the phone.

I also picked up these cool beads a while ago, with dreams of making a pink necklace to add to my collection.
I thought this shape would be just interesting enough that I could get away with a single strand of all the same bead.

And, since the pattern was so simple, making the necklace was a snap! It's already achieved favorite status, because even though the beads are large they are very light. They're like super shiny gumballs!

So that's it from the jewelry workshop for today. There'll be more soon, you can count on that!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mason Jars

I know you've seen pictures of Mason jars on the internet lately. Pinterest, blogs, Facebook, even just on other news websites. They're everywhere! And now, they're apparently the subject of commentary.

It started with a slightly-snotty opinion piece by a writer who encouraged us to see that sometimes, DIY-ing projects is foolish. She certainly makes an interesting point: we don't necessarily save money by doing projects ourselves. The poor Mason jar served as a lightning rod, particularly because it has become so popular.

But, actually, before I'd read the original, I came across a link to this responsive piece on the Country Living website. She defends DIY projects, noting that there's something to be said for doing projects for ourselves rather than buying them pre-made. She also defends the Mason jar, sharing some of the great history of the jar and the hard work that our country was built upon.

I'm not really here to get into the debate about whether making crafts is feminist, which is part of the undercurrent in both of the articles mentioned above. I don't know, and I don't care, as it pertains to other people. I do the crafts I do because I enjoy them. No one makes me feel like I have to do them, and I don't really care what other people think about the finished product. The only exception is when the project is a gift, in which case I care some about the recipient's views.

And while I was noodling about the questions raised in both the critique and the response, I ran across this end cap at Target. Plastic "mason" jars, with the word Aladdin scrawled on the front, that are now meant for drinking and traveling? Yeesh.

I don't have strong feelings about Mason jars in general. I know they're some people's style, but they're not really mine. That's not to say I don't find them charming, but I'm on overload with everything I've seen on the internet. To an extent, I'm with the critic: stop shoving pictures of Mason jars in my face. Anything else, please!! But, then, I look at this and I want to scream: YUCK! This is what happens when we outsource our style to a big company. Sure, I could find Pinterest instructions as to how to make some kind of lidded drinking glass out of a Mason jar. But why bother when I could plunk a ten spot at Target and walk away with this, right? That's what the critic would want me to do!

So here is my response to these writers, and the internet at large: there are some crafts I make because I really enjoy doing the craft itself. The prime example is knitting - in general, I find it very relaxing. But, for the most part, I make crafts because that's the way that I get what I really want. I wish I'd been blogging when I moved into my first apartment. I wanted to decorate my bedroom in pink and green, and I couldn't find anything in that color scheme. It was August, I wanted Easter. But, the perfect shades of pink and green craft paint were available. I slapped it on everything I could find. I make a lot of the jewelry I do because I'm seeking something in a particular style, color and length. Its so often that I start making something only because I've been out shopping and I've struck out completely. I guess I could get more active on Etsy, or other internet based options, though I actually do relatively little shopping online. I really prefer to observe things in person - I get a better feel for the size, texture, shape, color and sturdiness of whatever it is I'm shopping for. When you put that all together, you get a crafter like this one!

I think that, even if sometimes making it yourself is actually more expensive, especially when it comes to time, it can be worth it if that's the means by which you stay true to your style. If your style is the Aladdin brand mason jar, go for it. But, if not, I think its worth the energy to make the thing you really want. Just do it!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Last weekend - not MLK weekend, but the one before that - I got to do something pretty special. I'm totally not the person who spend a lot of time listening to interesting local acts at different venues around town. I know that's like, a thing, among some people of my generation. Me? No. But, when a favorite comes to town, I love to make an appearance! 

That's right - Keith Urban! This was during the first number on his set. He actually came on stage with the house lights still on. It was actually really strange. He and his band were playing and it was a little hard to see them because everything was so light. Behind them was a big gray curtain that was sort of billowing in the breeze. One moment, though, the lights went out and the curtain fell to the floor. The five-screen view was revealed! 

Keith was on tour promoting his newest album, Fuse. I hadn't been following his music very closely in 2013. In fact, I didn't even realize he was coming to town until one of my friends from grad school asked me if I wanted to go with her. She'd already bought tickets thinking her husband would want to go along, and apparently he didn't - I said yes in a heartbeat! When I heard Keith was coming to town, I realized that probably meant he had released a new album and did a little research. I thought about buying the CD myself ahead of time, because I like to listen to the new music enough before a concert that I'm familiar with it when I get there. But, prudence won out: I asked Santa to bring it, and he did! It was on just about constant repeat in the car from December 26 until the concert, January 11. 

The first opener was Dustin Lynch. We ate dinner before the concert, and by the time we arrived, he was playing the last song in his set. The second opener was Little Big Town, here, playing their recent hit "Pontoon." At first I was surprised that such a popular group was just an opening act. But, as they played their set, I realized how many of their songs I had never heard before. Sometimes I confuse Little Big Town with Lady Antebellum (this is awful, I know), but hopefully I've now been broken of that habit! 

This is what the ambiance was like in the Target Center when Keith and his band started playing. Weird, right? And there's the gray curtain, billowing. 

And then, BAM! Here's Keith, on the gigantic screen! 

This is, I think, the third time I've attended a Keith Urban concert. He is so relaxed on stage, and more than anyone else I've seen, he takes it seriously that he's on stage to entertain. So, at this concert, he shined a light out into the audience to read the signs people had brought. After reading them, out loud, he called up this girl. He suggested they take a selfie, which they did. Then, his roadies carried out this recliner and she sat in it while he played a song. The best part was that she got to pick from a list of songs, and she chose one of my favorites, "Where the Blacktop Ends." It was adorable! 

He played a good mix of older and newer music. During one of the new songs, all of the words flashed along on the screens. It was so cool! 

And then, the moment we all knew was coming, finally did. Here's the B stage, SUPER close to where we were sitting! 

SO close. SO awesome! Even though he's done it at every concert I've been to, I'm always shocked when he walks through the crowd to the B-stage. There's security around, sure, but he's not walking down some kind of an aisle. He's shaking hands while people are touching him. It's totally crazy! 

After a song or two, he made it back to the main stage where the set wrapped up. The closing number in the main set is one of my all-time very favorite of his songs, "Somebody Like You." Don't let your heart stop beating, but please know that song is turning TEN this year. I'm not even kidding - it was released in 2004. GAH! Anyways, he did the whole song - album version, not just radio - and it probably lasted for nearly 10 minutes. What a way to close out the main set!

And before we knew it, it was encore time. He played a little on the piano on the stage, and then once again, he was back in the crowd. This time, security brought this tiny little platform with them and set it up on the stairs, where Keith stood - completely surrounded. He played some, handed the guitar off to a pre-teen girl in the audience for her to keep, and then headed back to the main stage for his final farewell. 

I know these pictures do it basically no justice at all, but it was an awesome night! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


Hey guys! Sorry I missed you yesterday. As a government employee, I had the day off work on Monday in honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday. (That's his whole title, and the name of a street in St. Paul. One time, I addressed, by hand, a number of letters to an address on that street - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Yikes! Though, if anyone is worth such a name, he's it.) So, anyways, my weekend is just wrapping up this morning.

Not very much exciting was happening here at the Marvelous Apartment:
Well, okay, this was happening. And I was pretty excited about it - finally putting the Christmas decorations away. Everyone else has already done so, but I hung in there until I just couldn't take it anymore.

This gave me the opportunity to "redecorate" my living room. What I mean by that is, I have so much stuff out usually, and so much other stuff I want to put out for Christmas, that I actually have to put quite a bit of the regular stuff away to make room for the Christmas stuff. And so, January looks like this:

 And this...

 And this...
As much as I'm proud that I have a "collection," I'm not crazy about the random, piled approach in the pics above. So, I spent some time over the weekend getting things back in order. I should have some updated photos soon, since I'm also working on some new projects to add into the mix.

The other excitement, though, is that I rediscovered something!
That's right, you've seen these before, actually twice. I must have put these away in preparation for Christmas in 2012. Then, in my haste to get my life back together in early 2013, I must not have removed them from the Christmas bins.

So now, here the are, back in position. They spent 2013 at rehab or on sabbatical or whatever. It doesn't matter - they're back now! And I love them so much, it's like I just found some brand new decor!

Thursday, January 16, 2014


Wow, guys. I can't believe this day is here and I'm here to blog about it. Two years ago today, on January 16, 2012, I made my first real post on this blog. What about? My love for Downton Abbey. Some things never change.

I spent some time at the end of 2013 thinking about whether I wanted to do some kind of year-in-review deal, or maybe talk about exciting plans for the year ahead. Neither of those felt quite right. I took some pretty gigantic blogging breaks in 2013 - in fact, last year on my first blogiversary, I didn't celebrate or even notice because I was away from the blog. So, I decided that, today, I'd just share with you my thoughts and great big smile about where I've been so far on this blogging adventure that apparently began on January 16, 2012.

I've decided to use this occasion as a chance to look back on the adventures that have come to me in the last two years. I've blogged about tons of craft projects, especially knitting and jewelry making. I've written about eating Paleo, and of course, not eating Paleo! I've told you about painting my nails and shopping for light bulbs. I jumped in a bounce house. I took a trip with my family to Duluth. I had several shopping adventures and explained some wild finds. I got to share books, movies and music with you - a lot! And by that I mean, I watched 30 Rock and would not shut up about it. I did some decorating projects in my apartment and even entered it in Apartment Therapy's Small Cool Contest, though it was not selected. I volunteered for a weekend at summer camp, and had college friends come stay with me during Advent. I tried crazy needle crafts, like needle felting, punch needle and embroidery. I went to the Ikea crayfish party twice. I knit two blankets. I hosted two parties to ring in New Year's Eve, and two book clubs and more than two birthday parties. I wrote a novel. And I wrote 305 posts on this blog.

It hasn't all been sunshine and rainbows and trips to Forever 21's jewelry-only store. My life was changed forever in August, 2012 when I learned that my health was in fragile shape. I never would have imagined, when I began the blog about seven months before, that I'd wind up being forced to take a break because I was in the hospital. And I never imagined that I'd need two big surgeries, and that after each one, it would take months for me to feel enough like my old self to return to blogging again.

It's a little crazy to me to look back over these lists, the good and the bad, to see all of the things that have happened in the last two years. Sometimes I think my life is boring, though this quick survey reminds me that couldn't be further from the truth! When I was recovering, it would have been easy for me to stop blogging. Walk away and not look back. Instead, those breaks solidified for me how much I've come to love Marvelous Minnie, blogging and you guys! During the breaks, I realized that I wouldn't actually return to feeling like normal until I was doing what had, by then, become normal: blogging. Because I'd come to love this forum. When I'm doing whatever it is I'm doing, if I'm going to blog about it, it's as if you're with me. Whatever boneheaded adventure I dream up next, there you are. Even if the next one turns out to be a dud, I know you'll be there to read about it and the one after it too.

This was the cupcake birthday cake that was presented to me at my last birthday. It was awesome and I wish I could share a piece with you now to celebrate these two years. They've been great and have me looking forward to what the next two will bring!

Monday, January 13, 2014

Still alive!

Hey guys! If you're here, it means you're wondering what is happening. Can I plead the fifth on that one? Just kidding - mostly. Things have been a little hectic around here, so I haven't had time to get some regular posts prepared for you. With work commitments and personal commitments, I've been running like crazy!

All I can really offer you is this picture that I took like ages ago...

Peaceful, right? As the scurrying continues over here in Minnie land - I'm wishing the peace in this picture for all of us. The peace to sit on a bench on a lovely spring day, reading a book and watching the clouds go by. It'll be here in the blink of an eye!

Friday, January 10, 2014

Happy New Year!

I know I'm a bit late in actually wishing all of my readers a Happy New Year, but it's better late than never, right? I've been so busy wrapping up from Christmas that I've hardly even thought about it. But, I did actually ring in the new year with some very dear friends on the day of, so I thought I would share some of that fun with you! 

I started by decking the halls. Or hall, as it were. Behind the New Year's banner, I've got a piece of yarn displaying some of the Christmas cards I've received, along with some extra ornaments. 

I picked up the really terrible messes, but I left the place decorated for Christmas - consciously. There was a long time that I hosted a Christmas party every year. For a variety of reasons, that became impractical. It's actually pretty easy to have everyone over on New Year's Eve, and it's sort of fun that each year, the theme of the party is Christmas! 

Unfortunately, I couldn't do any better than this 4th of July tablecloth. Maybe next year! 

 This was the maiden voyage of the crock pot I received for Christmas. Meatballs for the win! (Also, I discovered BBQ sauce at SuperTarget that was Organicville Brand. It's not really "paleo," but it has fewer scary ingredients and less salt than most other choices. It tastes awfully good - need to buy more!)

I had a crazy spread going - and you can't really even make out the little wheel of brie baking in the toaster oven. I had asked the guests to bring something to eat, which was probably unnecessary given the amount of food I already had. But, the friends took heed and brought plenty to eat and drink. I'm not sure how everything fit into the refrigerator and on the tables, but it did and it was awesome! 

Once everyone was well-fueled, the kids settled into my bedroom to watch Matilda while the grown ups got serious and played Cards Against Humanity. I don't have photos of it, though I did discover this one loner under the coffee table while cleaning up the next day. 

 Shortly before midnight, we re-congregated to open the poppers. They were a 50% off after-Christmas clearance find at World Market. But, with their gold and silver paper, who'd have thought? Kids big and little alike had fun opening them. They were filled with prizes, like a whistle or a comb or a set of paper dominoes. Each popper also contained a tissue paper crown, which became the accessory of the evening.

 We also opened some fortune cookies - reluctantly. I still had the gigantic box of fortune cookies I bought last year. They didn't do very well. I had tried one before the party and had considered buying more, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I knew they'd wind up going bad or getting thrown away before they could all be eaten. So, we did the poppers instead as something actually special. And then most people opened a fortune cookie, and about half the people at it. Many of the cookies had two fortunes inside. Here are mine!

And with that, the evening soon came to an end. It was a total blast and a great way to kiss 2013 goodbye. Welcome, 2014. We're glad you're here! 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Crafted Ornaments, the Sequel

You guys have already heard me squawking on about making homemade Christmas ornaments. I did it on three separate occasions this year, and I have a little follow up for you!

So, you've probably already seen my difficulties filling bulbs with paint. I attributed this originally to the use of glitter paint. That's definitely still a no-go. Shortly after that disaster, I was at JoAnn's when Marigold and Bluebell were in town. We picked up these sweet little plastic bulbs, shaped like Christmas lights.

(You might recall reading a little about the rest of this project here.) Despite the fact that, just days before, I'd actually thrown my previous attempt at this into the garbage, I was not deterred.

We even bought some totally adorable dixie cups for the occasion!

So, here are all of the plastic bulbs bearing a beautiful coat of paint. Looks pretty good, right? For now.

And then it dries, and this happens.

Don't forget about this. SAD!

These ornaments still had good sides, but I was unbelievably disappointed. I decided to persevere, because I just thought to myself, "How can the internet be wrong?"

After another coat, or in the case of the pink one, three, I got these:
They're just as I'd hoped they would be. They're hanging on the tree and looking awesome!

I also have a quick follow-up to an ornament I mentioned in Monday's post regarding the crazed days just before the big day. I had a bit of an Elmer's glue malfunction, so my ornament looked like this:
(excuse the fuzziness of this image - I cropped it out of a different pic you've already seen). So yeah, this is embarrassing. But, since the holidays have started to subside, I've had a chance to settle in with my Elmer's and get thing squared away!

Now the pom-poms finally look like garland - it's just as I dreamed it would be!

Okay, with that crafty follow-up, I think we're ready to be done with the Christmas posts. (Well, pretty much - I bet another one will sneak in here somewhere). In any case, though, it's time to move forward. Onward to the New Year!