The onset of winter

Surprise snowfall

Did I speak too soon yesterday? Did I anger the weather gods? It snowed again this morning - still is snowing, in fact - and it’s decided to stick around.

Surprise snowfall

I can appreciate what a fun sight this is to a little person, I really can.

Surprise snowfall

And I can even enjoy this kind of thing myself. Particularly in my pajamas, curled up on the couch clutching a mug of something warm. Oh, yes, that kind of thing really hits the spot.

But beautiful fall-meets-winter scenes like this one only really last until it’s time to head to school. And today, one boy had a delayed opening but the other didn’t. Which means I had to go out twice.

Surprise snowfall

Two times to put the chill into my feet.

Surprise snowfall

Two times to navigate the slushy roads.

This unexpected November snowfall really put a crimp in my Monday morning agenda. The flakes are still falling lazily out my window, the trees are still a beauty to behold, and my toes are still cold from the last time I went out an hour and a half ago…

I’ve had to abandon my plans to get my eyebrows waxed - guess I’ll just be shaggy for Thanksgiving. In all of the snowy excitement this morning, I forgot to start the crock pot with tonight’s dinner, so I’ll have to make whatever tomorrow’s meal was going to be instead. I haven’t yet tackled the work I planned to do on the kitchen sink, but I can handle doing that later this afternoon - and find a way for Eamonn to help me.

Speaking of little helpers, I did accomplish one thing already today. In the hour Aidan and I had to ourselves after we dropped Eamonn off at school, he stripped his and his brother’s beds for me, helped me sort the dirty laundry, learned to fold his own clean shirts and learned to bundle his clean socks into pairs. I have to tap that 7-year-old energy more often… He’s not usually the one who wants to help, but he was ready and eager this morning, and for that I am thankful. Maybe there’s something about being home alone with me, without little brother underfoot that brings out this side of him.

Surprise snowfall

In less than an hour, it will be time to go out again and pick up the little guy. It really is pretty out there. Forget about the treacherous driving, the inconvenience, the chilly feet.

Surprise snowfall

Focus on the beauty. Right?

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Originally published at Polka Dot Creations. Please leave any comments there.

The first snow of the season

Watching the season's first snow fall


It didn’t stick, but it was pretty to watch, as it came down.  Aidan enjoyed a seat by the bay window, and imagined that one of the big flakes was really a camera in disguise, sent by the enemy to spy on us.  It’s pretty interesting to me how his imagination never takes a break.  When I look at big fluffy snowflakes, I don’t see hidden cameras.  I see snowflakes.  And maybe, if pressed to use my imagination, I might possibly see confetti or cotton balls.  Whatever I see, it’s not likely to have a sinister agenda.  It’s just falling, from the sky to the ground, ever so slowly, dancing on the wind.

Today I am thankful that the snow we enjoyed was of the fleeting, non-accumulating type.  I’m just not ready for the onset of winter.

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Why my kitchen still looks like World War 3

New shirt - before


What do you do with a boring, too-big t-shirt with an unflattering unisex crew-neck? Usually I just keep it for a season out of guilt and then chuck it in the giveaway bag. Today I had a different idea.

New shirt - after


How about re-doing the neckline a la those Built By Wendy tops I was making this summer? And then cutting a few inches from the sleeves and hemming them? And finally taking it in an inch on each side? Yeeeees, I think that will do nicely.

New shirt - another option


Maybe I could even dress it up with a belt and a tile necklace?

New shirt


Or some fun umbrella earrings? Either way, it’s a BIG improvement I’d say.

I spent yesterday evening mulling this idea over in my mind, and this morning putting it into action. And that, my friends, is why my kitchen is still a disaster area, there’s a laundry explosion in my bedroom, and the living room is overrun with jackets and shoes. Those are the things, I was planning to rectify this morning before I got sucked into repurposing my shirt.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have a dishwasher to unload…

Oh! Almost forgot my thankful thing. I’m thankful for good health - mine and that of my loved ones.

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LBI Chicken

LBI Chicken

Ingredients

.
1
1/2 cup
1/2 pound
.
1/4 pound
Olive oil spray
Bell pepper — orange
Scallions — sliced, white parts only
Chicken breast — cut into bite-sized pieces
Pepper — to taste
Spaghetti — uncooked
1 cup
2 tablespoons
2 tablespoons
.
1 tablespoon
Chicken broth
Soy sauce
Marsala wine
Pepper — to taste
Flour — dissolved in 2 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Start a pot of water boiling for the spaghetti.  Cut up the chicken & vegetables and sprinkle chicken with pepper. Combine the chicken broth, soy sauce, and marsala wine.  Sprinkle sauce mixture with pepper.
  2. Spray a large skillet with the olive oil spray, and cook the vegetables over high heat for about 1 minute. Add chicken and stir-fry until no longer pink. Add sauce, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer uncovered.
  3. Add spaghetti to boiling water and cook for 10 minutes or according to package directions, while chicken mixture simmers. Aftter spaghetti has finished cooking, add flour & water to chicken mixture in skillet, increase heat, and cook until sauce has thickened. Serve the chicken over the spaghetti.

Recipe By :Lisa Clarke
Weight Watchers Points: 9 for 1/2 of recipe

Notes

Here is the explanation I posted to my BBS (The Polka Dot Cottage) on August 4, 1996:

Friday night, at around 11:30, Neil and I packed a bag, hopped in the car, and went to his parents’ Long Beach Island house. They weren’t going down until Saturday night, so we had a nice day to ourselves. Anyway, I decided I was in the mood to cook supper Saturday night for the 2 of us, so I took a quick trip to Shop Rite, and grabbed some chicken, an orange pepper (’cause it was cool-looking) and some scallions. Then I scrounged around the kitchen for the rest of the ingredients. I followed my usual chicken routine, but the flavors were quite different than usual - and very good! I will definitely be making this again sometime.

And I have. Many many times.

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Honors, Favorites & Pudge

I think today instead of ending with my thankful thought, I will start with it. Guess what - Kim from Today’s Creative Blog featured me yesterday! Isn’t that cool? I encourage you to go check out Kim’s blog. I’ve had it on my must-read list for some time now. She has a knack for finding some very interesting people working in various media, all of whom are making beautiful things. It makes me wish I had a million hours in the day so that I could keep up with all of the creative blogs I discover through her. I’m thankful to be included in such a nifty “club.” Thanks, Kim!

And to all of you who have wandered over here from Today’s Creative Blog, welcome! Make yourself at home. And come to think of it, maybe some of you creative types would be interested in getting in on the Color Challenge… It’s a monthly event around here, each month based on a color. If you can craft something in brown, upload an image to flickr, and add it to our pool, then you can join us. The more the merrier, all media welcome! You can find out more here.

Polka Dot Creations Color Challenge

The pictured images are a few recent challenge submissions that I really like. These particular entries are polymer clay. Interesting how many different hues of brown have been showing up in the pool. I am noticing a really wide variety this time around that I didn’t notice when we did orange, olive, or aqua. Maybe “brown” is just too broad a color name. Perhaps I should have said “chestnut.” Heh. Anyway, my fault for not being specific enough, so I will accept anything from the brownish family. You’ve got a few more weeks to get your submissions in (where did November go already??).

Favorites week of November 12

It’s Friday, so you know what that means? Flickr favorites of course. Such a feast for the eyes, that flickr is, wouldn’t you say?

15-Minute Abs Workout

Will you look at what I played along with last night? I, who haven’t exercised in years. I, who have finally decided that I am ready to be serious about losing some weight. I have set a rather lofty goal of 25lbs, but to be honest, if I lose the 15 I gained during the Summer of Comfort Eating and Elastic-Waist Skirts, it will be enough to make me happy. I have to do something. My body is clearly complaining about the extra weight, every time I do anything the least bit active - and sadly, these days I consider moving from a seated position to a standing position to be “active.” Wish me luck in de-pudging. I signed up with SparkPeople.com, who made the video. They have a few tools that might come in handy, and it’s free, so why not?

Anybody have any suggestions for some good family workout videos? I think I’d like to include the kids in this endeavor - particularly the little round one who is entirely too fond of his tv and computer time. (kinda like his mom…)

Happy Weekend!

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Oh, napkins, how I love thee

New napkins


Napkins. Easiest sewing project ever.

Ok, well, they can be time consuming if you have a lot to make, but they really couldn’t be simpler. And if you only have five minutes to spare, you can sit down, make one napkin, and get back to the rest of your life. They are the perfect “squeeze them in when you can” kind of project. You never have to spend any time trying to regroup, hoping to remember where you left off. Nope. With napkin making, you have a “done” pile and a “not done” pile. You are never coming back to the table “in the middle” of a single napkin, because, really, if you don’t have time to make one complete napkin, then what are you doing at the sewing machine anyway??

These are a gift for my MIL’s birthday, which is Monday. It is dangerous to admire something I have made unless you want one yourself. Case in point: back in August, my MIL complemented me on the Elsie’s Kitchen napkins I was using while serving Neil’s birthday cake. I said “thank you” but really I was thinking “oh, good, now I know what to give her for her birthday in 3 months.”

New table runner


After completing the final napkin last night, I glanced at the clock to see that I still had half an hour before I’d have to quit and put the boys to bed. Then I took a look at the scraps I had left from napkin-making and decided a table runner was in order. My MIL already has a table runner, and I really don’t know if she’ll have any use for this, but I just couldn’t help myself and had to whip it up.

The fabric I used here was 3 Sisters’ Roman Holiday. I am as sure as I can be without having my MIL’s dining room set here with me that this yellow colorway of Roman Holiday goes perfectly with the upholstery on her chairs. And the large-motif flower pattern strikes me as something she would use. Hope she likes ‘em.

Today I am thankful that I bit the bullet and bought my sewing machine back in May.  I have to say, I’m so excited by the gift-giving possibilities this season. I’ve always loved giving handmade items, and for the first few years after I got involved in polymer clay, everyone on my list got a claything. After a while, I felt like everyone had enough clay jewelry and pens, and I started filling the handmade criteria by bartering with other crafters or buying things outright when I could. This season, I have a new skill, and it’s exciting to me to be able to use it to give gifts different than anything I’ve given before. I guess this means in 10 to 12 years when all of my giftees are all napkined-out, completely bescarfed, and over-aproned I will need to take up yet another craft…

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All buttoned up

New buttons on Etsy.

And new buttons at Polka Dot Creations.

Foggy morning

And lots of fog out the window.

Foggy morning

It’s been a day of catching up. I only got half of the orders out today (*sigh*) but the rest will definitely be done by tomorrow. Some batches just take longer than others. This particular one was about twice the size as usual, with a large percentage of international orders. Shipping globally is more time-consuming than shipping locally.

Foggy morning

Of course, the kicker is that once I get these out tomorrow, it will already be time to get the next batch ready to go, if I don’t want to fall behind again. And I don’t.

Ah, it’s almost time for the school bus to get here and another evening to begin. Off I go to await my firstborn’s arrival home.

Whoa, almost forgot my little bit for 30 Days of Thankfulness…  Today I am thankful not to be a deer.  The hunt is on this week at the Great Swamp, and I woke up to the sound of shots being fired.  Just heard another one a few seconds ago, too.  So, I’m glad I’m not a deer and that nobody is stalking me with a rifle at the moment.

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Be vewwy vewwy quiet…

Hunting raccoons

We’re huntin’ wabbits!

Actually, not rabbits. We were looking for a raccoon. We’d seen him sitting in the driveway, watching us walk down the path towards him on our way to the garage. As we got closer carrying our bags of garbage and recycling, he toddled off towards the back yard. I put the bags in the cans in the garage, ran inside to get my camera, gave Eamonn a little direction regarding appropriate behavior around wild raccoons, and set off to see if we could snap a picture of the big guy.

We couldn’t. Never did find him again. But I got this lovely shot of the back of Eamonn’s head, and his nibble-worthy little neck, as we made our way back to the front door.

Packing the orders

It’s been a busy day so far of observing a flock of migrating blackbirds, dropping Aidan off at school, locating a napkin basket, finally changing a hard-to-reach light bulb, cleaning the kitchen, raccoon hunting, cleaning the living room, picking items to be shipped, sitting in on one of Aidan’s classes for American Education Week, sharing lunch with Mom & Eamonn, and picking the rest of the items to be shipped. Were it not for the school-related distraction in the middle of the day, I’d probably have gotten at least the Priority Mail packages on their way today. Unfortunately, though, I’ve missed the mail pickup at this point. Which is why I have time to be blogging right now. If there still existed a chance of getting these packages in the mail today, I’d be hunkering down, stuffing envelopes and boxes with wild abandon. I get a momentary reprieve, but I guess I know how I’ll be spending my night!

Today I am thankful that I have a mother who is willing and able to come over and watch Stuart Little with Eamonn when I have “no younger siblings allowed” events to attend for Aidan. Thanks, Mom :-)

[Edited to add: I forgot to mention what I did here last night.  I enabled gravatars in the comments.  If you don’t have one, you are represented by a big pink dot.  If you don’t want to be a dot, get yourself a gravatar.  They’ll work on any site that uses them.]

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Natural Crafting and the Plastic Addiction

Ecology and Polymer Clay

An unsolicited copy of a new magazine appeared in my mailbox this weekend, and it has brought to the forefront an issue that I have been batting around for a few months. The focus of the magazine is on crafting with natural materials. I flipped through it and saw things like felt, wool, cotton, natural food colors (like, from beets), beeswax, etc. Not surprisingly there wasn’t an ounce of polymer clay to be found.

Ecology and Polymer Clay

Even in the beading article, the words “choose natural materials wherever possible” appeared, essentially excluding the multitude of beautiful polymer beads available these days.

I guess I started considering the idea of natural living, conserving resources, using renewable materials wherever possible, when I started blogging more regularly this summer. I found myself reading blogs like Tiny Choices where the entire focus is on reducing your ecological footprint. I observed bloggers like Amy Karol write about ridding her home of plastic bowls and cups and buying her children handmade wooden and fabric toys. And while I am still choosing to drive my minivan over a small hybrid, and I have no intention of giving up my washing machine in favor of an old-fashioned washboard, I have been making some more ecologically-sound choices inspired by things I’ve read.

New napkins

For one, we’re using exclusively cloth napkins around here now. The only paper napkins we ever use are the ones we’ve collected from take-out restaurants, who always put more than you need in the bag. Initially I started with the cloth napkins because it was an easy sewing project for a beginner. Now, though, I can’t imagine going back to the paper kind - the cloth ones are so soft and nice, particularly after they’ve been broken in.

Groceries

I bring heavy canvas bags with me when I do my food shopping. I don’t know why it took me so long to do this - as it turns out, I like shopping with these bags infinitely more than the paper or plastic variety. There’s nothing more handy than slinging 4-6 tote bags over your shoulders to get the whole grocery load in the house in one trip!

At the moment, aside from what I’ve already mentioned, my actions aren’t drastically different than they ever have been. What has changed is my way of thinking. When I have needed new kitchen things lately, I’ve considered the materials carefully before buying. I’m phasing out the plastics and nonstick stuff, and replacing with glass or stoneware as the need arises. In thinking about Christmas gifts for the boys this year, I’ve found myself drawn more to handmade, classic, wooden objects and less to the ubiquitous Made in China plastic monstrosities that I wouldn’t have previously thought twice about putting on the shopping list.

Plastic is the enemy lately. And as drawn as I am to some of the more natural materials out there (particularly since discovering fabric, sewing, and crafty mom blogs earlier this year) I still am under the spell of polymer clay. Polymer clay, which, in the right hands, can be transformed into a wonderful, colorful work of art. Polymer clay, which has held my interest and taken over my house for the last twelve years. Polymer clay, which is, essentially plastic.

This is not a topic I’ve given much thought to until now, and to be completely honest, I don’t know how I feel about it. These days, I refuse to buy new plastic mixing bowls when I can have glass. I turn my nose up at plastic cups when I can drink out of glass. I don’t have any interest in buying plastic building blocks for the boys, when they could stack wooden blocks instead. But give up my polymer clay? Should that form of plastic be the enemy as well? And will I one day start to perceive it as such despite myself? And even if I remain confortable with it, will there cease to be a market for my creations once more and more people start to “go green” and adjust their attitudes towards plastic?

If you’ve read this far, I’d like to know your thoughts. Are you enamored with polymer clay? Are you feeling the pull to utilize more renewable resources in your daily life? How do you feel about using a material like polymer clay, and does it bother you that it does nothing to reduce your ecological footprint?

[Edited 11/14/07 to add: This topic just came up today on Polymer Clay Daily.  Have a look.]

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Originally published at Polka Dot Creations. Please leave any comments there.