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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Importance of Thank You

I'm normally the type of person who uses January 1st as an incentive to make a fairly long list of resolutions to work on over the course of the year. I love the chance to evaluate my life, my successes and my failings and make goals accordingly.

Not this year.

When January 1st rolled around I knew that 2014 would be crazy. We were under contract for our new house, which we knew would require a whole lot of work. After years of waffling we finally decided to see if a 3rd baby was in the cards for us. I knew any resolutions I made would be forgotten as soon as we closed on the house or I got a positive test, whichever came first (it was the test. Plus a lot of vomiting).

I did make one goal though: write more thank-you notes. I bought a box of cute notes in January and was determined to send them all out by the end of the year.

The first few months of the year were rough. This pregnancy reached its most difficult and scary time right as we were preparing to load up the borrowed trailer. I found myself with piles of boxes to pack, move, unpack and TWO houses to clean plus fresh doctor's orders to take things very easy. Not to mention a family to feed and care for. I was exhausted, nauseous, and completely overwhelmed.

People stepped up. Friends and family came over to help me pack. They made us dinners. They carried things too heavy for me. They cleaned. They wrote notes and brought flowers when we found out one of our twin babies no longer had a heartbeat.

I wrote a lot of thank-you notes. Through the fog of grief, exhaustion, and nausea, writing those notes helped me, more than anything, to recognize the good that was going on around me so that I didn't dwell quite so much on the hard things. I wasn't perfect at it (I missed a lot of people!) but I made it through that box of thank you notes in less than 5 months. I originally set my goal just because it was good etiquette but I kept up with it for totally selfish reasons. Writing those notes was the perfect therapy.

Tiny Prints just sent me a whole new stack of pretty, sparkly gold thank you notes to start working through. Life has calmed down a lot lately but I've got a baby shower coming up (and, you know, a baby!) so I've got plenty more thank you note writing opportunities on the horizon. It's a habit I'm glad I've picked up!


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Monday, July 21, 2014

Nursery Art

"choose to be happy" print from Yellow Bungalow Shop - she does GORGEOUS watercolor and calligraphy!

A group of close friends offered to throw me a baby shower as soon as we found out this baby was a girl. Last week we nailed down the date AND they asked to have it at my house (I have plenty of space and it means I don't have to drive anywhere. Win/win!). That was the kick in the pants I needed to get started on the hard-work part of my nursery. Progress pictures are forthcoming but it's kind of a wreck right now. Give me a few more days.

I've mostly spent the past couple months pondering and online shopping for a gallery wall. I know some people feel like they're overdone and predictable but I think there's something so wonderful about having your own personal collection of art and photos all grouped together in a way that speaks to you.

I've got a couple prints already laying around that I'd like to use (like that gorgeous Yellow Bungalow one above), my talented mother-in-law is going to paint something special and I'll probably use one or two of our family history photos. Here are some other prints I'm considering picking up to round out my wall-

1. Vintage Sea Fan Coral print, Orange Tail, $14

2. Nude Female Ink Wash Figure, Gallery in the Garden, $16

3. Mermaid Illustration, Mika Art, $7.99

4. Geometric Circle print, Sweet Peony Press, $10 

5. I Am Not Afraid print, Beth Allen Art, $35

6. Grand Canyon Art Print, Pine Shore, $16 (except I kind of want to make my own version with one of the pictures Aaron has taken at our fav hiking spot)

Where are your favorite places to find prints? ALSO, my more pressing question, where do you find white pre-cut mats for framing? I found a bunch at Target on clearance back when Aaron and I first got married (I should probably look there) but haven't ever seen them anywhere else. If you've got a good source, please share!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Margherita Pizza

Aaron and I will both openly admit to subsisting on Little Caesar's $5 pizza through most of college and thinking it was pretty much as good as pizza got.

After a few years of marriage we went out to dinner with some friends, one of whom had lived in Italy for a couple years. They promised us real pizza and we were sort of sitting there like, "Do we not know about real pizza? What's the difference?"

OH there is a difference. Thinner, perfectly chewy crust, bright uncomplicated sauce and fresh mozzarella. Basil leaves! Spicy salami! White pizzas! We were blown away and quickly discovered several restaurants around the valley that serve amazing authentic pizza*.

Unfortunately, none of those restaurants are remotely close to us. So, we started experimenting with pizza at home. A good friend of mine, knowing of our pizza-love, swiped a dog-eared Bon Appetit for me from the salon where she works. There was a big section about pizza (including a recipe for no-knead crust) that she thought I'd appreciate.

It was what finally set us on the correct path. The crust is perfection (well, it would be even better if we had a 900 degree brick oven in our back yard, but we do what we can with our regular oven in our kitchen). Plus, one batch makes enough for 6 pizzas. We stick the extras in the freezer and it makes for super easy meals later.

Lunch made from a dough ball I grabbed out of the freezer. Can't beat it!

A few weeks later another friend recommended a simple pizza sauce made out of canned whole tomatoes (drained), a dash of salt and a drizzle of olive oil. I saw the same recipe in the footnote of this New York Times article. We tried it and Aaron couldn't stop talking about how fresh it tasted, so close to the pizzeria pizza we love but hate driving 45 minutes to get.

And so it is that pizza has become a passion around our house. We are always experimenting with different ways of cooking and adding new toppings but this basic margherita recipe is always a winner!

Margherita Pizza

7 1/2 c all purpose flour (1000g)
4 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 teaspoon active drive yeast

For the how-to, hop on over to Bon Appetit. I make it exactly as written! Except I roll it out rather than hand-stretching. I am not patient enough for that.

One can peeled whole tomatos, drained
Pinch sea salt
1 t olive oil

Blend all ingredients in a blender or food processor.

Fresh mozzarella


Preheat your oven as hot as it will go. Ours handles 500 pretty well but at 550 it randomly shuts off.

Slice mozzarella thinly and lay on paper towels to absorb some of the extra moisture. I like to chiffonade my basil for ease of eating but if you prefer whole leaves, that's fine too!

We've had bad luck with pizza stones (cracking and a small fire were involved) so, for now, we're sticking with a cookie sheet. Line a cookie sheet with foil and dust with cornmeal. Roll out (or hand-stretch, if you are infinitely patient) your pizza dough to the desired thickness and transfer to the cookie sheet.

Spread with sauce, add your cheese, sprinkle with basil (can do before or after cooking. We go back and forth). Place in your blazing hot oven. I am honestly not sure how long it takes to bake (5-10 minutes, I'm guessing) because I always just keep an eye on it. Pull out when cheese is bubbly and enjoy!

*If you're local, we love Cibo and Pomo. The latter is certified Neapolitan (fancy!) and they are passionate enough about their pizza that Aaron has a funny story involving a waiter, a custom pizza order, and a chef who only spoke Italian insisting that he couldn't make the pizza Aaron wanted because it just isn't done that way. Cibo is our fav, though. The food is amazing and you can't beat the ambiance. And before you bring it up, we HAVE been to Bianco and were surprisingly unimpressed (also, $90 poorer). 


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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Easy DIY T-Shirt Dress

Since I won my ticket to Alt Summit so late all the Tuesday night sponsor dinners were already full. I was kind of bummed about that and emailed the organizers asking if I could grab any spots that opened up and they responded that they'd find room for me somewhere.

I started on my Hatch-inspired dress thinking it would work for whatever dinner I ended up going to. Then I got an email telling me I got into the Bing dinner (which was amazing, by the way) and that the theme was "Colorful Awesome." I looked at my gray dress. My gray dress looked at me. We both shook our heads and I went back to the drawing board.

However, with only a couple days left before I planned to drive up to Utah with my boys, I knew I needed something much faster and easier than the gray dress had been. I immediately decided on using knit, which wouldn't require any seam finishing. It had to be very simple. I'd never made a t-shirt dress before but I happened to have several of my favorite tees laying around that I could use as a pattern....

A trip to JoAnn's yielded a fabulous thick turquoise knit and I knew I was in business.

When I got home I used my tee and skirt to make my pattern. This works best if you turn them inside out and really take the time to smooth out bumps and any wonky areas. I used pink butcher paper left over from a baby shower and a marker I filched from my kids. Because I'm classy like that.

Trace a front, back and sleeve pattern (I had to get a bit creative with tucking bits of shirt in to get a proper sleeve piece) and cut out. And, because I am the world's most absent-minded seamstress, I like to label what each piece is and mark where the fold is.

Your pattern pieces should look something like this. You don't really need a pattern piece for the binding but just keep in mind that you'll be needing enough fabric for one!

Pre-wash and dry your fabric. Place your pattern pieces on folds (making sure the stretch is going across the dress, not up and down. Especially if you're needing to squeeze a belly into this creation of yours) and cut out one front, one back, two sleeves and one 1.5-2 inch wide strip that's long enough to go around the whole neckline.

Excuse my mediocre drawing abilities, but imagine laying your fabric flat then taking each side and folding it in toward the middle so you've got folds on both the right and the left. That's what's going on here.

I don't own a serger or anything fancy so I assembled the whole thing using a basic zig zag stitch. It's fast and it works like a charm with knits!

My fabric didn't have a wrong or right side, which made things even easier, but to assemble the dress take the front and back pieces and put them together with right sides facing. Sew the shoulder seams and side seams (I like a 1/2 inch seam allowance). Take your sleeve pieces and turn each so that they're folded in half at the shoulder with right sides together. Sew under the arm then turn right side out.

This is where a diagram is handy because explaining it is a bit hard. With the body of the dress inside out and your sleeve right side out, stick the sleeve inside the dress, lining up the sleeve edges with the sleeve hole. Sometimes it helps to think of it in terms of a finished garment- if I turned my dress inside out and tucked the sleeve inside, how would that look? That's what you're going for. Take your time pinning, matching edges, and making sure the sleeve fits into the socket properly (mine magically did but it doesn't always happen that way. Sometimes I have to make adjustments- rip out a few seams in the arm pit or stitch in just a bit to make it smaller).

Then carefully sew around your arm hole. I go very slowly when I'm doing sleeves- screw-ups on your shoulder are hard to miss!

Now all you've got are finishing touches!

To bind the neckline-

Take your 1.5-2 inch (depending on how wide you want your binding) strip and, starting at the center back, put right sides together and match the edges. Begin sewing (1/2 inch seam allowance, with your zig zag stitch) while gently stretching the strip (NOT the neckline itself) as you make your way around the neckline.

Go all the way around the neckline and trim any excess strip. Then press both the strip and the seam allowance UP and away from the body of the dress. Then, fold the strip toward the inside of the dress and over the seam allowance, enclosing it. Press into place.

You can just zig zag it into place but I only had white thread (which would have been super visible against the turquoise knit), so I just did a sort of blind stitch on the back side to keep everything in place. I did the same thing for the sleeves. It's not super pretty from the inside...

But it looks great on the outside!

Try it on, make any fit adjustments (I ended up taking it in just a little bit from under my arms to the top of my belly) and you're done!

Want to see 6 ways to style a DIY t-shirt dress? Check out my post over at Babble!


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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Easy Breezy Summer Dresses

It happens every year about this time- I look in my closet and think, "WHY do I not have more loose, comfy, breezy dresses?" This year it's even worse because I've got a belly to contend with and, as I whine to Aaron every morning, it's HOT and I'm FAT and I hate CLOTHES. It's an issue.

Here are a few pretty and breezy dress options for surviving the rest of the summer in style (and on a budget)!

1. Mango Embroidered Smock Dress, ASOS
Waaaaant. A little pricier than the others but also the one I want the most!

2. Ombre Cami Maxi Dress, Gap
Luuurve that dip-dye hem. To die for.

3. Mamalicious Printed Waisted Dress, ASOS
Technically maternity but would work juuust fine for anyone who just wants a nice breeze around their legs.

4. Crinkle Chiffon Maxi, Old Navy
I know B&W isn't the most summery combo but add a handkerchief pattern on a lightweight fabric and it's perfect!

5. High Low Racerback Dress, Target
I love super simple silhouettes for summer. I tend to buy a size up for stuff like this so it's a little looser (a few stitches in the straps will get the neckline to where you want it).

Have you picked up any awesome, affordable, lightweight dresses lately? Share!
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