Sunday, September 30, 2012

New Month-- New me!

I want to kick start or restart or shake things up. I haven't decided. What I have decided to do is take on Lindsay's challenge. The Lean Green Bean is an awesome fitness and clean eating blog!

Who is with me??

I will post a weekly round up of my photos here on the blog or you can follow me daily on Instagram or Twitter.

from The Lean Green Bean

Saturday, September 29, 2012

There once was a tree...

There once was a tree in our side yard. We loved this tree... and so did the Emerald Ash Borer. Those nasty pests destroy Ash trees like no one's business. We knew the tree's days were numbered. The ash in the back yard failed to produce any leaves this year... the treat out front gave it the old college try, but it was clear, this would be its last summer.

When the tree in the back yard dropped a good size limb, while H was picking up sticks, he decided it was time for us to get it taken down. I said the tree in the front side yard had to go too. Maybe would could have eked out another year, but the try was right by our bedroom and frankly, I do not need a large tree crashing through the roof, into our bedroom on a dark and stormy night, while H is away. No thank you.

I love trees. I hate to see them cut down. Part of the charm of our neighborhood, is all the mature trees. A ton of mature ash trees.

There are less and less trees thanks to that nasty bug.

 My beloved tree, as the guy climbed up, chunks and chunks of bark came down... this is a sign the tree is dying, the bark just falls off in sheets.
 The lower part of the tree failed to produce leaves this year. We knew when the once lush tree was mostly naked that the end was near.
 A limb just crashed down, no need to cut it...

 This was all that was left, a tiny puff at the top of a once rich and lush tree. The kids and I have spent many a day under this tree, on a blanket or in the hammock.
 They tied a rope to the tree and pulled as the guy cut a notch into the tree. It was a tall tree. I shudder to think what our house would have looked liked had mother nature blown the tree into our house. Yikes.

 This is the dead tree in the back. It proved a challenge to get down, as so many of the lower branches had shed over the last two summers.
This tree, while sad to lose, is less devastating that the tree in the front. In many ways this opened up a spot for the maple to thrive... out front it is just nothingness. I want to plant another tree, H wants to think it over.

This is an up close shot of the damage this borer does to the trees. It munches tunnels through the live part of the tree, which sadly kills the tree.

Last week I was looking longingly at trees in the parking lot of a local nursery. I want to replace my tree, but with what and frankly it will be time for me to depart this world, before anything we plant grows to the size of the tree we lost.

Product Review: Purex Ultra Packs

I do alot of laundry. In fact my washer is going almost all day, nearly every day. I wash the kids clothing twice a week, especially now that it is soccer and post practice and post game day, Little Fellow is a mess. L dances multiple times per week and always seems to want to her favorite leotard.

H comes homes with a suitcase full of dirty clothing, every time he comes home.

I love my new to me washer and dryer and I have had a front loading washer for as long as we have lived in the house we live in now. I love the concept, the fact that they use less water and offer me a variety of settings.

My one complaint is the soap. Even using HE detergent, I felt like sometimes things were not getting clean and that soap was clogging up the system. Sometimes things did not get clean, even with pretreating and soaking.

So one day I decided to try out Purex UltraPacks. Target had a great promotion and I had nothing to lose, as Purex had a money back guarantee.

After using the entire package of 26 pods or 36, I can't remember how many I went for to start with, all I can say is I am sold. No drips, no sticky mess to clean out of the drawer of the washer and I can tell a difference in the clothes. They are cleaner.

I will say I do still use liquid detergent when I am washing just a few items, it happens, sometimes I need to wash just 5-6 things, then I use  a little bit of regular liquid soap. That said, I seldom do that anymore and I think I am going to break up liquid detergent and stick with the packs.

I am also sure this is not the most environmentally friendly product on the market, but it works. I have tried other soaps and products and they just don't always do the job, which leads to me doing a second wash or another soak and that isn't all that environmentally friendly either. (Not to mention it eats up my time.)

As always no one has given me anything to write this review. I just wanted to share my thoughts on this products. This is no guarantee you will even like these Packs. I do-- you might not.

And with that, I am off to empty the washer, again...

Friday, September 28, 2012

Stitched with love... a drawstring bag

When S and I were texting this summer about the wedding, I said I wished I lived closer, so I could help with the wedding. Without missing a beat, she took me up on my offer. She wanted me to use my mad sewing skills...

As a point of clarification, I do not have mad sewing skills. I have, however, over a period of time taught myself to sew. I have a long ways to go. What I would like to be able to do and what I actually can do vary greatly. I also really need to make friends with my mother's sewing machine, which is a much spiffier model than the one I am using.

I digress. So S needed a cute, modern drawstring bag for the breaking of the glass. In case you didn't know and slept through Yentl, at a Jewish wedding, the couple break a glass at the end. The glass is in a bag and the bag gets stepped on.

There are a variety of symbols associated with this custom, but in this case J and S choose to temper the joy of their day, by noting that not every couple who wishes to marry, can legally marry and while they celebrate their marriage, they take a moment to pause and reflect that not everyone is so blessed. (I cried as the Rabbi read the explanation...)

I was so incredibly honored to sew this bag for them. What a wonderful gift they gave me. A chance to participate and create something beautiful for them.

S also gave me alot to work with. She sent me links to bags she had looked at, her pinterest wedding page, and dimensions.

Had I been more together, I might have shopped before the trip to Sarasota, but I wasn't that together, so I ended up shopping right after the kiddos went back to school. I was looking for grey fabric, with accents of teal and orange.

As I texted S, grey was SO LAST YEAR!

I will admit the fabric proved challenging. I spent a long time in JoAnn's searching and searching. If I had it to do over again, I think I would have searched online. In any event, I decided on a remnant of one and a good solid choice for the other. I ended up making two bags, so that they could choose  which one worked the best. One was more romantic and the other more tailored.

The tailored bag, was nearly technically perfect. The more romantic one was really a stretch for my skill set and the fabric was a challenge to work with.

They ended up using the tailored bag.

I have to say I was pleased with both of them... It was a project of love and I would do it again in a minute...

So-- what I know you all want to see, pictures and my process.

For bag number 1-- the tailored bag, I used some high quality quilting cotton and some fusible interfacing. Ideally I would have been able to find a coordinating cotton and lined the bag that way, but sadly... nada... I struck out, so I simply used the same fabric for both the lining and the outside.

I watched this video as a refresher to making a draw string bag, which honestly is a very basic sewing skill, that I think all aspiring seamstresses should have in their bag of tricks. It is a handy little skill.

Before cutting my fabric, I fired up the iron and created a doubled sided piece of cloth.

 Step 1: Cut two pieces of cloth and place the fusible interfacing in between, wrong sides of the fabric together.
 Step 2: Once you have double sided fabric, measure and cut the fabric to your specifications using whichever method/pattern you have chosen.

Step 3: I decided to add some bias tape to the upper hem, for a nice look and to make the bag a bit stronger.

 Step 4: I threaded the cord thru and then decorated with orange and teal beads, to make the bag match the colors I knew S and J were using for their wedding.

A peak inside the bag!

I love how this one turned out!! It was technically near perfect. I agreed with S that cotton would be less likely to be slippery, I don't think the utility of the fabric took away from the elegance of the bag. (I also disclaim the breaking of the shoe... seriously, the bag was solid but not that solid.)

Version two was clever and pretty. I found a remnant and decided while it wasn't a perfect color match, it was in the right family of colors. I also had some silk at home, which coordinated with it well. Searching You Tube, I found this video that walked me through the creation of a fancy bag.

Warning: the music is annoying, but the tutorial is worth it. I will be the first to admit, that had I had more time, I think my bag would have had less technical errors. This wedding pouch was a stretch for my "mad sewing skills." Darts and hidden drawstring channels. Also my button whole presser foots was MIA and then once found, the machine and the tension was wonky.

In any event, the bag was cute and while it wasn't technically perfect, it was lovely and made with love.

 Inside the bag: I have to say I was super pleased, I managed to make a lined bag... it isn't as easy as it looks and I sort of surprised myself.
The finished bag. I will say the drawstring on this one did not work exactly as I had hopped and I did add some fun beads as well.

The blue fabric is lovely and I have enough left over, that I plan to make a pillow for the newly redone living room.

Having been to the wedding and seen the crisp tailored linens, my first bag fit in perfectly. The second one was romantic and whimsical, but not a match.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Music Monday: A love song

I hinted on Twitter I was making something very special. I meant to have a post up and ready to go for Saturday, but I was too busy having a great time in Brooklyn, NY. I was too busy making friends, celebrating with friends and basking in the affirmation of that great love, the desire to build a family is not exclusive to a select group of people. New York wisely and correctly recognizes the rights of all citizens to declare their intentions to each other. (Can I have a hell yeah?)

Marriage means so many things. Many people enter into marriage as an extension of their religious beliefs.  Other do it, in order for the state to legitimize their relationship. Marriage in modern American culture and civics affords couples certain legal rights, prescribe the passage of real property, children, hospital visitation and taxation. Even medical insurance is offered to married couples differently than cohabiting couples.

In many cultures, when a couple marries, either the man or woman, leave his or her family of origin and join the household of the other. We see this still strongly upheld in Indian, Asian and Middle Eastern families. In many cases, the new couple reside with the parents or in some cases the parents move in with the new couple.

Modern marriages may be a mix of all of these practices. Take H and I, we had a very traditional Catholic wedding, but had privately made our own very personal and private agreements. We had no control over our vows, they were totally prescribed by the church as was the music and flow of the service. (While I had very good reasons for following that path then, I wouldn't do it that way today... I would today hold out to do it our way!)

H and I have, as a married couple, revisited and adjusted our agreements as we as individuals and a couple grown.

Marriage is a journey. It is a building of a family of choice. It is creating and bonding and making something bigger than the individuals coming together. In many cases this describes any relationship. Marriage is special, because as a culture we have woven it together with so much. Our culture has developed around the idea of couples as a key building block of families and communities.

To deny the right to marry, to all Americans, is to say that some couples/people, their building blocks are inferior. I reject that. When individuals come together, state an intention to build something, which is bigger than themselves, to take on the name family, to form a unit, which is stable, affirming, loving and a credit to their community(-ies,) then that is a marriage.

No two marriages look the same. How could they be. We are individuals first. No joining of individuals will every produce the same result. That is what makes the process so empowering, fulfilling and joyful.

I promise to unveil what I made, but today, today I raise my glass once again to J and S. Two of the most loving, generous, and fiercely fantastic ladies I know.  It is not just the fiercely loving gazes they shared under the Chuppah but the gathering of people, who stood by them, who celebrated with them and who came together to say, we support your love, we have always supported who you are as individuals and who you are together, because together you are a power forged in love, acceptance and understanding.

So today I leave you with two of the first songs played at the reception... which I think define who J and S are in their love... and who we, the gathered friends and family are to them, love. In all its forms and in all its facets. Love is a power, which will not be denied. No matter how hard some people fight to deny it-- love will conquer...Love will never be denied. The joining of those in love-- it is a human right, which cannot be denied in a democracy which prizes individuals and liberty.

Edward Sharpe-- Home.

This made me cry, listening to the lyrics, I thought-- yes... home. Home is where love grows. Homes are so different. What is inside and outside... just like a marriage... each one is different...

This is Pink's Song Raise Your Glass-- but this video is awesome, so I am featuring the cover. We were loud on Saturday night. Loud in our celebration and loud in our love. Not everyone lives in a State where they can choose marriage. We loudly rejected that, we spoke out against it. We committed to continue to speak out against it. I will continue to speak out against it. No one at the wedding of S and J can deny that the service was about their love for each other, their love for their friends, the love we felt for them. It was friends and family and the room wept with love.

No one should be denied that, ever...

So today-- S and J! I raise my glass again, to you, to your love and the celebration of love.

I am also committed to keep raising my voice... I will not stop-- until all celebrations of love are recognized in this country!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Music Monday: Hands Off, Crazy -- BONUS

I found this on Twitter, after Congressman Akin's fantastic example of why politicians should not be involved with women's health-- at all. I think contraception and abortion should be issues that doctors and women deal with. Medical ethicist should be the ones who set medical policy, using REAL science and ethics, not religion.

I also think that as long as employers ask employees to share in the cost of health insurance premiums, they should not be allowed to disallow procedures or coverage along gender lines. If prostrate exams are covered, so must be pap smears and mammograms. If you cover pregnancy, then you must cover contraception (not everyone wants to be pregnant.) If you have a religious objection-- too bad, unless you want to foot the entire bill. An employers religious choices should not trump the employee's religious/ethical opinions/thoughts-- unless the employer wants to foot the ENTIRE BILL (I call this putting YOUR money where your VALUES are.) Cost sharing means belief compromise.

At the moment employees are all at the mercy of their employers for insurance and that is wrong... there is no real choice-- they throw out a plan and we pay for it... That is not a free market. Employers should not hold all the power. They just shouldn't. Unless they want to foot the entire bill.

Furthermore, I say unless you actually have a vagina-- your opinion as to how one cares for the vagina (or the womb for that matter) is really not at all germane to the conversation. I would not dream of weighing in on the care and treatment of a penis or prostrate... I don't have one and therefore I have zero frame of reference... Just as I will never experience a "hard on" or an inconvenient erection during a meeting, or erectile dysfunction... men will never enjoy the joys of a monthly period, the struggle with the side effects of oral contraceptive or monthly depression around a monthly period, which is only alleviated with the oral contraceptive, or a difficult pregnancy. Men will never experience first hand the crush of a miscarriage or the horror of becoming pregnant from rape or incest.

Men can waltz into any drug store or gas station and purchase inexpensive condoms. No doctor visit, no copays, no nothing. Women on the other hand have a variety of options open to them some of which are better than condoms, but they are costly and invasive. If men want more control over the birth control process-- how about they ask for and fund research to find more RX options for themselves? Instead of seeking to control the birth control options for women, why not seek out options for men, that won't end the journey of a fertilized egg-- but instead prevent fertilization AT ALL... Temporary prevention of sperm production would solve a multitude of problems and put birth control control squarely in a man's control. Men would then be empowered to control their OWN bodies. If I were a man, I would not spend my time trying to control women and their bodies-- but be seeking a way to better control my own.

Given that no one is focused on that-- makes me believe this debate is truly about the social control of women and sexuality... not about the mutually assured access to healthcare options and family planning. I think most men, do care about their female partners and want what is best for their future. I would humbly submit those men want birth control covered for their spouse/partners/lovers. Those men are not the ones spouting weird science and wanting to ban all access. Those men aren't crazy.

Music Monday: Passion Pit Sleepyhead

Passion Pit-- Sleepyhead

I know-- I have been MIA. We left for vaca E having been sick and on an antibiotic, which I traveled with and the TSA ignored. L and I were sick, but not sick enough not to travel. We had a relaxed vacation and came home feeling better, only to be home a day and feel horrible again. L ended up with an ear infection/sinus infection and I ended up with a sinus infections.

School started and I spent the first two days of back to school semi-comatose on the sofa. Thank goodness H was home or I am not convinced the kids would have made it to school on time either day.

As we entered Labor Day weekend, I was worn out after a very busy end of the week. I am a sleepyhead. I always feel chronically short on sleep. I could really use between 8-10 hours a sleep a day. Not that I ever really get that. I always tell myself I am going to take a nap, but that never really happens either. I always feel like the time I could spend napping would be better used cleaning or cooking or somehow doing something while the kids are away.

I got a great night sleep on Saturday night, but that in no way made up for the collective short fall of the week or for the huge amount of activity on Saturday and Sunday.

I think I am just one of those people who requires a lot of sleep. I also think my pernicious anemia has a good bit to do with it as well. I am more tired about the time I need another B12 injection.

On a related note I know Passion Pit is coming to town. I think I would enjoy that show, but I swear waiting to take the stage until 9 pm or later is almost too late for me. I am such a sleepyhead, especially on a school night.