Monday, October 31, 2011

Apparently All Fiction Writers Are Going to Hell

This is a rant against the self-righteous but it begins with a picture and a story.

This is a picture of my auntie and me around Christmas last year. She doesn't play into the story at all, but I wanted you to see this ugly vest I own. I've made myself into the person who can wear ugly things and make them look artistic. I honestly don't understand why people compliment me on certain outfits I put together. I wake up in the morning and put on my clothes. Sometimes I pick weird combinations. Apparently, though, because I don't give a rip what anyone thinks of me, I can wear whatever I want and people will think it's cool. So anyway, I got this vest for 99-cents at a Salvation Army sale and it matches lots of things because it has so many weird colors in it. Not a great story. But it continues. Here's a drama (mostly without any dramatization) from my life:

Scene: Front Hallway/Lounge, Gordon Music Building, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, MI, USA, Earth
Leah is sitting on a bench with several of her friends. They are all avoiding homework and chatting. A freshman girl stands nearby but she is apparently in her own world.

One of Leah's friends (amused): Hah, nice vest, Leah.
Leah: Thanks, wanna hear how I got it?
Leah's friend: Sure!
Leah: Well, I was living in a nunnery when a captain with seven children asked me to be his governess. While I was working there, they got new curtains, so I made this vest out of the old ones.
Leah's friends: *laugh at Sound of Music reference*
Freshman Girl (naively and full of interest): So... what was it like?
Leah: ...What?
Freshman Girl: Living in a nunnery. What was it like?
Leah (Feeling a little badly): Oh... I never actually did... I was just making up a story.
Freshman Girl (horrified, indignant, and self-righteously): Oh! I never tell lies! I always tell the truth so people know they can believe me!
Leah (not feeling sorry anymore): Oh. Well... I like to lie because it's funny.

End Scene.

Okay, so maybe I shouldn't have said the last line. But it brings up an issue. Is making up a story - when you are NOT purporting it to be the truth - a lie?

I wouldn't just make up this story and flaunt it as the truth. Not only is it so outlandish that no one will believe it but it is obviously a joking reference to a classic movie (that any music major should have seen) and a laugh at my own vest.

According to what Freshman Girl believes, making up a story is a lie. So if you write fiction, you are a liar. And we know what happens to liars. Not only do they go to Calvin (sorry, Cornerstone joke), but they go to hell. So don't write fiction, or you'll burn for eternity.

No. That's ridiculous. When a person reads fiction, unless that person is Freshman Girl, he or she knows that it is not true. He or she can enjoy the imagination of the author, but can still separate this story from fact. When I tell a story to my friends, they know whether it is true or not, because if I'm telling a story about clothing and it doesn't involve a thrift store, garage sale, or clearance rack - they know it's made up! And if it's an obvious reference to a CLASSIC, COMMON movie - it's OBVIOUSLY made up!

I guess I don't understand why one must be so oblivious and self-righteous.

And I guess at this point, I probably sound pretty self-righteous. "I wouldn't just made up a story," etc. Please know that I am not perfect and I know it better than anyone else. Just yesterday, on a Sunday, too, I dozed in small group, wrote a song during the sermon, resented my husband, was proud, and was selfish - just to name a few. But that's part of Christianity - recognizing that I am not perfect. If I were perfect, why would I need Jesus? Thank God for Jesus, because I don't have to be perfect. I just have to have faith that He is.

So get off your high horse, Freshman Girl, and realize that someone else did the work to save you. Accept it and get over yourself.

Love and Sanctification,

P.S. I just noticed my little sister creeping in the side of the picture. Love her.
P.P.S. I'm sorry if you still can't comment. If this page is doing the same thing there that it is here, clicking on the "Comment" button at the bottom of a post doesn't even do anything. The same thing happens when I click the "Send feedback" button, so that's helpful, Blogger. *sarcasm* I've put a question in to the Blogger forums but no one has responded yet. I'll keep working on it, but in the meantime, I'm sorry!

Friday, October 28, 2011

My Crochet Adventures

Many years ago (like 6 maybe), my mom and dad bought me a "Learn to Knit and Crochet" kit. It came with an adorable basket, 6 bright colors of yarn, a pair of knitting needles, a crochet hook, a yarn needle, and an instruction book. The book is definitely how I learned to knit, but for crochet, I couldn't get much beyond the chain; I just didn't understand anything else. A year or three later, my mom and I were at this girls' party and all the adult ladies were hanging out in the living room playing Pictionary while the younger girls were all hanging out chatting. The two girls who lived at the house started crocheting and I was so impressed! They let me have a ball of their yarn, lent me a hook, and taught me double-stitch crochet. Incorrectly, I should add, but that's all I knew for the next several years (until now).

I have recently decided to learn to make things other than scarves and... other rectangular things.... That's all I've ever crocheted! But I saw this craft on cut-out-and-keep and immediately wanted to know how to make a cloud. I found some YouTube demonstrations of single crochet, half-double crochet, treble (triple) crochet, and slip stitch. And then I followed this pattern. I made it without the raindrops. It was rather lumpy and misshapen, but still a cloud.

Well, since I don't have all the colors I'd need yet to make the rainbow scarf, I decided to use my new-found skills and tackle some other projects. So I tried making this dishcloth except I used leftover yarn, so it's baby blue, dark green, and hot pink. Rather garish. But I got to practice my new stitches.

Then, since I'm working madly on Christmas presents, I thought I could use my skills to help embellish a hat I'm making. The hat is knit, using my regular standby pattern found here. (The small size fits most people I know and I knit it flat and stitch up the seam.) I made this flower to stitch onto the hat and used the edging from the dishcloth (*ch2, sl st around) to edge the hat.

I've also tried making a few other flowers and a butterfly (that didn't work out so well). I found these great websites, too:

At these websites, you can either search for what you want to make, or click where it says "Free Pattern Directory" to see all the categories they have. Click on a category page and they'll show you tons of links to free patterns online. You may have to click through several to find something doable that you like, but it's worth it.

Good luck and happy crocheting (and knitting)!

Love and Ooh! a Legwarmers pattern!,

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thumbprint Cookies

These are fun cookies, not the best I've ever made, but they're fun.

1-1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
2/3 cup butter
1/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
strawberry or raspberry jam

Beat the butter for half a minute, add the sugar and beat until fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, then add dry ingredients. Beat until combined. Cover and chill for 1 hour.

Shape into 1" balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Press down centers with your thumb. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-17 minutes. At about 10 minutes in, remove tray from oven, fill centers with jam, and then continue baking.


They are that simple. I don't even have any helpful hints, because you don't need any.

I stole this picture, but they should end up looking something like this.

I'll add this: The recipe came with a nut-rolled option which I did not use because of nut allergies in the intended group of consumers. However, here are the adjustments that you'll make if you want to try that.

The egg yolks and whites will need to be separated. Only put the yolks in the batter. When you have your 1" balls, roll them in egg whites and then in 3/4 cup chopped walnuts or almonds. Then you place them on the cookie sheet, press down the centers, etc. I have no idea what the nut option tastes like, so don't take my word for that part.

Love and Strawberry Jam,

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This Really Dumb Idea I Had Once

So, when I was in college, I had to give a junior and senior recital. One of these was a half-hour long, the other an hour. During the planning process - okay, way before that needed to start - I decided to plan my own theme. Instead of just singing songs I had been studying and was good at, I would have a theme that strung them all together. Here are some of my "best" themes.

Stars, Moon, and the Tide
In this theme, of course the moon and the stars are related to each other. And then the moon and the tide, naturally. I think I really just wanted to sing "Moon River", "Fly Me to the Moon", "Cry Me a River", and "Preguntale a Las Estrellas" all in the same recital. I never got much further than this, because my teacher (thankfully) nixed it.

Songs That Shaped Me
At first look-see, this one doesn't sound so bad. I sing songs that I've listened to for a long time - songs that have shaped my musical upbringing. But when you realize that this means I'd be singing '80s CCM (and my mom only listened to male artists, too, for some reason) and '90s boy band pop - this idea isn't so great.

Here's my favorite idea, though:
Rainbow Songs
I'd have a song for every color of the rainbow. I actually searched my iTunes collection and the Internet to find a song for every color. I figured even if I didn't know the song, I could learn it. Even if it didn't flatter my voice, the theme would make up for it. Here's my set list:
"Red Letters" - dcTalk
"Orange Colored Sky"
"Yellow" - Coldplay
"The Color Green" - Rich Mullins
"Blue Skies"
"Purple Rain" - Prince (this may be the real reason I never did this set)
"Black Velvet"
"Brown-Eyed Girl"
"The Coloring Song" - Petra

I'm still not sure what compelled me to want to sing Prince or Petra.

In case you were wondering, I did end up singing songs that flattered my voice, and I actually did get to sing the first three of the Stars, Moon, and Tide set at my senior recital. I just didn't call it that. And I sang "Orange Colored Sky" at my junior recital.

Love and Colors,

P.S. A few of you have mentioned that you can't comment. I've tried changing the settings, but they've been set (and are now) to let anyone comment. If you still can't comment, let me know and I'll email Blogger. Thanks!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Weird Dreams and Demi Lovato

Sometimes at night, I wake up every couple hours, need to roll over, lay there for a few minutes, and then go right back to sleep. It's not annoying and it's just a standard thing I've come to expect every now and then. The one weird side effect is that I have a different dream in every sleep session, and because I am fully conscious after each one, I tend to remember more of them. Last night, I had two that I very vividly remember. In the first one, my fingernails needed to be trimmed, so I used kitchen shears to cut them. It was very painful - not to mention it was rather difficult to be precise. I kept saying to myself, "If you can't find a nail clippers, at least use the little scissors on your pocket knife!" But I never did. Then I woke up, thankfully.

My second dream involved laundry. Wherever I was, the only washing machine was this huge one that resembled the pitching speed cages you get to use at ballparks. The bottom was a cage, and you just throw all of your laundry in and it starts automatically. My problem was that I couldn't find where to put the laundry detergent! And then when I did (you have to go around the back and reach in), I didn't have any detergent. There was a myriad of bottles lying around, but they were all softener or bleach. It was terrible. And then I realized I was just being lazy because this was actually in my parents' driveway and my detergent was inside. So I got my detergent and started the wash properly.

I'm not sure why I dream things like this. I can guess about the nail clipping one, because my nails were getting pretty long (I clipped them for real this morning) and yesterday I used the kitchen shears on a package of chicken. But I haven't done laundry since Friday and I haven't bought detergent since Saturday and I haven't used a pitching speed cage for years.


Anyway, today's video is of Demi Lovato performing her song "Skyscraper" on the Ellen Degeneres show. There's another really powerful video of her interview with Ellen before this performance. That will help explain the meaning behind this song. What I love about the performance in this next video is that you can tell it's live (she's not lip-syncing) and it's amazing. The notes she hits and the emotion she portrays and the perfection is astounding. And she looks so much better now!

Love and Kitchen Shears,

Monday, October 24, 2011

O Dear, Odor

I do wish people would pay more attention to how they smell. Some use too much cologne/perfume; some need a little more deodorant. Let me divide them into categories:

1. People who have lost their sense of smell. These people like to be able to smell their own perfume. When they were younger it took 2 squirts. Now they can't smell it anymore, so they keep adding squirts until they can smell it. Let me tell you something: they can smell you in China. If 2 squirts used to be enough, stick with that.
2. People who love Axe, usually middle-school boys. Need I explain more?
3. Those corporate, slick-back haired people who must scent their hair as well as their skin, shirt, jacket, pants, tie, socks, shoes... I'm surprised they're not surrounded by a cloud!
4. People who either enjoy the smell of their own B.O., can't smell it, or enjoy torturing others. There is plenty of deodorant in this world. Please use it.
5. Those who can't afford deodorant or anything, and I don't complain against them. I just feel sad for them.

Now go forth and smell nice.

Love and Dove,

Friday, October 21, 2011

T-Shirt Scarves v1.0

There are a million different ways to make a scarf out of a t-shirt, but I'm just going to write about the one I did last year for a million people's Christmas presents. It's not as easy as others, but it provides a clean-but-hippie-ish look depending on what colors you use.

First, find some t-shirts. If you don't have some in coordinating (you're the only one who has to think they coordinate; everyone else can get over it) colors, or you don't have enough (finish reading the instructions to find that out), head to your nearest thrift store. T-shirts are normally sold for 99-cents at Salvation Army, or for $1.49 at Goodwill. Your best bet, since you only need color and aren't looking for awesome quality, is to go to a Salvation Army Saturday Night Madness sale, when all items of a certain tag color are 49-cents. I was making scarves for about 30 people, so I had a lot of shirts to buy. The bigger the shirt, the better - you can get way more pieces out of it. Look for ones without stains, and get a nice mix of color, pattern, and solids.

The two bags on top are from my Salvation Army run. I spent about $25, which means I got about 48 shirts!

At this point, you need to decide when to wash your fabric. Thrift stores do not wash the items they are given before they display them. I washed mine after I finished sewing them into scarves. In retrospect, I wish I had done it while they were still shirts, because now I have scraps that I still use for projects that aren't as easily washable.

Okay, let's get going.

Cut rectangles of fabric from the shirt. The length will go on the long way of the scarf, so you can always add another set the long way. but the width will be the width of the scarf, so keep a seam allowance in mind. I cut mine 8"x12".

Here's my pile of rectangles:

I made my scarves 6 rectangles long, but you can make them longer or shorter if you like. So, I laid mine out 2x6, but yours might be 2x7 or something. Lay two rectangles down, good side up, with the long sides next to each other. Lay two more rectangles along the width of these, and continue. Make sure you like how the colors look with each other in their spots.

Now, fold them over, so the good sides are together. Your array will now be 1x6. If you're right next to your sewing machine, you're probably better off than I was. (If your sewing machine is better than one bought 50 years ago on clearance, you're also waayyyy better off than I was. Mine jammed up every 12 inches or so. Very frustrating.) Sew each set of 2 rectangles together on one long side - only one side for now! If you're as bad at sewing as I am, cut your seam allowances straighter or smaller or whatever they need. You'll want them small - not so small that you're endangering the seam - but not so big that your scarf will be bulky. You should have 6 pieces now. Open them back up.

When you've got your 6 (or 7, or whatever) sets of 2, place the good sides together, and sew the widths together. Clean up the seam allowances again. Finally, you should have what you laid out on the floor, only sewn together. Fold it all in half longways, good sides in, and sew up the last long seam. Clean up the seam allowance, and turn inside out.

You're done! Here's what one of mine looked like, using a red and purple color scheme:

This project is way easier than I made it just sound, but it's not as easy as some other t-shirt scarves. However, it's really warm and soft and if you wash it and then give it to a college student they will love that it smells clean. :)

Hint: Look for t-shirts that have words you can cut out (I used one that said "Girl Power" on a scarf) or with pretty patterns. Vary these with solid colors.

Love and Scarves,

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chocolate-Chip ... Scones!

This is my final week posting about scones (for now) and I've saved a very delicious (and questionably nutritious) recipe for this week. Chocolate Chip Scones - of the drop scone family.

Here are your ingredients:
3 cups flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 lb (2 sticks) butter
1/4 cup and 2 T sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Yes, really. 2 sticks of butter. And this recipe makes 12 scones.

First mix your flour and baking powder in a bowl.
In another bowl, beat the butter until it is creamy. Add the sugar to the butter and beat for about 3-5 minutes until the mixture is pale and fluffy.
Now add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each.
Scrape the bowl, turn your speed down to low, and add the flour mix. Only mix until it's blended.
Scrape the bowl again, then add the buttermilk. Again, only mix until it's blended.
Sprinkle chocolate chips over the batter and fold in.

Scoop 1/3 cupfuls of dough onto an ungreased cookie sheet - place about 2 inches apart.
Loosely cover the pan with plastic wrap and put in the fridge for 45 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover scones and bake for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 325 degrees and bake 13 minutes longer. The scones should be pale golden brown.

Cool uncovered on a wire rack.


Instead of buttermilk, I used plain yogurt, but other than that, I followed the recipe to the letter. These things are addicting. I made them one evening when my family was out and about and I ended up eating probably 5 of them. I felt disgusting, but they're so tasty! They're like big, fluffy cookies!

If I make them again, I'll probably add more chocolate chips. I felt that the ratio of chips to dough wasn't high enough.

I love the part where you turn down the heat, though. I'd never seen that before in a recipe, but I guess it makes the outsides a little harder than the insides - which is often what you want on scones.

Well, I won't keep you any longer. Go forth and bake!

Love and Chocolate (wait - aren't those the same word?),

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who Knew?

A lot of weird things happened this week, but by writing about them I'm either going to make this blog less family-friendly, or I'm going to be airing some dirty laundry my extended family didn't need aired. So, instead, I'm just going to give you a video that answered so many of life's questions!

I love going to the beach in the summer (when it's actually survivable in Michigan) but I always get so hungry. Why? Now I know!
And those seniors who do the pool exercises - so smart! ...Except they're probably in a heated pool, so never mind.

This explains why California is one of the thinnest states, but I'm finding no excuses for Florida being in the middle in this study (that I found after 5 seconds of intense internet research).

I guess this isn't so weird except for maybe the part that I'm actually sharing this with you, but I really enjoyed learning this! And I'll be hitting up the beach way more next summer! ("Get ready for swimsuit season" ads? Pfft, nothing gets you ready for swimsuit season like ... swimsuit season!)

Love and Lake Michigan,

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's So Fluffy!

I finally slept last night!

For the last few days I've been really cranky (not sleeping will do that to you) and finally yesterday evening I got a really weird post on my Facebook wall that really ticked me off (a well-meaning - but ignorant - post on 5 days of little sleep will do that to you).  I finally slept, got over the post (mostly), and it's a new dawn (it's a new day, it's a new life for me, and I'm feelin' good).

So I bring you one of my favorite YouTube videos: the cutest clip from Despicable Me.  If this doesn't improve your mood, I don't know what will.

Enjoy!  (And feel free to watch as many times as you want.)

She's so cute I'm gonna die!

Love and Unicorns,

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Monday Rant: A Hate Letter

Dear Insomnia,
Stupid Insomnia,
Hey, you!  Yeah, you!  Insomnia!  Yeah, I'm talking to you!

Who do you think you are?  Stealing from the rich and poor alike.  Thieving from men and women, boys and girls, college students and professors, and pretty much everyone.  Just stop it already!  It's really getting on the nerves of people worldwide.

For five nights in a row now, you have found it amusing to torture and torment me, holding sleep at an arm's length away.  While I listened to my husband's peaceful, even breathing, all I could do was choke back sobs of frustration and beg for mercy - for at least a few hours' sleep.  And have you shown mercy?  No, you have not.  You are cruel and heartless, to be rated near Hitler, Nero, Stalin, and Nickelback.

Insomnia, how do you sleep at night?

With cold hatred,

P.S. With my lack of sleep, a letter to a non-physical (or real) entity seemed a lot better of a choice than a rant at real people.  That could get ugly.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Homemade Hat Rack

My post today is a bit later than usual, but I spent most of the morning feeling blah and trying to not feel blah.  Now I just feel sort of blah, so I bring you some easy instructions to make your own hat rack.  Or it could be a rack for something else, but nothing too heavy.

You'll need:
a yardstick
some clothespins
Strong glue (like, stronger than hot glue or Elmer's)
A vise or a C-clamp or something would be great, too
Paint, if you want it

First, decide if you want this horizontally or vertically.  You can hold more things horizontally.  If you want the hat rack painted, now is a good time to do so.  For mine, I had some red and silver spray paint sitting around, so I painted the yardstick silver and the clothespins red.  You don't have to paint either of them.

Next, glue the clothespins to the yardstick, one of the flat sides against the surface of the yardstick.  This is where you may want a vise to hold the stuff together while the glue dries.

Believe it or not, you're done!  

Here's a picture of mine:

You could also use this for displaying your kids' artwork or something.  I used hot glue the first time and deeply regretted it.  I recommend strong glue, especially if you ever plan to actually use the pins!  :)

And yes, that is a pink cowboy hat next to a fedora.  

Love and Hats,

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jam-Filled Scones

We meet again on a Thursday, in October.  And once again, I have a scone recipe for you.  Without further ado:

Jam-Filled Walnut Scones (except we made them without walnuts)

2 cups flour
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
6 Tbsp butter, chilled
2/3 cup buttermilk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup strawberry preserves (/jam/jelly/whatever)

Oven: 400 degrees
Lightly butter a baking sheet.
In a bowl, stir together flour, walnuts, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Cut in butter (see last post, pointer number 4) until it resembles coarse crumbs.
In another bowl, stir together the buttermilk and vanilla.  Add this mix to flour mix and stir to combine.
With lightly floured hands, divide dough into 2 equal pieces and pat each portion into a 5" circle on a lightly floured cutting board.  Cut each circle into 6 wedges (like a pie) and transfer the 12 pieces to the buttered baking sheet.
Dip the point of a sharp knife in flour and make a slit in the top of each scone.  Spoon 1 tsp of strawberry preserves into the slit of each scone.
Bake for 17-19 min, or until tops are lightly browned.
Remove baking sheet to wire rack for 5 minutes.  Transfer scones to wire rack to cool.


Claire and Chloe helped me make these, and then my family ate most of them as part of our breakfast-for-dinner (so, with bacon and eggs).

Claire is allergic to nuts, and since we wanted her to be able to eat one, we left out the walnuts. (To which my dad expostulated, "Nuts!")  We also hadn't thought ahead to make buttermilk, so we substituted plain yogurt.  You use the same amount.  There are other possible substitutes, too, and that's why we have Google.  :)

Be sure to make your slits deep enough.  I cut them a little differently, and the more shallow ones spilled all their jam.

You can probably use a different flavor preserves/jam/jelly if you want.  Raspberry would be delicious.  Or if you have multiple ones in the house, make a variety!

These are delicious and perfect to go with a breakfast meal.  Or a snack.  Or anything, really.

I love scones.

Love and Preserves,

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I Can't Decide if This is Weird or Cool

Today's post is about spoon/fork/knife combinations.

They look like this:

And they come in all different colors which is pretty cool.  The advertisements all say that they're perfect for camping or hiking or in the office.  I guess I can see that, but I still think it's a little weird.  And bound to be messier than a spoon, a fork, and a knife.  Sure, you only have one thing to find in your lunch bag, instead of three, but if you need a spoon and a fork, one end will be kind of sticky or messy.  And if you use the knife to spread something, and then don't wipe it off all the way, you're going to have a pocket of peanut butter when you bite into your lasagna.  

Or whatever.

What are your thoughts, readers?  Would you use this gadget?

Love and Spoons,

P.S. In case you were wondering, they actually made stuff like this back in the Civil War era:

The knife was separate, but had one end that would clasp onto the fork/spoon.  (I got the picture from a website where they sold this stuff.)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It's Scarf Season!

I'm sure it's October, which is normally when I break out my scarves, but right now, the weather seems to think it's August.  However, soon enough, we'll be back to 50, 40, 30, 20 degrees and dropping.  Wearing a scarf helps protect your throat and it looks cool!  Lighter scarves can also be worn in the warmer seasons.    There are so many ways to tie a scarf that even if you wear the same scarf every day and tie it differently, it looks brand new!  I honestly couldn't pick a favorite scarf video, so here is a variety.

Wendy shows many varieties, not all of which I'm convinced are technically different from each other, but she still has some options.  At the end, you can click on the scarf you wanted to see more of, or at least slower, and it will take you to a video where she does a few of them.  At the beginning of the second video, you can just click ahead to the one you want to see, or you can watch all of them.

Michelle Phan has been my favorite for makeup tutorials.  (She has a video on bridal makeup that I used for my wedding.)  Her voice, even when she has a cold, is calm and soothing and not obnoxious.  This was the first fashion one I had seen from her, and I liked how she gave clear steps while Chriselle demonstrated very clearly.  The Criss-Cross is my favorite (Wendy calls it the Twist and Pull) and my scarf stand-by!

Now, I recently purchased some square scarves, and while I've always known how to tie a long scarf, even if I just drape it around twice or something, the square scarf was a mystery to me.  I'd seen them draped and loved the look, but didn't know how to duplicate it.  Hello, YouTube!

Here's one Michelle Phan does, but hers is with a light silk scarf.


Michelle sort of gets to my favorite way when Chriselle shortens the necklace scarf, but here's another video that shows a different way to achieve this look - and with a heavier scarf.

This is what I do, except instead of just tucking the ends in, I tie them underneath the triangle.  I find this holds it more securely for windy days - or when I'm around children.

Now go and do likewise. :)

Love and Scarves,

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Monday Rant: Kids with Cell Phones

Nothing irks me quite so much as a little kid with a cell phone.  I understand if you give your kid one for the sake of emergencies or calling you when they get somewhere.  But the kid then will understand that this is for emergencies only.  And they won't be texting their friends during school.  And they won't be annoying people with their incessant texting.  Are you getting the picture here?  Little kids texting bothers me.

I didn't even use a cell phone until I got my license when I was 17 and in my senior year of high school.  Then I shared one with my mom; I only took it when I was driving somewhere.  She wanted me to have it on my person in case of an emergency.  We shared that phone until my sophomore year of college.  At that point I moved into an on-campus apartment and got my own phone, and even then - even now - I hardly ever use it.

I will not condemn adult cell phone use.  Adults have made their own decisions, and some lifestyle or career choices actually require a lot of cell phone use and I don't mind that.  My husband uses his phone so that he can check his email and keep in touch with people even when he's not around the people or at his computer.  With his job, this is important.  If you're 8, it's not.

I guess I don't understand what an 8-year-old could possibly have to say to another 8-year-old while they're in school that can't wait until recess.  Or that can't be passed in a note.  Seriously.  If the note gets caught, the teacher might read it out loud.  If your cell phone gets caught, you're not getting it back until the end of the day/week/month/year/whatever the teacher decides.

And why would you give your kid a phone anyway?  They want to call their friends - and you don't have a land line?  Okay, let them use your phone and restrict their time limit.  That's what you did on the land line anyway!  If you give them their own phone, they will be yakking and yakking to their friends and ignoring you.

There is a lot of peer pressure on kids to have a cell phone, so your kids are probably begging you to get them one.  And it's up to you to decide what age, if any, to allow them that.  And then do they pay for their own plan/minutes to give them responsibility? - or is this something for which you pay?  What are the consequences for using it during class?  A lot of important decisions for you to make are wrapped up in this cell phone question.

But if your kid is still in elementary school - just don't.  Please.

Love and Cell Phones,

Friday, October 7, 2011

A Cement Craft

Last year, I taught art and music lessons to my siblings, and I wanted to do a fun, involved craft.  I wanted something more physical than just painting or drawing.  So we made our own stepping stones.  Now, you can purchase these kits at Hobby Lobby, Michael's, or other craft stores, and they'll run you at least $18 a piece.  If you've got a coupon, better yet.  Or, you can do it our way.

First, we went to Salvation Army and scoured their dishes section.  We looked for cheap dishes, especially one with the right color tag to be 50% off.  We looked for colorful dishes.  In the end, we spent about $10 or so on the dishes.

Next, we needed something in which to put the cement, so we did have to go to a craft store.  We looked at Salvation Army and Lowe's for some shallow pan, but we couldn't find anything other than a paint tray, and those have ridges.  The trays at craft stores should come in a few shapes and they'll run you a few dollars a piece.  We bought a square, a circle, and a flower.

Finally, we needed cement.  I was a complete cement novice (I still am) and had no idea how much cement costs.  We went with the cheapest one, which was really cheap - a few dollars for a 40 lb bag!  In retrospect, we should have used something else, because this one was supplemented with little rocks.  If we had known anything about cement, we would have known this, but we didn't.

And so our project began.  The really fun part was breaking everything.  We had a brown paper bag ready and then we threw things around in the garage.  Jacob especially loved this part.  We collected the usable pieces in the bag and swept everything else up.  I guess I should say something about "don't do this barefoot" or "wear safety glasses" but I think you're smart enough.

Our next step was to mix the cement.  This was when we discovered the rocks.  We actually ran the dry mix through a sieve first to sort out all the rocks.  This obviously makes for far less cement, but a much smoother cement.  For three stones, we used about half the bag.  We mixed it in an old 5-gallon bucket and then poured it in to the mold. Then we each got to press our designs in to the cement.  We put them on a flat surface out of the weather and let them dry and cure for several days and then my mom planted Chloe's and Jacob's in the garden.  Mine was too ugly to plant anywhere except the trash.

Our final cost was less than store price per stone, since we did three of them.  Plus, the store kit comes with pre-broken glass shards.  It was way more fun to break our own!

Here are a few pictures of the process:

A broken ugly cat plate.

The broken shards of a few plates.

Jacob with a less-than-effective mallet.

Chloe's broken heart.  :)

A picture of us breaking things.

The finished products.  Chloe's is the beautiful flower.  Jacob's is the simple-yet-adorable baseball.  Mine is the one that looks like a kindergartner vomited "art" on it.

Love and Glass Shards,

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Scones Are God's Gift to Mankind

Ben Franklin is supposed to have said (though I have it on good authority that this is a misquote) that "Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy."

Whether or not Mr. Franklin actually said this, I would like to adjust this statement and say, "Scones are proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy." And then I would add, "Dear America, Scones aren't just for the British. They are amazing and wonderful and delicious."

I love scones. I was first introduced to them while I was studying at the Contemporary Music Center, then located on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts. Whoever made the scones was amazing. The scones were perfectly sized for a serving, shaped in perfect little triangles, and downright delicious.

If at this point, you're thinking, "Leah, what the heck is a scone?!?", allow me to point you to this Wikipedia page, which should give you a general idea. If your links are broken, a scone is a biscuit of sorts, usually with either sweet or savory flavoring. Some scones are shaped and cut into triangles; others look like big inflated cookies (these are called "drop scones"). Scones can be baked or fried on a griddle. And they are generally delicious.

I have recently come across a few books of scone recipes and so far I have tried 3 of these recipes. I will share all of these recipes because I loved them, but this week we'll go for the Blueberry Coffeecake Scones.

As with most recipes, make sure you have all the ingredients before you start. This is especially important with scones, because they tend to ask for more random or less ubiquitous ingredients than say, cookies.

So, without further ado:

Blueberry Coffeecake Scones
2-1/4 cups flour
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp grated lemon peel
1-1/2 cup blueberries

3/4 cup flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup butter, chilled

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter an 11" diameter circle on a baking sheet.

In a bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut butter in until it resembles coarse crumbs.

In another bowl, stir together eggs, milk, vanilla, and lemon peel. Add the egg mix to the flour mix and stir to combine. Dough will be sticky.

With lightly floured hands, gently knead in blueberries.

With lightly floured hands, pat the dough into a 9" diameter circle on the baking sheet (inside the 11" butter circle).

Mix together flour, brown sugar, and cinnamon, then cut in butter until it resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the dough to cover it. Press in lightly. With a serrated knife, cut circle into 8 wedges.

Bake for 30-35 min, until top is lightly browned and a toothpick comes out clean.

Remove the whole pan to a wire rack to cool for 15 minutes. Then, using a spatula, transfer the scones to the wire rack to cool. Recut, if necessary.


So there you have it. Blueberry Coffeecake Scones. They were astonishingly delicious, but I have a few suggestions, tips, and tricks.

1. I was disappointed that this only made 8. Not to mention they were really big scones! I mean, it was great for breakfast; one filled me up. But for dessert it was a bit much. Each one was the size of a generous slice of pie. I think next time, I'll split the dough into 2 sections and make 2 smaller circles. This may change the baking time.
2. I used frozen blueberries. Frozen fruit really works just as well as fresh fruit in baking. We had picked them in the summer and then had them in the freezer. Just make sure you remove any ice chunks.
3. You will get messy. "Lightly kneading in blueberries" is way messier than it sounds. My hands were completely purple by the time I was done! The dough is really sticky. Making scones is messy! I don't care how "lightly floured" your hands are; you will get dough stuck to you.
4. When you add the butter, it's best if you first cut it into 1/2" cubes before you "cut it in". If you don't know what it means to "cut in butter", don't worry. I didn't either. You can use a hand blender, or if you're not great with one (like me), take two knifes and cut them towards each other, like a pair of scissors. This will start mixing and get the butter into smaller chunks. At some point, I just began using my fingers to smish and smash it all together. Like I said, it's messy!
5. I used a ruler. I can't see what an 11" diameter circle looks like without one!
6. Keep the circle together when you bake it; the cut edges are much nicer this way.
7. The whole cooling process really is necessary.

Happy Baking!

Love and Scones,

P.S. We bought bacon this week, so I might try my first savory scone recipe: Potato Bacon scones!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Art is Weird

Over the past few weeks, Grand Rapids has been hosting the third annual ArtPrize. I've gone downtown to see it each year, and while I was far more impressed with last year's contributions, I think there are still some interesting, beautiful, or thought-provoking works this year.

However, as always, there is also some weird stuff. And so I stole pictures from across the internet to bring you the Wednesday Weird: ArtPrize 2011 edition.

This piece entitled "Perseverance" is located just outside the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. When Caleb and I saw this, we both skirted around it for fear of the guy's face. These pictures really don't do it justice. If you get a chance, check it out. He's terrifying.

This piece is also outside the museum. It's called "Hand Of God (Wrestling with My Demons)", which alone is kind of terrifying. Then you look at it. That's all I have to say.

I think you can click this one to make it bigger. It's a really well done painting and I'm sure it's full of meaning. It's called "Power of Women". But why are there so many horses? Why are all powerful women cowgirls? I don't understand!

These three "sculptures" make up a piece called "Homage to Earth". I read the description even, and I don't get it. Also, someone (maybe the artist?) had stuck fake flowers in the vases, so it looked even weirder.

Now, I know you were all dying for my opinion on the controversial Top 10, so I'll gladly give it so you don't perish.

A lot of people, mostly hipster artsy snob types, think that the Top 10 doesn't accurately reflect what art is. In all honesty, I think a few that are in the Top 10 kinda suck. But you know what? The Top 10 is not, by definition, the Top 10 of true art, or even the Top 10 of Leah Compston, because it's not all about me, fortunately. The Top 10, by definition, is the Top 10 based on popular vote. Is art not for the people? Does it matter if an ugly steampunk dog made it into the Top 10 if that's what people voted for? No, because it's a majority.

Ohhh, a majority. Like in a democracy. Now I understand that all these hipster artsy snob types are really socialists! (Kidding.)

So, no, I do not agree with the Top 10, but I'm not going to argue or complain, because I didn't vote this year. And I don't really care. I got to see a lot of cool art and so did a million other people, so stop complaining.

If you were wondering, my favorites were the "Free Spirit Garden" and the room full of Lake Michigan paintings in the Waters Building, the rainbow glitter trees made from recycled bottles and GLITTER, the stained glass rainbow at the BOB, and the giant Mona Lisa collage at the BOB.

Love and Weird Crap,

P.S. There is frosting on my backspace key. I know you were wondering.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Spelling Matters

If you don't know how much I love spelling, you must have never met me. This week's YouTube video is from the channel What You Ought To Know, which I've seen before, but just spent about 1.5 hours watching. This guy is fascinating and highly amusing.

I've often received the paragraph to which he refers, either in email or on Facebook, and it's always bothered me. It's like when someone tells you something heretical and you know it's not right but you can't explain why it's wrong. Well, here's someone who can tell you why it's wrong. Enjoy!

Love and Spelling,

Monday, October 3, 2011

Let "Sleeping" Brides Be

Today's Monday Rant is about people who won't leave newly married brides alone. And I get really mad at them. For the record, no one did the following things to me - probably because I threatened to send Chuck Norris to roundhouse kick them to next year if they bothered me. But I've seen this happen to my friends and it makes me SO ANGRY. Seriously! Few things make me this angry, but I want to go kick people!

So what is this that bugs me so much?

Facebook comments like these, while the couple is on their honeymoon (these are all real comments taken from someone's Facebook):

"You really need to change your last name."
"It's going to be so hard to call you by your new name... It would be a lot easier if I had Facebook to remind me!!!"
"Change your name. Gosh."

And this one is the kicker - posted just hours after the ceremony:

"So, I'm thinking you need to change your name now, and probably want to change your relationship status. Just sayin."

Really? Okay, I can understand if it's been like a month - but hours? Or even days? And even if you're joking, it's not funny. Do you know what is happening on the honeymoon? Lots and lots of personal time when they are getting to know each other.

They should NOT be wasting precious time changing their Facebook status. They'll never get a time like this again.

And another thing that bothers me is when, the second the girl does change her name and status, now all the friends are like, "It's been FOREVER, we need to hang out," "Gurl, it's been soooooo looonngggg, I miss u!" (Okay, I made those up, but I've seen stuff similar to that.)

Do you know what the recently honeymooned bride is doing? Cleaning up the house (especially if it was just a bachelor pad), organizing all the wedding gifts (despite it being wonderful to receive all these things, it does sometimes feel like a burden!), learning how to cook for her husband, settling into new surroundings, and yes, she is still getting to know her husband. Because that doesn't happen over the course of one week.

So leave her alone. Yes, it's good to get out every now and then, and that can increase in frequency as time goes on. But please, everyone, stop harassing newlyweds. They're still trying to learn to please each other; they can't please all of you, too.

If my camera lens weren't dirty, I'd take a picture of my threatening, angry face, and post it here so you'd know how serious I am. Since I can't do that, here's a picture of an angry kid. He hates it when you harass newlyweds, too.

Love and Anger, :)