Thursday, January 31, 2013

V-day Gifts

Use it up Wear it out Make it do Or do without
This year we're living within our means. We're saving. We're paying off. We're rocking our finances. And we feel pretty good.

Fewer luxuries bought means fixing clothes (thank you, sewing machine) and craft projects using what I already have. It's not always easy--especially in a society that encourages you to buy what you want when you want it-- but it's worth it. We don't have parents to bail us out of our financial blunders. We don't rely on borrowing money from somewhere else to tide us over if we're over budget.

This is scary, ya'll
But this is real life. And if we can do it (partly because we have to, mostly because we want to) then you can too!

So what's a girl to do when Valentine's Day is around the corner? I needed something special and romantic, but thrifty and down-to-earth. I know we'll most likely cook dinner together instead of going out, so it isn't the atmosphere that's the problem. But what to give each other?

My husband and I are a little gooey at times...we just never lost that puppy-lovin' PDA. I like to think that we're fortunate to have found another person who acknowledges the reassurance and support of physical touch. We hug, we snuggle and we hold hands. But with colder weather comes jackets and restrictive pockets! We have a hard time keeping our hands warm if we're holding them out in the elements.

So when I came across these pocket warmers, I fell in love. I could do that! 

All I needed was a little felt
some embroidery thread
a needle

I cut two felt hearts out for each warmer- a front and a back. They were roughly the same size, but I didn't restrict myself to using the same pattern for each warmer. Some were squat, others tall.
I laid them together and sewed nice big stitches around the outside. I wasn't overly worried about anything falling out since these aren't going to get a whole lot of rough action. No kids to worry about and they're easy enough to mend.
I left a small opening in the hearts to fill with brown rice (all we had on hand!). At this point I added a little bit of peppermint extract so that the warmers would smell nice too! If you were feeling really romantic, you could add a few drops of your own perfume. Once these are warmed in the microwave your significant other would instantly be reminded of you! (I snuck a few of those in there too)
Finish the hole, tie a knot and you're done!
In this house we the method of giving is almost as good as the gift that vein I decided to hide 12 of these little guys around the house. You could add love notes or hints to the next one also, but I played it simple by hiding each warmer in a well-used spot by Mr. E. 
It's entirely likely that less than 12 of them will actually be found on Valentine's...this only prolongs the fun! When he least expects it he'll open a drawer or bag to find a little reminder that I'm crazy about him. And that's almost gift enough for me...:)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Mr. E is back on set...and we're a mixed ball of emotions about it.
That's the royal we, ya'll.

Mr. E has been so lucky to be able to attend Chapman University- one of the finest colleges for film-making. He's surrounded by like-minded peers, industry execs and professors who take time from their own projects to teach. 

This last year of school has been a whirlwind of planning and executing, and even though he's done filming his own movie, the process is far from over. As the writer and director of his own movie, there was a lot of pre-production work--that is, work before filming starts. Draft upon draft was written, edited, chopped, reviewed and consolidated. Auditions were had, and call-backs after that. Endless driving for location scouting. Endless meetings with his production crew to organize, schedule and fundraise for the movie. A director's job is never done and Mr. E has thrown his entire heart into movie-making.

It seems to me that good directors are fickle little creatures: fiercely protective of their work but willing to listen to criticism; kick-butt-take-names to get things DONE on set but quick to let go of what has been determined not "their" job. Mr. E is a good director. (Actually, Mr. E is just a good person, but I admit I may be biased). He is at once able to view the big picture of the movie while experimenting with shots, lighting, sound, moods- allowing his crew a full freedom to complete their individual tasks and the whole set-experience to run quickly and smoothly. 

I have never seen my husband so in-charge. 
Each set gives Mr. E a learning opportunity: working with new people, working with new stressed people, using different equipment, shooting at different locations, coordinating schedules and permits. Sometimes he wears different hats--sound designer, grip, producer-- but this weekend? Mr. E is assistant director.

Assistant Director means that you have meetings at all hours of the day and night. 
It means that six days of shooting, 12 hour days, distant locations, shooting times and mandatory lunches and schedules for minors becomes a great spatial puzzle you must solve.
It means sharing the most significant man in your life with four other people...

It's a good thing I've come to like these people.

The director and the AD are like twins: they may look super similar, but there's always the "bad one". The director is primarily in charge of directing the actors, fleshing out how the movie should feel. Scripts are as plain as possible in order to give directors lots of freedom with actors, sets, colors, shots and so on. ADs on the other hand organize the set, keep the shots clean, the crew quiet, the cast on schedule. 

Most importantly for Mr. E, ADs are the last ones to leave set. Which means a 12 hour shoot from 10 to 10 might take as long as 8:30 to midnight after transportation, set-up, take-down, loading the truck and watching dailies (the shots you've taken at the end of the day).

It'll be a long weekend.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Green Lantern

We watched this movie because we knew that we would never have another chance to see it willingly. It was free, it was just the two of us and it still took us three nights to watch this movie (after our first choice of Downton Abbey, of course).

This was not a movie that spanned audiences. Toy Story is good for kids and adults. Batman Begins--it could be argued- is adults and kids. Green Lantern? Hard for even a fan to like this one.

Granted, I never followed Green Lantern. I don't know his back story very well and I never understood why anyone would root for him over the "big guys" like Superman, Batman or even Spiderman!

Imdb synopsis:
A test pilot is granted an alien ring that bestows him with otherworldly powers, as well as membership into an intergalactic squadron tasked with keeping peace within the universe.

Ryan Reynolds is awful in this movie- he's much better as a snarky character. I just didn't see any of the good snark here. Blake Lively is awful in this movie- but then, I don't really expect much from her. She flies under my radar.

The whole movie seemed choppy and weak. I wasn't worried for Hal and I didn't feel like they set up any of the relationships well enough. 

Plus side? Good movie to cross-stitch through.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Cut it Out!

On our (my?) path to scrimping and saving more, we're taking a hard look at the things we spend our money on. And what's been weighing on our minds lately? Hair. (see what I did there?)

Last summer I started shaving Mr. E's easy trim with the clippers. It wasn't too hard- he normally just wanted something short and easy to manage. Every few weeks--because Mr. E grows hair like weeds-- we'd haul out the clippers and extension cord, set up shop outside and go at it....the hair cutting, that is.

But it was kind of a stretch for me to jump in and say I wanted to cut my own hair. I mean, my hair is 10 times longer than his. And I have bangs to deal with. And layers. That's way harder, right?

Well, in a manner of speaking. But I didn't want to spend the $40 on a salon scissors it is!

I read a few tutorials on how to do it yourself, braced myself and got it all wet. I didn't really want to go for inches off, just layers in. 
I divided my hair into three sections: a top, middle and bottom. The top would later get bangs too, so I made sure that each of my sections was roughly the same amount of hair (no easy task here).
I started with the bottom layer and cut a little longer in the front, a little shorter in the back- just enough to be a little diagonal. But not much. Evening the layers was probably the hardest part...
Once the bottom layer was cut where I wanted it, I pinned that back and let loose the second layer. I had each layer wrapped in a bun on the back of my head, so when I let out a bun I made sure to comb it on either side of the bun. That way I was looking at all of my hair and it was also laying roughly in the direction I wanted to cut it.
I tried to cut more for style this time around...I couldn't really remember where my first layer had stopped, and I figured longer is better- I can always cut it shorter if it's too long, but not the other way around!
When I finished with the second layer I let both of the bottom layers come together. Not bad, if I do say so myself. A little blocky, but I figured I could fix it. Maybe.
The last layer on top was straight forward. I think by this time I was anxious to be done and so I maybe didn't take as much time as I should have. This whole process took a little more than an hour...

Letting it all out together I realized that even if there was sort of a large gap between each layer, the gap was the same between each layer. So technically we're good here. I'm not winning any awards here, but I'm not crying either so this is good.
The bangs may have been the easiest part. It must have been all that practice when I was five, you know?
Give it a shake, comb it out and blow dry it and voila! Instant mood-lifter! 

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

Mr. E and I have enjoyed the movies four or five times in the last few weeks- something we hesitate to do so often because of ticket prices. We have all the local theatres scoped out: which has the best lines, the cheapest tickets, the seats with moving handles so we don't sit separate. Our favorite, by far, is the one right around the corner- we both show our student IDs and we can watch a movie for $15.

The other night we grabbed dinner, a movie and a small bag of movie candy for 95 cents thanks to gift cards! We had been looking forward to date night all week and were pleasantly surprised with Silver Linings Playbook.

We LOVED this movie- easily something we would watch again in theatres and buy when it comes out. I really enjoy movies lately  that focus on real relatable characters instead of just good stories. 
Silver Linings Playbook Imdb synopsis: After a stint in a mental institution, former teacher Pat Solitano moves back in with his parents and tries to reconcile with his ex-wife. Things get more challenging when Pat meets Tiffany, a mysterious girl with problems of her own.
What I loved most about the movie was the incredibly vivid and relatable portrayal of mental illnesses. Coming from a family with ADD and marrying into another with anxiety and panic attacks, I found SLP incredibly uplifting in its honesty and realism. Pat (Bradley Cooper) is diagnosed with bipolarism- which personally shocked me. That seemed like such an extreme label to put on someone, but throughout the movie you find yourself relating to him, sympathasizing with him and encouraging his achievements with his diagnosis. This isn't the flu or a tumor to remove and it's all better; this is behavior, this is how he acts, how he reacts, how he IS.
Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) was every INCH her character- emotional, intelligent, critical but fierce. I loved watching the chemistry between these two. It wasn't gooey or romantic- actually it didn't feel like most movie relationships at all. You know it was a good movie when you forget about all the other nit-picky parts and just enjoy what you're watching. 
It seems that there is such a stigma about acknowledging, labelling, and treating mental illnesses. I think these are far more prevalent than most people let on, assuming that it's situational or caused by single events and once that situation has passed everything will be okay. In SLP I recognized behavioral traits in myself and others because the movie showed you how it feels instead of telling you how it is. That's not to say I mentally diagnosed everyone, but rather that I left the stigma behind and accepted that some "illnesses" can be attributed to a "difference of personality". You understood Pat's underlying focus in the movie and could explain away his blunt and honest behavior because he was rambling out loud all of those things we mentally remind ourselves. And his father? Neurotic? Sure, but his intentions were to take care of his family, to salvage his pride and to see his son succeed. Maybe his methods were a little wacky, but you could relate to them as paternal idiosincracies (my dad has 'em, yours does too!).
I would pay money to see this movie. Again.

Kindle Case

Obviously I just don't feel challenged unless I'm facing a deadline. Why else would I avoid packing the night before our flight to sew a Kindle I won't even use once I order my leather case? Regardless, I had my heart set on an easy all-fabric case I could slide my kindle into- something bright and easy to see inside of a purse and somewhat exemplary of my skills in sewing so far.
Nailed it.

Let's all take a moment and thank our lucky stars I didn't go with the original plan of putting a button on there too! This was so handy I didn't worry at all about my Kindle sliding out, but was deep enough that it fit comfortably. 
I had the fabric on hand- mint was a cloth napkin from my wedding, blue polka dots was bought recently for something that never panned out, and the felt I somehow accumulated. I actually had a hard time figuring out the spatial arrangement of this project- I think I was rushing myself. I had it in my head that all of my seams would be hidden and beautiful; that there would be no fraying threads or loose ends. But, come on. 
I did try my hand at another applique-type embellishment. I thought it would be really cute to have words on the front of the case- something colloquial and subtle, but made a statement all at the same time. The best I could come up with was READ ME in a cursive sort of script, justified because if you mess up cursive it's natural but if your block letters aren't all the same height it looks DUMB.
Lesson learned: Ripley's head is way easier to sew than little letters with lots of corners. Maybe I should have tried something simpler, but I was on a roll at this point and my fingers (or my pedalling foot) couldn't stop. (I was too lazy to find something to trace my letters with, so my felt has a slight tinge from the red pencil I used).
I sewed my fabric squares together so they at least wouldn't move on me as I figured this bad boy out: outside and inside with right sides facing, then a sheet of felt outside of that. I wanted some extra oomph to my case so it stood up a little straighter.
I folded them (less sewing) and sewed (sort of) like a pillowcase, all inside-out-like. I trimmed my edges and refolded so they were all on the inside...then realized if you looked INTO the sleeve you could see my seams...which wasn't what I wanted. But frankly, only I am looking in there, otherwise you see the outside or the Kindle. So, for me, this worked. But if I wanted to sell it (possibilities) I would tuck my seam somehow so the inside was just as nice as the outside. Give me a second while I try to visualize it.
Overall, I liked how it turned out. Yes, you can totally see the holes in the fabric from where I cut the stitching. Yes, I nicked the insde by accident. Yes, my zig zags are humongous and awkward and don't totally fit on my teeny-tiny letters. But it served it's purpose, I didn't spend any money on it and my Kindle traveled scratch-free. Success in 1.5 hours.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Utah Trippin

You know the earmark of a good vacation? Coming back refreshed and ready to take on the burdens and menial tasks with renewed vigor.
That was exactly what we did this last week.

Mr. E and I visited Salt Lake City, Utah for some much needed R & R, a visit with some of his family and a second (third?) honeymoon. Basically every trip is considered a honeymoon, I think.
First of all, my mother in law is a saint. She is one of the most forgiving people I know, she constantly serves others before herself (except when a making a new coat is on the line) and she can out-decorate the best of them. With visions of multi-million dollar homes dancing her head, she can match and coordinate her entire house with very little effort.
 I have trouble matching sheets. Staying at my in-laws house was better than a hotel (I know exactly where these sheets have been)- our own room (er--floor!), Netflix, a Costco run and plenty of things to do, see, and make!

We sledded (sludded? went sledding...)
We ate out and visited.
We Sundanced.

We enjoyed the landscape (snow? mountains?)

And we missed our puppy something fierce!
All in all we realized that Utah is a fantastic visit- especially around Sundance. We might not ever move here, but we will definitely see more of that snow!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


Mr. E and I have an obsession with Mexican food, although technically I think you would call it Mexican American. I've been to real Mexican food places and the food is phenomenal, but at home we make it a little more simple. Beans, taco seasoning, salsa, shredded cheddar cheese and lots of veggies. 

One of my favorite things is how easy it is to make- tacos, burritos and nachos all basically have the same ingredients. Plus, I use what I have, so our meals are always a little different when you don't consistently have an ingredient.

It's hard for me to branch out of these easy meals- the ingredients are always on hand, we're always in the mood for Mexican, I love black beans and homemade tortillas- but sometimes I want to experiment. The first time I made enchiladas it was someone's recipe from the Food Network and it took me much longer than I wanted to get all of the ingredients together the way it required. In the end it was chunky and flavorful, but so much work to create. This time I opted for something a little easier...

I made fresh flour tortillas and had Mr. E grill some chicken. 
With our basics on hand (olives, beans, and cheese) we added some cilantro and packed in our enchiladas.

I ended up with so many tortillas (and so much stuffing) that we made two pans of it, one with red sauce and one with green sauce. 
I had never used green sauce before. This is a mistake that should never be repeated. We couldn't eat enough of it! Then again, we both like green salsa...
Enchiladas are so easy if you have the time to make them. Stuff your tortillas with whatever you want (you see bean and cheese enchiladas all the time at restaurants), place face down in the pan and douse in sauce. Cook for 35 minutes and add cheese on top to melt.

Someday we'll try carne asada fries again...

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Another Day, Another Project

There was a time in my life that I may or may not have compulsively bought scarves.
It's not like I need them (southern California? puh-lease), but I like the woven comfort wrapped around your neck, the fringe, the color, the patterns...
They're pretty versatile in my book.
I like to make them too.
This has been on my to-do list for a while...I really wanted to make an infinity scarf with bright bold colors. I've recently started crocheting again (easy Christmas gift) and I wanted something in this crazy season to be just for me. So this scarf was born out of boredom, a dash of selfish vanity and a little bit of whimsy.
Like all good projects it had a catch- I didn't crochet one big long strip to stitch together at the end when I was done with my colors. No, that would be too smart, right? Instead, I wound my yarn around all the way and crocheted in one big circle. Which would be cute except that I had ONE TURN in my loop. So it wasn't  a circle, but more of a mobius strip.
I could live with that, right? Well...when you do that, you're adding onto BOTH sides of your yarn: your top becomes your bottom and vice versa. Which wouldn't be that big of an issue until you start adding another color and what you had originally wanted as three color-blocked bands becomes five stripes. At this point I was so far along in my improvised pattern (and had already taken out twice before) that I readjusted the mental expectation and went with it. I have to say I was pretty impressed.

Perfect for gallivanting in snow.
I played around with the stitch I used- I'm pretty sure it's a fake stitch or something else half-assed, but at least I was consistent with it. Start in loop, loop one yarn over your hook, push through next stitch, grab yarn over hook, pull through all three. 
I used a fairly large crochet hook because I wanted something big and bulky and I really like the volume I got here. I would totally do this again- other colors, other stitches, maybe no mobius strips this time.

Speaking of scarves, I saw this post over at Lovely Undergrad (where were you when I went to college?) and decided to give it a try too. I'm not a big poetry buff and I was worried about a good Shakespeare quote when it hit me. I really wanted a Scripture verse (or something close to it). I turned to my grandmother and vaguely sent out the request for something to do with: "Love....or marriage. You know, like a wife? Or mothers and daughters? About love...?"

But she came through and gave me Proverbs 31. How elegant do I feel, armoring myself against the day, wearing my goals and my hopes and dreams in becoming a great woman, wife and mother. It was perfect. So I followed the tutorial, grabbed a Sharpie and scribbled my way across my scarf. 
Thank goodness my coffee table is black.
The result smelled really bad, ya'll. Like 6th grade science projects and too much rubber cement. But it wore off after a day and I wear this ALL THE TIME. You could do something fun like song lyrics or wedding vows, too!