Monday, October 30, 2017

Harry Potter Party

I decided to indulge my inner nerd and geek out with a Harry Potter halloween party.  I really got into doing all of the little crafts.  As with all things I find on Pinterest - it's one thing to see the idea, actually creating it is another thing entirely.  There were a lot of learning experiences involved.


I used the good old chopsticks and glue-gun method for these.  I didn't try too hard to replicate any specific wands, although I did take inspiration from them.  I used some acrylic paint and then went over with some metallic water colors for extra shine.  This was a fun project, but it took a couple of days because I had to wait for each layer to dry.

Hogwarts Letters

The letters were easy enough to address, and I melted some candle wax with a red crayon for the seal on the back.  The tricky part was using invisible thread to attach them to the fireplace.  Invisible thread is... not surprisingly... pretty difficult to see. 

Honeydukes Sweetshop

OK - technically these aren't all from Honeyduke's in the book but it was fun to have some themed candy.  The snitches were a little tricky, it was hard to get the sparkle paper to stick to the foil... I had to use a combo of glue and tape (don't look too closely). ;)

Headmaster's Office

Saved up a few tiny liquor bottles to catch memories.  The pensive is just a plastic bowl that I painted with silver paint and glitter.  On the left there's an old mood ring that I painted to look like the Gaunt ring.

Society for the Promotion of Elfish Workers

S.P.E.W was on of my favorite parts of the book... and I already had the hats/socks, so this was pretty easy to put together.

House Points

This was another fun easy thing to do to add to the atmosphere.

There were a few other crafts that I didn't get pictures of but overall it was fun to really get into trying to create a Hogwarts feel for the party.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Spoooooooky quilt

I made a Halloween quilt!

I've wanted to make a Halloween quilt for a while and have been collecting fabrics bit by bit over the past couple of years.  I had a few different ideas, but my quilting mo-jo has been slow to return after grad school so I finally picked a super easy pattern from Pinterest and put the top together pretty quickly.  But I didn't get it done quite in time for Halloween last year, so I stashed the top away and only pulled it out again this month. 

I used meander quilting... which is still a bit of a learning experience for me.  There are places where I crossed over the line of stitching, and other parts where the bobbin thread ran out so it's a bit clunky where I tried to get it started again.  Nothing you'd see from the back of a prancing pony... but stuff that bugs me a little bit. 

The backing is pieced from leftover fabric. 

What I like about it:  
 - It's a quilt!  It's done!

 - It's a Halloween quilt!  It's fun!

 - I'm getting my quilting mo-jo back!

What I want to do differently next time:
- Make sure I love the fabrics.  I bought a lot of fat quarters just because they were Halloween themed... and I relied heavily on sale fabrics.  There are two fabrics that I really don't like, but it's a bit late to change them up now that the quilt is done. 

 - keep practicing meander quilting, or find patterns that work better with straight line quilting.  Meander quilting is HARD on my little machine.  I have a walking foot but actually ended up running over my finger (and yes, OUCH - it hurt as much as you think it would) because I was having to push and pull the fabric more than I would have liked.

I really do feel like I'm getting my quilting inspiration back... I have a ton of ideas for new quilts.  Unfortunately I also have a ton of unfinished projects.  So I think I need to alternate back and forth between finishing up old projects and starting new ones.  More quilts to come!

Sunday, February 26, 2017

I make stuff!

Now that I'm not spending every waking moment doing homework - I make stuff!  While in grad school and a bit after I did a few inspirational embroidery pieces.  My original thought was to put them all together into a quilt and have something to wrap up in when I felt a little down.  But I have a LOT of quilts already, and making something full sized is always a bit of a challenge.  So I decided to turn them into a quilted book.  I used scrap fabric and took the opportunity to practice a few new embroidery stitches.  

Let's start with a nod to Maya Angelou, the Phenomenal Woman herself.

I was working on this page on the bus and the gal next to me started asking me questions about what I was doing.  I asked her what else I should do on this page, she told me to do a little fish  - so there's a little improvisational fish.

I stitched this one at a craft retreat at the coast.

"Beauty surrounds you because you create it" was from a fortune cookie I got a while ago.  It's such an appropriate fortune for me, and I've been inspired by it for years.  I can create beauty and I will be surrounded by it.  

I'm trying very hard to apply these mottoes to my life.  

A final nod to Maya.  

The end.  (and upside down for some reason)

I'm really happy with this little project.  I was able to pull together a lot of different pieces of stitching and scrap fabric to make something colorful and uplifting.  After years of academic structure it felt good to just be purely creative, without trying to follow any rules or get it 'right'.  I especially had fun adding the grommets... it's not often I get to use a hammer when quilting!  

I'm already working on another quilted book.... something a little more experience based, more like a journal.  It's a really fun and flexible format.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I make quilts sometimes!

It's been a while since I pulled out all my crafty toys and got to play.

I was recently invited to a friend's shower, so I jumped at the chance to make a quick baby quilt.  All of the fabric was already in my stash, and as you can see I did about the easiest pattern I could think of.

Overall it was a fun and easy reintroduction to quilting and a reminder of how fun it is to cut pretty fabric into little pieces and the sew it all back together again.  It also reminded me that I need to work on my binding technique a bit.

It was well received, which always makes me happy!

I think it's fair to say that my quilting bug is back and there will be lots more fun little quilts in my future.  I just hope I find enough babies to give them away to!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Creepy Crafts

I went all-out for a Halloween party this year (and by 'this year' I mean, I forgot to hit "publish" two years ago).  Unfortunately, my camera was not quite up to the task of capturing the mood lighting and creepy effects.  But this will at least give an idea of what I did and hopefully provide a little spark of inspiration to anyone who wants to plan their own Halloween party.

First up - drink labels, I found some of these online and printed them out - but most of them I made up using good old MS Word.   I tea-died the paper - drying it in a warm oven, then covered the original labels with black crepe paper.  I think they turned out well.

All the liquor

Crystal ball - found a light-bulb globe and a tiny glittered tea-light holder at Goodwill.  I added a bit of glitter pain to the globe and set it in the holder.  The "book of visions" was more tea-dyed paper, burn around the edges (actually - I think that's paper from a shopping bag on the cover, tea-dyed pages inside).  The idea was that people would "gaze into the crystal ball" and write predictions in the book.  The idea was a bit better than the execution - but a few people did write it in, which was fun.

Part of the problem with these pictures is that with the flash -  you miss the effect of the mood lighting, but without the flash - it all looks blurry.  Hopefully- you get the general idea.  Cobwebs and tattered fabric over pretty much everything.

The white bouquet had creepy crawly bugs in it, but I'm not sure anyone noticed.    

I have a handful of old pictures of my family, I printed them out in black and white and they ended up looking really spooky actually - just by being low-res.  

These were fun - I made the jack-o-lantern ones last year, and the mummy ones are new.  The mummies use tissue paper and cheese-cloth.

On the alter to the right I had 'fortune-candies' - copied a bunch of spooky fortunes and wrapped them around Hersey's minis.  It was fun to have people read their fortunes out.  But I did too many!!  I'll be eating fortune candies for months.  

How the crystal ball looked with candles.  

The pictures in the back were all cut-outs in black glued over book pages.  I think it worked really well.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I'm back to bread baking!

Here are my latest Challah rolls

The insides are really dense.  It's an enriched dough - with oil and eggs, so it should be somewhat dense... but usually I do an overnight rise which gives it a little more lift.  I'm going to use these for sandwich rolls though, so they should be good.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Portland Century Ride

After the 'agony of defeat' I experienced on the Seattle to Portland ride, I decided to re-evaluate my riding goals.

Last summer I had set a goal of riding a century - 100 miles - and trained pretty hard for it.  I signed up for the Portland Century ride and completed the 80 mile option.  I felt confident and in good shape for the Harvest Century in September, but Mother Nature had other plans and sent a ride-canceling storm.  I was half tempted to do the ride on my own anyway - but so much debris had been blown into the streets that it would have been impossible.  I was incredibly disappointed.

My training this year has not been nearly as intense, and I've hit more obstacles.  The "Worst Day of the Year" ride in February was canceled and I got a flat tire the night before the Bridge Pedal.  And I've already written extensively about my fore-shortened StP ride.  So I saw this year's Portland Century as a last-ditch effort to actually reach my year-old goal of riding a 100 miles in one go.  I needed a win!

I got up at 0'dark thirty and rode 5 miles up to the University of Portland for the start of the ride.

Waiting in line to register for the ride

Fortunately I had picked up my packet early, so I didn't need to wait in line - just ran in to grab a bit of breakfast before heading out.  

Mile 0 - Feeling pretty good.  It's chilly, so I've got an extra shirt on.  But the ride starts out flat in familiar territory.

Mile 10 - going along Marine Drive past the airport.  Did you know that PDX uses air-cannons to scare away birds?  Boom!  Boom!  Boom!!  It's a bit of an unnerving sound as you ride past.

Don't much like the look of those clouds hanging over Vancouver.

Looking back at Portland it's nothing but clear skies!

Mile 14 - After a harrowing climb up the I-205 bike path with cars zooming past on either side, we reach the first stop of the day.  It's nice to get a breather after that hill, especially knowing that we've got a bit more climbing to do within the next 10 or so miles.  

Mile 20 - I ride right past the cut-off for the folks doing the 45 mile option.  Feeling pretty good.

Climb baby climb.

A few people ask me "So are you doing the 100?" and I'm always hesitant to say "yes", so I reply "Well, that's what I signed up for." because when you aim to do something you've never done before - how do you know if you're going to make it or not?  Day 2 of StP was haunting me.  I kept telling myself that I'd just see how I felt and take the 80 mile option if I needed to.

Hill climbs = excellent views

Mile 30 - Second stop of the day at Lacamas Lake.  Despite the clouds it's really quite pretty out.  And this stop has bagels with lox.  I can't describe how motivating that is to this Jersey girl.

Lacamas Lake

Mile 35 - There's a bit more climbing but I take it slow and steady.  I've decided to take a relaxed approach to this ride - and even stop a few times to take pictures or when ripe blackberries tempt me off the path. "They were off my path so I never had dared... " I find myself singing the Into the Woods soundtrack as I ride along tree-lined roads.

Mile 40 - Immediately after the next rest stop we come to the big decision point - 80 mile option or 100?  I'm hardly the fastest rider, and the hills - although modest - do put my legs to the test.  But despite the chill, I'm feeling pretty darn good.

This is what I came here to do!

Mile 50 - We've had a quite a few rollers, and I have to say my legs definitely feel it.  But it warmed up and the views are impressive.  This is why I ride - to see beautiful places, to spend the day outside in the fresh air, and to get the exercise that I don't get in my day-job.

Getting close to La Center Washington.

Mile 60 - We're past the half-way point, and about to turn south to head back to Portland.  This stop was in a lovely park.

La Center rest stop
Stop and smell the flowers.

There were lots of statues and carvings. 

In a somewhat unpopular move, the organizers put the food down a hilly path.  After the hill climbing we'd just done - no one was particularly happy about the stairs.

It was interesting to chat with people and to overhear snippets of conversation from exhausted riders -  "Those hills were killing me"   "The thing is - these folks ride all the time, we just do weekends...."  - because I was feeling ok.  Tired and a bit sore, sure... but not wiped out.    Most everyone on this ride looked the part of a serious cyclist in spandex with clip-in shoes.  But in the end a pretty jersey is no substitute for training.

Mile 65 - Back on the road.  We pass lots of farms, goats, cows, horses, pigs, chickens and lots of apple orchards.  It's quite a scenic ride.

Mile 68 - I hear a rider say "This is the farthest I've ever gone!" and several of us congratulate him. This is the first century for a lot of us and the more experienced riders give us words of encouragement.  The recreational cycling community is incredibly supportive.  

Gotta love an old red barn

Mile 70 - More rollers.  There's no one giant hill to conquer on this ride like there was on StP, but there's a total of about 3,000 feet of elevation change, so I'm getting quite a workout.  Fortunately there haven't been any stop lights at the bottom of the hills so I've been able to carry the momentum half way up the next hill.  It's still a challenge though - to maintain control as you're barreling down the hill at 30+ mph, and then rapidly down-shifting to be able to climb the rest of the next hill.

At one point my chain just refuses to get into first gear and I'm screaming at it to just GO GO GO GO COME ON!!!   I try up-shifting and then trying to down-shift again, it finally clicks in.   Pedaling in the wrong gear sapped every bit of strength I had in my legs.  OMG - PAINFUL!!

Mile 75 -  Much needed rest stop at NW Organic Farms.  The farm provides organic heirloom tomatoes in a simple salad with olive oil and salt.  It is absolute perfection on this hot summer day.

Mile 77 - Because this is not a race and people start whenever they want, and take as long as they need at the rest stops, the riders get quite spread out.  This is nice because it means you're not just staring at someone's butt the entire time, and you don't constantly need to maneuver around other riders to pass or be passed.

But we ran into a bit of trouble here - they were paving the road, and traffic was being held up to take turns going around it.  While we were stopped, at least 50 other riders all caught up and when we were eventually allowed to go - there was quite a crowd.

paving crew

Mile 78 - I'm still surrounded by several other riders and overhear one saying "We're at mile 78... last hill at mile 80." And sure enough, a few minutes later we hit a down-hill section and I start building up quite a bit of speed.

It sounds weird to say, but I feel like I have bit of an advantage on the down-hill. My daily commute involves going down a long steep hill - rain or shine, wind or gravel - I go.  I'm also a heavy girl on a heavy bike, so momentum is in my favor.  So when I see that I've got a down & up in front of me - I embrace the slightly out-of-control feeling of zooming down the hill.  I was able to overtake a few riders on down hills earlier in the day - one lady calling out "you're awesome" as I passed her.

But I can't here - there are too many other riders.  Slow or fast - they're each just taking whatever clear lane they can find - 3 or 4 wide in the road.  I hold on and barely touch on my brakes to keep me from running into the person directly in front of me while still keeping as much speed as I can - and GAH!  There's a huge pothole in my path!  Rider to my left, rider to my right, and more behind - no place to go.  Ka-thunk!  Snowflake takes it like a champ.  I know on a lighter bike - on thinner tires -  I'd have been toast.  But nope... my girl is solid.

But then we still have to get back up the hill in front of us - again, too many riders around.  It's hard to stay out of each others way.  I'm trying to get into gear and it's taking too long.  I didn't get nearly enough momentum from the down-hill and my legs are wiped.  What kind of sadist puts a hill climb at mile 80 of a century??

A few riders are stopping and walking - I vow to at least catch up to one of the walkers before I stop.  But my legs are screaming.  I'm in my lowest gear and that's all I've got.  50 yards from the top, I get off and walk.  Dang!  I wanted to take it.  But I'm hardly the only one walking at this point.  The hill won that battle.

Mile 85 - Our last rest stop is at a winery.  Sweaty cyclists nibbling on cheese and crackers and enjoying a wine tasting - yup, this is the Portland Century.

Mile 88 - we cross the Columbia again and as we pass Jantzen Beach there's a woman sitting under a tree ringing her cowbell!  First cowbell of the day.   There's a van with bikes on the roof driving back up to Washington - they honk and cheer at us.  Yay!  This little burst of encouragement perks me up for the last push.

Mile 90 - The last 10 miles of the ride are flat and uneventful.  I'm back in familiar territory and could reach the school even without the road markings.  I take one last blackberry break before the end of the ride.

Mile 100 - Done!  My first official century completed.  In fact, I think the final mile-count for the ride is 101.9 miles, plus the 5 miles that I rode to and from home puts me at 111 for the day.  w00t!  I did it.

I take it on faith that the ice sculpture was prettier earlier in the day.

Music, food, and lots of smelly people - what more could you want?

Despite the fact that I'd covered more miles and about the same elevation changes - I felt so much better than I had after the first day of StP.   What was the difference?

1.  Gear - I'm on the same bike, but after getting two flats in a week I decided to splash out and buy new tires.  They're nothing fancy - about the same as my old ones.  But as soon as the new tires were on, I immediately noticed an increase in my average speed.  Good gear makes a difference!

My Special Snowflake, taking a well earned break herself.  
I also caved in and bought a pair of padded bike shorts.  I'm not convinced that it is much of an improvement - after 50 miles in the saddle, you're going to feel sore - but it may have helped.

2.  Training - I still haven't done as much training as I did last summer, but I managed to get in a few 20-50 mile rides and a good hill climb practice in the month after StP.  And, well, of course doing StP definitely counts as training for this ride.

3.  Support - I had actually planned to ride with a friend but didn't meet up until the end.  We did text each other from the route though which was nice.

At the first rest stop, I saw a gal who I'd done a few group rides with last year.  I was too shy to approach her until I ran into her again at the second stop.  We chatted and encouraged each other.  She was a bit ahead of me all day, but I'd catch up to her at the stops and chat.  It was definitely nice to see a familiar face.

(I was however, sorely disappointed by the overall lack of cowbell on this ride!)

4.  Weather.  I was quite cold for the first half of the ride, but that was probably a good thing.  It ended up being a hot day, but nowhere near 100 degrees like it had been for StP.   That kind of heat can really sap your energy on an endurance event like this.  Cooler weather made a difference.

5.  Home court advantage.  The first 15 and last 15 miles of the ride were easy peasy.  No major hills, no surprises, all places I'd ridden before.  You can study the route map all you want, but there's no substitute for knowing the roads yourself.

So that's it!  My first century... and probably my last... on Snowflake at least.  She's a great bike, but if I want to get serious about distance rides, I need to invest in a road bike.  That's just not going to happen this year.  I've achieved my goal, and I'll feel good about only signing up for shorter rides for the next year or so.  Lord knows I've got plenty of other goals (cough cough - grad school - cough cough) in my life right now!

Post race party with a co-worker!