Thursday, October 27, 2011

Derby updates!

Derby is almost six months old, and it's hard to believe that we've had him for almost four of those months! He is the sweetest, loveliest, best puppy there ever was. And that means a lot from me because (don't hate me) - I don't actually like a lot of dogs. 

I know. I promise I have a soul. I just don't really love most dogs. Some of them scare me, some of them make me nervous, some of them gross me out. So yeah, why we got a dog is still sort of unknown.

But Derby isn't like all of those scary dogs. He's darling and sweet and loves his mom (that's me). And he has the sweetest freaking face I've ever seen in my whole life. And he's really good. And did I mention how much he loves me? (As I was typing this, he came and curled up on my feet. Love).

Remember when he was this big?

Yeah, he's growing. Get ready for picture overload of this puppy. I don't have babies yet, so you have to pretend you're interested. I won't do this often, I promise!

Just helping my mom fold the laundry.

Awesome that I got my bathing suit in focus, and my puppy slightly out of it.

Just looking out the window, being cute.

Up on the couch. Picture taken 2 seconds before getting in trouble.

Just taking a little rest.


Playing Words with Friends together! =)

How much longer do you think he'll fit on my lap??

Oh - and that whole why people love dogs thing? I get it now.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Come on Irene...

Yeah, I guess the song is really about Eileen, but it seems to fit my experience with Hurricane Irene! This post is long overdue, but it's just too cool not to share.

The weekend of Hurricane Irene, I had planned to drive to New York for a brief visit to my grandmother's. I was only going to be there for three days, and we had as many quilts to make in that short amount of time.

I didn't think anything of the hurricane as I hit the road. In Ohio, we heard it was coming, but that's about it. We didn't hear anything about the expected strength, evacuations, etc. ahead of time.

And my grandmother doesn't sweat the small stuff, or hurricanes, apparently, so she didn't really mention it either.

My grandparent's house

As a side note, I always want to go to my grandparent's house in the summer. There's something about that time of year (maybe because it's when we visited as kids?) that makes me want to visit. It's also one of my most stressful times of year at work, and whenever I find myself really overwhelmed, I want to escape here. Because there's not really cell phone service. And it's just so easy to unplug from your real life. And all I do when I come here is sew and read. I miss it already.

I got to New York and had a nice day of weather before all the storms hit. We managed to finish one quilt and start on the second during that first day. We watched the news and wondered if we would lose power. My grandfather ended up renting a generator just in case, but neither of them seemed worried about the storm.

This - by the way - is why I go to my Gramma's to make quilts:

This is her long-arm quilting machine and frame. It's amazing. It's 10 feet long, and you can put an entire king size quilt on it. I don't think I'll ever make a king size quilt, but it's nice to have the option. Instead of moving the quilt around on a stable machine, you move the machine on a stable quilt. It is SO much easier to achieve nice results when you work this way. It's also way faster.

This shows you how you roll the quilt on, back then batting then front.  You won't recognize this quilt because I made it for Zac's cousin's baby, and gave it to her before I took pictures of it. Oops. I'll take some when I see them at Christmas!

Another view of the quilt and machine.

At this point, I wouldn't be surprised if you aren't paying attention. You probably got distracted by the GORGEOUS wall paper that is in the bedroom. Here's a close-up:

Stunning, right? Nothing like floral wall paper that is mostly weeds??

Here's a picture of Gramma quilting. She's so cute.

We finished the first quilt and some of the second on Friday. When we woke up on Saturday, it had started to rain. We worked ALL day Saturday trying to finish the second and third quilts as the storm kept raging. We had about half of the last quilt to do when we couldn't see straight anymore. We went to a neighbor's house for dinner, came home, and went to sleep.

Oh - not before we watched the news and saw that there was a tornado warning. And we had this conversation:

Me: "Gramma, you don't have tornado sirens, here do you?"
Gramma: "No, we don't."
Me: "How will we know if there is a tornado and we need to go to the basement?"
Gramma: "I guess we won't know."

She doesn't sweat tornados, either.

We didn't die in a tornado though, so that's good news. In fact, I went to sleep and slept through the night. Until I woke up at 6 AM and tried to turn on the lights - which didn't work. We all got up and were talking about what to do for breakfast when the power came back on. Papa made us breakfast (he is the best grandpa in the world), but the power was still on. We settled into the living room and watched the news. I even took a nap!

Around 9 AM, our good fortune had ended. The power went out again, and didn't come back on. Papa drove down the road and discovered a HUGE tree that had taken down powerlines and we knew there wouldn't be power again anytime soon (in fact, they didn't have it until Tuesday!).

It was daylight though, so we could read without needing flashlights. At one point, Papa ran an extension cord up to the second floor so that we could use the generator to finish the last quilt. It was so sweet of him to do that for us! 

Here's what it looks like when you quilt by generator:

That's as un-blurry as I could get it without a flash. It actually looks pretty light in this picture, but it felt really dark!

We managed to finish the third quilt, even though it was dark. The lights never came back on, so we drove into town to find some pizza. I was leaving early so we didn't stay up very late, and just like that, my trip was over. 

The only downside is that I parked in the dark, and left my sewing machine (in its black case) at their house. My sweet grandparents SHIPPED it to me, because I was so sad about it. The funniest part? It only cost $25 to send it! We couldn't figure out how it costs $10 to mail cookies to my cousin who is in college, and only $25 to send my heavy sewing machine??

So there you have it - our quilting by generator adventure!

Monday, October 24, 2011

I'm never buying invitations again. Maybe.

My friend Erika is having a baby at the end of November, and while we were planning her shower, I offered to order the invitations. Erika doesn't know if the baby is a boy or a girl, and she and her husband are huge Ohio State fans, so we planned a scarlet and grey theme for the shower.

After I got over my initial I-hate-Ohio-State disgust, I set to work finding invitations. I looked everywhere. I even looked places that are totally not affordable (cough Tiny Prints). And everything was either blue, pink, or some sort of green / yellow.  It didn't seem like we should have a green invitation and then an OSU themed shower, but I didn't know what else to do.

And then a flash of creativity came over me. Well, not really. But the invitation I liked best seemed pretty basic. Surely I could recreate it?

I am NOT an artistic person. I don't often have visions of original creativity. But give me a picture of something that someone else made and darn it, I can copy it with the best them! Shout out to Pinterest for furthering my delusions here.

Here's the inspiration invitation I was working with:

You can find the invite here on Shutterfly.

It's adorable. I might even like it better than scarlet and grey. But I couldn't change the theme this late in the game. So I worked to recreate it.

I made my version in Microsoft Publisher. I made it a little smaller than a size 10 mailing envelope so I wouldn't have to buy new envelopes. And I printed two to a page on cardstock so I didn't have to buy more cardstock.

I think it turned out pretty cute! I download all of my cute fonts from They have the BEST fonts and they are all free.

So my new plan is just to troll the internet for ideas next time I need an invitation, and to try to create it myself. And if/when that doesn't work, order them from somewhere.

Obviously at least half the fun of pinterest is coming up with ideas you can steal adapt to be your own. Are there any other ways you adapt inspiration to be your own?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fingerprint Art

My neighbor/friend Clare is an awesome person to have close by. She actually was friends with my younger sister in college, and we connected through a professional association. When we found out we only live a few streets from each other, we (well at least I) were in heaven.

And this is why. Clare and her husband like art that is unique and meaningful. When Tony went away for the weekend, Clare decided to surprise him and create art based on their fingerprints. I know, you already love her.

This is the master bedroom they started with.  The floors are light wood, the walls are a cream color, and the bedding is tan. It was a whole lot of tan, and Clare and Tony decided they wanted to add some color. They had agreed on a navy accent wall behind the bed, and Clare got to work while Tony was gone!

To make the art, she first scanned their finger prints on the highest quality setting and uploaded them to Photoshop CS3. She did some rasterizing of the zoomed-in imageds (I have no idea what that means) and then digitally over each other. 

After playing around with the prints in Photoshop, it looked something like this.

She printed the images, and made them 8.5" x 8.5". This is solely a personal preference because Clare loves square art. I love square art too. And pretty much everything else Clare likes.The black and yellow represent Clare and Tony's fingerprints - this will make more sense in a minute.

She taped the image under tracing paper and...

Started painting! She painted each layer in a different color using the color scheme from the bedroom. So, brown for the furniture, cream for the bedding, and blue from the walls.

Clare called this part painstaking. She literally pulled an all-nighter. She is so cute/crazy. And she did this four times....

After the first color had completely dried, she went back through and added the second layer.

Here's the final print with all three colors added together. She made four total, so mixed the main color so that the prints felt modern and fresh.

Another print with more blue. When they had dried, she matted them on white cardstock, leaving a 1/4" border around each edge.

She matted the pictures using fancy tools like this. Y'all, I was not kidding when I said that she is a crafty fancy artist person (if I didn't say it yet, I'm saying it now). This woman is tal-en-ted.

Here's a sample of the finished product. Totally unique. Totally modern. Totally gorgeous.

Here they are matted over the bed! Aren't they gorgeous? They totally pop against the navy blue wall.

A close-up shot.

There you have it - some of the most beautiful and personalized art I've ever seen. Her husband loved it by the way... how could he not?? Be super jealous that Clare is not your neighbor/friend. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to con her into helping me make some sort of art!

Think of the possibilities with her method too - there are a lot of cool things you could paint onto tracing paper and them frame! Thanks, Clare, for sharing your creativity and talents!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I can see clearly now...

After more than 20 years of wearing glasses and/or contacts, I finally bit the bullet. Last Friday, I had LASIK surgery! This is a long and complicated story, so bear with me as I start from the beginning...

I have worn glasses or contacts for what feels like my entire life. We found out I needed glasses when I was in first grade. My parents had taken us bowling, and a few frames in, I hadn't hit a single pin. My mom said, "Tara! Look at the pins! You need to aim the ball to the pins!" I said, "What pins? I don't see any pins?"

A picture of me, pre-glasses. I'm the one in the middle. This picture is
mostly to show you that I was a ridiculously cute child.

My mom probably thinks of that as a parenting failure moment, but there wasn't any way that we would have known that my eyesight had changed -- it changed dramatically in just a few short months. The eye doctor gave me some coke bottle glasses and the journey began.

Just kidding. Those weren't my real glasses. This is just to show you that my
parents were fun and to embarrass my little sisters.

In second grade, I started to wear rigid gas permeable contacts. At that time, any young person whose eyes changed so dramatically was recommended for these. They thought that wearing them would slow down any more changes in your eyes (this has since been prove false, by the way). Anyone who has ever worn them is probably full of empathy at this point. They are rigid and hard and expensive and easily breakable and uncomfortable. Combine that with a second grader and you have years of difficulty! My mom actually put my contacts in and took them out each day for a few years. I lost more than one down the sink and my dad rescued them out of the drain. Once, we couldn't find a contact anywhere. I mean - anywhere. Because it had stuck to my shirt and we had thrown it down the laundry chute. And we found it in tact.

When I was a senior in high school, I made the switch to soft contacts. I was heading off to college and wanted to have more flexibility and comfort. I wore soft lenses without a problem until just over a year ago. All of a sudden, contacts were brutally uncomfortable, made me blink uncontrollably, and led to all sorts of watery eyes and irritation. I apparently just developed an intolerance to them. Side note - so did my friend Claire, who does not live in Cincinnati. But also, so did another friend who developed it just after moving to Cincinnati, which is when I did. Strange!

I've been thinking about Lasik since high school. When I was able to wear contacts, it was mostly an inconvenience. When I could only wear glasses, it became almost unbearable. Let me clarify that I have a lot of friends and family members who look amazing in glasses. Even better than they do without glasses in glasses. I am not one of those people. I hate the way I look in glasses. Case and point:

My aunt's crazy friend Jan, who is super fun.

It's probably because I wore contacts for so many years during the day, but I associate myself wearing glasses with being tired, sick, or going to bed. When I look at this picture (or any picture of me in glasses), I just don't like it. 

All of the people I knew in Cincinnati who had had LASIK used Dr. Varley -- quick shout out to his office for being amazing. It was pricey, but five days in, already so worth it. I did all the normal pre-procedure stuff, and then arrived on Friday for the surgery. Zac took me, and my parents came down as well. My dad said he wanted to see me when I realized I could see. Yes, he is the best dad ever.

They gave me some numbing drops and some valium. I was way more nervous than I thought I'd be. They took me into the procedure room, and Zac and my parents got to watch the whole thing.  I could wear my normal clothes, but had to wear a sweet hair cover thing. They gave me a teddy bear to hold, which made a ridiculous difference. It was great having something soft to hold on to.

Dr. Varley was wonderful, and really calming. I just had to focus on his voice, look where he told me to look,  and not freak out. Let me say that this was the strangest experience of my entire life (which I actually told him during the procedure!). It didn't hurt at all, but it was just so strange. If you have ever had a tooth pulled, it felt like that -- no pain, but you can feel it happening. Weird.

The first thing they do is cut flaps in your eye so they can laser off the parts that are making your vision bad. This is my unscientific description, by the way. This takes all of 5 seconds for each eye, but after they do it, your vision is really blurry and hazy. This is normal and the doctor told me it would happen, but it was still a bit disconcerting. 

Lining up my eye so they could cut the flap.

After they cut the flap, they line up your eye for the actual lasering (which for this post, counts as a real word). I don't really know what you're looking at here, but here's a picture of my eye, post flap cutting, but before any lasering:

The final step is the laser re-shaping your eye. Again, no pain, but super weird. I had the laser for about 30 seconds each eye, but my eyes were pretty bad. If your prescription is less, you don't have to have as much time under the laser.

Lining up my eye for the laser

One neat part about the technology is that if your eye moves for any reason, the laser stops and won't start again until it is repositioned.

The whole thing took less than 20 minutes. I got a complicated schedule of eye drops, some sweet goggles, and was sent home to sleep for as long as possible (at least 4-6 hours). I slept for awhile, woke up and had a milkshake, then went to bed for the night. I had some pretty intense discomfort the first night, but it wasn't bad enough to prevent me from sleeping.

First picture, post surgery!

When I went back the next morning, my vision tested at 20/15. Absolutely incredible!! It has gotten clearer each day sense. It's not necessary blurry, but my eyes are SO dry that it feels like it is. So far, that's been the worst part. I think I'll buy stock in artificial tears. Oh, and my eyes are super bloodshot and it looks like I do drugs. Except I told my kids at work I got bitten by a zombie (and three of them believed it). And I get to sleep in those cool goggles for three weeks (do you love how they matched my outfit that day??).

So... the verdict is that I am SO glad I did this, even though I'm not totally back to normal yet comfort-wise. It's amazing to wake up and see the alarm clock, see the tv without having glasses on, and be able to read a book in bed without having it 4 inches from my face. It's amazing not to have to clean my glasses all day, look in the mirror and hate them, or to be able to wear sunglasses in the car.  It isn't the right choice for everyone, but it sure was for me!!

Has anyone else had LASIK? Do you love contacts or glasses? Are you one of those people who has perfect vision and makes everyone else jealous?

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