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Monday, October 20, 2014

Things That Are Important to Know

You can't do it all.

You need others in your life.

Listening is important. Being heard is, too.

Eventually "later" will be now.

Time and energy are not infinite. Love is.

You should live out the character traits you'd like to see in others.

Good writing skills always matter. The same is true of math skills.

Eventually others will discover if you're all talk and no substance.

Don't fear failure. Fear not trying.

The way things appear today is not a predictor of how they will be in the future.

Hope is powerful.

Laugh often.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Leadership Requires Vulnerability

I went to a leadership retreat last month. We did a variety of team-building activities, including outdoor challenges, as part of a process to get know ourselves and each other better.

I'll write about this group in a later post, but for now I'll simply say that I'm fortunate to be part of a group of such interesting individuals. My fellow 34 classmates are talented, creative and passionate leaders.

One of the key things I took away from the weekend was that it's very important to be vulnerable even while you lead. Personally, I found myself (the talkative girl) taking a quieter role of observer and speaking into situations when necessary.

But even I could never had guessed the level of vulnerability that I'd have to face during the retreat.

Yes. That happened.

Short story: Group effort to get over a 14-foot vertical wall when my trousers were grabbed rather than my leg. Riiiiiiiiiip - waistband to bend of knee.

Talk about being vulnerable.

Exposed and hanging 14-feet off the ground, with only the hands of three suddenly-less-strangers holding me securely.

All I could say was:

The objective is to get me over the wall!

So they did. And we all survived.

And I laughed - and laughed and laughed. It's not often that you bare almost-it-all in a group that's been acquainted for less than 30 hours.

I suppose you could say that leadership requires vulnerability and a good sense of humor.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Trolls Are Everywhere

Another beloved blog went by the wayside this past week and I've been a little despondent about it.

Not surprisingly, a whole legion of people on the internet don't share my appreciation of the good work the owners of Young House Love put in on their site. These individuals have focused on what wasn't good (good as defined by them), rumor mongering and, in general have reveled in gossip and mean-spiritedness.

And this reminded me that there are trolls everywhere - trolls determined to steal your joy and disguise their own jealousy/unhappiness/bitterness in misdirected jabs at others.

Trolls thrive on the internet - sites that I won't point to allow nameless/faceless bravery.

Trolls are alive in conferences - leaving paragraph-long feedback full of gems like, "This woman doesn't have children and therefore has no idea about what real balance issues are." and "I would never use electronic calendars to coordinate schedules - that's too cold and impersonal."

Trolls lurk in churches - offering criticism wrapped in a "Bless your heart." Don't confuse Godly correction for destructive and divisive behavior.

Trolls hide in the office - smiling and pleasant to your face, spewing venom and half-truths behind your back. Sometimes we call these individuals "Passive Aggressive" but don't be fooled - they are trolls.

It's easy to say that if you're doing what you ought to be doing, choosing joy and living generously that these trolls would have no effect on you.

But that's often not the case. You look past all of the good and focus on the troll.

That just gives them power.

Better to be like the three billy goats gruff - be winsome and convincing, and let someone immune to the troll's particular jabs knock them in the block.

And in the meantime, if trolls abound - better to find a different bridge instead of fretting that they're in your path.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

State Fair 2014: A Photo Roundup

As a running friend says, You're either a fair person, or you're not a fair person.

I'm a 4-Her. I am definitely a fair person. Thankfully, Kelly is, too.

Big Tex - the fair wasn't the same without you in 2012.

Texas dairy farmers making free strawberry smoothies...yum.

We pet a baby crocodile!!!

Me: Can I have a pet chicken?
Kelly: You ask that every year. And every year the answer is no.

I'll bet people who loved her never said she couldn't have a pet pig. Life is so unfair.

Canstruction moved from NorthPark Center to the State Fair this year. It was convenient for us to tour all of the can sculptures while we were there, but I'm not sure the exhibit overall got as much foot traffic as it used to.

Kelly: Can I have the new 2015 Mustang? 
Me: Yes - when you can pay cash for it.

Fletcher's Corny Dog - the original, with mustard, as God intended.

Weird State Fair Food #1: Funnel cake beer. Oddly, it did taste like funnel cake and it had powdered sugar on the rim.

Weird State Fair Food #2: Fried Chili Frito Pie. Good but dry unless you used sour cream.

Weird State Fair Food #3: Fried pumpkin pie. Ah-maz-ing.

State Fair portrait attempt #1: Why does he goof around!?!?!

State Fair portrait attempt #2: That's better. (And that's a wrap for the State Fair of Texas 2014!)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Freezerful: Cooking for a Month (more or less)

It was a productive Saturday.

Now living in the freezer, ready to grab and go:

  • Spinach ravioli "lasagne"
  • Chili mac
  • Taco meat
  • Spaghetti sauce
  • Salmon
  • Butternut squash soup
  • Turkey posole casserole
  • Vegetable-stuffed meatloaf
  • Smoked turkey off-the-bone
  • Shredded roast chicken
  • Wild rice and turkey soup
  • Shrimp and corn chowder
  • Glazed pork tenderloin
  • Pinto beans
  • Smoked salmon
  • Quinoa "mac" and cheese
  • Green chile enchiladas
  • Blueberry muffins
  • Cranberry orange muffins
  • Mini pies
  • Chopped green onions
  • Caramelized onions

Saturday, October 11, 2014

We've Drunk the Juice

Last month, Kelly surprised me with a text message that simply said:

Have you ever considered juicing?

The truthful answer was yes - but only in theory. Yes, I like fresh-pressed juice but no, I don't want to add another time-consuming activity to my life. So I said:

Yes, but I'd only juice if I had a juicer that was fast, powerful and super-easy to clean.

Five minutes later he texted back:

Done. Our juicer will be here in a week.

So. A juicer was on the way and suddenly an infrequent thought became a subject of much interest. That evening we watched Fat Sick and Nearly Dead. Afterwards I was totally on board for juicing.

I googled a bit and found some helpful websites for new-to-juicing folks like me.

With that information in hand, plus our new juicer, off we headed to shop.

It's pretty! Plus it met my criteria: It's powerful, fast and easy to clean.

You need to give the juice a stir to combine the ingredients - below is apply, kale, celery, cucumber and ginger.

Delicious! And best drunk within 20 minutes of pressing though we will confess to occasionally making juice the night before.

Carrot apple ginger is pretty good too...

Honestly, our favorite site is All About Juicing. I signed up for a free two week juice plan. After testing her recipes, we're probably going to pay for a subscription (less than $10/month).

To date we've juiced consistently for nearly a month and are finding it simple and quick. We only drink one juice per day, although I'd like to do a three-day juice fast after marathon season is over to cleanse my system. We rarely juice fruit because it's too high in (albeit natural) sugar.

I did have some headaches for the first few days of juicing, but those leveled off fairly quickly. Now I feel sluggish and head-achy if I don't juice.

Whether juicing is the health promised land that some claim or not, there's nothing bad about focusing on better nutrition and increasing your vegetable intake.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Pinterest Challenge: DIYing the Urban Outfitters Corner Ruffle Duvet


I was saving this post for the next Young House Love Pinterest Challenge. Then they announced they were on a break, which has officially become a very looooong break. 

Sniff - I loved that blog!

But I'm all about bucking up and moving forward, so here's my personal tackle that pinned onto Pinterest project - creating my own Urban Outfitters-style corner ruffle duvet cover.


What I wanted to put in our guest bedroom: The corner ruffle duvet from Urban Outfitters.

What I didn't want to spend: The $170 for the queen size (now out of stock at Urban Outfitters, I could track one down for nearly $200!).

Urban Outfitter's Corner Ruffle Duvet
Pure love at the low low price of $170.

But I'm smart, I know how to sew and I know how to google - I was sure I could recreate this with some creative sewing and some tips from other crafties on the internet. I relied heavily on this tutorial from Kiki and Company.

Making your own duvet cover is fairly simple - you simply need fabric in basic white (or whatever color that you want), thread and time.

To recreate the corner ruffle duvet, I decided to simplify matters and purchase a plain Ikea duvet cover to serve as my base. For the ruffles, I repurposed king sized white sheets that had been living, neglected, in our linen cabinet for nearly four years. 

The first step is determining how many strips you will need. Because my math skills are (ahem) poor, I made sure I took notes to keep myself on track.

Then prepare to cut. Ask for assistance if necessary.

There are lots of options for finishing edges. If I owned a serger, I would have simply cut strips with my sewing shears, then serged the edges. I could also have sewn the edges with a fold-over and straight stitch, or quickly with a zig-zag stitch (no folding required). However, I really wanted a loose, shabby chic feel so I simply cut my strips with pinking shears.

For non-sewers, pinking shears will reduce fraying without requiring extra sewing.

Kiki and Company had wisely suggested making a variety of ruffle types to add volume and interest to the duvet.

Ruffle Type #1 - Single center ruffle.

This is what you think it is - sew down the middle of the strip and ruffle. To do this, you have some options.
  • You can use a ruffling attachment to your sewing machine to quickly ruffle. I don't have one, so that was out.
  • You can sew a basting stitch (extra-long stitches) down the middle of the strip and hand-gather each. To quote Sweet Brown, Ain't nobody got time for that.
  • Or you can save a lot of time and scrunch the material as you're sewing a standard straight stitch, essentially ruffling the material with a secure stitch as you go.

I didn't take a picture of Ruffle Type #2 - Double stitched ruffle because it doesn't look significantly different than type #1.

Imagine with me: Two rows of stitches, dividing the strip into thirds, instead of one center stitch. That's all there is to it.

Ruffle Type #3 - Pleated tube.

Making this ruffle is a two-step process. First, sew your strip into a tube (place right sides together, stitch, turn inside out). Then hand-pleat the strip to make a ruffle. Sew down the center to secure.

Do I need to mention that it's helpful to ask someone to check your work periodically?

Be aware: You will end up with more ruffles than you need. Better that than too few ruffles. That would be a sad day.

Once all of your ruffle strips are sewn, place your duvet cover on a large surface and begin laying out your ruffles.

Ask someone if it looks good to them, too.

Handy important frustration-reducing tip: If, like me, you use a premade duvet cover as your base, take time to rip out the side and bottom seams. This step will save a ton of time when you are in the midst of sewing on the ruffles because you're working with a massive volume of material.

With seams ripped and ruffles placed, it's time to begin pinning the ruffles in place for sewing. Again, make your life easy and pin the bottom edges of all strips to hold them in place as you're working.

Next pin the first strip completely in place. This strip will serve as your guide for all consecutive strips.

Pin the remaining strips in place, then head to your sewing machine.

You may be freaking out because your strips aren't long enough to go the length of the duvet. No worries! That's why you made a ton of ruffles. As you get to the end of one ruffle while sewing, fold the edge of the new strip under and place on top of the sewn strip - about 1/2 inch before you get to the end of the old strip. That will both finish and hide that raw edge, making for a clean imperceptible full ruffle.

Take your time - and believe me,  sewing on all of these ruffles takes some serious time.

As I said, you will have more ruffles than you need.

But that's ok - you can find something fun to do with them. Like decorating the pillow shams that came with your duvet cover!

Isn't it gorgeous?

And even better than the looks? The price - I saved $142 by making my own. 

And, like I said, it's gorgeous.

Budget breakdown:
  • $170 for Urban Outfitters (now out of stock)
  • $25 for duvet cover at Ikea
  • Sheets - had already (add in another $25 to buy, or purchase plain white fabric)
  • One spool of thread $3 (I already had a partial spool)
Total cost: $28

Getting Bridget's approval? Priceless.