Saturday, March 31, 2012

on sewing

one of the Easter dresses my mom sewed for me
When I was little, my mom made most of my dresses.  She made my brother and dad matching plaid pajamas, created mommy and me outfits for the two of us, and sewed all of our halloween costumes.  She even had a small side business called "Double Takes" that featured some of her sewing designs for toddlers and moms.
me and my brother in mathing outfits made by my mom. excuse the haircut.

I have a theory that daughters with moms that sew don't end up sewing much.  I think part of it is because we have a go-to person who can make our outfits, dress our American Girl dolls, sew some pillows, hem our pants.  Although I started many a project so that I could learn how to sew, my mom ended up finishing most of them. 

another matching Christmas outfit made by mom
 Anyway, now I'm feeling the need to buck the trend.  Learning to sew would be a great skill to cultivate for now and beyond, when I have my own little ones.  So, with that in mind, I purchased a sewing machine this week.  It's nothing super fancy, but the reviews were great, it's tailored to beginners, but advanced sewers appreciate the features, too, so it will grow with me as I learn the basics.  I've been finding the following blogs and tutorials very helpful as I being my foray into sewing, though some of the projects are likely too ambitious for me at this point:

Sewing 201 by Elizabeth

Sewing Tutorials by Liz

Sewing Basics by Holly

Sewing Archive by Craftzine

Do you sew?  What's something you would love to learn how to do, but haven't yet taken the plunge?

fresh-squeezed orange juice

nectar of the gods
 I just broke down and got a juicer.  I’ve wanted one for years, and I couldn’t hold out any longer.  And I found an inexpensive, yet still electric one. 

it takes several oranges to make a glass of juice. but oh so worth it.
I just made a little bit of orange juice this afternoon to test the juicer out, and it was AMAZING.  I’m never going back to regular oj again.

lip-smacking good: crab-stuffed potatoes

my crab stuffed potatoes
This weekend, I was invited to a Mardi Gras-themed barbeque.  In preparation, I scoured the internet for appropriately-themed recipes, finally settling on cajun crab-stuffed potatoes.  The picture caught my eye, and then the ingredients list sold me.  I tweaked the recipe a bit because I wanted to make a lot of little potatoes, since it served the needs of the party better.

I used small red potatoes to make bite-sized appetizers
The goods
  • 8 small baking potatoes
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup half-and-half cream
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped green onions or chives
  • 1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 can (6-1/2 ounces) crabmeat, drained, flaked and cartilage removed or 1 package (8 ounces) imitation crabmeat, cut up
  • Paprika

the potato innerds and all the fixin's
To make
 Nom, nom, nom.  I will definitely be making these babies again!  Enjoy!
  • Bake potatoes at 425° for 45-55 minutes or until tender.
  • When cool enough to handle, halve potatoes lengthwise.
  • Carefully scoop out pulp into a bowl, leaving a thin shell. Set shells aside.
  • Beat or mash potato pulp with butter, cream, salt and pepper until smooth.
  • Using a fork, stir in onions or chives and cheese. Gently mix in crab.
  • Stuff shells. Sprinkle with paprika.
  • Return to the oven for 15 minutes or until heated through. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

interview: nick trapp

self-portait of Nick
I first learned about Nick Trapp's artist skills when I came upon a video on Facebook of him drawing a classmate.  Nick put a standalone video camera behind him as he drew, and then edited the film down so that you could see how the drawing evolved an a few minutes.  His rendering of our classmate was so spot on, I was amazed.  He captured this guy's essence, and I wanted to see more of Nick in action.  Soon after, I saw that Nick posted an offer to draw for people if they sent photos of their subjects into him.  He was trying to grow his YouTube channel, and though this would be a good incentive.  I quickly subscribed to this channel and sent him a picture of my brother.  I thought it would be a great present for my mom and dad.  Nick later got in touch with me and I was blown away again by his ability to capture my brother so perfectly.  He'd never even met him.  There was no way I could keep the drawing  from my parents, so I gave it to them last weekend.  They were thrilled and asked me to contact him about drawing me, too.  Typical parents!  Anyway, I so wanted to share Nick's talent with you, so I asked him if he would answer a few questions about himself and his art.  Below are his thoughtful responses, as well as some pictures of his art. 

Who or what inspires you?People inspire me. Their personalities, their faces, everything that makes a person truly unique. I always strive to capture a person's individuality when I draw their portrait.
As far as artists go, ever since I was little I have been attracted to Norman Rockwell's work. He is able to portray so much character and energy in his paintings; every scene is filled with so much life.

Who or what do you consider your most important form of support?I am so grateful that my friends and family have always supported me. Most of all I feel support from the love that I give and receive through my artwork. Love is what drives me to share my talent with the world.

How has your art evolved over time?I started off doodling and scribbling, making abstract finger paintings. Sometimes, I would even made up my own styles of writing. I drew things that caught my eye, trying to copy them exactly; I guess I have always been a perfectionist when it comes to art. I was really into comic books as a kid, so I drew a lot of super heroes. I imagine that's where my love of drawing people started. I slowly progressed over the years experimenting with different media, but my favorite is still pencil. I took nearly every class offered at my high school. College is where I finally found that portraits are what I love to do.

Nick's favorite piece of his own work

What’s your favorite piece of your own art and why?My favorite piece would have to be my largest one. It is a 41" x 32" portrait that I did of myself and one of my good friends. I spent so much time on it that, to be honest, I loathed it by the time I finished it. I love it now because it is my biggest accomplishment and it reminds me that I can finish any drawing no matter how big or how long it takes.

Nick's rendering of one of the dorms on our college campus

Who’s your biggest fan?My biggest fan, without a doubt, is my mom. None of my pieces are ever bad according to her, even when I know that some of them have been.

Nick's drawing of my brother, which he drew based on the picture I sent him on the right.

Final words? Advice for other artists and aspiring artists?Art is what inspires you to express and share your talent with others. It is not just drawing, painting, singing, etc., art is the giving and receiving of love through whatever form best suits you. Do what you love to do and never stop giving of yourself.

Thank you so much, Nick for sharing your art and words! 

rooster. or how i discovered fried egg sandwiches.

child renderings of roosters can be found all over the restaurant 

If you live in St. Louis, you've no doubt heard of Rooster, the breakfast crepe, sandwich cafe downtown on Locust.  The restaurant owned by David Bailey (who also owns Bailey's Chocolate Bar, Bridge Tap House and Range), has won numerous awards for their menu and atmosphere, and they have not dissapointed.  Several weeks ago, I introduced a few friends to Rooster, and they were also pleased.  I always like to split food when I go out to eat so I can try a few different things.  But, there were no takers, so I had to think creatively.  Wanting to have something both sweet and savory, I opted for the least expensive savory thing on the menu: a fried egg sandwich.  I figured this would enable me to get my savory and sweet fix without breaking the bank.  I'd never tried a fried egg sandwich, but the ingredients looked pretty good, and I was feeling adventurous.
the fried egg sandwich in all its glory
photo via
Wow am I glad I tried the fried egg sandwich.  It was satisfying enough that I didn't even end up wanting a sweet crepe (though I did get a few bites of another friend's dessert).  Since discovering this sandwich, I've gone back again to order it.  It is my go-to thing when I venture into Rooster now.  And Iive looked up recipes so when I'm in the mood for one, but don't want to go all the way downtown, I can make it for myself.

Do you have a favorite food you discovered by accident?  What is it?  How did you come across it?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

confluence trash bash

Our trash bash group

This morning, Joe and I participated in Trailnet's Confluence Trash Bash at a local park near the river.  Equipped with large gardening gloves and several trash bags, we walked the gravel paths around the park picking up old bottles and cans, cloth, old tires and paper trash.  Among our most interesting finds: a porcelain sink, a couch, a car bumper, a deer hide and several tortoise shells.  Trailnet decided to make the trash bash more interesting by encouraging us to keep track of our most interesting and most valuable finds, to be shared later in the afternoon, during lunch.

some of our findings

We walked with two nice couples who, we found out in conversation, knew some of the same people that we did.  One of the husbands, who made his own trash pick-up skewer/stick (the technical term, I'm sure), let me borrow it on the way back and I had a blast harpooning the heck out of cans and bottles alike. 

Joe with one of several bags of trash
All in all it was a great time.  The weather was beautiful, the route was scenic, the people were fun and it was a worthy cause to support.  I've been wanting to do more in the way of community service, and Joe and I brainstormed other ways we could support our city while we filled our garbage bags.  What sorts of things do you like to do to give back to your community?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

dusty the destroyer: dashboard edition

About a month ago, I took Dusty in the car with me and headed over to work.  He hadn't wanted to stay home by himself and he loves the car, so it seemed like a good idea.  He has been in my car countless times and usually sits patiently and waits for me.  He chews on a bone or jumps back and forth from front to the back seat and enjoys having all of the car to play in.  And somehow, too, I think he feels closer to me when he is in the car instead of at home.  I went out during lunch to take him out and play with him, and then returned to work.

When I came out a few hours later to take him home, Dusty was in the passenger's seat with a guilty look on his face.  I noticed, to my horror, that he had chewed and scratched my dashboard.  Much of the leather was in shreds and the batting exposed.  While one of my first thoughts was gratitude that it hadn't been so bad as to trigger the airbag, I was furious with Dusty.  The seatbelt was bad enough, but the dash is so noticeable, so non-essential to fix, but now aesthetically horrendous.  There is no hiding it.  And, since the damage was done and he had likely forgotten about it, I found it hard to scold him effectively to deter future damage.  It isn't practical for me to banish him from the car (though I did for a while).  And he gets out of his crate despite several strategically-placed locks on different parts of the cage.  This is something the dog training videos just don't cover.  Cesar, I need your wisdom, pronto!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

delta spirit

I got to see Delta Spirit perform last night at the Old Rock House in Soulard.  It was a spontaneous decision brought on by an invite from a friend. (Those are sometimes the best night's out, in my opinion.)  The venue was awesome, and we enjoyed the concert from outside on the patio, in the main concert area, and upstairs on the balcony. 
Old Rock House
photo via
Delta Spirit is one of those bands that you can listen to for hours.  I melted when they played "California" and danced awkwardly to "People C'mon."  It was a great night, and I can't wait until they come back to St. Louis. 

You can listen to their newest album here, and the band is offering six free downloads of some of the songs they will perform on tour here.

Happy listening!

scenes from a weekend: st. patrick's day

This weekend was full of the fun and the productive.  I organized my closet, painted pots and potted plants,  and hung out with friends for a st. patricks day potluck and game night.  We played a version of pictionary where you have picture cards that you need to use, in combo with charades.  I started my week long dog sitting gig, and as you can see, the two aussies are having fun with each other.  I think Dusty has also been better behaved, which is always welcome!  I worked on some paintings, and took some better photos of them with my new phone.  It was one of those great weekends where some stuff that needs to get done get's done, but those things don't feel like they consumed your weekend.

Friday, March 16, 2012

here's hoping I have a green thumb

While my gardening plans may have been put on hold today due to rain, I have been wanting to add some colorful flowers to the front own my apartment for spring and summer.  Most who know me would agree that when I decide to do something, I usually do it big, whether I'm a beginner or a seasoned pro.  This gardening project is no different.


While it would be easy to grab a few potted plants from Home Depot and call it a day, the flowers I really love dont come that way, or come at a high price point.  So I meandered through the aisles with my cart, looking for Hollyhock, Dahlia, Zinnia and Gladiolus seeds and bulbs that I could plant.  I also came home with Tulips and Poppies, and a few pedestrian-looking terra cotta pots and planters which I have since painted.


There is something fun and relaxing about getting your hands in the dirt and planting something that starts as a tiny seed and blossoms into flowers resembling the beauties above.  I hope I still feel this way after months of tending to my little pots.

Do you have a green thumb?  Any gardening advice for this newbie?

Monday, March 12, 2012

w.h.a.m.: courtney e. martin

photo via
A freelance journalist, author, teacher, filmmaker and web entrepreneur, Courtney E. Martin has been dubbed “one of our most insightful culture critics and one of our finest young writers” by Parker Palmer.  Her books and articles have covered topics ranging from 9/11 to eating disorders to activism to perfectionism.  She regularly writes for The New York Times, GOOD, The Christian Science Monitor, Poets & Writers, The Village Voice, Glamour, Mother Jones Publishers Weekly, and The American Prospect, among others.  She has appeared on CNN, Good Morning America, The Today Show and The O'Reilly Factor. 
with business partner Vanessa Valenti
photo via

Martin is the leader of the  Op-Ed Project’s Public Voices Fellowship Program at Princeton University, which helps women academics become part of public debate.  She is also partner in Valenti Martin Media, a communications consulting firm focused on making social justice organizations more effective in movement building and making change with fellow feministing contributor, Vanessa Valenti.   

Courtney at the Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls
photo via

Martin speaks publicly several times a year at conferences and campuses nationwide. She is a recipient of the Elie Wiesel Prize in Ethics and studied sociology and political science at Barnard College and later received her Master's from New York University's Gallatin School in writing and social change. She lives in Brooklyn, New York where she can be found walking in Prospect Park, eating overpriced sushi and, according to her website, "creating unselfconscious dance parties with her amazing friends."

*factual content found here, here, and here

**this post is part of the Women's History All Month (w.h.a.m.) series on the blog.  Check back all month for more women profiled.

scenes from a weekend

painting, pizza, park, pooch and yours truly pal-ing around with a friend 

This weekend was gorgeous with minimal rain.  I found myself working on a commission of three paintings for someone's living room, walking Dusty around a beautiful park nearby, and going to a concert in the Grove.

On Friday night, some friends and I also tried our hands at pizza making.  Trader's makes it so easy to make (read: assemble) your own pizza.  They have pre-made dough (the whole wheat is my favorite), tons of cheeses to choose from (we went with goat cheese), roma tomatoes for a song, and fresh basil.  Not to mention a variety of  red and white sauces.  I will definitely be going back for more dough and toppings soon.  We ended the night with brownies and Morning Glory.  It was a fun and much needed girls' night.

It must have been a movie and pizza weekend because on Sunday I found myself grabbing California Pizza Kitchen with an old friend before going to see Friends with Kids.  We both thought the movie was funny, sweet, and worth seeing.  Then Dusty and I got another walk in around the neighborhood.  He is loving that the nice weather means longer walks!

Hope you had a great weekend, too!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

w.h.a.m: edna st. vincent millay

"Her voice is a string of colored beads, or steps leading into the sea."

Those beautiful words came from the pen of Edna St. Vincent Millay, a poet and playwright raised by a single mother of three in Rockland, Maine during the late 1800s.  Millay's mother valued independence and drive, and cultivated this in her daughters.  She also instilled in them an appreciation for music and literature.  Encouraged by her mother, Millay submitted one of her early poems, Renascence, in a literary contest and took fourth place.  The poem was featured in The Lyric Year, and the acknowledgement earned her a scholarship to Vassar and wide recognition as a poet.  The year she graduated, she also published her first book of poetry, Renascence and Other Poems.

Millay's first book of poetry
photo via

Edna spent several of her  her post-college years in Greenwich Village writing plays and short stories. She describes she and her friends at this time as "very, very poor and very, very merry."  Soon after she took a writing gig with Vanity Fair, which lead her to Europe for a time.  She was able to send for her mother at one point during her three year stay abroad and they toured France and England together.  Millay published several plays, short stories and poems and was the first woman awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

 Nancy Milford, a biographer who wrote about Millay in a book entitled, Savage Beauty, has this to say about her:  "If F. Scott Fitzgerald was the hero of the Jazz Age, Edna St. Vincent Millay, as flamboyant in her love affairs as she was in her art, was its heroine. Millay was dazzling in the performance of herself. Her voice was likened to an instrument of seduction and her impact on crowds, and on men, was legendary. Yet beneath her studied act, all was not well."
photo via

Millay was deeply impacted by the atrocities and injustices of her time and this is reflected in her poetry. Italy's violent assaults on Ethiopia and the German-Russian nonaggression treaty, prompted Millay to pen pro-British and pro-French propaganda poetry. In Huntsman, What Quarry? Millay wrote about the brutalities of Nazi Germany, imperialistic Japan and Fascist Spain. Millay wrote The Murder of Lidice which depicts the German army slaughter of an entire Czech village.

Millay continues to be considered one of the best American sonnet writers of the twentieth century.  She is appreciated for writing about the things that moved her in an uncompromizing, genuine and unflinching and beautiful way.

*factual content for this article gathered from here, here, here, here and here.

** this post kicks off a series I will be doing in honor of Women's History Month entitled, "women's history all month (w.h.a.m.)."  i will be profiling women who are accomplished musicians, grassroots activists, filmmakers, roller derby players, peacemakers, politicians, mothers, slam poets, writers, business leaders, photographers, daughters, leaders, sports newscasters, producers, inventors, and more. check back often to learn more about these female powerhouses.**

vintage find: lamps

my lamps from here and here
  I like a well-lit space as much as the next girl, but have been less than impressed by the quality, value and style of lamps in retail stores.  While not all vintage lamps are inexpensive, you can find many that are sturdy, beautiful and reasonably priced.  Since my apartment does not have any overhead lighting in the living room, I rely on lamps to keep the area lit well after the sun has set.  Here are a few of my favorite handmade or pre-owned lamps.

1) Brass Mid-Century Desk Lamp, ImagineBetty, $39
2) Glass Lamp Modern Lighting Minimalist, LukeLampCo, $109
3) Vintage Marble Lamp, LittleDogVintage, $60
4) Vintage Brasstone Gooseneck Desk Lamp, ThirdShift, $60
5) Pair of Vintage Glass Ball and Orange Base Lamps, oppning, $92.42
6) Modern Chrome Table Lamp, GallivantingGirls, $92
7) Modern Metal Spotlight Lamp, GallivantingGirls, $45
8) Vintage Green Enamel Pendant Lamp, highstreetmarket, $115
9) Vintage Retro Orange Table Lamp, FishboneDeco, $52
10) 1960s Mod Ceramic Ball Lamp, elefantdesign, $22

And, if you're in the market for a lampshade for your new lamp, High Street Market has some quality, but affordable ones in their standalone shop.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

inquiring minds want to know: chocolate chip cookie edition

photo via
Sitting in the munch room at work one day, I was finishing my zuccinni mozzerella medley contemplating the profound and mundane.  I felt my thought wander from one topic to the next as I pulled out a bag of two chocolate chip cookies.  Sinking my teeth into one, I suddenly wondered, "who was the beautiful mastermind behind the invention of chocolate chip cookies?  I felt sure s/he had to be a visionary. Chocolate chip cookies have proved a key ingredient in an after-school snack for children everywhere, formidable in the face of a glass of milk, shaped perfectly for dunking.  Heck, they even have a T.V. character whose life revolves around eating them (or did until recently when he decided cookies were a sometimes food).  The inventor of the chocolate chip cookie knew what s/he was doing.  I had to find out more about the first chocolate chip cookie concocter.

Ruth Wakefield
photo via
Ruth Wakefield, a dietician, food lecturer, famous inventor, lodge operator and wonder woman bought the Toll House Inn with her husband and part of her duties included creating recipes and preparing meals for guests.  As the story goes, Ruth was baking cookies and midway through realized she had run out of baker's chocolate (I can SO relate, Ruth).  Forced to improvise, she substituted  chunks of Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate for the baker's chocolate, hoping that the chunks would melt into the dough.  When Ruth removed the cookies from the oven, she was surprised to see that the chunks did not melt, but was pleased with the results.

Ruth named her happy accident "Toll House Crunch Cookies."  News of her new cookie invention spread quickly and her "Crunch Cookies" became a huge success around town.  The recipe ran in a Boston newspaper, popularity increased and Nestle's semi-sweet chocolate sales rose.  Eventually, Nestle approached Ruth with a proposition: in exchange for a lifetime supply of Nestle's chocolate, Ruth would permit Nestle to print her recipe on the back of their chocolate packages.  Nestle also bought the rights to the Toll House name, and at Ruth's suggestion, score their chocolate bars so that they would be easier to break into small pieces.  Soon they began to sell chocolate chips and chunks, making it even easier for the chocolate chip cookie maker.  And to think that all of this came from want of baker's chocolate and a little ingenuity.

*the factual information for this post obtained here and here.

Monday, March 5, 2012

artist crush: mark newport

several of Newports Handknit Costumes including Naftaman and Valuesman (third and fifth from left)
photo via

My introduction to Mark Newport began a few years ago when I was looking for ways to spend my eekend, I came across a small write up about an installation called "Self-Made Man" in the Riverfront Times.  The exhibit was being shown at the museum at the Laumeier Sculpture Park, now one of my favorite museums in the area.  The write-up described an engaging exhibit full of Newport's hand-knit superhero costumes, as well as embroidered comic book covers and digital prints which promised to compel exhibit attendees to ponder fundamental questions about masculinity, bravery and courage.  Sign me up.

photo via

 When asked to describe the superhero costumes he knits, Newport comments that they “combine [the superheroes'] heroic, protective, ultra masculine, yet vulnerable personas with the protective gestures of my mother – hand knit acrylic sweaters meant to keep me safe from New England winters."* The costumes he creates are life-size, but are not built for the stereotypical superhero with bulging muscles.  Instead, most of of them look like they were made for someone lanky and hang lifelessly on hangers in the exhibit, which Newport did intentionally so that those attending the exhibit could imagine themselves donning the costumes and taking on the persona of the superhero. 

Newport knitting a Spiderman costume
photo via

Newport goes on to say that he did not only draw on images of popular comic book heroes for the inspiration for these costumes but also his "childhood memories of the ultimate man – the Dad every boy wants, the man every boy wants to grow up to be. In these I work to forge the link between childhood experience and an adult understanding of protection, masculinity, and heroism.”

Freedom Bedcover: Zachary (detail). Embroidery and ribbon on comic book pages, 2006
photo via

If you ever have the chance to check out Mark Newport's work in person, dont miss it.  Attending one of his knit-ins would likely be just as cool (and something I regret not participating in when he held at least one during his exhibit's run at the Sculpture Park).  His exhibit remains one of my favorite shows to come to in St. Louis.  I appreciated that it challenged conventionally held concepts of masculinity and laid bare the complex nature of real manhood.

AlterEgos: Practice Digital Print
photo via

Do you seek out exhibits to go to that challenge you to think about social issues?  Do you appreciate art that is visually beautiful, impressive or interesting and has a social mission?

*excerpts from a write-up by Oregon State University on a recent exhibit he installed at the Fairbanks Gallery

dining around town: crushed red

photo via

My friends will tell you that when we go out to eat, I rarely order something just the way it comes on the menu.  I'm often found substituting fish for chicken, asking my waiter to hold the black olives and asking for dressing on the side.  What can I say--I'm a customizer.  Enter a new restaurant made with people like me in mind.

photo via

 I was first introduced to Crushed Red, a new fast-casual restaurant in downtown Clayton, when I read a review by Maddie from City in a Jar.  The restaurant offers delicious made-to-order salad and pizzas that you can customize with toppings including carmelized onions, beef brisket, avocado, goat cheese and everything in between.  Salivating at my desk, I took a look at their website (note: do not read their menu before you've eaten lunch) and determined I would have to check this place out.

photo via

I visited Crushed Red with a friend last week and it definitely lived up to my expectations.  While the restaurant considers itself fast-casual, the comfortable but classy booths, the staff member greeting you as you walk through the door, and the general decor and ambiance suggest that Crushed Red is brings a more sophisticated flair to quick dining than its competitors.  This flair, however, is not reflected in their prices.  I found the cost of my meal on par with or even slightly lower than what I pay when I eat at St. Louis Bread Company.

photo via

My friend and I split two pizzas and enjoyed the flavors of both.  Crushed Red has several sauces and cheeses to choose from, making every pizza unique.  Later in the week I dropped by to grab a salad and found it to be just as delicious.  It actually reminded me a little bit of the Sizzling Salad nights that my college used to host a few Friday nights a quarter, but with more options.  

photo via

If you live in the area and haven't visited Crushed Red yet, stop by and give them a try.  The customizer in you will be glad you did.  You can find their menu here.
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