Friday, March 30, 2007

neat Freak

Well, if you know me in the least bit, you know that this label does not fit me at all. (Stop laughing!) I try so very very hard to be organized and neat, but frankly I just think it is somehow genetically impossible for me. Now this is not to say that I have an incredibly messy house. I think it is quite clean and just accented by bits of eclectic clutter. Clutter of the moment mind you... I'm always working on something creative and frankly I like to spread out. One of my dear friends once said that creative people have more important things to focus on and should not have to be bothered with cleaning...I love her...

Well, my new favorite favorite show is called Neat. It is hosted by Hellen Buttigieg, a professional organizer (Canada) with a Certificate of Study in Chronic Disorganization from the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization (NSGCD). I was not aware such an organization even existed! In her show, she travels to the home of a habitual clutter bug and helps them purge their earthly treasures for a more serene and simple existence. Her patience and lack of judgement really help in this process and are really motivational. We have been purging massive amounts of "stuff" from our home in the past weeks and it is amazing the mental clarity that comes from this!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Postal Sunshine

"Brown paper packages tied up with string...these are a few of my favorite things." There is nothing I love more than a little postal sunshine. This little package of goodies is headed out to make someone's day...could it be yours? I really think there is nothing I like more than receiving a package in the mail...the surprise...the little thoughtful details...hmmm what could be inside!?! I even get excited when something I ordered has arrived! That is why I like to package up my SimplyJune orders like a gift...we all deserve some little presents even if we buy them for ourselves!

Well, Nikolai is currently obsessed with the mailman and his truck. Our postal carrier parks his truck in our large neighborhood (indicated by our "Thickly Settled" street signs...who came up with this one?) and delivers on foot from this central spot. Nikolai can literally watch the truck for hours if you would let him. When the truck finally takes off for its next destination, Nikolai calls out "Bye Bye Mail Man". Oh cuteness.

One of the goodies on its way is a book entitled "The Magic of Ordinary Days" by Ann Howard Creel. This is really a delightful novel if you haven't yet read it. Hallmark Hall of Fame has also produced the movie version which absolutely does the book justice and stars my beloved Skeet Ulrich. The story is based during WWII and follows a young woman who becomes pregnant out of wedlock and is sent to marry a farmer by her minister father. Her relationships with her new husband as well as two young Japanese women in an internment camp tell the story of this time in history in a very personable and poignant way.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


If you have never done a swap before, here is a heads up on a great one that has just been posted. I participated in Sally's first vintage button swap and this one is sure to be just as great! Visit Shim+Sons for more details...hurry up the deadline is this Friday! Swaps are a fun way to meet new people, send and receive some creative goodies around the country and world. My mind is already reeling with some ideas and I can't wait to get started!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Moscow Court Anniversary

Today is a special day...the first anniversary of our court date in Moscow to adopt Kolya. It is rather unbelievable to me that it has been a year, though it feels like we have always been a family of three. One year ago today we woke up in Moscow and dressed in our best clothes...we traveled through Moscow to the court house, a statuesque building that on that day controlled our very future. Our driver dropped us and our translator off in front of the building and wished us good luck...he held his hands together and shook them in the air to wish us well and touched his heart. Our translator briskly brought us into the building where we turned over any cameras, etc. and then checked our coats. We walked further into the building and showed our passports as identification. Then we took an elevator to an upper floor. We waited in a sitting area along with our court translator (who we had just met), the director of Nikolai's orphanage, our translator and two other families who were waiting for their appointments before the judge. Time seemed to stretch on infinitely as we waited for our moment. Our appointed translator for court asked a few questions and went over our file to familiarize herself with our story and Nikolai's.

When we were finally called, we entered a large courtroom. There were four benches at the back of the court room, a podium in the center of the room and the judge sat a the large bench at the head of the room. She sat in an enormous chair with a back that must have stood 6' tall. Two shorter chairs flanked her sides. On one side of the bench sat the prosecutor and on the other side sat the court secretary. We took our seats with our translator on the benches to the left and the orphanage director and city official sat on the benches to the right. Once the proceedings began, the director and city official each gave their testimony as to why they believed we should be allowed to adopt Nikolai. After that, I was called to the stand. I walked up to the entire being was nervous, scared, numb...our translator walked up with me and stood to my forward right. There were a few moments of discussion as she tried to decide where to stand so as to be able to see me and not disrespect the director and city official by facing her back to them. I was asked to state my name, address, etc. I made the huge mistake of answering this question while looking at the translator and not the judge. I had been quite aware to do this until everything in my brain and body had numbed to the point where I was walking and talking on sheer instinct. The judge corrected me on this and I answered the next few questions making absolutely sure to look at her. I was then asked when I was married. Well, one would think this would be an easy question. I could rattle that and many other personal statistics off to you in my sleep. Now, I'm told that my pause was not even notable, but I will tell you I was having a whole debate in my head. "I know its April...I'm sure of that...and I know it was 1999...but the date...the Date...the DATE...oh my gosh!...I'm going to die right here...the 17th...I'm pretty could be the 15th...oh my gosh!...o.k., so what if I say the 15th and it really is the 17th...the judge is looking right at our file...she knows the date...she is going to think I'm a liar...she is going to think I don't care about my husband, my I still breathing?..." Well, it was the 17th of April and I actually said that! We moved onto a series of other questions and I tried to mentally slow the beating of my heart...the judge then started sternly telling me something...what now? The translator turned to me and I stared straight at the judge..."The microphone is not working...stop leaning into it..." (I had been prepped before hand to lean into the microphone as all court hearings are recorded.) O.k., so now I am standing stick straight, staring at the judge, smiling just enough to look pleasant but not enough to look culturally insincere. I was then asked how much money we make each year...this pause I am sure was actually tangible...again my brain began to converse with itself..."o.k. so Jason just got a new job...what was his salary exactly and I just started a new business...oh gosh how much did I make this year...if I get this wrong..." I gave my best estimate, finished my questioning and returned to my seat. Jason was now called to the bench and answered a shorter series of questions. I was so thankful knowing that he is always so calm and collected and even knows our wedding date!

The judge then returned to her chambers to make her decision. While we waited, our translator told me that she had our wedding date, finance information, etc. before her and was trained to read from that document rather than translate what we said! Apparently, I'm not the only parent-to-be with temporary memory loss. The judge returned after a short recess and gave a long speech in Russian. She didn't smile, but rather sounded as if she was reading to us from a telephone book. Our translator quickly told us we were parents! Every emotion swept through me and we thanked the judge for our son and the director and city official as well. Their jobs are so important and they want the best for each child that they can have a hand in helping. We are so thankful for them and especially for our son!

Nikolai and I were in a celebratory mood this morning and baked a Russian apple pie...yum...the recipe is extremely simple and tasty...

Pirog (Apple Pie)

4 small apples
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1 cup white sugar
butter to grease pan

Preheat the oven to 375.
Core, peel and cut apples into small pieces.
Mix eggs, flour and sugar in a bowl.
Grease an 8" round cake pan with butter.
Add the apples to the cake pan.
Pour egg mixture over apples.
Bake for 35-40 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Allow to cool and slice.

Friday, March 09, 2007

3 Little Matryoshka All in a Row

I have been working diligently in the studio to prepare for our upcoming show at the Alliance for Children Multicultural Fair. I will have many of my designs on hand, but will also feature some items from my upcoming SimplyBaby line with a multicultural theme. These little Matryoshka make me smile...sitting pretty...all in a row.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Mac n Cheese

Jason picked up a copy of Cooking Light's "best of" magazine last week and we have been cooking our way through some of the recipes this week.

As Kolya and I were in a cooking sort of mood today, we made the "Whole Wheat, Oatmeal, and Raisin Muffins" and the "Creamy Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese".

The muffins feature much more than their name...including wheat germ, wheat bran, chopped dates, cranberries and buttermilk (along with your more typical baking ingredients). An interesting step included adding a 1/2 cup of boiling water to the batter to cook the oats and saturate the germ and bran. They were surprisingly moist and delicious...even Kolya 2.5 scarfed one down. Although, I do attest to be raising a carb addict...

The Macaroni and Cheese was good. I substituted the cheddar cheese with a Provolone, Asiago and Fontaine mix to give it a sharper flavor. Tasty, but not exactly sure what I think about the Dijon mustard, Garlic and Worcestershire sauce blend... They added a distinct flavor, but I'm afraid my palate is a little less "gourmet" when it comes to Mac n Cheese...Mac in a box might be a little more my speed I'm afraid to admit. Still...a warm, yummy, wintry sort of meal...

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Circle Applique Bag

First, a Very Very Happy 13th Birthday to dear Caroline! Her birthday present was inspired by my fabric stash, this photograph from a Japanese craft book, the colors of an upcoming Spring and by that youthful exuberance and energy that surrounds a very special 13 year old.

I started by sifting through my fabric scraps and used a 2" circle stencil to choose the placement of my circles on the fabric patterns. I marked the back side of the fabric with a dark marking pencil and then cut scraps of applique paper to iron on top of my marking. As the applique paper is opaque, I was still able to see my markings. You could certainly iron the paper on first, but I wanted to be picky about my circle placement and wanted to use as little applique paper as possible. After cutting the circles out, I touched up the edges with fray check to avoid fraying.

I then planned the layout of my circles anchoring the corners with darker colors and distributing my colors and duplicate patterns without appearing too contrived. I took a quick snapshot of this layout as I hadn't yet planned my bag design.

After designing the bag and cutting out the interior and exterior pieces, I peeled the backing off of the circles and ironed them onto the front bag piece. After that, I machine stitched each circle about 1/4" from the edges for added durability. I then assembled my bag which I designed as a cross shoulder tote. The straps tie at the top to allow for shortening and lengthening.