Thursday, April 2, 2015

Gurl got SKILLZ

You'll have to excuse the title of this post. I feel like I have to counteract the geriatric nature of what I'm about to write with bad grammar and hooligan-eese.

I learned a new skill.

I've written before about the death of my grandmother late last summer, and how it broke my heart and colored my world. One of my grandma's favorite things was blankies. She wrote a blog post back in 2009 about the quilts she made each of her grandchildren. She also knitted a blankie for each of her great-grandchildren. I believe she knit seventeen in all before she passed away.  


Hannah with her blankie in 2009

Paige with her blankie in 2011

Samuel with his blankie in 2014. Granma started making Samuel's blanket before I became pregnant with him, and she kept saying, "I have a blue blankie with your name on it." she knew how badly I hoped for a son, and I think that blankie became a good luck charm. 

My brother and his wife announced her pregnancy two weeks before Granma passed away. The blankies were so precious to me, that one of my first thoughts after they announced was that their child wasn't going to be given the amazingly beautiful and precious gift. I knew that somehow I needed to learn how to knit. I would continue the tradition that she started with my own nieces and nephews.

The first thing you have to know about this project is: I don't have a crafty bone in my body. I hate/loathe/despise/abominate projects. In fact, projects is a dirty word to me. It's not in my nature, it's not anything I ever desired to learn. But I felt strongly that Granma wanted it. 

The problem was: how do I learn how to knit? There are various YouTube tutorials, and WikiHow articles, but nobody to answer the questions I had like: "Yeah, but how do I ACTUALLY do this?"

Enter: Sara.

I turned to Facebook to see if I had any talented friends who knew how to knit and would be willing to teach me. I discovered that a girl that I sort of knew in my area was extremely talented and very willing to be patient and teach me. I found a pattern that looked doable, and she told me the brand of yarn, size of the needles, and a various other materials.

Sara selflessly came to my house in two two-hour sessions one week. She taught me how to cast on, knit, purl, read a pattern, fix mistakes, and work patiently. The time passed quickly and pleasantly. As I cast the yarn onto my needles tears stung my eyes as I thought about Granma. I regretted that I hadn't asked her to teach me while she was alive. Somehow I knew she was with me, and she was pleased with the way I was trying to honor her.

For the next two months I spent every night working meticulously on a blanket for baby Jack. My hands became sore and tired, but got stronger as I persisted. It took me approximately three hundred hours, (or seven seasons of Gilmore Girls, several movies, and a season of BBC's Broadhurst...seriously, this blanket has been brought to you by grief, sentiment, and Netflix) the blanket was finally complete. Sara came over once more to teach me how to bind off and weave in the loose strands. I.was.done.

I loved creating this gift. I loved learning a new skill, I throughly enjoyed knitting and I look forward to the next  blankie for a new baby. I thought about my first nephew, imagined him wrapped up inside the soft folds, and fell in love with the boy I haven't met yet. The best part about the whole process was gaining a deeper appreciation of the beautiful baby blankets from my grandma. I felt her love and presence so acutely. I know she is watching over me. That she is proud of me. I couldn't have done it without her.
I asked my Sam to give it a test drive to make sure it wouldn't disintegrate upon use.  



Baby Jack Timothy Marsden wrapped in his auntie's love

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Five Things to Do After Work

I should really remove Apartment Therapy from my RSS subscriptions, but I haven’t yet, so I keep getting sucked in. Recently they posted their 5 things to do as soon as you are done with work for a happier evening.

They elaborate further, but essentially, their 5 things are:
  1. Put things where they belong 
  2. Check in, connect and center
  3. Cook an easy-to-make meal 
  4. Spend a little time on a hobby, habit or goal
  5. Prep for the next day
While their points are perfectly fine, they don't necessarily reflect your average person just coming off of a day's work, so I drafted my own list.

Here are my 5 things to do when you get home from work (in order of importance, mostly...):
  1. Take off your work pants and put on sweatpants. This is definitely #1. No question. Switching from "school clothes" to "play clothes" means you can handle whatever happens to come up (and in comfort!): cooking, cleaning, sitting around and watching Hulu... Anything.
  1. Breathe. You just finished a day at work where you challenged yourself, did something new, and helped people (directly or indirectly). Even if you have to do this in the car before you head inside, just breathe. You’ve already accomplished something today. Whatever else happens or does (or does not) get done, you’ve got that -- now, take a breath and go put on your sweatpants already!
(You get your choice: Faith Hill, Pearl Jam, or Michelle Branch...)

  1. Check your mailbox (not your email, but your realmail). Because sometimes there is real mail. Mail from someone you care about to tell you they are thinking of you. It’s worth checking if only for that reason. (Oh, and recycle that junk mail right away. Ugh, junk mail is the worst.)
  1. Eat some sort of food at a reasonable hour as a meal if you are hungry. Does it have to be exquisite? No. does it have to be healthy? Not necessarily. Does it have to be a "real meal?" Not unless you want it to be. Do you have to like it? No, but that usually helps.
  1. Think about someone else. This could be someone you live with (your partner, child/children, roommate); this could be someone in your family; this could be a colleague; this could be a friend you’ve not seen for a year; it could be someone you’ve only met once. Think of them, because when you’re thinking of others, that’s when true inspiration and good comes about. You could think of ways to help someone, think of something they might be interested in, something that makes them smile, something that brings them comfort. Even if you just think of one other person during your “down time,” that’s more than a lot of other people do their entire day. And thinking often turns to action, and that’s a good thing too.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Why I Love MasterChef Junior

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Not often do I find myself completely enamored with a television show, but here I am, writing about how I’ve fallen head over heals for MasterChef Junior.

MasterChef Junior is a reality show where children (ranging in ages from 8-12) cook for world-renown, professional chefs (including celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay). Now, before you roll your eyes at the words “reality show” or say “not another cooking show,” hear me out -- this isn’t another cutthroat competition show where you watch it and feel disgusting after, and it’s not another Saturday morning cooking show where the same dish seems to be made over and over. This is, when it comes down to it, a show about kids with strong character, kindness, heart, positivity, and a lot of determination.

Reasons why I love this show:

  • I can watch it and forget completely about the negative news, things on my to-do list, the ice dam on my roof causing my living room carpet to be soggy. I mean everything. I find myself sitting there, rooting for every child to do well, heart swelling for those kids as they triumph over the challenging dishes they’re tasked to make. 
  • These kids have such great character! They are encouraging, positive, realistic (with their own cooking triumphs and struggles), and so helpful! They go out of the way to help their competitors, and they do it with such kindness. When their competitors are eliminated, genuine hugs and encouragement are given. I want to live in a world this kind all of the time. 
  • Those kids are remarkable! They’re doing amazing things with French or Japanese or other advanced cooking techniques (thinks I’ve never heard of), and they have to use step stools just to see over the counter.
  • British accents are wonderful -- Don’t let anyone tell you any different. (This one is definitely a minor detail, but still adds to the enjoyment of the show.) 
  • The chef-judges have such high expectations for their young chefs (and the young chefs know it and definitely give their all for them), but they don’t let that get in the way of them making real connections with the kids, being silly, being encouraging, and showing their protégés respect. You can see how proud the judges are of the kids and their accomplishments, and how hard the elimination process is for them.

Watching this show is like getting an hour-long hug. The kids are extraordinary, the judges are firm, but kind and encouraging, and the result is such a positive experience for the audience (and I would imagine everyone involved with the show as well). If you happen to find yourself with an extra hour or just want to bring some positivity into your home, I recommend turning on MasterChef Junior.

(This is just my own personal option regarding this show. We've not been compensated or rewarded in any way for this blog post, other than the warm-fuzzies I get simply by watching this lovely show.)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Top Tunes to Show Your Love

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8/82/A_Love_for_the_Arts_by_Delacorr.jpg
Whether it is spent snuggling with a romantic partner, spent with family, or celebrated with a special child, here are some tunes for your Valentine's Day playlist to show your love to those around you!

Cara



My list is divided into 3 categories (since choosing music for me is much like eating potato chips: once I start, I just can't stop...):

Swoony and Sappy:

Sweet and Sad:

Cheery, Bright, and Hopeful:

Melissa 

In February 2003 I discovered and subsequently fell in love with Josh Groban while going through a very intense breakup. Subsequently, every Valentine's Day I go through a Josh Groban kick. His song When you say you love me makes me feel like a heartbroken seventeen-year-old. Also, if you haven't listened to Mindy Gledhill's album Anchor you need to remedy that immediately. The entire album makes for a whimsical Valentine's playlist, but her song All the pennies reminds me of being a dirt poor newlywed with nothing but love.  Finally, it may be cheesy and slightly cliche and ridiculous, but ever since I was a little girl I thought the most romantic song in the world was a toss up between Lady in Red by Chris De Burgh and Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton. Hey, it was the 80s.

Lindsey

I have been listening to songs with this post in mind trying to pick the perfect ones.  Something beautiful and romantic.  But I'm just not feeling it.  So a lot of my songs are more toward the sad and sweet side, but still beautiful.  

  • Sad Songs and Waltzes - Cake
    • Possibly my favorite Cake song (if I HAD to choose just one). 
  • Rambling Through the Avenues of Time - Flight of the Conchords
    • On the lighter side of things with a twist at the end.  Brett is telling Jemaine about a girl he met while walking around New York City while Jemaine is trying to watch TV.
  • I've Just Seen a Face - Jim Sturgess - Across the Universe
    • Originally a Beatles song, but this cover is upbeat and happy and I love it.
  • You Could be Happy - Snow Patrol
    • This is a post break-up tune. It'll help with the necessary post break-up wallowing.
  • Question - Old 97's
    • Really just a super sweet and catchy proposal song.
  • The Ballad of Love and Hate - The Avett Brothers 
    • Just a wonderful song.  My favorite line comes in at the end "He says, "Love, I'm sorry," and she says, "What for? I'm yours and that's it, whatever. I should not have been gone for so long. I'm yours and that's it, forever.  You're mine and that's it, forever." 
    • Another runner up from The Avett Brothers that is worth a listen is I and Love and You.  They'd pair nicely on a mixtape.

Lis

Martha Reeves and The Vandellas - It's Easy to Fall in Love With a Guy Like You. It's an older song that reminds me of falling in love with my husband.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dNMR46BPems


Jill

There are so many love songs out there in the world, but because my husband and I have vastly different tastes in music, very few of them have the emotional impact on me that I thought they would have by the time I got married. It actually hasn't caused too many problems in our life so far (other than there being no hope of us ever going to a live concert together because there is no artist or group that we would both be willing to spend 60 bucks on), but when we were planning our wedding we hit a major speed bump when we tried to pick "our song" to dance to. We love dancing with each other and I usually just ignore the fact that I don't like country music so that we can go out country dancing and have a grand night out. For our wedding, however, we wanted something that was special to both of us. We almost didn't make it, but at the 12th hour we stumbled on OneRepublic's "All This Time" and we were saved. We had both waded through the dating pool for quite some time before we found each other, so singing the words "all this time we were waiting for each other/ all this time I was waiting for you" while we danced on our wedding day created more than the perfect moment for us.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Stories to Make Your Heart Swell

I can't be the only romantic (though I'm sometimes stubborn about it) whose heart swells when listening to the stories of those who have been in love for such a long time, can I?

These are lovely:

(Disclaimer: I know it's a commercial for life insurance, but it's just so charming. We have no affiliation with this company; I was just drawn in by their effective marketing and lovely interview subjects.)