Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Zoo!!!

We have been trying to make it happen all summer, but we finally got one of Jeremy's days off where the weather was nice, Josephine wasn't napping, and we had no other obligations, and we FINALLY took the bean to the zoo for the first time!

Jeremy was nervous because we went to the Potter Park Zoo in Lansing, where we had never been before, and we are used to the glitz and glamour of the Detroit Zoo. He was worried it wouldn't stack up. I put his mind at ease by telling him, "Dude.  Admission is $4 for adults. It is NOT going to be anything like the Detroit Zoo. But it will only cost $8 and our daughter is only one."

And guess what? It was PERFECT. There was just enough there so that Josephine had lots to see and had fun, but not too much so she got overwhelmed halfway through and we were P.O.ed about leaving after paying a billion dollars to see 15 animals, which -- let's be honest -- was very likely to have happened if we went to the Detroit Zoo, especially after driving all the way there and having to drive all the way back. No. Just no.

We are still going to try to get to the Detroit Zoo before it gets cold, but we are also definitely going to get season passes to the Potter Park Zoo next summer, because it is the perfect place if you need an hour or two of activity to tire out the kid and have fun. Plus, outdoors, lots of walking, sun and fun. Can't be beat.

My camera is on its way to the camera graveyard, so the pics weren't all that amazing on this trip. But you know I'm gonna show you some anyway because I CAN'T STOP MYSELF.  
 Get this: She pointed at a lot of stuff.
 Apparently she's not all that patriotic.
 Just your typical staring contest with an Ostrich.
 Strange man or Peacock? Stare at the strange man, definitely.
 My little Joey (get it?)
 This is her face the first time she saw a female lion. I love it.
 She was crazy about the turtles in the Reptile House.
 Penguins -- or, as the Marcettis say -- Pendins! 
 Why is this exciting again, mom?
 Monkeys! Monkeys!
 Monkey see, monkey do.
 I could not hate my camera any more at this moment.
 Lovin' that Mandrill.
 Look, mom!
 Just ... wow.

Aaannnnddd ... (drumroll please) ... tie for best picture of the day goes to:
 You disgust me, mother.

What the?!?!

So, if you are in the Mid-Michigan area, hit up the Potter Park Zoo. Also, buy a new camera before you go. Oh, and don't rush over at an opportune moment and happen to forget to eat ... or drink any of the caffeine you are addicted to ... or forget your sunglasses on a very sunny day. You will get a migraine. The rest of the day will be torture.

BUT, if you're lucky, you can roll around in an empty kiddie pool before dinner.
I swear, this kid ... she must get the odd behavior from her father. Right? (Humor me.)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Making An Effort Monday: Organizing, Cooking, and Sewing, Oh My!

In an effort to make more of the things I love -- good food, pretty things, and organized spaces -- I bring you Making An Effort Monday!  It's not a huge effort, but it's an effort nonetheless!

It was an effort-filled week my friends, let me tell you.  Of all the efforts this week, the three that topped the charts were taking over the office closet for my crafts (!), trying out a new recipe, and a sewing project.

Okay, so the closet might not be all that much to look at, considering the awesome organized spaces I see, but before it became my craft closet, it was the official "dumping ground" in our house, and looked a lot like a closet you would see on Hoarders. 

Now it looks like THIS:
The cleaning was spurred by a generous donation of fabric from my mom, which made me sort and organize all my fabric.  My stash now looks like this:

Makes me tear up every time I see it.

I also tried a new recipe, which earned RAVE reviews.  However, my camera was being wonky, and I didn't get a picture.  I'll give you the one from the original source, but please know they look so much better in real life.  Yummmmm.

I found this recipe on Pinterest via M3.  Here is the original recipe from Chicho's Kitchen:

Parmesan Roasted Potatoes
4 medium red potatoes
2 tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

1.  Preheat the oven to 400ºF (200ºC). Cut the potatoes in wedges.
2.  In a small bowl, combine the Parmesan, garlic, and paprika and set aside. Next, toss the potatoes and oil together in a mixing bowl then add the bowl of cheese and seasonings and stir to coat.
3.  Arrange them on a cookie sheet in a single layer.
4.  Bake for about 30-35 minutes then remove from oven and turn over all the potatoes. Bake for another few minutes until crispy and golden.

I made a few changes to this.  I used more parm (maybe an extra quarter cup), more Paprika, (probably another 1/2 tsp.), I added some Cayenne Pepper (probably about a 1/4 tsp.) and used garlic salt instead of garlic powder and salt to taste.  

I cannot say yum enough about this recipe.  My only regret is I used up the rest of our parm making this recipe, because I would have made it every night this week.  When I go to the store on Wednesday, you better believe I will be getting lots of potatoes and Parmesan cheese!

Finally, my organized craft closet inspired me to whip up a little sewing project last night after Josephine went to sleep.  I was going to make Josephine some shoes, but looking at the patterns I found, I decided I wanted to find a different material for the soles than I already had on hand, so I used some lovely fabric I found on clearance a few months ago to make a purse!  Something for myself?  Shocking.

I followed the Buttercup Bag pattern from Made By Rae, and (aside from a few minor things), I am very happy with the results.  

 Lovely bag!
Lovely little pleats!
Not-so-lovely interior fraying ... but lovely little pocket!

The pattern was relatively easy to follow, which is why I was pretty disappointed that I must have made a mistake at the end (even though I tried so dang hard) and the seam at the top on the inside is all unfinished and fraying.  Yuck.  Also, if I had been a more skilled sewer, I would have looked at the pattern and realized it would be better to have put the strap in between the purse exterior and the lining instead of just sewing it on at the end like the pattern calls for.

The purse is small (because I am bad at estimating what the end size will be from looking at patterns online), but I am sure I could enlarge the pattern, put some interface on to sturdy up the purse, and try it again. At any rate, I am proud of being able to whip this up in an hour.  It even has a pocket! :)

Brag about your efforts in the comments, and if you try the purse pattern, try not to brag to me about how you didn't make the same mistake I did. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two Book Reviews in Two Days? Holla!

I was very excited to receive a copy of Nassir Ghaemi’s A First-Rate Madness to review based solely on the knowledge that it was about great leaders and “madness.” I had high hopes for this book, and the posit Ghaemi sets forth in the introduction had me even more excited to dive in. Ghaemi’s main claim in A First-Rate Madness is that “in times of crisis, we are better off being led by mentally ill leaders than by mentally normal ones.” Fascinating. He goes on to clarify this with his Inverse Law of Sanity: “when times are good […] mentally healthy people function well as our leaders. When our world is in tumult, mentally ill leaders function best.”  

Here’s the problem: I had HUGELY high expectations of the book, since I have a background and interest in both psychology and history, and having high expectations can backfire. 

The introduction set out some fantastic ideas, and I was riding high, but then Ghaemi began his chapters on individual leaders … and things started to go wrong for me. In the early chapters, he bounced back and forth between three paragraphs describing the person’s personality, then a huge page break, then a few paragraphs using technical psychological language (which was very easy to understand, which is to his credit). There was not much cohesion or chance to get caught up in the book. By the time he got to the chapters on Lincoln, Ghandi, and King, I was a bit disappointed and unsure if I would be able to finish reading the book in the given time frame.  These chapters seemed light on historical information and heavy on repetition of why he believes the leaders fit his thesis.

Thankfully, along came the chapters on FDR, Kennedy, and Hitler, and I was hooked again. There was an abundance of interesting details and insights, and I learned so much. I found myself nodding and going “Huh! That’s amazing!” an awful lot while reading these chapters, and that is a good sign when reading this type of book.

Maybe Ghaemi (or his editors) thought it was more important to apply the theory to a large number of leaders than to focus on a few that he had some wonderful details about. I personally would have preferred the latter, but I am neither an author nor an editor, so what do I know? J

Regardless of the things I wasn’t so fond of in this book, I would still recommend it, especially to anyone who is interested in psychology or history, or both.

If you would like to read other reviews of A First-Rate Madness, be sure to stop over at TLC Book Tours to check out the other bloggers.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

It's a Booky Kind of Day!

First up: I have a review of a fantastic book up for the BlogHer Book Club.  Here's a little teaser to get you to click on over:

Tana French sets her latest mystery novel, Faithful Place, in some less-than-desirable areas of modern Dublin, and yet, somehow, reading the book made me want to pack up and move there immediately.  

To read the rest, click HERE.

To top it all off, Josephine got a ton of books today.  Using a Barnes & Noble gift card she got for her birthday, we got all these:

Bath Time! (Sandra Boynton)
No More Monsters for Me! (Peggy Parish)
Little Miss Sunshine (Roger Hangreaves)
My First 100 Words
First Words: 100 Animals


I hope you are having a booky kind of day, too!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Mysteries from 2006

Did you ever see that episode of Seinfeld where Jerry half wakes up in the middle of the night to write down an idea he had for a joke, but then in the morning can't read his writing?  He spends the rest of the episode trying to get people to figure out what it means.  I have those moments a LOT since my handwriting is only legible if I have time to write carefully (so, like half of the thank you notes I write and that's bloody it), and I am known for writing lists and notes to myself while doing other things.  Sometimes it's a curse to be a "list" person.

Anyway, this "what does it MEAN???" moment hit me extra hard today when Jeremy got out a photo album from a Upper Peninsula camping trip we took in 2006 (he is trying to get me to go camping.  With a one-year-old.  HA!) and out fell some slips of paper.  Apparently Jeremy spent much of 2005 and 2006 documenting all the crazy things I said in my sleep. 

Did I ever mention I talk in my sleep?  I do.  Big time.  And much more so when I am under a great deal of stress.  Apparently 2005-2006 were extra-stressful years, because I would even talk during cat naps on the couch.

So, pretty much everything is funny but can be explained (I was talking about Mickey Mouse because Jeremy was watching House of Mouse while I slept, etc.) except for this doozy:

"I'm mad because ... because you are supposed to be urging me to jump on the texture of a bird ... that's why it matters."

The combination of words, the outlandishness, the sheer outrageous:  It's the perfect storm of sleep talking.

Here's where you come in folks:  What does it MEAN or why the heck did I say it?

The best answer gets a walk-on role in my next sleep-talk comment.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Making an Effort Monday: Felt Food

In an effort to make more of the things I love -- good food, pretty things, and organized spaces -- I bring you Making An Effort Monday!  It's not a huge effort, but it's an effort nonetheless!

Josephine got an adorable shopping cart for her birthday, and while her "bay" looks smashing in it, I thought she needed some food to put in that cart.  So, for a few days last week I went a little felt food crazy.  I found a couple of tutorials and made some up along the way, and this is what I came up with.

The first thing I decided to make was a loaf of french bread because it seemed easy, and it was.  All I did was:

1.  Take a sheet of light brown felt, cut it in half, and rounded off the ends of those long pieces to make the shape of the loaf.
2.  Fold a little piece in half near the middle to make a snip, then cut oblong shapes out of the loaf on an angle, like so:
3.  Next, I cut little pieces of white felt, just enough to cover those holes and sew in place:
4.  I put the right sides facing in, pinned, sewed, leaving a few inches open, flipped inside out, stuffed, and sewed up the hole.  Done!
She loves it.  Can you tell?

Next I tried a pear.  I followed the tutorial HERE, which boils down to:

1.  Cutting out two pieces like this and a little leaf.
2.  Sewing everything together except for the bottom (the flat part) with the leaf between the two pieces of felt facing in.
3.  Flipping it right side out, stuffing the pear with poly-fill and putting a running stitch all the way around the opening.
4.  Pulling the thread so the fabric gathers, criss-crossing a few extra stitches, and BAM.
I gotta say, the idea this blogger had for the running stitch to gather the bottom is a great one.  That is definitely a strategy I will utilize with future felt food.  However, the shape she used left me with a rather large and shapeless pear.  No worries, Josephine loves it anyway!

Next, I tried carrots, and I've gotta say, this ended up being my favorite.  I went with the basic ideas I got from the pear tutorial, and here is how I did it:

1.  Cut a large triangle out of orange felt.
2.  Took three strings of orange thread (you could obviously use embroidery floss, but I already had the thread, so why buy something new?) and ran a few lines of thread across the triangle, like so:
3.  I sewed the long sides of the triangle together with the right sides facing in and flipped it right-side out.
4.  Stuffed the carrot and did a running stitch around the opening (just like with the pear).
5.  Cut some sort of shape out of dark green felt for the foliage atop the carrot.  I just cut something that looked leafy and called it a day. 
6.  Then, I stuffed the ends inside with the poly-fill, pulled the stitches tight and sewed it closed, and done!

Truth be told, I think this ear of corn is really cute, but I wouldn't recommend the process I used.  Unless, of course you have a great deal of time on your hands and a need to get very frustrated. Therefore, I will be brief.  I followed THIS tutorial and ...

1.  Weaved together strips of yellow to make three shapes like the ones below, cut out yellow to go behind the weaved pieces (this was not in the tutorial, but no matter how tightly I weaved, I knew poly-fill would poke through).
2.  Sewed the pieces together, right sides in.
 3.  Turned it inside out, stuffed it, did a running stitch around the opening, pulled it tight, and sewed it shut.
4.  Cut some dark green felt into a husk shape.  
Best directions ever, right?  Cute corn, though:

I'm currently working on a large number of strawberries, so get excited for that tutorial in the future.

If you have questions about any of the felt food, be sure to ask, and if you make any yourself, send me a picture and I will post it.

Happy Monday!  Brag about your efforts in the comments!  
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