Monday, February 28, 2011

Feelin' the Love

I received the sweetest surprise in the mail last week.  The very lovely Bethany made an offer on Valentines Day to send a little something to anyone who was having a not so great day.  I spoke up thinking it would be nice to look forward to picking up the mail for a few days.  I had no idea what a beautiful and thoughtful package was headed my way.

Bethany created a gorgeous gift - from the personalized, sparkling J on the front, to the beautiful flower pin.  The postcards inside are perfect for a dedicated reader like me - and then there was the delicious chocolate.

I'm not sure what inspire Bethany to share her talents and gifts with near strangers, but she made my week and made up for a less than great Valentine's day.

While we are on the subject of love, I fell head over heals for a new song this weekend.  To the point that I put it on repeat and listened to it over and over again for more than an hour.  I think the idea of going nowhere fast was the perfect theme for my lazy weekend.

Josh Turner and Anthony Hamilton, Nowhere Fast
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Work, work, work

A long weekend means a short week - which I usually love.  But this week it means cramming 5+ days of work into 4.  While I work on catching up - here's one of my favorite new songs and videos:

Just a note - I may think this video and the song subject are beautiful - but that doesn't mean I want to hold on to winter.  I'm ready to welcome spring with open arms. Pin It

Monday, February 21, 2011

3, 1, 1, 500

This photo has nothing to do with my post, I'm just feeling a little homesick for Seattle today.

3 Years
1 Week
1 Day
500 Posts

Those numbers tell the story of this little blog of mine.  When I started my real goal was a personal journal to record my time in India.  It took a while before I told anyone about it.  Then for a longer time only family and close friends read any of my posts, as several of us started used blogging to keep up with each others lives.

I'm still not completely sure how it happened, but I started connecting with other bloggers who shared my interests.  And this little blog began to grow.  Posting became a regular practice.  I found a love of writing, the joy of creating a great photo and discovered an outlet for my musical passion.

Blogging has enriched my life.  Thanks to all of you, I have a group of family and friends I can connect with and count on for great advice and encouragement whether I'm at home or half-way across the world.  I learn from each of you, and find that I am more willing to try new things and take on new projects thanks to the incredible community of bloggers I feel a part of.  Thank you for giving me the encouragement to keep this little space on the internet going, here's to the next 500 posts!

Today's song is one of my all-time favorites, Dido's "Life for Rent."  I love the entire message of the song - embrace life, don't hold back.  It goes along with my theme for 2011 - Present.  With nearly 2 months of the year gone I thought I needed a reminder of what I'm working towards this year.
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Friday, February 18, 2011

Cheap Music February

If you are looking for a cheap way to feed your music fix, I've got the answer for you.  Here are some of my favorites mp3s which are on sale at this month for $5!

The "they totally rocked the Grammy's" category:

The "they rock my world" category

If you already have copies of these in your collection but still want to shop, here is the link to the rest of February's sale.    All eight of these have been on heavy rotation in my music collection, but if you are only going to buy one, make it Ray LaMontagne's God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise.  I've probably listened to this one at least 100 times.

One of the funniest video's I've seen in a long time comes from one of the artists above, The Black Keys.  Below is their video for "Howlin' for You."  It comes off as a movie trailer, but it is their official video for the song:

Full disclosure, if you click on one of the links and make a purchase, I get a small referral from amazon.  I promise it will be used to feed my own music collection so I can keep recommending new stuff for you. Pin It

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Bits and Pieces of a Musical Nature

I know the Grammy's were Sunday, but I just can't stop thinking about some of my favorite performances.  Any performance that has you still thinking about them days later is, in my opinion, a winner.  In no particular order here are my favorites from the Grammys.

Mumford and Sons, The Avett Brothers and Bob Dylan.  I know these guys all lean towards the folk side of the spectrum, but I thought they ROCKED.  I'll admit I'm not a huge Dylan fan, but they guys all looked like they were having a blast performing with him. UPDATE:  I've heard this video isn't working, here's an alternate if you are really interested.

Keith Urban, Norah Jones and John Mayer performing Dolly Parton's "Jolene."  Proof that great musicians just need their voices and a guitar or two to make beautiful music.

Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me."  I don't care how many times I hear this one it always makes me teary.

Muse's "Uprising."  Seeing this one after watching the events in Egypt over the past couple of weeks was awe inspiring.

While Katy Perry didn't make my list of favorite Grammy performances, I feel like I need to give her a shout out here.  A couple of weeks ago I (kind of) dissed her in a post at i-Studio, when I used her song  "California Girls" as an example of the type of song I didn't want my niece to claim as her favorite.  But then last week I heard Katy's song "Firework" performed on Glee and now I find I need to eat a little crow.  The message of this particular song is lovely and just the type of thing I'd like to hear Miss M singing.

Did you have a favorite performance at the Grammy's?  Does anyone else think Lady Gaga is looking/sounding more and more liked Madonna 2.0? Pin It

Monday, February 14, 2011

On the Right Foot and the Winner

It was glorious here this weekend - sunny skies and warmer than normal temperatures.  I ended up with a touch of spring fever and got a head start on my spring cleaning.  Thanks to my spurt of ambition, all the closets in the house are now cleaned and organized; I finished the cd/dvd project that I've been working on for months (all alphabetized and out of the cases into sleeves to reduce the space they were taking up); and best of all, with the painting and the tile complete in my master I moved out of the guest bedroom and back into my own bed (heaven!)   It is safe to say that I'm starting the week out on the right foot.

What did you do this weekend?  And any fun plans for Valentines?  I spent the day working, running errands and listening to The Avett Brothers (basically ignoring the fact it was a holiday.)

Now for a little business, the lovely Maureen was the winner of the CSN giveaway - congratulations!
While I was cleaning I threw open the windows to let the fresh air in - it was gorgeous.  In honor of a day warm enough to get away with that, here is a little Amos Lee with ""Windows are Rolled Down."
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Friday, February 11, 2011

Cooking 101 - White Chili

I've been cooking again - and thanks to the cold weather I'm still gravitating to soups.  This time I found a real keeper that will go in my favorites file - White Chili from the Simply De-Lite-Ful cookbook by Alice Bolen and Janelle Woolley - this is quickly becoming my favorite cookbook.

The original recipe serves 10, so I cut it in half (and still ended up eating it for days) but given how cold it was here last week, it was a very welcome meal.  I'll share the original recipe:
  • 1 lb great northern beans, soaked or 4 15-oz cans, drained & rinsed (I didn't have great northern so just used canned white beans.)
  • 1 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I used thawed, pre-cooked chicken breast strips and I didn't measure, just threw in what I thought would work.)
  • 1 medium onion, chopped 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 4-oz cans green chiles
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 14 1/2-oz chicken broth
  • 1 cup water divided
  • 6 Tbsp flour
If using dry beans, put in pan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes.  Drain and set aside.  Cut chicken into small pieces, about 1/2 inch or so.  Lightly season chicken with salt and pepper and brown in well-sprayed pan.  Add cooked chicken, beans, inion, garlic, chiles, cumin, oregano, cayenne, salt, chicken broth, and 1/2 cup water to slow cooker.  Stir and cover.  Cook on low 10-12 hours or 5-6 hours on high.  If using canned beans, reduce cooking time to low 6-7 hours on 3-4 hours on high.  Thirty minutes before end of cooking time combine remaining 1/2 cup water and flour, whisking to remove lumps.  Add to slow cooker and stir.  Cover and cook remaining 1/2 hour allowing chili to thicken.  Adjust for seasoning and serve hot with desired garnish - sour cream, fresh cilantro, tortilla chips.

I just thew everything in the crock-pot on low for 6 hours and since I didn't have sour cream threw in a spoonful of fat free, plain greek yogurt, and sprinkle of fat-free cheese.
I listened to Peter Bradley Adams while I cooked - a great new discovery.
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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Getting in the Spirit

I'm not one to go all out decorating for the holidays, I don't know if it is because I travel so much or because I'm single - but it just doesn't seem to be worth the effort.  I decorated for Christmas this past year, and shocked my family, it was the first time I'd done so in at least seven years.

But thanks to my neighbor and friend Nikki, I'm a bit in the spirit for Valentine's Day.  She made the adorable hearts I have hanging on my mantle and dropped them off last week.  Nikki is one of those amazingly talented people who has never met a craft she can't master - and to make me even more jealous she's got some serious cooking skills.  If you are looking for fun craft or food ideas, you have to check out her blog The Salty Pineapple.

Nikki grew up in Hawaii and when I think of music and Hawaii I can't help but think of Israel Kamakawiwo'ole
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Monday, February 7, 2011

Thanks and a Giveaway

Your kind words about my office remodel left me blushing - thanks for being so kind and encouraging.  It was a labor of love for me and I have to admit, working there is pure joy.  Thanks for your advice on the color of the small shelves - it seems white is the way to go.  I planned to paint them, but I found myself in Ikea Saturday and instead purchased 3 shelves to match the big unit.  The birch colored ones will find another home.  I can never have too many bookshelves.

As part of my thanks - I have a giveaway for you today.  CSN Stores has given me a $35 gift card to share with one of you.  So if my remodel inspired you to spruce up your work/creative space you could use this gift card to pick up some new home office furniture of your own.

My second (larger) remodeling project, my master bed/bath, is still moving along - not as quickly as I'd like unfortunately.  Is anyone else out there remodeling?  Any tips to dealing with the in between stage?  I find I want it all perfect right away - but it takes time to find just the right pieces - and to save up the cash to afford them.

To sign up for the giveaway, simply comment on this post.  You can add a second comment (and entry in the drawing) by subscribing to my blog.  You have until Midnight, Friday (Mountain Standard Time) to enter the giveaway.  I'll announce the winner on Monday.  Note:  CSN Stores only ship to the US - so that means some of you are out of the running - sorry about that.

I've had this song on my list to share for a while - but it isn't the happiest song so it keeps getting pushed down the list.  But, its gorgeous so I'm going to share it here just because, Plumb "Cut."
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Friday, February 4, 2011

Office Remodel - The Details

Butterflies small
I swear, just one last post about my office and then I'll leave it alone - but I had to highlight a couple of details.  First up, my grandma's stained glass butterfly collection.  As we've slowly been cleaning out her house we've found butterflies stashed everywhere.  A few ended up in my kitchen window, the rest in the window in front of my desk, where I think they only improved an already stunning view.

Rug small
I bought this rug a couple of years ago in Kathmandu and hadn't seen it since.  It is hand sew with silk thread and is simply beautiful.  I had forgotten what color it was and it wasn't until I pulled the box out after the paint went up that I realized how great it was going to look against the navy wall.  I love little surprises like that.

Office After 8 small
The final detail is another gift from my grandma.  She had two mirrors that hung in her living room, one for the first half of my life and the other for the second half.  The first now sits above my fireplace and the second now hangs in the office - thanks to a can of white spray paint.  I know some of you are collectors of antiques, so before you panic over the fact that I took a can of spray paint to the mirror - I'm not the first one to do so - my grandma spray painted it gold about 15 years ago.  I think she'd love the fact that I followed her example and made it work for my room.

Mirror Before small
A before shot of the mirror - this project was so simple I ended up spray painting a couple of the frames I hung along with it to add uniformity.  In fact, I'm considering painting the small Target bookcases white as well.  I've had them for at least a decade and they are looking a little worse for wear.  A coat of white paint would help them blend in with the Ikea bookcase, but leaving them as they are means they match the desks - what do you think?

This song has nothing to do with remodeling, but it was a beautiful new discovery this week.
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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Office Remodel - After

Office After 4 small
The two biggest parts of the remodel were painting and replacing the floor.  The paint is a color from Martha Stewart's collection called Wrought Iron, a rich navy.  This room has flooded before when melting snow leaked underneath the door.  Fear of that happening again left me with just two flooring options vinyl or tile.  Tile was problematic because the room has a concrete floor and this could cause tile to crack as it settles.  Which left me with vinyl, luckily my brother and sister-in-law had discovered a vinyl product that looks surprising like wood flooring (which is what I prefer.)  

Office After 6 small
Once the professionals were done the details were up to me.  With the exception of the new bookcase from Ikea, rugs and some organizers, the rest of the furniture and accessories were stuff I already had.   Much of it had been in storage somewhere waiting for a home.

Office After 9 small
One of my favorite parts of the room is the wall of photographs which features the work of some of my favorite bloggers - and I can't wait to continue adding to my collection.

Office After 7 small
I've still got a couple of projects left to do - pick up a desk and chaise I inherited from my grandparents to replace the patio furniture currently filling in (I'm going to need those out on the patio once the snow melts!)  and make panels to replace the broken roman shades on the French door.

Those projects will come, but for how it is amazing to have a place I love to go to work each morning (and to leave each evening.)  Plus you can't beat the commute - a walk through the garage and I'm there.

I discovered Agnes Obel on Black Eiffel - isn't she gorgeous and her voice is amazing.
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