Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Good, The Bad

We spent a wonderful weekend with friends in Newport.
Though there are countless historic buildings and MANSIONS to explore, beaches to lazily lay upon and lots of places to explore, we ate and drank and talked. That's it. Gah, it was fabulous, even though my liver is still recovering, even though at 1:30AM on Sunday morning I stubbed my toe and split the tip open (Sailor Jerry dulled the pain). The fresh seafood, amazing Mexican fare, Blues club, caipirhinas, margaritas, spiced rum, purse dog and people-watching compensated for that all, nevermind the mostly-hilarious conversations we had.

The bad part is that the weekend flew by far too fast. Other cons? The group that we hung with this weekend was so fab and drama-free and CHILL that it makes going back to work that much harder. Argh! I'm so not in the mood to deal with work and people's problems!

Because I'm an optimist, I guess I should being playing up the four-day work week in my head, the fact that Jam and I discovered a cute park a short drive from home that's right on the ocean and full of birds and well-maintained trails, and the fact that this weekend we are busting out the kayaks....

So here we are. Tuesday half-down. Three and a half days to go until the weekend! Bring it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Weather Pattern

It started raining on Saturday, May 14th. It hasn't stopped, and won't stop until at least Friday. It has also been a little bit chilly. Yes, I am a fairly hardy New Englander, but mid-May normally marks the beginning of the "Great Clothes Migration" (you know, the switching of winter to summer clothes) and I was not happy about dragging out my fleece-lined faux suede boots for this morning's commute. OK. I lie. I lie because I love those boots so much I've worn out the heels, so I was happy about putting them on, but annoyed that the weather called for warm boots this morning....but I digress, I digress.

There are some bad things about all this rain. One is that Jam and I awoke at 1:30am on Monday to a persistent "tap....tap....tap....tap..." I rolled over and pretended like the noise was just big fat raindrops hitting our window AC unit. Jam SPRUNG out of bed (sprung as in, FLUNG the covers back dramatically and LEAPED out of bed) and then committed the cardinal sin of all late-night rousings: he turned on the overhead bedroom light (note: when you must get up in the middle of the night and require light, you should use 1. small lamp at bedside, 2. headlamp 3. flashlight or 4. cell phone so as not to wake your bed partner. I'm just SAYIN'). He loudly exclaimed "*expletive* the ceiling is leaking." I played dumb - "really? the ceiling?!" and let him take care of it. Usually I discover the ceiling leak in the morning when I get up to take a shower and step in a puddle that has managed to run down the floor towards the wall and closet (our floors are crooked), and I'm left responsible for bucket-wrangling and clean-up, so I let Jam handle this late-night discovery. So there's that thing.

Another thing is the complete lack of motivation and energy which I choose to blame completely on the weather. This is why I gain "winter weight" every year. I look out the window and see rain/snow/fog/darkness/wet pavement and decide to "exercise" inside, which usually turns into flopping on the couch. This week I've lifted weights and done a Jillian Michaels ab routine, but beyond that, I have been sloth-like.

The constant rain makes the work day draaag. There's no glorious sunshine to escape to, to work towards. Instead I just sit at my computer, bored, sluggishly making my way through a to do list. I don't really care whether or not I complete it because waaahhh wahhhhhhhhhh all I have to look forward to is trudging through the rain.

There are, however, a few perks to the rainy stretch we've been having....

The damp chill is a great excuse to cook comfort food for dinner! We had mini-meatloaves on Monday, shrimp cakes on Tuesday, and a big ol' bowl of spinach pesto chicken pasta last night. The rain is a great excuse to snuggle up together with mugs of tea and watch Netflix movies (though we ventured out to see 'Bridesmaids' which was raunchy but HILARIOUS), bake cookies, nestle in big blankets....I mean, it's not ALL bad...it's just that it's been 6 days now, and I really want to see the sun again.

Despite my sloth-like pace at all tasks these days, I did plan for some major crafty time when I saw the extended forecast last week. I managed to visit two of my favorite yarn shops, Windsor Button in Boston and Patternworks in Center Harbor, NH just a few days apart, and between the two shops, I gathered some fabulous yarn to make several sweet baby projects. I finished a "Baby Sophisticate" sweater in just 4 days:

Baby Sophisticate

this one isn't mine, though the colors are the same. I took this pic from Camping Jason's flickr photostream

Since I flew through that sweater, I decided to start two projects at once, an owl hat:

this is from the designer's site. how cute is that baby?!

And another Golden Rose Sundress. I knit this one for my friend's daughter Alexa forever ago:

Alexa's Dress

A friend from high school had a baby girl in February, saw the old picture of Alexa's dress on facebook and offered to buy one off me. I felt funny about it. Yeah, I think I'd totally do custom orders for cashmoney some day, but 1. I'm so not ready for that kind of pressure and 2. this girl was a buddy from the XC team, and we were a tight bunch. I'm not about to charge her for a little sundress!

I think I'll throw in a matching bonnet too, like this one I made for Alexa:

Miss A in her Bonnet

Oh and before I forget, the owl hat and sophisticate sweater are going to the same expecting mama. I can't make it to her baby shower, so I want to send something especially nice. Since her theme is "owls" (and I can hardly resist owls, including this one living near my house:

Eastern Screech Owl)

I bought some owlie fabric on etsy. I mean to make her (or rather, her expected baby, a little boy) a quilt with this cross stitch design in the middle:

which I snagged on ABC Stitch's website. I mean, I LOVE this little cross stitch thing - even though normally I'd gag at something that said "Mommy's Little Prince," I thought this was pretty tasteful and would appeal to the mom-to-be. I imagined subtle blue prints that played off the color scheme in the stitching making up the quilt blocks. But....then I started thinking about the owls... and found this on etsy and suddenly the whole elegant and subtle quilt idea went out the window. Of course I obsessed about whether or not the fabric would match the room decor, but I quickly found a solution. Instead of making a crib quilt, I plan on fashioning a stroller quilt. I stumbled upon this brilliant-ness while googling away, and the pattern is free on flickr. This blogger posted a picture of the one she made:

Towards the top of the quilt are two pieces of twill tape sewn into the binding. This allows you to tie the quilt to your stroller frame. The buttons on the bottom half allow the quilt to be folded and buttoned up out of the way, so the quilt isn't dragging on the ground. How frickin' brilliant is that?! 

So after I get all that done, I plan on making one last gift. Jam's former coworker has had two kids, and both times she was pregnant I told her I'd make something for her baby...and it so didn't happen. With her first, I was just disorganized, in grad school, all that stuff. Her second was born last August, while I was in the throes of wedding planning. This time around, she's having another girl, and in August. I have to make something really sweet to make up for my slacking. The designers at Pickles have made The Most Ridiculously Cute Baby Dress Ever. Yes, it's so cute it needs an official title with caps. Ladies, cross your legs, cause if you didn't want to have a baby girl RIGHT NOW you will when you see this pic:

SERIOUSLY cute. I love the dress and little booties, and the bonnet is to die for! I will, of course, include leggings and a long sleeved shirt in the gift box so baby can wear this outfit into the fall. Gah. Then I'll have to resist making one and stashing it for my non-existent girl child. 

After I get through all this stuff - which might not take too long if the weather patterns continues - I am taking a gift-crafting hiatus. I hate to do it, but I can't commit myself to making new gifts for anyone until I finish up what I owe. I actually have shawls for my bridesmaids that I never finished knitting. Oh the shame :(. Luckily I have an idea for that, so it's not a total disaster. I have quilts I owe, knitted stuff I owe, a stash that could really use some reducing, plus some things I want to make for myself. Oh yeah, plus the Craft Hope stuff I committed to. Maybe after all THAT I'll start taking custom orders. 

Happy crafting! 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Drumlin Farm

In my quest to be greener and more "local" (more on this later), I signed us up for a Mass Audubon membership - before we were even married at that. Of course with wedding stuff and then the more hideous than normal New England winter, we didn't get around to taking advantage of the sanctuaries for months. For most of the winter, I fantasized about taking Jamaal to the places I loved as a kid, particularly the Trailside Museum and Drumlin Farm.

In early April, I had to put 150 miles on my car (another story altogether) so I tried to think of a place kinda far away, but not TOO far because my car didn't have a valid inspection sticker on it, that would allow us to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. Why not Drumlin Farm? Since we didn't have anything else to do, we piled in the Subaru, expired inspection sticker/check engine light on/busted catalytic converter and all, and headed to Lincoln, located in one of my favorite areas of Massachusetts.

I promised Jam that he'd get a chance to see some of the flora and fauna of New England up close. Of course something you thought was HUGE as a kid always seems smaller as an adult. I seemed to remember aviary after aviary of birds that were unable to return to the wild, but in actuality, there were about five. Nevertheless, the birds were absolutely beautiful. It's so nice to see an organization caring for wildlife that cannot live on its own.

Ring-Necked Pheasant

This pheasant was clucking away at the bottom of its aviary.

Red-Tailed Hawk

Love the intensity of this red-tailed hawk's stare

Great Horned Owl

Great-Horned Owl - I think she's missing an eye, not actually winking

Chickie Chickens

We took a stroll through the chicken coop - I liked this chicken in particular

Chickie Chickens

How cool is this mobile coop? The chickens are wheeled to different parts of the farm each day.


It was lambing season at the farm. Glorious. This little Romney was playing with the other lambs and munching hay. awrr.

Finally Out of the House

Yeah, even though it was April 2nd, there was snow on the ground. Ugh.

Bluebird Antics

We decided to take the least-muddy path we could find - turned out to be a path around the fields. We walked for a bit, and decided to turn back to walk near a stream....which is when we saw BLUEBIRDS!!!

Bluebird Antics

Yes, I've seen bluebirds before, but I've never seen an Eastern Bluebird this close - plus there were three, PLUS they didn't seem to mind us watching them do their thing.

Eastern Bluebird

Then this one came closer and closer...sat on a branch, and then let me come closer and closer. It was glorious!

Eastern Bluebird

YAY!!! I love Drumlin Farm as it is, but this made the trip positively wonderful. Even Jam, who respects my bird-nerd-ness but tends to get less excited about bird sightings, was impressed by this gorgeous bluebird. He kept saying "it's SO blue!"

It was so nice to be able to escape the confines of our apartment for a few hours and get some fresh air. Though we need to make an effort to hit up other Audubon sanctuaries in Mass, I'm guessing that we'll be making several repeat visits to Drumlin, especially when the trails dry out and we can take a nice loooong walk. I just noticed that they're having a "pick-your-own strawberry day" the third weekend in June. Think I've got that repeat visit scheduled....

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Homemade Comfort

Because they're awesome, Craft Hope has found a way to help tornado victims. I'm so excited!

I'll still finish bracelets for Project 12, but I can't express the level of happiness I felt when I read about Project 13 today. Finally, the quilt I started has a reason to be finished! Plus this will be a great opportunity to pull together some smaller quilts using the fabric scraps I have in my pantry. I can't think of a more worthy cause!

In the meantime, I'm trying to get myself together. I'll be the first to admit it - I've really been struggling at work lately. I've come to the realization that it's time to look for a new job. It makes me sad in a way because I actually love SOME of what I do...but that 'some' has become a smaller and smaller percentage of what makes up my job as a whole, and as that percentage gets smaller, my job satisfaction decreases. It's also sad because I actually love the hospital for which I work. It is one of the finest specialty hospitals in the entire country. The work we are doing is good and sometimes even revolutionary. Our patients are treated with kindness and care by both physicians, nurses, and staff. I love that, and those are the things I wrestled with before coming to my decision to look for something new. What did help me get to that decision were a series of lousy things coworkers have done in the past couple of weeks. It's too petty to get into, but they were lousy on the coworker level (e.g. ideas getting shot down before I could even effectively pitch them) and on the personal level (e.g. let's invite everyone to a coworker's baby shower, to lunch, etc and purposefully leave out me and my officemate). I was sitting in my office and thought "I really do not have to take this anymore." I don't know where I'll end up, and I might not even move on from the job I have now, but if I don't I have to make certain changes that will make my work life more pleasant, and that's something I'm focusing on right now. In a way, it's good to have to come to terms with certain things I've pushed aside for the six years I've worked here.

In other news, it's kayaking time, gardening time, crafting time, spring cleaning time, graduation time...and maybe even vacation time. The rest of spring and summer lie in wait ahead of me. It's hard not to be optimistic.

Adams Birthplace - taken with my iPhone at a red light :)

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Balcony Garden

I was a little nervous about moving to an apartment. At my parent's house, I had a few square feet of garden to attend to here and there. My mother was nice enough to give me a space for some of the things I had collected from landscaping clients over the years, including trillium, corydalis, hellebore, jack-in-the-pulpit, bloodroot, and even a kousa dogwood tree. I loved my mini gardens, and I loved helping my mother tend her large patches of garden.

My garden - ok, not so mini...

A fraction of my mother's garden.

When we settled on the apartment we're in now, outdoor space hardly factored into it. We had seen the dumpiest of dumpiest places, including an apartment with construction debris and black water filling the bathtub and staining the bathroom tiles. "Oh that'll be....cleaned up, or fixed...or whatever" the realtor assured us. UM. WHAT?

When we were shown the place we're in now - or rather, when my sister and I saw it, as Jam was in NYC and had to give his approval via YouTube - it was the spacious rooms, high ceilings, built-in details, driveway and neighborhood that sold me on the apartment. It's an apartment, not our forever home, and the apartment was glorious compared to the pieces of crap we had been shown. Bonus, it has about a 12x3 balcony, but at that point I could not have cared less about outdoor space.

Commence long and snowy and cold New England winter during which I become hermit-like, only venturing outside to go to work, shovel, or get groceries.

Now it's spring, and I'm ready for a little beautifyin', a little gardening. What could I do with my decrepit little balcony? Lucky for me, there's only about a zillion small-space gardening resources in print and on the interwebs! Hooray! The hard part will be narrowing down what I want. Here's some inspiration I found online: 

via apartment therapy - I loved this because it addresses a narrow space, similar to what we have. I think the key thing to take away from this photo is that this balcony is not overloaded with furniture. Right now we have a metal table on our balcony. I'd like to keep it (and cover it, yuck) and 5 plastic chairs and one weird folding chair. I'd like to keep the plastic chairs for guests, but I think the spares can go in the basement or stack in a corner when we're not using them.

also via apartment therapy - again, loving the narrow space and the table cloth is fab. It's a little too much pink for me though...

from bzesty, a deck garden featuring potted plants. Everything I am planting will be confined to a pot, but look how much you can do with a group of different sized plants and pots!

from flickr - I like knowing this is someone's "real" space - not that the others aren't, but what is more real than someone's personal photos from flickr? Wish I had a kitty to enjoy the deck as well. I think this is probably the best representation of what our balcony will look like, with the plants pushed around the edges.

Just pretty - found here.

Awesome bird bath idea for a small space from life on the balcony. I seem to be able to attract only house sparrows and starlings despite seeing a huge selection of birds in the yard next door - including tufted titmice, chickadees, mockingbirds, blue jays and carolina wrens, and the yards on the surrounding streets where I've seen all of those birds, plus nuthatches, house finches, downy woodpeckers and flickers, AND the presence of a nearby park which hosts even more interesting things like catbirds, house wrens and towhees. I'm hoping a water feature will lure something interesting to my balcony. If not, I know the starling that has learned to mimic my parakeet will enjoy it:

he's on the corner of the deck, singing away....

finally, a morning glory screen found here. We don't have fantabulous balcony views, but the one that faces a neighbor's broken down garage is particularly gross. I've already incorporated this idea into the garden plan and started some Heavenly Blue and Scarlett O'Hara morning glory seeds. 

Below is a little mock-up I made of our balcony. It's not to scale. At all. 
The blue rectangle represents the morning glory screen I'm planning on planting. Green circles are planters. I have a "love tree" - a dwarf pine from our wedding - planted in one, and I think that will end up in the corner. The other two I'm hoping to plant with semi-shade tolerant plants, but the beauty of container gardening is that  if anything gets leggy or pale from lack of sun, I'll drag it to the front of the balcony. The blue square is the bird bath I'm planning on, and the pink circles are hanging baskets I'd like to pull together, preferably fuchsia or bright plants that will attract hummingbirds to my feeder, which is represented by the red circle. The long pink rectangle represents planters that will hold sweet peas, herbs and lettuce if I can get my seeds to germinate, and green rectangles will be deck planters. I'd like these to be bright - since the deck faces southeast approximately I think the planters would flourish. Eek! So exciting to plan. Hopefully I'll have an update as soon as I get everything organized outside...oh and it warms up a bit. More later!

Wednesday, May 04, 2011


As funny as that scene in the car is (ok in retrospect) I did realize something today.

I really need to sloooow down.

Slow down. Be organized but not overwhelmed. Stop trying to be perfect. Relax.

I think I'm going to have a really hard time doing it, but, I think it's something I really REALLY need to work on. At the rate I'm going, I'm going to be burnt out by 30 - seriously! I'm reaching burnout phase. It's not good, and I have to do something about it.

How'd I arrive at this conclusion?

Honestly, it was a combination of what happened on Monday night and reading this. Yeah. I read that. And I went in thinking "what is this stupid woo-woo website going to tell me about taking care of myself?" Then, as I read, all I could think was "wow. this, aside from the family details and lost pregnancy, is me. ow."

I don't know how I'm going to slow down exactly - it might take time (says the girl with a conference call at 8:30 tonight). I'm feeling committed to finding out, and enjoying how it feels.

Eh though right now, all I feel is hungry. I'm frickin' starving! Off to forage for some food.....

Thank you for letting me ramble.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Why My Certain Small Scenes from my Life Would Make a Good Movie

Scene: Driving Northbound on I-95 somewhere in Connecticut, returning from husband's family funeral in Brooklyn. Allison is behind the wheel, crying hysterically about her job, her lack of patience, and mental exhaustion.

Jamaal: You know, you have Superwoman syndrome, you try and do too much all the time. It's not healthy. You need time for you, you know.
Allison: (hiccups) I...I...know
J: And if that means....um, do you need to pull over?
A: NO!
J: Are you sure? Do you need me to drive?
A: NO!
J: Allison, you are crying, how can you focus on driving??
A: I'm very very good and multitasking, REMEMBER?!

You ever have one of those days? I'm sure you have - just one of those days where you're completely overloaded and there is no more room in your head for thoughts or feelings or your emotions or anyone else's thoughts, feelings or emotions (ok, except crying apparently)? I had one of those days yesterday. Luckily I have a super-sweet and understanding husband who knows how to deal with me. Needless to say, once we got home I put on my PJ's, slipped under the covers and slept, brick-like, for the next 8 hours. I wish I could say I woke up in a completely different state, but I didn't. Mind you, I felt greatly improved, but looming ahead of me was a long day at the office. This past week and I'm sure the rest of this week has really sealed the deal: I need a new job. I'm kind of disappointed that it has come to this, but it's something I need to do. I'm nervous and kind of scared...but I'm excited to try and something that doesn't make me quite so miserable.

In the meantime, I'm going to try and start doing some things that make me really happy. Luckily, it's spring, and that means that kayaking and gardening are on deck for the sunny days, and crafting is there for the rainy ones. Here's to a better outlook!