December 21, 2010

Cheapo's Guide to Wrapping

I absolutely hate buying things to wrap other things in. Wrapping and tissue paper and bags and bows are expensive! I'm going to spend all my money finding you a gift you'll love, so no complaining if it's wrapped in newspaper, alright?

That said, I do love to make a good looking package that has people eying it under the tree. It builds the anticipation and makes the recipient feel that touch more special. Definitely worth it ...where "it" isn't money but creativity! For you last minute wrappers, here are a few tips and tricks for spending nothing to very little on wrapping!

1. Reuse! I'm totally going to become my Nana and spend 10 minutes unwrapping my presents to keep the paper as intact as possible, all the while oohing and aahing over how beautiful the paper is. Also, boxes, tissue paper, bows, bags, etc are all easy to keep and reuse. This is my preferred method because it requires extremely little energy or thought. Until you get them home and have to organize them in the 'wrap' section of your crafting room.
What?  You don't have half of your house dedicated to ridiculous amounts of wrapping?

2. Upcycle! Brown paper bags can be used as wrapping paper and actually look pretty trendy with a few spiffy touches.  Add some ribbons, bows, paint, sparkles, or some twiggy stuff from outside shoved under some raffia ribbon and it's sure to make a festive mark! Other great upcycle candidates are newspapers (especially the comic sections or slightly awkward advertisements), magazines, maps, old t-shirts, books from the free table, or leftover wedding craft fabric. Also, here is a sweet and easy looking tutorial for how to make a bow.
Look how trendy and M. Stew worthy that is!  Photo via
Or you can do like my lady friend Rachel did and paint a portrait on their present!
(me on the left turning red with giggles)

3. Make sure part of their gift is a reusable bag. Sure, we may all have twenty reusable bags by now, but one more makes us so much more sustainable, right? Right? No? Whatever. Maybe they need a lunch box? A fanny pack? A tote? Or normally shops give you a bag when you buy something, so just use that.
Or wrap it up like this and gift them the gift of a fashion turban!
So in right now.

4. When we're going to my parent's house for Christmas, I bring my gift wrapped very plainly in whatever we have laying around. Then, I sneakily sneak into the basement and dive into their bow collection! They get a wonderful present, topped with a bow, and then they get their bow back for triple reuse!  Don't worry, Mother Earth, you can thank me later.

5. For a truly Red Green Christmas vibe, duct tape now comes in festive colors and patterns. Wrapping has never been so easy!
Just make sure you have a knife ready to get into this sucker!

6. The decoy box method is very handy and will keep the recipient guessing! Grab any box you have laying around and stuff the gift inside. Tape it shut and voila! Is it a pair of shoes? Ventilator tubes?* Cereal!? What could it beee!?!?!?
In case you haven't eaten cereal in a while, get your very own decoy boxes here!

7. If you're working on a super low budget/energy/caring, then may I suggest the close-your-eyes-and-hold-out-your-hands method? Absolutely nothing necessary except someone who can follow directions.

Merry wrapping to all and to all a cheapo Christmas!

*Both my parents work as respiratory therapists. We have very exciting decoy boxes!

December 17, 2010

Mixtape Masters: A not so Christmasy Christmas

It seems like the holiday spirit is now saturating the air!  It's been building slowly, but now the holidays are out full force!  (or maybe I'm just slow to this party?)  My work's holiday party is today, we have a batch of birthday/holiday parties this weekend, we've been crossing off items from out shopping list (meaning we ordered our final item offline!  we have yet to step into a store!), and baking sweets left and right!  So for my mix today, I wanted to do some holiday tunes, but nothing too Christmasy.  My list today includes songs that are all kinda holiday/winter songs but that I also listen to year round!  They are all pretty chill - good for sippin hot cocoa and cuddling with a loved one under ten pounds of blankets.


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Can I just mention that the Vince Guaraldi Trio's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is one of the best albums ever.  Ever.  I want to listen to it all year round, but I try to limit myself - it makes it so much more rewarding when the snow hits, the temperature drops, I'm baking in the kitchen, and those tunes are rolling over to my ears.  Perfection.

Check out the other Mixtape Masters on these blogs!

December 15, 2010

Craft this! Candied citrus peels

Oh yeah, Lisa!? You think you can have all the crafty goodness to yourself!? Well, I'm here to tell you something, sista! You may have a crafty life, but once in a while...I have a crafty day. Maybe even a week if I'm feeling especially energetic. And that week is this week! So watch out, cuz I'm bringing the craft!

Naw, jk, Lisa! You totally dominate craft land. And my crafty week has partially been inspired by you and all your awesome DIY Christmas gift ideas!

Today, I'm sharing one of the things that I will be making. It's going to serve as a hostess gift, a stocking stuffer, an office acquaintance gift, and the some extras for me and the beau to enjoy!  (Note: when making delicious gifts, don't forget about some extra for yourself!  Otherwise all those gifts will end up just a little bit smaller...)

Candied Citrus Peels
I originally found this recipe on M.Stew's site, but there are a million out there. They are generally all the same, though, with just little tips here and there.

To make these candied peels, you'll need two things.  1) citrus fruit  2) sugar!

Step One:  Cut each piece of citrus into fourths and then peel each, keeping the peel as intact as possible.  Leave as much pith (the white fleshy stuff) as you can on the fruit and scrape off as much pith as you can from the peel.  (The pith will add a bitter taste to your peels.)  Slice the peels into strips, approximately 1/4 - 1/2 inches wide.
Step Two:  Place peels in a pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.  Strain the peels and repeat the process twice more.  This will remove more of the bitterness from the peels.
Step Three:  In pot, combine 1 cup of water and 1 cup of sugar per two cups of peels.  Bring to a boil until sugar is dissolved.  Add peel to this and let simmer until syrup has thickened
Step Four:  Strain the peels and set out to dry for 1 hour.
Step Five:  Once cooled, toss peels in sugar to coat.  Let peels dry overnight before packaging.

- To store, keep in an airtight container at room temperature, up to 3 weeks. 
- One strategy I saw for removing pith was to boil peels, which softened the pith and made it easy to remove with a melon baller or spoon.
- Also, some people then dip the peels into chocolate for added schnazz.

Hope your holidays are all shaping up to be fantastic!


Photo from M.Stew

December 13, 2010

Snowed In

I'm sure its been on the news across the country, but this weekend we got walloped with snow! And it was great! It made me feel like a kid again, just looking out at that winter wonderland and getting giddy thinking about all the fun to be had in it! Unfortunately, we weren't able to enjoy it as much as we would have liked since Brett is still nursing his sprained ankle and I'm nursing a wicked cold, but a weekend of rest was definitely appreciated by both our bodies!

There was no where we needed to be, so we were able to sit tight and relax Saturday through Sunday. We weren't sure we'd be able to make it out of our neighborhood if we tried, so we didn't bother trying! Lots of reading, baking, and just enjoying each others company!

Here are some of the photos I took over the weekend showing our snowed in adventures!

Saturday a snow emergency was declared in St. Paul, so on Sunday, we had to move our cars. We woke up at 7:00 so we could have them moved by 8:00 as deemed by the snow emergency rules. This is what my car looked like in the morning...
But at least it wasn't as bad as this car!
The work of digging out went pretty quick with two of us.  The snow was nice and light - instead of heavy wet snow which would have been extra hellish!  So finally, after much huffing and puffing, we got both our cars dug out.
Happy to be done digging!  For now, at least...
Days like this are some of my favorite in Minnesota. Where nature just stops us in our tracks and makes us pause whatever else is going on. Also, its really fun to see all your neighbors out working to clear the snow! Everyone lends a hand and helps each other out. If someone is stuck, you go help shovel, push, pull, whatever you can do! Even just walking around in the cold, everyone smiles at each others and gives that little nod that says, "I'm f-ing cold, too, but we're in it together!" It's great!

Here are some more snow shots from the weekend...
Our frosty porch windows in the morning.
This shot is from out our front window...the plows had come through one way, creating this four foot tall snow berm that trapped all our cars in!

Then, this morning, I'm walking in to work and all the sidewalks on my way there are cleared until I get to the steps and walkway up to my building...
The walkway up to my building.
The steps into my building.  Getting everything initially cleared is first priority!  Making sure its nice and easy to navigate comes second!

Hope you all had a great weekend!

December 10, 2010

Mixtape Masters: Best of the Midwest: Folksie Edition

Good morning and happy Friday, all!

This week mainly sucked... We had our trip to the hospital, lots of worrying and taking care of Brett, lack of sleep, and now I'm down with a wicked cold.  So I'm especially excited to welcome Friday in and look forward to sleep tonight!  (Not a good sign when you are already looking forward to bedtime at 8:00 in the morning...)

So for today's Mixtape Master, I'm taking it slow with some folk, blues, and a touch of gospel at the end.  These are all local bands from the Midwest...well, actually they are all from my dear state of Minnesota except one (but we'll accept you, Bon Iver!  We get many transplants from Wisconsin!)  So I hope you enjoy.

Take it easy, everyone!

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Those last two are video recordings.  Not the best sound, but all I could find on mixpod this morning!  I don't know if the video will show up, but I hope it does, especially for the last one.

Check out the other Mixtape Masters on these blogs!

December 8, 2010

Is this what marriage feels like?

Tuesday morning, around four am, I am in the bathroom calling out to my unconscious husband. He has gone into shock and passed out. White face. Gray lips. Vacant eyes. Raspy breathing. I have never seen anyone go into shock before, and I never want to again. It looks like death.

I’m propping him up, calling his name, and he comes back to consciousness but is not able to comprehend anything. He is cold and clammy in an instant, then in the next he is out again. I'm supporting him as he sits there, but getting ready to move him to the ground when he comes back to. This time he is able to talk to me and understands that things are going terribly wrong.

He does not want to move, but we both know we have to go to the hospital now, so we get some warm clothes on him, and head out. He is able to hop to the car with my support and we get him in. The few mile drive is terribly long, and I can barely concentrate on the road or where we are going. I don’t even know where the hospital is!  (Turns out what we thought was a hospital near us does not have any emergency capacity.)  But Brett is back to awareness and able to give me directions to a hospital downtown St. Paul, so we finally pull up to the emergency room, get him in a wheelchair, and checked in.

This entire fiasco was all started by an ankle sprain. Monday night, Brett was playing basketball, came down on someone else’s foot, and severely twisted his ankle. We knew it was bad from the swelling and how tender it was, but after talking with a triage nurse we didn’t have any evidence that it might be broken, so we were going to wait to assess it the next morning. In the meantime, we wrapped it, iced it, and had Brett pop some anti-inflammatory pain meds.

He was feeling a bit better by the time bedtime rolled around, so we set him up to be comfortable as best we could. He woke up and had to go to the bathroom, though, so I helped him hop his way there and sat him down. This is where he tells me he feels like he’s going to be sick.  I gave him our bathroom wastebasket, but it was full of tissues so I went and grabbed an empty bucket. On my way back, I heard the wastebasket fall and came back to the bathroom doorway to see the basket and tissues at his feet and Brett passed out.

It’s easily one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced in my life. To see your favorite person in the world in a situation where there is little you can do to help just sucks. Feeling so terrified for them but so helpless while at the same time thinking, “F*ck if I know what to do but f*ck if I’m going to let anything happen to you. You are mine and I will do whatever I have to for you.”  It's crazy.

X-rays were done at the hospital and they didn’t see any breaks or fractures, so we’re just dealing with his sprain as best we can now. They gave him a brace for his ankle, crutches to hobble around on, and some lovely pills to numb the pain. We came back home and got him settled in for the day. I finally hugged him and cried a little, so happy to see and kiss his pink lips.

Now, I’m totally babying Brett and trying to make sure nothing can go wrong again. He keeps telling me that he’s fine, but I say, “If you saw my face looking like that, you’d be protective, too.” This is his second day off work, but he wants to try to go back tomorrow. Of course, I’m trying to convince him that he should take it slow and take a few more days.

I keep flashing back to his face that morning and think three things. One, thank goodness it was, although dramatic, nothing more serious than it was. He didn’t fall, it’s just a sprain, and he’ll be okay. Two, thank goodness he woke me up to help him so I was there. Three, thank goodness we are married, and he is now on my health insurance!

Ok, four.  I also think it's a really good idea to be more prepared than I apparently was.  To know what to do in emergency situations and where to go as well as how to get there.  Take some time to look over those things.  Then, go hug the ones you love and give them extra kisses on lovely pink lips.

December 6, 2010

Why so serious?

This weekend, we were hanging out at an old school Vegas style lounge, watching the gray haired population of St. Paul boogie down to John Mellencamp while enjoying cheep drinks and good company with a few of our friends.  These are friends that Brett has known for years and years and who are good, quality people. 

But (didn’t you see that coming?) their style totally rubs my style the wrong way sometimes.  Aka to be heard you have to shout.  To be right you have to be pushy and one sided.  And ‘funny’ often means being an asshole.  And being an asshole often means sexist jokes or comments.

I will say that their sexism is very passive, subtle, and generally not terrible.  The annoying part of subtle sexism, though, is that it’s to hard to call out!  Especially with someone who will never back down.  They will argue an absurd point to the farthest points of absurdity.  Reason plays no role here.  It’s survival of the loudest.

I have no idea what to do in situations like this and get really frustrated, putting a damper on an otherwise great evening.  It has never crossed a line with me to seriously impact our friendship, just one of those things that comes up more frequently than I’d like and leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.

I’d like to be able to brush it off better, but it seems like I fit the humorless feminist model.

Damn you, feminism!  Your awareness has ruined my ability to sit through too many songs, movies, TV shows, jokes, and typical conversations!  I've become better at dealing with it, but I remember when feminism first really clicked for me.  It made life sort of terrible.  Everywhere I went, everyone I spoke to, I feel like sexism was just all up in my face.  I couldn't get away from it, and I had very little power to change it.

Nowadays, I feel more in control.  I see sexism and am able to better analyze it, which somehow gives me a bit more peace of mind.  If I can understand the system that is creating this song/show/movie/etc, it relieves the tension I feel with that one instance and puts my focus back on the system where it belongs.  Ya know, hating the game, not the playa.  (I also think I've become a bit that helps, too.)  The crowd that I hang out with has also changed.  Some d-bags have been ditched, the crowd reorganized, and some people have followed along in my feminist footsteps.

This all helps, but invariably, I still come across people and situations that boil my blood.  In situations with receptive friends, I'm generally ok bringing up the topic and discussing it.  Most people, when given a quick, simple rebuke, take it and step down.  Some people (as with this one friend we were hanging out with over the weekend) are not so easy.  And some situations (thinking of a certain family thanksgiving where I heard the worst, most tasteless joke ever told...) are also not the most opportune for a serious discussion on why certain things are not ok to be said.

What do you do in situations where addressing sexist jokes/comments is not an option?  What do you in situations where calling out the joke/comment is possible?  How do you best rebuke sexist jokes/comments?

December 3, 2010

Mixtape Masters: Ski Pron Edition

Hey, Friday and Friends!

It's the beginning of winter here in the bitter cold lands of Minnesota.  We have temperatures dropping, a hefty bunch of snow on its way, and only eyes peaking out from bundles of scarves and hats as we shuffle along to our next destination.

Know what this time of year means for us wintery folks?  If you said anything along the lines of hot chocolate, sledding, cuddling under blankets, enjoying long books, singing carols, baking cookies, or a fat man coming down the're wrong!  This time of year means one thing and one thing only for the snow dogs, and that is SKI PORN!

Yes, yes, ski pron!*  The wonderful feature length videos of nothing but some badass people shredding powder, huckin cliffs, and often cartwheeling down the sides of mountains!  And just like the more traditional forms of pron, these movies always try to have a plot, but lets face it.  We just want to get down to business and on to the action!  Face shots and all!

Nothing gets me revved and pumped for a long six months of bitter cold like some good ol' ski pron!

For my first Mixtape Master set, I'm honoring this special genre of adventure films.  One of the best parts of ski videos (especially TGR's latest ones) are the music!  They have some rocking beats that make me want to go carve out some turns!  Hope you enjoy!

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The list includes...
Making Me Nervous by Brad Sucks
Eyes on Fire (Zeds Dead Remix) by Blue Foundation
Heart of Hearts by Chk Chk Chk (!!!)
How You Like Me Now by The Heavy
Creator by Santogold

Check out the other mixes with these peeps!

*its definitely going to be referred to as pron from now on.  I don't want my poor little blog to be linked to any real pron!  only fake ski pron!

December 2, 2010

Whatchu thinkin?

I remember hanging out, listening to music and doing very little other than looking into each other's eyes.  Brett and I had been together for just a few short weeks, and we were enamored.

He kept giving me these sly little smiles, so I asked, "Whatchu thinkin?"  A standard question of mine.

"Nothing," he said.  But I knew.  That look gave him away.

He was in love.

December 1, 2010

Funkiest of Funks

image from estasketch
Ever find yourself in a complete and utter funk?  Yeah?  That's where I'm at now.  Just a total funk.  The funkiest of funks.  And it sucks.  I'm so done being in a funk, but I'm having a hard time finding my way out.  Is this a quarter life crisis?  I think that's the new trend for our generation.  We graduate, try to get jobs, and realize that it doesn't get easier after graduation.  Just more confusing.  Enter quarter life crisis.  Maybe I should buy that convertible.  Doesn't that solve the crisis?

I've really been trying to keep perspective...perspective, perspective, perspective.

Here is an interesting story.  One day, before our wedding, a mutual friend of ours was talking with Brett.  I've always had a mixed relationship with this person - sometimes they are great to be around, sometimes they make me feel like an idiot.  So, friend is talking with Brett and says, "No, I've never had anything against Jenna.  Sometimes she can just be intimidating."

When Brett told this to me the next day, that line is where I stopped dead and couldn't move for a few minutes.  Me?  Intimidating?  I don't think I would use that word to describe myself EVER.  I think I'm the biggest pansy with so many insecurities that I couldn't intimidate a baby!  But here this person is using that word to describe me.  It blew my mind, and I couldn't stop thinking about it for days.

Wanna know the best part of this story?  The person describing me as "intimidating"?  Yeah, that is a person that I would describe as intimidating.  Irony.  We haz it.

Now, I've come across this a few other times in life where what someone thinks of me totally clashes with my version of myself or what I think of someone else seems to be the opposite of what they see in themselves.  Once, someone called me arrogant because I didn't talk to them much.  Again, my brian was saying, "WTF!? Here I am being shy and quiet and you think I'm arrogant!?"

How can my version of myself be so far off from what others see?  Which one is true?  Which one matters more?  How do I reconcile the two?  Is this real life!?  Is this going to be forever?

In the end, I have no idea, but it helps to keep perspective in mind.  To know that what I'm feeling may not come off that way to other I have to be mindful of the vibes I put out.  Because my shy, quiet, introverted personality has been interpreted as both arrogant and intimidating at different times.

Have you ever experienced this?  How do you keep perspective?