Monday, August 19, 2019

The Stephen King Wristlet

Rich and I had tickets to see the Goo Goo Dolls and Train at the Xfinity Center in Mansfield, MA and the last time we were there for a show, there were no bag restrictions.  In fact, I don't remember anyone even looking in my bag or much security at the gates.  Last month, through a moms' group on FB, I became aware that the venue now has bag restrictions.  (And much stricter security, which I'm all for, by the way.)  You can bring in those clear vinyl bags or small wristlets.  The wristlet I brought to the show in Boston back in the fall was actually too big for the size restrictions at the Xfinity Center so I decided to whip up a new one.  It needed to be no bigger than 8x5x2 inches.

Anna and I both had a great relationship with the nurses at her elementary school.  (Trust me, this is somewhat related.)  With last year being the first year of middle school, Anna had to spend the year getting to know new nurses.  In addition, because we all want her to become more independent, I didn't communicate with the nurses as much as I had at the elementary school.

So during the school year, here's what the nurses learned about me from Anna:
  1.   I get up at 9:00 in the morning. (Yes, but only on weekends! Or in the summer.)
  2.   I drink a lot of diet soda. (True.)
  3.   I like to read Stephen King books.  (True.)
Man, I was like, "Anna, did you tell them how I always get you to school and dance on time, and how I cook dinner five times a week and you always have clean clothes to wear and how I help you with your homework when you need help?"      

I don't remember the first Stephen King book I read but I plowed through whatever I could find at the library when I was in high school and I've been reading his books ever since.  When I saw this fabric made to look like his book covers, I had to have it.  And I thought it was perfect for my little wristlet.


I had to fussy cut the fabric to make the most of the book covers.  As I've mentioned before, I'm a slow cutter.  I'd rather take the time upfront to get my pieces perfect.  Sewing is so much easier when the pieces all fit together.

Here's the other side of the wristlet:


I was so, so happy with how this turned out!  I even put a little pocket on the inside which was the perfect size for my license, credit card and some cash.

Pattern:  I have a notebook where I write out my patterns or make notes on pattern adjustments.  I didn't need to use a "pattern" for this wristlet as it is essentially a zippered pouch.  Once you know how to sew a zippered pouch, you can make all sorts of things without having to buy patterns.


Hardware (the clasp on the handle):  When I cleaned out my closet a couple of months ago, I had some bags that needed to be tossed.  They were either faux leather/plastic from 25 years ago and peeling or smaller crossbodies that had pockets for cell phones from 1999.  I cut off all the usable hardware before I said goodbye and that's what I ended up using on the wristlet.  Those bags may have been junk but at least some part was able to be salvaged. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

I'm just a mom who needs to make dinner.

Today, I have another installment of I'm just a mom who needs to make dinner for you.  These are real meals (sorry, no fancy plating) made by a real mom (me!) who is not a fan of cooking but wants to limit how much take-out/restaurant food is consumed.  Eating meals made at home is healthier and saves money.

(These are iPhone photos but I couldn't help myself and had to edit them because the photos in my July post were absolutely horrid.)

Mini turkey meatloaves with scalloped potatoes and green beans.  If you've cooked ground turkey, you know how it can end up very dry.  To prevent these little meatloaves from drying out, I add a ton of chicken stock when I mix up the ingredients.  Like you will think it's too much, but it's not.  You want the mixture to be extremely wet - obviously not a bowl of soup - but there will be more moisture than you're used to.  These cook up beautifully and are not dry.  

Eggplant parm served over pasta, with Caesar salad and garlic bread.  I love eggplant parm but don't want to be bothered with the whole process of making it so I cheat and buy it frozen.  We usually eat this when I don't have a lot of time to cook.

Veggie tacos with mexican beans.  I make veggie tacos using roasted cauliflower.  It's pretty easy to do.
  • Preheat oven to 425
  • Cut up a head of cauliflower and spread across a baking sheet
  • Drizzle with olive oil and mix around (I usually use my hands)
  • Sprinkle taco seasoning over the cauliflower (don't mix it up again)
  • Flip over a couple of times while roasting
I've tried placing the cauliflower in a mixing bowl and then adding in the olive oil and seasoning but I found that a great deal of the seasoning didn't stick and I ended up sprinkling it around on the cauliflower after I had dumped it on the baking sheet.  And then I had an extra bowl to wash.

Trader Joe's cauliflower gnocchi (service pizza style) with homemade brushetta.  Okay, so we tried the cauliflower gnocchi from Trader Joe's and, meh, it was kind of a bust.  We liked the taste but the texture was really gummy even though I roasted them in the oven after I had cooked them on the stovetop.  Granted, I didn't have a ton of time to roast them and pulled them out after 10 minutes because at that point, we needed to eat or I was never going to get out of the house.  But still, after 10 minutes in high heat, they were still the same as they had been on the stove.

For a topping, we used Trader Joe's pizza sauce and shredded Italian cheese (not Trader Joe's.)  The pizza sauce was okay but it seemed to have darkened while it was heating up in a saucepan over low heat, which I thought was a little odd.

Pulled pork (made in the crock pot) sandwiches.  I made quesadillas later in the week with the leftovers.

Buffalo chicken salad (I cut up a rotisserie chicken to make) over a bed of lettuce, topped with blue cheese dressing and diced red onion.  Rich and the girls made sandwiches but I wasn't very hungry so I went with extra lettuce instead of a roll.

Steak and cheese subs.  I know, I know.  Not the healthiest but they are homemade.  The girls and I only eat a tiny bit of steak so it's more like a veggie sub with a little steak.  There are roasted green peppers and tomato slices in there.

Sauteed chicken covered in tomato slices, served with roasted zucchini, garlic mashed potatoes and baked beans.

I obviously didn't make this, but I feel the need to include the pickle pizza from Town Spa in Stoughton.  I know it sounds weird but it is so incredibly tasty.  Town Spa serves "bar room" pizza that is popular (and somewhat unique) to this area.  This is the kind of pizza I grew up eating.  We love the pickle version!

To see my July edition of I'm just a mom who needs to make dinner, click HERE.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Enjoying our New England summer

Last week, we headed to Marconi Beach in Wellfleet for the afternoon.  The Cape Cod National Seashore is practically in our backyard so it only makes sense to take advantage of our location.


While the beaches of the National Seashore are beautiful - soft sand, clear water, huge dunes - they aren't the most ideal for swimming.  These are the beaches most likely to be closed due to shark sightings.


The water temperatures run on the colder side.  This summer we've seen readings between 58 and 65 degrees.  Chill-y.  The girls could get past that cold water if it weren't for the threat of sharks.  It doesn't help either when a seal pops its head up 10 feet from shore.  The girls saw that and they were all like, nope, not going in that water.


I do have a little bit of photography talk to include today.  All of the photos (except for the last one) in this post were taken with my Nikon 105mm lens.  This is such a versatile lens, great for distance, portraits and close-ups.  It's a prime lens, which means zooming in and out with your feet, and with such a long reach (105mm), sometimes you need a lot of space to do that zooming.  I hadn't planned to even mention the lens until I was editing the photos and cropped some of them.


We think this was a shark spotting plane.  It kept flying up and down the shoreline, circling out into deeper water.  The next photo is a crop in Photoshop of the above photo.  The lens is so sharp that even after a super-cropping, the photo doesn't lose its sharpness and you can read the plane number.


And at 105mm, I can sit in my chair and take photos of the girls in the water paparazzi style.  Ha ha.




A couple of beach portraits.  Summer freckles are out in full force.




Last Sunday, we ate dinner at Marshside in Dennis.  We eat there once or twice a year.  It's pretty tasty.  We decided to head over to Cold Storage Beach afterwards for a walk at low tide.


Lots of exploring going on.


The next photo is a crop.  Look at that little guy!


Don't worry.  All hermit crabs were returned to their natural habitat.



I told Rich to hold out his hand and close his eyes.  Nope, not happening.


Another crop.




Sand turtle!


Photography equipment used in this post:
   Camera - Nikon D750
   Lens - Nikon 105mm, f/2.8

Okay, so now for a painting update and how things sometimes kind of work out.  This was last weekend and I wanted to get the edging done on one wall before I went to the beach.  Rich had packed up lunch and he and the girls drove down to the beach.  The plan was for me to paint the edges, shower and then walk down to meet them.

iPhone picture

I was in the shower when I thought I heard someone knocking on the front door.  Weird.  When I came out I heard chainsaws.  Turns out some guys had shown up to take care of the tree that had fallen across the neighbor's backyard during the tornadoes.  Rich and I had attempted to pull down that huge branch hanging over our driveway (it was really the top of a tree) and hadn't had much luck.  Rich thought the entire tree needed to come down and we were dreading 1. trying to find someone to do it and 2. the cost.

So I walked down to the beach and told Rich he should drive back and talk to those guys about taking care of our tree.  He did and it turns out they've been picking up a ton of business by undercutting other tree removal companies.  Our neighbor was quoted $2,100 to have that big tree cleaned up from his yard.  These guys did it for under $1,000.  They took down our tree, which did have rot in the middle of it, and we had a large branch out front that had cracked after the fact, so they took care of that too.  Turns out, our other neighbor, who lives out of state and doesn't come up here very often, uses this company as well.  I'm glad I stayed back to paint because now we found tree guys.

I've been trying to squeeze in painting here and there between beach outings, meals, meal cleanups, etc.  This room has been challenging but it looks so much better than before.  I can't wait to share it when I'm done! (But seriously, so much painting.)  

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  TGUH is a participant in the Amazon Services Associates Program LLC, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.

Monday, August 5, 2019

May, June and July Book Reviews

At the beginning of May, I read two non-fiction books, which were both really good, and then I started book one of a long trilogy.  That first book (The Passage) is almost 800 pages long so I told myself that if I didn't bond with it right away, to let it go.  I immediately loved it so I grabbed the remaining two books and planned to read those in June, but I had a couple of other books to finish first.

I don't know about you but I always think I'm going to get sooooo much reading done while I'm on vacation and that usually doesn't happen.  My kids have the audacity to ask me questions and to start conversations with me on the plane.  The nerve of them.  (Sarcasm.)  Then when they're in the pool, I kind of have to keep an eye on them, and Rich and I talk.  So while I did do some reading, it wasn't nearly as much as I thought it would be.  And that's perfectly fine.  This was a family vacation, not a reading vacation.

I decided to delay my book review until I had finished all three books in The Passage trilogy, which is why you are reading three months of books in one post.

If you like reading Stephen King and/or you've read and enjoyed Margaret Atwood's The Maddaddam Trilogy, you're a good candidate for The Passage Trilogy.  It sometimes falls in the apocalyptic category, which is how I came across it, and it had really good reviews, so I decided to give it a chance even though I didn't think I would like anything to do with vampires.  Cronin is such a fantastic writer, he immediately drew me in and kept me interested.  I love reading books that really pull me in and make me feel like I'm there.  One night after I had read all three books I was walking on the bike path and there was rustling above me in the trees.  I kind of jumped and thought, "Vampires!" because I had become so involved in those books.

American Prison and Bad Blood were the two non-fiction books I read back in May.  

American Prison is an in-depth look at both the current and past prison systems of the U.S.  It's written by a journalist who went undercover to work in a private prison in Louisiana.  I learned so much reading this book.  The goal of privately run prisons is to turn a profit.  There was a time in history when prisoners were leased out, so to speak, as laborers.  The abuse was such that these prisoners were forced to work like slaves.  The author balances the book by alternating chapters between the history of prisons and his time spent undercover working in a prison.  Some of the information could have easily been a dry read but he kept it interesting and didn't drag it out.

I'm assuming everyone knows about Bad Blood so I'm not going to recap.  I found it super interesting and liked how the author set up the chapters.  I was fearful there would be too much blah blah background information dragging the book down but this wasn't the case for me.

Daisy Jones and The Six is a fictional account of a band told through interviews with its members and related parties.  This book has been hyped up everywhere by everyone and I was excited to read it because I've always been interested in the music industry.  Don't hate me but . . . I did not love it. I thought it was just okay and certain sections seemed to drag on for me.  I do give the author, Taylor Reid Jenkins, credit for a creative idea, but, in my opinion, it fell flat.  All of the characters seemed to have the same voice, so unless I read who was "speaking" it could have been any of them.  I know people say this is an amazing book to listen to, but I'd much rather read.  That's just what I prefer and listening to a book I've already read just to hear how much better it is as an audible isn't worth my time.

Over the years, I've had several friends who have worked (and still do) in the music industry, specifically with bands on tour.  I even hired a CPA (there's a good work story behind this that always makes me laugh to myself) to work on my team who, in a previous life, had been the drummer in a band with a record deal and a tour.  I used to ask them (and I still do) a billion questions because the act of putting together a rock show is super interesting to me and I love learning about it.  I know this is probably going to sound obnoxious but I picked up on "inconsistencies" in the parts of the book where the band was out on tour.  Maybe touring life was different back in the 1970s but it's a common misconception that bands return to their hotel rooms after a show.  They actually hit the road and drive through the night.  It's the best way to guarantee you won't be late for the next show.  Also, new, not well-known bands (like at the beginning of the book) usually don't even get hotel rooms.  They sleep on the bus and shower at the venue.  Record labels want to spend as little money as possible on new bands and if they did provide hotel rooms, you'd have two people to a room.  Also, they seemed to be spending a ton of time in hotels.  Did they only perform twice a week?  That's not going to bring in much revenue.  Okay, so a bit detailed, but stuff like that bothered me and made the fictional aspect of the book glaringly obvious to me.  

I picked up The Last Summer of the Camperdowns because it takes place on Cape Cod.  Warning: the first couple of chapters are slow, but it picks up and was an enjoyable (albeit a bit sad), somewhat poetic read.  Twelve year old Riddle Camperdown witnesses a crime but keeps silent.  Events surrounding the crime unfold over the summer, and as summer ends, the mystery is solved.  Fans of suspense will like this.  It's a little different than the typical thrillers that are so popular right now.

After I finished The Passage trilogy, I need a palate cleanser so I picked up The Flight Attendant.  Cassandra Bowden, a flight attendant, awakens in a dark hotel room in a foreign country next to a man who has been stabbed.  She's no stranger to heavy drinking, picking up strangers in different countries and lying.  The lies begin and continue until there seems to be no way out.  I thought this was pretty good for a trendy thriller.  I was able to figure out one of the twists at the end, but whatever.  A good, quick read.

The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace was such a thought-provoking book.  It's really an incredible book.  I finished reading it the other day and even though I've started reading something else, I'm still thinking about it.  Rob Peace grew up in crime-ridden Newark NJ, the son of a single mother and an incarcerated father.  While some people are considered smart because they are able to score high grades due to freaky memorization skills, Rob had a curious mind and wanted to understand each and every layer of what he was learning.  In short, he was brilliant.  He graduated from Yale with a degree in molecular biochemistry, but for reasons no one truly understands, he never followed through on his future potential.

This is one of the best books I've read this year.  The author does an amazing job at bringing you right into Rob's life while breaking down how race, class, drugs, family, friends, community, guns impacted how he lived.  Everyone should read this.  It's an American tragedy.  

Disclosure:  This post contains affiliate links.  TGUH is a participant in the Amazon Services Associates Program LLC, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn fees by linking to and affiliated sites.