HOME           /           ABOUT           /           ETSY           /           CONTACT

Monday, June 30, 2014

Life Lately


There's been a lot of canning going on at my house lately. So I thought a can can gif was appropriate. Get it? ;)

Over the past couple weeks, Kim and I have picked enough strawberries and blueberries to make more than 50 eight ounce jars of jam. Combinations have included strawberry, strawberry rhubarb, blueberry, blueberry lemon and blueberry lavender.

In addition to selling some and keeping some, we're mulling the possibility of trading some of our canned confections, too. I just discovered a local canning exchange via a flier I picked up in Pittsburgh, so I'm going to see if we're able to take advantage of it.

And over the next few weeks, we're planning to make a raspberry jelly and other blueberry jam variations. Strawberry pepper jam is also a possibility, if there enough strawberries left. I'm hoping to post at least one of the blueberry jam recipes soon.

In other news, things have also been a little nutty for me expense wise. I learned last week that I need a crown on one of my teeth (RIP tooth), which turn out to be pretty damn expensive. The dentist said he could've tried a putting in another filling first, but with my health insurance changing at the end of July, it's probably not worth the risk if the filling doesn't take and I have to get a crown anyway. The crown is going to cost more than $300 out of pocket. Sigh. Bye money. I'm more mad at myself that it's happening, because it could have been prevented. An old filling began to crack because I have a teeth clenching habit I wasn't even aware of until my appointment. I noticed myself doing it a ton at the dentist's office; I guess I do it a lot when I'm stressed. The hygienist showed me my teeth x-rays, pointing out the erosion, and it was shocking to see how flat some of my back teeth have gotten. So not clenching is something I've been trying to work on. If it gets worse, I might need to get a mouth guard for when I'm sleeping. Weird.

In addition to what my mouth is going to cost me, I've had some minor problems with my car, which ended up being more than $300 in repairs. Ugh. But at least, as of now, my car is running great. It's about to hit 150,000 miles, so I want my little Honda to last for as long as possible.

Lastly, I cut my bangs over the weekend, and let's just say I made them a little shorter than I wanted them to be. I cut them unevenly, so I just kept chopping until they were pretty high up on my forehead. Yikes. Maybe I should just go to a hairstylist soon. Oh well. I still saved a few bucks, right? :)

Hope I wasn't too much of a downer here. But to make myself feel better about all these unexpected costs, I did some thrift store shopping over the weekend. I'm hoping to share some of my finds later this week as well.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Remixed Summer

Now that my blog has been become more than just a novelty to me now, I've been trying to challenge myself more style wise. This outfit is the result of some of those style challenges.



I'll be the first to admit these photos aren't the best quality. But going home on my lunch break and utilizing the handy self timer on my camera on the back deck was the only way to capture this outfit the day I wore it. Sorry, uninteresting location and harsh lighting. Hopefully you'll forgive me.

My favorite part of all this is that I utilized two pieces that are big summer staples of mine, an old chambray shirt and my daisy dress, and combined them. While the dress is awesome, sleeveless dresses in the office make me feel a little naked, and it's getting too hot to put a cardigan on top of everything.

OK. So this wasn't all my idea, either. It was a few other bloggers, like The Passionista and Delightfully Tacky, that gave me the tied shirt idea. I was hesitant initially, but now I'm totally sold! It's a great cover up alternative without feeling sweaty and nasty.



Outfit: Dress (worn as skirt), Target; Chambray, Old Navy; Shoes, Toms (similar).

What kinds of things have you been trying to evolve your style?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Time Travel Tuesday: Washington DC Postcard


I bought this postcard from an older lady at a garage sale a few weekends ago for 50 cents.

She told me she's 74 years old now, and went to Washington D.C. with her dad when she was five, so I'm guessing this postcard is about 70 years old.

It's a beautiful postcard not just because of the scene, but because the paper itself is higher quality, almost fabric-like.

The description on the back reads:

These beautiful Japanese Cherry Blossom Trees which line Riverside Drive, Potomac Park, were a gift to the United States Government by the Municipality of Tokyo, when Mr. Yukio Ozaki was Mayor of the city. In the Spring of the year, these dainty trees in bloom are a most beautiful sight and might suggest to the traveler a scene in old Nippon itself.

Where the little stamp square is, also, it says "place one cent stamp here." I could only wish postcard stamps cost a penny now!

The lady had about a half dozen beautiful postcards. I'm not sure why I didn't buy them all! Oh well.

I've never been to Washington D.C. to see the cherry blossoms, but it's something I've wanted to do for a long time. I think the last time I was there was when I was in high school.

Considering I graduated eight years ago, I'm probably long overdue for a trip, especially since I only live a six-hour drive away.

What kinds of touristy events have you longed to visit or have visited?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Strawberry Jammin' Forever

I'm not gonna lie; making strawberry jam is a bigger pain in the ass than most other jams I've made. But once I taste it, I know the fruits of my labor are worth it. Pun intended.



I think, subconsciously, I'm against anything and everything about strawberries. As a kid, I ate so many of them one summer I broke out in hives. I never ate them again until adulthood, because I was told I was allergic. I think my small, 3-year-old body simply couldn't handle five pounds of strawberries, or however many I ate. I don't even remember it happening. Turns out, I'm not allergic. At least, not when I don't eat my own weight in them.

Anyway, there are extra steps to making strawberry jam, verses other jams, like blueberry or blackberry. First, cutting the stems, coring them, and cutting the strawberries takes forever. Count on it taking hours, especially when working with locally grown berries, which aren't the ginormous berries found at most grocery stores year round. (I don't want to know what's done to them for them to be that big.) Basically, I never knew how big strawberries were supposed to be until I started picking and canning them. Picked strawberries are tiny, usually about double the size of a blackberry. Sad but true. Also, strawberry season is very short compared to most other fruits, only a week or two, so take advantage of the berries while they're around! Picking season here will probably be over by the end of this weekend.

Other extra steps when making strawberry jam include clearing foam that forms on the top of the jam when its cooking down. The foam needs to be scooped up constantly. This doesn't happen when cooking other fruits.

Lastly, when putting the stuff into jars, popping the air pockets with a sterilized pointy item, like a butter knife. Just go around the inside edges a few times to eliminate that problem.

I'm sorry for all of the snide comments. I'm a complainer by nature. The finished project, however, is delicious and worthwhile. And when canned via water boiling, it can keep for a year or more, without refrigeration. That always amazes me. It's magic. Even better, it's completely customizable, and I know exactly what goes into it, unlike the store bought stuff. I usually like putting in less sugar than what recipes call for, because the jam tastes tangier and fruitier that way. (And it's not super sweet.)

Anyway, here it goes:

Strawberry Jam
Recipe adapted from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserves

Yields about six 8 oz jars (have an extra jar or two ready just in case)

• About two quarts of sweet, sweet strawberries
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 6 tablespoons (or one box) pectin
• 4 cups sugar (original recipe calls for 7 cups)

Wash strawberries; drain. Remove stems. I like my jam with pieces in it, so I just crush the strawberries with a potato masher while they're cooking. Combine strawberries, pectin and lemon juice in a large sauce pot. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam if necessary. Ladle hot jam into sterilized hot jars, leaving 1/4 headspace. Attach two-piece. Again, lids need to be sterilized. Process 10 minutes in a boiling water canner.

Once removed from canner, leave jars sit undisturbed for 24 hours. After a day, check seals by pushing the lid. If they stay in place, without flexing up or down, they're sealed. If they move up and/or down, the container hasn't sealed, and you can either water boil it again with a new lid or refrigerate immediately to eat.

For clarification's sake: Jars and rings can be used countless times. Lids, however, when water boiling to preserve, can only be used once.




Side note: My favorite part of the canning process, besides the food of course, is hearing the pop of the jars after taking them out of the canner. That means they're sealing! I'm probably just weird.

Also, please please please, if you've never canned before and plan on trying it out, read up on it first. Ball is the saint of canning, so you can read more about how to do it the right way here. While a canning pot helps, things can be water boiled in a large pot just fine. It's just good to be educated about it, since botulism is a very rare but dangerous risk if not done properly. It's most common when canning foods with low acidity (not so much strawberries with lemon juice), but still, it's better to be safe than sorry.

On a brighter note, here's the glorious end result:


Have you ever canned before?

P.S. You can also view this recipe on the Pittsburgh Kitchen blog.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Time Travel Tuesday: Foxy Grandma



There are so many beautiful things about the first photo of my grandma with two of my uncles.

First is that darling swimsuit she's wearing. I absolutely love it. It's cool to know she wore the high-waist swimsuit style that's gotten really trendy again over the past few summers.

There's also my Uncle Rege, on the left, who's picking his nose. Classic.

But I think what I love most about this is that this is a new side of my grandma I never saw, as a young mother, probably not much older than me.

She died when I was 14, so while I knew her well from a grandma-type perspective, I never got to look through these photos and ask her about them when I was going through shoe boxes of old photos at my parents' house a few years ago. I only knew her with white hair, a perm, who was almost always sipping on a cup of coffee when I saw her. I know she hated being photographed when she was older, so she might have been the same way here, trying to look away from the camera. Or maybe she saw something in the distance. Who knows. I'm not even sure where they were, but my mom said her family went to New England beaches a lot as kids.

From the how old my uncles look here, I'm guessing this was taken in the mid-1950s, perhaps even before my mom was born. (My mom is four years younger than my uncle on the left and two years younger than my uncle on the right.)

I started digitally archiving family photos a couple years ago, but never got around to putting the scanned photos into albums to distribute. Someday soon, I hope. I even considered doing interviews with family members to bring a more detailed narrative to the photos, but that, of course, would take a lot of time and effort.

I just love that this moment was captured because the expressions in it are so candid. The second photo is cute too, but I mostly put that in because my grandma's face can be seen in it. I hope these are photos that can be enjoyed for generations to come.

Do you have any photos like this of older and/or deceased family members when they were younger?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Flower Child at the Farm

I visited my co-worker at her family's farm, Paskorz Berry Farm, over the weekend.



It was a beautiful place, tucked behind some houses and hills. I've been a huge fan of berry picking and canning over the past few years, so it's really exciting to know someone whose family owns a farm. And there's the whole utilizing locally grown foods, too.

Overall, my weekend was insanely busy. Friday night I went to the bar with a really old friend from elementary school who's moving out of the area, and subsequently ran into a bunch of other high school friends. And then on Saturday, a friend from Portland, Oregon was unexpectedly in town for the weekend, so we had brunch at this place some of my friends keep raving about, made our way to the arts festival for a little bit, and went to the Strip, a cluster of indoor/outdoor vendors and market goodies. That was all before seeing Kim at the berry farm, although briefly, because I didn't want to force her to pick berries when she was already out on the farm all damn day.

She was happy to take pictures, though, so I am thankful. I didn't really plan on photographing this particular outfit, but it's something I've worn a few times in recent weeks because it's bright and comfortable.

On Sunday, I cleaned the hell out of the house, my dad and the in-laws came over, and we cooked on our new grill for the first time.

Hopefully this week I'll be making some strawberry jam, from this very farm.


Outfit: Dress, Modcloth; Cardigan, J. Crew Outlet; Shoes, Toms (similar); Sunnies, Avalon (secondhand store).

What did you do over the weekend?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Monochrome Beach Getaway

Monochrome Beach Getaway

Pictured, clockwise from top left: Square Sunglasses; Sleeveless Chiffon Checkered Top; Modcloth Seren-Depp-ity Tee; Nylon Backpack; ASOS High Waist Denim Shorts in Black; Birkenstock Arizona Flat Sandals; Maxi Skirt; Modcloth Off to the Ocean one-piece in Anatomy; Modcloth Riding Down the River swimsuit top, and bottom; Topshop White Contrast Sunglasses.

I don't have any beach trip plans this summer. While I normally don't care for the beach, I'm really craving it right now.

For someone like me, there's usually not much to offer at a beach. I am self conscious, and I'm too pasty to ever tan properly. Most of my experiences at the beach include burning like hell the first day, and then sitting underneath an umbrella with a gallon of aloe for the rest of the trip.

But I don't know. There's the warmth. There's the salt water, slowly adding highlights to my brown hair. And my favorite part is the food, particularly fresh lobster and salt water taffy.

I haven't been to the beach for ages. It's been five years, I think. But a beach getaway would be swell right about now.

Anyway, I've been trying to stray from black and white in my wardrobe because it's something it's a simple go-to color scheme I often find myself wearing. But for the beach, I think black and white could be fun, and a contrast from what most people would be wearing at the beach: Bright colors, florals, animal prints.

For now, I'll be taking a little beach getaway in my mind, maybe with a fresh desktop background.

What are some of your favorite beach wear staples?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Time Travel Tuesday: Camping with Dad


In the name of Father's Day this weekend, I will let this photo of me, hideous fleece sweater and all, be unveiled onto the Interwebs.

My family went pop-up trailer camping a lot growing up. I think my dad thrived on preparing for the ultimate mini-adventure. We never went anywhere too exciting: Lake Erie, Virginia Beach, (and Disney World, once) but it was nice to always have a familiar place to sleep when traveling.

I was probably 10 or 11 years old here, since my sister Ashley looks about four. I love that she's holding a burnt-to-a-crisp marshmallow on a stick, with her deceivingly cute grin.

Unfortunately, it's really difficult to find a good photo of my entire family. Looking back, it seems like my mom was always holding the camera. If not her, it was my dad taking photos.

Anyway, as many old family photos as I've pored through, there are few good photos I've found of us camping, even though it felt like we were camping constantly then.

While my dad and I aren't the particularly close, this is how I think of him at his best: Readying camp, building fires, doing goofy stuff. He installed a singing "La Cucaracha" horn in the van we used to pull the pop-up trailer. Once in awhile the horn got stuck. It lead to some amusing situations with people screaming at us in the middle of the night. I realize now that all those things he did while we were camping were ways of showing he loved us.

Do you have any favorite childhood memories with your dad?

Monday, June 9, 2014

(Th)ree and (F)ree Rivers Arts Fest

Summer in Pittsburgh unofficially begins with kickoff of the annual Three Rivers Arts Festival.



For 10 days each June, hundreds of art and jewelry vendors, stages with free music of names big and small, and activities for kids are all offered in the heart of downtown, at Point State Park. Mark and I go every year without fail. (And FYI, the band pictured above is called Machete Kisumontao. A friend of Mark's is in it.)

I think the people watching there itself is worthwhile. The Pittsburgh spirit, particularly in the main grassy area where center stage is located, is constantly pulsing with life and spontaneity.

Several years ago I took a summer photography class and we spent a whole evening taking photos at Arts Fest. I remember getting so many adorable photos of families, little girls and boys hula hooping, and other fun shenanigans. I've come prepared with my camera ever since.

One instance I wish I could have captured with my camera this weekend: A little boy trying to catch raindrops with his tongue. It was a very cute, short-lived moment.

However, this cute little doggie begging for food makes up for it:



Of course, there's some great art to be seen, too.

While I didn't buy any glass mosaic work at the Jenn's Jems booth, pictured above, I learned the store also offer classes. A four-hour class costs $40 and includes everything but a frame, which seems pretty reasonable to me. It might be something I'll take advantage of in the future.


The only piece I did buy was this Mr. Rogers digital print, which I love because 1.) Mr. Rogers is an awesome Pittsburgh-area native, and 2.) It looks very pop art inspired, like a lot of Andy Warhol's work, who happens to be another world-famous Pittsburgh native.

And most importantly, 3.) Mark and I have been seeing this piece for the last two or three years at the festival, and we finally broke down and bought it this time.

At $35, the price was OK, but it's fairly big, I think 13 by 19 inches. That was our hang up last year, but whatever. I'm sure we'll find a place for it.

The artist, Red Robot Creative, also does similar portraits of other American icons.

One other booth I really enjoyed was Abandoned Pittsburgh, because I love looking at photos of rust belt decay. However, most of the things I see online are from Cleveland and Detroit, not so much Pittsburgh these days, so it was nice to just enjoy looking at more local stuff.

For local readers, the festival continues until June 15th.

What kind of art catches your eye?

Sunday, June 8, 2014

This Sums Up My Weekend


Image from OITNB.tumblr.com.

I freaking love Orange is the New Black. It's an amazing show. All the hype about it is definitely justified, not only because it opens the discussion about an otherwise marginalized population, prisoners, but because the show is done so well.

I can't say whether the show captures a 100 percent realistic portrayal of prison life, but regardless, it opens up an almost taboo-like discussion that a lot of people weren't talking about before.

It's based on a true story, of course, but the adaptation is going much differently than Piper Kerman's memoir, which I read earlier this year.

When Mark was in grad school, he was involved in a group called the Appalachian Prison Book Project. They not only send books to prisoners, but they also talk about realities that prisoners face day to day. I also took an investigative journalism class in college that focused on prison life, recidivism, and restorative justice. I guess it's always been a subject area that piqued my interest.

Anyway, as you may or may not know, the second season of Orange is the New Black premiered on Friday, all 13 hourlong episodes, and I may or may not be done watching the episodes already. Please don't judge me.

No spoilers here, but just saying this season goes into a lot more depth and is more polished than first season, in my opinion.

Hope you all had a good weekend. :)

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Polka Dotted Stripes

This was my garage sale chic shoppping outfit this weekend.



While simple, this outfit broke one of my biggest longtime "rules". Since college, I've almost never worn shorts. It's about being self conscious about my legs, as I've talked about before.

But seriously. These shorts are comfortable. I got them at an Old Navy sale for $1.50 a few summers ago. (I also have another pair in a muted orange color I bought the same day.) And since it's now officially summer weather, complete with ridiculous humidity and temperatures in the 80s on a daily basis, wearing pants simply isn't an option.

I also love mixing prints. Polka dots and stripes are seriously the easiest things to pair together.

The shorts were happening. Screw stupid perfect body expectations.

Even with the insane number of skirts and dresses I now own, I'm hoping shorts will be making a more regular appearance this summer.




Outfit: Shirt, thrifted; Shorts, Old Navy (old); Shoes, Toms; Sunnies, Avalon (secondhand store).

Do you face challenges on becoming more body positive?

PS I now have a Facebook page for the blog. Like it if you're cool!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Time Travel Tuesday: Mt. Rainier Postcard


Because of my newfound interest in old postcards and photos, I decided to start a new weekly feature: Time Travel Tuesdays!

I think I love old postcards because they're reminders of a bygone era, when people wrote to one another, when photos of new places couldn't be seen instantaneously. I was obviously drawn to this particular postcard because I've been to Mt. Rainier National Park. But this is also one of the few postcards I've seen in black and white, which is kinda cool, too.

I used to write letters to friends a lot; it brings a personal touch that writing emails and sending texts simply doesn't convey. It also provides a little keepsake that can be read again and again.

Hopefully it's a habit I can pick up again soon.

Maybe I am living in the wrong time period, haha.

Just FYI, the back doesn't have a message on it. I'm trying to find more postcards in my budding collection that were actually written on and sent to someone.

For now, this won't be limited to just postcards, because I only have a few right now. I have a lot of old, scanned family photos, so I think some of those photos will be revealed in this feature, too.

What do you think postcards were like to send when it was more than just a novelty form of communication?

Monday, June 2, 2014

June Blog Goals

So it's been a month since I launched the blog! Time to do a dance.


But seriously, I'm so proud of myself because having the courage and self confidence to launch this took several months. I was brainstorming the angle I wanted to take and taking notes on what successful bloggers do for way too long, since November or December. I think I was overworking my brain, because thrift store shopping and being frugal is something I've done with my mom since I was a kid, and on my own with friends ever since I could drive. I even spent my 18th birthday driving to different thrift stores around the city with my best friend. I was a weird kid.

Anyway, it was Twitter that finally thrust me into doing this instead of putting it off another month. And Mark harassing me to make it happen, haha.

But anyway, now that I'm a month into this thing, I have a better idea of where I want to go with it.

My primary goal is to have: one outfit post, one recipe post, and one DIY post per week this month. I'm not sure if it's realistic, particularly with my insanely inconsistent work schedule, but thought I'd get the goal down in writing to challenge myself. I've been pretty successful with outfit posts in May, because they're easy, but DIY and recipes not so much. That's partially because 1.) I haven't been cooking as much as I'd like, 2.) My oven was broken for most of this month, and 3.) My sewing machine I got for Christmas is still in the effing box. (Refashionista has been motivating the hell out of me lately, though, particularly with this and this dress.)

Recipes won't be too hard, since I'll be beginning to make lots of delicious jams with my co-worker Kim this month. I've gotten into canning jams over the last few years, and they're seriously easy and delicious. Along with my canning abilities, Kim's family owns a berry farm, so we're pretty much a match made in heaven. We'll probably be strawberry picking this weekend. We're even considering selling under the name "U B Berry Jelly". Get the pun??

Here's strawberry picking pictures from a couple years ago to get you prepared/excited:



My only other goal for June is to try to take better indoor pictures. It's such a challenge to get good indoor photos with an auto camera setting. I'm definitely going to start playing with manual settings and hope for better results. Side note: My DSLR camera is six years old, so sometimes it simply doesn't like to cooperate. An upgrade might be in order within the next year or two.

I have other ideas, themes, regular posts I'm tossing around as well, but those are to be revealed once I get my thoughts a little more organized. :)

If you have a blog, what kinds of things have you challenged yourself to do?