2.12.2009

Meet Chewie!

I was playing around with the camera a couple nights ago, and inevitably the faces of my favorite little dogs ended up in the path of the lens. Yes, I said dogs!

I know I've introduced much-loved, silly Wicket here already...


... but it's the first glimpse of Chewbacca, better known as Chewie, here on the blog.

Hello!
Chewie's the newest addition to our home. Since we moved a couple of months ago, we felt we finally had the space to provide another little dog with a home (and Wicket with a friend)! Chewie came to us from a rescue group on Petfinder.com and we couldn't be happier with him... definitely makes life even more interesting!

2.11.2009

In the Kitchen: Wicket Biscuits

After Wicket's bout of sickness, I resolved to monitor his eating more carefully to see if any of the myriad of treats he consumes could have been a trigger for gastric upset. During his illness, Jess and I tossed his open bag of food and his half-full containers of treats and purchased new items, scanning the labels of each product for anything suspicious.

After some research and trial-and-error, he's now happily on a diet of a portion of dry Spot's Stew twice daily, with the occasional American-made rawhide stick and maybe a Purina Carver or two to round things out. Though I concede that everything made overseas is not necessarily evil, Jess and I decided that for anything Wicket was going to ingest, we'd try to stick with domestically-produced items. We were dismayed to find that the list of treats that fit our criteria was slim. Through careful perusal of the local pet stores' goods, we found even within a given brand the ingredients list were not consistent - so we chose a few that we felt comfortable with and stuck with 'em.

I decided to try my hand at making some homemade goodies for him, something with ingredients I knew he would like, and more importantly, would be safe. Here's what I came up with:

Wicket Biscuits for Dogs
Ingredients:
3 small glass jars of chicken baby food
1 cup rice flour
1 1/2 cups of your pup's current dry kibble
1/4-1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella cheese, optional
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Put the dry kibble into a food processor and pulse in spurts until the kibble is a coarse meal.

3. Empty the baby food jars into a medium mixing bowl.

4. Add the rice flour and ground dry kibble and mix to form a dough. If using cheese, add to mixture now. Add water or extra rice flour as needed for mixture to take on a very stiff consistency.

5. Roll the dough out on a smooth, hard surface, dusting with flour as necessary to prevent sticking.

6. Using a small cookie cutter, cut out individual biscuits and place on a cookie sheet.



7. Brush tops of the biscuits with olive oil.

8. Bake for 20 minutes, then turn off oven and let sit until oven is cool. Turn trays if necessary so the biscuits bake evenly.

9. Feed 1-2 biscuits as a treat, and enjoy sloppy kisses from your happy spoiled puppy! Store extra biscuits in the fridge and make sure your best canine friend has lots of fresh water available at all times.

2.06.2009

In the Kitchen: Brie and Pear Quesadillas

My good college friends Sun and Jan came up from LA a little while ago, and my local friend Jas and I eagerly made plans for their stay. We ended up spending a glorious Saturday getting our eyebrows threaded (whereupon I grudgingly admitted the truth: they DO do a better job than my own plucking), window-shopping and enjoying each other's company over a couple of delicious meals.

One of the girls had gotten a recommendation to try The Peasant and the Pear in Danville, so, eyebrows smarting, we headed over for a late lunch. We found it to be a cozy, cute restaurant downtown with a more upscale ambiance than not. From our varied choices of artisan burgers, sandwiches and personal thin-crust pizzas, all of us agreed that the food was top notch. One of the best things we tried was the appetizer: a brie cheese and pear quesadilla with a sweet-and-spicy chutney. I'd never thought of the combination before, but the results were so good, I knew I had to attempt to recreate it at home.
A quick trip to Costco for a bunch of pears and a large-ish wheel of brie and I was good to go... especially when a Google search turned up what appears to be the exact recipe from the restaurant! (Since it's part of another site, I won't repost the recipe here, but check out the link in the last sentence and print it out!)
I found a small round measuring spoon works as well as a melon baller for neatly removing pear seeds: a fact I'll certainly remember for later...


Cheerful chutney ingredients on the chopping board. Though the photo in the recipe shows a light, chunky chutney, I tried to replicate the restaurant's smoother, darker condiment.

Chutney on the way with some brown sugar to cut through the clean zing of fresh-squeezed lemon juice, which I substituted for the white wine called for in the recipe.
Lots of delicious pears and the brie cheese.


Flour tortillas from Trader Joe's -- more organic in both taste and shape.

Tortilla, pear, brie, and mozzarella stacked on a baking sheet.
Sweet deliciousness!

11.30.2008

Invitation Design: Stephanie

I almost cried when Steph called to tell me she was engaged; I was so happy for her! Her and her fiance (now husband) found each other after years of prayer and they couldn't be more right for each other.

Steph and Charles' wedding had one of the most beautiful backdrops I have ever seen: the majestic granite cliffs of Yosemite, rising above the tiny Yosemite chapel where they were married.

Steph's color was a soft coral with accents of brown. To match the natural, rustic setting of their wedding, I drew a pen-and-ink sketch of Yosemite's traditional dogwood blossoms and scanned it into the computer to use as the main motif for her wedding materials. I chose a creamy paper with a distinct laid texture to further reinforce the nature theme, while still retaining a sophisticated and elegant quality to the piece.

Here's the original sketches, and how they came out in the final design:




The invitation consisted of two staggered tea-length panels, fastened with petite matching coral brads for an easy-yet-clean binding. The first panel had the main information, while the second showcased a simple map of the Yosemite area and housed a tear-off RSVP postcard.



I created small icons to indicate different areas on the map.

The progams were simple, one-panel sheets in the same textured cover stock and inks as the invitations, with the dogwood blossoms accenting the top, and finally, matching escort cards helped carry the theme through on the big day.



10.02.2008

Invitation Design: Jasmine

Damask-type patterns are all the rage this year, and not just for weddings. The distinctive pattern is all over bedding, wallpaper, window treatments, fashion, desk accessories -- pretty much whatever one can think of, someone has made it in damask. The excessive use of it fails to dampen my enthusiasm for it, though... I'm fascinated by the way the patterns use symmetry and organic shapes to form such striking designs.

My MOH Jasmine got married on 8.8.08, the luckiest day of the year, and her beautiful wedding had a running damask theme throughout. I was honored to create a damask design to help tie everything together, starting with the invitations.

A chocolate vertical pocketfold opened to reveal a centered main invitation panel, the top of which was accented with a green satin ribbon (to match the custom Pantone ink) and a dimensional monogram. The damask design ran across the top of the design, breaking around the monogram to further highlight its presence. I chose a pale ivory cover stock with a subtle column texture, creating a sophisticated dimension across each printed piece.



On the left side, three inserts let guests know all of the pertinent information. The bottom of each had a more subtle, scaled-down damask pattern to tie them in to the theme.

The wedding was a shaded but outdoor event in super sunny Las Vegas, so a program that doubled as a fan wasn't just a cute idea -- it was a must-have! It was two-sided, with ceremony information on one side and the bridal party details on the other. We stuck them together with a sheet of sturdy gold cardstock in between and a thick wooden popsicle stick as a handle. A corner punch purchased from the scrapbooking section at Michael's added a little bit of elegant detail.



Jazz's cute favors: mini bamboo steamers with jasmine-scented incense inside. I created a tiny matching tag (the one in the pic is a little bent from being carried home in my suitcase!) for them and we used matching green ribbon to hold it all together.


Matching table numbers too!

10.01.2008

A Foray into Textiles

I have always, always held a huge fascination with fabrics. The way they feel and smell, the potential for crafty items that spins in my head when I hold a particularly pretty length of cloth in my hands. A trip to my local fabric store is something to look forward to, for me, and for Jess, something to lose patience during. :) Though who could blame him -- I could spend hours there!

I am not, by any means, a great seamstress, but I do enjoy a bit of hobbyist sewing when I get the urge every once in a while. So somehow, I got the idea in my head that maybe, just maybe, I'd like to extend my design skillset out to textiles. Hmmm.

But how to get from the drawing board to the bolt? I started researching everything, from contacting textile designers whose work I admired to local textile design programs, to investing in screenprinting materials to print on fabric myself. I certainly learned a lot, but the quest was about to get a little easier... enter Spoonflower!

Spoonflower is a site where members can upload designs, choose an amount of fabric and then receive the printed goods after a short wait. The site is still in Beta and only open to invited testers, so I almost died when I received my invite in my emailbox. I wasted no time transferring a design to the computer, changing up the colors a little, uploading it feverishly (the same night I got my invite, no lie) and ordering a fat quarter's worth of printed 100% Kona cotton. And in no time, I came home one day to a package of this:


It's not perfect, because I messed up the repeat somehow (designs must be uploaded in a format that's fully tileable) and you can tell where my design's "edges" are:


Oops! But, so far so good for my first tiny little foray into the world of textile design... I'm still thrilled with a childlike giddiness that I am holding a piece of cloth with my own design on it and I'm sure there's more to come!

9.25.2008

Weddings weddings galore...

I'm constantly reminded that I'm in my twenties, simply by the sheer amount of weddings I've found myself attending over the past couple of years. I've been privileged to be a part of several by helping to provide stationery designs. Here's a little taste of what's to come! (Yes, it's been a busy 2008!)







9.14.2008

Wicket the Invalid


I learned a lesson this past week. Actually, make that a few lessons.

#1: Pet insurance is worth it. Just because a dog is young and spry doesn't mean he can't have serious health problems. I started researching when we first got Wicket, got overwhelmed by the choices of deductiblesandcopaysandcoverageandwhatnot and set the project aside, assuming he'd be okay. He was fine for more than the first year of his life, right? Sigh.

#2: Vet trips add up... but, honestly, cost isn't a valid reason to hesitate to take a sick pet in. Wicket started throwing up a small amount of bile in the morning early last week. For the first two days I thought nothing of it -- perhaps he just felt empty from having an early dinner the previous night -- but the third day, I figured something had to be up. I went home from lunch during work that day and never went back. The poor little guy was throwing up and had poo the consistency and color of ketchup. He ended up spending the night at the vet after I rushed him there, receiving subcutaneous fluids, injected with antibiotics and antacids, and then discharged the next morning. I stayed home from work to keep an eye on him... and good thing, because before I knew it, we were back at the vet when his symptoms became worse. A few X-rays, more sub-cu fluids, blood tests and hundreds of dollars later, we had at least determined he had no obstructions in his intestines, and no giardia nor pancreatis. It was just a very bad case of irritated innards (non-technical terms of course). More medicine and a bland diet prescribed, and we were back at home. My wallet was aching, but I realized my heart hurt more. I just wanted to see my little dog back to his normal happy self.

#3: A happy dog = a happy owner. Okay, I knew this before this incident, but now I know it all the more so. I can't begin to describe the relief I felt as Wicket started to recover. I don't think I knew until then how stressed out I'd been over the whole thing!

#4: Prepare now for future pet disasters. I'm going to (gladly) sign Wicket up for his very own insurance plan. After researching many companies, we've decided to choose Pet Plan for Wicket. Their feature of being able to pick a co-pay and deductible as needed, and then a high annual limit that refreshes indefinitely, was the best fit for us. Second choice was Pet's Best. Before doing my research, VPI was the company I'd heard the most about, but upon seeing their very detailed criteria of what constitutes a covered illness/injury and the specific amounts per incident, it just seemed way too confusing. Many of the insurance companies offered coverage of routine care as well, but as the amount ended up being largely the same and I'd have to pay and then get refunded anyway, that wasn't an important factor in my decision at all. A few others I looked into were Embrace, PetFirst, and ASPCA.

I leave you with a few recent photos of the little guy, since I haven't posted any for a long time. Hopefully he'll look this happy again soon (he's getting there)!




8.20.2008

LYS

Local yarn store, that is.

Ever since I started knitting, I've become obsessed with finding the most beautiful, glorious yarns and bringing them all home. Between the web and several different LYSs, I've got my hands on more than I know what to do with!

Here's a still-growing list of sites and stores that I frequent, listed here partially for my own reference and partially to share, as well:

LYS, Northern California

Knit This, Purl That
205A Main Street, Pleasanton, CA
925.249.9276


That Yarn Store
7164 Regional St, Dublin, CA
925.828.1327


Adela's Yarn
3344 Village Dr, Castro Valley, CA
510.581.5326

Yarn Boutique
963 Moraga Rd # C, Lafayette, CA
925.283.7377


Article Pract
5010 Telegraph Ave, Oakland, CA
510.595.7875


Fashion Knit
675 Ygnacio Valley Road, Walnut Creek, CA
925.943.3994


On the Web

http://www.knitpicks.com/
http://www.kpixie.com/
http://www.purlsoho.com/
http://www.yarnmarket.com/

7.09.2008

Not Just for Grandmas

… but I gotta admit, anyone who mentions knitting to me also takes responsibility for the mental pictures of little, white-haired ladies with bifocals halfway down their noses that are instantly conjured up in my mind. However, unless I want to jump several steps ahead of myself (hehe), those imaginary images are fading fast… ‘cause I’m officially smitten with the knitting bug.

About a year ago, I was inspired by one of my dear co-workers (whom, in case she happens to read this, I do not consider an old lady by any definition, of course), whose fingers are as nimble with her knitting as her eyes are sharp with her job. When I expressed an initial interest in seeing her work, she brought in her current project, a gorgeous lace shawl, and when I oohed and aahhed over that, she offered to help me get started myself.

I haven’t knitted since my grandma first patiently introduced me to the craft, when I was a jumpy little eight-year-old with fingers that quickly grew tired of the work. But, being the obsessive person that I am, I dove in headfirst, purchased just enough stuff from www.knitpicks.com to secure free shipping, and convinced Jess to stop by Adela’s Yarns in Castro Valley with me on a Sunday afternoon so I could gear up for the incoming shipment. There, I fell prey to the irresistible charms of a pair of dark, rosewood needles and a hank of silky-smooth Tilli Tomas yarn.

Thus, I settled down to stitch happily away at my first project: a faux-lace scarf with a Falling Water pattern. Pretty, see?? :)



I used size 6 needles, no real gauge (since it’s a scarf and I really just wanted to see how it turned out more than anything else), and 260 yards of Tilli Tomas Pure & Simple 1-ply 100% silk yarn in Silver Salt. It’s expensive, but isn’t anything that’s 100% silk?

After successfully churning out a couple of the pattern repeats, I was so exhilarated I decided to sew myself a knitting needle case to house the collection of needles I planned to get, using odds and ends of fabrics I'd collected over time.

[Outside] -- chocolate brown fabric with a center strip of quilting fabric with a print that reminds me a little bit of Japanese paper. I secured the matching brown ribbon with a pair of dainty antique brass buttons in the back of the case (not shown).


[Inside] I used a synthetic satin-back taffeta that I happened to have a good yard of, left over from some failed curtain project, I think. I used the shiny side for the needle pockets and reversed it out for textural contrast for the background fabric. A line of brown ribbon (crookedly-sewn, I'm afraid) indicates where the user is to fold down a protective flap over the tops of the needles before rolling the case up. I wish I'd thought to use interfacing or batting to cushion it and give the whole thing more structure, but I didn't have either of those lying around. Oh well, it serves its purpose well.


Anyway, since that one scarf, I've become a knitting fanatic, gathered stash like a crazed woman and cast on way too many projects! So far I've officially finished... one. And that was only because it was a Christmas present last year for somebody and I HAD to finish it; I guess I work better with deadlines. Someone stop me...

Vir's Partial Knitting List

"Minimalist Cardigan" by Ruthie Nussbaum [Interweave Knits Fall '07]
Current status: Back w/ shoulder shaping complete, fronts.sleeves in progress
Yarn: 100% Italian Merino - Karabella Aurora 8 in Teal (#20)

"Fetching" Fingerless mittens by Cheryl Niamath [Knitty Summer '06]
Current status: Complete(!) and gifted
Yarn: 100% Italian Merino - Karabella Aurora 8 in Seashell Pink (#1380)

"Cecily Beanie" by Louisa Harding [Knitting Little Luxuries]
Current status: Cast on
Yarn: 50% Silk, 50% Wool - Louisa Harding Grace in Steel (#3)

"Diane Cardigan" by Louisa Harding [Knitting Little Luxuries]
Current status: Back halfway complete
Yarn: 16% kid mohair, 84% polyamid - Louisa Harding Impressions #11

Not to mention that I've somehow gotten myself into crochet as well... I blame the amigurumi! But I'll save that for another post... ;)