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Archive for the ‘nerd’ Category

For the past two years, I used a Sugar Paper for Target planner for all of my goal-setting, to-dos, and daily planning.  I’d switched when I was unable to find another favorite planner of mine, and I discovered that the weekly layout with a facing weekly planning page was exactly how my brain worked!  When I went to buy one for 2018, I made the sad discovery that they weren’t selling that planner through Target any more!  I had fallen in love with the weekly layout, and the planners directly sold from Sugar Paper didn’t even meet my needs 😉

As I discussed this “tragedy” with Husband, he suggested that I make my own.  He even volunteered to set up an Excel spreadsheet to auto-populate the dates onto the weekly pages and calendar spreads so that I wouldn’t have to do it by hand.  In fact, he went so far as to program it so that I can enter any year, and it will calculate the proper dates!  Hooray!  He really is amazing.

Not only that, but he helped me fine-tune the margins and cell sizes so that it prints out just right.  I decided to make a half-letter sized planner and use the Staples Arc system to bind it (I purchased THIS punch–affiliate link).  In past years, I stuffed all sorts of bits and pieces into my planners and they ended up bulging in an unsightly way with extra papers (and then they’d fall out if I dropped the planner…).  I purchased a set of Arc covers and the largest discs I could get so that it has plenty of room to grow.  I’ve already added several bits and pieces (notes from my daughter, slips of paper with school information, ephemera stapled to patterned paper, and cards…) and it makes me so happy to see them as I flip back.  I love that these bits of life are now part of the planner in a sleek way.

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After lots of fussing with the layout and fonts, I finally reached a look that satisfied me.  I took my favorite aspects of the two planners I’d loved and some modifications that I’d been making to them and mashed them all together.

At the front of the planner, I have a year-at-a-glance calendar that I modified from HERE.  Because it wasn’t quite the right aspect ratio for what I needed, I took a screen shot of the .pdf and re-created the title with fonts that match the rest of my planner.

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Each month starts with a notes page, which I am using to keep track of the things I accomplish during that month.  On the facing page, I have a planning page to help me keep track of my intentions for that month in each of a number of categories: scrapbook (memory keeping), sew, home, and health.  I also have a spot for important dates and a box where I can make notes for future goals and hopes — the ones I want to get to but aren’t reasonable for that month.

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Right after that comes the month’s grid.  In a future iteration, I hope to have the boxes programmed with conditional formatting so that the borders show up only if there is a number inside… but for now, I might add pretty patterned paper to the blank boxes… maybe!  These pages are printed on card stock, so they serve as a bit of a divider.  I may add little tabs (maybe with matching patterned paper??), as well.

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Each week has a planning page and a week-at-a-glance page that I use to keep track of my daily to-do list and appointments, etc.

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It took me until almost the end of January to get everything in order, but I was using test pages from the beginning of the year, and that really helped me work out some of the finer details before I printed everything.  I am really, really happy with how this turned out!  I am so very grateful for Husband’s help!  This wouldn’t have come together without him.

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Squid

This handsome fellow was a surprise Christmas gift for Husband.

Stuffed Squid made from IkatBag Menagerie pattern

 

His name is Qubit, and he is a squid.  Or SQUID, if you are a physics-y kind of person.  😉

Indulge me while I share some more beauty shots.

Stuffed Squid made from IkatBag Menagerie pattern

Stuffed Squid made from IkatBag Menagerie pattern

Stuffed Squid made from IkatBag Menagerie pattern

Stuffed Squid made from IkatBag Menagerie pattern

Stuffed Squid made from IkatBag Menagerie pattern

I used the simply fantastic Menagerie pattern by LiEr at Ikat Bag to make this handsome sea creature.  He is made from two shades of solid-colored fleece that I bought on an extreme sale (it turned out that when I had to buy a spool of lighter green thread for matching topstitching on the eyelids, I spent more on it than the fleece!).

He came together so quickly!  I absolutely loved using the pattern.  Every step was well-explained, and the amount of information provided is fabulous.  I am really looking forward to the chance to make more animal variations.  I highly recommend this pattern to anyone who wants more whimsical animals in their life.

Qubit is now at Husband’s office, overseeing his work there, and providing some squidsperation.  I hope he gives Husband a laugh or smile whenever he sees him!

 

P.S. Happy birthday today, Husband!  I love you.

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Friends of ours have a fantastic annual Academy Awards party.  One of the best parts of the party, to me, is the food!  Not just because I love food (which I do), but because everyone who attends brings refreshments that are cleverly tied into the award nominees.  Food and puns!  Can you get any better than that?

This year, we were excited to see Guardians of the Galaxy on the nominees list.  Husband and I both really enjoyed the movie, so when we came up with the idea of making dirt pudding with baby Groot on top, we were thrilled.  It got even better when I realized we could make the dirt pudding gluten-free for my friend.  In my excitement, I misspoke and said, “Oh!  We can make it grooten free!” And then we had to do it 😉

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We based our dessert on my sister-in-law’s dirt pudding recipe, but we made a couple changes to ensure that it was truly gluten-free.  Instead of using the commercial pudding mix and milk called for in the recipe, we made a batch of Better Homes and Gardens’ homemade vanilla pudding using tapioca starch instead of cornstarch.  We also purchased gluten-free chocolate sandwich cookies to swirl inside and top the pudding.

But in my opinion, the best part is the baby Groot.  Husband and I worked together to form him out of Wilton’s Shape-N-Amaze edible modeling compound (which is also gluten free, and even though it is technically edible, it does not taste very good).  His body is given support by a chopstick inside his “trunk”, and we bored a hole through the middle of a couple whole cookies to give some structural support at the base.  The pudding wasn’t very solid, so baby Groot had some trouble staying upright, but it was all okay, since it was just for fun!

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Geeky birthday cake

For Husband’s birthday, I made him a dark chocolate cake with orange-flavored buttercream.  This time I made the buttercream recipe that was passed along to me from a friend (thank you, Jen!!) and was exactly the style of buttercream that I was hoping for when I made my daughter’s birthday cake (and that frosting wasn’t).  This buttercream is delicious and frothy and white and sugary and has a lovely satisfying crunchy crust.  And with the orange flavoring, it was divine.

I did not, however, do nearly as good of a job on the decoration of the cake.  ::sigh:: I am such a perfectionist, and when I envision something in my head, it kind of stings when it doesn’t come out right in reality.  I have a LOT to learn when it comes to cake decorating, so the chances are pretty good that my cakes are going to look very amateurish…  And that was definitely the case this time.  Not only did I have a more basic fail in the baking of the cake (expired baking powder!  I should have known better!!!), but the decorating leaves a lot to be desired.  There are no do-overs with white frosting and bright green piping!

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But I’m showing it here because 1) I want to make it perfectly clear that my projects do not come out well every time! and 2) the idea was fun.  It was Husband’s idea, really, to have the gaming dice on the top of the cake to add to his birthday year.

 

I did a lot of practice drawings to try to get the dice just right.

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Multi-sided dice are hard to draw!  I practiced a ton on scraps of paper, but even so, they came out a bit wonky.  I have a new level of appreciation for the precise piping that professional decorators do on their cakes!  I just cut the barest tip off of the corner of the zip-top bag I used to pipe the words and drawings.  I also played with one of the other fancy tips that came in the package I purchased when I did my daughter’s cake to do the border.

Practice makes perfect, right?  I’ll just have to make a lot more cakes! 😉

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One of our favorite family projects is our costumes each year.  As fall progresses, we inevitably begin discussing what our family costume could be.  This year, we had our idea pretty early, but without a real reason to put the costume together, we had sadly decided to just let it go this year.  With a 4-month old and an almost-3-year-old, our time was too valuable to spend on a costume that we’d never really wear anywhere.

But that all changed when an invitation to a Halloween party arrived from our friends!  We had about a week and a half to put together our costume, and we forged full-speed ahead!

Introducing: Lego Movie family!

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We decided to be the “real-life” versions of the characters (rather than make ourselves into minifigs/blocks).  P.S.  Thanks, Amanda, for your help taking photos!

I absolutely love this annual project that Husband and I do together (in the future, I’m looking forward to our kids’ increasing involvement!).  I really feel like we work so well together for our costumes; it is a true collaboration, and we have so much fun!

Husband was Emmet, of course.

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We made a construction vest for him out of orange felt and reflective duct tape (with drawn-on pocket and pen, just like Emmet’s vest!).  Husband also made an ID tag for himself.

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I was Wyldstyle.

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I found an image of the graffiti-style artwork on her jacket by doing a search online, and we turned it into a Silhouette cut file so that we could make a freezer-paper stencil.  Husband did a fantastic job tweaking the stencil to fit properly on my jacket and lining up the two colors!

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The part of the costume I was most looking forward to was adding color to my hair!  Unfortunately the inexpensive “hair mascara” we found wasn’t quite as vibrant as we’d hoped, but it did an okay job.  Now I think we’re going to have to find more costumes with colored hair for me! 😉  I’m considering just putting colored streaks in my hair from time to time…just for the fun of it!

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Our daughter was Princess Unikitty.

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The most important part, of course, was a headband with ears and a unicorn horn.  We created the horn based on some photos of cute unicorn horns on Etsy, and made the ears with stitched triangles of pink felt.  The horn is attached to the headband by a “strap” of felt sewn into its base, and the ears attach with loops of elastic.  It’s a bonus that the horn and ears are removeable; it just worked out that it was the most effective way to attach them.

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I also made a tail.  I spend hours (literally) nursing my son, so I have a lot of time to visualize these sorts of things in my head, and I was pretty excited that my idea to use a gusset to give it a squared-off shape worked the first time!  The waist straps are based off of a tutorial for adorable dinosaur/dragon tails that I have pinned (I really, really want to make some more tails now! ;-))  I added the pink tutu at the last minute because I am convinced that if Unikitty were a human girl, she would most definitely have a tutu.  Plus it made V’s outfit more “costumey.”

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What had clinched the idea for this particular family costume was that we had a hat for our little boy– it was Husband’s when he was a baby, and it was absolutely perfect for Benny the Spaceman!

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We found a blue onesie at Hobby Lobby and purchased some blue pants elsewhere.  I did another search online for the Lego Space logo and turned it into a cut file for my Silhouette.  We stenciled a solid white layer first, then added the yellow and red once it was dry.

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How about some action shots?

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Spaceship, spaceship, SPACESHIP!!!!!

Spaceship, spaceship, SPACESHIP!!!!!

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Garden 2013 wrap-up

Even though I pretty much consider myself an ex-physicist, that doesn’t mean that I’m no longer a nerd! I just spent a few days writing a data-filled post about my garden last summer.  It made me so happy to make those simple little plots!

Yes, I know it’s 2014, and winter is in full swing.  I realized I never did a wrap-up of my 2013 garden, so with garden planning on the close horizon for this summer, I thought it would be a good time!  (P.S. you can see all posts about my 2013 garden by clicking HERE)

garden2013diagramAbove, you can see the diagram of our garden.  We stuck to the plan and I kept a spreadsheet of the produce we collected out of the garden.

First, let me show you some overall results for our garden.  I created some simple charts based on my tally of the produce harvested last summer, and I’ll address each type of produce individually.

Tomatoes:

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Overall, we got fewer tomatoes than I expected this year.  They also started producing much, much later than I hoped or expected, especially since we live in a warmer climate than in previous years.  I liked the flavor of all of my varieties pretty well.  Fourth of July is fairly basic, but I plant it because of the promise of early and continuous fruiting.  Well, it was continuous, but certainly not early!  My first Fourth of July tomato was harvested on July 27, and the second on August 5!  Best Boy tomatoes tasted pretty good, but I had problems with them getting eaten by something (caterpillars?  deer?  tallish gnomes with very sharp, small teeth?) just before they were ripe enough for picking.  It was pretty discouraging.  As always, the Jelly Bean tomatoes are my favorites (so sweet!!), but it seemed like our overall harvest was smaller than last year (when we were in upstate NY).

Cucumbers:cucumbers2013

I was extremely delighted with the Burpee cucumber harvest I had in 2013!  Throughout the summer, I collected sixty (yes, 60!) cucumbers from the three vines on that trellis.  And I was selfish– I didn’t share even one 😉  Cucumbers are probably my favorite thing to come out of the garden, and I delighted in eating them on salads, in sandwiches, and as creamy cucumber salad.  The Ferry-Morse cucumbers?  Not so much.  I harvested 15 from the three vines on their trellis, and really, I didn’t like their flavor or texture.  I did learn one thing though:  all the previous years that I thought I had such abysmal luck with cucumbers may have been due to this particular variety.  The FM vines were never as healthy-looking as the Burpees, which were right next to them; the FM vines died quickly, and I finally ended up just cutting them off the trellis at the beginning of September.  The Burpee vines continued fruiting all the way through September!  I will most definitely be planting the Burpee variety again. Yum!

Zucchini:

Well, we had a better year this year than last time– but that’s not saying much, since I had quite the war with our resident groundhog back in upstate New York.  I really was hoping for a bumper crop (zucchini bread is sooooo yummy, and I love those zucchini fritters).  But I was pretty disappointed.  Despite the promises on the seed packet that we would “feed the neighborhood!” we got a grand total of 9 zucchini from two plants.  Granted, one of those nine was over 5 lbs, but that wasn’t enough to make up for the relative dearth of zucchini.  I’m really not sure what is going wrong.  Is something managing to get inside our fence and eat them??  I do have a suspicion that there were some deer raiding the outer perimeter of the garden, based on suspiciously “pruned” branches of the tomato plants– and every once in a while the zucchinis would look a little skimpy.

Herbs:

To be complete, I must include my little herb garden box.  This was an astonishing failure.  I think the main problem was that I thought it was getting watered when it rained, but in truth, part of the box was shielded by an overhang off of our house.  I probably should have watered it more, anyway, since it is a container and therefore by definition can’t hold moisture as well.  I also think the box was a bit too shallow, but it’s what I’ve got.  I’ll try again this year and see if I can do better.

Estimated value:

I was interested to see if we saved any money by having our own garden… though that isn’t the main point of having a garden (it can be a bonus, though, for sure).  I just love growing things, and I love the taste of fresh garden produce!

So first, because I’m so nice and Type-A, I keep a spreadsheet of my “personal spending,” that is, spending that we have categorized as my hobbies.  This is not only to keep myself accountable to staying within our agreed-upon hobby budget, but also so that I can track how much I’ve spent on a particular project or project categories.  Using this spreadsheet, I calculated that we spent about $145.50 on supplies for our garden this year.  That is hopefully more than we will spend in future years, since we were buying some pieces that will be used for future gardens (the plastic/metal stakes, the trellises, the fencing, and supplies for the rain barrel).

Next, I totaled the counts or weights of each of the varieties I harvested.  In the chart below, I show how I calculated an estimated value for the produce we collected in our 2013 garden.  Unfortunately, I forgot to take note of the summer prices for the produce!  I had to make some educated guesses for the tomatoes and zucchini–see notes below.  I tried to be fair, but err on the low side.  However, cucumbers have been a steady $0.68 each throughout the year at the store where I normally buy groceries.

In all, I estimated that we produced about $101.15 of tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini in the summer of 2013!  Not bad at all!  That means we recovered all but (145.50-101.15)= $44.35 of what we spent in supplies for the garden.  Pretty cool.

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* prices based on local Sam’s Club prices, 1/21/2014.  I think this is fair, since my tomatoes are of a high quality.  A friend reported to me that at a local organic market, all tomatoes were generally 4.99/lb (organic), sometimes 3.99 on sale. Organic zucchini was 2.99/lb.  NOTE that my garden is not intentionally organic, though I didn’t add any commercial fertilizers, organic or otherwise, at all this year.

** After I started recording just the count of zucchini harvested, I realized that it is most often sold by weight.  Therefore, I estimated that each zucchini was about 0.5 lbs (except for the enormous one, which I had actually weighed). 

Coming soon:

A new blog post with our garden plan for 2014!

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PhD defense

Okay, so I am super-thrilled with how this layout turned out!  So if you don’t agree, don’t tell me, haha!

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My first layout back felt a little stilted and forced, even though I was reasonably happy with the outcome.  But this one came together so much more quickly and easily!  I spent <30 min during my daughter’s morning nap pulling supplies out to choose the color scheme, etc., and I actually put together the layout during her afternoon nap (about 1.5 hours), finishing up with the die-cut portion of the title later.  So about 2 hours!  Yay!  I think I like it more for less hemming and hawing!

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I used the MME January Challenge sketch for the layout.  I looked at it pretty closely, and then walked away to interpret it mentally.  While I was working, I was trying to channel Melissa and Shimelle— during my scrapbook hiatus, these ladies were among the designers who inspired me the most.  I’d read their posts and watch their videos and just itch to play with paper!  I completely and utterly admire their layering skills and I’m hoping to practice what I’ve learned from them as I make more layouts.

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I have a hoard of MME “So Sophie” that I pulled out for this challenge.  I’ve had this photo printed for a really long time, but for some reason I never got around to putting it on a page.  In my head, I’d envisioned a color scheme involving royal blue, but when I pulled out these papers, I realized that the indigo/aqua/olive combination was perfect!

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One last little note: Those star-shaped brads have been in my collection since like, forever!  Or really, probably something like 2007.  When I bought them, I’d pictured using them on my engagement scrapbook layout (still haven’t made that one!  Husband proposed in our local planetarium… 🙂 )!  I decided to finally break into them for this layout, since my dissertation was an astronomy topic.  🙂

Supplies:
patterned paper: My Mind’s Eye “So Sophie” We Are Family- Floral Swirl (A-side), Loop-de-loop (both sides); My Mind’s Eye “So Sophie” Sisters- Peaceful Plum (B-side)
cardstock: Recollections (kraft), American Crafts (white)
alphas: My Mind’s Eye “So Sophie” Clever- Pretty Girl Sticker Alphabet, Silhouette SD (font Wendy Medium)
embellishments: Making Memories (olive plaid brad, white metal ornament), The Paper Studio (star brads), Tim Holtz Tiny Attacher, embroidery floss, paper doily
punches: Fiskars (Apron Lace), Martha Stewart (Bubble Bath), McGill (star shape)

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