Thursday, March 29, 2012

Things I Love Thursday: My Boyfriend

And you thought I was married.

No, really, I am married. And what I love is my boyfriend of a camera.

Yes, I really do secretly kiss my camera.  Okay, sometimes it’s not so secretive.

My boyfriend, Nikon D5100 + SB-400 flash
I’m sad my camera can’t take a picture of itself. What a great picture that would be. Alas, I must be content with this cell phone snap.  Nikon D5100 with SB-400 bounce flash.

My boyfriend is a Nikon D5100 DSLR. He’s most often equipped with his kit lens (an 18-55mm) or a 35mm f1.8 lens, and the Nikon SB-400 flash in the bounce position. And I love him.

I could really talk about my camera for hours (pages?) and why I picked it but I’ll try not to.

I am no pro. I upgraded from a hand-me-down point-shoot, but I knew I wanted my next camera to do all kinds of cool things, so I started researching.

Why a DSLR? I settled on a DSLR instead of a more compact (and potentially blue) camera when I realized that the most important things to me were the ability to snap multiple photos quickly and the ability to use an external flash (and also to get the amazing ranges in depth of field that DSLRs can provide). Some more compact cameras have hotshoes for external flashes, but DSLRs have the quickest shooting and the most choices of accessories (flashes, etc.) And I just decided that I’d be willing to carry it around. And I have been willing. And I do carry it everywhere.

my goddaughter taken with Nikon 35mm f1.8 lens
Here’s a cute snap I got of my goddaughter, because my camera’s so quick! 35mm f1.8 lens

Why Nikon? Really because Ken Rockwell told me to go with Nikon. Because he likes their flashes. The SB-400 flash is what sold me on a Nikon DSLR. Really, though, between Canon and Nikon, there’s so much quality, it’s really nit-picking when you compare.

Nikon SB-400 straight on flash and bounce flash
Excuse my gruddy hair and makeupless face, but this is a great example of why I love my SB-400 bounce flash. The left picture was taken with the flash straight on and the right picture was taken with the flash bounced off the ceiling. Doesn’t it look better and so natural?

Why D5100? So, there was the D40 that seemed perfect but discontinued.  Then the D3100 had come out, and Ken Rockwell told me that it was the perfect camera for me, but there were a few things about it that I was hesitant about: one being the LCD screen. So, I just waited. I had been waiting for a new camera and agonizing over the decision so long, that more waiting wasn’t hurting anything.

When I discovered that the D5100 came out (a little while after it was really released), it seemed perfect. It was definitely a little more expensive than the D3100, but the features that sold me were the better LCD on the back (so I can learn what I’m doing right and wrong as I take pictures), the articulating screen (I don’t use it all the time, but when I do, it helps me get some awesome angles), the ability to use the ML-L3 wireless remote (family photos with the remote instead of the self-timer! No more running back and forth. Just lots of fun family photos. I call it “tripod time” and my family knows what to do).

Tripod time with the family. Nikon 35mm f1.8 lens, ML-L3 remote
Silly family at tripod time!  If you look closely, you can see my thumb pressing down on the remote. :)

When I got it, I immediately ordered these things:

SB-400 flash
Nikon NC filter
ML-L3 remote
extra battery

And a little later, for my birthday, I got this lens: Nikon’s 35mm f1.8. It’s great in low-light and produces a nice, shallow depth-of-field for those pretty blurry backgrounds.

Grandma and goddaughter. Nikon 35mm f1.8 lens
Brandon’s grandma and our goddaughter.
Look at that nice shallow depth-of-field. And really, just another excuse to post a baby picture.

So far, that is my happy little family. I got this book and this book, which I referenced a lot at the beginning and still reference now and again. I liked that they each come with a gray card, which I keep in my camera bag.

I’m looking for a new camera bag, am planning a new camera strap, and of course, am shopping for new accessories. I’ll keep you posted on the additions to my boyfriend’s entourage!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Some Photos from my Alma Mater

On my way home from taking Brandon to the airport last week, I stopped by the University of Chicago, my alma mater, to snap a few pictures. The sun went down and it got cold too quickly :) but I still got a few that I like.

Early march daffodils in front of Eckhart Hall, University of Chicago
Early March daffodils in front of Eckhart Hall.

Eckhart Hall at dusk, University of Chicago
Eckhart Hall at dusk.

Reynolds Club at 57th Street, University of Chicago
Reynolds Club at 57th Street.

Hopefully I’ll get a chance to go back before school’s out to catch some sunny daytime shots of students and life. :)

(I tweaked the first 2 photos a bit in Picasa, but the last is straight out of my boyfriend of a camera, who I will gush to you about one day!)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mom!


We celebrated with my auntie and a lunch of yummy fried calamari and juicy hamburgers!

I love you, mom!

(Boy will she hate it if she ever finds out I posted a picture of her!) :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Aerogarden Update #5

It’s been about a month since my last Aerogarden update.


I’ve given in and raised the light because the cilantro is just huge and wants to keep getting huger. You’re supposed to keep the light as low as possible to encourage the slower-growing plants (like my basil), but I feel like I can’t keep up with the pruning of the cilantro, so I just gave in, like I said, and raised the lamp a little.

My basil still looks dinky compared to the cilantro and now the parsley, but really it’s doing fine. I’m just aggressively pruning it, following the instructions of this forum poster, so that I’ll end up with bigger, leafier harvests once the plant is matured. I’m really looking forward to fresh bruschetta and basil with fresh mozzarella.


And lastly, I’ll admit that besides being amazed at how big the parsley is, I’ve kind of forgotten about it. I haven’t been pruning it (I really should get on that) and I haven’t interested in the recipes I have that call for it. (I can’t even remember which they are, but I know they’re good ones from America’s Test Kitchen and their books like Cook’s Country and the Family Cookbook.)


At some point, I’ll keep you posted with recipes that I make with these herbs!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Another DIY Lamp Idea!

Just a quickie today! This June weather in March is exciting, but it's throwing off my life. ;)

Here's another great and amazing DIY lamp idea, found via Pinterest.  I actually got some lamps at Goodwill that I'm hoping will work (with transformations, of course! I'll keep you updated.), so I might not be doing any of these DIY lamps (at least not right now) ;) but this one is so cool, I just had to share! You may have seen it already (she posted it last year!), but if you haven't, you're in for a treat!

This amazing blogger made this lamp:

from this lamp:

Isn't that incredible? She used Coke bottles! And spray paint and duct tape. Amazing.

Check it out at her blog!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Things I Love Thursday: Deals + Art

deals and art

I love art. But as I looked at this deal for 20x200 today on Joss & Main, I realized I’ve never really bought any art for myself. Not art-for-art’s-sake art.

I’ve bought myself vintage movie poster reprints in art-type sizes, like these Audrey Hepburn posters:

2012-03-15 deals art

Images from and

I’ve bought prints and photos from places we’ve been, or that commemorate some cool historical event that is meaningful in some way:

2012-03-15 deals art1

My grandma worked at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933!
Images from

I’ve also framed lots of record sleeves and I’ve got an entire collection of cool Chicago and nature photography from my dad (more of which I’ll be sharing at some point).

DSC_0298 Photos by my dad, Howard Anderson

So, so far in my decorating, I’ve liked anything I hang on the walls to have meaning to me personally. So even though I love art, I haven’t ever really bought or hung any art for art’s sake.

Till over a year ago, I saw this print of a photograph by Younga Park, and shared it on my VictoriaVM blog.


I’ve been loving it, coveting it, and thinking about it ever since. I don’t know why I never took the plunge and just got it.

But when I saw this deal on Joss & Main, I had no excuses. $35 for the $60 print! How could I pass that up!

So I am patiently waiting for my deal code to be delivered into my inbox. I didn’t even want to post this, because there are only 73 of the limited edition printing of 500 left, but I’m risking it. :) I’m so excited to get this print! I don’t even really know where it will go, but I will keep you updated when it finds a home here!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Chili Mafalda (really, just Chili Pasta)

On Sunday, I had to take a break from grouting to feed myself, Brandon who was installing a new utility sink, Grandpa and Brandon’s stepdad who were changing the brakes on their various vehicles, and whoever else was stopping in and out of the house. The nearest pizza place didn’t open till 4, and the hamburger joint that delivers was short on drivers. So I had to open my freezer and see what I could find.


So I whipped up this Chili Pasta, based on a recipe I got from my cousin, Kirsten. This recipe is so easy and almost not worth posting about, but it works, is tasty, and might come in handy as an easy recipe for you sometime!

I did a variation on Sunday, so I’ll tell you what I did Sunday, what I usually do, and then post the original recipe.

“What I Normally Do”’s Ingredients:

  • 1 lb of ground beef or turkey (this Sunday, I used 2lbs because there were lots of guys…and it’s just what I happened to have in the freezer)
  • 1 chopped onion (I left it out this Sunday because Brandon’s stepdad doesn’t like onions)
  • 3 cups of mafalda noodles uncooked (really, I usually just end up using about a pound of whatever noodles I have on hand; bowties work really well)
  • 2 tsp chili powder (or more to taste) (and I doubled it on Sunday)
  • 1 tsp garlic salt (or more to taste) (and I doubled it on Sunday)
  • 1/4 c. ketchup (I used about 1/2 cup on Sunday)
  • 3 cups water
  • shredded cheese to top (I use Cheddar or Colby Jack, or really just whatever I have)

This is meant to be done as a one pot meal.  You brown the meat (with the onion if you’re using it), then add the water and pasta with the seasonings, and let the pasta cook in that liquid.  This Sunday, since I had 2 pounds of meat and hungry people waiting, I started water boiling for the pasta, then began browning the meat in a separate pan. I cooked the pasta for about half the time listed on the package, drained it, and put it back in the pot. When the meat was browned, I used a slotted spoon to drain it as I scooped it into the pot with the pasta. 

Once you’ve got the pasta and meat together, add the water, seasonings, & ketchup; stir, and let cook down so the pasta absorbs the liquid. Easy, right?


Serve topped with cheese (this is the most important part!) for a delicious and filling meal that’s also great reheated the next day.



Here’s the original recipe that I got from my cousin Kirsten, that I will try fully one day:

Chili Mafalda


  • 1 lb lean ground beef
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 jar (16 oz) med or mild thick n’ chunky salsa
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1 can (15 oz) black or kidney beans, drained
  • 1-2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 3 cups Mafalda uncooked
  • 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

In a large saucepan over medium heat, cook meat and onion until meat browns and onion is tender; drain. Stir in water, salsa, ketchup, beans, and seasonings; heat to boiling. Stir in uncooked pasta; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered for 13 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes or until pasta is tender and most liquid is absorbed. Sprinkle with cheese; serve immediately.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Well, the fireplace is grouted!


Of course, it was more panicky and harder work than I expected, but what hasn’t been on this project? It looks so “finished” and that’s all that matters. I am so ready to get started on the mantel!

Here’s a close up of the Warm Gray grout (before I totally wiped everything down – don’t mind the haze.)


I got help from Valerie in picking out the color – who knew there’d be so many grout color choices! I got the Warm Gray grout from Lowes and I used this grout boost additive instead of water, it’s supposed to eliminate the need for sealing the grout. (Though I might seal it anyway because of the fireplace soot.)


My panic arose from mixing too much grout at once (I wanted to make sure I had the right proportions since I was using that additive, but I should have just gone with my first gut instinct and mixed only half at a time.) and I got about as much grout on the rosin paper as I did in the seams.


I learned that next time I need to pay more attention to my tile spacing and whether or not I should use sanded or unsanded grout.  But it all worked out! So well, that you can see I even took down the rosin paper from the fireplace!


I’m tired, but excited to keep moving forward on this project. I’ve got more boring wall-work to do (I’ll save all these days worth of boring-ness for one post) and then on to the mantel. Woodworking is something I can handle. (I say that now…)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Cole’s Bunting

I’m over at the Modern Seamstress today, posting about how I made Cole’s cute little name bunting!

Head over there and check it out!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dyeing My New Favorite Sweatshirt

I love dyeing things. Inevitably, I find some sweater, top, t-shirt, or sweater in a style I love but there aren’t a lot of color options. Or I want to refresh/revamp a Goodwill find or a hand-me down. Or I realize just what a bad idea that white bathmat was.

So I dye it!

Here’s how I turned 3 gray sweatshirts into a gray sweatshirt, a turquoise sweatshirt, and a green sweatshirt!


How to dye:

1. Start with your awesome garment/bathmat/whatever. Make sure it is mostly (60% or more) made of a fiber that will accept dye:  cotton, wool, silk, linen, ramie, rayon, or nylon. Know that blends will dye a lighter color than what’s on the box or bottle, and that different fibers/fabrics accept dye differently. (That’s one way of saying, be willing to just go with the flow when dyeing. I’ve never tried to perfectly match a color, so I’m already not setting myself up for disappointment!)

I got this awesome sweatshirt from Old Navy (of course it’s no longer available). I like it because it’s got a cute style, but it really is comfy like a sweatshirt. I actually got it in a heather navy color, and I loved it so much that I ordered the only other color, gray. But since it’s 60% cotton/40% polyester, I knew I could dye them! So I ordered 3 grays. (I actually also ordered another navy one to dye a black/gray!)


2. I went to Jo-Ann’s and picked out my Rit dye colors. I chose Aquamarine and Apple Green (never mind the black – that’s for the navy sweatshirt). I’ve used both the box (dry powder) dye and liquid dye super successfully. The liquid just had the colors I wanted this time.

I totally just follow Rit’s directions for washing machine dyeing. I always use the washing machine method! (I’ve only ever done it in a top-loading washer.)  Anyway, the directions tell you to add a cup of salt to the dye bath, hence the salt.


3. Before I started dyeing, I removed the buttons.  My sweatshirt is 60% cotton/40% polyester, so I knew they would dye a little lighter than the bottle. The cording on the buttons and loops looked like they were 100% cotton, so I knew they’d soak up the dye, and to its full brightness! I didn’t want them to look funny, and I wanted to keep the cute contrast, so I used a seam ripper to take them off, planning to sew them back on later. (Wood can accept dye also!)

It was tedious, but worth it!

2012-02-17 dyeing sweatshirts


4. Then, I set my washer on the hottest temp that the fabric will allow. Hot water and cold rinse, and on the smallest load setting.

I thoroughly wet the sweatshirt to ensure even dyeing. I just used the water from the washing machine till it was soaked through. Then set the sweatshirt aside.

2012-02-17 dying sweatshirts

(A note about shrinking cotton: I learned in fashion school that cotton will only shrink so much over it’s lifetime, say 3%. So if you buy a new item, and shrink it to that max 3% immediately, it won’t shrink any more. We think our clothes shrink in the washer or dryer because they’re always shrinking a little each time till they reach that 3% mark. Does that make sense? So just shrink your sweatshirt (or whatever) right now as you dye it, and it will stay the same forevermore!)

5. Add a cup of salt to the washing machine.


6. Pour in the dye.  I let it all agitate for a bit to mix the salt and dye in the water before I put in the sweatshirt.


7. Then I put the sweatshirt in, and let it agitate.

HERE’S THE IMPORTANT PART: Whatever you’re dyeing has to remain in the dye bath for at least 30 minutes. Most washing machines have an agitate cycle of 10-14 minutes, so I set my cell phone stopwatch (what would we do without cell phones?) to 10 minutes or so, and kept going back to the washing machine to reset the agitate cycle 3 or 4 times, whatever it takes to keep the sweatshirt in there for 30+ minutes.


8. I let the washer complete its cycle. It rinses and rings out the sweatshirt and voila!

2012-02-17 dyeing sweatshirts1

9. Because I was also doing a green one, I repeated the whole thing with the green dye, without washing the washing machine (ha) in between. I figured I didn’t mind if my green was a little aqua.

2012-02-17 dyeing sweatshirts2

10. To clean your washing machine of all this dye, just run a large load (the highest water level) with detergent and bleach. I just pour some of each in without measuring! :) And I wipe down any dye splatter with a rag soaked in bleach.

(Also, it’s up to you if you wash your sweatshirts again right now or just do it later.)

11. I dried the sweatshirts and sewed the buttons back on.


I kind of had to finagle with my scissors to get the cording back into the little pockets.


12. And woohoo!! 2 new sweatshirts! Now I’ve got 3 different colored sweatshirts to wear this early winter/spring!


(My aqua/turquoise sweatshirt debuted in yesterday’s post with Baby Cole!) :)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Baby Presents in Action

It was so fun meeting little Cole! What a cutie!


All wrapped up in his personalized blanket :)

The bunting blends perfectly with his Classic Pooh themed nursery.


And “Mr Sanders” is the perfect complement to his espresso crib and 100 Aker Wood map :)


Here’s a shot of me giving the little guy a taste of what life will be like with me and my camera! :)


What a great weekend with family and a new little baby!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Things I Love Thursday: New Baby Presents!

Not new baby-presents, but new-baby presents! I’m so happy for some of my favorite cousins who’ve just welcomed their first baby into the family! A little boy they named Cole!

We’re hoping to head down to their house soon to meet the little guy, but in the meantime, here are some gifts I’ve made for him!

(I’ll get better pictures of everything once it’s all installed around the baby or in his room!) :)

His name on a bunting:


A Winnie-the-Pooh blanket to go with their nursery theme:


A “Mr Sanders” vinyl decal for above the nursery door: (This is one I really can’t wait to see installed!!)


And when I saw this fabric, I couldn’t pass it up for first-time parents! Run the edges through the serger  and call them receiving blankets!


Making things for new babies is so fun!!!

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