WIP craft-off!

The “to do” pile of projects next to my sewing machine is stacking up, so I think it’s time for me to review my current Works In Progresses and set about finishing some of these off!

First up is my Halloween costume – Holtzmann from the new Ghostbusters movie! I picked up a khaki jumpsuit online and just need to add orange reflective tape and two ghost logo patches to it. Quick, easy, and needs to be finished in the next 4 weeks!


You can get these coveralls at gbfans.com

Then there’s the costume I’m making for the Dickens fair at Christmas. I have lots of time for this, but it’s much more complicated than my Halloween costume. I’ve almost finished the skirt, and I’m about halfway done the cape (need to add trim before I attach the collar), but there’s still the bonnet (which seems difficult), and I’ve never worked with any kind of faux fur before (also potentially difficult). At least I have until mid-December for that.


WIP caroler costume


Last in the pile is the red crochet shawl that I started forever ago, that I recently took with me on a short plane ride, and therefore actually made some progress on. The pattern was a free Ravelry download which you can find here.


And of course there are tons of ideas and sketches in my notebook just waiting for their turn to become reality. Time to buckle down and get some crafting done! 

What are you currently working on? 

Portland vacation

Lately my hubby and I have been trying to travel and see more of the West Coast and surrounding areas. We’ve been living in California for about 5 years or so, and I feel like I haven’t seen much of this side of the states, what with having grown up in Pennsylvania, so we’re planning some little trips here and there.

This past weekend’s trip was to Portland, Oregon! We stayed in the Jupiter Hotel (which I really liked and highly recommend to anyone) and spent a lot of our time walking around and exploring the different neighborhoods.

To start, I absolutely fell in love with the Alberta Arts neighborhood!

We started the day with big breakfasts at Pine State Biscuits on NE Alberta and ate way too much biscuits and gravy.

Pine State Biscuits – holy shit that was so good!

Then we walked east and visited Close Knit (a cozy yarn shop), Bolt (a gorgeous fabric store), and Collage (a bigger-on-the-inside paper crafts and art supplies store).

We also passed by several plant stores and coffee shops, and just when Kevin was almost fully convinced that this neighborhood was made for me, we passed a shop called Cupcake Jones and Kevin yelled “CUPCAKE JOAN” and that sealed the deal. The Alberta Arts district is just perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Cute sign in one of the shops

Mural outside of our breakfast place


Then we walked back to the hotel through Irvington, the historic district, and took in all of the cute houses with porch swings and backyards.

For dinner we went down to Por Que No? on Hawthorne and got taco bowls and sat down next to a statue of the virgin Mary that had a face like this:

She is smirking into your very soul

And we wandered around between the head shops and bars but didn’t really go in anywhere.

Then when we got back to our hotel area we decided to get some beers and people-watch at B-Side where I saw lots of 30-something-year-old punks and hardcore kids.


The next day we travelled to the Pearl District to do touristy things like visit Powell’s books and eat Voodoo Donuts.

I only ate half of this donut but it was really good


We finished the touristy stuff and were looking around for our next move, when we stumbled into the Saturday Market (which is a big farmer’s market type of thing on both Saturdays and Sundays in downtown Portland) where we just hung out and people-watched and alternated soaking in the sunshine and hiding in the shade. It was a super relaxing afternoon, and the stalls all had cool locally made crafts.

Lastly we visited Ground Kontrol which is an amazingly well-kept arcade with tons of games and pinball machines. It’s open to all ages until 4:30pm, and then 21+ when the bar opens at 5:00pm where you can buy beer and mixed drinks. Everything about this place is super cool including the die-shaped lights, and the black and blue Tron-like bathroom.

So that was our little vacation! We had a lot of fun, drank a lot of craft beer, ate way too much good food, and really enjoyed ourselves. Do you have any recommendations for the next time we visit Portland? Let me know!

Fall capsule wardrobe 2016

I had a good experience with my spring capsule wardrobe earlier this year, so I’m going to try doing another one for fall!

closet full of clothes

Browns, reds, oranges, blues and neutrals


The only trouble is, living in San Francisco means that our seasons are a little unusual. In most parts of the country it starts to cool down in September. In SF our summer months are September and October, where the city takes a break from the usual 55-65 degree days (with occasional spikes into the low 70s) and depending on where you live (the sunset vs the mission, for example) we get to experience some 70 and even 80 degree days!

So this is tricky for me, not being a Bay Area native. September and October make me think of fall leaves and pumpkins, not beach trips and shorts.

september leaves

East-Coast September

I’ve decided that I’ll choose fall colors for my capsule wardrobe but leave the fabrics on the lighter side. I’ll allow plenty of tanks and tees in neutral shades with fall-tone layers in varying weights that can be added and removed as needed.

Here’s what I chose:

  • 4 dresses including 2 red and navy blue floral maxis, one red cotton midi dress, and one teal going-out dress.
  • 5 sweaters and jackets ranging from a lightweight mustard cotton to a heavy brown wool wrap.
  • 2 faux-wrap tops in teal and grey.
  • 5 lightweight sleeveless tops and tunics in black, white and navy blue.
  • 2 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of leggings in neutral tones, and 1 plain black maxi skirt.
  • Lightweight scarves in orange, red and royal blue.

As usual, I’m not counting exercise gear or loungewear toward my capsule wardrobe. I also don’t count shoes because I don’t have that many, but if you’re doing a fall capsule wardrobe it might make sense to include knee high boots, booties, and moccasins and leave out any sandals, flip flops and spring-colored flats. Do what fits your climate and style best.


Updated 5 words

A few years ago I wrote a blog post about an article by Nora Ephron, in which she and her friends describe themselves using only 5 words, and how those words change over time.

I think this was right after I had attended Dev Bootcamp, and my 5 descriptive words were “feminist, maker, married, evolving, hopeful”. Now it’s been 2 years since that blog post, and my words have changed a little.

Now I would describe myself as “dependable, adaptable, loving, ambitious, feminist”.

Why did I choose those? Well I’m still a feminist, but I consider that more of a given and less of something that I need to scream out loud so I moved it to the end. Maybe I’ll drop it in a few years to make room for things which become more important to me.

I still make things, but I don’t really associate with the DIY-maker culture (at least, I don’t associate with the way that culture manifests itself in San Francisco) so I bumped “maker” from the list.

I’m still very happily married, but after 5 years I feel like I’ve kind of gotten use to the newness of my marriage and settled in for the long-haul. Like feminism, I no longer feel like I need to shout it out loud, so I replaced it with “loving” because I feel like it better describes me as a person and includes not only my relationship with my husband but also with my friends and family as well.

“Evolving” and “hopeful” were very much reflecting the time period in which I wrote the post. I had just graduated from DBC, was out of work, and trying to keep myself motivated. In that same way, “adaptable” and “ambitious” are applicable to some of the situations I find myself in now.

I also went with “dependable” because that is a constant in my life. With some exceptions, I tend to be the steady rock that my loved ones can count on. That’s not the case 100% of the time, but it’s often enough that I felt like I should include it here.

I’d like to keep doing these posts every couple of years to get a feel for how I’ve changed.


Other words that I considered: sunflower, anxiety, real-fucking-tired.

How do you stay motivated?

There was a discussion recently regarding how to inspire and maintain the motivation to work toward your goals versus creating discipline within yourself to work no matter how you’re feeling that moment. While I appreciate the idea of just being a rock-solid, unflappably disciplined person, I feel like whenever I try to go that route I end up creating half-assed shoddy work and resentment toward that goal. 

Take weight-loss for example. On the one hand, I’ve been trying to use discipline to create the habit of going to the gym 5 or 6 times a week. Sometimes that means I go when I really, really don’t want to exercise and just walk for 30 minutes on the treadmill, because a half-assed workout is better than no workout at all. On the other hand, I try to inspire motivation within myself by making a Pinterest board filled with clothing that I want to wear which are only available in the next size down. I distract myself from the process of running by creating upbeat playlists and picturing myself as a dancer/lead singer/guitarist/drummer for the song I’m listening to, which pushes me to run faster and work harder. 

Motivation is a way to trick myself into working harder and feeling good about it, whereas discipline is a way of forcing myself to do a task even if it’s not done well. Motivation leads to me creating and working on side projects that I’m passionate about. Discipline leads to me brushing my teeth every day and folding the clean laundry before it wrinkles. 

I guess I need both to reach my goals, but motivation always seems like the harder one to nurture.  How do you inspire motivation to work toward a goal? 

Here’s what has worked for me so far:

  1. Write down why you want to achieve your goals and review it everyday, not just when you’re losing steam. Example: I want to improve my health so that I can take fewer pills each morning. I want to write another chapter because it’s important to me that this story is told.
  2. Figure out how to associate something you like to do with something you need to do. Example: I love to dance and sing so I will lip sync to my karaoke playlist while I’m running and maybe try a Zumba class. I will drink a special chai tea only when I sit down to write.
  3. Know that even baby steps are still steps in the right direction. Take it easy on yourself and don’t worry if the motivation doesn’t come to you. Example: Today I’ll just take a little walk to clear my head instead of really pushing myself to burn a certain number of calories. I will revise and edit my writing,  and maybe add a sentence or two. 
  4. Celebrate how far I’ve come and try to treat myself so that I associate hard work with positive rewards. 

I’d love to hear what motivates you and how you achieve your goals! Let me know!

Quinoa for breakfast

One unfortunate side effect of eating healthier is the inability to bake unhealthy things like cookies and cakes. I love baking as a stress relief/relaxation tool, but I just can’t stop myself from tasting the batter and testing the icing (not to mention eating the baked goods straight from the oven). So I’m trying to fulfill my desire to bake with healthier alternatives like oatmeal and quinoa. 

I have a recipe for baked oatmeal from back when we lived in Scrimshaw house. 

And although it’s less baking and more stovetop cooking, here is my recipe for a breakfast quinoa that hits my sweet tooth just right.



1 cup quinoa

2 cups almond milk (unflavored)

1 tsp vanilla extract

Toppings such as honey, brown sugar, banana, strawberries, raspberries, chocolate chips, shredded coconut, raisins, cranberries, slivered almonds or chopped walnuts.


Bring the almond milk to a simmer in a small saucepan. Add the quinoa and partially cover, simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the vanilla extract, remove from heat and cover for 5 more minutes or until most of the milk is absorbed. 

Dish the quinoa into a bowl and add whatever toppings you like. I went with banana, strawberries, slivered almonds, a dollop of honey and shredded coconut.


Orange and Quinoa salad

So Kevin and I are trying to eat more vegetables, which means I’m focusing more on cooking vegetarian recipes with sometimes a little meat on the side. We’re not doing Paleo or any other fad diet, just trying to be healthier in general.

We’ve been on this track since mid-January which means I have now completely exhausted my usual recipes and am looking for new and exciting things. In particular, I’d like to learn how to cook things that I’ve never cooked before. Things like rutabaga.

There’s an old joke in my family that goes back to me when I was just wee-little-Erin, sitting in a grocery store cart, reading the signs in the produce section. I sounded out a word and asked my dad “What’s a rutabaga?” He said “You’re a rutabaga” which made little-me laugh and I never got a real answer before from then on, that was our joke. Fast forward to early-thirties-Erin who still has no freaking idea what the hell this (fruit? vegetable? fungus?) thing is but is feeling adventurous and wants to give it a shot.

We have a bunch of produce markets in our area, plus a weekly farmer’s market, so there are plenty of opportunities to pick up something that seems weird to me, google it, and then make it for dinner.

That’s also why I bought a cookbook from Williams Sonoma (I know, pricey as hell, but I love their books!) which should teach me to cook all kinds of vegetables this year. Now don’t worry, I’m not going to start one of those “Watch me do a thing for a year” blogs like the Julie/Julia Project (warning, that archived website is formatted all funky) or My Year of Living Bibically (which just made me feel awful for the author’s wife).

No, I don’t have the time or the patience to write about myself every single day for a year. Instead, I’ll continue to post on my whenever-I-get-around-to-it schedule, as usual. It just might be a bit more cooking-heavy than it has been in the past.

Anyway, enough about all that. This post is supposed to be about my take on a California Quinoa salad which uses navel oranges instead of mangos because mangos are annoyingly hard to cut up and also probably not currently in season. I pulled from this recipe from Jo Cooks and just swapped in oranges for mangos and sprinkled a bit of goat cheese on top. That’s it! Easy-peezy!

The colors on this dish are pretty spectacular and most of the ingredients were raw, so it all came together in about 15 minutes. Kevin and I both liked it and next time we might try it again with mandarin orange slices instead of chopped navel orange slices.

Very veggie comfort foods

Kevin and I are trying to eat more vegetables (our goal is to have half of every plate covered in veggies) but there are times when I really miss eating certain foods, especially spaghetti, pizza, and mac and cheese. 

I’m still working on the mac and cheese (don’t try to tell me that cauliflower is a good substitute. Cauliflower is best prepared by throwing it in the compost bin and eating something else) but I did find some good substitutes for spaghetti and pizza. It’s not perfect, but it scratches that itch. 

Firstly, I followed this blog post for Julia Child’s eggplant pizzas.

They were pretty damn good, but I mean it’s hard to mess up cheese and marinara. One thing I would change would be to peel the eggplant as the skin got a little bit tough. Also my broiler wasn’t working so I just stuck the pizzas back in the oven to melt the cheese which worked fine. 

The second thing I made was zucchini spaghetti. Kevin bought us a spiralizer so that we can cut vegetables into pasta-like shapes. It works really well and results in long strings of green zucchini pasta which I prepare by tossing it in a sauté pan with a little olive oil, black pepper, and oregano for about 3 minutes and serving with tomato sauce. 


The results were bright, vibrant vegetables that took up almost the entire plate (no substitute for mozzarella cheese, thank you very much) and tasted not exactly like pizza and noodles, but not bad either. Highly recommended for people doing gluten-free, low-carb, Whole30 or just trying to eat more veggies. 

The water glass

Sometimes I imagine myself as a huge glass of water.

When I interact with other people, even just making small talk, the water level is reduced a little. It’s like people are taking sips of the water just by being around me.

Some people take more water than others, even if they don’t mean to.

When I meet someone new and they want to know more about me, they ask me questions. Sometimes it feels a little like an interview. I try to turn the questions around as much as possible to give them space to speak. I like it better when they do most of the talking. When I do most of the talking, the water level plummets.

If I’m trying to be charming and interesting and engaged in whatever it is that I’m doing, the water level plummets. I’ve found that I can usually be charming for about 2 hours maximum. If I’m just friendly and a little quiet, I can stretch it to 4 hours.

Once the glass is empty, I need to leave. Immediately. No time to say goodbye or make plans for the future, the glass is empty so I gotta boogie.

I try not to let the glass empty too quickly, so when I’m at an event like a conference or a party, I take breaks. I hide in a corner with a drink in order to give my hands something to do. I stare at my phone. I people-watch. I do breathing exercises, when I can remember them. I try to refill the glass but it’s a very slow process and there’s never enough time.

Inevitably, the glass gets low, my internal warning system goes off, and I ignore all of this because I want to stay out, stay with my friends, and keep having fun. I’m the screaming toddler who doesn’t want to leave the playground.

Then suddenly the glass is empty. Then I need to leave.

So I throw cash on the communal table for my drink (no time to wait for the check), wave goodbye to the person sitting next to me, and try not to literally run out of the place.

When I get home, I either need to sleep or cry. Not because anything is particularly upsetting, but because I’m just so drained that I can’t take it anymore. I feel frustrated and ashamed of myself.

Another option is taking to Kevin.

Kevin is the only person on the face of this planet who makes me feel like the glass is being refilled. When I’m with him my shoulders relax. My breathing becomes deeper and slower. I am safe.

Tourist in my Town: Baker Beach

This past weekend I went on a run to Baker Beach. It was only my second time running through the Presidio and I went fairly early on a Sunday morning.

Baker beach is gorgeous! It’s less windy than Ocean Beach and has a direct view of the Golden Gate bridge.

People were walking along the beach, some were playing fetch with their dogs, and it wasn’t at all crowded.

It also much closer to my apartment than Ocean Beach, so I can jog there (side note – I am the universe’s slowest runner) in about 20-25 minutes which is more doable on a day when I have other stuff going on.

There’s a parking lot nearby, but I’m not sure how crowded it gets later in the day (I was there around 9-10am and it was empty) or on warm days.

Also, it was a chilly morning so everyone was wearing jackets and hoodies, but Baker Beach is considered a clothing-optional beach, if you’re looking for someplace to get an all-over tan. The park website says “The northernmost end of Baker Beach is frequented by clothing-optional sunbathers.”