The Living Project: Scrub-a-dub, and Giveaway!

lemonsugarbodyscrubWell, I was timely with this project, at the very least. I tried a number of body scrubs, and by the end, well, I was actually kind of tired of body scrubs. What the heck, man! I was all ready to feel all spa-treated and pampered, but honestly, sometimes this stuff was just repetitious. But let’s talk about the scrubs, shall we?

1. Alterna Caviar Clinical Exfoliating Scalp Facial. Yes, that is “scalp” facial. What Martha said: “It helps remove buildup caused by clogged hair follicles and a dry scalp. The cap’s massage bristles work with the product’s fruit enzymes, salicylic acid, and dandruff-shampoo standby pyrithione zinc to dislodge flakes.”

What I say? I’ve never used a scalp scrub before. I actually felt like I had an itchier scalp after using this than I did before, which makes me wonder if this stuff actually stripped some essential oils from my scalp that were keeping it feeling nice. That said, using my normal shampoo after this scalp scrub seemed more effective; my hair was nice and shiny and very clean after this product. I’d maybe use it before important events to give my hair a little extra oomph, but I don’t think it will get a place in my normal rotation.

Continue reading

The Living Project: Pear Chips

10710831_606078742852_7439098410390727953_n
Oh, man. This project did not go so well, hence the late update. I promised back when I made my September #LivingProject planning update that I would make the recipe provided for pear chips from September’s edition of Living. Now, I chose this because it was a pretty hands-off recipe, and because I like pears, but primarily because I’m a pretty fine cook and I thought this would be a gimme.

I was so, so wrong.

From Living: 

Slow-roasted pear chips let you switch out the crackers on your cheese plate for something seasonal (and gluten-free). The slightly sweet crisps are the perfect crunchy partner for a round of gooey triple-cream cheese and some toasted pecans. Of course, the chips are also a satisfying—and wholesome—snack all by themselves.

To make: Very thinly slice firm, underripe pears lengthwise with a mandoline or chef’s knife and place in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake in a  preheated 225° oven 1 1/2 hours. Flip slices and continue baking until darkened slightly and edges have curled (they should still be pliable), 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Transfer to a wire rack and let stand until cool and crisp. Store at room temperature in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Cinnamon-spiced: Liberally sprinkle tops of slices with cinnamon sugar. Bake as indicated above.

Maple-glazed: Generously brush tops of slices with maple syrup. Bake as indicated above.

Now, read those instructions again. Carefully.

Got it? Okay.

Continue reading

The Living Project: Inspiration? Board

10649570_605278726092_6923458149409283308_n If you recall from the planning update I posted about this month’s Living Projects, I said I would create a mood board. From Living: 

In Harmony—We use digital pin-boards constantly to curate beautiful images, categorized by themes. We also like to take this habit offline: Create an old-fashioned mood board with visually striking inspiration (think paint chips, fabric scraps, calendars, magazine tear-outs, and personal photos). Working in a color scheme—we chose warm oranges and yellows—makes a harmonious focal point in your office.

Naturally, this entry in the magazine was so slender it didn’t even warrant a corresponding article online. (Come on, MarthaStewart.com!) But I thought it was a good kick-off project—something not too far beyond my existing abilities that would get me started on a nice trajectory not only for the Living Project, but also for my September focus on creative projects in general.

My first task was to decide what exactly I was going to use this inspiration board to inspire. While the details are still in the Top Secret file, I finally settled on an upcoming project (TBD!) that will include a website that needs designing. With that project in mind, I drummed up a color palette, a vibe, and a direction I wanted to take things, and I set off running.

Gathering ideas was pretty easy—I had a number of items lying around, some great magazine clippings, personal photos, postcards, and so forth, that I really liked. I stopped by the hardware store to select some paint chips, and snagged several pictures I had on Pinterest with the intention of printing them for the board. I ordered an inexpensive bulletin board from Amazon (knowing that, if I enjoyed this project, I could reuse it again and again and it wouldn’t get tatty like foamcore), and set to work.

And that’s where I ran into my big snag.

Continue reading

September Focus: Creative Projects

Well! August’s focus was nutrition, and it took me nearly the whole month to get started up. But September’s focus—engaging in creative projects—is, I think, already well underway. First I have the #LivingProject to take up my time and energy. And that will be a total blast. 

Next, I have also been gathering the occasional project from Darby Smart—which has been great for someone like me who has a little problem with craft follow-through and needed a set of training wheels. I made some ring dishes and a cell phone case that (oops) doesn’t fit my cell phone, and I have some napkin rings and magnets and more jewelry holders and some ceramic tile things lined up for next. So hopefully I’ll be smart about this and scatter them throughout the month, instead of deciding to blitz my way through them in one weekend and suffer massive burnout. 

Ultimately, the goal is to take the training wheels off—start thinking more creatively about my life around me, take on more opportunities to flex my creative wings—be it via crafts, fine arts, more writing (another month’s focus), or something else entirely. The point is to allow my mind to start thinking creatively about all of the various problems and opportunities it encounters as I go through my days. And if that means I wind up with a more creative home, work life, family structure, and interior life, well then I think that’s a success.

Anyway, I obviously have the #LivingProject tasks and my little crafts to tackle this month, but if you think there’s something I should try to take on for this month’s focus, I’d love to hear about it! Feel free to drop suggestions in the comments below, or hit me up on Twitter @dumbleadore

Monday Miscellany

10300868_598582944492_2457413012050754259_n

Hello again! I think I skipped a Monday or two in there, unfortunately. I’ve been more than a little wiped out, and trying to catch up. Here’s what I’ve been up to lately: 

10632869_598582889602_6460249685637924783_n Last weekend I went up to Portland to visit my family. All four of us hit up the Rose Garden, which is gorgeous this time of year. We also ate loads of macaroni and cheese, went to a wine tasting, went book shopping, and Dad showed me around his classroom for the upcoming year. 

That was my last travel until October, but it was great to get to see everyone—my brother even had cancelled plans for the weekend, so he and I got to hang out quite a bit. We don’t see each other often, so I’m grateful I had the opportunity to fly up. Bonus: My dear friend Tia, who also lives near them, had a little free time and grabbed some coffee with me. Some friendships are the same no matter when you left off last. And I get to see her again at Christmastime! 2014 isn’t bad.

10610943_598658867342_725605417227463978_n10253990_598658847382_6913032789632505456_nLast Monday, Andres & I celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary. I gave him some nice monogrammed cotton jersey sheets, and he gave me the pictured tea set. Also pictured: the replica of our wedding cake he ordered from the bakery where we got the original. See, when we got married, we did the traditional “feed each other a bite of your wedding cake for everyone to see” bit (no, no smushing!). But aside from that one bite, I never got another piece of my own wedding cake—which was disappointing, because Lotta’s makes a damn fine cake.  At some point in the last year, I mentioned that disappointment to Andres, who dutifully set a reminder in his phone and went and got a replica of the top layer of our cake, same decoration, same flavor, same bakery, for our anniversary. Needless to say, these were awesome anniversary gifts and I feel pretty spoiled at the moment. 

On the nutrition front, it’s been all about planning and keeping things tidy. I haven’t been perfect (hello, anniversary cake!), but I’ve gotten a lot better about feeding myself healthily over the course of this month, and I have high hopes for the first week of September being a completely nutritious one. The best part about that is the improvement in my energy and how I feel physically, so bring it on! 

In my reading life

I finished:

As you know, I’ve announced and planned out the #LivingProject, which I’m so excited about!  I’m in the middle of a hiring round at work, and am in the planning stages of a project I have high hopes for at work as well. 

And I think that’s us all caught up! Stay tuned for tomorrow’s post about this month’s focus. 

The Living Project: September Plan

IMG_2737

 

Okay, folks, this is it: I’ve obtained the September 2014 edition of Martha Stewart Living, have perused every page carefully, and thought through the project a bit more carefully.

As I mentioned before, I intend to do 4 projects per month for the next year, each taken from the glossy pages of Living. Having thought it through, I came to the conclusion that the project—like any great project of Martha Stewart’s, of course—ought to have a presiding logic that rules it. So here’s mine:

Each month, I’ll select one project in each of the following loosely-defined categories: mind, home, body, life. That last one is obviously something of a wild-card, and I’ve been intentionally vague with the rest.

With the projects I select, I must complete them by the month’s end, including a full report here on the blog about the progress, process, status, and finishing conclusions at which I arrive.  Even if I fuck up. (Let’s be honest: especially if I fuck up.)

I will rate each project, once I’m finished, on a scale from 1-5 Marthas. (Wait till you see them. There are half-Marthas.) This rating will be based on ease of task, sense of accomplishment or achievement, sense of pleasure in the process, and sense of pleasure in the result. In other words, the 1-5 Martha Rating Scale is entirely subjective and likely to be influenced heavily by my personal whims.

For September, here are a few projects I rejected, first of all:

  • throwing a benefit for the Audubon Society
  • hand embroidering a back-to-school smock for a child
  • crocheted pencil cases
  • DIY brass-legged side tables
  • muesli coffee cake
  • beige decorating (I’m completely not kidding)
  • gardening
  • braised pork
  • leather-strap key fobs
  • helping our pets adjust to the school year
  • UVC-sanitizing our cell phones

As tantalizing as all of those choices were (…erm), here are the ones I selected instead, and the dates on which you can look for my posts about them:

IMG_2739HOME—The Mood Board: September 7. You mean I can’t do this shit on Pinterest? MarStew actually has us creating a friggin inspiration board with, like, paper and stuff. Look for mine to be a hot mess, and probably not all that inspiring. From the magazine:

In Harmony—We use digital pin-boards constantly to curate beautiful images, categorized by themes. We also like to take this habit offline: Create an old-fashioned mood board with visually striking inspiration (think paint chips, fabric scraps, calendars, magazine tear-outs, and personal photos). Working in a color scheme—we chose warm oranges and yellows—makes a harmonious focal point in your office. 

Okay then.

IMG_2740BODY—Pear Chips: September 14. At least I get a tasty snack out of this—one my nutritionist wouldn’t hate, either. Martha even offers a few variations on the theme, so not only will I be making a lot of these, I’ll have enough—and enough types—to share. From the magazine:

Perfect Pear-ings—Slow-roasted pear chips let you switch out the crackers on your cheese plate for something seasonal (and gluten-free). The slightly sweet crisps are the perfect crunchy partner for a round of gooey triple-cream cheese and some toasted pecans. Of course, the chips are also a satisfying—and wholesome—snack all by themselves. 

Look, bitches, I love pears, and on my current nutritional regimen I don’t get to eat a lot of chips, so I’m stoked.

IMG_2741LIFE—Body Scrubs: September 21. Living did a feature on 10 different body scrubs, and this sacrificial lamb is going to try all of them for you. You’re welcome. I am such a martyr. From the magazine:

Go With the Grain—Start this new season off right with a total-body tune-up to buff away any dry flakes. Step into the shower with a body scrub and walk out with silky-smooth skin. As a bonus, you’ll be invigorated by the aroma of coffee grounds, the sinus-clearing power of eucalyptus, or a mineral-rich sea salt. 

The things I do for my people, I tell you. I’m not going to lie—I expect this project to get 5 Marthas.

IMG_2738MIND—Living Book Club: September 28. Like I wasn’t going to opt for the book reading if there was a book to read. Martha’s Living Book Club is reading Haruki Murakami’s latest offering, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, and damnit, I’m going to read it with them. From the magazine:

Living Book Club—Read along with the Living book club as we dive into Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage (Knopf), the latest novel from Haruki Murakami, author of the international best seller 1Q84. Keep up with the latest book-club news by visiting our website. marthastewart.com/book-club

So, yeah, I’ll definitely be using the book club’s online site and reporting my adventures there, too. Naturally, I am really excited about this; I’ve liked the Murakami I’ve read in the past, have heard decent things about this book, and see a lot of comedic—or enlightening!—potential in participating in a book club with the MarStewCrew.

Naturally, I hope you’ll be following along as I participate in this project. If you’d like to do your own personal Martha challenge, I’m calling this the #LivingProject, and I’d love to have you join me! Feel free to borrow the hashtag, and share pictures of your own #LivingProject victories and defeats on the Dumbleadore Facebook page. As we proceed through this month, I’m planning on doing a few giveaways, so share my blog with your friends and don’t forget to like the FB page, or follow me and my foul mouth on Twitter.

Mad About Martha!

marthaSo, I promised a new project, and here I am, delivering.

I have a confession to make.

I adore—positively scrumptiously unrepentantly adore—Martha Stewart. That bitch—and I mean that with all due respect, Your Cleanliness—is incredible. Batshit insane, possibly. But also just about as capable and powerful and mind-blowingly competent as a person could possibly be. I follow her on Pinterest and Twitter, and I alternate between laughing in disbelief at some of the stuff she says (her recent enthusiasm for some synchronized swimmers at a breast cancer benefit had me snorting), and taking copious fucking notes, because here’s the thing: Martha is kooky and privileged and more than a little out of touch, but bitch can domesticate like a goddamn boss. I literally learn something new every time I stumble across something from her website, TV show, or magazine.

And then so I recently discovered Jen Lancaster via this li’l book she wrote called The Tao of Martha, in which, yep, Jen goes ahead and spends a year on some seriously Martha-worthy projects. It was fantastic; she had me in tears, laughing (half in hilarity, half in recognition) at her efforts to replicate the Goddess’s universe of domestic advice. (I hear, by the way, that this is Lancaster’s worst book, which is great, because this book made me adore her and want to read more of her stuff, so it can only go uphill from here!) But a few things nagged at me reading Lancaster’s book: first, she’s reached a point in her career and life journey where achieving Martha-dom is pretty… accessible. The woman has written some seriously successful books and has the cash to shell out on some Marthafication like whoa. Second, there was something about the way she approached her project… a sort of slapdash, seat-of-her-pants approach to planning the project, which she pulled from all kinds of Martha-sources: books, website, magazines, shows, radio programs, interviews, what-have-you. It was all over the place. Like when halfway through the year she’s just like, I KNOW WHAT I’LL DO THIS MONTH FOR MY MARTHA PROJECT!

So the wheels in my head have been turning, and I thought I would do something with similar inspiration to Jen Lancaster’s Year of LIVING, but make it an actual year of LIVING. So, starting in September, I am going to do 4 projects per month taken straight from the pages of Martha Stewart Living. I won’t use any other sources, won’t rack my brain for what to do—I’ll just pick up the month’s magazine from the newsstand, flip through until I find 4 projects that sound interesting or funny or delicious or challenging, and give them a whack.

I have a real potential to get hamstrung by my budget (which is not Martha-sized, or even Jen-sized), and also I have another challenge these ladies don’t have—I have a whole full-time, sometimes stressful job I have to do. So no getting paid to write about this, and no getting paid to just… be an expert on this. (I know Martha and Jen both do way more than that; I’m not dissing them, I swear.) I’ll just have to temper my expectations each month with reality, which is that I can’t engage in projects that last more than a weekend or evenings, because I just don’t have time.

And at the end of this year? Well, hopefully I’ll have discovered new recipes I like, made my home a little nicer, gotten over my fear of beige (….probably not). Whatever the case may be, I’ll have a year to look back on—my first year in my 30s—spent learning at the immaculately pedicured feet of the Queen of Clean, the Domestic Diva herself—Martha.