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Archive for the ‘My Life’ Category

Aside from wallowing in my own postponed Winter blues, I have been spending the last few weeks getting accustomed to my new surroundings here at Casa de Leonard.  The Leonards were more than generous with their space, giving Scott and I not only our own bedroom, but an entire room to use as my office/workshop, and space to practice and record music in the basement.  We’ve both been blessed with a set of in-laws that are incredibly helpful and supportive, and for that I think we both are thankful.  So, after a month in sunny Florida, we arrived in Connecticut during the heart of snow-season.  Cold, dark, wet, nasty snow-season.  Yuck.

On the bright side, this should be our very last Winter (at least for a while) if everything goes to plan over the next year.  In Autumn 2010 we are planning to pull up our anchor once again and hightail it to Austin, Texas.   During our trip to China we were able to sit back and take a nice long look at our lives, a luxury one rarely gets to enjoy.  While we were looking we realized a few things:

  1. We hate Winter.  Every year during the dark cold months, Bobleo and I become fatter and more depressed. We’re done with Winter.
  2. One way or another, Bobleo is determined to make music a bigger part of his life.  So, he started practicing like a maniac, and is currently taking private lessons to take his playing to the next level.  By the time we hit Austin, a major musical hub, Bobleo hopes to be in the best musical shape of his life.
  3. We can’t afford to live in Fairfield County.  Or at least we can’t afford to live here well, or live here well while saving toward our future, or save toward our future without working 2 or more jobs each.  Another thing we realized is that we’ve missed each other, and we’re tired of working 2 or more jobs each.  We’re taking weekends off from now on.
  4. Although Connecticut is filled with friends, family, and personal history, we crave adventure.  Sometimes you can’t see what you’ve been missing until you step outside your life.  When we did, we found out just how happy getting lost, frustrated, and confused can make us.  Sometimes I count the number of exits off of 84 from here to Maine that I have been down.  As the number gets higher and higher, I feel more and more like a goldfish in a bowl.
  5. You can always go back home.  No matter how far you are, your family is your family and your friends are still your friends.  Sure, we’ll miss the people we love, but a handful of miles won’t keep us apart forever.

So, that’s why we are moving to Austin.  We’re just not done shaking our lives up yet.  Plus, Austin is full of everything that we like: music, food, movies, art, and crazy people.  Our choice became doubly lucky when we found out that two of my sisters are planning to head down there too!!  So, we won’t be entirely alone after all.

In addition to making big plans, we’ve been making music, Bobleo and I.  After years of pleading, he finally gave in and sat down to write some songs together.  They are not too shabby either, if I may say so.  The first that we wrote involved several beers, lots of yelling, and intermittent mediation by Bobleo’s father.  But after many hours of head butting, we came up with something pretty good.  The second song, (and a half – we have one that’s nearly done) went much more smoothly.  No yelling or name calling at all.  I figure it’s just another of a million things that we need to learn how to do together, so like fighting or running a household of chores, we’re getting better at it.  At this rate, we may even get an EP recorded without spilling blood.  We also learned a few covers, including: Train Song by Vashti Bunyan, Bad Things by Jace Everett, and Back to Black by Amy Winehouse.  We need to streamline our covers a little and add some more stuff that focuses us a little more, but we’re getting there.  We’re going for an alt. country kind of thing, but right now I think we’re still a little dis-jointed.

Tool of the Trade

On Sunday night we played our very first open mic together.  It was incredibly exciting.  I’m such a dork, but it really thrilled me.  I could hardly wait until we went out again last night.  To Bobleo this is cake, old hat, easy peasy, but for me it’s a leg shaking, nail biting, butterfly gutted lightning-fest.  I think we did OK.  If you’re around on a Sunday or Tuesday night anytime soon your welcome to come on down and see the side-show.  Widow Browns in Danbury on Sundays, starting after 9:30, and O’Connors in Brookfield on Tuesdays at the same time.  We’ll be doing each one religiously to get some practice under our belts as we try and complete an EP’s worth of recorded originals.  I’ll keep you updated on the status of our little project.

And finally, my crafty attention has been to creating this adorable little baby quilt for my favorite CB.  She is so very preggers, and will be delivering an amazing bundle of joy (or as I call her, CB Jr.) sometime next month! My friends, CB and Brian are going to be the funnest, cutest, most lovable parents ever, I just know it, and I can’t wait to meet tiny CB.  Anyway, the QUILT.

CB Jr.'s Baby Quilt

The Quilt was made with a Hello Betty Charm Pack by Moda, and backed with a Pink Plume Fleur de Lis print by Tula, both of which I purchased from Quilt Sandwich on Etsy.  The pre-cut squares made the patchwork a total breeze.  I don’t know if my cheating heart will ever go back to cutting quilt squares by hand.  This was too devilishly easy for me not to repeat.  I hand quilted the blanket with pink embroidery floss, and sewed a pink fuzzy bias tape on as a lining with the same floss.  The binding took FOREVER, but the perfection was well worth the extra time.  This was definitely my best quilt to date.  It had no puckering, no funky diagonal lines, no mis-sized squares or random holes.  All in all, I think it was pretty well made, especially for me.  I hope baby CB will enjoy it.

I’ve also been cooking my head off, but unfortunately I have not been good about blogging my meals since we came back to CT.  I have to find a way to take good photos in the Leonard’s kitchen, which also means stopping to plate before throwing the meal on the table, which also means not shoveling the meal into my face as soon as possible.  I so lack self discipline.  Here’s a peak at what eventually became sausage and pepper calzones earlier this week.

Chicken Sausage and Roasted Peppers Tossed With Fresh Basil

I’m having serious photography frustrations, as you may be able to surmise from the photos in this post.  The walls in my office are sky blue, which makes (I’ll give you one guess, no wait. I won’t) BLUE!!  It also has the best light in the house – which continues to tempt me into taking pictures in here, despite the blue-ness.  But then, I wind up with an irreversible blue tinge to EVERYTHING I photograph.  Must stop.  Must relocate.  What’s the definition of insanity again? Oh yes, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Right. On that note, I’ll leave you all panting and heaving for the next installment of MaryHelenOrama. G’day mate.

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Michelle, one of my best friends, has this amazing couple as her parents.  Al & Carol Barney are one of the greatest couples I’ve had the pleasure to know.  They are each great people, and I love to spend time with either of them, but when you see them together, and you hear the stories of their relationship, you can’t help but be touched.  These two have been in love for over fifty years now, and it is written all over both of them.  It has been for as long as I’ve known them, and according to all witnesses, it has always been.  I had the honor of taking photos for them at their 50th Anniversary party this past weekend.

Al & Carol Barney's 50th Anniversary Party Collage

Their daughters, 6 of the 8 children that they’ve had threw a very nice party for Al & Carol.  There was good food, beautiful decorations, fun music, and even a handmade wedding cake featuring their original cake topper.  The ladies did a wonderful job putting together an event their parents are sure to remember with fondness for some time.  My favorite part of the evening was when Al made his speech.  When he described what it was like to be married to his wife for the past fifty years it brought me to tears. “Imagine having coffee with your best friend every morning for fifty years.”, he said.  I choke up just thinking of it even now!  If you are in the mood for some gushy sentimentalism, check out the whole speech in the video.

Thank you, Al and Carol, for blessing all of us who know your inspiring relationship.  You are walking proof that love can last, and is worth working hard for.  May all of us married people keep that in mind when things get rough.

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Survivor – Craft Room

So when we leave for China, we’ll have 3 suitcases in which to pack nearly everything we need.  These suitcases need to hold clothing, shoes, and essential supplies (like toothpaste, deodorant, tampons, and other things we’ve been advised not to buy in China).  I am dedicated to stuffing about 1/3 – 1/2 of one of these suitcases with art & craft supplies.  Not bad really, considering Scott is checking a guitar in place of a suitcase on his flight, plus carrying one on.  It is really going to be difficult to pick which items to bring, which to store, and which to give/sell away.  I stare at the contents of my craft room and my mind becomes instantly boggled.  I can’t bring the ssewing machine, but I should probably bring some essential sewing supplies so that I can sew by hand, or if I’m lucky, find a cheap machine in Beijing.  Paint is very heavy, but will acrylics be readily available, and do I really want to waste my savings on supplies that are already in abundance right here?  I am considering bringing maybe a dozen large tubes of standard acrylics, a set of dry watercolors, and a selection of my best pens, pencils, and brushes.  Will they have glue guns there?  If I bring mine will I be able to find glue sticks?  Or should I count on begging refills in care packages?

I’ve decided rubber stamps are just excessive.  If I really need to add type or small pictures to something I can just use my pens and freehand it.  However, printing equipment might be a good idea.  We could make band merch in house if I were to get a little better at screen printing.  Scissors are a must, as are a few good pads of paper, carbon, and tracer.  I’m leaving all of my epherma supplies.  Our friend, Daly, assured me that the local shops are teaming with bizzarre junk that I will have oodles of fun destroying and reassembling.  I’m sort of over knitting at the moment, so that takes care of that.  Besides, I’ve heard that knitting and cross stitch are very popular in China, so finding those kinds of supplies should be cake.

So far, here’s my list of must haves:

  • Acrylic Paint
  • Water Colors
  • Pencils & Pens
  • Brushes
  • Paper
  • Screen Print Inks, Squeegee & Brayer
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Essentials (Needles, Pins, Measuring Tape, Thread, Floss, Etc.)
  • Glue Gun
  • Sketch Book

I feel like I’m forgetting something really obvious.  Any thoughts on what you would bring if you were in my place?  What would your bare bones craft collection consist of?  What might I be overlooking that I could regret?

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10 Days left until the big day, and I thought I would take a little time to highlight some recent wedding goodness for you all. One of the biggest things I haven't gotten a chance to blog about was the amazingly well put together Bridal Shower that my sisters threw me a few weeks ago.  They held it at The Sesame Seed Restaurant, a really yummy granola type place that is super cute and right up my alley.  In fact, it is the favorite local restaurant for many of the girls who attended that day.  I know more than a few of the guests were thrilled about the location.

Mmm__ hummus!

The Sesame Seed Restaurant resides in a charming old Victorian style house on Wooster Street in Danbury, CT.  It is decorated in a sort of antique, shabby chic meets crazed hippy collector sort of way, and it serves an eclectic menu of healthful and delicious, hippy dippy foods, including their incredible homemade hummus, and hefty portions of Gorgonzola topping several standard dishes.  For the shower, they provided a menu with three lunch entrees: Spinach Pie, Chicken Fajitas, and Salmon.  They let us run rampant across their entire second floor too, giving us loads of space and privacy for the party.  My sisters also mentioned several times how helpful and accommodating the staff at The Sesame Seed was during the planning and execution of the party.  I would definitely recommend the venue.

Heather showing off our works!

In true McNally fashion, Sarah and Heather crafted their little fingers to the bone for the shower.  The craftiness began with a gorgeous welcome centerpiece, made from sticks, punched flowers, moss,Favors - Glittered birds with tins of jelly beans_ and glitter birds.  Next to the centerpiece were an army of tiny, handmade note cards, and one of the lovely invitations the girls had sent out.   Speaking of glitter birds, Heather and Sarah hand glittered an extraordinary amount of little feather birds, which they used to decorate their welcome centerpiece, and to top jelly bean favors!  The favors were so cute!  Tiny metal tins were covered in two layers of crafty paper, with hearts cut out between them. Then, the tins were filled with red and turquoise jelly beans, and topped with glitter birds!  Then each tin and bird were wrapped up in little cello bags and tied with handmade, grommetted tags that said "MH"! The gals didn't stop there, either.  They put lovely milk glass (my favorite) bud vases on all the tables, tied with ribbons and filled with daisies! So crafty!

We played the classic Toilet Paper Bride game at the shower, which was a huge hit.  The party split off into three teams, each given a few rolls of TO (Recycled, of course) and about 15 minutes to create a masterpiece.  I ran around snapping photos as the ladies went to work.  The game resulted in three very different TP bride looks, all of which were incredibly creative.  Of course, the Scissor Squad was almost entirely on one team, and what they created was simply mind blowing. It really did look like a real dress. Incredible!

Cupcake

Later we ate delicious cupcakes from the American Artisan Bakery in Sandy Hook, CT.  These things  were gi-freaking-normous and VERY tasty.  Everyone had fun splitting their cupcakes up to share flavors.  After the cupcakery was done, they sat me in a chair and showered in fantastic gifts!  Hooray! I have been chipping away at my Thank You cards ever since, and hope to get them out very soon, for I am, indeed, very thankful for all my gorgeous loot!

Thanks, Heather and Sarah for a super lovely time! To check out the full collection of photos, visit the gallery!

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Zoo-Venture

My sisters decided to give me a nice break from wedding planning this past weekend, and treated me to a trip to the Bronx Zoo!  To me, the Bronx Zoo is one of those special places that can always make me happy.  It doesn't take long for the Zoo to banish my blues and dismiss all nagging anxieties.  Cute animals just make me happy, I guess.  Staring into fuzzy, feathery faces makes it unbelievably easy to forget everything that has been weighing on my mind.  It's too bad I can't just pop over there every afternoon.

Bronx Zoo - Tiger Sisters

This trip was a great opportunity for me to practice more with my new camera.  The sun was out, the light was bright, and the Canon was snipping and snapping away.  I'm still struggling with blur and noise, but I am getting better.  One thing I have discovered about the SX10 is that its automatic settings really stink.  They don't do much justice to the camera itself, so tweaking settings is absolutely necessary to get a good shot.  I took hundreds of photos Saturday, but was only happy with about 70. Not too shabby, but not good enough yet. I'm looking forward to getting a lot more practice in while I'm in Maine in July.

Here's a slide show of photos from our zoo adventure.  If you get a chance to stop by the Bronx Zoo sometime soon, send my fuzzy buddies some love from me.

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This story is a little over due, but I felt the urge to post it anyway, if only to express my love for the particular beer that is invented here.  Many weekends ago Scott Bobleo and I popped off for a quick trip to see my sister, Heather, in Boston.  While we were in town, we decided to check out The Sam Adams Brewery Tour.  Since Heather lives so close by it made visiting extra tempting, but I would recommend stopping by to any beer lover. 

SA-1

Our tour was particularly great thanks to our tour guide, a young brunette who seemed to have a genuine love of beer, as well as a quick wit, and a talent for riling up crowds of tourists.  She was a lot of fun, and continued to impress us with answers to each and every question that was hurled at her.  Her responses were both educated and hilarious, making the whole experience really enjoyable.

SA-3

Apparently, Boston's Sam Adams Brewery is more of a formulary these days.  The folks here formulate new beers, ales, and lagers (which thanks to our tour guide I now know the difference between) and brew small batches of their most limited edition recipes.  The short tour takes you through a few rooms of tanks, barrels, hoppers, and gizmos, then into the tasting room, which is likely considered the highlight of the tour.  Each guest receives a small souvenir glass to taste from, and a selection of three popular Sam Adams beers.  After the three quick drinks everyone wanders into the gift shop with a sweet little buzz going on.  All in all, a very pleasant way to spend a Saturday morning.

On the way we home we saw some nifty metal sculptures outside a metal studio.  Heather was a sport and posed for me with these lovely hooker robots.  We also discovered that there was a Boomerangs outlet right outside the Sam Adams Brewery. Lucky! Heather got a bag full of loot for 3 bucks!  We visited the regular Boomerangs store front the next day, where I picked up tons of great stuff.  It was definitely one of the best thrift stores that I have been to in a while.  Next time you hit up Jamaica Plain, make sure to stop by Boomerangs on Centre Street.  They have great stuff, and their profits go toward Aids activism.  Good deals, AND good karma, all in one shopping trip!

BT-2

By the way, one of my photos from our Sam Adams trip is being featured on Boston's Schmap, the online map and tour guide.  How exciting!

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Sometimes our friends cannot always join us when we want them too. Perhaps you have a favorite buddy, sibling, or pal who can't make it to your big party or special event?  Don't fret.  There is a great alternative to having your real friend with you for all of life's precious moments.  In just 3 easy steps you can create your very own Flat Friend version of your stick in the mud buddy.  Your Flat Friend will actually be MORE fun than your real friend since you can do almost anything to or with them for the sake of taking funny pictures.  Being mostly paper, they are pretty much powerless to stop you.

Step One:
Print out the funniest/worst picture of your friend and cut them out.
HowTo1

Step Two:
Glue your friend to a stick of some kind.  I used a foam paint brush here, but you can also use a chop stick, a popsicle stick, a pen, or even a fly swatter. Pretty much anything tall, slim, and stiff. I'm sure you can find something appropriate. (Or depending on how far you want to take this joke, something inappropriate.)
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Step Three:
Embellish your friend.  On their own a Flat Friend is, well, kind of FLAT.  Try jazzing them up with some glitter, buttons, or brick-brack. 
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My sisters and I recently made a Flat Friend out of our youngest sister, Caitlin, when she wasn't around to help us do silly wedding crap.  Doesn't she look fabulous?  Now that your Flat Friend is ready, go out on the town and have some fun.  Don't forget a camera!  You'll need it to take tons of embarrassing pictures of your new and improved friend, and then upload them onto Facebook, lovingly tagging each one to your 3D friend's account.

FlatCaitlinSushi

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