Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Snip and Press

That's how I spent all of Sunday afternoon, evening and night once I got home from the Wildflower Center. I am making a gift for my cousin Aaron and his fiance, Carmelita. They are getting married this weekend!! Now that the busy-time consuming part is done (see title) I hope the rest will go smoothly. A sneak peek:

The fifteen prints

It took quite a while to get all of my squares cut and neatly pressed. I used my rotary cutter, which was really nice and quick for cutting. . . once I was ready to cut. When I got my machine and supplies last year, I got the small (18" x 12") cutting mat. I'm not really sure what I was thinking besides trying to go easy on the pocketbook, but this made cutting yards of fabric slow and awkward. I actually got up, and left to Joann's to get the big one. Sigh- MUCH BETTER. I was starting to go crazy and get a charlie horse in my back. These were just easy squares, I cannot imagine more intricate designs. This may change with more sewing, but I've found that I love ironing. I have this lavender linen water that I use, so that fabric ends up smelling good, and the squares look so nice and crisp. It just feels so domestic.

a pinwheel of half of my squares

We'll see how this turns out! You can probably get an idea of what I am up to, but I don't think they have to time to be checking out my blog right now. I know family has started arriving in Portland since earlier this week, and I get to leave on Thursday morning(yay!). Anyhow, I stayed up late last night and almost finished assembling the rows. Hopefully tonight I can finish that off and start to make my "sandwhich". I really hope I am not underestimating how much time it will take me to finish this, because I really want to take it out there with me! Tomorrow is a full day too with work and various appointments, and I still need to pack so tonight really counts. I am so glad to be using my machine again. I've missed her.

Out in the sun

On Sunday afternoon, Ryan and I went to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. They were having a special event in honor of an anniversary: LBJ presented his wife with 50 pens that he used to sign the (50) environmental bills she had pushed for enactment. She was a busy little lady! The center was having a free admission day, so we went to check it out.

My heart found its home long ago in the beauty, mystery, order and disorder of the flowering earth. - Lady Bird Johnson

This was a hanging quote in the arches near the entrance. There were others too, but I liked this one the best. I think I would have gotten along very well with the former First Lady. She is the reason people get to enjoy those pretty bluebonnets and other wildflowers along the Texas (and national) highways.... her Highway Beautification Act. I don't think I am the only one who would rather see pretty trees and wildflowers rather than billboards and junkyards when I'm taking a long trip. She was also behind the anti-littering laws, preservation of historical landmarks and much more. I am thankful for all of her hard work in preserving the environment and the beautiful sights and places in our country for me and future generations to enjoy.

All of the plants in the LBJWFC are native to Texas, and boy was I surprised. Even through our unbearably hot and dry summer thus far, it was incredibly. . . green.

courtyard with a shady grape covered walkway.
The shade was a wonderful place to take a break from the sun.

so nice and shady! I loved how rustic everything looked...
with the wood beams like tree trunks

A little spring bubbling along...

leading to this little pond with water cress and those pretty green stalk/reeds It's not bamboo, maybe a sub-species? It's really pretty and such a vibrant green.

It was so interesting to see this water just coming out of the ground, then disappear underground again, with moist patches of dirt here and there. Like a dry creek bed, but not completely dry. huh.

They also feature art and gifts donated to the center.

Biggest origami birds I have ever seen. They went up to my hip!

wire-cage birds

I think they were herons since the little stream runs along behind them. They were sitting at the edge of this large area that was teaming with butterflies. There were these huge chartreuse ones that I wanted to get pictures of, but they were too quick and elusive. . . they never landed anywhere!

scorpion lawn-art anyone?

I bet we all know who loved this. . . yes, Ryan. Other things we loved. . .

two different shrubs with red flowers

Ryan really liked these. When he was little and used to garden with his mom, she let him have his own section of the garden which he made a "fire-garden". Only red and orange flowers allowed. He is so cute, I can just imagine this blond-haired, rambunctious little boy running around planting his garden. He wants to have another fire-garden one day, and he thought these a definite addition. He'd have this too *** So I had my story wrong, she never let him have a fire garden. It was something he always begged her for. awwwww. ***

What is a fire-garden without firecrackerbush?
Do those flowers not look just like fireworks?

He also liked this big spiky-looking plant, and said something about a reptile habitat
(I obviously didn't pay much attention to that last part!!)

Ever wondered what a crab-apple looked like?

They are so small! Like diameter about the size of a fifty-cent piece. I just saw these and smiled, thinking about our old horses Dandy and Duffy. I loved feeding them tart little apples and watching their lips curl. But they loved it and always wanted more! I miss those guys.

sand-oats. I just wanted to take a stalk put it in my mouth (you know, like the cartoons)

There were all kinds of grains. We had stopped inside the cafe to get a drink and saw a bouquet of flowers with these incorporated. I loved the country charm!

Purple cone flower - a.k.a. Echinacea

Ok, this was the last type of tree I expected to see in the middle of Texas in the summer. Doesn't this belong in the mountains or something? The branches look so soft, and I think the pattern on the fruit is pretty cool.

Bald cypress


I love butterflies.

I am pretty sure this is a monarch. It paused long enough for a pic.

And then it floated off to some pretty flowers out in the sun and did some posing.
I am pretty sure it was showing off.


Since we're talking about butterflies.

A swallowtail on the way out to the car

prickly pears

Oh man, seeing these took me back to eighth grade. Our history class went on this field trip to Catalina, and we were supposed to be re-living what it was like in California during the Civil War. We "sailed" over on an old boat (of course it had a motor) but we learned how to rig the sails, tie knots, answered to a first-mate, etc. Once we made it over to the island, we had to set up camp, some classmates had to dig a latrine, others (which I was fortunately a part of) had to make this huge pot of stew and we had to peel a hundred or so carrots and potatoes. We also kept watch during shifts on the beach at night (to lookout for pirates, and invading soldiers) and went on walks to find fresh water, identifying safe foods to eat, etc. Enter prickly pears. On said walks, our first captain (the guide) pointed out some prickly pears and went on and on about how good they were. So Lindsay Topp and I decided to pick one to check it out. Ummm, mistake. These have cactus barbs on them too! Except they are like micro-tiny. Of course, tweezers were not part of known technology back then, so we got to enjoy the rest of the trip with prickly pear barbs in our hands and fingers. Anyhow, looking back, it's pretty funny and I totally thought of that field trip when I saw them.

There are all kinds of legumous - not sure if that is a real word - plants and trees here. Suprisingly, some of them are very pleasantly fragrant. I don't know . . . to me, legumes = beans and beans = fragrant (but not pretty fragrant). On campus this spring, there is this one tree near the building that has bright yellow flowers and it smells WONDERFUL. Ryan and I have been trying to find out what it is..... ta da!

Retama - another legume
It is such a pretty tree, with dainty willowy greens and those heavenly flowers.

Sensitive briar
I really like this ground cover. So lush and rich! And this one was just cute and reminded me of a fairy tale.

Silver pony-foot

lone oak

If it wasn't the middle of summer and 105 degrees out, I am sure we would have gone exploring on the trails and in the fields (rattlesnakes - ahh!). Though I know snakes wouldn't have stopped Ryan, it really was unbelievably hot and we were foolishly unprepared (no hats or sunscreen, flip-flops, etc.) We both thought this oak looked so stoic and regal. It's huge, it was probably about 1000 feet away.

deep pool

This pool was donated by Shell Oil and is at the entrance of the center. Ryan kept saying how he was glad he did not have $200 on him, because he would gladly pay that to get to take a dip in it. A $200 dip? crazy. But that's how hot it was.

As we were leaving, there is a big fountain/ pond directly across from the archway holding the quotes. We had paused at it to look at the turtles and saw the hugest dragonflies I had ever seen. Like, as big as my hand at least! Of course they were too fast to take pictures of ,and the big ones didn't land much. But we also saw a snake by the pond too! We almost missed him, but I saw him sneaking down over some rocks to go swimming in the water. It looked a lot like Ryan's own Mister Slithers.

We had so much fun there, and I would go again in a heartbeat. I totally wouldn't hesitate to pay the admission fee ($7), it's so worth it. Plus there are all the trails that we didn't get to go see. I can't wait to go during the spring, when just about everything should be blooming!

I learned a some things too:
Water conservation. They had all these rooves and structures rigged up to collect rainwater runoff in silos, and later use this water for the plants. So smart! Obviously not applicable now in my apt. but maybe someday.
Future gardening. Wherever we move, I am going to take inspiration for gardening from that city's botanical gardens. I had no idea Texas had so many beautiful native plants, and since they are native, they should have no trouble growing!
It's always so wonderful to spend time outdoors. I love getting to see all the little treasures and creations out there. . . just waiting to be enjoyed by us. Seeing some things. . . you just have to wonder at God's humor, and how much fun He must have had during Creation. You can't beat that imagination.

On the way home, we stopped and got sno-cones.

I don't really remember having these much growing up. Ryan and his family went all the time when he was a kid. Maybe it's a Midwest thing. I don't really know how I have not had one before this summer either. There is this great stand near campus and they have more downtown, but they make the best sno-cones in Austin. How can you mess up a sno-cone? Trust me, you can. But these guys at Sno-Beach got it right. And it shows, when the whole parking lot is packed with cars and there is a line with 20 people waiting in the sun to get one. No joke. I got cherry and root beer with cream. It's like a cherry root-beer (Ryan's dad's favorite) but part 50-50 bar and part root beer float. It's good. Ryan got Silver Fox with cream (his mom's favorite). What's Silver Fox? I don't know. If you had to imagine what a cloud tastes like, that's it. really light. with a hint of vanilla. They have about a hundred flavors, but one of them is Tiger Blood, which I have not braved to try. Ryan used to get it as a little boy (of course). I just enjoy getting these glimpes into his childhood, whether its through a sno-cone or little-red flowers. He's amazing.

Well, I had a fun weekend. How about you?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

I'm free!!!

I am officially back at my place and it feels so good! Their house is all clean, smells like lavender goodness, and I got a little something together to welcome them home:

welcome home!


I just bought some flowers from the market, put them in a cute pitcher vase that had been sitting out, got a little card and made some chocolate chip coconut oatmeal cookies. These are so yummy! They aren't too sugary, so they are perfect when you're craving something sweet and don't want something over-the-top. Plus I love the hint of coconut in them!

Chocolate chip coconut oatmeal cookies

I've made these for the lab, bbq's and just because. . . I always get compliments on them. Even Ryan, who is not a huge fan of coconut, has no trouble eating several in a sitting.

How to make your own...
What you'll need

1 c. butter
1 c. light brown sugar (packed)
0.5 c. white sugar
2 eggs
3 tsp vanilla extract
1.25 c. all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
0.5 tsp salt
3.25 c. quick cooking oats (I use Quaker in the big cardboard carton)
1 c. chopped walnuts
1.5 c. shredded coconut (I use Baker's brand)
1 c. Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips

*note* I adapted this from a regular oatmeal cookie recipe, which originally called for 2 tsp vanilla. I love vanilla so I always multiply what recipes call for by 1.5.

What to do

1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C).
2. In a large bowl, cream the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then add the vanilla. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt, then add this to the creamy mixture in portions until it is just blended. Next add in order, the oats, walnuts, coconut and finally the chocolate chips.
3. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes, or until "just kissed" golden brown. Cool on the baking sheet for several minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. yields about 2.5 dozen depending on the size.
4. ENJOY!! Easy squeezy, right?

(For more "bally" looking cookies like mine, chill the dough for an hour or so prior to baking. The dough also stores well in the freezer- about 2 weeks- so you can bake what you want and save the rest for later.)

Of course these cookies taste great without the coconut, or the nuts. . . I've made both. It's a versatile recipe where you can add or remove whatever you want. Sometime I am going to try it with pecans instead of walnuts, and perhaps some dried cranberries. Hope you like 'em!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Weekend

Friday night Ryan and I used his birthday concert tickets as we saw Billy Talent, Rancid and headliner Rise Against at Stubb's. Wow. quite an experience, let me tell ya.

I didn't really know what to expect. I had heard of Rancid before, and knew like, one of their songs. I have the latest Rise Against album so I knew at least a good number of their songs, and didn't even know about Billy Talent until I got to the show.

First of all, it was hot. Not just hot, it was I-am-so-clammy-it-feels-like-I-am-being-smothered-and-melting kind of hot. Stubb's is an open venue, and it is first-come first-serve when it comes to where you are in respects to the stage, so we got there about 45 minutes before the doors opened at 7 to make sure we had a good spot. We had to stand in line in the full blazing heat of the sun. Good thing we thought in advance to pick up some cold drinks to have with us while in line. I think I would have died otherwise. Once we got inside though, it was much better. We found a really nice spot about 30 feet from the stage that was situated between an outdoor staircase (to the right/front of us) and a big oak tree behind us. We had about 4 feet of space to claim as our own, with two of the ends being blocked off by inanimate objects (This is nice because the crowd tends to "push" forward once the show starts). This spot was worth the wait. The only bad thing was that because the tree and stairs prevented it from getting too crowded, people started to use it as a pathway to get to the bar. What was worse was the pushy, sweaty guys going back and forth ten or so times trying to make their way to the mosh pit. Yes, a MOSH PIT. My first one ever. I had never seen anything like it! As soon as the music started playing, this huge circle directly in front of the stage just turned into a bunch of guys running around, shoving each other, and probably hitting each other too. You just saw a huge cloud of dust from all their activity, and it just looked like a brawl. There were a few occasions where security had to escort bloodied up people from the pit. There was crowd surfing too. It was a sight to see. Another thing was I would move out of the way to make room for people to pass through and they would just stop and take my place, at which point Ryan would tap on their shoulder, give 'em a look and tell them to move on. Anyhow, Ryan figured out that if I stood close to the staircase, he could stand close enough to me to make the aisleway that people could use, thus preventing me from getting pushed and touched by them. This also provided him with the opportunity to "bump" the really annoying, pushy ones up against the tree (which he took advantage of when need be). We positioned ourselves as such towards the end of Rancid's set, and were able to fully enjoy Rise Against (who we really came to see).

Overall, it was a very interesting show. When you have bands that look like:

Billy Talent

Rise Against

You can probably imagine the crowd demographic. I'd say the craziest time was when Rancid came out. We both liked Billy Talent, and of course Rise Against. Rancid's music just wasn't my taste.

I had fun, despite the aforementioned factors and that 1) I forgot my camera at Mike's house (I'm driving myself crazy) hence the web photos. I wanted to take pictures for the blog but figured I could just use my phone until 2) I lost my phone (my new phone!) and finally 3) my feet KILLED from standing for over 6 hours straight after a workday when I am usually standing doing chemistry. Some girls in attendance were wearing heels. I don't see how anybody can stand through a 5 hour show in that. insane. I also learned that I will not see anyone at Stubb's in the summer unless I am absolutely crazy about them.

It was an adventure and a brand new experience for me. At least Ryan enjoyed the show, it was after all for him. Besides, I am going to have to do things like this if I am going to get him to take me to see Michael Buble or someone like that. =)

Other parts of the weekend included cleaning Mike's place/ getting my stuff together to move out. His wife gets back tomorrow! Tonight is my last night there, and I am so excited. I just can't wait to be home, in my bed, with my kitties. I am prone to forgetfulness, but I can keep it in check most of the time if I plan ahead in advance so I can make sure I have everything I need. It's just impossible for me to keep this act up when I am spread out over my place, another place and the lab.

I can't wait to get sewing again. I have Alyssa's duvet cover to make. I also went shopping this weekend for some gifts I am going to make for my cousin's wedding, and an old labmate who is having his first baby next month. They will be my main focus this next weekend. For now, I need to focus on moving back home and working on my group meeting presenation which is this Friday. I didn't know this until last week, but the boss will be in attendance! It needs to be good, so I will try really hard not to get distracted by these exciting projects in the meantime.

If I have the time, I'll try to get a teaser post with some of the fabric this week. Have a good one!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

S Cubed

I mentioned earlier about the secret package I was mailing off...well it finally got home to my mom! It was something I made for her. Viola!

The Sea, Sand and Sky Blanket

A while ago, Lisa brought up Joelle's Granny Square Blanket over at the Purl Bee and told me she thought I should get hookin' on such a project. I thought it would be a cool thing to make, but I was busy at the time so just made a note of it. Then one day just before Mother's Day, I was standing by the yarn in Joann's and I decided to do it for my mom. They had a nice selection of blues and whites, which I knew I wanted. My mom is Dutch-Indonesian so she loves the blue and white together, like Delpht blue. She also loves yellow (such a happy color) and I thought all the colors would go really well together.

closeup of some colors

When it came to actually deciding what colors to use, I turned to some of the fondest memories I have..... going to the beach. I have already talked about Jalama and how camping there is a family tradition. But there were other beach trips that I will never forget. In the summer, we would clean up the house on Monday, and on Tueday Mom would pack us five kids, plus the cousins into our Previa, drive down windy highway 74 while listening to Odyssey tapes and oldies music where we ended up a hour later to spend the whole day at the beach in Dana Point (Salt Creek by the Ritz Carlton). We would play endlessly in the waves, build sand castles and all nine of us would gang up together to build a wall to challenge the incoming tide. We would pile and pack, pile and pack while the little girls built a moat to buffer the onslaught of the coming whitewater. Then we would sit back with our little debbie rolls and capri sun drinks cheering when our wall triumphed and "awwww"ing when it finally succumbed. (Writing this now, I can only imagine what mom was thinking watching us kids hurriedly scrambling with our sand while Ben and I barked commands at the younger ones.) We would usually leave between three and four to get home just in time to shower and wash up for Bible study at our house that night. We did this every week in the summers.

This blanket is a thank you to my mom for all those great days of staring at the white clouds billowing overhead in the blue sky, sand trickling through my toes and fingers, bright rays of yellow sunshine peeping through the clouds to burn off the morning gloom, falling asleep on the warm beach to the sound of crashing waves and flying gulls, a vibrant sky meeting an endless sea, foamy waves tickling the beach, white caps cresting from the breeze coming off the deep blue ocean, watching dolphins and surfers playing in the breakers, a blazing sun sinking into the dark water, and all the contentment that comes with getting to do this with your brother, sisters and cousins. Those were the best times!

It is a personal blanket, about 65" x 65". Looking back now I realize that I should have put down my backpack next to it for a size comparison. It will be the perfect blanket for her when she is sitting down next to her fireplace, with a full pot of tea and a Christmas movie on. I have never known anyone who loves Christmas movies as much as my mom. It should be better than having one of my sisters go grab one of the extra big blankets out of the closet, this will cover her perfectly and it's snuggly soft. (I showed it to Ryan when I was finished, put it on him and he said, "Missy, you better get that off me before I lose the ability to move!" Yes, it feels that good)

I know it's two months late, but Happy Mother's Day Mom! I love you

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Man, it's sweltering outside. On my way to the post office (I am so lucky we have one here on campus!) to mail a special item, I stopped to take some pictures of it. I didn't have time to take photos for my blog entry featuring said item this morning at home, so I took it outside near our campus' turtle pond since I wasn't feeling the fluorescent lit atmosphere in the lab. Ew and who wants pictures of the lab anyways?

I know I have said this before...but I love our turtle pond. It's kinda sad to admit, but it's one of the reasons that I chose to come to UT. I loved that they had a turtle pond, and I knew that I would love to walk by it everyday and look at the turtles and be envious of their easy-happy-go-lucky-basking-in-the-sun kind of lives. I guess I live vicariously through them, because my life is anything but that right now.

The pond is pretty much right outside my building, sits under the watchful shadow of the bell tower, and there is a nice grassy area nearby that is partially shaded by ancient oak trees. A lot of people hang out here and eat lunch or read a book and study. (I am highly jealous of these people too) The pond consists of three tiers. (You can double click the pictures if a better view is needed)

View of the pond from the lowest level

The uppermost level is filled with lotus flowers. Then next come the water lilies and koi. Ryan and I have seen a snapping turtle in this section before, but I have not seen him in a while. The second tier has a little waterfall leading to the lowest level that is filled with red-ear sliders and box turtles. There are probably close to a hundred of these turtles in there. Ryan taught me how to identify the different types...otherwise I wouldn't have a clue!

Some little guys basking on a rock

more tanning turtles

There are several basking rocks and usually they are fighting and clawing a way to get out into the sun. Sometimes it's really funny because they will be stacked three high, with a little baby one on the top. And they all lay there doing the "superman" (you know, that exercise that works your lower back where you lay on your stomach and raise your arms and legs up off the ground) ...kinda like the little guy towards the back of the rock in the top photo. I wish I could have gotten a shot of them stacked as such, but there were a bunch of kids out tossing bread and there was pretty much a feeding frenzy going on at the other end of the pond.

turtle hobby #2: begging for food

feeding craziness

This poor guy was stuck up in level two looking over the waterfall at his buddies chowing bread.

lone water lily

I love water lilies. Usually there are tons of them, but there was only this one today. But when they bloom, they do in pink, yellow, white and orange. So pretty.

Moving on to the lotus level....
I think these flowers are absolutely, amazingly gorgeous. I apologize in advance for the lighting. I went out right in the middle of the day, so some of the pics are a bit saturated.

the tall leafiness of the lotus

every here and there, a beauty pokes through! Two different stages of openness...

So delicate and peaceful

From a different angle...

one gone to seed. In case you were wondering what those big, brown bee-hivey looking additions to bouquets were, its these once dried!

Oh mom, Jerry says "hi" =)

Completely unrelated to my turtle pond excursion... In case y'all didn't know. I love my cats.

Tesia overseeing one of her mom's projects...

and getting completely exhausted in the process

They are such great company and they crack me up. Especially Ramses. He is such a character. I love how they both have to be where I am at, they talk to me, follow me around and are so engaging. Ramses is practically my little sidekick. He is always involved in whatever I am doing whether it's wrapping gifts, making dinner and especially eating dinner. But I love them both so much.

Ramses on the couch with Ryan watching a movie during a movie night
He is so sweet, look how he is grabbing Ryan's arm with his legs. So cute.