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Famous (ish?) People I’ve Met in Cedar Rapids Lately

July 3, 2013

Cedar Rapids may not be a bustling metropolis, but we’ve got our fair share of pretty cool stuff going on. Just look at all the famous (and famous in certain circles) people I’ve met in the past few months!

May 15: Singer Grant-Lee Phillips at CSPS in the NewBo area:

Me & Grant-Lee

Me & Grant-Lee

May 30:Author  Vanessa Diffenbaugh at Coe College (thanks to Junior League of Cedar Rapids):

Kristie and Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Me & author Vanessa Diffenbaugh and the awesome Junior League of Cedar Rapids Foster Teen Suitcase

June 28: Singer Paula Cole at CSPS 

Kristie and Paula Cole

Me & singer Paula Cole

And, although it may not appear to be so, those are actually three different black, v-neck outfits, with three different teal, drop-pendant necklaces. Apparently that’s my standard for “meet cool people casual.”

So, who have you met lately in the Cedar Rapids area?

Did that just happen? Yeah, that just happened.

May 16, 2013

Just hangin’ out with Grant-Lee Phillips. Like ya do.

I HAD THE BEST NIGHT EVER AND I CAN’T SLEEP! So I shall rant and rave here in relative peace. This will be long. Sorry.

OMG. Plus, OMG. Oh, and did I mention, OMG?

Ok, so I’ve LOVED the music of Grant Lee Buffalo/Grant-Lee Phillips for over 20 years. 20 years, people. That’s more than half my life. Like, gushy, crushy, deeply-in-lovey, grown-with-me-over-the-years-and-deepened-into-a-more-realistic-appreciation type of loved this man’s music. I saw him in concert in Ames, IA 20 years ago on Grant Lee Buffalo’s first major tour, with REM headlining. Then, over the years, I’ve seen him in smaller venues in Chicago a few times, dragging my brother and others along with me for the ride. Great shows. Shook his hand and got pics and autographs. Lovely, nice man. Mason enjoys his music and has a GLP poster on his wall.

When I found out he was coming here, to Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Huh?? Really? Wow.), I immediately got tickets and counted the days to the show. Attended show with Brad (thanks, honey!). It was awesome (of course). It was small (30+ people). He played, for the first time, a song he’d written while in Cedar Rapids about the flood, and it was great (video to come). Afterward, I shook Grant-Lee Phillips’ hand and chatted and bought a show gig art print (don’t call it a poster), which he signed. Pictures taken, fun had. Thought that was the end of the story. Good enough for me!

Brad and I go down the block to Parlor City to get some eats and beers. A half-hour later, who walks in by himself like a totally-regular-yet-not-at-all-supposed-to-be-in-the-same-bar-as-us guy? Grant-Lee-Freakin’-Phillips. Brad kicks out an empty chair, and I offer to buy  GLP a beer. He sits down. With us. GLP. Me. Same table. You guys. Seriously. We chatted. He’s a friendly, funny, family guy. We talked about his tour, Cedar Rapids, the flood here, Bill Gates and his work combating malaria; Jimmy Carter (my hero) and his work combating Guinea worms; how Grant makes his music; about Davíd Garza and Largo, about our kids; about the Patti Smith autobiography (read it!), about natural disasters; about the restored fire house in which his Cedar Rapids hosts had housed him. I mentioned I had lost my copy of one of his albums I had loved. He said, “Oh, I have a copy over at the fire house! Let me show you guys the place and give you the CD!” So we did. You guys, I just toured the bedroom of my Americana-songwriter-wordsmith-crush’s “hotel.” I saw his shaving kit in the bathroom. We joked about the maintenance of old houses. I caught a peek of his skivvies in his suitcase as he found the copy of the album I’d lost (I looked away, demurely, of course). He showed us to the door of his place and shook our hands good night. Brad and I calmly got in our car and drove off, whereafter I commenced to freaking the f@$% out for the whole way home. It has been about two and a half hours since then and I’m pretty sure I will never sleep again from the sheer joy of the evening.

My face is going to split in two from the grin I’ve been sporting all night. And tomorrow it continues:  you guys, tomorrow I get a sneak peek at the not-yet-open downtown library. It’s going to be a great week.

Other fantastic things that would normally have headlined my day: Mason’s first piano recital (he’s a genius, of course), lily-of-the-valley in bloom (house smells divine from the bunches I brought in), and our first non-friend, non-family babysitter (a rousing success).

New-found Delight; Goodbye to an Old Friend

May 8, 2013

Wherein I rave and then rant about things to put in my face.


Rave: Here’s where having good connections and social media can come in handy. Last time my Mom came to visit, she took me to Costco to ooh and ahh over ridiculously large amounts of food and surprisingly good deals on clothing, gas, and alcohol. I don’t have a membership, but I’m sure to take advantage of hers when she’s in town (thanks, Mom!).  Their book prices aren’t great, but I came across one that looked interesting: Jam, Jelly, & Relish by Ghillie James. As I flipped through it, I saw a simple recipe for “Rasperrycello” (you know, like limoncello, but with raspberries). I had also just seen, mere aisles away, 1-lb boxes of raspberries and 1.5L bottles of vodka on sale. Just the right amount to double the recipe. Well, all righty, then. So I picked up the raspberries and vodka, made a mental note of the book’s name to find later on, and went on my merry little way (after picking up several other things I totally needed). I had a fleeting thought that I should take a picture of the cover of the book so I didn’t forget, but that would have made too much sense.

I went home and threw together the raspberrycello in a big ol’ Mason jar before putting the other groceries away (of course). Then I tried to remember the name of the book. Um, Jelly, Jam, Something? Jam, Something, Something? Nuts. Here’s where Facebook became useful for once. I sent out a call to see if any of my friends were members, and if they were, could they, pretty please, go there soon and look for some random book with fruit on the cover and jam (and/or possibly, jelly) in the name? My friends came through! That very night, a lovely friend  stopped in to Costco, found the book despite my ridiculous description, and sent me the name! I quickly found it used on Amazon for $4.69, shipped. The book arrived yesterday, the same day I was ready to strain and taste the raspberrycello. Perfect.

The stuff is delicious. Sweet and raspberry-licious, but not overpowering. Mixer ideas: pineapple juice, tonic water, club soda, ginger ale, vanilla or spiced rum…more after I experiment. Stop on by the porch sometime for a sample!


Rant: In other, less-awesome food-based news, I recently discovered that the Targets in my area are apparently no longer going to carry the Archer Farms brand frozen cheese and chile tamales that I LIVE on. Don’t they know I must eat them at least 2 times a week or I may die? Or at least be mildly inconvenienced and somewhat unsatisfied gastronomically? They’re on clearance for half the price I usually paid, so I’m stocking up. There are now 11 boxes in my freezer Well, 8 boxes, really. I had to take 3 packs out of the outer box to get them all to fit. Enough to maybe last through the summer if I’m careful. The only thing that would be worse would be if stores stopped carrying bottles of Herdez Salsa Verde. Then I (and at least one other like-minded person I know) would have to take up our pitchforks and storm the Hy-Vee Manager’s office!

In any case, it looks like I can no longer count on tamales for lunch. Who’s got some yummy vegetarian lunch ideas for me?

Are you there? Am I here?

April 28, 2013

Last night, a friend mentioned my blog in conversation, telling me they now use the therm “Fancy and Schmancy” in conversation at home. On the very same day, I got a notification that two people had downloaded my soap labels template for the first time in at least a year or so. Some kind of sign to get back on the blogwagon? Sure. Why not? So tell me: if I’m here, will you be there? Will you read me again if I start writing again? (Please say yes.)

Gratuitous LEGO and cute child photo


May 8, 2011

Another gem in my vintage sheet music collection, this one for all the wonderful M-O-T-H-E-R-S who mean the world to us. This one’s especially dedicated to my own M-O-T-H-E-R. Love you, special lady!

M-O-T-H-E-R, 1915

I’ve been around the world, you bet, but never went to school
Hard knocks are all I seem to get, perhaps I’ve been a fool
But still, some educated folks, supposed to be so swell
Would fail if they were called upon a simple word to spell
Now if you’d like to put me to the test
There’s one dear name that I can spell the best

“M” is for the million things she gave me
“O” means only that she’s growing old
“T” is for the tears she shed to save me
“H” is for her heart of purest gold
“E” is for her eyes with love-light shining
“R” means right and right she’ll always be
Put them all together they spell MOTHER, a word that means the world to me

When I was but a baby, long before I learned to walk
While lying in my cradle, I would try my best to talk
It wasn’t long before I spoke and all the neighbors heard
My folks were very proud of me for “Mother” was the word
Although I’ll never lay a claim to fame
I’m satisfied that I can spell the name

“M” is for the mercy she possesses
“O” means that I owe her all I own
“T” is for her tender, sweet caresses
“H” is for her hands that made a home
“E” means ev’rything she’s done to help me
“R” means real and regular, you see
Put them all together they spell MOTHER, a word that means the world to me

Fabric Craft: Pillow Case

December 6, 2010

In our last episode, we left our hero wondering how to make a pillow case without a big enough piece of Mickey Mouse fabric.


DUN DUN DUN! Coordinating red fabric to the rescue!

The blue is a standard pillow case.

In this picture, the blue fabric is a standard pillow case, which I’m using as a pattern. You can see the MM fabric is just a bit too small. The red fabric I used for the semi-fitted sheet is tall and wide enough, but only for one side. (Note to self, plan for a pillow case the next time you buy fabric for sheets!) So my brilliant solution to my not-so-brilliant dilemma was to use the extra height of the red to my advantage. In my tradition of tutorials-that-aren’t-tutorials, here’s what I did:

  • Trimmed the long sides of the MM fabric straight, turned wrong sides together, and sewed the red and MM into a tube the same height (short sides) as the pattern pillow case.
  • Sewed one of the short ends closed.
  • Folded the other end down twice as I did for the top of the semi-fitted sheet, then hemmed.
  • Turned it right-side out and added a grosgrain ribbon on the outside to finish it off like the semi-fitted sheet, and to hide the crazy hem I made (no more eggnog while sewing for me!).

Voila! A coordinating pillow, with the added benefit of two sides to choose from. I totally planned that.

Mickey side…
…rescue side

I think it ended up cooler than the other side of the pillow, man. In case you missed the post, (or the two links above), here’s how I made a toddler sheet set.

Fabric Craft: Toddler Sheets from Vintage Sheets

December 3, 2010

Fitted bottom sheet, semi-fitted top sheet

Today, a different kind of sheet music: toddler sheets! There are tons of tutorials for toddler (crib-sized) sheets on the Web. So why add another one? Three differences here: 1) Let’s use a vintage sheet! 2) How about a semi-fitted top sheet, to make it easier for little ones to learn to make their own beds? 3) It’s not really a tutorial, just some tips.

This toddler sheet set is made up of  a fitted sheet and what I call a semi-fitted top sheet. The beauty of a semi-fitted top sheet is that the bottom two corners are fitted, so it provides the coverage of a flat sheet with the stay-tucked-in-ability of a fitted sheet. Just tug on the top hem and the bed is made! Do they make these for adults? I may have to experiment with modifying my own sheets.

The reverse mullet of sheets: party at the top, business at the bottom.

You can make this from new fabric, or from vintage (or just old, whatever) sheets – it just takes a little more cutting and measuring (not to mention courage) to make them from vintage sheets. The set above was made for a friend from her childhood Mickey Mouse twin fitted sheet and an extra piece of red cotton broadcloth for the semi-fitted sheet.

Cutting the Mickey sheets...gulp!

As I mentioned, there are a bunch of crib sheet tutorials around for you to start with – they do a much better job than I could at showing you how to sew elastic. Here are two:

Those are both great instructions to get you started; either start with your new fabric or old sheet, cut, and sew. The elastic is the only tricky part, and it’s not that bad. Then, for the semi-fitted sheet, use their tutorial instructions as a guide for the bottom two corners. For the top, just fold the fabric over a couple of times and hem, then finish hemming all the way around. I also stitched a piece of black grosgrain ribbon along the top hem to give it a more finished look and tie the red sheet in with the Mickey Mouse sheet. But I’m kinda schmancy like that.

You can also download a PDF of the Toddler Sheet Set diagram. Tune in Monday as I use the scraps to make a matching pillow case!

*UPDATE* See the finished matching pillow case here!

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving: Hand Turkey Pie Crust

November 23, 2010
Makes total sense from the title, right? No? How about a picture, then?

It’s a…you know…a hand turkey pie crust.

Inspired by my son’s day care art project a couple of years ago, I made this little fellow to adorn his Great-Grandpa’s gooseberry pie. No tutorial; just cut out and attach to your pie with a few dabs of water.  Voila: turkeyberry pie!

Thanksgiving: Decorating with Cranberries

November 22, 2010

Thanksgiving loveliness

It’s time to finalize your decorating plans for Thanksgiving. While you’re at the grocery store fighting over the last can of fried onions for the green bean casserole (you know you are), be sure to pick up a couple of cheap fall-colored bouquets, a couple of bags of fresh cranberries, a few oranges, and a bottle of whole cloves. We’re going to turn them into complete Fancy and Schmanciness for the turkey day table!
I have an addiction to canning and a son named Mason, so you can be sure there are always a ridiculous number of Mason jars around my kitchen. Last year I decided to put them (the jars, not the addiction, but definitely the son) to use as table decor. Use as many as you need for your table(s).
  1. Split the bouquets into several equal bunches of flowers, distributing them among the Mason jars.  Last year I put canning rings on the jars, but this year I think I’ll leave them off as they competed a bit with the flowers.
  2. Loosely arrange the flowers in each jar.
  3. Fill in around the stems with fresh cranberries, right to the top. Remember the cranberries will float, so it looks best if the jar is filled.
  4. Fill with water, and stand back and “ooh” and “ahh” like you’re watching fireworks.


Use different-sized jars for your various tables and to vary the look

Having a helper may speed up the process. Or bring it grinding to a halt.

Another lovely way to use cranberries and oranges is to make pomanders to scatter on tables here and there; they also add a lovely scent to the air.  Just poke the whole cloves into the oranges (or clementines, lemons, limes, or other citrus), and be careful – those suckers are sharp.  Set in a dish of cranberries and get dizzy off of the crazily seasonal smell.

Smells so lovely

So lovely, you may just want to put one here…

Freshenin' up the place.

Now that’s schmancy!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving traditions and guests; I hope your Thanksgiving is as filled with friends and family and good cheer as mine is shaping up to be!

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