Posts from the Loves and Obsessions Category

By Jill Greenwood

Everyone has an obsession or two (or fifty judging by our group of ladies), but today we wrap it up. And I thought I had the perfect post last week, but I failed to take one, tiny, insignificant thing into account: the first day of school. Ah . . . that pesky thing that pays the bills: my job. School started on Monday of this past week (yup, I even wrote a post about it), and yet this morning came around and I forgot all about the carefully laid out plans of photos and research and crap. So you get old photos with a list of my obsessions. Sorry

1. Red shoes: Not like the cheesy soft-core porn that used to run on Cinemax – and probably still does – but actual proper red shoes. I bought my first pair about a four years ago, but they weren’t quite right. Fast forward to Las Vegas in September of 2010 and a beautiful pair of Marc Ecco red patent leather pumps found their way into my suitcase. I thought that they would be something just for going out (because I go out all the f-ing time), but I started wearing them to school. And then a pair of red TOMS for the summer. Followed closely by a pair of red glitter TOMS just because I wanted them. Funny thing is, red shoes will change your life. Sounds silly but they really do. There’s nothing like having a really shitty day and looking down at your feet and seeing something peppy and bright staring back at you. Don’t have a pair of red shoes? Look for some at the store. Can’t find them? Buy a pair of socks . . . or undies. Who the hell needs to know you have red knickers one but you!

2. Tiny houses: About three years ago, I stumbled upon the Tiny House blog, and I was smitten. Cute, little houses all under 1,000 square feet. Each inch packed with space saving design. Amazing! Our house – the starter that we bought 13 years ago – might qualify for some as a tiny house for some since it barely reaches 1,300 square feet, but for the two of us, it seems large. My dream house? It’s barely 500 square feet. My mom thinks I am bat-shit crazy for wanting a house this size. “You’ll be on top of each other all the time. You’ll never have your own space,” she will constantly say when I bring it up. Quite frankly, I don’t care. A two-bedroom house with an open living-dining-kitchen area works well for me. Even having a loft over the main living space would be perfect. Once the tiny house bug bites you, it’s probably not going to let you go.

3. Pens: I am a certified pen whore. Seriously . . . pass me a pen, and I’ll tell you within five minutes if you have a keeper or not. I think teachers are the best at figuring out which pens work best. My personal favorite? The Pentel EnerGel and taking one of mine is an act of war in my book. Don’t touch my purple ones, but I’ll give you my blue ones (because I hate blue ink, which is the only color my husband uses). Then again, Pentel has its drawbacks for journaling, so for that, I’ll only use Paper Mate Flair . . . just about any color, but I like to write in the black ink. And their InkJoy pens? Sucktacular . . . can’t stand them.

Thumb back through the August archives and take a look at what we were obsessing over in August. You’ll see our love of power tools, water, llamas and alpacas, randomness, peach pies, chowder, cities, Karma, and what it means to have the fiercest group of women in your corner. And lest you think that it’s all puppy dogs and rainbows and unicorns squirting bubbles out of their horns, September is right around the corner . . . and we’ll be writing about the things that chap our asses. Things that really piss us off. Things that make us see red. And I’m not talking about a pair of sex-on-a-stiletto pumps.

by Jill Greenwood

A while back, there was a commercial from Staples of a father and two kids cruising the aisles with the dad throwing school supplies into the cart willy-nilly all choreographed to the tune of Andy William’s classic holiday tune, “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” (pretty sure it wasn’t Andy singing it . . . boo). And for me, it truly is. Not because my kids are headed back to school – although they better be since it’s their senior year in college – but because I’m headed back to school. When we chose this theme for August, I called dibs on the first day of school, and I was shocked – SHOCKED –  that no one said, “Bitch, we can settle this the old fashioned way,” because I thought everyone felt this way about it and would be fighting tooth and nail to claim it.

Trust me, I resist the urge to scratch that school bug all summer long. I bring home a few professional books with the best intentions of reading them over the summer. But they sit on the dining room table, unloved and dusty, until they make the return trip back to school. School supplies (there are some days I think I became a teacher because I’ve got it real bad for school supplies – Post-It Notes in particular) don’t tempt me in the least. Even seeing the occasional student at Target or the grocery store doesn’t make me think of school one iota. But come August . . . that mental light bulb starts to flicker just a little until I know that the first day of school is just around the corner.

For me, it’s a chance to see old friends that I haven’t since we hugged good-bye and promised that this summer we would keep in touch and get together for lunch at least once. It’s a chance to unearth the supplies that I packed away in my closets for safe keeping. It’s the chance to dust off the “getting to know you” projects that make me delighted to be a teacher. It’s the chance to put some of the ideas that have been bubbling in the back of my crowded mind to practice. But most of all, it’s a chance.

The chance that this year will be better than last year*. That the books I’ve read and/or curated will be well-received by a new crop of students. That I can finally get people on board with the concept that “me” is not a subject nor will it ever be. That teachers who dance horribly are really doing it to get their students’ attention. That I will find that magic bullet for grading essays. That all those drafts will pay off in the final product.

Chance often is equated with luck. But I like another definition better. Chance is “the possibility and probability of anything happening” because each new school year, just like all new ventures, holds the possibility that anything can happen. Will I ever turn kids on to diagramming? Probably not . . . but as long as there’s a chance, it means it’s possible. And, damn it, I’ll take that chance.

So whether you’re putting your kids on the bus or making the school run or beginning your own curriculum or trying to figure out where your child’s interests will take you today, remember that little bit of chance that makes it all possible. That and a good number two pencil. I hear those things are marvelous when you’re trying to write.

Got any first day of school memories to share? Any school supplies that you find yourself oddly drawn to? Let it all out . . . I promise: no detentions.

*Dear In-Coming Students: I had an exceptionally wonderful group of 7th graders last year. But I’m pretty sure that you’ll live up to their memory and then some. I already have high hopes for you. Sincerely, the woman who keeps telling you that you can make it happen.

by jess lewis

i’ve been obsessed with our kitchen table lately. usually the mess that gathers here would drive me crazy, but i started to see the beauty in the clutter and abandoned activity that was happening in this place. we spend a lot of our time here throughout the day. games are played, paint is splattered, writing is practiced,  science labs are created, food is enjoyed, mail gets sorted, conversations are had. it shows the ebb and flow of our day to day life and i can’t stop taking pictures of it. most days we are shoving its contents to the side in order to sit at the table to eat, but every once in a while it gets a fresh start.

my new favorite summer treat. gin and juice. and also the foil tops on the sanpellegrino can. i wish those came on every canned beverage. it grosses me out when i get a canned drink and then realize the top of it is dirty/dusty. or does that just happen to me? anyway, i think we should start a petition to make sure there are no more naked cans.

summer seems to be never ending here (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing). but, i can feel the change of the seasons coming and when it does i’m going to miss my little ones looking like this. half dressed summertime babes. really there is nothing sweeter than a shirtless bea in overalls. when she puts those on it signals that she’s ready to get down to business. usually it means she wants to “farm”. whatever her plan she usually ends up covered in dirt. and a boy  in super hero underoos? he won’t be cute in those forever (seriously, what is the cut off age for that? 10? 12?), so i’ll continue snapping pictures of him in them now for his future embarrassment.

so, these are a few of my (very) random summer loves/obsessions. what were some of your random loves/obsessions from the summer?

by jess lewis

i’ve been staring at the computer screen so much lately. a lot of editing to be done on a very slow, very finicky computer. that spinning rainbow of doom constantly taunting me. to take a break from going cross-eyed (and the persistent temptation to toss the computer out the door) i bought some new plants and spent a couple of days outside playing in the dirt. it was just what i needed to help me refocus and re-energize. right now i am loving all of  these colors and the variety of greens are making me very happy. the trick will now be to keep them happy and thriving.  i don’t exactly have a green thumb, but i like to pretend that i do.

how about you? green thumb or no? if you have any gardening tips or secrets you’d like to share, i would love to hear them!


Some obsessions are long standing, like my odd fascination with Adrian Brody. He’s not handsome in the traditional sense and yet the obsession with this man continues. Others are newer like Joseph Gordon-Levitt . . . who knew that the gawky kid from Third Rock From the Sun would turn out to be a handsome and talented actor. But this isn’t about celebrity crushes (although I’m pretty sure we could pull off a month of them). This is about a new obsession, one that has materialized in the past two weeks. One that has the ability to make my life either pretty f-ing sweet or one that could be the cause of my ruin. Not going to lie, It could go either way. And the sad fact is, you already know what it is. Mason jars.

Ah, yes, that whole summer of enrichment bullshit. The humble Mason jar. Never mind the fact that I only own Ball jars. I just can’t bring my self to say, “Hey, I made this delicious salad in a Ball jar,” for fear that I’d never make it through a sentence without lapsing into my best Beevis and Butthead laugh. So I’ll persist in calling the jars I own by another brand’s name. We took our daughters and one of their boyfriends out for lunch on Saturday, and the conversation turned to Mason jars. “Please tell me that you are using them for organization and not because they are cute,” one of them said. “Ummm . . . right. Organization. They really help with the organization. Tell them how organized the pantry is, honey,” I practically begged my husband so that the Girls would see that I’m using them for a variety of reasons and not just because they are cute. But the sad fact is, the damn things are bloody adorable.

The cutest of the bunch? These lovely little quarter-pint jars. I’m mean, seriously, they are so fucking cute that I just about can’t stand it. Practical? Not really. Adorable? It nearly kills me. Last Thursday, I set out to make something for my husband since the next day was our anniversary. After 21 years of marriage, you kinda have a hard time finding something for a gift, so I decided to make some lemon curd for him. The recipe was pretty straight forward, and the quarter pint jars worked perfectly Not going to lie . . . I might have been more motivated to make the curd because of the jars (sorry, honey). But then I faced a dilemma. What do I do with all the lemon curd? I know! I’ll make tiny, individual lemon meringue pies. In the quarter pint Mason jars. Oh, obsession. Thank you for fueling this passion.

So, here’s what I did. I took four Biscoff cookies and smashed the hell out of them. Then I put divided them between the two jars, put a teaspoon of butter on top, and microwaved them for 30 seconds. Then I stirred the mixture, tapped it down on the bottom, and topped it with two tablespoons of the lemon curd. Next, I made some meringue (again, not going to lie: I made salmon cakes for dinner and was left with three egg whites . . . seriously, what was I supposed to do? Throw them away? Make an egg white omelette?) and popped it in a 350 oven for 15 minutes. Voila . . . the perfect lemon meringue piecup. Yes, I’m insisting on calling them piecups because a) I’m also a little obsessed with Pushing Daisies, which never should have been canceled, b) they are the same size as a cupcake, and c) I might have a problem (cough, cough . . . new obsession) with cupcakes.

In the span of about 14 days, I’ve gone from owning zero Mason jars to 36. About 12 to 15 are currently being used in the pantry for organization. Another five are in the frig in the form of salads or storing leftover sugar snap peas. And the rest? The rest are in the bottom drawer of my cupboards just waiting to be used. I’m thinking that this recipe will make a debut during our parent/teacher conferences because we all need a little pick-me-up during those days. But other than that, I’m open to suggestions, so suggest away.

by Carmen Farrell

This month at O+U is all about loves and obsessions, so here’s a little post about what’s currently giving me lady wood:  power tools.  Yup.  That’s all it takes to get this lady hot and bothered.  Good, old power tools.

For me, the potential for this  love affair started long ago.  In elementary school I took shop rather than home ec.  My inner feminist was budding and I wanted to make a statement.  I was only one of 3 females in a class of 30 12-year-olds.  By the end of the term, I was doing major cuts on the band saw for half the class.  Dudes were terrified of cutting their fingers off, and I loved how powerful I felt conquering my fear and plowing through it.

Fast forward 24 years and this here chick is trying to get her house fixed up nice and pretty.  Unfortunately, buying a 100+ year old home means that when you knock down walls and pull up floors you encounter major structural issues that eat up your meager budget and leave you with an empty shell (that is at least structurally sound at this point).  So, the hubster and I had to hunker down, ignore our children just about every weekend, and get busy making the house livable on our own.

Long story short, we found ourselves buying tools like a table saw and an impact driver – and the cooler the tools we bought, the more my mind started swirling with the possibilities.  Then Pinterest made it worse.  In the past month, I’ve been pinning tons of inspiration for making my own sectional couch.  I’ve got 3 boys who are growing fast and who’ll likely be taller than me by their 13th birthdays.  So we need lots of lounging space.  I’d had dreams of  buying a big-ass sectional …until I started shopping around and realized that all the ones that I loved cost upwards of $6000 (why must Crate and Barrel be so cruel?).  So, we could say good-bye to family vacations for the next couple of years, or I could pull out my power tools and make shit happen myself.  I realized that some of the sectionals that I loved were the exact measurements of two twin mattresses set in the shape of an “L”.  Boom.  Mind explosions.  I can sew, I can build…I can make a sectional for less than $500, damn it!

The photo directly above is of the mattresses as we’ve been living with them.  On the floor.  Size-wise they’re perfect.  As of this writing, they are now up on their frames, but I’m still trying to pick out fabric.  If anyone’s interested in the final product, I’ll post some photos up on the O+U Facebook page once it’s done.

So what else have we been able to accomplish with our fancy power tools?  We hacked some pretty cool wooden floors for a fraction of what hardwood would have cost us.  We refaced our old stairs.  We built storage benches for our front porch.   And my head continues to swim with the possibilities.

What’s next on my big old project list?  Concrete countertops for the new kitchen!  I’m practically convulsing with excitement.  Nuts, right?

I tend to fall in love quickly and then it becomes an obsession.  Ask the Ladies.  I’ll get hooked on something and it permeates everything I do.  I’ve made and canned 30 pounds of apples because I had to have applesauce all year.  One quilt pops up in my reader and I have to make it.  It doesn’t matter if the project is way above my skill level, I’ll figure it out.  The Internet makes it incredibly easy for people to find new products.  New things are always one click away and I love to share my newest obsessions.  I facebook it.  Occasionally, I tweet about it.  I blab about my favorite product to my friends and family.  I constantly share what I think is best new cookbook, tv show, song, LR presets, PJ pants, or food.  We’ve all got choices, sharing our love makes it easier to try something new.

We decided we’d spend August sharing our favorites, our loves, our obsessions.  Maybe it’s a product that makes our lives easier.  Maybe it’s a person we can’t live without.  Maybe it’s a song or a food we inhale on a daily basis.  Whatever it is we’re spending a month talking about what gets us juicy.  Feel free to do the same in our comments.

Here’s a few of my current favs to kick off the month.

Books: Any woman who believes Feminism shouldn’t come in waves is a woman I can fall in love with.  I’m only one chapter into “How to Be a Woman”, but I’ve got a feeling her topics will make many O+U appearances.  Love smart funny woman?  You do because you’re here.  Go, pick it up.  Last week, I read “A Feast Nearby” in a day.  Granted I was in an airport and there were a ton of recipes, but it went by so quickly because it was so interesting.  I love a good book about food.  This was all about local foods without being preachy.  And remember it has a ton of yummy sounding recipes.  Plus it made me want to move to Michigan.  Please don’t tell the Buckeye fans.

Homemade Marshmallows: I’ve never been a marshmallow fan.  I make Smores while camping because you’re supposed to; sort of like sleeping in a tent.  It isn’t camping if you aren’t in a tent or inhaling melted chocolate and marshmallows.  Sorry, it isn’t.  But I’ve always wanted to try making homemade marshmallows.  I figured the boys would eat them, but I didn’t count on falling in love.  Homemade tastes totally different in my opinion.  I can’t wait for Christmas to package these up and deliver them to friends.  Because let’s be honest, hot cocoa in the Summer is flat-out weird.

Peanut sauce without Coconut Milk: I’m always searching for a good peanut sauce.  Usually the sauces have coconut milk and not enough to use the entire can.  Months later, I find a glass jar full of the leftover coconut milk.  At that point, I vow to give up my peanut sauce search.  But I never do.  Earlier in the Summer I found this recipe and it’s my current go-to.  Whip up a batch of quinoa or noodles, slice your favorite veggies, and drizzle the sauce.  Yes, that’s my second helping of the sauce and quinoa.  It’s that good.

1 C. creamy peanut butter

3/4 C. Rice vinegar

2 T. Sesame Oil

2 T. Sherry

1 C. Scallions

1/4 C Cilantro (I love cilantro, but my fridge isn’t always stocked with this herb.  I’ve skipped it and it still taste delicious.)

2 T. Soy Sauce

1 T. Sriracha

Mix well.

Two new kitchen scents: For years, I’ve been using a diluted mixture of water and Dr. Bronner’s as my counter and dish soap.  For some reason, I picked up Mrs. Myers Basil Countertop spray.  It leaves streaks on our gray counters, but I love the scent so I don’t care.  It’s subtle and kitchen-y just like my new hand soap scent: Bath and Body Work’s Kitchen Mandarin.  Usually I’m a Lemon girl.  Why not try something new?  Little things, people.  Little things.

Dr Joy Browne on my iPod:  I found her while I was driving around Michigan.  Her program airs on local AM stations.  For years, I suffered through static-y AM stations just to hear her advice.  I love reality tv because it’s like lurking on someone’s life.  Her program is similar, but classier.  Callers call and unload their problems.  Some problems are tiny: allowances for children.  Other problems are huge: wives finding out about their husband’s second family.  She gives practical advice and never judges the caller.  A couple years ago, I realized that you could download the program’s podcast.  She’s with me while I’m on the road and sometimes while I’m sewing in the basement.  Take a listen and tell me it isn’t fascinating.  One day, you might recognize my voice…

Twilight Drama: I’ve never read any of the books.  I’ve only seen the first movie as a goof with my nieces.  I’ve always found Kristin Stewart to be icky.  I’m purely judging her as icky on looks and attitude given off during interviews.  I don’t know her or enjoy any of her movies.  Yes, I can act like a Mean Girl.  I don’t get the whole Rob Pattinson craze, but he does have an English accent, so I’ll put up with him.  But currently, I love these two and their drama!  It’s probably because they’ve refused to acknowledge their relationship and now she’s publicly apologizing to him.  Maybe it’s because I like lurking on someone’s drama.  Whatever.  I can’t stop watching the train wreck.

Share your favorites.  Get me hooked on something new.  Give me something to rave about and blab to my friends and family.  I’ll give you credit.