Monday, December 14, 2009

Secret Santa

Well, today is the annual IRT holiday party and I'm all set for the big Secret Santa gift exchange reveal. I decided to put my creativity to work and made this holiday flower arrangement and kusudama ball ornament (you may remember the giant kusudama pomanders from the wedding ceremony!) I hope the recipient will enjoy these!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Go Ahead, Have a Cow, Man!

During this holiday season I wanted to take a moment to say a few words about an organization that DH and I support: Heifer International. This organization provides livestock and training to families in need around the world, offering them a sustainable source of food and income. You can browse their catalog of charitable gifts here. Heifer's work helps ensure the health and education of children, empowers women, and builds communities.

You might recall that our wedding registry included Heifer, and I am proud to say that DH and I also donated 5% of all monetary gifts received to Heifer. The next time you wonder what to get that person in your life who has everything, consider a flock of ducks, some rabbits, or even a cow!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Adventures in Home Brewing

The big project in the Owen-Harmon household lately has been our first attempt at home brewing. The beer won't be ready for another week but I thought I'd post some photos of the brewing process.

Our adventure began with a visit to Great Fermentations, our local brewing supply shop. We'd purchased some equipment on Craigslist for quite a bargain and needed ingredients. For our first brew we selected an Oatmeal Stout, because, well, we like oatmeal stout and darker beers are more forgiving of minor mistakes!

This first beer is brewed from extract (as opposed to all grain brewing) which means that the kit we purchased contained several bags of pre-processed malt. Because it's an oatmeal stout the kit also contained a bag of specialty grains (the oatmeal, some coarsely ground, dark roasted barley).

Here are the grains in 2 cheesecloth sacks, kinda like big tea bags.

Here's Bill tossing them in to 3 gallons of 160 degree water.

We left the grains to steep for 45 minutes or so and got on with the business of sanitizing the equipment. The majority of home brewing failures are the result of improper cleaning and sanitation.
Here's the fermenting bucket, filled with sanitizer and some of the other brewing tools.

Frothy, grainy goodness. This steeping process creates fermentable sugars for the yeast to eat, which is what makes the beer!

Stirring. And stirring. And stirring some more.

The grain bags have been removed, extract powder added, and once all the extract (like, 5 pounds of it) is dissovled the mixture is brought to a boil. Which took an hour. Then hops are added and it boils for an hour.
Chilling the wort.

After the hour of boiling the wort must be chilled quicky to prevent contamination and oxidation. We put the covered pot in a sink full of ice. Chilling takes about 30 minutes.

Once the beer is below 80 degrees it's time to aerate it (stir and splash it so oxygen gets in it for the yeast.) We swished and poured it into the fermenting bucket and once it was under 70 degrees we pitched the yeast.
These special brewing yeast packs are specially selected for the type of beer you're brewing and come with an activating solution in the pouch. This gets the yeast multiplying before it's tossed in to the wort.

Finally, it was time to cover the bucket and let it sit. It stays in the bucket for 2 weeks prior to bottling, plenty of time for the yeast to work its magic.
See the bubbles? The yeast is in action!

We bottled the beer last weekend, at which point a small amount of additional sugar was added to spur on a little more fermentation in the sealed bottles. This is what creates carbonation. We did taste the beer before bottling and, while it was totally flat (it should have been at that point), the flavor was very nice. So long as we got our bottles clean enough and the priming sugar mixed well I think our beer should be pretty darn good! We're so optimistic, in fact, that Bill is all set to brew another batch this weekend, a Chocolate Porter. mmm ... with any luck we'll have 2 batches ready before Christmas.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Craftiness

With Halloween over, Thanksgiving bearing down, and a weekend of watching tech rehearsal for A Christmas Carol, I finally got inspired to get our Christmas Cards going.

Being the cheap frugal and creative person that I am, I decided to make cards again this year. I started out with the same stack of holiday scrapbook paper and plain white envelopes as last year (with a box of 250 it will take a while for us to run out). Once again I made cards by spray adhering the holiday paper to some cardstock remnants found in the recycling bin of the printing company located in our props storage warehouse (free and up-cycled! beat that!). However, this year I improved on the design by making coordinating envelope liners and mailing labels. A sign of my incredible creativity or a huge, pathetic red flag that I need to make some friends here in Indy? I'll let you decide.

Now I just have to write in and address them all ... and manage to get them to the post office. Eeeep.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Probably the last backyard bouquet of the season: snapdragons, zinnas, goldenrod, and some greens from the shrubs in our front yard.

Another class project: a fall basket of carnations, various mums, and spray roses with leather leaf and variegated pittosporum.

Our final class project: a topiary style arrangement of alstromeria with a base of carnations and solodaigo in a painted terra cotta pot.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Floral Design Update

So I've had a couple more sessions of my floral design course and thought I'd share some photos! The picture above is from last week's class, a hand-tied bouquet. It's called "hand-tied" because you hold it in your hand while you "tie" the flowers together by lacing the stems together, starting with the outer foliage. (Note: I'd been calling the bouquets I did for the wedding "hand-tied" bouquets ... I was wrong!) This creates a very stable arrangement that holds it's form when you plop it in the vase.

Tonight we did a very fundamental arrangement of long-stem carnations in laced with greens. This is the same technique one would use to vase a dozen long-stem roses, along with a variety of other flowers (like irises, tulips, daffodils, gladiolas, and gerbera daisies.) It starts similarly to a hand-tied bouquet but once the big-leafed foliage is laced together you put it in the vase. The rest of the flowers are laced directly in the vase. The challenge of this arrangement for me was keeping the carnations long enough and leaving some air in it all. I have tendency to make dense arrangements. (Looking at the picture I still go, are the stems too long ?? But the teacher said no so I'm trying to believe her.) The reason for all the height: long-stem roses are more expensive because of their long stems! The last thing you want to do is cut them all short, right?

Last, there were some extra flowers left after demo of a pave bouquet (this is the kind of bouquet I made for the wedding) and a pave arrangement. The picture above is the pave arrangement I made when I got home. Pretty!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Life is like a bunch of flowers ...

Tonight was my first floral design class and it was lots of fun. We made a basic round centerpiece. I learned not to be the last person in line to get my flowers 'cause you end up with the stems that have lots of un-opened buds and the broken ones! :) However, I think mine still turned out just fine. And hey, when the buds open in 3 days it'll be like a whole new arrangement, right?

I have to say, getting out of the house and taking this class, I felt more like myself than I have in a long time. It was nice to be around new people, and I get completely lost in arranging flowers. So zen. Driving home (with my arrangement in tow), accelerating down the highway with the setting sun in the rear view mirror, blasting Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" on the stereo, I could at least recall the memory of a time when I knew everything would turn out alright. And that's not darn bad for today.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Craft Store Withdrawal

A little-known side effect of marriage is apparently craft store withdrawal ...

Most people probably don't have a job where they frequent places such as JoAnn Crafts, Michaels, and the wholesale floral supplier, but I do. (Also, how many of you have a "favorite fabric" you visit once a week but never buy because you can't imagine what you'd do with it that would make it worth spending the money? Guilty!) And now, every time I go in I find myself wandering through the aisles, thinking of all the lovely invitations and decorations and bouquets I would make with such beautiful materials. Sigh. I really am pathetic.

But, I guess before I feel too sorry for myself I should remember the 4 bins of yarn under the bed, the storage rack full of fabric, and the various other art supplies scattered throughout the house that I could do something with if I weren't so lazy! Vive la weekend!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What to do with the dress?

As the wedding began to fade into memory I had to decide what to do with my wedding dress. Now, I loved my dress. It was comfortable, fun, and just perfect for me. I loved shopping for it with my mom, sister, and grandmother. But I didn't love the idea of letting it hang in our (non-existent) closet for the next 500 years. Because I loved my dress I wanted it to be worn again. So, I decided to sell it.

First came the task of getting the dress clean. Now, dry cleaning for a wedding dress can cost $100-$200 easily, which would pretty much negate the profits of selling the dress. I did some research online and turns out you CAN hand-wash a wedding dress, IF it's made of synthetic fibers (not silk). So, I scrubbed the bathtub really, really well, rolled up my sleeves, and dove in. It probably took 3-4 hours of soaking, gently scrubbing the hem with a soft toothbrush and detergent, more soaking, copious rinsing, and rinsing some more to get the dress sparkling ivory again but it worked! The dress looked great and ready to go. Granted, I was getting it clean for the purpose of re-wearing in the very near future. If you're trying to preserve your dress so your granddaughter can wear it maybe hand-washing isn't the way to go.

Finally, I put the dress up for sale on BravoBride. A couple weeks later I had an interested buyer. We exchanged a few emails, she sent a payment using Paypal, and I put the dress in the mail! Sometime in the next year a Minneapolis bride will have a fabulous wedding wearing my dress and I couldn't be happier. She gets to save a little money, I get to make a little money, and we both conserve the resources that would have gone into making another identical wedding dress.

With the money from the dress I signed up for a floral design class at a local university. I had so much fun doing the wedding flowers that I decided to learn how to do it for real! It starts Monday and I can't wait.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

"So How's Married Life?"

Married life is good. Fine. Not all that different from shacking up life, I like to say! I think that running a household together for almost two years made for a pretty simple transition. Now that the wedding is well in the past it's just back to the day-to-day grind.

Which leaves us with a question: what is the future of this blog? Not much else to be said about the wedding, really, unless anyone has a few more burning questions. The blog turned out to be more of a personal planning journal and a way to share information with family and friends, so I can't imagine I have any sort of "public" audience using this as a wedding planning resource. I suppose I could re-name it "Owen-Harmon Life" and regale you all with tales of our adventures ... unfortunately our life is pretty boring right now. I work. Bill looks for work. We cooks, we clean (though never enough), we laugh at our ridiculous and adorable cats. Together we ponder our next move, more often than not we feel discouraged. (Welcome to the real world, right? Yeah, I get it, life can be discouraging at times ... but who, during such times, doesn't hope/wish/long for slightly less discouraging days?)

So, I guess the answer is "stay tuned, maybe I'll come up with a good reason to keep posting here!" And, you can always stop by my other blog, Knitjenious, to see what craftiness I'm up to. Now that I've said that, I better go update it! Eeep!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pro Pics!

The disc of pro photos arrived today! Hooray! I'll be putting them in a Flickr folder if you want to order prints that way, or you can also order archival quality prints from Scott C Photography. Also, remember that the highlight gallery photos can only be ordered through the photographer's website.

Updated to add: It appears as though you must be signed in to the owen_harmonwedding flickr account to order prints, though you do not have to be signed in to view or download the photo files. Email me or leave a comment if you lost the password!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Kusudama Ball Tutorial, or, What Were Those Things Hanging Overhead During the Ceremony?

I've been asked several times about the hanging paper flower balls that we used as ceremony decorations, and the link to the tutorial is here and here on Folding

The directions tell you to you 3"x3" squares of paper but you can use other sizes, as long as the pieces are square. For the wedding kusudama balls I used 6"x6" squares, and I've also used squares as small as 2"x2" to make Christmas ornaments. Also, I just glued the ribbon to the inside of the ball, instead of running it all the way through and securing the end with beads/buttons. The other sneaky trick I employ when making these is to use paperclips as clamps. That way you're not stuck holding the paper petal together, waiting for it to dry. Once you have the basic idea down I would estimate making one ball takes about 3-4 hours. (Fortunately I had help from my mom in making the wedding balls! Extra hands make the process go a lot faster!)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Honeymoon Pics 4

More hiking pics ... this time in the other half of Lake of the Ozarks State Park. The big feature here is this castle! Or what's left of it ...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Honeymoon Pics 3

One great way to cool off in Central Missouri is to explore one of the many area caves. We chose a particularly hot afternoon to visit the Ozark Caverns in Lake of the Ozarks State Park. We arrived early for the tour so we took a little hike first.

This is the most striking feature of Ozark Caverns, an area where the water that forms stalactites and stalagmites rains down like a shower into a geologically formed basin.

Us in the cave. In spite of the 100+ degree heat index it was about 60 degrees inside the cave. Chilly!!

One the drive back to the resort we drove down some winding dirt roads in search of the Swinging Bridges. While driving we saw this turtle in the middle of the road! And if you know DH you know he loves turtles ... we had to get out of the car and take this picture.

Speaking of wildlife, we saw deer in people's front yards nearly every time we drove back to our condo.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Puttering Around the House

Now that all this wedding hoopla has passed DH and I find ourselves with a lot of time on our hands. We try not to drive each other crazy being home together every day (I start back to work for the season on August 10th) and one of the things we've been doing to pass the time is make lots of meals from scratch. We recently started planning our dinner menu for the week in advance (an idea we totally stole from Janelle and Drew) and that's working out great. Even DH is enjoying it, and he's always been the "go to the grocery store every day and get what you feel like having at that moment" kind of guy. It also really reduces the chances we'll waste food because we've focused on buying only what we need to make the specific meals we've chosen. All this home cooking has also given us the chance to play with our new toys (aka wedding gifts)! We've used our KitchenAid mixer, waffle iron, baking stone, cookbooks and recipes, and lots of other stuff at least a few times already

In the past few weeks we've made homemade chickpea burgers, red beans and rice with chicken, pizza (with dough from scratch), sushi, carrot-peanut summer soup (surprisingly good), jicama slaw, fish tacos, and lots of other things I can't remember right now. The farmer's market is in full swing these days and our intake of fresh produce has picked up significantly, a much-needed change after a month of celebrations, vacations, and generally eating terribly.

So, one of the bright sides of dual unemployment is getting in to some good habits that will hopefully stick with us when we go back to working full-time.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Honeymoon Pics 2

One of our honeymoon activities was going horseback riding. Here we are are at Lake of the Ozarks State Park, getting ready to ride!

After the ride we went for a little hike. I was very glad to have my Camelbak water reservoir in my backpack ... the heat index was over 100 the entire week!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Honeymoon Pics 1

So, I finally downloaded the honeymoon pics from the camera and thought I'd start sharing a few. Here are some shots from around the condo where we stayed. As you can see, we were right on the lake with a wonderful view!

View from the condo balcony

Another balcony view

Bill admires the view


Lounging on the couch

Mmmm ... coffee.

Same view during the single, 45-minute thunderstorm of the week. Eeep!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Taking Care of Business

After 4 weeks of marriage we decided it was time to get around to some of those pesky business details involved with entering a legally binding contract, such as combining our auto insurance and getting renter's insurance to cover our possessions (I know, I know, we've been adults for how long and haven't had renter's insurance? I suck at being a grown up, what can I say?) At least I'm not changing my name, and we've had a joint checking account for the last 2 years so the effort involved in taking care of business is minimal.

There are some perks to this process, like the fact that even with adding renter's insurance we're saving over $100 compared to what we were paying for our individual car insurance policies. How is that even possible? Those Progressive commercials may be annoying but man, they are saving us a lot of money. I guess now that we're married we're theoretically more responsible drivers?

Next big thing to look in to: life insurance. I've got a small, term policy through my employer (which I need to update the beneficiary on) but am at a total loss about where to go from there. Recommendations are welcome!