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The good folks over at Quokka Quilts are running a fun contest in conjunction with Fat Quarter Shop. Check out the complete details here, but the long and short of it is that you create your own custom fabric bundle to include three solids and twelve prints, then the judges will pick their favorite to win a half yard bundle. I thought it sounded like a good challenge for the eye, and after spending several hours (yep, hours), had my suspicions confirmed. This was hard! What added to the challenge was the sheer volume of choices (Fat Quarter Shop’s inventory is huge). How do you start? Well, here’s what I did…

I started off by opening up a PowerPoint doc and pulling in images for a whole bunch of prints I liked from the shop’s modern fabrics section. That quickly got overwhelming, so I decided to pick a few key focus prints that I loved and knew I would want in the final selection:

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From there, in a new slide, I pulled in a bunch of solids to get the overall color scheme/proportions of major colors to accent colors that I was looking for:

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What followed was many hours of pulling in additional prints I liked, swapping out different solids and colors to get the appropriate balance of color, scale, value and design. I also made a concerted effort not to include multiple prints from any one given line. I won’t even tell you how many iterations I went through before ending up with my final contest entry. I mean, really, isn’t this enough to make your head spin? It’s like playing Where’s Waldo with fabric!

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Those of you who know me in real life will no doubt not be surprised at my final collection. I like to think of it as jewel-y, earthy, with a 70s influence. Which, in my ideal world, is how I like to dress. (Curious? Check out my Pinterest fashion board). Without further ado, here’s my final collection:

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  1. Kona Cotton Hibiscus
  2. Ruby Cotton Lime Dot
  3. Dazzle Clementine Shadow Stripe 
  4. Bespoken Aqua Stitchery
  5. Domestic Bliss Aqua Time For Tea 
  6. Stitch Organic Lagoon on Brown Loop Stripe
  7. Oval Elements Chocolate Cherry
  8. Outfoxed Brown Wild Vines
  9. Power Pop Coffee Confetti 
  10. So Sophie Purple Dot
  11. Kona Cotton Jade Green 
  12. Pam Kitty Morning Green Plaid
  13. Sophie Chocolate Houndstooth
  14. Pure Elements Verve Violet Solid 
  15. Pear Tree Cream and Orange Allover Eggs

There were many other prints that I toyed around with and also liked very much; here are some of the second place prints that came *this close* to making it into the pile:

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(edit…2 of the solids made it in after all! Took this shot while the espresso was still in the final running instead of the teal/purple…)

And for good measure, here are the true rejects (still prints I like, just not working with the theme I was going for):
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That’s all for today, but expect more posts soon — I have so many fun things to share…crafts, holiday food, the Boston to Austin food swap… Stay tuned!

Giveaway winner…

Thanks to all who entered this week’s giveaway! The winner is…

# 28, Jessica C! I’ve sent you an email, Jessica; just drop me a line and let me know where to send your package. It looks like Jessica has named our little sheep friend Leonard (which also happens to be my grandfather’s name!). For the curious amongst you, the name I had chosen for the sheep was: Norbert

Believe it or not, there was one person who guessed the name Norbert, so Georgia got a second entry into the draw.

This was too much fun, and I loved reading all the names you came up with — you are a truly funny group of people! Back to some holiday stitching for now… much more to share very soon!

EDIT 12/16/11: GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED — WILL ANNOUNCE THE WINNER IN A NEW POST TOMORROW. THANKS FOR STOPPING BY!

Hooray, it’s here! Today is the annual December Giveaway Day at Sew, Mama, Sew! A hearty welcome to all SMS readers. I won’t keep you long today, but do take a look around and, if you like what you see, I’d love to have you as a subscriber (links upper right). I typically post a couple of times a month and share my adventures in food and craft, offering up recipes, lots of food photos, sewing project pics, and discoveries/lessons learned along the way. I try to keep this a happy, thoughtful, appetizing(!), and occasionally funny place. For a taste of what this blog is all about, check out this post: Carefully Edited Slices of Life

For now, let’s get on with the giveaway! Up for grabs is a nice little assortment of goodies: 2 mini embroidery hoops, 2 flour sack dish towels (for embroidering!), and a jar of 20+ colors of floss. Then for some handmade goodness, I’ve added a little needle-felted sheep, along with some fabric-covered clothespins (leftover from the photo booth at my wedding). Lastly, in another piece of post-wedding craft supply overflow, a little spool of green bakers twine. The wooden chopping block stays with me… 😉

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For a chance to win, leave a comment and answer me this question: What would you name the sheep if he were to go home with you??? (I’ll give an extra entry to anyone who can guess the name *I* would give him. And yes, I realize that, not having horns, the sheep is more likely a she. But look at that face. Clearly a boy. A confused sheep perhaps. I digress.)

Details: Winner will be chosen by the random number generator. Giveaway is open until December 16 at 5 p.m. PST, and international readers are more than welcome to enter!

Be sure to go back to Sew, Mama, Sew! and check out all the other wonderful giveaways taking place today. Thanks for stopping by!

You should know that I am an unabashed homer. Give me the Jerry Remys, the Andy Brickleys of the world — I am not looking for fair and balanced reporting. I want reporting with passion, and I want folks on my side. (My former journalism professors are no doubt developing an odd twitch somewhere off in academia right now).

With that preface, I must confess a somewhat irrational love for the eateries in my office building and the vendors at the farmer’s market on the square. There are notable exceptions, of course, and my equally irrational disdain is felt with similar passion. For what is food without passion (says the good little Italian)?

Please understand that this means I will make brazen claims that Narragansett Creamery makes the best mozzarella you can buy stateside (they do), that tasting Burdick’s hot chocolate will change your definition of cocoa (it will), and that Iggy’s sliced Francese makes the world go round (it does…or at the very least makes my midsection round).

These small businesses sustain me — both literally and figuratively — throughout the workday and beyond. Who’s to say what is more warming: the hot cup of coffee in my hand from Croissant du Jour, or the familiar wave and smile of the gal who, with a nod, has already filled my cup with my usual order before I get to the register?

All of which is to say that I have a massive crush on Bacco’s Wine & Cheese. At the risk of sounding like a complete wino, let’s just say that I was singlehandedly able to wrap all of my wedding centerpieces in recycled Bacco’s bags to ensure safe transport to and from the venue. So I may or may not frequent this particular shop regularly. They may or may not know me on a first name basis. Sigh.

Aside from the well-curated, rotating selection of wines, Bacco’s boasts an above-average selection of domestic and imported cheeses, with a modest accompaniment of charcuterie, condiments, and chocolates. (Not to mention the rather addictive and hard-to-find blood orange San Pellegrino.) If that weren’t enough, they carry daily special entrees from Pigalle, and a “bento box” lunch of two daily cheese selections, salami, bread and condiments. And the bread is, yes, from Iggy’s.

The best part about Bacco’s is hands down the staff, however. As an explorer in the world of food (read: painfully indecisive, but adventurous), there’s nothing I enjoy more than recommendations. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go to jot down foods I’d like to try, wines I’ve enjoyed, and favorite cheeses (see the To Eat section of this blog, for example). In addition to daily — yes, daily! — wine and cheese tastings, the staff at Bacco’s never fail to offer suggestions, and are happy to share their food knowledge with you.

Which brings me to today’s recipe. I had the idea kicking around in my head that I’d like to try making a riff on a saltimbocca using Spanish ingredients. The idea started with the rather mundane thought to make saltimbocca using Serrano ham in place of the prosciutto. Then an amontillado in place of the madeira, perhaps? But what of the Fontina? Enter the advice of Em, Bacco’s resident “cheese wiz,” who pointed me towards their Drunken Goat cheese. No amontillado on hand, so with the help of the wine guy, we settled on a Pedro Ximenez dessert sherry, with the understanding that I would cut it with chicken stock. (As an aside — oh, wine guy with the dark hair and proclivity to wear sunglasses on top of your head — I’m sorry! Why don’t I know your name? You know mine! You were the first employee I met there! Bad customer…)

Drunken Goat, unsurprisingly, is a goat’s milk cheese that has been soaked in wine. Unlike the wine-imbued Umbriaco del Piave we served at my sister’s elopement, the wine doesn’t seep into the cheese itself, but instead colors the rind and adds a lovely depth of taste that is quite unlike wine itself. In other words, this isn’t a supermarket port wine cheese spread… More importantly, it was FANTASTIC with the saltimbocca. It kept its own unique, mild but tangy flavor while standing up to the other strong tastes quite handily.

I also enjoyed how the Serrano ham contributed a meatier, less salty flavor than the usual prosciutto. And the sherry? I had my doubts about the sweetness, but it ended up being brilliant. I didn’t have any fresh sage on hand, so, with a guilty conscience, I grabbed my dried sage and added that to the pan sauce instead. In the end, the savory sage helped further counter the sweetness of the sherry, and made for a beautiful and tasty sauce.

Spanish-inspired Chicken Saltimbocca
original recipe by The Hungry Crafter

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1/4 lb. drunken goat cheese, sliced
  • 6 slices Serrano ham
  • 1/2 c. Pedro Ximenez sherry
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • butter
  • dried sage

Pound chicken breasts to 1/4″ thickness; season lightly with salt and pepper. Layer 3 slices of Serrano ham on each breast.

In large frying pan, heat 2 T. olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken breasts, ham side up, and cook until bottom is golden brown, about 3 minutes, then flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.
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Flip again, so that the ham is facing up again, and layer slices of cheese on top. Cover the pan with a lid to trap the steam and melt the cheese; remove chicken to serving dish as soon as cheese has melted sufficiently and chicken has cooked through (just a few minutes).

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Deglaze the pan with sherry, then add chicken broth and a few pats of butter. Measurements for the pan sauce are all approximate — taste, taste, taste! Add sage to taste (I used about 1 t.), adding more sherry or broth to increase or decrease the sweetness to your preference. Let sauce reduce by half, and spoon generously over the chicken.

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Quick, easy, but by no means mundane — dinner for two is served!

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Happy Halloween, all! Pattern by The Green Hedgehog, sewn with love for Baby W by her Auntie, The Hungry Crafter.

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While I was sewing for Baby W, I took the time to make a couple of paci clips that match her Mom’s diaper bag. Knowing nothing about babies (and therefore nothing about pacifiers), I was grateful to be forewarned that Baby W is partial to the “soothie” style pacifier and therefore needed a special loop to attach to it. A quick internet search turned up this tutorial, which did the job quite nicely. Super quick and easy — I see making plenty more of these in my future!

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How does one go about writing a single post encapsulating their wedding? Having come off a good nine months of obsessively reading several wedding blogs on a daily basis, you’d think I might have figured this out by now. Some newlyweds write wedding graduate posts full of reflection and self-awareness; some are artfully set up as inspiration board theme parties (think A New England herbal barn wedding or J&N’s local-infused DIY faux-vintage chocolate extravaganza…); yet others simply show photos and let the images speak for themselves. Myself? I’ve been stuck.

It’s not like I haven’t been thinking about it. I did just spend the bulk of a year virtually singly-focused on preparing for this day. As you might expect, I have plenty of thoughts on the matter. But how to approach? Do I offer words of wisdom for future brides-to-be? Think in retrospect about which things were wise decisions, and which things I would do differently? Wax philosophical about the virtual barrage of life lessons that were hurled at me along the way?

I’ve always admired the many women who write from the heart about their joys and struggles, hard-won victories and humbling blessings, their moments of grace and of shame. I’ve been hesitant to do so myself, however, because I don’t want to dispel any of the magic that is still settling down around the corners of today, this beautiful afterglow of our wedding. To be sure, I encountered plenty of both good and bad along the way — to say it was an emotional year is a bit of an understatement — but I am so grateful and relieved to be able to say that it was all worth it. Every last cent and each minute spent, every long night of insomnia, fighting back stress and the hounds of indecision… It all culminated in a day that will live in my mind and heart forever, the culmination of a year after which I’ll never be the same. How do I write that all in a single post?

So for now, I’d like you to know one thing: Our day was perfect. In every way. And I would not change a thing. Except for those d*mn chairs…

Bottom right photo compliments of Max Germer



 

All photos by Maureen Cotton Weddings, except as noted.

 

I’m back!

…with a new name and a whole slew of DIY wedding crafts to post about. And just maybe some delicious food as well.

I’m happy to report that our wedding was the event of the century, and all went off without a hitch.

Regards,

A very happy Mrs.

Pink Chalk StudioI’ve been meaning to share my sewing space with you all for a while, and was finally given a shove by Kathy over at Pink Chalk Studio, who has dubbed July “Where I Sew” month on her blog. Be sure to check out the link up page over there for all your voyeuristic pleasure!

Someday, I hope to have a single studio room dedicated to all my creative affairs. Right now, things are a bit spread out, with “fine arts” (paints, pastels, etc.) and paper crafts living in the upstairs office along with the musical instruments, computer and graphic design books, while the sewing, embroidery and fiber arts live downstairs in a nook of the living room. Given that a). this is “where I SEW” month, and b). the office is so cluttered you could lose a leg walking through there, I think I’ll stick to my downstairs corner for the purposes of this post.

I’ll begin by introducing you to my torso. She doesn’t have a name (suggestions welcome! Shout ’em out!), but I think that’s only because I relish the opportunity to use the word “torso” in conversation.  As in, “What’d you get for Christmas this year, Jo?” “A torso.” Unfortunately, she celebrates her birthday every year by being relegated to the garage so that there’s room for the Christmas tree. The joys of townhouse living.

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And here’s the nook in its entirety. Lovely spot for a Christmas tree, don’t you think?

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Over to the left, you’ll notice the bulk of my storage in the bookcase: craft books and knit fabrics on the top shelf; quilting cottons and linens below; a display shelf of my favorite odds and ends; patterns, notions, rulers and the like in a vintage tool caddy; baskets for embroidery floss, wool roving, and felt; and finally, tucked away in the bottom, the unattractive bags of batting, interfacing, polyfil and scraps.

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I picked up a couple lime-painted metal drawers at the same time as the tool caddy, and keep them on my sewing table to hold scissors and pins and rulers and marking pens, as well as my favorite sewing accessory ever: Owly. Yes, I am still five years old when it comes to naming conventions. I had better not ever seriously get into creating large art quilts, for fear of what I’ll name them. But back to Owly. Clearly, he’s a pincushion. His secret, though is that he’s also a tape measure. His tail pulls out, and you press his base to retract. Such fun!

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To the right of the sewing table is a small bookcase where I store my apparel fabric and some additional patterns and books. On top of the bookcase is a lamp, excess spools of thread (long story), and a great bulldog print by Marc Tetro that I picked up on vacation in Asheville, NC. Again, no small children in my house, just a big one that has a thing for goofy animal art. (You did notice the strings of Mexican chickens hanging from the wall in the first two pictures, right?)

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And that just about does it! Not much to my nook, but it’s bright, cheery, and gets the job done. Oh wait, before I sign off, how about some Christmas in July?

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Told you it looks good there. Hope everyone had a great fourth of July. Merry birthday, America.

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Welcome!

Baby W was born at 11:57 pm last night, after 42 hours of labor. There was time to make cake as well.

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Mini Blueberry Bundt Cakes

  • 1/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup 2% low-fat milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries

Lemon Icing

  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons 2% low-fat milk
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

In a small mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Beat in the egg, milk and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt; stir into creamed mixture. Fold in blueberries.

Pour into three 4 inch bundt pans coated with nonstick cooking spray. Bake at 350 for 25 to 35 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

For icing, in a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar, milk and lemon juice; drizzle over cakes. Garnish with additional blueberries if desired.

NOTE: If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw before adding to batter.

There’s nothing like the anticipation of a new baby.

We had a baby shower for my sister a few weeks ago, and as expected, it was full of food, handmade gifts and more onesies than you can shake a stick at. By special request, I made his and hers diaper bags from Anna Maria Horner’s book, Handmade Beginnings. Erm. Have I mentioned that I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew when it comes to special occasions? (You’ll notice that there’s been a distinct lack of posting regarding my ongoing wedding planning. Suffice it to say that there will be several posts in September/October forming a grand unveiling of the sheer extent of my event-planning mania).

Point being, these were not easy patterns, at least not for me. On the upside, I learned so much more about my sewing machine, zipper installation, and why it is a bad idea to substitute poly/nylon strapping for 100% cotton strapping if you have any intention of ironing your work. Ditto for the plastic zipper. I also learned to despise working with Peltex II ultra-firm interfacing, while simultaneously falling in love with the little zippered pouch. And did I ever form a close relationship with my seam-ripper…

First up: “The Dad Bag,” for stylish metropolitan dads-on-the-go.

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I used an upholstery weight fabric for the outside (Also polyester. Really, what was I thinking? Let’s just say this bag is not flame retardant). For ease of sewing, I’d recommend actually reading and following the book’s instructions, and use a cotton home deco weight. Don’t even get me started on the interfacing. I think my sewing machine is still trying to forgive me.

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The bag is lined with a grey print from Robert Kaufman’s “Metro Living” collection, which I was very happy with. Inside the bag is a series of elastic loops for holding bottles and whatnot.

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Also included is a matching changing pad — a nice good size — that can be folded and stored in the front zipper pocket.

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Next up: the “Here We Go Bag” for Mom

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For my sister’s bag, I used an assortment of prints from Sandi Henderson‘s Meadowsweet line. Prior to picking out fabrics, I put together a quick fabric “style quiz” for my sister to help determine her tastes in modern quilting fabrics. Sandi was a hit, along with Jennifer Paganelli. Hmm, wonder if I can figure out how to make an online version of the quiz, just for fun. Why exactly are quizzes so irresistible, anyway? Another mystery of life…

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The design features box-pleated pockets on the outside (another successful learning experience for me!), a divider on the inside (less successful), and then I added a couple of simple inside pockets.

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This pattern also comes with a changing pad, although much smaller than the one that went with the Dad Bag. Hopefully not too small to be useful? I improvised piecing together a couple different fabrics for the front — mostly wanting to stretch out the brown print, which I only had a fat quarter of!

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The bag has an elastic loop in the upper left corner to hold the changing pad, but I decided to make a changing pad/diaper/wipe pouch as well, following this tutorial from Craft Buds. I liked the all-in-one aspect that allows you to just pull out the pouch and run to the ladies room without bringing the whole bag, if need be. I picked up a little plastic baby wipe holder for the inside pocket, so she can take just a small amount of wipes out with her. I might make it just a tad larger next time around (1/2 inch extra would do), as it’s a little snug once it’s fully loaded.

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By this time, I was in a full-on accessory crafting fury, and decided to try my hand at a zippered pouch to hold Desitin and the like. A quick Google search turned up a super simple tutorial by Skip to my Lou, and I was on my way. This was by far the easiest, and therefore most instantly rewarding, part of the whole sewing adventure. (Although piecing the front of the changing pad was fun too…) I see many more zippered pouches in my future — in fact, one for me is already in progress.

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And one more gratuitous shot of the full suite:

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Moving on to the shower itself: On Saturday, I hosted an informal BBQ shower for friends, featuring asparagus wrapped in prosciutto (a new family favorite), Italian and barbecue chicken style strombolis, Italian sausages with peppers and onions, hamburgers with Vermont cheddar, fruit salad, tortellini salad, and of course, cake and beer. I was, of course, a bit preoccupied with managing all the food, so didn’t get any photos, unfortunately. My mother and aunts threw the formal family brunch the next day, and while I can’t take credit for the food at that event, I was free to snap photos that are well worth the look! They truly outdid themselves:

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Olive Cheese Balls. These things are truly addictive. I think I single-handedly ate half a tray.

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Lemon-Parsley Gougeres

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Tomato Stuffed Peppers

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Simple green salad

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Prosciutto, mozzarella, and fruit salad

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Roasted Potato Tart with Fresh Tarragon, Sautéed Mushrooms, and Melted Gruyere, from Once Upon a Tart

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Chocolate Crackle Cookies

And finally, the pièce de résistance:

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Lady Baltimore Cake

Yeah, that whole getting carried away thing? It runs in the family.

And then…

And then your sister goes into labor, and the real meaning behind her pregnancy starts to hit home. A new life is making its way into the world. There’s going to be a new member of the family you already love so much.

But then time drags on, and nothing happens. You wait. You do what you always do, and keep your hands busy. You make a lasagna to take to the hospital. Seven in the morning crawls into seven at night, and you find yourself pacing, impotent to help. You eat the lasagna. You chat with family on the phone, send anxious text messages to the hospital. Bedtime comes, and you finally fall asleep, waking every two hours to glance with blurry eyes at your phone to see if a message notification has popped up. You wake up the next morning, and find yourself deliberating on whether you should write a blog post, or bake a little birthday cake. Blog or bake cake, blog or bake cake. And you realize that both options seem silly in the context. You decide that blogging at least lasts longer, and has less chance of being incidentally eaten. You find yourself reminiscing about your childhood, remembering your sister by your side through every step of your life. And you think of her in the hospital, in pain, and maybe, just maybe, shed a tear or two while you write.

I cannot wait to meet my new niece. I’ve been beset by a single image of holding her and feeling her wrap her hand around my finger for the first time. I love you already, Baby W. But for now, I wait.

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