Yarn Bonging

Forgot to tell one more story from last Wednesday’s trip to the mall. They have these tall wooden decorative light stands all along the bottom hall of the mall.

The one that we saw was near the Gap and it had been yarn bombed, wrapped in various colors of yarn. And there was a big Gap tag hanging off of it so I sensed this was a corporate activity rather than a spontaneous yarn bombing by knitters or crocheters. This was also just wrapped yarn, not a crocheted or knitted object.

So I am telling Ken about this and it is one of those conversations where you are just on two different wavelengths, because he things  I am saying “Yarn Bonging” which…..I can’t even imagine what that might be, although it might be fun……if yarn is involved it is inevitably fun. Sorry, no picture of the actual yarn festooned object. If I get back to the mall I will take one, but I hope I don’t have to go to the mall in a long, long time.

This weekend I felt like I was on the run from the time I got up Saturday morning until Sunday night. And part of the time I was. I was at JoAnn Fabric four separate times, twice a day. Oy.

I got up Saturday morning, intending to quickly finish up the project bag I was making for the gift exchange at our knitting group Christmas party. Well, instead, I zipped up the zipper, forgetting that the top of the zipper had been cut off because it was too long. (This was just the 1st of many setbacks this weekend.) So, off to JoAnn to buy a new zipper. And, the 2nd bag was better because I actually sewed this one correctly so the lining was better. I had put together shrimp dip the night before, so it could chill overnight, and I put that in my Pampered Chef Chilzanne bowl (which I had frozen overnight) (recipe at bottom) and was off to the yarn store at noon. I was the 1st one there, and I was a little panicked that I had the wrong day, time, something, it has happened before. But pretty soon everyone else showed up and, we had delicious food ranging from Hot Corn Dip to Brie with Chili Powder in a Bread Bowl with Bread Dippers, cookies from the French Bakery, assorted pecans (spicy, sugared and chocolate) and MORE cookies. It was all delicious. And then we did our gift exchange, one of my friends was delighted with the project bag and purple Kidsilk Aura (which I now see is discontinued, hope she can make something w/the one skein), and I got a lovely holiday knitting book http://www.amazon.com/Holiday-Knits-Great-Stockings-Sweaters/dp/0811847187.

Meanwhile I was working on a Christmas present and running out of yarn, it was a variegated red/green/white which I have had for who knows how long. I checked to see if JoAnn’s had any after the knitting party (trip #2 to JoAnn) (no, they didn’t), but got some hunter green yarn, some pins, and some rotary cutter blades (I had coupons) and inserted some hunter green instead to finish up in the Christmas present, which worked just fine. I don’t recall being useful for much last night after the party, knitting, and eating. I did make a fine batch of chili, however.

The challenge with chili in our house is that Ken is very sensitive to spicy food and to me, there is no such thing as spicy food. So, I have to make a pot of chili that tastes at least interesting to me, if not hot, and then, I spice up my own bowl with cayenne. I will post the recipe I use sometime, it has things like bacon bits and oregano.

Sunday morning, up again and cleaning up the kitchen and reading the newspaper. Headed out by 10:00 to hit you guessed it, JoAnn Fabric. Why? I can’t even remember – Oh, to see if they had a paint pen. Every year I get the nieces and nephews a Christmas ornament for that year. Some years I get ones that are personalized with their names and the years professionally, but sometimes I buy ones I like and just write their names and the year on the back or bottom with some kind of permanent marker. Well, this year was a new challenge, because I got them wooden snowflakes

http://www.signals.com/cgi-bin/hazel.cgi?action=DETAIL&ITEM=HL7322

Well, all of my various pens bled on the unfinished wood (fortunately I had ordered enough to do one practice one) – so I was at JoAnn’s looking for special woodworking pens that supposedly wouldn’t run. Well, they didn’t have those, and they didn’t have a fine tip Sharpie either, or a very fine tip paint pen in a color other than silver or white. So off I went to Murdoch’s to see if they had a better selection of pearl snap western flannel shirts in my Dad’s size, got one more, so he is going to be really suited out this winter, with the two that I already bought. Then headed to Michael’s to see if they had better pens. They at least had the fine tip Sharpies (I had determined that Sharpies were the best of the ones I currently had, but I did not have a fine tip black one) – but the line was like 30 people long and there were two cashiers working, so I gave up on THAT idea. And went across the street to Archiver’s, where they did not have what I wanted either, but they did have their colored pencils right next to the pens! Which gave me an idea! Several of the things I had googled said that the best thing for writing on wood was a pencil, so I came home, and after a bit of a search for the box of colored pencils, that did the trick. Of course, I have one snowflake which has one niece’s name written on it about 10 times with varying degrees of success, so I will have to figure out what to do with that one……

Made Steak Strips in Gravy for lunch.

Recipe: Cut up steaks, preferably boneless, but if they are on the bones, cut off the bones. Trim fat. (I used one one package of sirloin tip and one package of ribeyes). Cut into strips, about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch wide, across the wide part of the steak. Some chunks are fine too. Brown these in their own juices in a frying pan. In a separate container, stir up one or two packets of brown gravy mix with one or two cups of water (depending on how much steak, and how much gravy you want. In my opinion, the more gravy, the better.) After the steaks are browned, stir in the gravy mix. Stir occasionally, until gravy thickens. Simmer for about as much time as you have. You can also throw this into the crock pot, with or without the browning. Serve with potatoes.

The story of the afternoon and the watching of the Broncos game will wait for another day.

Here is the recipe for the shrimp dip:

Sylvia’s Shrimp Dip

3 cans tiny de-veined shrimp, drained (this is the expensive part, but do not use frozen, they DO NOT WORK)
2 cups mayo
1 cup sour cream
8 oz Cracker Barrell (or store brand if available) sharp aged white cheddar cheese, grated
2 T. finely chopped onion
1 c. grated fresh parmesan. (I use the grated parm from a jar at Safeway  – not the powdered kind, but the shreds.)

Best if made the day before and refrigerated overnight to blend flavors. Mix all and serve with crackers for dipping. Also may be spread on rye slices (or anything else appropriate) and put under the broiler and served hot. Makes a lot, but is DELICIOUS!

You’re Halfway There

Ken and I insanely decided to go to the mall Weds. night. Well, I guess I was the instigator. I was tired of all the leftovers and wanted something else to eat for dinner, and I needed one more small gift for Dear Niece-almost 11, and a cheese spreader (one of those little short squat knives) for my dip for the Knitting Christmas party on Saturday.

First of all, when I got home, and I got home a little late because I had to gas up, although I gassed up for $3.02 a gallon (whoop whoop), and Ken says, “Wait ‘til you go downstairs and see what your son has done.” (Yes, we call the cats our kids, I know, obnoxious, but they are as close to kids as we are going to get, for reasons which will be obvious when you see how poorly they behave.)

This is what greeted me. Not one,

Not two,

But three rolls of toilet paper mutilated.

And he had the whole package dragged out of the closet but apparently he ran out of artistic inspiration.And really he only gave the 1st on the “full Leo” treatment, so I guess we should be grateful.

Apparently someone (not me) was the last one to leave the house and left the bathroom door open (ahem.)

So the mall was all that is usually is, only more crowded because of Christmas shopping and more obnoxious therefore. Lots of people in line to see Santa. Ken thought I was overly snippy to the poor checkout girl at Crate and Barrel when I bought my cheese knife (just because I said “nope” when she said “now if I can just have your phone number,” instead of being more polite, “I’m sorry, I don’t give that out,”) well, sorry it it not my week to be friendly.  Ken had teriyaki chicken for dinner and I had fried fish tacos where were not as good as they should have been.

Then we went to Williams-Sonoma because I still have a gift card from last year that I need to use. I am thinking about a pizza stone, but where will I store it? I have a small kitchen. The drawer under the stove is already full of cookie sheets and cake pans. The other thing I wanted was a pastry cloth, which W-S apparently no longer carries, except for a Silpat version which is not cloth, it is silicone, if I wanted to use silicone I would roll out pastry on my Silpat baking sheets. I don’t like how they get all weird textured and sticky after awhile, so I was not going to get a Silpat pastry sheet. Rrrrrrrrrr.  The helpful lady tried to tell me to go to JoAnn fabric and get cotton duck to use as a pastry cloth, and OH, I don’t think so. Or a tea towel, no that is not what I had in mind either…….So we didn’t get anything there.

Then we ventured downstairs in the mall to try and find the niece something dolphin or mermaid related. The Flatirons Crossing Mall has a temporary holiday store “Dickens Village” or “Dickens Marketplace” or something like that, and it is full of little booths from local hand-crafters, the East Boulder County Artist’s Alliance, things like that. Well, Ken zeroed in on a booth. I have been telling him I don’t need anything for Christmas. I might have to change my mind.

http://www.etsy.com/shop/Glassnfire. This is a gentleman from Loveland who makes glass sea creatures, and I kind of have a thing for octupi. Don’t ask why, I don’t know. Anyway, these are the COOLEST octopi I have ever seen. I just don’t know if I would wear one much as a necklace. I might wear the tentacle more often.

Then we marched back down the mall, whoops, there is Spencer Gifts, the only reliable source for Lava Lamps. I have a vintage Lava Lamp (complete with flower ring and plastic flowers) in which I have been unable to restore the lava to its original grandeur, despite much Google research and purchase of strange household chemicals (pickling salt, fog machine filler) to replace the fluid with. So I decided that I would buy a new Lava Lamp and replace the globe. Unfortunately, the new Lava Lamps are not the same size as the old ones (original purchase of both the vintage one and the new one was a few months ago). So now I had a Spongebob Squarepants Lava Lamp with the wrong size globe to replace my vintage one, and not enough fluid/lava to replace the inner contents. BUT! Spencer Gifts had Lava Lamps on sale. So I got another Sponge Bob, together the two will allow me to refill my Vintage “Enchantress” model to its full glory. Pictures will follow. AND, I was very polite to the young man who helped me, despite the fact that the one who looked like he was about 12 years old and got the lamp down from the shelf said he would ring me up but he “wasn’t authorized” and I had to wait in line while the one who apparently was authorized was doing something inexplicable with the customer ahead of me. SO THERE WAS MY GOOD DEED FOR THE DAY.

OK, now we can continue down the mall, avoiding all the people who want to slather you with lotion or straighten your hair or whiten your teeth, or have you sample some tea.

Looked at men’s scarves for Ken at Macy’s. Of course, he has a color in mind that is somewhere between tan and cream, and he doesn’t like fringes, and we aren’t going to buy him a cashmere one anyway. I checked out the Crockpots, and they didn’t have the one I was interested in in stock, so that was futile. I said, “I just want to go home and be crabby,” and Ken said “You’re halfway there,” so on that note, we departed.

And, I discovered I can’t find my new nifty red scarf I bought in Yuma, Colorado in August, so that is also making me crabby. As soon as I find something that is missing (glue stick in this case) something else goes missing. Bah. Humbug.

Warning, Quilting Ahead

Disclaimer: heavy quilting content and possible over explaining in today’s post.

Taking classes in anything helps get me inspired and motivated. After taking Heather Thomas’  “Quick Color Theory Class” at the Golden Quilt Company, I was hooked and wanted to learn more. I was also looking forward to the challenge of completing one project per month for 13 months, I certainly have never finished so many things in so short a time before. The prospect was also mildly terrifying.

The first project was neutrals. This project was due in October, so right away I started thinking about fall things, and spooky things. I knew I wanted to try to do something representational, rather than a traditional quilt pattern. I flirted with the idea of a raven (Nevermore!) but I thought that would be more detail than I was ready for. And then I thought of bats, probably because my husband’s cousin encounters bats at work, and does not care for them at all, and posts about this on Facebook. I think the original idea for bats silhouetted against a lighter background came from here http://www.dana-made-it.com/2010/10/bats.html. MADE (http://www.dana-made-it.com/) is a very cool website with all kinds of neat tutorials.

Photo used by permission, http://www.dana-made-it.com/2010/10/bats.html.

I started thinking about a moon, with scary bats in front of it. And what else is spooky, how about …. corn? Children of The Corn, being lost in a corn field, hmmmmmm. So then I went looking for pictures of scary corn on the internet. And I found one that I liked, I would cite the source but of course now I can’t find where it came from.

And some pictures of bats.

And then I started fooling around with the picture in Adobe Illustrator, because I knew I wanted the quilt to have more than just black and white (we were actually required to use 12(?), I think, different fabrics.) And I made the moon bigger because it just looked cool that way.

And without bats.

I was able to print these out on 11 x 17 paper and cut up the leaves to use as patterns. I am not much of a free hander so this was a way I could do something representational.

Here are a few pictures of the piece in process. I originally had it on a darker solid black background, but I went for the gray, because it was more interesting. (Sorry these pics are so small, I (alarmingly) can’t find the original files….they have to be somewhere.

I had several more leaves cut out, and then I decided there were too many. Good choice, I think.

Here it is almost in its final form.

I had that one leaf hanging over the edge on purpose, to “break the plane” of the rectangle, but I did fray it so it wasn’t such a straight edge. I was also thinking about dry brushing some craters onto the moon, but I think the mottled pattern of the fabric suggests craters just fine.

It was amazing, in our class of 20-some women, the difference in pieces created. There were quilts, jackets, art quilts, beading, a doll, it was amazing. Heather’s suggestion for mine was that I should add some “sky lines” quilting in the background. I was very happy with how it turned out. Things I would do differently: I would add some embroidery stabilizer, because in some places I was quilting very heavily, and that started to bunch up the fabric.

Of course, I haven’t done that quilting yet, because I had to get going on the next project, plus working on several OTHER projects that weren’t for the class……

The next theme, for November, was Monochromatic – take one color and use its variations. Now, you have to be really careful, and take along your book and color wheel, because when you are looking for GREEN, you can’t be using yellow-green or blue-green. I still managed to buy a whole bunch of yellow-green. I was brainstorming various ideas for this piece, and looking at the internets and Pinterest, and I was thinking of either doing something with half square triangles (HST) or something like this piece that I saw on http://crazymomquilts.blogspot.com/2011/09/half-way-done.html. (Please click on link to see, since I don’t like to re-post photos without permission) I had bookmarked crazymomquilts.blogspot.com because several of my friends were participating in a quiltalong that she was hosting.

Well, that night I had a dream that I did a quilt like Crazymomquilts, and all in greens, it was like bamboo. So obviously, since I had dreamed about it, that was what it had to be.

But it couldn’t be JUST bamboo, that wouldn’t be very interesting. Her quilt was interesting because it had many different colors and background colors, and I was only going to  use green. So I wanted something with the bamboo. I asked the great hive mind that is Facebook, and my friends came up with everything from pandas to dragons, and that is what made me think of dragonflies.

This block was much harder to put together than I thought it would be. It was hard to get the proportions right, and hard to sew back together after making the “wonky” cuts so the bamboo would be tilted.

So I made 8 blocks, and I slapped that dragonfly up there (painstakingly made out of a bunch of different fabrics), and I didn’t like it, the proportions weren’t right.

So I went back to the great Facebook hive mind, and asked everyone to vote on option A, all 8 blocks,

Dragonfly quilt 8 blocks

option B, four blocks,

or option C, three blocks.

I eventually settled on option C, and then put a border around it, which I thought really helped it.

I was very happy with the quilting in the border, not quite perfect yet, but I thought I came up with a cool design.

I also beaded the dragon fly which was a huge pain in the a** and then I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not, and I added some beads to some of the joins in the bamboo.

I was still working on clipping threads and sewing on a few more beads the day off the class of course.

So off to class, and part of the class is that you stand up with your project and talk about how you made it, how you chose the colors and design, what difficulties you had, whether you liked it or not, and what you might do differently. So, I think you can imagine from reading my blog HOW DETAILED of an explanation I can give, I am sure some of them wish they had a buzzer to cut me off. Anyway, I got good comments on it, and then the teacher came up front (everybody always says OOOOOOOOOH when she heads up front, because she is usually about to turn your project 45° or 90° or do something with pins and transform it into something slightly different but better, especially in the design sense.)

So, this is what she did:

She converted my wide borders back into just a binding, which she said, correctly, makes it look more modern, more “arty” than “quilty” and emphasizes the dragonfly. She said the wide borders compete too much with the dragonfly. (and that if I wanted to keep the borders, I should add 2 more dragonflies, NO WAY). I DO like it this way, and I like the beads on it WAY better with the narrow border. It is just pinned back for now, so is a little rumply. Plus, I have 5 orphan bamboo blocks that need to find a home. So, of course, I haven’t fixed the border yet, because I am working on the NEXT project for class. Which is complimentary colors.

I chose red and green, partially because I had just purchased a bunch of green fabric, and used less than one tenth of it to make my dragonfly piece, so I started brainstorming things that are red and green but NOT Christmassy. Again, the internets and Pinterest are VERY HELPFUL for this. Just searching on “red and green” brought up all kinds of ideas. And then I would brainstorm more on my commute. My original thought was “rhubarb” but I think rhubarb has limited applications in where I would hang it in my house. And then I thought of red poppies with green leaves – I have always loved poppies, my Grandma had bright orange poppies growing out in front of her house. So, poppies it was, but of course I didn’t want it to be representational poppies, I wanted stylized poppies. Or, I wanted to do something with New York Beauty blocks. I am not sure which came first, the chicken or the egg……I took some inspiration from Laura’s Sewing Studio, which has New York Beauty blocks digitized and turned into embroidery, but they have assembled them into flowers, so I could see that it was possible, but my flowers are going to be much more bizarre.

I was inspired to make New York Beauty blocks by a design I saw (probably on Pinterest at first) for the Cinco De Mayo Quilt by Karen Stone, that is a quilt with WILD colors, and I have it on my list for Someday. I already have the book and I sit and drool a little bit over the pictures…..google “Cinco De Mayo Quilt” on Google Images to see some BRIGHT examples.

I am WAY behind on the poppies because of Christmas sewing, and I already missed our class because I had a work conflict that evening. So I am trying to get the poppies AND the next project done by our January class (since I haven’t actually STARTED the next project, this should be interesting….)

Health food makes me sick (Calvin Trillin)

So, what have you been eating lately? Need some dinner/lunch ideas? Or suggestions on where I like to dine in the Greater Denver area?

Having convinced my husband that I was crazy when I started reading food blogs many years ago and consequently started taking pictures of my own food, well, I should do something with those pictures, shouldn’t I?

Now he is pretty much trained not to dig in before I get done with the camera.

I have a new comfort food as of this fall, matzo ball soup. I first tried this at the Bagel Deli http://www.bageldeli.com/ in South Denver, well, I guess this is the ONLY matzo ball soup I have ever had. The diner was featured on “Diners Drive-Ins and Dives” and Guy Fieri’s taste in restaurants seems to run about the same as mine (I like places with Character). So of course I had to try it. The first time I was there, I had the Guy Fieri sampler, which had small sizes of the three dishes he featured on the show – matzo ball soup, kishka (kind of like stuffing), and a brisket knish (pastry filled with brisket). They were all good but my favorite was the matzo ball soup. I love most soup, period. So the next time I was there (and I used to work close to the Deli, but now I rarely get to that side of town, except for when I am going to IKEA, and then I am torn about whether I should eat at IKEA or the Deli, and the Deli has won so far.

Look at those balls, those are some happy balls. And delicious.

I also had the prake, or stuffed cabbage. Also excellent. Although after those matzo balls, I didn’t have much room, so I didn’t fully do it justice.

Sorry, I had already started into it before I remembered to take a picture. Stuffed cabbage is not something Ken is going to eat any day soon, so I enjoy this when I am out and about.I fully intend to make some matzo ball soup, and I have matzo meal, but I haven’t had time yet.

Now for some home cooking, I have been reading And Immovable Feast http://animmovablefeast.blogspot.com/ and he makes sliders often. And he often tops them with very different toppings. I thought, hey, there is a clever way to try many different toppings without making huge burgers. And Ken will pretty much happily eat whatever I cook, as long as it is not scary to him (see stuffed cabbage) (and probably matzo balls too) but he will eat hamburgers, guaranteed.

These are Ken’s sliders – cheese and bacon bits, and cheese. I just used nice soft dinner rolls for the buns (and toasted of course, OF COURSE).

Now, looking at this picture, you would think that Ken got the better deal, because my onions braised in balsamic got just a little over done. But they were still tasty. And my other one just had cheese. It is really hard to get braised onions quite right here, I think it is the altitude. When you make something like red cabbage or french onion soup, you have to cook it and cook it and cook it, and keep adding liquid, something to do with the altitude, apparently.

This next one is a good way to use leftover steak. We had this often as kids growing up, which seems strange now because my Mom says my Dad doesn’t care for rice, so they probably don’t have it as often as we do. I think Ken likes it because it reminds him of Chinese food fried rice. I think this is slightly more healthy.

Leftover Fried Rice

2 cups Minute Rice
3 T butter
1 can Campbells Beef Consumme (I have not tried this w/plain beef broth, so I don’t know if it would work)
Leftover cut up steak, cut into a moderate dice (about the size of your fingertip)
1/2 can of water
1/2 to 1 cup frozen peas

Melt the butter in a frying pan on medium heat. Brown the rice in the butter. Add the can of beef consumme and the 1/2 can of water. Add the leftover steak, and peas. Cover and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until peas are cooked and soup is absorbed by rice.

Ken will happily eat this as leftovers for lunch, too, and I generally will let him, I have been eating it longer than he has.

This last weekend we ate at Toluca, a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant here in Westminster. Seriously, I am not sure this is the kind of place I would have ventured into without a recommendation, but the recommendation came from Denver on a Spit (http://www.denveronaspit.com/2011/05/denver-al-pastor-take-10-toluca-mexican.html), and he said they had excellent al pastor tacos, so I had to try it. They have a judo/karate school to one side of them, and a dog groomer on the other side, and their parking lot is in need of some resurfacing, but MMMMMMMMMM the food. We have been there three times now, since this summer. I always have the al pastor, and Ken always has the Tacos Duros (hardshell tacos). The first time he didn’t think they were very spicy, but the 2nd and 3rd times, he was sweating a little. Not enough that he didn’t order them again. They bring you regular salsa, and then a green salsa (much spicier) and a dark red salsa (maybe some chipotle? I can’t tell, unusual taste) which is also very spicy. I eat those, and Ken stays away from them.

Tacos duros.

The three salsas (and not small servings, either)

And my al pastor, mmmmmmmm fresh pineapple and porky goodness.

And finally, a recipe that my sister in law got us started on, and that Ken loves.

Baked Club Sandwich Rounds

1 lb. bacon (you can use less bacon than this….)
1 (11-oz.) can Pillsbury® Refrigerated Crusty French Loaf
4 oz. (1 cup) shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 oz. thinly sliced cooked deli turkey
2 oz. thinly sliced cooked deli ham

1. Heat oven to 350°F. Spray cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Cook bacon until crisp. Drain on paper towel; crumble.
2. Unroll dough. Sprinkle cheese over dough. Top with turkey, ham and bacon. Starting with long side, roll up dough (Like cinnamon rolls); press edges to seal. Make 3 to 4 slits in top of loaf. Place on sprayed cookie sheet.
3. Bake at 350°F. for 23 to 28 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 5 minutes. Cut into 1-inch diagonal slices.

You will see when you open the tube of french bread, it is actually a sheet of dough rolled up, so you can unroll it into a flat sheet again, carefully. If the can decides to pop open prematurely and then gives you difficulty, you may not be able to unroll. Flatten as best as you can. (guess how I know this.)

(Glenda brushes the rolled out loaf with pesto if she has it)

Kristyn: Once the loaf is unrolled, I put a tablespoon or so of Italian dressing on it and brush it all over, then add the cheese and meat and bacon.

At this point, it looks like a dish I made for some 4-H cook-off that my brother used to refer to as “The Worm” but really, this is quite good.

 

 

Knitting, Crocheting and Quilting, Oh My!

Just thought I would do an update on the various projects I am working on right now. I apparently have the attention span of a gnat and am easily distracted by whatever project I want to do next. Rest assured, these are not ALL of the projects I am currently in the middle of, just the ones that are currently “live.” There are approximately twice as many that are on the back burner. Uh huh. Several of which I have probably forgotten about altogether. I try to keep a list on the wall but I am not responsible enough to maintain that list. If I ignore some of them, maybe the Brownies or fairies will come and finish them for me.

Just finished: Dear Niece age 6’s Christmas afghan. She grew out of her baby afghan, but was still sleeping with it until this fall. She likes Barbie and pink. I had several false starts on this afghan, trying a couple of internet free patterns and nearly tearing my hair out as a result. I have had really good luck with Leisure Arts afghan patterns, so I picked up “Birthstone Afghans” at JoAnn Fabric, and picked out “May” as one that looked like it was long enough to cover a 6 year old and crochet up quickly. I did it in Caron’s Simply Soft. It did go together quickly, especially after I figured out that I was doing the pattern at the end of the row wrong, and I fixed that, and the afghan quit getting smaller with each row. (Maybe it isn’t the patterns, maybe it is me. Nah.) This was supposed to have fringe but I don’t do fringe, and I don’t think it holds up well on a kid’s afghan that is going to get washed often, so I just put a shell border around it and said I was done.

I had to weave in many additional ends because Leo the evil cat bit my yarn in half several times while I was working on this. When will I learn, it is not enough to put it in a bag, bury that bag under a pillow, etc.? Must be locked in a closet! Or it is not safe from the yarn vampire! Here is the bad kitty himself.

Look how offended he looks.

Note cat butt in picture, of course. They own the house.

And, given the chance, we move right in.

This is part of a New York Beauty block, foundation pieced, that I am working on for my Color Class with Heather Thomas. (http://www.wildheatherdesigns.com/) (http://heatherthomasblog.blogspot.com/) Does this look not quite right to you? Like maybe it is flaring? That is because I left out one arc. Following directions, yeah, not one of my strong points.

This is the block, corrected, with parts of two other blocks. These are supposed to be symbolizing a stylized poppy, but I am waaaaaay behind in getting these done for my class. I actually already missed this month’s class because of a work conflict, and now I really should have this project done, in addition to a project for next month. By the first week of January. Can you hear me laughing from where you are? See: Christmas afghan above, and Christmas pillow below.  I got my New York Beauty foundation patterns at: http://imageevent.com/donnarie/newyorkbeautyblockpatterns

http://www2.fiskars.com/Activities/Crafting/Project-Gallery/Sewing-and-Quilting/Yo-Yo-Pillow  This is going to be a pillow for my youngest niece, about 7 mos, for her room. Her mom sent me a paint swatch and some fabrics. This isn’t the final arrangement of yo-yos yet. I need a night when I can concentrate to put them together and then lay them out in a semblance of a straight grid. When my sister in law so obligingly bookmarks things on Pinterest, and then sends me fabric, how easy can she make it? I did not buy any buttons. These are all from my button collection, which is but a very small part of my mother’s button collection.

When my first niece was born 12 years ago (oy vey), I started a tradition by making her a crocheted baby afghan, a pieced quilt, and an embroidered quilt. The more nieces and nephews I get, the longer it takes me to get these done. Youngest niece has her crocheted afghan and that is it. 2nd youngest niece still hasn’t received her embroidered quilt, and she just turned 4. I am going to have to turn hers into a twin size. And I better get it done before she is too old to appreciate bunnies. But of course I started in on the next niece’s pieced quilt because I am a project magpie (ooooooh, bright shiny new project, let’s start that.)

This is youngest niece’s pieced quilt, all the blocks are done:

I will post about this pattern when I have it all put together and the borders sewn on. Because that book is upstairs and I am too lazy to run up there right now.

I am also working on one pair of socks right now, not counting the ones that are almost done but that I am pretty sure I am going to abandon because I don’t really like them. We will see.

These are a pattern out of “Sensational Knitted Socks.” In an effort to improve my sock knitting, I am trying to make one pair of socks for each pattern in the book. At the rate I am going I will be 99 before I am done.

One of these is at the point where I need to start decreasing the toe, and the other one is close. I will bring these along to my Knit Knight tomorrow night and may get to the decrease point on the 2nd one. It is not always a good idea to start decreasing at Knit Knight, because I have to pay attention to do that, and paying attention while we are knitting and visiting and laughing is not always possible. So I will also take along a new project, which will be made with a Sophie’s Toes Magic Ball (http://www.etsy.com/shop/emilyparson) (http://whatsthatgonnabe.blogspot.com/2007/11/magic-ball.html) that my friend Cathy (http://www.catwithcats.com/) gave me. I do not yet know WHICH project I am going to make with this, but hopefully I will have decided by tomorrow night. Maybe I should also take along my shrug which requires no thought to knit whatsoever.

Thoughts on the Magic Ball: These make cool shawls but I am not a shawl person. I might make the Chevron Scarf from “Last Minute Knitted Gifts” by Joelle Hoverson, which I have made several times but always in worsted yarn and never for myself to keep. OR maybe find something new in “Sock Yarn One-Skein Wonders.” You never know. Ooooooo, look, a bright shiny new project……

Someone has a very strange idea of fun

I get a catalog called “Bits and Pieces.” They have interesting puzzles and games, I have no idea how I got on this mailing list, and one of their offerings stopped me cold. I posted it on my Facebook page, and the comments that ensued made the puzzle twice as funny. If you need a white elephant gift, or want to send a subtle message to someone, this puzzle is still available.

http://www.bitsandpieces.com/whose-turn-is-it%3F-outhouse-300-large-piece-shaped-jigsaw-puzzle/p/45727/

And the comment stream:

Tell me one thing that is not just WRONG WRONG WRONG with this.

Well, you certainly don’t need the plunger in an outhouse!

You mean other than you made me look at this?

It answers the question of whether or not bears sh** in the woods.

My personal opinion is that “fun-filled” “outhouse” and “puzzle” do not belong together in ANY situation. And yes, what is that raccoon doing with that plunger? That one bear who is already IN the outhouse looks like he is picking up the skunk to use as toilet paper.

Besides, everyone knows that moose are better plungers than racoons. Duh.

And it is aparently not only unisex, but also unispecies. That is just unforgivable.

well yes, he needs to use the skunk for toilet paper – the owl is hoarding his!

The bear in the outhouse also looks really disgusted. Can’t he get just five minutes to himself?!?!!

Yes, I was going to say that … where is the privacy?

Cyndi Frailing Nelson, since you “liked” this post, does that mean you want me to get you this puzzle for Christmas?

Not only no privacy, but he has a squirrel standing on his head! And the opossum was obviously making rude personal comments.

Well of course he needs to pick up the skunk as tp because the owl is holding the real roll hostage on top of the outhouse.

And why does the owl look so drunk? It’s using the TP roll to keep itself upright.

The owl looks drunk and or hungover, perhaps THAT is why he needs all the toilet paper.

You know that skunk’s asking the owl, “really? You don’t have a square to spare?!?!”

_______________

We spent many hours as kids doing puzzles, since we had only 3 TV channels (and we didn’t even have color TV until I was 9??? or so) although I do think I remember I preferred a good book or a rousing game of Life or Go For Broke. Or Monopoly, with unlimited borrowing from the bank. Puzzles were one of the default gifts of choice at the Spring Creek School gift exchange, I remember one with kittens. Puzzles or paint-by-numbers, which I was spectacularly bad at. Oh, if I could find one of those, I would scan it in. We had one HUGE on that was a Caterpillar (dirt mover) that my Dad must have gotten from the Cat dealer (or maybe at an auction). That one was up on the card table for a LONG time as we put it together. My mom has a large collection of puzzles, all that she had plans to do in her retirement, or do and then give away, once she determined if all the pieces were there. Needless to say, there is a big box of puzzles that are still undone, as she has had other priorities.

So what did you do as a kid for entertainment before 148 channels of cable or satellite, and the internet?

“Uh-oh”

Please note: DH stands for Dear Husband. I need a better nickname for him than that for the blog purposes. Suggestions?

***

DH: “I think you need to use more swear words in your blog, make it more colorful.”

ME: “I can’t do that, my aunt reads this.”

****

DH was saying something about how nothing that I do really surprises him. After knowing each other for 20 years and being married for 17 years, apparently he is over that.

I said, “Did the fire surprise you?”

DH, “No, not really. It startled me, but it didn’t surprise me.”

*****

Me to my dad, about Thanksgiving, “I haven’t set a turkey on fire yet.”

Dad: “There’s still time.”

*****

Me to my mom: “Before you hear from Aunt C., I have a blog now.”

Mom: “Haven’t you always had a blog?”

Me “No.”

Mom: “How is a blog different from email or Facebook?”

Me: “Anyone can see it.”

Mom: “Uh-oh.”

******

Another decorating idea that DH seems inclined to thwart (other than my shell bathroom idea which I am sure will grow on him if I keep talking about it):   A whole wall of cuckoo clocks. How awesome would that be? I have already told Mom that I want their cuckoo clock in the will. (I don’t think that will be a problem, I think cuckoo clocks are outside of my sis-in-law’s decorating ideas.) I have one cuckoo clock that came from my Grandma’s house, but it doesn’t cuckoo, it play music when you wind it up. And, we can’t have it running because MaryAnne likes to play with the weight, and I don’t want to come home and find the clock on the floor. Or the clock on the floor with the cat under it. It is a very charming clock, with a homey scene behind glass, and this mysterious red and white object, which I think might be a bread oven from my extensive googling.

Cuckoo clock. It also has a heart shaped tick tock. As a child, I remember being fascinated with this clock.

My Uncle N. brought it back from Germany, and he was OK with me having it after Grandma passed away.

See this charming little home scene? Those are postcards pasted onto the back of the windows.

There is a little tiny light bulb in the light fixture that used to light up. Dad tried to fix it and then the Russian clock repair shop that cleaned and repaired the clock tried to fix it. If Dad can’t fix it, nobody can fix it. It was probably because of the assorted grandkids, including me, playing with it, that it doesn’t light up.

The mysterious red and white????? It reminds me of Humpty Dumpty but I don’t think that is what it is.

Bed, cuckoo clock, chair.

Table and chairs and fiddle and bad reflection from our light fixture.

I started it up when I was taking pictures. MaryAnne was IMMEDIATELY VERY interested. Sigh. Guess I won’t be running that until she is more middle-aged. This is her, looking at it intently.

Leo Discovers the Delights of Yarn

When Leo was but a mere lad, he discovered that his mommy had yarn, which was really fun to play with.

You can go DOWN the stairs and UP the stairs, and around the banister.

I like this color even better.

Really quite tasty.

I like both these colors, how do I decide?

I’ll go get ANOTHER color!

Toilet paper, even MORE FUN than yarn!

This is how you make it real pretty.

Just about done with this one.

What?

Burning Down the Kitchen

Another thing I mention in the blog subtitle is “Burning down the kitchen.” So here is the story of that.

I have had a history of very minor kitchen fires. Steaks being broiled, things that had overflowed in the oven, and then cooked and subsequently caught fire on the floor of the oven. There was the incident with the homemade tortilla chips in the toaster oven. That pretty much took care of the toaster oven. Especially since it was full of baking soda, which I used to put out the fire. But I had never had a full blown stove top grease fire, until this year. It was Sunday, October 30, and I was getting ready to go on a business trip, but I thought I would make fried chicken strips for the DH before I went. I poured about an inch of canola oil in the dutch oven, turned it on to medium-high, and went downstairs to finish packing a few things. I honestly have no idea how long I was downstairs, but it was TOOO long. Just as DH was coming back in from looking in the storage shed to try and find the carryon bag, I came upstairs, and it was smoky. I went into the kitchen, and the oil was ON FIRE. I looked at DH, coming in the back door, and said “I think we need the fire extinguisher,” I think he said something in general agreement and I ripped that fire extinguisher out from under the kitchen sink.

Side note: The fire extinguisher is approximately 17 years old, because I believe my parents gave it to us as either a wedding present or a gift very shortly after we were married. I have always been meaning to get it checked out and see if it was still charged. Thank goodness, it was.

Another side note: I think I have to credit my brother with the fact that I knew I had to pull a pin for the fire extinguisher to work. Because he had been telling me elk hunting stories, about how his hunting companion was so nervous about bears that he spent a great deal of time with the pin pulled on his bear grenade. So I knew I had to pull a pin.

CHHHHHHHHHHHHT – OK, fire is out, but pan of hot oil is still on the burner, which is on. I have no desire to reach over the pan to turn it off, so I grab a towel and lift the pan off with that. This causes 1) the towel to ignite, and 2) the pan to re-ignite. So I go after both with the extinguisher again. Finally, all is quiet. Suspiciously quiet, as in “no smoke alarm” going off quiet. More on that in a bit.


Meanwhile, DH has decided that I am handling the situation OK, and he is trying to round up the cats and put them in the bedroom, so we can open every other window and door in the house. Because the upstairs is essentially filled with smoke AND fire extinguisher dust. We get the cats stuffed in the bedroom, and wander around in shock for a bit, bring the fan upstairs to help blow the smoke out. Fortunately, it is not freezing cold outside. And, our neighbors across the street (the ones we are closest to on the block) are not home to witness this spectacle.


Did I mention I had to leave for a business trip? And now DH was going to get to clean up this huge mess? Alone? Of course he wasn’t mad at me, he knew it was an accident, but I still felt guilty.

Him saying “Honey, that’s the biggest fire you’ve ever set!” didn’t help either.

We checked it out and determined that things weren’t really probably destroyed (well, except for the dutch oven pot and the thermometer that was in it), but that everything was dirty and we probably needed to call our insurance company. The plan was for him to clean up things as much as possible so the cats could be let out of the bedroom and not traipse through too much fire extinguisher dust.


Meanwhile, I had to finish packing. I read through my usual packing list about 3 times, and had him read it out loud to me because I was so rattled. I headed out to the airport with a story to tell to all of my companions on my trip (along with the admonition, “Get a fire extinguisher!”) and left him with the mess, and instructions to box up the chicken that hadn’t even come out of the refrigerator, (but was still dipped and battered and ready to go) and put it in the freezer.

And when I came home and went to get something out of the chest freezer, I see the package, labeled “Halloween Fire Chicken.”

So, I now give you the recipe for Chicken Fried Chicken Fingers, henceforth known as “Halloween Fire Chicken.” http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1739,152185-224194,00.html

Make sure you have a fire extinguisher! Make sure it works! Make sure your smoke detector is properly hooked up! (We checked ours, feeling that it should have gone off, and it appears that while it was connected to the electricity, it was not connected to something else????) and probably hadn’t been for 10 years since we bought the house. I don’t remember it ever going off. And I burn things fairly often……

Actual Knitting and Crocheting

How about an actual post with knitting and crocheting content? Since I mention them in my blog title? Well, how about….

I learned to do the knit stitch when I was relatively young, I suppose 9 or 10. But my mom only knew how to do the knit stitch, and I couldn’t figure out how to do the purl stitch from looking at the Readers Digest Guide to Needlework.*  So I diligently knitted my mom horrible misshapen dish cloths our of who knows what kind of yarn (whatever was in her yarn bag) and continued to develop my skills in hand embroidery, latch hook, and sewing.

About 20 years later, living in Utah, that seemed to be a fine place to learn to crochet. I learned I was going to be an aunt for the first time, and I wanted to make stuff. I couldn’t get any further than the chain stitch by looking in books, so I took a class at a local store. All I really needed was to see someone do stitches with their hands, rather than from a picture in a book, and I took off. So, if you have been trying to learn, I encourage you to either take a class from a live person, OR look at the many YouTube videos which are now available.  I made many, many double sided pot holders, which had been a specialty of my Grandma, and crocheted edges around baby blankets, and then eventually did the whole baby blanket. I still prefer to make baby blankets by crocheting rather than by knitting, because it is much faster.

In 2005, after we had moved to Colorado, I took a knitting class. This was both good and bad, because I did learn to do the purl stitch, but the the other students in the class didn’t even know how to make a slip knot, so the teacher was busy working with them and not noticing that I twisted my purls. It took another class with a different teacher to find that out. Since then I have moved on to continental knittting (FASTER!) and twisting my purls is no longer a problem. I have other problems, like widely variable gauge, a cat who bites through my yarn, too many projects to do and too little time, etc. etc.

Here is a picture of my first real knitting project – a hat and scarf. I am keeping them, because, you know, 1st knitting project.

Crocheting – I know we had to make a doily for that class. I DON’T know where it is currently located. It was a small doily, but it was not a simple pattern. This teacher expected you to learn and learn fast, and get your projects done.

Here is a knitting project I keep on my wall to keep myself humble: And to remind myself to check gauge. And to proceed with extreme caution when using vintage knitting instructions.

Doesn’t look too bad, does it?

How about a hand for scale?

* There are probably many, many more up-to-date needlework books out there, but I still pull this on out quite often. So often that it lives in the living room bookcase instead of in the craft room. Mom and dad got it for me at an auction – best gift ever! Still available on Amazon, although I think now you can get a “classic” one with the dated looking cover, or a newer one. I haven’t seen the newer one to see if they updated the 1970s type patterns inside.