Monday, August 11, 2014

Fast Forward

Dear Mom,
I don't even know what happened to July, and if I don't hurry up and post something, August is going to be halfway over.
Thank goodness for the photos I take with the intention of blog posts or I might not have a clue of where I've been and what I've done.

There was this adorable, very hard-working girl raising money to redecorate her room….
her glasses were practically steaming up with her efforts

A baby blanket off the needles and sent to the mother-to-be….
This is Churchmouse Yarns Picot Edged Baby Blanket pattern
and KnitPicks Comfy Worsted Yarn
And I finished Ivar, which might just be my new favorite cardigan.

I used Baah Yarn, La Jolla, in "Poison Ivy". This yarn is wonderful.

And I sewed another dress to coordinate with a cardigan I knit in the spring. 

Let's see. What else?
The kitchen cabinet project is marching along. We are almost done, with just the bit over the fridge and the kitchen desk area left to do. I painted the ends of the cabinets blue and I am considering painting three sides of the island a darker shade. And can you see that little bird stenciled there by the chickadee cookie jar? I gave serious thought to painting the back splash with chalkboard paint. Thankfully, I taped some black construction paper up there to get an idea of how it would look and I did NOT like it. So, we will keep things as they are unless and until I get a better idea.

My vegetable garden has been producing abundantly. My freezer is stocked with green beans and I am eating these yellow pear tomatoes like they are candy.
We took a last trip to Shipshewana to visit our favorite Bed and Breakfast before the owners retire. The weather for our stay could not have been better. Actually, our weather all summer long has been nearly perfect.
Sunset over the cornfield.

And I got brave and veered out of the cookbook to make a better peanut butter cookie.
Here is the back story on these cookies, and then I will tell you what I did. Which is not at all scientific.
When MelissaWhoSpinsButDoesNotKnit was here one Saturday so we could collectively try to figure out how to make her borrowed rigid heddle loom work, she mentioned some extra specially delicious peanut butter, made locally, and available in special shops and the farmer's market. I don't even LIKE peanut butter very much, but when she mentioned pretzels and white chocolate, trying some of this peanut butter found its way to the top of my to-do list. You and I went and bought some on the following Tuesday. You got the cranberry dark chocolate version and I stuck with the white chocolate pretzel variety. Click HERE to link to their website. Anyway, we got home with our crack peanut butter. As I took another spoonful, I said to you something like "wow, this peanut butter would make a good peanut butter cookie" and you just looked at me like why would you use a 7 dollar and 50 cent jar of peanut butter in a cookie but instead of saying that you just sort softly and slowly said, "or you could just put pretzels and white chocolate in you peanut butter cookie dough".

Me: "…"

So I did.

Here is the basic recipe that I used for the dough:
1/2 c butter
1/2 c crunchy peanut butter
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c brown sugar
1 egg
1 c flour
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t salt

Mix butter and peanut butter; add sugars and mix well. 
Add egg and beat well.
Sift the dry ingredients together and add to peanut butter mixture. 
This is where I veered off the cookbook page….
I threw in a fat fistful of broken pretzel sticks and half a 12oz bag of Nestle's white chocolate chips. I did NOT chill the dough.I did not mold the dough into balls and dip them in sugar. I did not flatten the dough with a fork. Instead, I used a scoop to plop the dough onto silpat lined cookie sheets and baked them at 375 for 12 minutes.

It made less than 2 dozen cookie, though, which is good if you, like me, would probably just keep eating them until they were gone even when everyone around you has enough will power and restraint to walk away after 2 cookies. Like I said, they were good and I don't even really like Peanut Butter cookies.

The Young Lady starts school on Wednesday and we move the Young Man back to campus next week. As much as I dislike setting my alarm, I am ready to get back into a routine and on a schedule again. (And an alarm is a small price to pay for a daily dose of alone time.) WOOHOO!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Dear Mom,
 I can now cross "Meet Diana Gabaldon" (author of our beloved Outlander book series, creator of Jamie Fraser) off my bucket list!
My friend, ConniecallmeSassenach and I drove on Monday morning from her Michigan cottage up to Traverse City, where we met up with my good sister-in-law, Cheryl and her neighbor, Sheila. We had lunch, window shopped, freshened up, and were in line at the Opera House in downtown TC by 6pm for the Event. The Opera House is beautiful. We had a very pleasant evening talking with the fellow Outlander fans around us, watching a trailer for the TV series, and listening to Diana talk. Some of her talk/ answers to questions was stuff we'd heard before, but we did hear some new tidbits and got to listen while she read from the new book. The way Diana read the passage made us interpret it slightly differently than we'd read it - with more humor. I would say that was the most magical part of the evening for me- listening to her read. She patiently and very graciously answered audience questions- questions I am sure she has answered 100s of times. I was too shy/ not brave enough/ too starstruck to ask anything, even though I had a mental list of questions prepared.

We then waited in line to have our books signed and got our pictures taken with her. And as much as Connie and I would have liked to gush all over her and tell her about how excited we were when we read the part where Jamie knits, or say something that would stamp us as the Best Outlander Fans She Has Ever Met and have her say she wants us to wait 'til she is done with the book signing so she can come and hang out with us and talk over a glass of wine and get our email addresses and become our new Best Friend, we really didn't have a chance in the book signing line to do more than have our picture taken. I did manage to squeak out a "Thank you for sharing your Gift with us" before moving along and letting the next person in line have their turn. It was all run very smoothly and efficiently, which is good, because the parking garage closed at midnight and we were very near the end of the line. She has literally had to have signed 10s of 1000s of books and while she was very kind, I doubt that she would want to do anything to make it take any longer than it did and out of respect for her, we didn't want to do that to her either.
We made the drive back yesterday, getting home a bit after 4pm. I almost immediately took a restorative nap, with Olive, making everything right with the world again - If you can discount the pile of dishes in the sink and the thick coating of dog hair on the floor. It is clear that my family needs tutorials in "How to Efficiently Load, Run, and Unload The Dishwasher" and "The Vacuum Cleaner and Why We Use It". It is also clear that I Am Needed Here. (even if sometimes they probably don't think so and would never admit it.) Today, and for the next few days, I'll be catching up on what didn't get done while I was on my whirlwind adventure. But definitely worth it. Definitely.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

A Special Thank You

Dear Mom,
I got a package in yesterday's mail with a special Thank You from Elaine for the Suri Silk and mitten kit I sent to her. I honestly did not expect to be thanked- my thanks was in finding good homes for the yarn. But the kind note and generous gifts that Elaine sent in thanks are worthy of a blog post.
She hinted at sending something special for Olive, and in the package was a bright red polka dot scarf- perfect for a shiny black dog!
What was completely unexpected, and absolutely touched me to my core, was these hand knits!
A couple pairs of boot toppers and a head warmer! In my experience, it is a rare thing for a knitter to receive hand knit gifts. I feel honored and very special. I told Elaine that I am not in any hurry for winter weather to get here, but when it does (because we know it will) I will be sporting these at first opportunity. Thank you Elaine!


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Paper, Scissors, a Shot Glass and a Hole Punch

Dear Mom,

After 23 years of love and use and sunshine and abuse, our kitchen cabinets are in desperate need of freshening up. These also being the years of paying for college tuition, new cabinets are not an option. Plus, I reallyreallyreally like my tiled countertops and I've been told that they cannot be saved if/when we replace the cabinets. Soooo, My Hero and I have been sanding (him), staining (me) and polyurethane-ing (me).  We are working in small manageable sections which means we can get each bite digested every weekend, but it also means a regularly disheveled kitchen and cleaning up sawdust over and over and over again. And not having things in their place makes me a little edgy. Keeping my eye on the prize. It'll be worth it in the end. And, I have to say, the refreshed cabinets look better than I even imagined would be possible. That helps. A lot.
The first weekend we tackled the worst appearing cabinets on the island. They were very faded by the sunshine. And last weekend we started working our way around the upper cabinets. While waiting for the last coat of polyurethane to dry I put my mind to considering shelf lining paper. I'd used that self sticking liner and did not want to use that again. I wanted something prettier than plain and googled "lace edged shelf paper" or something like that and in my fall down the internet rabbit hole, found a site that had a quote from one of the Little House books and instructions for cutting pretty shelf paper. (I guess Ma Ingalls had Mary and Laura making pretty shelf paper in one of the books. Frankly, they had me at Little House.) Such was my inspiration that I cannot find that website to share it with you. I pretty much immediately stopped googling and gathered my supplies.
I used scissors, brown craft paper (you could use newspaper or white butcher paper or whatever you think would be nice for lining shelves), a hole punch (I am pretty sure Mary and Laura did not have a hole punch.) and a shot glass. (I know for certain that Ma Ingalls would not allow a shot glass in her house, so Mary and Laura did not use one of these either.) I used the shot glass to draw a round edge. You could make pointy edges. Mary and Laura probably made pointy edges.
I folded the craft paper in half and half and half, again and again and again, until it was about 2 inches wide and then started cutting and hole punching the end- like making snow flakes or paper dolls.
So when it was unfolded, I had a lacy looking edge. I did not want to drive myself crazy by trying to make them all the same. It was more fun to try different things for each one. Also, I don't have one of those fancy crafty scrap-bookin' shaped punch things, but if I did, I would have tried using it.
I then trimmed the depth and width of the paper to fit my shelves.
Here is a photo with the paper on the shelves, and the shelves loaded, but before the cabinet doors went back on:
And here is a photo with the doors on the cabinets:
We have a ways to go before we are finished, but so far so good!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Give Away

Dear Mom,
Everything offered except for the mitten kit that looks like shamrocks has (have?) found new homes.  The Blue Sky Alpaca yarns had 2 nice people ask for it, so I had My Hero reach into a North Porch hat and pick one of those names. Congratulations, "Anonymous",  you win!
I've emailed all the winners and as soon as I have their mailing addresses, the goods will be on their way.
Thanks and Congratulations to Elaine, who will soon have the Carrots and Beets mitten kit and the Suri Silk. I'd like to know what brain storm inspired Elaine to ask for the Suri Silk. I love Brain Storms.
And Thanks and Congrats to Reneelynn, to whom I will happily dispatch the Cupcakes mittens kit.
This was a fun way to give good homes to neglected yarn and projects.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Three Bags Full

Dear Mom,
With your help, the yarn stash went through an Epic Purge a couple of weeks ago.
All those partial skeins of yarn that I thought could some day be….. something…… and all those yarns for projects I started and did not like, supplies for project ideas that IwillNeverInMyLifetimeIfILiveToBe103HaveTimeToDo- all of that- went in to Three- yes. THREE! Contractor- sized garbage bags, into the back of my car, and donated to Goodwill.
EDITING is my new mindset. Edit out those projects that I do not Love. Life is too short and free time is too precious to do anything but the Really Good Stuff. And just because I Have An Idea, doesn't mean I have to act on it. (Until I find a way to stop the clock, or function on 45 minutes of sleep.)
I have to say that some parts of the purge were painful, but not many, and mostly it was liberating to rid myself of the burden of those "this could be ….. something…." projects and to have all that under-the-bed and closet space cleared out.

Some of those projects and yarns were just too good to donate to the Goodwill, even though they are things I don't want to knit anymore, or yarns I can't decide what they should be, and I've decided to offer them here for any blog readers who are interested. Free. I'll even cover the shipping ( US, please). Such is my desire to see this stuff in good homes and not in the bottom of a craft bin at the Goodwill.

First thing up for grabs:

 A Spillyjane Cupcakes Mitten pattern and the KnitPicks Pallette yarn to knit them.

Spillyjane's Heather's Mittens pattern and KnitPicks Pallette yarn to knit them- FYI- I swapped out white for the brown thinking  I would make a Shamrock Mitten for St Patrick's day.

And then there's:
Spillyjane's Carrots and Beets Mitten pattern (why, yes, I did lose my mind one day and went Spillyjane crazy) and the KnitPicks Pallette yarn for knitting them.

And there's this too:
6 skeins of Blue Sky Alpaca's Alpaca Silk. (50 grams, 146 yards per skein) 2 skeins of Blueberry,  color #140; 2 skeins of Slate, color #100; 1 skein of Iron, color #134 and one skein of a light lime green color, tag missing.

And finally:
2 skeins of Misti Alpaca Handpainted Baby Suri Silk  (80% baby Suri Alpaca 20% silk Color #21/ 100 g, 218 yards per skein) AND this handy Circular Solution Port-a-Pocket.

IF anyone out there is interested in any of these. please leave a comment and tell me which thing you want. IF there are more than one interested knitter, I'll draw a name out of one of the Young Lady's North Porch hats. Is a week long enough for any/every one to get their dibs in? Let's see how things look next Thursday. Tell your friends -unless they might want what you want and then we'll just keep it a secret, okay?


Monday, June 2, 2014

Rosi's Lunch

Dear Mom,
Rosi was one of the first two ladies to take a knitting class from me at the Village Yarn Shop. When the class ended we continued to knit fairly regularly and eventually she became the crochet teacher for the shop. In a few weeks Rosi is moving back to Minnesota. I couldn't let her leave without acknowledging it somehow, and decided a simple lunch in her honor would be nice.

Hosting events like this
a.) gets the house real clean, and,
b.) justifies many of the frivolous purchases I've made over the years.

Setting up for this was fun, even though there were times during the prep when family life and Ladies Who Lunch life made me wonder what I was thinking when I thought of hosting a Farewell Lunch. But it was worth it. And that pain that was radiating from my clenched jaw into my right ear has mostly stopped now.

I served quiche and fresh fruit on Grandma's milk glass place settings.

We had cinnamon spiced tea and lemonade.
As napkins, I used some pretty hankies.

These individual bud vases are meant to be used as place card holders, but I stuck Forget-Me-Not seed packets in the name card slot and filled the vases with cranesbill flowers. Because I only have 6 of those, at each end of the table I used a different bud vase with a peony flower.

My most kind, sweet, gentle (I am so blessed!) cousin baked her delicious, pretty cookies for our dessert. I used them as our centerpiece.
I prepared all the ingredients for the quiche yesterday and then assembled and started baking them about an hour before I expected we would sit down to eat. This made things much easier (and me a whole lot calmer) today.
The easiest of the two quiche recipes was, in my opinion, the tastiest. I found the recipe in the "Summer in the Country" Gooseberry Patch cookbook. I didn't do exactly what the recipe says to do, though. Here is what I did:

Farmhouse Quiche
serves 6

1 frozen 9-inch pie crust (I made mine the day before and popped in the freezer overnight)
2 T olive oil
1/2 red pepper, diced
1/2 green pepper, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced (I used the kind you find in the jar in the produce department)
1/4 c. zucchini, diced
2 T fresh basil, chopped
4 eggs, beaten
1 c. half-and-half
1 t salt
1/2 t pepper
8 oz shredded Colby Jack cheese*
1/3 c shredded Parmesan cheese
3 Plum tomatoes, sliced

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat and sauté the peppers, garlic, zucchini and basil until tender.
Whisk together eggs, half-and-half, salt and pepper in a large bowl. 
Stir in veggies and cheeses.  Refrigerate until ready to use. 
Pour into frozen pie crust and top with sliced tomatoes. (confession: I forgot the top with sliced tomatoes part. The quiche was still good.)
Bake at 350 for about 50 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes before slicing.

*The recipe calls for 8 oz of shredded Pepper Jack cheese, but I am a total hot pepper wimp, so I substituted the Colby Jack.

I think the luncheon was a success. After everyone left (with their Forget-Me-Not packets and an extra cookie- which they claim was for sharing when they got home but I am suspicious) I ate 2 more cookies and took a nap. The house is clean. Laundry is a little backed up but what the heck. I'll tackle that tomorrow.