Tuesday, December 30, 2008
For example, I originally wanted to give one of these cute elf gnomes to my sister when I saw her for her birthday at the end of November, that way she could have it for December decorating. I think I had most of the parts made, but sewing it together and stuffing didn't sound like a lot of fun. Well, at least she'll have it for next Christmas.
Another Christmas gift project that actually went a bit better was these crocheted cookies. Except for the peanut blossom cookies that required a little bit of stuffing, the only finishing I had to do was to sew two sides of each cookie together. I made quite a few of these earlier in December but still needed to make a couple more Christmas Eve so I would have enough to fill a jar for my mom.
Once I got in my "finishing project" mode, I also dug out these crocheted candies I made last year (or possibly the year before-yikes!) and added cellophane wrappers and ribbons. I would like to cover my entire tree with them.
If I'm able to hold on to the finishing bug, maybe I'll starch the batch of crocheted snowflake ornaments I came across as well!
Christmas lives at about 40th and Adams in Lincoln. Corrie and I like to check out the new additions to this yard each year. You can't see them all here, but there are way more inflatable decorations than any one person should probably own. I'd really like to know how they get those lights up in the trees, too.
We snapped this photo on the 23rd, and I hope next year I consider doing a tour of Lincoln lights a little earlier in December and document the most interesting ones.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I still bake some of the same treats we made all those years, including my mom's special oatmeal cookies (took several years and batches of failed cookies to finally find out that she also adds a cup of wheat germ to them, which was conveniently left off of the original recipe. Once I added that, I had the same oatmeal cookie I remembered from my childhood!) the cinnamon popcorn, caramel popcorn, and classic sugar cookies. The sugar cookies were always the grand finale of baking day because they were fun to make and involved using the green and red sugars and sometimes a few redhots if we had them around. (we were frugal with our varieties of colored sugars and cookie decorations. and cookie cutters-I only remember having a santa shape, a bell, a tree, and a star.) My mom always rolled them out, which I thought was the unfun part, and my sister and I decorated them.
Once I grew up and was out of the house, I wanted to make those same buttery sugar cookies. The recipe my mom used was actually my grandma's: (I would recommend a double batch)
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tbs milk
1 tbs vanilla
1 1/4 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
Mix butter, sugar and eggs together. Stir in milk and vanilla. Stir in flour, baking powder, and salt. Chill dough. Bake cut-outs at 425 degrees for 5-7 minutes.
I tried this recipe time and time again but always found it so sticky that I had to add tons more flour to have a chance at rolling it out. I've asked my mom several times if she left anything off the recipe, and she claims she didn't. She still makes them, too-I've asked if she has a hard time rolling them out, and she says she doesn't. My baking skills have improved over the years, so maybe it would be worth trying this recipe again sometime. I've since moved on to Alton Brown's no fail sugar cookie recipe, which is really good, but they don't taste like mom's. (although the recipes are so similar!!)
Alton's recipe ingredients: (a lot more flour and butter in comparison, but one batch might make a lot more cookies than my grandma's batch)
3 cups flour
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 tbs milk
Last weekend, I made Alton's recipe and enjoyed using the variety of colored sugars and cookie cutters I now own.
Maybe for Valentine's Day I'll try my grandma's recipe again. I think sugar cookies make a nice Valentine's treat.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Recipe courtesy of a 1980s copy of the Holt County (Missouri) Cookbook:
3 quarts popped corn (12 cups)
1 stick butter or margarine (I use butter!)
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/2 tsp. salt
8 oz. red hots
1/4 tsp soda
1 tsp butter flavoring (I usually skip this or add a little extra butter instead.)
Melt butter, sugar, corn syrup, salt, and red hots in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until melted.
Add soda and butter flavoring-mix well. (It will foam up at this point.) Pour over popcorn in a large bowl and mix well until popcorn is covered. Pour onto a baking sheet with sides or into a 13x9 pan and bake for 1 hour at 250 degrees. Stir every 15 minutes.*
*I think technically you're supposed to let it cool on paper towels, then store in an airtight container, but I usually leave it on the baking sheet for a minute or two and then dump it into whatever container I'm storing it in. Spreading it out to cool keeps it from forming big chunks of popcorn, but I'm not against the big chunks (I like them in my cream of wheat as well) and they're easily broken apart with a spoon when you're serving it. (when serving the popcorn, not cream of wheat.)
Another tip-don't try to get a taste of cinnamon tastiness by swiping the candy coating off the spoon or out of the saucepan immediately after cooking-you will burn your finger and your mouth. I know this because I made the mistake last night. I knew I would get burned, but it didn't stop me.
Here's the end result from last night's batch. Very red, and very tasty!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
57 yards and I think Alex Henery's life changed forever. I'm sure glad we went to the game and didn't sell our tickets!
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Since I kept getting eliminated early in the game, I had some time to take photos and camera videos. Here's a good one where the little one almost blurts out what cards my cousin Andy is looking for. He'll need more training before he's ready to play.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
If the dress she's wearing looks different than the one in the "before" photo, it's because it is. I thought I could make the dress out of some regular worsted-weight yarn, but the thicker yarn made it too big for the cat who was crocheted out of sport weight yarn.
Check out this news piece on the 7 year old blogger who received a letter from Barack Obama. Here's his blog, too. Since I've blogged about Barack a little bit, can I expect a letter? Probably not-Stas Gunkel's blog has a more intellectual slant than mine. For example, I don't think he mentions Obama finger puppets anywhere.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
It was over a year ago that I started thinking about the election and who I wanted to support. I had paid attention to Senator Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic convention, and I knew back then that I would support him should he run for president, but last year I couldn't even let myself think an entire "what if he won?" thought because I didn't want to get my hopes up (again) and be let down (again) on election night. I had prepared myself after the 2004 election to never invest my support into another national election, and I never thought I'd be fortunate enough to see a politician in my lifetime who has the same "it" factor as the Kennedy brothers. After listening to my share of Obama speeches and debates on CNN, though, I couldn't help but buy into the hope.
I've enjoyed watching our red state Nebraska show its blue colors over the past year. (and really show its blue colors on election night with Omaha's electoral vote going to Obama! Plus he won Lancaster County, although unfortunately that wasn't enough to earn a 2nd electoral vote.) I will never forget attending the Obama speech at the Civic Auditorium in Omaha last February (thank you, Senator Obama, for visiting our state!), nor the Obama rally held on O Street the following night, which was Nebraska's Caucus eve.
And then more rallies this week, plus the big announcement election night from Barry's bar and grill during the Lancaster County Democrats post-election party.
One of my favorite moments from the television coverage over the past week came at the end of the Stephen Colbert/John Stewart election night coverage on Comedy Central. At the 43:00 mark in this video, John Stewart announces that Senator Obama has won, and you can see that both of them are moved and are struggling to stay in character.
I know Obama is going to have a very difficult presidency. I wonder what it feels like to have the weight of this country and the weight of the world on your shoulders. Seems like it would be painful!
Monday, November 3, 2008
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
For anyone who is sad that the debates are over and they'd like to host their own town hall meeting, consider crocheting these John McCain and Barack Obama finger puppets. The free patterns are courtesy of Lion Brand Yarn.
I don't see a Joe Biden pattern, but I think I found the Sarah Palin one.
Sorry, I couldn't resist. Maybe Governor Palin is right, maybe I shouldn't have read so much Harry Potter.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
I can't remember picking this many tomatoes in any previous October. This is the bowlful I picked tonight. I tried to pick the ripest ones in case the colder temperatures do the rest of them in. Even though I love tomatoes, I have to say that I'm not terribly sorry they're reaching the end of their season. The plants are overgrown and need to be cleaned out.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Unfortunately for you all, I don't think this picture does the spider justice. He was the largest and furriest live spider Corrie and I had ever seen. Can anyone tell what species it might be? I really hope it wasn't someone's lost pet because we're not going to be able to return it now.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
And to give you an idea of what the balcony color scheme will hopefully look like someday, here's a photo of the back of our house where we painted the gingerbread shingles a long time ago. (Ignore eyesore back porch.) Anyone willing to hang over the edge of the roof to paint the hard to reach places above the balcony? I doubt we will have takers on that one.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
This wasn't a weekender project. Corrie (and I-I think I tore out some floorboards! I helped!) tore out the entire porch and columns. If I remember correctly, Corrie jacked up the house next to each column so he could easily knock them down. You didn't know which way the column would fall-we ended up taking out a section of our neighbor's fence with one column. Good thing they were nice neighbors and had a crappy fence anyway! I got a good photo of one of the columns coming down. Those blocks sort of bounce all over when they hit the ground. You wouldn't think concrete could bounce, but that's what it did.
We had little friends living under the column in the footing, including earthworms and roots from the awful vines that keep creeping over to the house.
I didn't remember this until I looked back at these photos, but Corrie must've been rebuilding each column after he knocked it out, which included pouring a new concrete footing, reusing the bottom set of blocks, adding a new concrete form on top of those blocks, then adding a wooden post on top of that. Here we have new column on the left and old column on the right.
If I didn't know that I took this photo, I'd say that Corrie is looking down at me in the hole I managed to fall into one day during this project. How come he can tell me not to fall into a hole one minute, and the next minute, what do you know, I've stepped backwards into the hole.
Once this portion of the project wrapped up, the porch stayed as it was over the following years. (Time flies!) Here's a shot the county assessor took in 2005 before they jacked up our property value.
Corrie lit a fire under himself (I don't light fires-I'm afraid of fire) late this summer and has replaced the temporary wood sections of the columns with permanent posts and has added nice finishing forms all around. We also have a nifty green and red railing now, which the porch never had before. Still some painting to do and a new ceiling to build, but things are looking up! I told Corrie the other night that we really do have ourselves quite a house. I think the front of it will be quite over the top if we ever also get the balcony redone.
Sunday, September 14, 2008
The purpose of the site is to bring together all sorts of crafters-knitters, crocheter, designers, spinners, and dyers-into one online community that includes the ability to connect with other crafters, share patterns and advice, and keep track of your own projects and even your yarn stash with their notebook feature. You can log all of the specifics of your project, from the kind of yarn and needles you're using and where you bought your supplies to the date you started your project and how much progress you've made on it. Gone hopefully are the days when I had to bookmark a pattern or print it out and add to my overflowing pattern library-if you find a pattern on ravelry.com that you'd like to try, you can store it in your queue.
I've only added one project to my profile so far: a crocheted baby blanket in the fighting Illini colors for my friends, Kristin and Brian. (I don't think they read my blog, otherwise I suppose that ruins the surprise.) While not traditional baby blanket colors, Brian is an Illini alum, and since meeting I think Kristin has become a big fan as well. I hope they'll like it.
It's going to be pretty large, too, but I don't think a blanket can really be too large. Corrie's striped blanket is evidence of that.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
I never meant for my blog to become political in nature, but I'm sorry, John McCain chose a running mate who a month ago didn't know what the vice president does? I will give her 1/2 a prop for mentioning that she wants to be productive on a daily basis. I still don't think she's qualified to take over the presidency should that need ever arise. I was once simultaneously VP of my National Jr. Honor Society and the Spanish Club-plus I'm scrappy, and a staunch character-does that make me qualified?
Monday, September 1, 2008
My baby blanket earned a third place ribbon in the crocheted baby blanket-multicolor category, and the pig and piglets won a 5th place ribbon in some kind of knitted-other category. I realize now I probably should've entered them in the toy category.
There were some very impressive entries across all categories, including this really cool felted tote with diamonds on it.
I keep changing my mind on what I'll enter next year, but I think I will try to do a couple of extraordinary projects. I'll take Corrie's advice and I'll make something out of wool yarn and will felt it, and I think I would also like to try one of these beaded doll dresses-do you think I needed to start on it about 5 years ago in order to finish it in time? It does look like there's some sewing involved, sewing and I don't go together.
Thanks to Seth who sent me this link, I could also make this rat, although I suspect Amy will beat me to it.
Corrie and I sampled various tasties while at the fair as well. I had my standard pork chop on a stick and fried peach on a stick. The pork chop was good, the peach coating wasn't as crispy as I remember it being last year. Corrie tried an Indian Fry bread taco this year, too.
One thing we didn't try was a beef sundae. Maybe next year.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Actually, Madonna is hung up on Grey Gardens. Who thought of putting these two things together?
I realize now I waited way too long to see this documentary. While on the one hand, the dirtiness of their house has made me think harder about doing some housekeeping of my own, these two women, while a little odd, say some really brilliant things! I'm considering being Little Edie for Halloween-staunch character, indeed!
Friday, August 22, 2008
This experience has brought us closer to Itty Bittiest-she has become a much friendlier cat over the past month. She's now been to the vet and had her first set of shots, so I think she'll become our 5th and final cat. She'll be spayed next week.
Tip, we won't forget our 5 weeks together and the spunkiness you brought to our backyard.
Sorry to start the weekend on such a sad note. The past week has been hard to get through, and I'm hoping things will start going a little better on all accounts in the coming weeks.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Saturday, August 2, 2008
From what I could tell a couple of days ago, TW/Tip's sight still isn't completely developed. She's also very wobbly. I haven't seen her in a couple of days because Itty Bittiest moved her underneath the porch after bringing a dead bird into the nest pictured above. I expected mom to bring dead animals around to show TW/Tip how to hunt, but I didn't expect it to happen this soon. No one is rushing to remove the dead bird-not me, not Corrie, and not Itty Bittiest. I think it will have to be dealt with today.
Ever since I went to LA but didn't have time to make it to Roscoe's, Corrie has been on a fried chicken and waffle kick. (who are we kidding, he was on that kick before the trip ever since Alton Brown talked about it on Feasting on Asphalt. He seemed heartbroken that I didn't get there, but I told him I thought that was an experience we'd need to share together someday. The fact it's 2-0 Erica in the authentic philly cheese steak category is already bad enough.) So we (by that I mean Corrie) made our own:
Corrie used boneless/skinless chicken breasts for Paula Deen's fried chicken recipe. The waffles came from his trusty Alton Brown recipe. Then you pour syrup over all of it. Syrup on chicken is tasty! Luther agreed-I shared my chicken with him.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Even though there's a 20 page entry booklet on the State Fair's website that listed every category of needlework project and various rules and regulations, the entry process itself wasn't too complicated. You can complete your entries online in just a couple of minutes. I didn't realize that needlework entries don't require a fee, yet you still get to purchase fair tickets at a reduced rate! Pretty cool!
It was a little tricky for me to decide which categories my projects belonged in. For my blanket, I couldn't decide if it belonged in the "one color" or "multiple color" category. As you can see from the photo, the yarn has some speckles to it. While it's not a project made of several different colors of yarn, I also didn't feel right calling it a "one color" project. So I listed it in the multi color category. For my pig and piglet project, it had to go in the "other" category of the knitting division.
This is probably one of the first times I will "block" my project. Not a fan of checking my gauge or blocking, I decided because this was for the fair and because this blanket had a lot of picots throughout the last border row, it was worth the trouble to try to do it this time. I fully expected to have a photo of the finished blocked project here, but long story short, I just started blocking it a little while ago and it's not done.
I chose this pattern because 1. I felt I was in a time crunch and wanted to make one I've made before so that I was very familiar with the pattern and wouldn't have to spend time figuring out any tricky parts, 2. it looks more complicated and time-consuming than it is, the most time-consuming part was the very last time around the border, 3. I thought it would look really nice in this yarn.
While I really loved the look of this yarn (Lion Brand baby soft candy print) before I started working with it, I feel like it would've looked better if the pattern didn't have so many spaces in it. I think that detracts from the speckled aspect of the yarn pattern. I have almost 2 skeins left over, so I plan to make something else with a tighter pattern to it so I can enjoy the speckles.
The knitted pig and piglets don't take long to knit, but they take awhile to finish (adding legs and ears and snaps). It would be nice to start and finish them within the next week.
Also, the first photo of our outdoor kitten! Mom and kitten have moved out of their hole onto the rooftop of their hole. Look closely-the kitten is batting Itty Bittiest in the face.
Sunday, July 20, 2008
I came across The Informed Gardener by Linda Chalker-Scott during the BEA conference in May. It was one of the new books the University of Washington Press, whose booth was right across from ours, was promoting front and center in their display.
The beautiful cover first caught my eye, but I first suspected the book might be geared towards gardeners in the Pacific Northwest, since that's where it was published. That wasn't the case, though-it will be a useful book to any gardener in any part of the country. This is a collection of columns that the author had written since 2000 on various horticulture myths and misconceptions. (Her most current columns can be read on her web page.)
The book is broken down into six sections, including Critical Thinking, Understanding How Plants Work, How/What/When/Where to Plant, Soil Additives, Mulches, and Miracles in a Bag/Bottle/Box. Each column is neatly broken into sections: the myth, the reality, the bottom line, and a list of references. One of the myths she dispels is that watering on a hot sunny summer day (like today!) will scorch your plants' leaves. After explaining various causes of leaf scorch (including too little/too much water, salt, and poor root health) she recommends in her "bottom line" section to water plants anytime they show signs of drought and to preferably do that watering in the morning, to avoid over-fertilizing, and to make sure the plant site is optimal for root and shoot growth.
One of the other practices she takes issue with is backfilling a plant or tree hole with soil additives. I've always thought it was a good idea to add a little organic matter when I'm transplanting tomatoes or other plants, but she argues while the roots may grow vigorously for awhile, when they reach that edge between the organic matter and the native soil they may turn back towards the organic matter rather that reaching outward, which establishes a weak root system. She also suggests that the organic matter is too porous, and water will tend to move along to the native soil. Her recommendation is to instead add the organic matter as a top dressing, which you can continue to maintain without disturbing the plant.
I enjoyed this book. It was a fast read that encourages common sense, efficient, and cost-effective gardening. I'll probably re-visit it next spring before I head into the next gardening season.
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Last night, our coed softball team played our second summer tournament game in the hopes of making it to the final game where a win guaranteed us a free t-shirt. (Quite the spoils!) Our game was very close, we just needed to find a way to score a couple more runs; we lost 6-5. The good news was we got to go to the bar earlier, and we also didn't have to sit around in the 90 degree heat for an hour waiting for the championship game. Ah well, the fall season will be here before we know it.
In between the sporty heartbreaks, I finally figured out where our outdoor friend, Itty Bittiest, had been the past week. After she didn't show up for breakfast a couple of days in a row, I started to worry that something had happened to her. Then on Monday, she appeared on the porch, had her meal, then scampered around the corner of the house and burrowed into a hole next to the back porch. I thought that was an odd place to go to, then I heard the tell-tale sound of a baby kitty! Itty Bittiest had had kittens!
All week, Itty Bittiest has come out for meals, water, and some petting and stretching, then heads back to her hole. From what we can tell, there's only one kitten who looks like a tortoise-shell like mom. No pictures of mom and kitten yet, but we are on kitten watch now. Tuesday night was very dicey-a strong storm rolled through around 10 o'clock, and water was pouring down the roof by the kitten hole and seemed like it would eventually flood the hole. I stood out in the rain swapping out flower pots to catch the drips (what else is a cat lady supposed to do? I would've stayed out there all night, too), then Corrie came out and crafted a little fort out of a landscape block and the old barbecue grill cover. The rain could then run off onto the patio. Sure enough, Itty Bittiest and baby stayed dry all night. I still wish they'd move to a better home, like on the back porch.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Saturday, July 5, 2008
After a stint of practicing my clarinet for tonight's Star Spangeled Spectacular concert at Antelope Park, (struggling to play for an hour without all of the muscles in my face giving out. I have no idea how I used to play 3, 4, 5, or 6 hours a day in college) Corrie and I made our great-tasting Star Spangled drinks. When I was mixing the blue layer, Corrie told me the blue wasn't patriotic enough, so I added more blue food coloring. After careful coaching, Corrie got the order of the layers right as well.
I also finished the long-awaited crocheted cat bed. I thought by crocheting, rather than sewing, the seams together I would get a nice-looking corner to everything. It looked nice on some edges, but trying to single crochet the arms and back onto the main piece was kind of difficult. It's not perfect, but hey, it's a couch for our cats.
Norman waited out the final couch assembly with a nap on the extra foam from what I put inside the couch.
Around dinnertime, I gave my dad a call to see how he was doing and to recall past July Fourths. When we were growing up, sparklers and snakes were the only legal things in Omaha (they might still be) so well ahead of the Fourth before the state troopers were keeping an eye out, we'd make a stop at Rockport on the way back from seeing relatives in Missouri. The parking lots of those two shops were always full of cars with Nebraska plates. My parents followed a pretty conservative budget for fireworks, so we usually got a nice assortment of fountains, sparklers, tanks, parachutes, snakes, and smoke bombs. We were never too interested in most of the stuff that just made noise. At some point, my dad had to start buying festival balls, which would make up the finale of our show every year. Despite very careful and stringent rules placed by my parents, we had one or two fires growing up. My dad only remembers the one time a stray firework caught the bushes on fire, but I think there was also another time when something caught on fire on the roof.
The day ended with me shutting all of the windows and trying to make all of the cats who were hiding under the bed (Norman and Todd) feel better. They were not fans of fireworks.