Friday, December 30, 2016

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like...

...BABY knitting! 

So this got done... I'm working on the booties now. This hat went like a dream. It's an adaptation of a simple rolled-brim hat. I felt like an I-cord. And this is about 3.5" of I-cord, simply knotted. The decreases went easily, and in the pattern, the crown is flat. I just wanted a little extra zing for this little one coming along. 

The booties are going remarkably swiftly. It's the "Easiest and Fastest Baby Booties Ever!" pattern, on Ravelry. 

Truly, that's the name. The pattern calls for stripes, but I'm doing all orange - I thought I would do something different, so I do have some brown super-wash wool, but this is so stinking easy! There's no need to complicate it. I've already finished one bootie. It actually only took about 4 hours of total knitting. FOUR. HOURS. Period. There are only 35 rows in the entire pattern. 

I may start adding these to my stash. Great idea to get some stashed leftovers taken care of. I'm making the 3 - 6 month size. I don't want to make anything larger because they're actually slippery for little feet to walk in, so I'll stick with the "pre-walking" stage. 

So they're on size 5 needles. Knitted flat. See the rubber bands? I'm using the DPNs I used for the hat, but I didn't want to chase stitches. So I stuck a couple of rubber bands on the ends. Point protectors would also work well, but of course, I don't know where mine are. 

Till I'm done; then every point protector I have will show up!


So here's the Official Potica Plate in action. As you can see, it worked quite nicely. 

Kid #1 is now home. He just had his Christmas. It was "sock-a-palooza" for him. Yes, they were on sale. And yes, he got a lot of them. I also got him a blue Columbia pullover, and he put that right on... We'll be visiting my mother sometime over the weekend. 

Thankfully, I have Monday off, so we'll be doing something special. Not sure what. However, since he says he lives "in the boonies," he did mention he wanted tacos. This could be interesting. 

Midnight Mass was a trial. Well, it was lovely, but it didn't help that my "Silent Night" got even MORE silent. While tuning the guitar, I popped the low E string. Which takes some work. I knew it was going to happen...the strings should've been changed, but I got distracted, and ZING. Just a pain in the rear end. 

The Christmas Proclamation went well. And Tom's brother showed up. Tom, our organist, has been dead for 3 years. It was really tough on Mark. But he's at least back in church. It's a start. It's hard. But he's doing ok. 

This is The Door. Ever since I was a kid, we've hung our cards on the back of the front door. This was foreign to Hubby. And for a while, we just put our cards in a basket. But this year, I went back to The Door. I like it. It looks like Christmas. And since we didn't decorate like we used to do (which means my December Snowman is already stuck in the closet for another year, as is my "Santa's List" cross-stitch...) - well, we decorated the door. 


I was invited to join Instagram. I know - you don't have to be invited. But I did it. I'm still figuring it all out. But this was the first thing I posted. It's using one of their filters, but for the most part - call me a crazy person, but I prefer my pictures the way I take them. 

I think Hubby ought to be on it. He's a REAL photographer, and his pictures are stunning. But he's not much for social media, except for Facebook. 

So I'll just be on there on my own, and see what I can do. I'm trying to promote the yoga studio as much as I can, so perhaps this is a good way to do it. 

I've been talking about having him shoot some pictures of me in various yoga poses (believe me, I'm no "backbend in a bikini" yogini...), but first I'm working on losing the 20 lbs. I've gained. 

Whole 30...

Speaking of which... My brother suggested I try Whole 30. I've bought the book. I'm not jumping in on January 1, though. I haven't read all of it, and I want to see what I'm getting myself into. I've done a Metabolism B kind of program, which was basically a strict sugar detox. 

My problem with THAT program (though I lost 30 lbs.) was that fruit was a no-no. I'm all about balance (being a yogini, that is...) and I couldn't see me not ever eating fruit again. 

I'm sure it'll be blog-fodder when I start, so we'll see.

Random Picture...

The Changing of the Strings. This was Christmas day. Half-way through. I don't play a lot, so I can change my strings only a few times a year. I take the time to clean my guitar and polish it up. 

I use Elixir strings, and I find that they do last a good long time. I also have a metabolic problem with metal. 

I tend to corrode metal. I joke with Hubby that what that means is that I need GOOD jewelry. But what it means is that my skin is acidic. I will corrode most metal (I've taken the finish off more than a few needles in my day), and silver turns black on me in a matter of a few hours. 

The Elixir strings have a nano coating on them and they tend to last a bit longer for me. My guitar teacher changes his strings monthly. And he said, 'daily when I'm recording.' 

I'm not recording. So I take my time and get my wear out of the strings. 

I'll post later when the booties are done; in the meantime, have a happy, safe, and promising New Year. 

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Happy Holidays... you! (the song, folks...) Bing Crosby. The movie. 

And besides, I've said "Happy Holidays" for about 20 years now. Did you know that between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, there are at least a dozen different holidays that are actually celebrated? So, there's no "War on Christmas" unless you listen to a certain television/radio station. 

And the kids working the cashier stations in town? Give 'em a break. They're TOLD how to greet you. It's a holiday gig. Show some true holiday spirit...

OK, as I gingerly climb off my soapbox, I do wish you all a great holiday season - celebrate SOMETHING. 2016 has been a rough year for so many, maybe celebrating the fact that we're all still here is enough. 


So, let's go here first... Knitting on Baby Stuff continues. The hat - a super simple rolled brim, is coming along fine. Right now, I'm at about 3 1/2" and I have to be at 5 1/2" before I start the decreases. I may bring it to Christmas, but I don't know how much time I'll have to work on it. Definitely tomorrow, though. I think I can get to the decreases by then. 

You can find the pattern here:  Simple Baby Hat - and it's from my favorite knitting shop in Oxford, MS - Knit1! Of course, it's all on Ravelry as well. 

Once again, old reliable Cascade 220 Superwash - my baby wool of choice. The colors are sophisticated and if you wanted, you could go "traditional" with them if you want. 

When I knit, I do "untraditional" - as untraditional as possible, if I can. Remember the last baby sweater I did, in a "zebra" print? The little monster is already out of it, because he grew like a weed! Which is exceptionally good, given that he was 11 weeks EARLY. 

And then there's the "foofies." That's what our choir calls them. You'll remember, maybe, about 4 years back, I got the zany idea to knit the ruffled scarves that were all the rage - but for the women in our choir. Today being Christmas Eve, and this being our big Midnight Mass, I brought the "foofies" (as they were christened by a soprano) home. The closet where we keep our robes has an area that's apparently lined with cedar. And the scarves stunk. 

Seriously, cedar is amazing for storing your heirloom knitted projects. Keeps the dreaded M***s away (the beasties about which we do not speak). But it does smell. And I didn't think I could go through a Mass with that smell up in my face. 

I took my Woolies, large wool balls, and dropped 12 drops of Young Living Essential Oil, Lavender, on each of 3 of them (I use 6 balls in my dryer). I took the scarves and tossed them in there, set it for half an hour on "delicate fluff" and let 'er rip. 

There are 10 scarves. This is what they look like... And yes, BORING to knit. But if you remember, at some point, anyone with a set of needles was knitting these things or the ribbon-yarn-stuff that made even more outlandish fluffy scarves. 

I'll never do this again. Seriously, the only knitting I will never repeat. I really didn't like doing the project, though I love the way the scarves look. Our robes are "Cubbie blue" and this white + gold scarf is really sharp. We use them at Christmas and Easter. 

They came out of the dryer in a tangle, of course, and in the process of de-tangling, I found this... a snag. I pulled out some white thread, and made kind of a hash of the repair, but I wanted to make sure it wasn't going to run like a stocking. And you really won't see it in all the fluff. 

So they're all back in the bag again, and ready for tonight. There are far fewer of us in the choir, but that's ok. We'll look spiffy and I'm glad we have them. I'm also happy that they took to the dryer so well. They smell lovely - a hint of lavender that makes them feel as if they're just off the needles rather than having sat in a bag in a closet for a year. 

Christmas Eve...

Kid #2 had a great idea. He said, at Thanksgiving, "Let's let the kids do Christmas dinner." OK. Great idea. Execution was a little rocky. The Kid is a huge control freak ( idea where he got THAT) and one of the cousins likes to fly by the seat of his pants. That didn't help. 

I was talking to my mother about 2 weeks ago, and hyperventilating about the whole thing. She said, "Don't you dare bail them out. If we eat Ritz crackers for dinner, they'll have learned about planning."

So yesterday she called me. Hyperventilating about the whole thing. Of course, I said to her, "Don't you dare bail them out. If we eat Ritz crackers for dinner, they'll have learned about planning."

Man, my mother doesn't like her words tossed back at her... 

They consulted with me, and we decided on a quasi-"southern" theme. They asked me to make my "world-famous" pulled pork. Then the brainstorming began. The "southern" thing is nebulous... But here's the menu:

Pulled Pork w/buns
Chicken 'N Spice chicken chunks (my mom's idea and a good one - they're a Joliet institution)
Baked Beans
Homemade pickles
Cole Slaw
Mac & Cheese
Salsa & chips (see???)
Cookies & Potica

Maybe potato salad will show up. Not sure yet. 

At our Christmas party at the office yesterday, I got a lovely gift. It's now the "Official Potica Plate" because amazingly, it looks like it'll fit an entire loaf of potica on it. Isn't that adorable? It's Fitz & Floyd, and at first, I admit I thought, "I have a bazillion Christmas plates." But NONE of them are long. They're all round. This is perfect. 

Kid #1 won't make it out for Christmas. I'm sad about that. I mean, it really hit me hard. I'm a "raise 'em to go out on their own" kind of mother, and I honestly thought I was ok with everything. 

I'm not. He called me last weekend to tell me. I didn't cry. At least while I was on the phone with him. But I was depressed the whole weekend. Like, I wanted to sit in a corner and weep depressed. Didn't want to eat. Didn't want to do anything. Wanted to sit and cry. Even to the point of not wanting to knit, read or do anything else. 

That's a very strange feeling. It's taken me a few days to pull my head out of itself, but I think it's ok now. We'll see. 

Random Picture...

Will show you this then I've got to go practice and knit some on the hat. Also gotta get the pulled pork rolling soon. 

For over 30 years, I've collected the Hallmark "Frosty Friends" series. I've got enough of them to actually cover a couple of large wreaths. Since we don't put up a huge Christmas tree anymore, I can quite easily cover one small tree with these. This is just a smattering - and I must be overwhelmed, because I can still see "tree" greens. I usually cover the tree from top to bottom. There's too much green showing!

Do you have favorite ornament that goes on your tree every year? What is it? Share your favorite and its story...I'd love to read them! 

Happy Holidays to all of you! 

Friday, December 09, 2016

So I'm Sitting Here...

...with 2 dogs (Quinn on the couch, Raisa alongside/behind my knitting chair), the Christmas tree lit up, Star Trek (the original) on the TV and about 3 days' worth of papers to read. 

I normally wouldn't tell you this, but what the heck...Hubby is on a plane to MT. MIL's house sold in what I think is record time for a tiny town just south of Canada! So he's doing a few things, and packing up what's left of his stuff for temporary storage. He'll be back Sunday night. I hope. 

I say that because there's a winter storm watch set for our area from Saturday to Sunday. It's freezing cold and you can feel a storm in the air, if you know what I mean. 

So it's "just us girls" for the weekend. And I'm a bit miffed because it's not a "relaxing" weekend. And also, by this time, I'm usually in my jammies! Hubby takes the girls out for "Last Call" in about an hour and tonight, it's me. I'll survive! 

The Great Cookie Bake...

Snow on the Mountain
It is done... I'm finished for 2016. We do have some filled cookies and date balls that Hubby whipped together. I found a couple of old lists in my little notebook, and the list is much the same, with a few newbies thrown in each year. A favorite cookie was christened "Snow on the Mountain" by the kids. It's a fudgy cookie you can roll in either cinnamon + sugar or in powdered sugar. 

M & M Cookies
Since Kid #2 is doing a "hot" version (with a tiny pinch of chili pepper, since chili pepper and chocolate are a reasonably delicious pairing), he's doing his rolled in plain sugar - so we can differentiate them when we do the cookie platters for Christmas. 

I've already given out a platter to my guitar teacher. He's crazy about the Honey Cookies, or as Hubby refers to them, "the Jewish Cookie." He's correct: it's a Jewish cookie. It's definitely a keeper now... 

Granny's Crescents
The M & M cookies are my sister's. She calls 'em and she -- well, she demands them every year. In a nice, sisterly way, of course! So I bake them. We found a good recipe which makes a thicker, more chewy cookie. I had been using the old "Toll House" kind of recipe, and they always flattened out and got too crispy, no matter what I did. But this one is good. Only thing is, the recipe calls for making them in QUARTER-CUP scoops! Too big. Really. There is such a thing as "too big" for a cookie. 

I save the hardest for last. Well, not hard, but fiddliest. These are Granny's Crescents. You have to chill the dough at LEAST 6 hours, and I like to do mine overnight. So this takes some planning. You divide the dough into smaller balls - a little smaller than a tennis ball, but not as small as a golf ball. Each ball is about 8 cookies. 

I make a double batch, because THESE are my brother's. He gets a bag. A double batch, just in case you're wondering, is about 160 cookies. ONE. HUNDRED. SIXTY. 

So This is Christmas...

Rowan Oak
These are a smattering of the ornaments on my tiny (4') tree. We've had it on the dining room table forever, and that seems to be where it'll stay - at least till we're dogless. And at that point, we may be too old to WANT a larger tree, though it's in the basement. 

Frosty Friends
This one is the first one I bought on my first Faulkner Pilgrimage. It's the front of Rowan Oak (which at first, I thought was "Roanoke" like the town in Virginia). It's his ... well, I guess "plantation" is as good a word as any. It's his home, at any rate. Maybe he'd be peeved by my referring to it as a plantation, and prefer to call it a farm? Don't know. But I like "destination ornaments"  so I got this one for myself. I also have a few from friends: one from Colonial Williamsburg, and an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in Indiana, and a few from my bus trip with my mom: Hilton Head and another one. I got Hubby a "France 2013" suitcase keepsake ornament. Where we were, they didn't have ornaments; we took pictures instead. 

Elkies and Snowman
Next up is the Frosty Friends. I've been collecting these for 30 years. We have several of the larger ones which sit next to the tree, and they're animated. Cute, but I think they're a bit noisy!

The heart-shaped one is a hand-painted one with our Elkhounds as the theme. This is done by Amy Bolin, and you should check out her stuff. She does beautiful work and a lot of her items are used as fundraisers for rescues. This one works for me not only because of the Elkhounds, but because there's a snowman on it. I have a collection of snowmen that my kids are going to regret when I'm dead... 

And finally, Hubby helped me "wrap presents" for under the tree. No, not really! I buy toilet paper for the studio and this time of year, I like to wrap it in seasonal tissue paper. I buy a large economy-size package, and I don't like to have unwrapped rolls sitting around in the studio. There's also no storage, so I bring them in by the half-dozen. The students laugh, but it's a nice personal touch. 

I do have a few more spots on the tree - Hubby says I load it down, but I say "that's the point."

One year, for some reason, we didn't put any ornaments on the tree at all. That was odd. Oh, I also have to paint "The Kids' Ornaments." Every year, I do a set of them, and I'm pretty sure that I have pictures in a couple of these posts going back a few years. That's one of my tasks this weekend, if I can get to it. 


Tomorrow is going to be such fun. The dogs will get me up at dawn, because that's when they're used to getting up. Then, at 8 a.m. I have to get a temporary crown. Then, my church friends and I serve lunch at Morningstar Mission. THEN - I go home and hunker down, waiting for the snow. 

Maybe I'll order Chinese for lunch. I rarely eat it, so I should treat myself. 

I have to remind myself to get the TP to the studio! This is a shot just before one of my classes. Not sure, with the weather, if (a) Hubby will get home on Sunday afternoon; and (b) I'll teach Sunday night! Snow forecasts are mixed, but there's also a strong indication that we're far enough south to get "freezing rain." 

Thanks, but I'd rather have snow!


So this happened - I "accidentally" got a signed copy of a book! I was at Centuries and Sleuths, and this author was recommended to me. The book, by the way, is really good! I plucked this off the shelf - it's the author's "stand-alone" book, and the suggestion was that I read this, and if I like it, work on his series. 

Look what I found! A signature! C & S, a small bookstore, has an amazing niche in mysteries and Chicago-area writers. They have a constant stream of authors coming in to do book signings, and occasionally, they "blind sign" books. I happened to get one signed by the author and it was just sitting there on the shelf. 

I'm told by my friend Sue (who's related to the owners) that a signed book that's personalized isn't as valuable as one that's "blind signed." Well, unless it's someone like William Faulkner signing one to John F. Kennedy - but you know what I mean. For those of us who are mere mortals, it's not as precious in the long run. 

However, this is only a paperback, so I'm not sure that it's valuable in any case, unless I keep it in pristine condition - which I usually do. I will be happy to loan you a book. But it had better be returned in the same condition as it was when I gave it to you. Or else. Just sayin'...


Pumpkin sweater
And here it is! Finished! I've already started on the hat - a simple rolled brim beanie. I'm told it's a boy, so that's nice. The color would've worked either way, which is why I stick to these non-traditional rich tones. I like a sophisticated baby. 

Hat started
There's really no easy way to take a picture of a square with for now, this is the best I can do. When I finish the ensemble, I'll stage it better. 

The hat is a simple one - knit in the round for about 6" and then start the decreases. I'm going to add an I-cord, and then tie it in a small knot so that the hat looks like it has a "topper" on it. I think it's going to be cute. 

If I have time, booties are also on the list. I'm going to see if I have some brown worsted weight; I think I'd like to do the bootie cuffs in brown, to match the giraffe buttons. 

Random Picture...

Tippi for President
Which also may be a political statement. The wonderful folks at Lewis University gave me a stunning portrait of Tippi - which I'm going to have framed! And Tippi got a stocking full of toys. And the assistant librarian made me these buttons. As I said to them, "Tippi would be the only SANE candidate." 

She still loves her therapy work, and I'm hoping that we will continue for several more years. 

We had a great visit for Super Study, and now we have a little break. She's snoozing behind me. Which reminds me -- my 8 a.m. dental appointment will come pretty quickly, so I'd better hit the hay. See you soon!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

2016 Christmas Cookie Bake is ON...

So, we did our Thanksgiving celebration last Sunday. Hubby and I did the turkey + turkey breast, the cranberry relish and the brandied sweet potatoes. Kid #2 did the mashed potatoes.

The rest of dinner was parceled out among the family. It was great. Food was good; election discussion was minimal. I christened our youngest family member "Tigger" after explaining about Tigger and his bouncy-bouncy-bouncing. He loves it. 

The nephews decided that THEY were taking over Christmas dinner. This could get interesting...At first, they wanted to do a Mexican theme. I have no problems with that - I love Mexican food. But - there are a number of folks with dietary this or that, so we're doing a "northern" Southern thing. I say we, because my brother begged me to do my pulled pork. Oh well. I knew I wouldn't get a holiday free from cooking. And I'm ok with that. 

So, that being said, we took advantage of having Thanksgiving Day free. I have one yoga class to teach Friday morning, another one Saturday morning, and then another one Sunday night. But otherwise, aside from meeting friends for lunch on Saturday, I'm polishing off the 2016 Christmas Baking, if I can. 

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies

This is what has happened since last night:

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies
Spiced Shortbread Stars
Tollhouse cookies
Fruitcake cookies
Honey cookies (a dairy-free Jewish recipe, actually)

Don't forget, we have potica and the "walnut tarts" I made up out of thin air, already in the freezer... My cookie lists are fluid - depending on what we find on the internet, what I pull out of the old recipe boxes and how much time we have, the initial list can change at least once during a baking session -- often at least twice. 
Walnut tarts

I have some pics - but I was so busy baking and Hubby was so busy trying to finish off the deck that I didn't get as many as I wanted to. 

Spiced Shortbread Stars
So, the changes to the list? Instead of the "Santa's Whiskers," I added the Fruitcake Cookies. I also added the Honey Cookies - I've been looking for alternatives to the richer, more chocolate-laden stuff. We have so much heavy bakery, and in many respects, I like a little sass to my cookies. So the shortbread, which was supposed to be lemon, turned out to be pumpkin-pie-spiced stars. I did those while talking to Kid #1...we had a lovely conversation, and I do miss him, in spite of my blatherings about how you raise your kids to fly on their own... And there may still be a lemon cookie or lemon bar on the list at some point - I'm not done yet!

Fruitcake Cookies
I baked from about 9 a.m. till just about 3:30 p.m. Straight through. Batch after batch. Hubby was in and out with the deck. It's freezing cold here - so much so that one of the glass birdbaths broke with the temperature change. The weather turned really quickly - tomorrow, they're calling for rain-mixed-with-snow! 

I had a decision to make: I was going to make my sister's favorite, M & M Cookies. But I also wanted something straight-up traditional and simple. For example, the Fruitcake Cookies are someone's granny's recipe - and the recipe actually called for seven pounds - SEVEN pounds of mixed nuts! I tossed in a bag of walnut halves and about 2/3 c. of sunflower seeds, and called it even. I've got raisins and cranberries on the list for tomorrow, if we go anywhere. I may venture out while I'm on the road for yoga, but otherwise, I'm back to the baking tomorrow as well (which is when my sister's cookies will get done). 

My initial dilemma was which "plain" cookie was to be baked this time? I guess that it may seem strange that Tollhouse Cookies are "plain" - but they really are, compared to some of the others I make. And I didn't add anything to this. I added no nuts. I added no spices (and I hate to not add spices...). I added no extra chocolate. 

Big or little?
I have learned, over the years, that there's a trick to reasonably "fluffy" Tollhouse cookies. When I first started using that recipe, they came out flat and hard. The chocolate morsels were like bumps on a hunk of dough which looked like it had been run through my pasta maker a couple of times... My friend Jess can make a stunningly beautiful, fluffy, soft Tollhouse, and I can't quite replicate his recipe. But - this time, I don't soften the butter in the initial creaming of the butter and sugar. And then I kept the dough cold in between the batches. They're not terribly big or fluffy, but they're not looking like manhole covers either! 

Then my next dilemma was in regard to the size of the Tollhouse cookies. Which size of scoop for the cookies? Smaller or larger? I did one of each, baked the batch and then decide, what the heck -- it's CHRISTMAS - so I did the larger one. And they came out just fine - I have slightly more than 5 dozen. I love the cookie scoops. I rebelled against them for a long time, but I find them much more efficient, and the results are more uniform. As you can see, for the Fruitcake cookies, I used the larger one, too. 

The No-Bakes get shaped with 2 spoons. That's a rule. And it's not my recipe. It's from my revered MIL and I'm not messing with it. Just like I don't want anyone messing with my granny's recipes, I will not futz with a tradition from anyone's family - or more particularly, anyone's family that I know personally! I have been known to take a random "my granny's recipe" that I find online and mess with it; I can't help it. But if someone hands me a recipe or an old family cookbook, I will - to the best of my abilities - keep with the tradition established in the recipe. It's my way of honoring the bakers who came before me - carrying on their tradition and passing it on to my kids so that they can do the same. 

The Latest List... 
My own tradition of the Christmas Baking has been something I've been doing since around 1979 or so - and at first, it was to give things for Christmas because I couldn't afford to buy them. But later, after I found that I really enjoyed the cookie-baking and researching for recipes, it came to be something I enjoyed. I'm kind of diverse when it comes to cookies. I'll often stick with the same basic list, but I'll look at new recipes or take something and fiddle with it. When the kids were at home, they had veto power over any recipe I tried...and there were a few that were definitely "don't bother with THAT again" -- in spite of the fact that they were "contest winning" cookies. The kids have very specific requirements for cookies, and they made their desires known. It was a blast to collaborate, actually. 

The Santa's Whiskers was a good example. I did those for 2 years running, and this year, I looked for something else to do (mainly because I couldn't find the recipe...) and came across that Fruitcake Cookie thing. 

Honey Cookies
And then I found the Honey Cookies. For those folks that are dairy free, this one is from a Jewish blogger. I recall that the concept of "kosher" has something to do with how you can't mix certain foods. So there's no butter in there; it uses vegetable oil instead. (If anyone knows specifically, please comment!)

I've looked for a decent honey cookie recipe for a while. Most of them don't have "enough" honey in them. You can't taste it. It's just a sweet, bland cookie. 

Well.... Not this one. Seriously delicious, and I could make a huge dent in the batch. It uses Turbinado sugar for the sparkles. I ran out (that rarely happens in my house, truthfully), and so I used regular dusting sugar in yellow so as to not obscure the beautiful deep gold of the cookies. I don't like the regular dusting sugar - not enough oomph, and besides, Turbinado has that slightly smokey taste to it - molasses, you know? It gives the cookies a nice contrast with the strong honey flavor. Turbinado sugar is also on my list, in case you're wondering. This recipe is amazing; only takes about 10 minutes to put the whole thing together, you roll the balls of dough, roll in sugar and bake for exactly 10 minutes. Truly, bang-on specific to the recipe and no fiddling needed. You can taste the honey, a nice clean burst of flavor, and it's not cloyingly sweet - which you might think it would be because of the extra sugar on top. I will try these with other honeys - like a robust buckwheat honey or something with more floral overtones in it. This recipe is a keeper. 


The baby jacket is moving along. Needless to say, nothing much got done today till I was done baking! I've cast off the final sleeve and am working on the last bit of the front. Sixty rows in total, but there are only about 25 stitches in a row, so once I get cranking (and there's a Mystery Marathon on PBS)...I'm golden. I'm actually on Row 25 now, so maybe this weekend, I'll be seaming and sewing on the buttons. Lots of yarn left, so booties and a hat are coming into play now as well. 

No picture yet. But maybe next time, and it'll be the finished thing. Right now, it's a pile of orange stuff. 

Prayer Shawl
Oh, oh.... I did a teeny, tiny "cheat." At church, we have a lovely Prayer Shawl Ministry. And when I walked in, I found a small triangular shawl made out of just about the exact shade of pumpkin, just sitting on the stack!! It'll be just perfect for Little Mama if she needs it for nursing or even just because it'll match our Little Pumpkin ensemble. I'm going to have the whole shebang blessed before I wrap it up. I think she'll like that.

I'm also alternating baby knitting with the Shape-It Scarf, so that I have it available to wear sooner rather than later. But those wings...Boy, are they taking a long time! Because it's lace-weight on needles about 5 times larger than they should be, and because alpaca can be slippery, I can't just whip along without checking in on my knitting every so often. 

I'm kind of itching to start something new, but I want to plow through this so that it's done and I'm not in a time-crunch at the last moment. Especially since babies can be totally unreliable. 

The Deck...

Ta-da!! Here it is, 90% completed. I say 90% because of a few things. As you can see, the skirting on the bottom isn't quite done yet (it needs to be behind the stairs as well). And in the spring, those pavers alongside the deck will be completed and graveled in, so that we can bring the trash cans around to the front for pick-up. We'll also have some sort of barrier to keep the pea gravel contained. 

And then there's the city... When I went outside to look at it with Hubby, I noticed a pink sticker. Pink isn't the color you want... Seems the deck hasn't passed its last inspection. 

See those rails there, closer to the right? Well, Hubby told the inspector that he'd be installing "cappers" - those fatter boards on top of the balusters, so that when you climb the steps, that's where your hand naturally goes to hold onto the rail. And the inspector agreed. He even complimented Hubby on the solid construction and the design of the structure. 

Well, apparently, we need a "grab-able handrail" on the inside of those railings. Hubby is annoyed. We have to special-order the one rail he will concede to put up. I'm still not certain why we have to have it. The sidewalk has sunk a bit, but that will be fixed when the weather is warmer - the guy who built our house wasn't exactly persnickety in his construction methods. Let's just say that "rebar" was never on the parts list when he poured the sidewalks... 

It's a great deck; it'll be lovely to have the added space (the steps are wider and easier to maneuver with three dogs), and it's nice to have something pretty to look at. I think he's tossing around the idea of doing this same railing on our porch, which will need some TLC soon. 

Random Picture...

Hearts are everywhere. This morning, in the Chicago Tribune, the front-page story was about a couple, Roger and Joe, who finalized the adoption of a brother and sister who've been in their custody since babyhood. 

Heart on a Bread Tab
We need these stories. We need them to balance out the ugly, hateful stuff we see. We're in a very weird stage of our development as a nation. Kid #1 and I had that discussion while I was kneading the shortbread. 

My concern is that we're all in our little "social media bubble." We hang around with friends. We listen to opinions that reinforce our own. There may be people who read this blog who, when I mention the couple, Roger and Joe, they might be offended. 

Am I always comfortable? No, not really. Am I aware that the world is sorely in need of peace and love? Yes. Am I aware that we're a speck in the eye of God, and that we're in a place right now where hate seems to have a slight upper hand? Sadly, yes. Families like Roger and Joe? They've adopted 2 kids. They've put their money where their mouths are, so to speak. Walked the walk. Talked the talk. Whatever cliche you want to use, go for it. They've brought these two kids into their family and into their hearts, and will raise them to be wonderful adults - and maybe I'm sugar-coating it, and there are elements of butterflies and moonbeams, but I always smile when I see an adoption; because I know that for so many other kids, adoption isn't an option. These guys are giving these kids a family. 

These faux-Christians always in the news who "say" that they're pro-life? Don't see them adopting - and if they're protesting abortion clinics and harassing women who go to Planned Parenthood, I'm thinking they're not fostering kids or seeking other solutions. They have one issue in mind and that's the end of their discussion. I'm quoting Sr. Joan Chittester, a Benedictine nun for whom I have much respect:

“I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.”

These words have generated a lot of controversy. But in their essence, they are saying something: We need, as humans, to look beyond a one-issue platform. We need to see that, if we don't do those things which we are commanded to do regardless of the faith we espouse -- and really, The Golden Rule is central to most of the mainstream faiths -- if we don't feed the hungry, if we don't make sure that the children are truly educated (as in - to THINK, not just pass tests), and if we don't make sure that people are adequately housed? 

How can we say we believe in anything remotely "Christian" if we narrow our focus to one issue? How can we abide by that most basic tenet: "Treat each person the same as you wish to be treated" - if we don't look at the essential human-ness of that person?

Look for the hearts. They're there. If you have eyes to see. 

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Hit By A Really BIG Bus...

...that's what I'm feeling lately. Not sure I can talk about it yet. But I will. 

And I have a "migraine hangover" so please bear with me... It was a 2-Maxalt headache, but it seems like I've got a bit of a fog going on.

Just A Few Things...

Just a few things have happened lately. The Cubs won the World Series. Yes, they did!

And we elected a bullying moron for president. Yes. We did. 

I watched the Cubs, though I admit I went to bed in disgust when they and their bats didn't show up for that one game. But I did it. I'm glad I was able to do that because being a life-long Cub fan, it's certainly something I've never done. So I guess I can cross that one off my bucket list. 

I would like to go to a game at Wrigley just once. I hear that it's the atmosphere more than anything else. You certainly won't have the amenities one has at home, like multiple camera angles, your favorite chair and a quick trip to the bathroom! But it would be nice to see it. I suppose I could find some knitting to bring along with me. 

I love the chalk wall. This is on one wall of Wrigley Field (probably two walls, by now) and grew organically. The management let it be, and people have been adding "In memory of..." messages since the Cubs won. Management is going to preserve it in photos though they've already said they're going to eventually power-wash it all as they continue to renovate the ball field. By all rights, my grandmother and my great-grandma should be on that wall. But they're in my heart, so that's all that matters. I will be making some small "W" flags and will, come spring, plant them at their graves. 

The cemeteries clean the gravesites to prepare them for winter, so if I do anything now, it's likely to be removed. 

We can wait. 

We've waited this long...


So, I was an election judge this year, and I knew it was going to be busy. Despite what the national results were, our polling place was constantly moving. We had over 560 voters (we're tiny - this was a big turnout), and I think our longest break was perhaps 20 minutes. 

I knew the baby sweater wasn't going to cut it. I was at the only fiddly-bit on the whole thing: adding the curve to the neck. Instead, I grabbed the Shape-It scarf since the wings are straight knitting. 

I sat next to Nick, a newbie judge who was THE. SLOWEST. TYPIST. EVER. We have tablets to check people in, though we still vote on paper. Nick was the absolute slowest person on the planet, and it was all I could do to not snatch the tablet from beneath his fingers. 

He was trying, bless his little heart...

And in a lull, he says to me, "Are you crocheting?" Hey - I give him props for KNOWING enough to ask. So I explained that I was knitting, and I let him pet the baby alpaca yarn. His mother "did one or the other, I don't know" and he has a "blanket" that was done for him. 

Very nice guy. And he appreciated the alpaca (or he was a great faker about it!). But I really didn't get more than 2 rows done, maybe 3. I'm going to try to put a few more rows on in the next day or so. I want to get it done so that I can block it out and wear it when the weather finally turns. It'll look lovely with my leather coat.

The baby sweater is growing. I'm on the sleeve, got about maybe 10 rows to go before I bind off there, and finish the body. Then - done. Just the buttons. 

I realized, to my chagrin, that the buttonholes are askew. Blast! It was the World Series. I'm going to have to take the sweater to a priest for a blessing as it is, since during a few of the games, I wasn't saying anything nice... I'll just tell mommy that the whole thing is asymmetrical and this is a design component. 

That works. 

I think I can pull a matching hat out of the yarn I have left. And maybe a pair of booties, but I'll have to put some brown tops on them or something. Haven't gotten that far yet. Or maybe I do the hat with a brown ribbing edge? Or stripes? It could be cute. And the buttons are brown, that's why I'm veering in that direction.

Christmas Baking 2016...

The Great Potica Bake Part I has happened. Ten. Count 'em. TEN long loaves, 2 small ones. Kid #2 came down to help, because of Hubby's chipped wrist bone - he didn't have enough flex in his wrist to help roll. 

I tried something different this time. I did the prep in stages. I did the filling and stuck that in the fridge on Friday. Then, on Friday night I did the dough.

I checked with my friend and chef Carolyn - and she said, "yeah do up to the first rise and stick it in the fridge - it'll rise a bit and should be fine."

Well. It doubled in size and popped the lid off the sealed bowl. Hmmmmmm. 

I was off to a church function on Saturday, and The Kid was going to come down around noon. We serve lunch at the local homeless shelter as part of our outreach. Sadly, I was kind of verging on a migraine, which didn't help (and yeah, it "bloomed" after the last bake, thankfully). 

I asked Hubby to take the dough out of the fridge, and I think we had a bit of a problem estimating how long it would take to warm up. Just as, I think, we underestimated how long it would take to cool off - the rising happened because the dough was warm and it took a while to chill, so the yeast did its thing...

The Kid took charge of the filling and did the "drudge work" of greasing pans and flouring the cloth. I wanted him to help roll, but seeing as he's a large guy (tall - just about 6'2") and has hands that are "basketball hands" -- that didn't work out well. 

I ended up doing the rolling, and as the dough came to warm up, the rolling was - even though I hesitate to say it - perfect. Seriously, no trouble after the first one, which was still too cold. 

See, here's the issue: Potica dough is notorious for being more finicky than you can imagine. It's bothered by temperature. It's crabby about humidity. It's cranky about the amount of flour on the cloth... And it's picky about the rolling pin. 

I ended up with my marble rolling pin. (Hey mom, since I've been doing these for 6 years now, can I have Dad's ball-bearing solid oak rolling pin, please???) It worked well, and the cloth, being fairly new, actually behaved better than last year. 

There's also mythology about the cloth too. We had a damask tablecloth. It was, in my estimation, about 40 years old. I finally retired it the year before last, when it got too hole-y to patch anymore and the darns were so large that they were tearing the dough. 

The dough has to be thin, and the cloth was already worn. The darns didn't help. So we bought a new one a few years ago, and it's taken some punishment to break it in. It's good now, I think. 

I rolled, he prepped the rolled dough (and no, I can't give you details. The mythology also involves secrecy about the exact components of the recipe. My granny would haunt me.), and we got it all put together. 

We thought at first that we'd have to re-do the last batch of dough because of the extraordinary rise it got overnight, but it seemed like everything went well. 

We may do another single batch over Christmas break so that we have extra for Easter. It freezes well. And I've got 4 of them sold for Christmas already. Thankfully, I got 4 "pretty" ones out of this day's work. Kid #2 got one of the half-loaves for his help.

Frankly, I missed Kid #1 - he's our "premier roller" and he's working out of state. He may not even come home for Christmas. I'm not sure I'm ready for that. But I don't have a choice in that one, that's for sure... All I can do is send him a care package and hope he's doing ok. 

So here's The 2016 Cookie List. It's mostly final. I may put together a biscotti, just to lighten up all the heavy flavors. 

Kid #2 has his list and he usually brings them to our family celebrations. 

This is the list that ends up on my holiday platters for gifts. So there also may be some pumpkin bread or some date-somethings. 

I like to have variety, and while I appreciate the tradition of the same cookies, I always try a few different ones every year to shake things up a bit. I noticed that I didn't add any "bread" or "bar cookies" so those might make it on there. 

The "walnut tarts" -- those are a new invention of mine. I have more potica filling left. I didn't make it as "wet" as Hubby thinks I should, but I think it's too wet and doesn't cook well when the filling is too heavy. And my dad never put a lot of filling in. And the dough was especially thin this year, as I mentioned, so I went with a little lighter hand. 

Hubby has been bugging me. Nay - he has been positively NAGGING me to try his grandma's Never Fail Pie Crust. I've been avoiding it, because I don't do pie crusts. But Kid #2 tried it (he also stinks at pie crusts) and told me (ha!) "The Curse is works, so go for it." 

So what I thought, since I only have about a half-batch of filling left, and there's no way I can make only a "half-batch" of dough, is that I might try a tart. Tiny tarts. Like pecan tassies, if you know what those are. If not, I've provided a link. My granny used to make these, too. 

This is the experiment for the day. It may flop tremendously, but it might be ok. We shall see. 

Garden Bounty...

The garden has given up everything but the carrots, and those are coming out soon. 

This is the last of the kale, and Hubby got a 2-quart bag full of Brussels Sprouts, which isn't bad for our first year. 

It's getting cooler, so I'm not in the mood for smoothies. I did The Google and found that I could just bag it and freeze it (after washing, of course!). I bought a can of soup for the office and it's Kale, Quinoa and Red Lentil. That shouldn't be too hard to duplicate. Or even a creamy kale soup? Or adding it to a veggie soup. Once it's frozen, I can chunk off a hunk and dice it up, toss it in a stew or soup, and there ya go. 

Or I can let it stay in the fridge and use it next year for smoothies. Either way. Didn't want to waste it, so this is a great alternative. 

If anyone has any decent recipes, I'm all ears. I know I can't do my usual sauteed kale. Like most greens, freezing changes the texture. Maybe I can fiddle with Mario Batali's Kale Pesto recipe. Boy, I wonder if that would be too strong? Kale makes itself known, and sometimes that's not always good. 

I'm also wondering how the Brussels Sprouts will be, and I'm toying with a potatoes-and-sprouts recipe for Thanksgiving. We still have Rosemary in the garden, and I've frozen some basil and parsley. 

As has been our practice, we're doing most of Thanksgiving again, though my mom is hosting. I don't mind, and in past years, we've been parceling out the side dishes to the grandkids - they have to learn somehow, so it's a good thing to do. And for the most part - they're mostly boys; they'll eat anything. 

The Election...

OK, I think I'm ready to talk. 

I was devastated by the results of the election on a couple of levels. First, in full disclosure, I am not a fan of Hillary. I was a Bernie voter and I would vote for him again in a heartbeat. And I think he'd have beaten the bullying moron (or BM as I shall hereinafter refer...).

Do I believe we need a woman as president? Absolutely. Just not her. 

Is she qualified? Absolutely. But we don't do political dynasties here in the US. It was bad enough with Pappy Bush and Shrub. And then Jebbie tried again - and failed miserably. 

Hillary, despite her qualifications, has more baggage than O'Hare International Airport during the Thanksgiving weekend. It was never going to happen. I'm sorry to burst bubbles, but it wasn't going to happen. 

As usual, Democrats sat on their laurels and underestimated "the base." That nebulous group of individuals who vote and always, always stun the professional data-geeks spoke, loudly.

That being said, many people spoke by silence. The voter turnout was at a historic low for a presidential year - especially given the contentious nature of this election cycle. 

Stuff is whirling around about the Electoral College being overturned, and maybe we need to have that discussion - when tempers and emotions have cooled. We really do need to at least talk about it. It wouldn't have mattered which way the election had gone, because the discussion about the institution itself needs to be had. We have drilled into our kids' heads that "your vote matters," but really, in a presidential election, it doesn't seem to. Hillary has won the popular vote. But she lost the EC vote, at least for now. 

The Federalist papers say that the Electors have a duty to make sure the president is fit and to determine if there are any things or issues which would disqualify the candidate. The BM clearly is not qualified. The terrified visage portrayed during the ceremonial White House visit is clear. 

While I cringe at the thought of Kim Jong Il and Vladmir Putin at a state dinner, I feel for my younger sisters-in-life - the women of child-bearing age who will clearly have all choice taken from them if that guy gets hold of the Presidential Pen.  

So my choice is to sit and wring my hands; do "Facebook activism;"** or actually, you know, DO SOMETHING. 

I'm choosing to do something. I'm not sure what, but I'm taking Bernie's advice as seen in this clip here. I posted this and a friend of mine, who for some reason HATES Bernie, said she "couldn't bear his sneering face." 

I don't think Bernie sneers. But I appreciate her bruised feelings. I don't like her tone, but I can only control my own reaction to others. 

I have already contacted my senator and representative, and asked them to demand that the BM release the taxes. We have a right to see if there are any disqualifiers there (see the comment on the EC above). I'm going to donate to causes which will have an impact. I'm going to write letters. I'm going to call people (which is REALLY out of my comfort zone) and I'm going to talk to local officials, too. Nationally, we must do something about the stranglehold now on our government - and locally, we could always use the help, too. It starts locally, and grows into a global movement. 

**Facebook activism refers to those folks who "click" or "share" something and then feel all proud of themselves for "being involved."

Don't kid yourself. You're a speck on the cosmos. You're better off getting off your rear end and actually contributing something: even a little bit helps. Make a phone call. Write a letter. Join a cause. Contribute money if you can. But don't sit in your chair clicking away and thinking you're changing the world. Because you're not. 

So that's my take. I will do my homework and pick a cause or causes to concentrate on. And I will get involved. This is our wake-up call. 

Random Picture... 

So the deck is coming along. We have a "deck" part, we have railings (not up yet) and posts. The steps are all stained and coming along. Even with a chipped bone in his wrist, Hubby is plugging along. 

Today, we take down the hummingbird feeders and get them stored away for winter. He may even mow one or two more times this season. He's determined to get the deck done before the cold sets in. I will, of course, post a picture of the finished product. 

We chatted about whether we're going to put the grill out there. "Or do you want to sit out here," he says. 

We've had a lovely patio he put together about 10 years ago. Upon which we've rarely sat. Even with nice chairs. We have a porch. Upon which we've rarely sat... We're not really "outside-sitters." But maybe we should be. 

It's all part of being a part of your neighborhood and a part of society. We've lost the "porch sitter" aspect of our neighborhood, and I think that's to our detriment. I am horribly shy (go ahead, laugh, but it's true). I don't like to be in situations where I'm faced with people I don't know. 

But it's time to step out of that comfort zone. Not like I'm going to change the world, right? 

But then again, by changing my own attitude, am I not making a step toward changing the world? Margaret Mead said it best: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has."