Whenever I think to myself, "Hm, do I really need to put up the big tree?" I think of how much fun this was. And if it was fun last year, it's gonna be even funner this year!! Yes, FUNNER!!
December is hard.
I was looking ahead/steeling myself to the dates later in the month and then was reminded first thing this morning that it's Rusty's dad's birthday -- he'd have been 88.
Kate shared a story about a frustrated, insistent customer who ended up leaving the book store in tears yesterday. I got tears in my eyes right away. Ohhhh, that woman has a story -- there's a reason why she's insistent and on-the-verge, why she needs things RIGHT NOW. Poor things -- the woman and the book store employees, too; they were all a little stunned.
I'm going to knit myself a peace this month. I wrote about Project Peace before, but then the pattern came out and it's one of those long, in-the-round cowls and, well, there's nothing "peaceful" about that to me. So, even though I'd read along everyday, I decided not to knit the cowl -- or perhaps to designate another project as my "peace" knitting.
I said as much to Kym. And she said, "Doofus, you could convert this one to straight needles pretty simply! Just cast on for the width and then knit back and forth until you’ve got a long enough piece. Then just... 3-needle bind-off!"
She didn't really say, "Doofus," but I know she was thinking it. Haha!
Well, of course...
I guess I needed a push. So I did the tiny bit of math, got excited about knitting an i-cord edge as I go -- in a contrasting color because, lo & behold, along with the 500-yard hank of Jill Draper's Esopus, I also bought a contrasting 250 -- like it was meant to be -- and, yeah, so I'm back in.
Last night we drove Maddy's Jeep out to the farm for storage -- 'til she returns!
Anticipating... Only three more weeks until Winter Solstice!
Celebrating... A Christmas party already on Friday!
Drinking... Hot tea -- gigantic mugs of Tazo ZEN. And cold tea, G&Ts, IPAs, H2O.
Eating... Well. We've been doing so much cooking at home, and the fridge is usually bulging.
Enjoying... Junah's exploding language and imaginative play. Gin's bright eyes and ever-ready smile.
Hoping... to get Christmas going again. I was getting in the mood but lost it at the thought of hauling the tree up and the decorations down. I have started to do a little bit of shopping.
Knitting... I have two pairs of Squad Mitts going, two gift knits for the grandkids going (awaiting delivery of special-order safety eyes), and two more rows of ribbing before binding off my Rainbow Warrior Cowl!
Listening to...Simply Christmas by Leslie Odom, Jr., especially loving "My Favorite Things" and "Winter Song."
Looking forward to... Ann & family arriving the day after Christmas!
Needing... to make room for the tree.
Planning... well, not exactly planning yet... but beginning to think about Christmas dinner!
We were this >< close last week to booking crazy-low priced flights to Valencia. Alas, sometimes it's really hard to get your ducks to line up in a timely & efficient manner, and by the time all was situated, the sale was over... we missed it by hours. It was heartbreaking; I even lost sleep over it. Ugh.
The bug had bitten!
Kate's making plans for a UK/France visit in early winter; Rusty's making summertime CA plans; and I will likely go to Spain in June, hopefully overlapping a bit with Maddy & Kate as they meet up during summer travels.
In the meantime, I'm taking Annie up on her offer to come & stay in New Orleans at the end of February when she's there for a conference. She'll be there for a week; I'll head down mid-week... we'll have evenings and perhaps an afternoon or two together. I've already scouted yarn stores. I think we'll catch a concert in a nearby park one evening, and maybe go to Emeril's for dinner on another... what shouldn't I/we miss??
Speaking of Emeril and food and travel, I really enjoyed his Amazon show, Eat The World. His show on Food Network was one of Maddy's favorites when she was a kid, and we'd often watch together... so perhaps I've a little soft spot for Emeril. BAM! ;)
I did some cooking over the weekend, and some knitting, and a whole lotta putzing and/or nothing.
It felt SO GOOD.
Saturday. I made Meatloaf. Two of them, actually, because it's so good and we want LEFTOVERS!
This is the Rainbow Warrior Cowl... at least that's the pattern I'm using. I'm confused about the floats, so have contacted the designer for clarification. The way I'm reading the pattern, there should be a slipped-stitch float on the front of the work, but it doesn't look like there's a float in any of the pattern photos. I didn't like how it looked with this particular colorway -- to me, it would work better with a super busy colorway -- so am doing all floats on the back.
UPDATE: The designer got back to me right away... turns out I was using an outdated pattern. There'd been an update to correct the error. NO FLOATS ON THE FRONT! Whew. I was kind of driving myself crazy with that. Carry on...
Who knew? How have I lived in Wisconsin for the better part of my life and not known about BEER BREAD?
Best extra-curricular use of beer, especially one you may not care for all that much to drink.
It could not be simpler. I used this recipe by Gerald Norman (summarized below). Sift the flour, people!
3 c. all-purpose flour (sifted) 3 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. salt 1/4 c. sugar 12 oz. beer 1/4 c. melted butter
Preheat the oven to 375F. Grease/butter a loaf pan. Sift & combine dry ingredients; mix in beer. Scrape dough into the prepared pan; pour melted butter over the top. Bake for 1 hour; cool in the pan on a rack for at least 15 minutes.
I used one of the two remaining New Belgium/Ben & Jerry's Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ales that I had from Thanksgiving. I'll be adding a cup of chocolate chips to the loaf I make with the last bottle of that beer. And I will have to do some research to see how the flavor differs when using a different type of beer altogether.
Front door. Junah watched happily while Kate wrapped the pillars on Thanksgiving Day, "Now it's Christmas!!"
Doors at our house:
Upstairs apartment door
We've lived in our house for almost 30 years. Unfortunately, the door bell button at the front door has never been anything more than sporadic, so we've had various little notes posted above it stating (one way or another) that if no answer, please go to the back door.
Defunct doorbell & note at front door.
We've had many deliveries over the span of 30 years, as you might imagine -- countless deliveries -- from just about every delivery service you could name. Sometimes they knock, sometimes they don't; sometimes we have to sign for packages, sometimes we don't; sometimes a parcel is left at the front door, sometimes the back door, and once even at the shed door.
The upstairs apartment door is... up those stairs (garage at left).
On Wednesday, according to tracking info, UPS left a package at "rear door." I looked at the back door, the shed door, even the garage door; I sent a text to our tenant asking if she'd found a package -- nope, nada, nothing.
The shed door.
Hubby's note on shed door since a delivery was found there one time.
Mulling over what to do...
Freshly painted rear garage door & season's first dusting of snow.
On Thursday, I asked Rusty to maybe take a peek over at the neighbors' (it didn't look like they were home) to see if somehow it was delivered over there... They wouldn't have delivered it at our basement door, would they??
The back/side/kitchen door. Roughly 50% of our parcel deliveries are made at this door, even by USPS.
Lo and behold! I can't believe he came up with it.
If thwarted at the front door (and I don't know why it wouldn't have just been left there on the "delivery chair"), you would pass the stairs to the apartment door, the shed door, and the back door (not to mention the garage door), before hitting a FULL STAIRCASE leading to the lower yard and, finally (about 20 more feet to the right), the walk-out basement door... which is where the box in question was found on Thursday morning.
Thank you, UPS, for giving me blog fodder as we cruise toward the end of NaBloPoMo!
Thanksgiving Day Crossword (they made it about half-way) (it's ongoing):
Mac 'n Cheese ("traditional" fare when there's a toddler in the house):
Time to relax:
Junah was an even bigger help in the kitchen than his sister -- helping to make his mac 'n cheese, and also with whipping cream for pie -- but no pics. In fact, I sort of lost the photo-thread by the time all the food was ready and served! The Cornish hens looked (and tasted) divine.
It was all delicious -- not over-the-top quantity-wise, as sometimes happens (thankful for the small hens instead of a huge turkey). There was a lot more stuffing than I was expecting -- enough for TWO 2-qt. dishes instead of one (I'll adjust that recipe, I think)! The Rotkraut was delicious (and I love that it could/should be made ahead). With the cabbage, beets and cranberry sauce, there was a lot of red at our table!
I love the mission behind the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale... but I didn't really care for the actual beer. I'm glad I tried it! There were three bottles in the variety pack of New Belgium beer that I bought for the holiday... not sure what's going to happen to the other two bottles. Heh.
Hope you're having a great Friday. I worked for half the day, and now I think it might be nap time.
It's been a weird year or two or six around here, but we're finding our way. Thanksgiving is a good reminder to... well, to be thankful for what we have.
Among the things I'm thankful for is plentiful and readily available food at the grocery store. I smiled when y'all were commiserating with me yesterday about having to go to the store...
I actually enjoy going to the grocery store during busy holiday shopping times -- there's an excitement, urgency, and bustle in the air -- and I feel a camaraderie with my fellow shoppers, whether they're doing the "big shop" or just running in for some forgotten item.
The other day I was amused to pass a teen several times -- he was on his phone, obviously out of his element but on a quest, looking up at the aisle directories while being directed around the store by whomever was on the other end of the line.
And I love the little old ladies with their lists and coupons -- and often feel a little melancholy about them, too.
I've found most people to be in good humor (knocking on wood) and if there are some who are not, I hope I can make up for it!
We're all working it out as life challenges us with new situations every single year -- some good, some bad, some pretty damn ugly -- doing our best, finding our way.
It's going to be "quiet" in here -- just Kate, Ali & Rod & the kids, my stepdad, Rusty & me. Thinking of Maddy in NZ (new post!); Ann & fam in Spain; Karen & Michael. Also, of course, of my mom & Sharon, grandma & grandpa, aunts, uncles, and cousins...
Well, before I get too melancholy over here...
Wishing you all a Happy Thanksgiving... and/or a really great Thursday!!
Aiming for a BINGO by Thanksgiving, I made it with a few days to spare, finishing The Time Traveler's Wife during lunch yesterday.
The #1 thing on my list of 5 Things I Want to Do More in 2016 was: Reading (especially audio books). And, of the 21 books I've read so far this year, 12 were audio books! Interestingly, all of the books in my BINGO column are audio books!
It's not exactly what I was going for -- it's a bit brighter than I'd imagined! I love it, though. One of those is already wound up because I'm dying to see how it knits up.
There was a little room in the pot so I threw in this hank of bulky SW merino/nylon to soak up the slop. It's already on the needles being worked up into a hat!
It's fun to play around! I'm not always consistent with output -- what with work, family, occasional travel, other obligations, and a bunch of other interests -- but I do sell most of the yarn that I dye. It's mostly through Make.Do@KC&T -- my little knitting corner within Ali's coffee shop where I also carry some tools & notions, patterns & books, other stuff that I like (and from suppliers that don't have huge minimum orders... it's a wee shop!). I'm more than happy to pack & ship if ever there's something you see. Mostly, it's a fingering/sock base -- 75% Superwash Merino/25% Nylon -- but I work with some other bases, too.
I predict we'll have a very mobile baby by Christmas! She pivots when she sits, reaching and scooting... she has to figure out a couple of things yet, like how to get her leg out of the way!
The American Thanksgiving, a fantastic article in the New York Times. I watched every single video (each around 1 minute) and saved every single recipe, and I'm going to make room for at least one if not two on our Thanksgiving menu. Christmas? May be pretty flavorful around here!!
We had our first snowfall (not amounting to much) of the season in the wee hours of the morning. More significant is the 30-degree difference between yesterday's high temp (mid-60F) and today's. And wind... oh, brrrrr, that wind!
Very late last winter, there was a small rip in one of the seams on the back of my jacket that I hadn't got around to fixing. One morning, on my way out of the coffee shop, the door handle got caught in that small rip and suddenly it was A HUGE GAPING HOLE! I finally got around to fixing it last weekend -- you know, before I actually needed to wear my winter jacket -- and I am very glad I did. Mending is not my favorite thing, but I've a new appreciation since I began hand-sewing some of my own clothing -- and some things are really worth fixing!
Jacket, earmuffs, and Squad Mitts are called for today!
I've made Melissa Joulwan's Fried Chicken Meatballs from her new book Well Fed Weeknights (we love her cookbooks) a couple of times recently! Oh, my, are they ever good -- you could say that they're a new favorite! They taste like chicken nuggets -- but are so much better!! We've enjoyed them in or alongside minestrone soup and spaghetti.
I made them most recently for my birthday dinner. (I snapped a photo of my cart that day -- the checkout line was a little longer than usual, so I had time to fool around). Along with the meatballs, I also cooked up pasta and topped it with fresh tomato sauce & burrata cheese, and made my favorite chocolate cake, La Bete Noire.
I walked in the kitchen door the other night and saw every spice container we own lined up on the kitchen counter. I wish I'd taken a photo of that -- I really meant to! I'd had some difficulty finding chili powder the other day and I guess it was time to do something. Rusty took them all out of the cupboard, I consolidated or tossed and put it all back! Obviously, I'd never really KonMari'd the spice cupboard before! That wasn't really on my list, but I must admit that it's much easier now to find what we're looking for.
Here's the stripped down recipe for the meatballs. Mel's full recipe includes a side of greens, along with some cooking options and tips.
Fried Chicken Meatballs
1-1/2 lbs. ground chicken 1 tsp. salt 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Preheat the oven to 425F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
Combine the ground chicken, salt, and pepper in a large mixing bowl; mix well.
Combine the tapioca starch/flour, salt, paprika, pepper, sage, garlic & onion powders, marjoram, cayenne pepper, and cloves in a small bowl.
Moisten your hands, then measure and roll rounded tablespoons of ground chicken into balls. Roll each ball in the seasoned tapioca starch/flour, then set aside on the baking sheet.
Melt 1 tablespoon oil in a large, nonstick skillet over high heat, 2–3 minutes. Place half of the meatballs in a single layer in the pan; do not crowd. Cook, occasionally turning, until browned on all sides, 4–5 minutes; transfer to the baking sheet. Add more oil (1–2 teaspoons) to the pan and brown the remaining meatballs; transfer to the baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.
It's been a week since Election Day and my stomach is still in knots. I'm grateful to Kym for sharing her Little Bits of Good action list; hopefully, in numbers and over time, we can be heard and make a difference. I don't have a lot of money or free time for extra-curriculars, but I'll be doing what I can -- making contributions, continuing subscriptions, calling out racism when I see it, writing letters and making phone calls to let the people elected to represent me know how I feel. Represent!
Alarming thought: Am I turning into my dad???
I do not want to be angry and bitter! I need to be strong, diligent, watchful and heard... but I need not be consumed. I need to take care of myself, my family, my home. I need...
Balance. (Kym! How lucky are we that she is so thoughtful, eloquent, and willing to share... and that it's NaBloPoMo, so there's something everyday!!)
And Peace. Christina Campbell's Project Peace 2016 is an effort to share and help spread ideas on how to choose peace. A simple cowl pattern (free download through 12/21) meant to be knit over the course of 21 days, is accompanied by 21 daily tips. I am in!!
(A March Through Time, Christina's cowl pattern from last year's Knit-/Walk-Along, is still one of my favorites! It's freshly washed, blocked, and ready to go... whenever something more than a light jacket & scarf is needed.)
And also Giving. It's go-time for the MDK Giftalong! I already have a couple of gift-knits for the kiddos on the needles.
In a broader sense, though, I noticed over the weekend that the Salvation Army bell-ringers are out (and Santa's at the mall -- I am down for Christmas this year, and maybe it's our unseasonably warm weather, but wow -- doesn't it seem EARLY for Santa??) anyway... for starters, I vow to give something every time I pass a red bucket this year.
There was a frost on Friday night, but it wasn't a hard/killing frost. I'm glad we brought the succulents inside -- and they will stay inside -- but it's starting to feel a little freaky. Green grass. Flowers...
This was my sunny view of the Garden Room from the kitchen table on Saturday morning, and I can't think of a nicer way to set the tone.
I don't know what's gotten into me, but here we have Christmas horning in on the front porch before Halloween has even been cleaned up and while the grass is still green! And Christmas music! I finally had a chance to listen to all the tracks on Leslie Odom's Simply Christmas album and it is spectacular -- mostly familiar songs, but with a smooth, jazzy spin. If I had to describe it, Johnny Mathis meets Vince Guaraldi comes fairly close.
Yesterday morning, the first thing I saw on Facebook was that my daughter had marked herself safe after (during) the earthquake(s) in New Zealand! There were a lot of aftershocks, big ones. Check out this article on The Guardian -- scroll down a bit and you'll see a graphic showing the activity over a 12-hour period; Maddy is currently with "Kiwi family" in Blenheim, and had just been in Kaikoura last weekend. You can read her account of the quake here.
After running around a bit on Saturday -- shopping, lunch, etc. -- I spent a quiet Sunday at home knitting and puttering while also keeping an eye on the news from NZ and an unfortunate football game.
Oh, and I made a really yummy meatloaf! Next time, I'll make two!!
The sky was dramatic and beautiful this morning... difficult to capture in photos (especially since I was driving). This is the pretty but far less dramatic view to the east when I arrived at work. There are the fewest of leaves still clinging to that tree!
We might have our first hard frost of the season tonight, which means that these guys have spent their last night on the deck until next spring! The Garden Room will become decidedly more garden-like later today.
I re-worked the bind off on that Squad Mitt last night. Turns out, I don't think I started off quite right... but I also watched/tightened up my tension and it made all the difference! It not only feels better, but looks better too.
I feel, alternately, as though someone's knocked the wind out of me, as if I'm going to faint or puke or burst into tears or all of the above; sad, depressed, angry, duped, betrayed, utterly embarrassed.
I can barely say the man's name. I've never understood how such an incompetent, unqualified, disgusting man became an actual candidate, and will never understand how he became our leader.
Pre-ordered this morning with two bonus tracks available for immediate download! I hope, hope, hope that when the full "mixtape" is released on 12/2 that I'll be able to buy it as a gift for Maddy -- it's PERFECT! Even in NZ, she is crazy about Hamilton!!
That gorgeous "nonphotogenic" tree I posted the other day? Practically bare naked today! So I am reveling in the colorful leafy goodness for as long as I'm able, to wit...
It fairly glows.
Prisma-tized Catalpa leaves.
I had a busy day off yesterday -- good-busy -- beginning with a walk to the credit union, enhanced by TWO visits from Ali & Gin, surprised by a birthday package all the way from NZ, making good progress on some work projects, also making homemade chicken soup, and ending with a World Series win for the Cubs! I was dozing off a bit during that last part...
The rule is, a package/present that arrives in the mail can be immediately opened! There was a cute arty (in that 3rd-grade-way) card full of love from my girl Maddy, a tea towel with some great "Merino Ram" graphics, and a delicious Cadbury Dairy Milk Caramello bar -- SO GOOD! I sure miss her, but it's an awful lot of fun to follow along on her adventures (a new video up yesterday!).
Gratuitous granddaughter pics! She was 6 months old yesterday, can you believe it?? She's sitting up on her own (under watchful eye), and almost always has something in her mouth!
Well, that's just about the easiest thing ever! Hands-down, that would be Mrs. Kelly! She was my first grade teacher at Wayne Thomas School in Highland Park, IL. Having attended three different schools with three different teachers during my kindergarten year -- of which I have the vaguest of memories -- I think I was definitely ready for someone like her.
Mrs. Kelly was young and pretty, and so very kind. I was the youngest in my class, and maybe she was extra nice because of that. My mom had all five of us by then; she begged (successfully) to have me admitted early!
I thought of Mrs. Kelly at least daily for years (well into my 20s), whenever I'd have to figure out my left from my right -- it was the chalkboard in the front of her room that I'd summon to memory (and I'd even sometimes turn to "orient" myself to the room), with the big hands tacked up on either side of the board: LEFT / RIGHT!
I absolutely lived for the big gold stars that she put on spelling papers! I've always been a darn good speller... striving to earn those gold stars certainly didn't hurt.
We only lived in Highland Park for year, but I'll never forget Mrs. Kelly. I consider her my first teacher and have always been thankful for the wonderful start she gave me.
When it became clear that I wouldn't get a sweater finished for Rhinebeck, I concentrated on finishing a shawl that I'd started with some of my new crazy colorful hand-dyed yarn.
I had hoped to bring a sweater to Rhinebeck, anyway, even if it wasn't the sweater. My bright idea being to go vintage, wearing the amazing Sasha Kagan "Cable Leaf Coat," that my sister Sharon knit in the 1990s. It's the cover sweater of Vogue Knitting Fall 1993 -- Rowan + chenille + need I say more?! Alas, it was WAY TOO BULKY to bring along (I tried and it took up a full 1/4 of my suitcase). It was way too warm to wear it on either day, not to mention it's a beast to carry around, so I'm glad I didn't force it.
So, anyway, instead of a Rhinebeck Sweater, I had a Rhinebeck Shawl:
Yarn: Make.Do "Be" Fingering/Sock, colorway "Party In Here"
Needles: US 6... long & straight
Start to Finish: October 3-12, 2016
Big, big love for this project. It was a fun pattern to knit, and it's wonderful to wear (and I've been wearing it a lot)! It's mostly garter stitch, but there's a variety of different textures & edges, from plain garter & YOs to picots & sawtooth. A great pattern for a wildly variegated yarn!