Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas Sugaring & Feasting

Christmas dinner went really well, although I didn't get any photos of the feast.  I made a 15 lb. turkey, which came out perfect and juicy--I was just as surprised as the rest of you!  I also made red mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberries, sourdough rolls, and stuffing.  And gravy!  Amazingly, the timing was just about perfect!  The beans and rolls could have been a bit warmer...probably needed to set the oven a little hotter.

In the middle of the day, after getting the turkey in the oven, I also started making an apple crisp in the crock pot.  I just took a portion (or two) out of the crock and gave it a try.  I slightly modified a recipe on Allrecipes, and would make a couple more, which include:

6 large Fuji apples, peeled and cored, cut small
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp flour
1 tsp (or more) cinnamon (I think I put in a tablespoon or two)
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
Mix in crock pot - turn on low.

Make crumble:
1 c. oats
1 c. flour
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 c. butter
Melt butter, mix in brown sugar, then oats and flour.  Sprinkle over top.  Let cook for a few hours.

The original recipe called for a cup of sugar and a cup of brown sugar...and it's just TOOOO sweet.  I'd try it again with the recipe above and see how that comes out.  I think I'm going to be on a sugar high all night now.

Cammie got a cotton candy machine for Christmas and we discovered that we can use normal sugar or crushed (powdered) candy.  So of course, Cammie wanted to immediately start experimenting with candy canes.  We got out the mortar & pestle and ground up some candy canes and, sure enough, after it warmed up, it worked!  Peppermint flavored cotton candy!

One thing that seems inevitable is that I always end up getting either medicine bottles, the butter plate or the salt shaker in a photo.  Not sure what's up with that.  But there you go.  Salt shaker.

Kids at Christmas!  Are the kids getting bigger or is that tree getting smaller?  It's amazing how fast they've grown!  Amazingly, I got this photo on the first try.  Ben's got his new shirt on--he now has a rather impressive collection of Minecraft t-shirts.  It makes him happy... :)

Tomorrow we'll be visiting with Kelly's family; the traditional Boxing Day/Second Christmas.  We got gift cards for each family--not individual gifts.  Each card is put into these cute little just looks so tiny.  It doesn't look like we didn't get enough, but it's not the size of the gift, it's the value...right?  Maybe I'll drop some Hershey Kisses in the bag with the gift cards.  Sometimes I think that Christmas gift exchanges are so silly.

Kelly got me something fabulous!  In Tara's words:  "What is it?"  Well, in short, these are bead-making tools.  On the left, the channels can shape beads into tubes or balls of certain sizes.  The triangular thing is a tool rest--keeps things off the table and avoids burning the table.  I often use the rusty cookie sheet edge, but this is taller.  The middle packet is a bunch of new mandrils and a bead rake, which can pull the glass into cool shapes.  The metal thing in the upper right can make the beads kinda bumpy.  On the far right is a graphite paddle, which you can roll the hot glass on to change its shape.  There's another graphite shaper at the bottom (with the orange handle) but it's thicker and heavier than the one on the far right.  I'll get a chance to play with these more after Boxing day.  One thing I still need is a lampworking bracket--something to attach directly to the hot head torch instead of having to tape the canister to the L bracket.

Now the quilt is finally *officially* done!  Binding, label and all.  I also made a poem to go with it.  It's funny, so I'll share it for the three readers that aren't going to be at dinner with us on Saturday:

I-Spy a Quilt

I spy some crayons, some colorful clown fish,
I spy some green peas to put in my dish.
Some bathtubbing duckies, some bugs that can fly,
A bunch of small beetles, some apples for pie!

I spy some flames, and some cars on the road,
I spy a whale and a colorful toad.
I spy some chicks and a rainbow of cats,
I spy some lemons and some balls needing bats.

I spy running horses and a tooth that is blue,
A sky full of stars, and some strawberries, too!
Your Auntie does love you, though the poetry’s lame,
I hope you enjoy this quilted I-Spy game.

Much love, Auntie Karen

Aside from that, we've been watching movies and stuff.  I got to see the 6th episode of Tudor Monastery Farm on YouTube.  I love free internet entertainment!  You can watch the first episode here.  The other links are available from the same poster, Nina O.  There's another episode coming out on New Year's Eve, which is the Christmas special.  That might be the last in the series, which makes me sad.  The same group of anthropologists have also done series on the Victorian Farm, the Edwardian Farm, the Wartime Farm (WWII), Tales from the Green Valley (post-Elizabethan farm), and there are a few other specials, like the Tudor Christmas Feast, and a show called Time Team.  Archaeology is COOOL!

Merry Christmas!

This evening, we enjoyed our traditional beef tenderloin Christmas Eve dinner.  In years past, my parents would get out the fondue pots and skewer the meat and fry it in oil, and we would then dunk the meat into either chili sauce or a mustard horseradish sauce.  Meanwhile another pot contained unhealthy quantities of cheese and wine which we dipped bread into and virtually inhaled.  We do not have fondue pots anymore...we had some, but we pitched them in the last move from lack of we opted instead to make sesame beef. Given that it didn't have sesame seeds in it, so I suppose it was Asian-style beef tenderloin.  It had soy sauce, ginger powder, mustard powder, garlic, and honey.  And the beef, of course.  Cooked for about an hour at 325, then I realized I should have had the oven at 350 for 45 minutes instead.  It was delicious (although I would have liked it cooked just a little more...I'll fry up a couple pieces for lunch tomorrow)!  As you can see, we also had salad, red potatoes, and just out of camera shot, sourdough bread.

Tomorrow night we'll do the full-on turkey thing, although probably not with as many side dishes as the usual Thanksgiving fare, but at least with green beans, cranberries, and rolls...and probably more potatoes.

In the past few days I have been trying to organize corners of the house that have needed attention for some time, and trying to get the kids involved, hoping to instill in them the urge to stop messing the house up in the first place.  The younger two, in particular, have a habit of picking something up--be it a toy or a tool or something they find remotely interesting--and carry it around for a few minutes and drop it unceremoniously somewhere else.  A belt will be dropped at the top of the stairs; a candy wrapper on the TV cabinet; a die or a game piece left on the countertop....there's no rhyme or reason for the placement of these things.  Tomorrow we'll be going through some more areas that have been long ignored--those flat surfaces that tend to collect things, like papers or scraps of fabric.  We've pitched so many things in recent days.  I'm already anxiously awaiting Saturday for the garbage & recycling pick up as they are both already overflowing.

Saturday we'll have rellies coming to visit, including my bro & his wife and offspring!  I finished putting the binding on Mal's quilt this morning--I just need to wrap it up for him.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Festivities Parte the Firste

Kelly found this at some store.  I had long been advised by my wise father never to eat the yellow I may just put that back on the shelf.

Last night was the school's annual Christmas program.  It seems to get shorter every year.  The music teacher has been with the school for about four or five years.  The first year, the Christmas program ran REAAAAAALLLLLLY long--getting out to the car by about 10:30 pm, so those little elementary kids got to bed REAAAAAAALLLLLLY late, which made it all the more fun for the teachers and parents the next day.  This year, we were out by 9 pm.  There wasn't much of a nativity program, although the 8th graders did a short play about doing unto others.  Then they all changed into nativity costumes and just posed around the little wooden manger, kneeling on the hard stage for quite some time.  Bekah, who came with us, wondered if any of them brought knee pads.

Cammie played in advanced band (we didn't get a chance to get her some nice black shoes).

She also sang with her class.

Ben performed with his class--unfortunately, the mic stand was right in his face.

And with the whole school as they lined up for the opening number.

This morning was supposed to be a late-start & early-release day at school, but we were greeting by this dusting of new snow today.  While it wasn't much, it was enough to cause some dangers on the road, so they did the wise thing and cancelled school.  Not worth it for a half-day anyway.  So we are now on our holiday!  

Yesterday, Camille decided that she wanted to make fried rice by herself, so she dug around in the fridge, found some leftover rice, bok choy and celery and fried it up with an egg and soy sauce.  It was really good!  A budding chef!

I saw this online as I was shopping, and although this isn't the time to do shopping for yourself, I couldn't resist.  Go USMNT!  I also ordered a couple of bumper stickers for Kelly and myself.  Let's hope that the US performance in Brazil goes well!  Wish I could be there for it, usual.

I wish I had something more for Kelly for Christmas.  I can never think of anything for him--techno guys are so hard to shop for.  I didn't have much trouble coming up with something for my nephew, but it was a whirlwind 24 hours getting it done.

I still feel like I have to get something organized (besides the house for visitors) or wrapped or...something is missing.  Can't quite put my finger on it.  Hopefully it'll make itself known soon.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Chinese Proverbs and Lampworks

There's a Chinese curse that says, "May you live in interesting times."  I have had just enough interesting stuff going on in my life.  I need more boring days.  This is Ben's tooth before the dentist.  Luckily, it was just a small chip and the dentist was able to file it down so it's now smooth and looks good as new!  He didn't even need to put in any fillers since it would likely chip and flake away.  Quick and painless.  In and out--nobody gets hurt.

Wednesday marked a momentous event...I cleaned out the linen closet (sound scary music).  The pile of debris was almost up to my hip (there were boxes underneath), but nothing had been put away properly in weeks.  I gutted the closet and spent a couple hours tossing a few things, refolding everything else, and stacking into logical piles.  I still need to cull a few more things from the piles of towels and sheets.  We really don't need more than two sets of twin sheets for each bed, and maybe three for the king.  We've got about 50 pillowcases and two large piles of towels...some of which are ready to be donated to the local animal shelter.

One thing I did find in this mess was a basket that contained these 49 Civil War blocks!  I started sewing them into pairs to make a quilt top.  I'm debating whether or not to make 15 more blocks to make it bigger or to assemble a lot of 6" half square triangles for a border.  I'm leaning towards the triangles.  I still have a quilt on the frame that needs to be quilted, and another quilt top that is up next for the machine.

Bekah came over on Thursday and we each made one bead.  We would have made many more, but I needed to run a packet of fabric down to the meeting, and we ended up having dessert and listening to speakers describing some of their programs they run for the needy in our community, and thanking our guild for our generous donations through the year.  The guild meets in the church, but it really doesn't have any religious affiliations...but one of the speakers went on and on about the power of God's love and sharing fishes and loaves.

Worked on a bunch of beads this last several days.  I needed to get these ones done before an event in January, where I will hand them over to the lampworkers guild for stringing.  I still need to clean them, which will take some time...lots of scrubbing.  The metal rods are dipped in a ceramic slip called bead release, and when you make the bead, the release sticks to the glass but not the rod.  If you were to make the bead right onto the rod, it would stick to the rod...becoming a sort of hat pin.  I have a couple of those, which happens occasionally when the bead release cracks and the glass oozes and adheres itself to the rod.  Sometimes you can pry it loose if it's just a small spot.  If not, the only way to get the bead off is with a hammer.  They're not nearly as easy to string in that condition.

This first string is for the SCA's Kingdom of Calontir, which consist of the states of Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and a bit of Arkansas.  All 20 beads will need to be cleaned and strung as a gift to the King and Queen of Calontir.  They will receive it at the annual event in Pennsylvania, called Pennsic, this August.  Unfortunately, they didn't photograph very well.  I think it's the fluorescent lights in the dining room that cause issues with the camera.

Purple glass is hard to come by...or rather, the right shade is hard to find.  The two yellows I had were either a tad too bright or too school-bus orange.  The yellows both bled into the purple really badly, making everything look fuzzy or muddy.  Yuck.  It was frustrating but I finally found an acceptable combination of colors for these beads, along with a trick of using clear glass to add a buffer between the colors, which seemed to help.  

These are the final beads in the sunlight, which look much more like what the colors look like in person. The white and orange bead at the bottom is an attempt at making a giraffe bead.  Bekah was trying to make a pair of them for a co-worker.  I was trying a combination of a couple different amber colors.  I think the colors are right, but the amount of glass added needs to be increased to better fill the white areas.

The second string is for the Kingdom of Drachenwald, which covers a lot more land mass:  Europe, the Middle East and Africa.  The colors were a lot more fun to play with and the yellow worked perfectly with the black and red.  I made a couple new beads since my last photo to replace a couple that just weren't working for me and made a big fancy "Queen" bead with flowers on it (far left).

Now that I got all those done, I figured it was time to make a few beads for myself.  I really love oceanic colors, so I pulled a bunch of blues and greens and made a couple for myself, as well as experimenting with some unusual colors.  I ran out of gas on the third bead--the one on the far right--so I had to pick up more on the way home from dinner.  Sushi...mmmmm!

I don't have any plans this weekend...that's a first!  I think I'll catch up on my quilting.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Grandma O's quilt finished!  Maggie, the owner, dropped it off a couple weeks before Thanksgiving and I got all the binding done on it last Friday.  I was going to sew it down by machine, but I knew that it was going to be a disservice to the quilt and to its beauty by not doing it by hand.  The whole thing was pieced by hand, so it just seemed a sin to do otherwise.  I attached by machine and stitched down on the back by hand.  I was pleased that this fact did not go unnoticed by the owner's mom when she picked it up. :)

Beads have been the big thing this week.  I volunteered to make 40 beads for the Lampworkers Guild--20 for Drachenwald (red, yellow and black) and 20 for Calontir (purple and yellow).  I also got a couple of commission requests from Jadwiga (red, black and white) and Samira (red, orange and yellow).  I got a chance to try a couple of new techniques and came up with some really fun patterns.
Drachenwald:  19 great beads and one whoopsie (ran-out-of-gas bead)

Samira's first few beads:  I made 15 total that she could choose from.  She bought 8 and may purchase the rest, depending on how many she finds she needs for the necklace.  I suspect she thought the beads were going to be smaller.  Once she gets the other pieces strung up, she'll know whether or not she needs more.

I started making some beads for Calontir, but the purple I had was's really pastel.  I ordered some new glass, but it'll be a day or two before it gets here.  I also ordered some orange and dark yellow, too.  Most glass isn't very expensive--about $3-4 per quarter-pound; the pricey part, like always, in the shipping.  It means I can make upwards of 30 beads for under $10 in materials.

This is the only bead I got a photo of for Jadwiga's commission.  It turned out so nice, though.  Maybe I can get Jadwiga to photograph the six she bought.  A Canadian friend asked me if this was a "drunken ookpik".  Apparently, ookpik is the First Nations (Salish?) word for "owl".  I can totally see the owl now!

I just got new glass in the mail, so more beads are forthcoming!

Ben had surgery on Monday for his nasal polyps...again.  They got them out successfully along with a bunch of pus and stuff...gross.  However, they chipped a tooth as they intubated him.  Ugh.  Off to the dentist tomorrow to get that fixed.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Quilting and Other Hobbies

After a great deal of swearing, I was able to finish Lauri's quilt.  The machine was having some issues with tension and speed control.  The stitch regulator is having some issues again.  It broke the thread about a dozen times around the middle of the quilt.  Ugh!  I rethreaded it a couple of times and it started behaving in the last third of the job.  I'm going to work with it a bit longer and see if it continues to have problems before I take it in for repair.

Here's a close up of the quilt that I took in a puddle of sunshine coming in the windows.  It's so sparkley!!

Once I got the last customer's quilt off the racks, I decided I wanted to get one of my quilts done up right away.  I dug around in the bins and came up with this floral fabric to add to the back.  It was absolutely perfect!  I couldn't have found a better quilt back if I had started with it and matched fabrics to it.  Not sure what I'll do with it when I'm done.  I have far too many quilts lying around that aren't getting used, though.  This is a twin size, by the way.  Maybe Emma will want a new one, although I still have to finish her Japanese quilt--it just needs a binding.

I had to piece the back to make it large enough.  One thing that people don't always realize is that you need to sew a generous 1/2" seam and trim the selvages.  The edges of the fabrics are often woven differently and will shrink differently when washed and dried, so trimming that 1/4" off the edge is important.  You don't want your work to end up puckered.

I've been having a long debate about whether or not to continue this quilting & crafting business.  I'm not making any significant income from it and I'm tired.  I could still quilt things for friends, but do it in trade or something.  According to what I could find, if I earn more than $400 in a year, I have to declare it.  But what about someone who does occasional babysitting?  A couple of days a month, you earn $20 per night from a friend who goes out on a date with her husband, and you have to declare that as income?

We have a problem with one of the newer windows that we had installed in Emma's room.  I don't know if it was installed incorrectly or if something broke off, but it's got a massive breeze coming through when the window is closed.  You can see daylight.  It's bad.  I put in a call to the handyman a couple days ago but I haven't heard back from him yet.  Maybe I need to try calling again since I left a message...relying on technology...which can be rather unreliable.  We've got a cold snap moving into the area and may possibly be snowing this weekend, so getting her room weather-tight is important.

I have one more side of Grandma's flower garden quilt to finish up.  No, she's not my Grandma--my grandmothers both died in 1987 and 89--I'm talking about our church's Father's mother.  It's very close to being done, so I need to work a bit more tomorrow and maybe give the owner a call tomorrow afternoon so she can pick it up and enjoy it!

The last couple of days, I have to make a bunch of beads for the Lampworker's Guild as well as a dozen or so I'm making for a commission.  Since I posted pictures, I've gotten a few more people asking to buy beads.  Maybe I need to switch from quilting to bead making?  I also need to make a handout and samples for a class I'm teaching on Saturday.  The class is called "Sewing Limp Parchment Books" using paper and string.  Woo.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Happy Epic Thanksgiving!

We turned out Thanksgiving day into an EPIC 5-day journey and we so often do for holidays.  I'm wondering how often we want to do this...can't we get anyone to come visit us for a change?  We loaded up Old Tom and picked up Em from school and headed South down to Vancouver, WA on Tuesday.  We finally got on the road around 3 pm, and didn't arrive at the hotel until LATE.  What should have been a 3 1/2 hour trip turned into close to 6 hours, getting stuck in every major city along the way.  SO frustrating!

We checked into a sub-standard hotel (to my standards, anyway).  The carpets were old, the couches were torn, and the mattresses were bony.  After 24 hours, the toilet clogged, overflowed and gushed everywhere.  I ran upstairs and turned off the water, then called the front desk to get some assistance.  They moved us to a new room...which looked remarkably like the old room, including old carpet, old couches, and old mattresses.   The nice thing was that in the mornings they had hot breakfasts (until 9 a.m., anyway) and in the evenings, they had simple dinner fare...burgers & dogs one night, and chicken fried steak the next.  FREE.  The burgers were really good.

On Wednesday, we headed over to visit with Heide & family at their new place.  They don't have cable, but they have "Animal Planet" out their back door...and as A3 put it so cleverly, "All we get is the Squirrel Show."  Heide provided incentive and the creatures came for our entertainment.  A2 has named several of them and can tell them apart.  I suppose it's her keen artistic eye that can discern subtle details between each of them.

A1 wanted to do a little shopping for a jacket, so we decided to make a quick trip to Portland to check on a few of their offerings.  Our 90-minute quick trip to a clothing store turned into a 6-hour EPIC Journey through horrible Portland traffic.  We were stuck in the city at every turn.  We even did a figure 8 trying to get onto a bridge to cross the river downtown.  I hoped that I would get a chance to go to Fabric Depot or a yarn store...but no such luck.  I did, however, find one offering that I found amusing on the shelves, but could never imagine ever wearing...or anyone else wearing.  At least not in public.  I had to get a photo to show to my bro who loves bunnies.  He agreed...he wouldn't wear it, either.  Nor would his wife.  I wouldn't be able to drop the $40 they were asking for it, anyway...and that was the sale price.  Maybe if I found it at a second-hand store or something...Maybe.

Thursday we headed over to Mike & Laura's at 11 pm.  Got lots of photos of the kids...

Mr. Mal loves his jumpy seat.  He had mastered the control of it, bouncing and turning in circles, then lifting his feet to unwind.  Brilliant kid for 10 months!

Beautiful daughter with Mr. Mal.

Me with Mr. Mal

Mike with his boy...Mr. Mal

My three kiddos!

Friday Kelly headed down to Portland (while we slept in) and did a little Black Friday shopping.  I didn't even know he was gone until about 20 minutes after I got up.  We packed up all our gear and traveled North to visit with the Grands on the Peninsula.  We made a couple of quick detours to grab some Cache-to-Eagle geocaches.  The first was in Bremerton at the Boy Scout office up in the hills in the Soroptimist Park.  We found it pretty quickly and picked up a couple of Travel Bugs there.  From there, we headed up to another one at the Kitsap Memorial State Park in Poulsbo to grab one more C-to-E cache.  This one didn't have one of the points of Scouting in it...each one is supposed to be labeled "A Scout is... [honest, friendly, trustworthy, faithful, courteous, etc.]"  I figure what we'll have to do is find all the rest and use the process of elimination to determine what it is.  We have gotten 9 of the 12 so far...only have to get two in Seattle and one in idea when we'll get a chance to drive all the way out to Sequim.  It'll take at least 2 to 3 hours EACH WAY.  I dunno...

The kids had a great time Friday playing with their cousin, Miss Aurora.  Hours of play ensued up in the loft.  That night, Kelly and I spent a rather uncomfortable night in a hotel.  The walls were thin, the plumbing was noisy, the wifi was horrible, and the bed was too squishy.  I slept poorly, waking with a backache.

Saturday we returned to the Grands' and visited with Kelly's brother, his wife and son.  The kids had a fantastic time...there was much joy emanating from the loft.  Football games played the whole time.  I wasn't really paying attention to any of them, but I did see the surprise ending to the Aurora-Alabama game...fantastic finish!

Saturday morning, rather than watch football, I managed to make my escape...temporary escape.  I spent a couple hours out seeking Geocaches.  I found one in the morning when Kelly and I walked over to Starbucks for some tea, but I found seven more around town (and one that was missing, so I couldn't count that one; I found the fishing line that it had been attached to, but the rest of the cache was gone).

We stayed for dinner then headed back home.  It was a long week, but it was a lot of fun...except the traffic part.  We made our way back across the water and got home shortly after 9.  It was an epic five days, and I'm really glad that we have a day to recover before we start back into the daily grind.  Laundry, straightening up, and maybe some Christmas decorating are in order!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

New Additions

There have been a number of new things added to our home, none of which poop, for which I am eternally grateful.

First new addition was a fridge.  Our old fridge, which was original to the house, circa 1999, finally crapped out.  The freezer was at frost mode and the fridge was slightly cooler than room temperature.  It gave me the opportunity to throw almost everything out, and even after putting all the stuff back into the fridge (about 2 coolers' worth), it still looked empty.

This quilt block was started over the Pirate Retreat weekend, but I wasn't able to finish putting it together until a couple days ago.  It's from the Harry Potter Project of Doom series--the Monster Book of Monsters.  I'm not entirely happy with the paper piecing assembly, but I think it falls into the "good enough" category.  I had to take apart and re-assemble several of the seams, so I'm not going to freak out if the black pages of the book don't line up perfectly.  The original had white pages, but I didn't like the way it looked.  I wanted to give it more depth and really make the yellow teeth pop.

The guild does a monthly charm swap.  This month's fabric theme was batiks, so I bought six yards in some bright, cheerful colors, and chopped them into 6" squares.  I wasn't able to make it to the meeting, unfortunately, but my new friend, Dorene, picked them up for me.  We'll get together for lunch next week so I can fetch my swapped pieces.  I'm looking forward to getting them!  Six yards of squares will make a pretty sizable quilt, especially if you add a couple yards of black sashing!

Then the quilt will look a little bit like this one!  This is Lauri's stained glass quilt that's on my frame now.  Originally we talked about quilting it in a shiny silver thread, but now I'm thinking it'll look nicer if I do it in an all-over medium purple.  The back is purple, too.

At the guild meeting last month, I picked up this charming little quilt to sew together for their charity program.  It has polar fleece for the back, so no batting is necessary, and quickly stitched some hearts and swirls into it.

I have another bunch of fabric here to make a boy's quilt--they're always short on masculine quilts.  I thought it was another quick-to-quilt thing, but it turns out it's all needs to be pieced.  Hmmm...extra challenge.

I have gotten several commissions for beads, weaving and quilting in the last couple of weeks.  I'm a little overwhelmed at the moment.  But...I gotta get some laundry and dishes and other cleaning done before the Thanksgiving holiday.  Toodles!