Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Slow Cooker Lemon-Lime Chicken

Dinner tonight was Lemon-Lime Chicken - a new-to-me recipe from Slow Cooker Magic, by Linda Rehberg and Lois Conway.  I made steamed carrots and butter and herb rice (I'd planned on wild rice, but automatically started prepping the white rice, so...)

This is the recipe as written - but do read on after the end of it before preparing it:

Lemon-Lime Chicken
Serves 4

1/4 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 3-lb whole chicken or chicken pieces

Combine ll ingredients but chicken in a slow cooker, stirring to blend.  Add chicken and coat well with sauce.  Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours.  Adjust seasonings if needed before serving.

- - - -

Ok.  So, first of all the sauce came out great, and I'll definitely be doing it again - I've never used turmeric except for Indian food and it made a nice indescribable warm taste along with the citrus.  But... I didn't exactly follow this, because it turned out I was a bit short on both lemon and lime juice - so I filled in with a splash of orange juice and a couple splashes of white wine, so that the total liquid was 1/2 cup.  That combination tasted and smelled really good, so I'll probably do it that way again next time, expect then it will be on purpose.

The second thing I've got to say is that the 8 hours I let this cook was way, way too long, and the chicken came out unpleasantly dry - so disappointing!  It's been a long time since I last cooked chicken in a slow cooker and I forgot how dry it can turn out.  So, next time I'll either test it for doneness about about 4-5 hours... or just do this sauce up and let it simmer in a pan on top of the stove, where I can better control how it's progressing.

If it hadn't gotten overcooked, I think this would have been wonderful, though, so don't let my mistake deter you!  It took all of five minutes to put together, no muss, no fuss.

Do you ever have issues with foods being too dry in the slow cooker? How do you correct that?

(shared with Made By You Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Lucky Linky Tuesday, What's Cooking Wednesday)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Last two ornaments

As we wave goodbye to Christmas for another year, I wanted to share a last couple of stitched ornaments.  The first was done up for Michael's mother, using the lovely complimentary design "Holiday Spirit" put out by Samplerbird Stitchery.

I wanted the year on the piece, and was afraid of making the ornament too large (I'm not sure she still puts up a full-sized tree), so I opted to take off the last line, and sort of wish I hadn't.  The year and the little embellishments between the words are done in silver thread.   I really loved the way it turned out, and I may stitch this one up again next year, possibly multiple times in various colors. (I say that now, but we all know I'll find a hundred other patterns I simply must do.)

(oops, hit save before I was finished...stay tuned...)

The other ornament is the big surprise for Michael - but he's seen it now, so I can share - in all it's unfinished glory, because I still have two sides left to stitch and attach.

Now, you're either going 'oooh' or 'huh??' right now, aren't you?  This is the TARDIS from Dr. Who, cleverly disguised as a 60s era Britsh police phone box.   I got the design idea in my head in a flash - had to compromise a wee bit on the 'police' label simply because of the constraints of plastic canvas and the size of the piece.  Each side is 40x20 and while you can't see it in these pictures, there's a hole in the bottom to poke a christmas light through.  The windows are left unstitched - and strangely, if the lights are flashers, it looks like the TARDIS is doing it's whoosh-whoosh thing, (Oh how I'd love to be able to add a little computer chip with that sound effect!)

I was especially pleased with the light on top - an iridescent pearlized plastic worry bead and a blue button, and the blue thread tacking them together makes the four corners of the light's framework.  For something so simple, it looks remarkably accurate to me!

I already have instructions from Deanna to make one for her next year, and here in the next few days, I'm going to get my homegrown graph useable by others and make it available on Etsy. I figure it'll have a small but enthusiastic response!

(shared with Amaze Me MondayMaking the World Cuter Monday, Craftastic Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Made By You Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, DIY Project Parade, Homemaker Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Motivated Monday, Made With Love Monday, Take a Look Tuesday, Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Lucky Linky Tuesday)

The Work of Christmas Begins

 The Work of Christmas Begins

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers,
To make music in the heart.

~ Dr. Howard Thurman
(Civil rights activist and theologian)

Sunday, December 26, 2010

What's Cookin' This Week - 12/27 - 1/2

Time to post the last menu plan of the year...  next year, I'd like to get more use out of my crockpot than I did this year (I'd also love a newer model crockpot, but that's not vital), and I'd like to cook soup a lot more often.  Those two things can overlap for the most part!

But here in the short term, this is my plan for the week:

Monday - Dec 27
Crescent Roll Turkey Sandwiches
Cranberry Sauce
Avocado Slices

Tuesday - Dec 28 (Slow Cooker)
Lemon Lime Chicken (from Slow Cooker Magic)
Wild Rice
Green Beans

Wednesday - Dec 29

Thursday - Dec 30
Baked Mac n' Cheese with Franks

Friday - Dec 31 (NEW YEAR'S EVE)
Deanna gone.
Eating out?
Not sure about this, so will figure it out later - Michael'd mentioned something but I don't know if NYE is the best night to try to go out.

Saturday - Jan 1 (NEW YEAR'S DAY)
Roast Chicken
Sausage Dressing
Corn on the Cob
Cranberry Relish

Sunday - Jan 2
Chicken Pot Pie Soup

At whatever point my phone service comes back, I have a couple pictures to send to myself - a final pair of ornaments to show off, including the surprise for Michael (which isn't entirely finished, but is definitely at the point to be shown off).  Keep your fingers crossed on Virgin Mobile deciding to get in touch soon!

(shared with Menu Plan Monday)

What we have here is a failure to communicate

The last couple days have been full of things going wrong (other than Christmas itself, it should be said... we had a good meal Christmas Eve, and yesterday morning was lovely - thanks to Michael, Deanna got a few things she really loved, and I got a new microwave to fix the one that broke!)

But check this out -

1.  Christmas Eve, we make a quick run to the store for a few last minute items, and some ancient man in a car tries to back into us as he's leaving his parking space (and it was one of those great situations where there was no way to back up to avoid him).  After getting honked at he stops... and then apparently has no idea what the honk was, and tries to back up again.  When his bumper was about a foot from my head, he finally got the point and stopped.  A minute later, he drives past us and glares with all the Christmas Joy of Mr. Potter from It's a Wonderful Life.   Near Death Experience #1 for Christmas, woo hoo!!

2. A frozen pumpkin pie in a box... thought it was precooked because the sole directive on it was 'refrigerate after thawing'..no cooking instructions.  So, I take it down to thaw, then go to open it, tilting the box to get at the pull off strip... and thawed raw pumpkin custard goes all over the box.   So no pumpkin pie for us.  I am promising to make one homemade for New Years Eve.

3. Christmas Day - no plan to cook because we're going to my daughter's MIL later and Michael has to leave at 1:00 to catch a plane to go visit his family in Florida.  But, breakfast is requested and I decide to try these awesome little sausage balls.  I used a couple Pyrex containers instead of a cookie sheet (I am so very tired of washing my cookie sheets was my train of thought).  The sausage balls smelled incredible.  I'm almost positive they'd have tasted incredible too...

... had my casserole dish - that i have used and loved for many, many years - didn't EXPLODE on me.  I had just taken it from the oven and set it down there on the burner (NOT a hot burner, but not freezing cold, either - believe me I've run through all the possible things I might have done wrong here, but this is a mystery).  I was bending over into the oven to retrieve the other batch (the pyrex pie plate you see to the rear) when BLAM, right next to my head, and glass rubble was all over the place.  I have no idea how I managed to not startle badly enought to fall into the stove or drop the hot pie plate, but I didn't.  I also by some miracle had no glass in my hair or clothing (or embedded in my flesh like some Christmas Day Horror Movie), even through the floor was so full of glass I couldn't move at all without stepping on some, so had to have my daughter sweep her way to me to clear a path.

Then we had to hustle the animals away to keep them from getting cut, and wait for the glass to cool enough to try cleaning up.  Not that they needed encouragement to stay away - for the record a loud kaboom and me screaming does NOT lead to Lassie-like heroics.  It leads to animals prying themselves under the nearest piece of furniture and covering their eyes.

I bailed on going over for Christmas dinner yesterday, and spent the afternoon emptying counters and scrubbing, and checking everything for bits of glass - the pieces ranged from very large all the way down to dust so it had to be a very thorough job.  Before I started cleaning, Deanna took a couple pictures (demonstrating that a good cleaning was seriously called for, glass or no glass... I'd just sort of hoped I wouldn' have to do it on Christmas!)

But this picture reveals something that turned this from a highly discouraging 'now I have to clean all day AND I lost one of my favorite dishes AND we didn't even get to taste those sausage balls' highly annoying but not catastrophic event to 'woowwww... I could seriously be really dead right now' moment:

You can see the rubble on the door - that had to have gone over my head to get there (remember, I was leaning into the oven pulling out a pie plate when this happened)... but the real story here is that gigantic butcher's knife sized section of the side of the casserole dish that is on the rack itself - for that to have gotten there, it had to have missed my head by less than inches.  How that didn't wind up stuck in my neck or face or taking off my scalp, I'll never know.

Looking over all the possible ways this could have occurred (extremes in temperature - going from freezing to hot or hot to freezing - is the typical culprit), the only thing the manufacturers have to offer is that invisible fractures can get water in them and lead to this.  And that's probably what did happen... but having no idea how one goes about checking for invisible fractures, I'm now worried that my remaining casserole dishes may need to be retired from service.  I'm pretty sure I'm not lucky enough to survive this twice.

4. Not deadly, but annoying:  my cell phone service came due yesterday - which I knew but I tend to think that if a bill is due ON a certain date, that means it needs to be paid sometime by the end of that date - not so Virgin Mobile (new phone so I'm not yet familiar with their quirks) - which I discovered yesterday morning when daughters started sending me photo texts of their Christmases, and got nothing but a rather rudely worded noticed that someone was sending me something but because I'm a big slacker and don't pay my bill first thing in the morning, I'm not getting it, nyah.

So everything else comes to a halt so I can go online and pay my bill, which I do, confirm receipt, and carry on, phone working, so lots of calls, lots of pictures, lots of holiday cell phone merriment.

Until today, I try to send myself a photo and get a low balance notice - go back to the website, and wow!  I think what's happened is they didn't apply my money to the monthly fee, and instead piecemeal spent it all day yesterday!  And now they want more money!

I hate cell phone companies! I have an email into them, but it IS sunday and the day after Christmas, so I'm pretty sure I'm out my paid-for phone until Monday.  I like my phone, and am happy with their service, but I really hate dealing with their website - this is the second time I've had difficulties managing to pay them without issues, and they talk like you're late on paying when you're not.

I may have to hire someone to pay my bill each month, because if this keeps up, I'm going to go insane, just see if I don't.

So... Mercury retro until the 30th.  At this point, I'm wondering if I'll survive that long!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

For me, Christmas really does start today - Michael is here and, due to his needing to fly down to Florida tomorrow afternoon to visit with his mom and brother, I'm doing our holiday dinner today.  But first, I need to make a trip to the store for a few last minute little things (ugh!).  Deanna's got a friend coming over later tonight, who doesn't 'do' Christmas at home.

I barely slept at all last night and I'm so tired right now I can't see straight... unfortunately, the holiday is feeling like a slog to be got through right now.  Let me make a confession... I enjoy making Christmas for everyone, I really do - but there's a certain point every year where I badly want someone else to make a little Christmas for me.  To volunteer without being asked to wash a load of dishes or help cook, or tell me to sit down while they clean up, or to make me something homemade or get a gift that shows they heard me regarding interests of mine they don't share.

Here's another confession - I know I'll be getting chocolate covered cherries from my youngest - hopefully only from her!  Because several years ago, possibly before she was even born, one of my girls bought me a box and I gushed a little too much.  Mind you, I LIKE chocolate covered cherries - quite a bit, if they are the liqueur filled ones.  Not at all if they are the confectioner's sugar white creamy filled ones... which are always the ones I get from my children.  I occasionally try to repeat this distinction at some point politely distant from the actual exchange of chocolately cherries, but ... well, the creamy ones are everywhere, aren't they?  And I will have to eat them to be polite and they won't even share in eating them because they don't like cherries. hah!  Goofy stuff like this is where real tradition lies, doesn't it?

(But really? I just spent a half a month dipping chocolate ... NON FOOD gifts welcome!)

I'm getting heavy wrangling from her to move the entire holiday up to today - namely, opening the presents.  But no - ONE present tonight, and the rest in the morning, or it will all feel entirely off kilter.  Tomorrow afternoon, after Michael heads off to have his second (late) Christmas, we'll likely be tagging along with Jackie and her family to go visit with her in-laws.  The food will be good, there will be a lot of people there and then (speaking from the tiredness I feel right now) I may just sleep until Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yule Tidings!

I had half a thought last night to stay up and view the Solstice lunar eclipse, but I was so tired it felt like my muscles were vibrating and I'm pretty sure the cloud cover would have been too thick....so I slept well right through it.

I got done with the last of my candymaking yesterday - a few items went undone (and will stay undone, as I am finished), but there was still plenty for Deanna and I to pass around to everyone we intended and still have a nice stash left over for the two of us to nibble on.

One last recipe I didn't share - 3 Musketeers style bon bons.  They turned out a bit more chocolately at the center, but that is totally a good thing.  Very rich and delicious!

Three Musketeers

2 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
3 tbsp water
1 1/4 cups marshmallow cream
1 pound chocolate candy coating

Prepare an 8x8 pan by lining it with aluminum foil and spraying the foil with nonstick cooking spray.

Place the chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until the chips are melted, stirring after every 45 seconds to prevent overheating. (Or, melt slowly in the top of a double boiler over boiling water.)

Once the chips are melted, add the marshmallow cream and the water and stir until the mixture is smooth.

Pour it into the prepared pan and smooth it into an even layer. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill the mixture thoroughly, at least 4 hours or overnight.

Once the chocolate nougat is completely set and firm, prepare the chocolate for dipping. Place the chocolate candy coating in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave it until melted, stirring after every minute to prevent overheating. Stir the melted chocolate and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to cool it slightly. (Or, again, melt slowly in the top of a double boiler.)

While the chocolate is cooling, remove the candy from the refrigerator, and pull up on the foil to lift the candy from the pan. Using a sharp knife, cut the candy in half, then cut each half into five pieces, for a total of 10 candy bars.  Alternatively, cut into 1" squares to make bite sized pieces.   Line a baking sheet with foil or waxed paper and set it nearby.

Using two forks or dipping tools, submerge one bar in the melted chocolate. Remove the bar from the chocolate, allowing the excess chocolate to drip back down into the bowl. Place the dipped bar on the foil-lined sheet. Repeat the dipping with the remaining bars and chocolate. Place the bars in the refrigerator for 10 minutes to set the chocolate. Once set, the bars can be served immediately.

These freeze very well - let sit at room temperature to thaw before serving.


My other big push yesterday was the completion of Deanna's blanket - stitched, washed, dried, and wrapped and it only took me 17 and a half years!  Today I'm working on Michael's surprise and trying to get a bit of cleaning done.  There's something very quiet about this first official day of Winter, and I'm happily enveloping myself in the silence.

Lastly, I had two delightful bits of news regarding the generosity of bloggers - a collection of CDs arrived in the mail from Frugality is Free.  Included are four children's CDs that I will be distributing amongst my grandchildren.  The bits of heard are really fun - there are a couple folk music type CDs, one that teaches basic music concepts using a jazz theme, and one that is a collection of stories.

And then I got word that I'd won a wand topped with a ball that Aine at The Deepest Well was giving away - I can't tell you how happy this makes me.  When she'd first written about the the one she got for herself, it'd really intrigued me and I badly wanted one for myself - but she'd bought hers at a local shop so it didn't seem likely.  I can't wait until it arrives!

That's all for today - I am sleepy and going to stitch and watch old movies.  I hope your Yule is amazing -thanks to all of you for reading!

Shared with Made By You MondayMad Skills Monday, Santa's Gift Shoppe Bloghop, DIY Holiday Highlights, Homemaker MondayMarket Yourself Monday, Your Making Do Monday, Made With Love Monday, Follow Me Monday, Tuesdays at the TableGet Your Craft On Tuesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, and Getting Crafty On Hump Day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Goodies

I'm doing a bit of goodie prep every day, and storing the finished items in the freezer (I have a second refrigerator downstairs, which helps a lot this time of year).  Making it a bit more complicated... my microwave croaked on me a couple weeks ago - so any easy peasy 'melt in the microwave' instructions have turned into 'using a makeshift bowl in pot method since you have no double boiler...'  It's working, but it's somewhat aggravating!

One last 'helper' for me is my laundry room - it began life as a porch off the kitchen, but somewhere along the way got closed in - but never was provided with any central heat or air.  So doing laundry in the wintertime is c-c-cooollldddd.  But it makes the perfect spot to set food items that need to chill for awhile without taking up refrigerator space.  Since I'm doing a lot of chocolate candy making this year, that's been a lifesaver.

Here's what I have so far:

Mini Pumpkin Raisin Bread Bundts
No recipe for this one - I used the Pumpkin Bread Kit put out by Libbys.  Tossed a generous handful of raisins into the batter, and used it to fill my Nordicware Garland Bundt Pan and baked for about a half hour.  The kit made enough for me to make 12 small bundts.  The only trick to this at all was making sure to get shortening and flour into every crevice so it wouldn't stick.  I used a pastry brush to 'paint' the interiors with shortening, then dusted with flour, dumped the excess flour and then used the brush again to clear away any flour that had packed into the grooves.   The bundts came out with no issues and no breakage - yay!  Cleaning the pan isn't the most fun I've ever had, but the results are worth occasional use.

"York" Style Peppermint Patties
No pictures - I forgot to take any before I hustled these off to the freezer.  But the taste is almost just right - I used regular semi-sweet chocolate chips because I couldn't find the Hershey's Special Dark chips I'd bought... until about 5 minutes after I finished them.  Story of my life!  They're good either way.  The peppermint oil I used is carried by CVS - I would imagine anywhere they carry candy making supplies would have them.  A tiny little bottle goes a long, long way.

4 c. confectioner's sugar
3 T. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 t. peppermint oil (NOT extract)
3/4 t. vanilla extract
6 T. evaporated milk

18 oz semi sweet or special dark chocolate chips
2 T. shortening

On low speed, beat together sugar, butter, peppermint oil, extract and evaporated milk until combined.  Increase speed and beat at least two minutes, or until very smooth.  If need be, add a tiny bit more evaporated milk, being careful not to use too much.  Transfer the resulting 'putty' into a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill at least an hour.

Cover a cookie sheet with wax paper.  Roll the putty into balls (1" for larger patties, 1/2" for bite sized), then flatten the balls into patties about 1/3" thick and place on waxed paper.  Once the cookie sheet is filled, cover and let chill another hour.

Prepare the coating:  Melt chocolate chips and shortening in a bowl over a pot of boiling water - be careful to make sure it melts rather than burns!  Dip patties one at a time into the melted chocolate (I used two forks - one to lower the patty into the chocolate, the other to 'paint' the top of the pattie quickly... let excess chocolate drain off), and place on waxed paper cookie sheet.  Once the sheet is full of dipped patties, let it chill again.  Once hardened, the patties can be frozen or kept in the refrigerator until served.

One final note on this - the patty is pretty much all sugar.  That means you really have to be careful to get it in and out of the melted chocolate fast, or it will start to melt itself.  So have the patties as cold as you can, and work fast.  I had much better results with the batch of patties that chilled overnight than I did with the ones I let chill for an hour.

Butterfinger Bites
I already gave the recipe here - oh boy did this go from easy to irritating... melting the candy corn on the stove involved a lot of stirring and fussing, and though I had enough candy corn for two batches, I only made one and am probably leaving it at that for now.

Dipped Pretzels
I make these every year - usually with the little square waffle shaped pretzels, because they are bite sized and just right for snacking.  But when I went to buy them, I found that Utz had a barrel of holiday shaped pretzels - trees, bells and 5 pointed stars, and I couldn't resist.

These are simple... I don't even try to dip the whole pretzel... just hold the pretzel, dip as much as possible without burning fingers.  Use a fork to help cover any bits that might need a little touch up, and then drain off as much chocolate as possible.  I am using chocolate almond bark for this (and have some white chocolate almond bark as well).

Once dipped in chocolate and drained, a quickly dip into a plate of non-pariels along one edge, and then lay on a sheet of wax paper to chill.  In place of the non-pariels, these could be dipped into toffee bits, nuts, colored sugar, or left plain.  Aren't they pretty?

These can be stored in the fridge or freezer for a good long time, and offer the perfect little burst of salty-sweet.

Lots more still to do and I'll try to be better about getting pictures as I go.

Shared with Made By You MondayMad Skills Monday, Santa's Gift Shoppe Bloghop, DIY Holiday Highlights, Homemaker MondayMarket Yourself Monday, Your Making Do Monday, Made With Love Monday, Follow Me MondayGet Your Craft On Tuesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, and Getting Crafty On Hump Day.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stitching Update

Before the month entirely gets away from me, I wanted to show off the last of my family's ornaments - this is Deanna's.  She has three loves when it comes to Christmas ornaments: penguins, candy canes, and Barbie.  It may sound like an odd mix, but I think she's going to have a very fun Christmas motif once she's on her own! 

I did this one as a 'cracker' mainly because I was tired of finishing and it was easy (the bane of being the youngest - you get mom when she's tired of everything!).

I've also been working on her baby blanket (17 years in the making!), but that's been difficult because of school closings, later starts and today, just after I pulled it out to work on, an early dismissal due to yet more snow!  That leaves the middle of the night.  This really makes me appreciate how it must have been in the olden days when gifts were handmade and everyone was cooped up in a tiny cabin together.  Just being able to pull off the surprise was half the gift!

I had three letters to do - U, V, and W.  U is finished, and I'm working the backstitch on V.  Assuming she ever gets through a full day at school before the holiday, I should have it finished.

Meanwhile I'm still plugging away at my secret for Michael - I'm excited for how it's going to look once finished, but there is a section that involves a lot of repetition and between sore hands, the pull to do other things, and the inherent tedium of a less than interesting section of stitchery, it's becoming a challenge.  But then I get so giddy thinking of how well it's turning out, I'm back to it as often as I can. 

I can't wait to show it off here once the surprise is out of the bag!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Get Thee Behind Me, RA!

I'm getting a bit concerned about myself - I've noted it before... I have rheumatoid arthritis.  It's been my uninvited companion through life since I was 19 years old, so I have no clue what it feels like to be a healthy adult.  Now, at nearly 50 years old, it's classified as 'severe', which means my hands are gnarled like an old oak, I walk with a cane, and there are days when I feel like the Tin Man before he got his oil.  These days, I've also got osteo-arthritis, the result of age and side effects from RA treatments. (It's that a delightful joke??)

The less visible symptom of active RA is exhaustion - the kind you feel when you've worked out to the point where your muscles are just done.  It's not 'sleepiness' - in fact, insomnia is an occasional issue, too.  It's flat out physical and mental exhaustion, that's it, I'm done, leave me alone while I stare at the wall a bit.

A couple years ago, I spent the entire winter in that state of being - intense crushing pain, brain fog, exhaustion that had me needing a nap everytime I got up to cross the room.  I quite literally thought I might be dying.

Now, nothing like that is happening right now - but the weather is turning, and with it, I'm feeling that creeping sensation of an incoming flare, and all I can think is, NO, not now!  I have a list of things I want to do before Christmas, and I've got time enough to do it in without overdoing... but only if I don't lose days to RA.

Time management is such an issue for me - it's always a gamble to plan ahead for anything, because I don't know how functional I'm going to be on any given day.  On the other hand, precisely because my own energy and capability levels are so variable, I have to plan and set deadlines for just about anything I actually want to get done, just so I can pad the time with unscheduled down time and have some hope of doing what I intended when I intended.

Can you guess how crazy that makes people around me... I need to know what my plans are, so I know how much I can let RA modify the plan without feeling bad about it... otherwise, every flare makes me feel like I'm letting down the world.  Hah, never thought of it like that but that's what this is... guilt management.

Right now, all that I want to get done has to do with things I want to do for others.  The baking is so that Deanna and I have gifts to give to a few people around us that have been wonderful to us both... it's non-negotiable, and as long as I do a bit each day, there will be enough to pass around even if I have to let go of a couple planned items.  I'm shopping this afternoon for the rest of what I need to do about that, so I'll feel better once it's all on hand to let me work.

The rest involves stitching... I have to make progress on Michaels (mumble) and Deanna's blanket - I know they'll both understand if RA keeps me from finishing, but I want to finish.  I'm excited to see their faces.

So while yesterday and today, I just felt a little extra tiredness and overall sense of blah, and today, my hands are complaining a bit more loudly than normal, I'm watching the weather settle into winter bonecrushing weariness, and I worry.

Next month, RA - just leave me be for now, ok?

Monday, December 13, 2010

What's Cookin' This Week - 12/13 - 12/12

This is push week for getting things done - important Christmas gift stitching, and baking/candy making for gifts as well - so I'm not feeling inspired much in terms of dinner prep, nor wanting things to be too complex on days when I've already been cooking and cleaning the dishes repeatedly throughout the day.

So... trying to keep things simple:

Monday, Dec 13
Kraft Mac n Cheese with Beef

(pre-prep for tomorrow:  hard-boil 4 eggs; soak blackbeans)

Tuesday, Dec 14 (Meatless)
Black Bean Soup (from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups)
Cheese Quesadillas

Wednesday, Dec 15
Cook's Night Off - Fend for Selves

Thursday, Dec 16
Chicken and Rice
Green Beans

Friday, Dec 17
Enchilada Casserole (from freezer)

Saturday, Dec 18
Leftovers - Deanna not home

Sunday, Dec 19
Sweet Potato Fries

Holiday Baking this Week:

Pumpkin Bread Mini-Bundts
Limoncello Mini-Bundts
Chocolate Covered Peppermint Patties
Cinnamon Marshmallows
Plain Marshmallows
Turkish Delight
Homemade Butterfingers
Dipped Waffle Pretzels
Homemade Three Musketeers

(shared with Menu Plan Monday)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A little retrograde check in

Mercury went retrograde a couple days ago, and little Gemini me is just bottoming out - so my apologies for the hermit mode!  I keep thinking, "I want to post about this"... and then drifting off to deal with other things.

So, here's what all I need/want to get an entry up about (if I list it, maybe I'll get it done, eh?):

- a spinach feta pie filo I made the other day - yum!

- show off the last ornament I made - this one for Deanna.  Family ornaments are officially done!

- Working through my baking and candy making for Christmas presents... finally tried out my Nordicware mini-bundt pan I got last year for the first time.  Worked like a charm!

- got some Yuletide posts catch up to do, haven't I?

- I won something again! Yes!  Michael proclaimed me "Charmed in useless ways" which I think should go on a T-shirt, it's so true.

- I have 3 ornament finishes to do, 1 secret project I'm stitching for Michael that is going GREAT and if I can figure out how to show it off without him peeking, I will - if not I'll show you on Christmas Eve.  I'm also stitching away at Deanna's baby blanket when I can (that is, when she's gone and no toddler is here).  I think I'll be able to get that finished this week while she's in school, assuming no more snow days!

That's it, I think... this is a very lame post, but it's the best I have to give.  I'll work these all up into something more interesting and informative later.

Friday, December 10, 2010

9th Day of Yule: How to Make Your Own Self Nuts This Season

Just a few random observations on how to make yourself nuts this holiday season:

1. Buy into the myth that the goal is to make THIS year the BEST YEAR EVER!  Feel obligated to top everything you've ever done in the past - more presents, bigger presents, presents given to people you've never thought to gift ever in the past, twenty different baked goods for everyone else all presented in intricate homemade packaging that lights up and sings when you open it.  If you ever did anything better and flashier than you can this year, you have FAILED! No make up test allowed.

2. Make the mistake of thinking that putting your family in debt this holiday season is a sign of economic upswing.  Put all those news reports telling you about how shopping is through the roof in spite of the economy into your mental trash can - people shop for a lot of reasons - guilt over being broke, as evidence that they aren't broke, as compensation for the fact that their credit debt is so high that they can't afford field trips for their kids...  if you go into debt to buy presents the kids will then have to help you carry for months or years, you're creating poverty, not abundance.  Do what you can afford.  Better yet, help your children learn how to give without excessive spending - that's a gift they'll keep forever.

3.  Live by the philosophy that a good parent will exactly mirror every gift each child gets - if only one of them wants a diary, buying four so it will be 'even' is silly.  Years from now, when your grown children are arguing about whether or not you should budget the grandchild expenses by child or by family and otherwise treating you like an ATM machine, you'll realize that this one thing will pay off in years and years or making yourself into a holiday lunatic.  Focus on great gifts each person wants and train them to regard counting items and comparing as Grinchlike behavior that will lead to gifts of household chore helpers next year.

4.  Waste lots of time trying to find the perfect gift for a person who makes you feel rotten everytime you offer them a gift (by complaining, making their first response something about how they'll go about returning or regifting it, forgetting to acknowledge they even got it in the first place).  If you want to end the crazy - CUT THEM OFF.  By the same token, if you get gifts from people who then try to hold you hostage emotionally as a result, let them know you're no longer exchanging gifts with them, and if they must donate to the charity of your choice.  None of this is what giftgiving is about - and if it's not making you OR them happy, the only people benefiting are the stores.  Never let someone make you feel that a gift is an obligation or a referendum on your relationship.

5. Feel obligated to do things you hate.  Feel guilty for taking time to focus on the parts of holiday tradition you actually love.  Yes, tradition is important.  Tradition done with heavy sighs, rolled eyes, and muttering under your breath isn't making anyone happy.  Hanging out with people you don't enjoy because this is the season to be together and happy all the time - well, that is the definition of making yourself nuts.

6.  Forget that odds are, they will not remember the gift in later years. They will remember the board games played, the trip to look at the lights at night, the cookies baked together.  Emphasis doing rather than getting.

7.  Declare that you have no time for quiet.  Grab a mug of your favorite hot beverage, bundle up and step outside while its snowing early in the morning, or late at night - breathe in winter and silence.  This is what its really all about.

8.  Believe that the holidays magically will fix every relationship conflict you have.  If you all don't get along the rest of the year, it's not all going to be magically solved by the light of a decorated tree - keep expectations realistic.  Plan tactics for keeping civil, rather than deciding that if you aren't allowed to get it off your chest about how pissed off you were when your 2 year old sister scooped out your goldfish and killed it, so now you can't go anywhere near the ocean and nothing will be right unless she admits how foundationally evil she is, then the holiday is going to be ruined for everyone!

9. Feel obligated to taste every single goodie co-workers bring to work, even as your feel your year long efforts to keep your weight under control sinking in a gooey mess that is going to make it so you can't allow yourself to eat the goodies you really look forward to (the one your mom makes).  Here's the thing - they bring them to work so that THEY won't eat them.  Don't haul around someone else's calories.

10. On the other hand, dieting over the holidays is totally crazymaking.  Look... you're not going to drop ten pounds this month, ok?  Trying to do so and making everyone around you crazy by proclaiming you CAN'T HAVE ANYTHING GOOD right now, and pulling out your little baggie of carrots and celery while they're noshing on fudge is annoying to them, and to you.  Just don't feel like you have to eat the entire plate of fudge, be as moderate as you can, and get back to your weight loss program in January, when everyone's tired of cooking anyway.  Totally depriving yourself now just leads to binging, and a lot of people giving you disgusting sugar free candy as gifts.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

My First Biscornu

I'm not sure how I managed to not even know what these things were until a few months ago - biscornu are very popular among stitchers, as little tokens, pincushions... things.  The word itself is French - biscornu, which means 'bizarre' or 'strange'.  According to this translator, it means "crooked" or "weird looking."  I think the English might be 'thingamabob" or "doohicky" - hee!

I wanted to try one but I was a bit lost on how exactly you take a pair of squares and create such an odd shape.  This tutorial helped me immensely, but I knew I wasn't going to get it until I did it.

Over Thanksgiving, I worked up a couple of small squares - one using variegated green floss, the other variegated red. The key to my choices had to do with minimal difficulty, minimal 'stuff' to keep track of, since the stitching would be done in a moving car, or while visiting my daughter.  Before I left, I'd finished the stitchery and started puzzling together the connection of the two squares (and I need to practice that - it could be accomplished much more elegantly than I did it).

I stopped and put it away when I reached the point where it'd need to be stuffed, because I hadn't brought any stuffing.

So last night, I pulled it back out and finished it off, using a green and red button to pull it all together and... wow! It worked!  I've now got a nice scissor-fob and pincushion, and there will be more of these in my future!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Happy Haulidays from Chronicle Books!

Well, goodness!  Nothing makes window shopping fun like the possibility of actually winning what you pick out - $500.00 worth of possibility!  That's what Chronicle Books is offering with their Happy Haulidays Giveaway!  Submitting your entry isn't fast but it is very, very fun.  Go pick out $500.00 worth of items from Chronicle Books and either post it on your blog or, if you don't have a blog (or don't want to confess your undying love for all things undead), comment on a participating blog - or all of them (the list is on the giveaway page) - one blog and one commenter from the winning blog will win that blog writer's list of books.  So you want to actually graze the lists and comment on any whose list matches your taste!

Here's mine - it's got a bit for me (crafts, cookbooks, misc.), a bit for gifts to my grandchildren and my youngest daughter, and a couple items for my boyfriend.  If it looks good to you, leave a comment!  The giveaway ends on Dec 10th, and winners are announced Dec. 13th - so enough time to know if it's coming for Christmas, even if it doesn't get there by then. 

Sock Monkey and Friends Kit, $17.99
The Button Factory, $18.95 (preorder - Feb 23, 2011)
World of Geekcraft, $19.95 (preorder - Feb 23,2011)
Symbols of Ancient Mexico Rubber Stamps, $19.95
Silhouette Art, $18.95 (on back order)

The Commonsense Kitchen, $35.00
Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever, $24.95
The Irish Pub Cookbook, $24.95
Kitchen Garden Box, $18.95

The Lifeboard: Follow Your Vision, $22.95
Pocket Ruled Muleskin Volante Notebook - Purple (Set of 2), $8.95

The Grandparents Handbook, $16.95
The Ultimate Book of Cardgames, $19.95
Brain Boot Camp, $29.95

GIFTS TO GRANDCHILDREN: (Age ranges newborn to age 10)
Masterpuppet Theatre: The World of Shakespeare at Your Fingertips, $14.95
Sound Bingo, $16.99
Julius! All About Me, My World, and My Life (So Far), $12.99
Ten Little Rabbits, $6.99
Dinosaurs! Lacing Cards, $14.95
Super Duper Art & Craft Activity Book, $12.95
Flip-a-Face Furry Friends: Same and Different, $9.99
Trucks Go, $8.99

Batman: Murder at Wayne Manor: An Interactive Mystery, $24.95
College Safety 101, $16.95 (preorder: Mar. 9, 2011)
Pride & Prejudice and Zombies 2011 Calendar, $13.99

The Sherlock Holmes Handbook, $16.95
I Dare You: 30 Sealed Seductions, $14.95
City Walks: Washington DC, $14.95

8th Day of Yule: Imagine

 Incredible to believe that it's been thirty years since John Lennon was murdered.  His song, Imagine, has lots to contemplate (and lots to argue about) but for me the point of it is that if we all spent less time focusing on what might be in the next life, we'd put a lot more energy into creating a life in this one that's worth having.  Eyes on heaven often makes people blind to the hell around them, and therefore disinclined to work to correct it.

Imagine, John Lennon

Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

You may say that I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

7th Day of Yule: Bringing Meaning into the Mundane

The only difference between the magical and the mundane, it seems to me, is mindfulness and the ability to impart meaning and purpose into what you're doing.  Isn't the purpose of observing the Wheel of the Year to see the meaning in the ordinary passages of time throughout the seasons?

One of my favorite earth-based books is Circle 'Round, by Starhawk, Diane Baker, and Anne Hill.  It looks at the Wheel and other memorable occasions with an eye to how it might be observed within a family and brought to life for children.  Songs, stories and activities are included - and even if you have no children around, the book approaches things in a thoughtful realistic way (no 2 hour long rituals that require a van-load full of supplies and a football field's worth of private outdoor space at just the exact astrologically correct moment).

There are two activity suggestions for Yule included that really speak to me.  Once has to do with cleaning house before Solstice, sweeping the floors, shaking out blankets, etc, and says "When you empty the dustpan or throw out the vacuum cleaner bag, name some of the things you want to get rid of".  They then suggest steeping some rosemary and bay leaves and adding the steeped water to your floor cleansing solution - each of these are spiritually cleansing and protective herbs, so you are  replacing the disposed of sludge with protection for the new year.

I very much like the idea of using the most mundane task - that of cleaning house - as a tool for working magic in your life.  This is the kind of magic that works for me, so much more than elaborate 'high church' ritual.  I also think it creates a contemplative exercise that can be done by those of any religion - no matter what we believe, we all have cleaning to do.

The second activity I really liked was "Mother Winter's House" which turns the creation of a gingerbread house into an act of offering to the Goddess - choosing candy colors and decorations to represent the gifts of the goddess, so that the house is a symbol of abundance received and - by considering the emptiness inside the house - abundance yet to come.  Wouldn't that make for a nice conversation with a child while making the gingerbread house?

Two More Finishes

I got distracted yesterday by teenagers and never got around to posting - second snow day in a row, so some of Deanna's friends came over to watch movies and hang out.  And somehow I convinced them that what was needed was actually a Doctor Who Christmas special marathon (I think we gained a convert), and while watching, I had an idea I needed to pursue (regarding a cross stitch design that's been in my head for awhile), and that following myself down that rabbit trail occupied most of the rest of my day. (And I think I love it - though I need to adjust some colors, as the test run stitchery was a bit too dark with not enough contrast.)  I'll share that later this month, after I'm sure I know where it's going.

Meanwhile, I also got two more ornaments finished - these are for daughter #3.  Both charts are from the Oct/Nov 2010 issue of Cross Stitch Card Shop.  The "New Home" ornament commemorates the momentous occasion of getting their own place, and Hailey's "Num Num" ornament has to do with her favorite word and favorite food.

I used a drinking glass to outline a circle on foam core board, and then laced the stitchery to the board.  The back is a circle of felt, and then I used some sheer red ribbon to lay flat around the edges and to create the hanging loop.

I'm still not a fan of finishing but I these seem to work up more easily - I'm not sure if that has to do with the lack of corners to have to deal with, or if repetition is just making it easier.  Either way, I had both of these done up yesterday morning before Deanna even work up.

Now I have Deanna's ornament and blanket to do, and Michael's ornament (which is going to be the design I said I was working on) and then that's it for mandatory stitching in December.  I'm also making a pair of non-stitched ornaments for Michael's brother and his wife, and have a finished bit of stitchery for his mom to be worked up into an ornament.

I am so happy my arthritic hands are allowing me to do this this year - it's always in my mind that eventually I won't be able to work a needle anymore.  I'm hoping to be able to spend some time with each of my grandchildren as they get older and offer to show them how to stitch... it's a trend that comes and goes, but passing it down will keep it alive.

Monday, December 6, 2010

6th Day of Yule: The Christians and the Pagans

Anyone who is even a little 'out' as pagan will relate to Dar Williams wonderful song about getting along with family for the holidays in spite of religious differences.  I love it.

Some Finishes...Finally

I was ahead of my original goal on getting ornaments made, but then I sort of derailed last week on getting the finishes done.  But I got second daughter's family's set done last night and put them out in the mail today.

I had such a hard time with this... they kept wanting to go crooked on the backing board (wasn't until the third time I thought to hold it steady with some pins... I am so bad and finishing ornaments!), but I really like the way they came out in the end!

I'd done the parents' ornament early on, using a neat pattern from For the Love of Cross Stitch, Nov 2001.  It's worked on plastic canvas in two parts (each section is actually a square with four square corner tabs - the second one is only stitched in the tabs).  The two pieces are hooked together by the tabs, and then I used red foam cut to cover the whole thing to back the ornament.  The tabs are not glued down, so they turn up slightly like petals.

When I went to do the kid's ornaments I wanted to coordinate the first one, but not by direct copying - so I used red and green aida to match the colors of the first, along with a common size and checkerboard border, but then I personalized each one to the kid's preferences.

 Anthony is in 1st grade, and he just got a dog this year - he also has a favorite stuffed toy dog that is blue and white.  I'm pretty sure this dog is neither of those breeds - but it is cute and I enjoyed stitching it!
The pattern is Comedy Dog by Clair Compton, a free download from The Chart Shop.  I changed the greys in the pattern to blues - and realized I'd gone off by a couple stitched in figuring out what size to make the border.  Luckily, he looks just fine overlapping the border a wee bit on the bottom.

I am just not getting a good picture of the ones on green fabric, so some of the color is washed out here.  Anastasia is four years old, and this year she played on a soccer team for the first time, and enjoyed it a lot.  The team was called the Bunnies, so I wanted to do something to commemorate that.  I'm frustrated with the crediting on this - once I figure it out, I will come back and list sources.  The bunny came from a freebie Easter graph from somewhere (I can't even find the graph now) and I changed the bow from pastel to Christmasy red.  The little soccer ball motif came from a separate source, lifted from a larger soccer related chart - from Stony Creek, I think.  I had recharted them in order to set placement - and now I can't remember the original sources.  Document, document, document, Lynda!

The color is a bit off on this picture - the green of the dinosaur is a vibrant crayon green.  The graph comes from Leisure Art's "More Designs For Little People".  David is 3 and is all about all things dinosaur right now.  I really like how the colors on this one are so nice and bright - it was fun to do and fast to stitch up.

Finally, baby Charlie - seven months old, and a cuddly, chubby fellow dubbed "Charlie Bear" by his parents.  So a bear pattern made sense.  And ARGH, I'm flaking now on the source for this as well... it came from one of the million graph books or magazines I have on hand.  Here again, once I remember what it was from, I'll post it.   And I promise I'll keep better records from here one out - I just can't trust my memory at all anymore.

So, now I have two more finishes for Daughter #3, then to finish stitching, and make up Deanna's ornament... then a bit of stitching for Michael's family (needn't have those done til Christmas Eve, though), and Deanna's baby blanket to finish.  It's all coming along!

(shared with Sunday Showcase PartyAmaze Me Monday, Making the World Cuter Monday, Craftastic Monday, Craft-O-Maniac Monday, Motivate Monday, Made By You Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Mixed Bag Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, DIY Project Parade, Homemaker Monday, Market Yourself Monday, and Your So Very Creative)

What's Cookin' This Week - 12/6 - 12/12

Looking at my plan for the week, I'm not sure how much Deanna's going to like it... looking at my pantry, I have little choice.  She's developed a collection of 'I don't really like this' items that is growing too big to work around.  And my answer has to be the same as it was for her sisters when they were teenagers - if you're really not liking my choices, you have to option of volunteering to cook for the night to make sure it's what you want.

So there ya go.  My plan this week:

Monday, Dec 6 (MEATLESS)
Yellow Lentil Dal over Rice

Cook beans for tomorrow.

Tuesday, Dec 7 
White Bean and Chicken Chili

Wednesday, Dec 8 (Cooks Night Off)
Fend for Selves

Thursday, Dec 9 (Freezer Meal)
Enchilada Casserole (planned leftover from freezer)

Friday, Dec 10
Meatballs and Gravy over Noodles

Saturday, Dec 11 (Leftovers)

Sunday, Dec 12 (Soup/Salad or Sandwiches)
Chicken Pot Pie Soup
Cheese Biscuits

(shared with Menu Plan Monday)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

5th Day of Yule: New Moon in Sagittarius

Anyone feeling particularly inspired today?  It's a New Moon and she's traveling through Sagittarius right now, creating a sense of optimism, desire for freedom, and an openness to trying new things or doing old things in new ways.

The New Moon is a great time for starting things. What's begun now has a good chance to come to full manifestation by the Full Moon on the 21st (if you work it, of course), and with Sagittarius, that especially means projects that are new to you - a new technique, or something you 'never thought you could do'.  It's a great time to shed old habits and developing new habits that work better for you.

Make a start on it now - even if all you have time to do is gather supplies or write up a list of steps to take.  Set your intention to have it done by Yule.  From what I understand, things are about to get a little rough, between retrograde Mercury next week making communications wonky, and the Moon moving into stolid, restrictive (reality-check) Capricorn tomorrow.  So giving our intentions a bit of expansive Sagittarian New Moon energy can only help.

Tonight, I'll be creating my list of things to accomplish over the next couple of weeks, organizing what I need to do to set them in motion, and lighting a candle and having a bit of 'cakes and ale' to set my intentions. (I keep my rituals small, because whenever I think I might do more, I wind up failing to do them at all)

With this New Moon, we beginning gearing up for all that will manifest at Yule - for me, now is when the season seriously begins.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

4th Day of Yule: It's Ladies' Night (Bona Dea)

Tonight is the night for the ancient Roman observance paying homage to the goddess called Bona Dea, "The Good Goddess".  Warning - there is no way to even mention this without being a little ribald.  It's not my fault! It's in the spirit of the day.

Bona Dea has a name - in the Roman custom of giving female names that are a feminization of the father, Bona Dea's name is a variant of Faunus, whose festival is tomorrow.  But it was regarded as very disrespectful and a fast track to profound bad luck for anyone - especially men - to say her name.  So she goes by the title of Good Goddess.

Bona Dea was important to the Roman's - she's the giver of gifts, fertility and abundance, and securing her favor meant that Rome itself would be held in favor in the coming year. Her image appears on many Roman coins (Bona Dea may well be the reason for the custom of 'bonuses' offered at this time of year, too.  Those Romans really impacted the world in a big way).  To Romans, proper worship and recognitions of the gods and goddesses in their proper time was not just an individual religious act but a citizen's duty, because proper religious actions translated directly into national well-being.

But unlike many of the deities that protected Rome, Bona Dea was taboo to men - they could not say her name and it was regarded as great sacrilege for them to attend her rites or even know what they were. (So, a few centuries later, Plutarch speculated that if a bunch of women ever got together in secret without men there must be some gay orgies going on.  And maybe he was right - but since men weren't allowed, he doesn't know.  And given the nearly universal appeal and threat of that fantasy to men through the ages... I wonder.)

Women engaged in rites to Bona Dea twice a year - once in spring at the temple of the Vestals, and once in early December at the home of the magistrate's wife... Mrs. Caesar, that is.

And I have no doubt at all that there was plenty of alcohol flowing ... it was one of only a couple times when Roman women were legally allowed to drink at all (although because it was generally illegal, the women called the Bona Dea libations 'milk')... plenty of bawdy merrymaking and absolutely, a good dose of trash-talking about the men in their lives.  And it is entirely possible that the ritual included not only wine, song, the sacrifice of a sow (this is Rome we're talking about... just about every animal butchered ended their lives as a sacrifice, but they were then roasted and eaten, so think about it more as a physical method of saying grace before the feast), but also some female only sexual acts.  In the culture of the times, women were kept very closely confined, and sexual energy is energy - they had plenty to release.  Part of the preparation for this event involved abstinence from men...so either it was for this reason or... again, the guys decided that must be what was happening. (battlecry of the spurned male: "Are you a lesbian or somethin'??")

Whatever is was they did, the men kept away and welcomed the 'bonus' of abundance that came their way by allowing it. (Well, except for one memorable guy who cross dressed and went to go peek, landing himself a trial on the level of treason for putting the welfare of the entire empire at risk.  But that's another story.

Fortunately, we do not live in the tightly confined culture that Roman women did, but today might still be a good day to send the men off to the mall with the kids, invite a few female friends over to laugh and enjoy time together. Women do an awful lot during this season to make it merry for everyone else, and a bit of time to let your hair down and release some energy in order to let the abundance flow can't be a bad thing, right?  Watch a good chick flick the guys wouldn't be caught dead at, tell a few dirty jokes, pop open a bottle of wine or some egg nog.  If you get together to make some gifts while you're laughing, you'll even be able to insert a bit of the 'secret' element of the rite.

May Bona Dea bless you and yours this month and all of the year!  If you're interested in more about Bona Dea, Women's Mysteries has a well documented account of the holiday and the history and myth behind it.

Bell Wand Giveaway

You may have notice that blogland has a lot of giveaways - I mean a LOT.  And most offer a way to have a shot at them for posting about the giveaway, which makes perfect sense, but if I posted about every giveaway out there, I'd be too tired to write about anything else.  So, I usually forgo that part unless something really catches my attention.

Aine from the Deepest Well has my full attention - she's giving away a really charming (I mean that in the oldest sense) wand that is topped with a bell. Awhile ago, she'd found this in a giftshop and wrote about it - and as another one who's never found a wand that agreed with me (hey, I tried to get to the Magick Store via the train station, but all I did was smack my head), this one spoke to me and I tucked the idea away to try to figure out how to get one for myself.

I figured it'd involve craft glue, a wooden dowel and a bell - but this is a good way, too!  Go toss your name into the hat, too.  And even if you aren't in the market for a wand, it's a really sweet ornament and might come in handy should the Lord of Misrule show up at your house.

Friday, December 3, 2010

No Peeking!!

I want to note this but I have to say up front - to the one person I know that knows me and reads this, do not follow the link I'm about to post, or I shall refer to you as Scrooge McScroogety until the end of time. You know who you are!

I won a giveaway today from Flamingo Toes!  It's a lovely (mumblety mumble) which you can see if you follow that link and scroll down til you see that LyndaB won a (mumblety mumble) which is going to be a gift for Mr. You-Know-Who-Who-BETTER-Not-Peek!

Thank you Bev for the awesome giveaway!  And to Bragging Bags, the Etsy store that offered what I won!  This made my day!

3rd Day of Yule: Trimming the Tree(s)

I officially have way too many ornaments - two trees, packed full (admittedly, placement of the trees necessitate that the backsides are left unadorned), a good bunch of less favored ornaments left in the box this year - and this after culling a big bunch of them by passing them onto Jackie when she moved out.  Goodness!  I think next year I may have to divide up what I have left and pass on a package to each of my daughters because one thing I can be sure of... I am not going to stop acquiring ornaments.  Best to admit your weaknesses, no?

Deanna brought a friend home with her after school to help with the tree trimming and I think they did a great job - I snagged a few more ornaments for my smaller tree, hung still more from the top of the window curtain rod (no picture - impossible to get one that was even half good, but there is a row of ceramic painted santas and snowflakes running along the top of the window)

Part of the challenge of decorating this year is a toddler at the stage of 'what? don't touch THIS? Like THIS? What? You mean I'm not suppose to touch it ten seconds after you just said no?  How about now? Now? You have to go to the bathroom sometime, Nana, and then watch out!!!"  all said with a look that makes it impossible not to laugh.

The other part is a cat who loves to eat plastic - and since I don't want to have her stomach pumped to rid herself of bits and pieces of my holiday cheer, I try to keep things out of reach, and not dangling in too tempting  a manner.  So far, Frankie is content to curl up at the base of the tree and look up - but I'm keeping an eye out.

I just have to show off a few of my current favorite ornaments - I put them all on the smaller tree as that just seemed to be where they needed to go.

The first just makes me grin every year when I pull it out - it's a plain glass ball with a very realistic lifesized little mouse perched up on the outside of it:

The other two I wanted to record specially are the newest additions - picked up last year and I WISH I could remember the company that made them - these are the first two ornaments Michael and I picked out together and they came in really stunningly decorated paper mache boxes.  Aren't they pretty??

shared with Favorite Ornaments Party.

2nd Day of Yule: Here Comes the Sun!

I started the 21 Days of Yule a day late, and that's the sort of little thing that will bug me all month unless I do a fast catch up.  So expect another entry for today later... and a gift for now!

In my opinion, the Winter Solstice is where everyone can make peace about the holiday season - it puts all the bogus, TV-talking head controversies over who is 'stealing' the season from whom to bed.

Because the solstice isn't opinion - it's pure reality.  No matter what your heart believes - no matter what your eyes (and body temperature) tell you, from the Solstice on, the days are beginning to lengthen, the earth is slowly, slowly drowsing its way toward life again.  The Sun is returning.  Many religious paths commemorate this and personify the Sun in some way, with stories of deities, sons of deities, heroes or seers being born at this time and rising up in strength, beauty, grace and wisdom as they mature into adulthood.

As human beings, it seems to be a universal truth that our imaginative hearts are able to visualize the warmth we know is coming but isn't there, and it is that imagination that allows us to have faith, regardless of bare trees, frozen landscapes, and a day that is as dark as it could possibly be, that the Sun is returning.

Isn't it strange to contemplate that the reality is that the process of returning to warmth at light happens so near the beginning of the dark, cold, barren times?  That the promise of spring is there with us all through the bitter cold?

That's why Winter Solstice, Yule, is a Solar holiday even if it is the shortest day of the year.

This makes solar ornaments very appropriate for the Yule tree, and so, early this morning, I charted up a quick to stitch sun - and then stitched it so you could see it.

  The graph is my gift to you - and I'd love to see what you do with it!  I used DMC 90 variegated floss on Black 14ct Aida (it's what was on hand), but I think it'd be good with any sunny color of floss, gold metallic thread, or beaded (I'd love to see this beaded, actually).  I think I'll be working it a few more times.  Should you stitch it, I'd love a shout out back to the blog - but either way, Happy Dec 3rd! Here comes the Sun!

 Shared with We Did It Wednesday,Show and Tell Wednesday, Make It Yours Wednesday,Spotlight Yourself, Get Your Craft On Thursday, Hookin' Up with HoH Thursday, Strut Your Stuff Thursday, Flaunt It Friday, Weekend Wander, and Check Me Out Saturday)

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Stash of Shame

The other thing I did last night (it was a restless night) was to go through my hope chest, which is where I keep my needlework stash. (No, no virtue in that - it  was because I was procrastinating on getting ornaments finished.. I really am not a fan of the finishing)

I discovered a couple things - first, I have enough fabric to keep myself busily stitching for hours every single day for the next three years.  In normal stitching terms, that's pretty much a lifetime supply - my fabric will be antique well before the stitching that ever goes on it, which is likely to totally confuse future archeologists. Bwa-hah-hah.

That was the good news.  The bad news is - I did a thorough examination of my collection of WIPS (works in progress) and UFOs (Un-Finished Objects), and it's embarrasing.

As a result of this, I'm modifying my Crazy January Challenge intentions and focusing mainly on working through at least some of these.  I'll filter in at least a couple new projects, too - because it would just feel depressing to make a commitment to the future be all about clearing away the past.  A bit of both.

Here is my Gallery of Shame:

Starting with the very worst of the worst - this is Deanna's baby blanket.  Yes, She Who is Turning 18 in June.  I began it when I was pregnant with her... a little alphabet bear in each square of a baby blanket afghan quilt... XYZ on the bottom right corner and her name and birth info on the top left just after she was born.  I got about as far as letter J, and then got busy with the baby and tucked the blanket away until life got a bit quieter.  At one point, around age 12, she took it - still quite unfinished - and hung it on her wall until I asked for it back so I could finish it up.  And I got this far - just beginning letter U, with only two more after that to go.  But then things got kind of awful - major surgery that required learning how to walk again, a long period of severe arthritis pain, a move... so it got tucked away until I pulled it out last night.

This will NOT be a part of my January challenge - because I'm going to get those last three squares done and put this under the Christmas tree for her.  Talk about better late than never.

This is my most frustrating UFO - and the second oldest.  I'd guess it's at least 10 years, and probably more.  It is very nearly complete (you can't see the head of this wizard because it's on rollers, but all that's left to do is the gold stars on his robe, some french knots at the hem of the robe and that half cross celestial background.

I really want to get this finished. Problem - it was a kit.  I no longer have the graph, the threads, or even any clue what the name of the kit was.  I'm guessing it was a Dimensions kit, but I'm having no luck finding it and it's probably way out of print by now. If anyone knows what this is, please let me know!  Better yet - if someone more on the ball than me ever bought it, actually completed it and still has the graph and wants to sell it to me, let me know that too.  It's way too much work to toss away and I don't feel confident about trying to just wing it on the completion without the graph.  Plus - after all this time, I'd really like to reclaim those  rollers.

IF I can get ahold of the graph, this will be a part of the January 15 Challenge.

This was a Vermillion Stitchery freebie a few years ago (they did a whole year of these bears for free) - this Fairy Godmother Bear was intended for one of my grandchildren, but I no longer remember who.  Still... I like it, will finish it, and figure out a recipient later.

This is a Leisure Arts kit Teresa Wentzler did a few years ago - you can see how it will look here.  And as you can see - I barely even got started on this one.  And in fact - it was intended for 18ct Aida in order to fit a 5x7 frame - but the chart includes a ton of quarter stitches which are so not fun on Aida.  I am going to include this as a part of my 15 - but I'm starting over again, on linen, as a graph of this caliber deserves.

Another kit that fell by he wayside - this one a lovely blue dolphin graph hat was started for my oldest daughter and then let go.  I'll finish it because it still looks like a fun stitch - and it will either be her gift on her birthday in October..or Christmas.. or someday, or I'll discover she no longer is so crazy about dolphins and then I'll keep it.

This is the newest kit I have, only a year or two old (Michael bought it for me) - lots of fun stitching to do on this one.  I don't consider it past due - just something to not neglect.

Ok this one is also only a year old, and I have to be honest - I'll have to force myself to keep working on it.  Not that it's not cute - it's a growth chart (the part of the chart you see there is half the chart) with insert areas for photoes and it's for Hailey.  But from a stitching perspective - that's cross stitch vinyl, and it feels and smells like rubber and simply isn't very pleasant to work with - especially in very large, never ending quantities.   Given my bad habits (see blanket, above) - Hailey will actually get this sometime around the time of her own child's birth (she is 17 months old now) unless I get on the stick and make myself work on it.  So... onto the January 15 list this goes.

So far that makes one to finish this year, one POSSIBLE if I can find the chart and five for sure.

So here's one that won't be included.  It's not even cross stitch - it's needlepoint, the kit was a gift and it's a pain in my butt - the pattern is stamped onto the canvas and you're supposed to..guess, I guess... at the subtle color variations by referring to that chart stamped at the side.  I managed the black, started work on the frame and then very quickly maxed out on my allotted amount of frustration.  I might finish it someday - but it won't be this next year.

This is a simple one that just needs to be finished - the graph was a freebie inserted into one of the UK stitching mags (Cross Stitch Crazy maybe?) - I wanted to use just a couple of the fish on perforated paper to make a card that could be framed for someone, with some text in the middle.  I've forgotten who it was for, or what I wanted to say, but it's still cute and ought to be finished.

So that's SIX out of fifteen.

These are two maybes... I want to mull if I want to get back into them or not right now.  Two problems with these - they're on Aida, so not nearly as nice up close as they could be - and way back when I was doing them, I was more bold than wise when it came to making floss substitutions.  So the colors aren't entirely great in places and I have no idea anymore what colors I used so matching it will be a major headache.  I'm going to think on these a few weeks - I may put them back into the crypt for another time.

Lastly on this walk of shame - and this isn't all of them, just what were in a baggie in my chest - a whole bunch of little motifs that need to be finished up as ornaments.  Many of which were cut and prepped in a not so great way, thus making the finishing a giant pain in the neck. Not a part of the challenge (the stitching is done), but I do need to get them completed once and for all.

So here's what I've learned from my stash:

1.  I don't have a lot of incompletes but some of them are insanely old.
2.  I need to stay away from kits - by far, kits are the most likely thing to go unfinished, and take up the most space.
3. Sadly, most of my incompletes were intended for other people, meaning that I do a lot more for others in my head then in actuality.
4. I really, really don't like finishing projects - I'm a stitcher not a sewer...er, person who sews.  I dread messing up the stitching by finishing poorly.

So what I've got here is 4 large projects and 2 medium projects for sure, with 3 more possibly be added.  That leaves me with 6 new projects to start for sure (and possibly 9) - of those, I know 3 will be my own designs, 1 will be a Quaker sampler.  The rest will be *small* projects because enough is enough already!