Monday, February 28, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 2/28 - 3/6

Woo! It has been a busy weekend - all sorts of things going on, and today Deanna and I got into sorting our books into the 'keep' pile, the 'sell' pile, the 'give to other family member' pile, as well as the 'mom will hold these for Deanna for a couple years' pile...oi.  Now the living room is full of little piles of books, and boxes of books I need to draft someone stronger than me to carry downstairs.

Meanwhile, my new-style menu planning from last week worked like a charm!  Turns out I cooked four times, as predicted, and ended the week with no leftovers - it also happened to be a very successful week in the sense that all four menus were greeted with enthusiasm!

So I'm keeping with the four meals, and no set dates for when they'll occur.  Here is the plan:

Fresh Fruit Cocktail

Ground Turkey Gorditas
Refried Black Beans
Mexican Rice


Creamy Chicken and Corn Soup 
(from Simple Slow Cooker Recipes)
Citrus and Spinach Salad


Spaghetti and Meatballs
Garlic Toast (using leftover hot dog buns)
*Deanna will likely make a meatball sub out of hers


DESSERT (once this week):
(made from a can of biscuits)

Friday, February 25, 2011

Go Clean Your Room!

It has been a very grey, gloomy day - started out with pouring rain in the mid-50s, then threw in some high winds on top of that... and then the temps dropped about 30 degrees and now it's snowing.  And all day, it felt like the sun was struggling to come up, and failing.

I was pretty achy through all that, but feeling a bit better now.  I spent a couple hours dealing with this: (cue the scary Psycho music here):

My bedroom has turned into the catch all spot for everything I want out of public sight, but don't want to deal with - including my clean laundry.  Somehow, I just keep not having enough steam after washing, drying and (sometimes) folding to get it put away.  Nope, get it right up to five feet from the drawers where it should be and leave it... THAT makes sense.

Today, I gave myself a good lecture on the stupidity of this lack-of-plan, brought my little iPod speakers back to the bedroom and started sorting, folding, and putting things in drawers and closet.

I wound up with a nice big pile of stuff I either don't like or can't fit into, which will be going into a yard sale later in the spring.  I'm going to have more to add to that once I get into my closet and go through those items as well - but this is a great start!

I think I've probably got to weed through the stuff I put away one more time and ask myself, "Do you really need this? Do you LOVE it?"  because I've got more casual shirts than any human being needs - I could not do laundry for two months and have enough shirts to always have something clean to wear. 

But rolling them (instead of folding them) not only lets me put more into the drawer than I could otherwise, it also makes them less wrinkly. (That little trick helps when you're packing into a carry-on, too).  The other advantage of that is that in three months, when I'm deciding what stuff to get rid of, a good start will be the shirts that are still rolled up and not living in a basket on the hope chest (hah! That's a joke. I hope.)

I've still got a ton of work to do on my bedroom but I'm going to try chipping away at it a little bit every day until it starts making me feel happy to be in there.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Didn't I Think of This Sooner?

In one corner of my kitchen there is a tiny alcove that leads to the hallway and to the opening to the living room.  There's just enough space there for a small closet that would be the pantry, except that the AC/heater vent is right in front of it, which makes it far too warm to safely hold food during the winter - instead I use it to stow appliances and occasional use glassware.  There is also a small built in phone nook - an idea I really like, but the location is inconvenient to everything.  We kept the land line phone there and grumbled everytime we had to answer the phone there...and a few months ago, we got rid of the land line and went entirely to cell phones, so ever since, the little nook has wound up being nothing more than a place to set small items and collect clutter.

I was puttering in the kitchen this evening and got fed up looking at the little eyesore, so I took a moment to get ridof the accumulated junk... then dusted it... and then had a wonderful aha moment.

You see, I have another ongoing problem - and one felt by a lot of people who want to keep home altars or shrines... no where to put one where it is usable, accessible, decorative and not in the way.  In my case add not likely to get pounced on by the cat, dog or the grandkid.

There isn't enough room here for a really lavish special occasion altar - but it provides simple space for the basics.  I hung my goddess stitchery where the phone would go, and added two candles (goddess and god), along with elemental icons - incense for fire and air, and a dish filled with stones and water for earth and water.

Hard to see but hanging from a corner of the nook is a peacock.

Beneath the nook there is a shelf designed to hold a phone book - and that gives me a bit of accessible space for other tools as needed. I'm sure I'll fiddle with the arrangements a bit more and switch things out now and then.

This is also not going to be a place where I can safely leave candles to burn down on their own - after all, this is encased in a wooden shadowbox, but the stove is a mere five feet away, and when such workings are called for, it can easily be moved to the safer stovetop/hearth area anyway.

I really do wish I'd thought of this (a LOT) sooner, but I'm so happy to have managed it now...better late than never!

WIP Wednesday

I've decided to try to keep my stitchery progress reports to Wednesday, to create a little more balance in this blog.  (Try, she said - set a rule, break a rule...count on it!)

Another little Christmas ornament finish - this is Decos de Noel: Sapin, a complimentary graph from Chouett'alors!, a fun designer from France.  I'm not going to try to turn these Christmas pieces into ornaments until next fall, after I've moved.  It's much easier to pack and store a baggie filled with flat bits of fabric than it is a whole lot of ornaments - plus that will allow me to coordinate their finishing so that they seem to match one another better, for families where each person is getting an ornament.

In other stitching, I've made a bit more progress on the Gift of Stitching Mystery Sampler (it's not a mystery when you stitch it long after the fact... this is from 2007).  I'm loving the way the colors ... just two shades of DMC variegated floss) just pop off the tan Aida.  I'm still mulling how I'll finish this - I thought perhaps it might be a panel of a rolled pillow, and now I'm thinking a small wall hanging.  Eventually I'll figure it out.

The stitching is slow going - a combination of being distracted by other things and hands needing to take it easy, but this is remaining one of my favorite pieces among the Challenge 15.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 2/20 - 2/26

I'm noting a consistency about our meals lately - first, there is almost always some juggling of when we eat in spite of my listing days for specific meals, it rarely works out that way.  The second thing I am noticing is that I actually only end up cooking 4 meals a week.  Either there are extra leftovers I didn't account for, or one or the other of us isn't home.

So for a little while at least, I'm just going to be listing four meals here, and not specifying the dates to have them, and see how that works out.


(update - this was amaaaazing.  I had a couple unexpected extra people eating, so I shredded the pot roast into the sauce and served it over the noodles, and people raved.  Defnitely going to try this again!)


Taco Salad

(family favorite and regular meal possibility)


Italian Sausage in a Bun
Potato and Sweet Potato Salad
Green Beans


Chicken Curry
Coconut Rice

(another family favorite, and in regular rotation - made using the Japanese Curry bricks found in the Asian section of grocery stores.)

(Note:  Adult daughter came by to do laundry on Monday, and made Chicken Chili for us.  Other non-planned nights involved leftovers and one night was about Wendy's... a pretty rare treat for us.)

2nd Challenge Finish - Woodland Friends

The Stitcherhood's Forest Friends was so close to being done, that I decided to just finished it off.. and here it is!

I am so happy with how this turned out - the trio are clearly the maiden, mother, crone aspects of the Moon.

I'm going to put it into a 5"x7" frame so it can sit on my altar, and I definitely want to do more Stitcherhood charts - this was such a fun stitch!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Finish: Noel Ornament

I'm about to head away from the computer for an afternoon of cleaning and other domestic fun (hah!) - but this morning, I did this nice, quick blackwork ornament (I'm trying to keep to a goal of getting Christmas ornaments done throughout the year so they don't all crash in on me in November).  This is a complimentary chart from Glory Bee Designs (2005 - I'm not sure if it's still available).  I used 28ct white evenweave and Weeks Dye Works #4139 (Bethlehem). 

I really like the way the overdyed thread looks done in blackwork, and this worked up really, really fast.  I think I'm going to be doing more with blackwork this year.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

1st Challenge Finish!

The photo is bad and this is just a quickie post - but I've completed the first of my January 15 Challenge projects!

This blackwork pattern is my own - it's a UU flaming chalice with a line from a UU hymn at the top.  This will be donated to an auction at the UU church I attend when I'm out Michael's way.   I'm hoping we can find a frame for it this weekend so he can take it back with him when he returns home.

Meanwhile - I'm just excited that I've finished one of my challenges! On down, fourteen to go!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

How I Meal Plan

I thought I'd write a bit about how I go about menu planning, because my methods have had to undergo a pretty significant transition this past year, as three people moved out of the house and it became just Deanna and me - and later this year it will transition again as she heads to college and I move in with Michael.

For me, the people eating make a big difference in what will be chosen - like most cooks, I get no pleasure from my effort being regarded with indifference or, worse, as if it were poison and a personal punishment for the person having to eat it!  That said, a good chunk of my adult life involved feeding one really picky and critical (ex)husband and four girls of various ages, stages, and picky quirks of their own.  At a certain point, you give up trying to please everyone unless you're prone to tilt at windmills as a hobby and settle for trying to please everyone at least some of the time.

That's really how the menu planning started - as a way to make sure everyone got a turn at a meal they'd really like.  I plan (loosely with plenty of room for adjustments due to circumstances and whim) a month at a time.  I divide up the days of the month by the number of people living here,  and ask everyone for that number of meal choices.  (This is meant to be similar to a Santa Wish List - you can be sure you'll get some of what you ask for, but probably not all of it, and I pick what gets vetoed.)

So, last year, when there were four adult sized eaters here (the baby didn't get a vote),  30/4 gave me approximately 7 and everyone had an opportunity to request 7 meals that month.  By the way, I don't wait on them - I tell people I need their list by such and such a time, and if it doesn't get to me, oh well.

Now what generally happens is that there is some overlap in the lists, and everyone's got at least one thing on there that someone else really hates.  The popular stuff gets top billing, the stuff likely to make someone actually suffer gets vetoed if it can't be put to a day where the Hater can grab something else (that's what leftovers are for) or won't be there.

By the time all that is done, I've got about 20 meal ideas.  The remaining days are either Cook's Day Off days (again, grab leftovers or go cook something yourself!), or days I use to try new recipes - and I try to shuffle in at least 4 new recipes a month and usually more.

I then have a master list with a month's worth of menu ideas.  I try to sprinkle them through the month for variety (not chicken every night one week, and beef the next), and to make sure everyone's choices get a turn every week.

When all my girls were home, that meant everyone got a meal of their choice each week, with one day off from cooking - and the person whose choice it was was the cook's helper, so that everyone would learn how to prepare their own favorite meals.  And by planning it ahead like this, I was able to keep my grocery budget in check, and comfortably knowing I had what I needed to prepare a variety of meals.

This probably sounds more complicated than it is - it was critical when there were a lot of people to feed, and a lot less so now, but these days it's habit.  Deanna picks about a third of what we eat, and I divide the rest between my own favorites and new recipes.  Michael is a lot more adventurous than my kids in matters of food, and I expect we'll be experimenting a lot more once it's just the two of us.

But I think we'll still be meal planning because for me it's an old habit and it's fun - we may just be planning to filter in various things we want to try instead of trying to accomodate picky food preferences.

I have to give a shout out to the program I use to keep track of this (and so much more) - I have used The Journal for years now, watching it become more in depth and user friendly with each update.  It's the first program I install on a new computer.  It's seen me through college courses, creative and practical tracking and logging and, oh yes, makes a great journal.  I just can't recommend it enough.

(Shared with Tackle It Tuesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, Getting Crafty on Hump Day, We Did It Wednesday, and Penny Pinching Party)

Stitchery Challenge Progress

I finished putting some time in with each of my Challenge Projects this month and wanted to share the few I hadn't already.

The growth chart continues to be a bit of a slog with all that white in the cloud... I got about a third of the white fill done, and decided to move onto some color with the bird and do a little backstitch to see how it's all going to look.

I'm going to be very proud of myself when this is done even if some of the doing is tougher than it seems!  Once I get past the cloud, it should be more fun ... smaller blocks of color to work with.

The day I worked on the Celestial Gathering kit was pretty busy, so I wasn't able to do very much - I did get the Libra constellation done.  I really like how these are being handled....the pictorial image is done in black cross stitch (set on navy blue cloth it is only slightly darker than the surrounding background), and then three shades of blue and purple done in half stitch surround the image, which makes it sort of 'glow'.  Light yellow French Knots and straight stitch connecting lines for the actual constellation and small white french knots are sprinkled around as additional stars.  I'm going to be at this chart for a long, long time but I am really enjoying it.

I worked a bit more on my Time Dr Who chart...still worried that the color variations are too subtle, but hoping it will feel different once more of it has been laid out.  This first time stitching of a personal design is as much a mystery to me as to anyone... but I'm thinking that once it's done, I'm going to want to adjust colors and stitch it again.  (If it works out right it will become clear that this is a portion of a pocket watch.)

This is the Stitcherhood's Woodland Friends with some slight variations (turning the moons around and altering the hair and dress colors) - I'm loving this one so much, I think it may be my favorite out of the 15, and I should have it finished with just another day or two of work.  I can't wait to have it done and on display - my photo isn't doing the coloring any justice at all.

For now, having paid attention to each of the Challenges, I've turned back to the Blackwork UU Chalice and will be staying with it until I get it done - at this pace, that should be by the weekend, which is just perfect as I want to get it into a frame while Michael is here and sent back with him to avoid any possible complications about getting it to the auction (I plan to be there, but the best laid plans and all that yadda yadda).

So that's it from my needle for now!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Slow Cooker Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Cake

Deanna and her boyfriend handled dinner last night (blueberry pancakes and sausage)... before I knew were were having a carb-rich dinner, I'd decided to make dessert in honor of Valentine's Day - something gooey and rich and simple (and not requiring my oven - hah!)

I selected the Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Cake from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook.  I am learning a thing or two about my slow cooker (other than that I really want a new one) - it cooks a lot faster than recipes say, and this was no exception.  The cake portion was just slightly dry...fortunately, combined with the fudgy sauce and ice cream, it evened out.   I will definitely do this again, and take the recommended time of 2 to 2 1/4 hours to 1 hour 45 minutes or less at HIGH.

Other than that, total success - and for everyone to have enjoyed a bowl after being stuffed on blueberry pancakes, it has to be good, right?

Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Cake
Serves 6-8

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
pinch salt
1/2 cup whole milk
2 T canola, peanut or walnut oil
1 T vanilla extract
1/2 cup peanut butter (I used chunky)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I used dark chips because that's what I had on hand)

3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups boiling water.

Vanilla ice cream for serving

Coat the slow cooker with butter flavored cooking spray (or grease with butter).

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt.  Make a well in the center and add milk, oil, and vanilla, stirring until well blended until you have a smooth batter (it will be thick).  Stir in peanut butter (warmed slightly in microwave if it is too stiff) and blend until smooth.  Add chocolate chips and blend again.  Spread batter evenly in the slow cooker.

To make the topping: In another medium bowl, combine cocoa and sugar; pour in the boiling water and whisk until smooth.  Gently pour sauce over batter in the slow cooker - DO NOT STIR.  Cover and cook on HIGH until puffed and the top is set. (I suggest 1 3/4 hrs, book suggests 2 - 2 1/4 hours.)

Turn off slow cooker and let sit, covered, for at least 30 minutes before serving.

To serve, scoop cake into individual bowls, add a scoop of ice cream. Spoon fudgy pudding over cake and ice cream and serve.

We had a bag of those little individual serve ice cream cups - the vanilla ones with either chocolate or strawberry drizzle.  They're just the right amount of ice cream to go along with this cake, and a fun twist is that with the strawberry drizzled ice cream, the whole thing tasted like a chocolately peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

(Shared with Tuesdays at the Table, Get Your Craft On, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Show Me What You Got, Tackle It Tuesday, and Anything Related, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, Make It Yours Day, Getting Crafty on Hump Day, Crock Pot Wednesday, We Did It Wednesday, What's Cooking Wednesday, It's a Keeper Thursday, Transformation Thursday, Show Off Your Stuff, Strut Your Stuff, Full Plate Thursday)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Whether you spend the day alone, with friends, with family, or with your sweetheart, may you find yourself in the company of those who love and cherish you.  Remember to be good to yourself!

One ornament finish today - the Quaker Valentine I'd stitched while I was out of town.  The chart is a freebie from a French site called Eliza's Passions... but my attempts to go there to give you a link wound up leading to a flashing blinkie bit of web scariness I didn't stick around at long enough to figure out what happened to it.  The chart is called Coeur 08 if you'd like to try to locate it.

That's all the finishes I'm in the mood for today - the day is grey and the wind is howling like crazy, and I'd rather go clean up my kitchen and put together a nice chocolately dessert for tonight.  My daughter's boyfriend decided he would like to take over my kitchen and make us pancakes for dinner which is just too sweet to say no to - and then we're watching a scary movie because too much sugar is bad for us!

(Don't worry - they had their Valentine's date out all day yesterday.  And I'll have mine this weekend when Michael comes in for a few days.)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 2/13 - 2/19

Well, huh!  I discovered this afternoon that my oven isn't working - at least not the regular heating coil... the broiler works fine, and the stovetop is fine, but  not the baking element.  I found out when I was attempting to cook some bacon in the oven.  I'm really glad it was that (which could still be cooked by doing it on the stove), and not the chocolate chip coffee cake I was planning to make - I'd have been crushed to have wasted the food.

It occurs to me that I'm not entirely sure when it stopped working - I haven't baked anything in over a week.  So, I'll need to get with the landlord on that. Which always intimidates and bothers me...whenever anything breaks, I get these little comments about how the house costs more than what i pay in rent to maintenance, and she really ought to just try to sell it.  To which I think - but do not say - boy, you are going to need to do a LOT more fix up than I ask for if you want to sell it... but also I am afraid of her putting us out before our intended move out this summer - and it would SUCK to need to find  place short term.

Ok ok, never mind..that was whining.

Here's my (oven-free) meal plan for the week:

Sunday, Feb 13

Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato and Avocado Sandwiches
Chopped Salad

Monday, Feb 14 (Valentine's Day)
Teriyaki Chicken with Snap Peas and Carrots

(oops - this is already changed. Daughter's boyfriend (already invited for dinner and a movie - they had their date OUT yesterday) asked me if he could cook and wants to make pancakes.  So pancakes it is!  I am only slightly concerned because I'm not sure he actually can cook, and will need to make sure everything he needs is set up for him.)

Slow Cooker Chocolate Peanut Butter Pudding Cake
(from Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker)

Tuesday, Feb 15
Slow Cooker Mac and Cheese
Hot Dogs

(oh my.... that recipe is super rich and cheesy awesomeness!)

Wednesday, Feb 16

Thursday, Feb 17

Chicken Pot Pie Soup

Friday, Feb 18
Spaghetti and Meatballs

Saturday, Feb 19
(Michael's out for the weekend)
Slow Cooker Sweet and Tangy Pot Roast
Braised Potato, Sweet Potato and Carrot Medley

Cherry Cheese Blintzes 

(Note - this may get pushed back to Sunday, if we decide to eat out Saturday.  Trying to dine out on Sunday evening in my town is very iffy.)

Shared with Menu Plan Monday, where every post will make you hungry!

Vegetarian Sushi

Meals have been difficult to coordinate this week!  Deanna is in the thick of drama practice, and so is either not home, or running in and back out again, so my meal plan only sort of worked and the parts that did work were those things that she could grab whenever without too much loss of quality if it sat for awhile.

One of the successes was the vegetarian sushi I made up yesterday - we love this stuff, but I've not made it since the weather turned cold.  It's easy, fast, and makes for good finger food whether you grab one piece on the run, or sit down to a plateful with wasabi and ginger slices.

Vegetarian Sushi
makes approx. 32 pieces

2 cups sushi rice
2 cups water
3 T. rice vinegar
2 T. sugar
1 T. salt
1 cucumber, sliced into sticks
1 avocado, peeled, halved, and sliced
3 oz block cream cheese, sliced into thin sticks
4 square nori wrappers
sesame seeds (black sesame seeds are good, regular ones are fine)
wasabi paste
pickled ginger slices
soy sauce (I prefer ponzu sauce, which is less strong tasting, so doesn't overwhelm)

Make the sushi rice:  Rinse the raw rice several times in cold water before putting into saucepan.  Add 2 cups cold water and bring to boil.  Once it begins boiling, cover and lower heat.   Cook for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let sit another 10 minutes.

While rice is sitting, combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt in a small microwave safe container, and heat for approximately 45 seconds. (You want this to be heated through, not cooked).   Set aside and slice fillings and prepare wrappers.

Using a brimmed cookie sheet, spread rice evenly in the sheet and let sit another couple minutes so that it reaches room temperature, then drizzle rice vinegar blend over rice and use a couple forks to blend the rice so that every grain is coated with the vinegar.

The easiest way to roll sushi is to have a small mat designed for the purpose.  In a pinch, try using a flat silicon mat or even a flour tortilla - the idea is to use the tool to roll and compress the sushi, but not roll the tool INTO the sushi.

Lay a sheet of nori on the mat, and spread a layer of sushi rice over the nori, covering the entire wrapper.  If desired, sprinkle rice with sesame seeds.

On the side closest to you, lay out thin strips of filling - avocado, cucumber and cream cheese. (Obviously, you can use all sorts of fillings here - cooked carrot strips add color and a bit of crunch.  I don't recommend more than 3 fillings, or it winds up being too large.) 

Using the mat, roll up the sushi, gently compressing and shaping until it is entirely rolled up.  Set sushi roll aside, seam side down.  Repeat with remaining rice, wrappers and filling.  The rolls benefit from sitting for a few minutes before slicing.

To slice, use a serrated knife - you may need to wet the blade to avoid sticking.  Cut each roll into bite sized slices - I generally get 10 slices, but the end pieces tend to fall apart - don't toss those!  Keep a bowl on hand for the 'oops, my sushi slice fell apart' bits.

These are better before they've been refrigerated, but they will hold up a few hours in the refrigerator (and will be fine the next day if you don't use avocado in them).  Serve with soy sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger slices.

Now, back to the cook....  I made four rolls because that was how many nori sheets I had left - so I wound up with a little bit of rice and filling slices on hand (I could have made about one more, I think) - so I added these to my bits and pieces bowl, sprinkled it with a bit of soy sauce and wow, guess what? That's just about as good as the rolled up sushi!  I may try this again someday when I want my sushi rice fix and I'm not in the mood to go through the rolling process.

(Shared with Midnight Maniac Meatless MondayCraftomaniac Monday, Motivate Me Monday, Made By You Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, DIY Project Parade, Market Yourself Monday, Made With Love Monday, Monday Mania, Tackle It Tuesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, Make It Yours Day, Getting Crafty on Hump Day, We Did It Wednesday, and What's Cooking Wednesday)

Stitching Finishes 2011

I've been focusing on my challenge projects, so I haven't gotten much done in the way of smaller projects - I've got a growing stack of smallish items that need to be finished off, and will get to those very soon.  But meanwhile, there are a couple items that are done and I want to record them before I forget them.

First is the TARDIS...remember this?  It was for Michael, but I'd not quite gotten in finished in time for Christmas.  It's all stitched up now, and I need to get some time with a real camera to get decent pictures and get the directions written down so I can put the pattern up on Etsy.  Slight is the case with all prototypes - I figured out some things as I went along, and in hindsight could have done better - the cross stitch part makes me happy.... it's the finishing.  So, I'm a bit leery of posting this for sale when I may well have a better way of handling it in a few months. Mull..mull....

The second little finish is the biscornu I worked while out at Michael's this past time.  Worked in shades of blue and pink (because it was sort of transitional between January and February), with small matching buttons.  This shows both sides of it - I'll be making these throughout the year, and they are going to wind up being at least some of the Christmas ornaments I give out this year.

Over this next week, I'm going to be getting a few of my other small stitchery finishes done and turned into ornaments, and my stitching focus is going to be back on the UU Blackwork Chalice until it's finished - I want to get it done and framed as soon as possible so it's ready for the auction next month.

In spite of Winter grabbing us all by the collective throats and shaking us - I just noticed the thermometer is over 50F today!  I'll be happy to finally turn my attention to spring, and hope that next year Winter and I have a happier relationship.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Massive Stitchery Update

Dunno what's going on with me this week!  Everytime I think about posting, the energy sucks straight out of me. (Personally, I think I'm just so very done with winter that I'm just plain out of sorts and blue.)

I've been doing a bit of housework, but I'm not exactly getting any great sense of accomplishment about it... either it's just uncovering more to be done, or it's stuff that is getting undone faster than I'm getting done.  I really, badly need the weather to warm up so I can throw open the windows and get some fresh air in here, literally and figuratively!

But I've also been stitching - and even remembering to take pictures, so I'm going to update on that in a one big post here, and call it a fresh start for tomorrow.

I kept to my bag of January Challenge projects - pulling one out each day.  Some only got a token measure of work...others kept my needle flying.  Being able to quickly move from one project to another is keeping the more challenging ones from getting laid aside and lost for months, as they normally would have.

This is "Don't Blink" - the Dr. Who themed stone angel I designed - it's going to take forever before this turns into anything that looks like anything, and it takes a lot of concentration while stitching to deal with the subtle color variations.

I'm a lot more excited to see what it will look like than I am during the stitching, but I am plugging away at it anyway.

Next, the Dolphins kit - I made a bit of progress on this one, but still a long long way to go (this bit is just the center of it... there's a large frame section that surrounds this).

This was a long lost WIP - when I first started it, it was intended for my eldest daughter, who collected dolphins.  Well... I had a suspicion that was past the last time I visited and none were to be I asked her, and had my suspicions confirmed.  She associated dolphins with her first husband (it was his go-to gift for her, so most of her collection was from him), and now that she's remarried, they're no longer appealing to her.  So when I do finish this, it's likely to stay with me or go to someone else.
All things considered, I'm glad I didn't finish it and give it to her - that would have been sad to have done all that work and have it wind up stashed away somewhere because she couldn't have it out and didn't feel right passing it along to someone else either.

I made just a little bit of progress on the perforated paper gingerbread house - and also realized that back when I started this, I completely missed an entire section of it - and didn't tuck away enough paper to finish the project.

Not an immediate issue, but I'm going to have to buy some more brown perforated paper to finish this - and hope I can find some that matches properly.

The Elizabeth B sampler from The Sampler Girl is one that kept my needle moving - the colors are not those suggested (I was using thread I had on hand), but I like the way it is turning out quite a bit, and I think about 2 more days of stitching will see it done.

The day I picked up Country Gallery, I had high hopes about making some real progress - but I wound up spending the day babysitting, and was quite happy to set it aside in favor or dancing with Hailey - she's discovered rhythm in a big way and is hilarious to watch.

So, I managed to finish the pig, and start the next square - the scale on this is so large, I'll be at it a long while, but since it's composed of all these smaller motifs, it doesn't feel quite so daunting as it might.

I made some good progress on the Beary Godmother (still not sure who will be getting this one) - I think another couple days will have this one done as well.

I would have gotten farther on it, too - except the wings involve a bit of sparkly thread mixed in with the regular floss, and while I always like the effect fine after its done, dealing with snarly, stupid sparkly floss puts me in an absolutely foul mood.  So I put up with it as long as I could, and then tucked it away for another day.

Unfortunately, the next day, I randomly pulled out.. the Wizard.  Which is nothing left to do but backstitch, some background half stitch - and more sparkly thread.  And just to be fun about it, I'm having to guess at what threads I ought to be using, because the threads to this kit are long since lost - and the graph only calls them 'blue' or whatever.

There is a Dimensions kit converter to DMC online.. but that's for Dimensions numbers and I think this thing is so old it predates their using numbers.  Mutter mutter...another one I'll be glad to be done with, but it's going to be grin and bear it the whole way.

Finally today I got in some more time with the Art of Stitchery's 2 part "Mystery" Sampler.  This is a really pleasant project and I think it's unfolding nicely.

So I've got four more to work on this month, and then I'll be turning my attention back to the Blackwork chalice to get it completed.

And hoping hoping hoping that spring will get rid of this snow once and for all before it's finished!

Monday, February 7, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 2/7 - 2/13

I have been really draggin' this past week... a lingering cold that just won't go away, coupled with a whole lot of grey, wet weather that is just making me feel totally droopy.  I'd love to just declare, 'This week will be different!" and will myself into a higher energy level, but if I had the secret to managing that, I'd have put it in motion years ago.

So, here's the meal plan.. and we'll just see how many nights actually turn into Deanna grabbing a sandwich on the fly, and me deciding cereal and a handful of trailmix will do me okay, too. (heh, I try not to let it get that bad, but you know....)

Monday Feb 7
Bourbon-Glazed Pork Chops
Mashed Potatoes
All-American Cole Slaw
Sauteed Apples

(This was an excellent meal - I loved the pork chops and apples... Deanna loved the mashed potatoes and cole slaw - I liked it too, but she really loved it.)

Tuesday Feb 8
Boneless Buffalo Chicken Tenders
Celery Sticks
Sweet Potato Fries

(I never got to these - instead my son - in - law brought me some Venison Burgers)

Wednesday Feb 9
Cooks Day Off

Thursday Feb 10
Chicken Curry Rice

(This turned into stir-fried chicken and cabbage with noodles - I needed to use the chicken from the buffalo tenders, and the remaining shredded cabbage, carrots and onion I didn't use in the cole slaw.)

Friday Feb 11
Vegetarian Sushi

(Had this on Saturday - I don't even remember what I ate...Deanna was out)

Saturday Feb 12
Chili Dogs
Waffle Fries
Orange Slices

Nope..some other day, this was sushi.

Sunday Feb 13

Shared with Menu Plan Monday, where people are feeling much more inspired than I am. :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Feb New Moon TUSAL

The New Moon is in Aquarius, ushering in all all sorts of idealistic energy - it's a great time to express our higher aspirations.  Creativity melds with individuality and the spark of the divine we each carry within us, so that the work we do with our hands become an act of spirit - a manifestation of what we hold sacred.

It's a good moon cycle to encompass the romantic focus of Valentine's Day, don't you think?  It helps us understand that love is how we best express the sacred perspective in our interactions with one another and ourselves.

Love infuses the work we do with our hands as well - each stitch an act of devotion, each thread a bond between the mundane and the divine.

Not every stitch I make is an act of meditation - but when I can, I try to stitch mindfully, to let the needle act as rosary, to count off little chants of worship... to remind me that some things are temporary, and some can be threaded together to be strong and much more permanent.

I thought to photograph my ort jar in the window to show off the snow that accumulated overnight - but by noon it was gone again.   Very transitional day, and I am very tired... I would like to hibernate and wake up again when spring is really, finally here.

Scattered thoughts...nap time.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Oat Scones for Imbolc

This morning, I made a batch of oatmeal scones for Imbolc - I used this recipe as my base, but put in bits of dried fruit instead of cinnamon chips (though they sound really good, don't they?) and gave the whole thing a little sprinkle of pink sugar in honor of the day. They made for a lovely start to the day with some butter and cherry jam, and I think I'll be having another in a little while with some tea.  They are hearty without being to heavy, and make for good comfort food.

Even so, these are too many scones to eat with just me and my youngest here (and she doesn't eat oats, so really, it's just me).  Fortunately, wrapping them individually and freezing works nicely, and they can be unwrapped and and rewarmed in the oven for about 10-15 minutes at 350F.

Here's the recipe... feel free to adjust the flours to all white or all wheat as desired:

Dried Fruit and Oat Scones

1 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
9 Tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
1/2 cup half and half
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup dried fruit (assorted or raisins or currants)
sprinkling of colored sugar (optional)

Spread oats out on a baking sheet and toast in 375F oven for 10-12 minutes, until slightly browned.

In food processor, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, salt and cinnamon and whir until combined.  Add butter and continue to pulse until flour is in pea sized bits.  (Manual alternative - combine dry ingredients in a large bowl, add butter bits, and use a pair of table knives to 'scissor' through the mixture to cut butter into dry ingredients until the flour is at a pea-sized consistency.)

In a large bowl, whip together half and half, egg, and vanilla.  Set aside 1 1/2 Tablespoons to brush on scones.  Mix remainder with flour mixture and oats, until nearly mixed, then add fruit bits and continue to mix lightly until a ball begins to form (don't over blend).

Turn dough out onto a floured surface and form a ball approximately 8" across.  Using a floured serrated knife, cut the dough into 8 wedges.

Place wedges on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper, close but not quite touching.  Brush with reserved milk mixture and, if desired, sprinkle with sugar.   Bake at 450F for approx. 15 minutes, rotating pan half way through.

Serve warm.

(shared with Made By You Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Homemaker Monday, Tuesdays At the Table, Get Your Craft On, All Thingz RelatedWhat's Cooking WednesdayWhatever Goes Wednesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, Make It Yours Wednesday, and Hoo's Got Talent?)

Stitching Progress - Majestic Peaock

No babysitting yesterday, and I took advantage of the lack of curious little hands to work more on what is the most complicated of my Challenge projects - Theresa Wentzler's Majestic Peacock from Day 5.

What makes this complex is all the blended threads - which means that it takes a lot of prep time to create and store the blended threads before the stitching even starts. 

But, being able to leave them out for the day, I was able to make good progress even while being busy doing other things as well.  I got the branch section finished as well as the apples and leaves surrounding it, and began work on the peacock.

I am tempted to just stay with it for awhile, but I think I want to make sure I work on each piece at least once each month, and then use the second half of the month to work on smaller projects as well as focus on one of these projects for a few days.  This month that project has to be the blackwork chalice because it needs to be finished in March.

But I really am loving this peacock a lot, and looking forward to coming back to it.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Stitching Progress - Quaker Sampler

Yesterday was mainly taken up with babysitting and cleaning, but I did pull out the Quaker Sampler from the January Challenge (Day 8) to work on a bit a time throughout the day. 

It was slow going - not only was I able to do just a few stitches at a time, but I realized I'd made a counting error and wound up undoing most of what I'd done, and needing to redo it.

I managed to finish the half-medallion at the bottom, and set one small motif to the left of it.

It is clearly going to be impossible to ever get a good picture of this on my cell phone...ah well.

Happy Imbolc!

Are you seeing any early signs of spring or are you in one of the many areas being slammed by winter today?  For a change, we didn't get hit - instead the thermometer showed 47F and it rained off and on for most of the day. Back to freezing temperatures tomorrow, and snow in a couple of days - but for today at least, I could see vague hints of spring.

I've spent the last couple days trying to whip through some of the cleaning I'd intended to do in January - I'll be devoting the month to it - along with babysitting and a bit of downtime spent stitching.

My Imbolc observance was very simple - candles lit where the Frankie Cat won't knock them over, a walk through the house blessing it with sound from the delightful sleigh bell wand I won from The Deepest Well (it is also pulling double duty as a priapic wand right now) and incense, and laying out a little Brigid's Bed under my tree.... i's filled with a few little items... a dolly with a basket of flowers my mother gave me many years ago, a little nosegay of silk roses, the sleighbell wand, and a peacock feather for my patron goddess, Juno.

This is meant to be a fertility symbol to help usher in the reawakening of the earth, and also our own inner fertility and passion.  The dolly and wand act as goddess and god...roses for love, and Juno's blessing in her role as goddess of marriage  - she blesses this union and binds it together.

(None of this is 'standard'... it is what works for me.  I want to say that as I don't want this googled and suddenly being taken as canon.  Juno and Brigid are not a part of the same pantheon.. but for me they each hark back to aspects of the goddess... in this case Brigid, the maiden, and Juno the mother who helps the maiden grow into her role as a bride.)

Tomorrow morning, I'm going to make scones, see what the groundhog has to say, and I think that will likely be it for my observance this year.  I don't let myself stress...simple or elaborate depends on circumstance and what makes sense for any given year.