Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Back Again

Michael and I drove back over the mountains yesterday - he'll spend the rest of the week here with me before we head into another period of separation.  I'm honestly at the point of no longer really knowing which way is 'home' ... just about three months to go before moving, but so much to deal with before then.

Daughter did a good job on her own - this was her test run (with a lot of available local support, including her sister), and I think it spelled out for her just how important it is that she learn to cook a few things.  The easy dinner I'd left in the freezer for her got old fast, from what she said.  So good on that - I'll try to get her into the kitchen more often to prepare a few of her favorite meals.  That's one of those things we keep saying, but she has had no honest interest in actually doing before now.

I had a lovely little package waiting for me - I won Witchy Gumbo's sweet little clay goddess tea light holder.  She did mine in a beautiful peacock blue and opening the package and placing it on my altar was just about the first thing I did last night.

Isn't she lovely??  I love how her expression of calm seems to turn to a smile once the tea light is lit.

This morning, we're just chillin', but I'm going to need to get myself resituated this afternoon - figure out what groceries are still on hand, figure out my menu plan, clean out the refrigerator, put away my things... The weather is grey and somewhat drippy...more suited to curling up with a good book.

Oh!  I had neglected to let you all know what happened on Sunday - when we went back to church, I got a whole lot of really positive comments about my blackwork piece, along with commiseration at it's going for a lower price than it should have, and people hoping I'd submit something for next year's anyone (of course!).  And then one woman asked if she could commission me to make another for her daughters (at Davies UU, the children come up and sing the hymn quoted in the piece, as well as express it in sign language).  So I'll be stitching her one - same over all style, but changing the various blackwork design blocks and using purple and pink threads.  I'm also going to incorporate her children's names in Ogham, as they are named after Ogham trees.  So fun challenge for me and getting paid for it.  Good times!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Play's the Thing

Just a few more things I want to make note of this week before time drifts too far away.

The first is for those who are either in Second Life or who have some curiosity about this unstructured virtual world.  Unlike WoW or other virtual playgrounds, SL isn't set up to encourage competitive play or aggression, nor is there any specific goal or point system.  It is simply a virtual world where your avatar can live, socialize, shop and play.  Many places are purely social, although loners can enjoy creating objects, settings, even clothing and other avatar accessories.  There are also thriving role play groups of every sort you can imagine and recreations of real-world places and eras.

Among my favorite hang outs is ROMA - built by an archaeologist with a strong background in Roman history, ROMA offers a loose role play experience (that is, they're not going to beat you up and mock you if you don't stay 'in character') and has a very active and robust group of participants.  Every month, an entire weekend is devoted to a series of festival activities, highlighting Roman customs and holidays and offering a little something for everyone.  This past weekend, it was my pleasure to lead a ritual to Juno for Matronalia (which is actually observed March 1).  And while you might think that a 'virtual ritual' is simply play, I've found that it isn't - the Internet has been hosting online ritual for widely spread apart pagans for many years now, and for those of us who do not easily find ourselves able to join together with others for ritual, I think this is an excellent way to do so.  Adding the three dimensional element and the ability to have tools and visual cues adds greatly to the experience.

As for Matronalia - it is ancient Rome's Mother's Day - Juno acts in her capacity as protector of childbirth and midwives and is petitioned for blessings for easy, healthy deliveries. Those involved in the ritual wear their hair loose - no knots (normally, Roman women would never been seen publicly without their hair up), and their clothing was also loosened and entirely without knots.  The reason for this is to 'unbind' the womb and allow for a relatively painless delivery.

Matronalia was also a day when the husbands would offer their wives presents as a thank you for bearing them children and the wives in turn would offer thanks to the household servants by preparing a fine meal for them and serving it to them (here again, respectable Roman women of any rank would not cook for the household, but instead leave that to the servants). 

I think all in all it makes for a nice acknowledgment of women - of Juno as Divine Mother, of mothers and wives, and all those who help make the home pleasant and full of life.


On Sunday, it was the UU Auction I'd been waiting for!  My Blackwork Chalice was one of the pieces bid on, and went for $30.00.  I'd hoped it would go for a bit more, but that was in line with other original art pieces that were offered, and I think it (and some other pieces) suffered a little from coming late in the auction after people had spent their budget.   Even so, the woman who bought it seemed to enjoy it and I had a wonderful time.

Michael and I went in agreeing to be cautious about buying much.. and came out with some nice trinkets anyway - an Austrian porcelain pitcher and pair of handle-less cups, a large Asian urn, a woven yarn basket, an onyx UU chalice necklace for me..

The big ticket items of the day were the minister's offer of a sermon on the subject of the winner's choice, and a very thorough car cleaning by a gentleman with a reputation for doing a really excellent job.

I'm already thinking about what I want to donate for next year.


Lastly, I want to note our plans for the next couple days.  Tomorrow night, we're off to go see Morgue Story performed by the Molotov Theatre Group.  It promises to be bloody awesome.

Then the next evening, we're joining my oldest daughter to watch the Port Tobacco Players do Shadowlands, about C.S. Lewis.  That makes a total of three plays in one week, counting the Oz play we saw last weekend.  It's like our own personal Fringe week!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Chicken Piccata with Mushrooms

Mm... Chicken Piccata, based on this recipe by Giada De Laurentiis.  My photograph doesn't begin to do this justice.

This is one of my favorite ways to prepare chicken - it has so many flavors I love...capers, lemon, mushrooms (Giada doesn't use mushrooms - but I do!).

I don't think I need to retype the recipe - if you'd like to make it the way I did, toss in a carton of sliced button mushrooms into the broth at the point where you add the capers, and let them simmer until they're cooked.

I didn't use fresh parsley, mainly because we didn't have it on hand.  I also didn't use white wine (not called for in the original, but awesome when you've got it) - a bit or wine along with the broth is an excellent addition.

I served mine with angel hair pasta.  Dinner was very, very quiet because we were both far too busy eating to converse.

(Shared with I Heart Cooking Clubs and also Made By You Monday, Mad Skills Monday, DIY Project Parade, Homemaker Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Made with Love Monday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Anything Related, Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, Tasty Tuesdays, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Tuesday Night Supper Club, Made from Scratch Tuesdays, 33 Shades Tasty Tuesdays, Your Recipe, My Kitchen, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, Make It Yours Wednesday, Hoo's Got Talent, Full Plate Thursday, Strut Your Stuff Thursday, Show Off Your Stuff, It's a Keeper Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Tackling Mark Bittman and His Buddies, Foodie Friday, Flaunt It Friday, Frugal Friday, Weekend Wander, March Recipe Exchange, Check Me Out Saturday, Weekend Wrap-Up Party)

Ostara Giveaway from Ponderosa Pagan

Are you looking for some new altar lovelies for Ostara and spring?  Take a look at what Ponderosa Pagan is offering - every item has been carefully selected, blessed, handmade ... one way or another, each one has significant meaning.

Isn't that just the best sort of gift to receive?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Off to Oz

Before I do another thing, here's a little goodie for those who like Oz and enjoy a bit of stitchery - the Oz logo - feel free to shade it as desired - shades of green for the Emerald City, perhaps?

Oz was the first realm of legend that ignited my passion - when I was a kid, the movie came on TV once a year, and that date was looked forward to by all of us with the same excitement and anticipation as any other holiday.  It's something entirely lost on children today - if you want to watch the movie, it's there on the shelf.  And no matter what they're watching on any given night, there are so many channel choices that only a small subset of friends will have watched the same thing.

That probably sounds odd - but we were totally united on Oz Day by our shared viewing of the same movie.

Still very young, I discovered the book - and from there, the books.   There was the thrill of finding out that the movie only covered  a portion of the story... and then all those sequels!  It was a matter of some years for me to carefully hoard allowance money to buy one hardcover book in the Oz series as often as I could... and later, when I was needing to cull childhood things in preparation for leaving my parent's home, they were the only things I regret giving up.  What on earth was I thinking?  Not much, other then that childish assumption that if you love something as a child, it must be put behind you as an adult.

The day you realise this is not true... that's when you truly become a grown up.  And sometimes, as they knew in Oz... it's too late at that point.  I could probably re-collect that set of books in some version or another (I believe the ones I bought have been out print for many years now) but it wouldn't be the same. 

Even so.. it's possible to read many of Baum's Oz books online now, as they've entered the public domain.  If for some reason you've never discovered Oz beyond MGM's vision, do check them out.  Wonderful World, indeed!

Now, there were a few reasons why this wasn't posted on time for the Oz Celebration, but one of them, oddly enough, is that I was attending Deanna's spring play, entitled, no kidding... Oz.  They'd done a straight up version of The Wizard of Oz before Christmas as a children's play.  This version was for thespian competition - it is a much more adult variation, and they won regionals with it and are now going onto State.

It was an interesting version - a girl named Beth is mourning the loss of her sister, who died in a car accident, and she blames herself..   She falls asleep, and is woken up by a tornado apparently hitting the house and then she's visited by a crew of bustling people ("Hair" and "Wardrobe" and "Props") who do a quicko presto changeover so that she looks like Dorothy and then she's in Oz, insisting she's NOT Dorothy and she doesn't belong in the movie.

Inevitably, of course, she has to figure out how to get to the wizard - in this case hoping the wizard can make her life as it was before the car accident.   She can't take the Yellow Brick Road.. in a really hilarious scene, we learn that the Road was sold off to China, but she comes across Dorothy's companions anyway and they all sort of try to make it to the Emerald City.  I say sort of because these three are quite a bit more dysfunctional than their movie counterparts.  The Cowardly Lion is scared of everything and extremely paranoid (Ahh! What's that big blue thing overhead? SKY??!  Is it trying to kill me??).  The Scarecrow is stuuuuupid.  And proud of it.  VERY proud of it, with a big dumb grin and a wink.  The Tinman... well, without a heart, he's mean and as mouthy as House.

And then there is the Witch - who is looking for that girl, Dorothy because someone is going to pay for killing her sister.. but she comes along to see the wizard too, because she likes Beth and this band of misfits just fine.  They become such good friends, in fact, that when she learns it was the house Beth was in that landed on her sister, she realizes it was no one's fault - Beth wasn't steering the house..

...and of course you can see how this is the same answer Beth needs regarding her own sister... blame is pointless, and she's not wicked anymore than the witch is.  They're both simply mourning for their lost sister.

It was such a joy to watch because most of it was funny and then at the end, wham.  Haul out the tissues.

What's Cookin' This Week: 3/20 - 3/26

Heads up for entries tonight!  Meanwhile, I think I've got a menu plan sorted out for the week - I'm with Michael this week, and he shopped before I got here, so I wanted to try to work as much as possible with the items he picked out.  It's kind of  a fun challenge, and he shopped well!  I've got this extended out a bit, to cover the duration of my visit.

Sunday, Mar. 20
Michael cooked for me -

Simmered chicken
Brown Rice
Herb and Cheese Stuffed Mushrooms
Cole Slaw (I'd brought out leftover from the day before)

Monday, Mar 21
Black Pepper Marinated Tilapia Filets
Vegetable Medley
Tossed Salad

Tuesday, Mar 22
Sauteed Mushrooms
Tossed Salad

Wednesday, Mar 23
Dinner at daughter's house.

Thursday, Mar 24
Lemon Pepper Salmon
Brown Rice
Garlicky Sweet Potatoes

Friday, Mar 25
Attending play - dinner out.

Saturday, Mar 26
Slow Cooker Chicken Chili
Corn Bread or Tortilla Chips

Sunday, Mar 27
Dinner at daughter's house.

Monday, Mar 28
Ground Turkey Taco Salad

(shared with Menu Plan Monday)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to Oz...

Oh dear - I have to apologize for my delay in joining in on the Celebrate OZ festivities hosted by the always delightful Olde Bagg.  Wouldja believe my hot air balloon accidentally floated away?  No?

Lots to write about Oz related and otherwise, because it's been an insanely busy weekend with more to come today, but I will sit down, put my feet up and tell all. Meanwhile, keep following the Yellow Brick Road!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Caramel Dip

Some people crave sugar, some salt, some crunchy, some gooey.  I tend toward gooey whims, but my idea of perfect is when you can get it all at once with just a few minutes of time and a little bit of patience.

That's all it takes to make this marvelously decadent caramel dip - I made this up last night to have with pretzels (crunchy, salty....) and I'm having a bit more of it today with crisp apple slices. SO good...

Caramel Dipping Sauce

1/3 c. butter
3/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. corn syrup
2/3 c heavy cream or half and half

Heat together butter, sugar, brown sugar and corn syrup until melted.  Bring to a boil, and let cook for about 6 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest for 5 minutes, then stir in cream.   Cool in refrigerator (will thicken as it cools).

Makes 2 1/2 cups.

If you take a taste before it's cool, keep in mind this stuff is HOT and sticky.  Don't burn your tongue!

(shared with  Strut Your Stuff Thursday, Show Off Your Stuff Thursday, It's a Keeper Thursday, Transformation ThursdayFlaunt It Friday, Sweets This Week, Midnight Maniac Meatless Mondays, Made By You Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Making the World Cuter Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, DIY Project Parade, Homemaker Monday, Mouthwatering Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Made with Love Monday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Anything Related, Hearth and Soul Blog Hop, Tasty Tuesdays, Totally Tasty Tuesdays, Tuesday Night Supper Club, Made from Scratch Tuesdays, Tuesday Tasty Tidbits, 33 Shades Tasty Tuesdays, Your Recipe, My Kitchen, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, Make It Yours Wednesday, Hoo's Got Talent)

Free Ostara/Easter Egg Graph

I so wanted to get this out earlier than this - It's been a scattered, scattered week and it looks like this year, sinus headaches are going to be an issue for me.  I never used to be this bothered when I was younger! The things they don't tell you about getting older...hrmph!

But, we are on the very verge of Spring, so enough talk of growing old!   The Vernal Equinox, which takes place on Sunday, March 20 at 7:10pm EDT marks the point where day and night are equal lengths - 12 hours of daylight, 12 hours of dark, and when the position of the sun is such that it rises exactly east and sets exactly west.   Ostara is the name of a Germanic goddess of spring and fertility and is the source for the word 'Easter' - and while it has been readopted by many modern pagans, it has a long history - the Venerable Bede, around 400 AD speaks of the connections.

Most of the symbols used for Easter have their roots in the pagan customs (and here again, if we think about it, religions do not develop apart from the culture in which they develop - we all modify what we do to give it meanings we prefer - early Christians would have been no different, layering their new spiritual views on top of traditions they already cherished... less a replacement or 'theft' as some might call it, then a blending of custom and meaning). Rabbits were fertility symbols.  Baby animals were - well for starters, they were everywhere, because that's what happens in spring!  But their use as a symbol pointed to new life.  Flowers, again, pointed to life after a seeming period of death.  And eggs... eggs are one of the most universal symbols there are, found in many, many cultures.  It is self contained and whole, protective, literally a necessity for fertility and birth, and so is used also to symbolize the rebirth of life that occurs in the spring.

My graph for this holiday, then, is an egg decorated with springtime shades of variegated floss and spiral shapes to show the cycle of life.  I have left the choice of floss shades up to you - pick what pleases you so that every egg is unique.  I stitched mine on perforated plastic so that I can cut around the egg shape and finish it easily, but that's only one option.

As always, should you stitch it, let me know - I'd love to share a picture of what you've done with it!

(shared with Hookin Up with HoH, Strut Your Stuff Thursday, Show Off Your Stuff Thursday, It's a Keeper Thursday, Transformation ThursdayFlaunt It Friday, Sweets This Week, Amaze Me Monday, Craftastic Monday, Mad Skills Link Party, Motivated Monday, You're So Very Creative Monday, Inspire Me Monday, Made By You Monday, Mad Skills Monday, Making the World Cuter Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, DIY Project Parade, Homemaker Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Made with Love Monday, Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Anything Related, We Did It Wednesday, Whatever Goes Wednesday, Show and Tell Wednesday, Make It Yours Wednesday, Hoo's Got Talent

Monday, March 14, 2011

Culling Cookbooks

I took a few minutes this morning to deal with another section of bookshelving - this was hard because it wasn't old paperback fiction I know I'll never read again... no, this was my beloved cookbooks.  I've been out of adequate space for awhile, so I haven't bought any new ones this year (though Michael gifted me with a wonderful artisan chocolate making book for Valentine's Day), but I am not kidding when I say that these are among my very favorite possessions.  I refer to them often even if I - like everyone - tend to grab recipes from online.  I read them for pleasure.  Every single one of them has at least one go-to recipe I come back to time and again.

So, while sorting and tidying them was easy enough - I determined to cull them down to three shelves worth.  I didn't quite make it, as you can see - I got to three and a half...and already I'm thinking, Ok, that gives me a little room for growth.  But not really, because when Michael and I blend households, I will get my hands on his collection - not as many as I have, but some good ones and not repeats of mine.

The stacks of cookbooks for the yard sale seems small by comparison - and I need to quickly get these stowed away out of sight - there were a couple there I wavered on, and if I keep looking at them, I know I'm going to snag them back.  How funny is it that I keep hearing the people from Clean House urging me to include some good things for the yard sale and to let it go...

The hardest part is yet to come - I have a large (LARGE) collection of Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Cooking Light magazines.  I haven't decided if I should bundle them to include in the sale or not .  I really would love to keep them - but they do take up a lot of space and it feels like it's probably time to pass them on.  Argh, hard choices!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 3/13 - 3/19

Deanna's next round of play rehearsals are gearing up, so it's back to not being sure for day to day exactly when or if she'll be home for dinner.   So I'm focusing on things that are either fast to fix or that can survive simmering awhile or reheating.  Here are more 4 menu items for this week, with the assumption that there will be leftovers to flesh out the week:

Beef and Cannelloni Minestrone
(I will be using meatballs instead of loose ground beef)
Caesar Salad


Slow Cooked Shredded BBQ Chicken Sandwiches
Cole Slaw
Mashed Potatoes
Corn on the Cob


Broccoli and Cheese Chowder
Tuna Melt Sandwiches
Cole Slaw


Smoky Chipotle and Cheddar Mac with Chorizo
Tossed Salad

(shared with Menu Plan Monday

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WIP, Thursday

I didn't get around to this update yesterday - it's been a very scattered week for me.  But there has been a bit of stitching done.

Let me start with the failure.  This is the Dr. Who Time piece I'd designed - I've been concerned about the color choices ever since I began it, and finally, when I picked it up again, decided it just isn't working.  So, rather than waste time with it, I've abandoned it.  I'll go back to the drawing board and try again, but not just now.  Meanwhile, my January 15 Challenge is now the January 14 Challenge.

On a brigher note, there was also a Challenge finish - the Elizabeth B Sampler from The Sampler Girl.  I'd intended to put this into a frame for Deanna - but she asked if it could be finished as a small pillow instead, and that sounded like a sweet idea.  So it is tucked away until I choose the right fabric to back it.

Another finish is the Sampler Girl's lovely shamrock needlecase I started last week.  I'm so pleased with how this turned out, I need to show it off in a series of pictures.

This is the entire needlebook opened up.  The finish is done with a nuns stitch, which I've never used before, but it made for an extremely neat stable edging without having to hem.  I'll be using that technique a lot now that I know how simple it is.

There are two layers of felt stitched into the center of the folded over cover - it feels soft and yet solid and the design just makes me smile - it's gentle and cheery. I'm very much looking forward to using this regularly, and it has me thinking of other possibilities... a notebook cover? A wallet?  I very much want to do more 3-dimensional pieces like this.

Now for some ongoing progress... just a bit.  I didn't dive as deeply into my challenge projects as I would have liked - but I did do a little more on my Quaker project (and have just completely given up of this ever looking right on camera), and dealing with some of the background on the dolphin piece.  Mostly just a lick and a promise with each of them.

This is another one where my camera is just not up to the task of capturing the colors - they are actually very vibrant...all sorts of blues and greens and turquoise and teal.  I'm enjoying it more as I go along, although I can't stitch it for very long at a pop because all the abstract color switches require more concentration than I usually have patience for.

Finally, I added another new start - the Spring Quaker Square from the May 2007 issue of the Gift of Stitching.  Just to be different, I decided to do this one over one square of 25ct evenweave.  The needle is laying there in the picture to show how tiny these stitches are.  I used a Threadworx floss in shades of tan and pale turquoise, and while I'm not sure how often I my eyes can deal wit the itty bitty stitches, I'm really loving how it looks.

And that is it for this week. :)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

What's Cookin' This Week: 3/6 - 3/12

Most of my menu plan this week depends on whether or not I get to the grocery store early in the week, but assuming I can, here's my plan for the week:

Simmered Lemon Chicken
Fresh Fruit Cup (orange, grapefruit, fresh pineapple)

MARDI GRAS (Tuesday)
Crepes with Sausage Gravy 
Red Beans and Rice
Mixed Summer Squash


Beef and Cannellini Bean Minestrone


Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese


Stir-Fried Noodles and Veggies
Fried Wonton Strips


Vanilla Pudding and Fruit Parfaits

(shared with Menu Plan Monday)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Canned Biscuit Donuts

Grey day today - so a bit of easy good cheer was in order. These donuts are easy - easy enough that I had the idea and made them all in the span of time Deanna was in the shower.   All it takes is a can of biscuits - I used the Buttermilk Grands (I am told to avoid the extra buttery flaky styles for this)

I have an electric deep fryer, but it felt like too much hassle to pull it out, so I just used my wok and poured enough oil in it to give me 2" worth.  I heated that up (I know there are ways to be sure of the exact temperature - I just waited for that point where water droplets tossed on the oil sizzles good but doesn't explode into oily shrapnel all over the place).

While the oil was heating, I used the cap from the bottle of oil to cut out holes in the center of each biscuit. (Also, a knife to complete the cut out)  Naturally, if you have a small biscuit cutter, you can use that - but don't let not having one stop you!  One can gets 8 donuts and 8 donut holes.

Once the oil is ready, I used a wire spoon to ease a donut or two into the oil - they'll float and it doesn't take long at all for them to be ready to flip and then to remove...maybe a minute each side?  The donut holes would automatically flip when they were browned - for the donuts, the wire spoon or a fork would be needed to turn them.

The standard rule for deep frying applies here - don't crowd them!  It lowers the temperature of the oil, makes things stick together and otherwise just is a bad idea.  And this is so fast, there's no need to get impatient about it.

Once they're done, remove them to a dish covered in paper towels to drain - if your oil was the right temperature, they won't be greasy, just hot, and they only take a couple minutes to cool down. 

You can see in this picture that there were a couple that got a bit too brown - fortunately, they still tasted fine, but its only a matter of seconds between perfectly golden and very dark.

By the time they were all done, they were cool enough to finish off - I had some leftover frosting in the refrigerator, so.. two of the donuts got chocolate frosting, two got caramel frosting (yum), two got the drizzle from a leftover packet included with some toaster pastries, and the remaining two donuts along with all the donut holes got a good shaking in a baggie of cinnamon sugar.

The frosted ones are good - but the cinnamon sugar donuts were our favorite, and I'll probably just do all cinnamon sugar next time.  Well...unless next time I try filling them with jelly or custard...

There will be a next time - these were awesome!

(shared with Weekend Wander, Check Me Out Saturday, Weekend Wrap-Up, Saturday Nite Special, Show and Share Day, Show and Tell Saturday, Sunday Showcase, Not Baaad Sunday, Making the World Cuter Monday, Made By You Monday, Making Monday Marvelous, Homemaker Monday, Market Yourself Monday, Made with Love Monday, Tuesdays at the Table, Tempt My Tummy Tuesday, Get Your Craft On Tuesday, Anything Related Tuesday)

Friday, March 4, 2011

March New Moon TUSAL and a Little Bit O'Green

Here's my ort jar, out for display for this month's New Moon TUSAL (Totally Useless Stitch-A-Long).  At some point this will get turned into a larger mason jar, but I want to keep this one out as long as I have room in it (or until moving day, whichever comes first), so I smooshed it down pretty good before taking the picture.  I'm curious what others plan to do with these piles of orts? I'm thinking of using this as stuffing for some end of the year ornament.

We finally got around to switching out Deanna's very pink February tree and got it ready for Spring.  For right now, it feels a little bare (much like the trees outside), but there is a garland of daffodils, and a few Celtic and St. Paddy's decorations (not the same thing, I know).  We've also got a couple hints of Ostara and Easter there, with more to come over the next couple weeks, as we remove the Irish items and replace with eggs and rabbits and probably NOT any birds nests, though one of these years I am going to sit down and make a few for the tree.

I'm pretty iffy about St. Patrick's Day - he's a saint  for having 'driven the snakes out of Ireland'.. and the snakes in question where the Druids that were there.  It is a story of religious conquest, and I'm sort of biased toward the side that was defeated, so....

But St. Patricks day has very little to do with St. Patrick (he doesn't even get a cartoon version of himself a symbol, unlike St. Nick) and not all that much to do with Ireland.  The symbols, though... I like those.  Faery folk, tokens of good fortune, rainbows for hope and prosperity, silliness and merriment and goodnatured trickery.. It's not in me to find any fault with this little holiday.  Beyond even that, for me, it has some delightful personal memories attached - I used to work for a man who was Irish-American and sung in Irish pubs at night as one of his hobbies. He even looked quite a bit like a leprechaun.   And St. Patrick's Day was his holiday - he'd come into work with a large box and pull out ... a black plastic cauldron filled with chocolate coins, shamrock garland, rainbow decorations, shortbread cookies .... all sorts of decorations and goodies.  And he set up a display on the coffee table in the break room, wish everyone he saw all day a Happy Saint Patrick's Day, often bring in a big pot of stew to simmer in the kitchen for everyone's lunch. He went out for the day like many of us did for Christmas, and it was just flatly impossible not to go through the day smiling.

He's the reason why I have a few of these decorations for my tree - and come the day, I'll toss on some good Irish drinking tunes, and lift a glass to one of the sweetest men I've ever had the pleasure of working for.

(shared with Someday Crafts St. Patrick's Day Party)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

WIP Wednesday: A Start, A Finish, and a Bit of Progress

I've been doing a lot of decluttering and sorting, so my stitching time has been in small bits this week - I managed a little every day, usually in the evening while watching a movie - but my main focus has been trying to downsize what I plan to hang onto after I move.

A couple days ago, I got through one large bookshelf (out of four that I have filled with books) and culled 35 books to sell at an upcoming yard-sale.  I'm setting a goal of 120 books total to pass on to others - things I don't plan to reread, things that reflect interests I have moved away from.  It's tough - I'm definitely the sort of person who feels good the more surrounded I am by my books, but sometimes, you have to let things go, if only to make room for new things and new experiences, and now is my time to do just that.

Poor Deanna is also going through this same process - except her piles are "Toss", "Give away/sell", "Have Mom hold onto" and a small "Keep" pile.  Her mantra right now is "I haaaate this!!!!"  I do feel for her - the first time is rough and it feels like you're stripping away your childhood.

So anyway.... stitching!

First, a small finish - a little spring ornament from Prairie Schooler's "Spring Miniatures" Collection:  It was fast, simple and looks very sweet.  A nice little project to help bring in the Spring Equinox. 

I will be working one or two more at least from that series this month - they're very fast and pleasant to stitch.

Next, a new start that I'll be finishing up over the next couple weeks - this is The Sampler Girls Irish Needlebook pattern.  The picture shows half of it - I actually am about half way through the other half, and then there is all the finishing to do.  Mine has a different tone than Sampler Girl's original - I used pale blue even weave and DMC colors.  I'm loving the way its coming out, and looking forward to using the needlebook once it's finished.

And finally, with a new month comes another run at each of my challenge projects. I have them all bagged up in a larger back, and yesterday I reached in and pulled out at random the Celestial Gatherings kit, and put in some time working on the moon.  This one continues to be slow going - but I so like the way it's turning out and it's going to be gorgeous when it's complete.

So that's it for this week - I expect this next week will be mainly occupied with working on Challenge projects and I hope I'll have a lot to show off next Wednesday!

Slow Cooker Beans and Franks

It could have been a tragedy - this was my plan for last night, and I followed the recipe for Beans and Franks here pretty much exactly, but this time, instead of cooking things too fast, the slow cooker was taking to long (actually, when it comes to dried beans, so much depends on the age of the beans, and I guess that m little bag of navy beans - new as it was to me, spent some time sitting on the grocery shelf).

At any rate, by 7pm, it was very clear that these beans weren't going to be ready until about 11 - and if I didn't have my meal plan figured out for the week, that would have meant cold cereal and an apology for dinner.  Instead, I pulled out the ground turkey, and a can of refried black beans, did some fast chopping, and we had Gorditas and black beans instead.  Whew!

The nice thing about that is that once the beans were done, I stowed them in the fridge for tonight, and so tonight was a nice simple meal - and the beans benefited by a day of refrigeration - the flavors are rich and melded together nicely.  I am freezing a portion for another meal later, and in spite of the unexpected complication, the week's plan is right on track.