Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

Whew, I got the turkey quilt done in time! It's more of a banner than a quilt, but I'm pleased nonetheless.







I didn't have time to even start the crocheted turkey. Maybe sometime this winter when my holiday crafting frenzy settles down I can take a crack at it.



My daughter made a couple of turkeys in school. This first one is a painted gourd. I think it looks more like a kiwi than a turkey! We have to keep it up high, otherwise the cats would make short work of those feathers.








This second one is a potato turkey. I'm not sure where her teacher got the turkey faces. My son made these back when he was in this teacher's class. He called his a "paturkey".







We are going to make the drive to spend Thanksgiving with my family. One thing I am thankful for is a mom who still likes to cook the meal and have everyone over!


I hope everyone reading this has much to be thankful for.










Sunday, November 23, 2008

Turkeys

How does embroidered turkey sound for Thanksgiving?




All credit for this idea goes to my brilliantly creative friend, Lynn, who made this fabulous redwork turkey quilt several (many?) years ago. I loved it when I first saw it, and last year when she blogged about it I thought Hey, I need to make one of those myself! But I forgot about that ambition until two days ago, when for some reason the thought suddenly popped into my head again: Hey! I should make that hand print turkey quilt and bring it to my mom for Thanksgiving! Because I certainly don't have anything else to do between now and Thursday, now, do I?


My kids were actually cooperative with my scheme (they're not always cooperative), and they sat down willingly to trace their hands and draw the turkey features. I hovered in the background with admonishments of "Don't make it too detailed! Nothing too elaborate!" I have to give myself some hope of actually getting this finished on time.




Even with sparse details, they still managed to give their turkeys individual personalities.


Their hands are much bigger than I thought they would be!

But I'm making progress.


I also saw a cute picture in the crochet pool on Flickr with a link to a free amigurumi turkey pattern. It's calling my name!


I need Thanksgiving to be over so that I can get back to all the Christmas projects I've been ignoring.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Apple Whipped Sweet Potatoes

My husband won't eat my famous Thanksgiving sweet potatoes. He is an adventurous eater, but he has his likes and dislikes, and sweet potatoes fall firmly into his will-not-eat category. Guess what? I make this for Thanksgiving anyway, every single year. Sometimes for Christmas, too!

Apple Whipped Sweet Potatoes

6 cups sliced, peeled apples
6 cups cubed, peeled fresh sweet potatoes (about 2.5 lbs)
3 cups apple juice or cider
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
2 T butter
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

Place apples, sweet potatoes, and apple juice in a saucepan; cover. Cook over medium heat about 20 minutes or until tender; drain.

Add salt, spices, butter, and sugar to apple mixture. Mash with mixer or by hand until potatoes are smooth. Spread evenly in an ovenproof serving dish. (At this point you can cover it and keep it in the refrigerator for a day before serving.) Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350 F oven for 15 minutes (or longer if it's been in the fridge). Serves 10. Recipe may easily be halved.

I don't have any photos of the apple whipped sweet potatoes because I won't be making them until Sunday to bring to my daughter's Thanksgiving potluck on Monday. I can tell you it looks like mashed sweet potatoes! And please don't get me started on these school Thanksgiving potlucks. Why do we need a full Thanksgiving meal three days before Thanksgiving? Grumble grumble grumble.

In lieu of food photos, I give you these two photos of our cats.



This is Tiger. If you look closely, you will see that the whiskers on her right are bitten short. I was trying to get a good photo of this because she looks so silly with her mismatched whiskers, but she is as bad as the kids when it comes to having her photo taken, all motion and blurriness and silliness when the camera comes out.


Here is the reason for the short whiskers, her sister Daisy, who bites off Tiger's whiskers while the two are snuggled up together. Daisy was happy to sit still for a portrait, probably to show off her lovely set of full whiskers.



Don't let that innocent expression fool you.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Hot Chocolate

How do you make hot chocolate? My daughter and I are big fans of hot chocolate, so I'm trying to find an easy method of making a really tasty cuppa.

We used to buy the mix-with-water hot chocolate, but one day I read the ingredients and that was the end of that. Now we buy chocolate powder that you mix with milk. Sometimes we buy a "fancy" brand, sometimes the not-so-fancy brand. I don't like the skin that develops when milk is heated, so my current method is to heat up water and stir in powdered milk with the chocolate powder. I use a little battery-operated frother to thoroughly dissolve all the powder.

I am waiting for this book to come in through interlibrary loan, so in the meantime I thought I'd ask how others treat themselves to hot chocolate.

It snowed today, so it's definitely hot chocolate weather!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Book Week: Pickle-Chiffon Pie

If you were a child in the 70s, you may already know this book. If you don't know this particular book, you'll at least appreciate the artwork as being evocative of children's books of that time.

I was a child in the 70s. I don't remember this book from my childhood, but a friend of mine clued me into it a few years ago (thanks, Tina!), and the first time I laid eyes on it I felt like a kid again.

This book has everything a great story should have: a king, a queen, a lovely princess, handsome princes, dragons, witches, a castle, a forest, and fantastical creatures. The king is a happy king, but he has a problem. His daughter is so lovely and kind that all the princes in the neighborhood hang around the castle all day. With all those princes hanging around all day, the king feels obligated to share his beloved Pickle-Chiffon Pie with them. The king is tired of sharing his pie. He wants it all to himself, so clearly the princess must be married to put an end to the constant hungry visitors. The king picks the three nicest princes and sends them off into the forest to find the most unusual, the most marvelous, the MOST WONDERFUL THING. The prince who brings back the MOST WONDERFUL THING may marry the princess.
The three princes set off, and each finds quite a number of unusual and wonderful things, but one prince finds that it's really difficult to bring back the MOST WONDERFUL THING. Should he force this wonderful thing to leave its home? Or should he give up and let another prince win the princess's hand?

The road to the happy ending is charming, colorfully illustrated, and full of magic, fun, and plain old good-hearted behavior that any child can appreciate.
Pickle-Chiffon Pie, by Jolly Roger Bradfield.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Book Week: Teddy Robinson

The Teddy Robinson stories were written in the 1950s by Joan G. Robinson, chronicling the real-life adventures the author's young daughter, Deborah, had with her teddy bear, Teddy Robinson. These stories are perfect to read aloud to young children who are ready for longer stories. Each story stands alone, and takes about 10 minutes to read out loud. Almost every page spread has a pencil drawing to keep a child's interest.The stories are told from Teddy Robinson's point of view. He is a member of the family, very much loved, and he loves the family right back. Teddy Robinson's adventures are simple. One night he is left out in the garden. One day he goes to dance class with Deborah. Yet another day Deborah has a tea party. Even though Teddy Robinson belongs to a girl, the stories will appeal to young boy listeners, because Deborah has a boy cousin who appears from time to time, and because Teddy Robinson is such a likable fellow that anyone would enjoy his antics.

Teddy Robinson is a complete character. He is sometimes brave, sometimes jealous, sometimes tired, and sometimes proud. The stories are written in a 1950s voice, and feature simple every day life. For example, the story "Teddy Robinson Keeps House" begins:

"One day Teddy Robinson sat on the kitchen table and watched everyone being busy. Mummy was cutting bread, Deborah was putting some flowers in a vase of water, and Daddy was looking for a newspaper that had something in it that he specially wanted to read. Teddy Robinson wished he could look busy, too, but he couldn't think of anything to be looking busy about."

Teddy Robinson does manage to find something to be busy about when Deborah and Mummy put him in charge of looking over the grocery delivery while they run an errand. Teddy Robinson is proud of his responsibility, and says to himself "I don't care how many people come and ask me to picnics or parties today. I just can't go to any of them. I'm far too busy."

The stories have been published in several different collections under different titles. From my brief look at Amazon, it doesn't look like any of the collections are currently in print, but many are available used. The Teddy Robinson Storybook , which we own, seems to have the most stories, but this paperback version by Kingfisher Classics , which I have purchased to give as a gift, has quite a few, too. The two books will have mostly the same stories, so don't purchase both expecting them to be two different books.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Book Week: Once Upon a Banana

I am joining Green Jello's book week a little bit late this week. If you are clicking here from her site looking for reviews, welcome! I have reviewed other children's books in previous posts. You can find those by clicking on the Alphabet Book and Books labels listed on the right side of the screen.



Today I will share a favorite of ours, Once Upon a Banana, by Jennifer Armstrong, illustrated by David Small. The text is very sparse. In fact, if I had not attended a talk David Small gave on the creation of this book, I don't know if I would have even noticed that there is text at all! The author created a poem of sorts out of signs one might see in a city. The poem begins:



Please put litter in its place

No parking in this space

Caution! Wet Paint!

Office of Complaint



David Small's challenge was to develop illustrations to tell a story based on the poem, and he came up with quite an entertaining, crazy scenario filled with plenty of details and action. The text is incorporated into signs in the illustrations, like this:



The story begins right away on the end papers, when a monkey runs away from its street performer owner.


There is an obvious story to follow as the monkey runs away and steals a banana, but many other stories take place in the background. Notice the waiter and the cafe customer in the background. They are never prominently featured, but the observant reader will watch a funny story unfold between those two characters throughout the book.



Cell phone guy appears throughout the first half of the story. He ends up playing a key role in the mayhem, but he's never really the center of attention, either. Disgruntled grocer appears repeatedly, not at all amused by the chaos surrounding him on this particular day.




This is a book a child could spend hours looking at, finding background characters over and over again throughout the book, making up stories about all the people, and watching the monkey's antics cause widespread pandemonium.

The back end papers are an overview illustration of the city block where the story takes place, along with a key to show exactly where all the action happened. That page alone could entertain some kids for quite a while!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Habitat

My daughter is learning about habitats in school. She had to make a shoebox diorama of her habitat at home, showing where she gets her food and drink, what she uses for shelter, and where she has space for living. She chose to make a diorama of her bedroom.


We still have paint cans with her bedroom colors, so she was able to paint her box the exact same color as her real bedroom. In real life only the walls of her bedroom are purple, not the floor and ceiling, too!



We went through some magazines and found a nightstand with a lamp and a bookshelf to add to her diorama. My daughter picked out a Polly Pocket to represent herself and made a bed out of a piece of wood and some fabric. She also made a little book for her little self to read, and found a Polly Pocket cat to add to the fun. She cut some pictures of food out of a magazine, and made a cupboard to store them in. I crocheted a small flower for a rug (she has a flower-shaped rug in her room). This is the kind of fun project that I could easily have taken right over, but it was her assignment and her work. I had fun watching her put the whole thing together. I was glad books were such a prominent part of her habitat!

Look out, little Polly Pocket. There's a giant peeking in your window.



Monday, November 10, 2008

I heart my landscaper


In the spring of 2007, we had our front yard professionally landscaped. Hiring landscapers was a bit out of character for us, but we had just had our porch replaced and our walkway was in desperate need of replacing as well. All of the plants we had put in ourselves years ago were overgrown, and controlling them was next to impossible because myrtle was running rampant and strangling everything in a chokehold. Myrtle is so pretty in the spring with it's little periwinkle flowers, but it's really pure evil in disguise. Seriously. That stuff will tear down buildings if you let it go. I tried to weed the myrtle myself, but it had a tenacious hold on most of my flower beds, and it fastened its tentacles into the ground faster than I could pull it out. Plus, it was harboring multiple yellow jacket nests. The whole thing scared me. I felt beaten down and in need of professional help.

We gave the landscaper nothing more than our budget, told him to rip out everything, and do whatever he saw fit within our budget. We gave him no suggestions for plantings at all.


And then we held our breath and hoped that we had not made a horrible mistake.


For three days our front yard was a big cloud of dust. It was hard to see what was going on out there! But after the trucks drove away and the dust settled, we could see that our yard had been transformed, and we liked what we saw.

The nicest change is the Mount Airy Fothergilla planted under the front window. There are 5 of these lovely shrubs, and each season they have surprised us. In the spring they burst forth with big downy flowers, and in the fall they turn this lovely shade of red.


I don't think they turned red last year. Since they had only been planted for a few months, it's possible they were still in shock. It's been extra pleasing to see them this fall in all their blazing glory.
I had never heard of Mt. Airy Fothergilla until these five bushes were plunked down in my yard. While my preference will always be to do things myself, I'll admit, sometimes it's nice to let go and let someone else make the decisions and do the work for you!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

dolly in a pocket

I've been working on a present for my baby niece. She'll be one in December, so this will either be for her birthday or for Christmas. I haven't decided yet.



The embroidery patterns are from Annie Oakleaves's eenies. She has free eenies patterns on flickr, and more eenies patterns for purchase in her etsy shop. I love the pointy hats and the mushroom houses. I instantly think fairytale.





I got the pocket pillow idea from Crafty Carnival.


Originally I thought I'd make little dolls out of both the eeny and the mushroom, but then I decided to incorporate the embroidered mushroom as a square on the pillow. I like how it turned out, especially with the mushroom fabric on the pocket. I love that mushroom fabric. I bought it in a weak moment while browsing Superbuzzy, and now I'm doling it out a little bit at a time, small project by small project.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I didn't have to wait in line

My kids had the day off from school today, so I took them with me to watch me vote. They have seen me vote in local elections before, but never a presidential one. Voting for your country's leader is a significant part of being an American, and I wanted my kids to be involved. I decided last week that we'd head for the polls mid-afternoon, hoping that we'd get a lull between the lunch rush and the off-from-work-early rush.

My neighbors reported a 90 minute wait this morning, so I packed a book and told the kids to be prepared. In 2004, I remember standing in line for quite a long time. Imagine my surprise when we got to the school and there was no line at all! There was just one person in front of me. Where the heck was everyone? I'd be worried that turn-out is bad, but the poll workers assured me that the place had been jam-packed up until about noon. I guess my calculations on the best time to vote were extremely accurate!

To everyone who got out to vote today, especially if you were one of the ones who waited in a long line, thanks for doing your part.

And in a sea of serious campaign signs, this one just cracked me up:



Monday, November 3, 2008

November


November is not my favorite month. I know lots of lovely people who were born in November, so please don't take my dislike of November personally. My feelings about this month are absolutely no reflection on you!


I don't like November because the brightness and crispness of October fade into coldness, dreariness, starkness, and darkness. The newness of the school year fades into routine. Skies are typically leaden. Evenings come too soon. Snow does not yet brighten the landscape. Winter is looming ahead.


I'm trying to find things to like about November. Thanksgiving, of course, is good. Beginning to prepare for Christmas is good. The rare sunny day in November, with its pale, watery blue sky is good. Being relieved of yard work, and not yet having to shovel snow, is good.


I will try to think of November like this tree I embroidered: bare, but with spots of brightness to see, if I pick up my head and look for them.





( Pattern by Clover)