Friday, November 29, 2013

Keeping Busy

Clearly I'm a failure at NaBloPoMo.  I had a little notebook filled with blog post ideas, but alas, it was not to be.

I am making progress on the Santa cross stitch, as seen above.  I was in a mad rush to finish him by December 2, because that is when my coupon for a big discount on framing expires, but last week when it became clear to me I wasn't going to meet that deadline, I set Santa aside and started a quick seasonal stitch that I knew I could finish before December 25:

This is December Word Play by With Thy Needle and Thread.  I am going to make it into a little pillow as the instructions suggest.  No framing required, so no big rush to get it done by Monday.  It's proving to be a satisfying stitch!  I've stitched quite a bit more of it since I took the photo.

I am also working on the Lizzie Kate Jingles series, putting them all together into one sampler:

I think this one will be several seasons in the making.

This compulsion of mine to stitch Christmas things is wreaking havoc with my holiday storage.  Every year the holiday designs get cuter and cuter, so I keep stitching and stitching.  When will I decide I have enough?  Actually, I already know I have enough, and yet I can't stop.

I am also knitting!

The Tipsy Rib Scarf, free pattern here.  For some reason my photos look terrible in blogger.  When I look at this picture not in blogger, you can see the details of the design (a diagonal rib) very clearly, but here it's just not showing up.  Grumble.

I'm not hand making gifts this year, not for anyone.  I have handmade things in mind for my great-niece, my husband, and my sisters, but instead of feeling stressed to get them done by a deadline, I will make them as I have time and deliver them when they are done.  A handmade gift given for no reason at an unexpected time of year might be more memorable than one given at Christmas!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


My mom made this ceramic turkey in 1971.  She took a ceramics class when my sisters and I were little, mainly as an excuse to get out of the house one evening a week.  She made quite a few family heirlooms, and lately she's been dividing them up among her daughters, although now that I think about, I seem to have inherited the three main ones:  an Easter bunny (which I don't have a photo of--edited, now I do!  See it here), a Christmas tree, and this turkey.  Hmm, I wonder if my sisters realize I have all three?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


My daughter had her braces tightened yesterday. That always means days of soreness and the need for soft food. She can't eat much for lunch at school the day or two after a visit to the orthodontist, so after-school smoothies are a perfect mini meal. Yesterday it was a

Banana Mango Smoothie. For one serving, whirl in a blender 3/4 cup vanilla yogurt, 3/4 cup chopped mango, 1/2 of a banana.  (I use frozen mango chunks)

Today she wanted Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Banana.  For one serving whirl in a blender 1/4 cup milk, 1 tablespoon chocolate milk mix, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1/2 of a banana (frozen if you want your smoothie icy), 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt.

She hates having her braces tightened.  Her one consolation is that I am willing to whip up a smoothie for her.   As my kids get older I try not to cater to them so much, so requests for smoothies often get met with a "make it yourself" reply from me, but when they are sick or hurting, I go back to full-on babying!

Monday, November 11, 2013


Chilly and rainy today, not atypical for November in Michigan, but some of those raindrops are starting to look white and fluffy.

Sunday, November 10, 2013


Busy day today: music lessons for both children, my daughter's first science olympiad practice of the season, doing some home repairs, reading the Sunday New York Times, doing laundry... But I did manage to make a fruit crisp for Sunday dessert!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

New use for the mitten tree

My pumpkin and ghost lanterns were wet from the rain. I needed to dry them out before storing them for another year.  I like how they look on the mitten tree!  Maybe next year I will keep them inside.

(I don't remember where I got my mitten tree, but it is available here.)

Friday, November 8, 2013

On Books and Reading

I took this photo almost six years ago.  I asked my husband and children to bring me some of their favorite books, and I added my favorite books, too.  I couldn't include all the favorites--the stack would have been much too high--so I considered the look of the book's spine in my final decision on what to include.  Tsk, tsk, judging a book by its cover, but this photo had to look artful, as well as be personally meaningful.

I had an 11x14 print made, framed it, and hung it on our living room wall.  It's quite eye-catching, and visitors often comment on it.  My daughter was only seven when I did this, so her contribution was the slim fairy book, but fortunately she did grow up to love (LOVE) Harry Potter, and Inkheart became a favorite book of hers, too.

My son doesn't read fiction any more.  He used to read some really good stuff, but fiction stopped feeling relevant to him in his early teens.  He is still a reader--he reads non-fiction, and he is always reading for information.  Still, I hope someday he rediscovers fiction.  I read to him while he was in the womb, and when he was a baby I read to him every day, before he could even sit up.  I'd lie down on the floor next to him and hold the book up over our heads.  His very first favorite was Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? by Dr. Seuss.

I can't remember what my daughter's very first favorite was, but I do know when she was two her favorite book was Richard Scarry's Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, because she loved looking for Goldbug on every page.  "GOLDBUG!"   She is still an avid fiction reader, and may even read more than I did at the same age.

I always have books checked out of the library. My decision on what to read next is driven by what book is due for return the soonest.  Many of the things I check out can't be renewed because they are in demand and have a long hold list, so I have four weeks to read it and then time is up.  This means the books I buy to read go untouched while I make my way through my reserve list of library books, which is ironic, because when I buy a book, it's because I am too impatient to wait for my turn for the library's copy.  There's a lesson in there somewhere...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Finish: Tranquility Shawl

The Tranquility Shawl is complete!

all stretched out for blocking

It's not very long, more like a shawlette, but I think it will be cozy wrapped around the neck like a scarf.  When I put it over my shoulders, shawl-style, and looked in the mirror, the term "shoulder doily" popped into my head.  I like the look of it better when it's wound around like a scarf.

I enjoyed working this pattern very much.  It was easy to follow and quick to work up.  Links to the pattern are in this post.  The yarn, Knit Picks Swish Worsted, is soft and squishy and cozy.  

My blocking mat is also from Knit Picks.  Before I bought this mat, I would improvise blocking by using a towel, or I wouldn't block at all.  I'm really happy with this mat.  The interlocking squares make it easy to configure to the right shape, and it breaks down neatly for storage.

Note: I get no compensation from anyone ever on this blog, so any time I link to Amazon or another site that sells something, I am not getting a kickback.  I am also never asked to review anything, so any time I talk about a product, it's just me sharing what's worked for me.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Lentil Soup

This is my old standby recipe for Lentil Soup.  It always makes the house smell so good while it's bubbling away on the stove.  I made it for dinner tonight, and baked a loaf of homemade bread to go along with it.

2 16-oz cans diced tomatoes, undrained
2 cloves garlic
chopped onion (to taste)
1 cup lentils, rinsed and sorted
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots
6 cups water
1 1/2 tsp dried dill
4 tsp veg oil (you can omit this)
1/3 cup uncooked brown rice
1 T dried parsley
freshly ground  pepper

Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer partially covered for 2-3 hours.

(But my son refused to eat it.  He had leftover chili instead.  He is not a lentil fan.)

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Forced to be trendy

Every year I buy a new pair of running shoes.  I know it's time to buy a new pair when my knee starts to hurt. This happens pretty much at the same time every year, exactly one year after I last replaced my shoes, in October.  Amazing how that happens.

I buy the same shoe every year, but every year they upgrade the model (and raise the price--grrr).  This year they did not offer a white shoe option!  I first noticed the color-shoe trend during the 2012 Summer Olympics, and now I am being forced to follow the trend. When I first put these on I felt self-conscious, but now I kind of like them.  Watch out!  Next thing you know I'll be abandoning my low-rise running socks for knee-high running socks.

(In case it is not obvious yet, I am going to attempt to put up a blog post every day in November.  If I keep it up, expect all kinds of random oddities from me, just like this one.)

Monday, November 4, 2013

Pumpkin Mousse

I made Pumpkin Mousse for our Halloween dessert last week.  My kids love it.  I haven't shared the recipe here before because it's not the healthiest thing I make, and in fact it could probably be considered fodder for jokes about Midwesterners and their love of fluff desserts.  I am not ashamed to say I was raised on fluff desserts, and they will always have a special place in my heart, even if the ingredients of Cool Whip do make me wince now.  (I have heard of Truwhip but I haven't bothered to find it in the store because I don't use Cool Whip more than once or twice a year.)  

Pumpkin Mousse

1 (3.4 oz) package instant vanilla pudding
1 cup milk
2.25 cups pumpkin puree
1 T pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
12 oz Cool Whip, thawed

Stir together all ingredients except Cool Whip.  Fold the Cool Whip into this mixture.  Refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

You can make your own pumpkin pie spice mix by combining: 

4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

At least the pumpkin part of this recipe is healthy, and what can I say, it's fluffy and delicious!

If you like pumpkin but this mousse recipe is just too icky for you to even consider trying, you should check out the pumpkin recipes Tammy shared on her blog the other day.  I made the pumpkin oatmeal for breakfast (using regular milk, though, since I'm not vegan), and it was very tasty and filling.  I am eager to try the pumpkin hummus.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A new crochet

I was unhappy with how the Sweet Scallops Shawl was turning out, so I abandoned it to try the Tranquil Wrap (free on ravelry here, or on the Lion Brand Yarn site here).  I am using the same yarn I was using for the Sweet Scallops Shawl.  So far I like this wrap better, and it is growing quickly!

I don't know what went wrong with the scalloped shawl.  It looked so pretty in other people's pictures.  Maybe I'll attempt it again someday with different yarn.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Unexpected Crochet

I unexpectedly started a new crochet project this week.  My niece, the one I've mentioned more than a few times before, has a chronic health condition, and it is getting the better of her lately.  She is now being treated at Mayo Clinic.  It's not life-threatening.  Well, left unchecked it would be life-threatening, but there are treatments to control it.  Unfortunately, she's been through most of those treatment options with no long-lasting results, and now she is facing some difficult decisions.  This has everyone in my family feeling sad and worried and a little depressed.

My go-to stress reliever is to make something.  It makes me feel calm to work on something, and I like sending something personal and handmade to someone who is hurting or ill.  I wanted to make her something I could get done quickly.  Hello, crochet!  This is the Sweet Scallops Shawl, pattern by Lion Brand Yarn. I am using Knit Picks Swish Worsted yarn in the color wonderland heather.

Sadly, I'm not loving how this is looking.  I don't know if it's the pattern or the yarn or me, but to my eye it looks big and clumsy.  I'll keep at it for a few more rows to see if it grows on me, but I may be hunting for another pattern soon.  Sigh!  When your stress-reducer is a stress-inducer, it's not working like it's supposed to!

The pattern is available for free here.  Some lovely crocheter charted the pattern and put it on Flickr here.  I am usually okay with written instructions, but the chart is so much easier to use with this pattern.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween 2013

squirrels got to the jack o lanterns before I could photograph them!

Halloween 2013 is done and dusted.  Every year as my kids get older, Halloween gets a little less crazy.  No parties at school, no last-minute changes of mind on costume choice.  My son, at the advanced age of 16, barely acknowledges Halloween any more.  My daughter, age 13, still fully participates.  This year she was the TARDIS.  We bought her this hat and a dress similar to this t-shirt.  We never even considered getting a big cardboard box and painting it because we wanted our lives to be easy, and let me tell you, that dress folds down to nothing, whereas a big cardboard TARDIS would take up valuable real estate in my basement for the next twenty years.

I was thinking about all of the things I was for Halloween throughout my childhood.  My elementary school years happened in the 1970s, the era of cheap flammable polyester costumes that came with a plastic face mask that strapped on to your head with a thin rubber band.  The rubber band tangled in my long hair, and my face would sweat under all that plastic. I remember wearing something like that only once or twice.  Most of the time my mom made my costumes for me, or I cobbled something together myself.  I remember being a princess, a cowgirl, a cheerleader, Raggedy Ann (my all-time favorite costume!), Little Bo-Peep, a strawberry, and, in a rare year of not being girly, a green-faced black-cloaked creature. 

I trick-or-treated for the last time when I was 13.  I dressed up as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.  My dog accompanied me, and I used a picnic basket to collect my candy. Two things I remember about that night: taking my dog trick-or-treating, which I'd never done before, and having a crabby elderly neighbor ask me "Aren't you too old to be trick-or-treating?"  We always approached this woman's house on Halloween with much trepidation.  She'd often have a sign on her front door:  "Use back door."  We would dutifully trot around to the back and shout "Trick or treat!", but then she'd open the back door and say "Go around to the front!"  We would look at each other, shrug, and go back around to the front.  At the front door she'd look us up and down, ask who our mother was, and then say "You're growing too fast.  I'm going to put a brick on your head."   So that year when she told me I was too old to trick-or-treat, I took her comment with a grain of salt and didn't let it bother me.  

A neighbor on our street that we don't know very well told my daughter last night that she was too old to be trick-or-treating.  My daughter took this in much the same spirit as I did when I was 13, which is to say she thought, "Eh, that's your opinion," and didn't give it a second thought.   I hope I'm never that crabby old lady on the street!  I want to grow up to be the sweet little old lady.

I took these photos the day before Halloween.  Halloween itself was windy and rainy.  I didn't even bother lighting the ghost and pumpkin lanterns last night, and the wind kept blowing out the candle in the jack-o-lanterns.