Wednesday, December 13, 2017

The Secret

I volunteered to bring cookies for our hospital volunteer appreciation coffee and baked peanut butter blossoms this morning.  I haven't made these since last Christmas season I think.  The secret to these cookies is to not freeze them once they are baked.  If you look at the photo, the kisses in the bowl are dull but the kisses on the cookies are glossy and shiny.  If you took a knife to the kisses on the cookies, that chocolate would spread like soft butter.  The candies are placed on the hot cookies once they are taken out of the oven and they soften up and almost melt.  Once the chocolate firms up again, they remain a little glossy and softer to the teeth than they'd be right out of the bag.  Essentially you are tempering the chocolate and if you freeze these to store them, the chocolate loses it's temper and becomes dull and hard again.  The same thing happens with chocolate chip cookies.  I love a soft cookie and there's nothing worse than a soft cookie with a hard wad of chocolate that you have to gnaw and shave with your teeth.  The only trouble though...I started baking a little late this morning and now I'm worried they won't be firm/set enough to stack in a container.  I might have to bring them all spread out in my covered sheet pan.  I'll keep the ones for the volunteers looking nice, but if the extras I baked to fortify myself and my coworkers get a little smeared, they'll taste just as good!  ;)

Monday, December 11, 2017

Homemade Granola

I've been eating a lot of granola lately for the health benefits of oatmeal.  I have a glucose tolerance test coming up and I'm trying to watch my weight in general so I don't have a ginormous baby.  I find granola to be tasty and filling and I get the fibery goodness of the oats.  Martin Luther was always talking about his bowels and the gruel and oats he'd eat so I think of him when I make this!
I can't take credit for this recipe.  It came from the weekly American Profile insert Dad included in his local newspaper.  I don't remember the name of the reader who submitted it but I thank her every time I make this.

8 c. rolled oats (Old Fashioned--not instant or quick oats)
1/2c. + 1 Tbsp. honey
1/2c. + 1 Tbsp. oil  (I use walnut oil from Spectrum Organics but any vegetable oil is fine)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. pecan halves
1 c. slivered almonds
1 c. sliced almonds
2 c. dried fruit (I use a bag of dried cherries and a bag of dried berries from Aldi)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place oats in a large bowl.  Mix together oil, honey and vanilla and pour over oats.  Toss mixture together thoroughly to coat oats.  Pour into a large oiled pan and bake 40 minutes, stopping to stir every 10.  Add nuts after the first 10 minutes.  Add dried fruit after baking but when oats are still warm.  Store in an airtight container up to a month.

You can adjust this recipe however you want as far as nuts and fruit.  I've cleaned out my freezer before using up all kinds of nuts I had in there and I have a big bag of Craisins downstairs I need to get used up.   I use walnut oil because I got a super great deal on it between Cartwheel and coupons and nut oils are supposed to be very good for you.  I like using it this way versus sauteing something in it.  I also use walnut oil in my salad dressings.  Spectrum Organics makes a non-hydrogenated vegetable shortening which I am enjoying baking with.  I questioned how that would even work if it is non-hydrogenated but I am very pleased and impressed with it.

I made a batch of this and vacuum sealed it with my FoodSaver and took it in my suitcase to Norway this trip and to England two years ago.  It traveled well and filled me up for breakfast every morning.  Also, it is DELICIOUS and is a treat.  You can eat it with milk as a cereal, with yogurt as a muesli, or my favorite...
...with kefir!  I like to think the high fiber in the oats and fruit and the probiotics and high protein in the kefir as well as the nuts is sticking to my ribs and is good for me.  Num num!  This smells so good baking in the oven and warms up the house on these cold winter days!  Also, Aldi is now producing their own store brand of kefir which is the best news I've heard in a while.  Hitherto I've always bought Lifeway Kefir at Aldi.

Tree Finally Trimmed

I finally put the tree up last weekend.  Once again my family will not be able to get together for our Christmas until January so I had plenty of time to put up decorations, but I just LOVE having all the trimmings up during this cold and snowy season.  I love picking up tree ornaments on travels and trips because they are a small souvenir that will be showcased and treasured every Christmas and carefully kept the rest of the year.

These first two olive wood ornaments were brought from The Holy Land by my parents this spring.  They also brought home water from the Jordan River and our baby will be baptized with it.  :)
This domestic ornament came from The Neon Museum in Las Vegas when Dave and I were in town for his bowling tournament.  You can't see it very well in the picture but there are dangling chains of stars hanging from it.  I just love it!  Dave scoffed at the price at the time.  I told him I'd paid way more for ornaments in London and quickly made my way to the check out before he could stop me.
My sister bought me this one in Stillwater at the German Christmas Shop.  It is a German carousel like the carousel she bought me at a garage sale when we moved into the house.  My mother has the same carousel that my Grandpa Maynerd bought for her and is a favorite decoration.  This was given as kind of a pregnancy gift and I love it.
She also got this squirrel ornament more for the baby because we love squirrels and bunnies and critters for the kids in the family.  He is sitting next to a pewter viking ship ornament purchased and the Viking Ship Museum in Oslo in October.

 Here are two more pewter viking ship ornaments.
Here is a simple little Father Christmas ornament from the Audhild Viken shop behind Oslo's City Hall.  It was a large gift shop with knitwear, housewares and souvenirs and a Christmas shop in the basement.  We found some nice souvenir places/tourist traps in that neighborhood that were a little cheaper than shopping on Karl Johans Gate. It seemed very familiar and I was pretty sure I'd been there with my host family years ago.

Here are two different Scandinavian heart ornaments.  The wooden one was kind of a modern stylized version and reminded me of Louet spinning wheels!  The one on the right is a pewter traditional version of the heart.  I've always known these as Danish hearts but they are so Christmas-y!
This was just a cute wooden gingerbread-y/German carousel-y ornament.  The wooden figure just reminded me of decorations we had growing up.
This last one is probably my favorite.  If you want a symbol of Norway it is this building--a stabbur.  It is the winter storehouse of peasants and was basically rodent-proof.  The house itself is built on stilts with large slate discs between the stilt and the building which made jumping around/over the disc impossible for rodents--think of  squirrel-proof bird feeder technology.  The steps were also built a distance away and lower from the door so rodents couldn't jump from the stairs.  They are wooden rustic buildings with grass roofs and absolutely charming.  Every year we add a few more ornaments to the collection and each one comes from somewhere special or has a story.  Enjoy the season!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Complete Radio Silence

I've been busy.  This is my latest knitting project which was a bit of a black hole.  The yarn is a gorgeous hand dyed superwash sock yarn from Knitting Notions.  I bought it at the fiber festival last year with this project in mind.

This pattern came from the little book, "Kelbourne Woolens Baby Collection," that was purchased on our last trip to Reno.  It was knit on size 3 needles from the center out and features mitered corners, a picot border and a knit hem finish.  If I'd been thinking, I would have taken pictures of the hemming process.  I was so daunted by the instructions but when it came down to it, it was quite simple and made such a neat and finished edge.
I swear the colors are a yuck yellow and and gray/slate blue but under yellow light bulbs, it looks purple.  Several people have remarked it is a Viking blanket which I don't like because I detest football.
It knits up into a lump and required blocking.  I hadn't gotten the blocking bucket out in a long time.
This was the was the first time I'd used my blocking wires that Dave gave me for Christmas last year.  They made for slick and quick blocking.  My entire knitting career, people have remarked about a baby item and the hours that go into it and how one puke or poop will do a major number on that knitting.  This is all brought into sharp relief lately because...
...Dave and I are 21 weeks pregnant with a little boy!  We've been counting the days and weeks and saving our pennies and watching the fliers for baby items on sale.  We're blessed to have such wonderful families and they are joyfully giving us their used baby stuff left and right.  The prospect of the next 18 years is terrifying but thrilling too.  My theoretical baby stash has finally become a real baby stash.  I've hoarded Peter Rabbit fabric since I was in high school and it will be made into curtains and bedding for the baby's room.  So much to do!  I've been very lucky in that I have never been sick or "felt" pregnant--other than being very tired all the time.  I'm trying to eat healthy and nutritious foods and have lost 8 pounds since finding out.  If it hadn't been for seeing the baby on the ultrasound with my own eyes, I'd have said this was all an elaborate hoax.  This week I have felt the first baby movements, or rather I've realized that is what they were because hitherto I was convinced it was gas!  My only real complaint is that I can't take two of my migraine meds but things haven't been too bad.  We are both just marveling at the miracle of new life.
And since all roads lead to knitting...this is my pathetic Socktober progress!  I went to Norway with my Dad and sister for a week at the end of October and brought this with and didn't knit a single stitch.  My traveling days are officially over for the next 18 years and I think it was so fitting that my last trip was a trip back home to Norway and I got to bring my son along!  :)  I'll share more about my trip soon.  We had a wonderful time together and a fabulous trip.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Denim Humpback

Old jeans sure look funny once all the denim is cut out of the seams.  Why did I do this you ask?  Well I save all sorts of things including jeans to use in different projects and I saw the cutest idea on a Finnish blog.  She posted an English version of how she made it but did not post formal templates or instructions.  I photo copied and enlarged her picture of the cut out fabric pieces and followed her pictures to make my own version.
I made a few mistakes cutting it out which I realized as I went along.  Since the design of the whale counts on using both sides of the denim for contrast, I figured out after cutting all my pieces that I should have flipped the pattern pieces for half of them.  Note to self for next time.  I also wish I'd used a less faded pair of jeans.  I was happy with my first attempt and now know where to tweak things for next time.  This will go in our baby stash.
I've also felt the need to make freezer meals for when Dave starts up the new school year.  I will buy him frozen entrees if I have a really good coupon for them because he is not much of a cook.  He prefers something he can just heat and eat but I don't like him eating processed food 4 nights a week if I haven't had time to make something with a lot of leftovers.  We had some green peppers to use up so I made a batch of chicken enchiladas and froze them.  I don't know why I didn't think of this earlier because when I normally make them, we have way more than we can eat.  I get those little foil pans at Dollar Tree 3/$1 and they're just the right size.  The sauce is a seasoning packet I get at Aldi mixed with our own garden canned tomato sauce.  Num num!  I'm trying to think of some other heat and eat things I can freeze in these pans.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Fabric Fire!

Melissa, Brenda and I all got together again this summer at Brenda's "Lakefront Property" for our annual summer craft retreat.  Once again we were allowed to take over the air conditioned Craft Coop with our fabric and sewing machines.  Brenda worked on pillow cases while Melissa and I made a campfire!  I'd been dying to make this forever using this tutorial.  It was a lot fussier than I thought it would be but of course I always think everything will just take 10 minutes.  We even added a little carved heart and initials detail to one of our logs.  I am all about imaginative play and this will go into my toy and kid stash.  Later we all made fabric garbage bags for our cars and fooled around with another Modern Textiles pattern for lined zippered pouches.  More on those later.  We had a great time together, celebrated our Christmas in July as well as Melissa's daughter's birthday and Brenda fed us very well.  Every year we girls try to have a summer get together at Brenda's and a winter get together here at our house.  As usual we had way more ideas than we had time for so we'll be busy at the next reunion.  I am so lucky to call these women my friends!

2017 Contender

I finished a new bead knitted purse this weekend and I'm hoping to try once again for a rosette ribbon at the State Fair.  Last year I missed it by a gnat's wing.  I'll enter this first at the Washington County Fair this coming week where I'll compete for a yarn gift certificate.  Fingers Crossed! 

This motif was totally stolen from an antique crocheted reticule purse I saw at Glensheen Mansion this winter up in Duluth.  I took a picture of it and graphed out the design.  Instead of a tubular bag, I knit it as a flat panel and seamed the sides.  I used size 5 perle cotton, 000 needles and size 10 rocaille beads.

Just In Time For the Fair!

I finished up a few things I had sitting around on needles in time to enter them in the Ramsey County Fair.  This was the first year I didn't win a Grand Champion so my streak is over, but generally I was pleased with how I fared at the fair.
This little sweater is a free Drops design and was so much fun to knit!  It uses short row shaping and is knit from side to side.  I finished it with some pewter-looking metal buttons.  The Crazy Zauberball yarn was perfect for this project due to the slow color changes.  It was the first time I'd ever knit with it and it had a defined twist like Koigu but was tighter and more durable while still being soft.  I'll be buying more of this brand the next time I see it.  I also have the matching hat still on needles but I entered this by itself in the infant sweater lot where it won the blue ribbon.
This bib was knit with a mercerized cotton worsted--was it a Reynold's brand?  In my excitement and haste to start a new project I discarded the label as quickly as it was wound.  The free pattern uses slipped stitches for texture and dimension.  I was afraid the multi-colored busy flecks of color would hide the pattern but the slipped stitches managed to hold up to the yarn.  Ramsey County has a bib lot in their fair handbook and this little project earned me a blue ribbon and the accompanying $4.
I try to enter a baby 3 piece set every year and this year I made a baby vest instead of a full sweater.  This free pattern and the matching booties and star cap used up the remainder of the spendy wool/silk/cashmere Zen Yarn Garden I got on clearance.  The lion's share of the yarn went into the lace lotus blanket last year or the year before.  It is such soft yarn which is entirely appropriate for this next to the skin item.  This entry took the blue ribbon in it's lot.
I made another Zick Zack scarf from some Louisa Harding Amitola I bought on our trip to El Paso.  This scarf had a much cooler look to it than the red version I knit a few years ago.  My scarf won the red ribbon.
Continuing with the travel theme, I whipped up some Las Vegas themed embroidered dish towels and scored the blue ribbon.  

All these will go on to the Washington County Fair this coming week as well as the other items I entered in this last fair.  Everything else I've posted pictures of along the way this year as I completed them.  The Ramsey County Fair pays very well and I earned $69 in premiums.  IF I win a blue in every lot, I'll win $49.50 at the Washington County Fair.  However, Washington County awards gift certificates to local yarn shops to the champions and that is what I try to win every year.  I need more yarn like I need a hole in the head!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Green Sky At Night...

We had our first serious thunderstorm yesterday morning and it was all I could do to pull Dave off the deck before the hail hit.  I love a little thunder and lightening storm but I don't want any damage to my house and I got really nervous as soon as I saw that green sky behind the border cloud.  I grew up in a ranch style home next to a field on the edge of a tiny north Iowa town.  When I was 3 years old, a tornado ripped the roof off our garage but didn't touch the house and my brother and I were in the upstairs bathtub when it happened!  Hopefully that is the closest I'll ever come to a tornado in my lifetime but Dave wants to see one up close.  As soon as I got him in the house, he headed downstairs and called over his shoulder, "I'll be in the garage!"  Crazy man.  Thankfully the hail was pea to marble sized and only lasted a minute or two so we didn't have any major damage.  Even my garden is going to be OK for the most part.
Before the weather arrived, I quick ran out to take some pictures of my latest quilt while we still had some decent light.  I collected these woodland prints years ago and it was next on my jellyroll stash-busting project list. 
I backed it with a print that reminded me of marble paper in browns and greens.  I'd gotten it for $1/yard and not even with this project in mind.  The design and color scheme is almost so ugly it would go with anything, but it worked so well with this blend of woodland greens.  Once again, Stash Karma saves the day!
Over Mother's Day weekend, Mom and I quickly ran out to the Shepherd's Harvest Wool Festival.  I had more family arriving to the house later that day so we didn't stick around for any demonstrations.  We were there strictly to shop!
Every year I want to buy a new spinning wheel or at least a refurbished one and every year Dave tells me I don't need one because I "never" use the one I have, so I have to spin a little just to spite him.  I got this bag of dyed locks from Black Cat Farmstead and I think I paid $2.75/ounce for it.  I got $17ish worth and loved the colors.
I never did ask her what breed of sheep the locks came from but I love the crimp that some of the wool had.  This gal was also demonstrating flax spinning and they grow/process/promote it on their farmstead. 
I spun two singles to ply them together into a worsted weight yarn.  Here it is on the spool of my reliable old Ashford Scholar wheel.
Here it is plied and wound into a skein.  I got a scant 300 yards so maybe I'll consider knitting a pair of gloves out of it.  I don't know how it will wear or if it will fuzz up or pill.  I know they have a spinning category at the state fair but I'll have to see about the Ramsey or Washington County fairs.

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Vegas, Baby!

Last month Dave and I traveled to his national bowling Las Vegas.  I have to say, I am not a Vegas kind of girl and can think of all kinds of places I'd rather visit than Las Vegas but Dave assured me there were plenty of things to do in Sin City.
Case in point...Sin City Knit Shop which also happened to be our first port of call!  This lovely knit shop was south of the strip near our hotel--how convenient!  We stopped in very quickly on our way from the airport to the Hoover Dam.  It was such a quick stop that I didn't even take pictures of the interior!  The staff of this shop was so friendly and helpful and once they learned we were staying nearby and in town for a bowling tournament, they invited me to come back and hang out and knit.  I didn't of course because I was petrified to drive there myself and we only had our rental car for two days.  Those two days were kind of regimented as far as what we did so as to get the most use out of the car.
I bought 4 balls of their shop dyed worsted yarn, a ball of shop dyed fingering yarn, a skein of lovely tweedy Cascade slow changing fingering yarn and this awesome shop logo 3/4 length sleeve t-shirt.  They gave me that awesome needle gauge in the shape of the famous Welcome To Fabulous Las Vegas sign.  They also had shop shirts that said, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" but they didn't have them in my size so I will have to check back with them because I want one.  Awesome shop.  I'd be happy to do mail order business with them any day.
We left the yarn shop and headed directly to the Hoover Dam.  We arrived and paid the $10 to park the car and were expecting to take the full tour and pay $30 each.  Once we arrived, we were told the Dam Tour was sold out for the day but we could take the Powerplant Tour for $15 each.  At this point, may I just say I couldn't help but snicker every time I heard Dam this and Dam that because I am eternally 12 years old and they take advantage of this joke!  Anyhoo, I did my homework before this trip and there wasn't anywhere you could make reservations for the Dam Tour so I suppose you just have to arrive early.  We were happy with our Powerplant tour though.  You sit in a theater and watch a short film about the Dam construction and then you're sent down a stomach lurching elevator to see the original diversion tunnels and these turbines.  I never realized we'd be on the border of both Nevada and Arizona at this location.
You're then shot back up the same high power elevators to the observation decks.  It was so bright that day and all these photos were taken on my phone so I had a hard time seeing what I was filming.  I never did get a decent shot of the entire Dam.  That crescent shaped area at the bottom of the photo is the ceiling of the turbine room we were just in.  The entire tour took about 30 minutes.  You heard a lot of information in their little spiel and they answered all the group's questions.  They were constantly counting us and kept us on a short leash.  It was interesting too that there were international visitors here because I heard German and French being spoken by different groups.  I felt very patriotic visiting the site.
This picture was taken standing on the Dam itself.  I remember watching a PBS special all about the building of the Dam during the Depression despite the dangerous and awful working conditions and the engineering wonder it is.  A coworker of mine toured the dam a few years ago and someone said they'd heard workers literally dropped over dead from the conditions but they just kept pouring concrete and the men were just buried in the structure.  Their tour guide answered simply, "That's a Dam lie."  HA!
Las Vegas is expensive.  Holy Cow is it expensive.  Like I said I did my homework and I am a tightwad.  Taxis are expensive.  Food is expensive.  ATMs are expensive.  We'd gotten a taste of this in Reno because hotels with casinos don't want you spending time in your room, they want you spending money in the restaurants and drinking and gambling in the casinos.  Surprisingly we had a refridgerator in our room so we stopped at a grocery store in Boulder City to get some snacks and Diet Coke and also to just check out a grocery store in Nevada.  I love grocery stores!  For my kitchen souvenir on this trip, I bought a bean masher since we were in the American Southwest.  This sign greeted us in the parking lot of the store which was appropriate because the heat did not mess around.  Also I thought it was cute because the dog looks like Zak!
The following day we had an appointment at the Neon Museum for our tour.  This was my absolute favorite thing we did on the trip.  Like I said earlier, I am not a Las Vegas girl.  I am not a gambler.  My drinking days are behind me.  I have no desire to pay that kind of money to see the people performing out there.  I know that makes me sound incredibly snobby but it is just not my kind of town.  I do love the idea of 1960's Rat Pack Era Las Vegas.  That Las Vegas is long gone but if you want to experience a little taste of that, go to the Neon Museum and Boneyard.  The La Concha Hotel is no more but their beautiful lobby has been saved and now lives on as the lobby for the museum.  In excitement and haste, I totally forgot to take pictures of the building so I stole this picture off the internet.
This non-profit organization collects and displays all kinds of classic Las Vegas signage in their boneyard.  They offer both day and night tours but you MUST book ahead if you want to take this tour.  The night tours are more expensive than the day tours and fill up faster but bear in mind the signs are not illuminated as they were originally wired, they are lit via floodlights.  Seven signs have been restored to their original glory.  Part of the museum's mission and fundraising purpose is to restore the neon signs one at a time but it is an expensive undertaking.  What I love about the signage is the branding and iconic legacy they immortalize.  In the picture above, almost anyone could identify the yellow four pointed star from the Stardust logo or the R from the Sahara font.
The entire tour took about an hour and distance-wise would be like walking around the perimeter of my house but you heard so much information about the evolution of Las Vegas and not just the casinos.  My only gripe about the tour is you had to stay with the guide (which is not a bad thing) but you could not back up more than 15 or so feet to take decent pictures of the boneyard which isn't a big deal unless you're fussy like me.  I took pictures constantly.  My parents went to Vegas quite a few times before us whining kids came into the picture and Mom really enjoyed looking through these because she remembered and knew quite a few of these now defunct hotels. 
Hotels in Las Vegas have a limited life span if they aren't successful so it seems.  Boneyard is a very fitting term for the museum because it is just remnants of signs and quite often these are the last remaining fragments of the hotel/casino.  This organization had a fabulous gift shop and my loudest feedback was to make it available online.  I would have bought way more stuff if Dave hadn't been there to reign me in!  All the the tacky shops on the strip sold the same stuff whereas this shop sold stuff I wanted to own or I'd give as gifts.  They are sitting on a goldmine that can benefit their non-profit organization if they open up their shop to an online marketplace.
We stayed at Southpoint Hotel which is south of the strip.  It was a lovely and affordable hotel and self contained.  By self contained I mean that there were several different affordable restaurants and eateries all in the same building.  Dave went out a couple nights to play poker in their casinos but I stayed in most nights in our room to watch PBS!  Dave teased me saying, "You're the only person I know who'd come to Las Vegas to watch PBS!" but they had a great PBS station!
After we turned the car in, we used the excellent RTC bus system to explore the strip.  Our hotel offered a shuttle to and from Mandalay Bay which was the very edge of the strip, maybe an 1/8th of the way up the total strip...for $7 each way and it left once every hour.  There was a city bus stop right outside our hotel and it cost us $2 to ride to Mandalay Bay where we could buy a 24 hour all access pass from an automated machine for $8.  I'm a tightwad and not going to pay for a $40 cab ride down to Fremont Street or $14 for a shuttle ride a few blocks to my hotel.  We walked a lot of the strip to explore the different hotels and casinos and their themes.  The city bus came along every 15 minutes so you never had to wait long when you got tired of walking.
I had to laugh though because as tropical and lush as it appeared, if you looked closely the grass was all fake! 
This was the only time we were out on the strip.  I wanted to stop in to Guardian Angel Cathedral because the architect was the same man who designed the lobby of the La Concha and I liked the sixties spacey look of it.  The rosary I bought here glowed in the dark which I thought was very appropriate for Las Vegas.  Once you get this far up the strip near the Stratosphere, the area gets kind of sketchy so we rode the bus the rest of the way to Fremont Street.  Souvenirs are cheapest there and I'll admit, there are some freaks up there but I liked Fremont street because that is old Las Vegas.  The El Cortez, The Four Queens and The Golden Nugget are just a few of the oldies that are still up and running there.
We didn't go crazy for souvenirs because we don't need shot glasses, ash trays or dice clocks but we did get a few t shirts and I was excited to go to the ABC Store.  We frequented these when we visited my brother while he was stationed in Hawaii years ago.  I bought some black lava and kiawe smoked salt and totally got hassled at the airport because I packed it in my carry on bag.  I also got 3 packages of these wonderfully tacky Las Vegas Strip napkins and my mother and I had a cream tea yesterday with them.  We felt like really classy broads!
And of course there was a little bowling!