30 November 2008

Thankful List V (the final chapter)

Though I meant to get to 100 things of thankful, I guess I'll only make it to about 50. But I'm okay with that. I mean, I'm thankful for way more than 100 things. They just don't seem exactly blogworthy most of the time.
41. Those big bricks of white chocolate that I can melt and dip stuff into, like pretzels, strawberries, almonds, my fingers...
42. I don't bite my tongue very often (knock on wood)
43. Tenessa's cheeseball recipe
44. Our pre-lit artificial tree that only takes about 10 minutes to set up (sometimes practical is better than romantic)
45. Getting comments on the blog. Hint.
46. Being able to shop online on Black Friday, and not have to wait in any lines.
47. V says "I love you" to almost everyone. Our friend Steven, Shaun's developmentally delayed clients, the checkout girl at Target...and, occasionally, out of the blue, me.
48. The Shield. Violent, angry, not for everyone. But for me, it's stunningly done. Television as art, truly. Dang.
49. Shaun's ability to keep a straight face when I read him my hilarious old blog posts.
50. Usually, I really really really love being a teacher. A lot of people I know don't love their jobs as much as I do.

Last minute evening craftacularness

Since 2005 (when V was born), I have these intense, crazy nostalgia-filled waves around the holidays. I could go on and on about this (lord knows...) but today I'm going to focus on just one area of nostalgia: The Advent Calendar. At our house, these were store-bought ones with chocolates or other little candies behind each punch-out door. (Apparently, they haven't changed at all in 30 years. Odd). I seem to remember at least one of them hanging on the kitchen door, and in my earliest memories of them, my sister and I took turns opening doors. This happy holiday tradition couldn't last, of course, and soon we each got our own. I remember one year, I was maybe 8, and the chocolate was sooooo good...that I ate about a week ahead in my calendar. Not a solid week, of course, but two days here, two days there...When my mom found out, she didn't get mad, but just said "How sad for you, Jenny. Now you won't have a chocolate today." I was more horrified at that reaction than if she'd been furious.

But enough about my chocolate-based disobediences of yesteryear. With V being fully excited this year about the holidays, I wanted her to have her own advent calendar. We're hoping to slightly limit her choclate intake, so the old-school paper calendar was out. I looked at this, and this, and this, and wound up just making my own, as usual. I went for simple, lovingly made, and not-too-time consuming. The numbers are hand-embroidered, the wool felt is just what I had in the house (I know the mix of colors is not traditional, and most people would not put burnt orange with dusty purple and rose, but I am not traditional nor most people), the ribbon is brown satin from a JoAnns grabbag, and the stockings themselves are machine stitched and machine-sewn to the ribbon. I cut all the stockings out Friday, sewed the numbers yesterday, and machine stitched it all together this evening. Here's the finished shot of the whole she-bang.

And because I can't bear it when people comment on how cute something I've made is if I have just given a wide-angled shot, here are two of the most wonky stockings:
The silver-y thread did not show up well enough on a couple of the colors, so some of the earlier stockings got re-stitched like on #8. And #7? Yeah, I'm not sure what happened to old #7. If we had a dog, I'd blame the dog. But the truth is? As my sister puts it, I'm "not so much into the fine details."

So, ta-da! Our advent calendar. Now I have to think of something to put in for tomorrow. Any suggestions? And, um, please don't say chocolate, because I think I ate it all.

27 November 2008

Thanksgiving morning

First, as I was putting the turkey in the fridge a few days ago, V had some questions.

V: What're you doin'?
Me: Thawing the turkey so it's ready for Thanksgiving.
V: A turkey is an animal.
Me: Yep. Sometimes people eat animals.

The next morning, she had clearly pondered this.

V: Mama, people don't eat animals.
Me: We don't? What do we eat?
V: Food.

So...this may be our last Thanksgiving as a family of carnivores.

This morning, as I chopped up celery and onions for the roasting pan, here's how things went:

V: You're using the wrong recipe.
Me: What?
V (smiling): You're using the WRONG RECIPE!
Me: Listen, Sprout, I am the mama, so I know what recipe to use.
V: When I get bigger than you, then I will make the turkey.
Me: Okay. When you get bigger than me, you can make the turkey.
V: But what if I forget the recipe?
Me: You can call me up and ask.
V: Like when you call Grandma?
Me: Exactly.

We're watching the Macy's parade and waiting for our company to arrive.

We got some frightening news last night about my Aunt Sharon, and so this Thanksgiving will be filled with lots of thanks for those of us who are still healthy, and lots of prayers for Sharon and her family, and a bit of wonder at the tenuousness of this whole world.

May you have your fill of good food, good company, and safe travels today.

24 November 2008

Thankful List IV

31. V’s excitement at other people’s birthday parties
32. My little sister
33. Holiday Open House at Hornbacher’s (mmm…cheesecakes samples….)
34. Finishing grading a big old pile of papers
35. Coca-cola classic
36. My sewing machine (a Shark. Which strikes me as a funny brand for sewing machines).
37. Janis Joplin
38. Savers
39. The harmonica
40. Hosting Thanksgiving at our house

23 November 2008

Recent overheard conversation

V: "I smell something stinky."
Shaun: "Oh? What do you think it is?"
V: "Mama."

19 November 2008

What's up pimpin'?

Remind me to tell you the story of this post's title sometime. It's hilarious.

So I was playing around on the blog-o-sphere the other day, and noted that a lot of the blogs I read have ads (often because they're blogs about frugality, and frugal people like to make money). I don't like ads, usually, because they scare me or annoy me or make me feel very 1984-ish (like the novel. not like the hair spray and the neon colors and the Wham records).

Anyway, still, I'm trying to blog often, I put work into this little corner of the world, and I also like to make lists of things my readers might enjoy sometimes. To that end, I've decided to compromise the few principles I had left and join Amazon's affiliates team. This means that I post a link on my blog (see it over there to your right? Under "I'm Amazon's Whore"?) and if you click there and buy anything through Amazon while you've arrived through my link, I get a small percentage. It's such a small percentage, it's probably not worth the time it's taking me to type this. But I'm gonna try it anyway.

It's still Amazon's job to make sure you're happy and so forth: don't come crying to me if things don't work out. I just thought, hey, with the holidays and the whatnot and the economy, maybe I can point you towards some interesting gift ideas you hadn't thought of, and get some credit over with my Amazon peeps. Or something.

If you don't have money to spend at Amazon, please don't. We're not destitute, and I don't want you to be, either. But if you were gonna order some cheesecakes or toys or geegaws and doodads there anyway, why not click through me? What can it hurt? (aside from my integrity, and all that?)

Feel free to mock me for this, or offer constructive criticism. I can take it. And if you like the idea, I suppose you can tell me that too. Mostly, I imagine most of you will ignore me, which is just how I like it most of the time anyway.

16 November 2008

The internet is a wonderful thing. As proof, I offer the blog A Year of Crockpotting, by a woman named Stephanie who has posted every day this year with a different recipe using a crockpot. Every day. Now, some of you are thinking, "Whoop-de-doo...I have a crockpot cookbook. Who needs this site?" I'm telling you you do. Seriously. If you don't have a crock-pot (or slow cooker, as "Crock pot" is technically trademarked, I think), it will make you want one.

Some of what she posts is inedible. Well, in looking, I only found one: crockpot crayons. Some of the food recipes are inedible to me because they involves curry or those evil, spicy green peppers. But what makes this different than a crock-pot cookbook is she tries out every recipe, and gives specifics about what works and what doesn't. She takes a picture of her ingredients, so we can see what she's talking about (for you visual learners out there). Also, some (all? most?) of her recipes are gluten-free, and I know several of my readers would find that exciting.

Now, some of her recipes are pretty impractical via crockpot, unless it is your only source of cooking energy. Some of her candy recipes, for example, which only use the slowcooker to melt ingredients, take 1-2 hours in the crockpot but 45 seconds in the microwave. I guess if you're morally opposed to microwaves, this would be good to know.

I just wanted to post this because I love to find new websites to enjoy, and I struggle to think of new things to cook, and thought maybe you would feel the same way. And if you make any of this or this, please remember who told you about this site. And by "remember" I mean give me some.

15 November 2008

Thankful list part III

21. Leinekugel’s
22. Quilting
23. Craft blogs that inspire me to do something instead of just sit around and read craft blogs
24. Jamie, my dental hygienist, who makes me laugh and doesn’t hurt me even after I lie to him and say I’ve been flossing regularly.
25. The last four digits of our phone number spell GLAD.
26. The last four digits of my mom’s phone number spell NAVY.
27. CSI reruns and History channel specials like "Witness to Jonestown."
28. It’s November 16 and we have just a little bit of snow. Every day without a blizzard makes winter seem a little bit more manageable.
29. Teaching V the words to "867-5309" (to continue our phone number theme).
30. Erbert and Gerbert’s chicken & wild rice soup

Oh, the humanity

Warning: the following contains graphic photographs, not suitable for most people.
What: Crime scene report
When: 14 November 2008, 2:08pm
Location: Living room: just inside the doorway
A little further in Further still Over that way And here’s some more The victim (The guy with the orange feet has an alibi). Evidence in the victim’s…bodily fluids… The primary suspect I know. Those of you who read this are not surprised. What kind of idiot mother lets her kid have a bottle of syrup as a best friend? I’ll tell you: a sticky one. With sticky socks, a sticky chair, a sticky floor, and a sticky daughter.

Case closed. Please send wet wipes. And valium.

Oh, and someone should maybe warn Little Debbie to stay out of our house.

09 November 2008

Happy Birthday, Shaunrona...

This morning I pulled this quilted monstrosity from the dryer and presented it to the birthday boy.

I realize the photo is close up, and I don't have a good wide shot, and it's already dark out, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow (at least) for a better photo. It's a log cabin pattern, in the lazy quilter size of 36” per square. I used the large stripes of black to lengthen and set the squares apart (I could’ve made more squares, but, again, I’m lazy). The fabrics (except for the black) are all things somehow connected to Shaun: music notes, Vikings, baseballs, gambling, bumblebees, and ladybugs. The last two are V’s past Halloween costumes, by the way, and not so much Shaun’s own interests. The center fabric is green with dollar signs, $, for how he signs his name (ala Gene Simmons. I know).

Because the last quilt I made him only lasted 7 years, I tried to do a couple of things differently. (I realize those of you who don’t quilt likely could not care less about this, but I know at least 3 of my readers are quilters, so the rest of you can get over it. or skip the rest of this paragraph). This time, I chose higher quality fabrics, and used 100% cotton thread. Apparently when quilts are made of cotton fabric and polyester thread, the thread can eventually cut through the fabric, because polyester is stronger than cotton. Like rock paper scissors, I guess. Also, I quilted this more heavily than what I usually do. I’m a big stitch in the ditch girl, and enjoy the simplicity and lack of forethought such a sewing pattern requires. But Shaun’s first quilt failed largely on those stitches: now, that’s probably a combination of fabric quality, poly thread, and the fact that he slept under it 2,555 nights in a row, but I still wanted to prevent that if possible. So for the first time ever, I did cross-quilting. On each outside corner through the dark side of the log cabin block, I just sewed six ways from Tuesday. I think you can see it in that picture, above, if you look close. I found it to be waaaay less boring than stitching in the ditch, so maybe I’ve expanded my horizons. Back to the birthday excitement: we had a wild party this afternoon, with Grandma Myra, Grandma Mary, Grandpa David, Jess, Will, and Emmy all coming for lunch (meatballs and baked potatoes and green beans...but that's a whole nother post). We had a bit more excitement than we wanted, as Grandma Myra is not feeling well, but all in all I think my favorite 37 year old had a lovely birthday.

Here's the quilt in action tonight already, with my two Vikings fans tucked in on the couch.

Happy, happy birthday, dear man. I love you more today than the day we were married, and I didn't think that was possible. You're awesome. I look forward to many, many more meatball dinners with you.

05 November 2008

November's Thankful List II

11. My beloved friends who know I still love them even when I’m a huge slacker and drop my end of the correspondence responsibility in the toilet. And then wring it out and send it to them and try to blame its lateness on my mail carrier.
12. 99% of my students
13. 100% of my coworkers. Wait, 99%. Let’s be serious. But of the nine I work with most often? 100%. I swear.
14. My crockpot.
15. We are currently cleaning our house, and it’s so much nicer that way.
16. Various antidepressant medications, including but not limited to sertraline, bupoprion, xanax, imapramine, and effexor (these aren’t all for me, mind you).
17. Cream cheese mints, ala my Aunt Barbie.
18. Kringle made by Auntie Bev.
19. Grandma Beulah's chocolate jumbos

20. My mother’s vegetable beef and egg dumpling soup.

Did you see a theme in those last five? Like grocery shopping, one ought not to blog while hungry.

04 November 2008

I have no idea what to title this one.

V has a new quasi-imaginary friend. I say "quasi" because this friend has a physical form, but it's not like a toy or doll or such a thing. V came to play with this new friend on her own: I had nothing to do with it, and frankly, I'm a bit concerned as to how this will all play out. This has been going on since Friday, when she and I were home alone all day. V calls her new friend Lady. Lady is often subjected to V's magic wand (which, not surprisingly, is a small plastic doll head on a stick). V will say Ah Hah KaBoom! very dramatically, and then tell Lady that she has been magically transported somewhere. Sometimes it's a swimming pool, or some dark scary woods, or the TV room. Very exciting. Today, V came home from school and said "Lady! How was your day? I was at school." It's sorta heartwarming. Sorta.

Here's a picture I took of Lady yesterday.

I told V that Lady's full name was Aunt Jemima, but that didn't matter. V just calls her Lady. So, um, what am I supposed to do the next time I make pancakes? Should I go back to the store and get some non-personified syrup? Can I in good conscience empty Lady onto my breakfast? Or will that not matter? And why is my daughter talking to food products?

Suggestions welcome.

Happy Election Day!

I get all sappy and sentimental on election day. No, really. I get John Phillip Sousa marches in my head, along with that song of all the presidents that I learned in 3rd grade (Washington, Adams; Jefferson, oh! James Madison....James Monroe! John Quincy Adams, ooh-ooh...doin' homework with you....) I think back to my first election, in 1992, when I turned 19 and lived at the Christus House and DJ, Lisa, and I hooked arms (because it was winter and icy and also we liked each other) and slid down the hill to some church 3 blocks away where we cast our ballots. It was a tingly-right-of-passage thing for me, somehow, and it continues to give me warm fuzzy feelings, even when I'm scared to death of what the outcome might be some years. I hope you get warm fuzzy feelings, too, and get yourself to a voting booth. Seriously.

I'll be back shortly with a less political post. Have you voted yet? How 'bout now? Now?

01 November 2008

I'm pretty sure this is proof she's already smarter than me.

Every other Friday marks the beginning of a long weekend here at our place. Shaun’s part time job allows him to clock 17 hours every other weekend. And since he works 6 hours every Friday, this means that twice a month, V and I get a whole lot of quality time. Alone. Together. Without a car to drive ourselves someplace where we’d be distracted from our often sizeable mother-daughter conflicts. So, we do projects. I find that if we have something unusual to do, V is less likely to get screechy, and I’m less likely to get screechy back. Sometimes we’ll make cookies, or paint dolls, or work in our studio on fabric projects.

In fact, yesterday was a fabric working day. I’ve been working on a very special quilt for Shaun for a bit over a month now, and V has been helping almost every step. She helped choose fabric. She was there when I cut the fabric, and though I sewed the majority away from her, she helped me lay it out on our dining room floor Friday. Laying out and pinning a quilt is my least favorite part of the process (aside from quilting the middle, shoving all that bulk through a machine…), and our dining room is less than ideal, because it’s just slightly smaller (with furniture) than a queen-sized quilt. But V was great. She pulled the backing taut, and helped roll out the binding, and oohed and ahhhed like a pro when I laid the top down. I started pinning in the center, working my out, and she largely hovered around the edges, talking to me and talking to her daddy’s new quilt. More than once I stopped and said “Now listen. Daddy doesn’t know about this, okay? It’s a SURPRISE. Which means we can’t tell him about it until he opens it on his birthday.”

Yes, she nodded. She just had a birthday, she reminded me, and she remembered being surprised. I was very heartened by this. Of course she knows about birthdays! Of course she knows the importance of surprise!

You all know where this is going, right?

Last night, while I made a run for milk and pull-ups (the two most necessary things in our house right now), V and Shaun sat in the TV room. The TV was off, and V was quietly reading books to herself while Shaun read something online. Suddenly (and Shaun of course told me this story, and he swears up and down that this revelation was unprovoked by him), she got up from her chair to stand beside him, and said “Mama’s making you a quilt. It’s a surprise.”
He looked up and said “What?”

She said “Mama’s making you a quilt. And it’s not a surprise…it’s a present.”

Now before you write in and tell me it serves me right for trusting a three year old with a secret…um, I know. But in some ways, it’s even better that he found out about it this way, rather than that boring open-a-present-and-suspect-nothing deal we attempt every year. This quilt’s story is richer for the way he learned about it, and it illustrates my sometimes ridiculous optimism.

He still can’t see it until his birthday, though. Besides, it’s just pinned. I need to spend several hours shoving that thing through the sewing machine before it’s ready to sleep under.

If you're reading this, Shauners, stop now. Don't look at the picture. I mean it!

For the rest of you, below is an early shot of quilt progress, laid out in our friend Kathy's front yard. I'll post a finished photo sometime after November 9. Unless V beats me to it.

November's Thankful List

Despite the fact that I am mercilessly mocked by my family when I try to get them to say what they're thankful for at the Thanksgiving dinner table, or perhaps because of that, I'm presenting my own list here. I hope to come up with 100 things I'm thankful for by the end of the month. Hopefully it won't be too boring. If it gets too boring, will somebody please stop me?
1. V.
2. #1 is healthy & usually happy.
3. We live near both our families, near enough for daytrips, even.
4. Bacon.
5. The excitement of a new presidential election.
6. Said election will only last a few more days (hopefully).
7. Red maple trees.
8. My nephews and niece and step-niece.
9. We still don’t have snow, and it’s already November (whoo!).
10. $haun, who is usually healthy and occasionally happy.

There. That's enough for now. I'm not saying, necessarily, that bacon outranks Shaun, but then again, I'm not saying it doesn't, either.

What're you thankful for?