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Full disclosure # 1 — It has been three weeks since my last post. This is no big hidden secret. You can check the date stamp on my prior post and see that yes, in fact, three weeks have passed since my first post on doing One Project a Week. Ha Ha!, you laugh. She couldn’t even make it through week one! Ha ha!

Well…

Full disclosure # 2 — I have been working on the same project I pulled from the Jar on Week 1. I know, I have already broken a rule. Rule No. 4 states:

‘If project isn’t finished by Sunday evening, put the To-Do back into the jar so you can work on it again another week.’

Well, you see, Project 1 is this flipping co-knitted blanket. It is beautiful, really, and I only say flipping because I feel like we’ve been knitting on it for a year. And I only feel that way because we almost have? My mum and I have been kneedling away on this thing since… last November? Yes. It was last November. We bought the wool from Windsor Button (RIP, boo-hoo, no more Windsor Button) during Thanksgiving 2012. Now remember too that we live about 10-flyover states away from each other, and have had to mail (or fly) this dang thing back and forth to get it done. So really, it’s not that bad, right? And it is a huge 5×5 foot blanket. Knitted. With multiple and complicated color and stitch direction changes. Did I tell you it’s knitted?

Well, it is.

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And it is lovely.

It is a gift, and the recipient needs this blanket before the cold months begin, so I MUST finish it. It’s not quite done and probably needs a few more weeks of work. Goal is two weeks.

So for now, I’m foregoing the rules and will finish this blanket by knit and by purl (well, really only by knit since the whole thing is knit stitch) and will pull a new to-do from the jar whence this dang blanket is complete.

In other news, I have been a fairly productive baker these last three weeks. I made these, for instance:

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To be honest, I have baked scones every weekend. Having been spoiled with readily available quality scones on our vacation, I have had the urge to bake them. A lot. I’ve tried three different recipes, and today’s were the worst. The scone in the pic above was try #1 and they were quite good.

I also made this Sticky Toffee Pudding recipe with Bird’s Custard ice cream (a recipe of my own design). ‘Where’s the pic!?’ you say. ‘Show me this STP!’ Hoh! Aren’t you demanding?

I promise I did make it. I cut up and made a crazy mound of sticky dates, and used cream and molasses to make the toffee sauce. I did make this delectable pudding. And though I have no photographic evidence, I do have witnesses—Annie, Mark, and Shehz all partook in the STP.

And it was good.

See, I’ve been productive, even though I have spent all of my creative time baking and knitting on this one project. I feel accomplished! I feel happy! And I feel… full.

And ok, NO. I have not completed One Project a Week. But I have completed one scone a week. OK OK! I’ve completed 4 scones a week, if you must count… OK 5!!!

Cheeky.

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Here’s a representative photo of our winter — Anna in her new Andy Carroll Liverpool jersey and scarf on a Sunday morning with a plate full of just-out-of-the-oven scones! We’ve been doing this every weekend that Liverpool is on Fox Soccer Channel or ESPN (the games tend to start nice and early Boston time).

Just doesn’t get much better than this! (I think this was from the day when our Reds knocked off Chelsea — it REALLY doesn’t get much better than that… especially this season)

The National Weather Service is predicting that a “SIGNIFICANT WINTER STORM WILL IMPACT THE REGION WEDNESDAY AND WEDNESDAY NIGHT WITH HEAVY SNOW AND STRONG WINDS…” note use of capital letters for emphasis.  It could very well be a snow day here tomorrow.  I’m hoping for it, but I’m thinking the big snow won’t start until tomorrow afternoon, by which time I’ll have already been at work wishing I was curled up with the dog and some cocoa watching recorded episodes of American Idol Hollywood Week.  I’ll finish my work day and then have to wait for a bus that won’t show because the snow is impacting the overhead lines, or if and when it does show up is packed with masses of people trying to exit the city.  We’ll then trudge through several inches of snow to home only to be met by a dog who has been inside all day long and desperately needs a walk.  Fun Fun!  I’m not complaining, really, in fact I wish for MORE snow because I really want a snow day.  I just don’t want to come home from a long day’s work in a snow mess.  So yes, more snow please!  I’ll take all that DC has had and more! Bring it on!  I heart snow days!

If… IF… it is a snow day, either tomorrow or Thursday (both unlikely, but a girl can dream!) here are the top 10 things I would do:

1. Sleep in
2. Stay in my sweats all day
3. Make a big pot of coffee and eat a giant bowl of Malt-O-Meal, extra lumpy and two brown sugars
4. Knit and/or paint and/or make Valentines
5. Watch tivo’d episodes of Chuck, American Idol, and Biggest Loser
6. Finish this terrible book I’m reading called The Anglo Files.  Funny, but super whiny and borderline offensive towards all things Britain
7. Bake Mark these cookies, or these cookies
8. Give Gordon a bone and watch him hide it
9. Force Mark to play a board game with me, preferably Boggle or Life
10. Make a pot of soup

How would you spend a snow day?  Or, if you live in DC or anywhere in the Mid-Atlantic, how have you spent your snow days?

I should be doing my homework for my last illustrator class tomorrow… I have two projects to finish.  A trace of HRH the Queen of England catching a train in Paris, and a map.  Fun stuff. Probably a day or two’s worth of work, due tomorrow night.

But instead, I invite you to look at my cookies.  I made these yesterday.  Baked them I should say, because Mark also helped decorate them.  He was very good at icing the man-shaped cookies with ties and sweaters and buttons.  And creating shiny stars.

The recipe comes from our lovely family friend Tammie A. and it’s top secret.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only one besides her that knows what goes in them because she gave me the top-secret recipe and I’m pretty sure that she wouldn’t give it to anyone else.  And thus I’m pretty sure that I’m not sharing it here.  The thing is, though… I don’t make them nearly as good as she does.  There’s just something about Tammie’s cookies that I can’t put my finger on but they’re soooooooooooooo good.  And the ones I made are merely mediocre compared to hers, but I’m honored just the same to have the recipe–even if I can’t quite re-create them.  I guess that’s good though.  Part of the reason I think I like them so much is because they do only come out perfectly from her oven. If I could have Tammie A. cookies ANYTIME I wanted them, they probably wouldn’t be as perfectly wonderful, right?

Well here they are… pretty ok I guess.  Almost the same, but not quite:


snowflakes and stars


trees


men with sweaters and ties


blue snowflakes


more snowlfakes and men with buttons


YUM!

Hello All,

Wishing everyone this morning a Happy Easter, and hoping spring comes soon with new life and fresh moments of happiness and hope and love for the coming months.

Today I feel mixed feelings of happiness and sadness–happy because it -IS- almost feeling like spring, and we have new sprouts popping up that will bring good produce to us this summer; happy for the buds on the trees and the flowers popping up all around; excited for the coming of summer and all the warm days will bring.  But sad because I’m missing my family today… I know it’s hard for us to be away from our families on holidays, but for some reason Easter gets me every year.  And picturing my mum and dad at home dying eggs by themselves just breaks my heart.  So to all of our families far and wide:

WE LOVE YOU!  We miss you!

We will be having a nice Easter brunch soon and be celebrating the newness of the Spring with Annie–we’ve cooked up some yummy treats for her–Sunrise Enchiladas and Blue Ribbon Cinnamon Rolls, from a special Wyoming Cookbook given to me by my mother.  I’ll put photos up soon.  We’ll also be trying to plant some of our sprouts that have grown WAY outside of their little peat packs (roots everywhere! It’s incredible!) in hopes that they’ll be able to grow much bigger and faster outside…

Enjoy the day!  It’s a day of new life!

Hello Friends.

It’s been quite a while.  And we know that, because last time we blogged there was a giant freaking snow pile in our driveway.  And now, alas, there is not… nothing like actually, and especially today.  It was lovely outside.  And if I don’t see snow for another whole 8 months I’ll be a happy bear.

This weekend was good and fun and filled with good food, good friends, good games, and too much sugar.  Let’s do this thing in three categories:  Gardening; Friends; Sugar

Gardening:

YEEEAAAAHOOOOOOOOO! It’s _almost_ that time of year again, that time of big tomatoes, little squashes, and other fresh delights hanging out of our pot garden.  To get a kick-start this year, we drove over to our local Home Depot… which by the way is a great place.  Families of all shapes and sizes picking out seeds and gardening stuff, big guys with their little girls loading pink paint and lights into carts, and crafty types picking up wood and nails for their next projects, all with big happy smiles on their faces, and nice folks in orange aprons there to help you out.  Anyhoo, we were there for one thing: Starting Kits.  You can make your own if you have boxes, REALLY heavy duty plastic bags or plastic liners, wire of some sort, and plastic wrap.  OR, you can spend $5 and buy a reusable box with 50 little holes for 50 seed starts with its very own plastic top.  While we’d love to do our own thing, we couldn’t not spend the $5 plus $4 for a bag of special seed-starting peat moss stuff.  It seemed like a good idea, and we’ll see about that.  We also bought seeds for tomatoes, squash, beans, carrots, lettuce, various flowers and herbs.

We brought our wares back to the house and got straight to work:

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We organized a work space, and filled the box with the 50 spots with the peat mixture stuff…

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sprayed it with water, and added various seeds in rows…

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then we gave it a good drink of water and put the top on.  We did this three more times, and set them up in our back room under a plant light and turned the space heater up to 71.

Apparently these things like this kind of special warm wet climate… and the little boxes create a bit of condensation and sort of make it swampy… perfect conditions for turning from seed to sprout.

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We hope to have seedlings in about 7-10 days… and don’t you worry, you’ll be kept very well informed.  Yay for gardening!  Yay for pots and dirt and seeds!  Pot gardens!  Yeaaay!

Friends:

Later on Saturday evening we brought ourselves over to good buddy Seth’s house for some Settling of Catan and good food with our other lovely Anne Marie friend.  But boy were we surprised to see Jamin too, in Boston for apartment hunting (congrats to Jamin on his match at MGH!)

Settlers of Catan is a great game.  And you can call us nerds until you go blue in the face, we will not stop playing, nor will we take your teasing.  It is, a fantastic game.  See here if you don’t believe us.  You trade commodoties for other commodoties, all in the hopes of building roads and huts and cities and longest roads and largest armies.  And no, it is not like Risk.

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We played for about three hours… and I’ve never seen a board turn out like this (and I say that because, unlike most games, the board and state and rate and style and outcome of play is different every time).   Mark and I were on a side in orange against Anne Marie in red, Seth in white, and Jamin in blue.  Three parallel roads!! Craziness.  Anne Marie had the HUGEST road… like 12 lengths long or something (see the pic above), and everyone was so close (8 pts each with 11 to win in this game–we decided).

Seth kept moving the robber (yes! there’s a robber!) and stifling our sheep and brick winnings… and then the robber came off and Mark and I dominated, and then it was over.  But fun.  And funny.  Because everyone has their endearing ways of playing, such as in trading:

(Jamin: OK, guys…so here’s what I want. I have bricks. I want wood. Anyone? Anyone? OK, let me repeat myself: here’s what I want…)

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and evading the robber: (Anne Marie: But I only have two cards! I’m not strong! — except that she is strong… it’s just a ploy) and pointing out other players strength when they put down a road or settlement (Seth: OOOOOH… she’s strong! Oooooooh! Look how strong she is!) and me, I just like to deny everything… No! I don’t have any ore. Sorry.  Not today.  Sorry… (when I perfectly well do have ore, just not to trade with you).

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And Mark? Well, he’s generally just very tricky.  Very tricky indeed, and not to be trusted.

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Suffice it to say, it was good fun.  Mark made marinaded chicken and he and Seth skewered up some kabobs with yummy veggies, and we enjoyed good kabobs with some sort of cous cous that was spicy and delightful.  Good times.  Good eats.  Good friends.  Good game.

Sugar:

So today I probably consumed a pound of sugar. Or so.  Maybe two pounds.  But it was worth it.  Sammy Pants friend came over for a while and helped bake the lovely Easter Cookies.

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We made maybe 3 or 4 dozen or so…

And they are awesome.  Sammy is a cookie decorating machine.  Here are some of our finest:

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And anyone who knows anything about decorating cookies KNOWS that there is frosting everywhere, and it seeps out of every place.  And if one looks bad, you eat it.  Or if an ear falls off, you eat it!  Or if a giant glob of frosting accidentally on purpose falls off the knife, you have to catch it on your finger, and EAT IT!

And so we crashed.

And it was good.

The end.

Of a lovely weekend.

I cannot wait for summer.

I am up waiting for the damned bread to bake… I started it at about noon, and it is past midnight.  It better be good bread.   We got the recipe from the Bread Bible.  Yes, that is the name of the book.  It is a great book on all things bread, and it came to us from our lovely friends Terri & Sammy.  Now, the recipe is said to taste like “what Wonderbread wants to be and isn’t” but that remains to be seen.  I’ll report tomorrow on the yumminess of the crumb, but let me just say, their “basic white sandwich bread” was far from basic.

But seeing as I am up now at 12:20, I might as well report on the goings on in the soap-making world too, right?  Right!

Today we finished two–TWO–new soaps!  Lucky Jeff & Sheena will get to take home test bars tomorrow of honey chamomile and lavender vanilla.

I was going to just drop the chamomile buds right into the soap this time, just like I usually do, but the buds I purchased this year are so large and of such high quality, I decided to mash them up into a fine chamomile dust.

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Mark helped out on this too, which was good, as he was very keen on keeping out as many stems as possible.

Here’s what we came up with once we added all the ingredients–the chamomile bud dust; pure Mass. honey; and Roman Chamomile Oil–to the hot melted base:

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Now, at this point, this mixture smelled soooooo good, I wanted to eat it up.  But that would have been A. dangerously hot and 2. really nasty since, of course, it’s not just yummy honey chamomile sauce it’s soap.  Ick.  But imagine sticking your nose into a warm cup of chamomile tea and multiply it times 50.  It was amazing.

Then of course we pour it into the molds like this:

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Today we did both bars and rounds.  Still haven’t received our awesome giant loaf mold which I’m slightly peeved about, but I’m being patient because I know the guy makes them individually 🙂  These ones turned out especially good, don’t you think?  Wish we had smell-o-blogging so you could enjoy the aroma too.

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In our endeavor to create an L.P.E. stamp to press into each soap, we tried another technique of using rubber stamping material from which I carved out the letters.  But when I attempted to glue the rubber carving onto a piece of wood, the glue (I tried two–P.V.A. [probably a mistake] and household super glue cement stuff) _ate through_ the rubber…

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So instead, we used some plain jane rubber stamps which worked out perfectly.

Here’s an example from our lovely lavender vanilla batch we finished today, after some melting and re-melting, and trying different ways of adding the lavender (we finally ended up grinding it up in the blender, which smelled amazing, *thanks Mark for the great idea!!).  These came out quite nice:

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Ok.  Well, the bread is finally done.  And I have to say, it looks and smells delicious.  I’m going to bed now, but will have sweet dreams of fresh bread and warm chamomile.  I hope you do too!

Let me say that today wasn’t one of Gordon’s best days.  No, indeed it was not.  I’m not sure if it’s a full moon tonight, or a dog-ette was in heat or the weather was changing–but Gordon the Dog was a little shit today.  It started this morning.  I woke up and took him outside, which is the normal routine (Mark will argue here that me taking Gordon for the morning walk is _not_ a normal routine, but he’s on vacation, so whilst he’s away, this routine is normal) and went around the block–as we turned the corner, a nice man walking a little brown dog came around on the other side of the street.  Well it was still 7:00 am and I wasn’t quite awake at that point, and didn’t have my full day’s strength yet–Gordon pulled me into the street, me shouting “NO GORDON!!” looking left only to see a car coming our way about 100 yards off.  The car was far enough off that I think it saw us and slowed down, although I was so pissed at that point my adrenaline kicked in and I yanked the little beast back to the safety of the sidewalk and sat him down for a talking-to.  Which seemed to last all but about an hour while I did some gardening, and then he proceeded to sit under my desk and chew on one of my hb pencils.

Gordon looking out for wild vegetable-eating beasts while Mom gardens.

The garden is doing really well.  I’m very proud of it so far.  It got a little overgrown and wild, but I took care of most of that craziness this week.  Took one of our cherry tomatoes out and put it into its own pot which seemed to help a lot.   I also created a little string fence for the beans to grow up.  I hope that works, because the first of the beans were really good, and the more beans the better.  We have two full cucumbers and a couple little ones growing too–I check the garden about twice a day, and didn’t notice these until this morning.  They just kind of appeared out of nowhere.

And I’m the most proud of our little yellow-neck squash that popped up this week.  We grew these squash plants from the seed (all of our other plants came from seedlings we bought at the store) so it’s quite special.  Isn’t it beautiful?

I noticed today too we have a few zucchinis, a couple more peppers, and way too many tomatoes of three varieties (romas, patios, grape) that will be ready to eat soon.  Our flowers are doing well too, and the lavender is finally taking some shape, and looks to be growing some flowers which we’ll use in our soaps this winter.  I’ve really loved gardening this summer.  It’s our first garden together.

We’ve had many many plants, but not any that gave fruit, so this is exciting and fulfilling.  I appreciate more and more the work farmers do when I’m out there–and I’m doing it on such a microscopic level comparatively.  Someday I would like my sheep farm with a big big garden to grow enough produce to sell or trade for other things.  But for now I am heartily content.

A pepper and some tomatoes that I picked fresh today.

I went to the grocery store and to the PetSmart because Gordon was running out of food.  Is it just me or are all big-name pet stores crazy and completely under-staffed?  I see the commercials and think, oh, those dogs and cats look so happy, and the people there are friendly and nice! And then I go to pick up dog food that I would gladly purchase anywhere else if I could, but PetSmart & PetCo etc. are the only ones who carry it.  And I feel like I always wait with 15 other customers in the only line of a flustered employee, while someone waits on the side getting pissed and demands a manager.   But where else do you go to buy 45 pounds of ground up flour, oil by-products and other unmentionable meats?  Where!?  Anyhow, despite Gordon’s bad morning behavior, I did decide that perhaps instead of pencils he needed some rawhides to chew on.  YAY! Gordon loves rawhides.  He loved this one so much he ate the whole thing in one sitting.  Sometimes he hides the ends, but not today.

Look at how he grips it with his paws and holds on for dear life.  I keep telling him “Gordon, I don’t chew bones.  I don’t want it!” but any time I walked by him with even the slightest look his way, he took the bone and ran to another part of the house.

What a Gordon!

I also made cookies today–Lemon Drop Cookies which are the easiest and most delightful cookies of the summer.  My mother used to make them when I was little, and she’d make bags and bags of them and stick them in the freezer, because they are best that way.  The Lemon Drop Cookies are made with frozen lemonade and they’re so sweet and tart and lemony!  You take a cup of butter, a cup of sugar, cream them together and add two eggs.  Add to that a mixture of 3 cups of flour, a tsp of baking soda, and a .5 tsp salt.  As you’re mixing in the flour, add half of a can of melted frozen lemonade (you can use pink lemonade too, if you can find it at your store–that’s my favorite!) and then turn out teaspoon sized balls on to a cookie sheet and cook in a 375 degree oven for 12-15 minutes, until the bottoms are light brown.  Then brush the other half of the lemonade on them, and sprinkle with sugar, then pop them into the freezer.  Makes 3 dozen or so.

Gordon really wanted me to drop him one, but since he’d already had a bone and just eaten his dinner, I said no.  No, Gordon, no cookies for you.

He didn’t like that much, so he licked a raw one right off the sheet when I wasn’t looking.

Hopefully he’ll be on better behavior tomorrow, eh?

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