Saturday, December 30, 2006

Happy Saturday

I thought I might take our tree down today, but maybe I'll let it stay just a little longer. The holidays have been so nice this year I'm not quite ready to let the tree go. In any event, most years it is my habit to take the tree down on New Years, so I'll do it then. Shana received a few fun ornaments this year, Elvis (The King) being the funniest. As an amusing aside, if you mention "The King" in Oklahoma you'd better be specific. Unless you say it's Elvis people will assume you mean Barry Switzer! The green disco ball right behind Elvis is a joke gift from Alex and Shalia. It had to immediately go right on the tree near Elvis. Santa as gondolier was a gift from Shana's mother, and a souvenir from her trip to Italy.

I'm just back from our holiday breakfast at Jim's Diner with our cycling friends. Shana had to work, so Rita was my party date. We exchanged some of our gifts and caught up on how everyone has been spending their time. We'll get together tomorrow for a birthday party/monthly potluck too. The entertainment for the day will be geocaching, which I have never done, but which sounds intriguing. A couple of us have GPS receivers, although most do not. It looks like an activity much like camping and cycling - once you have your equipment the expenditure per event is minimal. Also like cycling and camping, there is a wide range of prices for the equipment, from the basic to the astonishing. If this is fun I'll probably get a basic inexpensive GPS receiver, probably through Ebay with the monkey money in my Paypal account. I saw a few that might be manageable, if I get going and put up a couple more monkeys!
I've started on my personal knitting, finishing up some socks first (all socks, all the time). Since Rita is here this weekend I've mainly been working on simple socks that don't require my full attention: first a paid of ribbed blue Simple Stripes (in the home stretch now and speeding down the foot of the second sock), and a pair of bright Magic Stripe socks. I had intended the Magic Stripe to be a pair of Broadripple socks, but I got about three inches down the cuff before deciding that the combination of pattern and yarn was butt-ugly so I frogged it and started over with my standby 3x1 rib. I'm hoping to get some substantial progress on the Wildefoot socks and maybe even a pattern repeat of the Kimono shawl before the weekend is over.
The Wildefoot yarn I am using came up with a lot of knots, and I am happy to say the I have heard from the manufacturer who will send me replacement skeins. I'm still going to finish up the ones I have in progress - I love the color and I am in the middle of the foot in a somewhat complicated pattern. Still it is a relief to know that they will stand behind their product.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Boxing Day 2006

Christmas Day has passed, and all surprises are revealed. The collapse of my trusty old mixer during the yearly cookie extravaganza is now a moot point, as the Holy Grail of Kitchen Equipment is now in my kitchen. Yes, the Beautiful Pink Kitchen Aid Mixer is now mine (all mine!). Due to some wrapping subterfuge on Shana's part I did not suspect a thing. I am just so happy with it I don't know what to cook next. I mashed some potatoes (10 lbs of potatoes in two batches) last night and can report that it is as quiet and powerful as I expected. My old Sunbeam will now retire to the dump, having worked itself into a (literally) smoking ruin after 24 years of hard service. Shana also got me an immersion blender, which I had been wishing for for some time, and NEW POTHOLDERS - a big thrill, because my old ones were worn down to holey useless shreds that guaranteed at least one scorched finger for every hour of cooking. We also scored some nice new kitchen knives, so our kitchen equipment has improved amazingly. A slight improvement was effected at Alex's kitchen, as he is the beneficiary of some of my old knives.

Shana and I started the day with presents and cookies in the den, then moved on to brunch and presents with Shana's dad. Then he came along with us while we moved on to prezzies and cookies at the Humps, then on to more snacks and visiting with Uncle Buddy. Back home for presents with the kids, then a leisurely dinner with some friends and the kids. Shana made a perfect prime rib and we just feasted. I had a lovely day, with lots of laughter and love, good food, fun presents, and good company.

Samantha made me a sweet scrapbook of pictures featuring all of the kids. It is really nice, and such a treat that Sam made it for me herself. Maybe she'll catch the crafty bug after all. I think all our gifts to the kids were well received. Alex liked his afghan, but he wouldn't let me take a picture of him with it, or at least one where his face was visible.
Today I'll just be hanging out (with maybe a quick trip to Borders to redeem my credit bucks) because for the first day in months I have no deadline driven crafting, house cleaning, or cooking to do! I'm definitely taking advantage of the circumstances to put my feet up. I may even pick up a little of my personal knitting, to be done at a normal speed. I've wanted a pair of mitts and a hat for myself, and this is the time to do them. The rest of this week should be a demanding one at work, but I'll be going back refreshed.
Alex came by to help Shana return the party tables, and I sent him away with all of the leftover cookies and cake so there will be no further temptation for me (I'd already had cookies for breakfast). Back to the good behaviour for me.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jingle Jingle Jingle

The shopping is done, and all of the insanely overscheduled crafting completed. All (almost all) there is left to do is enjoy the family, friends, and food. We are hosting a small brunch Christmas Day and a dinner party for 17 (and the census keeps rising) Christmas Evening. We've done this often and it's always lots of fun. Lucky for me I don't go off to work the day after, so I can have a day to recouperate. I'd add "enjoy the leftovers" but I don't expect to see much of that, and the numbers keep rising and there are boys in the mix. I have a few bonus points stocked up at Borders, so I may just cruise by there and see if there any new fun crafty books. It would be really nice to be out and about without a big long list of places to go and things to do.
I made up most of my cookie trays this morning (one got early delivery this week. These are the ones Rita and I made up last week. Roxy hung around while I was making them up hoping I would drop something, but too bad for her. I did have to sample a few myself though, for humanitarian reasons.
I'll update in a few days with the post-mortem of all the fun, but in the meantime Happy Yule, Solstice, Chanukah, Kwanzaa and Cristmas to all.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Crafters on Parade

This weekend Has been the typical "crafter with Christmas closing in" weekend. Friday afternoon after picking up a case of empty bottles from the brewing store for the home made Limoncello for our friends, I went home to finish Shana's Super Secret gift. I have finally finished up everything on this project that needed to be done in advance. That outcome had often been in doubt. I had at various times doubted that even if I did finish it that Shana would like it. I showed it to some friends at breakfast a few weeks ago, and they were very reassuring.

Saturday was devoted to the cookie. Rita was my cookie helper for the day and we were able to crank them out in mass quantities. We made 2 loaves of Brown Irish Soda Bread, Paula Deen's White Chocolate Chunkies, Walnut and Black Pepper Biscotti, Almond Cream Spritz, Russian Tea Cakes, Sugar Cookies, and what was meant to be a pumpkin pressed cookie but ended up being a refrigerator cookie. Still to go: Haystacks. I had some anxiety when my big mixer had a moment of madness and chewed up one beater, but I did not have time to see what caused it. I just continued on with the hand mixer. This will need to be addressed, but not this weekend.

The pumpkin cookie was something of a disaster from the first. I assumed that I had a can of pumpkin in the pantry, but as it turned out I did not. I called Shana (who was out on errands) to pick up a can for me. She did, and I added it to my dough. When I got ready to make them I couldn't help but notice that the texture was AWFUL - a bit like old rubber cement. Turns out I needed only 1/3 cup, not one whole can. Shana again to the rescue. She ran to the corner and I started over. I still could not get them to press properly, so I rolled them up and refrigerated until firm, and sliced. I put sprinkles on before baking so they might look a little festive, but all I can say is it's a good thing I'll have lots of other choices!
Today I made up my office gifts: chicken pincushions. I had printed out some instructions early in the year for them, but of course I couldn't find them when the time arrived. I had been saving up some scraps for this project, supplement by a couple of fat quarters picked up during the year, and a shirt of unwearable cut but darling print which I cut up for projects. They turned out so cute! I can hardly wait to hand them out to my office mates. I've tucked them all into a little basket and I could just about leave them on my kitchen counter for the next week just to enjoy the cuteness.
I'm just about finished with the projects, but we haven't decorated the tree yet. We have one, thanks to Shana, and it's as cute as a button, but is sitting in a temporary spot completely nude. We've been so deep in the other preparations that the house looks like the Wreck of the Hesperus, a situation which must we addressed before the dog disappears under the destruction never to be seen again. It is also not happening tonight. I have got to do something about my nails lest I be mistaken for a homeless person, and I hear the soothing warmth of a bath calling.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Here comes Santa Claus

Roxy went to see Santa Claus yesterday. What she wanted most from Santa was for him to make the photo flash STOP. She liked him OK up to that point.

The various Christmas festivities are in full swing. We had our Christmas Party/Charity Auction at work last week. I had hoped to bid on one or two things, but the bidding quickly outstripped my budget, so I didn't get any of the items. Still it was fun, and I'm sure we raised loads of money for our chosen charities. Except for my share of my department's baskets, my charity budget is untouched. I think I will be sending a contribution to the Red Andrews Christmas Dinner. Red Andrews was an Oklahoma State reprentative who came up from nothing. His first Christmas dinner in 1942 served 100 people. He died in 1977, but the dinner goes on, with 7,000 served last year. They provide a dinner, plus toys for attending children and clothing for adults. Every year they have a terrible scramble for money, but the dinner goes on. It's sobering to think that while many in Oklahoma are doing well, lots of people are not.

Almost all of my waking hours at home these days are being spent in "Area 51" (where all the UFO's are). You can see how big the never-ending afghan is getting - I lack only about another foot to finish it up. I swear I will never crochet anything black ever again. Of course the amazing stack of junk beside the chair is an assortment of other unfinished objects waiting for my attention. Most are Christmas items, so I'll have to really stick with the program to keep up. It looks like the knitted and crocheted gift total will be around 12. There will be about 12 small items I will sew next weekend between cookie batches, and the food and drink total will be about 12. There will be cookie trays and Limoncello this year. The Super Secret Project is not quite done; I lack about 4 hours of work on it to finish. And yet I wonder why I am chronically short of time and money...In addition to the other multi-tasking going on next weekend, it looks like Miss Rita will be helping my with my baking.

Next weekend will be cookie baking, present shipping, tree decorating, and sewing. I'll need to settle on my cookie choices before the end of this week, keeping in mind that I will have an assistant with more enthusiasm than skill. The other variable is that I used the zest of 20 lemons for my Limoncello, so I have 20 zestless lemons in the freezer. I may make lemon bars for the office goodie day, but they are really too fragile to do well on the trays. The lemons are shrink wrapped in the freezer, so they will actaully keep until summer lemonade season perfesctly well, but I'd like to use up some of them. Shana had requested Paula Deen's cookies. Paula made some White Chocolate Cherry Chunkies last year that looked really good, but we had already finished the cookies by the time we saw those, so they had to wait for this year. There must be a cut out cookie, a hearty cookie (like ranger cookies, Paula's cherry cookies or oatmeal cookies), a pressed cookie, and something like a Mexican Wedding Cake. I like a refrigerator cookie, and since the family specialty of nut rolls has not been on the trays for two years that one may have to make an appearance.

I think Lucky Shana is completely done with her shopping - she's actually wrapping gifts today. We braved Michael's, Barnes & Noble and the mall this morning. It wasn't too bad - we knew what we wanted, and were there when the doors opened. We got out of the mall just as things were really cranking up. Shana picked out her paper and ribbon for this year while we were out. I won't be picking any out this year - I am in the "use what you've got" portion of the Christmas wrapping stash. I think there will be plenty to choose from, although I might need to get a few little boxes (or make some origami boxes in my abundant spare time).

Shana will be making her gift cookies this week, before I get control of the kitchen. She makes big pretty (Martha Stewart inspired) sugar cookies as office gifts, and they always go over really well. They are so pretty and festive that I horn in and do a few of hers just for fun. My own cookies are not so detailed, because I make at least six different kinds plus fudge. Once I make my choices it's all about production.

My shopping could be complete before I get home tomorrow, as there are only a very few items to pick up, and it looks like a quickie Target stop will do the job. All I need are some little gifts for the kids, and some festive wrapped candy to finish up my cookie trays. The trays look a little fuller and prettier with some sparkly candy sprinkled around among the cookies. Except for fudge I never make candy, so I like to buy a little. One or two bags do the trick nicely, with plenty left over for Christmas evening. Once I have all the errands done I can settle in to complete my projects and enjoy the season.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How fast is a meme, exactly?

Go here, if you have a blog and help this hapless grad student measure the speed of a meme.