Sunday, January 31, 2010

Slow Cooker Taragon Chicken

I'm on a crock pot binge these days.  My schedule has been changed for a few months and it's really nice to have a warm meal waiting for us when I come into the house at dinner time.   We really like this one so I thought I'd share it with you.


Heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet.
Sprinkle 4-8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts with salt and pepper (number of chicken breasts doesn't matter- just as long as they fit in your crock pot)
Brown chicken on all sides in oil and place chicken in the slow cooker

Add to the same skillet:
One chopped onion
1-2 cloves garlic, chopped
one pound white button mushrooms, roughly sliced- not too small
one teaspoon dried tarragon
Saute for about 10 minutes and transfer to crock pot with chicken

Deglaze skillet with:
1/2 cup dry white wine or vermouth, scraping the bits from the pan into the liquid
2 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
Combine liquids- you might need to use a whisk
Pour into crock pot.

Cook on low for 5 hours or high for 3 hrs (a little longer won't hurt, but check to see if it needs a little water if you leave it in longer).

Combine 1/2 cup half-and-half with 2 tablespoons cornstarch and pour into crockpot and stir contents.  Cover and cook for about 15 minutes.

Great served with rice or risotto.  Garnish with fresh tarragon if you have it.  If you REALLY like tarragon, you can put some fresh tarragon in when you add the half-and-half.  (I don't do this, but the original recipe I worked with called for it).

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Entrelac Scarf and Fingerless Mitts

 I finished a knitting project that has been almost done for a loooooong time.  I just needed to finish off the second mitt and work in the yarn tails.  We still have a little bit of winter left so I can give them a little bit of wear this year.

I love fingerless mitts.  Granted- they do let your fingers get cold, but I like being able to use my fingers.  Our Pacific Northwest winters aren't generally bitter cold- at least not in the Portland area.  I just like to keep my neck and wrists warm- and I'm good to go.

I used Noro Kureon self striping yarn.  The scarf was my first try at doing entrelac.  I think it's good to try a new technique like this with something flat- such as a scarf.  Now I have the confidence to do an entrelac handbag or socks.  For those of you who might not be familiar with entrelac, it's knitting squares in a "criss cross" fashion.  You don't do any sewing- you pick up stitches along the sides of the squares with your knitting needle.  I had a heck of a time with this at first, but eventually the light bulb lit and I figured it out.

I have a few other knitting UFO's... I'm resolving to finish lots of UFO's this year- both knitting and sewing.  I'm blocking another project now- I'll show it to you when it's dry.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Carol Doak's Scenic BOM

Isn't this cute?  You can't tell from the photo, but this is really a tiny quilt.  The blocks are paper pieced.  To give you an idea of scale, the sashing is 1 1/2 " wide (1/2 " each stripe).  This was a 2009 BOM designed by Carol Doak.  She has a Yahoo group of followers who participated.  I was one of them, but I just downloaded the patterns and haven't started it yet.  I was browsing around on some blogs and I came across Jen Sorenson's blog,  A Quilting Jewel.  Now I'm REALLY motivated to make one!  Jen has inspired me.  Her little quilt is SOOOO cute- I just can't stand it!  Jen is asking for opinions on a border.  She's not sure if she should put one on, or how big to make it.  If you have an opinion- check out her blog and comment on it.

To get this and lots of other free paper piecing patterns, go to Carol Doak's website.  From her website, you can click to her blog.  On the blog, you will find information about joining the Yahoo Group, which is where the Scenic BOM is.  Carol is a really nice lady and has a huge following of loyal paper piecers.

OH- and you can get information on Carol's home page (website) about getting a free trial of Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims' show, The Quilt Show.  If you aren't familiar with it- it's a website that has lots of information and weekly "TV Shows" online.  You can see some of the site for free, and other features are available to members who pay an annual fee.  I belong, and I love it.  I watch it when I'm alone in my shop cutting fat quarters or making up kits or filling orders.  The shows make the time fly!  I think it's a good value for the cost.  But if you aren't sure- hop on over to Carol Doak's site and find out how to get a free trial.

Here's the shameless plug.... you can visit my website and buy Carol Doak's Marriner's Compass Book  for 25% off.  All of the full size quilt books on my website are always 25% off.  I also have the Add a Quarter Ruler, which is a "must" for easy paper piecing.  If you're looking for something you can't find on my website, send me an email and I'll see if I can get it for you.

I think I'll head to my scrap tub and find some fabrics for block one....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

I found some giveaways you might like

Barb at Bella Vista is actually giving away this Rooster tureen with 4 matching bowls!  Hop on over and enter!

I found this and other contests and giveaways on Sew Cal Gal's blog.  You can also find a lot of giveaways on Barb's blog at Bejeweled Quilts.  Both Sew Cal Gal and Barb have become blog buddies of mine.  They are very nice ladies with nice blogs.  Check em' out!  (And write to me and gloat about it if you win something!). 

Have fun and good luck!

Slow Cooker "Barbecued" Brisket

I'd like to share my favorite new brisket recipe with you.  I've used one from the Betty Crocker cookbook for years but I think I like this one better.  My inspiration is a recipe in "Slow Cooker- the Best Cookbook Ever" by Diane Phillips.  I got it at Costco recently.  I made so many modifications that the author probably wouldn't recognize her own recipe, but  her recipe was my starting point.  It's incredibly easy and I think it will be a favorite for years in this household!  I highly recommend the book, too.

4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced (or about as much of the minced fresh garlic from a jar)
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper (freshly ground if possible)
3-6 pound  flat cut brisket- fat trimmed (the size of the brisket isn't important- just as long as it fits in the crock pot)
3-5 onions, thinly sliced (depending on size.. 3 big ones or 5 little ones or somewhere in between)
1 to 1 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1/3 cup Dijon mustard
About 5 cups tomato mixture:  Combination of ketchup, tomato puree, stewed tomatoes, canned diced tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, or whatever you have.... to total a mixture of about 5 cups.  I used about a cup of ketchup, a small can of tomato paste, a large can of stewed tomatoes, a large can of diced tomatoes and I threw in a fresh tomato (skin off).  It doesn't matter- just use a cup or 2 of  ketchup or one cup of ketchup and one little can of tomato paste, and then some sort of tomato products other than paste.  Be sure to throw in all the juice- don't drain the tomatoes.

Combine 2 tablespoons oil, the garlic, salt and pepper.  Rinse the brisket and pat dry.  Rub the oil mixture on the brisket.  Put the other 2 tablespoons of oil on a large skillet and brown the brisket on all sides.  Transfer the brisket to a 5-7 quart slow cooker.

Cook the onions in the same skillet, scraping the bits from the bottom of the pan.  When the onions are translucent and starting to brown, add all of the remaining ingredients to the pan- stir to combine well and make sure the bottom of the pan is well scraped.

Pour the hot sauce mixture over the brisket, lifting the meat a little to allow some of the sauce to flow under the meat.

Cook on high for 4-5 hrs or low for 8-10 hrs.  I let it go a little longer when I can.  I think I last cooked it on high for 6-7 hrs.

Transfer the meat to a cutting surface, and pour the sauce into a pot on top of the stove.  If things have gone well, the meat will be falling apart.  Get what you can out of the slow cooker, but don't worry about the little pieces that fall off.  Just leave them in the sauce.

Cook the sauce on high for about 10-15 minutes to reduce it. (The picture above was taken when I poured it in the pot- it hadn't reduced yet).  Taste it AFTER it's reduced and adjust salt and pepper to your liking.  The onions and tomatoes are totally broken apart by now, and there are a few meat chunks.  It is a deep, red sauce with thick substance.  I purposely adjusted the quantities to make more sauce than needed for the brisket.  We like it poured generously over the meat and over open faced brisket sandwiches.  When the meat is gone, there is a lot of this wonderful sauce left over.  I mixed it together with a jar of purchased spaghetti sauce and then used it for spaghetti.  I put a little Italian seasoning in (basil and oregano).  You could use it for any kind of pasta dish.

Cut the meat on an angle, against the grain, to get the most tender slices.  You could also shred it with 2 forks and use it for brisket sandwiches.  Great with cole slaw, a nice big pickle, and some potato chips.  Mmmmm...


Last post on the chocolate- I promise!

OK- I'm sure you're tired of hearing about the chocolate.  This is the last post about it- I promise.  I just wanted to thank you for all the comments- all the laughs- and all the sincere congratulations.  Only nice people like you readers would congratulate me on such a win.  :-)  I especially liked the comment about the reader drooling on her keyboard and licking her monitor......

I've been cutting each piece in half and sharing them with my DH.  Aren't I good wife?  Good thing we're empty nesters so I don't have to share with the kids!

Friday, January 22, 2010

My Chocolate Arrived!

I received a wonderful package!  The fine folks at Derry Church Artisan Chocolates sent me 15 delectable pieces of chocolate.  This chocolate is nothing short of amazing!  What a lucky lady I am to win such a wonderful giveaway.  Along with the chocolate was a nice note from the Pastry Chef Eric Cayton,.... he's as nice as his chocolates. 

Here's the scoop on the giveaway I won.  I learned about the giveaway from Sew Cal Gal on her blog.  There is an association of artisans and crafts people in Pennsylvania called the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen.  The guild helps its members with promotion and maintains a website to showcase their work.. This particular giveaway was hosted by Derry Church Chocolates (one of the members) but the idea was to showcase the association.  Check out their blog and their website.  They're full of wonderful things made by the wonderful artisans in Pennsylvania.  I had fun looking around the blog because I was raised in PA and know a lot of the locations mentioned.

This has been a delightful experience.  Not only did I win chocolate, but I have enjoyed some nice email exchanges and viewed some great new websites.  Lucky ME!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Have you seen this quilt?

Has anyone seen this cute little quilt?  Kimberly is asking the quilting community to keep a look out for it.  She displayed it at an open house and it never made it home with her.  It is pictured above in her recent book, Jelly Roll Quilts and More.  The really sad thing is that she sent it to her publisher when she was hurrying to make deadlines for the book, and never photographed it.  The only record she has of the quilt is the photo in the book.  It's a small quilt (22" x 22").  Keep your eyes peeled on ETSY and  EBay.  She just wants it back- no questions asked.  Read more about it on Kimberly's blog.

Monday, January 18, 2010


PLEASE!!!!! Somebody tell me I'm not dreaming!  I won the chocolate giveaway!  The wonderful people of Derry Church Artisan Chocolates in Mechanicsburg, PA are sending me a 15-piece assortment of their artisan chocolates.  I woke up to a note from Nick asking me if I prefer dark or milk chocolate.  Now THAT'S how to sweet talk a girl, Nick! THIS is how a Monday should start!

Hemlock Ring Blanket

My niece, Melanie, knitted this prayer shawl.  She gave it to a friend as a Christmas gift.  It's either a shawl or a blanket- whichever you want it to be.  The designer created it from an old doily pattern.  It can be found on the Brooklyn Tweed blog.  I believe it's a free pattern.

Mel said she doesn't generally block her knitting but it wasn't optional with this project.  It was all bunchy and ripply.  Blocking really did the trick!  It looks fantastic, Mel!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Chocolate giveaway

Can you believe this?  Someone is actually giving away chocolate!  I'm blogging about this so I'll get an extra entry, but I don't want anyone else to enter because I don't want any more competition!  No kidding- pop on over an enter.  It's an awesome giveaway.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Silly Puppy!

My son and his wife took a little vacation last weekend and their puppy, Cooper, spent the weekend with us.  Cooper is about a year old and he's a really sweet dog.  We have a new skylight in our kitchen.  In the daytime, you can see the sky.  But at night, it's like a mirror.  So, whenever we have the light on in the kitchen, Cooper stands there and looks up at the "roof dog".  He growls and barks and we eventually turn the light off to shut him up.  Silly Cooper.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Surprises in the Mail!

Look what the mail lady had for me today!


Melinda Fulkerson  sent me this cute little pin cushion.  (Sorry the picture is dark- the background is actually white).  She sent them to several of her blog followers and also made extras for gifts.  She says she's made about 40 so far.  Thank you SOOOO much, Melinda!  I'll take it to my sewing area and fill it with pins!


Melinda has a great blog.  She recently posted a tutorial for a nice tissue holder.  Check it out!

As if that wasn't enough fun for one day, I got a package from Micki at Irish Muses.  I won Micki's Irish Christmas giveaway a few weeks back.Micki has been doing some nice posts about paper piecing lately.  Check it out!

She sent a little Irish doll (which is destined for my cousin's daughter in New Jersey), a wonderful Irish Quilting magazine (which I'm half way through), and my (now) favorite new Christmas decoration- a Beleek China Santa candle holder.  I'm not even sure if I'm going to put him away with the Christmas decorations yet.

Then there was the chocolate.  Mmmmmm.  In the US, commercially sold food has to have nutrition content printed on the package.  I looked over the packaging of this wonderful Irish chocolate.  I couldn't find a calorie content anywhere.  So--- I have to assume that it has no calories!  Thanks so much for the indulgence, Micki!

And finally- a good laugh.  These are "odd Irish socks".  Funny!  I have a box in my closet with holiday clothes- heart socks for Valentine's Day, a shirt with pumpkins on it for the fall, Christmas clothing, etc.  These will make it into that box, and will be my St. Patrick's Day socks.

I am a new sock knitter and I've looked at a lot of blogs of sock knitters.  Funny how bloggers take pictures of socks on their own feet rather than asking someone else to take the picture.  They always look "upside down".  And because of the perspective, the legs always look bigger than the feet.... not very flattering.

It's been nice to get to know Micki.  We learned through our correspondence that we both grew up in Philadelphia and lived parallel lives without meeting until now.  I love the package of goodies, but my new friend, Micki, is even a better gift.

Thanks Micki and Melinda!  You made my day!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Slow Cooker Corn Chowder with Jalapeno

This soup is beyond amazing!  My friend, Karen, made it for me and, after scarfing down 2 bowls, I begged her for the recipe.  It is from the book, "Art of the Slow Cooker- 80 Exciting New Recipes" by Andrew Schloss.   I immediately got my own copy of the book, because it's just full of yummy looking recipes.
I like this cookbook because it's a little different from most crockpot cookbooks.  You don't just dump a bunch of stuff in and cook it all day.  You do just a little bit of cooking in the first place- like sauteing onions or browning meat- THEN dump it all in and cook it all day.  The results are a little more refined.

Don't be afraid of the peppers in this recipe.  It really isn't too hot.  Two jalapenos in a pot this size doesn't do too much.  I used 2 and took out the seeds.  Start with one if you're nervous about the heat, or 3 if you like it spicy.  The author talks about how the heat is lessened when they peppers cook for such a long time.

I just used canned ground coriander in my soup.  But I liked it so much that I wanted to try toasting the coriander and crushing it myself, so I asked my DH to get me a mortar and pestle for Christmas.  He got me a marble one.  Cool , huh?  Honestly, the ground coriander from the spice aisle is just fine.  I just wanted to play.  You could also toast the coriander and put it in a pepper mill to crack it.

You really should give this soup a try- it's delicious!

Corn Chowder with Jalapeno

2 slices salt port of bacon, finely diced (I used bacon)
2 onions, finely chopped
1 bell pepper (red or green) stemmed, seeded, and finelydiced
2 celery ribs, finely diced
2-3 jalapeno peppers, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
3 cups corn kernels (about two 11 ounce cans), drained
1 can (about 15 ounces) fire roasted tomatoes (I could only find a 32 ounce can, and I used it all. We liked it)
 1 can (about 15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin, preferably cracked from ground whole seeds toasted in a dry skillet
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
5 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup cream or half-and-half

Heat a large deep skillet over medium high heat.  Add the bacon and cook until browned and bottom of pan is glazed with fat.  Add the onions, bell pepper, celery, and jalapenos. and saute until the onions are lightly browned and tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer to a 5- to 6-quart slow cooker, and add the corn, tomatoes, and beans.

Add the cornmeal, salt, pepper, cumin, oregano, and rosemary to the skillet and cook for 30 seconds over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Add the broth and heat to boiling, stirring often.  Continue boiling until thickened, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes, and pour into the slow cooker.  Cover the cooker and cook for 3 to 4 hours on high, or 6 to 8 hours on low, until the vegetables are tender.

Stir in the cream and heat though, about one minute.  (note- I didn't add the cream to the whole pot.  I just put a little half-and-half to taste in each bowl.  I think this would also be good with a dollop of sour cream and garnished with cilantro instead of mixing in the cream or half-and-half.  And a little grated cheese on it wouldn't be bad, either!)


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Busy day- lots of emails, a newsletter and a cleaning solution!

Busy day!  First of all-- I was blown away by the number of emails I got today!  Do giveaway entries just grow exponentially with each one, or is Ricky Tims a big draw?  (Maybe both?)  I posted the giveaway last night, and woke up this morning to a huge list of readers asking to be entered.  And.... a personal email from Ricky Tims thanking me for highlighting his pattern.  That was a pleasant surprise!

So what are these crazy pictures?  They are my brilliant husband's solution to a cleaning nightmare. (I get points for calling him brilliant).  We moved to this house about 2 1/2 years ago.  We got a new stove soon after. (long story).  I absolutely love the new stove.  But there is a gap on either side between the stove and the cabinets.  We will eventually be doing new counter tops and correcting that.  But for now, I was constantly grumbling about the crud on the floor in the gaps, and the fact that utensils kept sailing overboard.

In enters DH. (That's Dear Husband, for those of you who are new to blog-speak).  Actually, I talked him into cleaning the floor between the gaps over the holidays and he said it was a tough job.  No kidding.  Quote: "There's macaroni under here".  He then went to work on a solution.  He went to the hardware store and bought a few feet of plastic tubing (the heavy kind).  He got it a little larger than the gap so it could be squeezed into the space.  Voila!  You don't notice it unless you know it's there. (I stuck my finger in the tube in the picture so you can see it).  All the crumbs and grease splatters and spoons get caught on the tubing and the floor stays clean.  Most days I just wipe it off, but after a week I noticed crumbs building up, so I slipped it out, rinsed it off, and put it back.  See?  I told you he was brilliant!

I spent a bunch of today marking down some older fabric and writing my January Newsletter.  I'll be changing some prices tomorrow and adding some new products.  If you don't know about the newsletter, it's for my online quilt shop.  You go to the website and click on the tab at the top that reads, "For You".  That's where you find my gallery (quilt photos) and the place to sign up to receive the newsletter.  Click HERE to go directly to the sign up page.  Don't worry- I don't post your email address in the New York Times or anything.  It just stays in my system for this use only- unless you opt out.  Every month, I have a newsletter special- advertised only in the newsletter.  I generally send it out on the first or second Friday of the month (more often the second Friday).

It's late here in Oregon.  Time to put my CPAP on and get a good night's sleep.

More about sleep apnea...

When I created the previous post, I didn't go into too much detail on sleep apnea.  I figured the people who knew about it would want to see the tube buddy, and I didn't want to bore the people who don't know about it.  But I've had a few comments that make me think you might want to know more.

Here's the WAY simplified explanation as I understand it- I'm not a doctor and this is not professional medical advise.  There are 5 stages of sleep.  Stage 5 is the deep restorative sleep where your body slows way down.  You also dream during this stage (REM sleep).  If you have sleep apnea, when you get into stage 2 or 3, you relax, and the back of your throat closes down and you start to have trouble getting air through.  Your brain get's less oxygen and it isn't happy.  It sends signals to your heart and other organs to wake up and keep this sleepy person alive!  The sleeper, who is now snoring loudly and making gross gasping noises, snores themselves awake- or almost awake.  It usually gets the snorer back to about a stage 1 sleep- never actually waking up or remembering it.  And the cycle continues.  So-- by morning, the person wakes up, having been supposedly asleep for 8 hrs or so, feeling like they never went to bed.  That's because they never got into stage 4 or 5 and never got deep, restorative sleep. 

In addition to family strife (who wants to sleep with this person!), an apnea sufferer usually wakes up with a sore throat and can have stuffy sinuses and a headache, muscle aches, and so on.  But the worst part is that it's hard on the heart and internal organs which think you're dying every few minutes and have to work all night to keep you alive.  I used to get up to use the bathroom several times a night.  When my heart raced, it woke my kidneys up, and they woke ME up.  Now- I NEVER get up in the middle of the night.  I dream.  My throat and sinuses are happy.  And my blood pressure has gone down.

The treatment is a CPAP (continuous positive air pressure) machine.  You have to wear a face mask, attached to a machine with a long tube.  The machine sends just the right amount of air through your nose to keep your throat open.  No snoring.  No diminished oxygen to the brain.  It looks weird- and it feels very odd for the first few nights.  But once a chronic sleep apnea patient gets their first few GOOD nights' sleep, there's no going back.  Sure- I wish I didn't have to sleep with a mask on.  But I sleep!  And it's really GOOD sleep.

Fun fact:  If you fly and need a CPAP, you can carry it on board and it is not counted as your one bag or one personal item.  Necessary medical equipment is not counted against you in the new world of air travel.  I got tired of people leering at me as if I was cheating- taking 3 things on an airplane.  So I put a luggage tag on my CPAP case- with a big red cross on it and the words "medical equipment".  That cut down on the nasty looks.

Not all people who snore have sleep apnea.  Not all people who have sleep apnea make the really bad snoring noises.  This is just the most common situation.  Again- I'm not a doctor.  If you want to learn more, there's a lot of information about this on the internet, and I would encourage you to talk to your doctor.

Sleep Apnea

A few days ago, I got on my little soapbox about distracted driving.  I received several thoughtful comments that I said I would blog about over time. No more soapbox- I promise.  Time for positive, productive comments from this blogger!  

One of my readers commented on the fact that she has sleep apnea and that, in her state, drivers with sleep apnea who do NOT use their CPAP machines (Continuous Positive Air Pressure) can be fined if they are in an accident.  This is the first that I have heard of it being a law that you have to use your CPAP if you have sleep apnea and drive, but I agree with it.  If you need glasses- you have to use them to drive.  Who wants to be on the road with someone who needs glasses and isn't wearing them!  SO- if you need medical equipment to get deep sleep, you should have to use it to drive.  My reader shared that she has sleep apnea.  I also have sleep apnea and have been sleeping with a CPAP for about 4 years now.  It has changed my life!  I never knew how poor my health was until I started getting deep sleep again and saw the difference.  And the reason my doctor ordered a sleep study for me is because I told her I was often drowsy when driving.  When I was driving alone, I had to stop the car and get out and walk around about every 20 minutes to drive safely.  Not good!  I never drove when I thought I was drowsy.  As soon as I felt sleepy, I pulled over.  But it was a pain!

If you snore loudly (not normal snoring- I mean the really, really ugly snoring) and if you wake up with a sore throat, stuffy sinuses, a headache, and not feeling rested- I strongly encourage you to talk it over with your doctor.  Life is so much better (and safer) with REAL sleep.

So.... I'll bet you don't think I can turn a conversation about sleep apnea into a sewing project.  Well--- here goes!

The photo above is of a "tube buddy".  I got it from the respiratory therapist and it was covered by my insurance, so I have no idea how to get one or how much it is.  The one in the photo was manufactured by ResMed.  In the winter time, when the bedroom is a little colder at night, the warm air from your mask condenses in the tube and you get a wet face.  Not fun.  That's where the tube buddy comes in.  It's a blankie for the tubing that keeps the air nice and toasty so it doesn't condense inside the tubing. 

If you have sleep apnea, or if a friend or a family member does, this might be the perfect gift for them. 

My tube is made of fleece.  It measures about 80 inches long, which is a few inches longer than the tubing.  Cut it about 5 inches wide, and make a 1/4 inch seam.  This makes the finished width, about 2 1/4 inches wide.  At each end, leave about a 4 inch opening and finish it with hook and loop tape.  That's all there is to it.  Wouldn't these be cute in sports team colors or colors to match bedding or bedroom colors?  I also made a little mat to co under the CPAP so any stray condensation or moisture from my humidifier wouldn't damage my night stand.  If ya' gotta use this silly thing, it may as well be less of an eye sore!

I hope you all have a restful, restorative night's sleep. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

100 Followers and a Giveaway!

WOW!  100 followers!  I'm honored.  And I think I need to show it with a great giveaway this month.  The winner will receive a Ricky Tims pattern and 6 batik fat quarters.

I'll draw the winner on February 1st.  International entries and previous winners are welcome!

To be entered in the drawing, just reply to this post.
For a second entry, be a follower of this blog (already a follower, or become a new follower).
For a third entry, if you have your own blog, post about this giveaway to your readers.

Good luck!

Monday, January 4, 2010

My first socks

I did it!  I made a pair of socks!  I've been knitting since I was 12.  I already admitted my age yesterday, so if you do the math, I've been knitting for a million years.  OK... 43 years.  I've knitted some pretty complicated stuff and I consider myself an advanced knitter.  But I've been afraid to make the leap to socks... until now.

I learned to knit in Sunday School.  My SS teacher taught 6 12-year-old girls to knit that year.  We got together on Saturday mornings to make mittens.  We made mittens, mittens, mittens.  People donated yarn and we knitted away.  Big, small, all colors.  We ended up with a box of mittens.  When winter set in, we donated that whole box of mittens to a shelter.  We ended up with no mittens of our own.  But we had a life long skill.  I lost track of that SS teacher, but she really understood her roll in nurturing us and teaching us life skills that reflected our values.

This is self-striping yarn.  One thing I didn't consider is where I started each sock in the color run.  I'm not sure if I care that they match or not- but it's something to consider. I made these socks, one sock at a time, cuff-down, on 2 circular needles.  I used the beginner pattern in Cat Bordhi's book, "Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles".  Once I got over the fact that it LOOKS complicated to knit socks on 2 circular needles, and just took it one step at a time, it really isn't that complicated.
My now grown son always loved Lego's.  When he was really little, he didn't think he could build one of the big complicated sets.  I took out the direction book and covered all but the first step with my hand.  I asked him if he could do that first step.  Yes.  Ok-- do it.  Now... look at the second step.  Can you do that?  Yes.  Ok- do it.  A few hrs later- he had a police station.  When I find myself overwhelmed by a complicated task, I remember the "Lego Lesson".  I guess it's like climbing a mountain--- don't look down!

Socks look complicated.  Granted- they aren't a first project for a new knitter.  But you make them like Lego's... one step at a time.

If you're a knitter who wants to jump into socks, my advise is to take a class, OR surf around on the internet.  You can find videos that show you each step.  I got hung up on grafting the toe so I looked for a video on the internet.  Bingo!  Some nice lady who made a video showed me how to do it.  The internet is a wonderful thing.

I gave these socks to my BFF for Christmas.  Her reaction when she opened them made it all worth it.  She said, "You're giving me your first pair????"  Yup.  And I'm so glad I did.  It reminded me of the mittens when I was 12.  I received more than I gave. 

I started my second pair over the holidays.  For this pair, I'm doing 2 at a time on 2 circular needles.  I'm using the same pattern.  When I get a little more done on them, I'll show you a picture.  I want to get a few quilts made so I'll only be knitting in the car (as a passenger) and in waiting rooms and places like that.  It will take me a while.  I'm primarily a quilter, but I call knitting my backup hobby- or take along hobby.  I usually have a knitting project in my purse.  For me, knitting is as much about the process as the product.  I love wearing what I knit.  But the real fun is in the knitting.  So-- I really don't care when I finish a knitting project.  I just like knitting.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Happy things

Thanks to all who replied to my ramblings yesterday.  It seems that a lot of you have strong feelings about distracted drivers, and what constitutes a distraction.  I'll follow up on a few of the thoughts in another post.   But for now- let's cover a few fun topics!

Look what I got!  Nancy Knight from Texas surprised me with a fruitcake a few days before Christmas.  I send people things all the time- and this time, I was the one getting the package!  I opened it to discover a fruitcake, along with a note that this is a recipe she has been making for many years.  I was thrilled!  What a surprise!  I was like a little kid- my poor husband had to keep listening to me tell people that a customer sent me a fruitcake!

Now, truth be known, I have never liked fruitcake.  What I liked, was the fact that Nancy sent it to me.  But it didn't look too bad, and I thought I'd give it a try.  Well, let me tell you.... Nancy has changed my mind about fruitcake.  It's all gone, Nancy... down to the last piece! 

My late father in law grew up in a bakery.  His family owned it and all the kids did their fair share- cracking eggs, loading the truck, and when he was older he made deliveries.  He grew up on day-old baked goods.  He and all of his brothers were "dunkers".  They dunk their baked goods in coffee.  I guess they started that to make the stale baked goods more palatable.  But later in life, they kept dunking- even if the cakes were fresh.  And he loved baked goods with "substance".... fruit and nuts and things like that.  He loved Christmas Stolen and fruitcake.  AND... his birthday was December 20th so he was on our minds.  As my husband and I enjoyed Nancy's fruitcake, we reminisced about how much Dad would have loved it.  It was a good memory.

Here's my wagon!  I showed a picture of my sons putting it together, but a few people asked me what it looked like.  Here it is!  And it's a beauty!  The sides unlatch and fold down- like a baby crib.  And there's a little tray that I can use for my tools and gloves. Best of all, it's really heavy duty.  I can drag bags of sand or soil around without help.  This is so funny- I'm 55 years old and my kid got me a wagon for Christmas!

Thanks to so many of you who commented on my last few posts.  This is a good place to tell you that I TRY to reply to everyone who comments by sending them a personal email.  If you are a "no reply" commenter, I can't respond.  Some bloggers don't let people who don't have emails in their blog profiles enter giveaways.  I would never do that.  You are ALL welcome to enter my drawings.  And I respect those of you who don't want to have your own blog or don't want to post your email.  I still love having you as a reader.  BUT--- if you enter a giveaway and don't have your email address public, be sure to check back around the time of the drawing because that's the only way you have of knowing you won.

I have more posts in my mind- more to come this week.  I'll be posting a new giveaway, pictures of knitting projects, recipes, and I'm starting a new quilt.  And I STILL haven't shown you pictures from our drive cross country a few months ago.  I'll never be at a loss for something to blog about.  It blows me away that so many people read this blog.  As long as you keep reading, I'll keep posting.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Thoughts for the New Year

What in the heck is this, you ask?  I took this picture last week. I woke up in the middle of the night and saw a really bright light in our kitchen.  Tip toeing out there to see what it was, I discovered that it was the full moon shining through our new sky light.  We got a new roof this past fall and had to have the skylight replaced along with it (long story).  It still needs some framing and painting from the inside, but I REALLY like it!  It's right in the middle of my kitchen- soooooo cool!

So there I was- in the middle of the night- trying to get a picture of the full moon shining through the skylight in the kitchen.  (It doesn't take much to amuse me)  To say the least, this picture doesn't do it justice.  You'll just have to use your imagination.

When I returned to bed, I thought about the skylight, and about perception, and how different people view things.  That leads me to some thoughts for the new year.

As the calendar clicked to 2010, new laws took effect in many states.  I live in Oregon, and it seems that we have more than our fair share off new laws.  The most talked about is the law that prohibits texting and the use of hand held cell phones while driving a car.  Just for the record- I'm all for these laws.  But I do think it's sad that we need to legislate common sense.

For those of you who have read this blog for a while, you might remember that I was involved in a car accident in November.  The cause of the 5-vehicle accident was a woman who fell asleep at the wheel and veered into the oncoming (my) lane on a 55 mph highway.  It would be an understatement to say that I have thought a LOT about "distracted driving" in the past few months.

I do think it's good to legislate that people should not be sending text messages while driving.  But there's a much bigger concept here.  You can't legislate common sense.  We all make mistakes.  We all make errors in judgment.  We all do things we shouldn't.  OK.  But I don't think our society impresses upon us strongly enough that we are responsible for our actions.  While I was in the ambulance on my way to the hospital, I overheard someone say, "That's what insurance is for".  Yes- but insurance doesn't fix everything.  And just because something is covered by insurance doesn't mean that it was OK to make the mistake in the first place.

What ever happened to common sense?  The law that you shouldn't text or use a cell phone while driving is a good one.  But the REAL issue is that a driver should have both hands on the wheel and be looking where the car is going.  Why does this have to be a law? It's already a law that you shouldn't drive drunk.  Do we need to make it a law that you shouldn't eat, or put on makeup, or fiddle with the radio, or tend to the baby in the back seat, or take a short nap while you're driving?  How about legislating safety?  Why does it have to be a law that we should wear a seat belt?  Why would a thinking person NOT wear a life saving belt?  (By the way- I had a nasty seat belt bruise- a reminder that the seat belt did it's job and kept me in my seat!)

The woman who fell asleep and caused the accident I was in didn't mean any harm.  I'm really not angry at her. She exercised poor judgment and feels remorseful.  But I honestly have to wonder if I would be so compassionate had I been more seriously injured or if someone I loved had lost their life or if insurance hadn't covered my losses.  While we can't legislate common sense, neither can we legislate compassion.  It's food for thought as we enter a new year and make resolutions to change habits.  Many people make new years resolutions to lose weight or take a class or otherwise better themselves.  Go for it!  But my thoughts as this new year begins are leaning toward thinking about the impact we have on the world around us.  How do our actions affect others?  Isn't it selfish to think that laws don't apply to us?  (Just one quick phone call..... I'm not distracted.... I can handle it.....).  Does it really matter if we're "caught" or if we get a ticket?  Isn't it really about responsibility for our actions?

By the way- I'm OK.  I still have a few aches and pains, but all in all I was very fortunate.

My specific resolutions?  I'm buying a blue tooth (ear piece for my phone), and I'm not going to eat while driving. Oh--- and I'm going to try harder to be on time and not always run 5 minutes late.  It's not safe to drive when you're in a hurry.  Wish me luck!

That's it for my soapbox.  Here's to a safe, healthy, happy new year, filled with good experiences, new friends, compassion and common sense.  Two hands on the wheel and both eyes open and on the road.

Thanks to loyal readers of this blog and welcome to the new ones!  I'm honored that you have chosen to read what I have posted.

Happy New Year!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Momma's new toy

I took a few days off of blogging.  I had a wonderful holiday and I hope you did, too.  I enjoyed looking at trees and gifts and decorations on your beautiful blogs.  Today, looking over my pictures, I selected this one to share with you because it's the one that I love the most.  Our 2 sons are in their 20's and both living on their own with the women they love.  I am enjoying watching them grow into wonderful young men and establish their own lives.  As I think back on holidays past, my mind is filled with memories of sitting on the living room floor all day on Christmas, playing games and putting toys together.  I especially enjoyed the Lego's and Brio trains. I used to make a big meal on Christmas Eve, and then we had leftovers on Christmas so I could spend the day playing with the boys.

This year, my son and daughter in law (Paul and Cady) bought me a fabulous garden cart to use in my lavender field.  Cady saw me harvesting last summer- walking from the field to the barn with arms full of lavender bundles.  She decided that I needed a wagon to lighten my load.  I love it because it was a thoughtful gift.  And I love it because it was a surprise.  And I love it because it's a really strong, versatile, cool-looking garden cart that I will use for years.

But here's the best part.  Take a look at the picture.  My sons spent THEIR Christmas day (or a little of it) putting MY gift together.  They were down on the floor.... putting MY toy together.  (And no, I've never been able to get them to take their hats off inside the house.  I give up.)  I look at the picture and I see 2 grown men.  But when I blink, I see 2 little boys playing with their new toys. 

Our other son and his fiancee (Steve and Emily) gave us a BBQ for the outdoor kitchen we're building. What a surprise!  We also got lots of other goodies.  But my greatest gift was having my family together- my husband, our sons, the women in their lives, my niece, and a house full of dogs!  We made memories.... good ones.  I hope you did, too.

Holiday Giveaway Winner!

Congratulations to LAURA of A Quilters Nest.  Laura lives in Redmond, Washington.  I'll be sending the book and the colorful fat quarter assortment first thing on Monday morning, Laura.

I had a huge response to this giveaway- from all over the world. Welcome to all of the new readers of this blog.  I'm honored to have you stop by once in a while.

I'll post a new giveaway next week.  I need to go into my shop and look around for a fun one.  Hmmm.... what shall I give away......