Thursday, December 20, 2012

Almond Toffee Cracker Cookies

It doesn't get any easier.  Seriously.  I know you think I'm nuts, but give these a try.  They're super simple and they're really good!

 Here's what they look like finished.  These are really fun to take to pot-lucks because they're a good conversation-starter.  Just be prepared to explain.... and to share the recipe.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Start by laying Club Crackers, or any knock-off brand of butter crackers on a cookie sheet or baking pan.  The original recipe on the Keebler website says to use 30 crackers.  I did a little research and found that this recipe has morphed into many variations.  The biggest variation is the number of crackers people use (and thus the amount of topping per cracker).  I've been using one sleeve- which is 40 crackers (10 broken into 4 pieces each).

Lay them on a non-stick surface, or a greased surface.  In my photo, I have them on a Silpat sheet.  One of my friends has a pan this size and just greases the pan and lines the pan with the crackers.  Just know that your life will be easier if you are working with something non-stick.

Sprinkle sliced almonds over the crackers.  I used a heaping 1/2 cup of almonds, but it's not really important to measure them- just make them look about like the picture.

 In a pot. place one stick of real butter (1/2 cup) and 1/2 cup sugar.  Mine is non-stick.  Cook and stir over a medium-high heat.  When it starts to boil, cook it 2 minutes longer, stirring frequently.  After 2 minutes, stir in 1 teaspoon of vanilla and take it off the heat.

 Drizzle the topping over the almonds.  I just used a spoon and did my best to drizzle it as evenly as I could.  Bake in preheated 350 deg oven for 8-10 minutes.  You want them a little brown but be careful not to burn them.

As soon as you take them out of the oven, slide them onto a wire rack.  

As you transfer them to the rack, separate them a bit so they don't stick together.  You could always break them apart, but you might break the crackers.

 Allow to cool and enjoy!

I said there are variations- one that I might try is to put the butter/sugar mixture on the plain crackers and then press the almonds on top rather than the other way around.  

 Bonus:  The little bits of almonds that are left on the baking sheet, or that fall through the rack are YUMMY!  I gather them up and put them in a little candy dish.  They're also good sprinkled on a green salad- like candied walnuts.

Oh.... and there are no calories in these.  (yea-right!)  Well- at least almonds are good for you.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I have the nicest friends!

There's always a danger in doing a post like this because I'm likely to leave someone out.  But here goes....

In recent months, I have received some things from special people just because they wanted to give them to me.  Last night, my friend Julie gave me a couple of fat quarters (fabric) just because she thought I'd like them.  I love gifts like that!  I also love the in-tangible things that show you that someone cares.... things like phone calls and hugs (Paula gives the best hugs!)  I appreciate people who ask about my family or people who sit next to you at a meeting and say, "Hi... mind if I sit next to you?  I like it when people ask me how I enjoyed a trip, or ask me how my kids are doing, or notice that I got a haircut.  I try to learn from the things people do that make me feel loved, and I try to do those things for others. 

Here are a few photos of other things that make me smile. I have the best friends! 

The above photo is a necklace and bracelet my friend, Rebecca made.  This was one of those lovely surprises that was unexpected.  This wasn't a birthday gift or a gift for any other particular celebration.  It was just something she wanted me to have it.  (I love purple!)

Sorry for the fuzzy photo but this is pretty small and I wanted to blow it up to show you the detail.  My friend, Cindy, gave this to me.  Cindy and I are knitting buddies and she watched me knit socks for the past few years.  In fact, we met because of our mutual love of knitting socks.  We were in a yarn shop and she saw this, paid for it, and then came over and pinned it on me and gave me a hug.  It was "just because".

Last summer, my friend Suzan visited me.  We were out shopping and she wanted to give me something to thank me for having her as my house guest.  She started me on a Pandora charm bracelet.  The charm at the bottom that is hard to see in the photo is a friendship charm.  The other charms were gifts from other people.  I have another one that is not in the picture that commemorates a recent trip with my friend, Sandy.

This little butter crock has a hand painted base that depicts a lavender field.  My friend, Jean, saw this and it reminded her of me- so she bought it and gave it to me--- just because we're friends.  The trivet underneath was also a gift- it's pretty old and I have always liked it.

My friend, Liz, gave me a gift certificate to a ceramic studio.  She also gave one to a mutual friend of ours, Diane.  So the 3 of us went to the studio and made projects.  I painted this tray, then they glazed and fired it.  So cute!  And it reminds me of the day that Liz, Diane, and I spent together.  Underneath the tray is a table runner that another friend, Sandy, gave me.  She made this last December.

Last week, my garden club had a holiday luncheon.  We exchanged gifts and I received this one.  I enjoy my friends in the garden club, and this reminds me of the group.  Thanks to Kathy for the adorable planter!

 I just received this last night.  My quilt guild had a holiday party and gift exchange.  I'm not sure who made this lanyard.  It's batik with stamped quilting words and a pretty butterfly pin.  It reminds me of the wonderful friendships I have in the guild.

These are just a few things I was able to easily photograph and add to this post.  I am blessed with so many friends who do such nice things for me- it's impossible not to leave some out.  I treasure ALL of my friends- you know who you are!

Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, and gifts that mark other holidays or events are so much fun.  But the thoughtful "just because" gifts are extra special.  I have the best friends!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Julekuler with Lavender

My online friend, Meg, made these.  Aren't they amazing?

Meg made these knitted beauties and purchased lavender sachets from me to make them smell almost as nice as they look.  The wool yarn holds the scent of the lavender nicely.

Meg is of Norwegian Heritage and calls these "Julekule".  For the patterns, she uses "Arne & Carlos 55 Christmas balls to knit" or the easier is the Norse version "Julekule".

If you're on Ravelry, her ID is AuntMeg.

I don't know about you, but I want to be on Meg's gift list!  :>  Kidding aside- nice job as always, Meg.  You're an awesome knitter!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Knitted Scarves

I finished this Candy Cane Scarf a while back.  It was made with scraps using the "Potato Chip" pattern.  Cast on 20 sts- and knit 20, turn,.
knit 8, turn, knit 8,turn
knit 6, turn, knit 6, turn
knit 4, turn, knit 4, turn
Knit 20, turn.

Do this a million times, or until yarn runs out.
Use any size needles, and any yarn.  I used sport weight yarn and size 4 needles.  Adjust the yarn and needle size to your liking.  You can't hardly go wrong.

I didn't do much posting for several months and I forget what I showed you.  Here are some scarves I made in the past year or so.  This is another potato chip scarf.  This one was done with Noro Sock- a nice multi colored skein.

Closeup of my Noro Potato chip scarf.

This is Harry.  It's based on what the characters in the Harry Potter series wear- in the Griffindor House colors.  I made this for my DIL, Emily, to wear to her brothers' football games to keep her warm and toasty.  It's knitting in worsted weight yarn, in the round, so it's nice and squishy.  It's 60 sts around (30 on each needle, using 2 circular needles.  Each color is 30 rows before switching colors.  I also made her a hat to match in the burgundy color.

This pattern is called, Molly.  The ruffles are made with short rows... and a ribbed pattern in the center.  Fun scarf!  I have a pair of purple leather gloves that I wear with this.

I actually made this a couple of years ago.  It was my first attempt at entrelac knitting.  I used Noro yarn so the color changes just happened.  I didn't have to have all those colors of yarn.

This is my "Swirl Scarf".  It was a pain in the butt because each swirl was attached separately and there were a bazillion threads to work in.  But I LOVE how it turned out!

The two scarves on the left are done with a drop stitch pattern.  I've seen it called a "seafoam scarf" or "drop stitch scarf".  It's a simple 6 row repeat.... very easy.  They were fun to knit.
If you are a member of Ravelry, these are all on my project page.  My Ravelry screen name is suehauser.

It's starting to get cold here in Northwest Oregon.  I'll have plenty of occasion to wear these scarves now!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Abraham Lincoln and the Battle of Gettysburg

I took a trip to Pennsylvania and New Jersey last month.  The best part of the trip was seeing relatives and friends.  But I also took in a few sights will I was there.  While visiting my aunt in Harrisburg, I took a little side trip with my friend to the Gettysburg historical area.  I also recently saw the new movie, "Lincoln", with my husband.  So I thought I'd do a post on Lincoln.  What better way to start the post than with this photo of myself posed with Abe.  This was taken outside the visitors center at Gettysburg.

I visited Gettysburg countless times when I was a little girl growing up in Pennsylvania, but this was the first time I saw the area with "adult eyes".

This is just a short post about my trip with a few personal comments.  If you are interested in learning more about the Battle of Gettysburg or other Civil War history, you can start HERE.

The site of the Civil War battlefield is right outside of the town of Gettysburg.  This is the center of town- a circle with streets radiating out from this spot.  The building in the center is where Abraham Lincoln spent time when he visited the area after the battle.  This is where he put the finishing touches on the famous Gettysburg Address.  I never thought before about who heard that address.  It was given to the local residents of Gettysburg- and anyone else who was there at the time.  It wasn't a campaign speech or a big address to hundreds of "important" people.  It was the president talking to the people of the town after a historic battle changed their lives.

 I took the "Sue with the canon" photo for my husband.  Almost 40 years ago, we honeymooned through Pennsylvania, Virginia, and other eastern states.  The plan was to take a nice road trip- driving through this beautiful part of the country.  Somehow, we ended up at the sites of several Civil War battlefields along the way.  It was so funny when we looked at our honeymoon photos and many of them were pictures of each other with canons!

 The 3 photos at the right were taken in the fields where the 3-day battle took place.  It was very impactful to stand there and look out over the field and imagine the horrible scene as soldiers from our own country took arms against one another.  Such a tragedy.  Today, there are many monuments along the field.  They mark the place where lives were lost, where men fought for their beliefs.  And where President Lincoln tried to piece a nation back together.

 The site where Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address is now a cemetery.  One can't help but feel mortal standing here.  There are many unmarked graves, as well as graves of many who died at Gettysburg and many people who died after the war. All countrymen with lives cut short.  The cemetery is still active. There was a funeral the day I was there.
 One thing I never thought about before is what happened (and happens) after a battle.  In July of 1863, there were no coroners' vehicles or internet or military transport planes.  There wasn't even a good way to communicate through the country that the battle had taken place  And I don't think the soldiers wore identification.  It was a very hot summer and there were about 51,000 casualties.  After the living left... the town was left with the daunting task of cleaning up.  Abraham Lincoln was there as the effort to clean up and identify and bury bodies was taking place. 

The story of Gettysburg isn't just about the reason the war started, or the strategy of generals and the battle itself.  It's also about what happened afterward.  And.... about what is there now.  The National Parks Service and Civil War historians have done a wonderful job of preserving this area and telling the story.  And to think-- this was only 150 years ago. 

The "short answer" when asked why the war took place is that it was about slavery- some wanted the right to own slaves and some wanted to put an end to the practice of owning other human beings.  This was the case.  But there was a bigger picture.  As is the case today (I suspect with all countries), the whole story is larger than the one issue.  The full story is about political leaders juggling powers and a country learning to govern itself.  And of course, it was about money.  Slaves were used to run southern plantations and without them, the economy would change.  And what would happen if huge numbers of people were suddenly "free"... they would need to have jobs, which were pretty much at the plantations that owned them.  Then there was the story of human rights- at the time, in the U.S., not only did people of color not have rights, but neither did women and children.  Change takes time, and it's not always "pretty" to get from an undesired state to a desired outcome.

There is a movie currently in theaters called, "Lincoln".  I can't recommend it highly enough.  This battlefield, and this movie, have so much to teach us.  And it shows us how much has NOT changed in 150 years.  I was moved by the movie, just as I was by visiting the battlefield.  I highly recommend a visit to Gettysburg if you can, and watching the movie.  Whatever your personal thoughts- you will be moved.

History has much to teach us.

Monday, December 10, 2012

High Society Block of the Month

 I'm SOOOO excited about this!  I have several things planned for this blog for 2013.  I'm going to introduce them to you this month and get started in January.

The above beauty is called. "High Society".  It's an American Jane pattern designed by the very talented Sandy Klop.  Making the complete quilt requires the set of 9 patterns.  I sell the complete pattern set on my website.  Each pattern in the set contains several blocks, including at least one applique block.  The pattern also contains a complete supply list and full color patterns.  It's well written and easy to follow.  I love this designer!

I'm going to be working through this quilt with some ladies in my quilt guild this coming year and I'll post my progress, along with photos of my friends' quilts and maybe a few tips along the way.  We're going to get started in January and I'll probably start posting pictures the first block set in February.  I might even make extra blocks and turn them into other things like pillows, table runners, pot holders, etc.

Please note that the patterns will not be available here as downloads on the blog.  The pattern must be purchased as a hard copy.

Questions?  Shoot me an email.

Deals and a Giveaway!

My friend, and knitwear designer extraordinaire sent me this picture of my lavender sachets in her knitting basket.  Thanks, Stephanie!

Just a reminder to sign up for the giveaway (see sidebar).  Enter any time this month to be in the drawing to receive some FREE lavender sachets.  No catch- easy to enter!

ANOTHER way to get some of these sachets is to place ANY order for ANY products on either of my websites this month (Dec, 2012).  With any order, you can receive a free sachet if you mention that you saw this on my blog.

Of course- you can also purchase sachets- on either of my websites.  These affordable little pretties are great little gifts and great for your notions basket or you yarn basket, in your clothing drawers, linen closet, car, or on your nightstand to drift off to sleep with the scent of lavender. (new website- watch us grow!)

 Note: We love to ship to Canada, Austraila and NZ but lavender products can only be shipped to U.S. addresses.  We are always happy to ship to APO/ FPO addresses!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Antelope Island

On a recent trip to Utah to visit our son and daughter-in-law, we spent a day on Antelope Island.  Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake- 28,000 acres- roughly 7 x 15 miles.  It's about an hour north of Salt Lake City.  It's one of Utah's wonderful state parks and you can read more about it HERE.   While the Great Salt Lake is 5 times saltier than the ocean, This island has many (I think more than 40) natural fresh water springs which support life on the island.  Access to the island is easy by car- across the causeway- a narrow 2 lane road that spans the distance between the mainland and the island.

Barely onto the island, we made our first antelope sighting of the day.  Little did we know that this was just the beginning of our wildlife sightings!  We were lucky to even get this close to any antelope.  While you see plenty from a distance, they don't get too close to people.

I really wanted to show you a good antelope photo but just couldn't get close enough.  I did a quick internet search to find photos of Antelope Island and found this one.  Mike Cahahan, a photographer in Denver, took this shot and was kind enough to give me permission to include it in my post.  Mike originally posted the photo here (All other photos in this post are mine).

This is NOT an enlargement!  I just opened my car window and took this photo.  If I were crazy, I could have touched this big guy!  (I'm not crazy, though!).  

The island is home to a roaming heard of 500 bison.  My son and his friend hiked from the shore (4,200 feet) to Frary Peak (6,596 feet) last year and never saw any bison.   But it was our lucky day when we were there.  I lost count!

I love this shot of the bison walking along the shore.  Knowing how large these animals are-- seeing them look so small in relation to the surrounding majestic mountains and this great body of water-- puts into perspective the greatness of the scenery in front of us.  SOOO beautiful!

 This shot was taken with a zoom lens- coyote, like the antelope, are more camera shy than the bison.  We also spotted a fox and a bald eagle, but I couldn't aim my camera fast enough.

 The REAL highlight of our trip- spending time with our oldest son, Paul, and his delightful wife, Cady.

My sweetie and I posed for a photo, too.

I have no words for this.  Just had to take a picture, though.

Over the years, we have traveled a lot.  Many trips have taken us THROUGH the Salt Lake area, but we never stopped to explore much on our way to wherever we thought we needed to be.  If you are driving through SLC, I highly recommend a little side trip onto Antelope Island.  You can spend a weekend there- or just an hour.  But this unique island is not to be missed.