Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas Projects 1 of 4

So the latch hook is finished (well except for the finishing!) Woohoo!

Nick's hat is at the decreases, baby sweater is a third done and Emily's Barbie clothes are woefully behind. But I'm working on it.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Thinking Ahead-New Year Style

So there's been more than one moment this week where I've said to myself, "Self, this would be a good resolution to do EVERY DAY!"  They're pretty basic, and boring, but here are some I've thought of:

1. STOP READING COMMENTS FOR FUCK'S SAKE!  Seriously, nothing can make me more miserable than reading comments on news stories, whether on Facebook or tv or newspaper sites.  I am even sick of reading comments on some people's Facebook posts.  It's the same old crap all the fucking time.
And speaking of Facebook...

2. FACEBOOK NEEDS TO BE A "SOMETIMES" FOOD.  I spend WAY too much of my life on Facebook.  Mostly it's wasting up to an hour at a time looking at bullshit I really don't care about, that usually makes me sad or angry.  I like the funny stuff, but there just isn't enough of that.  Mostly drama, and I just don't have time for drama.  At least I shouldn't.  It seems I always do.

3. MORE KID ONE-ON-ONE TIME.  (Sensing time as a theme?)  My kids LOVE "mom and me" time, even at their ages.  Even if it's just running to the grocery store or grabbing a quick lunch.  So why not make them feel special whenever I can?  It's an easy thing to do.

4. MORE TIME FOR SCHOOL (Time....)  I know I didn't spend enough time on my one class.  I got off to a rotten start for the semester and just never seemed motivated to get my shit together.  This semester, it's checking in at least once a day, whether I want to or not.  I'm not going to do the "I'll get all my stuff done before the day it's due" because why lie?  I won't.  I do better when I have a deadline (and that's actually not a lie).

5. LIMITING TIME SPENT AROUND TOXIC PEOPLE. Ok, so there are always some "toxic" people we can't seem to get rid of.  Mostly those are called "family".  I've done a pretty fair job this past year of stepping away, but holy hell, nothing can test your toxicity meter like Christmas.  Here is an example of why I step away:

A Mother-In-Law Christmas Story

Once Upon a Time, my Mother-In-Law was broke and asked us for money.  But she still got us something for Christmas.  Why she didn't just not get us anything was beyond me, until I saw what she got us.

She's broke, but she got us Rachael Ray pots and pans.  Now, I don't need pots and pans, but what a lovely gift.  Expensive. Only then she says, "Look inside the box.  They aren't all there".

No, friends and neighbors, SHE needed new pots and pans, so to justify it, she left us the little frying pan and one pot and kept the rest.  Now, she could have taken them out of the box and just put a bow on them and we'd never know there was a whole set.  Yet, she chose not to do this.  And THEN had the audacity to bitch at Brian for using her new pan (Whose new pan is this?) when we came over to cook HER breakfast for Christmas.  You know, and brought ALL. THE. FOOD.

And Lynnette, by some act of Nature or the Divine or just her own willpower (which is a minor miracle) did not lose her shit on her MIL.

OK, so anyway, on that note, I hope you understand the limiting toxic people thing, and in some ways, the levels.  At least, seeing the next point, maybe distance makes the heart stop being so pissed off all the time?....

6. DE-CLUTTER.  Yes, it's the age-old "Of course I will organize and de-clutter my life" resolution everyone makes with the "I'm going to lose weight" resolution.  But I REALLY don't have a choice this year.  Brian got a new job that will require relocation, and even though someone will be moving us this time (for the first time.  Ever. Because someone is paying for it for the first time. Ever.) we have so much SHIT.  It's not just little shit, like books and toys and yarn, of which there is a half ton (and no, I am not a complete idiot and no, I will not be parting with any of the yarn.  I am just saying.  Not gonna happen.  But it will be packed, labeled and organized.) it's also big shit like excess furniture.  When we got this house there was lots of excess furniture, and we had some, then we acquired more shit thinking we weren't leaving here and, well, I have 5 bedrooms, a basement and a garage (complete with attic) full of crap.  I would like to halve it, but I would be happy to lose at least 30% of it.

7. EAT OUT LESS. We spend an INSANE amount of money going out to eat, whether it's me grabbing lunch on the way home from work to "It's 6pm.  What are we having for dinner?  Oh you're going to run and get something?  OK"  A little planning can not only limit my runs to the grocery store, but will save us the unhealthy expensive meals.

There will be more.  These are just the ones that I have been thinking about the past week.  I won't be exercising unless I feel like it. I will eat lots of ice cream and gluten.  I will still play video games, because it's something I enjoy and why the fuck not?  I'm going to knit hopefully lots.  I have ideas for creating cool things that I hope I'll get to do in the New Year.  Because it makes me happy.  And honestly, I would like 2015 to end as a year of happy, since the beginning of it might be mass chaos.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

What am I up to?

So, Winter Solstice. Christmas looming around the corner. And I'm sitting on the couch, drinking a bloody Mary. Last 2 pans of Chex Mix (I made it from scratch for the first time in my life) are just about ready to come out of the oven. And I'm working on...

A trippy 1970's owl latch hook for Anna. Trying to get it done by Christmas.

Along with Barbie clothes made for Emily. And a hat knit for Nick. And a baby surprise jacket knit for my coworkers baby.

And I need to make cookies. And candy. And come up with something for my brother and sister in law. And now host lunch on Christmas day for my mother-in-law.

Head. Exploding.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review-C'mon, Grab your Friends!


For those of you who don't know, I love Adventure Time and so do my kids.  That's why when Blogging for Books gave me the chance to review Adventure Time Crafts, I took it.  I received this book as a part of the Blogging for Books program.

The crafts are easy to follow, although some require some basic skills a crafter might not have (crochet, sewing with a machine, etc).  It does give some "Crafty Basics" to get you started, and I think it's a great starting point for seeing something you HAVE to make and jumping into a new craft.

Overall, there was enough in this book to make it worth the while of anyone who enjoys Adventure Time (or anyone who has kids who do).  Seriously--there are perler bead patterns for coasters!  Perler can do stuff in this book.  You can learn stuff from this book.  And at the very least, you can admire all the very cool Adventure Time craft ideas in this book!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Actual Knitting(!!)

So I have been doing actual knitting.  I'm hoping to start (and finish) mittens for at least one child, since we have 1-3 inches of snow coming tonight.

I finished test knitting this very cute kitty hat.  I made one a little bigger than the other, not only so I could help the brilliant designer (and her first pattern!) check the sizing, but then I have one for Anna and one for Emily.

Right now I am working on Barbie clothes.  I decided for Christmas that the kids' presents from us are going to be something we made.  So for Emily, I want to make some clothes for her Barbies (and I bought a big lot of shoes on Ebay to put in the box).

The only problem with knitting Barbie clothes is they're made on REALLY little needles with crochet thread.  This isn't so bad while I'm making Kelly dresses (and I can usually knock out one of those in an afternoon) but egads, this gown I am making is taking forever just to do the first skirt.  But I found this amazing website of free knitting patterns, all Barbie and her friends size.  I'd like to shake this persons hand!!

So now--knitting (after I have a rice krispie treat Emily and I made together today) and watching Kitchen Nightmares on Netflix. 


noun: periphery; plural noun: peripheries
  1. the outer limits or edge of an area or object.
    "new buildings on the periphery of the hospital site"
    synonyms:edge, outer edge, margin, fringe, boundary, border, perimeter, rim, verge, borderline; More
    outskirts, outer limits/reaches, bounds;
    literarybourn, marge
    "rambling estates on the periphery of the city"
    • a marginal or secondary position in, or part or aspect of, a group, subject, or sphere of activity.
      "a shift in power from the center to the periphery"

I was perusing Facebook (as I am known to do.  25 times a day) and saw another one of the "Light this fake candle picture for someone in Heaven you are missing this holiday season".  Which made me think, "Why would anyone do that?" but then, "Who would I light a candle for?"

I have some family members who died.  My grandma (mom's mom).  My uncle (mom's brother).  My great grand parents.  But I thought about how sure, I miss them, but probably not much more than if they were here.  It sounds bad, but there is a reason for this.

Growing up, we were always on the outside of our extended family.  I saw my grandma (mom's mom) probably the most, but even then she'd do something that pissed my mom off, and we'd not see her for a while.  Same with my aunts and uncles and cousins.  It was like, my mom would be "friends" with one of them that would put up with her and her horrible life and her abusive, drunk husband.  But then they'd say something (I assume.  I was never completely privy to the information) and we wouldn't see them for months.  So I would spend nearly every waking hour with a set of cousins, only to have them ripped from me.

My dad's family--I can count on 2 hands the number of times I've seen them...on one hand or no hands for some of them.  They're in New Jersey, and, for most of them, I probably come to mind only when they see me on Facebook, and maybe not even then.  I am always on their periphery, and they are on mine.  I am sure that if I died, they might "light some candles on Facebook" but it would be for them thinking of the loss that isn't, and not really thinking of me.

My grandparents:  I still love them.  I used to love them dearly.  Then my love for my grandmother dimmed considerably when I visited at 18, and she bought me a bridal magazine and asked me to pick things out (I was with Brian 2 years.  And young and stupid).  So I showed her things I liked.  Then she went to her sister and told her how selfish I am to want such an extravagant wedding when my parents were on a fixed income.  It dimmed more when she came to visit a few times and did nothing but talk on her cell phone to the people back in Jersey.  My kids are here that she hardly ever sees.  I'm here that she hardly ever sees.  But all she could do was have drama on her cell phone, like we weren't even there.  She doesn't even visit anymore.  I have no desire to go there.

My grandfather?  Oh how I loved him the most!  The biggest thing he gave me was whispering in my ear, one time as a teenager in one of my darkest hours that "I was the first, and I was the best".  So much love!!  He loved me and I loved him and all was right in the world.  Until last year.  He's sitting next to me on the loveseat, and he's complaining how my cousin threw away her full cheerleading scholarship to get married (to a guy for about 6 weeks.  But don't worry, we saw all the elaborate wedding pictures for the wedding my grandparents paid for and heard about how wonderful she is).  Anyway, he said the sentence that forever put me on the periphery of his life, "I would have been so proud to have a granddaughter to graduate from college."

Here I sat, right next to him.  The granddaughter that never asked him to pay her rent, or raise her kids, or throw her bail.  The granddaughter that got married at a reasonable age (and paid for her own, non-elaborate wedding) then had her kids.  And never had to ask anyone to take care of my kids while she got evicted (again) or off drugs (again).

There I sat next to him.  The granddaughter that graduated from college.  The granddaughter that was, indeed, starting graduate school.  The granddaughter that thought she was going to grad school, in large part, to make her grandfather proud.  To give that to him.  And in that moment, he took so much away from me.  It was like being ripped away from the only person who lived out there who I thought gave a damn about me.

I just patted him on the knee and said, "You already have a granddaughter that graduated from college, Grandpa".  And I got up.  He stammered after, "Oh yes, and I'm very proud".  But at that moment, I knew the truth.  No matter how many times a day I thought of him, no matter how cherished the handful of memories I had of him, no matter how I can still smell his den (where I learned my love of history) and his garage and picture holding his hand walking through the woods, or helping him stain a picnic table or feed the dogs, or smelling his A&P coffee, or thinking about him taking me to sit with his buddies down in Highlands at his friends bait and tackle store in the morning, no matter all of that, I was always on the periphery.  Always on the outside.  Always an afterthought.

I wasn't even going in this direction when I started this post, but I guess that's the beauty of a blog.  Maybe it's all coming out because my grandpa is coming for hunting season in the next 5 days.  It's probably his last time; he's getting older, the trip is long and he has a lot going on back at the Jersey Shore.  Cousins who need him.  Maybe he doesn't think I need him because I didn't ask him for all the stuff my cousins did: The bail, the rehab, the kid raising.  But he's so wrong.  I took care of myself because that's what you are supposed to do.  But instead of making him love me for that, it pushed him away?  I don't know.  Maybe it's to the point where I am 41, and he's 84, and I can ask him if that's what he thinks.  And tell him he's wrong.  And maybe, in the end, I can get out of his periphery.

But maybe, just maybe, this is why your best family is the family you choose.  My best friend Jess is the sister I never had.  She listens to me and I listen to her.  She's probably the only one reading this right now.  I don't feel like I'm on her periphery.  She has so much going on in her life, and she still never makes me feel like an afterthought.  Never makes me feel like I'm not important, and not worth her time.  I always feel like she's happy to hear from me, and that she loves me and misses me.

And where this post was going in the first place, was me thinking about how my own, immediate family keeps us on the periphery.  If we don't do things they like, or we don't do things their way.  Does my brother think about me when we aren't together 6 months at a time?  We get together and it's fine, but does he miss me like I try not to miss him?  Even though we live about 5 miles away?  But I only hear from him when he wants something.  I heard from him last because he needed job references.  I had to suggest we go out for his birthday, otherwise I would not have been included.

I don't want my kids to be surrounded by people that put them on their periphery.  I want them to feel loved, and wanted, and important.  I feel badly that my parents didn't care enough about me to want that.  I feel really badly that they don't care enough about their grandkids to not do that; that there is no happy medium.  Either they don't come around ("Because you don't want us" or they're pissed at me for something) or they are smothering, here every day, telling everyone how to live and what they do wrong.  I love my dad, but he's Jersey people.  He's so self-absorbed; when I was diagnosed with MS, he called to tell me how horrible his life is now that he has a daughter with MS.  I can't even make that up.  Any problem that I have becomes something he has wrong, only more horribly.  I know he loves me, and I know he loves my kids, and I know our interactions would be different without my mom's influence.

And I guess I walk away from this very long blog post with this:  That although there are family members that have died that I'll miss, and there are family members in my life that if they died I would miss them, but my heart has to be with people that care about me back.  I give so so much of myself, all the time, because I'm supposed to.  Because it's the right thing to do.  Mostly because I WANT TO.  But how much of myself can I give anymore, when it's not given back?  When I am an afterthought?

I have to give to people who give back. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Chicken, Broccoli, Cheese and Rice Casserole

So, I searched yesterday for a chicken and broccoli casserole that had rice in it.  When I searched for "creamy" with these words, I ended up with recipes that wanted me to throw 2 blocks of cream cheese in (and to me, that seemed like ucky overkill).  So I threw this together--it's not exactly like any of the other recipes I found, it's inspired by this one and the reviews that followed.  It's not "healthy" or "good for you" (besides being a way to get kids to eat broccoli), but it worked for us:

Chicken, Broccoli, Cheese and Rice Casserole

2 cups of chicken (I used 3 chicken thighs that I boiled up and removed the skin from, because they were cheap.  You can use breasts that are boiled or baked, part of a rotisserie chicken, or canned chicken-although the canned chicken might be a little blah)

2 cups cooked rice (I used my rice cooker.  Do you have a rice cooker?  You should get one!  I have this one.  You can even steam your veggies on the top.) I cooked my rice in chicken broth.

1 16oz bag of broccoli florets, thawed

1 packet onion soup mix

1 tsp garlic powder (more or less to taste)

1/4 tsp black pepper (I used my pepper grinder, a couple of turns)

1/2 tsp salt (or to taste--remember the soup and cheese are going to be salty, so you might want to hold off until you serve it to add salt individually as needed)

2 cups shredded cheese of your choice (I used cheddar)

2 cans of cream-of-something soup (I used cream of mushroom and cream of chicken)

1 cup of milk

1/2 a stick of butter, cut into tablespoons

Ritz crackers to crunch over the top

Preheat oven to 350.  Spray a 13x9 casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray. Put all ingredients except butter and crackers in casserole dish and mix until incorporated together.  Place pats of butter on top of mixture.

Bake for 20 minutes, mixing halfway through to help the cheese melt.  Put crushed crackers over the top of casserole and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Enjoy with some crusty bread and a salad.

Day 6 thankfulness!

So today was pretty easy to think of something to be thankful for.  I am thankful I have my own car.  This is the first time in a long time I've had my own.  It's a POS 2001 Ford Taurus old lady car (that we bought from my Mother-in-Law) but it gets me from point A to point B when I want to go.

Before I had my own car, my husband would drive me to work before he took the kids to school.  I would end up at work at least 20 minutes before I needed to be there (an unpaid 20 minutes).  Then at noon when I was done I'd have to wait for him to pick me up on his lunch hour.  8 out of 10 times I'd be waiting, sometimes in nice weather but more often in freezing cold.  I wouldn't get home until an hour after I was done with work (it's about a 10 minute ride).

With my own car:  I don't have to leave for work early.  AND when I am done with work, I actually get home RIGHT AFTER WORK!  It's amazing.  And if I have to go to the grocery store I can do that, Just like a big girl! 

Second car:  Awesome thing to be thankful for on a snowy Thursday in November!

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thankful day 5!!

Just a quick post of thankful today! I'm thankful that I can knit! I spent this evening working on a hat in test knitting. It was exactly what I needed, and one of the only stress relievers I do just for me. (Well, besides drinking. But that's time prohibitive and not all that great for me.) I love knitting for other people. I really do feel like SpongeBob's grandma, where I put love in every stitch.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Thankful days 3 and 4

Look!  It's not even the 30th yet, and I am only one day behind!  I'm pretty proud of myself!!

#3=I am thankful that I have the opportunity to go back to college to get my Masters degree.  I'd like to be super thankful for a scholarship, but maybe the end of the month

#4=I am super thankful for having my old job back.  It was a nice reality check that sometimes money isn't everything when it comes to where you work.  I enjoy going to work every morning, and enjoy helping people achieve their goals.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

30 days of Thankful

So I've been lucky enough to avoid those "Do 7 days of things you are thankful for".  I guess that's what I am thankful for.  It's hard when your life is sucking to be thankful for anything.  So I've decided I need to do it, personally, for me.  I know not many people read my blog (HA!  Another thing to be thankful for!) but I thought I'd do it on my blog as opposed to everyone on Facebook being subjected to my smarmy posts.  So in no particular order, here is the first 2 days.

Day 1:  I am thankful for my kids.  Every day, no matter how trying, they bring meaning to my life. I love them to pieces and want them to have nothing but good things in their life.  I am blessed to be a mommy every day.

Day 2:  I am thankful for a husband who loves me and thinks I am beautiful.  I am thankful that he goes to work every day and brings in the majority of the money that keeps us "in all this", so that I can go to work part time and go to school.

So there's a start.  Let's hope the next blog post isn't the end of November where I am catching up on 28 more days!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Book Review: Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan

Dad Is Fat

I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

I finally received my copy of Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan and it is laugh out loud funny.  Gaffigan is such a funny guy, and hearing about his large family in their teeny-tiny apartment is hilarious.  He's constantly giving props to his wife for being so wonderful, but you still kind of get the feeling that sometimes he's the dad that pretends to sleep so he doesn't have to get up and change the kid.

The only part that annoyed me was, within his complaining about their tiny apartment (and how you buying this book is helping him get a bigger place for his family to live) he talks about the vacations they take.  While booking hotels.  And staying in a giant tour bus.  That's great--but maybe you could take some of that crazy vacation money and apply it toward a bigger apartment?  Just sayin'.

Overall a very funny, quick read I think anyone with kids will like.

Legwarmers--80's Style

My boss wanted to be 80's girl (Totally Awesome) for Halloween.  You don't understand--my boss LOVES Halloween.  She says it's the best day of the year. 

So she chose her costume, but she didn't know where to get legwarmers.  Hark:  Here are some knitting skills, a free pattern I found on Ravelry, and some Red Heart acrylic in Dayglow to set the mood. 

These are my youngest daughter's feet.  Complete with cut and evidently smiley face drawn on.

I'm so glad I made them, and honestly, I am in love with the yarn color.  And the happiness they brought my boss to tie in her costume (with neon green socks) made it all worth it.

I'm Tired.

I'm just plain worn down.  Like to the point where I don't know why I do anything I do.  And my husband doesn't know why I do anything I do, but if I don't do it, it doesn't get done.

I'm tired of never feeling good enough.

I'm tired of always caring.

I'm tired of always saying yes.

I'm tired of worrying about money.

I'm tired of constantly doing for my kids, who don't appreciate it anyway.  But the opposite of this is feeling like a bad mom who will have kids in therapy saying their mother never cared about them if I don't do it.

I'm tired of looking in the mirror and seeing that I'm fat (although it's not what everyone else sees.  At least they don't say it.  That's something.)

I'm tired of being the person to worry about Halloween costumes, carving pumpkins, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas presents, birthday parties, etc etc etc and there is never anyone that helps me with them.  If I didn't do them, they wouldn't get done, and that's not ok.  Are there things I can let go and not worry about?  Sure.  But some things, you just can't.

I'm tired of being screwed over by people because it's not "professional" to say anything.  No, I don't want to teach 2 extra people after we signed a contract because you said, "Hope it's ok..."  It's not ok.  But I don't say that.

I'm tired of my professor for my one class this semester who can't *quite* give me full marks.  It always has to be .25 or .5 less than full marks.  Because I am just not. that. good.

I'm tired of my husband telling me to change, and stop worrying, and WTF is the matter with me, and why won't I love him, and why do I have to be so negative, and what if it did that and....and....and....

I'm tired of trying so damn hard, and it's never enough.  I sewed my daughter's Halloween costume--what she wanted to be--and when she didn't get as many compliments as her brother's costume (he went as jellybeans--2 garbage bags, $6 worth of balloons, tape and a Jelly Belly label on the front) she stomped her foot and had a fit. 

I'm tired of seeing other people so joyful, and I can't get there.  And when I do I feel like something is wrong with me, or I am waiting for the next thing to come along and ruin it.

I'm tired of hearing "I'll take care of it" or "I'll come up with something" and I know it's lies.  I'm tired of things being broken-cars, dishwashers, the friggin air conditioning--and that's ok that we live with that broken.  That's ok that we go without.

I'm tired of things being the way they are.  And if I improve and things around me don't, what's the point?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Just for fun-Scarves

Thought I'd just post a fun video today I found on YouTube...great ways to tie a scarf.  The visual aid sure comes in handier than written instructions for me!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Friends Near and Far

I have so many friends having a hard time right now.  Monumentally hard times.  I can't imagine having my kid go through 2 brain surgeries in 2 weeks, plus contracting meningitis.  One of my best friends is going through that right now, and my heart just aches for her.  I try to make her smile when I can, and let her know how much I care about her.  Anyone reading this, if you can pray to whatever deity you choose, or just think good thoughts about her son Gabriel (he's 9), I'd really appreciate it.  Their family has been through so much, I don't think they can bear anymore.   I wish I were there to just sit with Jess and hold her hand.

I have other friends who are struggling with their small business.  I wish I could go to everyone's house in the city and force them to buy local and not go to Walmart for one week.  They're good people, and it shouldn't be this hard.

I got to spend 5 hours in pain on Saturday night/Sunday morning until I finally broke down and went to the ER.  It wasn't a heart attack, so that's good.  They think it might be my gall bladder.  Although now I can't get in to see a doctor until August 7th.  They gave me a prescription for Vicodin and I laughed.  I was sure I'd get in to see my doctor today or tomorrow, not the end of the week.  If I have pain like I did when I went into the ER, I'll have to take the damn Vicodin.  Some of the worst pain I've had in my life, and I have had 3 kids.

Its just like when it rains, it pours.

So I am going to bake bread.  It's a beautiful, cool day (not much like the end of July usually is).  I think baking bread will be comforting.  And knitting.  That's what I've got to do today.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Suddenly...July Overextended

So July started out as another month of summer.  Beautiful not-terribly-hot weather (but it's coming....)

I finished up one test knit and saw a test knit for a lovely shawl.  I knew I had yarn that would work, so I said SURE!  It's 280 picking up and knitting the edge.  Easy 4 row repeat pattern.  Not due until the end of the month.  Easy peasy.

Only I keep slipping stitches by accident off the end of the needle.  The first time--no life line, and I lost 40+ rows of work.  Now I have a life line, and I've probably lost 80 rows I've knit on top of those 40.  I feel like I'm taking 1 step forward and 2 steps back!

Then Random House in their Blogging for Books program gave me an offer I couldn't refuse.  The entire set of Taylor Steven's mystery novels.  For free.  As long as I can read the latest book The Catch and review it by July 25th.  Sure, I can do that...only I prefer to read my books in order, so if I don't start at the first one, I am breaking my rules.  But I don't think I can read them all and do the shawl by the end of the month.

Add to this the job search, the lack of money, the fear of having to move, my friend going through hell as her son has brain surgery and she's in Florida (and I'm not) and a crushing depression I can feel creeping in and all of the sudden the stress level of the easy going July is brutal.

Friday, July 11, 2014 far

So, summer is in full swing here.  Our first stop was the Timber Rattlers stadium for Star Wars night.  Fortunately, I was "on the ball" (See what I did there?) this year and got online at the proper time on March 1st when tickets went on sale, so I could get our totally awesome seats behind home plate.  The kids had fun, and the evening ended with a light saber battle in the yard.  The only downside was this year there didn't seem to be many Star Wars people there.  No Princess Leia, or Darth Vader.  Just a couple Stormtroopers.
He needs to learn to keep his tongue in his mouth!

Awesome seats!

Light Saber battle after the game!

Next stop: Bay Beach.  It was raining the day we went, so we ended up with some soaked bottoms getting on the rides.  But it held off the crowds until the rain ended around noon, so we had a good time riding things multiple times. I commented to the person running the ferris wheel that this was the only time in the history of going there that we didn't have to wait in line.
Great picture right?  Child #3 is pouting to the left.

We had a mostly relaxing day the 4th of July (my parents are fighting, so our plans were up in the air.  We usually spend the 4th with them, so this year was awkward).  We went over at dusk to go to Roosevelt School and watch Neenah's fireworks from there.  I almost went to Jefferson this year;  good call going with our "usual".  Jefferson's fireworks were cancelled because of high winds.  Neenah's display was great!

Finally to wrap up, we went to Bookworm Gardens in Sheboygan last weekend.  It was an amazing place that was not only a gardens, but one based on children's books.  All of us had a great time there, and we think every community should have a gem like this.

Three beautiful kids in Papa Bear's chair.

So what's still on tap?  Hopefully more fun-filled days with or without plans, just being a family.  Trying to keep the worry out (I worry enough for everyone), work in our garden, swim in the pool, read books, play games and work on being happy.  That sounds like a good plan for the rest of the summer!

Book Review: Great American Slow Cooker Book

So my latest book review is for The Great American Slow Cooker Book by Bruce Weinstein and Mark Scarbrough.  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

I had high hopes for this book.  I absolutely love my slow cookers (I have two of them) and, especially during the school year, they are my go-to's for meals easy to throw together and ready when we get home.
First, the good:  I love that the book is laid out in nice tables based on the size of your slow cooker.  It's sometimes hard to gauge recipes when you have different size slow cookers.  It is also geared toward newer slow cookers that run hotter (as opposed to using older cook books that don't account for this difference).  For the most part, the recipes seemed pretty easy.  There is also a wide variety covering everything from breakfast to dessert, and more "exotic" things such as rabbit and lamb in addition to beef or chicken.

Now, the (mostly) not-so-good:  I didn't want to review a cookbook until I had made recipes from it.  So I chose two of them to make.  First, I made Broccoli Cheddar Soup (p. 68).  I followed the directions to the letter for my size cooker (as the authors recommend not deviating from the recipes the first time you make them).  What I ended up with was....slightly edible and mostly gross looking.  My kids wouldn't touch the clotted up yellowish mixture with green flecks that came out of my crock pot.  We ended up going to Applebee's (99 cent kids meals anyone?).  It was a disaster that smelled bad dumping it in the trash.

Not to judge a book by only one recipe, I made the Sweet and Sticky Country Style Ribs (p. 196).  They cooked well, but you could just taste a bit of cinnamon and maple syrup.  You couldn't even tell the soy sauce was part of the process, and they definitely needed salt.  We ended up dipping them in bbq sauce anyway, which was a little disappointing.  They kind of tasted like nothing on their own.  Just meat.

Overall the book is laid out well (in terms of sections for breakfast, particular meat, etc) but the index is hard to use (something that drives me crazy as a future librarian).  The photos are in the middle, and there aren't many.  My husband calls the book "not visually appealing".  They also list their prep as "not much" "a little" and "a lot", but it was hard to tell why recipes fell into these sort of random categories. 

I can forgive all of that if the recipes were decent, but I don't think I'll be using this particular book again to make anything.  I wonder who the testers were that tried the recipes, because their tastes must vary greatly from my family.  We're not really all that picky (well, besides the 8 year old), so it was a shame this cookbook didn't pan out.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Knitting Reimagined: A Review

I have been fortunate enough to be accepted into a program called Blogging for Books.  I am sent books to review.  The first book I am reviewing is Knitting Reimagined: An Innovative Approach to Structure and Shape with 25 Breathtaking Projects by Nicky Epstein.

Disclaimer:  I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.

If you haven't heard of Nicky Esptein, here is a short bio about the author.  I have had the pleasure of taking a class to learn her Knitting on the Edge, and her innovative and fun techniques will have you thinking of knitting in a different way.

In the introduction, the author states this book is the next stop on a thirty-year journey, and that the "goal was to fill this book with chic, wearable, but uniquely atypical garments that will appeal to knitters of all skill levels".  Knitting Reimagined accomplishes this hands down.  The techniques are amazing in and of themselves, from the tuck texture in her Buttons and Bows pattern to her pixilated weave drapelette, Epstein challenges the knitter to try new techniques.  The instructions are easy to follow.  Although the design instructions are solid, the reader is encouraged to try different techniques to make their own unique garments.

The main downside of the book is that it features garments that are atypical.  It's possible many knitters will not see the garments as appealing, or, because the garments are so different, they may feel that they are picking up a book for one or two that they like, and that's a waste of money.  My feeling is that this is the problem with many knitting books, especially those that date themselves.  Pick up any knitting book someone paid $25 for in 1989 and see how many garments they find appealing to make again.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to challenge themselves with something different, someone who is great at knitting their own garments with a little encouragement to go off the beaten path, or someone who leans more toward Stephen West patterns over say, Knitting Pure and Simple.  Of course, if you ever wanted to take those Knitting Pure and Simple patterns and kick them up a notch, Knitting Reimagined is the handbook for it!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Latest Reading-Mr. Mercedes

My co-workers and I would joke that anyone who came into an interview at a library who answered the question: "Why do you want to work here?" with "I like books." automatically fails the interview.

The thing is, if we didn't like books, we wouldn't be there.  ;)

I am happy to have my summer off not only to catch up on knitting, but also reading.  I never get time to sit down and just read a book during the school year (between work and my own school), unless they are super quick YA books.  So I just sat down and read Stephen King's latest book Mr. Mercedes.

I'm a huge Stephen King fan, and the first novels I ever read were his.  My dad had a rule that as long as whatever I chose to read was something I would read in front of him, I'd be allowed to read it.  It was the same rule his aunt gave him, and the same rule I give my kids; if you are embarrassed to be reading it, it's probably not appropriate.

Anyway, King's latest book was an interesting departure from his usual.  But still a great read, and still written in his style.  I read it in about 2 days, and enjoyed it.  I'm trying to think of what else to read.

So I stumbled on this club called Book Riot.  If anyone has ever done it, I'd love to hear feedback.  It's $50 a quarter, you can quit any time, and you get a box of books and other "literary goodies" (along the lines of a yarn club, where you get the yarn and other yarnie goodness).  I think it's a cool idea, and I love the "no commitment" angle--whether because it wasn't my cup of tea or because I wouldn't have time to read during the school year

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Jammin' on a hot summer night

So Nick, Emily and I went berry picking on Thursday.  We picked flat of strawberries at Cuff Farms, took them home and did nothing with them.

Friday we picked up Anna from camp.  6 hours of total driving.  And, we did nothing with the strawberries.  Except I thought I was pretty ingenious and fit the entire flat into the fridge.  I had to move a bunch of stuff, put it the long way and take out a shelf on the door. 

Fast travel to Saturday.  Nicholas stayed at a friend's house, and comes bopping in about 1pm.  "Oh they gave me a pint of strawberries, so I'm trading them a jam from the freezer".

Have I told you how possessive I am about this jam?  How I covet it?  I don't even give any to family members.  My mother in law just LOVES it, and told me when I go strawberry picking I should bring her some because I know how she loves it.

Did I tell you that I told her she should go berry-picking when she's in Virginia this week with evil Sister-in-law and have HER make some jam?

So I literally saw strawberry red when my son handed out my jam.  Because I don't need a strawberry to jam trade.  I have strawberries.  That are just sitting in my fridge waiting for me to do something with them.


We made freezer jam last year, before I got a water bath canner.  So I decided I wanted to do "real" canning and can jam this year in my water canner.

Did I tell you we probably just had today to do it so the berries were still good?

Oh and I'm sure I failed to mention that it's 86 degrees with 90% humidity.  And our air conditioner went out the beginning of the week (we think it's the thermostat, but the guy isn't coming to look at it until next week)?

Yeah, I probably forgot to tell you all that.

Anyway, I canned.  And roasted.  The good news is I probably sweat about 10 lbs off.  It was like a sauna.  And I have 18 little jars of my labor of love.

And no.  You can't have any.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summertime fun

 I can't begin to tell you how excited I am that it's summer (even if it's already almost July).  My new job=not loving it so much.  It does afford me the summers off.  I told my husband I'd rather eat ramen noodles and pb&j and be poor than work summer school, so it's been a great summer.

So to sum up summer so far:  We're pretty poor, we've been spending lots of time in the backyard pool, I've been playing a lot of Fallout: New Vegas (and Viva Pinata--don't ask).  I'm currently reading Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King.  We're going to go strawberry picking (and do some jam making) this afternoon.  Anna is at camp until tomorrow; we haven't heard from her so we are hoping for the best.  Saturday is Star Wars night at the Timber Rattlers game (woohoo!).  It's all good!

And I have been knitting, which is awesome (I actually have time!!).  I just finished this illusion scarf as a test knit.  I can't wait until the pattern is published to share it with you.  If you watch Dr. Who, and know the Weeping Angels story:

I also got this beautiful spinning wheel at a consignment store.  It was my Mother's Day gift, only $125!  It's an Ashford Traditional:

Now I need to learn to spin!  I'll be joining the local spinning guild to not only get assistance, but to watch and learn from experts.  My biggest problem is I can't get the yarn to wind onto the bobbin--I think my springs need replacing.  So I try, try again!  And watch a lot of YouTube videos.

Stay tuned:  I've also been accepted for Blogging for Books.  My first book is a Nicky Epstein knitting book to review.  :)

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

New Year 2014

Well, I'm pretty proud I had my 2014 finished object done January 1.  Of course, I started it BEFORE 2014, but it's still done IN 2014.  I made Emily Moonkoosa slippers.  They felted a little small:

Before Felting

I also finished Brian's Dr. Who scarf just in time for Christmas:

AND I finished this Meow Hat that I decided to test knit on the spur of the moment.  School starts up again soon, and I won't have as much time to knit.  So I am frantically knitting these next few weeks:

That's all I got!  No resolutions (I didn't get my laundry room done from last year), but I did get a juicer for my birthday, so I am trying to add more fruits and veggies in my diet that way.  Maybe I will do a juice fast, but I don't know if I have it in me.  I'd LOVE to be skinny.  ;)