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!