06 November 2010

My Very First Cookie Jar

I believe in full disclosure, so let's just get this out in the open. I'm 23 years old, and I've never had a cookie jar. *GASP* Now that we've established my deprived childhood, I can tell you that I now have a cookie jar! It was a great garage sale find one sunny Saturday morning. It even has an awesome clasp-latch closure (there's probably a technical name for that.) Since, we had a new cookie jar, the obvious next step was to make cookies to put inside.



This was my first time using the Kitchen-Aid mixer too. I made a big mess with the flour. Oops. My skills have been honed since that incident. I now keep most of ingredients inside the mixing bowl.





We even took a plate over to our neighbor who had just moved in next door. (I strongly believe in friendships with a foundation built on food bribes.)

05 November 2010

Ramblings

I can't wait to have my own garden. This summer was too hectic with graduating, starting my new job, moving, and the wedding. Hopefully next summer! I wonder if my landlord would mind me digging up the backyard? When I start a garden I hope to get into home canning. My mom really enjoys canning. She has always done tomatoes, salsa, and spaghetti sauce, but this year she has been much more adventurous. She's branching out into new territories and canning pickles, squash, pumpkin, beans, potatoes and whatever leftovers she scavenges from her friends' gardens. I'm excited to get to try some of her new creations.

I LOVE MASON JARS. They embody all of the traits I appreciate most in anything. They are simple, cheap, multi-functional, re-usable, and recyclable. What a perfect creation! Not only are the essential for home canning, but they also make great drinking glasses, storage containers, and decorations. I have a jar hidden among my plants that holds sea glass I collected from the Mediterranean beaches in Barcelona. Recently I found a new use for a mason jar, soap dispenser! (Picture is number 4 of 37)



A friend of mine from college just got married about a month ago. Sadly we were unable to go to Illinois for the wedding, but I enjoyed making the gift! It was fun to get to use the dremel we got as a wedding gift. I actually finished this a while back, but I'm terrible about shipping things, so it just finally made it to the post office. For the happy couple, I made a mason jar soap/lotion dispenser, three knit dish/washcloths, and some melt-and-pour soaps.



The dishcloth patters used were: tan , blue , and multi-colored . They were all knit from cotton yarn in my stash. Several years ago, I bought a big bag of cotton yarn at a garage sale, and I've slowly been working my way through it. I really enjoy working with cotton yarn, and I like to make dishcloths because I get to sample new patterns and techniques without too much commitment. A dishcloth can be finished in one evening, so if it turns out that I don't like the pattern, I haven't lost too much time. Also, I lose interest with a pattern after I've finished it once (this is problematic with socks and mittens). I usually avoid repeating patterns or projects, but since there are TONS of dishcloth patterns out there, I never have to worry about running out of options.

04 November 2010

I've been knitting a zoo!



Recently, I've had six requests from family and friends to knit them animals to give as baby gifts. So, I've been knitting like mad to finish them. For one, I even pulled an all-nighter in order to finish it just in time for my neighbor to wrap and take to the baby shower! It was kind of invigorating to stay up that late. I felt like I was in solidarity with my friends still in school. However, they are probably cramming for exams, and I was just knitting like a maniac. So far, my zoo count came up to two monkeys, two dragons, a penguin, and a floppy dog.



The penguin was my favorite. He was just so round and huggable! It was are very simple and quick pattern too!



The dragon was cute, but not as cute as I was hoping. I thought the tail was too short and back legs turned out strange. I guess this dragon just has thunder thighs!



Oliver love his new puppy friend! Actually, he probably was just excited that I stayed up all night with him instead of putting him in his kennel and going to bed. On a side note, I know how to fix red-eye in photos, but how does one easily fix green-eye? I think this must be a problem that is unique to animal eyes.

21 October 2010

Butternut Squash Stew with Black Beans

This recipe is one of our favorites. It's a delicious way to serve up some squash. Enjoy!

From: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Slow Cooker Cooking, 2nd ed. Ellen Brown

Butternut Squash Stew with Black Beans
Ingredients:
3 TB. olive oil
1 medium onion, peeled and diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 TB. paprika
2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
red pepper flakes
1 (approx 2 lb) butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
3 cups vegetable stock
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
3/4 cup chopped dried apricots
2 TB. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 (3-inch) strip lemon zest
1/2 cup slivered almonds
4 cups firmly packed baby spinach leaves, rinsed
Salt
2 or 3 cups cooked couscous (or rice)


1. Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add paprika, coriander, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Scrape mixture into slow cooker.
2. Add squash, stock, tomatoes, beans, apricots, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the slow cooker and stir well. Cook on low for 5 to 7 hours, or on high for 2.5 to 3 hours or until squash is almost tender.
3. While squash is cooking, toast almonds at 350 in oven for 5-7 minutes until lightly browned.
4. If cooking slow cooker on low, raise heat to high. Add spinach and season with salt. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes or until spinach is tender. Remove and discard lemon zest, and serve immediately over couscous or rice.

Variations:
Use dried currants instead of apricots, or use Swiss chard instead of spinach.

12 October 2010

Project Saturday

A few weeks ago my husband and I declared it "Project Saturday." We both spent the majority of the day working on our own projects. I dug out my sewing machine and tried my hand at applique. I made pillow covers for the couch throw pillows. I bought these pillow forms awhile back and I've been trying to decide what to do with them. I read some blogs and watched some YouTube videos about applique. It wasn't as difficult as I imagined. I started out making sketches of the designs I wanted. I traced these onto some iron-on transfer. Then, I cut the shapes out of the fabric and transfer. I arranged the design on the background fabric and ironed it all together. It was pretty slick! The hardest part was using my machine to stitch the edges around the shapes. They aren't perfect, but my skill had improved drastically by the end.






While I spent most of the day at the kitchen table, Sam spent it out on the porch.



He was constructing a case from the organ he assembled. He also built a TV antenna. Both endeavors were successful. He has since built a second antenna, which doubled the number of channels that we were getting with the first.

Here are our successes from the day:







30 September 2010

Baby Cardigan

I'm always looking for babies to knit for. My peer group is at the age where many people are getting married, but it will be a few years before very many start having babies. None of my close friends have babies and I have only one nephew, but he's a year and a half old now, so he's moved on from baby to toddler. Needless to say, I was VERY excited when I found out my cousin and his lovely wife were expecting their first child. I REALLY want a little girl to knit for, because there are many more cute patterns for little girl clothes than for boys. My cousin and his wife have chosen not to find out the gender of their baby, so for now, I had to stick to gender-neutral patterns. I decided to knit this cardigan. I was very happy with how it turned out. I happened to have two skeins of gender-neutral yarn that my former roommate gave me when she didn't use it for it's intended project, so it worked out perfectly. I only had to shop for buttons! The new baby isn't due until December, but I look forward to seeing how it looks on a real model!

Raclette

Three years ago I studied abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland. Most people in the US are familiar with Swiss fondue, but my favorite melted cheese dish from Switzerland was actually raclette. Lausanne is located in the canton (similar to US state) of Valais. Raclette is a cheese which originates in this canton. For the meal, the raclette cheese is traditionally served on top of boiled baby potatoes and accompanied by small dill pickles, pearled onions, and dried meats. Fondue is delicious, but it is very rich, which is why I prefer raclette.

Raclette is a very social meal; it's not one you'd just eat at your home by yourself. It's somewhat of a "fair food," but much fancier (and better) than the "on-a-stick" foods that shows up at state fairs in the US. In Switzerland, raclette was very popular at Christmas markets or other events where there were lots of people milling about. To make raclette in this atmosphere the edge of a giant cheese wheel would be held close to a heat source. Then the melted cheese would be scraped off the wheel directly onto a plate with the potatoes and pickles.

Raclette can be made at home too, but the process differs slightly. Instead of having an enormous wheel of cheese, one would just buy a wedge and cut it into slices. These slices would then be put into personal trays in a grill in the middle go the table. Each guest would have their own tray, and when the cheese got nice and melty, it would be scraped directly onto the plate. I like to put bits of onion in with the cheese while it is melting. There is also a grill surface on the top of the raclette machine where meats, vegetables, or bread can be heated.



We received a raclette grill as a wedding present from one of my best friends I met while studying in Switzerland. I was excited to find the cheese at Ladonna's Fancy Foods, which is really just blocks from where I live. Last night, my husband and I served raclette as our first dinner party as a married couple. It was a lot of fun to use all of the new (matching!) dishes that we got as gifts. We even hung up the Swiss flag for the occasion! We invited our neighbors over as well as my friend M, the other member of Old Ladies' Club. M and I considered this an OLC meeting, and my neighbors became our charter members (they may not know this). The dinner was such a blast! The food was delicious and the company was superb. It's nice to start hanging out with people in Tulsa. It always takes awhile to build a base of friends whenever you move to a new place, but I am really lucky to have such great neighbors and co-workers.

10 September 2010

Labor Day Camping Trip

My husband and I spent labor day camping. We had been talking about going for a few weeks, but mostly in passing. We actually made no plans until about an hour before we hit the road. We had found out that Oklahoma state parks do not accept reservations during holiday weekends, so campsites are available only on a first-come-first-served basis. We had little confidence that we'd get a campsite, so we didn't spend much time preparing. We thought, at the very least, we'd just spend the day at the lake and come home in the evening. We left the house at about noon and made a quick stop at my friend's house to borrow a tent.

The drive from Tulsa to the campsite took about an hour and a half. Once we got off the highway, it was a pretty fun drive. The road was windy and the the scenery was beautiful along the Grand River. We were lucky enough to get a campsite and it only cost us $12 for the night. Once we set up the tent, we realized that we probably should have spent a little more time preparing for the trip. I made a run to the gas station (only store in town) and bought us some matches, food, and bug spray.



The weather couldn't have been more perfect. We were neither hot during the day, nor cold at night. We weren't bothered by mosquitoes either. The tent we stayed in was pretty neat. The "roof" was mesh like the "windows" so we could see out of the top. It had a separate rain cover, but we didn't need that. It was such a beautiful night. We could see the sky and the stars as we were lulled to sleep by the music of the frogs and the crickets.




Oliver really loved camping. It has been so hot lately, that he hasn't spent many extended periods of time outside during the day. He spent the first few months of his life on a farm, so I think he enjoyed being out of the house all day again. He was really content being outside chasing bugs in the shade of the trees surrounding our tent. We also took him in the lake to go swimming. He didn't love, but he didn't hate it either. He kept biting at the water. It was pretty funny to watch.

video

30 August 2010

Running a 5K

My list of projects is growing faster than I can complete anything. I have 3 knitting projects on needles, 5 stuffed animals in queue, an unopened can of paint for a dresser, a sweet but stubborn puppy, a half-finished sun dress, pillow forms with no covers yet, and many more ideas rattling around my head. So, what do I do? A rational person would complete some things before taking on anything else. Am I rational person? I like to think so, but my actions seem to prove differently. Instead of checking a few things off the list, I have decided to add one more thing to it, and it's a big one. Are you sitting down? Wait for it....

I HAVE REGISTERED TO RUN 5K. :-0

What!? Who am a I!? I'm certainly not a runner. I usually prefer biking to running, but I've been considering doing this for awhile. I've done the Couch to 5K program in the past, though never to completion. Now that I've paid the $30 registration fee though, I feel the need to get my money's worth. I have about 9 weeks now until the Tulsa Run. Even for a complete novice (ahem...yours truly), 9 weeks of training is long enough to at least complete a 5k. I'm not going for the gold or anything, but finishing sure would be an accomplishment. The last time I ran competitively was in Middle School track (10 years ago). It was a "Thrower's Relay." In short, this means the coaches put all of the people who don't do running events on a relay team together and make them run around a track. Who comes up with these things, seriously?

Anywho, the Tulsa Run is October 30, and today is my first official training day. Wish me luck!

23 August 2010

A monkey for my nephew

The first stuffed animal I ever knit was Mr. Dangly. I made him as a baby gift for my cousin's little boy. Later, when my cousin had a girl, a two-tone pink Mrs. Dangly was created. I was pleased with this monkey as my first knit animal.



I always enjoy the adorable outcome of knitting animals, but it can be a frustrating process. I really hate stitching seams. I wish everything I knit could just be made in one piece with no sewing afterward. Although, seaming is a small price to pay for the cute animals, I suppose.

Now that I have a nephew, I have ample opportunities for knitting animals. For his first birthday, I knit my nephew a Francis the Fish (must sign up for free membership to view pattern.) I made the fish from the same yarn as the original Mr. Dangly, and I paired it with the book Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister. Honestly, I think my brother-in-law may have been more excited about the fish than my nephew!



My most recent knit animal was another monkey, but a different pattern than my first. This new monkey was also a gift for my nephew. This is probably my cutest animal thus far. See "Little a" and his monkey below. The poor little guy wasn't feeling well, but I hope his new friend kept him company!


17 August 2010

Our little Oliver Twist

We have a puppy. We call him Oliver both because he was an orphan when he came into our lives and because he is a ruddy little troublemaker sometimes. I had always intended to get a dog after I graduated from college. I planned to rescue a shelter dog, since they are so plentiful, but fate had different plans. My grandfather was walking to his truck one day when he heard a terrible racket across the street. He saw a little puppy all alone in the cold. Being the pushover he is, my grandfather brought the puppy inside and inquired whether any of the neighbors knew where this puppy had come from. Returning home empty handed, my grandfather decided to let the puppy stay with him. After hearing this, I asked my grandfather if he could take care of the puppy until I was able to take him. Oliver did not get to stay inside too long though, because my grandfather did not like cleaning up after him. Oliver then went to live on the farm (literally, not figuratively). A few months before he came to live with me, he was allowed to come back into town, where my mom began working with him on housebreaking and basic training. Oliver now resides with my husband and I in our little home. It is a lot of fun having him around.

We think Oliver was born in late February, making him about 6 months old now. He's some sort of terrier mix, possibly predominately Cairn Terrier. He was a pretty goofy-adorable pup, but now his hair is less frizzy and his ears are less floppy. He's still cute, but not as silly looking. Overall, Oliver is a very good pup, but because of his terrier genes, he can be a little wild sometimes. He is especially rambunctious in the morning, when I am least interested in being as alert as he is.

I've been reading a lot about dog training. I am very interested in Cesar's Way. Cesar Millan, the Dog Whisperer, takes a very pragmatic approach to dog, or rather, people training. Cesar's Way is centered around understanding and using the dog's natural instincts and pack tendencies to the advantage of the trainer. It focuses on establishing oneself as the calm and assertive pack leader. It sounds very easy on the surface, but it's sometimes hard to implement when the dog is just so darn cute! Oliver and I are working on controlling his desire to jump all over the place and calming down his manic pulling while we walk. I'm also trying to expose him to as many different situations as possible. He's made two doggie friends, and has taken an interesting trip to Petco. He's a big chicken when it comes to meeting new people or dogs, so I want to continue to expose him to lots of new things so that he's not so unpleasant to guests.

I'm going to try to take some better pictures of Oliver, but despite his cuteness, he's actually a really terrible model. He's quite energetic, and since he is small, I have to get down on the floor to take any good shots. That's a mistake though, because once he sees me, he just wants to play or lick the camera. Perhaps I'll just have to tire him out first.


One last thought: If you ever have a dog, especially a puppy, get a Kong (the little red toy above). They're a little pricey as far as dog toys go, but they are completely worth it. This thing occupies Oliver for hours. It's especially great to give him when he's feeling bitey. I just put some peanut butter inside and stick it in his mouth and it distracts him from biting my fingers. It's a win-win situation.

08 August 2010

Old Ladies' Club

My coworker/friend, I will call her M, and I have started a new club. We tossed around several names at first: Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness, Self-Sufficiency Training, DIY Club, and several others. The one that stuck though, was Old Ladies' Club. Our goal in forming this club is to regain the skills of resourcefulness and self-reliance that have been lost somewhere in the past few generations. We want to learn those things that were just second nature to our grandmothers. Part of the goal of this is to take steps to Green our lifestyles, but we also want to explore new hobbies, make useful things, and eat delicious food! We have a running list on M's desk of all the things we hope to try out as a club. Hopefully we can expand to include more than just the two of us!
Old Ladies' Club had it's first official meeting two weeks ago. We met at M's house and began preparing 30 pounds of tomatoes for canning. M wanted to make tomato sauce and salsa and she was able to work out a good deal with a farmer at the Farmers' Market. What a mess! After a couple hours, M's kitchen was a disaster! But it was a fun and educational experience. Luckily, we weren't complete novices at canning. M took a class with the Oklahoma State University Extension and I have been around and marginally involved in canning with my mother and grandmothers. Even so, we had much to learn.
Lessons learned:
1. Blanching only takes 30 seconds not 5 minutes.
2. 30 pounds of tomatoes becomes a lot less after you peel them and remove the seeds.
3. Canning is a weekend job. It is too much work to do on a Tuesday evening.

For the second meeting of Old Ladies' Club, M came over to my house and my fiancé made us a lovely dinner of black bean soup, Spanish tortilla, and his famous cornbread. For dessert we had strawberry cake baked in little bunny shaped pans. It was so much fun! The goal of this meeting was for me to teach M how to knit. When I learned how to knit, my first project was a scarf. I don't recommend this. It takes a very long time for a beginner to finish a scarf, and it is easy to lose interest before the project is completed. I started M on a dishcloth using cotton yarn

 
Posted by Picasa


M was a very quick learner. She not only grasped the idea quickly, but she is able to recognize mistakes, even if she is not able to correct them herself. Recognizing mistakes is a very important skill. She'll finish this dishcloth in no time and be ready to move on to more interesting projects. Teaching M how to knit got me really excited about knitting again. It comes and goes in waves, but knitting is the hobby I have stuck with the longest and intended to keep doing regularly. I have 3 projects on needles right now, and several more in the queue.

Be sure to let me know if you have any suggestions of projects/skills for the Old Ladies' Club!

27 July 2010

Bribing my co-workers

I made some delicious hummus last week. It was my first time using my new food processor and it was amazing! I got the recipe from my former roommate and friend. She used to make it often and we would devour it's delightful goodness with toasted pita and vegetables. I took my hummus to work with some carrots, celery, and peppers. There are about 18 people in my office. I've been working here a little over a month, but I haven't had a chance to meet everybody yet. This was a good ice-breaker. I put the bowl on my desk and let people come over and enjoy a snack with me. It made for a nice afternoon break.

13 July 2010

Joann Fabric Adventure

This is not intended to be a plug for Joann Fabrics, but my exciting adventure there last night supplied me to start some new projects. I had been to Joann's website and noticed some great deals they were having, including 50% off a single regularly priced item, 50% off pillow forms and home decor fabrics, 70% off summer items, and 15% off anything for college students. Please don't tell them that my University ID is no longer valid. I intend to use that thing as long as I possibly can. Anyway, I came home with a 1/2 price cutting mat and rotary cutter set. I am VERY excited about this. I hope to start a second quilt this fall and I am considering making my own wedding veil. I also got some pillow forms so that I could make some throw pillows for our new couches. My sewing machine has not made the move yet, so I'll have to wait a few weeks to do that. Additionally, I picked up some nice bamboo-fiber sock yarn and some cute kitchen decorations. I bought the matching soap dispenser (below), hand towels, and dishcloths, but I opted not to get the rug. It was adorable, but it was a little too pricey for how cheaply it seemed to be made. My kitchen has become unintentionally bird-themed. I have a toaster cover (really who owns these things? THIS girl!) that is hand-embroidered with lovebirds. I picked it up a couple of years ago from a garage sale for 50 cents (Awesome!). Also, we received some kitchen towels from our registry that have swallows on them. Here is my new soap dispenser!

So, the point of this post is I'M READY TO START SOME NEW PROJECTS! Stay tuned to see them completed.

09 July 2010

Thomas Hardy

Since I am currently without pictures of the projects I am currently working on, I will tell you about what I am reading. Several weeks (or months?) ago, I was voicing my disgust and distaste to my father about the quality of writing in contemporary literature. I had recently begun reading a few books on recommendation, and I was very unimpressed with the use of language in them. The quickest way to ruin a good story idea is to write it in a way that the reader stumbles through it.
I would consider myself somewhat of lexophile. I have an appreciation for vocabulary and proper grammar, and I love new words and the games that can be played with them. I'm no writer, but I appreciate those who can put words together in creative and compelling ways. My father encouraged me to return to the classics to satisfy my need for quality of writing. He lent me Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy and I have been enjoying it very much.
In Far From the Madding Crowd , Thomas Hardy takes the reader into the life of an up-and-coming shepherd, Gabriel Oak, in the English countryside. It is a story of rural life, the pursuit of love, and the struggles which come with the aforementioned. I really appreciate the depth of the writing in this book. Hardy's use of complex metaphors and creative allusions makes the writing multi-dimensional and unique. In chapter 22, I came across this quote:

"Men thin away to insignificance and oblivion quite as often by not making the most of good spirits when they have them as by lacking good spirits when they are indispensable." Chapter 22, Far From the Madding Crowd.

This line really resonated with me. It's almost like Thomas Hardy summed up my entire existence. Lacking motivation when one needs it is problematic, but what is worse is when one has motivation and does not make full use of it. This is why I have projects!

Hello World!

Welcome to my new blog! I had a travel blog when I was studying abroad in Switzerland, but that kind of fizzled out after awhile. Now that I've graduated from college, I hope to have more time to devote to this. I really enjoy reading knitting and cooking blogs, so I thought I'd start one of my own. Having the brain of an engineer, I find myself needing to have "projects" to do. Some people might call these hobbies, but I think they differ slightly. In my opinion, hobbies are activities you enjoy doing just for the sake of taking part in them. Projects are activities which you do for for the enjoyment that comes with completion. I'm always juggling a few projects at a time, so I will keep this blog pretty general. I will post about training my puppy, reading, knitting, sewing, cooking, gardening, painting, and any other projects which find their way into my life. Enjoy!