A productive day

Before I begin with what I’ve been up to, I have some exciting news from a friend of mine! My friend Sarah has FINALLY opened her Etsy shop. Rabbit Ribbit Lamb has some mighty fine stitch markers, and I’d appreciate it if you could check her out. She specializes in stitch markers made from copper and semi-precious stones, but has a range of items available, and her prices are fantastic!

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Many of you who were around this time last year will remember the epic cabled blanket I was making for a friend of mine who was getting married. Well, this year, it’s my cousin getting married (on my birthday! w00t!), and I’ve got another epic cabled blanket in the works🙂 It’s not a surprise this time – she picked the colors and everything! So I’ve been working at it slowly – and now, once again, I’m three months to crunch time and I need to get moving. SO, I finished a square today and will begin connecting a few squares tomorrow. This is the Traci Bunkers Square from the 2007 Great American Afghan collection from XRX Books (and Knitters Magazine), knit from Knit Picks Brava Worsted in the Freesia colorway on size 4.5mm (US 7) needles:

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I also cast on a new project today – it’ll see some love between squares – I’m thinking it will probably be my Rhinebeck sweater this year! It’s the Mama Vertebrae cardigan by Kelly Brooker. The pattern was a birthday gift from my lovely friend Jen over at the Uncreative Crafter Podcast (go show her some love!). A group of us who VKN (virtual knit night) together regularly all cast on this evening – Sarah from The Canadian Knitter Podcast, Jen, Amanda from the Stitching Ewe and More Podcast, and our friend Brandi (who will soon be convinced to start her own podcast, I’m sure!). My friend Tonya will be casting on a Baby Vertebrae along with us!

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Not much to show just yet, but it’s a respectable start! I’m using Bernat Softee Chunky mill ends in the Fern colorway and size 5.5mm (US 9) needles.

I know that by now, Sue and I are usually preparing for our annual trek to the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival, but sadly, we won’t be able to attend this year. My job situation, and the fact that the Festival falls on Mothers Day weekend this year… well, it’s just not going to happen. But we are looking forward to seeing everyone again next year! (And we *will* be attending Stitches Midwest and New York Sheep and Wool later in the year.)

I acquired a fair amount of fabric that my friend Sarah (Seattle Sky Dyeworks) was destashing recently, and my mom and I plan on using some of it to teach me to sew! Stay tuned, but please, don’t expect any great progress in that arena any time soon.

The Tea Diaries

I’ve been on a bit of a Peppermint tea kick, thanks to a package of 100% peppermint tea bags my friend Jessica (of the Serenova Crafts Podcast) sent me. I love peppermint tea, because it’s simple, refreshing, and awesome hot or cold (I love iced peppermint tea!) It’s been rather warm lately, so I haven’t been dipping as heavily into the tea stash as I normally do. Soon I’ll have to go back to making a pot of tea in the evenings and putting them in the fridge so I can have some ice cold tea for the next day!

One new one I tried this week is another Madame Flavour tea – this time I tried her Lemongrass, Lime and Ginger Tisane. Oh…. words can’t even describe how vibrant and delicious this tea was! It was surprisingly mild with only the slightest bit of kick from the ginger. This Australian tea maven is a recent discovery, thanks to Emma (the driving force behind The Gamer Widows) who sent me a pile of different teas to try, and I think she’s going to become a regular feature in my tea cabinet.

If you haven’t been keeping up with us at Two Tangled Skeins, we have a new co-host who is with us more often than not – come check Selma out and see the absolutely amazing things she knits! Until next time, keep the shiny side up!

Introducing the Tea Diaries!

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What better to put into a blue ceramic mug than tea! (granted, the original blue ceramic mug was shattered a couple of years ago, but now I have these lovely bird mugs from Ikea:)

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Things are still all over the map, job-wise. I’ve had a few interviews, and I feel like I’ve bombed every last one of them. I’ve never had so much trouble finding a job, and it’s been dragging me down for a while now. But I keep promising myself I’m not going to let the blog die.

So in addition to talking about knitting and cooking and everything else going on in my life, I’ve decided to introduce a small segment called the Tea Diaries🙂 I’m kind of a tea addict (in a really BIG way). Some days, I’ll drink 3-4 cups (mostly herbal).

Today, I’ve had a cup of Long Life Oolong from David’s Tea, and a cup of Afternoon in Paris tea from Madame Flavour. The Long Life Oolong is so perfectly delicate with a juicy taste of peaches and apricots with a soft undertone of almond. David’s Tea is pretty much my go-to for all my favorite teas, but I had never tried this one. I bought it on a whim during a sale, and I will definitely be buying it again when this is gone! The Afternoon in Paris is a black tea blend with a surprisingly mellow flavor. It’s got rose petals and vanilla in it, but neither of those flavors is overpowering or even dominant in any way. It didn’t get bitter the way black tea often does when over-steeped, and the combination of scents and flavors is almost undefinable. Not sweet, but without any hint of bitterness; not cloying, which is unusual in anything with rose petals. The Madame Flavour teas were sent to me by the lovely Emma, who is the driving force behind The Gamer Widows. (she also sent me a gorgeous project bag!)

In other news, it’s Pesach this week, and last Friday, Rob and I had some friends over to share in our first night Seder. I made brisket for the first time, and apparently, I’m allowed to do it again😉 I used this recipe for Red Wine Braised Brisket. The only change I made was to add a parsnip to the vegetables. It was DELICIOUS! If only my side-dishes had been as successful! I tried to make a Broccoli and Potato Kugel – first, the potatoes turned black, so it looked like something dug up from a landfill, and then we had to cook it for more than twice the recommended cooking time because it made way more than the recipe said it should (and I followed it almost exactly – just used fresh broccoli instead of frozen). I can’t honestly recommend this recipe, because it was pretty gross, and I think that between the seven of us, only one portion was consumed.

Of course, I had to make the Apple-Horseradish Conserve from Food in Jars that I make every year. I can now report that this makes the best peanut butter & jam wraps I’ve ever had! (brought some leftovers home with me!). I bought such a large piece of horseradish root that I also ended up making THREE jars of deliciously eye-watering prepared horseradish🙂 The Smoky Roasted Sweet Potatoes from Budget Bytes made another appearance as well, and now I know why they disappeared so fast last year. They are DELICIOUS!

I also tried a new vegetable side dish – Beet, Carrot and Fennel salad. I should have known that any recipe on Martha Stewart’s site would be needlessly complicated, and it was. Don’t get me wrong, I love Martha Stewart, but I swear, her site would list ingredients for boiling water. First, the vegetable proportions were way off, and this ended up making enough salad for about 30 people. Second, adding the toasted fennel seeds to the dressing really made the fennel flavor overpowering, and I firmly believe that it’s fennel’s delicate flavor when served fresh that is the best part of this versatile vegetable. So next time, I’d add a bit more citrus to the dressing, reduce the amounts on the beets and carrots, and omit the toasted fennel seeds (and I’d make it just for me, because holy awesome salad! and not everybody at the table was a beet fan).

For dessert, we had this fantastic Flourless Chocolate Torte with Macerated Strawberries. SO GOOD. Bit sweet if you cut the pieces too big, but it was delicious and rich and … mmmm. I may make that at my parents’ house this weekend! (I’ll definitely be making the Brisket for them some time soon!)

So what did you make this year for your Easter or Passover celebrations? Do you have any favorite teas you’d like to tell the world about?

I promised some knitting…

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It’s been a busy several months, knitting-wise. I’ve finished a lot of stuff, learned a few new techniques, and reduced my stash in one way, while increasing it (seemingly exponentially) in others. Being part of a podcast means we occasionally receive yarn to review. Thanks to a lovely lady named Stefanie (Handmade by Stefanie) at Stitchcraft Marketing, Sue and I are sent products, yarns, books, etc. and we love doing reviews!! Sometimes, our fantastic viewers are very generous and send us some pretty awesome yarns as well! We do giveaways, but one of the end results is that our stashes increase sometimes without our notice!

I think the last thing I showed you guys before I took a six-month hiatus was my Checkerboard Lace Scarf by Purl Soho.  It’s knit up in Bijou Basin Ranch Xanadu (100% cashmere) that was kind of like knitting with little wisps of cloud. SO soft and beautiful stitch definition! I finally finished it in December, but like the bad blogger/podcaster I am, I haven’t yet blocked it or photographed it properly. I do have several items to block, so I’ll probably “borrow” my wires from Sue’s house and get them done in the coming weeks.

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Well, back in late November, I got it into my head that I needed to learn to crochet hats and mittens to produce them faster. I had knit a couple of Barley hats by Tin Can Knits and a Twelve Cables hat by Justyna Lorkowska, and they were taking too long. I based myself on the Better Late Than Never Beanies pattern by Kathy North and the Spiral Mittens pattern by Katie Chase. They were so quick and easy, I knocked out three complete sets in just a few weeks, and a few extra hats here and there. I’ve since added the Basic Bulky Beanie pattern by Janaya Chouinard to the mix, because I have a lot of single skeins of bulky yarn in my stash, and donated the lot to one of the refugee assistance groups who have a drop-off point at one of my local yarn shops.

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2There have also been some other random hats – a Magdolna by Emily Matisz for my mom, made out of Sublime Yarns Angora Merino in the Ice Blue colorway, an improvised basic 2×2 ribbed hat for Rob out of Julianna’s Fibre MCN Worsted yarn in the Charcoal colorway (OMG buy this yarn, SO SOFT), and my current WIP, the F*ck the Cold hat by Knitty or Nice.

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Some random socks – Plain vanilla socks (based on Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Sock Recipe: A Good, Plain Sock from the Knitting Rules book):

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A couple of pairs of Pin-Striped Socks by Julia Swart, and a pair of Kick in the Pants socks by Lollipop Yarn. I can’t show you a picture of my current sock projects, since one of them is an original design I hope to publish once they’re done, and the other is a test knit for my friend Teresa of TGail Designs (I’ll show you those when the patterns come out).

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Several shawls and scarves have come into existence, and I don’t have blocked photos of any of them, so just imagine a plethora of beautiful lace and non-lace shawls LOL I will get to the blocking and picture-taking soon, I swear! I’ve also still been working on my scrappy blanket, and have started a new cabled squares blanket using patterns by Tammy Eigeman Thompson.

I also have the Elven Pixie Baby Blanket by Tall Gal Knits on the needles at the moment, but there isn’t enough of it to bother taking a picture. I promise I won’t post anything quite this knitting-intensive in future, but I had several months to catch up on (I’ll show you guys the baby sweaters that got knit up when I manage to snag a picture of the third one with its adorable new owner wearing it!) I’m sure I’ve forgotten a few things here or there, and I can’t possibly show you all the yarn I’ve acquired since I last talked about knitting, but you can keep up with all my exploits on the podcast, over at Two Tangled Skeins!

Computer Follies

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*sigh* Never fails. I decide to revive the blog, my laptop dies. Spectacularly. And very suddenly. Let’s hope that Best Buy can fix it, because it won’t even turn on! So in the meantime, I’m commandeering my son’s laptop. No idea what I’ll do this weekend after he leaves for his father’s house though…

I was impressed by how many comments I got on the last entry! It’s my record so far! Five whole people read this blog!!! (My mom isn’t one of them… *sob*) Don’t worry – I’m exaggerating slightly for comedic effect. One of my goals for this incarnation of “the blog” is to stop using emoticons as punctuation. SO HARD NOT TO ADD A WINKY FACE!!!!

There has been knitting, and there has been cooking, and there has been… well, there’s been a lot of napping and avoiding housework too.

On the cooking front… there have been a couple of occasions for me to try new recipes recently, and even though I have a cookbook collection that would make a professional chef cry, most of my inspiration has been coming from the internet. There are so many amazing food blogs out there, who has time to peruse books? Seriously though, I do intend to start taking my cookbooks off the shelf a bit more often. But it’s easier to share links with you guys – See? I’m just thinking of you! Okay, most of the time, I’ve been cooking at houses that aren’t mine, and therefore, my extensive cookbook collection hasn’t been at hand. I’ll just share a couple for today.

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Rob decided to throw himself a birthday party when we traveled back to Chicago from my house for New Year’s Eve. Little did I know he was going to use this as a ruse to propose to me in front of all his friends, but this meant I had to prepare food for a dozen or so people with 30 hours of prep time! (we arrived in Chicago around noon on Dec 30th, the party was at 8pm on the 31st, and there had to be a trip to the grocery store in there somewhere!)

I made these Sweet Potato Turkey Meatballs from the Jo Cooks blog, which were SO delicious and easy to make! (They’re also mostly Paleo and Whole 30 friendly, if you care about that sort of thing… you could always omit the breadcrumbs.) I’ll confess that I completely forgot to add the maple syrup, and opted not to add the hot sauce. They were still amazing! I also made some regular beef meatballs (I made those up as I went along – they’re meatballs, it’s not hard) because I wasn’t sure how well the sweet potato thing was going to go over with Rob – turns out, I needn’t have worried. He loved these too! Served the meatballs with three dipping sauces – some Honey Dijon I mixed up, Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce, and a homemade marinara that we used to make meatball subs with the next day!

I also made these Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms (oddly enough, also from Jo Cooks – I guess I should subscribe to her blog.) These were so good, I can’t wait to have an excuse to make them again! I had way too much stuffing for the number of mushrooms I had bought, but fortunately, I had also decided to stuff little baby bell peppers (which I couldn’t even TRY, but by all reports, they were pretty good, too). I omitted the bell peppers from the stuffing recipe, because I wouldn’t have been able to eat the mushrooms either. I will say that if you’re going to make the recipe, take the extra time and buy and chop FRESH parsley, as the recipe recommends. Dried just will not cut it here. And her tip about pre-baking the mushrooms before stuffing was spot on!

The last recipe I tried was for Cheese Balls. I ultimately ended up going with Martha Stewart’s recipe because it was simple and it made a lot (no kidding! TONS! Rob was eating it for weeks afterward!) I rolled one of the cheese balls in chopped pecans, and rolled the other in a mixture of shredded Asiago and Parmesan cheeses. They were a big hit served with crackers, pretzel chips and veggies – and very good folded into scrambled eggs the next morning! Am I the only one who feels slightly dirty when I say “cheese balls” repeatedly? Cheese balls. Cheese balls. Cheese balls. Sounds like I’m describing a medical condition or something.

I kind of wish I’d thought to take a picture of the table before we all attacked it, but sadly, I was too busy trying to get everything ready, and I haven’t yet trained Rob in the fine art of backing up the crazed hostess. (OMG I want to put a winky face there!!! Just one? No? oh fine…)

One final food blog to share with you before I go… this blog is written by a lady I know from Ravelry. Her cooking is legen…… wait for it… DARY! It’s called the One Girl Cooks blog and it’s written by Shelby Armitage – you need to go check her out (her dog is adorable too!) Next post will likely be picture-heavy and deal mostly with knitting, unless I get a job, in which case it will likely be several pages of me simply typing, “SQUEEEEEEEE”… but we’ll see!

(featured image borrowed from http://southbrucetourism.org/fall-2015-cooking-classes-in-teeswater/)

Um… hey!

Three months. That’s how long it’s been since I came to hang out with you guys. In that time, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about where my life is going, and so far, I’m not entirely sure I can figure it out.

So many people I was close to died in 2015. And a few others came into the world. Knitting happened. A job didn’t. I’m still sitting around desperately trying to find SOMETHING. But competition is so fierce right now that it’s difficult. I’m not giving up though!

Biggest thing that happened in 2015 though? It squeaked just past the deadline, on New Year’s Eve (which also happens to be Rob’s birthday). Those of you who follow me on the podcast, Facebook and Instagram already know that Rob and I got engaged! We won’t actually be getting married for a few years yet, so that gives us lots of time to plan and to make sure things are exactly the way we want them (which, in my case, is simple and mostly-homemade).

Anyone who tells you that there’s no correlation between unemployment and depression doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but I’m slowly starting to dig my way out of it. And hopefully life will be back on an even keel soon! In the meantime, I’m going to ask you for a bit of a favor. Comment on this post and let me know what you come here for. Is it knitting? Is it recipes? Is it my scintillating wit? Okay… that last one was stretching things a bit! Let me know what you’d like to see more of, and I’ll do my best to provide more of it! I’ve missed you guys!

Voting is a right, not a privilege….

The big one is now a few days past, and I think a lot of us are still floating on the euphoric wave of “we did it!” We voted out a Prime Minister whose behaviour in the last couple of years has been nothing short of racist and illegal. Actually, I should say, “YOU did it.” Because I was not permitted to participate in that most inalienable of rights. I did not get to vote. I tried. Boy, did I try. Matter of fact I was at the polling station all day!

I signed up a few weeks ago to work the election at a polling station. I didn’t vote in the advance polls, because I figured, hey, I’ll be there all day on election day anyway, and the Election Canada trainers assured us that everyone working a polling station would be accommodated so that they could vote. Fair enough. Off I went on a very frosty morning with my ballot box and materials, and set up my polling station.

Some time around 9am, my polling station supervisor phoned the head office and asked for a transfer certificate to be brought over so I’d be able to vote. No problem, she was told. It would be there at some point during the day. Voter turnout was encouraging, and only a couple of grumps (and drunks) came through. So many young families brought their children to the polls, and took the time to explain the process to our next generation of voters. It was pretty encouraging! Mid-morning, an Elections Canada representative came through and my supervisor repeated her request for a transfer certificate. They promised that one would be delivered in the early afternoon.

When the afternoon started to wane a little, I asked the supervisor if she’d heard any news. She called the head office repeatedly, and kept getting the same answer. “It’s on its way.” Around 8pm, they finally told us that someone had just left the head office with the certificate and was on their way to us (roughly a 10-minute drive). I don’t know if that person decided to detour to Texas, but they never showed up. My supervisor logged a dozen calls to the head office to get that certificate. When we phoned around 9pm asking where the heck the person delivering the certificate was, the answer we got was this: “Look, all I can tell you is that they’re on their way. They’ll get there.” When I pointed out our proximity to the office, I was brushed off.

9:30pm came around, and I had not been given an opportunity to vote. At that point, it was too late, because we all had to open our ballot boxes and get to work counting the vote. The person who supposedly left the office with my transfer certificate never did show up, and the office wouldn’t provide an answer when we asked what had happened. I am 40 years old. I have been voting in Canadian elections since my 18th birthday and have never missed one. The fact that I was denied the opportunity to vote by the very organization that is meant to ensure fair and legal elections in this country is absolutely ludicrous.

Some will point out that I should have voted in the advance polls if I was concerned about being able to do so while working the polls. And I totally will in every election from here on out. But the reason I’m writing this is that I should not have had to take that precaution. There are mechanisms in place for polling station workers to be able to vote on election day. Transfer certificates are issued EVERY election, and it’s a system that has been in place for a long time.

Considering that transfer certificates were supposed to be included in every supervisor’s supply package and that we had none; considering that we began requesting the certificate from the head office TEN MINUTES AWAY well before the polls opened, and in 13 hours, none was provided; considering that an Elections Canada employee actually LIED to me and to my polling supervisor; considering that it was my absolute right to vote in that election, and I did everything possible to ensure that I could; considering that my right to vote was actively sabotaged by the very people who are charged with overseeing the fairness of the process…

Considering all these facts I am appalled and enraged at the behaviour of the local Elections Canada office. Both my polling station supervisor and I are filing official complaints with EC (for all the good it will do) and I’m also filing one with my newly-minted MP. What happened to me, and to so many others (I’m thinking of polling stations that were moved to remote locations so that no one without a vehicle could access them, polling stations that RAN OUT of ballots, etc.) is completely unacceptable and was entirely avoidable. I doubt anything will come of the complains filed, and I don’t have any draconian fantasies of heads rolling, but I’m writing this as a sort of, “I know what you did.” Because what they did? It didn’t go unnoticed. Not by me, and not by anyone else who was treated unfairly.

(And I know it’s objectifying to judge his looks, but isn’t our new PM pretty??? His wife is downright gorgeous too!

Still limping along…

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Well, if I have any readers left, I’d like to thank both of you for coming back! It’s been a long, crazy, largely unpleasant summer with a few bright spots in it, so let me settle down and tell you about it a bit. There has been a lot of knitting, because knitting has been keeping me sane, and maybe in the coming days and weeks, I’ll share some of it with you, but not right this minute. (I’ll confess – I’m writing this blog entry because I’ve been knitting most of the night, and it’s now quarter to 6 in the morning and my arms hurt!)

My no-good, rotten, awful summer got off to a bang back in late April when my dear friend Velda passed away after a long battle with cancer. Velda and I first met back in 1999 when we were both members of the iVillage ParentsPlace 1999 parents messageboard. I ended up following her over to their cross stitch board, as I took that up when Zachary was a baby. Over the years, we’ve shared a heck of a lot. From parenting advice (her Zachary was her third child, mine was my first!) to cross stitch to adoption to joy to sorrow and back again, Velda was always there for me and I miss her so much😦 She was the den mother of an exceptional group of cross stitch ladies, a lot of whom are still very close friends. She loved to laugh and to make others laugh and had a mischievous streak a mile wide🙂

A few weeks after that, I was told I would have to move out of my rotten apartment. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, since our new place is so perfect for us! A pipe burst in our ceiling, and rather than do any kind of repairs, our old landlord left us having to use an umbrella to go to the bathroom for several weeks. Now, the reason I lived in such a crappy apartment for ELEVEN YEARS is because I simply hate moving. Hate. HATE moving. (To that effect, we moved the last weekend of May, and I still have about 1/3 of my apartment in boxes). But we got it done, in no small part due to Rob’s help (he actually drove up two weeks before I moved to get me started with the packing, and then came back for the move!) and to my ex-husband, who generously paid for the movers and also helped me do a lot of packing.

And then, dear friends, the floor dropped out from under me. I found out that the reason I hadn’t heard from my friend Kim for several weeks was because her battle with cancer was coming to an end. She was in hospice and didn’t have much time left. I did get to visit her a couple of times, and then… I lost my job. My job, which I loved. The best boss I’d ever had. Suddenly, I was just done. After probably the worst two or three months I’d ever had, I was tossed out onto the street. The next day, Kim died.

The rest of the summer has been a blur of grief and rage and tears and swearing and this all-pervading sense of failure and hopelessness. I find myself crying at least once a day, often just because I’m tired and want this all to stop. Often, because I’m thinking about Velda or Kim, or Marwa, or Josie (two other friends who passed away this summer – Marwa, after a lifelong battle with depression and Josie, who died of pneumonia only a few weeks after getting the all-clear after being treated for lung cancer).

One of the few bright spots was the trip Rob and I took to Minnesota for our friend Steven’s wedding. I was so thrilled and humbled by the fact that Steven and his beautiful wife Sarah chose to include us in their celebrations (I’d never actually been invited to a wedding before, other than my brother’s, and they needed my kids in their wedding party LOL). I’m not sure if I had mentioned it, but I started knitting them a blanket on April 1st and finished it IN the car on the drive to Minnesota. We also got to head into Minneapolis and visit with our friend Todd and his kids, which was pretty awesome as well🙂 Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to be at Kim’s memorial service, since it was at exactly the same time as Steven’s wedding, but I said my goodbyes in person and I feel pretty good about that decision.

I know this post is a really long downer, but I feel like my life is spiralling out of control. I feel as though I’m spinning my wheels, and in the process, people I care about are just disappearing in all directions. I feel as though I’m constantly running away from something, and at the same time, sitting still and waiting for my life to start back up again after the massive stall it’s undergone. I want to get back to work. I *need* to get back to work. But I don’t know how to get myself out of this rut. I don’t know how to climb out of the hole I’ve dug myself into. And I don’t know how to stop crying.

So now, I just keep moving forward, hoping I’ll figure out a way to make things okay again. And maybe unpack a box or two.

Circle of life???

Or Assholes come in every flavor, even bird!

Okay, so the craziness has mostly subsided (I KNOW! I keep saying that, and then it’s a month or more before I blog again!). We are all moved into our new place, which is AWESOME, and I’m very much enjoying not being in the old place anymore. I actually had some pretty serious anxiety involved with going back there with Rob yesterday to pick up some of the last of our stuff. I hadn’t realized how much I hated living in that apartment, that neighborhood, until I was free of it!

So we’ve been moving stuff at a pretty steady pace, and then the movers came by on Saturday to do the lion’s share of the work (thank you so much to my ex-husband for paying for movers, it removed a HUGE amount of stress from moving). Anyway, the kids had gone to the park to explore (my kids are 13 and 16, but move to a new neighborhood? WHERE’S THE PARK, MUM?). They come back, and there’s yelling, and I can’t figure out what’s going on. DEAD BABY BIRD, MUM! OH MY GAWD!!!!

Turns out there were a couple of baby birds dead in the grass just outside my daughter’s bedroom window. I go outside to look, and say, well, not much we can do now. (backstory – a robin had built a nest inside the dryer vent of one of my upstairs neighbors and we could hear the babies peeping a lot of the time). As we’re heading to the car, we see a grackle messing around at the opening of the vent, hear the babies peeping as loudly as they possibly can. Suddenly, we hear “PLOCKSHHHHH” behind us and realize that this grackle, this asshole bird, has grabbed another baby and tossed it out of the nest.

You know that scene in The Bourne Identity (I think that’s the first film?) when the girl has just witnessed people killed and she throws up in the lobby of the building, and Matt Damon just grabs her around the shoulders and makes her keep walking? That’s kind of what I did with my kids (minus the vomit). I just grabbed them both and resolutely kept walking toward the car. Grackles, man. Assholes.

We got home from wherever we were going, and the kids decided that we needed to hold a little birdy funeral. So we lined a little cardboard box with paper towels, and used a Ziploc bag as a glove to pick up the three little corpses (I got that dubious honor), placed them gently in the box and covered them with another layer of paper towels. Taped the box shut with duck tape, and Zachary carried it off with him. I think he buried it somewhere at or near the park. *sigh*

So devastated, these near-adults of mine, at the harsh realities of nature. I told them that in the woods, animals would have carried the babies off to snack on, or would have just eaten them there. But we needed to remove them, or we’d have dead-bird smell coming in our windows in a few days’ time. I know Zach doesn’t like people knowing how sensitive he is, but the idea of putting the birds in a bag and into the dumpster just killed him, so they were interred with pomp and circumstance.

There are still babies left in the nest. I don’t know if Mama robin came home and dispatched the grackle or what, but we haven’t found any dead babies in our yard since that first batch, and we can still hear the babies crying in the nest at feeding time. I did joke about letting our cats out for a snack, but that was met with stony silence, and then, “That’s not funny, Mom.”

So much for trying to lighten the mood.

Asshole birds.

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Rainy Monday Morning…

I woke up at 2am this morning to go pee, and as I was sitting there trying to wake up enough to go back to bed, I realized I could hear water dripping. Then I realized my foot was getting wet. I looked over and realized it was RAINING in my bathroom. The day could only go up from there, right?

A few years ago, we had some trouble with the upstairs neighbor’s bathroom issues. There was a very heavy-set, disabled fellow living upstairs at the time, and he had mobility issues that made it difficult for him to get in and out of the bathtub. Culmination of these difficulties was that the seal on the bathtub gave way and suddenly there was all kinds of water pouring down our bathroom wall into the apartments below us. The landlord got his usual handyman in to fix everything, and it seems he did his usual half-assed job, because suddenly, it’s happening again *sigh*

Can’t really complain about the last week and a bit though🙂 It’s been pretty good! I’m working on finishing up square #3 of the Great American Aran Afghan project. Things are progressing apace! I did start a pair of socks to give me something of a palate cleanser when I get too burnt out on using huge needles on the blanket squares. Just a plain pair of vanilla 2×2 ribbed socks, based on the Yarn Harlot‘s Good Plain Sock Recipe from Knitting Rules. (It’s the only sock I knit, after having taken her Grok the Sock class a few years ago).

In recent weeks, I’ve been a knitting machine. Finished the Triangle Field shawl I was test knitting for Anja Krebber:

Triangle Field Shawl by Anja Krebber out of Julianna's Fibre Lucid Dreams Sock yarn in Luna colourway on size 6 (4mm) needles.

Triangle Field Shawl by Anja Krebber out of Julianna’s Fibre Lucid Dreams Sock yarn in Luna colourway on size 6 (4mm) needles.

I also finished the Zilver shawl by Lisa Mutch of NorthBound Knitting. I don’t have a finished picture of this yet, but I’ll get one soon. I ended up giving it to my mom as an early Mothers Day present, and she loved it! I also gave Rob’s mom the Kuura shawl by Milja Uimonen of Milja Designs that I finished a few months ago. I need to get a picture of that one too!

I don’t remember if I posted my Amanda Hat (by Gina House) when I finished it, but I finally also finished the matching cowl I improvised:

Amanda Cowl improvised from The Amanda Hat pattern by Gina House out of Classic Elite Jil Eaton Minnow Merino in Celery on size 9 (5.5mm) needles.

Amanda Cowl improvised from The Amanda Hat pattern by Gina House out of Classic Elite Jil Eaton Minnow Merino in Celery on size 9 (5.5mm) needles.

And a grand finale, I also finished the Lyn’s Round Ripple Baby Afghan I was crocheting from Lyn’s Designs out of Katia Mexico on a G (4mm) hook. I don’t have a finished picture of that either (because I’m a bad blogger). But I haven’t given it to the intended recipient yet, so I still have time with that one🙂 (the cowl needs a good blocking and the ends woven in still, so I’ll show a better picture of that one later).

I’ve also been experimenting a bit in the kitchen (out of necessity)… basic bacon & eggs for breakfast yesterday, but for dinner, I had three teenagers to feed and very little food left in the house. I had a few chicken breasts lying around, some broccoli and a few random apples lying around. I heated a bit of chicken stock (about an inch) in a skillet, then tossed in the chopped broccoli and apples (not peeled). Added roughly chopped chicken breasts, some cumin & mint seasoning and a healthy dose of sriracha. I covered the pan and let it simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes.

Had I served this on rice, it would have been a complete meal for anyone not Whole 30-ing. As it is, I served it as-is, and all three kids loved it! Wish I could show you a picture, but they ate it too quickly! For today’s lunch, I used the leftover stock to poach some butterflied pork chops and quartered mushrooms. SO good!!!!

Right now, things are starting to get a bit hectic in preparation for the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival. I’ll be heading down with Sue of Two Tangled Skeins and our friends Elizabeth and Krystal. I can’t wait!!!!! We have a big podcasters meet-up every year on Saturday at 1pm near the corrals (where you can see the highway). Anyone who wants to come join us is more than welcome! This year we’ll be doing a little road trip to a yarn store in Alexandria, VA. More importantly, we’re going to be going back to our favorite restaurant in Frederick, MD – The Orchard!

I’m looking forward to ramping up canning in the next few weekends (after Maryland) before it gets too hot. I have a pile of produce in my freezer from last summer’s harvests and I’m looking forward to clearing it all out into delicious preserves! Stay tunes🙂

Chag Sameach Pesach (a little bit late…)

Pesach

I know, I know. I meant to blog about Passover while it was happening, but I was so busy and stressed out, I didn’t have time, and since then, I’ve been in a bit of a funk. So here’s the breakdown of my Passover🙂

Wednesday morning, I drove to Syracuse in order to catch a direct flight to Chicago (SUCH a treat!!!! I love direct flights!). We immediately headed for the grocery store – we shop at Woodman’s in Kenosha, WI because the selection is so much better than the little store by Rob’s house. Now, we knew that Rob would be running out to the store more than once for little things I’d forgotten, plus we were planning for his son’s 19th birthday as well, so unexpected things were bound to crop up🙂 Before bed, I took the chicken out to thaw for the Matzo Ball Soup, and chopped the onion, carrots, celery, parsnips and parsley that were going to be used the next morning.

The next morning, I got the soup boiling and then we went to Rob’s mom’s house to learn to make Brisket! (Next year, that’s going to be my job too – can’t wait to experiment!!!) Back to Rob’s house to get cooking. I cooked the green beans for the green bean casserole (Campbell’s recipe here). I will freely admit, I don’t GET green bean casserole. It’s gloppy and heavy and a bit gross. But the excitement I encountered when I set it out on the buffet counter was unbelievable. People actually HUGGED me because there was a huge pile of the stuff. I dunno. Must be an American thing. Personally, I think it’s an affront to green beans LOL

I also made the fruit salad (I base mine on Martha Stewart’s Recipe) – this year, we used orange/pineapple juice and fresh mint (couldn’t find fresh mint last year, so we had used dried – fresh is SO MUCH BETTER). And this year’s fruit list: a whole pineapple, four half-pints of blackberries, two quarts of strawberries, four black plums, three nectarines and a few MacIntosh apples. I had wanted to include cherries, but they’re not in season and there were none to be found under Gold Standard prices, so I left them out. BIG hit, every year, and a lot of people even take some as a side for their dinner.

I decided to try this Smoky Roasted Sweet Potato recipe from Budget Bytes this year, and it was SO good. People were picking at it before dinner! I had twice the amount of sweet potatoes, so I doubled the spice mixture too… Next year I think I’ll leave the spice mixture as-is. Very tasty though, and it’s going to come back next year.

A few months ago when I was visiting, I made Rob a pan of Cabbage and Apples. He loved it, so I thought I’d try it. It didn’t go over as well at Passover, but it’s a distinctly German/Polish/Ukranian dish that I served cold (and likely would have been more popular, had I served it hot). I love it, but I don’t think I’ll make it next year. Too much left over. My favorite variation has home-smoked bacon my friend Sue’s husband makes for us, but I figured that would not be appropriate at the Passover table… The recipe was sort of made up on the spur of the moment. One head red cabbage, roughly chopped. One onion, roughly chopped. Three Granny Smith apples, roughly chopped (NOT PEELED). Heat 1-2 Tbsp butter in a wide, deep skillet with a lid. Add the onions and sautee over medium-low heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add cabbage and apples, stir to coat with butter and leave to simmer, covered, for about 10-15 minutes or until cabbage is completely wilted. Add 2 Tbsp of apple cider vinegar, 1/2 tsp celery seed and 1/4 tsp black pepper. Cover and cook 2-3 more minutes. Serve immediately, or refrigerate and serve cold later on.

On the spur of the moment, I decided to make some Roasted Mushrooms. OH MY WORD. So good. I used this recipe from Serious Eats, except with Parsley instead of the other herbs (and some dried basil). Unfortunately, the nature of the beast with Passover is that dinner sits there while you go through the Haggadah (we use a rather extensive collection of Maxwell House ones that Rob’s mother has collected over the years) and perform the rituals. So everything pretty much gets cold. Especially in a kitchen like Rob’s which only has one undersized oven. We used the leftover mushrooms for Ray’s birthday dinner (steak, sauteed onions & mushrooms and raspberry/chocolate swirl cheesecake).

I’m still working on my stock recipe for the Matzo Ball Soup, but for the Matzo Balls themselves, I use the recipe on the side of the Manischewitz Matzo Meal can and add whatever herbs and spices I think sound good (this year was black pepper and thyme). My goal is usually to have the soup made ahead of time, and cooled. Then when guests start arriving, I put it on to boil and drop in the matzo balls to cook, and the soup is perfectly done when we finally start “The Festive Meal” (Page 28, I believe…)

A couple of other things I put on the table… this Apple Horseradish Conserve from Food in Jars. It’s SO DELICIOUS!!!! I’ll confess, I’m Marisa’s biggest fan. I have her cookbooks, I read her blog religiously, and she is my hero. I want to be her (or a slightly less uptight Martha Stewart) when I grow up. Because I still firmly believe that one day I will grow up😛 I feel silly including a how-to for Charoset, because everybody makes it differently, and it’s all according to taste anyway. But this year, I used 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and finely diced, one bag of crushed walnut pieces, 1 cup Manischewitz Passover wine, 2 Tbsp honey and 1 tsp cinnamon. I dilute the honey in the wine before adding it to the apples, and stir the whole thing repeatedly until Haggadah time.

I think I dirtied every single dish Rob owns, although we did use paper plates for the meal itself🙂 I made two casserole dishes of Green Bean Casserole, two dishes of Smoky Roasted Sweet Potato, a VERY large serving bowl of Cabbage and Apples, TWO huge serving bowls of fruit salad…. there was a lot of food🙂 Rob had a good amount of leftover Matzo Ball Soup to put in his freezer. I’ll confess that yes, we do serve Gefilte Fish as well, but as it comes out of a jar, I don’t tend to mention it because I didn’t make it. I’m already making some plans for next year’s dinner. I’m thinking of making my aunt Heather’s famous Wild Rice casserole, but you’ll have to wait for that recipe!

Happy Passover, everyone!

Maxwell-House-2

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