Sunday, December 24, 2006


I finished all the cooking, the house is spiffed up enough for company, and the presents are wrapped. All that's left is to go over to my mother in law's house and have dinner, then hopefully get the boys to bed and curl up on the couch for a while with Dan. Nice.

Oh, and I had to try the online fortune cookie thing. Most appropriate, somehow.

My Fortune Cookie told me:
Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is a better defense.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Cooking central

I love making Christmas dinner. Really, I love cooking any meal, but the more people and the more cooking involved, the happier I am. The problem is, I tend to do far too much at the last minute and end up exhausted by the time we all sit down to eat. This year, I'm trying to get ahead of the game by doing as much ahead of time as I possibly can. Yesterday, I went to pick up our roast. Today, I finished shopping and started in on preparations. Made mashed potatoes (I'll reheat carefully and add butter before serving), lentil soup, potato bread, creamed spinach, salad dressing, horseradish sauce, rum custard and sponge cake. All that's left to do is make a snack mix, assemble the breakfast strata, and then a few last minute things on Christmas day. That means I can spend tomorrow wrapping, knitting, reading a book, and generally relaxing. Tomorrow night we're having a "picnic" dinner on the floor at my mother in law's apartment, to celebrate my sister in law's arrival from San Jose. Should be fun, especially for the boys!

This year, I'm going very traditional. I'm actually copying the menu from our wedding at the Five Crowns nine years ago. Doesn't sound very interesting, but if done well the combination is comforting and delicious. The trifle was a request from the boys for something creamy with cake and chocolate, and it should be perfect because it's even better made ahead. Needless to say, the rest of the week is going to be full of lighter fare and yoga on my part.

Here's the menu for Christmas day:

maple sausage and cheddar strata
orange juice
tea and hot chocolate

spiced nuts
crudites and hummus

lentil soup (this came out really well - I used Puy lentils, lots of onion and garlic, bay leaves, and thyme)
rustic potato bread

mixed greens with Parmesan cheese, toasted walnuts and apple-parsley dressing
standing rib roast au jus
Yorkshire pudding
horseradish cream
mashed potatoes
creamed spinach

Boston cream trifle

Friday, December 22, 2006

Day five: Winter vacation

Today was a run around and get last minute things done: trip to the auto club to renew our membership, off to the pet store to get a new collar for Tabby, and then a swing by the book store to get a gift certificate for my sister in law. After all the errands were finished, we made popcorn balls for the birds and critters outside. These didn't go as well as I would have hoped. The gelatin is supposed to dissolve into hot corn syrup and sugar, but it never did - the gelatin actually started turning golden and contracting in on itself in the pan. Not good. So I scooped it out and tried blooming more gelatin in some hot water, then adding that to the sugar mixture and boiling for a few minutes to get the water out. In went the birdseed and some pine nuts for extra winter fat reserves, and then a quick mix with the popcorn. Ryan tried making balls for a little bit, but didn't like how everything stuck to his hands and stopped pretty quickly. Arden didn't want to touch the stuff at all, but watched me crank out popcorn balls. Then I grabbed a long, thick needle and thread and started stringing. Not easy - the needle kept getting stuck. Finally got one put together and hung it up on a tree outside, only to have the popcorn balls start slowly sliding off the thread. Ah, well. The seeds will be just as good to eat on the ground as they are on the tree, I suppose.

Dan came home a bit early today, so we were all able to take a long bike ride around the neighborhood. I loved seeing holiday decorations and waving to everyone as we peddled on past. The boys are still figuring out how to stay a reasonable distance while hugging the side of the road (no sidewalks here), but thankfully there is little traffic anywhere nearby. When we all got home there were pink cheeks and slightly less energetic small folk, so our work was done.

Dinner was simple, but good. I used the rest of the ground beef from earlier this week and made hamburgers, adding a good measure of salt, pepper, and Worcherstershire sauce before I formed the patties. Then a good brown on each side to get a nice crust before being plopped onto a bun. We all piled slices of uglyripe tomatoes (which are absolutely delicious, if a bit odd looking), red onion, lettuce and toppings, then dove in. Oh, and paused long enough to grab some slaw to put on the side as well.

By the way, Dan loved his Wii! When I told him how I snuck out and waited in line, he was amazed at my sneakiness. Fortunately, I use my powers for good ;-) He's still configuring the game and reading the manual (swoon! I married a man who actually read the manual!), but it looks like we'll be playing tonight. The controller is seriously fun to use - it follows every movement your arm makes, and the controls are really, really easy to figure out. Even Arden was able to figure out how to work things. Much fun all around.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Day four: Winter vacation

No special craft today. We were supposed to make mosaic pictures, but the boys had other ideas. Instead, they painted and tinkered with a gift box to make a "closet". Arden says they can put books and toys on the shelves. The sides are purple, the front doors "dark brown". Now we just need to figure out how to keep the doors closed when not being opened - this puzzle is keeping Arden quite busy, while Ryan is more into the painting process.

We went bowling today, something both boys have been incredibly excited to do all week. Forget that it's Dan's birthday...."today we get to go bowling!!!" They each got new shoes (had to explain this part to Arden - he really wanted to keep his shoes on instead), then I showed them how to bowl. This is completely the blind leading the blind, since I am a pretty lousy bowler. Though I'll admit, bumpers make my game a lot better!

Dinner for the boys is ever so healthy and nutritious: McDonald's with Grandma. Since it's Dan's birthday, he got to choose dinner and he really wants to go to Pok Pok, a local Thai restaurant that is just incredibly good. Ryan was a bit upset that he couldn't go, and made me promise to bring him an order of fish sauce wings. Arden, however, was thrilled to get a chance to play with Grandma and scurried off without even looking back.

Dan hasn't seen his present yet. I ditched the microwave idea (visions of sudden power surges put a quick end to that), instead including a small note saying, "bet you want some graham crackers and chocolate to go with that, right?" Oh, he'll find a treat in the pantry, all right ;-)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Day three: Winter vacation

Today we made ice lights. The directions call for leaving the molds outside to freeze, but it hasn't been quite that cold, at least not during the day, so into the freezer they went. It took several hours to get each layer set, and getting them out took a little longer than I would have thought, but they're just gorgeous all lit up. The boys both said, "whoa!" when we turned out the lights.

Also went to our local library, conveniently located at the outermost edge of our local mall parking lot. I kid you not - I can go to the mall and the library all in one fell swoop. Of course, I hate shopping with a vengence, so when my car is headed in that direction, I'm usually in search of books for loan. Ryan picked out a book on pirates and a book on spies. Have to make a career choice sometime, I always say. Arden chose an I Spy book, perfect for late night viewing.

Tonight's dinner was pizza and salad. The boys helped knead the dough and measure out ingredients for the sauce. Then Ryan helped cut up lettuce and cucumbers, and Arden poured the salad dressing. Both helped put the toppings on the pizza before I put it into the oven. Some Christmas cookies for dessert, and another day is done.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Day two: Winter Vacation

We made the coolest three dimensional snowflakes. I used plain old printer paper, folded in half lengthwise. Then I folded each edge down to make a triangle to measure out each smaller square. The boys used bits of tape and staples to put them all together, and they came out so nicely!

Then we went to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry - known as OMSI around these parts. We have a family membership to the children's museum back in Southern California that had a nice plus: it applied to all the other children's and science museums throughout the country. We go as often as we can, making the $75 membership more than worth it. We've already seen the Star Wars exhibit (Ryan was on cloud nine the whole time), so we went quickly to the Innovation Station where the boys got to throw balls inside with impunity. This was Arden's favorite exhibit, bar none. We could have spent all day there. But Ryan had other plans. First the Physics lab, and then the Chemistry Lab, which he has now decided is the coolest place in the whole museum. Not sure if this is due to the protective glasses or the magnets and liquid nitrogen. I promised both boys that we'd go back with Dan next week when he has time off.

Dinner tonight was tacos. Ryan helped grind the meat (big sale on chuck a few weeks back, so I bought a few roasts and froze them), then I made the taco meat and cut up tomatoes, onions, and lettuce and shredded the cheese. Flour tortillas only needed warming up, and oranges got cut into easy to eat slices. Recipe for the taco meat (which could just as easily be made from ground turkey or even vegetable "crumbles", though I'd add a bit of fat to saute the onions and garlic) here:

Taco meat
serves 4

1 pound lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/4 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
dash cayenne (good-sized dash)
1 teaspoon salt
dash black pepper
1/3 cup kechup*

Crumble meat into a pan over medium - high heat. Add onions and garlic, and cook until meat lightly browned. Add spices and tomato, but not kechup yet. Continue to cook for 5 minutes or until tomatoes are disintegrated. Add kechup, stir, and cook for a few more minutes to let flavors meld.

* Yes, I actually said kechup. No, this is not in any way authentic. But it gives a nice bit of sweet/sour to the mix, and helps bind everything together so it's similar to fast food taco meat. Feel free to leave it out - the mix will be looser but still delicious.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Day one: Winter vacation

We made ornaments (dodecahedrons! I love math) from construction paper. Used the lid from a vitamin bottle to make the millions and millions of circles (OK, there were only 40, but it felt like millions). The boys decorated each circle, then we started gluing them together. This was harder because all of the folds weren't exact. Also, had to let each section dry completely before putting it all together. I'd leave at least a few hours total for this project. Ryan decided his ornament needed googly eyes, while Arden added a "Texas" flag to his. Haven't a clue on either count!

We made whole grain waffles for dinner, topping them with vanilla yogurt, crushed raspberries, and toasted walnuts. Maple sausage on the side made Ryan a very, very happy boy.

After dinner we went out driving to see Christmas lights around the neighborhood. There are some amazing displays - some beautiful, some "special", all worth a trip to find them. Makes me glad we're finally able to have some icicle lights on the front of a real house so we can add to the wonder a wee little bit.

Craft and activity week

Both boys are off from school for the next two weeks. This is a bit of a problem, since Ryan has a really hard time when his schedule changes at all. It takes him a few weeks to readjust to any new schedule (like the rythmn of going to school five days a week, then suddenly being at home those same days), so breaks are just long enough to upset but unlike Summer, not long enough to adjust. Part and parcel of any kind of autism, and something we're trying to help him with.

This year, I'm trying to be proactive. I gathered up a bunch of crafts and activities to fill up each day, and assembled an extremely kid-friendly menu that the boys can help make each day. Then I made out a weekly calendar with every activity listed for each day so both boys would know what to expect. This week I'll be posting every day with the craft activity we did, describing the outing we went on, and giving the dinner menu that the boys helped with. If nothing else, that gives me something fun to do!

Forgot to add: tonight we kicked things off by making chicken and ginger siu mai, broccoli stir fried with garlic, and steamed rice. Ryan helped rinse the rice, combine all the filling ingredients, make the dipping sauce (soy sauce, rice vinegar, a bit of sugar and water, and some minced green onion), then stir fry the broccoli.


Want to guess what I bought this morning? Got in line at Target at five thirty this morning, stomping my feet and rubbing hands together to keep warm. Damn, it was cold outside. At 7:00, they announced that there were 21 Wiis in stock and handed out tickets in line order. I wasn't at the very front, so I sweated a bit, wondering if I'd actually get one. Then the lady came up to me and handed me a ticket - number 21! I got the very last one, a fact that made me more happy because the two guys behind me hadn't been nice at all and were planning on selling their consoles on eBay (in contrast to the folks ahead of me, all parents trying to surprise their sons). She said to come back at 7:50, so we all wandered off to get warm. I went grocery shopping, since my excuse to Dan had been that I was planning on doing my shopping early this morning (that, and telling him he snored last night so getting out of bed wasn't suspicious). When I got back to the store there was another line of shoppers, all jubilant that they'd gotten to the front. Um, sorry folks, those of us who got here when it was still dark and literally freezing beat you to it.

Hee hee...I bought some holiday peeps to wrap and put under the tree til Dan's birthday on Thursday. I know he'll recognize the size and shape of the Wii box, so that's not getting wrapped. The peeps will have a note that says, "bet you want to put these in the microwave" (he loves torturing peeps). And in the oven, a brand spanking new Wii with a bow on top . Can't wait until his birthday!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Gone with the wind

What's wrong with this picture? I opened my front door this morning, only to see an odd hole in the front border by the street. Took me a moment to realize something was missing.

What the....the bush is gone! We had a huge storm last night with winds up to 45 miles per hour and up to an inch of rain per hour as well. We lost power for about two hours, which was a great excuse to unpack the boxes labeled "fire" (yes, Dan shares my slightly twisted sense of humor!). Thankfully the lights went out after the boys went to bed, as Ryan is very afraid of the dark. It was about time for us to turn in, so no harm done.

Or at least so I thought until this morning. It's hard to tell from the picture, but that bush is almost five feet wide and about three feet tall. It ripped right out of the ground and rolled onto the lawn like a big tumbleweed...a green, heavy, wet tumbleweed, that is. Never liked that bush, anyway.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

I have a plan

There are no Wiis to be found, other than eBay and Craigslist. However, it looks like most stores are getting shipments in that will be sold on Sunday. Target, Best Buy, Circuit City, Walmart, EB Games, GameStop, everybody will be selling at least a few consoles on the 17th. Emphasis on "a few". And this is the last big shopping day before Christmas and Chanukah, so everyone and their brother is going to be lining up and camping overnight to get one. I've called all around to find out what different stores are doing and how crazy things were when the Wii rolled out, and I have a plan.

I'm going to a Target that's outside Portland, in a much less populated area. I'll get there at 5:00 am, knitting in hand and rain coat on as I wait for them to open at 8:00. They are going to take names of folks in line half an hour before the store opens, then let people in five at a time once the doors open, checking ID against that line list. This sounds a heck of a lot more reasonable than other stores where the mob all gets in at the same time and you hope you get to the front of the line. And the people at this store were helpful and flat out nice when I called - something I'm glad to reward with my business.

Wish me luck!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Slightly finished object

I've been baking up a mad storm (just finished using up four pounds of butter...and I need more) and decorating and volunteering at the boys' school and still trying to get my hot little hands on a Wii. In the meantime, I managed to finish up one half of that mystery project. This is yarn I got in the Dye O Rama swap from the incredibly talented Kate of k8knits. I wanted to do something special with it and set it aside for a while, pondering. Finally decided on fingerless gloves with the same edging as "Sideways Socks Supreme" from my ever trusty Socks, Socks, Socks book. Figuring out how to get the edging to work as a mirror image took a bit of fiddling. I offset the two edgings by one row so the decreases that make up each point would work out properly. Did a provisional cast on, knit until it fit around my wrist, added some extra short rows where my forearm gets a little bit wider, then grafted up to the bottom of my thumb. Then I picked up stitches as I knitted up the thumb gusset, finishing it off in the round with seed stitch to echo the side to side pattern in the arm. I love this glove - the colors are beautiful, it fits perfectly, it's warm, and the edging makes it somehow romantic and different and unique. One more, and I 'm all set.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006 vewy quiet....

I'm hunting Wiis...

Dan hopelessly, desperately wants one for his birthday. Or Christmas. Since the birthday is all of four days before Christmas, these two dates are essentially the same. These suckers are almost impossible to find (except on eBay for almost double the retail price), but he's so hard to shop for and he really wants one. So I'm combing trackers and Slickdeals and calling every store I can think of every morning, hoping to score. He doesn't want any bells or whistles (or sports games - not into sports at all), so you'd think this might get a little bit easier. Nope, not at all.

But I'm more than happy to find one if it takes camping out in front of Best Buy and calling all over town every day until I get one. Dan is my favorite person in the whole world, and there isn't a lot I wouldn't do for him. Especially today, nine years after we first put on those shiny gold bands.

I love him even when he wants impossible things. I'm pretty good at impossible :-)

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Weekly menu

This week has been all about leftovers. Sounds like a lot of turkey, doesn't it? But it was all so good that stretching it out to last has been really nice.

  • Turkey shepherd's pie, salad (turkey meat, gravy, broth, and cooked vegetables with mashed potatoes over the top and baked til golden), glazed carrots
  • Turkey stuffing bake (spoon stuffing into a baking dish, cover with sliced turkey, pour gravy over the top and bake, covered, until hot), leftover green beans
  • Turkey and sausage gumbo with rice
  • Chicken stir fry, broccoli with garlic, and steamed rice
  • Cheese pizza, salad
  • Pho (asian beef broth with noodles, fresh herbs, and thinly sliced beef on top)
  • Scrambled eggs, toast, mixed fruit

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What a nice present

Look what I saw out my front door this morning: snow! Now something we ever saw back in Southern California, and something that only happens here every once in a while, just enough to make it exciting and special. I love how everything looks like it was dusted with powdered sugar, how every surface is dappled with white. I love watching the flakes come softly to the ground, the tiny specks and the denser clumps where snowflakes have come together. In all my 38 years, I have never seen it snow on this day.

Best birthday present I could have gotten. Well, aside from this, which I plan on playing with all day long.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Another big grin

My baby sister is getting married. OK, she's all of thirty five now, but she'll always be the one I tricked into eating a pillbug and the one who shared all of my dearest secrets when we were growing up. I'm beyond happy for her - her guy is really, really good for her and they love each other dearly and well. He called my dad this morning to ask for her hand, and I got a call soon after.

Now, does anyone have suggestions on a really amazing lace shawl I could knit up for her? I'd like to do something really special, something that takes a lot of time and energy, since I can't be there while she plans and worries about the wedding. So I'm going to work all the love and good wishes I can into this shawl. The longer it takes, the more attention it needs, the more I'll be able to focus on her upcoming wedding from afar. I'll be there on the big day, but in the meantime I want something to cluck over like the big sis that I am.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Saturday sky

Sigh. I want to hang that on my wall. Good thing it's right out the window.

Busy weekend

It's not even Sunday, and already I'm exhausted! So much done and so much more to do.

The boys have been home since Wednesday (no school the day before Thanksgiving). I spent that day getting the house in reasonable shape and getting things cooked for the next day. We went to a potluck dinner at my cousin's wife's parents house, along with her sister and sister's daughter. Made mashed potatoes, cranberry jezebel sauce, and rolls to take along. Dinner wasn't the best or the worst I've had, though it was easy to just have one plate full. The boys had a wonderful time with their (second? first, once removed? What do you call the children of your cousin?) cousins, making up all kinds of games and generally chasing around the house. Arden was transfixed with the doll house they had set up and spent hours arranging the furniture and people inside. Little does he know we're getting him this for Christmas. Shhhhh! Really enjoyed seeing everyone. I managed to pull one of the younger ones over to the dark side of Continental knitting - she'd been eyeing me as I worked and decided that looked much easier than English style. We all trundled home in the rain, sleepy eyed and full.

Yesterday was my own turkey dinner. I bought a small, organic, free-range turkey and all organic and mostly local ingredients. I love that we were able to afford to do this and that it is so possible in this area. The turkey was amazing roasted - golden, crisp skin with the most amazing smell filling the house. The gravy was some of the best I've ever had. Made stuffing in the crock pot for the first time, and it was incredible - doing that again next year! We had the freshest, greenest green beans with nutmeg along with everything else. Ryan tried the Jezebel sauce and declared it delicious. Martinelli's all around, much to the delight of the boys. It was nice having our own little feast, just the four of us. We toasted to our first Thanksgiving in Oregon, the first of many to come.

Yesterday was also spent buying trees. Wanted to get some fruit trees in the ground while the soil is still moist and easier to dig, before it gets really cold. Dan and I found a lovely Cox Orange Pippin apple, an asian pear that was trained to espalier with two varieties of pear on it, and a lemon tree. We wanted a Fuji apple as well, but they won't come in until early February. I'd also like a peach tree, but that'll wait until Spring. Today was spent figuring out where the trees should go, digging holes, trimming back shrubs and trees to make room, and hacking out a 10 x 10 foot space in the corner of the yard. That last bit was more to make a play area for the boys than to make space for the trees, but it really does make the yard look nicer. Also dug up and started an asparagus bed over on the side of the house. Lots and lots and lots of work. Good work! I loved lopping off all the branches and breathing that crisp air.

Now we have a huge pile of branches. Dan's thought: we should get an outdoor fire pit. 'Cause you know, then we could burn things.

Big grin.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Weekly menu, recipes, and a few pictures

I'm not sure, but I think Tabby likes her new bed. At least, this is where I'm finding her most of the time now, usually curled up against the side of the bed, blissed out asleep. Wish I'd made the sides a little taller and the rest a bit smaller - might toss this in the washer again and see if I can reshape it. But definitely a success. It warms my heart to see her so comfortable and happy, especially since I was able to help her feel so good. Warm fuzzies all around.
This over on the right is a really bad picture of something new I started. I used some of the sock yarn that I got in the DyeORama swap that's been waiting ever so patiently to be used for something special. Thought of something I actually need and want, did some figuring, cast on, and I'm beyond happy with the results so far. Too bad my camera disagrees! Anyone want to guess what I'm working on?

Here's the menu for this week, followed by two comfort food recipes that should be perfect for colder weather. I'm not hosting Thanksgiving for the first time in many, many years, which makes me a bit sad since I love all the planning, cooking, and arranging. Well, more to the point: I love having people come over and eat my food! This year, we'll be going to a pot luck T-day with my cousin and his wife and her family. I'm doing a small turkey meal the next day so we can have all of our favorites and leftovers to pick at (isn't that the most important part of Thanksgiving? Stuffing to pick at the next day?)

  • Potaju - a simple soup with vegetables and bacon I got from a Japanese cookbook - recipe to follow, fresh bread (extra for stuffing on Friday)
  • Channa dal with herbs and garlic, basmati rice, cauliflower with mustard seeds
  • Three cheese pizza (mozzarella, parmesan and romano), salad (I make pizza dough constantly, freezing half once the dough is frozen. This leaves another batch of dough ready at any time I want to make pizza without extra work. I make the sauce, too)
  • Grilled chicken, sauteed cabbage with garlic
  • Thanksgiving day - I'm bringing my Grandma's rolls (these are so good! I'm making 2 batches, 64 total, so we'll have enough left over), mashed potatoes, and Cranberry Jezebel Sauce
  • Our own T-day spread: roast turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, green beans wtih nutmeg and walnuts, some of the rolls, some of the Jezebel sauce, Martinelli's and wine, and Tirimisu (this was at the request of both boys)
  • Leftover feast pickings the next day :-)
And now, recipes. Both for warming, comfort in a spoon of one sort or another.

This is a soup recipe I got from a book called Japanese Country Cookbook. It was interesting to find that this is considered a Japanese dish, even the name (which surely comes from the French potage). Any way you look at it, it's warm and simple and delicious.

4 0z. bacon or fatty ham (can use a little more if you like), sliced into bite sized bits
1 medium onion, diced
6 cups water
4 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
salt and pepper to taste (give it a good bit of pepper)

Saute bacon or ham in a large pot over medium heat until most of the fat has separated. You don't want the bacon or ham to crisp. Add onion and saute until transparent. Add water slowly so it doesn't splatter. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes or so. Add potatoes and cook until potatoes have come apart, around 30 minutes. Add carrots, salt and pepper and cimmer until carrots are soft. You can serve the soup as is, or mash the vegetables a bit to thicken.

Conjee (or Jook)
This is comfort food at it's simplest and best. Rice is cooked in a lot of water until it forms a thick, delicately flavored soup, perfect for topping with just about anything.

3/4 cup short or medium grain rice
5 1/2 cups water
salt to taste (I use around 1 tsp.)
ginger, grated fine - optional

Wash the rice until the water runs clear. Combine with water and salt (this isn't traditional, but I like it) in a heavy pot, then bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer, cover, and cook for at least an hour, though two is better. If you like, add some ginger to the rice before it cooks to add a bit of flavor and comfort to anyone with an upset stomach. Once the congee is ready, you can eat it plain or top with any number of things. Leftover meats or fish go well here. A splash of sesame oil, soy sauce, and some green onion is good. Shot of hot sauce can be nice. Vegetables are nice on top, or you can add them to the congee as it cooks so they end up tender at the end. Play with this until you find your own favorites - congee is a wonderful blank canvas.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Weekly Menu

Saturday found me sick. Very sick. Lay on the couch, hacking up a lung sick. But the menu needed to get made, so I tried to plan things that were easy and that might appeal to me and Dan (starting to get sick) and the boys (on the fringes of sick). Nothing exciting or brain bending this week, no new recipes or challenges, just comfort food on the quick. (note - I'm feeling mostly better now, but was very glad for the simpler meals so far this week)

  • Leftover pork with chipotle, cabbage slaw
  • Scrambled eggs, bacon, sliced oranges
  • Black bean burritos, sauteed corn (I just cook frozen corn in a pan with butter, salt and pepper until it gets a bit caramelized at the edges - really good and easy)
  • Congee with chicken and bok choy (lots of ginger in this, for upset stomachs)
  • Chicken stir fry with broccoli, steamed rice
  • "Rice Stuff" (Dan's specialty: chicken in a spicy peanut sauce that is the ultimate comfort food), stir-fried greens with garlic, more steamed rice
  • TJs easy meal - here I just wandered Trader Joe's, looking for something super simple. Ended up with 4 cheese ravioli that I tossed with caramelized onions in lots of butter, along with some frozen "vegetable melange" with herbed butter. Ahhh, butter.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Random Tuesday

First, some more dyeing. I wanted something special to gift to Anna when she got here, so I looked through her gallery to find the most likely colors. Orange, green, and pink it was! This turned out a wee bit brighter than I'd intended, so I offered to overdye in a smidge of brown to dull the colors a little, but Anna swore she loved it as is, so I left it like that. Also notice another project in this picture - home grown tomatoes that I picked before frost hits. They are ripening on the table, making a really nice edible centerpiece. The riper ones went into a marinara last week, which was delicious.

Next, another something from the garden: my first carrot! There's something mysterious about pulling a root vegetable from the ground - will it be long, thin, thick, colorful? No way of knowing until it's out of the ground. Each time I pick one, it's an adventure. So far, the carrots are crunchy and sweet and Ryan has taken to picking them when he feels like a snack. Score one for mom!

Next, a cat bed for Tabby. Since the surgery, I've really wanted to do something that would help her feel better physically. It's been getting colder here lately, and she doesn't really have any insulation to speak of (unlike her owner), so I figured a cat bed would be perfect. I used some Patons Classic wool, doubled, and some Cascade 128 that I bought at half price last week. My own pattern, not felted yet. As soon as I laid it on the floor, she came over to sniff, so I'm thinking it will probably go over well.

Last, a calender picture for Deb. Also a bit for me, as well. You can't see it, but there are red letters on the 28th. Won't say what they are for, but I will mention that I was born on Thanksgiving day a few decades ago. The real fun of that comes every 4th or 7th year, when my birthday actually falls on Thanksgiving. I love when that happens - cooking, people I love all around, and a big meal that I can plan for and cook? My idea of heaven.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Weekly Menus

Last week was incredibly busy, so no time to post the menu. Had friends from out of town visiting for three nights - Anna and her husband came out to take a closer look at Portland, and we all had a wonderful time. This meant lots of running around and getting things in order. Plus a special meal while they were here. I did have a menu planned out, however, so I figure I'll just add it to this weeks and do two weeks at once.

  • Sesame noodles, stir fried nappa cabbage
  • Ooey Gooey Witches Fingers, salad from the garden (the fingers were a HUGE hit on Halloween, using half a string cheese per "finger")
  • Cheese omelets, home fries, sliced apple (breakfast for dinner)
  • Spiced red lentil soup
  • Fried rice with egg and vegetables (this is a great clean out the refrigerator meal)
  • Vegan dim sum: scallion cakes, tofu siu mai (the filling on these was wonderful, but the wrappers didn't steam properly), curry puffs, bok choy with garlic (from the garden), sticky rice, and coconut ice cream with ginger and lime
  • Fast Food - not on the list, but I was out late enough Sunday night that we decided to just go out.
  • Pasta with broccoli (fast, easy, and an entire meal)
  • Dal with garlic and cumin, carrot salad with mustard seeds, basmati rice
  • Vegetable soup, grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Chicken curry, more basmati rice, sliced pineapple
  • Potstickers, stir fried asparagus, steamed rice
  • Spaghetti with marinara sauce (made from the last of our tomatoes), salad
  • Pork with chipotle, roasted tomatoes and red peppers, arroz rojo, corn tortillas
I'll be back with a full report of Anna's visit very soon, I promise!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Happy Halloween!

Sorry I've been a bit absent in blogging. Busy, busy week here with Special Education meetings, evaluations, much last minute sewing, and getting the house ready for guests. At least I was able to finish Arden's Pirate costume in time. He loved every detail, from the jabot down to the fake boot covers to the hat (which he wears all the time right now). Ryan opted for a Harry Potter look with no scar ("too scary") and had a blast waving his wand around at anyone nearby.

Trick or Treaters were everywhere tonight. Grown-ups huddled together at the end of each driveway, waiting for excited ghosts and princesses and zombies to get their candy. One house was covered in orange lights, spiderwebs, gravestones, and ghosts. At another house, a man had a telescope out and helped each child take a look at the stars. But I think the best treat tonight may well have been this tiny bit of paper that the boys barely noticed.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Weekly Menu

Full disclosure - the gumbo didn't get made last week at all. This happens sometimes - when life gets really crazy I'll grab something easy out of the pantry or we'll (gasp!) go do fast food one night. But I still had all the ingredients on hand, so I made gumbo tonight. Also baked two loaves of potato bread. This week is going to be really hectic, so I planned in leftovers, sandwiches, congee (basically just rice with a lot of water, cooked for an hour, with toppings), and pizza (another easy, made it lots of times meal for me). I picked a bunch of tomatoes from the lone plant we got into the ground after we moved, and figured I'd plan them into the menu to take advantage of them and use them up in the process.

  • Gumbo (from this recipe)
  • leftover Gumbo (we have parent/teacher conferences tomorrow night for both boys with a whopping 40 minutes in between, giving just enough time to drive home and eat leftovers)
  • BLTs with potato bread and tomatoes from our garden, salad
  • Vegetarian siu mai, stir fried nappa cabbage with garlic, steamed rice (the siu mai is a new recipe that hopefully will be perfect for a friend who will be visiting soon)
  • Congee with bok choy
  • Beef stew (making enough to take a dinner to my cousin's family as his wife will be having back surgery on Thursday)
  • Pizza with more of the tomatoes, salad

Friday, October 20, 2006

Twist and shout

What is this, you ask? Some sort of mutant lingere? A cute, fuzzy upside down heart? Perhaps the start of a very large, yet to be felted pirate hat? Ding, ding, ding, we have a winner here. I managed to twist 150 stitches and somehow not notice this fact until I had knit the first ten rows...twice. Dan asked for off white "fluffy stuff" at the edge, so I oblidged and bought some Fun Fur and cast on. Got into the non fluffy part of the pattern and started to worry that the fringe would be too thin, so I quickly knitted up a sample and felted it. Yep, way too thin. Frogged the whole mess and began again, this time carrying three strands instead of two. Perfect. Sigh. Oh, wait, something's wrong here....
I flat out refused to rip out all of this AGAIN and set it aside overnight, glaring at the fun fur as I stowed it in a dark corner. Bad yarn. No donut for you.

But wait. I have a sewing machine. I could steek this sucker! People steek every day and come out completely unscathed and sane. This was going to get felted anyway, so nothing should show in the end. If worse came to worse, I'd just have to start over. Nothing to lose. So I gritted my teeth and started to sew. Sewing is easy. I do that all the time.
But what about the cutting??? Please excuse the blurriness of this picture. I believe my hands were shaking just a wee bit. Nerves. Cutting knitted yarn on purpose just seems so....wrong, so horrible, I had a hard time keeping my hand still.

Well, there's no turning back now, is there?
I untwisted the yarn, grabbed a needle and black thread, and whipstitched the ends back together. You can just barely see where the ends meet in the middle of the picture above. Not a chance it'll show once everything is felted. And now I have technically steeked, albeit not exactly on purpose. I've steeked and lived to tell the tale and didn't have to frog over a thousand stitches. Nice.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Red scarf at night....

Finally finished up my first red scarf. No pictures draped luxuriously across pretty foliage - you'll have to make due with one of my ever patient Dan, who laughed at me the whole time I was trying to take this picture. "Should I try to look saay-a-xy? Does this make my butt look big?" Sigh.

Thought I'd share the pattern I came up with (though honestly, it's barely a pattern at all, more of an anti-pattern, really):

Take it Easy Scarf

Yarn: I used Patons Classic Wool in Bright Red, 1 1/2 skeins
Needles: I used US size 8s
Finished Size: My scarf ended up a little over 60 inches in length and about 6 1/2 inches wide

Cast on 30 stitches (add or subtract groups of 6 stitches to make it wider or narrower)

First row: (K3, P3), repeat to the end of the row.

Repeat this row until you're bored, until the next commercial, until you hear "stop looking at me!" from your little ones, or until you think it's time to do something different. Then, move on to the second row.

Second row: (P3, K3), repeat to the end of the row.

Repeat this row as long as you like. Then switch again. Keep alternating these two rows however you like until the scarf is as long as you want it. Cast off however you like. Fringe, or don't. It's all good.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Weekly Menu

Every week I sit sit down, usually with a big cup of milky tea, and figure out what the heck we're going to eat for the next seven days. Sometimes I enjoy the process, sometimes it's the very last thing I want to do, but it always ends up getting done one way or the other. I love how much money I save by getting everything needed for a meal all at once. I love the lack of waste, since I don't buy anything extra that isn't going to be used during the week. But most of all, I love not having to think on days that are long and hard, knowing that dinner is all planned out and I won't have to figure out what on earth to make at 5:00 when I'm starting to get hungry.

Taking a cue from my friend Danielle, I'm going to post my menu here each week. Not promising anything extraordinary or too exciting - this is food for a family with small children done on a budget. Hope you find something interesting here, or at least get an idea of what to make for dinner!

Oh, I don't assign days to any of the meals I plan. It's too hard to know if today is going to be a really late day for Dan, or my oldest will melt down completely in the afternoon and need constant attention (gotta love Aspergers!) or if life will somehow get in the way of that stew that takes four hours to cook. I take it one day at a time and pick whichever meal seems to make the most sense. I also plan in several fast and easy meals (usually ones I've made many times and can do in my sleep) for days that seem to have no extra time at all. Like, oh, today.

Our menu this week:

  • Roast chicken, mashed potatoes, glazed carrots (I've got a whole chicken in the freezer and felt like comfort food)
  • Chicken and sausage gumbo
  • Fried rice, stir fried greens with garlic - this one is really fast and a great way to use up leftovers
  • Hoisin chicken buns, steamed rice, bok choy with oyster sauce (the buns are made with the leftover chicken from the roast)
  • Megadarra (lentils and rice with caramelized onions), mashed zucchini with onions, garlic and mint
  • Chicken and broccoli stir fry, steamed rice - also quick
  • Multigrain pancakes, sausage, cinnamon apples, and yogurt (I often do breakfast for dinner - cheap, appealing to the boys, nutritious, and easy to make)
One last thing. I can't wait to see the first episode of The Hungry Detective on the Food Network tomorrow night! I met Chris Cognac a while back through some of my food-loving friends, and he's one of the nicest and most fun to be around people I've ever met. It's sure to be a great show, so check it out if you get a chance.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Time to finish

What on earth is in that bag up on the highest shelf over there? Can't quite make out the label....oh, wait, yes I can. That's the Perfect Sweater I've been carefully avoiding for the past few months. Sigh. I got right to the point of making the buttonholes when I chickened out, stuffed it into a bag, and started packing up boxes instead of finishing it. With all the moving chaos I just haven't had the brain cells to rub together to work it all out, so off into a bag it all went - yarn, almost finished sweater, swatch, buttons, and notes. Now that the pattern is finished there's no excuses left. Besides, it's cold here and I could really use a sweater!

All laid out there's hardly anything left to do. Just knit up the right front and finish the neckline. My sweater is a big longer than the general pattern, since I wanted something to cover my slightly more generous than average hips. I'm going to add patch pockets in front as well to give a good place to keep hands warm. I'm getting excited. The finish line is almost in sight!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Had a small party today

Emphasis on the word small. Arden has really been getting into the whole concept of a tea party lately. He's had me making utensils out of pipe cleaner, made a table and matching chairs out of Legos for all of his friends, and wants to invite the whole Kindergarten class to tea. Figured it was about time he got an honest to goodness tea set of his very own. To the left, you see his honored guest, "my friend". Arden conferred very seriously with him about the menu, how the plates and cups should be arranged, and what they should have to drink. It was adorable to watch.

First, we set up the food. I cut "eensy tiny" cubes of cheese and found a cocoa lid that was the right size for a tray. Then I rolled a slice of bread until it was thin, spread it with butter, sprinkled cinnamon sugar, rolled it up and sliced, making cinnamon rolls. Arden and his friend decided on chocolate milk, so that went into the tea pot (which actually pours!). I can't get over how incredibly small everything is - look at the size of the fork Arden is holding! The tea set and ideas came from this book - much fun, and I love the whole series.

Small update on Tabby. The labs came back positive for cancer. Tabby had a hemangiosarcoma, a cancer of the blood vessels. This kind of cancer is rare in cats, but it often recurs in the same spot. She had some bruised looking areas near the tumor which may mean spreading, but we just don't know. So I'll be watching the area where the tumor was very carefully to see if anything comes back. The life expectancy post surgery is about 11 months, so it's a waiting game for now. I'm glad she got the surgery - she's much more comfortable, and if nothing else it bought her a bit more time. Not so great news, but better than hearing that she had something aggressive and fast growing. For now, I'm going to treat Tabby like a queen and get in all the snuggling I can.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Tabby's home

I picked her up yesterday after she spent the night at the animal hospital. Several of the techs commented on how grouchy she was....yep, that's my cat. I swear, if she were a person she'd be a 40s film star flashing a cigarette in a holder and keeping away from the "common" folk. She has attitude to spare, even at 16 years old. Anyway, the surgery went well. They removed the tumor, which looked pretty nasty (I'll spare you the details - suffice it to say, it would have made good Halloween fodder). Lab results won't be in until the end of the week, so I'm waiting. Poor thing looks naked now that her whole belly has been shaved, and she's less than happy about the Elizabethan collar. As it is, she still tries to get at the stitches, all 5 inches of them. They gave her "good happy drugs" that should last until tomorrow, so she's a little loopy but feeling no pain. Right now she's resting on her bed (which she grudgingly shares with me and Dan) and seems comfortable.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Meanwhile, knitting

Nervous fingers need something to do, something productive to work on. I'm truly lousy at waiting and tend to find all kinds of projects and things to immerse myself in when things get really stressfull. Now would be one of those times. So out comes the Patons Classic Wool and a handy pair of needles. Time to start up something for the Red Scarf Project, something cheery and colorful and warm. Oh, and of course I had to mull over stitch patterns, searching for something mindless, gender neutral, yet interesting enough that I'd actually be motivated enough to finish.

Ended up with something very, very loosely based on the whole Prayer Shawl idea. Three stitches each of knit and purl have a wonderful rythmn that is so soothing and easy to follow. But I didn't want something as highly textured as the alternating almost moss stitch pattern used in those shawls, I wanted something that would be a bit more open. So I decided to use a 3 x 3 rib, switching to the opposite stitches whenever the urge hit me. VoilĂ ! Simple knitting with the added thrill of deciding when I want to switch - should it be two rows? Three? Ten? It's going quickly and most importanly, giving me something good to do for someone else. Mission accomplished.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Surgery tomorrow

Not for me, for my cat Tabby. Dan found blood on our comforter last week so we went looking for the cause, thinking the cats had gotten into a fight. Tabby had a bloody spot on her stomach over a firm mass about 2 inches in diameter. I looked and looked for a hole, some kind of injury, but didn't find any. It looked like the mass had grown out and broken the skin. Needless to say, I took her to the vet the next morning to find out what was going on.

The vet asked if I was sure Tabby was 16 1/2, since she looked so young. I assured her that I was certain - I've had her since she was about 5 weeks old, and my memory isn't quite that bad! She checked the mass and started talking to me. The vet felt this was most likely a tumor, but just in case it was an infection she prescribed antibiotics. I'd give them to Tabby for the next week, and if it was an infection, it would be smaller and more healed by the end of the week. If not, then it was definitely a tumor.

Fast forward to Friday. The mass didn't look any better - if anything, it was bleeding a bit more. I called the vet and we talked a bit. It's a tumor. Given the area of the tumor, there's about an 80% chance that it's malignant. If it is, removing it might give her another month or two, but cancers in this area are aggressive and it's unlikely that would help much. We could look at chemo, but because of her age it might end up making her last days more difficult.

The surgery is tomorrow morning. I've been cuddling with Tabby all weekend, stroking her and talking to her. I'm so worried about her right now.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

It fits!

Wonder of wonders. Two "whitest white" cycles in the old front loader and things were nicely felted. I did have to do some tailoring, though - had to cut off almost 5 inches on each side (overlapped) and stitch the edges together again so that it would fit well. That's what I get for subbing yarn and not doing the slightest bit of math. Oops. Arden loves this hat. Ryan...not so much. He really wants one of the off the rack pirate hats, so that's what we'll do.

Of course, that means I have three extra skeins of Patons Classic Wool in black lying around. Guess I'll have to make one of these for Dan (the horror!)

Speaking of things knit for Dan, I managed to finish his socks last night over at Carrie's house. These were made with the yarn I dyed way back when for the Dye O Rama swap (remember?), but sadly they've been lying in my yarn basket for a while. The weather is finally starting to show signs of getting cooler, so I figured it was time to finish these puppies. They fit Dan perfectly, and he loves the colors. Success! Now, what to do with the rest of the skein.....decisions, decisions.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Want to see my garden?

Here's my wee Square Foot Garden in all it's glory. This spot was covered in red lava rock when we moved in, with two twisted and not at all happy looking roses poking out mournfully in the middle. We took all the rocks out and set up raised beds around the a/c - one is 3 by 7 feet, the other small one is 2 by 4 feet. The small boxes that sit up above contain things that need more growing space: two kinds of carrots and some daikon radishes.

Here's a close up of some of the greens coming up. In the back, there's red leaf lettuce and a lone broccoli plant spreading leaves open. In back of the broccoli you can just make out bok choi as well. In front on the left are wildflowers from a mix, with a lettuce mix on the right. Ryan already loves grabbing some lettuce in the garden whenever he wants a salad or some on a sandwich, and I'm loving the mix which has such a nice blend of flavors.

Here's the thing I'm most proud of. What are those shoots over to the left? Garlic! I threw caution to the wind and ignored everything I read on growing garlic. "Don't plant cloves from garlic from the supermarket, as they are treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting." HA! I had some really pungent, delicious red hardnecked organic garlic. Really loved the flavor, had no idea what kind it is. Planted those cloves and what do you know, they all sprouted. This is especially appealing since I paid less than 50 cents for that bulb, as opposed to paying $15 a pound plus shipping to buy the kind you're supposed to plant.

This is what makes me really beam. A whole salad plucked right from the garden, from lettuces to herbs to radishes. All right outside my door, all planted by me and growing and feeding my family well. This gardening stuff is pretty cool, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Did something today I haven't done in almost 10 years

I went on a job interview.

Let's back up a little bit. I've been at home with the boys since a little while before Ryan was born. Being at home was not part of our plan. I worked in Marketing at the same company where Dan worked, and the plan was for me to work from home four days a week, then come in to the office one day and Dan would swap at home duty. We lived about 15 minutes away from work, so Dan could drive to work with the baby so I could nurse easily.

And then I was laid off. Staring down at my very large, obviously pregnant belly, I asked the HR guy who exactly he thought would hire me. He hemmed and hawed and mumbled something about it not being legal to discriminate, all with this slightly embarrassed smile on his face.

I looked for work and found not a thing. Did some freelance graphics work when Ryan was still tiny but soon found he needed constant attention. I even tried going in to do graphics work and leaving him with a friend of mine, but he was inconsolable. So home I stayed. I had a home business for a few years making baby slings, but as it got larger it got overwhelming to handle. I've sold soaps and bartered knitted and sewn goods. But that's been about it for the past few years. I needed to be at home, so that's where I was.

Now the boys are both in school, and I'd been thinking a bit about what to do next. My mother in law was job searching and came across an ad for "Autism Family Consultant" over at OHSU. Perfect! I've worked for years researching Autism because of Ryan and I already try to help other families who have children on the spectrum any chance I get. I pulled out a dusty copy of my resume and updated it, wincing at just how long it had been since I'd done anything that was easy to describe. Then Dan had the brilliant idea of adding in "Advocate" as my most recent job title, since and trying to find my way around services has been exactly what I've been doing for years for Ryan. Well, all right then. Wasn't paid, but it certainly has been a job.

Bought myself a blazer and some nice pants and proceeded to freak out. It dawned on me that I haven't been on an interview in almost ten years. And this one was in front of a committee. As in, a bunch of people all focusing on me. Ack! What if I said something stupid? What traffic was bad and I got there late? What if they didn't like me?

The interview was at 9:00 this morning and so was I. At the end of the interview, one of the committee members mentioned something about my "poise" and how "well spoken" I was (!!). I'll find out by the end of next week if I got the job.

But for now, I got through the interview well. That's enough for one day, I think.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Saturday Sky

Today was just beautiful. Ignore those clouds - it was 70 degrees, bright and sunny. Just the tiniest bit of a breeze to keep the air moving around, though not enough to keep kites aloft (the boys found this out to their great disappointment). I watered the garden, picked off some cabbage caterpillers lurking on my broccoli and cauliflower plants, and picked some radishes and lettuce mix. I'm amazed every time I look at the garden and see how much everything is growing. Must take pictures soon.

Tonight Dan's mom is taking the boys to her new apartment for "Grandma Camp"- they pack up clothes and PJs, pile in the car, then spend the night camped out on a big mattress, playing games and watching movies. Usually they go to the park and to run around a bit first. The boys just love it. Dan and I are going out to dinner at a Chinese place nearby that I've heard is really good, and later we'll watch a movie together on the couch. Good times will be had by everyone :-)

Friday, September 08, 2006

How many knitters can you fit into a book store?

Well, if it's Powells (the Home and Garden offshoot) in Portland that you're talking about, the answer is: a lot. Wednesday night Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (of Yarn Harlot fame) came to my neck of Portland, and it seems like every knitter within reach squeezed into that tiny book store. I got there a little after 6:00 (she was due to arrive an hour and half later) and there were at least 30 knitters already working on socks and sweaters and lace. It was standing room only by the time she was due to speak, and the bookstore was completely packed.

Managed to grab a seat with the nicest bunch of ladies up front. Here are my seatmates l to r: Carrie, me, Carol who has just identified herself (hi!), and Lori on the end. I snagged this picture from Chrissy, who I saw walking down the center aisle wearing her MomMA (which stands for Mom's Milk Anywhere - isn't that cool?) t-shirt. Yelled out "Knittin Mom!" and I might have surprised her a wee bit, especially since I'm not sure she knew exactly who I was even though I explained the day before that I look just like my avatar...without the crawfish.

The whole group was talking loudly, laughing, and generally scaring away any poor soul who wandered in to quietly browse. When Stephanie got there (snuck in at the back of the store, but knitters have keen eyesight and we spotted her with great ease) everyone cheered. It sounded like a rock concert at that very moment, which is ironic since Stephanie started off by explaining that she is not, in fact, cool. I beg to differ and point to the fact that she had a crowd cheering simply because she walked through the door. And add that if I had been her I would have been completely freaked out and would have snuck right back *out* the door, headed for someplace quieter. But she got up and gave a hilarious talk that had all of us laughing and feeling good all around.

I had samosas left from the housewarming that I'd stuck in the freezer, so I warmed some in the oven before I left. Added a bit of tamarind chutney as well. I got up to the front of the line and Stephanie said, "you look familiar", at which point I held up the bag o' samosas. She grinned and gave me a big hug, then looked a little confused and asked why I wasn't in Los Angeles (where I gave her the last batch of samosas). My answer? "Because Portland is better." And it really is.