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.