Monday, December 31, 2007

New Fortune in the New Year?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about what I'm going to try to accomplish in 2008, the idea of living abroad for a year is both exciting and terrifying... mostly terrifying. I've listened to my Korean CD but still haven't picked up much more than "Hello" and "Do you speak English". I've turned in my application for the CELTA program, but I'm still not entirely sure how to handle my work situation while I'm taking the CELTA course. And I'm most worried about what on Earth to do with Sally if/when I go abroad. And it all seems a bit like something other people do, but I never could. Even though, you know, there's no reason why I couldn't.

Anyway, I went to the mall the other day... I had a bit of a blanket crisis - I don't want to talk about it... but while shopping I stopped to get some "Chinese" food at the Panda Express. I was sitting there thinking about going abroad, worry worry worrying, and then I got to my fortune cookie. Now, I don't set much store by fortune cookies (or horoscopes or anything) in fact a few days earlier I got a fortune cookie with a fortune so unsuited to me I traded it with my friend.

But this one was...this one was perfect:

It's perfect because it didn't just say "You will take a trip to Asia" but that I will enjoy a trip - and that's just what I needed to hear. I could really end up enjoying Korea. It might be more than just interesting and challenging life experience. It could be fun, I might have a blast! So I'm going to try to ratchet down the worry and focus on the excitement. That's actually kind of tough for me. I general do a really good job of planning things (and frequently plan for the worst case scenario), but sometimes it's hard for me to get really excited about something before it actually happens. I guess I'm always a little nervous that it won't actually happen, so I don't want to get my hopes up. But that's a crummy way to live. So I'm going to let myself get excited about going to Korea to teach English... but I'll stay open to seeing what else might pop up as I'm heading in that direction. This is pretty big for me... I might be growing... stay tuned.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A great big ball of wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff

aka: My End of Year Reflections

I've kept a journal since I was in Jr. High, this is a bit of a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it's interesting to go back and see what my 13, 15, 18, 25, or 30 year old self was thinking and doing at given moments in time... but on the other hand, it's a bit sad to see how often I make the same plans & resolutions over and over again. =/ I did try to switch them up a bit for 2007 though. Let's see how I did.

Well Intended Intentions for 2007:

1. Continue working towards a career change. Find out what I really would enjoy doing & get on the path to doing it.

2. Give up Dr. Pepper or at least reduce consumption drastically.

3. Pay off existing debt (credit cards) and avoid accumulating any additional credit card debt.

4. Work towards healthier eating habits & better meal planning.

5. Create a better bed-time routine, aim for a 9pm bedtime.

6. Continue aligning myself with a friendly universe that has good gifts for me.

So let's see how we did.

1. Career change:
I'm getting there. I have actually kinda sorta discovered what I think I might like to do for a career. I sound really sure, don't I? =P Well, for me, the queen of being in a rut, this represents some pretty dramatic progress. I made a list of all the things I would want in a new job, and one of the top things was that it would allow me to travel, and in some way give back to the world. From this I went in the direction of joining the Peace Corps. After researching it for a while, I decided it might not be quite the right thing for me... but that I might enjoy going abroad to teach English for a year or two. I did some volunteering as an English tutor, and I really think this is a promising career choice for me. I've mailed in my application for a CELTA course (Certification for English Language Teaching to Adults). If I get in, I'll be starting the course in February. So I may actually end up in a new career sometime next year!

Grade: B

2. Give up Dr. Pepper.
Ha ha ha ha ha! There's a 32 oz Dr. Pepper sitting on the table before me. Okay... this one has been on my resolutions list for a while. Seriously, I'm glad I never took up smoking because I'd never be able to quit it! I gave up the Pepper for about a month, then slowly but surely fell off the wagon again. Most recently though I've been drinking a LOT of tea while at work, rather than Dr. Pepper, and over the summer I did go through a couple of Iced Tea phases. But after my Nalgene bottle leaked iced tea all over my work bag, completely soaking a couple of books and a CD, so that plan didn't last all that long.

Grade: C+

3. Pay off Debt.
I've paid off my student loans, my car loan, my credit card debt, and have avoided carrying a balance on my card since paying it off! I'm completely debt free! And not only am I debt free, I have enough money in the bank to pay for the CELTA course I'd like to take, and my IRA is slowly but surely growing. For the very first time in my life I have a positive net-worth and I can't even describe how happy that makes me. And here's a little surprise, now that I have money in the bank that's actually mine, I'm a lot less eager to spend it on frivolous things. Back when I got my first post-college job I thought nothing of going to the mall & dropping $50 at Bath & Body Works or Victoria's Secret, just put it on the card - I'll pay for it eventually. But now that I have money, I don't want to waste it. I mean, I do... I've gone a little crazy at the fabric store a few times... but not to the extent that I used to.

Grade: A+++

4. Healthier Eating
Well, over the summer I went on a veggie soup kick... and that was pretty healthy, but overall I haven't changed my eating habits at all. This one's been on the list for a long time too.

Grade: C

5. Bedtime routine
Another mixed result here...and a bit of a tangent. I've gotten back into the habit of reading before bed, which is a really good thing. I don't know why but around the turn of the century (and I soooo love getting to say that) I'd gotten out of the habit of reading. But I like reading... a lot... I just don't like reading boring books. ;) In 2005 I read 15 books, in 2006 I read 14 books but this year I've read 25 (this includes reading all 7 Harry Potter books for the very first time, and promptly rereading the first 6 & dude - some of them are LONG), and will probably finish another before the end of the year. So, I made a pretty good attempt at creating a new bedtime routine, but it hasn't actually gotten me to sleep any earlier. The 9 o'clock bedtime is a joke, and now it's rare if I turn in before 11pm.

Grade: Books read = A, actually going to sleep on time= F

6. Aligning myself with a friendly universe.
This was a nod to my therapist at the time. This was her catch phrase, always trying to get me to 're-frame' my thoughts and experiences into a more positive light. Personally I hate that expression, but I did appreciate what she was trying to teach me. I have tried to open myself up a bit more to what the universe has to offer, and have tried 'tuning in' more to 'that which pleases' me (more of her catch-phrases), and I think I've been pretty successful at that. I'm doing a bit better of a job of 'flying my freak flag' as it were, letting my geeky side out to play a bit more than I used to. And in doing so I've discovered (much in the same way that Columbus discovered America) Harry Potter & the new Doctor Who series... both of which make me irrationally happy. I'm spending more time on things I like to do and less on putting up with situations that annoy me. I'm making peace with my inner introvert, and I've stopped forcing myself to be outgoing when I just don't feel like it. In general, I think I'm doing a better job of getting in tune with myself if that makes sense. The universe has not been entirely cooperative (what with getting my stereo stolen, and that guy I went out with twice before he told me he was still married)... but it's put some good people in my path this year, for which I'm grateful.

Grade: I'm giving myself an A for effort, but I'm giving the universe a C+ in it's quality of gifts for me.

My final grade for 2007 is a solid B. Not too shabby.

And I guess this would be a good time to come up with some Well Intended Intentions for 2008

1. Study a foreign language (or two, or more), learn enough to handle basic greetings, shopping or travel.

2. Travel outside the United States, for a vacation if not for a new job.

3. Leave my current job for a more satisfying one.

4. Find an enjoyable & non painful form of exercise or physical activity.

5. Finish my Flying Geese quilt

6. Learn a new craft or skill.

Ok - those may seem pretty easy to accomplish but I'm guessing #3 & #4 are going to be the killers for me this year. If I can accomplish one of those, I'll be pretty dang pleased with myself. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Am I dreaming?

Nope... we got a White Christmas!


Sunday, December 23, 2007

A few of my favorite things

Today I was wandering around downtown, enjoying the last minute holiday hustle & bustle. As I was leaving a shop, I heard a little girl behind me (she was probably about 3 or 4 years old) kinda mumbling to herself very slowly and without much intonation ... it took me a second to understand that she was singing "When the dog bites.... when the bee stings... " so I joined in "When I'm feeling bad... I simply remember my favorite things..." and the whole street burst into song and perfectly choreographed dance, swinging around lamp posts and climbing up on benches.... oh wait... that was a movie. ;) Nevermind. It did however give me the idea to list a few of my favorite Christmas things.

First up - my stocking.

It was hand made for me by my aunt who isn't really an aunt but the wife of my dad's best friend... anyway... she made it for me and I LOVE it. My sisters both had red felt stockings with their names on them, and my parents shared a small red stocking that said "Joy" but mine was like the super-delux version. I thought it was sooooo cool! Of course, it's seen better days, namely days before it was given to a very small me. Over the years I've pulled some of the wooden fruit out of the train car, peeled the star off the Christmas tree and attempted to pry open the pages of the bible (I was shocked to learn that it wasn't actually a little bible... just a block of wood painted gold inside the leather-like cover). But it's one of the fondest childhood memories... standing in front of the fire, playing with my stocking, trying to pick things off of it. Our family tradition was to always put an orange & some money in the stocking so that we wouldn't be hungry or poor the following year. I still do that, even though it's just me.

Next we have a few newer favorite things. My mom made this angel for me one year when I was away at college. It's my very first Christmas tree topper, and I've brought it out every year.

The book I actually stole from my sister at some point.... but it was the bad sister so I don't feel bad. ;) It's The Story of Holly and Ivy and if you haven't read it, you really really should. Ivy is an orphan girl looking for her 'grandmother'. Holly is a doll who wants a little girl for Christmas. They both wish.... and they get more than they wished for. It is such a sweet story and I cry every time I read it.

Last but not least is my all time favorite Christmas present. EVER! I really wish I could remember which year I got it, I was somewhere between a senior in high school and maybe sophomore year in college. In any case, we'd all had breakfast and had just started opening presents (yes, we had to wait). A friend from high school had stopped by, her family had already torn through their presents and she was making her rounds. My nephew (the Marine) was only about five or six years old. He was sooooo excited to give me his present. I can just remember his big big smile and how he was just jumping out of his skin for me to open it. When I opened the box I couldn't quite figure out what it was at first, but then I took it out... and there it was... a Santa sleigh velcro-wrist-strap tape dispenser. I laughed so hard... and my friend who was there started laughing. My family didn't see what it was so I showed it off and my mom told me "He picked that out himself - just for you" And I just can't even describe how excited my nephew was, he was just smiling and launging with us. I swear, I laughed until I was crying. It's just soooo... SANTA SLEIGH VELCRO-WRIST-STRAP TAPE DISPENSER! I don't know what exactly it was about it that made my nephew think of me, but he did, and that was just the sweetest thing ever.

Maybe you had to be there. But those are a few of my favorite Christmas things... and they make me feel very happy indeed.

Saturday, December 22, 2007


I are serious cat.

This are serious blog.

Or maybe not. Just thought you should see where Sally is while I'm blogging. Actually, I know you don't care where Sally is while I'm blogging. But it's my blog and I can post dorky pictures of my cat if I want to. ;) She's my designated leg-warmer, and quite a good one she is!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


I finished weaving in the ends of Mr. Greenjeans at knit-night tonight. So technically it's done.

But it still looks more than a little lumpy to me. Of course, I'm more than a little lumpy so.... Anyway, I'll block it and see if I can sort it out a bit.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007


Someone out in the blog-o-sphere decided that to honor his 40th birthday he would make a list of 365 people in his life and write 40 words about each person. The result is alternately touching, funny, and just... I don't know... very human. I was thinking about doing something similar - but there's no way I could limit myself to the 33 words representing my age. I don't think I could even do it in 40. But I still think it would be an interesting, and challenging, experience to even remember 365 people in my life.

I've already started jotting a few things down, but only have about a dozen people so far. This could end up being very challenging. But I think I could use a little more challenge in my life, and I'm always up for a little introspection. So this will be a blog project for me starting in the new year.

Anyone care to join me?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mr. not quite Greenjeans

I'm ... this... close to finishing up Mr. Greenjeans. I've finished the knitting, I just need to weave in the ends, sew on a button, then block it.
I've tried it on a couple times, but I'm not sure I like how it fits. The shoulders are just a bit too big, and the bottoms of the sleeves are a bit loose (I didn't go down a needle size like the pattern said to). But those issues might get worked out with a bit of blocking. If it doesn't fit right after blocking, I might send it to my sister - she's the same shape as me, but about one size bigger all around - so if it's loose on me it should fit her perfectly. Plus, she did ask me if I could make her a cableknit sweater. She doesn't ask much does she?

In a brilliant bit of procrastination, I managed to avoid the finishing of Mr. Greenjeans by casting on for a vest. Yes, it's cabled - the same cable pattern as Mr. Greenjeans in fact. And yes, it's pink. What can I say - I know what I like. And yes.... all knitters are allowed to laugh at me for taking 3 years to learn to cable and not being able to stop once I've started!

I'm using a pretty generic cowl-neck vest pattern, like the one I used for the deep V-neck vest I just made. But obviously I added cables. I didn't actually do the math to see if this is going to make a vest that actually fits me, but I've guestimated it. The grey vest ended up being looser than I liked, and cables tends to pull in the knitted fabric, so this will be tighter than the grey one. But then, there's ribbing, which is stretchy. So... I think the pulling in of the cables plus the stretching of the rib stitch will all balance out to a perfectly fitting vest. Yes? Of course. =P

Now I'm off to say a Hail Knitty to keep the knitting goddess from striking me down were I stand. ;)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Keepin' Portland Weird

Here's yet another post about how much I love Portland.

Today I hopped on the #8 bus and went downtown, as I like to do on Saturdays. First stop was the Farmer's Market. It's winding down for the season, so a few of the regular stalls were missing.... in particular the one with the super yummy sausages. But I made up for it by getting a pulled pork sandwich... mmmmmm. Ok... that part isn't weird at all... just yummy, and nice because it wasn't too crowded.

From there I walked down towards Pioneer Courthouse Square, about half-way there I heard a guy across the street playing a tuba by Pizza Schmizza. That isn't even particularly weird. But when I got to the square (or as the newscasters like to call it 'Portland's Livingroom') I noticed more and more people with tubas, in fact the entire square was full of tuba players, seriously I've never seen so many tuba players in one place, easily 50, maybe 100. Several of these people were wearing matching hats that said "Tuba Christmas." Apparently I'd missed the show, because most of the people were lined up to get food or just milling about. But yeah... Tuba Christmas in the middle of downtown Portland. Just a little bit weird.

Weirder still, just walking around downtown... three fully-dressed Star Wars Storm Troopers and one very short (if I do say so) Darth Vadar, sans cape. Now I am irrationally afraid of Storm Troopers, Cylons, Borg, and all those humanoid-robotic-bad-guys from science fiction (just ask anyone who heard me screaming bloody murder at the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas). But thankfully Darth Vadar & one of the Storm Troopers had their masks off when I first saw them, so I didn't feel the need to run screaming in the other direction. But I saw them again a little while later and they were just, you know, walkin' around being Storm Troopers and Darth Vadar. So yeah.... kinda weird... and a little creepy.

The final bit of weirdness was really just fun. I went to the mall to do a little window shopping. As I walked through the atrium I noticed something light and fluffy drifting down from the third floor. Just a flake or two and then more, and more. It was snowing. It was snowing - inside! Of course it wasn't real snow... it was some kind of foamy soap bubbles. But it looked like snow... and that's what counts. The kids just had a blast dancing in the snow bubbles. Well, the kids and a few adults... okay the kids and me. ;)

After that was a quick trip over to the Saturday market... a place so quintessentially "Portland" that it doesn't even register as weird. Not the marimba band playing, nor the pseudo-statue man, not the creepy greasy Elvis guy, not even the Spoon Man.... that stuff's all normal. As is this knitting bag I bought after chatting with the guy who made it.
Man, I love Portland.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Snowflake's no flake

The goodies just keep on coming! I got my Snowfake Swap presents the other day... I thought briefly about keeping them under the tree until Christmas but really... who am I kidding? ;) I waited a few hours, then dug in.
Sally jumped right up and started sniffing everything out.
Here are all the goodies unwrapped. Well, almost all, I started munching on the chocolate covered marshmallow snowman right away.... and you know washed it down with some of the cocoa. But there was also some yummy Stash Tea (my favorite) a GIGANTIC candy cane, chocolate truffles, Mmmmmmmm yummy Noro silk garden, and most thoughtfully a 'feather-mouse' for Sally.

She loves it, although she's also quite fond of the tissue paper everything was wrapped up in. So I tossed the toy into a pile of the papers on the floor, and she was in kitty heaven digging through the papers to pounce on the feathers, tossing it around, just having a blast. So yeah... the floor's a mess for Sally's benefit. Yeah, and the suitcase is on the floor for Sally to sleep in/on.... yeah, it's there on purpose. No, I'm not too lazy to clean up. ;) Thank you Zimmie for being a great Snowflake!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

WIP Wednesday

When I started this blog, I thought a lot about how much personal information to include. I decided pretty early not to name names, and to avoid posting pictures of kids (trust me, my little niece & nephew are freakin' *adorable*). But I'm always thinking about how much other content to include, and generally err on the conservative side. However I've recently been told that my blog is 'the tamest blog' on a particular reader's blogroll, so I'm going to take that as a hint that it's probably okay to include a bit more detail about my life.

So here's the first Work In Progress Mental Health Round Up!

1 - While I may not actually have Aspergers Syndrome, I might be working on social anxiety disorder, which is flat out bizarre. A while ago I figured out that my shyness is a function of the ratio of familiar to new people in a given situation. If I know most of the people in a given situation, I will be very outgoing and welcoming to any new people. If I am surrounded by strangers who all know each other... good lord I'll just about have a panic attack. I'm sure this is a pretty common form of shyness, but dang it's inconvenient when it comes to trying new things and meeting new people.

For example, the other day I went to a Quilt Guild meeting. Now, never mind the fact that I already knew two of the people who would be at the meeting, and never mind the fact that quilters are about the most warm & friendly people on the planet, I was still freaking out on my way over there! And when they asked the new guests to stand up and introduce themselves... I threatened my friend with bodily harm should she rat me out as a newbie. I mean really... they were handing out little goodie bags to the new people and I still wasn't about to introduce myself. I have got to sort this out, or I really will end up being the crazy cat lady. And why again do I think it will be fun to go to a foreign country for a year or two???

2. Denial... it's not just a river in Egypt, it might also be a suburb of Nashville population: my family. Now I really did have a good visit with my family, but I kinda think that might be because I've finally perfected my mother's habit of pretending that everything is fine when everything is not fine. Pretending that my family is not really racist, and that my sister & BIL are not irrationally overprotective, and that my dad is not, well, a jerk. I can keep it up for a couple of days anyway. But it's probably not the best way of dealing with life. One day, I think it would be nice (maybe not nice, but novel, refreshing) to be able to speak my mind to my family, to call them on their crap. I don't think that day will be any time soon though.

3. And, as I'm constantly advising others to seek therapy, I should say I've finally found a new therapist myself. The jury's still out though. She seems smart & easy to talk to (and has a Rothko painting in her office) but I've only been to her twice, so we'll see how it works out.

So that's the biggest "work in progress" in my life right now. More knitting & baking & crafty-goodness to come later, but for now that's what's been on my mind.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The secret to a happy life:

keep your expectations low, and limit family visits to 3 days max. =)

It worked for me!! Visiting the family went a lot better than I had anticipated. I stayed at my mom's place, but spent a lot of time with my sister's family. In fact, my sister's family picked me up from the airport. They live relatively close so had stopped off at Target to do some shopping on the way, as they were getting back into the car a plane flew overhead. The kids said "Look - it's Auntie's plane!" but my sister told them "No, her plane doesn't land for another 15 minutes or so." But then, right as they got back on the road I called (the joy of having a cell phone - I could call them from the plane as we taxied to the gate) them. So it really really was my plane they spotted! Smart kids. ;)

I know everyone thinks their own kids are the cutest... but you're all wrong! My niece and nephew are the sweetest kids ever, so freakin' adorable I could barely stand it. I mean, they're normal, and they fight, but they also whisper to each other and play well together. On the ride home my niece 'stole' my nephew's nose. "I've got your nose!" she sings. "No - it's right *here*" he answers back touching his face. They just cracked me up the whole time.

We all went out to get the Christmas tree together, and we all managed to agree on one that was not too big, not too small, just perfect. Then we brought it home, decorated it, made cookies and had dinner. I put all my presents under the tree and the kids were just bursting with anticipation. "I can't even wait! Can you even wait?" "No I can't wait until after we eat dinner and then we open PRESENTS!!!" They thoroughly enjoyed shaking their presents, and pestering me to find out what they were. My niece asked "Is it a book" and I answered "I don't know... maybe" to which she responds. "But you wrapped it!" I love kids who take everything literally.

They enjoyed their gifts, my niece wore her shawl the rest of the day, and the next day too. It was everything from a scarf to an Audrey Hepburn head scarf, to Hannah Montana's wig. The pictures are cute, but I don't feel right posting pictures of kids online. So just take my word for it. And my nephew and his dad both really enjoyed the spiderman motorcycle toy I got him. So "Christmas" was a big success.

But by Sunday night though, the complaining started, and I was ready to come home. And when I did get home... what a surprise!

There are good mail days... you know, like when you get an actual letter from someone, and then there are really good mail days, when you get a package you've been waiting for. But I don't even know how to describe how awesome a mail day it is when you get three fantastic things you weren't totally expecting.

1. A Doctor Who DVD from Netflix, not a complete surprise since it was next on my list, but there had been a delay so they'd started sending me other DVDs and I wasn't sure when I'd get my next David Tennant fix. So Yay for Doctor Who!

2. The 'kicker' check. I thought I heard something about getting a tax kicker check back this year, and officially I'm opposed to the kicker... but seriously, how can I complain about getting my own money back. And it was not a small check... easily enough to pay for the trip I just took, or some new tires, or something else really fun. Yay for free money!

And finally 3. A GIANT box of goodies from Aunt Mag. Wow... I can't even believe it. Apparently this is what didn't fit in the last box she sent me out of the blue. Totally unexpected, totally undeserved goodies - Yay!

Lots of pretty pink yarn, a pink colander, lettered stitch markers and a new tape measure. Fun fun fun. Oh... and the suitcase is just to showcase how appropriate the pink theme is. =) That really is my luggage, and it cracks me up when I'm waiting at the luggage carousel and I hear the announcement that "Many suitcases look alike, check your tags." So far... my bags have been pretty easy to spot. ;)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

I'm heading out tomorrow for an early Christmas with the family. I looked at flights around actual Thanksgiving & actual Christmas and they were outrageously expensive - especially given the crowds & stress that comes with traveling on those days.

So I managed to save myself about $500 on the ticket, and hopefully my luggage and I will actually arrive at my destination together & on time. It should be a nice trip, a nice short trip because I'm only going to be there from Friday afternoon through Monday morning. Which means I'll be there just long enough to hug & kiss everyone, exchange gifts & small talk, but I'll be able to leave before I get sucked into the family drama. Overall, a pretty good deal.

I talked to my sister today and my niece and nephew are excited to see me. Of course, this might have something to do with the fact that she told they we'd have Chinese take-out when I got there. =P Well, nothing says Christmas like Chinese take-out.
When I get back, I'm sure I'll have exciting and adventurous tales of family dysfunction.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Fruit Cake vs. Fruitcake

Back in the day there was a joke recipe for fruitcake (not this one) that went something like:
1 cup sawdust
1 cup Elmer's glue
1 cup red thingies
1 cup green thingies
Mix all ingredients & bake at 300F for two days, varnish & pack in a pretty tin, don't worry no one will ever eat it.

I can't totally remember the funny part of the joke, but from then on whenever my mom and I went shopping around the holidays we'd laugh when we'd see the tubs of "red thingies" and "green thingies" in the baking aisle. But the thing is... these are not actual fruit cake ingredients. If you see one of those cheap-ass sawdust & glue with red & green thingies called 'fruitcake' in the store, do not, under any circumstances eat it. That's not real fruit cake.

As an adult I learned that fruit cake, good fruit cake, contains real actual, identifiable fruit. And while that might still sound repulsive to some people (not naming names but... cough cough Jenn cough cough), but at least it's edible.

Here's one of my favorite fruit cake type recipes - Stollen. Again, I'm using the recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Yeah, technically it's a fruit bread...and maybe that's the difference. In any case it's a sweet holiday fruit & nut dessert.

Start with the fruit... not the candied chopped up bits of fluorescent colored plastic you see in little tubs... real actual dried fruit. I'm using dried cherries, dried cranberries and golden raisins, about 2 cups total (with just a little orange or lemon zest). To the fruit I added about 1/2 cup brandy. Last year I used Peach Schnapps and it worked well. Basically you want to re-plump the dried fruit, and you want to use booze to do it. ;)
I let this sit on the counter overnight.

Then yesterday I started the dough. Here's the sponge:
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup warm water
4 tsp yeast
let it activate for 1/2 an hour.
Look at all the bubbles. =) To this we add:

1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup water
1 Tbls sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon (and/or any christmasy type spices you like, cloves, nutmeg, mace, etc.)
5 Tbls softened butter (they say room temp - but when you keep the heat under 60F, room temp is COLD so soften the butter in the microwave for a few seconds).

I let Betty mix it all together for a few minutes, then added the fruit and let her mix it for quite a bit longer... it takes a while to incorporate all the fruit. Then I kinda shaped it in a ball, and put it in a greased bowl to rise overnight in the fridge.

Tonight I took it out of the fridge, it wasn't much bigger, but I know that the yeast was doing it's thing. I split the dough into two balls and let them sit on the counter for half an hour, then began to shape them.

I rolled each ball out into a rough rectangle, coated with some melted butter, and topped with almonds, sprinkled with a little sugar and a pinch more cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg or whatever. Then I drizzled a bit more butter on top, and folded the top over.

Other variations of stollen call for marzipan instead of almonds, and I've had it that way - it's really good. But I like the little extra crunch of almonds... oh, and I think I was supposed to reserve some of the fruit so I could put it in the middle with the almonds, but I forgot to do that, and I don't think it's going to make a big difference in taste.

Here is the shaped, stuffed stollen. Brushed again with - come on class - more BUTTER!

I'll let it sit like this for another hour or two before baking. It's cool in my apartment and I want to make sure it rises at least a little. Then I baked it for about an hour at 350F. The book says to bake it until it's a rich mahogany brown color. I have no idea what color mahogany is, but it's pretty dark. Soooo we finish it up with yet another brushing of melted butter (yum yum yummy) and a dusting of powdered sugar.

The Stollen is supposed to remind you of the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes. To me it looks a little more like a big crepe. ;)

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Let them eat brioche!

Ok... with the help of an actual brioche pan, I made a much nicer brioche last week. This time I made 'middle class' brioche, with about half the butter (still a full cup though). Same deal letting it rise overnight in the fridge, then shape and let rise for a couple more hours.
Brush with an egg wash & sprinkle with a little salt & sugar before baking. Et voila:

Very pretty, and quite yummy too. The long rise gives it a good yeasty developed flavor, oh so soft & rich with all that butter. I brought it to the office, and it was well received. I was surprised that some of my coworkers didn't know what a brioche was (not as surprised by a former coworker who thought that bagels were 'new' but still). My boss asked if it was a bread or a cake... and actually that's a good question. It's kinda like a pastry or a coffee cake, simple but delicious. In theory it would be great with a little jam, but I just eat it plain. Would be nice for brunch or an afternoon snack with a nice hot cup of tea.

Next up on the holiday baking menu is Stollen. The fruits are soaking in brandy as I type.

*BTW there's no credible record of Marie Antoinette ever saying "Let them eat cake." or "Let them eat brioche" or anything of the sort, just a little fun fact for the day.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Goin' deep

Deep V-neck that is.

It's just a pattern from the Patton's book, out of Patton's merino. Very easy knit, minimal finishing... and pretty warm. Which is good.... because it's SNOWING!!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

It's a Festivus Miracle!

Yesterday I came home and there was a package in my mailbox. A very big package! A very big package from the lovely Magatha. =)
I can't even take it all in, there was so much good stuff! An adorable floral knitting-gear bag by messie-crafty. Two row counters, little heart shaped stitch markers (heart shaped!!! I didn't even know they made heart shaped stitch markers!), and beautiful pink Opal yarn.
There were also two books, one sci-fi novel The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. LeGuin and a fantastic resource - The Bantam Step by Step Book of Needle Craft. I haven't started the novel yet, but I've started looking through the craft book. It's fantastic, there are instructions for knitting, crochet, tatting (my grandma was an accomplished tatter, and I've always wanted to learn), along with embroidery, quilting, and even garment sewing.

This page has a 'recipe' for knitting mittens and gloves with options for fingers or fingerless gloves & mitts. There's a section on common lace patterns, cable patterns, all kinds of practical instructions.
But along with all that wonderful practical information, you know there had to be fug. Oh beautiful glorious fug. I'm sure these were oh so hip and stylin' back in 1979.

This just reaffirms my love of very simple, plain, bland knits.
And reaffirming the adage that good things come in small packages... my very favorite things in the package were these gorgeous pink bead stitch markers.
And the ever thoughtful Mag even sent a little something for Sally.

She thoroughly enjoyed the packing paper! Thank you so much!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Long & Short of it

I think I've answered the question of what I would do if I didn't have to work... I'd knit all day long! Well, that and shop... and occasionally bake, but mostly I'd knit. I got a lot done on Mr. Greenjeans, and as I commented to Babbling Stacey, one of the advantages of being short is that I don't have to knit my sweaters as long, so the main part of the body is done (there will be some ribbing to finish the front).
Ignore the little purple yarns hanging out - they're holding the sleeve stitches.

Check it out!! I swear I'm going to do waist shaping for all of the sweaters I make from now on! And see if you can spot the cable that I screwed up on. I'll bet you can't, because I read Seidling's cable surgery post and used her technique to repair it after I found it. It's not a perfect fix... but good enough that I have to really look for it to find it myself. Yay.

I did eventually hit the after Thanksgiving Day sale and picked up several much-need pairs of pants. A couple pairs of jeans, some cords and dress slacks. But here is one of the biggest disadvangates of being short. I laid a pair of properly tailored pants on top of the pants I just bought.

As you can see, I need to do some hemming. Some of the pants will need as much as 6 inches taken off. =( I'll take the dress pants and maybe the jeans to a tailor... but the rest I'll do myself. Le sigh....

Saturday, November 24, 2007

What day is it?

Ok, I've already had two days off.... so I'm all confused ... but I think... yup, it might just be...


Here's a rare action shot of Sally playing with her Turbo Scratcher. She loves this thing (almost as much as J. does)! She'll tear through the cardboard scratching part every couple of months. Fortunately they sell the cardboard refills in two packs, and I can flip it over for a fresh side.

Ok - cute story: When I lived in Washington, I think she spent most of her time in the back bedroom while I was at work. But when she heard me open the door at the end of the day, she'd run first to her scratching pad, scratch at it excitedly a few times, then run over to meet me at the door. It was so adorable, her little routine. She doesn't do that anymore, but she still like scratching at it. If you don't already have one for your kitty - I highly recommend them.

Happy caturday! =)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Mm Mm Mm Mm Mm

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

I hope you all feasted well, and had plenty of reasons to be thankful. I had a pretty good Thanksgiving with friends here. Dinner, of course, was awesome. More nummy carbs than you could shake a fork at. Turkey with gravy, stuffing (with dried cherries in it!), smashed potatoes, yams with marshmallows, honey glazed carrots, roasted root veggies, cranberry sauce, lingon berry sauce. Then for dessert (I didn't have any... absolutely no room left!) cranberry crumble with vanilla ice cream. Mm Mm Mm Mm Mm! But even with all those goodies, I couldn't show up at a dinner without baking something special.

I used the recipe for "Rich Man's Brioche" from The Bread Baker's Apprentice. Here is my beloved Betty mixing up the dough. This dough is intense, you've been warned. We start with some yeast, salt, sugar, a little water and about four cups of flour. Then add five eggs. Yup... five. We're just getting started. As I've said before, the secret ingredient in any food that tastes really good is butter. Lots and lots of butter. Slowly and surely I added no fewer than 2 cups of butter. Mmmmmmm butter.

This dough is almost more like a cake batter than a bread dough. It feels kinda like Pillsbury crescent rolls dough. Very rich and thick. I put it in the fridge overnight to ferment. Then it was time to shape it. For each one use 2/3 of the dough for the bottom make an indent in the center, then roll the 1/3 of the dough into a tear drop shape, and set it right down in the whole.

These will be petite brioche a tete. Or little bread with a head. I also made a big brioche a tete, and let them all rise for a couple hours. Right before putting them in the oven, I brushed them with egg white... and taking a cue from a brioche at Ken's Artisan bakery, I topped them with just a very light sprinkle of kosher salt and cane sugar for just a touch of sweet and salty crunch.

This one didn't work out as well as I had hoped. As you can see I don't have a fluted brioche pan, so I tried to improvise, but I should have flattened out the bottom round more, and used a smaller amount of dough for the top. It all just kinda spread out and the bottom ended up really dense, the top was good though.

Here are the petite brioche a tete.

Heavenly I tell you. Flaky, buttery, and super yummy. The next time I make brioche, I might try the "Middle Class Brioche" it doesn't have quite as much butter, but it's still enriched, I think it would rise a little better. I'm also thinking about getting a brioche pan because the pan I've been using just isn't working out. And I guess today wouldn't be a bad day to do that.

I thought about getting up early and going shopping today. I've done that before and gotten some really great deals. But dang.. it gets earlier and earlier every year. I just couldn't quite bring myself to get up at 4am. Sally woke me up at around 5am... so I still could have gone early, but I decided what I really wanted was sleep. So I slept in. =)

Oh... and I've been knitting! The cables are fun, and going well.

I keep thinking I'm making really good progress here... and I am. But I still have several inches to go on the body. And then I'll have to do the sleeves! And I won't be able to do them both at the same time like I normally do, so it's going to feel like it's taking a lot longer. Oh well. It'll be done when it's done.

Monday, November 19, 2007


I've been knitting for a few years, but compared to other knitters, I'm extremely slow to adopt new techniques. I only started lace last year, and up until last night I had never tried cables. But as Mr. Greenjeans has cables half way down, I figured I'd better figure it out. ;)

Look how pretty! It was far easier than I had anticipated, I even did cabling without a cable needle... which involves taking stitches completely off the needle! It was kinda scary (in as far as knitting gets scary), but they didn't run, they just hung out there until I got them back on the needle. =)

And here is Mr. Greenjeans... the pattern calls for a few more inches before starting the cables, but I'm going to start them now. I'm also disregarding the pattern's instruction to go down a needle size for this section. So many people have commented that the cable-rib pattern pulls in quite a bit. Since my tummy doesn't pull in... at all... I'm just going to stick with this size 8 needles I used on the top part. It's been coming along really quickly... but I think it's going to be slow going from here on in.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Progress has been made. I didn't accomplish quite as much as I'd hoped... but I think the apartment already looks much much better.

Here's what I have done:

This is the give-away pile, actually I'd already brought two bags full of books to the car when I remembered to take a picture. Never fear... Sally was just supervising, I didn't take her to the Goodwill (was tempted though ;) ).

And here's the entryway / entertainment area. I put away all the shoes and bags, and got rid of a bunch of the video tapes & the stack of magazines I was saving for craft projects.

(That's Nature's Ugliest Creatures on PBS btw.)

The closet looks much much better. I took all my inherited, non-project specific, fabric and put it in a box under my bed. That gave me a little more room on the shelf. I put up the shoe rack to the left of the shelf, it keeps the door from opening all the way, but trust me, all the shoes are very organized. =) Now that the shoes are organized, I have room to put my work bags in here.

I'm not sure if you can tell, but the carpet is much much cleaner too. I vacuumed, scrubbed the high traffic areas and vacuumed it all again. Which of course is the cue for Sally to puke all over the place sometime tonight. Until then though, I'll enjoy the nice clean carpet.

I didn't really do anything with my old computer & desk. And my multifunctional nook has only improved slightly. I put away all the laundry and got rid of the junk papers. But there are still some legitimate papers here... and I still can't bring myself to put away my sewing machine. But that leaves me something to do next weekend.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Oh! My! Gourd!

I am still (sort of) cleaning... but I just had to share a bit of my day.

I'm sure I've mentioned this, but one of the things I love about Portland is the Saturday Farmer's Market on the PSU campus, another thing I love is how people are willing to go out in the rain. So even though it was raining when I woke up, I decided I would go to the Farmer's Market anyway. Now, walking out to the bus stop I did have second thoughts. It wasn't just raining... it was RAINING. Although it rains often here, it usually only drizzles or mists, but this was real rain. By the time I got to the bus stop, my jeans were wet below the knee, and I could hardly see through the rain drops on my glasses. But thanks to the wool hat on my head and sweater beneath my rain jacket, I was still pretty warm.

Soon enough I was down at the market (which was far less busy than normal, although there were still a good number of people there), and I overheard this exchange among a family-type group (you never know who's who these days).

Female parental-type-unit "I told you to tell the girls to wear coats today."

Male parental-type-unit "I did." (at this I glanced over at him in his gore-tex jacket) "I took care of my part."

Female parental-type-unit "She said you just said to dress warm."
Male parental-type-unit "They know it rains here."

Teen girl in non-waterproof hoodie jacket, in typical annoyed teenager tone. "I'm not complaining."

That girl's a native I tell you. ;)

Anyway I did a once around the market and seeing all the winter squashes that were out I decided to try a squash-type soup. I've tried commercially prepared butternut-squash soup before, but I really didn't like it. But last week I had lunch at a friend's house and she made roasted acorn (?) squash, and it was really good, so I figured I'd give it a shot. At one of the booths with a good assortment of squash I asked the vendor if they had a good soup recipe. The woman started telling me what she likes to do, a really simple recipe. I bought a nice small butternut squash and an onion and came home.

Et voila!

I am officially calling this my 'Oh my gourd! Butternut squash soup'. Because as soon as I tasted it that's all I could say (between moans of food-ecstacy that is... and if you've never had food-induced ecstacy, I'm not sure I want you reading my blog =P just kidding... please keep reading my blog).

Here's the 'recipe' as shared by the woman at the market.

Cut the butternut squash in half, scoop out the seeds. Roast the squash for an hour or so at around 3o0F-350F (I started it too high, then turned it down... and totally wasn't watching the clock - just roast it until it's soft). Cut the squash into chunks... not too big, not too small.

In a stock pot, melt a couple tablespoons of butter (that's the secret ingredient... it always is. Whenever you taste something really really good I guarantee there's butter in it... or possibly lard. =) ). Chop an onion and saute it in the butter over low/medium heat until it's translucent & yummy looking.

Add the squash back into the pot and add chicken stock (or veggie stock, but I had chicken stock on hand from the last time I made chicken). Add some fresh sage (the cookbook I checked called for thyme but the lady at the market said sage... pick your favorite herb). Bring it to a boil and let it simmer for another half hour - hourish, occasionally stirring and mashing down the squash. When it's looking good and mushy and hot, puree the soup in small batches.

Return the soup to the stock-pot and add some milk (or cream), just enough to make it the consistency you like. I probably added about a cup, but I hadn't added that much chicken stock. And you're done. Garnish it with sage, serve with nice fresh bread from the market & say "Oh my gourd that's good." ;) There is nothing better than a nice hot bowl of creamy soup on a rainy rainy day.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday Night Cleaning Frenzy

This week's blog-stalking assignment was "your junk drawer" which was a bit odd since it implies that one keeps one's junk in a drawer... somehow contained rather than just... everywhere. Hmmm. There might be something to that!

Lately Casa Rebuelita has become a bit of a disaster zone, and for a while I've been wanting to deep clean my apartment & just purge a lot of stuff I don't need/want anymore. So I decided that today is the day...(or rather this weekend is the weekend) but it starts now. Now I realize that this is far from the most exciting thing out there in the blogosphere (that is my new favorite not-a-word word btw), but I'm hoping that posting before & after pictures will inspire me to actually do it*. might make the rest of you feel much better about the state of your homes!

Danger-zone #1

The dining room / office / sewing room.

This multifunctional 'nook' is currently the hub of activity at Casa Rebuelita. Please note Sally getting into the theme of the evening by giving herself a little bath. That's the spirit Sally... when you're done with that do you want to help with the laundry?

Danger zone #2

Entertainment / Education / Entrance area

Please note my: work bag, tutoring bag, knitting bag (one of them anyway two more are out of sight!); and my work out back-pack. Not only am I a crazy cat lady, I am one shopping cart away from being a bag-lady. Not promising. Something must be done.

In the entertainment center and on the shelf beside it I have a rather large collection of VHS tapes. Which is unfortunate because my tape player doesn't actually function with my TV (not even with the adapter) =( As I've lived with this situation for a while, and have started replacing my video tapes with DVDs, I just need to say good bye to them.

On the bookshelf you'll find a wide variety of books both read & unread, but most disturbingly my Introduction to Psychology textbook circa 1993. =? and several other books from college. Now it was conceivable, when I graduated, that I would one day have a job that would utilize my incredibly overpriced education and that these textbooks would be valuable resources for years to come. But yeah... that pipe dream is over... really over. So I think it's well past time to get rid of them.

Danger zone #3

The craft room / coat closet.

Complete chaos, I tell you! I have no idea what that thing in front is, but it's big & loud & Sally runs away whenever it's on, which can't be a good thing. On the right you can see a stack of boxes at least waist high - that's a portion of my yarn stash... but by no means all of it. It is in serious need of reorganization!

Danger zone #4

This is by far the most inefficient use of space in my entire 550 sq. ft. apartment! And is probably my best entry for a "junk drawer."

The desk itself was purchased at Goodwill (circa 1998 but who knows how old it was then!), cleaned up & given a nice coat of paint. The drawer was not entirely in tact when I bought the drawer and over the years I've tried my best to repair it using tape and real actual nails. But the runner thingies that it should slide into just no longer exist. It's time to, at the very least, get rid of the drawer. Oh... and that thing on top is called a "monitor", beside the desk on the right is an antique known as a "CPU" back in the olden days before laptops, computers & monitors were *separate*! Scary, I know. This beauty has Windows 95 on it, and is almost functional. For the longest time I intended to transfer the files to my new laptop but never got around to it. When I did make an attempt I came to the unhappy realization that the two were not even remotely compatible. The old computer uses 3" (not so) floppy disks... which my new computer does not. The old computer has a CD Rom drive, but can't write to it. I actually found a USB port and got excited, until I actually plugged my flash drive into it and an error message came up. "What is this strange object with which you are violating me? Remove it at once!" OK... that's probably not what it said... but close enough. In theory one could email the files from one computer to the other... but in theory one has lightening fast cable internet. Alas... in reality one has dial up. =(

So I think I'll finally break down and call some computer repair folks and see if they can do anything for me. There's not a lot of urgent stuff on it... but several pictures that I'd rather not lose to the ether.

Noticeably absent from these photos are the kitchen, bathroom & bedroom. I clean the bathroom pretty regularly. That's priority #1 when I do feel like cleaning. And thanks almost entirely to my dishwasher, the kitchen stays relatively tidy. Plus there's absolutely loads of cupboard space so there's a place for even all of my kitchen gadgets. My bedroom stays more or less tidy because I spend so little time in there, let alone conscious.

So that's the starting point... I'm giving myself until Sunday to straighten everything up, then ready or not I'll take pictures again. Any tips or encouragement would be most appreciated. =)

*If you were thinking, quite rightly, that I might get a little more cleaning done if I weren't blogging... I'm using the Fly-Lady's tip, setting the timer for 15 minutes to clean, then another 15 minutes to blog. So I've already started making a little progress.