Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Hole in my Slipper

Project 365: Day 271

I have been wanting to knit myself a pair of felted slippers for quite some time now. Our house is old, has wood floors and we don't turn the heat up that high, which means that I generally have cold feet. I pretty much always wear slippers when I am at home in the winter and I tend to burn through them pretty quickly. I would like to knit a few pairs of felted slippers to keep by the front and back doors.

My desire for slippers has had to simmer on the back burner through the holiday crafting season, but I think I now have the time and attention to get started on them. I am trying to chose between a few different patterns, including the recently Harlotized French Press Slippers and the Felted Slippers in Eskimo by Drops. Both of these patterns have been in my queue for quite some time. Maybe I should go for a pair of each! Although, I hear once you get started with the French Press Felted Slippers, you can't stop at just one pair. Does anyone have a finished pair of these? I'd be curious to know how well they stay on your feet when you walk in them.

If you are wondering why there is an eye in the photo of the hole in my slipper, it is because Jack took the opportunity to see if he could convince my foot to pet his face.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Dogs and Calendars

Project 365: Day 270

It is a good thing that dogs can't read calendars. I ordered their Christmas gift on December 20th with an expected delivery date of December 24th (according to Fed-Ex). Thanks to the massive snow storm the package didn't arrive until today. I don't think that Jack and Tchazo will hold it against me.

The dogs have been sharing the same pillow bed for about 6 years now. The cover is removable so it got washed regularly, but the fabric has started to shred and the casing on the inner pillow has disintegrated leaving the polyfil to float around inside. The bed sits right in the middle of the main area of the house and has become a nasty little eye sore. It was definitely time that they got a new bed. I found these dog duvets at molly mutt. I like the concept of stuffing the beds with miscellaneous clothes and blankets that can be washed. I also like that they have nice fabrics to chose from. We went to the pet store to look at new beds for the dogs a while ago and they were more expensive, not made as durably and were a heck of a lot less cute.

Now I just have to round up the stuffing and set this pillow out for the pups. They will be ecstatic, I am sure. Laying on soft things is one of their favorite pasttimes and, from experience I can say that they actually appreciate it when their bedding is freshly washed.

Good Afternoon

As a little afternoon break, I present to you a song and video that makes me smile.

Thanks to Brenda Dayne's Cast On podcast for introducing me to this song.

Monday, December 28, 2009

WIP - Olivine Vest

Project 365: Day 269

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Artisan Bread at Home

I have not had much luck with anything that involves yeast over the past 1-2 years. I have had dud batches of bread in a few bread machines in the last year and some recipe flops with homemade bread before that.

My mom expressed interest in the Artisan Bread in Five Minute a Day book so I got it for her for her last birthday. She looked through it and handed it over to me to try out first.

In order to make this recipe one needs a lidded but not airtight 5 quart container. After scoping out the grocery store ice cream aisle, I determined that Roundy's brand vanilla ice cream pails are a perfect fit. Paul and I and various guests have been slowly, slowly, slowly eating our way through the 5 quart container of vanilla ice cream for almost a year. We finally finished it off and last night I made the bread starter for the Artisan Free Form Boule (free version of the recipe can be found here).

This morning, before heading over to my mom's house, I baked the first loaf by cutting off a hunk of the dough and following the directions. According to my visual review of the bread, it looks like it worked! Since the book is my mom's and I was going over to her house today, I felt it was only right that I bring her this loaf. So, Mom, you'll have to tell me if it passes muster.

I hope that my yeast curse has passed, because if I can bake bread like this and the many other recipes in the book, I will be overjoyed and save a lot of money.

Christmas - Part 4

Project 365: Day 268

For the final installment of Christmas 2009, we went to my mom's house. We exchanged gifts between my Mom and her husband Roger, my sister Jessy, Paul and I, ate a big burrito lunch and looked through old photos. We had a big, colorful pile of gifts that we exchanged and we enjoyed looking at embarrassing photos of ourselves from years past.

Paul got some bonding time with Ginger, our family cat who is one billion years old and still sweet as can be.

My mom is sporting her new Snuggie and Jessy is sporting her new quilt. The three of us are generally cold, so something to keep us warm is always an appreciated gift.

Christmas - Part 3 on Christmas day didn't get much blog coverage since it was spent with the in-laws and I am not sure how they feel about being published on my blog, But, that too, was a day full of gifts, family and food. Paul's mom Joanne outdid herself yet again with enough food to feed an army and a comparable amount of gifts.

I was a lucky girl this year! I got everything on my wish list and then some. Since my birthday and Christmas fall so close together, I am left feeling a bit overwhelmed with the generous amount of gifts I receive at this time of year and find it hard to really let everyone know how appreciative and thankful I am for them. Well, let it be said that I am very, very appreciative and thankful for all of the fun, useful, creative, predictable and surprise gifts that I received for my birthday and Christmas this year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Time to Organize

Project 365: Day 267

We like to buy a lot of things from the bulk section of the co-op so our pantry cupboards have little bags of this and that strewn about. I finally got fed up with digging through messes to find what I need, so I consolidated them all into miscellaneous canning jars. Which led to organizing the whole pantry, which led to putting away Christmas presents, which led to organizing and culling my knitting pattern binders. Sometimes the mood just strikes to put things in order and luckily I had the time to do it today. I also had time to make my first batch of starter from the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day book and start my new knitting project, the Olivine Vest (Ravelry link).

In our past life (in Boston) Paul and I spent our Christmas weekends by relaxing at home and at least one trip to the off-leash dog park. Last year, our first year back in Minneapolis, was chock full of Christmas events. This year we went for a happy balance between our Boston-style Christmas and our family-crazy Christmas, with a blend of family events and time to relax at home. We have one last event tomorrow when we head to my Mom's house and then it is back to work we go.

Friday, December 25, 2009

All is Calm

Project 365: Day 266

The (really, really heavy) snow has been shoveled. Today's family celebration time is complete. The Christmas Linner (Lunch/Dinner) has been eaten. Christmas gifts have been given and received. Time to settle in for some calm, quiet time at home. Or, maybe it is time to catch a showing of A Christmas Story. Yes, yes. It isn't Christmas without at least one viewing of A Christmas Story.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas day!

Nutcracker at Rice Park in St. Paul

Knitted Elf Ornament from Sarah

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas - Part 2

Project 365: Day 265

Merry Christmas! We woke up to a very highly hyped Christmas snow storm. We ran errands like crazy last night in order to free up today for relaxing at home and lots of shoveling. Jamie came over to visit me and we exchanged presents and worked on some knitting. She gave me many great birthday and Christmas presents including an adorable apron that I was gushing over at Anthropologie when we visited the store in NYC. It was very nice of her to take note and give me this awesome apron:

(photo from Anthropologie)

I have already put it to use making homemade caramels and dinner tonight. Thanks, Jamie!

We just ate dinner and opened the Christmas presents that my dad dropped over in advance. I am totally a Christmas Eve present opener, if at all possible. Christmas Eve is close enough for me! I am happy to report that my dad set me up so come next harvest season I will be canning up a storm. I got a pressure canner, a food mill, strainer, jelly bags and pectin. When I combine this gift with the canning utensil kit my grandma gave me for my birthday, I am well prepared to preserve till the cows come home. And, if all of the supplies weren't enough to convince me of the bounty canning foods yields, my dad also gave us a box of his canned goods including blackberry jelly, strawberry jelly, salsa, and maple syrup. Maple syrup! Now, that is a labor of love.

I think the caramels have cooled, so I must head off to cut and wrap them. I hope you are having an excellent December 24th.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jack and His Growth Formerly Known as a Skin Tag

Project 365: Day 264

I took Jack to the vet this evening because he has a skin tag that has recently become all nasty and big and gross. The vet took a needle aspirate of it and has deemed it suspicious and advised us to get it removed. Our little dude is going in for surgery soon.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Like in a Magazine

Project 365: Day 263

Christmas gift from co-workers Becky and Michele. Hee hee. Mom, this will likely be making an appearance at your house when Paul and I come over for Christmas!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Birthday - Part 3 Continued

Wow! Paul outdid himself once again, making me feel so loved and spoiled on my birthday. We had such a fun day, starting right from the top of the morning when Paul made breakfast.

After breakfast I settled into a bath with a book while Paul went to the gym. When he came home, he was bearing this huge bouquet.

It was only then that he revealed to me the next part of the plan. We were to head out to get a quick bite to eat for lunch, go ice skating and then to a yarn shop.

The ice skating rink was right in the middle of downtown St. Paul, amidst the historic buildings. The weather was very cooperative, with a light dusting of snow falling while we skated. At one point during our time on the rink, I looked at Paul and then looked around at everyone else and realized that it is impossible to ice skate without a big smile on your face!

Then, we headed to The Yarnery where I was given the instruction to pick out yarn that I liked. I chose Malabrigo worsted merino yarn to make an Olivine Vest. The vest pattern was recently published on Ravelry and I can't wait to make it.

Next up was a trip back home to open my presents. As if this day wasn't already completely awesome, Paul had prepared a story to accompany my gifts. It was such a sweet delivery and his presents were really well thought out. Included in my gifts was the Sweater Wizard software. I'm not even going to tell you about my other presents because you might be tempted to come and steal Paul from me. They were that awesome.

It was then time to get dressed up and head out to a delicious dinner at Restaurant Alma. They have a tasting menu for vegetarians and one for omnivores. They knew it was my birthday so they started our evening off with complimentary glasses of Cava wine. The food was delicious and came in small enough servings that I was able to enjoy the 3 courses plus dessert without stuffing myself silly. All of the dishes were perfect, both in terms of presentation and flavor.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Paul for the memorable day.

Also, thank you to everyone else who took the time to be a part of my birthday by calling, emailing, posting on Facebook, taking me out to eat, buying me a massage, baking me a cake, giving me lovely gifts and anything else you did to mark my birthday. You all helped make my birthday remarkable and I am grateful.

Happy Winter Solstice!

Project 365: Day 262

I look forward to the return of light that this day symbolizes while also being grateful for how the darkness enhances the feeling of warmth and safety that being in my home brings me.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Birthday - Part 3

Project 365: Day 261

Once again, Paul pulled off an amazing day of birthday treats for me. I am too tired to do the day justice right now, so I will post about it later. But, do know that I am heading to bed having been treated like a VIP birthday girl this weekend from Paul and from friends and family. Many, many thanks for a great 31st birthday!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reindeer Blessing and Birthday - Part 2

Project 365: Day 260

Tonight, I was blessed by a reindeer, played the rhythm sticks and welcomed the light with song and dance. Hooray for the coming Winter Solstice and all of the awesome symbolism and ceremony that comes with it! My companion for the evening was Missy and I was very grateful to have her there with me. I was really glad when she said she would go with me. It takes open-mindedness and a sense of adventure to attend an event that is described as follows:

Part Theatre.
Part shamanic ceremony.

Primal, live,
human reverent reverie.
Can't be downloaded.
The entire audience drums.
Dancing and ecstasy are allowed
(but not required).
Every one receives a blessing
from the Great White Reindeer
(If they want it).

So you live in a Nutcracker-Scrooge-Church Pageant holiday marketplace. But what about those who crave a non-traditional but deeply spiritual holiday experience? Jaime Meyer’s Solstice Blessing might be what you seek. Solstice Blessing is part theatre, part laugh-until-you-hurt storytelling, and part shamanic ceremony. The evening blends Meyer’s seminary degree with his 23 years of studying Celtic and Nordic shamanic traditions and trance-inducing percussion and his love of wild, irreverent fun.
(description taken from this website)

The event was led with just the right mix of earnestness and playfulness and never ventured to the point which causes me to react in the familiar stop-trying-to-push-your-beliefs-on-me revolt.

My day ended with this great performance, but I should also share how it started: a massage! In fact, it was the second time I have ever gotten a professional massage. I have said to myself many times, "A massage would be really nice. I should treat myself to one." But, then I always felt like I shouldn't spend the money on it or something more pressing comes up. So, it was a great treat to have my mom gift me a massage. From my
masseuse, I learned that I can thank my computer mouse for a mammoth-sized knot just beside my right shoulder blade. After the massages, we met up with my sister Jessy and shared a birthday lunch together. I am wearing my hat in this picture for two reasons: it was cold by the window and I had a deep mark across my forehead from the pillow on the massage table. It took a really long time for my forehead to go back to normal!

Jessy, Me, Kathy (Mom)

So far my birthday weekend has been excellent! I am really looking forward to whatever surprises Paul has in store for me tomorrow. He has reserved the day from 11am onward, so I should have a lot to report by this time tomorrow.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Birthday - Part 1

Project 365: Day 259

Tonight was the kick-off for my birthday weekend. Paul and I shared a meal with Sally and Mike at Buster's on 28th. My wild rice, currants, winter squash veggie burger was delicious and the stout beer totally hit the right Friday night spot. Thanks to Sally for treating me to an almost-my-birthday dinner. I think all four of us are used to spending our Friday nights in comfy pants, lounging at home, but it was fun to shake things up a bit and spend some time together double-date style.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas - Part 1

Project 365: Day 258

Joey and Justin

Tonight I was part of the annual Christmas celebration at Joey's house. We ate delicious food, had a yankee swap gift exchange, made a Christmas craft project and had a good time catching up before everyone went their various ways for holiday celebrations.

I was in charge of the craft project. We made shrinky dink Christmas ornaments. Somehow I didn't end up with many photos from the evening, except for these shots of people working on their creations.

The group minus Mark who set-up his shrinky dink making station at the kitchen table.

Zoe supervising Genevieve's shrinky dink coloring.

Justin hard at work on his masterpiece.

Thanks to the gang for a fun and festive evening.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Project 365: Day 257

Well placed marketing (click to make the photo bigger). I spotted this ad in the building I work in on a college campus. That dude looks really delighted with his easy money.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


Project 365: Day 256

Tonight, at the Minnesota Knitters' Guild meeting, I finished my gift knitting. Let me say that again: I finished this year's gift knitting! These babies will be sent off to Becky and will receive their own F.O. post later. But, for now I'm going to go and do a happy dance because I finished with time to spare.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Cookie Day

Project 365: Day 255

One of my co-workers has an annual tradition of participating in a cookie swap party with her friends. Every attendee brings dozens and dozens of the same cookie and they all swap, each leaving with approximately 15 different kinds of cookies. And, in what has become a work tradition, she brings in an assortment of cookies the Monday after the cookie party for everyone to eat. This day, Cookie Day, is talked about and anticipated all year long. This was my first Cookie Day and it was delicious! I was very tempted to try them all, but I limited myself to 4 cookies and I saved a piece of caramel for tomorrow.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Chicken in the Store

Project 365: Day 254

Jamie and I spent a lovely afternoon together today. We perused yarn at Needlework Unlimited, did a little shopping at the Linden Hills Coop, stopped in to see the creatures and decor at Wild Rumpus and ate some delicious soup and bread while knitting at Turtle Bread Company. Wild Rumpus bookstore allows the chicken in this photo to roam the store. Here is their explanation of why. After reading their inspiration for the store, I think I am going to put The Salamander Room in my reading queue.

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Project 365: Day 253

I haven't visited the New French Bakery since I lived in the Seward neighborhood 7 years ago. I stopped in to the outlet store today since I knew I was in the market for a hefty amount of bread to eat with the big batch of soup I am going to make tomorrow. The variety and prices are amazing. I bought 2 bags of mini ciabatta loaves (8 loaves in total) to freeze, a loaf of caraway sandwich bread and a loaf of artisan seed bread all for 10 bucks! The bakery doesn't use any preservatives, makes all the bread fresh daily, donates the leftover bread at the end of the day and is located less than 2 miles from my house. Score!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Come and Get It!

Project 365: Day 252

I really like to cook. I enjoy eating things that taste good, meals that are well balanced and have good nutritional value to them. I enjoy the process of preparing the food, from the smells to the textures and colors to the physical motions of assembling a meal. When I have the time and energy to cook it helps me to feel physically and mentally well and in charge of my life. But, sometimes I am lazy. I am grateful to have a partner who is able to pick up the slack for me and put a delicious meal on the table for us when I am feeling lazy/uninspired. Tonight I was treated to a half hour on the couch reading the current issue of Vegetarian Times and sipping red wine while Paul fixed us a tasty, pretty, well balanced dinner. (Wine counts as a fruit, right?)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Rusty Stuff

Project 365: Day 251

My mom and I stopped into an antique store on the way to hoopdancing tonight. We once again confirmed that I love the old, rusty, chipped deteriorating stuff and my mom loves the old shiny stuff (glass, gold and copper).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What to do in a snow storm

Project 365: Day 250

On a cold snowy night, it is mighty nice to snuggle with the kitty while knitting Christmas presents. The dogs stayed warm by engaging in mirror image cuddling. The pets and I got to enjoy the evening indoors thanks to a motivated Paul who had already shoveled by the time I got home.

Earlier in the day, my officemates and I bundled up and headed out to lunch. I caught a little paparazzi-style photo of the snowy, cold journey.

I hope you, too, are warm and happy this evening.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Come on Down

Project 365: Day 249

The snow started coming down around lunch time and it hasn't stopped. I wore long underwear today. I just took my winter boots and coat out of storage. Winter has arrived!

Monday, December 7, 2009

Autumn Minestrone Soup

Project 365: Day 248

Dinner tonight: Autumn Minestrone Soup from Moosewood Restaurant Daily Special cookbook and some Goat's Milk Sourdough Bread, Belgian Goat's Milk Cheese with Honey and Tempranillo wine to go with it. This combination is one of my favorite meals, but only if the soup is homemade and the bread and cheese are really good. The wine can be cheap, though. I'm only picky about certain things.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

(4 Hour) Pumpkin Pie

Project 365: Day 247

Sally and I set our minds to making pumpkin pie from scratch in late October. Today was the day we made it happen. Well, today was the day we assembled the pie, but the process actually started in early November when I cut, seeded, baked, scooped, pureed, drained and froze the innards of two pie pumpkins.

We followed this recipe from Joy of Baking. We didn't take any shortcuts because we wanted to experience the full process of a completely homemade pumpkin pie. We made the Pate Brisee (Short Crust Pastry) from scratch, included the gingersnap/pecan layer and even made the maple whipped cream! We spent about 4 hours on the task today. When you add in the time it took to process the pumpkins, the total is nearer to 6 hours of labor for these 2 pies.

The first taste test shows that these are damn fine pies! The crust and the gingersnap/pecan layer are the shining stars of this pumpkin pie recipe. Although the filling made with fresh pumpkins is very tasty, my suspicions tell me that using canned pumpkin would be just as tasty and would turn this 6 hour pie into a mere 4 hour pie. If you wanted to be super on top of it, I hear you can make pie crust in larger quantities and freeze them for later use.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

No Coast Craft-O-Rama

Project 365: Day 246

Today was craft central in Minneapolis. As per last year, Jill is my No Coast Craft-O-Rama compatriot. We spent about 4 hours perusing the awesome variety of locally, handmade goods.

Some of my favorites from the day include:

I pretty much loved everything at Jenna Lou Designs' booth. Her sewing is impeccable, her designs are useful and fun, her fabric choices are just my taste and her prices are a steal. Need I say more?

Figs & Ginger
Figs & Ginger's jewelry is simultaneously classy and whimsical, simple and playful. I liked a lot of the designs, but my favorites were the ones that included birds, trees and/or deer. In addition to the great designs and craftsmanship, the makers of this jewelry are committed to using recycled materials whenever possible.

Fawn in the Forest Necklace

Elizabeth Hurley Illustrations
Elizabeth Hurley Illustrations are full of childlike and fantastical imagery that is appliqued on to lively background fabrics. None of my favorites from the show were on her Etsy page, but this owl was similar to an owl that I liked at the show. These pictures are stimulating for the imagination and have a lot of tactile appeal. They would be totally at home hanging in a baby's or kid's room.

Julie Meyer has a great solution to my disposable sandwich bag guilt. Oil cloth fabric and velcro make these sandwich and snack bags reusable. Hooray!

There were many, many other favorites from the day, but instead of posting them, I am going to take some of the inspiration I've gleaned from seeing all of these awesome creations today to go and spend some time creating some things myself. Happy Crafting!
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