Friday, December 31, 2010


Hey! Merry Christmas! I am late, I know. I got my new camera and have been getting acquainted with it. Here are a few shots from Christmas weekend.

Christmas Eve Day Veggie Tacos with Paul, my dad and my sister. They all managed to make goofy faces at once.

We enjoy messing with our pets sometimes. It is how they earn their keep. In this picture, Tchazo is intrigued/scared of the bubble wrap popping sound.

This year we had 3 days of Christmas.
Day 1 = Tacos and Gifts with Jessy and Dad
Day 2 = Christmas Feast and Gifts with the In-Laws
Day 3 = Brunch and Gifts with Mom and Roger and Jessy.
Notice a theme? Food and presents were in abundance this Christmas.

My mom looked lovely in her just unwrapped, handknit shawl. Also, you know you are from a German family when you ask your mom for Grandma's German Dumpling recipe and when she pulls out her recipe box, there is a whole section called "Dumplings".

Fanny didn't go anywhere for Christmas but she did pose for pretty kitty pictures while I played with my new camera. She and the dogs had a fine Christmas, too. They all got special soft food as well as big rawhides for Tchazo and Jack and catnip toys for Fanny.

I hope your holidays were just what you wanted them to be.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Year Older and Still a Fan of Birthdays

Since my actual birthday was on a Monday this year, Paul and I commenced celebrating it on Sunday. (Well, actually Jamie treated me to a birthday pedicure and we had a lovely birthday/Christmas celebration together on Saturday, so that was probably when it really started!) The Paul part of my birthday started on Sunday. As is Paul's preference, the birthday plans were all up to him and kept secret until the moment he chooses to reveal them to me. On Sunday, he woke me up to a homemade gourmet breakfast and then told me that my instructions were to bundle up and wear my snowpants. I was also to bring other, less warm clothes for later in the day.

The first activity of the day was at Theodore Wirth Park's Winter Recreation Area. I have been wanting to check the park out as our friends Mark and Jerri are regular visitors to the Quaking Bog. Judging from what we have heard from them and what we saw, there is a ton to do in the park.

The morning was bright and sunny and 8 degrees. Luckily he had warned me to bundle up and bundle up I did. It was a good thing, because it turns out we were at the park to go snowtubing! I have only been snowtubing one time that I can remember and it was when I was little. Paul has never been, so it was a fun thing to experience together. When we showed up there were very few people on the hill. This was one of those fancy tubing places where you don't have to walk back up the hill. There is a lift that you get hooked onto and it pulls you back up...lazy man's sledding!

We had a really great time and got inventive with how we went down the hill to make it a little more dangerous. Right when the hill started to get crowded was when it was time for us to move on to the next activity. I really enjoyed the park and want to go back soon to cross country ski. Props to Paul for remembering that I have been wanted to go sledding every winter we have been back here and hadn't gone.

Paul knows how much I like hot chocolate but only if it is GOOD hot chocolate. None of that Swiss Miss stuff for me. Paul had done extensive research in order to find the best hot chocolate place in the Twin Cities so that we could go there and warm up after tubing. His research totally paid off!

Kopplin's Coffee has 6 kinds of hot chocolate all of which sounded amazing. Paul ended up going with the house dark hot chocolate, which was very flavorful and minimally sweet. I went with the Taza Cinnamon, which tasted like a slightly sweet and spiced mexican hot chocolate. We paired our hot chocolate with an almond brioche and a plate of crostini with red pepper spread and olive spread. It was pretty dark in the cafe so I didn't capture many photos. I am eager to go back and try some of their other hot chocolates...maybe the Valrhona dark chocolate or their Rogue hot chocolate made with locally made chocolate. Delicious!

View of the state capitol building from the History Center parking lot

After our afternoon snack, we continued the chocolate theme with a visit to the Minnesota History Center. Their current exhibit is about the history of chocolate. I enjoyed the exhibit and was very glad I arrived with a belly full of chocolate otherwise it might have been torturous to be reading about so much chocolate without eating it! We also got to check out an exhibit about the generations and waves of immigrants that have come through one house in St. Paul. There was so much to see at the museum, but time was running short and we had to go.

After the museum, we headed home to take care of the dogs and then out again to meet up with Meg and Cyrus for dinner. This is the point at which I abandoned my camera. Even so, we had a lovely meal with them at Craftsman. There was a lot to celebrate; Meg had just finished her semester and Cyrus just finished his job. They are both getting ready for a year of living in Argentina. Paul and I both really enjoy their company and will miss hanging out with them in 2011.

The next day was my actual birthday. I had taken the day off of work, wanting to have a free day to do as I pleased. I ended up taking a solo day trip that was ill fated. A nasty snow and ice storm came through the state and resulted into what should have been a 45 minute drive turning into a 2+ hour drive. As much of a pain as it was, I survived without incident and was back in time to welcome Paul and his armful of flowers as he got home from work. Luckily Paul had chosen 112 Eatery for our evening out, which we could get to by train. It was fun to be out in the storm without having to worry about driving and parking. We had a lovely seat next to the window on the second floor of the restaurant. The ambiance was great and the food was very tasty.

Each year Paul makes me feel so special on my birthday. He is so great at noticing things throughout the year and incorporating them into my celebration. A few months ago I made some off-handed comment about missing a tea shop that we lived near in Cambridge. I remarked that I had nearly used up the tea I had bought from there and that I would be sad when it is gone. He must have taken mental note of my comment because my birthday present included bulk bags of my 2 favorite teas from that tea shop.

Over the summer, I had gone on a search for blueberry beer because I had been craving a Black and Blue (half Guinness, half Blueberry Beer). It turns out we couldn't find any blueberry beer in the local shops so I settled for Black and Tans instead. Paul remembered that too and enlisted some Boston friends to ship some blueberry beer to us. Black and Blues, here I come!

Lastly, I have been making it no secret how much I have been frustrated by our point and shoot camera. It is great in bright, natural light but is darn near non-functional in any other lighting. Part of the reason I have not been blogging is that I like to have pictures in my posts and lately all of my pictures have been turning out sucky. Well, it turns out Paul has been planning on getting me a camera for quite a while and presented me with a homemade coupon and money for a digital SLR! With a bit of birthday and Christmas money from my dad kicked in, I was able to buy an amazing new camera with a gigantic memory card. Yahoooooo!!!!

Every year I am blown away by what a generous and thoughtful partner I have. Each year I tell him he doesn't need to do that much for me. I feel guilty that he sacrifices things for himself in order to make my birthday such a big deal. I tell him that I would be happy and content with less. Each year he tells me that he wants to do it, that he is choosing to do it and that I just need to let the guilt go and enjoy it. I definitely enjoy it and I am working on letting the guilt go. Luckily I plan on sharing many, many more birthdays with my lovely Paul.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


I've been knitting for Christmas, but before we get to those projects, I'd like to show you what I made for my friend Libby's baby. I attended her baby shower earlier this month and, since she is a knitter, I thought long and hard about the right knitted baby gift. I knew that she had been working on a toy and has been known to knit baby hats and blankets in the past, so I avoided those options. I wanted whatever I made to fit longer than a sweater would fit, so I crossed clothing off the list.

I finally decided on a sleep sack with little owls on it. I don't have any babies, but from what I hear putting babies into bed with blankets is a no-no these days. Many people are using wraps and sleep sacks instead of blankets.

Libby's little one is due in February, so we'll see if he likes it and if the wool keeps him warm in the cold Minnesota winter.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Testing Photo Size

Hey! I got a new camera and am testing out the file size and photo resizing. Enjoy the close-up of Jack's crusty eye.

Jessy's Big Month

Well, hello there! I did not intend to abandon this blog for so long, but that is how it went. The good news is that I feel ready to get back on the blogging train. I'll tell you why a bit later, because for now, I'd like to get caught up on some long overdue posts.

For one, my sister Jessy has had a big month. She turned another year older and, in true fun-lovin Jessy-style, she chair-danced while we sang the Happy Birthday song to her.

The annual birthday dinner bunch, with the addition of Michelle, our long-time family friend.

Happy Belated Birthday, Jessy!

Earlier this month, Jessy was a participant in the MPLS art show at Cult Status Gallery. I was able to attend, share a drink and take in the art with her on opening night.

For those of you familiar with the First Avenue stars, you'll notice that the gallery created their very own wall of stars and Jessy was on it! Way to go, Jessy! If you would like to read more about the exhibit, here is a link.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

White, Windy and Wonderful

As much as we like to think we are in control of our lives, some days it is really the weather that is in control. This weekend Minnesota got a huge amount of snow accompanied by strong winds. The total snowfall at my house was around 18-20 inches, which all fell between Friday and Saturday evening. This storm was momentous. The city buses and the snow plows were called back to the garages, the mail carriers were called back in from their routes, the roof of the metrodome collapsed and the Mall of America closed. When this sort of stuff is happening, you know it would be best to stay put where you are.

Fortunately, I was at home. I had plenty of food and many, many ways to keep myself entertained. I spent most of Saturday admiring the storm from inside while drinking a hot mug of tea. I did venture out for a little while. Even though there was fierce wind blowing the snow around, I wanted to get a little shoveling done to clear the door. I am glad I did because the doors that I didn't shovel out yesterday had drifts up to the door knobs this morning!

It was great to be forced to stay home. No need for shopping or running errands. No social engagements or family obligations. Everything in the city slowed down and became quiet and calm. I loved it. The forced hibernation at a normally stressful and bustling time of the year was a bit magical.

Then, the storm stopped and a bitter cold and sunny Sunday arrived. Everyone emerged from their houses to begin the task of digging out. Sidewalks, walkways, and driveways needed shoveling, cars needed to be brushed clean and garbage cans and recycling bins needed to be carved new spaces in the alleys.

Paul has been trying to recover from a back injury, so the task of snow removal was mine alone. Amazingly a handful of neighbors with shovels and a snowblower were out helping people clear the snow. I was so grateful when they helped me with the two most daunting parts of our property. It was the first time in the year and a half that I have lived here that I have witnessed the residents of this block come together. We helped each other shovel, we pushed people's cars out when they got stuck in the alley, we chatted and we actually learned each other's names. I was so grateful for their help and enjoyed breaking down some of the barriers between us urban-dwellers. I gave them jars of raspberry preserves to show my appreciation. They would have preferred beer, but we hadn't bought any of that before the storm came through.

Inevitably, when a whole weekend's worth of tasks are forced aside, there will be things that won't end up getting done. But, I'm not going to stress about that because this weekend was an unexpected gift.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

DIY Holiday Weekend

What a luxury to have a 4 day weekend! Paul and I spent Thanksgiving visiting our families, with a stop at his relatives in the morning and the afternoon with my relatives.

Other than that, we left the time open to do things on a whim. We made good food. (This salad dressing is great!) We worked on projects around the house. I realized that I had not watched a movie since June, so I watched 2 movies. I read an entire book.

Of course, I knit. I started knitting socks for my dad's Christmas gift, blocked a gift for an upcoming baby shower and sorted through my button tins to find buttons for a few recently finished projects. One of those projects was the Rosamund Cardigan. It will get its own full post as soon as I sew on the buttons. For now, let me just remark upon that bleeding! I soaked and rinsed it multiple times and it just seemed like more dye was coming out with each washing. I hope it doesn't stain the clothes I wear it with!

Photo by Sally

And, last but not least, I had time to try out some new places with friends. Jill, Missy and I spent Black Friday hunkered down in a cozy coffee shop, knitting and talking. It was a great way to spend the day, made significant by the knowledge that while others were participating in a buying frenzy, we were spending quality tine together, creating things stitch by stitch. The next day I got to meet up with Sally at a newish cupcake bakery, where we ate some sweets and got caught up. Since I changed jobs, Sally and I haven't been able to have our weekly lunch date, which meant we had a lot to catch up on.

In just a few days, I have managed to turn my sleep schedule upside down. I know I will pay the price tomorrow morning but it was so worth it. And, on that note, good night!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Massive Fall Catch Up Post

As life sometimes goes, I haven't had the extra time and energy for blogging lately. I can't make up for lost time, but I did want to do a quick recap of some of my fall experiences.

After 3 intensive months of training, I have moved from my training work location to my permanent placement. For the past 3 months I have seen this beautiful morning view of the Minneapolis skyline while walking from the bus stop to work. The shiny round building in the right side of the photo was where I was working during training. My new location has a nice view, too and I even have an office with a huge window. After having worked in basements and/or interior rooms for the past few years, having a window feels absolutely decadent!

Now that Paul and I are both working again, we can indulge in dinner out from time to time. We recently ate at Town Talk Diner. The sign was the most impressive part as I found the food to be overpriced and the service to be mediocre. Luckily we were using a groupon or else I would have been way more displeased. I do love the sign, though.

Fall also brought the last round of harvesting from our garden. One night after work, as dusk was setting in, I unearthed the carrots and beets. I was in a rush, so I only ended up snapping a blurry picture of the harvest atop the covered up A/C unit. After the root veggies were out, we were left with collards, kale and brussels sprouts from the garden up until we got the big, wet snowstorm last weekend. At this point, the garden is at rest until next year. As much as I enjoyed the garden, I am very ready for the dormant phase. My knitting time definitely suffered because of the gardening!

With fall comes strong cravings for baked goods and crappy lighting to photograph them. I baked the pumpkin biscuits with orange honey butter that I mentioned in my pumpkin post. It was a good thing that I made a double batch of the biscuits to go along with the single batch of orange honey butter, because a little of this delicious butter goes a long way. I even had some leftover to pop in the freezer for later. The biscuits ended up being in the shape of a snowflake as I realized I only own 2 cookie cutters. One of them is a snowflake and the other is bone-shaped and meant for cooking dog treats. Luckily, the Crafternooners didn't mind eating snowflakes in the fall.

Last weekend, on the evening of the big snowstorm, Meg and Cyrus hosted us for a potluck dinner. I hadn't made a tart before, but wanted to give it a try with this recipe. I modified it to use the raspberries I had on hand in the freezer instead of the blueberries that the recipe calls for. It was a very tart tart with all of the lemon zest and juice. This was definitely not a quick and easy dessert, but I think it was worth it.

We also brought along a Pomegranate salad that I made based off of this recipe. I hadn't originally been assigned a salad but we had lost a portion of the dinner party guests due to the bad weather, so I was happy to step up. Luckily I had all of the ingredients on hand except for subbing mixed greens in place of spinach, which I like better anyways. This was my first experience cutting open a pomegranate. The way it is structured is pretty fascinating while making it very tedious to dissect.

Meg and Cyrus made quiche with gruyere and mushrooms and roasted potatoes with sage. It was a delicious dinner and a great thing to be able to spend more time with them before they head out for their year in Argentina.

There has been a little bit of home improvement work going on around here lately, too. My dad stopped by and when I asked him for advice on our sticky door it turned into a full on repair session. Paul and I had gotten used to having to kick it open. We forget that it works how it is supposed to now so sometimes we accidentally slam it open!

Before the ground got really hard, Tchazo discovered the joy of digging. We have been really fortunate that it has taken him nearly 9 years to make this discovery. Our yard is now paying the price where he has chosen a few of his favorite digging spots. He is a bit sneaky with his digging so I rarely see him doing it, which would mean I could correct the behavior. Instead he does it stealthily and my only proof that he is the culprit is that sometimes I catch him "red-pawed". I noticed signs of digging earlier in the season but had been blaming it on squirrels. Now I know, it was Tchazo's work!

In order to balance work being really busy, getting back to my gym routine after a break during my job transition and the hustle and bustle of fall, Paul and I have been careful to carve out some time for slowing down. The dogs appreciate the weekend mornings where we don't have to rush around and we can take time to let them up on the bed for a family snuggle session.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Thrummed Mittens - Older and Wiser

Once upon a time, I made thrummed mittens (ravelry link). I had seen mittens with thrums made of wool, but knew that my skin has a hard time with wool. For those not familiar, the Yarn Harlot has a great FAQ about thrums. When I found some really nice cotton roving for sale at Rhinebeck, I thought I would give it a try. It turns out that cotton makes for imperfect thrums. It does not felt like wool, which I knew going into it. It also pulls out pretty easily as it doesn't stick well to the yarn it is knit with. Also, wearing these took some getting used to. I was tempted to play with the inside bits while wearing them, which would have caused the thrums to fall apart.

Despite their flaws, the cotton lined mittens worked fine for me. The yarn is a merino, alpaca and silk blend, so these mittens are mighty toasty. Now here is where the real problem came into play with these cotton thrums. After using them for a while, I noticed that the thrums had started to look nasty, dirty, gross. I knew that if I washed the mittens I would surely end up with a falling apart mess.

I decided the best course of action was to remove the thrums, wash the mittens and just wear them as they are. Luckily for me, when I knit these I didn't know that you can knit into the back loop of the stitch when inserting the thrums to secure them. Not having twisted stitches made pulling out the thrums possible and prevented the thrumless mittens from having sporadic twisted stitches. Washing and blocking them after pulling the thrums out helped even out the gaps where the thrums were. Hooray!

Now that I am older and wiser and my skin seems to have gotten a little more tolerant of merino wool, I have started a new pair of thrummed mittens using wool yarn and merino wool roving. I learned my lesson about light colored mittens and am making these in darker colors. Plus, when these need to be washed, it won't be a big deal.

This project is moving along rather slowly because it doesn't make for very good on-the-go knitting. It is quite a set-up I have what with the actual knitting being sort of bulky and needed to incorporate the prepped thrums and the roving waiting to be prepped.

I am enjoying seeing how the colors from the roving are coming out, though. And, I know I will end up with toasty warm mittens. All of these warm woolens are happening right on time, as we woke up this morning to a big, wet snow storm.

The photos above were all taken on the bench in the front of this photo. What a difference a few days makes in this transitional time of year!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Crafternoon (spell check does not approve)

The Crafternoon gatherings may not be happening with the regularity that they used to, but they are still going strong. Today's group was a full one including people who've been absent from the past few gatherings. The afternoon was full of people catching up and the showing and telling of projects. At one point, Paul tried to come and chat, but realized he had very little chance of being heard amongst all of the conversations. Thanks for a fun and crafty afternoon, ladies!

Friday, November 5, 2010


Although we still have a long, long list of home improvements and quite a few places where furniture is lacking, we have been making progress on making our home ours. I am really happy to have gotten rid of the unpleasant dusty purple and saturated red color combo we inherited from the former owner. Thanks to Paul and his efforts, we now have half of the main floor walls and ceilings painted.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Raspberry Preserves

I did end up making raspberry preserves with the plethora of raspberries that I picked in my dad's patch. I searched for some low sugar recipes after learning this summer how jellies and jams oftentimes have more sugar than fruit in them. That just felt obscene and I vowed to seek out alternative methods and recipes. I ended up modified this recipe from the Boston Globe who modified it from Afton Cotton.

1 1/2cups granulated sugar
1package (1.75 ounces) powdered pectin
6cups (a little more than 1 quart) raspberries, rinsed, picked over, and drained
1/2cup brown sugar
6tablespoons lemon juice
1teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Have on hand 5 half-pint canning jars. Sterilize them in boiling water. Sterilize the lids and rings, ladle, and any other equipment that will touch the jam. You will also need a canner and a jar lifter. Fill the pot with water and bring it to a boil.

2. In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar with the pectin. Stir well.

3. In a large saucepan, combine raspberries, remaining 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, brown sugar, and lemon juice. Let stand for 10 minutes or until the juices flow.

4. Add vanilla. Stir gently and bring the mixture to a boil slowly over medium heat.

5. Stir in the pectin mixture. Turn the heat to high and boil vigorously for a few minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, you can test to see if it has reached 200 or so degrees F. (This recipe originally said it had to reach 220, but I didn't get it that hot and it jelled just fine.)

6. Pour mixture into hot, sterilized jars, wiping down jar rims with a damp paper towel. Place lids onto jars and screw on bands, and place the jars in the canner, making sure the jars are covered by 1 to 2 inches of water.

7. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Process the jars for 15 minutes.

8. With the jar lifter, lift the jars from the pot. Place them on a clean kitchen towel and listen for the sound of success: POP! Let stand for 12 to 24 hours or until completely cool.

9. Test the seal by pressing down the center of the lid with your finger; it should not move. If it didn't seal, you'll just have to eat that one right away.

The resulting preserves are both tart and sweet. I like them much better than the really sugary jams.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Little of What He Likes

Paul is a season ticket holder to the Timberwolves. He had been a fan for a long time and even cares about them when they lose and nobody wants to buy tickets to their games. He watched them on TV whenever possible when we lived in Boston. He reads websites about the draft and the players. So, when he asked if I wanted to go to one of the pre-season games with him, I agreed to go. If you know me, you know that I have no interest in professional sports whatsoever. None. However, I was interested in going with him to experience a bit of what engages him so much. I guess it was like that one time he went yarn shopping with me.

I enjoyed spending the evening with him and having a new experience, but I am grateful that he has friends that want to go to the 40 or 50 games that make up a season. I am also grateful that Paul and I have the kind of relationship where we can support each other in pursuing our separate interests without necessarily having to participate in the them. We think that suits us just fine.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mary and Ronnie and a Beer-Can Chicken

The next weekend after Beth's visit, Paul and I had Ronnie and Mary over for dinner. Paul had long ago promised to have them over for Beer Can Chicken as a thank you for giving us an extra lawn mower they inherited with their house. Since the window is quickly closing for grilling weather, we were lucky to find a night that worked for everyone.

This was the same day that Missy and I spent in Northfield, so Paul was the one who created the menu and did all of the cooking. He made us a delicious meal with side dishes of rosemary roasted potatoes, his special version of collard greens, maple glazed carrots, and fresh-baked peasant bread.

Our co-op has chickens that they swear are worth the price difference so we splurged on one for this dinner. The meat-eaters said it did not disappoint and Paul agreed that the co-op was speaking the truth.

I, however, was happy eating the sides and tried my best to keep my mouth shut about them eating a chicken who had a can of beer stuffed up its rear end.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Beth in Minnie

Oh, goodness! I have gotten so neglectful when it comes to posting the fun stuff that has been going on over the last month. Luckily, Beth wrote up a great summary of her visit here a few weekends ago. It was so much fun to spend time with her, the Wagner family and Joey. Here are links to her posts (part 1 and part 2) about her time here. You might recognize these photos, too. I didn't take any of my own, so I borrowed hers.

Dinner was potluck style, which this group of friends does REALLY well. There were so many delicious things to chose from.

Thanks for a great visit, Beth!

P.S. I wrote this post a few days in advance of it going live and in the meantime, Jerri posted some great photos and tidbits about the visit on her blog. So, now I can add links to her posts, too. They can be found: here, here and here. I really have to get over to that quaking bog. It sounds excellent!
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