Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Vacation plans

We are planning to head to Florida on Friday night. Driving. Yes, we are crazy but we kinda like it.

We used to fly, which Allison never enjoyed, but after 9/11 and the new security measures at airports (read: long delays), we tried driving for the first time. Both girls loved it. Really. Lots of leg room (we take out the middle seats in the van), frequent stops, a TV and movies to watch, hotels with pools. Much better than flying, even if it did make for a three day journey.

That first year, as Clarence was backing up in our driveway, the girls wanted to start watching movies. This was a first for them and a really big deal. You see, we don't have one of those fancy vans with a TV built in. Oh, no. We haul a 19" TV with us. He told them they could only have the TV on when it was dark outside and they couldn't watch the scenery. We find we can cover a lot of miles once it's dark out. Imagine that.

At the end of our drive wait Clarence's folks, who kindly put us up-and put up with us-every winter. We missed going two years ago when my mom was having her transplant. It was way too long to go without seeing Grandpa and Grandma.

The girls are making their plans for our time with Grandpa and Grandma. Bike riding, playing "Chase the Ace", swimming, poring over crochet projects with Grandma...lots of quality time together.

We also hope to visit Aunt Sharon while we are there. We've done some fun things with her, too, but it is always so nice just to take time to visit and catch up with each other.

I'm just hoping to be able to shed the winter coat and gloves, enjoy some sunshine, relax and enjoy our family. Aah, vacation.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tatted butterfly

I found a crochet pattern online last week for this motif. I thought it was cute so Julianne whipped one up for me. She added it to the flowers she made for Aunt Kathy since I had absolutely no use for it, pretty though it was.

Julianne also likes tatting. Clarence's mom taught her how to tat the traditional way last year. The butterfly on top of the crocheted motif is her latest tatting project. It wasn't tatted with a shuttle (the traditional way), though.

For Christmas, Allison gave Julianne a book and starter kit for needle tatting. Julianne finds that her hands are much more comfortable when she needle tats than they were with the shuttle. She would get pain in her hands using the shuttle but doesn't when needle tatting. That makes more tatting possible, of course.

Julianne says she still has techniques to learn with needle tatting but, so far, she thinks it's a lot of fun.
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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Testing, testing

I really am still alive. This has been a busy week-we started a new (huge) co-op on Monday, our regular (small, close friends) co-op was on Tuesday, Wednesday was the typical busy day with church and quiz practice. I decided I'd better post something to my blog today or you'd all think I'd given it up.

Julianne's latest crochet creations are above. She is having so much fun trying out the different flower patterns as well as all the colors that embroidery floss offers.

I learned something new, too, that I'm testing out here. I've never known how to add a watermark to my photos but now I do. I know, it isn't all that exciting to anyone except me but it did prompt me to post something today to try it out. Can you even see it?
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Sunday, January 11, 2009

Aunt Kathy's surprise

Since we expected to see Kathy at Saturday's quiz, the girls didn't share some of the flowers they had crocheted when I was taking pics for my blog. We all wanted to see her reaction first hand.

This pink aster was Julianne's favorite of the large flowers she made, so she saved it for Saturday.

We didn't have any yellow yarn and it was severely hampering their options.

I ended up asking Julianne if she thought she could make embroidery floss work and she tried it. Aren't these beautiful? Allison made the carnation, Julianne did the little forget-me-not, the rose, the pansies, and the leaf. I especially heart those pansies.

Kathy was delighted with all they had made and the girls loved hearing her compliments on their work.
I think the book is going to be dog-eared in no time.
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Saturday, January 10, 2009

January Quiz

I don't usually have my camera out during a quiz, but this was a fun round (in other words, it didn't count) so I decided I could risk a flash.

The girls were a two person team today but their friend Sam came to watch and ended up sitting in for the fun round. I like the expressions I caught on their faces-they are typical looks you see when they are thinking, waiting for the quizmaster to call on them.

In individual competition, Allison came in second in the young teen rookie division. It was a hard fought victory for her. At the end of the round, there was a tie for second so the two of them had three more questions to break the tie. It was intense!

Julianne took first place in the young teen veteran division. She quizzed out on the sixth question. In fact, she quizzed out in every round today. Allison quizzed out twice and came close in the other rounds.

(The colors were really glaring on this shot so I switched it to b/w.)

They took first place as a team. As always, we are so proud of them! Their victories were made sweeter by the presence of Uncle Earl, Aunt Kathy, cousin Lauren, and Grandma to cheer them on. Aunt Kathy and Uncle Earl helped make lunch for the quizzers, too, as their church was the host church. We always have a great time at quizzing, but having more of our family join us made it even better.
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Friday, January 9, 2009

Busy hands

My hands aren't very busy lately but the girls...oh, my...they've been busy.

Aunt Kathy found this book and sent it home with Clarence when he stopped at their house Monday night. The girls started drooling when they saw it. Aunt Kathy is always good for lovely surprises.

This is Julianne's first project out of the book. She realized later that she read the pattern wrong-so she doesn't really like this one.

She moved on to another pattern.

She was more successful with this pattern so, after making it in plum acrylic yarn, she switched to her small hooks and crochet thread. Allison, believe it or not, decided it was time to learn to read a crochet pattern. This was too much fun to miss out on. The blue flower is her first one.

This is Allison's second flower. She used the cockscomb pattern but since she didn't have any yellow for the center, she decided it looked a lot like a carnation. I couldn't seem to get a good picture of it.

The girls have experimented a little and are excited to show Aunt Kathy tomorrow. They chose not to let me take pictures of everything they've made so far because they want to surprise Aunt Kathy first. Stay tuned!
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Thursday, January 8, 2009

Mexican Rice Bake

Fishmama at Life as Mom is hosting a recipe swap today. She's looking for healthy recipes and I have to admit that I share her love of cheesy, fatty, and yummy foods.

This is a recipe my best friend gave me several years ago. You can make it cheesy, fattty, and yummy or you can scale it back a bit as I do and enjoy a less cheesy, less fatty, but still yummy dish. Let me know what you think if you try it.

Mexican Rice Bake

1 teaspoon olive oil (I usually just spray my pan)
1 cup onion, chopped
1/2 cup green pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed (I use bottled)
5 cups cooked rice (I use brown rice)
15 ounces black beans, canned, rinsed and drained
1 cup salsa, thick and chunky, divided (I don't measure this, just pour some on and spread it)
2 1/4 ounces ripe olives, pitted and sliced (I don't keep these on hand so never put them in)
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese (I use 2 c. total)
1 cup ricotta cheese, part skim milk (I use FF cottage cheese-again, because it's what is on hand)
1/4 cup light sour cream (I use light or FF-both are fine in this)
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

1. Preheat oven to 350ยบ. In medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and garlic; cook and stir 3 minutes or until tender.
2. In large bowl, combine onion mixture, rice, beans and olives. In medium bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups (or 1 1/2 c.)cheddar cheese, ricotta (or cottage)cheese, sour cream, and chili powder; mix well.
3. Spread half of rice mixture in greased 13" x 9" pan. Top with half of cheese mixture; spread evenly over rice. (I end up using all the cheese mixture, there's never enough for another layer if I want to spread it over the rice completely. It works.) Drizzle with half of salsa. Repeat layers.
4. Bake 30-35 minutes or until heated through. Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese. Bake 2-3 minutes longer, until cheese is melted.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Kinda late-or maybe I'm early?

I thought I'd share a gift wrapping idea I've been using for a few years.

Start by opening the bottom of a pull-top can. Wash the inside and save until needed.

You can find various size cans which have the pop-top, but don't save Swanson's broth cans. I did that and gave two nieces their birthday gifts in them. We dropped off the first gift and didn't see it opened. When niece Vicky got hers, though, we were right there. It's quite embarrassing to realize in that setting that although the can has a pop-top, the whole lid doesn't come off. Then the other niece, who is also in attendance, tells everyone "Yeah, you gave me one of those cans, too. I had to use a can opener to get it open."
Learn from my mistakes. No Swanson's broth cans.

Place the gift inside the can, making sure it clears the bottom of the can. You don't want your gift catching between the can and the bottom. Run a little hot glue around the can.

Put the bottom of the can back in place on the hot glue.

Wrap it and you're done. Be prepared to explain to the first couple recipients that they can pop the top. Otherwise, people seem to wonder what to do-unwrap the paper or pop the top?
Since I'm still talking Christmas, I decided to include this shot of my tree skirt. My best friend made this for us several years ago. Isn't her cross-stitching just amazing? I love it and am awed every year by the amount of work it must have taken.
You may think I'm late with this tutorial but really, I'm early. You've got a three week head start on your gift wrapping for Groundhog's Day.
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Friday, January 2, 2009

Allison's handiwork

Julianne wasn't the only little elf creating gifts this year. Allison also handcrafted a gift for Clarence and I for Christmas.

Allison isn't one to use patterns. She's far too free-spirited for that. But she has really enjoyed playing around with embroidery this year and decided to try cross-stitching something as a gift for us.

This is her first attempt at cross-stitch, using her own design.

Clarence and I were delighted to receive it. We do love their gifts from the heart. I am going to keep my eyes open for a new frame, however. This one would work for my mom, but isn't my favorite thing. Maybe I'll get Allison to help me find something a little less cherubic..and gold.
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