Monday, January 31, 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

a lean week: Sunday dinner

Cantaloupe, haddock, green beans, microwaved potato.

And, dessert  -

Schoolhouse Coffeecake with wild raspberries from summer.

and a pretty sunset - prettier in person than I managed to capture.

snow and conversation

"... It's lovely when it's snowing to listen to long, intelligent talk. If you glance out of the corner of your eye at the window when it's snowing you always feel as if someone were coming to the door across the yard, have you noticed?"     (emphasis mine)

                                                       Boris Pasternak,   Doctor Zhivago

(I will try to remember this pleasant thought when we get possibly another foot of snow on Wednesday.)

Saturday, January 29, 2011

a lean week

The holiday goodies are finally gone -  and I've decided we need to "eat lean" for a week. Homemade soup.

As for dessert - healthy choices, like Anna's gingerbread and coffeecake recipes, both made with canola oil.
And fruit juice gelatins.

Today, Carrot Soup and Turkey Sandwiches. Orange gelatin dessert - Reddi Wip permitted!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

more white

This is my brother's pickup from the rear, with snow up to the windows.

From the other side.



ice and snow, bless the Lord

We had a lot of snow overnight - the amounts were a bit of a surprise, over a foot, close to a foot and a half, maybe?  My brother does most of the cleanup, with his snowblower; I do a little. But we already had over a foot of the stuff on the ground.

My radio's weatherman says this pattern will persist at least through the middle of February. We're scheduled for another snow on Tuesday, and we already have a little dripping here and there inside the house from the wet. When we get more, where will it go? 

I keep telling myself that people who live in Minnesota, North Dakota, Canada, live with this every year. But it's a bit scary.

Then, I came upon Ann Voskamp's post this morning about snow - she said,  "Winter's whispering. I am listening."  That struck me.  I realized - I should say "remembered" - that there's always another way to look at things.      What are you gonna do?  It is what it is.

Try and make something good of it, like Anna's favorite Grace Livingston Hill heroines always do.

And, out of all the pictures I took this morning - in between shoveling - there emerged a pretty view in a corner of the back yard. 

O ye frost and cold, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.
O ye ice and snow, bless the Lord; praise and exalt him above all forever.

                                            Daniel 3: 70-71

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

felted Margarita bag

Two years ago my brother gave me a knitting calendar for Christmas - the kind in a box with loose pages, a project for almost each day.  I determined to make something immediately, and chose the first one which appealed to me, called the Margarita Bag, which I found out is also a free pattern on the Crystal Palace website.

Crystal Palace yarns were recommended, and since I'd never felted any of my work before, I was loathe to experiment with substituting. But it's expensive stuff, so I hopped over to ebay and found some for lower prices - choosing colors which they had available. 

It was the first time I'd knitted in the round, the first time doing an I-cord. And first time felting. 

Make this, and you'll have no trouble substituting your wool, but this design uses Little Flowers, and I'm not sure you'd find a sub for that - a sparkly, multi-colored carrying weight yarn which enchants you as you knit, twinkling it's colors as you go! So if you make this bag, definitely use Little Flowers.

I wish it were a little larger - I don't use it much for that reason, and also because the beautiful bluey purples don't go with most of my clothes.  But I still like it, and it wasn't difficult to do.


Monday, January 24, 2011

St. Francis de Sales

“The person who possesses Christian meekness is affectionate and tender towards everyone: he is disposed to forgive and excuse the frailties of others; the goodness of his heart appears in a sweet affability that influences his words and actions, presents every object to his view in the most charitable and pleasing light.”

                                              - St. Francis de Sales   1567-1622

Sunday, January 23, 2011

a generous lady, delicious rolls and a pretty plate

A kind-hearted woman we know from church - who is a wonderful baker - gave us some of her delicious cardamom rolls this morning. Oh, yes....  we've had these rolls before - I remember them!

Each wrapped individually  -

And, she said we could keep the plate!  I love the plate!

Thank you!!


Friday, January 21, 2011

bulky legwarmers: one down

In trying to use up yarn, I've been knitting legwarmers - Joelle Hoverson's design from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, which we have at the library. Below is the picture from her book.

Mine is 2 inches, I think, shorter than hers, in worsted weight yarn, but it's oh, so chunky and warm! I did it with a straight needle, not having the circulars in the required size, and I just finished sewing the seam on it.

I'll weave in the loose end, and start on the other one.

Monday, January 17, 2011

plastic chic

We all know how bad plastic is - it's too bad it was ever invented. But, if you've already got it - well...

Among our Christmas decorations are quite a few plastic greenery items which my mother had from way back. I got rid of several faded things, but I find that I have a sentimental feeling about some of them.

 This poinsettia looks pretty good from the street - we didn't get around to buying a fresh wreath this year, and my gaudy wreath looks best on the wall, inside the house.

I wouldn't buy this stuff at the thrift store now. However, if I were in severe financial straits, and a plastic decoration was all I could afford and was cheerful, I think I'd rather have that than bare walls, until something better came along. I didn't always feel this way.

Plastic holly hanging in the bathroom. This is all there was years ago - silk flowers were invented in my lifetime!

I can't keep real flowers around here - if it has a scent, it will probably bother me in this small house. And anyway, there are only two surfaces on which to put plants or cut flowers. The front windowsill, where the cats enjoy sitting, and the kitchen table, where Dolly is allowed to go; it would most likely get knocked down.

I am not usually sentimental.

Truly, I have thrown away a majority of this plastic stuff, (where I suppose it will live on in the dump for forever), but for some reason a few of these holiday pieces are tugging at my heart.

Is there such a thing as plastic chic?  Yet??

Saturday, January 15, 2011

reading Dr. Zhivago

I don't make much time for reading, and almost never read anything akin to literature anymore. But, at the urging of Rachel, the Book Snob, I am about halfway through Dr. Zhivago, and I've been struck a few times at the thinking of Boris Pasternak - a translation, of course. But still,

"In winter, when Yuri had more time, he began to keep a diary. ...

'What happiness it is to work from dawn to dusk for your family and yourself, to build a roof over their heads, to till the soil to feed them, to create your own world, like Robinson Crusoe, in imitation of the Creator of the universe, and to bring forth your life, as if you were your own mother, again and again.

So many new thoughts come into your head when your hands are busy with hard physical work, when your mind has set you a task which can be achieved by physical effort and which brings its reward in joy and success, when for six hours on end you dig or hammer, scorched by the life-giving breath of the sky. And it isn't a loss but a gain that these transient thoughts, intuitions, analogies, are not put down on paper but forgotten. The town hermit, whipping up his nerves and his imagination with strong black coffee and tobacco, doesn't know the strongest drug of all - good health and real need.'"

                                                          Boris Pasternak -    Doctor Zhivago

Friday, January 14, 2011

one thing leads to another, thankfully

A year and a half ago I bought a lambswool sweater-coat at the thrift store, took off the buttons and felted it. It's been hanging up in a closet ever since.  Just a few days ago, I saw this on purlbee's website -  felt hot pads - rectangles. The ingredients are: soft, fuzzy felt (which they sell over there), cotton duck and cotton batting. I immediately thought of this sweater, and some nice gingham duck from the stash with barn red and ivory checks. Ideal!

I soon saw that the wool was much thicker than I'd remembered - I cut out the pieces anyway. But my sewing machine wasn't able to sew through all the layers. I changed the needle, but it still wasn't working. So there I was, with all the pieces cut out - what to do??

It dawned on me that these lambswool pieces were so thick - they could be hot pads on their own! My next decision was how to decorate them - I wasn't going to leave them plain. I don't have experience with embroidery, but I've been wanting to learn, so I got out some books and decided on a blanket stitch edging in red.

I used all six strands of floss so it would show on this thick fabric. You can see how uneven my stitching is.

And, see the areas where I either began it or ended it?  On only one layer, I didn't know quite how to keep it neat. But I still like the idea, and it's a good use for the lambswool - I may cut up the whole thing into different shapes and make a bunch of them.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rudy and Teddy, the posers

Joanne sent me more pictures of her sweeties, taken during the holidays, and I want to put them up here because you can really see them clearly in these.

Rudy in all his fluffiness. You'd never know that he avoids company - he seems quite a relaxed fellow.

A great view of Teddy in all his glory - hopefully he forgives me for previously showing him bleary eyed.    

Handsome fellows!                                                                    


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

learning blanket stitch

I am no embroiderer, but today I've been practicing the blanket stitch. It's enjoyable, but I wish I knew how to begin and end it neatly. So, it's a little messy.

this morning, out the windows

Snow everywhere I look

(my brother plowing - thank God he has that thing!)

No work today!


Monday, January 10, 2011

brotherly love

The excellent Joanne, hostess extraordinaire, Persian cat devotee and my cousin, has sent me a photo of her kitties, Teddy and Rudy. The reason for this being the less-than-flattering picture I took of Teddy on Christmas Day (last photo, way down), which I felt badly about, and asked her to send me something better.

Here we have Teddy on the right, of course. The black one is Rudy, who disappears when company comes, so you're very fortunate to get a view of him! They are half-brothers, by the way.
Can it be too much to hope that maybe Dolly and Henry may come to feel some affection for each other some day?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

a Christmas prayer

I received this in the mail and really wanted to save it for next year, but I can't guarantee that I'll remember I have it, much less know where I've put it. So, here it is now -

A Christmas Prayer,   by Robert Louis Stevenson

Loving Father,
Help us remember
the birth of Jesus,
that we may share in the
song of the angels,
the gladness of the shepherds,
and worship of the wise men.
Close the door of hate and open
the door of love all over the world.
Let kindness come with every gift
and good desires with every greeting.
Deliver us from evil by the blessing
which Christ brings, and teach us
to be merry with clear hearts.
May the Christmas morning
make us happy to be thy children,
and Christmas evening bring us
to our beds with grateful thoughts,
forgiving and forgiven,
for Jesus' sake.

Friday, January 7, 2011

more goodies

Last night my brother came home yet again with more delectables.

I don't know this lady, but she is an artist!  It's a dream of mine, making multitudes of goodies like these, and delighting everyone I know at Christmas.

But for the present, I can just enjoy the generosity of this kind lady, and all the others who share with us the fruits of their labor and love.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

thoughts on Epiphany, and other things

January 6th is the feast of Epiphany, which commemorates when the three kings, or wise men, arrived in Bethlehem to see the baby whose birth they'd been waiting for. It isn't made a big deal of in this country like in Europe - at least, that's what I understand. But the kings were foreigners, and as such they represent all non-Jewish followers of Jesus - myself, for one; it's an important occasion.  I took the electric candles out of our front window today, because there's no need for them anymore - Mary and Joseph found their way to Bethlehem, and so did the wise men. But all the other Christmas cheerfulness is going to stay around for another week or so in this house.

When I was a child, oh, how I loved Christmas! But, when I awoke on Christmas morning, as far as I was concerned, it was all over. The presents were secondary; I was deflated. It wasn't until I was older and able to analyze my feelings that I understood a little better - what I loved about Christmas was the feeling in the air, the uplifting and cheerful music, the joyfulness in people (I'm not sure that's still the case anymore, but it used to be), all the shine and sparkle. But Christmas morning was the beginning of the end of all that, and I was miserable over it.

When I began working, I was a nurses' aide for a while on second shift. We had to work either Christmas Eve or Day - I chose Christmas Day - of course!  I could distract myself from my low spirits, and try to be cheerful with the patients. I didn't mind missing the trip to the relatives - I didn't like any of it. The magic was over at that point.

Then, one year we were tuned in to a local Catholic-run radio station which started playing Christmas music in earnest on Christmas Eve, and continued it for twelve days! The joy didn't have to end so soon; that *flat* feeling didn't come! And that was the beginning, for me, of a deeper and more meaningful enjoyment of Christmas.

How is it possible to enter into it properly beforehand when there is so much to be done? Shopping (unless you Christmas shop all year - which I used to do, by the way), baking, visiting, decorating. And the music, which is so important to really take time to listen to - but, when?? It isn't always possible. But it is afterward!

The outward trappings of Christmas have very little to do with the belief that the Son of God was born into this world to save us from our sinfulness, our Egypt. If Christians required all these decorations in order to appreciate what the holiday means, it would be unfortunate. Years ago I had little faith, and that was certainly part of my problem. But these outward trappings of the season have arisen out of centuries of joy in a true belief in what this season means, and so there's nothing wrong with them if you keep that in mind.

Yesterday, I put away the shepherds and got out the three kings. So, should I take the tree down? Why? The kings need to stick around for a while - they've had a long trip. The tree can stay for another week or so; it's beautiful. It has little to do with Christ's birth, but it represents the overwhelming joyfulness and beauty which are part of the gifts of this season. A few years ago I read that in the Middle Ages they kept some holiday greenery around till the beginning of February. This may be a leftover of the old pagan practices, or perhaps they just wanted something around to remind them of Christmas during the long, dark days of winter. I heard just recently that at the Vatican they keep their tree up (an outdoor one, I think) till early February, following that ancient custom. How important is Christ's birth? Immeasureably!  I am so enjoying listening to the music and being able to meditate on the meaning of this season, I'm in no hurry to put an end to it. 

I have no criticism of others who take down their trees, etc. earlier than we do - everyone is different, and for good reason.  But such a majorly important thing!  why hurry to put it all away?

"Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth"

-   Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

"I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
how Jesus, the Saviour, did come for to die.
For poor ornery people like you and like I"

-   I Wonder as I Wander



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

peanut butter blossoms

My brother is a hairdresser, and at this time of year he comes home every day with homemade goodies - consequently, I have no need to be baking. I miss it, but it's really a blessing - we have loads of delicious things for dessert, and I can be doing something else. Then, when the pre-holiday madness is over and our dessert supply is dwindling, I can take the time to make Christmas cookies and not be rushed about it!

We still have plenty of coffee cake, fruit-type cake and candy left, but today I really felt like baking, so

I did!

I rolled these in a deep yellow sanding sugar - I have a lot of kisses left

I think I'll have to make some more!      

Monday, January 3, 2011

film review: Romola Garai's "Emma"

When this was on tv last year, I kept forgetting about it, so only caught a small part of it. But as a big fan of (most) Jane Austen film adaptations, I purchased it anyway. And then, put it on my shelf, and forgot I owned it.

Until the other day - and, I just watched the end of it. Aside from Romola Garai's portrayal of Emma as an unrestrained young woman, more immature than previous versions show her, I was able to overcome my initial dislike because it really developed the characters in a way the other films could not, being twice as long as the others. And I like the others (I'm thinking of Kate Beckinsale's and Gwyneth Paltrow's Emmas), but this one is so well done - I'm quite surprised at it.  This Emma grew on me, because everything else about the production was so wonderful, and I guess I'll have to read the book again to see if I'm being picky about the way Ms. Garai played her, or if there's a possibility Emma could really have been this way.

It was less like an entertainment, and more like a story of human nature unfolding before you - if that makes any sense. And I really recommend it.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

quiet days

I really look forward to the day after a big holiday as something restful. Not that yesterday was so major - we had one friend over to dinner.  But today I had a quiet time, reading (Dr. Zhivago), knitting (leg warmers), listening to Christmas cds (Joulun Ihmemaa, Newman & Oltman's Christmas Pastorale), making minestrone, taking a nap. The tree lights were on all day, because it was so foggy and dark this morning  -