Friday, April 4, 2014

Valentine's 2014

Yeah, so, this is a bit overdue...

Jay and I actually celebrated our Valentine's Day a week early, at Tuscany (fulfilling a childhood fantasy of mine.  and sadly, is not worth the money.  if you were wondering*) seeing opening night of Ballet West's Sleeping Beauty (SO SO SO AWESOME!  Might be my favorite ballet... so many awesome women's solo parts!).  We've had season tickets for years now #imsoluckymymanlovesballet2 and I still have NO photos of us there together!!  

Tonight!  We're going to Ballet West II's "The Little Mermaid", so hopefully I'll remember to do it!

ANYWAY, the week-early thing is important because we watched my little sister's kids overnight so she and her man could have a special night away for Valentine's.  I had meant to get lots of cute cousinly togetherness photos, but it turns out, there wasn't much time for photos with a 5, 4, 3, 2, and 1 year old to take care of.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be, actually.  But I'm happy to only have 3 bums to wipe every day, instead of 5. :)  (and if my mom hadn't watched their baby, it would have been 6!)

They didn't come over until after lunch, so I tried to make a special breakfast for Jay in the morning.  His all time favorite is Eggs Benedict, and though I've made it many times before, this was definitely the best time yet!  I'll tell you why

1) Homemade English Muffins:
2) Hollandaise sauce recipe from Julia Child's "Mastering the Art of French Cooking". (which I forgot to write down before returning to the library!  doh!)

3) "Poaching" the eggs in a slow-cooker** made everything SO much less hectic, and I was able to put more attention on the Hollandaise- which actually wasn't that hard!  I can never get the blender method (which is what most scaredy cats recommend to novices so they don't scramble the eggs) to thicken up properly!  Give me a whisk and a pan on the stove and I'm good to go. I like being more in the thick of it when I cook :)
I admit, we eat our Eggs Benedict with bacon.  Not the most traditional, but most excellent. :)  And I cook them the uber-gourmet way: in the microwave, between double paper towels.  In fact, you can see them in the background of this next photo...
and here are my flowers from the Jay :)
Now, if I could only make good rice Krispie treats...

footnotes:  Chris!  How do you do that?
*But Valter's Osteria is worth every penny!  Get the pasta tour, or just get the spinach ravioli or the limoncello angelhair.  My mouth is watering right now thinking about them...

**How to "poach" eggs in a slow-cooker, brought to you by "Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook ".  Heat about 1 inch of water in the slow-cooker for 20 minutes. Crack each egg into a separate, Pammed, ramekin or small bowl (I could only fit 4 eggs in my slow cooker) and place them in the hot water.  Cook with the lid on until the whites are no longer runny.  (me thinks it was 15-20 minutes?  it's very flexible, the slow-cooking...)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Quilt Reveal!

So, I'm a thief.  First time I can remember stealing anything.  And let me tell you, I was soooo soooo nervous.  And then to try and fit it into my luggage to go on the plane... that was no small feat.

Let me back-up.

I like to quilt.  Probably not as much as my mother-in-law does though.  She has an awesome machine quilting set-up in her attic that she let me use to finish up this baby so long ago.  And I've pretty much been working on this next one ever since.

Wait, I need to back-up some more...

So, Jay's mom was showing me her stack of quilts and talking about the techniques behind them and all that interesting stuff and then she came to the last one that still had safety pins in it because the quilting hadn't been finished.  She said it was the only quilt that survived the fire when their house burned down about 10 years ago because it had been sitting in the bottom of a trunk, for some odd years waiting to be finished.  The quilt had to be professionally cleaned to get all the smoke smell out of it, which removed all the pencil markings she had made she she would know where to quilt, and so she never got back to marking it again.  Now, she's more of a machine quilter, and she said her eyes just aren't good enough to see to do hand quilting anymore.

I Immediately thought, I should finish it for her for Christmas!

I had no idea what that thought really entailed...

So, the day we left, I snuck into the pile of quilts, frantically ran it up to my luggage (because I knew if anyone caught me in the act I would never be able to pull off lying about it) and used every muscle in my body to cram it into an already brimming suitcase (with my other quilt in there as well...) until the zipper finally closed.  (Meanwhile, wondering how the inspection people would ever get it back in if they were to search my bag.  which they always do...)

We got home and I first thing went to JoAnn's to pick up a lap loom, kinda like this, and set to work.

I first started on the few flowers whose markings were still visible.  After finishing those three squares, I thought to lay out my work when I noticed how all I had just done looked like the work of a Kindergartener compared to the beautiful quilting Pam had started...

Feeling a bit dejected, I carried on.  and on and on and on.....  I can see how a quilter becomes quickly proficient - even the smallest of quilts naturally lends itself to much practicing.

Most of the squares had only a couple of subtle lines or loops left from the cleaning, and so I would scour the flowers that had already been quilted in other squares (thank goodness there were repeats!) and I would figure out which one it was most likely to be, and then try to draw it on, freehanded.

I worked on it almost every night for a couple of hours until I felt a bit burnt out in October (and feeling like I should be thinking about Halloween costumes...) and took a little break.  Then November started, which is when I start panicking about Christmas presents, and I quickly jumped back on the band-wagon.  Finally I had done everything I could see, but there were very intricate borders that had no markings to go on and there was no way I could free-hand those.  I tried a few techniques, all failures, and decided to wrap it up and get the opinion of a master quilter - hoping I could finish the rest during their week long stay.

Pam was very surprised, it was awesome!!  She says she didn't even notice it was gone! score!!  

There are benefits to living far away... knowing me, I'm sure I would have inadvertently blown the whole thing in casual conversation.  

"you don't feel like something from your house might be missing do you?  just checkin'.  no reason..."

Upon further inspection, Pam realized that I hadn't gone around the handles of all the baskets in the outer 9 squares, and I knew then that there was no way for me to finish while they were in town.  We went to my favorite quilt shop's end of the year sale and picked out a binding fabric (and some more fabric for my next quilt. hehe).

Well, 3 months later, I finally finished the quilting and man, am I relieved!  Here it is!!

I wish it were easier to portray the quilting in the photos, but it's really just not the same as in person.  This quilt definitely has much MUCH more quilting, and much more intricate quilting than anything I've ever done.  I really love the look of hand-quilting. It just feels so much more authentic and true to the art form.  (though don't get me wrong, I now officially understand just how much longer it takes to do it by hand.  I machine quilted my sampler quilt in only a few hours!!)
All the white squares have a flower with about 20 petals on it, and a 1/4" border
Each basket has one of 7 different flower patterns between the handle and the body.
The baskets themselves also have quilting in them.

the back side
And a little something to record a bit of its history.  (This was done on my embroidery machine, very quickly, by comparison!)
Jay had to fly to Boston at the beginning of March, and so he took it with him to hand deliver for me :)  These photos are kind of bad because I finished that tag the night before he left, and I remembered, lying in bed, that I didn't get to take any photos of it yet, so these are not taken with natural lighting, as I prefer to do...

So now you know what else I've been doing, instead of blogging!  There's probably one other major thing taking up my time, that I will hopefully be able to blog about soon.  The time is not quite right yet. :)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Book Review: The Newman Resident

I don't normally put book reviews on my blog.  Not sure why...  It would be easy to transfer them from Goodreads, I suppose, but I wanted to do one of this book because 1) the author is my neighbor 2) I want to help him promote the book because I think it's awesome that he wrote and published a novel on the side, just to fulfill a dream, and not because he thinks he'll make any money off it and 3) he's giving it away for free as an ebook on Amazon this week only, from Tuesday, April 1st - Thursday April 3rd.  What do you have to lose?

The Newman Resident, by Charles Swift, is a really quick read, and a thriller.  I don't normally read thrillers, but I couldn't put it down!  (I guess that's the point :D)  I liked how short the chapters were- it made it feel like you were making lots of progress quickly, and it's especially great for a mom with kids at home who are constantly interrupted... it only took a minute or so to get to the end of the chapter if I needed to stop reading when one of my kids needed something.  (I hate stopping in the middle of a chapter.  It's dumb, I know...)

Here's an excerpt from the summary on amazon, to give you a feel for what kind of book it is:

It’s the near future and education has become big business. Dr. Newman is at the leading edge of creating the perfect educational environment for children, and all he requires is a hefty tuition—and your child at the age of six months.

Christopher Carson is one of the “Newman Residents” who live at the Newman Home year-round. His parents, Richard and Carol, both Manhattan attorneys, may disagree about the specifics, but each wants what’s best for their son. For Richard, this means bringing Christopher, now six years old, home for one last summer vacation before the visits become brief and infrequent.

What follows in The Newman Resident is a whirlwind battle between a devoted father and an education system more terrifyingly powerful than he ever could have imagined. It’s a battle that forces him to confront how some will cross any line in order to create the “perfect” child.

I liked that there was no date, but that it clearly felt like the near future - most of the technology was the same, but there were a few slight advances that seemed really realistic.  It made you feel like this kind of world is where we could be heading, and within my lifetime.

It made me stop and think about education quite a bit, though I'm not sure if that was his intention.

As I said before, I couldn't put it down, and read it all in one day.  The next day, I found myself thinking about it all day long.

I thought the characters felt very real, and I liked getting glimpses of the relationship development between the protagonist and his wife.

My book club read this book a couple of months ago, and since we know the author, we invited him along to ask him questions about it.  It was fun to hear how he put himself and others he knew in little bits and pieces throughout the book (for example, he went to Columbia Law, like Richard and Carol, so all the places he talks about in Manhattan are places he used to frequent.) and to hear about how the novel developed.  He said his original manuscript was much, much longer, and he cut out quite a bit to keep it moving and engaging.  It really worked!

I don't want to give any spoilers, so hurry and get the ebook while it's free!  (even if you don't get there in time, it's only $3.99 regularly...)  Be sure to leave a comment on Amazon to help his book get out there!  It only takes a minute!

I think it's so awesome when people have dreams and make them happen :)


PS if you have an account on Goodreads, why don't you "friend me" (or whatever they call it over there...) so I can see what you're reading?  I'm always looking for another book recommendation...

PSS this is not an April Fools' Day post!  I feel really bad for the one I put up last year, because months later, people posted things like, "this is awesome! I can't wait to try it!" and I felt very guilty...  I forgot that what goes on the internet, stays on the internet, and people could find it when it's not April Fools' and take it seriously! I must admit, I briefly considered doing a post about "homemade Doritos" using food storage powdered cheese this year :D

Monday, March 31, 2014

Latest Camera Upload

I just uploaded the photos from my camera.  I feel like I haven't been taking any pictures lately (which is mostly true) but I couldn't believe it has been since JANUARY that I have uploaded anything!!  January?!  

I usually do it weekly.  

Here goes:
 Hazel is my little helper.  She insists on having her own rag when I clean the bathrooms, and I have to wipe down the yucky part of the toilet very quickly while she's busying herself wiping walls or cupboards, otherwise she'll try to help.  She puts her rag in her mouth, on occasion and so...  Anyway, she also enjoys helping me empty the dishwasher.  This particular picture, she wasn't actually being very helpful (but she thought she was, and that's what counts!) but now she's quite good at chucking silverware into the silverware drawer, way over her head, though she can't see exactly where it should go.  She knows where the kid dishes go and my rubber spatulas.  She even knows the cheese grater goes in the corner lazy Susan!  It's awesome!
 Peach has the cutest hand-me-down hat EVER.  She looks like she has funny rabbit ears whenever she wears it.  I guess that on this day she thought it wasn't cold enough for a coat, but it was cold enough for her bunny-hat AND earmuffs...
 I can no longer remember why this happened.  But things like this aren't actually that unusual here...
 Hazel wanted to be part of the action too and she is sooo good about cheesing it up for the camera.
 Ah yes.  She likes to have her own rag in the kitchen too...  Have I even mentioned that she's been walking for over a month now?  I totally forgot how utterly cute early walking is!  The way they pick up their feet so unnecessarily high and teeter their weight back and forth between legs...  It's quite amazing they can even do it, with all the extra effort that requires...
I love this picture because it looks like The Frog can hover.
 Mid jumping photos never get old for me...
 We've been having strangely warm weather lately and I will not complain one bit!  It's been so so nice having the kids ask to go outside again.  When it's cold and there's no snow, there is no draw for them.

 Peach and Hazel both have very fine hair (like me) and they get crazy static hair almost immediately on the trampoline.
 Hazel loves to be bounced in the arms of mommy or daddy.
 I have no idea what they were doing, but Hazel was thrilled to be invited to take part.
 Last week, Hazel has finally advanced her "moe" (milk) and now says a very gutteral and German sounding "moekh".  It's adorable!
plus, those earmuffs! :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Kid Conversation

It was time for lunch and I called everyone to the table.  Peach rushed in first and while waiting at her seat, I noticed she was donning socks, undies and a shirt.

me:  Peach, where are your pants?
Peach: (very casually) I didn't want any...

I decided that she was at least covered in her "nether-regions", and it wasn't worth a fight.  However, during lunch, The Frog managed to somehow spill his green smoothie on Peach.  Her shirt and undies got smeared with green and though my kids are all often caught using their clothes in place of a napkin, apparently it's a big no-no if anyone else's food ends up on their clothes.  After a near conniption, Peach disappeared into the bathroom.  She later emerged wearing nothing but socks, and very comfortably situated herself back at the table to finish her lunch.