September 28, 2009

My first decorated cake is literally a "wreck"

Yesterday we had a baby shower for our friend Kim; it was officially the first gathering at the house sans family. We had a great time talking about babies and birthing and whatnot.

I love hosting things because I can indulge my organizational chakra and play event planner without the crazy demands of a bride or other such paying party. This time I wanted to do a carrot-riding babies carrot cake, a la Cake Wrecks. I was delighted to find the exact baby figures at JoAnn, and had planned on picking up a carrot cake at the bakery. But the places I talked to either didn't have carrot cakes with the frosting carrots on top or they had just had a sale on carrot cakes and were out. Blerg! So I made my own:

A wonderful young woman at the Cub Foods bakery sold me a couple tubes of frosting that she colored and then showed me how to make the carrots. As it turns out, it's not that hard. Sure, my weak little hands made the carrots come out kind of squwiggly, but they look more authentic that way, right? The hardest part was sprinkling/throwing the chopped walnuts at the cake to get them to stick to the sides. Then I just had to add the babies:

September 27, 2009

ready for fall. and, apparently, winter.

Wait, no. I am not ready for winter. That is blasphemous.

But now that it is officially Fall and the trees have started becoming that dry, yellow/green combo, knitting feels more cozy and comfortable. In that spirit, I finished a cowl:

And it matches my hat!

This is what it looks like open:

No, I'm not angry. That's just my face at rest. This one is better:

The pattern is "Swirling Petals Cowl" by Casandra Roberts and it's available as a free Ravelry download. After looking at a gazillion cowl patterns, I decided to add the button and loop so I could sinch it tighter for the winter months of December, January, February, and March. Sigh.

I also decided to start a scarf for the Red Scarf Fund using this pattern and some nice, soft, inexpensive Paton's Chunky Shetland Tweed (in red), the same stuff I used for my green hat, Penny's ill-fitting sweater, and my hand warmers.

September 22, 2009

Knitting for charity is an easy decision

But deciding on which charity is not. If I had the time and money to make a metric ton of things to donate, I would gladly do so. These are the charities that I want to help out, but I'll probably have to narrow down the list a bit (or a lot).

Bundles of Love: Provides basic items for local infants in need.

Hats for the Homeless: Distributes warm clothing to homeless individuals nationally.

Mother Bear Project: This locally-based group sends knitted bears to kids in Africa affected my HIV/AIDS.

Red Scarf Fund (Orphan Foundation of America): Sends Valentine's care packages to young adults entering college who have no immediate family support.

Sheila's Shawls (Silent Witness National Initiative)
: Named for Sheila Wellstone, sends shawls to mothers and sisters of women who have died due to domestic abuse.

Snuggles Project (Hugs for Homeless Animals): Makes the enclosures for sheltered animals a little more cozy.

I don't know why this always enters my consciousness when I'm starting to think about the winter holidays, because most of these orgs, if not all, accept and need donations year-round.

September 21, 2009

I am a domestic goddess

And the hubs is a domestic god. Yesterday, we spent the day canning for the first time! Knowing we'd be two worn-out deities by the end of the process, we started the day by whipping up a batch of chili in the crock pot (meaning we opened a bunch of cans, because our domesticity can only stretch so far in one day). Then we took a trip over to that other city across the river
for their lovely farmer's market. We had several pounds of roma tomatoes from our garden but needed more supplies. All told, we spent just about $20 on more tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, jalapenos, and cilantro. We *may* have also expressed some enjoyment of that particular city across the river. Maybe we were just delirious with salsa cravings.

The hubs - wearing one of my old softball jerseys (reuse, recycle!) did most of the tomato chopping while I blanched them to get the skins off. Definitely the most tedious part, but NOT the most painful. We clearly bought the most potent onions to have ever existed.

Here they are, the little shits. It actually worked out to our favor that we don't own a pot big enough to mix everything in. But splitting everything between two smaller pots (8 quarts each), we could easily make a "mild" batch and a "medium" batch. We'll see how that works out. It's kind of fun that you don't really know until you try it.

All of the canning equipment was FREE, thanks to my grandma. This kettle is old old old, but is exactly like the ones you buy new. It took us about four hours of washing and chopping before it was finally put to use.

Annnnnd, here it is! So pretty. Even though the lids from my grandma have fruit on the top - I guess tomatoes are fruit. We got 13 pints. It took five to six hours. We have a crap-load of tomatoes left over, but we also had to buy lemon juice, so I'd say the total investment was still about $20. Only one jar did not seal, so we'll just use that up first!

Final notes:
1) Making salsa is easy but time and energy consuming.
2) We have new-found respect for the domestic arts. And specifically for those who do it a lot, or lived before modern conveniences like gas stoves and running water, or who endeavor to do it alone, or who endeavor to do it alone AND have children running around.
3) $1.54 for a jar of salsa is pretty awesome.

September 19, 2009

Arrr, get on board with the holiday or walk the plank!

International Talk Like a Pirate Day be today, the nineteenth of September in the year two-thousand and nine. Tis only the fourteenth annual celebration, but - shiver me timbers! - me thinks it'll last longer than a gold medallion in me pocket.

Gratitude be owed to the two chums from parts out west who saw fit to make a day of it. May the scurvy be spare and their booties be large!

September 18, 2009

Mischief Managed: Chicken wire does not deter dog

I don't know what's between the compost and the garage (crickets?), but Penny needs to get them.

She is not deterred by only having three or four inches of space in which to wriggle around trying to find that elusive but must-have something. Nor is she deterred by the marigolds blocking the entrance to said space. One of those marigolds is now crushed.

She doesn't get that something on the first venture into the crevice, so she backs out and tries again and again. It's a little like the part in Finding Nemo when Marlon and Nemo are getting ready for school and they're going in and out of the anemone. "First you go out, then go back in. Then you go back out, and then back in. Then go back in a third time, and then out. And if you want to do a fourth time...". I think here (above) she is on her way out, judging by how the fence is directing her doggy-mustache.

I don't know which way she's going now, but it's hilarious to watch her scale that chicken wire and make little grunts of effort.

September 15, 2009

The Replacement: pride bear

Geez, it's been a while...

In typical fashion, I started a new project before finishing any of the three I already had going. More on that later. Yesterday, I did manage to finish Laura's new bear, and I think it's cuter than the first one. As you can see, the rainbow arms and legs turned out pretty well - looking like she's ready to hit the gym in her fancy leg and arm warmers. Perhaps someday I'll make her a sweat band. Laura won't get it, but I'll think it's funny. I think she might need a sporty little white vest, too.

Of course, Laura still wanted her to have rainbow hair. She even helped me cut the strands one day while I was babysitting. Here is the bear before hair:

Relatively normal bear. But then Laura and I started the hair, and we only got so far before I had to leave, and she wanted to just be done with it and keep the bear, but this is how it looked:

That's pronounced moo-lay. We convinced her the bear would look better if I finished the hair. And it does:

I did knit a little rainbow for the belly in case she wanted her to have one, but it ended up as more of a triangle than an arc. Which really works with the pride-bear theme, but she was cute without it and Laura didn't mention anything today when I gave her the bear. She named it Bella, which is pretty much what she names everything.

September 4, 2009

LOLA Art Crawl, hefty bike ride, summer awesomeness

Last weekend was the first annual art crawl produced by the League of Longfellow Artists (LOLA). There are many celebrated art crawls/fairs/festivals spanning our short summer months, but this new event was exciting for me because the Longfellow neighborhood borders my own. Plus, some of our other art fairs are quite large and draw a lot of national artists - which is great! - but I also appreciate being able to see what my neighbors are turning out. AND it was the perfect day for a bike ride - sunny and 70 degrees. Actually, I was going to drive, but got to the empty garage and then remembered that hubs was using the car to help out a friend that day. So, yes, I biked out of necessity. But it was also delightful.

I stopped at 18 of the 23 locations, which speckled an area of about 20 by 30 city blocks. What is that in miles? I don't know. I do know that I biked about 9.5 miles (15 km), which is probably more than my bike has traveled in the last three years. I did map my ride, but the map would not save, so you can't see it.

In any case, the lovely Glass Endeavors (above) was one of my first stops. It's funny: I may never choose to put glasswork in my own house, yet I think it's fascinating and the colors are like candy. This place teaches classes and has sheets upon sheets of colored glass. Mmmm, candy.

After a few other places, I decided it was a good idea to open up my $600+ camera and take pictures while riding my bike. Don't tell hubs. Just kidding, he already knows. It's hard to hide things when they're on the internet.

I'm obsessed with trees, so I took a bunch of really boring pictures of them because I was trying to capture the way the sun looks shining through all that green. It's probably my favorite thing ever.

Somewhere in here I happened upon Vi Runquist, who has sculpted the cutest group of snow monkeys in the world and if I had the money I would totally buy them. She doesn't have a website, unfortunately, but you can Google her.

A couple of stops later, I found myself at the fabulous Mother Earth Gardens, and the Riverview Cafe and Wine Bar across the street (below). Rain barrels! The Ball Blue Book of Preserving! Weeding tools! Oh, I'll have to go back there someday. And glass artist Lisa Arnold was there, as was Linda Schneewind (one of my very favorites of the day, she designs organic tees).

Moving on...I came to the Fireroast Mountain Cafe (below). Honestly not a big fan of their coffee, but the building is fun and there were a few tents in the parking lot to be seen.

Now, I always felt like people who had animal art were a little crazy. Surely they weren't always crazy, but it's a slippery slope. Normal is at the top, and eccentric fanatic is at the bottom. Once they bought that first dog picture, it became easier to get the dog keychain, and then it was easier to commission someone to do a portrait of their dying dog to put over the mantel.

Well, Kat Corrigan and Mike Traver (not part of this show, but a former colleague) might make me change my mind. I'm not at the commissioning point yet, or even at the keychain point. But I really, really like their paintings. You can sort of see Kat's stuff in the tents (above).

Another awesome find was Gordon M. Coons, who was displaying at one of my next stops. He's an Ojibway/Ottawa artist and does paintings (some take-offs of classics, like "New World Scream") and small sculptures. My faves were the Red-winged Blackbirds, which aren't on his website, but the really cool "Makwa II" is, as well as some examples of how he incorporates gold leaf into his paintings.

Side story! I worked at a Dairy Queen the summer I was 16. Not this one. Every night I would go home with dried soft serve all crusted up my arms from making blizzards because this was in the days before they had those nifty paper tubes to assist in the blizzard-making process. And I remember that every shift, I would hear a Smashmouth song on the radio, make dilly bars, and eat some delicious treats. Those are the best hotdogs in existence, damn it! On the other hand, you don't ever want to sip the misty stuff without putting a flavor syrup in it. You also should think thrice before getting a dipped cone, because while the soft serve and even the hot fudge aren't so bad for you, whatever makes the dipping stuff solidify is VERY bad for you. But delicious, yes, I know. That job is also where I learned that rancid dairy products in the garbage really stink.

So I planned my bike ride to end down by the scenic Minnehaha Falls and park (above). The park building is not so pretty inside, but it serves the purpose of providing shelter and bathrooms, and I think you can host parties there. You can also have picnics and BBQs all over the place outside of the building, where there is an expanse of grass, trees, benches, tables, a little playground, and a band shell.

Steps away is the falls itself (below), which is currently actually flowing because we've had some rain. That has also made the park and everything else nice and green. You can walk down a bunch of steps to the bottom of the falls and go across, walk around, take pictures. Just don't do it in June with kids who will point out every dead caterpillar along the way.

You can rent these bike-thingies, which are pretty cool. I've seen people riding them at least a mile from the rental place, so they must be fun. At this point in my day, I was pretty tired. Too tired to find out what the bike-thingies are actually called or how much they cost.

Sea Salt Eatery is also right there in the park. They specialize in, um, seafood. And they host events and donate to neighborhood causes, so that's neat.

With only a few stops left, I crossed the Minnehaha Creek (which connects our fine city lakes), where some ducks were lazing. This area always amazes me because you might never guess it's in the middle of a city - that a block away there's a lightrail station and just down from that are grain mills. My great-grandma lived a couple blocks away from these ducks and when I was very little, I would visit her and she would take me on walks by the creek and teach me to spot Red-winged Blackbirds.

I've gone by this part of the creek many times, but just noticed that there is a fire hydrant almost hiding in the reeds. Weird.

This is why I live here.

Last pic from the bike.

Last stop of the crawl - Twisted Groove. They liked my hat (I made a red one for myself), and I liked them.

Home. 2 pm. Every Saturday should be like this.

September 2, 2009

Sweet, sweet freedom and refinishing a table

Yesterday was the official move-out date for sis and her family. It took the insurance company three and a half months to decide that they did not start their own fire and that the house and everything in it will be rebuilt, replaced, or refurbished.

To be clear, I love my family. But it has been a stressful summer living together. A of all, it's like having any other roommates - you do things differently and it just gets on the nerves. Secondly, nobody had the space they were used to or the freedom to walk around in their underwear (well, the kids did it often). C of three, everybody was all up in everybody else's business because of the proximity, and because there are simply a lot of issues to be dealt with; not the least of which has been hoping the insurance comes through and, meanwhile, jumping through their hoops.

So today the rest of the boxes will be picked up and brought to the new rental townhouse that the insurance is *finally* paying for. And I start my massive cleaning campaign. The real joy of it is that things won't become sticky, smelly, or just dirty within hours of cleaning. My counter will not constantly be a sickening combination of spilled milk, gooey cereal bits, cracker crumbs, and some kind of glue-like substance or another. There will not be handprints on my doors. I will be picking up after myself and the hubs, and no one else. Glorious.

Quasi-related is the clearing out of my grandma's house, which works out nicely for people who have recently lost everything in a fire, as well as for other family members who have inherited a penchant for hoarding. I always feel a little guilty when I go over there because I always come back home with something, like I'm pilfering things out of someone else's home. Because that's pretty much what I'm doing. But grandma doesn't need the stuff. And by adopting some of it, I'm reducing the world's trash and saving money for myself. Right? For example:

It was my mom's job as a girl to keep this table dusted. Now I've taken it home to become a plant stand because I HAVE NO HOUSE PLANTS, which is just ridiculous and unhealthy and I've vowed to change that, and now I don't have to buy a plant stand.

I started sanding it yesterday - by hand - so you can see the difference between the bare wood and the old, scratched, syrupy-looking finish. I have never refinished anything myself, so we'll see how this goes. Frankly, I may be lucky to get past sanding, what with all the nooks and crannies of the legs and the various under-parts that might have to be removed.

So now that my house and time are once again mine, I feel like I owe it to myself to go on a crafting binge and (once again) put the job search off for a spell. My God, I've had a lot of *reasons* to put off getting a job. Coincidence?