Monday, December 29, 2008

Well, back to reality. Coming back to work after a lovely week of vacation is quite a jolt. It was a nice break. We ate lots of yummy meals (and cookies), and went to Anthony Lakes for skiing and snowboarding, watched movies, and did a fair bit of lazing around nursing colds. It was really great to spend some time with my sister and brother-in-law. It was even good to see my stubborn, opinionated, and intolerant father, who is apparently not as enamored of our nice new home as we are, after he found out that our middle-aged landlords (who live across the street and very nicely came over to help him dig his car out of the 10” of snow we got) are not married. Gasp. The horror. The world is doooooomed.


Emma tried skiing for the first time, and after a bit of resistance seemed to enjoy it…mostly. She wasn’t too keen on sliding down the hill by herself, but thought going with me and holding on to my legs while we snowplowed together was great. I initially was on a snowboard in the morning, but switched it out for skis after lunch because I was Not. Having. Fun. Snowboarding is hard and frustrating. I am a wimp. Even today, three days later, I am feeling muscles that apparently don’t get used much. I really must get back in the habit of going to the gym (see also: cookies, above).

One last thing, which has me in a fair froth of excitement, is my Christmas (and New Year’s and birthday and Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s Day and anniversary and Fourth of July and … you get the picture) present to myself. I ordered it on Friday, it should be here January 7, it is coming from Copper Moose’s eBay store, it shipped this morning and the box weighs 31 lbs according to the UPS website, and I am SO EXCITED!

Can you guess? Hee hee!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

We made more cookies today, helped by the resident princess.

Princess dresses make everything more fun, don't you know. We made shortbread jam sandwiches, yum.

That's my home made plum-orange jam in the middle, and they are divine.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yummy bean soup and biscuits were on the menu tonight. I took a 1-lb package of dried beans (16-bean mix), a smoked ham bone, a bay leaf, half an onion (chopped), a carrot (chopped), garlic, and 8 cups of water and cooked them all over very low heat for four hours. At the very end, I mashed some of the beans to thicken the broth, and pulled the bits of ham meat off the bone. Easy peasy, and the result was a hearty soup that costs almost nothing. Paired with scratch-made biscuits fresh out of the oven and it was a very satisfying meal. (Adding a salad would have been even better, but I ran out of energy.)

Beans are so pretty.

Monday, December 22, 2008

My sister and Emma and I had lots of fun concocting various baked goods this afternoon. We started with Hershey's Kiss cookies (Note that the instructions at that link don't tell you when to add the milk. We added it with the rest of the wet ingredients):

They are as good as we remember. Then I tried a new recipe, loosely based on this Spicy Molasses Cookies recipe. It's a keeper.

We modified the recipe a bit: used honey instead of molasses (because I don't like molasses and didn't have any anyway), only used 1/2 cup of shortening, and subbed a heaping teaspoon of fresh grated ginger for the dried powdered ginger. Yum. The flavor of fresh ginger is so much better than dried. It's more floral and less bitter.

I also made Julekage (Scandinavian Christmas bread) for Christmas morning, and my sister made carnitas for dinner. The carnitas were yummy, but when you're five nothing holds a candle to COOKIES FOR DESSERT!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Just to be perfectly clear, I was not complaining about my job yesterday. I am exceedingly grateful that I have a job. I was only complaining that I spent all weekend sick, and couldn't go out to play when I finally felt better.

Because, you know, the snow is so pretty.

That's the front yard of our new house, with a lilac bush and a little stream on the left. There's plenty of room for snow angels.

There's an alley way in the back, with a birdfeeder next to the bushes that are always chock full of sparrows and juncos.

(The birdfeeder has been de-snowed since I took the picture!) The back yard has a thicket of plum trees bordering the stream.

Did I tell the story of finding this house? Well those plum trees in that picture are the plum trees from this post. Remember all that plum jam? When Emma and I showed up at the address from the Freecycle ad to pick free plums, we found out that we actually knew the people who placed the ad. They're the managers of the GROWISER preserve, where Emma and I have had several beautiful walks over the past couple years. Turns out they also own the house where the plums are, and were looking for renters. We hadn't been looking for a new place, but when the opportunity presented itself, we took it. The new house is slightly cheaper, slightly bigger, and just a nice-feeling place. More light and a better floorplan. We like it, and we also love that our rent is put toward maintaing and improving a native plant and wildflower preserve, rather than going to a money-grubbing faceless landlord and the rental management company that wouldn't even fix broken screens or clean the chimney before we moved in.

I never would have guessed, when I went for a walk to look at flowers or saw an ad for free fruit, that it would help me find a better place to live. It was a series of threads that came together just right. Serendipity.

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Monday and I'm at work. I'm writing permit applications for two stream modification projects (a diversion dam/fish ladder replacement, and a bank stabilization) that will be built next summer.

Next summer seems a long ways away. I know that if I don't finish these applications in a timely manner (as in: this week), the clients won't get their permits in time and won't be able to do these much needed projects and water quality will get even worse in those streams and the fish still won't be able to get upstream to spawn.

I know all that, but next summer still seems like a long way off, especially when we've gotten 10 inches of snow over the past two days and it is still snowing. All I want to do is escape from my desk with my newly-recovered health, snatch Emma out of daycare, and go sledding. Of course that's followed by mugs of hot chocolate with liberal toppings of marshmallows, a snuggly blanket for two on the couch, a Star Wars movie, and my knitting.

Pesky work. It's just not fair.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

I'm feeling SO much better today. The horrendous sinus pressure finally abated Friday, my energy level is back up since yesterday, and I can stay awake longer than four hours at a stretch. It was a miserable three days, but I think it's about run its course.

Every time I recover from a cold, I am reminded anew how amazing the human body is if you take care of it. The ability to defend itself against germs, to repair damage, is nothing short of miraculous. Not to mention the ability to forget pain; the sinus pressure that made being in a well-lit room torture is barely a memory. Same thing with the kidney stone that made itself felt at 2 am in July of 1998, and childbirth in September of 2003. A detached memory that these were painful experiences remains, but no physical body awareness. And incidentally, if I had to choose between the kidney stone and childbirth again, I'd pick childbirth every time. The kidney stone was more far more painful than labor, even the labor before the epidural FINALLY kicked in when transition was nearly over. And at least I got a baby out of that trip to the hospital.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I do not like being sick. I am currently sick. I am not happy.

I tried to go to work yesterday and today, but ended up coming home early both days. Today was worse. All I want to do is watch escapist TV (working my way through Alias again), hold a hot rice bag on my forehead, and whimper.

My head feels like it's stuffed with fiberglass, held in place with staples through my sinuses. My skin hurts (probably from the fiberglass dust leaking out through the staple holes), and my throat does too. My scalp hurts, and it feels like my hair is growing into my head instead of out.

It's possible that the Sudafed has made me loopy.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Getting ready...

Another tree we cut ourselves in the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, with our $5 permit. Thinned from a crowded thicket, leaving room for the others, and grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides. I like how the sparse and spindly branches let the ornaments and lights sparkle together.

(P.S. All these photos was taken with only the tree lights on. No tripod, and no "adjustments" to the photo after taking it, other than resizing. I love my new camera.)

Monday, December 01, 2008

A couple months ago I received a lovely surprise gift from Norma (I know! Norma! Famous Norma! Sent something to me!), just because I was having a sleepless night, was up way late -- rather like tonight -- and found the typo she was wondering about in her Blog-365 post numbering.

This is a 1.9 oz wool-silk batt. I don't know where she got it, or the official colorway name, but Norma called it Strawberry Chiffon and that is perfect.

The wool (merino? something soft, anyway) is pale pink, and the silk is red. It's a carded batt, not top, and not thoroughly blended, and really didn't want to be superfine laceweight. It wanted to be thicker, so that's what I did. And just for kicks, I decided to spin this on the Schacht spindle, even though I was at home and standing four feet from my wheel. It just seemed like the right thing to do.

It was lovely, like gulping down a big bowl of strawberry ice cream. I couldn't stop once I got started, and it was nice to spin something other than laceweight for a change. I didn't worry about getting a perfectly even yarn, since the batt had some nepps and the silk was streaked throughout the batt instead of blended. I did split the batt into quarters and predraft a little to even out the silk just a bit, though.

This was not only spun on the spindle, but plied as well. It worked very well to wind the singles off into a ball, hold both ends of that ball together and wind it into another ball, and ply from that doubled ball. Much easier than plying on a spindle from bobbins.

Two ounces is apparently about the maximum that a 1.1 oz. Schacht Hi-Lo will hold. That spindle is stuffed! It wouldn't work as a top-whorl spindle after about an ounce was plied, because the yarn was too close to the edge of the whorl, so I just turned it over and used it as a bottom-whorl, with a half hitch. No biggie. Next time I will make an egg shaped cop so that there's still a space below the whorl to facilitate using the whorl notch and hook, without the yarn rolling along the edge.

It turned into 170 yards of puffy, lofty two-ply fingering weight, approximately 15 wpi.

That picture is actually taken after I washed the skein, but before I put it back on the spindle to add a bit of plying twist. If you click to enlarge, you may see some spots that are seriously underplied, but that has been fixed now. It was amazing how this fluffed up in the wash. It's incredibly soft. Yum.

Thanks, Norma! This was fun!