Wednesday, June 28, 2006

UPDATE! Cool Knitting Lady Update!!!

Thank you so SO much if you plan to mail the Cool Knitting Lady mail! I mailed her three lumps/ balls/ skeins of yarn. I sent her note that said I had posted her address on the blog and emailed my girlfriends. I also told her that I would pray for her to complete her goal of 200 hats for the homeless of Detroit.

On Friday I received a thank you note from her!!! I don't know how to scan a letter but here is her letter. It also had a mini-hand written note enclosed that I did scan for you below. She knits AND has super etiquette skills. I LOVE thank you notes! I also love her great prayers so I am sharing them with you.

From Ms. Charlene Breakfield:

"June 21, 2006
Dear Emily,
Thank you, thank you, thank you, for the wonderful gift. I don't know how I found my way to you, but I know that Father God had a hand in it. Your gift of yarn will be a blessing to so many people. My blessing for finding you, your blessing for being able to give this gift to me, and blessings to the person who will receive the hat I will make.
We still have a long way to go to achieve our goal of 200 hats, so I would appreciate if you would continue to keep me in your prayers.
Again I thank you,
Charlene Breakfield"

THREE BALLS OF YARN! All those prayers and gratefulness...for three lousy balls of yarn. I will be scouring the Michaels/ Joann's clearance racks all year!

In case you too need to feel like a hero for a ball of yarn:
Charlene Breakfield
18943 Vaugham
Detroit, MI 48219

Friday, June 23, 2006

Check out my mad Photoshop skillz

Okay, in reality, I know nothing about Photoshop, but...

A recent thread on scrapjazz introduced me to the wonderful world of Photoshop actions. Did you know that there are nice people who figure out all of the technical steps involved to make my pictures look better and then post them on the internet? There are.

I may have gotten a little carried away playing with pictures of my dog, but it was pretty fun...

The "Urban Acid" effect is pretty cool. What started out as an ordinary shot of Maddie sitting on my balcony now looks like she's a gritty urban dog living on the mean streets of Louisville. Doesn't she look tough?

This one is the Gothic Glow action. Somehow it makes this look like really soft fall light, rather than I just have dead leaves on my balcony in June.

Then I had a bunch of fun with Aly's Vintage actions. This is Madeline's friend Gracie. She was just back from the groomers and showing off her new bandana.

More vintage fun. This started out as a picture of Maddie refusing to look at the camera because I wasn't giving her cookies.

Now, it's a picture of her showing off her new purple collar.

Now, it's a picture of her looking thoughtfully into the future. Cheesy? Yes. Getting printed out as an 8x10 for Maddie's puppy scrapbook? You betcha.

The last action I was playing with was LensBlur. I think this could be excellent for Little League action photography. Check out Maddie's great form. I bet she gets an athletic scholarship some day.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Okay, so who wants to make me dinner?

As the daughter, sister-in-law, niece and friend of a fair few engineers, I couldn't help but find Cooking for Engineers to be a really amusing site.

Several recipes and articles made use of calipers. I particularly enjoyed the discussion on the relative merits of measuring brown sugar by mass vs. volume. As you may have gathered by my previous posts, I still need to be sold on the merits of measuring ingredients period.

If there are any engineers in your life, you can probably relate to this overanalytical method of doing everything. (The last time I was home, my Dad was testing the relative fluffiness of scrambled eggs made using a double boiler vs. a skillet)

That said, the recipe for cheesecake cupcakes looked really yummy. So if you know any engineers, do have them check out Cooking for Engineers. And then see if any of them wants to come over and make me dinner.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Blueberry season

(In case you were wondering why I keep posting recipes, it is because I am a really slow knitter. If I only talked about the various unfinished knitting projects at my house, you'd think I never finished anything. Which is actually pretty accurate)

This is a nice little cake that I like to make during blueberry season. Like a lot of my recipes, it is based on one from The Joy of Cooking. It is a reduced-fat cake and has fruit in it, so I feel totally justified eating the leftovers for breakfast the next day.

Blueberry Orange Yogurt Cake

5 T butter
1 c sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp Orange Liqueur (like Cointreau)
zest of one orange
2 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 - 6oz cups plain, fat free yogurt
1 pt blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour your cake pans. I don't frost this cake, so I try to use a fancy shaped pan.

Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add the eggs and liqueur. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Gradually add the dry ingredients and yogurt to the batter. Fold in the blueberries and dump into your cake pan.

Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes, or until done. Dust the cooled cake with powdered sugar and serve. Yummy.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Cool Knitting Lady

Hey bloggers & crafty chicas!

I was at a garage sale this weekend and met the coolest lady ever! She came up looking to buy yarn. I apologized...while we had a plethora of odd left-over wedding gifts for yarn. She told me she knits hats for the Detroit area homeless shelters. Her goal this year is 200 hats. She made 108 last year...slowed by a stroke. Amazing!

She needs yarn...any kind, any color. Do you have blue left from the "oops it's a girl" blanket? A little left from a finished project? Alot left after some sweater debacle meltdown? Pass it along!

No yarn? Think some kind thoughts for her to make 200!

Charlene Breakfield
18943 Vaugham
Detroit, MI 48219

Friday, June 09, 2006

What's the story morning glory?

When my neighbor Beverly offered me some of the morning glory she had started from seeds, I should have politely declined. Who are we kidding? My thumbs are most definitely not green (more of a fleshy pink, if you were wondering). This is why I don't have a yard - less wildlife to kill with just a balcony.

But she offered and I thought I'd take a chance. Things were going okay at first. I re-potted the seedlings so they would have some room to grow. (grow morning glory, grow!)

Then I set the pot on my little table where I thought they would get the most sun until they were big enough to start wrapping around the balcony. Turns out, because our gutters need to be cleaned out, there was something of a waterfall right on top of my plant. Seriously, what are the odds that the one spot on our whole roofline that would jam would be right over my balcony?
One heavy rainstorm later, about a quarter of my potting soil was washed away and both plants were completely uprooted. I covered their little roots back up but things aren't looking good for the little guys. I'm pretty sure one is definitely a goner.

And now...what the heck is this?

Scary little red spider guys all over my one surviving morning glory. They better not eat it. Hopefully the rain will keep my plant adequately watered because I'm a bit scared to go on my balcony until the little red spider guys are gone.

In other news, June 10th is apparently World Wide Knitting in Public Day (seriously - you can look it up). I'm planning to go to the Louisville Irish Fest. Should be a perfect place to practice some cables on a lovely Irish wool. But who are we kidding, I'll probably just go and drink beer. Have a great weekend guys!

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Scrapping Stress

Oh..I am back...and where was I you ask?...SCRAPBOOKING! I went to London in March...this spawned the need for a scrapbook.

And yes Beatles purists...I know we are out of was 25 degrees and I still went barefoot. And what is not mentioned in any tour book is this is a 45 mph crosswalk with no need to make a dash and pray. No time to refer to the album cover.

This is only my second attempt at scrappin'. For the first I bought a kit...every page and embellishment perfectly matched...just insert photos. No problem. For London, I attempted to go it alone. THIS IS STRESSFUL! Maybe I am alone on this...but while I love amassing scrap and craft supplies. Coordinating it down to a matching album's worth almost broke me. I discovered I have at least 25 pages and stickers applicable for New Years Eve or a Champagne Party???? But they were of no use to me here. Also troubling is as all our friends seem to have days of having a Champagne Party are seriously numbered.

So back to the store I go. The meltdown begins. I find pages I like, but then can't find enough in the color family for a whole album. So where do I branch out? Do I flow through the book in some ROYGBIV fashion? Or do I look for a theme color to have reappear within different patterns? Do I buy embellishments? If so...what is a rule of thumb number on these? It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip...does this authorize many doodads per page? Or do I reign it in and choose a select few to reflect the refinement of the English culture? But they are so cute?!? Is there a happy medium?

Like job interview where you should have no more then three items of flair...ring-watch-scarf, buttons-ring-earrings etc........where do you go to find out if the little beads and stickers are in "accent mode" or if I am now a scrapping hillbilly with too many knicknacks and have the car-on-blocks-in-the-front-yard vacation album?

Aaaaaagh! Then...YOU CUT YOUR PHOTOS! So I then become insane trying to include the properly stationed BigBen behind my head while trimming a little off of my arms. Liposuction ala Fiskars Rotary Trimmer.

After hours in the store. Then mapping my album across the floor for color the dog decided to nap in my "beige and black" series...I begin. Then I worry I have too many photos of BigBen on the same page. But helloooooo I was a tourist. You really do get excited everytime you see it. Next thing you know there is a BigBen on every roll!

Then I try again. Oops, in trimming to perfect 4x4 inch squares I get too aggressive on one side and then we are falling off of the photo instead of happily centered in it. Oh. Can I add ribbon? Maybe. Then I glue the ribbon to my kitchen table. Clean table. Can I have a photo of BigBen with a die cut sticker of BigBen on the same page? Who knows? I bought a super cute umbrella sticker. Everyone thinks of rain when they think of London. We however experienced 9 days, no rain. Can I put in the umbrella on theme? Or am I unfairly playing to stereotypes. This is important as I believe Detroit should be a tourist destination...I can't very well be a Detroiter and then dog other cities with their skewed negativities can I? Skipped the umbrella. But it was cute. Perhaps I will mail "April Showers" cards in '07? Move on to a non-BigBen page. I actually get a little fancy and make my own page marrying patterned paper with a solid. Feeling good. Decide a little merlot would help. The merlot glass sweats onto the page. Start over. I discover the ribbon cannot be saved post merlot. Run back to store for more. In my state of panic I buy a scrapping paper organizer. After satisfying my Type-A issues I feel more zen. Return home. Merlot on coaster. Make three more pages. If you are counting I have been at this all day and completed four pages. Husband asks me which day I am on. I scream DAY ONE THIS IS HARD YOU A$#! He hides in the basement with the dog. By midnight I am on Day Three and only seven completed pages. 4 stickers. 9 doodads.

But then. After two furious weeks. It is complete. Everyone who asks to see photos says the album is "nice". "Nice" like actual sweat and toil was not involved. Like the price tag of this completed album doesn't rival the actual airfare to London. Nice.

For now I am retired from scrapbooking...bought more 12x12 paper retired for now.

On a TOTALLY DIFFERENT UN-RANTY is an amazing place we went for dinner in London. Ffiona's. Yes...that is Ffiona and she is ffabulous! Ever crafty, this independent business owner is open every day except for when she closes for spring vacation. She modgepodged the whole ceiling in sheet music. See her wine bottle candle holders! She joined us for a drink then cooked us the best dinner ever! It is small and intimate. The menu is handwritten on the wall every night but I suggest eating whatever Ffiona suggests.

So their little toes don't get cold...

It seems that everyone I know has just had a baby, or is about to have a baby, or wants a baby. While I would love to make something wonderful and homemade for each and everyone of the new little ones, there is a limit to my time and yarn budget.

I found this sweet little pattern for booties in I Can't Believe I'm Knitting!

Personally, I find the exclamation point in the title embarrassing, but they have excellent diagrams and instructions and quite a few nice beginner patterns.

So this was my first try at booties. My friend Erica is expecting a girl, so this pair will probably go to her. I picked an acrylic blend fingering weight for the yarn so they can be tossed in the washing machine - I love easy care items. I inadvertently added two rows to the cuff of the first one, but was pretty impressed with myself that I could match the mistake on the second one. (It's not a mistake - just a variation in pattern - yeah, that's it)

I used less than a half skein of yarn for the pair of them and they are easy to knit up in a weekend, so I'll probably be making more of these.

You may remember that I am supposed to be working on a basket weave afghan for Victory Junction. It's still there, but I'm only about 10% of the way done so it isn't too photogenic at this point. More updates soon.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Good cheese and good friends

A few years ago, my friend Harriet introduced me to the wonderful goat cheeses made at the Capriole farmstead. We spent a lovely afternoon petting the goats and tasting the cheeses up in southern Indiana.

If you are ever in the neighborhood, it is worth paying a visit to the farm. Failing that, check the cheese counter at your local grocer to see if they stock Capriole chevre. Their Fromage a Trois (hee) bourbon chocolate torta is about the greatest thing I have ever tasted. (It sounds gross I realize, trust me on this - you need to try it) You can order cheese from their website, but it is a bit pricey since you need to rush ship it.

Since it is now tomato season as well, I made this quick dish for a barbecue with friends over the weekend:

Goat cheese stuffed cherry tomatoes

2 oz herbed goat cheese (you could add your own herbs to plain, fresh goat cheese, but that just seems silly when the nice cheese people have already done it for you)
1 pt cored cherry tomatoes

The toughest part of this is coring the tomatoes. I had a cookbook suggest using a serrated spoon to hollow out the tomatoes - but that seemed a bit fussy. Cut a small circle off of the top of the tomatoes with a paring knife. Shove your finger into the tomato to get the seedy-liquidy part out. Doesn't have to be perfect, you just don't want everyone to squirt tomato juice on their cute barbecue clothes.

These are my tomatoes, all cored and ready to go.

Then I used my fingers to smoosh a dollop of cheese into each of the tomatoes. You could use a spoon or a spatula if you are so inclined, but that just means more dishes to wash.

Voila! The finished product. My presentation is a little lacking since I was packing these to take to a friend's house. They seem pretty fancy if you arrange them on a tray at your own house. You could get really crazy and garnish the tray with some of the herbs that are mixed into the cheese, but that's just not my life.