I finished American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfield, last weekend, so I picked up City Dharma, by Arthur Jeon.  I started it over a year ago, and have been reading a chapter here and a chapter there.  It’s basically applying buddhist philosophy to living in crowded cities.  It address a lot of city issues that make it seem impossible to live as a peaceful, understanding, compassionate person.  Jeon addresses the issues so realistically, and without judgement, that it makes you feel as if everyone could benefit from reading just a chapter or two. I also read another knitting mystery by Maggie Sefton, which I do everytime I get big into my crafting again.  They’re fluffy and I can finish them in an evening or two.

I joined a second book club- so this month I’ll be reading In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote, and Censoring an Iranian Love Story by Shahriar Mandanipour.

I finished my iris cross-stitch project.  It came with an illustrated mat, so I just need to find a frame for it.

irisdoneI worked for a few hours on my cable scarf.  It looks the same as last week, only a few inches longer. It’s taking forever, as all knitting does for me.  A coworker is having a baby, so I’ll start a crochet blanket soon to make me feel more productive.


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Back in the Saddle

On Friday we had crazy rain. I had intended to meet up with some gals for a crafting day on Saturday, so we went to the storage unit to retrieve my boxes and bins of yarn and needles. Instead of going out I stayed home and had my own crafting day.  I worked on my irises cross-stitch. I finished the main work and started doing the outline stitching. It’s looking pretty nice.

irisI picked up my gray shawl and once again started it over because it had so many dropped stitches.  After restarting 5 times, I gave up on it for now.  So I decided to teach myself to make cables. I’m starting with a simple scarf pattern. It’s really easy and the cable is looking great.

Cable1I’ll likely finish American Wife today (only 50 pages left), and I think I’ll start on Wally Lamb’s The Hour I First Believed. But in recounting what I read this summer, I forgot to mention Tana French’s In the Woods.  It was a thriller-type novel about a detective who, as a child disappeared with two friends and was the only one to be found.  He is assigned to the case of child murdered in the same woods where he was lost. Great story, quick read, though only a meh ending.

6a00d83451bcff69e201157213461c970b-300wiToday, to celebrate the start of football season I made a taco salad- sauteed veggie chicken in taco seasoning, kidney beans, jalepenos, tomatoes, avocado, on a bed of tortilla chips (and lettuce, though ours was no good, so we tossed it) topped with salsa and sour cream. So easy, so yummy!

NYOS4Parent conferences are half over. Tomorrow I have 6 more, then Thursday I have one in the afternoon, then I’m done! Only 2 weeks until fall break!

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This summer I ended school on June 19th, packed up my apartment, and was on the road moving halfway across the country on June 22.  We arrived in our new city on June 25th. On June 27th I took the teaching certification test. I took the next week off and celebrated my 3rd wedding anniversary. Then began teacher inservice at my new school the following week. I usually spend my 8-10 week summer vacation cooking, crafting, and reading.  Instead, I had only one week off and that was spend unloading the moving truck and relaxing in front of cable TV.

We’re subletting an apartment as we search for a place of our own. It’s strange being in a kitchen that isn’t yours and has very few pieces of equipment that are yours or that you want to use. So the summer has progressed without much kitchen interest on my part.  But today- labor day- I made a black bean salad for lunch with friends.

blackbeansaladIt smells so yummy. I think it will taste great on some lettuce with some tortilla chips. It’s red, green and yellow peppers and onions in large pieces- mixed with olive oil, canned corn, and red wine vinegar- black beans rinsed and drained. Salted and peppered to taste. So not exactly kitchen cooking, but definitely kitchen prep work.

I haven’t crafted anything, though with football season starting next weekend, I think I’ll send my husband to the storage unit to dig out my yarn and needles. I want to get working on my gray shawl.  I did bring my mom’s blanket that I haven’t touched in a while.  I’ve also got a matching hat for the baby blanket that I need to finish.

For my next book club meeting I’m reading American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfield.  It’s the fictionalized account of former first lady Laura Bush’s life. I’m about half way through and loving the book.  It’s fascinating how a smart, multi-faceted, liberal woman can put aside personal beliefs and dogma and wind up with a man like the former president.


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Long Time Gone

Wow.  My last post was about the Super Bowl, and here I am now, watching preseason football.  I have an excuse for the absence, though. Around February we (my husband and I) decided to seriously pursue the prospect of moving. And as you may know, moving- the planning, the prepping, the packing, the pain- becomes all consuming.

But we survived and are happily living in Austin, TX. Now that we’re more settled in, the crafting bug has bit me again.  I didn’t work on much this summer- most of my supplies are still packed away in our storage unit.  And I didn’t do much from scratch cooking because produce in the the hothot Texas summer is nothing like the bountiful fruits and veggies of California in the summer. We did get a grill, and barbecued every night for about three weeks straight, though.

A good friend had a beautiful baby girl this summer.  I began this blanket this past winter when I knew she was pregnant.  I finished it the week after we moved.  And just today I stitched the baby’s name into the corner.

OlinBlanketThe pattern is from Blankets, Hats, and Booties to Knit and Crochet by Kristin Spurkland.  I used lightweight organic pima cotton. I’m working on a matching hat, but it’s not turning out the way I’d like right now. Maybe I’ll post it later if it magically fixes itself.

I have done a ton of reading this summer.  I’m in the middle of a bunch of books. My latest book club book is Love Wife, by Gish Jen. It’s amazingly good.  A white woman and Chinese-America man marry, adopt two asian children and have one birth child.  When the husband’s mother dies, she requested that the family sponsor a long-lost relative, in the hopes of her son taking on a Chinese wife.  The visitor causes all kinds of strife within a family trying to figure out its identity.

Love WifeI also read The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  It’s a kid’s book marketed toward fans of Harry Potter and Series of Unfortunate Event series.  So, I’m the target audience.  It’s about a group of highly gifted orphans who get drafted into a society to overtake a man who is trying to take over the world.  They have to go undercover to a school that he runs where we brainwashes his students into helping him with his mission. Loved it!

Mysterious Benedict SocietyMy first Austin book club was on Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. It’s written in letter format. The correspondence is between a female journalist/writer in England and the inhabitants of the island of Guernsey, which was occupied by Germany during the war.  She decided to write their story and becomes part of their close-knit community. It was a quick read, and very sweet.

guernseypotatopeelpieThere were definitely a few more books read this summer, though my brain isn’t remembering what I’ve read recently, besides the three listed here.  My book shelves are full of books just waiting to be cracked open, though with school back in session, I’m reading more Newbery Award Winners from the 1960s, than adult fiction, right now.

It’s good to be back.

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I’ve been losing track of time easily these days.  I’m not sure what I’ve been doing, exactly, between now and my last post on New Years Day. I started back to school, we inaugurated a new president, the Steelers won the Superbowl (boo), I’ve had parent conferences, and written 20 7-page report cards and and additional 40 math-specific pages for students not in my homeroom. I’ve done almost no cooking-from scratch, and have been singing the praises of frozen vegetarian meet items, frozen steamed vegetables, and starchy sides.  I did make beef stew, though.  I’m not sure I’ve ever had real beef stew. I don’t remember my mom making it, but maybe.  Anyway, as I said in my last post the roots and tubers of winter have been filling me up and inspiring me to make comfort foods.  I found a veggie beef stew recipe in the Cooking with PETA cookbook. It was SO tasty and lasted us many days, including lunches!

beefstewFor SuperBowl Sunday stayed in. I assumed we’d make a pizza and drink beer, but the husband had different plans.  He wanted to do a theme-dinner- anything that can be dipped.  So we cut up veggies- carrots, turnips, celery, had chips, cheese, cheezits, pretzels, olives, mini pickles, pita bread.  I made two dips- guacamole and salsa ranch dip, and we bought some olive hummus.  It was quite a spread.  I was eating raw veggies and dip almost all week for lunch.

superbowlAt school we watched the Inauguration with the kids.  It was an amazing experience to share with them.  They couldn’t quite grasp how historical an event they were watching, they were excited and attentive regardless.  A parent brought in Obama cookies.  I think they’re crazy- the image is laser-printed onto the frosting.  That can’t be good for you!

obamaI’m nearly finished with my first time-intensive cross-stitch project.  I’m finishing up the shadows and then I need to outline everything.  It’s looking really nice, despite the many, many errors I made in counting.

xstitchirisI’m still working on the sci-fi books, but I did manage to finish three other books.  

Destined for Destiny is a autobiographical spoof of George Bush by some of the editors of The Onion.  It was pretty funny. It’s been sitting on my book shelf for 3 years and I figured I should get through it soon. The jokes and stabs at the former president’s awful speech and grammar are funny the first time, but get old as they’re repeated.  

destined_for_destinyI also read Light on Snow by Anita Shreve.  I’ve never read anything by her, but this book was on mega-discount a while ago, so I picked it up.  It was totally contrived and mostly uninteresting.  It’s the story of a twelve year old who moves from New York to rural New Hampshire after the death of her mother and baby sister. The father becomes a recluse. One day they find an abandoned infant in the woods and then meet the mother and blah blah.

lightThis morning, I started and then finished Brief Intervals of Horrible Sanity by Elizabeth Gold.  She’s a published writer who took a job at a “progressive” high school in Queens in 2000. She went in in February after 3 other English teachers quit. Her story is interesting and, at times, hysterical. I laughed out loud at this part:

She’s describing this kid, who is a good kids, but does no work. He’s obviously really intelligent, and doesn’t start any of the trouble in class, but clearly relishes the mischief going on around him.  

“I have my eye on Stephen Thomas. This morning he is actually doing what he’s supposed to do. He is sitting quietly reading a book provided by the Parent Committee. One eyebrow is raised, as if he is about to utter some cutting witticism at a cocktail party, something that will be quoted, among his acquaintances, for years.

Stephen is reading The Bobbsey Twins.”

Ha! That still makes me crack up.

briefThis weekend we’re headed out of town. Yay!

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Happy New Year!

Sorry it’s taken me almost a month to update.  I spent the remainder of my vacation both getting ready to return to school, and doing nothing but reading and watching movies.  It was so relaxing.

I’ve been decidedly un-crafty since my last post.  I did manage to knit a scarf while watching the Cowboys get creamed by the Eagles. It’s my New Years scarf.  It’s a beautiful white and silver yarn by Lily Chin, done on big needles.

newyearscarf1jpgnewyearscarfcloseI worked a little on my mom’s afghan.  I added a golden yellow color, because I realized two skeins in that I didn’t have enough green.  I haven’t picked it up since I’ve been back to school; with conferences, mid-year assessments, and report cards coming up I’ve been stay at school late.

Yesterday I did get motivated to put together a card for Maggie’s birthday.  For X-Mas my mom sent me the much wished for Doodlecharms and Indie Art Cricut cartridges. I used the cupcake border to make Maggie’s card:

magsbdayI have been all about food, though.  Food is one area where I don’t slack!  A few weeks ago I made cabbage rolls, inspired by Kiki’s post.  My mom used to put cabbage rolls in the slow cooker and we’d come home from school to the best smelling house.  Chris has never had them, so I undertook the intensive preparation for him. I’ll let you get the recipe from Kiki, I pretty much followed that, except I used veggie beef.

cabbagerollsI also reintroduced myself to the Sunday Farmer’s Market. I LOVE citrus and ’tis the season, right?  I could wax poetic about Cara Cara oranges, Oro Blanco grapefruits, Satsuma mandarins, Meyer lemons.  Here’s my fruit basket from on excursion:

fruitbasketKalrabi, Cara Caras, Pink Lady apples, persimmons, bananas, avocados, oh yum!

All the yummy root veggies in season has made eating healthy at lunch really easy!  Just chop and dip in hummus!

bento6It’s carrots, cukes, and sliced turnip, with kalamata olive hummus, wheat pita, hard boiled egg, and left over lentils.  I’m attempting a “beefless stew” from The Cooking With PETA Cookbook tonight. I’ve never made stew, but anything that holds all my favorite roots and tubers is worth the work!

I finished the Lionel Shriver book I was reading.  Post-Birthday World was pretty entertaining, though mildly depressing and predictable. I did like the dichotomy of chapters where one was the cheating world and one was the faithful world and the writing was good.  

After that I read Truman Capote’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s which wasn’t what I expected.  Maybe as a child of the 80s, I’m jaded, and this book was shocking for its time, but I found Holly pretty annoying and the book was again, predictable.  The short stories at the end of this version of the story were far better than the classic itself!

0679745653Then I read Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  I wouldn’t say it’s high on literary value, but the story is endearing and interesting and I like the juxtaposition of the various situations the characters are in.  I also liked that the couple who had a mixed race daughter talked openly about their family’s prejudices. I was left bawling at the end.


Now I’m reading Killing Time by Caleb Carr.  I read both the Alienist and Angel Of Darkness in high school and college and like what Carr did with stories from the past.  This one is set in 2023 with a criminologist/historian trying to solve a friend’s murder and being taken in by the group that murdered him. It’s not something I’d usually read, but I thought if I liked what he did with he past, I’ll probably like what he does with the future.  It took me a few chapters to acclimate myself, but I’m enjoying it now despite it’s poor reviews on Amazon.


Next time: Stew? Cross-Stitching? A new knitting project?

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Domestic Bliss

I just polished off the most delicious sandwich (leftover tofurkey with Wisconsin Colby cheese and pickles) after returning home from possible the worst driving day of the year. I went out on “Black Friday” and the traffic was nothing compared to the loonies on the road today.  After fighting to stay alive and out of a car accident, I thought I’d come home, shut myself in for the day, blog, crochet and watch movies.

Tuesday was a domestically productive day.  I simultaneously listened to christmas carols, baked kiss cookies, and made a huge lasagna for freezing. Christmas carols are new for me this year, I’m starting to be okay with some of them.  Amazon helped me along with their free holiday downloads. It was like an advent calendar that I didn’t get tempted to eat. The kiss cookies are a holiday tradition I started a few years ago. I make them for Chris and the people at his store on Christmas eve.

kisscookiesSomeday I’ll own cooling racks (and have enough counter space for them). Between batches of cookies going in and plopping kisses on the peanut butter yumminess, I made a super meaty, super cheesy lasagna for dinner and then to freeze.  It was two  layers of veggie beef scramble mixed with veggie sausage and mixed with a mushroom sauce and two layers of ricotta and mozzarella, mushrooms, and green peppers mixed with an olive sauce.  We had it with a huge salad and have plenty of leftovers!

lasagneWhen all of that kitchen work came to an end, I worked on my current cross-stitch project.  Here’s how it’s looking.

xstitch3On christmas eve, my husband and I started a new family tradition: Port Party!  We opened a delicious bottle of Daniel Gehrs Fireside Port that I got two years ago in Los Olivos. The Daniel Gehrs winery is my favorite.  I also drop a fortune when I go there. This summer my mom bought us their Tawny Port.  We’re planning on saving that to celebrate with when we buy a house.  For our Port Party we had a plate of sweets (ferrero roche truffles, chocolates, candied walnuts, and hazelnut cremes) and a plate of savory (crackers, brie spread, pepper jack cheese, and olives). It was delicious.  I dare say this is a tradition that will stick.

portpartyEarlier that day I attempted to make an apple crumble pie using this amazingly easy recipe. I got a little cocky in the kitchen, though, and decided I could eyeball the measurements. The pie turned out “a little powdery” in the words of my husband.  It was actually not bad, considering what it could have been. I just over did the flour and under did the sugar.  I highly recommend following the recipe, because even with my blunders that pie was good, so imagine how yummy the real recipe is! I added some of grandma’s candied walnuts to the crumble topping.

applecrumblepieI worked like a little crochet worker bee on my mom’s present, which isn’t finished yet.  It’s  my biggest project to date and I’m about a quarter done with it.  Here’s a photo of the blanket I’m crocheting for her.

momafghanAnd here’s my sister’s yoga bag.  She got it a few days ago, so I can show the whole thing now. I used the same pattern from Joyful Abode that I used to make mine.

bethanyyogaI finished Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix the same day I last blogged.  We watched the movie on Christmas. I was totally unimpressed with the movie. i LOVED that book.  Chris dragged out the Half Blood Prince for me, but I had already started The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver.  She wrote We Need to Talk About Kevin, a book which still haunts me to this day. The Post-Birthday World is about a woman, Irina, an American expat living in London with her longtime partner Lawrence.  On the birthday of a friend she considers what life would be like if she kissed that friend.  The book is billed as a story about the choices we made and their good and bad repercussions.  I’m only 50 pages in, so we’ll see how it goes.  I like her writing style and I was engaged for the short time I spent reading it.


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