Posts tagged crafts

Homeward Bound

It’s been months…months! I’ve done a lot of reading, not so much crafting, a fair amount of cooking/baking, and become a homeowner/renovator.

Books (without fancy pictures/descriptions) I’ve read since October:
Censoring an Iranian Love Story
Number 9 Dream
206 Bones

Cooking- My New Years resolution was to try making one new dinner each week. It’s actually been pretty fun trying new things. In my spacious new kitchen I’ve baked/cooked (this is new stuff only):

Pumpkin chocolate chip bread (thanks Maggie for the idea!)
Pumpkin brownies
Hot Dish (known as chicken wild rice casserole in my neck of the woods)
Tamale Pie
Fiesta Mac and Cheese


Umm… it’s all in boxes. I did get a sewing machine, I still haven’t hemmed my curtains. I did sign up for a sewing class in February- you’ll likely see some projects beginning then! I’m also going to a stitch’n’b*tch next weekend- so maybe some crafting. A colleague and his wife are expecting and I promised them a blanket, so I need to get working on that.

Current home projects:

Painting the main bathroom, so flooring can go in.
Yard work
Spring planting

This week’s projects:
Book- Finn, by John Clinch
Food- Something with lentils
Craft- begin that baby blanket
Home- rake the yard


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Because my family is in New England and the Husband’s family is in the Mid-West, we rarely think about spending the holidays anywhere other than our humble apartment in L.A. I love my family and my in-laws, but snow, ice, freezing nostrils, mittens, and temps below 30 just aren’t my things. Instead, I usually take this two weeks (used to be 10 weeks when I worked for LAUSD) to sit on my couch and crochet, read, and watch movies. Apparently, I’ve been ahead of the game all this time.  This kind of sloth is now known as a “staycation.” It’s all the rage now that the economy is in the toilet.  I’m happily revelling in the hottest new trend as of Saturday.

I’ve been cooking dinners more frequently (you’ll  notice this goes in waves with where I am in the school year- beginning of the year- we eat frozen meals, vacations- home cooking, right after vacations- convenience food, toward the end of the year when I’m in downhill mode- more cooking).

Last week I came up with the idea for this concoction because I have 4 frozen pie shells.  It’s a “Mexican Pie”.  I filled the pie with vegetarian refried beans, topped that with green chiles, then put a layer of soyrizo (vegetarian chorizo), then topped with cheese and three eggs beaten with a little water and milk. I baked at 375 for about 45 minutes. We topped it with sour cream and avocado slices. It was delicious and needed no extra flavoring because of the chiles and chorizo.

mexicanpieI also made a yummy dinner with Israeli couscous- which is the large pearl grain. I made that as directed and sauteed veggie chicken strips with onion and spinach.  We topped the whole thing with feta.  Again, no need for extra seasoning, because the feta and the seasoned chicken strips take care of it.  I had it with sparkling pomegranate juice, which was a holiday gift from one of my students.

israelicouscousLast night I made Veggie Beef Stroganoff.  I got the recipe from another teacher at school who had it for lunch one day.  I mentioned to the hubby how good it looked and he told me how much he LOVEd beef stroganoff.  So a month or so ago I surprised him with it.  It was tasty, so I made it again with the left over sour cream from the Mexican pie. This is sauteed onions, garlic, veggie beef strips, and mushrooms, with vegetable broth and red wine and sour cream.  I put it over wheat rotini because egg noodles have even less nutritional value. I also made brussel sprouts because I love ’em!

stroganoffToday was rainy and cold so I stayed in and cross-stitched all day.  I can’t believe how slowly these projects go.  I listened to music on the Party Shuffle mode the whole time I worked.  It was fun to hear all the good music I have hidden in my ginormous iTunes library.  Here’s what the mystery gift is looking like after about 6 hours of wok on it today.

xstitchgift2This evening I’ll be working on finishing Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  I’m about 250 pages from the end.  My goal is to have it done by Christmas, so Chris and I can watch the movie version as our Xmas movie. I think I’ll have it done.  It’s the only book I’m working on right now. The only serious book, anyway.  I’m in the middle of another knitting mystery. I’m not sure what I’ll start next- maybe The Post-Birthday World, by Lionel Shriver.

Have a great holiday season and I’ll check back in next weekend!

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Yarn Therapy

After a difficult week, I couldn’t bring myself to update last weekend, so I have lots to share with you today. This past week was much better- better patience, better focus, better breathing.

Yesterday was my last knitting class and I’ve become completely obsessed.  All other crafts have been put on hiatus while I’m working on a myriad of knitting projects. I finished my sampler scarf. It turned out beautiful and so soft once I washed it (Reality yarns).  Last week in class we started hats.  I finished mine yesterday. It’s a self-patterning yarn.  I chose the colors because they look cozy and wintry (I’m longing for fall in the 95 degree heat).

My knitting WIPs are the windy city scarf, which I’m making some progress on.  I’ve switched the new color, and have about 90 rows to go.  I began a new hat with beautiful Tonalita sunrise yarn.  This beanie will be ribbed all the way up. And yesterday in class we began a shawl.  It starts at the point and increases each row.  I’m not very far into it, but it goes pretty quickly. It’s a deep gray color from Comfort yarns.

My next two projects are a skinny scarf (white with silver sparkles), and leg warmers (pink, green, gray). I’ve also been working on two crochet projects, but not as often as I’d like. Crochet goes much fast than knitting so I’ve got to get working on those projects, they should be done soon.  You’ll see them after the holidays.

I’m about 3/4 of the way done listening to the Hound of the Baskervilles on librivox. I think I’ll listen to Little Women next. I finished Native Son and Devil Bones.  Now I’m reading Missing Mom by Joyce Carol Oates.  Its not great, but it’s an easy read.  It’s about a woman in her thirties, named Nikki, whose mother was murdered.  Nikki fancies herself a rebel with a short, punky hair cut.  It’s actually pretty obnoxious how often the author mentions the short, spiky, purple hair.  Anyway, the mother was a wonderful, giving, loving woman who was always helping people in the community and ends up being killed by someone she offered a ride to.  It seems that story is going in the direction of explaining how Nikki thought her mother was foolish and naive and through the grieving process learns that she wants to live like her mother (but I could be wrong). I’m about half done. I’ll probably finish it, though I don’t love it, just because when I commit to a book, I like to follow through.

I also began reading the Tao of teaching.  It takes Taoist principles and shows how they are applied by teachers.  It’s really inspiring and helps remind me of what kind of teacher I want to be.

I haven’t been to my book club in months, but now that I feel like I’m getting more comfortable with this year’s routine I’m planning on going to the November meeting.  I don’t know what the book is yet, but I’ll probably try to get back into it regardless of the book. 

I’ll leave you with my favorite new Japanese snack:

They’re little cookies with a chocolate “burger” and vanilla fudge “cheese” feeling The cookies are even coated in teeny sesame seeds.  So cute!

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Wow.  This past week flew by. School’s back in session, which means the from scratch, home-cooked meals have been put on hiatus until I can resume a relatively livable schedule. Luckily, there is salad, eggs, and bread.  We’ve eaten any combinations of those three things everyday now for over a week. My coffee consumption has double- one in the morning, one in the afternoon- to get me through the days.  School is great, though.  The kids are fantastic, my room looks great, I like my schedule. I’m just trying to remember how to live as a working woman, rather then a relaxed vacationing woman. Here’s a lunch I packed of olive bread, cheese, lettuce, tomato, and fruit- again salad and bread.

One thing I haven’t given up is my crafting.  I spend a little time each night, after dinner either cross-stitching or crocheting.  I’m in the middle of two crochet projects.  That blue baby blanket is just about finished. It’s my goal for today. I also bought a very complicated counted cross-stitch project.  I’ve been taking progressive pictures of it.  I won’t tell you what it is, or post a picture of the packaging just yet, so you can follow along with my progressing.  I’m working only in one general area of the canvas right now, so one of the shapes is starting to flesh out. I’m loving this project.  I find is insanely relaxing and meditative to read from key and count where things go.  It’s like a logic puzzle- like sudoku, only at the end you get a pretty picture!

I’ve been awful about keeping up with my reading.  I missed my last book club meeting because we flew back from vacation that day;  but I did finish the book, Any Human Heart by William Boyd.  I loved it.  It’s written as the journals of writer Logan Mountstuart and follows him from his last years in his English high school to his death. The details and humor were captivating.

I’m about 200 pages away from finishing Middlesex. Still loving it!

I made some banana bread last night.  Our bananas were turning black, so I thought I’d remedy that.  We didn’t have any eggs though (because we’d already eaten through 8 this week) so I googled “eggless banana bread.”  I came up with this recipe from Baking Bits. It’s easy and the bread turned out pretty good. I like my regular go-to recipe a little better, but this wasn’t bad for when there are no eggs in the house.

It’s likely I won’t update again until next weekend- my husband is out of town and I’m trying to make evening plans so that I don’t end up at school until 8 or 9 every night. So, have a great week!

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Catch Up- Ketchup- Catsup

Hi!  I’m back from vacation with a few things to show you.  I didn’t get much crafting done, because I pretty much just sat around and ate cheese and drank beer and homemade wine. Tough life, huh?

I did want to post some pictures of cards I made before I left and an embroidery gift I finished the night before flying out.

This is the card I made for my mom’s birthday.  It’s my first counted cross-stitch project.  I bought the tri-fold card in Solvang when we went wine tasting. I colored the outside to look like a wooden frame (it didn’t really, but that was the idea).  I loved doing this project, I really enjoy cross-stitch.  When we were in Wisconsin I got to see a bunch of amazing projects my mother-in-law has done- teeny tiny canvases with elaborate angels and backgrounds.  SO cool. But here’s mine and maybe someday I’ll be as good as her.

I made this card for Maggie to celebrate her finding the Tiniest Studio Ever ™ in Berkeley and the Card Positioning Template that inspired it.


And this card for my friend Raina (sent with cookies and a book).

Also for Raina and her husband, who just bought a house, I’m making these embroidered place mats.  these two are finished with just small birds in the corners.  I’m planning two more with a larger lovebird scene in the middle.  The pattern is from the Sublime Sketch Pad that I mentioned in my last post.

For my birthday, my in-laws gave me two crochet sets.  I made this star pot holder in one evening while watching the Olympics.

They also bought me a set to make a star shaped baby blanket that has one color fading into another.  It’s a beautiful project- my mother-in-law got herself one and finished it while we were there.  It will take me months! I worked more on my blue baby blanket and it almost done! I also started another project, but I can’t show that until December.

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Sands Through an Hourglass

Summer is slowly slipping away from me. I know because rather than crafting, I’ve been planning for the start of school.  On Wednesday, Hubby and I fly to Wisconsin, where I thought I’d have copious amounts of crafting and reading hours. From recent talks with the in-laws, we’re learning about all kinds of plans that have been made for us. I’m sure I’ll fit in some crochet, cross-stitch and reading somewhere, though!

I’m up to 23 small circles for the Galaxy top, but I need more yarn to keep going.  I finished off the first skein for my blue baby blanket, so it’s about half way done.

I made a card for my dad’s birthday from a template from Card Positioning Systems.

This week we’ve had some yummy dinners, courtesy of various magazine recipes.  One was breakfast pizza from Family Circle. As you may know from reading this blog, we’re big fans of breakfast for dinner in my house. I used veggie sausage and added chopped onion and pepper from the farmer’s market. Otherwise, it’s reduced fat crescent roll dough, with shredded hash browns, 3 eggs scrambled and some cheese. It was tasty.

Also from Family Circle, I made corn fritters. I’ve never fried anything before in that much oil, except when I was a kid and my mom used the fry baby. But wow! Now I get why Americans are so obsessed with fried food! We served the fritters with a salad, as if that would off set the fried yumminess.


Then last night I made a Korean BBQ marinade from Vegetarian Times for some tofu.  The recipe called for 6 cloves of garlic. I put in 5, and the house still smells like garlic. It was tasty, though.  I used garlic and pepper flavored tofu because the store was out of extra firm. I sliced it and froze it and made the marinade.  When the marinade cooled I let the tofu sit in it for 30 minutes.  Then I seared it over high heat and we served itwith our left over salad. The tofu tuned out so delicious, I had two slices and Chris polished off the rest (yes, my meat and cheese husband ate 3/4 of a brick of tofu).


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Sushi Pack

I think I’ll start with crafts.

I’ve made a commitment to finish 5 rows each day on my blue blanket.  This lasted for one day. Then I didn’t do it yesterday, so I may have to do 10 rows today to keep up.  We’ll see!

I started the Galaxy top that I’ve been so excited about.  And when I say I started it, I mean I crocheted 5 of the 60 or so pieces needed.  Here are those pieces with the shirt.  I think you’ll be seeing a lot of the progress of this shirt.

I also decorated another planner.  This one I found at Target for a dollar.  They had a whole bin of teacher planners and record books, with the wrong covers.  The lesson plan book had a cover that said “Record Keeper” so they were all only a dollar.  I knew I’d be using my Cricut to rescue THAT.

The different papers are all glittery and foil embossed.  They were part of the big trip to Joann’s a few weeks ago.

In book news, I finished Malinche and Taxonomy of Barnacles, which I realized I never summarized. It’s broken into two parts- nature and nurture.  It follows a family of 6 daughters, all with B-names, as they attempt to win their father’s money by making a lasting name for their family. Hilarity ensues.  It wasn’t great. but it was okay. Malinche was also okay.  Esquivel’s beautiful writing definitely saved the plot.

I began Julie and Julia and love it so far.  I think she’s brilliantly funny and real.  So much of what she writes are one liners that have run through my own head.  I love the side story about the Joy of Sex and that it all started as a blog.

Middlesex is waiting patiently on the end table.  I feel like that might be a book I have to give my full attention, so I’m planning to finish Julie and Julia today and move on to Middlesex tomorrow. I know I’m reading all these books that were hyped so long ago, but who can keep up?

My husband helped with dinner last night.  He’s quite the sushi roller.  When we lived in Arizona, our neighbor was married to a Japanese woman, who would invite us for dinner and teach us how to cook Japanese food.  From her we learned about rice vinegar, Japanese curry, and the love of mayonnaise and sweet red bean desserts. At the farmer’s market and Japanese market I picked up shiitakes, cucumbers, avocados, and nori. I had mine with a soy ginger sauce from Whole Foods and a little wasabi.  Chris is a purist and goes straight soy sauce and lots of wasabi. We paired it with my favorite wine, guwertzraminer.  This one I picked up at Firestone in Los Olivos. Oh! The chopsticks are very special. Chris’s sister was in the military and was stationed in Okinawa.  Chris wanted real chopsticks with an interesting design.  So she sent us lovely enamel chopsticks with naked women. It’s a treat to eat sushi at our house!

All that yumminess got me craving inari, so made myself a nice little Japanese lunch today to follow up. Soba and brown rice inari, miso soup, and dried okra…that’s right dried okra.  Remember my dried mushrooms?  Same thing- dehydrated okra with seasoning. So weird and so delicious.

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