Wednesday, January 31, 2007

KAL updates/plans for February

So Stefaneener talked me into helping her with the Sweater-A-Month KnitALong, and I had already decided to do Project Spectrum 2.0, so my next project will hopefully accomplish both.

I was lucky enough to receive gift certificates to my LYS, Ruhama's from my mom and from one of the families that I tutor, so I went in search of a pattern and some yarn to make one of those trendy vest things that you wear over a long button-down shirt. I found Blue Sky Alpacas' Market Vest which is knit in sport weight, but I also found the most divine yarn ever--Plymouth Yarn's Baby Alpaca Grande--in a chunkier weight. Since the pattern for the Market Vest has you holding two strands of sport weight together throughout, I'm going to do a single strand of the grande. Cross your fingers for me that it works!

I figure a vest is close enough to a sweater for me, and the colors I chose are shades of blue--which fit in with Project Spectrum's Blue, White, Gray color family for February/March.

I cannot wait to start!

Cornish Pasties and Salad with Parmesan Peppercorn dressing

I grew up in Iron County, WI, where mining made the area. "Legend" has it that Cornish miners invented pasties (pronounced PAST-ees, not PASTE-ees) as an easy-to-eat-in-the-mines lunch. Here's the recipe I compiled from some native Iron-County-ers:

Cornish Pasties
Makes 6

(from my mom's friend Linda)
4 c. flour
2 t. salt
1 3/4 cups lard, just under a pound (yeah, you could use Crisco, but it's really not as good)
1 T. white vinegar
1 lg. egg
1/2 cup very cold water

Mix the dry ingredients, then cut in the lard with a pastry cutter. Mix in the last 3 ingredients. Refrigerate at least half an hour before using. (I actually used the KitchenAid this last time and it worked great)

3/4 lb. round steak, finely diced
1/4 lb. lean pork, finely diced
3 c. potatoes, finely diced
1 c. onion, finely diced
finely diced turnips and/or carrots, optional
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper

Cut the pastry into 6 equal pieces. Using your hands and a rolling pin (and extra flour if needed), roll into a roughly round shape, about 1/4 inch thick. Place 1/6 of the filling on half of the circle, top with a generous pat of butter, then fold the dough over to enclose the filling. Crimp the edges. Repeat with remaining dough and filling portions.

Place on a greased baking sheet and bake in a 375 degree oven for about an hour, or until crust is nicely browned and potatoes are tender.

Traditionally served with ketchup to dip, but I really dislike ketchup, so I eat mine plain.
Salad with Parmesan Peppercorn dressing
adapted from Rachael Ray

I find the recipe from Rachael Ray too lemony, and I like tomatoes in my salad

1 large head chopped romaine lettuce
Half a pint of grape tomatoes, cut in half
2 green onions, sliced
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1 teaspoon coarse pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

4 Year Old Pictures

I was a bit late, but M had her 4 Year Old pictures taken (at Wal-Fart) last week. She wore her new American Girl dress and wanted her hair in ponies. We'll get her pictures back on Valentine's Day, but here are a few I took before we left:

I realized that this may be the last time I get her pictures taken at a studio since next year she'll be in school and we'll do school pictures like C. and T. have. Wow! She is growing up SO quickly...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

De-Stash for a great cause

Just stumbled across this post about donating yarn and knitting/crocheting materials to a wonderful cause--women at a drug and alcohol treatment center. Women learn to knit and crochet as part of their treatment.

More specifics are on the blog above, as well as this blog, from the center, but here's the donation basics:

If you have some supplies to share, you can stick the stuff in the mail and send to the house--please address to

Kathryn Duffy
Interim House Inc
333 W. Upsal Street
Philadelphia, PA 19119

M's birthday party

M. had her fourth birthday party at a local Gymnastics place. We basically had the place to ourselves for 90 minutes of free play, then cake afterwards. It was the same price for up to 20 kids, so she invited a handful of her friends and all their siblings.

C. and Daddy inflating balloons to decorate:
The safety talk:
M., playing on various things in the gym:
She *had* to have a dinosaur cake!

Opet Festival

I just have to say that history/Social Studies is a lot more fun than it was when *I* was in school!

My kids' school district follows the "Social Studies Alive!" curriculum and I'm pretty impressed with it.

One of the cool activities that C's class participated in was an Opet Festival to celebrate the culmination of the unit on Egypt. They mummified cornish game hens, and played Senet, and dressed the part for the big feast. Some pics of C's costume:

SAM KAL January--DONE!

Knitting done--needing to be blocked and buttons found.

Blocked, buttoned, and umbilical cord hat made to match!

Lutzling Sweater
Knit in Fair Isle (other option is knit/purl pattern)
Plymouth Yarn Encore Worsted
Adapted pattern to include an additional row of pattern along the neck yoke
Gift for C's Social Studies Teacher's new son

Major Catch-up Posting Alert

OK, things have been crazy-busy around here and I just realized that I've barely posted all January. So I'll do my best to catch up on everything today. Let's hope Blogger cooperates ;)

Happy Birthday to Me!

Last Thursday (ok, TWO Thursdays ago, since blogger wasn't letting me post pictures...) was my 37th birthday. M. asked me why grownups don't get to have birthday parties. I think she was worried that one day she'd no longer get a birthday party, but I'm not sure...

Anyway, I didn't get a birthday party, but it worked out that I did get a very nice birthday "gift". G. works for the University of Wisconsin system and as such, belongs to various committees. These committees will occasionally have meetings at different locations in Wisconsin--often a short drive away, but sometimes a longer drive away. If it's over 50 miles, he gets to stay at a hotel that offers the "state rate" for these gatherings. On Friday and Saturday, he had a meeting that was held at the Osthoff Resort, and I got to go along! This was the first night we've had away from the kids since I was pregnant with M.

Some photos of our suite:

Full kitchenette; living room area with a fireplace and TV with all sorts of movies, games, satellite music stations; huge king-sized bed; private patio; double whirlpool tub and separate shower...

We also went to this funky restaurant a few blocks from the resort, called the Back Porch Bistro. I had a wonderful soup made of all sorts of funky root vegetables and fruits, and a mixed greens salad with fruit and cheese. It was fantastic!

T. had so much fun staying at his friend's house that he wasn't ready to be picked up when I got home (they went to see Night At the Museum). The girls stayed with our neighbors and they, too, had a wonderful time. M., on her first night away from me, didn't even miss me!

Friday, January 26, 2007

SAM KAL update #2

Quick picture of the cuffs:

I love doing both at one time on a super-long needle (magic loop)!

Monday, January 22, 2007

The Juice Cleanse

About a year ago, someone on one of my many email lists mentioned that she was doing a juice detox, and I was intrigued. My mom used to follow (on and off) this diet called the Fit For Life diet, and it included monthly all-fruit days. (It also included interesting information and theories about eating meat OR dairy, but not both together, and about eating fruit first because it's easiest to digest, followed by veggies, then the meat/dairy and starches) I have been feeling just "not right" and the more I read about juice fasts/juice detoxes/juice cleanses, the more it sounded like a good idea.

I don't know if it's dangerous to do while breastfeeding, but one of the things that consuming nothing but juice (or juice and fruit) for days does is knock stored toxins out of your body, so I didn't want to risk M. getting a toxin-laden snack while she was still nursing. M. weaned in November (her last nursing was on November 18th), but then we had Thanksgiving, and then Christmas and all those wonderful food opportunities!

OK, finally it was the first of the year and time for new beginnings and healthy changes and all that stuff. I picked a three-day period when I didn't have much to do (wasn't sure how I'd feel energy-wise, and wanted to be near a bathroom!) and when G. would be around. I chose January 11-13. My experience follows.

For the few days preceding my juice cleanse, I started to be very careful about eating smaller portions. Then I cut out all caffeine. In the days preceding, I went vegetarian, and then vegan on the day before I started.

Because it's the middle of winter and I'm in Wisconsin, juicing my own fruits and veggies didn't make a lot of sense. I know it's "better" to juice your own, but I did the best I could. I went to Trader Joe's and bought one of each type of juice that they carried which was Organic and 100% juice. I also bought some bananas in case I was absolutely famished at the end of the day.

At 9 pm on the 10th, I ate one piece of bread (carb-loading?) and that was the last thing I planned to eat for three days.

I woke up on the morning of the 11th and started alternating glasses of apple grape juice and water. I was amazed at how little hunger I felt. I even made grilled cheese sandwiches for four little girls and wasn't tempted to eat any! I felt my stomach growl once at about 1:00 in the afternoon, but after I drank a glass of juice, it went better. (I should note that I was careful to "chew" my juice--that is, keep it in my mouth for awhile before swallowing so that the digestive enzymes in my saliva could start to work on it) I did have a headache most of the day, which I attributed to my sinuses, and still some delayed caffeine withdrawals.

I spent some time researching juice cleanses more and found that a lot of the websites recommended using an herbal laxative, as your bowels will not be stimulated if you're only drinking fluids. I really hate to do supplements, so I decided instead to have a "supper" of one big, stringy piece of celery (cut into bite-sized pieces), hoping that would be enough roughage to stimulate things. I did the same thing the next two days and it seemed to work.

I also found that many websites recommended taking a few tablespoons of olive oil each day to cleanse the liver and bile ducts. Other sites said that cider vinegar was a good supplement to take. I decided to do a shot a day of the olive oil (I used our double shot glass) with a splash of vinegar tossed in. It worked well, as the vinegar sunk to the bottom of the shot glass and the only thing I tasted, as I did the shot, was the vinegar.

I made it through the whole first day feeling pretty good. I was amazed at how many times I walked to the refrigerator absentmindedly. I wasn't hungry, but I was/am in such a habit of grazing that I found myself there. It was a great eye-opener when I realized what I was doing.

I woke up on the second day feeling good, too. I continued on the juice, opening a bottle of apple cranberry juice because I'd grown bored with the apple grape juice. I was missing my morning coffee, so heated up a cup of apple cranberry juice and it was okay tasting, and it felt nice to hold the warm cup!

By lunch time I was SO sick of fruit juice. My teeth were hurting (I have not been drinking much of anything but water for almost two years, so even one glass of soda or juice is too sweet) and no matter how many times I brushed my teeth, they still hurt! My tongue was getting that creamy white coating on it that was predicted. I noticed that my nose was very sensitive--I was smelling things all over the place! Garbage was gagging me...the bathroom was disgusting!

I finally couldn't stand the thought of more sweet fruit juice, so I read up a bit more and decided that some vegetable juice would be okay. I also read that cayenne is a good natural bowel stimulant, so I decided to get some V-8 spicy. I now realize that wasn't probably the best idea, but I can tell you that that first glass of V8 spicy tasted better than anything has ever tasted! :)

I continued alternating big glasses of fruit juice and water, and occasional small glasses of V8. I had celery for supper again and a warm cup of apple cranberry juice before supper.

On the morning of the third day, M. woke up at about 3 AM, complaining of a stomach ache. G. had gotten up with her the two days before (she's started waking up "scared" some nights) so I hauled my butt out of bed.

I moved her onto a couch, with a bucket by her head, just in case, and I took to the other couch. I could NOT seem to warm up, though. My down throw wasn't enough, so I grabbed a second comforter. Even TWO comforters didn't keep me warm, and I barely slept for the following three hours. When I did wake up, I felt like crap. I was still freezing, and my bones ached. I didn't know if I was getting sick (sure felt like it), or if it was from lack of sleep, or if it was the juice detox catching up with me.

I spent most of the day lying on the couch, moaning. :) My nose was still sensitive and every time C. came near me, I cackled "you smell funny...did you shower? did you brush your teeth? brush your teeth again!" until G. said to me, "you know, hon, you might be smelling yourself. you're really stinky!" (eeuuwww....)

So I crawled into the bedroom and did some more research to find out if I was actually dying due to this *%$#@&^ juice fast. The first thing I found when I googled "third day juice fast" or something was a commentary on how the third day of a juice cleanse can make you feel as though you have the flu. Symptoms of extreme cold (I could NOT get warm enough--dressed in layers, wrapped in down comforters, rice socks all over my body) and body aches (it hurt to walk or to sit...) are common at this point.

I didn't feel better physically, but at least I felt better mentally when I realized that death was not imminent! :)

I did, however, decide to ease out of the juice fast a bit before three days. First I decided that I'd stop at 9 pm instead of going until the next morning. Then I developed an unbelievable craving for soup (those chills and body aches). I also realized just how much of my life revolved around food. In a typical day, I wake up and start thinking about what I'd like to make for supper that night. I might browse cookbooks or the Food Network or other sites, looking for recipes to try. Then at some point in the afternoon, I'll start cooking supper. Of course in a typical day, there's eating interspersed in there, along with making kids' lunches and maybe baking a healthy snack... I was really MISSING all of that! So I decided to haul my freezing butt off the couch and make a vegetable soup. I chopped up all the fresh veggies we had, and raided the cupboard and freezer for canned and frozen ones that looked good. I sauteed and boiled and cooked and I was WARM by the time I finished assembling the soup. It was so nice to sit down with my family over supper. I dished up a big bowl of steaming vegetable soup and ate half of it before I "heard" my body saying that it was comfortably full. So I stopped.

That night we watched a movie as a family (Nanny McPhee--very cute!) and I even had a small bowl of popcorn (no butter). I was adjusting to eating food again just fine.

The next day was M's birthday party and as I dressed for it, I decided to try on a pair of jeans that had been too tight. To my amazement, they fit! I immediately ran downstairs to weigh myself and was thrilled (and a bit shocked) to find that I had lost nine pounds since the first of the year! My stomach FELT tighter! I was ecstatic!

I am now writing this 8 days after I completed the juice cleanse and I can add a few more comments/observations.

I really was not *hungry* during this fast--which surprised me. I watched a lot of TV (taking up the time I'd usually spend cooking and meal planning and eating) and even food commercials didn't bother me--until the last day when I just wanted to be cooking!

I felt very good through the cleanse, except for day three. I don't know if it was exacerbated by my lack of sleep, or if it would always be that bad on the third day. But it makes sense that I would not want to fast for three days again, or at the very least, I would do a three day fast in the summer!

My stomach shrank and I have been eating much smaller portions at each meal since I finished my cleanse. I am much more aware of eating to be full and not just eating because the food is there. My fridge is also over-run with leftovers!

I am much more aware of subtle flavors of food. I haven't needed to use as much salt or other condiments. Half and half in my coffee is too rich; desserts are sickeningly sweet.

I've noticed that caffeine gives me a headache when I drink it. I can stand to drink decaffeinated beverages, or even some (like chai) that have small amounts of caffeine, but not "regular" coffee.

I dropped three more pounds and have kept it off thus far.

I crave vegetables and fruit, and I find it hard to eat meats and starches together. I have been cooking more vegetarian, or at least chicken instead of red meats.

I think that's it. Overall, it was a very good experience and I plan to try to incorporate a modified cleanse every few months--more like Fit For Life's all-fruit days.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

SAM KAL update #1

Start on the sweater-a-month KAL:

It's a baby sweater for C's social studies teacher. He had a little boy, born on G's bday. He's a Minnesota Vikings fan (as are C. and I) so it's in purple and gold. I'm doing the pattern found here:
Lutzling Sweater

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Sweater-A-Month Knit-A-Long

My dear friend Stefaneener approached me about helping her do a knit-a-long. I'm all *for* KAL's, but when she said it was a sweater a month KAL, I balked a bit. But she's nothing if not persuasive ;) and so here I am, agreeing to do a sweater a month for 2007. yikes!

So if any of you want to join us in the craziness, check it out at:

and if you want to join, just email one of us, as per the directions on the blog above.


Fajita Burger; Nachos; Mexi-ranch salad

Another burger recipe from Rachel Ray. It's posted here, on the Food Network site. I've made the chicken ones before, but this time did the beef. I was also gearing up for my juice cleanse, so made tiny burgers for smaller servings.

Beef and Chicken Fajita Burgers; Have one of each!

Beef Fajita Burgers:
1 1/3 pounds ground sirloin
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce, eyeball it
1 tablespoons chili powder, a palm full
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin, half a palm full
2 to 3 tablespoons fresh picked thyme leaves, several sprigs
Several drops hot sauce
1 tablespoon grill seasoning (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Chicken Fajita Burgers:
1 1/3 pounds ground chicken
1 tablespoons ground chipotle (smoky flavor) chili powder, a palm full
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Several drops hot sauce
1 tablespoon grill seasoning (recommended: Montreal Steak Seasoning by McCormick)
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Seared Peppers and Onions:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, 1 turn of the pan
2 red or green bell peppers, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 medium yellow skinned onion, thinly sliced lengthwise, reserve 1/4 of a piece, uncut
1 jalapeno or serrano, seeded and chopped
2 cups tomatillo, green chili salsa or chipotle-tomato salsa, your choice

8 crusty rolls, split
Bacon and Black Bean Smash, recipe follows

Heat a grill pan or large skillet over medium high heat.

For Beef Fajita Burgers:
Combine sirloin, Worcestershire, spices, thyme, hot sauce and grill seasoning. Mark meat into 4 sections and make 4 patties, 1-inch thick. Using the reserved 1/4 onion piece, grate half of it on the burgers. Drizzle extra-virgin olive oil on the patties. Cook patties 4 minutes on each side for medium or, until desired doneness.

For Chicken Fajita Burgers:
Combine chicken, chipotle powder, cilantro, hot sauce and grill seasoning. Score and divide meat into 4 sections and form big patties, 1-inch thick. Using the rest of the 1/4 reserved onion piece, grate the other half of it on the burgers. Drizzle patties with extra-virgin olive oil and cook 6 minutes on each side or until meat is firm and cooked through.
Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Add extra-virgin olive oil and peppers and onions. Stir-fry the veggies tossing them with tongs to sear them at edges. Add the jalapeno or serrano pepper. Toss and turn the mixture about 3 minutes, then add salsa of choice and toss a minute longer. Place burgers on each bun bottom and top with 1/4 of the pepper and onion mixture and bun top.



Sprinkle tortilla chips on a cookie sheet. Top with pickled jalapenos, and tons of shredded co-jack cheese. Heat in a warm oven until cheese melts


Mexi-ranch salad dressing

Blend equal parts of ranch dressing and tomato salsa or picante. Dress salad.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Happy Birthday, Mom!

January 8, 2007

Today is MY mom's birthday. I always thought that M. would be born on the same day (and actually, I think that's why my labor never progressed until the pitocin...M. wanted to share her Grandma's birthday). Our family has a strange affinity to being born on "8's".

My mom: January 8
Me: January 18
C: March 28
My brother: April 18
T: May 8

See how nicely M. would have fit in there? :)

Anyway, my brother and I gave mom a set of All-Clad pots for Christmas and her birthday, but I couldn't let her birthday go by with nothing. Mom oohed and aahed over the hats I knit for the girls for Christmas, so I decided to make her one, to match HER jacket, and send it for her birthday. Here's a picture:
And we tucked in a little Grandma page-a-day calendar and hand-made cards from the kids. Hopefully it arrived (at her office) over the weekend so it was waiting for her this morning.

Mom actually was home SICK on her birthday, so no gift waiting for her. Argh! I'm hoping she's well enough to go in today.

Hoppin' Jack and cornbread

My mom, as an Air Force brat, lived all over the US (indeed, out of the US, too) and from her time in the South, kept the tradition of eating black eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck.

Hoppin' Jack

1/2 lb. dried black eyed peas
1 meaty ham bone or ham hock
1 Knorr chicken boullion cube
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
pepper (we like Penzey's Red and Black blend)

Cooked rice

Rinse and pick through dried black eyed peas. Place in large pot or dutch oven with ham bone/hock, boullion cube, and enough cold water to just cover the ham bone. Bring to a boil.

While beans and ham are simmering, chop veggies. Add them as you chop them, and add some pepper, too.

After about two hours, the beans will be tender and the flavor extracted from the ham. Fish out the ham bone and allow to cool before you pull off the pieces of ham and chop them. Stir in the ham pieces and taste for seasoning.

Serve over cooked rice and with cornbread on the side (I just follow the directions on the back of the cornmeal package).

New Year's Eve 2006/2007

We spent New Year's Eve with two wonderful families and WAY too much scrumptious food!

Some pics from the evening:

the "little" girls
the middle boys

the big girls
Daddy and M.
Our lovely hostesses
T., the party animal :)


December 29, 2006

It seems kind of silly to post pre- and post-haircut pictures every time my kids get their hair cut, but then again, they only get them about twice a year, so.....
M., before:

M., after:

T. before:T. after:

Oh, and this post is my 200th post since I started my blog! wow...

Sunday, January 07, 2007

My baby turned four...

Now that I can actually post pictures, I'll post this all a day late, and then try to catch up on everything from Christmas to now... :)

A four-year-old, having her breakfast (strawberry waffle and chocolate milk):

Then she opened presents:

lots of accessories for her Dora house from Christmas, a soccer ball-shaped hippity-hop:

And cowboy boots:

The lunch request was for mac and cheese (no big surprise there).

Then off to the movies to see Charlotte's Web and eat a cheeseburger and fries, then home for a birthday brownie:

She chose a brownie because we'll do cake at her party next weekend. I was looking at the brownie packages and asked if she wanted Triple Chocolate Decadence Brownies. She said "YEAH!" and I jokingly asked if three types of chocolate was enough. She decided that it wasn't because she turned *four*, so there needed to be FOUR types of chocolate. Luckily I had just bought all those Kissables at Target, so I sprinkled on some green kissables. Voila! FOUR types of chocolate. She took a long time to blow out all four candles...

And after dessert, we all played some Whoonu and Apples to Apples.

Quite a fun day and I'm already loving four.

The Christmas of knit gifts

Now that everything's been gifted, I can finally post pictures of the stuff I knit for gifts this year.

Knitty Pasha the Penguin for C:

Pokemon intarsia, sewn onto a sweatshirt, for T:

Earflap hat and mittens for C., to match her new winter jacket:

Earflap hat and mittens for M., to match her hand-me-round jacket:

Socks for my brother:

Knucks (Fetching) for my mom:
(she's wearing them in this picture, too)

And lots and lots of dishcloths (not pictured).