Wednesday, April 30, 2014

{Yarn Along} Back in the Saddle

My shawl remains in the same sorry state as it did three weeks ago. It just takes a bit of time and patience, but I fear I haven't much of either these days. I was crafting like a champ as the days of winter dragged on and on. I thought I would have so much spare time with lacrosse season, but I was so wrong! We've got a little over two weeks to go. It will be so nice to have life back to a calmer state. That calmer state started last night when Julian had work deadlines that kept him up well past 1AM. I cleaned and did laundry, then sorted out my knitting - back in the saddle again. Typical for me, I said exactly what I always say after I do something I've been dreading: If I'd known it would be that easy, I'd have done it a long time ago!

So now only one question remains. I have made 33 of 42 "teeth" on the shawl. My ball of yarn is dwindling and I recall that I started about 100 yards short of the pattern's recommendation. I called my LYS and asked her to set aside one more skien of Ella Rae Lace Merino in my green color way and she did. Do I have a shorter Hitchhiker and have spent $25 on it or  a regular size Hitchhiker and have spent $50 on it!? I suppose I could always make it super sized... I just don't want to spend $25 on 400 yards of lovely yarn to use only a quarter of it at that price. Recommendations?

In the meantime, I am still fitting in "reading" my audiobooks. I try to walk instead of drive to kill two birds with one stone, listen and exercise. Major Pettigrew had a very dratic turn in the end which I was not expecting at all! Brace yourself!

On another topic, the characters were enjoying readying Kipling and it has spurred my own curiosity and I plan to scrounge up something to read. I think many of his books/works are available in the public domain for Kindle, so that should be easy.

I am about halfway through Julia Child's My Life in France and I absolutely love it. I have never been a Julia Child fan because I don't really care for the sound of her squawky voice, but this book has changed my mind! It is so interesting how differently people lived post-WWII. A minimum wage worker could support a family of three, leaving his wife to invest her time in keeping a home, raising the children and learning. Julia's husband worked in the foreign service in Paris for what she considered a meager sum.  But oh! What's a girl to do with nothing but time! How about enrolling in the most prestigious cooking school in the world!? Child obviously lived a charmed life compared to today's standards, but I won't begrudge her that, she certainly worked very hard and in an inspiration to many. Check it out!

Last but not least, I've started The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society and it is a book best left for listening to when not distracted. It is nice that each characters' letters are read in by a different person, so it is easier to keep them apart, but attention to detail is still needed. I like it, so far.

Joining Ginny and Frontier Dreams

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

{recipe} Blackberry Dumplings

Blackberry dumplings are Julian's perennial choice for birthday dessert. Part of the reason we postponed his birthday until Sunday was because his actual birthday allowed no time for making and/or enjoying this special birthday tradition. 

The recipe is fairly simple {it came to me in my family cookbook scrapbook made by my sister-in-law and gifted upon our engagement} but the procedure is what counts. It is the perfect combination between pie and cobbler, despite that it is called cobbler on the recipe. It's summer on a spoon, any time of the year. 

Tips and Tricks (that you would have picked up if your Granny showed you how to do this):
- Find the juiciest berries possible. Plumper berries make more gooey berry sauce. Julian maintains that this is the perfect way to use seedy, wild, roadside-foraged berries. Do that if it is what you have, but I am kind of fussy about seeds.
- This recipe makes eight dumplings and should fit perfectly into a 9x13 dish.
- When the recipe lists "two pie pastry recipes," it means two full DOUBLE-CRUST pie pastries. You can buy them from the shop but this means two boxes of pastry, not two pieces. I just double this recipe for mine. 
- Knowing the exact measurements depends on a great many things. The recipe is a good guide, but use your better judgement when it comes to how much to put in each dumpling. I generally only put three tablespoons of sugar in each dumpling and I generally put as many berries as will rest in my cupped hand. 
- Roll the pastry out between two pieces of wax paper. Peel off the top sheet of the wax paper, put the fillings on top of the pastry, then use the edge of a butter knife to help you peel the pastry off the bottom sheet of wax paper, up and over the berries, apple-dumplin'-style. I reuse the same two sheets of wax paper for the whole batch.
- My new rolling pin {Christmas gift from Julian} made this whole process much easier, almost enjoyable. I highly recommend it. I used the 1/6" ring. 
- It doesn't hurt to give the dumplings a little milk/egg wash prior to baking and shake on some sparkly sugar to top it off.
- Serve hot, room temp, or cold. Stores well just left on the counter, covered... they won't last long enough to worry about. 

Questions? Feeling inspired?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Weekending... and a recipe, sort of

We've had a great weekend. For starters, Friday night, Julian walloped the JV and Varsity teams from our cross-town rival, after getting a "well done" from his advisor during that morning's lab meeting. Saturday was quiet but busy, preparing for a percussion recital Julian was performing in. He and our friend, George, have put together this alternate notation piece where Julian uses animation that he programs to create an image on the screen which George interprets. The whole point is to show that music notation can exist in space rather than linear time (notes on a page). I had looked forward to the recital (and following party) as the highlight of our week. I made a delicious cake for the occasion.... but it refused to come out of the pan!

Sunday was spent doing as little as possible since Julian decided that TODAY was to be his birthday since last Tuesday was just too crazy for enjoyment and relaxation. So today I made all his birthday foods and the only thing he had do to was drive us to church. We even snuck in a Sunday drive to go hunting for meadowlarks - and even better, we found them!

I spent the entire week looking forward to making that cake, to it being a showstopper, completely perfect and delicious. But upon reflection, I am so glad that we are sharing this season of life with people who couldn't care less if they had to dig their slice cake out of the pan with a slotted spoon, and still they raved. Life is good.  Recipe here. Do try it, but flour your pan.

Joining Amanda and Wooly Moss Roots.

Monday, April 21, 2014


Birthday celebrations
Alligators, jellybeans, chilly breeze
Lacrosse in at his alma mater, a win
Playtime with our nephews
Bird nest discoveries, backhoe watching
Strawberry shortcake for the third time this week,
So good.

Joining Amanda

Sunday, April 20, 2014


I believe in God the Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth:
And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord,
Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost,
Born of the Virgin Mary,
Suffered under Pontius Pilate,
Was crucified, dead, and buried:
He descended into hell;
The third day he rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven,
And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty;
From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Ghost;
The holy Catholick Church;
The Communion of Saints;
The Forgiveness of sins;
The Resurrection of the body,
And the Life everlasting.
Apostles Creed, Book of Common Prayer, 1662

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Making and listening

The crafting and baking have been a bit slow. It seems Julian and I can never catch up. Not enough hours in the day... I hope this weekend at home in Virginia will be just what we need to unwind.

Last night, I finished up listening to Major Pettigrew's Last Stand on audiobook and started Julia Child's My Life in France. I was able to get house chores done - kitchen floor mopped, dishwasher run and emptied, house plants looked after - and it felt more of a relief to do those things than it did work. If life is untidy, having the house more in order always makes us feel better.

I baked some of these hot cross buns while I was at it. They really are so wonderful, any time, with an dried fruit you've got. I make them for baby showers, holidays, Saturdays - any reason I can come up with. We ate too many of them last night at 10pm, piping hot and melting the peach jam down our hands. Julian always says, "They will never taste this good again!"

In the crafting department, since knitting is on hold until at least tomorrow (road trip), I have decided to start my Farmer's Wife Sampler Quilt. Julian gifted the book to me many moons ago and I browse and admire it often, but always shy away from the momentous task. My aunt Lois had a great idea (and I had thought of it before but maybe I just needed her affirmation) to just pick my favorite 12 blocks and make them double-sized, 13 inches instead of 111 6.5 inch blocks. So, that's my plan of action. I've started here by EPPing the Night & Day block. I absolutely adore this black fabric with the oranges and part of the reason I've stalled on this so long is because I am always afraid to cut into fabrics that I love. I'm a whopping 1/8th of the way done with the block, so that will need some attention this next week if it is going to get finished. I'd like to do one block per month, by hand, not machine.

What are you making and listening to? Joining Dawn Suzette.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

{Yarn Along} baby screams

 Lacrosse continues to go well - and take up all our time - despite the absolutely frigid weather for much of our region last night. We were pelted with sleet and snow while we sat out in the ice-covered stands, watching our boys defeat the team that was ranked #1 in the state, 14-2. You can tell Julian's face is totally frozen stiff in this clip. We celebrated with some free IHOP at 9pm.

To be honest, my hitchhiker hasn't gotten out of the luggage from last week's trip to Texas. While I was there in the hospital room with my friend Amy and baby Evie, I sat down to get some knitting done. Against my own advice, I stopped midway through a row when Evie opened her eyes for the first time that day. She'd been very sensitive to light and everyone thought she'd had a doozie of a headache from the 35 hours of labor, so the eyes were slow to make their appearance. I put my knitting down and grabbed my phone {camera} to get a picture with her beautiful eyes open. BOTH of us were completely traumatized when the FLASH WENT OFF! Gasp! Shrieks of terror! It was completely automatic (both the flash and the shrieks), I certainly didn't expect it to do anything at all. I didn't even know my phone HAD a flash. Both mom and dad were resting until this point and, unless they read this post, will never know what happened and how it is all my fault. Evie's daddy got her settled down and I sat down to resume my quiet harmless knitting when one of the needles slipped completely out. I didn't have the nerve for fixing it and still it remains in the bag, unfurling as I type. Ugh.

Things on the reading front are much better than knitting. I am almost finished with Major Pettigrew's Last Stand and I am enjoying it immensely. It is a gentle story, but it is not shallow. It addresses many things - racism, class-ism, religion, marriage, mourning, abortion, greed, etc. - in a way that makes you ponder but without creating emotional residue that lingers after you walk away.

Next up on my list is My Life in France by Julia Child. The audio books are working well for me, so long as I can keep my phone charged. I still am waiting on The Guernesy Literary and Potato Peel Society and The Paris Wife, which are both on hold for me when they become available. It feels so good to be "reading" again. It's like starting laundry for me, it is a passive sort of accomplishment to listen and clean the kitchen or drive somewhere. It makes me feel so very accomplished to be doing two things at once without task one losing out to the other.

What are you crafting and reading?

Linking up with Ginny.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


April 18 is a special day in our family. Julian and I both have a grandmother who was born ont hat day. In addition, my cousin Natalie shares Grandma's birthday and our nephew George shares his Great Granny's birthday. What fun! This is always special to send out four cards at the same time (though I generally send out two more to include my parents' anniversary and my other Grandmother's birthday which were shared last Saturday).

I have a love-hate relationship with card companies. I love love love the cards, and I hate that its just a printed piece of paper made by a machine that costs me $5. Have you been to Walmart lately? I could get a set of 6 tea glasses for $5! I know, I know, just make your own, you say. I'm not really that kind of person - a paper crafts person, I mean. Maybe some day I will be. In the meantime, I suppose I'll stop whining and really enjoy sending pretty cards.

Monday, April 14, 2014


It was a good weekend. The lacrosse game on Saturday was a bit tense, we won 18-3, but the younger kids didn't get to play because the game was pretty sloppy and Julian didn't want anyone hurt.

I got some seed starting done and we got out in the yard for a bit. Weeds are growing faster than I can pull them in what seems to be a perfect spring. We got the patio furniture out of the garage, and some flower pots, allowing the space to breathe and sigh, now not being so jam packed with outdoorsy things.

A nice calm week ahead, one lacrosse game tomorrow, no travel for me, heading to Virginia on Friday, Easter is second only to 4th of July for me. Joining Amanda.

Friday, April 11, 2014

No words..

To be honest, we've both had quite the week but there aren't really the words to tell about it. Well, there are plenty words but THAT would take forever, and I suppose its more of a lack of energy for the task than words. So in summary...

Julian's team has gotten too good and is getting its fair share of publicity. (See here. Isn't it sweet how he's so humble?) This has caused a nasty row with our arch rival and we got a pretty low blow on Sunday, but it all worked out in our favor in the end. Now instead of offense, it is rather just a lot of motivation for the boys.

My work trip to Houston went well on Monday and Tuesday but I was very anxious to make the drive to Ft. Worth on Tuesday afternoon.My friend, whose labor was induced on Sunday night, had a c-section at 8am Tuesday morning. You can do the math and realize it was a tough situation. I was so blessed to be able to be there to be extra hands and feet and encouragement, when both her parents and in laws could not be, because they had to return to work. I brought this sweet little cake to give to Evie in celebration.

I made it home, despite missing my first flight and being "that girl" in the airport that no one wants to sit beside because her face is streaked with tears and she can't find a tissue while on the cell phone with her husband but in silence. I was a bit overwrought and ready to be home.

Marathon weekend ahead - one lacrosse game, two work engagements (welcome to spring). We're still here, thanks for stopping by to check on us!

Sunday, April 6, 2014


Good weekend. We grilled, we gardened, we sat on the couch and did nothing. We had a lacrosse victory (21-1- ouch, sorry, kind of, but not really). We celebrated at the local diner and even got dessert - blackberry cheesecake.

We got our first dead/dying plants from Lowe's. Violas, an azalea and a leyland cypress = $7.75
I positively LOVE violas. How long until I can plant them out? Our lows are still pretty cool at night.

Took the kayaks out fr the first time this year. Beautiful weather, beautiful water.

My bags are packed for Texas (Houston) tomorrow. Two days of work, one day for friends. My dearest college friend is in labor with her first as I type this, so prayers please for her, and for me as I travel, and that everything works out that I can see her while I am there (she's in Fort Worth). Thanks! Will update from hill country!

Linking up with Amanda.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Making and listening

I got in the back yarn last night and pulled all the dead hosta leaves and decaying spikes out. I'm often premature in doing this, but I tried to cover the little numbs of new growth with mulch so the coming frosts don't burn them. This winter has been wild but it is the first time we've lived here that the flowers have not all come way too early and each night we are racing to cover the whole yard as the chill sets in.

It occurred to me while I was sitting at my desk yesterday, "I know what we're dealing with here... a cake shortage." That's most certainly it, right? I've been trying to curb the carbs and sugar, in addition to the fact that less baking means less cleaning. But hey, some days you just need cake - little morsels of cake that don't take much effort, or time, or pre-softened butter. The recipe is from one of my very favorite cookbooks, the River Cottage Handbook #8: Cakes. Sometimes it uses a gooseberry, others, a raspberry. I used strawberry and they were delicious. Just the soul food we needed.

Since I'm waiting for my turn for the The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society audiobook from the library, I went ahead and started Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, on audio as well. I'm on day two of what I believe is a bad-weather headache, so the only other listening has been to Chopin, and the birds.

Joining Dawn Suzette.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

{Yarn Along} I'm dragging...

Yet another lacrosse game last night and we're both feeling it this morning. Its like we can never catch up. Last night Julian said, sweetly,  that it was time to work on the house chores a bit. He's right. With my being gone last week and everything that's been keeping us both busy, its past time we did a little spring cleaning. At least we've managed to keep all the house plants going.

I'm feeling the urge to purge. Life is too jumbled. I have too many things for the places I have to put them and I feel bogged down by the things I see and say, "I'll use that someday, I'll fit into that again..." Its time to pack up the woolens and give away the unwanted.

I made good progress on my Hitchhiker last week on the plane... until I got lost in la-la land and went too far without casting off to make a tooth. I was frogging when we hit turbulence, a handful of stitches fell off and in my half-frogged, half-wrong mess, I have gotten tangled. Over lunch today I'll take my mess to Cecilia, at my local yarn shop, and she will sort it out with me. Thank heaven for people who know more than me.

I'm still reading Bread and Wine, because I said I would continue. But to be honest, I'm getting tired of hearing about how she packs up and goes to the lake for the summer (we're attempting to find a long weekend to go camping nearby); she travels to the far reaches of the globe with happy toddlers (I travel for work and most often alone); she whiles away the days writing books while in her pajamas (I have benchmarks, milestones, and a portfolio); she has the dearest of church friends who gather to share and pray (we left our struggling church plant last October and still are wandering, while our two dearest family-friends have such crazy schedules that we can't get anything together). I'm not really feeling it.

I have added The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society to my queue, again from the library, but this time, on audio {see above house chores issue}. Here is the description:

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb….

One of my friends recommended this book and it seems light-hearted enough for now. I just finished watching Tess of the D' Ubervilles and me-oh-my, I need lighthearted. That is the

OK. I'm off to the yarn shop and to book my plane tickets (a wee bit late) for next week's trip to Texas. Happy knitting/reading!

UPDATE - Cecilia fixed my Hitchhiker and that is back on track. What's even more impressive is that I made it out of the shop without buying new yarn!