Knitting Memories

Mom would have been 79 today, which is hard to believe.  I know she would make a comment about it being hard to believe if I could call her and wish her Happy Birthday.  And she would tell me how much she liked whatever gift I had gotten her and then we’d talk about what the kids were doing and how everyone was doing where she was.  The conversation would turn to the weather (she liked to talk about the weather and she LOVED lightening storms, she really enjoyed them!).  Of course, I haven’t gotten to call her for her birthday for 12 years.  But I still think of her on her birthday, every year.

So, instead I thought I would share a few of the things she knitted that I have.  She was a prolific knitter and I remember sitting with her and listening to the click, click, click of her needles as she turned yarn into afghans or sweaters or whatever it was she was creating. I don’t know much about knitting, although I am going to try to learn, and she did try to teach me.  All I ever produced was a few pointless squares of yarn.  I never had the patience back then to really learn to knit.

But, Mom did wonderful things.  She made this vest for me, and I wore it for quite some time, back when it was in style.  I think maybe it has what is called a cable stitch, altho I’m not sure.

I had actually thought about turning it into a pillow, but I don’t know if I will do that or not.  Who knows, maybe vests will come back and I will live in a part of the country where it is cool enough to wear them again.  It’s in great shape, and beautifully made.

I like the swoopy, wavy pattern in this afghan.  I couldn’t get a photo of the entire thing with my  lens since I couldn’t get far enough away.  It’s big, almost big enough to cover a Queen size bed.  Mom loved purple and the colors are still really bright.  It’s been washed and washed and washed thru the years.  I’m sure the yarn is some sort of acrylic, but I don’t really know exactly what.

It has a more open weave (is that the right terminology for knitting?!) than the vest, but it’s still plenty warm.  It’s one of those you can wrap up in and snuggle on a chilly night.

This last one was one of two ponchos my Mom made for my best friend and I.  They were made in our school colors, black and gold.  I don’t know what happened to mine, but a number of years ago my friend gave this one to me, as she had run across it in her stuff and thought I might like to have it.  I was so thrilled!  It’s a wonderful piece of my life, as it knits together my high school days, my Mom and my best friend!

Happy Birthday Mom.  And thanks for knitting for me and giving me a love of making things with my hands, even if I haven’t learned to knit yet.  Oh, and the kids are doing fine and the weather was pretty good today.  🙂

Some Gave All

Some Gave All by sundero
Some Gave All, a photo by sundero on Flickr.

In honor of all Veterans on Veteran’s Day.

Starting Christmas

I am still cleaning out and organizing my craft room.  One thing I ran across was some Christmas ornaments I made before we moved to Florida that I put away and never did anything with.  I don’t need to take up that much space, and honestly, someone needs to enjoy them, so I finished them up with some ribbons and will get them into the mail to my sons and their wives.

They are very simple to make, so I thought I would share them here.  Obviously I didn’t take photos of the process.  However, it’s just torn tissue paper and Mod Podge on glass Christmas balls.  You can use either the clear ones, or the colored ones you buy to decorate a tree.  I actually used gold balls I bought a box of because they were cheaper.

Buy pretty Christmas tissue paper and tear it into manageable pieces (about 1 or 2 inches, random sizes).  Brush Mod Podge onto the ball and smooth the tissue onto the ball and brush more Mod Podge over the paper.   I like to buy cheap one inch paint brushes from the hardware store to use.    This is messy, by the way.  I don’t know if I do many things that aren’t.  You will have to do one side and set it on something like a small glass jar to let it dry and then do the other side.

Overlap the paper as you go, and just keep working it until you like the effect you get.  On some of them I wrapped gold thread for an interesting effect and on some I sprayed gold glitter spray.  I’m sure there are other things you could come up with.  Add a few coats of Mod Podge and let it dry thoroughly.  Add a nice little ribbon and that’s it!  These cost next to nothing.

When my boys were growing up I gave them an ornament every year so that when they left home they would have at least 20 or so ornaments for their tree.  Some years I bought them something if I found one that was perfect, like the year I found Santas with various sport’s themes.  Other years I made something.  Do any of you do this for your kids?  I think it’s such a nice tradition.  I even have a few ornaments made by my Mother in Law that will pass down too.

Oh, and don’t forget to also go check out Handmade Monday.  I’m sure everyone has done some really amazing things!  They always do.  🙂  Thanks for stopping by.

Ghosts and Something From the Past

Here it is Handmade Monday. And it’s Handmade Monday FORTY! So do go check it out.  I made the ghosts from t-shirts and glue that I was going to make for last Monday but went ahead and posted them earlier in the week so people could make them in time for for Halloween.  They turned out well, so you might want to check them out for next year (plus, the process will work just as well for other items, is pretty easy and could be fun to do with older children, messy but non-toxic).  It’s at Tabletop Ghost. At least see how cute they are!

I was going to make pillows out of old sweaters (not wool felted ones, I am allergic to wool so don’t have many old wool sweaters around) but the first one I did is sort of asymmetrical and lumpy and sad looking. I learned a few things in the process, but needless to say, it’s not ready for prime time. Not to worry, I have more old sweaters to work on. We live in South Florida after all, and I have a bunch of old sweaters I’ve finally decided I’m never going to wear. I still love them and I might as well turn them into something I or someone else in my family will use and love. So, that will be an upcoming blog. I know it’s not very original, but so what.

It’s been a rather bad week anyway.  First, we had 10 inches of rain Friday night alone from the remnants of Hurricane Rina.  We have had a few house repair issues that have kept me busy, and I’ve been cleaning out the attic and garage and just doing some general Fall cleaning and trying to get my craft room (which is really a guest bedroom) reorganized to make my crafting life a little easier. I seem to take one step forward and 5 steps backward, as each time I think I’m getting somewhat ahead, something else comes up that requires me to go in another direction. I’m sure there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, but I’m not seeing it. Well, I’m going to be optimistic and say that if you don’t keep moving forward you won’t ever get anywhere. So, onward.

I had to have a photo to share, so, I’m sharing this one. This is my first real crewel embroidery project I ever did.  It was a footstool for my Mother in Law, the second Christmas we were married (I think), so about 1977. It was an Elsa Williams kit, and I thought I would never finish it, I remember working on it right up until the last minute!  It was quite difficult, but interesting because it had a lot of different colors and stitches.

My Mother in Law took wonderful care of it, and when she passed away 6 years ago it came back to me, and it makes me think of her, which makes me happy.  I don’t know if I will ever do anything like this again, but it’s a little bit inspiring to think I did this!  I sure did love this Jacobean pattern.

I hope next week to have some awesome sweater pillows to show you, but that may depend on what the house decides to do!  Hope everyone else had a better week than I did!  🙂

 

Draw Me an Elephant!

When my youngest son was little he used to ask me to draw him elephants. I’m not sure why. I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I guess he liked elephants (what kid doesn’t?) and I always said yes, and so it was one of our “things”. I was trying to think of something to make this weekend with an extra jean’s leg and it occurred to me that a little stuffed elephant would be a fun surprise thing to send him, now that he and his wife are awaiting the birth of their first child.

I won’t do a tutorial on it, since it was so simple. I just drew one on computer paper, cut it out (be sure to cut it bigger than the final size to account for seams!) and used that as a pattern. I like to draw on dark fabric (and glass for that matter) with silver sharpie markers. Draw on the wrong side.

Cut it out, and then stitch it up except for the back. Use something like a chopstick to turn the legs and trunk right side (don’t make the trunk too thin or you will have a really difficult time turning it!). I actually think they make a tool for this, and I might try to find one and buy it.

Stuff it with batting (mostly full), add your eyelet for an eye if you want to (altho I would not consider this baby safe as I think over time that could come off and be a choking hazard, like a button) and hand stitch most of the back up, finish stuffing and hand stitch the rest of it up.

Easy! I thought it was really cute. Now I need to get it off in the mail. 🙂

Norman and Catherine

Norman and Catherine by sundero
Norman and Catherine, a photo by sundero on Flickr.

You probably wonder who the heck Norman and Catherine are. I have no idea either. These two cups still sit in my Dad’s cupboard and every time I go home to visit him I look forward to being either “Catherine” or “Norman”. It hardly matters which one I am.
My Mom bought them somewhere, because they were on sale. It didn’t matter that her name wasn’t Catherine (or Norman!) and neither was my Dad’s. In fact, none of us was named Norman or Catherine. They were good cups and they were on sale.
That was how Mom was. She liked a good sale.
And so, when I would visit, she and I would be Catherine and Norman (we didn’t care who would be whom) and it became a funny joke between us.
Now that she’s gone, when I visit Dad, sometimes my Dad or husband is Catherine or Norman, and it still makes me happy to laugh about it. Memories are like that. Or should be.

Because today is also Handmade Monday please go check out the link and see what everyone is doing.  I have been out of town on vacation, but promise to get back on track, making things and posting recipes and back to my normal blogging self!

Red Snow Suits

Red Snow Suits by sundero
Red Snow Suits, a photo by sundero on Flickr.

I tried to post this for Father’s Day, but had problems posting it.  Sometimes I can’t make things work, and then suddenly I can.  Oh well!  🙂
I wanted to say, this is my Dad and me, when I was little, and I love this picture. It was taken in Denver, I’m sure by my Mom.  I don’t remember living there, we weren’t there very long.  But it looks like we were having fun, in the snow.  Well, ok, it looks like I wanted to get down, I probably wanted to go see the ducks and fall into the water.  🙂

So, Happy Father’s Day (again!) Dad.  I love you!   Thanks for always keeping me from falling into the water! 🙂

Something For Dad

It’s Handmade Monday so of course I’m running very late. I actually had the project mostly done yesterday but I wanted it to dry completely before I put it together which means I couldn’t get my final photos done yesterday, which means I didn’t do my write up –etc etc etc (please read that with Yul Brynner’s voice from The King and I, it’s far more effective…).

Anyway. It’s Father’s Day next Sunday, and I have to get this done and in the mail. My Dad makes the most wonderful cards for people for their birthdays. He’s also difficult to get presents for, so I thought maybe he would like something to help him organize his cards. I’ve been working on it for weeks, and kept running into snags. Finally, it’s done!

I think it turned out well. I’m not going to say this was simple or easy. It combined some things I enjoy with some things I really don’t like to do at all, but I think a lot of projects are like that (sewing –cough cough).

It also gave me an idea for something else I’m going to make, which I’ll share later this summer.

So, let’s head on over and look at how I made my Daddy a Card Keeper. 🙂

Finished Card Keeper

Jets & Eggs –Butter Oh Boy!

My middle son Jordan is probably a better cook than I am.  He is a Foodie with a capital F.  I can honestly say he was born that way. He has always loved food, and was interested in cooking from an early age.  He asked for family recipes as soon as he had his own kitchen and actually made them.  Not only that, he experimented and shared new ones.  Several years ago he decided to make a family recipe that we had made when the boys were young.  It was passed down to us by Jeff’s Mom, and it had been passed on to her by her Mother.  These were an Easter tradition, but he had probably never seen them made because the whole point was to make them without the kids seeing because, of course, the Easter Bunny brought them.

He had some problems with the recipe, and sent the following email out.  It’s pretty funny, at least it had most of us laughing.  I think I know what his problem was, and I’ll explain, plus I will share the recipe and step by step instructions with pictures, so hopefully you can make these without your own disaster.  Read on for Jordan’s details of making Jets and Butter Cream Eggs:

So I really only have half the experiment complete.  Let me explain…

I set out to do two batches of butter cream eggs for Easter.  It had been way too long since I had them, and I was feeling in that holiday spirit.  After reading the recipe, I noted that it called for margarine, not butter.  Being the foodie snob that I am, I couldn’t reconcile why you would use an inferior product in such a rich treat.  Thus, it was off to experts.  Needless to say, Dad does not make enough of these to be an expert, though he did share my enthusiasm for a higher quality treat.  So off to Aunt Jane, the great sage of our family recipes (and in recent years, Granddaddy’s Jet extraordinaire), who suggested that the current recipe may have been altered after Granddaddy’s first heart attack (apparently butter is not exactly good for your heart, and margarine makes a suitable substitute).  She too thought it would be possible that butter would be a better idea than margarine.

With this in mind, I decided to go for the old horse race.  Buy enough ingredients to make the recipe both ways and let my taste buds decide for me.  With thanks and love to Aunt Jane, I promised her a full write-up of my findings (thus the increasingly lengthy e-mail).

Excited by the prospect of fundamentally changing the way our family views one of their favorite Easter treats, I reviewed the recipe, decided to make a double batch of each and headed to the store.  To keep things as equal as possible, I chose Land of Lakes for both the butter and the margarine (thinking at least the quality of ingredients should be the same).  I bought the unseemly large number of bags of powdered sugar (5 bags), and splurged for the really nice bitter chocolate, Sharfen Berger (note that this chocolate is more than 3 times as expensive as the cheaper brand, but is fantastically good).  I was also fortunate enough in my last trip to Henderson to sneak out to Hidalgo’s in Longview (a great Mexican pottery, statue, furniture type store) that actually brings back real Mexican vanilla (like you get from the little shops in Mexico).  It beats vanilla extract from a tiny bottle any day.

Planning ahead, I left out the butter so that it would warm to room temperature (otherwise, creaming would be impossible).  I chose the butter test first (can you tell which one I expected to win yet?).  I started creaming it with the powdered sugar (so far so good), and adding half and half).  This continued…and continued…and continued, until I almost wore out my electric hand mixer.  No matter how much powdered sugar I added, I just couldn’t ever reach the “firm” consistency called for in the recipe.  I had already been adding, and mixing, and adding, and waiting for the mixer to cool down, for about an hour and a half.  After 3½ bags of powdered sugar, I began to think this butter thing must not be working.  I decided to employ the refrigerator to firm up the butter cream mix (which was effective, but time consuming).  After about half an hour in the fridge, I was able to start rolling the mixture into balls (yes, I was making eggs, so ½ of the batch was colored yellow, the other half left white), a couple at a time.  My hands warmed up the mixture pretty quickly, and it was apparent that there was no way this was going to be a clean experience.

After managing about 30 little yellow balls, covered in a white outer layer (this process itself probably took another 2-3 hours), I stuck them in the freezer (it was getting late on a Friday, and I was planning on bringing these with me).  I started melting the chocolate, and brought the eggs out a few at a time to drop into the chocolate.  Between trying to cover the eggs before letting them warm up and melt, and fish the eggs out of the pot with a fork, I managed about 10 great looking eggs, and 20 that looked like they had been made by Edward Scissorhands.  The chocolate covered (if you could really call them covered at this point) eggs were set up in my fridge & freezer on cookie sheets to further harden (I was slowly realizing that these would never be able to be served at room temperature) before transportation to work the following day.

How did they taste you ask?  Fantastic.  Super.  Creamy.  Better than I ever remembered.  However, I am hoping my big flaw in preparation was using too much half & half.  I guess I could have kept adding more sugar, but I was running out of bowl (and this was the largest bowl I had).  With my current batch not going exactly as planned, and few hours left before work the next morning, I opted not to give the margarine Jets a go.  I am thinking a weekend at Aunt Jane’s would provide a little firmer grasp of how the process “should” go before setting out to tackle the margarine method.

So in answer to your questions, sure – butter probably has a taste advantage, but if you don’t know what you should be looking for in the first place, it is probably wise to stick to the recipe as printed.

Aunt Jane – if you give the butter option a go, let me know how they turn out for you.  I will probably make another attempt after I finish off my freezer full of Butter cream eggs, but will try a single batch next time.

Love,

Jordan

Let’s just head over to Cook It and check out how you really SHOULD make then at Buttercream Eggs and Jets.  If you start now you can still have them for Easter morning.

Jets and peeps

Mochi Brings Things Full Circle

Recently we were at one of those trendy yogurt places that seem to be popping up all over the place, with friends. I noticed an interesting topping I had never seen before, and I asked the clerk what it was. He said it was “mochi”. He explained, upon questioning that it was a Japanese candy made from rice flour and offered me a taste. I was immediately in love! Having lived in Japan as a child, it reminded me of the rice paper wrapped candies I remembered but had not had in almost fifty years.

So, I decided that if I could find a recipe, I would attempt to make mochi and if successful, share the experience. Little did I know what an undertaking it would be! My neighbor, Pam, who had been at the yogurt shop with us had a recipe in my inbox within a day, so I thought, this is going to be a piece of cake (or mochi!). Haha! Do I never learn?

I looked at the ingredients. They all seemed pretty benign, and the directions were wonderfully simple. So, when the weekend came around, Jeff and I set out. Sugar, baking powder, vanilla and red food color I had. That left only coconut milk, potato starch and mochiko (glutinous rice flour). I knew I’d seen and actually bought coconut milk and potato starch. And maybe the rice flour was the same as the rice flour I’d also bought before but I wasn’t sure. But even if not, surely the Greenwise market would have it.

Potato starch was easy. Coconut milk a little harder, but, finally I found it hidden on the bottom of the shelf by the ethnic foods in not quite the size can I needed, but close enough. Then it turned out, the mochiko or glutinous rice flour was NOT the same as rice flour. And it was not available at Greenwise. Nor at Whole Foods. Nor the Fresh Market. Or anywhere else. I came home home and went online and read to see what on earth it was. I found some online, but I had to buy $27 worth, and I didn’t even know if the recipe was going to work or if I would like it when I was done.

So, I put a message up on Face Book, to see if any of my friends had any ideas. A couple of them thought they knew of places that might have it locally (Asian markets) and my good friend Deena thought she could get it where she lived and might be able to get it to me.

Then, someone I had known when my kids were small sent me a message on Face Book and said she actually had some she had purchased and not used and would I like her to send me a box? I really thought this was the kindest thing! I said yes, and within a few days, I had a box of Mochiko! All because an old friend saw a need and filled it! Thank you Marsha! 🙂

Find the recipe in Cook It at Mochi.