right now

right now

Dec 29, 2011

I wasn't prepared to post tonight but wow - did anyone else watch Discovery Channel's first episode of  "Alaska: The Last Frontier"?  I normally never post links to video or tv since I myself find some of the stuff droning on about being "green" and "sustainable" to be lacking in any true substance and I just get annoyed by all the "talk but no walk", but these folks are the real deal - no running water, 600 acres of wild frontier, plenty of hunting and firewood and smart parents and children.  Unfortunately, I spent the first part of the episode flipping through magazines and not really paying attention, (my expectations of reality shows have soured the past few years!) but after what caught my attention the latter part I will definitely be going back to watch it in its entirety!  This family is truly self sustainable on large acreage in Alaska, and after the real-deal humane and heartfelt butchering scene where they butcher the 17 year old family milk cow in order to save the meat since it surely wouldn't make it through the winter, I feel so much joy in that there really are regular people out there practicing real world ethics, not just for the sake of "appearance".  Sometimes I get very frustrated by the portrayal of "tv & magazine ethics" and just long for real world stories, that's why I like homesteading blogs :)  Anyway, check your listings, I'm sure they will rerun it,  or find out if you can watch it online, I haven't checked yet, but do it quickly since I'm sure some organization will try to get this off the air (we know who).  As a family who has ties to both Alaska and Minnesota, I found this show to be very true to a harsh northern get-it-all done quick, summer's short, hunting/homesteading/hard work kind of life, and the family portrayed look like some of the most sane people I've seen yet on a tv reality show, I'm sure America's typical tv audience will not appreciate it though, right?!

Interestingly enough, I found out just now the featured family is the singer Jewel's extended family, with the patriarch of the family in the show being her father.

Dec 27, 2011

A Quiet Christmas

Although we were sad to not be traveling home to Minnesota this year, there is always this to be thankful for...

At least we weren't part of the throng of cars trying to leave the Beach last week!

Instead, I used up a lot of my home canned tomatoes and sauce, peppers and onions to make a big batch of chili.  Low stress, and we ate off it all weekend!  The kids were very happy to see that Santa could still find them even here in Virginia LOL.

Yesterday we had a great day out riding on some of the nearby trails.

The weather was a fantastic 48º, perfect for riding.  I'm hoping those higher temps will stay away for awhile now, I don't care for warm winters at all -  it was 76º last Thursday!

It's raining and windy today so I'm using the time to catch up on the extra helping of laundry Santa seems to have left me, but am hoping to get sewing or reading this week, and to go out and check to see if the greens I planted are going to do anything.  The past couple plantings didn't work out at all, with either rain washing the seeds away, or having them sprout in nice 55 degree temps only to have them yell "uncle" when the next few days rose to almost 80.  I'm giving up for the remainder of the season out there and will be planning for springtime instead very soon!  Hope you all had a great holiday!

Dec 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

Much love to all of you this Christmas Eve!

Dec 21, 2011

This mess brought to you by... Christmas!

Cake Pops!

I had a few people ask me how these are done, so here you go!  This is only my 2nd time doing them the "real" way, so this is very basic.  I know you can go wild with fillings, making shapes and animals and all that, but I definitely can't do that yet.

Before you begin, I'll be kind enough to give you my "lessons learned" from a prior headache and tear fest brought to you by my first attempt:  DO NOT buy one of those stupid cake pop "pans" or the cake pop "machine"!  They only make a dozen at a time then you have to clean up and start all over again 2 to 4 times to use up all your batter (a batch is approx 40 cake pops), they have you add "extra" ingredients to the batter, and then... they don't work!  They fall off the stick, just a headache in general.  The second tip is to save your sanity and just grab one of your 50% off coupons for one of the craft or fabric stores and buy the darn candy melting/warmer pot already!  The warmer works perfectly, every time, and is easily washed.  I can't stress this enough.  The first time I did the microwave AND a double boiler and both were epic failures.  You need to have the stuff melted to just the right consistency and kept there for a LONG time, and those methods will send you straight to the looney bin.  The last tip I have is to NOT use those perfectly round pareil sprinkles, they bounce all over the house and will have your dogs scrambling underfoot to get them all, you will trip on the dog and if you're a neat freak like me, once again, looney bin.

If you are really awesome, you will bake your cake from scratch, make your own frosting and all that jazz, but let's face it, I'm really not that awesome.

Here's a basic list of what you will need, adjust the decorations of course to what you want.

Ingredients: cake mix, creamy frosting, sprinkles or other decor, lollipop sticks, bags and twist ties if gifting, melting candy for coating the cake pop

1.  First you have to get "in the mood".  Put on your Yule Log DVD, light a tree scented candle, and get some holiday music going.  I prefer Tony Bennett, but if you are feeling especially brave you could opt for The Chipmunks.

2.  Bake cake mix according to directions, let cool, then crumble into fine bits into a large bowl.

3.  Add frosting (I use about 1/2 cup) and mix until you can feel the mixture "sticking together".  Think meatballs here.

4.  That's exactly what you are going to do now, roll into uniform balls exactly like you are making meatballs!

5.  Put your cake balls into the freezer for about 10 minutes or into the fridge for 1/2 hour so the mixture will set and not be as pliable.

6.  While your cake balls are chillin', get your stuff ready to put the lollipop sticks in.  You need to start your candy coating to melt and get a cookie sheet lined with parchment or foil, not important at this point what you use.  This is where you will rest your uncoated cake pops while the sticks set up.  This pan needs to fit in your fridge, so choose carefully :)

7.  Take your cake balls out of the fridge, and you are going to dip a stick and get some chocolate on the tip, about 1/2 inch or so, and insert the stick into the cake ball and place on cookie sheet to harden.  This is what really keeps the cake pop from falling apart and "glues" it on there.

8.  Once you have all your cake balls with sticks in them, place again in the fridge for about 1/2 hour or so.

9.  While that happens, lay out your stuff for decorating and get ready to make a real mess.  Your chocolate should be melted and turned to the warm setting, sprinkles out and foam block close by.

10.  Next part is usually the frustrating part.  You need to dip your cake ball in the melted coating, it helps to use a tiny spatula to cover the whole thing, since if you just start swirling away your cake ball is guaranteed to fall of the stick.  This whole process needs to be worked pretty quickly.  Pulling your cake pop out of the chocolate, use the spatula to lightly swirl around it to take care of any potential drips.  This is the part that most people get frustrated with.  I slowly rotate it for about 10-15 seconds until there are no drips, but it's still wet, and then sprinkle away!  I sprinkle over a bowl instead of a plate but it's still a huge mess :)

Note:  I'm a cook, not a baker - so I draw the line at frosting bags, tips and strange things like airbrushes and fondant - that stuff scares me!  I'm a "sprinkle" kind of girl.  If you are comfortable with all that other stuff, Google cake pops and the creations you will find are amazing.  Anyway, back to the sprinkles...

11. As you finish each one, rotate slowly again to make sure no heavy drips are going to mess it up, then stick it into the foam block to set up.  It sets up quickly and no refrigeration is needed after this point.

12.  Let them all set on the counter for at least an hour up to overnight.  These will stay fresh for several days now since they are sealed up in that hard candy coating.  You can leave them as they are or you can choose to put them into bags with twist ties if they are traveling or being gifted.  Mine are going to Loch's class party tomorrow so I will bag them.  Someday I will have hubby cut a nice piece of wood with holes drilled to serve these on, but they lay on a platter just fine since they aren't made into any cutesy animals or anything that would require special care. 

13.  You are done!  Well, except for cleaning up the bomb that went off in the kitchen...

*Here's another tip:  leftover chocolate candy can be poured into a lined container and in a couple hours you can just pop it out and place in a sealed baggie for next time.

 The cleanup crew!  It's handy to have a herding dog to round up all the rogue sprinkles...ahhhh, so this is what city herding dogs do!


You made it to the end of this post?  Congrats!  I agree, it's less messy to just read about it :)  By the way, if you actually make these and do not end up in the Looney Bin, you are absolutely entitled to eat a dozen or so in one sitting.  

Dec 15, 2011

Fa la la la la.....

So does everyone have this new blog interface-thingy?  Not sure if it self destructed on me for not being an every-day blogger this winter or if we are all in the same boat?

Anyway, looks like once again Loch is picking up the slack for me gardening-wise...

They have tons of greens coming in at his after-school project garden, radishes and a few other things as well.  He's been keeping us in collards, a myriad of "Choys" along with what looks like to me to be Deer Tongue lettuce.  The kids there are really showing an interest in it all, it's quite refreshing to see all their enthusiasm!

What do I say?  That's exactly what it looks like, a goat in the school cafeteria :)  

The reason for the goat was that Loch's garden club had a day of what I would refer to as "Goat paraphernalia".  There was plenty of fiber, spinning and knitting projects for them to look at, as well as some of the different products we get from their milk.  The kids got to make some quick felted soaps as well.

Even though this is Loch's gig, I knew Finn would enjoy it so I got him over there early enough that he could revel in the goat paraphernalia.  Yep, goats - fiber, cheese, soap and cuteness -what's not to love?!

On to my holiday stress story - I'll tell it once just to "purge it" so it won't ruin the rest of my week stewing on it!  This was the first year I have done layaway for Christmas.  I was really excited to pay cash, not credit for the kids' gifts this year so I could truly enjoy the day without fearing bills and interest piling up.  I was a smart shopper and put their stuff on layaway way back in October while everything was still in stock.  I paid every 2 weeks and today was very excited to pay if OFF completely and bring the stuff home to wrap.  (BTW this is the Navy Exchange, our on-base dept store/mall).  I pay it off and the girl goes "in the back" to get it.  She's gone for 20 minutes.  Comes back, says "we can't find it" and proceeds to go out into the store and try and recreate my order from the receipt.  She comes back, stacking a bunch of stuff on the counter that really doesn't come close to what I bought!  Of course none of the stuff is in stock (we're talking Legos, so many of you know that not just any Lego set will do when your kids have been dreaming all year of that one particular set!)  I then insist that they find my stuff, and proceed to settle down in a chair in customer service ready for the long wait.  She leaves again with another gal.  Meanwhile, there is a line of at least 12 people in uniform behind me, all waiting to pay off and pick up their holiday layaways, and all are starting to freak out that their stuff might be lost, too (imagine guy 2 people behind me with a diamond ring on layaway!).  Girl comes back and says "well we just have so much stuff back there that we can't locate it", AND THEN JUST LOOKS AT ME, as if I'm going to say "oh, okay, bye!".  Ha!  They then page a guy from the Garden Center - enter 19 year old guy - who proceeds to go through those big scary doors "to the back"... awesome kid returns in 6 minutes with all my stuff in his hand!  He should definitely make the nice list this year, makes me wonder how hard the other gal even tried, oh and they had someone else's name of my stuff, too, lovely!  Ok, end rant.  :)  You know I need to have a good rant at least once every 5 months or so just so you know it's the same blogger writing on here :)

Thank you for listening to that, I was eager to purge so I can get back to enjoying what this holiday is really all about, and luckily there is no more shopping to do so I'm hoping for smooth sailing from here on out!  I hope the rest of you are having a relaxing and enjoyable week, darn commercialism is always what gets in the way, isn't it?  Funny thing is that material stuff always presents the worst kind of stress.  Other stressors, the stress of traveling, possible dysfunctional holiday dinners with family, kids fighting or over tiredness caused by too much excitement - those stresses are the good kind, because it means you are celebrating with family and friends, whatever that entails LOL!  I'm wishing you all nothing but "good" stress this week :)

Dec 8, 2011

I really am alive!

I'm still here!  I have been crazy busy the past couple of weeks.  I apologize for not keeping up on my commenting on all your blogs, I've been reading them whenever I can, but lately it's been on my phone, and trying to comment on that thing is an exercise in futility.  The kids have been really busy with school  and other activities lately, and hubby has been working very long days and enduring all sorts of drama at the squadron courtesy of some ill behaved junior personnel there, which has been making him very tired in the evenings so I haven't had much in the way of "adult conversation" lately.  So what's a girl to do?  

Isn't this yarn fun?  Looks like I will be doing washcloths this year as gifts, lots of washcloths, LOL...waaaaaay behind schedule for knitting gifts this year, as in just started last night, yikes!  

Other events going on:

Loch made the Honor Roll, big deal for him since this is the first grade they offer that in here.  We are very proud of him of course, but I'm really just excited to get one of those annoying bumper stickers out of the deal.

Baking, lots and lots of baking, for school parties, church functions, and also a girl has to reach a certain level of chocolate in the bloodstream to stay up for that late-night knitting :)  

If you are anything like my husband, you will love this one...

Even though I can now be considered a "scrapbooker", even I can find the humor in this one, because it really is true, like hubby says "do you really need all this crap?"  LOL you'd think they'd replace that bulb a.s.a.p.!

Is anyone else out there finding themselves really not in the holiday mood this year?  Maybe it's because we aren't going home this year, maybe it's the tight finances, or maybe let's just talk about the fact that it was 78º here yesterday... YUCK!!!!  I'm hoping things change soon, my "busyness" of late should relax a bit next week, so I'm hoping that my mood improves along with getting some much needed time back. I feel like I have reverse S.A.D. due to the warm unseasonable temps, this girl likes it cold in the wintertime!

Now we have to leave the house again so the agent can show it (to yet another person who can't get approved for a mortgage)... what a great usage of time it is to drive aimlessly around with the kids and dogs in the car, good times. This time we may go to the park and I can sit in the car and catch up on everyone's posts!

Leaving you with this redneck gem:

'Tis the season!

Nov 29, 2011

Sewing/Crafting Space - when you have NO space!

Just one year ago on Halloween, I sat down to an old, broken sewing machine, and decided to learn to sew...

This was my setup then, kids' old computer desk with a folding table and the rolling cart the kids used to keep their Legos in!  It "worked" but, was very shaky, and nobody could get to the back door!  Oh and let's talk about the fact that the "cart" was missing a wheel, so it would randomly just decide to flip over and spew it's contents all over the floor :)

Most of you seasoned sewers/crafters will understand and be nodding your heads furiously when I say that my newfound love of "sewing" quickly morphed into the desire for organization!  Things started reproducing at an alarming rate: thread, fabric, grid rulers, miscellaneous paraphernalia strewn about like beer bottles in a frat house.  By now most of you know the horror that strikes in me - now over the past 8 months add all my knitting and now scrapbooking junk into the equation... this was definitely one of the worst hobbies a Type A/OCD girl could take up in a home with 950 sq ft!  Hubby would get home from work, trip over a sewing machine cord strewn across the living room right in front of the door, be forced to sleep on the couch because I have quilt pieces laid out on the bed for placement (don't move those!), he even started using my ironing board as a kitchen island it had been there so long!  

What's a guy to do?  Well for starters, I had a cart that had an open top used to store appliances.  He made me a wooden top for it and I made panels to hang on it and cover up.... all my fabric storage!  Yep, this thing actually looks like a kitchen island now -

Below is a peek behind the curtain:  I have yet another old Lego bin I stole from the boys and labeled it for different size precuts and scraps, I buy those big 12x12 clear scrapbook page storage envelopes (with the 50% off coupons, of course) and use them to store fabric in, a repurposed open bin for stuff I'm currently working on, and an old box full of, eeeek - old sewing machine parts.  Yes, I am amassing quite a little collection of estate/thrift machines, it's a sickness I will write about another day :)

Nowadays, however, it parks conveniently between a door and my desk and I topped it with my favorite inspirational things and instead of looking at stacks of fabric all over (remember I have no closets in our open plan house!), now I have a cool little retro groovy fabric corner that rolls anywhere I need it to! Well, I like it anyways :)

But this little gem below is what makes it ALL work... enter the "Go-Go-Gadget, Craftroom"!

A very small footprint with a big storage shelf, huge and deep drawers, and wheels!  We all know how much this house needs wheels!  Here she is folded down and parked just about anywhere:

And here she is all folded out - takes only about 20 seconds to fold it out, and if you were so inclined, there's room for 4 crafty people to set up!  You can even store 1 or 2 machines on the bottom so it's always there.  It's awesome for cutting patterns on and don't even get me started on how handy this is to serve a buffet on...  

I really wanted to see how it held up to abuse before recommending it, but I've been using it since February and just love it.  It sees lots of abuse here too, since I can't leave it set up so it gets rolled around the house and folded and unfolded every time I sew - no problems.  It fits one of those big folding cardboard grid things on the top, so that helps with pinning and cutting so I don't mark up the table.

I won't bore some of you with repeat photos, so check out my post on the "Crafty Hallway" to see how I got a ton of storage out of my hallway, great as long as you aren't 5 feet wide, I guess, because then it would cease to function as a hallway :)

Anyway, that hallway is there by the blue curtain covering up my washer/dryer, so it's easy to grab the supplies I need.

 Besides the actual folding table, the only things I have purchased for the "space" were the carousel I mentioned the other day I got for 80% off, and this light below.  I saved a TON by buying this adjustable light for $19.99 the last time I was at IKEA, when I saw how much those crafting lights were I almost fell over and after using this cheap one for 8 months now, I can't imagine that there's anything the spendy ones could do for me that this can't, I love this light.

So here it is today - it's pouring outside so I set it up and am going to sew.  If hubby needs to get into the bedroom though, he's going to have to crawl under the table, he's used to it!  Just kidding, there's another door to the bedroom off the hallway :)

So in the span of less than a year, I'm basically a lost cause.

And oh, yeah... Santa can find this table here.  If you watch you might find a sale, I got mine in Feb for $179.99 with 10% off that price with a coupon code and free shipping. No, I'm not getting anything for the review, I just like to help others with the same lack of space issue as I have!  

So now show me yours!  I'm still jealous as can be of those of you that have a room for crafting (we know who I'm talking about!) but that sure doesn't stop me from wanting to see!  Someday, someday... :)

*note - it's BIG, measuring 36" x 76" and if you have carpet, you would probably need to leave this in one spot because I'm pretty sure it won't roll on that! - Also note that it is a counter height table (which I happen to love), so you will need to find a bar stool/chair that has a nice place to rest your feet so it's comfortable.

Nov 26, 2011

Kicking off my favorite time of year!

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving!

It was a quiet day here, we are a thousand miles from family again this year, but we didn't let that stop us from doing the "dinner" thing.  We may take some flak for this, but I made a HAM instead of turkey this year.  Although I do love turkey, I don't like the smell of it cooking all day, and the only thing I detest more on that day than cleaning a bird carcass is the thought of wasting the bird carcass LOL, so I decided to avoid it all and do the ham :)  Tomorrow I will use the leftovers for a ham and bean soup that I can pressure can also if I have enough.

The night before the big dinner day we decided to forgo cooking and head to our favorite salad bar place for dinner.  When we got there it was sunny out, but when we left they had just done the illumination of Town Center, so that put me in a bit of a holiday mood, even though hubby was wearing shorts!  Yes, it was in the 70's again, yuck!

Lots of things to be thankful for this year, but I'm especially thankful for a child that will actually wear the sweater out to play that mom knit :)

I decided to try Cake Pops for the first time...

Not too bad for the first attempt!

I will admit to shopping ON Thanksgiving Day!!!!  I can see you cringing right now, but hey - it was a craft store so does that make it any better?  I didn't think so.  80% off an item I had been coveting for 6 months made it okay for me :)

One thing I found interesting was possibly a sign of the current economic times - I passed Target which opened in the evening and the parking lot was almost empty, but when I pulled into Michael's at 6 pm there were lots of cars and several more pulling in behind me.  I'd like to think that means more people are instead spending money on their crafts, hobbies, their own home and making gifts than in years before.  I know I don't have the cash for new tv's, gaming systems and the like, but I sure can find a few dollars for some yarn for a knitted gift :)  Funny thing too, everyone in there was pleasant and chatting with strangers instead of pushing and shoving!

Then it was time to dig out the Christmas Gear...

And decorate the tree!  It's never too early for military families to decorate.  Last year many of us military spouses had our Christmas stuff out after Halloween LOL, I think that may have had something to do with the fact that our spouses were on deployment and due to return just a couple of days before Christmas, we were just a bit excited :)  Remember last year here?  Hubby had to climb in the car and drive 1250 miles just hours after stepping foot on dry land!

Oh yeah... WHAT could have possibly had me out shopping on Thanksgiving night?  That white carousel below - reg price $40 - with the sale and coupons, I snatched it up for under $10!  I can't wait to stock it up with crafting nonsense :)

Today's agenda:  sending the kids outside to play with daddy, hot chocolate and pattern cutting for me!

Tina over at Our Rustic Roots asked the other day about crafty/sewing spaces, so I'm going to do a post later on about my space.  I meant to do a post about my sewing/crafting space saving setup last year but never got around to it, although I did do one on my yarn storage "hallway".  I even had the photos grouped on my old Mac's desktop but we all know what happened to that thing.  Maybe if everyone has time in the next few days they could post a few pics of their setup for whatever the wintertime hobby may be - large rooms, tiny rooms, kitchen table sewing, whatever space you have, show us how you set it up!  I know this time last year I was a freak show with my newfound obsession with my search for a sewing machine and learning how to sew, and creating a place for it all naturally became entwined with all that.  Besides looking at peoples' pantries, is there anything better than snooping at crafty spaces?  I think not.

Nov 21, 2011

Apron Challenge!

It's done!  

Susan at e-i-e-i-omg! challenged us to an apron sew-off and it was just what I needed to snap out of my blogging laziness the past month and get back into the swing of things.  Thanks, Susan!  Head over to her blog later today when she will link up all the participants to check out all the aprons!

Finnegan said it looks like I'm getting x-rays at the dentist -

whatever, who asked him?!