Counting My Blessings

I am very blessed and I live in a state (Minnesota) that is very wonderful in a country that is relatively prosperous and safe. But I live in a world that is always experiencing so much sadness, grief, loss and devastation. Being alive and keeping alive isn’t easy for many people what with hunger and violence and so many other things that keep people from reaching their full potential.

With the recent quakes and tsunami there are even more people that need help. I will do what I can and I hope you will too. One way to help is to provide a service or a product and donate all or part of the proceeds to relief efforts. Susan, in her blog, I’m Knitting As Fast As I Can has a great socks pattern for sale and all of the proceeds will go to Oxfam’s Asian Earthquake & Tsunami Fund. Please buy her pattern.

I want to help too! I have some beaded knitting stitch markers that I call Goddess Guards©. Here is a photo of them:

They are $9.99 for a set of 9 and include shipping (USA only please). Click here to go to the full description and a way to order via PayPal. I will donate $5 to Care International for every set ordered.

Now I feel like I can share with you some of my holiday blessings. I wish I could pass along the hugs and happiness from the great gatherings that we had here – I will have to settle with photos of the cool stuff I got.

First, my gifts from William-Thomas: a full version of Windows XP. (I know it isn’t directly knit or spin related, but sure helps with sanity issues and ease of blogging. ) The other, the Lazy Kate A-Go-Go™ that I had on my list. I used it already and it sure makes a difference in plying. A big difference. No more tangles and twists and plying is very fast now. I still need practice though. Here are 2 spindles of my plyed yarn (varigated) and one spindle of singles (just because):

I have been on a spinning kick lately. I won’t run out of fiber any time soon, and to be sure of that Kerry helped out by giving me this for Christmas:

The hatbox alone was very cool and decorated with my favorite flower, the pansy. There are 8 oz. each of fiber from FibersofMichigan.com. The one of the left is called Canadian Sunset, the other, Wild Berry.

I was also gifted a beautiful shawl pin from an old friend, Leslie / At the End of the Day (waypasttense). ***She can take that either way***.

I remembered when she bought this shawl pin – years ago. She thought it would get more use with me. I love it!

I know this is already getting long – but dang it, I still have a lot more to share.

My friend Kerry has been having some owies lately. I have been trying to help out as best I can. Yesterday, after getting back from her house I found out that the gift that I had ordered for her had finally arrived. She says she wants to see it, but just in case I have it as a link instead of out in the open. Click here to see it.

Okay, so in wrapping up I am back to knitting caps again. But my dear sister informed me that she needs a wide, warm, and super long scarf. I had scammed on some very discounted Bernat mohair blend yarn called Misty some time back. I think it was $2/skein. Anyway, I have a huge stash of perle cotton in black (previous weird buy) that I thought would look good carried along with the mohair. It fits with the wool poncho she wears so that is what she is getting. I am no dummy, I checked with her highness first. Seriously, it is nice to knit or bead for someone who isn’t afraid of voicing their very specific requirements before you make them something. It cuts down on the disappointment factor. Here is what I have so far.

I might through in some "stripes" of moss stitch or something though because it really isn’t doing it for me yet. Maybe I need to add an eyelash or other fancy thread. Hmmmm. Feel free to give me some hints.

That is enough for me today. I am off to knit and spin. I probably won’t be back blogging until 2005, so I am going to wish you a very safe, warm, peaceful (or fun and loud) New Year celebration. WT and I will be kicking back watching DVDs, eating exotic snacky stuff and I will be spinning or knitting.

Peace!

Favorites for 2004

I found this on Zeneedle’s blog, who found it on Amy’s blog and it seemed like a nice way to recap 2004.

Favourite needles for 2004:
My set of Denise needles. I love my set – it comes along in my knitting bag and I show it to anyone who wants to see – okay, and a few who probably couldn’t care less. I have also just recently purchased the 2 extra long cables. I hear there is a price increase coming up, so if you are going to buy them, do it now!

Favourite On Line Shop for 2004:
Elann and Smiley’s Yarns are my favs this year. Elann is just so much fun to check. They have a great selection – super deals. Smiley’s is a great place to get rock-bottom prices on some good acrylic yarns, and sometimes wool too!

Favourite Yarn for 2004:
There really isn’t a yarn that I don’t like, but it is true that I like some better than others. First off, my own yarn that I made with my own hands this year would have to top the list. Then the great deal on some nice ribbon yarn from Elann, Schachenmayr Princess ( 72% Acrylic Microfibre/ 28% Viscose Rayon). I used it for 2 ponchos. Very slinky and fun.

Favourite finished object and KAL for 2004:
Well, my favorite finished object would have to be my Market Squares bag. I didn’t do any knit-a-longs, but I looked at a lot of them. I loved watching the output on the Booga bags – and did one, but later. I have lusted after the Charlotte shawls (still to do) and am kicking around the idea of falling into the rash of Clapotis that seems to be going around **** Clapotises, Clapoti? ****

Exciting new technique for 2004:
There are more than one! Blogging, entrelac and spinning, and knitting backwards and purling backwards too (on account of said entrelac).

Be sure to share your favorites on your own blog, and if you don’t have a blog – what’s up with that?

Still Nuts

2 more batches of peanut brittle and 4 more batches of walnuts to make but this time I think I am going to try a double recipe of the walnuts. I would never tempt fate on the brittle.

The walnuts are turning out extra good this year. The brittle snaps but is still kind of tacky. But it tastes delish and the chewiness helps one from eating a lot of it.

Humidity and variations in the freshness of ingredients keep these treats interesting in that they aren’t always the same – even though I make them the same way. Oh and this year an electric range vs. gas – might be that too.

I have a gift for my mother that needs doing too. She is getting washcloths (done) dishtowels (done) and money – for my dad too but mom runs the show.

She has always wanted a mother’s ring but because there are so many of us (8) hardly any places can make one for her, and especially to her liking. I found a pattern and instructions to make a Swarovski crystal pendant in the shape of a heart and I thought I could get it to be a mother’s pendant. But time is running out, she is my mom so she’ll understand. I might not even tell her about it and just go ahead and surprise her – that will be better.

Pics to come.

Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I am hoping that you have a very happy, comfortable and peaceful day .

Back at ya on Sunday.

Spamming Raised to a New Level

A few weeks ago WT and I received a holiday letter along with a pic from a couple I didn’t recognize. It was addressed incorrectly, I was addressed as "Sue" never mind that it came to the Wegners. I jumped to the conclusion that these happy people in the photo with the lovely letter belonged to WT and his clan – they don’t get my name right and haven’t figured out that I am an Aguirre, not a Wegner. Only my family and friends from long ago call me Sue. I really prefer Susan and don’t even think to call me Susie.

So, the letter and photo have been sitting with my other holiday cards. WT finally called his brother Gary and asked him and his family if anybody knew these people? No.

Then I re-read the letter and I believe we have been holiday letter and photo spammed! This couple talks about several spas and get-aways that they encountered in their last trip. Oh, and here is the tip-off. They just got back from an American Resort Development Association conference.

Isn’t this just the height of tackiness! Nice looking couple though. So here they are – the holiday spammers.

spammers!

Better holiday cards and gifties have been arriving. I purchased a CD for myself for a "just because" gift. It is Wren Ross’s Greatest Knits CD. No, that isn’t a typo – check out her site. She has a great voice and the songs are very funny: It Had to Be Ewe, Ba Ba Blacksheep (my fav), Holly Ann, I Will Knit for You, After the Ball is Over, Greensleeves and 76 Stitches. The CD came packaged with this cool knitting ribbon.

spammers!

I will probably re-use it for another knitter’s gift. Do you re-use bags and ribbons and stuff too? I figure it is a good way to recycle, although I tend to keep those good sturdy gift bags for knitting projects.

Well, I am off to do my brittle and walnuts now. I was waylaid by a migraine the other day – and the aftereffects dragged out until today.

Happy Solstice Everybody!

Please come and buy stuff

I am the world’s worst at promoting my own stuff. I keep forgetting to tell everybody that this Saturday, the 18th of December, 2004 there will be a
Bead Ladies Holiday Sale at
The Coffee Grounds
1579 Hamline Avenue
Falcon Heights, Minnesota
651-644-9959

The sale is from 12:30 to 4:30 pm. click here for more details, but basically there will be stuff to buy. Beaded earrings, bracelets, necklaces – good stuff. I will have several of my beaded knitted bags for sale and whatever else I can scrounge (inside joke). We are trying to have items that are reasonable priced (read: cheap) for those last-minute or fill-in gifts. We bead ladies do good work. Please come to check it out and have great coffee. There will be singing and other entertainment too!

Okay, end of commercial.

Holiday Traditions – Recipes

I just knew someone would ask for the recipes. But when I was typing up today’s earlier post – I took the easy/lazy way out and didn’t put them on. Now I have the recipes here at the computer so here they are:

Peanut Brittle
from Better Homes and Garden’s Cookies and Candies
modified by me after many years of making and ruining many batches

2 c sugar
1 c light corn syrup
1/2 c water
1 c butter
2 c raw peanuts
1 t baking soda

Be sure to check your candy thermometer by testing it in boiling water = 212 degrees. If you don’t have a candy thermometer do not attempt to make this – it just won’t work.

Combine sugar, syrup and water in a 3-quart saucepan. Cook and stir until sugar dissolves. When syrup boils, add the butter. Add the nuts when the temp reaches 280 degrees. Cook (stirring like crazy) until it reaches 305 degrees. Remove from heat and quickly stir in the soda and then pour onto 2-3 cookie sheets. I use 1 or 2 foil oven liners. I try to spread out the brittle but I do not pull it out or stretch it after it cools. Do not use margarine for this and do not use salted peanuts. The nuts need to be raw, because otherwise it burns.

Spiced Walnuts
from Better Homes and Garden’s Cookies and Candies
modified by me after many years of making and ruining many batches
makes 1 lb of candy
2 1/2 – 3 cups walnut halves (or pieces, halves look more fancy, but face it folks – pieces are just as delicious)
1 c sugar
1/2 c water
1 t cinnamon
1/2 t salt
1 1/2 t vanilla

Heat walnuts on a cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 5 minutes. Take them out and let cool slightly while making the rest. Butter the sides of a 2-quart saucepan. Combine in it sugar, water, cinnamon and salt. Cook and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture boils. Cook without stirring to soft-ball stage, 236 degrees. Remove from heat. Beat the mixture by hand for 1 minute or until mixture just begins to get creamy and thickens. Add the vanilla and the nuts. Beat until creamy. Pour out onto a butter cookie sheet.

See notes on testing the thermometer in the Peanut Brittle recipe above. Other tips: After I mix the nuts in, sometimes I bring the mixture back to the stove and stir it on very low heat until the mixture turns a bit — it starts to look creamy vs. glossy. 3 cups walnuts works better because it is less gooey. Baking the nuts first is very important. These nuts turn out really sweet and melt-in-your-mouth wonderful. Also – think about getting good quality cinnamon and vanilla for these. Penzys is a great place to shop.

Enjoy!

Countdown

I shouldn’t really spaz out that it is so close to Christmas. But I feel the impending doom as the hours tick by. Christmas shouldn’t be like that but I realize it is for most people. Especially women. Too much shopping and baking and CLEANING. Too many presents to get or worse MAKE. I am still making. I wish I could get up the umph to clean, but time is better spent elsewhere.

Gift giving: My family is different in that we give to whomever we choose and if you choose not to gift a particular person – no big deal. I think we landed on this because there is just too dang many of us, and drawing for names felt really hollow. Now there are more gifts and frankly, the excitement of wondering if you are going to be a person with a mound of presents, one with hardly anything at all or someone with something in between. Okay by me – truly – however it lands.

I give homemade peanut brittle and spiced walnuts. It is one of those traditions that if I stray from it I would be severely wounded, killed even. I love to do it but it is messy and time consuming and kind of tiring. I usually make about 6 batches of brittle and just as many of the spiced walnuts. It is quite the operation and my arms and hands ache afterwards but there just isn’t any substitute for homemade.

I do have one knitted gift almost finished – but it isn’t mine to give. My friend Mary’s daughter’s poncho is ready to fringe.

I will have to dehair it too. Mary should be coming for tonight’s Reiki Healing Share so I need to get my butt moving and get the fringe done.

I still have a set of clogs to make (for a friend) and many, many more cotton dishcloths and felted trivets (for my mom). One of WT’s gifts is done (can’t say what because he reads this blog). Chaachi’s gifts are in process too. I still don’t know what I am going to do for one friend and the rest are getting the brittle and nuts or a warm smile and a hug and a wish for a terrific Christmas and wonderful new year.

Parties – Here is a pic from Kerry’s b-day get-together last friday at Cafe Latte.

Marilyn is on the left with a stunning Vivian Hoxbro sweater. Renee is on the back right, and then moving forward we find Sarah, Kerry, Me. Sandy took the picture. Regrettably, Kerry’s cousin isn’t quite pictured and Kerry’s sister hadn’t arrived yet.

The funny thing about the gift I made Kerry. I had flaunted my felted clogs at her – wanting to draw her out in hopes that the set I had started for her would work. Then I had to crush her enthusiasm because it seemed like she was going to make a pair for herself! Nooooo!!! I gently (I hope) reminded her of all the things that needed to be done by Christmas. She backed down so I figured I was set. Only to be crushed by the email the day before the party telling me that her g*damn (my word) sister had given her a set of sheep slippers. Another set of slippers – ack!

I decided to just ignore that and give her the pre-felted slippers anyway – with a letter telling her of my woes, and calling her sister "g*damn sister". Then I get to the party and have a heart attack because her sister is there. Okay, calm down, different sister. The one thing that can save me is the card I bought, which I thought was cute and original. But noooooooo, the first present presented had almost the same exact card. Same sentiment, just a slightly different presentation. Fudge!

But because Kerry is such a sweet and kind person, she liked the clogs, and we had a laugh about the card too.

Gift giving can be hard on a person.

Sunday brought a lovely day with my Mr. Wonderful (read husband/William-Thomas/WT). It was our 11th/6th Anniversary; Eleven years together, 6 years married. Sunday the 12th was both our wedding anniversary and one of our many December dating celebrations. There is the phone call on the 5th, the date/meeting on the 8th, the "he made me dinner" anniversary – and so on *nudge nudge, wink wink*. We chose the 12th as our wedding date because 12-12-98 was way cool, 12-12-2012 will be even cooler and because the 21st was too weird to pick as our wedding aniversary (the 21st is the wink-wink-nudge-nudge anniversary).

When I got up on Sunday a.m. WT had already shopped for the pork roast dinner night. He did pretty good too, seeing he shopped while he wasn’t quite awake yet. Waking up for WT is a looooooong, sloooooow and sometimes painful process. Later he snuck back out and purchased the few things he had forgotten *grin*.

The dinner was fab, and of course the company couldn’t be better. Just our little happy home – snug and safe – with our tummies full of good food. Life is pretty good.