Thursday, December 31, 2009

Blanket O' Fun

If you've been reading my blog for a bit, you've probably noticed that I volunteer for the Saint Louis Walk Now for Autism Speaks and shamelessly beg for donations to our walk team (still accepting funds, eligible for 2009 tax deductions for a couple more hours! HERE)


Recent prevalence studies indicate that 1 in 110 kids in the US are diagnosed on the autism spectrum. My 7 year old nephew is one of those kids, so I tried to think up something special for his Christmas present this year. I am told he is a whiz with the computer and other household electronics, loves Thomas the Tank Engine, and is as fascinated by tactile yummies as I am. (I, however, usually remember to ask before stroking somebody's arm because their shirt fabric is so scrumptious!)


I had the softest baby blanket in my gift closet, plus own an embroidery sewing machine, so starting on the top right is my nephew's name, with colorful crayons to accent. In the corner is a red STOP button:

My 'signature' is on the bottom right with "Love, Aunt Laura" and three 'Ants' with a yellow SLOW button:

I found a design of a small dragon on a computer, and it went on the top left with his nickname and a green GO button:

And on the bottom left are puzzle pieces, used often in promoting autism awareness and signifying that it is time to find the missing piece. The button in the corner of this one is a glass charm with waves of dark red:

If you follow those circle outlines in the above image, you will find this purchased RECYCLE symbol in plush green on green (of course!):

Along the bottom are strips of interesting fabrics: a super-plush sock (I got two pair and have the blue ones on now!), brown saddle leather, black pebbled leather, yellow butter-soft leather, and a silky faux-fur:

The reverse side of the blanket sports appliqu├ęd medallions cut from Thomas and Friends fleece fabric: 

This is a little pocket of palest blush pink "cameo" silk dupioni, a remnant of my wedding dress from this past May. The swirl motif and silver piping echo the tooth fairy pillows that I transformed for my nieces from their flower girl/ring-bearer pillows:

Finally, here is a scrap of the material from my sister Heather, aka Kyle's Mom'a, wedding dress. Super-soft double-sided silk satin with a store-bought rhinestone motif:



Kyle loves it, and I have gotten compliments from my sis and the autism specialist that helps with him.  I briefly saw Kyle via Skype this past week, though he wouldn't talk to me (no surprise.) I was able to see my darling nieces this past spring when they flew in to be in my wedding, but Kyle stayed home with his dad as he does not travel well. Love you, big guy!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Peace, Hope, Love and Joy!

The Baklava and Spanikopita are out of the oven and cooling. I am adding the final bows and such to the wrapped presents and look to be in bed by midnight!


Have a great holiday, even if you only celebrate it as a day off. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

What Religion is Your Bra?

What Religion is Your Bra?

A man walked into the ladies department of Myer's

and shyly walked up to
the woman behind the counter and said,
'I'd like to buy a bra for my wife. '
' What type of bra?'
asked the clerk.

'Type?' inquires the man, 'There's more than one type?'
' Look around,'

said the saleslady,
as she showed a sea of bras in every shape, size, colour
and material imaginable.
'Actually, even with all of this variety, there are really only four types of bras to choose from .'
Relieved, the man asked
about the types.
The saleslady replied:
'There are the Catholic,
the Salvation Army,
the Presbyterian,
and the Baptist types.
Which one would you prefer?'

Now totally befuddled,

the man asked about
the differences between them.
The Saleslady responded,
'It is all really quite simple.

The Catholic type 
supports the masses;
The Salvation Army type lifts the fallen;

The Presbyterian type keeps them staunch and upright;
The Baptist type makes mountains out of molehills.'


Have you ever wondered why A, B, C, D, DD, E, F, G, and H are the letters used

to define bra sizes?
If you have wondered why,
but couldn't figure out
what the letters stood for,
it is about time
you became informed!

(A} Almost Boobs...

{B} Barely there....

{C} Can't Complain!..

{D} Dang!...

{DD} Double dang!...

{E} Enormous!...

{F} Fake...
 
{G} Get a Reduction...

{H} Help me, I've fallen

and I can't get up!...
{I} I can't believe they actually make 'em in this size...
{J} Jeez Louise, enough already... 


They forgot the Lutheran bra:
Holtzemfromfloppen

Okay, I admit I added the I and J, as those are the sized that I wear. Did you know they also do EE, GG, HH, etc. as a half size in-between?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Habitat for Humanity STL

I had a great time at the Habitat for Humanity Saint Louis  Volunteer Orientation this morning. Earlier this year I had the opportunity to work their first commercial De-Construction at an old Schnucks Grocery. I learned some good techniques from the veteran workers and it prodded me into finally getting a tool belt and steel-toed boots (Redwings which are the warmest, most comfortable winter weather shoes I now own.) My Christmas list this year was mostly hand tools I realized that I don't own, but would be useful on a build site - and in my own home!

Now I am ready to take on an actual build, whenever the schedule is posted, and depending on my employment situation. Today I learned that all 24 of the 2009 STL houses built are LEED certified at the Platinum level! Also, the new homeowners are not given the houses, they are provided loans at no interest and must put in a bunch of sweat equity, the hours equaling pretty much a down payment.

Hey Saint Louisans - are you interested in joining me on a build? Any former APO-ers (Alpha Phi Omega, national co-ed service fraternity) jonesing for a service project? Anybody in need of service hours? No construction experience needed, just the urge and orientation!

 
The next Volunteer Orientation is Saturday, January 9, 2010, 9:00am - 11:00am in the building attached to ReStore.  I've mentioned ReStore before, as a wonderful place to pick up good used appliances and materials, along with new stuff from construction overruns or overstock from retailers and manufacturers. A bargain for homeowners and a wonderful resource for art or craft projects.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Hello, Redbud

Last week some mysterious lime-green circles appeared on the sidewalk easements in my neighborhood. Then some wooden stakes sprouted out of the circles. Finally, yesterday the City of Richmond Heights came around with a trailer full of trees and played Johnny Appleseed. Welcome to our lawn, little Redbud!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

NaBloPo...wait, we're all done with that

Back from my day of rest after the 30 days of my first attempt (success!) at NaBloPoMo. Now what do I write about?


With a hard freeze coming, I have been weatherizing the house: putting away the hoses, turning off the outdoor spigots, draining the rain barrel. I've also been adding weatherstripping to many of the main floor windows, as I've already bought the supplies, and any energy we can save before we spring for new high-e windows in money in the pocket. Actually, money to the bank to pay for the new furnace!


I also balanced the accounts in Quicken, which I bought  yesterday at Best Buy for only $39 (instead of $59). I had done this for almost a year 3 years back, but couldn't recover that file. I like keeping an eye on all the accounts, and knowing where the money is going.


Till next time,
Laura

Monday, November 30, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXX: Made it! - 30 days and 6 months

Today is the final day of NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month, and I survived posting every single day in November! Yay! And here are the badges to prove it:





And here are some previous years' participant badges that are entertaining:


Finally,


Happy 6 month Anniversary, Hubby!


Sunday, November 29, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXVIV: Prop 8

A change from my recent posts, to a serious legal/political issue on my mind:

Prop 8, or the California Marriage Protection Act, is being challenged in federal court in January and could have nation-wide consequences.

My personal view? Legalize marriages between people of the same gender. If a church or religious organization is not comfortable with that, don't make them perform the ceremony, but allow other churches and civil authorities to proceed. This may open those objecting organizations to discrimination suits, but I believe it is their right to object, just as it is gay peoples' right to get married. 

Simple enough, right? Why can't we all just get along!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXVIII: Makin' a List...

'Tis high holy shopping season, and it has me thinking about what items I put on my list, and what I want my gifts to others to say about me.

Most of the items I actually put on the list I sent to family were either tools or kitchen-related. I did some research on each and included links and some prices. I tried for Made in USA and eco-friendly whenever possible. The tools I use to make our house more a home, and the kitchen is the heart of the home. After doing some volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, I realized that my toolbox (still need one of those!) is missing a few key items.


The items I am getting/making for others are reflecting price shopping and usability instead of the sustainability and US craftsmanship I strive towards. Maybe next year when the budget isn't already stretched. Sorry I can't be more specific, but you never know who is reading!


Finally, here are my pie-in-the-sky wish list items that didn't make it on the Christmas list:
-Upgrade of my Bernina Embroidery Software
-Sooner-rather-than-later: Replace crumbling front porch stairs for safety reasons, and replace walkway to sidewalk and add walkway to driveway (so I stop slipping down the lawn when I go to my car)
-Rotating compost bin, because it would be very useful for yard stuff and kitchen waste (elevated, so that none of those wiggly things I am phobic about can invade)
-A new flat TV, in the 42 to 50" range and hopefully energy efficient
-A console table to put said TV upon, along with places for all of the peripherals
-Sooner-rather-than-later: New windows on the main floor of the house (currently original 1920's with later ugly aluminum storm windows, all of which leak like sieves)
-A second rain barrel, to go in the front of the house for watering plants so decorative this time

-The kitchen stuff has its own list:

  +cabinets that are not white & so show every speck of anything spilled
  +oven that is big enough to fit a half sheet pan - really became obvious when Thanksgiving   dinner was 2 hours late, 'cause I couldn't fit enough stuff in
  +range that heats more evenly than the old electric one, and is easier to keep clean
more pantry room
  +no more holy sheet vinyl or linoleum or whatever that atrocity is -bamboo or cork, please!
  +quartz or concrete (with recycled glass) counter tops, as the current laminate stains too easy and the cracks are ugly and dirty, no matter how I scrub
  +tile backsplash instead of the cutesy wallpaper
  +Dishwasher that doesn't leak out the sides and will fit the larger dishes

-Our triangle-shaped Jacuzzi tub was a big selling point of the house, but I wish it were a bit smaller, so would not use the entire water heater supply when it is cold, saving natural gas and water usage
-A mp3 player hookup in my car. Maybe I need to take a look at the Ford Fusion Hybrid...

Friday, November 27, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXVII: T-day dinner plus 27 hours & still recovering

Didn't do much today. Brain still recovering from the L. Tryptophan and  body still recovering from cooking and cleaning all day yesterday. I did a bit of Black Friday shopping...from right here at my computer. I am not determined (ahem-crazy) enough to brave the crowds today. My frustration level and hurting body could not cope with that. 
 
So instead I read, surfed the internet, communicated with some family, took a bath, and watched the boob tube. Specifically, Dirty Jobs (and one of my TV boyfriends, Mike Rowe.) He ended the episode "Safety Third" (about individual responsibility in a dangerous world) with a quote from Theodore Roosevelt to his son:

The things that will destroy America are prosperity at any price, peace at any price, safety first instead of duty first, the love of soft living and the get rich quick theory of life.




blarg

Thursday, November 26, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXVI: T-day dinner plus 3 hours

Family just left, one more load of dishes to wash, but I'm getting a bath first. As soon as the hot water heater fills again.


Too tired for much else. Everything turned out great, though had to do a last minute brussel sprout substitute for green beans that went fuzzy. Gonna go put my feet up and start mentally composing tomorrow's post. 


Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXV: T-day dinner minus 16.5 hours

The turkey is in the brine!


Anybody that has attended a major event with me knows that I make lists and try to prepare for any disruptions with a contingency plan. T-day is no different. I spent the last hour calculating how much prep and execution time each step of each recipe required. Then I lined them up to make the best use of time. Now I am off to bed, because I actually have to set alarm and get up earlier than usual tomorrow. Amazing how your body clock resets when you are unemployed!

Bread crumbs for stuffing becoming croutons?


Check.

Starting with the pan, clockwise: sausage drippings for the roux, stuffing wet stuff, eggs for stuffing, dough for apple tartlets,  giblets, butt & neck, freshly squeezed lemon juice, kitty food from stock discards, dinner rolls, butter rub for turkey, stock?

Yeppers.

Temporary prep table with cat-safe foods (like veggies), roasting pan and v-rack ready & waiting, salad spinner for cleaning veggies, pile of fruits, apron?

Ready and waiting for me in 9 hours. 
Off to bed now, but first a soak in a tub brimming with salts and aromatics...ummm...gobble gobble!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXIV: T-day minus 2 days

Turkey stock: check

Homemade dinner rolls: in the fridge for a long 1 1/2 day rise

Rustic Apple Tartlets: crust is ready to roll out and be topped & baked

Stuffing: 
a) sausage is browned, celery, onions, carrots & apples are sauteed, pan was deglazed with sherry and is now in the fridge
b) challah and hearty white bread cubed and drying in no-heat oven

Groceries: all purchased

Flowers: lovely!

House: was pretty clean, but items 1-5 above have made it a mess once again! Off to soak in tub with good book (Bite Marks, a Jaz Parks novel by Jennifer Rardin) and candles, then to bed. Night, night!

Monday, November 23, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXIII: Thanksgiving Day Menu

Appetizers - Cousin Rachelle is taking care of this, and no clue!

Cocktails - I have Asti and sparkling grape juice to be poured over fresh pomegranates & cranberry-pomegranate juice.


Turkey - pick up on Wednesday from Seibert Meats in Soulard. Brine overnight, then get up early to rinse, pat dry and air dry in the fridge before heading into the oven - makes a nice crisp crust and moist meat. Only a 12-14 pound bird, as it will be me & hubby, Ma & Pa, Aunt Jan, Cousin Rachelle & her boyfriend Kris. We have room for one more at the table, if anybody is hungry. We could also set up a kiddie table if a bunch of you are interested.

Gravy - I started a turkey neck (from Souldard) & veggie stock, now in the fridge, ready for makin' gravy! Will make a roux and generally follow Cooks Illustrated instructions (hereafter known as CI.)


Sausage & Apple Stuffing - an amalgamation of my MIL's recipe, my best friend's mother's recipe, and CI.

Buttermilk Mashed Potatoes - This version is less fat than the classic mashed 'taters. Last time I made it to go with Christmas Prime Rib and included leeks. Credit: CI

Roasted Sweet Potatoes - I've been making single servings of this by peeling the sweet potato, cutting into 1/2" dice, tossing with EVOO, kosher salt & fresh cracked black pepper and roasting until the edges are Carmelina. Drizzle just the slightest bit of real maple syrup, and you have a wonderful alternative to the version that is mashed & smothered with marshmallow goo.

Sauteed Green Beans with garlic & herbs - a lighter alternative to the traditional green bean casserole (which I personally can't stand, even though I was raised Lutheran!) Credit: CI

Dinner Rolls - one component that is actually better prepared ahead and stored in the fridge. I'll take them out in the morning to let rise 6-8 hours, then pop in the oven for that wonderful yeasty aroma. Credit: CI.

Cranberry Relish - Mum is taking care of this one, from a recipe she begged off of ??? (completely slipped my mind at the moment.) I will have a can of the gloppy stuff on standby, if anybody insists.

Pumpkin Cheesecake - Cuz Rachelle is preparing this one, and I am very excited, as I came close to choosing to make it myself!

Rustic Apple Tartlets - Another CI recipe I have used in the past, to great success. I starting the crust this evening, as it will keep, wrapped well, in the fridge for a few days.

Whipped Cream with a hint of orange zest - To top the tartlets (or the cheesecake, or coffee)

Decaf Coffee - my favorite coffee place, Foundation Grounds in Maplewood, carries Goshen Coffee Company - 100% organic and sustainable farmed. Current favorite: Venezuelan.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXII: Supervillains vs.Vampires!

My fingers are already casualties of Thanksgiving dinner prep (a couple of small burns, no amputated fingers or bleeding cuts...so far!) so I bring to you my argument why supervillains are so much cooler than vampires: Dr. Horrible. He looks like the guy that sat next to you in science class that was good enough to copy off of, knows how to do his own laundry and the songs are very catchy. Vampires? Blood, coffins and they're never around in the daytime. Now go!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XXI: Farmers' markets

I woke this morning determined to hit the local farmers' market to try and find purveyors of local and/or organic produce.

After filling up my travel mug with coffee from Foundation Grounds in Maplewood ( I was waylaid and had to try a new baked goodie: Blueberry & Lavender cheesecake -- yum!) I walked down the street to :

Maplewood Farmers' Market at Schlafly Bottleworks. I got some yummy locally grown granny smith apples and some sweet looking sweet potatoes (they had real dirt on them!) but I think I overpaid. I had lots more on my list, so headed to:

Kirkwood Farmers' Market had very little, as they kicked off their Chrismas Market & Holiday Walk.


<-- So instead of this


It was this -->




And this:




So I finally headed to Historic Soulard Market and struck gold. First, I found parking within a block. Next I walked through most of it, scouting prices and availability. 

I picked out 3 calla lily blooms and 6 spikey red/green things and a bunch of small white/red flowers. Of course I asked the names of each, but promptly forgot them.


All of the fruit & veggies for Thanksgiving dinner are purchased. I found fresh pork sausage for the stuffing and turkey necks for a stock I will start tomorrow. 


My turkey dilemma is solved! I ordered a 12-14 pounder from a poultry booth who gets them from a farmer in Illinois. I will pick up on Wednesday, then prep and start the brining.


All I have left are a few things from the grocery store, and then --oh yeah-- all the cooking and prepping!

Friday, November 20, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XX: Gobble, gobble

So.

Let's talk turkey.


The last (and only time) I cooked at turkey, I think I had a national brand mammoth. I have no great memories of it, but no horror stories, either.  Thanksgiving for my side of the family is at my house this year, and I have been contemplating the poultry. I would love to find a fresh turkey from a local farm, but that is looking unlikely at this late point. But at $3+ per pound, can I really justify it versus a 57¢ per pound conglomerate-grown hen?


I've been doing a bit of research, and have found places that offer "heritage" turkeys that are closer to wild than the lab-modified triple-D cup turkeys that are available at the major grocery stores. (See, Dave - I did work boobies into the conversation, though anybody that knows me know that I scoff at a DDD being considered large!) 



I have a $1.99/pound turkey reserved from Baumann's Fine Meats, but I have been told that it is an Arkansas bird, and not particularly heritage or free-range, or anything special. Should I just pick up the cheapy at Schnucks? Shoudl I spend $2.99/pound for the free-range one from Whole Foods?


Maybe I should just give up at cook a nice ham, as I don't even really like turkey!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XIX: Windows are the eyes of the home

 

So, does anybody in STL have recommendations on where to get good replacement windows for a 1920's brick bungalow? Preferably a company with good customer service & prices?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NaBloPoMo Day XVIII: Utilikilts are stalking me

Utilikilts are following me. Averaging once a week for the past month or two, I have talked to someone in a utilikilt, seen somebody wearing one, or had it mentioned by a friend that he was wearing one.

What are Utilikilts, you ask? The Utilikilts Company is "committed to pioneering a comfortable alternative to trousers by producing “Men’s Unbifurcated Garments” (MUG’s)." Think kilts are just girls' skirts fit for guys? Nope. Looking at the website, they are tailored for length and waist like male clothing. Kinda like an historic Celtic kilt, but with modern twists. Check out the Mockumercials on their main page. An excellent way to waste some time.

Warning. If you are too bow-legged or scrawny, these are not the garments for you! To all other men, I urge them towards "Freedom!"

For hitting the links or heading to the office:


For dressing up or bundling up:


When and where do you wear yours?