Monday, February 28, 2011

Old Wine and Old Friends are Good Provisions

You know that saying that starts out..."The best laid plans..."?  Well, that was how yesterday started.  I had purchased a Groupon for Sunday brunch and it was due to expire today.  So, we made plans to have brunch with friends and made arrangements to pick them up after church yesterday.  I printed off the groupon before church and as I was reading it it said "reservations STRONGLY recommended".  OOPS!  So I quickly tried to call before service only to get no answer.  As soon as church was over I tried again only to find that they were completely booked.  NO WAY were we getting in yesterday BUT they agreed to extend the groupon til next week so I made reservations for then.

That left us with plans and no place to go.  OH, we could have found another venue but decided that nothing would be as good as what I could do at home (nor as cheap) so we did brunch at our house especially given that I had everything I needed on hand.  So,  I made breakfast burritos and bloody marys.  BOTH were fabulous.  We had no real plans for the day so we pulled out some games and decided on Yahtzee.  Several games of Yahtzee later, we decided to move the action to the hot tub.

It really was a perfect day for the hot tub.  The temp was so hot that we couldn't extend our time in it.  The outside temp wasn't too cold and there was NO wind at all.  

We had to make a quick house run to grab some provisions.

The boy cooked up a huge bowl of ruffalo wings (his version), the husband grilled a couple steaks because, ya know, it's not a weekend without a side of steak and since the unintended goal of the day was to NOT spend money, we made due with the "extras" that were in the freezer(s): 2 ribeyes and a strip steak.  

We opened a bottle of Bogle and the message on the cork was "Old Wine and Old Friends are Good Provisions"  by George Herbert from Outlandish Proverbs 1640.

And all God's people said...AMEN!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Creative Juices

A clever and competent (yes BB...I stole that line) commenter suggested that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to make the typewriter bracelet from my previous post.  And he is absolutely correct, given that yesterday I received the additional link to the bracelet that I added all by myself with the aid of a pair of needle nose pliers thus making the bracelet fit as it is intended.  Anyway, it got me thinking about all the avenues for my creativity (or lack thereof) that I have invested in over the years and have brought me...well...naught.

First, the Creative Memories/Scrapbooking.  While I have not really given up on this endeavor, I have found that it is really so much easier to do scrapbooking digitally.  The problem is...I have massive quantities of pictures that I would be required to scan in order to do so.  Over the years I have downloaded BOATLOADS of free kits (FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY), paired with Photo Shop Elements, I have the tools available to do this.  BUT...during the years immediately prior to the "downloading" years, I also bought massive quantities of traditional scrapbooking supplies, including albums (most of which are still shrink wrapped), paper (GALORE), special pens, stickers, etc...all I need is the, um, incentive.  And a direction.

I was at Once Upon a Child (a second had children's clothing store) one day and I saw these cute socks that had beads crocheted to the fold over cuff.  And some had these really cute buttons attached on the ankle with ribbon behind them.  My thought?  *I* can do that.  So I went to Michaels and used my weekly 40% off coupon to buy big bins of tri-beads.  Which meant that I had to separate the beads into individual colors.  Then I had to buy crochet thread and a needle small enough to be able to fit through the hole in each bead.  And the ribbon.  And THEN the buttons.  HOLY you know what  those buttons cost?  I have pairs of buttons (STILL) that cost from $2-3.50.  Maybe 25 pairs of these. Here's what's in my abandoned  "sock" bag...not including the various spools of ribbon OR crochet thread:
Then, there was the "Stampin' Up" craze.  My SIL introduced me to this new edge for my creativity and linked it to the scrapbooking thing and you know how well THAT has worked for me.  Actually, I can't blame her for that.  It's my fault.  I am a sucker for "free".  And we all know nothing is ever "free".  So, I now have a full set of all the stamp pads and probably 30 sets (ranging from small to large) of rubber stamps.  Maybe 40% have not even been attached to the wood block.  So the question I know that's burning in your mind is..."So, how's that workin' out for ya?"  Ahem.

And let's not forget the purses.  My SIL (yes the same one) managed to obtain a pattern for these cool bucket purses, made with coordinating materials (most were an upholstery grade fabric).  She originally trimmed the edge of the purses with maribou feathers.  Here is where we parted.  I am SO not a "feather" person (much to my husband's dismay...I think ALL men secretly wish there were more "feathers" in their wives lives) and I suggested that maybe she switch up the trim and use beads.  I started scouting out Michaels and JoAnns and yes, even Walmart for bead trim...for HER to make.  Then I decided, just make them yourself.  Ever helpful, SIL showed me how to go about making them and I did.  As you can see from above, I'm not one to dip my toe in the water but rather to go flying in cannon-ball style.  I spent several afternoons cutting out 6x6 in squares and 6x10 in squares and muslin (these purses were LINED!) and fold over cuffs and straps...and then thought...WHY AM I DOING THIS?  I had no market for them.  Back in grade school, this would be called busy work.  4 kids and I'm not busy enough?  Here was my favorite one:
Ironically, I now limit my "creative juices" to the one thing that I never thought I would ever do...write.  Well, write and cook.  Either way, it is so much less expensive than previous endeavors.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"Shift" Happens

Monday was Valentine's Day.  And it turned out to be a wonderful day indeed.  My husband texted me earlier in the day to ask if I would like  to go out to sushi to celebrate.  While I love sushi and it's been ages since we had it, I also knew that I had some running to do in the evening so I suggested making shrimp scampi instead.  Since my husband's favorite dessert is a banana cream pie, I surprised him with that for dessert.  We don't typically make a big deal out of these kinds of holidays, as I am usually content with a card (and on my part, I am usually running out THAT day to pick up said cards), so I considered that in using my time and talent for his enjoyment, the pie was my gift to him.  Yes...I'm lame.

Much to my amazement, my husband surprised me.  In a couple different ways.  First, a couple months ago, I showed him a bracelet I found on etsy that was pretty funny.  He went in search of it on ebay and found it and gifted me with it for Valentine's Day. Behold:
It is a bracelet, made from old typewriter keys that says "SHIFT"HAPPENS. (using the shift key).  And, for me, it holds bittersweet irony.

Bittersweet because of how I became aware that jewelry was made from typewriter keys.
Irony because of the words and who made me aware of this type of jewelry.  So, my wearing the bracelet will be a little like wearing a hair shirt.

And you know what?  I'm OK with that.  Because I love the bracelet.  And I love my husband more for getting me something I would never have gotten myself.  And for listening to me.  And for making me smile.

Yes indeed..."SHIFT HAPPENS".

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Doldrums

The winter doldrums have hit here.  HARD.  I can usually make it through February if I know I have something to look forward to.  Like a trip to Mexico, or someplace warm.  Just anticipating it gives me the fortitude to make it through these subzero temps in Minnesota in February.  But we went last year and our name is not Rockefeller so there will be no warm escape this year.

And, as if to add insult to injury, I managed to pick up a cold post girls weekend which while not being debilitating has left me completely drained of energy.  I have retreated into bear mode and just want to hibernate the rest of the winter away.

Unfortunately, four active children prevent me from indulging in self pity, so I do what I normally do.  I cook.  I was inspired a bit yesterday when I watched Julie and Julia.  Although I do not have any of Julia Child's cookbooks, I do remember watching her on TV eons ago.  Maybe someday I'll try Julia's recipe for Beef Bourguignon, but yesterday I was running short of time so I went with my own made up version:  "Beef Stew with all the leftover wine from the previous week".   Yes, ok...I'm going to work on the title.

The other impetuous that spurred me on was a gift I received from my sister for Christmas:  a 9 Qt oval sunshine yellow Le Creuset dutch oven.   Oh, yes.  Mine IS bigger than Julia's.
altogether now...That's what she said.
My sister purposefully got me this size so that I can feed my tribe and still lift the pan.  She briefly considered the 13 Qt before realizing that I would have to have a fork lift to lift it out of the oven.  Wise decision.
I washed up the pot and braised my flour and spice coated chuck pieces, removing them as they browned.  When the last of the meat was in, I returned the meat, added a cut up onion and about 2 cups of Cab (and Sangiovese) and a qt of beef stock, two bay leaves and some fresh thyme, covered and let simmer for about an hour.  I then added about 1.5 lbs quartered red and white baby potatoes, about 1 cup of baby carrots, about a cup of sliced celery and let simmer about another hour or so.  I added some sliced mushrooms at the end and let them cook down and served it with a nice crusty loaf of bread.

And for some reason unbeknownst to me, although I think it harkens back to my high school days where certain lunches were always paired with certain desserts, I always make brownies when I make beef stew.  So that we are clear, brownies are always made using Bakers Unsweetened Chocolate and the recipe on the box for One Bowl Brownies.  I use walnuts instead of pecans, and because, my kids are not especially fond of nuts, I tempt them by adding chocolate chips to them, but really they are more than chocolaty enough without them.
As the brownies were cooling I suddenly remembered reading something about how to cut brownies without them ripping to shreds.  I binged "how to cut brownies" and sure enough there is a method to cutting brownies!  Who knew?  The key?  Cut them while they are still warm AND with a plastic knife.  Now, my knife was not sturdy enough to cut through the crunchy edge, but it slid nicely through the rest of the brownie, slicing them evenly without crumbling.

That's how we handle the doldrums in Minnesota.