Monday, November 29, 2010

Birthday Girl Bloggy Stuff

So, today's my birthday. I've had a lot of them, but you've never really had a birthday until you've had a facebook birthday -- I could not believe all the good wishes I received from my FB friends. 99. Yes, 99 happy birthday posts. I love facebook, and I'm not ashamed to say it.

Besides fb, I also had awesome hugs from my friends in kindergarten, and a big boxful of cupcakes which we all enjoyed. Then I played a funeral, rang the bell for the Salvation Army outside of WM and made turkey pot pie for birthday supper. Clay made my favorite cake -- the Barefoot Contessa's chocolate laced angel food with chocolate ganache -- and we had a great supper together, did Tommy's homework and played Uno. Perfect. (Just a note for next year -- chocolate ganache on angel food doesn't support candles very well -- the lit 5 and the 1 slid right down the angel food well.)

So, now back to my blog basics: knitting, reading and cooking.

As for the cooking, I think I'm going to try to post my favorite Christmas cookies here in December. But, no promises -- I'm done with bloggy promises.

Reading: I finished The Fiery Cross on the long drive home from Hilton Head. I had taken two other books with me, but didn't even crack them. I did, however, read some things on my new nook, which was an early birthday present from Maggie. I really balked at the idea of an e-reader, just like I had balked at audio books. But the nook is amazing. I can dry my hair, read and turn the page with just a little push of a button -- so much easier than trying to keep a book open with my hairbrush. So, on the nook I'm reading Julia Child's My Life in France. I love her. And, Pride and Prejudice was free on the nook, so I'll always have a Jane book with me.

Knitting: Here's my pal Teresa's stocking completed:
It's a little bigger than the ones her grandmother knit, but it's a pretty close copy. Teresa was happy, so I am, too.

After I finished Teresa's, I decided to knit stockings for the boys, and I got a lot done on them on vacation. I'm using the Cascade Yarns Christmas Stocking pattern with Knit Picks Wool of the Andes. Thanks to EZ ("Knit on with confidence and hope!"), I figured out the afterthought heel, and feel a great sense of accomplishment! I did, however, follow the advice of pals on Ravelry who did not knit an extra round between the decrease rounds on both the heel and toe -- great advice!
Tommy's, in Notre Dame colors (sort of) to commemorate his first ND football game this fall:

Nate's These still need to be blocked and lined, but they were a pretty quick knit. I do love fair isle, and an seriously considering a sweater for myself. Paul's stocking is currently in progress; Will suggested I do it in Harley colors, and I think he was right. Picture soon.

I had picked up some chunky Misti Alpaca at Mass Ave. a couple of months ago, and Maggie thought it would make a great hat. So, here it is:
She, too, was right -- it is soft and warm and just looks like something she would wear. This is a single rib pattern -- I cast on 70, knit in the round until it was about 7", then started decreasing. For my own future reference, to decrease in a 1x1 rib, knit 1 then purl 3 together every other round until you get the shaping you like and get down to 6 to 8 stitches.

I also completed a potato chip scarf -- the "cast on 20, k8, turn, k8, turn, k6, turn, k6, turn, k4, turn, k4, turn, k20, repeat" scarf (once again, that's for my own reference!) It's a very popular pattern at Knit Night, courtesy of Cottage Knits, but it sure isn't quick! Well, not for me, but that might be because I knit it on #8's with a mohair/acrylic 2-strand. But, it's finally done and on its Christmasy way.

More soon. Peace.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A New Year

Today's not only the beginning of Advent and a new Church year, but it's also our 28th wedding anniversary and tomorrow's my 51st birthday -- seems like a good day to reflect and renew.

I have such a good life, a life I never expected. This is certainly not where I expected to be -- back in my hometown, 1/2 mile from where I grew up.
This is not what I expected to be doing; when I graduated from high school, I thought when I was 50 I'd be writing for a magazine, doing mission work and adopting children from around the world to live and work with me on my little farm. I could never even dream that I would have three children I adore, three grandsons I can't get enough of and a husband who . . . well, who is just beyond words. Who knew I could love him more every single day?

Life here isn't perfect, but it's so good.

And as for Advent and Christmas, I'm going to take the advice of Ann, who stumbled upon my blog and whose blog I enjoyed reading: My wish for you is that you have joy in your preparations. Do only the things that are meaningful to you and experience them with all your might.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Really? November's almost over?

How did that happen? I had such high hopes for profuse blogging this month. And, I had a lot to blog about. I lost a dear friend to cancer, celebrated my 50th year by taking a trip to Hilton Head, and tried to make a big decision about reducing my activities.

I have big hopes again, for Advent, but if you've followed this blog for long, you know to not hold your breath.

Before tomorrow, then, I leave you with my last (and 3rd) blessing/saint/soup post:

My favorite saint, who I have written about before here, is St. Therese of Lisieux, who is also known as St. Therese of the Child Jesus and The Little Flower. Even though she had sickness and tragedy in her life, she was a big blessing counter. I'd like to think we have that in common.

And here is my last soup recipe. Easy and delicious.

Black Bean Soup
2 - 15 oz. cans of black beans, rinsed
2 - 14 oz. can stewed tomatoes
2 - 4 oz. cans chopped green chilies
1 - 11 oz can whole kernel corn
4 green onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
4 cups chicken stock
1 pound smoked sausage, sliced thin

Toss everything in a big pot. Bring to an almost boil, turn down heat, cover and simmer for at least 1/2 hour and enjoy! This would be very easy to make according to your own taste -- IE, more corn, less chilies, etc. And, if you toss the sausage around in a hot skillet for a bit to give it a little sear, it ups the flavor.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day/All Souls' Day/Soup Day

Today, on All Souls' Day, I remember my dad, whose favorite holiday next to Thanksgiving and Christmas was Election Day. From getting donuts early in the morning for his precinct workers to driving little old ladies to the polls to spending the evening down at the courthouse waiting for results, the whole day was one great adventure.

How I wish I could talk politics with dad again. I would love to know his take on our President, Sarah Palin, Nancy Pelosi and the Tea Party. While I think I know what he would say, he studied the issues carefully; sometimes he surprised me with his views, although he would never admit to voting anything but a straight Republican ticket! So, today I am thankful for the privilege of voting, and for a dad who taught me how important it is.

Politics and elections are not such peaceful pursuits; therefore, on this All Souls' Day, I'm going to share this instead -- a quote from one of my favorite books, Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh:

...I want first of be at peace with myself. I want a singleness of eye, a purity of intention, a central core to my life that will enable me to carry out these obligations and activities as well as I can. I want, in fact - to borrow from the language of the saints - to live "in grace" as much of the time as possible...By grace I mean an inner harmony, essentially spiritual, which can be translated into outward harmony...I would like to achieve a state of inner spiritual grace from which I could function and give as I was meant to in the eye of God...

Purity of intention. Outward harmony. Isn't that nice?

Saint of the Day: St. Thomas More, who was named Patron Saint of Politicians by JPII in 2000. When I was in middle school, I became obsessed with English history, especially Henry VIII. (Maybe it was that Herman's Hermits song I'm Henery the Eighth, I am . . . . or going to see Vanessa Redgrave's Mary Queen of Scots with my cousins.) Thomas honored his king, but not his king's plan to claim supremacy over God. Off with his head.

And finally, soup. Clay picked up our Market Day order yesterday, put it in the freezer and texted me that we have to eat a lot of broccoli and chicken before we order from MD again. So, here is my solution, and soup recipe for the day:

"Honey, the Freezer is Full" Broccoli Rice Soup

1 onion
1 clove of garlic
2 T. olive oil
1 bag of Market Day frozen broccoli (2 pounds)
2 quarts of chicken stock (good grief, this looks just like yesterday's recipe!)
3 cups cooked rice
2 cups of warm milk

In a soup pot, saute the onion and garlic until tender. Add the broccoli and chicken stock (and water to cover, if necessary); bring to a boil and reduce heat until broccoli is tender. Using a hand held blender, smoosh up the broccoli as much as you like. (Alternately, transfer soup to a regular blender and whoosh it up. Only do about 1/2 a blender full at a time. Ask me how I know this.) Stir in milk and rice and heat until just warmed through. Serve with shredded cheese (cheddar is good, Swiss is excellent!)


Monday, November 1, 2010

All Saints' Day

I love November. We start out remembering regular old folks like us who lived and died for Christ and became saints, and we end up eating turkey. The air gets nippy, we enter Advent, I turn another year older and we celebrate another year of being married. What more could one ask of a single month?

To celebrate, with each blog post this month, I'm going to write about a favorite saint, a blessing, and soup. It's the right time of year, and I'm a pretty good soup maker. Here we go.

My saint of the day: St. Ambrose. Smart guy, doctor of the church, my parish's patron. In celebration of our 150th anniversary, there's been a lot of sprucing up around our church. (I posted a little about it here.) This weekend, the stained glass windows which had been removed this summer were re-installed. While I have always thought they were the second-most beautiful windows in town (Trinity UMC has the first, IMHO), they are even more beautiful cleaned and re-leaded (is that a word?). The sun shining through them just makes the whole church sparkle. St. Ambrose wrote, "No duty is more important than returning thanks." So, I am so thankful for the blessing of St. Ambrose parish, Father Dan and my entire church family.

And, I'm thankful for the St. Ambrose Youth Ministry and Chris, our youth minister; the program has been so great for Will. Last weekend, they raked leaves for some of our older parishoners. I made soup. This soup:

Leaf-Raking Time Potato Soup

5 lbs. russet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 large onion, chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped fine
2 T. butter + 1 T. olive oil
1 pound bacon (ready bacon is just fine) fried and diced
2 quarts chicken stock
4 cups milk
2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

In a large stock pot, saute the onion, celery and garlic in butter and oil until onions are soft. Add potatoes to pot and chicken stock (add some water if the potatoes aren't covered). Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. (I like to use a hand-held blender for this next part, but a regular hand masher would work just fine) -- mash up about half the potatoes, leaving as many chunky potatoes as you would like. Warm the milk on the stove or microwave (just to take the chill off) and add to the soup, along with the bacon. When the soup is heated through and ready to serve, stir in cheese. (If you use just olive oil, turkey bacon and low fat milk and cheese, this might just be halfway good for you!)