Friday, June 29, 2007

Nostalgic silliness

There's nothing really new to post unless I actually start taking pictures of the weeds choking out my garden, so I thought I upload an OLD picture from the second week Kyle and I knew each other. We met in college. He was tagging along with his roommate to visit my roommate (high school friends). I thought he was pretty neat, so we invited him to our annual Halloween bash the next weekend. I was the only one who guessed his identity - he was a stoplight (it's hard to tell from the picture but his pants were green). I was a bee. My friends thought he looked like a gnome and I have ever since been the recipient of random gnome items. But I digress...

That was 10 years ago this fall, and I'm so lucky to have found him.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Another Robin

There's another Robin at our place. She's got 4 beautiful blue eggs, and is really unhappy about us hanging out in the backyard near our grapevine, where she made her nest.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Better than a dog bed

See the dog bed in the back of the picture? Punkin prefers to sit on the blanket I'm knitting. I don't know if it's softer if if she's just trying to keep my hands petting her instead of holding the needles. Smart girl.

Hanna's Baptism

For those of you who don't follow my niece's website (you can be forgiven... Hanna blogs in Dutch =) ), here's a picture from the day of her baptism. Can't you just see how much Elke and Hanna adore each other from this picture? It looks like they had a beautiful day and had a big party for her and her cousin Erin (also baptized that day).

Hanna is the daughter of my AFS sister Elke in Belgium. I so wish I could have been there. I think of my Belgian family often, but it's especially on special occasions that I wish I could just jet to Europe for the weekend.

In the second picture, Hanna is being held by her two grandmas. I was extra excited to see that in this and some other photos of the party, Hanna is wearing the sweater I knit for her. Since I'm a totally spasmodic knitter and rarely finish anything more substantial than a hat, it's so cool to see Hanna wear something I made for her. It's like giving her a long distance hug. Kiddos grow so fast, so I really should get going on something bigger.

Thanks to Inge and Chris and Leo for the photos I stole off of your blogs. =)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Recipes

As requested, here are the recipes for my mom's rhubarb pie and my frozen vanilla custard. I use slightly less fattening ingredients for the ice cream and it's still delicious, but feel free to go all out! Important: the pie crust is the key to the perfect pie, and this recipe is the best there is! But don't add too much water (crust will be tough) or too little (it'll be too flaky to roll out).

The picture is of my family waiting for Dad to dole out pieces of pie to everyone. Note the attention my sister is paying to the size of the piece being cut, and my reaction to her getting what I believe to be a larger piece than me. I could lie, but I won't - this picture is only a few years old. Sibling rivalry never dies.

World's Best Pie Crust (makes 1 crust):
1. Mix 1 C. flour and 1/2 tsp. salt.
2. 1/3C + 1Tbl. crisco (vegetable shortening): Mix in 1/2 of shortening until very fine (like cornmeal). Add the second half and mix until pea-sized.
3. Add 2 to 3 Tbl. cold water (as cold as possible, and closer to 2 Tbl. than 3) and mix until just holds together
4. Roll.
(If prebaked crust is needed for a different recipe, prick with a fork and bake 10-12 minutes at 450F)

Mom's Rhubarb Pie
1. Mix 1/3C flour, 1 1/4C sugar, 1 dash salt, 5C rhubarb (cut in 1" pieces).
2. Allow to sit for 15 minutes while you make a double pie crust recipe.
3. Put filling in pie pan lined with unbaked pie crust. Top with several small chunks of butter (~2 Tbl. total).
4. Top pie with second crust. Crimp edges and cut steam vent.
5. Bake 50 min at 400F.

Frozen Vanilla Custard
1 1/2C whole milk (I use 2%)
1 1/2C heavy cream (I use half and half)
2 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4C sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1. Combine milk and cream in a saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
2. Combine eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in a medium bowl. Beat until mixture is thick, smooth, and pale yellow in color (~2 min. with hand mixer, or by hand until your arm falls off)
3. Pour one cup of the hot liquid into the egg mixture while stirring. When thoroughly combined, pour the egg mixture into the saucepan and stir to combine.
4. Cook, stirring constantly, over medium low heat until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. (This step took me ~30 minutes)
5. Transfer to a bowl, cover with a sheet of plastic wrap placed directly on the custard, and chill completely.
6. Add vanilla and freeze in an ice cream freezer according to freezer directions.

Dragonflies

There were so many huge dragonflies at the cabin last weekend that it looked like an air raid all day long. They liked to land on my shorts and the book I was reading, but they were kind of cute in their prehistoric- monster- bug way. There were also some smaller, more colorful ones around that Brienne didn't even realize were dragonflies, since she's grown up with the enormous ones.

Relaxation

Last weekend we were fortunate to be invited to Brienne's cabin in northern Wisconsin. We saw lots of great wildlife, played lawn games, drank some beer, paddled around the lake, and fed the mosquitoes around a campfire. Unfortunately, I am wholly UNcoordinated, so whichever person was on my team for the various games we played (bean bag, ladder golf) was destined to lose. We kept mixing up the pairs so that no one was stuck with me the whole time. I was equally bad at croquet but at least then I didn't bring anyone down with me. I warned everyone that next time I'm bringing word games like Boggle and Scrabble so I can kick their butts! =) We visited Copper Falls State Park to see lots of amazing waterfalls. (Dad's first questions is always, "Could I run them in a kayak?", and No, Dad, you couldn't!) We had gorgeous weather and great company (Kyle's brother Clint and his girlfriend Brienne). Kyle stole the best pictures for Punkin's blog, but here are a few from the trip. It's hard to return to work after such a relaxing weekend.

Knitting Daily

There's a new place to get lots of fun new patterns that I'll never have time to knit. My favorite is still Knitty, but Interweave Knits now has a blog called Knitting Daily. Their name is slightly misleading...so far, they don't post every day. But their free pattern library is getting bigger, and all patterns have a photograph of a finished project, a must for me to consider knitting something. You also have to register with their site and confirm your address, and be assaulted with pleas to subscribe to their magazine, but some of the patterns were worth it, and I've already downloaded a few.

P.S. I knew it would happen...my mom read the post about my first hat and wanted to know if I'd already thrown it out. She's going to rescue it. Very silly, Mom, but it's all yours!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Rhubarb pie


Mom's rhubarb pie and my homemade vanilla frozen custard could possibly be the most perfectly matched pair of foods on earth. They're definitely MY favorite combination, but I don't have enough to share, so you're going to have to take my word for it.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Strawberry picking

This morning I got up early and went to Hazeltine's, a great "u-pick" strawberry farm near Janesville. Their berries are HUGE this year, which made picking fast. They're delicious too. I'm going to make shortcake for Lauren and Eric's visit today, and then make lots of freezer jam and put a few berries aside for the rum drinks Kyle likes when it's hot.

The best part of picking this year was that soon after I started, my friend Barb showed up 4 rows down from me. I switched rows so we could chat while we picked. It was great to see her, and it's always more fun to work with a friend.

Friday, June 01, 2007

First Knitted Object

Cleaning out the closets recently, I found the first object I ever knitted. It's an ugly wool hat I made in a class I took at our LYS (local yarn store) when I was in 4th grade. I even have a picture of myself wearing the hat in class while working on my second ugly object - a vest that I wore only once. I gave the hat to my mom and long time ago, and she kept it until a year or two ago, at which time she gave it back. I don't blame her, but I'm not going to wear it either, so here's a picture to remember it by forever, and it will go now to a good home in the sky where it can run and be free.

I'll be forever grateful to my mom for signing me up for those classes. I have no idea what prompted her to do so, as she wasn't actively knitting at the time (although she is much more accomplished than I am - she knit a gorgeous fisherman-knit sweater for my dad that would have taken me decades). So although I'm not keeping the hat, and the vest disappeared long ago, I have happy memories of those days, and am glad I learned a hobby to keep my fingers busy.

Bummer

We all feared it was coming, but the horrid week at work finally happened. More than a third of my fellow co-workers were laid off this week in what management is calling "Turnaround 2007". A lot of good friends and hard workers are now unemployed. Unfortunately, it seems they got rid of many of the people who worked the hardest and cared the most. I hope that in the long run they'll be much better off and find even better jobs, but I know from experience how awful it is to be suddenly jobless and I feel terrible for them and their families. I also just plain miss them. We were a bit of a dysfunctional family, and I had some great friends leave without getting to say goodbye. Strange, but it almost feels like they've died, and the atmosphere at work is now quite morgue-like. I hope it all starts feeling a little less bad next week. It's hard to stay motivated to get work done now, and there's going to be much more of it for each of us to do, as our department was cut by 50%.