Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 10 Hits From 2013

Another year, another list of favorite posts.  I have my own favorite posts, of course, but as the year goes on, many of you have shown just how much you have enjoyed some of them along the way.

Your favorites according to google analytics, anyway.  I'm not really sure I use google analytics right but I guess I'll never know.

#1  How to refashion a sweatshirt.  I was so happy with how this came out but I never liked it on me before or after.  It's just too big and made of yucky material.  But the concept totally worked and I'd do it again for sure!

#2  Never missing an opportunity to degrade myself, this came in at #2.  And let us reread and remember just why we shouldn't do this!

#3 Another sewing post.  I think I'll make this again but I haven't done it yet.  I took the idea from a picture, so there were no quantities given for the size I wanted to make and I had to wing it.  I like it when a pattern suggests actual quantities of fabric so I have an idea just how many of something I have to make.

#4 Even after I watched the Amazing Race this season and contemplated how I'd love to do it, this reminds me why I need not apply.  Ever.

#5 There's no pot here.  Or anywhere else, for that matter. 

#6  Sometimes, it's more fun to make things for boys than for girls.  And I'm still fighting with my mind over which method of putting the quilt together is best since I don't own a quilting machine.

#7  I still have some of these and they are rather spicy!   I will make them again if I have such a bounty but probably with less garlic.

#8  This one is still making me mad as I look at it every.single.day.

#9  The internet sure does love a possibly dirty title.  I will have you know this was written in March of 2013 and as I write this in December of 2013, the gate on the shower has still not been fixed.  K-ster did take a slat from that gate and replaced a missing one from the front gate, but I'm not sure it helped much.   We've probably entertained the neighborhood all year.  Everyone needs a cheap thrill, right?

#10  Very wise organizing.  No one has broken into my house and needed to know the code yet, but just in case, it's spelled out for you.

It's intriguing to me that the posts with the most hits are those that are craft or food related.  I would like to think people are coming to my blog time and again because they enjoy my wit, not because they are getting me through google and just want to see my version of how something is made and then they go about their merry searching.

Thank you all for coming and let's see what 2014 brings for inspiration!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Gift That Keeps Giving

My sister a-ster sews really nice things and she's been like a sewing factory since L-ster was born.  Go look at her site after you're done reading this.

I said AFTER you were finished reading this post.  It's good stuff, though, right?

Lately, along with everything else I own, I've been "wearing out" my pajama pants left and right.

I was not doing high kicks, I swear.  All I did was move over on the couch and they were so threadbare, they just exploded.

I'm down to one pair of flannel pajama pants.  Since she's been making cute pants for L-ster, I asked her to make me a pair.  I could make them myself, but I thought it would be a fun surprise to see what fabric she'd pick out for me.

She puts a pretty contrasting cuff at the bottom and I happen to love this color combination.   It's more of a green cuff in real life but the ipad doesn't always catch the right colors.

I wasn't surprised to get a pair because she asked me my inseam out of the blue one day.

Something got a little lost in the translation though, because this is how they fit.

I could either hope I grow into them, or adjust them myself.  It's an easy fix to just roll down the waist and sew a new channel for the elastic and then tighten the elastic.  And every time I wear them, I can crack up remembering how tall they were the day I opened them.

It was pretty entertaining to put these over my jeans Christmas day to see how they fit.  The inseam is perfect. But I like my pants below my chin natural waist.

My father had missed the whole thing and looked over when I had them on and was like "what are those for? Are they waders????"

** After looking at this, my sister pointed out that they really don't look as silly in this picture as they do in real life.  Here, they kind of look like you would expect pajama pants to look.  BUt, I had to contort myself to take the picture because k-ster didn't want any part of possibly upsetting my sister with pictures of her handiwork.

***Also, I do not have a weird disease that makes my foot look like it might be the wrong color or possibly fake.  Those are tan socks I'm wearing.

Linking here:

Friday, December 27, 2013

It's A Sad Day When the Pumpkin Runs Out

I grew pumpkins this year but only one actual pumpkin grew.  It turned orange really early and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it.  Squirrels destroy any pumpkins I have ever set out for decoration and I tried making a pumpkin dish from a fresh pumpkin once and it was awful.

It was a little too small to give to my mother to put on her step.

I'm not a jack-o-lantern fan, myself.

So, I cooked it up and decided that I'd try it in pumpkin muffins and see what would happen.  My sister roasts hers and I did mine in a similar way.  Check her suggestion here. The only thing I did different was cut it in half and scoop out the seeds first.  Roasting is definitely the way to go.

It was totally fine.  It was probably even more moistening for the muffin recipe than canned pumpkin and it lent the right pumpkin flavor.

It made enough to put 1 cup of cooked squash into 4 ziploc bags and freeze it. 

And Christmas eve, I made the last of the muffins to take to k-ster's mother's for Christmas morning.  I have a couple of the muffins, but that's it.

Back to canned pumpkin if I want to make them for the rest of the year.

I will definitely roast and freeze all of the pumpkins I grow from now on.  They are great in baked goods.  Just don't let me get all crazy and try to make a pumpkin main dish!!

I have read in several places that the pumpkins at the grocery store that you buy to make jack-o-lanterns are not safe to eat.  Something about the chemicals they use on them are not necessarily food grade because they aren't meant to be eaten.  Who knows if it's true, but that's all I need to hear!  They do sell small pumpkins for eating, usually called sugar pumpkins or pie pumpkins and I would feel ok using those to eat if I didn't grow any.

The portioning out into 1 cup amounts in ziploc bags is brilliant and I have started doing it with pureed zucchini in the summer too.  Otherwise, you end up with a huge amount that you have to thaw and not use all at once.  It seems most recipes only want a cup.

Linking up here:

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Gigglefest For Christmas

Right now, all I have to hear is the little giggle from this penguin and I am rolling all over the floor.  I don't know if it's the giggle, the way she says SMOOOOOSHED or the "where're we goin'" at the end.  Wetting my pants every time I watch it!

I hope your week is filled with hysterical giggles just like these.

Over things as silly as this!

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 23, 2013

I'm So Over It

Can we stop the red velvet madness?

The first time I heard about red velvet cake was back in the Steel Magnolias days when the husband had a red velvet cake made into the shape of an armadillo.  Remember?  Her mother had a fit because she said when they cut into it, it was going to look like blood.

For some reason, I can't remember actually seeing it in the movie.  Was it there?  I googled and this was the best I could come up with. 

 Since I googled red velvet cake armadillo steel magnolias and this was what came up first, something tells me that there was no actual armadillo cake in the movie.

I never heard about red velvet cake again until a couple of years ago.  It was when cupcakes, particularly little ones, were making their debut as a wedding cake option.  And now it's taken over.  You cannot hear about cake and cupcake flavors without red velvet being a choice.

Even kids bringing in cupcakes for their birthday are claiming they are red velvet.

Here's my issue:

In my experience eating said red velvet (though never from a child, as I have explained before) I have never tasted anything different from a regular yellow cake.

Which, to me, tastes like I imagine dirty feet would taste.

I have no use for yellow cake and white cake is marginal.  Devil's food is about the only cake I will get excited over.

I also have yet to eat red velvet cake that is actually red.  Of course we all know the dangers of red dye number anything and I know people are afraid to use it, but if you're going to call it red velvet, it has to be red.

And it should taste like velvet.

No, let's think about that.  Velvet would taste really bad.  I picture it tasting like dust.  And feeling like a cat's tongue.

Maybe it should feel like velvet when you eat it.  And I mean velvet that you stroke in the right direction so it's soft.  Not sandy like when you stroke it backwards. 

I wonder why we don't call it red corduroy since it's basically the same idea.

Red velvet cake should simply melt in your mouth, right?  Go down smooth.  Taste like something other than feet.

And under no circumstances, should we add this flavor to coffees.  In my nightmare, I think it's already been done.  And if it has, I have no doubt that it's the same foul smell as vanilla, hazelnut and any other flavoring that people add to coffee.

You do realize they are all the same flavor, but when you say it's supposed to taste like X, suddenly everyone believes that it does.

It's the best scam going.  Coffee flavors that are really all the same.

Almost as good as the scam that is red velvet cake.

Linking here:

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Gimme Some Dumplings

I guess dumplings mean different things in different parts of the country.  They can be like a biscuit over a stew or they can be more pastry-like and look like mini turnovers.

And depending on which house you grew up in, they might be called dumplings or dumplins.  My father calls them dumplins.

Today's post about dumplings is about what I call the scrumptiousness that you steam over a stew.  Like these:
They are really simple to make.  It's just flour and water or milk (although I used chicken broth which made them even better) and baking powder.

Baking powder is more than essential.  Earlier this fall, when we had a lot of apples, I made some dumplings and totally forgot the baking powder.  I thought they'd be fine.  You just put a little sugar in the batter and it's great.

They were total bricks and the whole thing was just ruined.

Must use baking powder!

You simply mix up the ingredients and dollop the batter over your stew and voila.

I could eat dumplings at every meal. 

My mother used to make beef stew and would put dumplings on them.  I liked it but I always fell into a trap.  She'd put pieces of potato in the stew and in my mind, they looked just like the dumplings.  Nothing makes me sadder than thinking I'm about to enjoy a delicious dumpling and getting a piece of potato.

I really don't like potatoes unless they are baked and have sour cream on them!

I also used to confuse beef stew with roast beef and would be so sad when I thought we were having stew (for dumplings!) and we'd get roast beef (no dumplings!)

Today, I don't eat beef, so I never have this dilemma!

Linking here:

Thursday, December 19, 2013

I Think I'm Being Stalked

I have a student who is obsessed with me.  It's really clear in her pure enjoyment of anything that comes out of my mouth and her extreme happiness in two activities that she does with me.

She's very nice, a little younger than her classmates and pretty much out in left field most of the time.  She lived in another country for a while and I don't think she knows how to relate to her American classmates and I'm not sure that right now she realizes it.

Yesterday, after one of the activities she does with me, she presented me with an acrostic poem of my name, with a cutesy little expressions with each of the letters of my name.  I'm sure you did one of those, or your kid did.  You take a name like Joan and do this:

Jolly good fun
On time for everything
A great friend
Never mean to anyone

They are really overdone and everyone thinks they're doing it for the first time with kids when they do it.

It was cute but kind of creepy because she was supposed to be doing something completely different during the activity.

When I put it over my desk, I realized I had another "gift" from her that she made me the first week she knew me.

At first, I thought it was unusual but cute.

It was September and I thought she was just dreaming of Christmas.

And today, I realized that there's a person's legs dangling in the window.

I think it's me.   My sister a-ster thinks it's her spying on my "perfect Christmas".

And this got me thinking about the value of this picture as written at the bottom:

That's the ransom she's going to hold me for.  Except it's a fictitious number because there are too many zeroes after the decimal.  No one will know how much $200.000 really is, so she'll never hand me over.

You heard it here first.  It's been nice knowing you.

Linking here:

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The One Thing I Have Left

My school district hopped on the technology wagon and gave every kid in 4th-9th grades ipads this year.  4th and 5th got them first, so we've had them since October.

They decided that 4th and 5th grade will not take these ipads home.  They will have one assigned to them and every afternoon, the ipads will go into a special cart to charge them and then in the morning, they will get their ipad out and use it as necessary.

The older grade get to take theirs home.  I can't being to imagine how that's working.

Back over here in the 4th and 5th grade, I knew it would take some getting used to, so I didn't ask for them to bring ipads the first few weeks they had them.  There has been much talk about how they will take them everywhere but it took their classroom teachers getting used to the idea that kids can indeed carry them down the hall to another class without incident.

My morning classes have been bringing them regularly for a couple of months, but the afternoon classes have been a challenge due to recess, lunch and not going back to their classrooms after they have me in the afternoon.

I've finally figured out a way around that too.

And I'm starting to actually integrate them into my lessons, where they actually have to have the ipad in order to make an activity happen.

And now, I can be heard saying 150 times a day:

"stop touching your ipads"
"why are you touching your ipads right now?"
"whose ipad is making noise right now?"
"show me where it says on the board that this is the time to use your ipad"
"you shouldn't be using your ipad until you have finished all the way through #3 on the board"
"let's flip the ipads upside down so we can resist the temptation of touching it right now"
"I can't see your eyes LOOK AT ME"

And this is where I pull out the only weapon I have left in my arsenal:

"if I have to tell one more person to stop touching their ipad, you will all lose the privilege of bringing your ipads next week"

Kids knew this would happen.  They knew that giving them a toy like an ipad would give us one more thing we can take away, punish and threaten them with.

I have only told one class they can't bring their ipads the following week.  They were sad when I said it but didn't even notice they didn't have them when they returned.  All it really did was shoot me in the foot because I couldn't do the same thing I had done with 24 other classes because they needed their ipads.  So I had to invent something new.

Not fun at all.

And it always makes me wonder.  Did teachers say these things back when calculators were mainstreamed?  Ball point pens?  Trapper Keepers?

What's next?  Little spaceships for teleportation?  "if I have to tell you one more time to stay in this room, I'm taking away your teleporter and you'll have to WALK to the next room.  Just like I did in the old days."

Linking here:

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Day Christmas Exploded A Week Early

This is what my living room looks like today, a whole week before Christmas.

What's that you say?  TWO Christmas trees when last week, I didn't even have one?

We have a local organization that raises money for charities- wait, yesterday's post was also about charities.  Interesting theme we have here. 

Anyway, this organization raises money for local groups by hosting what they call the Spectacle of Trees. 

To make a very long post shorter, it's basically 17 fake Christmas trees decorated and filled with gifts by 17 charities.  Each tree has a value that sometimes climbs to like $9,000.  For 10 days, the public can view the trees and buy tickets at $10 each.  Then they put the tickets into the boxes of the trees they hope to win (and the charities they want to support) and on the last night of the event, one ticket from each box is pulled.

The winner gets the tree, everything on the tree and everything in, around and under the tree.  The first year, there were really pretty trees and they each had a couple of gifts.  Fast forward 8 years and this year, one tree literally had a car with it.

The charities quickly learned that the more you give with the tree, the more people will put in their tickets and the group really scores.  For every ticket in the box for their tree, the charity gets the full $10.  Nowadays, it's not at all unusual for a group to earn $9,000 from this event.

I always go to this event and get a bunch of tickets.  I put them into all the charities I support and hope that we'll win.  I don't pay much attention to what comes with any of the trees because a) I won't win and b) it becomes such a blur that you can't remember who is giving the 55 inch tv, who is offering a trip to Maui, who has a 2002 Toyota Camry. 

So, I just toss them in.

And this year, WE WON A TREE!!!!!

And now it looks like this. 

The tree is no good.  I will not be keeping it.  It's small and fairly sparse and the decorations are not what I like.  I wish I knew of a place that could use some cheering up with a pre decorated tree.

The gifts ran the gamut.  This tree was not one of the trees with the super high values, but there were some pretty good things that came with it.  Some we will give away, some we will not be able to use and don't know who to give them to and some might get sold so we can finally move into the modern age and get a tv that wasn't made in 1990.

Another plus is that all of those boxes are actually empty.  They were just decoys under the tree.  I love the red wrapping paper and will definitely be using it for gifts this year.  K-ster is currently wrapping his gifts in the other boxes by opening one end and putting the gifts in the empty box and then resealing.

Everyone wins.

Except we now have to clean up all of this crap so we can live in this house and not trip over things left and right!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Baggin' It

We have a local charity that collects new and gently used clothes and shoes for kids and teenagers and gives them out throughout the year.  A lot of these kids are in foster care and often quickly leave their homes with very little of their own stuff.

Instead of letting the kids carry a garbage bag with their belongings to their foster placement, they like to give the kids cloth bags for their things.  I teach one of the kids of the founder of this charity, so when I heard about it, I asked the girl to bring in a sample of the bags and I'd make some.

They are a simple pillow case type of bag with a drawstring.  It's a yard of fabric, so it works out really well to just get a yard and then sew it up.

My mother recently made someone pillow cases to match a quilt and talked about French seams.  I've been curious about them for a while, so I thought that since my serger was buried behind a pile of crap (my sewing room is in perpetual disarray) I'd try the French seams.

Super easy and I'm not sure it took much more time than whipping it through the serger.

My favorite combination is this one.  The quality of this material was awesome.  It felt so good to the touch.  Like old, soft sheets with a good heft to them.  I'd like to have some nightgowns made out of it!   It was on super clearance but was still pricey, so I didn't get more than the one yard.

I could have just folded over the top to make the channel for the drawstring, but I thought a contrasting top would be fun.

I also need to find some "boy" material.  It seems that everything I already have is very feminine.

After I made a couple, I told my mother about them and she was like "oh yeah, I made a dozen of them last week for her."  And, it turns out, they put the drawstrings in for you.  I made my own but it wasn't much of a big deal because I sewed the channel around it so I didn't have to thread it through.

Can't wait to find some boyish fabric and make some more!

Linking here:

Saturday, December 14, 2013

How This Twerp Saved Me

As I alluded to the other day, I have a cold and it's not pretty.  As the week went on, I quickly lost my voice, as in completely lost it at one point, and I had a debate every morning about whether or not to go to school.

When you're in the business of talking for a living, it's pretty scary to think you can't really do your job if you lose your voice!  Especially with young students.

The thought of having to whip something together for a sub, and of missing a day which equals missing a week since I only see them once, and the fact that I didn't feel especially bad prompted me to get my butt to school and come up with a plan.

If these kids were older, I'd have shown a video of Paris or somewhere else in France and it would have been fine. I could have even given a quiz or something for them to do.  Maybe luck out with the computer lab having space and they could do something on the web.

But they are too young for most of the videos I have and definitely not ready to do anything with me in the computer lab yet.  Plus, the class is 50 minutes, longer than I've had in the past, so nothing I have would really last that long.

Enter this little twerp.

I always showed an episode or two of this cartoon to my 6th grade students but I felt like I was pushing it.  They were always just on the edge of being too old to see such a juvenile cartoon.  I had it on VHS forever and when I found the whole series, 24 episodes, on DVD, I scooped it up figuring I could use it in a pinch.

I am not a fan of the story of The Little Prince.  It's way too overquoted.  I've never actually read the book cover to cover but the premise is that this little boy is the ruler of his planet, where no other people live, and he goes on adventures and always learns wise lessons.  Or teaches wise lessons.  He's very wise.

Occasionally, he comes to earth.

This particular cartoon is somewhat creepy in its design and some of the characters have questionable voices.  Like they thought they were performing for porn rather than little kids.

There's also an episode with a rose girl who grows on his planet and it's almost obscene.

So, I thought I could get away with showing one episode, the first in the series.  That would last about 25 minutes.   I had already prepared them last week for something that would require them to talk, not me.  They'd record conversations on their ipads with a cool app called Puppet Pals.  I could muddle through the directions and maintaining some degree of order.

It worked out marvelously.  They were all very worried about where my voice went.   They actually asked "where did your voice go?" to which I'd say "if I knew it was leaving, don't you think I would have held onto it?"

K-ster says I forget they are 9 and 10 and not 13.  I say they need to learn what reality is.

They loved the cartoon and totally were on the edges of their seats.  I cracked up looking at their faces.  There were the occasional "oh no!" or "ahhhh" and a few kids had to explain it to themselves or whisper they hoped the boy would be saved.

I did have one girl who asked me if it was a true story.

K-ster said I was mean to say the following:

Well, let's see.   A little boy lives on a planet called B612?  And he flies around on comets?  And just came from Mars?  And comes to earth and goes on adventures?

He says that was sarcasm.  I say I was reversing the learning so that she'd hear the questions and realize as she answered that perhaps it was not real.  That's what good teaching is, right?  It's called the Socratic method.  Ask them questions and as they answer, they see the light.

Ironically, though it's a French story and the narration is in English, in this first episode, he lands in S. America and there's some Spanish.  The kids all thought it was cool that there was some trilingual action going on.

There was also an atrocious accent going on.  The Spanish speakers all had the same accent when they spoke English.  It sounded like Sophie, the Polish tart on that show Two Broke Girls.  It even sounded like her actual voice and her horrible Polish accent.  I rolled on the floor all week when I would swear it was just her. 

So, merci to the little prince.  Even though I think he's kind of a bratty know it all.  Otherwise, I might have had to get a sub and my room might have been turned completely upside down.

And you know how I feel about my room.

Linking here:

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Lackadaisical Christmas Decorating

Somewhere in my files, I wrote a post about my fake Christmas tree, complete with a picture, but I can't find it. 

Since I've lived in this house, I've always put up a fake tree that my grandmother's friend gave me a long time ago.  It was probably fairly old when she gave it to me and 15+ years later, I decided it was very old for a fake tree.  I imagined the fire retardent had all been sucked into our lungs, there was probably more lead in it than you could even monitor and it had started to shed a lot.

And it had been up 365 days a year in her house for a while, so it was probably pretty filthy when she gave it to me and I never thought about it!  She would put Easter eggs on it or hearts or whatever for a holiday and never felt like taking it down.

It was a really full tree and I bet when she bought it, it was pretty expensive.  It was about 6 feet tall and you had to put in each branch.  That was the worst part.  Getting it out and then putting in each branch.  There were probably about 80 of them. They had little color coded paint chips on each end so you'd get the right length in at the right level.   Then you had to bend out each little branch when you put in the bigger branch.

Then you had to string it with lights and decorate it.

It was kind of chore.  And so was putting it away.

I always had filth on my hands when I was finished and would think that I should set it up some time in the summer, outside, so I could hose it down and get the decades of built up dust off of it.

Or just get a new tree.

This year, I decided, was the year for a new tree.  I saw a wild sale on them at Michael's and there was a coupon for another 25% off, even sale items, between 4pm and 9pm on a particular Sunday.  I perused all of the tree options and decided it was time.  I'd get the most expensive one because it looked the fullest and I'd be saving quite a bit.

So, I scheduled that whole Sunday around going to Michael's at 4pm.

When I got there and found the tree, it was out of stock in the back.  The only option was the one on display.  I didn't mind because it hadn't been up long and it was over people's heads, so it wasn't like people were yanking and pulling on it.

So, the saleslady said she'd take it down and put it back in the box for me and I'd be on my way.

45 minutes later, there were 2 sales people and me trying to get this tree into a box.  It's a prelit tree, so we were trying to be careful not to bend anything or break off any of the lights but it was impossible.  There were 2 sections that came completely apart, but nothing we did would make them fit in the box because one was just way too long.

Several times, I suggested that maybe it was really 3 pieces and the top part comes out?  Because that's how my old one was.  They assured me it was only 2 pieces.  And the picture on the box showed 2 pieces.

Finally, I convinced them to go out back and see how another model was put in the box so maybe it would give them a clue.

They came running back grumbling about how it IS 3 pieces and the top DOES come off!  Why the picture doesn't show that is a mystery.

So, off we went to the register and she rang it up at the sale price.  And I proudly gave her my coupon for another 25% and she said no.  See, it's not for trees over 4 feet.

Incredulous, I examined the coupon and indeed it said that.

I started to want to walk away but I felt really bad that she had spent so much time taking it apart.  So, I asked if I can get something else off because it was the floor model.  She thought that was a great idea but the manager would not budge.  Something about they sell out of these trees every year and blah blah blah and NO.

I really wanted to tell them to stick it but I really felt bad for the woman who had taken it apart.  And it was a good deal based on what I've seen.  So I bought it.

And it didn't fit exactly as it should have in the box, so it was hard to wrestle by myself.  So, it sat in my car and went for a ride for about a week until k-ster and I were home at the same time before midnight.

When we brought it in, it was just before Thanksgiving.  Even though it's fake, I can't justify a tree up before Thanksgiving, so I told k-ster it would have to sit on the floor until at least December 1.  So, we chased it around the living room for a week.  Moved it into another room when I had people over.  Moved it back into the living room that night and then back into the other room the next day when I had my jewelry sale.

On Sunday, as k-ster moved it back into the living room, and I was silently mad that I had not put it up yet, I started hearing and seeing signs of picking up stuff to put it in the corner and set it up.  I was not prepared to do that because I had stuff to do all day Sunday, but he decided to go ahead and put it up.

So, for a couple of days, our tree looked like this.

Just a bare tree with lights.  I noticed right away that it's much thinner than the other tree and looks kind of bare in some spots.  Unlike the old tree, I don't have to put all of the branches in.  They just kind of fold out like an umbrella and then you have to bend out each branch.

When I finally had time to put on the ornaments, I discovered that this tree has thicker branches so it was harder to hang a lot of my ornaments.  And try as I might, the bare spots still remain.  I didn't realize just how full that other tree was!

I love that it's prelit so I don't have to run around the tree with the strings of lights.  And I like that I can still bend the branches as I need to for various ornaments.  And though this one is 7.5 feet tall, it's not as wide, so my ornaments are closer than they used to be.

We also can't put the starfish quite on the top because it's touching the ceiling and bending a little.  And I can't decorate the upper branches because it's that much taller.

I like to think there is less lead in this one and the fire retardant might be less cancer causing the old stuff.  But I'm probably just kidding myself.

I had a moment where I felt like I was in the Twilight Zone as I was decorating.  Many years ago, we did a Secret Santa with teachers and the principal at school, and my principal was my Secret Santa and I was hers.  Total luck of the draw and it was so weird.  Someone had told her I didn't have ornaments for my tree and wanted some (which was true) so she bought me a bunch.

Every year, I put them up and think of her.  And lo and behold, this year, she is my principal again.  I remember the first Christmas I put them up when she had been moved to a different school and I thought I'd never work for her again.  And as I hung up her crazy ornaments this week, I was like "whoa, I'm working with her again!"

Do you think about people who gave you certain ornaments when you hang them?  I have received a few from students over the years.  Some have their names on the backs and some don't, but I'm pretty good about remembering them.  I figure if I take a second every year and think about who gave it to me, I'll probably always remember them.

I don't put a garland or tinsel on my tree.  Ever.  I also never put colored lights.  My mother does all three things.  I don't use tinsel because I couldn't stand it when I was little and it stuck to everything, including the cat.  Garlands just don't do much for me.  And I liked colored lights on her tree but not mine.

I also like those things you put over the Christmas lights that make it look like there's colored water bubbling through them.  My mother puts some of those up too.  Those were something we had when we were little and then no one had them for a while and now people have them again.  I should probably get some.

The only other decorating I've done is my JOY TO THE WORLD banner.  Every year, I plan to make some and put them on my etsy and I forget until I get this out and then it's way too late for Christmas sales!

I still don't have my greens on the door or my collection of snowmen on the mantel.  I usually put everything up December 6th which is St. Nicolas Day in France and then I take it all down on January 6th which is Epiphanie in France.  That gives a good month for all the effort of decorating and it gives me boundaries.  I'm not French but I like their timeline.

December 6th wasn't convenient for me this  year and the days are clicking by and I don't have my act together!  Every time I think about going out and cutting branches for the door, it's cold or wet.  I probably won't get around to doing it.

And we'll all survive.

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Monday, December 9, 2013

Clearly Language Is My Strength

It's that time of year.  The time of year when my voice drops down 2 octaves and it feels like a million knives in my throat from talking all day while trying to fight a cold.

I use the Cold Eeze.

I wash the desks with vinegar.

I refrain from licking any children.

I  never, ever eat anything they offer me.

I wouldn't eat without washing my hands if you paid me.

And yet, I still manage to get a cold around this time every year.  I fight it well.  I don't usually let it hang around for long, but the couple of days I have it are awful.  It makes me realize just how much energy it takes to live my life.

It started with a sore throat that made me a little nervous because it was kind of like the last time I had tonsilitis which was a while ago.  I don't get big sickness often,  but when I do, I do it right.  Tonsilitis, pharyngitis, any itis they can  name.

The sore throat of that nature went away and I'm pretty sure I don't have anything serious. Then it was just the hoarseness that comes with a cold.  I tried all day to keep talking to a minimum, never raising my voice.  This was fairly easy to do because I had planned something for this week that actually has them talking more than me.

But, by the last 3 classes today, my head hurt from talking, my voice was just about gone and the dry cough that does nothing but make me bend over and almost wet my pants from all the coughing had started.

On the way home, I stopped to get something that would loosen up my lungs and make a productive cough.  After I bought it and saw the label, I remembered the first time I bought cold medicine.

I was in college and had a cold, so I went to buy whatever was available at the bookstore.  Everything had this word expectorant on it.  I got into that fancy college, so I surely knew what expectorate meant.  To spit out.  So, expectorant must mean something that should be spit out.

I don't know how I got into that college.

So, after much deliberation, I bought one of them and brought it home.  And because it was an expectorant, I spit it out.  That's right.  I took the dosage, swished it in my mouth, held it there for a minute wondering how the vapors would get into my lungs.  And spit it out.

I did this several times, not letting a single drop go down my throat because it was meant to be spit out.  I didn't want it to poison me.

And as you can imagine, this didn't help one bit. 

I thought it was the stupidest way to take cough medicine ever, but there were no other options in the store.  And I kept coming back to that word:  expectorant.

Somehow, they let me graduate from that fancy school and I learned somewhere that an expectorant is something that makes you expectorate.

But not before I had spit out just about the whole bottle of Vicks Formula 44.

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Saturday, December 7, 2013

With The Throw of One Dart...

You probably saw this coming long before I did.
Last year, k-ster joined a dart league and really liked it.  He stayed for two "seasons" and went up to the next level this fall.  Their team won something big last year and he did too, but for the life of me, I can't keep it straight.

Darts is WAAAAAY more complicated than I ever expected.  There are all sorts of different games and they have crazy points.  And they have to keep it all straight.  In a bar.  With alcohol being served.

It boggles the brain.

And I spend a lot of time surprised at how seriously he takes it.  Like it's a major league sport.

Remember my post from this summer about my new billiards room?  I knew I was in trouble when he wanted to put the dart board out in the garage but when it ended up here, I knew he was more than hooked.  He even moved the grill so he could throw.

It's already almost tournament time, or the end of the season or whatever it's called.  Just the right time to get their teams shirts, right?  One more match to go and they now have their shirts.

They play for a bar called the Land Ho, as in what the guy in the Crow's Nest on ships would say in the old days when they were near land.

They think they are so funny calling themselves the Dirty Hos.

But, try as I might, I can't get it through their heads that Dirty Ho's isn't the same thing as Dirty Hos.  Sadly these shirts clearly state that they belong to some dirty ho.  If she walks in and starts asking for her shirts, they'll be coming home shirtless.

They also don't care that they are clearly bowling shirts, a la Charlie Sheen in Two and a Half Men.  I dont' know what an official darts shirt looks like but I am sure that it isn't the same as bowling shirt.

The one thing that does bother k-ster?  That this year, their "name tags" look like this.

I wet my pants when I saw it.  Because not only do I think playing darts is a very redneck thing to do, but now I have to look at him wearing a bowling shirts I(which I also think is redneck) with his name on it.  Like a mechanic's badge.

I knew I'd end up in Redneckville someday, I just didn't know it would come from k-ster throwing one dart and getting hooked.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The Amaryllis Triplets

My mother got us all amaryllis bulbs a couple of Christmases ago, and mine bloomed really nicely.  I kept the bulb and let it die off and got it growing the next year.  My mother gave me another one and the new one bloomed but the old one just made some really nice green leaves and that was it.

Last year, I got yet another one that grew some nice flowers.

I kept all of the bulbs, let them die off and stored them.  This year, I put them in bigger pots and started them earlier.  And off they go.

But I'm skeptical  about the flowers.  The leaves are coming up in inches per day, but there is nothing in the middle that acts like it will carry a flower.

And these pots are absurd.  They are from some rose bushes that k-ster planted at work, so they are bright green and have words on them.  They do not look good or festive in the living room.

If these don't bloom this year, it's off with their heads!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

It All Started With A Picture of Roasted Vegetables...

I was poking around someone's bloghop the other day and came upon a picture of vegetables.  I am already in the food doldrums of winter with no good fresh vegetables around and it intrigued me.  Clicking led me here.

She talked about roasting vegetables to use as sauce for pasta and I thought it sounded easy and really good.  I have about had it with spaghetti sauce at the moment, and though I like pasta, I am about to need to take a break.

This recipe came just in time.

You need zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, onions, a can of diced tomatoes and a bell pepper.  Try as I might, a bell pepper wasn't to be found at Trader Joes, so I did without.  I think it was fine without it.

The one thing you have to keep in mind is that it will take over an hour to roast the vegetables.  Fine on a weekend or summer day, but not so fine on a school day if I don't get home early enough.

Eating at 9pm isn't really an option for this hungry lady.

So, I fantasized about this for about 4 days.  Each night that I wanted to make it, I either didn't have the ingredients or enough time to get them AND get them roasted in time.

I made a stop at Trader Joes for the vegetables and found 2 excellent sounded raviolis and I thought they would be a fun flavor change from just pasta.

One was basil and one was spinach.  And I had to wait about 3 nights before I could actually eat them because something interfered every night!

After about an hour and 15 minutes of roasting at 350, the vegetables looked ready for pureeing into a sauce.  They smelled so good!! I used a deeper pan than recommended, so that might have influenced cooking time.

I pureed all of the vegetables and added the can of tomatoes.  The original recipe suggested pureeing some of the vegetables and leaving the rest but I wanted them all the same.  I did only a rough chop toward the end so some of the pieces were slightly larger but not as big as they were when they were cooking.

I added a little ground pepper and served it over the raviolis.

And forgot the parmesan.  It would have been even better with parmesan but we survived.  It was lacking a little something and I think that would have made the difference.  I don't think the missing bell pepper was the flavor we were missing.

I thought it was great and I'll make it again.  I can't wait to make it during the summer with fresh zucchini and tomatoes.

K-ster was ok with it.  I think he'd eat it again but it wasn't something that blew him out of his chair.  He's never been one to suggest that I cook a vegetable, so I'm not surprised.

If I told him we were having 3 courses of meat followed by cheese on top of cheese with a dessert of Dairy Queen ice cream on a cheesecake, that might blow him out of his chair.  But roasted vegetables with frou frou ravioli?  Not this week.

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