Monday, December 26, 2011

We had a lovely Christmas.  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I'll share some photos of the last 3 days.

Project bag for Kate

Materials for bag for Emily
 I finished the sewing on the 22nd.  Pk managed to make my sewing machine function (it worked but not optimally.  It moved slowly.)  The projects were knitting project bags for Kate and Emily.  Kate's had monkeys and Em's had robots.  Both had polka dots.  Inside I put a skein of sock yarn, some Harmony dpns and a Knit kit.  Everything they needed to grab and go.  We also baked more cookies.

flying Christmas cow
 We had a half day on the 23 and finished baking the cookies.  Elanor made a batch of raspberry thumbprints by herself.  (She is NOT a cook).  They are delicious.  On the 24th, I made the babka and the chocolate torte and both came out perfectly.  We decorated the cookies and Pk gets the award for the oddest cookie.  He made the Flying Christmas Cow. 

 We finished the baking and cleaning and I had time to take a nap before Em and Kate got here.  Pk made meatballs and I put them into the crockpot with some sausage and we had cookies and wine punch and eggnog. 


We ate and talked about Christmas and presents and then decorated the tree.  That's the angel I made years ago from bits and pieces of fabrics.  The white is from the dresses my girls wore in brother's wedding and the lace is from one of Emily's Hallowe'en costumes.  She's been gracing our tree for about 20 years.

Santa came by accompanied by a fire truck all dressed up to look like a Hess truck.  He moved by so quickly I could only get a blurry photo.

The tree

We finished the tree and put the presents underneath and sat around admiring our work.  There's something about the light of a Christmas tree.

Pk and I were awake early Christmas morning and got showered and dressed and were waiting when Em and Jim and Kate and Patrick came over.

We had babka and hot chocolate (in penguin mugs)

And we opened presents.  Emily declared herself the Winner of Christmas because "I made Mom cry first".  She did indeed.  She made what we lovingly call Aunt Joan candy.  My aunt used to melt chocolate and add toasted coconut, nuts or raisins and plop them into small cups.  I was thinking how much I missed them as I was setting the table up for dinner.  Em came in the door and gave me a container filled with candies.  It made me cry to see them. 

But those were the only tears.  We had fun explaining the presents and ooohing over them.  The project bags were a hit as were the handknit socks.  I gave Elanor a Sock of the Month club certificate good for one pair of socks a month for a year.  I got the idea from a woman on ravelry and thought it was a good one.

Everyone went off to spend the day with the other half of their families and we had a quiet afternoon.  I finished one mitten and cast on the second one.  I have small hands so they're a bit long for me but I like them.  The inside doesn't look too bad.  You can see where I forgot to anchor some longish floats.

Oh, and penguinski took on a new look as Emily took various ornaments meant for the tree (we have many penguin ornaments) and secreted them around the house.

Like this one hanging from a rather interesting place.  Pk contends that it's not really penguinski unless you give a penguin to someone that doesn't already belong to them. 

We had a delicious dinner of roast beef with roasted vegetables and talked about the day.

Today was a quiet-sit-around-take-a-nap kind of day.  I straightened up my various project bags in the bedroom and will tackle the mess in the spare room probably tomorrow.  I'd like to get to the spinning wheel but there are boxes of paper and ribbon in the way.  I'm going downstairs to put on a pot of chicken and dumplings.  Mmmm.  Comfort food.

We have no plans until Friday when we're going to Winterthur for the day.  We have a week of potential pajama days. 

So, that was our holiday.  How was yours?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The baking has finally begun here at chez Wood.  Tonight, I made the dough for pfeffernuse (cookies that contain real black pepper, spicy and delicious), Pk made pizzelles and together we made some lace cookies. 

I hear all of you knitterly type individuals saying, "Lace cookies?  Pray tell, what is that?"

Well, I'll tell you.  These are lace cookies.  They are one of Peter Kevin's favorite cookies.   The bakery makes them and they are horribly expensive but so addictively delicious.

We've tried to make them before but never had much success.  This recipe came out of Bon Apetit magazine and it works!

And the only way to make them better is to sandwich two of them together with chocolate.  These are so good.  And they were easy!  Who knew ?

We are taking half a day tomorrow and the baking will continue.  I have to bake the pfeffernuse and make some butter horns and then the sugar cookies.  Elanor is going to make some jam thumbprint cookies and that will be enough.

Saturday, I'll make the torte and the babka and we'll decorate the cookies (I'll post photos of the zombie moose or whatever Peter Kevin comes up with this year). 

There are still a few presents to wrap but it won't take me very  long to take care of them.  Hard to believe tomorrow is Christmas Adam already.  I wore my hat today and while I enjoy the smiles I get when I wear it, I have to leave it on all day because it gives me the most ferocious case of hat head. 

Our weather continues to be odd.  It was almost 60 degrees today (and it was freezing over the weekend).  No wonder the poor trees are confused.  At least it gives me time to work on my mittens.

Lots to do but plenty of time left.  I don't seem to have the energy for marathon sessions of anything this year so I'm taking everything in small increments.  And it's working for me.

Here's the recipe for Lace cookies in case you're interested

Lace Cookies

It's hard to say how many this will yield.  It all depends on how big you make the cookies
Oven at 350 F

½ cup almonds (plain with the skins on)
2 Tablespoons rolled oats
6 Tablespoons sugar
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 ½ tablespoons honey
1 Tablespoon flour
½ tsp salt
6 Tablespoons butter

In food processor, grind almonds and oats together until they’re the consistency of coarse meal
Melt the butter and stir in the sugars and honey. Stir until dissolved
Turn off the heat and add the other ingredients.
Place scant ¼ tsp of batter on parchment covered cookie sheet.  Use your fingertips to make them round and flatten them just a bit. 
Bake until golden, about 8-10 mins.

Remove paper from pan and let cool on paper.
If desired, melt some semi sweet chocolate and sandwich cookies together.

(These spread a lot.  Use only the 1/4 tsp of batter for each cookie and give them plenty of room.  They're fragile and pretty when they cool.  I used melted chocolate chips in the middles)  If you use rice flour, I think these could be gluten free (oats don't have gluten do they?)

My first batch of these all melded together on the paper.   They will look impossibly tiny before they're baked.  Think of them as a piece of lace before you block it......

Monday, December 19, 2011

So what was Kate's penguinski, you asked?  (Well, ok, you all didn't ask, Roxie asked).  She left a Lego penguin hanging from Peter Kevin's desk shelf, a foam penguin that said " It has begun, there is no hope" and a chocolate penguin was left on the dresser.  That one is a recycled bit of penguinski as Pk left it in her freezer last year.  No, we are not going to eat it.

Pk has struck, tying a penguin to Emily's license plate when she came here on Sunday.  Oooops, (I don't know if she found it yet so don't tell her!). 

And me?  I just keep letting my little penguin dance around the floor and watch his little hat bob up and down.  It makes me laugh each and every time.

In the time off news, I will be able to take the four days off between the holidays.  My supervisor told me to email him which days I wanted and he will "make it happen".  I am sooo glad.  I really didn't want to get up and go into work for 2.2 hours.  What a waste.

We gave ourselves the night off but tomorrow the baking of cookies and wrapping of presents has to begin in earnest.  Tonight I worked on my mitten.  I have only 15 rows until the decreases and then the thumb to finish.  It's not perfectly flat, there are some puckers.  It's been a while since I did any color work but I like it.  The color is more pink than this, but my phone camera picked up this color and I'm too lazy to get up and get the real camera. 

This is an enjoyable knit.  Each row is only 80 stitches and doesn't take too long.  The pattern is easy to follow and the colors look beautiful together.  And it's warm.  It feels really good on my hand.

Tomorrow I will be making the pfefferneuse that Pk loved last year and some butter horns, another one of his favorites.  He's going to make the pizzelles.  The house will smell like spices and sugar.  In other words, like Christmas.

I have only one more clinic and then mostly paperwork this week.  I'm showing The Grinch (the animated one of course) in group on Wednesday so no planning necessary.  I have about 15 treatment plans to get written so when I leave work on Christmas Adam (remember?  the day before Christmas Eve?) I am not leaving unfinished December work behind.  That is my goal.  It's totally doable if I pay attention and not let myself get distracted.

It's list time.  I need a list of things to get ready for the weekend (I have to make an ice mold for the wine punch, make the simple sugar for the wine punch and hot buttered rum, oh, and make egg nog) and  lists of cookies to bake.  I am a great believer in lists.  Besides, if I don't write things down, I don't remember them.

And Pk fixed my sewing machine so I can go back to making the gifts I wanted to make.  I'll show them to you after the holiday.  If I get them done.

But now, it's time for bed.   The elves obviously aren't going to do all this work without me.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The season's first Penguinski score goes to Kate this year!  She managed to visit some penguin love on Peter Kevin while she was here to cut some holly branches off our tree. 

Of course there will be retaliation........

Things here have been fairly quiet.  Life has been work and home and sleep.  I have been busy at work but that's a good thing.  They finally came and installed my new phone so now I know who is calling.  It makes life easier.  Pk has been busy coding at work.  He enjoys doing the computer work but has an exacting boss.  She's a difficult to please workaholic.  She keeps him on his toes.

He and I had date night tonight.  We go out most Friday nights but always on payday weekends.  Tonight we saw a movie and had dinner.  We saw the new Sherlock Holmes movie.  Don't waste your money.

To be fair, Pk liked the first one and I didn't.  I will admit I am not a Holmes fan to start with (although I do like the BBC version with Benedict Crumblebatch (I love his name!)).  But even Peter Kevin didn't like this movie.  It was gimicky with a needlessly complicated plot line.  I would have cheerfully left in the middle.  I stopped caring what happened.  I'd be interested to know if anyone else sees it and likes it. 

We have a few things to get done this weekend and upcoming week.  Tomorrow I have to go grocery shopping and then wrap the presents that I've bought and I have some sewing to do.  Sunday, I'll finish up the shopping and hopefully wrap the rest of the presents.  I tried to do some shopping last weekend but just didn't feel up to it.  I like Christmas shopping and I'm looking forward to it.  I also love all the behind the scenes sneaking around and hiding of presents that goes on this time of year.  I love surprising people!

Monday we start cookie baking.  I'll make several kinds but fewer of them.  We just don't need them around the house and if they're here, we'll eat them. 

I'm trying to take off the four days between the holidays but might have to work a half day.  I am 3 hours short of 4 full days.  I mentioned it to my supervisor this morning and he said, "we'll talk" so maybe he'll help me out.  I hope so.  I look forward to these days off and just miscalculated my vacation time.  He's a good guy and all in all a good supervisor.  He doesn't micromanage our department.  He has good folks working for him and he lets them do their jobs.  If I have to go in, I'll work Tuesday morning for a few hours and Pk said he'll go into his job, too.  We'll have lunch together or go to the art museum for the afternoon.  I have a good husband. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Wouldn't you know it?  The day after my 'coaching', I wake up in the morning and the room is spinning around and around.  I'm familiar with this feeling and I know that the best way to deal with this is to take the medication and sleep it off.  It usually takes a few hours and while the world is not altogether stable, it's better.

I couldn't do that this time.  I had to haul my sorry ass out of bed and get showered and go to work.  I got myself cleaned and dressed and took the sleep inducing medication and went to work.  It was a total waste of a day.  I sat at my desk for 7.5 hours (only got up twice to use the bathroom) and slept on and off with my head propped up on my hand to hold it steady. I still felt unsteady when I got home so I slept for a few hours and was better by dinnertime.  Pk made me some eggs (my comfort food of choice) and I sat and watched some netflix and went to bed and slept 10 more hours.  Today started out a bit woozy but is better at this point.

If I had stayed home yesterday, I would have had a 'written warning' in my employee file and then would have had to have an entire year with no infractions of any kind.  I wasn't willing to risk it. 

Elanor helped me pull the holiday decorations out today and we spent an afternoon listening to music and making the house look like Christmas.  All of the old favorites came out to play and a few new bits were added.  We bought some new outdoor lights that will glow and change colors.

They look like large C9 bulbs but are plastic.  I think they look like toy lights.  The stars are back and so are the snowmen.  Pk is finishing putting some garland around the door.  He's been working out there all afternoon. It's time for me to go and fix something warm and filling for dinner.

He and Emily are going shopping tomorrow.  I may go and try to finish up my shopping as well.  I placed all of the online orders on Friday and should have things in my hands by Christmas.  I love online shopping!

I'm looking forward to the conference on Monday. I'll also get a chance to meet Pk at his office at the end of the day and meet some of his people.  I've never been in his building (it's a tall one with lots of security) and I'd like to have a picture of his place in my mind when I picture him at work. 

I will admit to a bit of tears today.  I've never felt sad when pulling out holiday decorations.  Nostalgic, yes, but Sad?  No.  Today I felt a bit sad.  I don't have many holiday ornaments and things that remind me of my mother, she didn't get much involved in my married life.  I DO however, have many handmade things from my Aunt Joan.  Like this teddy bear 'advent' calendar.  There's a small stuffed bear that gets moved around the house and attached to various points with velcro as he searches for Christmas.  He finally finds it in the livingroom, surrounded by his family.  Aunt Joan made this when my girls were very small and I look forward to it every year.  It made me realize how much I miss her.

She is the inspiration behind 'penguinski' in our family and is responsible for the dozen or so odd little teapots I own. 

Everytime I make something as a gift for someone else, it's a bit of her spirit that I feel.  My mom was a bought gift kind of person.  Gifts from a store were preferable to handmade ones but my aunt was just the opposite.  It was hard to believe they were sisters.  So, it made me feel sad but in a good way (does that make sense?) as I remembered her and all her love.  It still surrounds my family and that makes me smile.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Brrr.  After a day during which we got a total of over 3 inches of rain (and we could see lots of flooded yards from the train)yesterday,  today the temperature is 20 degrees colder.  It feels even colder because it's so damp.  I'm sitting here wrapped in the Wool Peddler's shawl that Kate made me and I have a blanket on my legs and the space heater is on to try to drive off some of the damp chill.  If I had some whipped cream, I'd make a hot rum drink. It's probably better that we don't.  I don't need the 1,000 or so calories!

I was home with some stomach bug on Monday and Tuesday.  At first I thought I had food poisoning or I was having a reaction to a new medicine for cholesterol (Lovaza, a fish oil) but I was feverish and exhausted Sunday night.  And I had stomach cramps and diaharrea.  I did what I thought was the sensible thing and stayed home.

I had supervision today and was "coached" because I have too many occurrences in the past year.  It doesn't show up in my employee record but if I'm sick one more time before next July, it will result in a written warning.  And then I can't have any infractions for an entire year.  It well and truly sucks.  I told Pk that it doesn't matter how sick I am, I have to go to work all through the winter.  If I pass along germs, then so be it.  I still have 2 weeks of sick time on the books but that doesn't matter.

I am making a pair of mittens for myself.  I chose the Hansa mittens and am using some brown knitpicks merino/silk and some rose/brown from artwalk sock yarn.  It's coming out better than I hoped.  See that braid?  It's not really a braid but two rows of purled stitches with the colors twisted around themselves.  When it's done and blocked?  It'll be spectacular.  And I'm enjoying the colorwork.  It's been a while and I wanted something different to play with (and I need new mittens).

How're your holiday preparations coming along?  We have been busy at work so the decorations will wait until Saturday.  Pk and Emily are going to go shopping on Sunday and I think I will as well.  I ordered a few things online and most have come already.  I still have a few handcrafted gifts to finish but they won't take long.  I like giving people something I have made with my own hands.  It feels like giving a bit of myself.

My poor mail delivery person.  She has been working till past 5 and it's dark while she's walking her route.  The other night she had a headlamp on.  Smart cookie!  It helps her to see the addresses and to be seen by drivers.

Our knitting group is branching out!  They're finding patterns they like and trying to learn new things.  It's so very cool!  Most of it is crochet but that's ok.  I have another pattern to try to figure out for someone who said "I don't get it".  I figure it out and then help them figure it out for themselves.  No one learns anything if I'm always doing it for them.

We have no holiday plans, other than to take the week between the holidays off.  I will have just enough time to take all four days off and then I have to start saving vacation days for when it snows.  The Old Farmer's Almanac says we'll have a snowy winter.  I'm not holding my breath and with the attendance issues at work, I'd rather have a normal, quiet winter and no drama.  Unless it snows on Friday/Saturday and we have Sunday to dig ourselves out.

Well, I'm off to finish the last of the holiday knitting.  The mittens are calling!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

So, Friday morning came and I felt nice and calm.  I listened to the three presentations before mine and wasn't embarassed by what I had to say at all.  I was a bit nervous (my director told me she could tell when I was getting nervous, the flush was creeping up my neck into my face) but my piece flowed easily and I actually had to cut my talk short when they flashed the 3 Minute and then 1 Minute signs at me.  I think it was successful.  And it's over.

Friday night Pk and I went to the fabric store to get some fabric for a couple of gifts I want to make.  I didn't have to wait in line to get my fabric cut or anything.  It was amazing.  I'm going to check out the old sewing machine to see if it works and if it does, I'll use it instead of pulling my machine out from its corner next to the dresser. 

Saturday, we decided to go to a christmas lights warehouse called Kindy's.  I included a link only so you could see the difference between their online presence and their brick and mortar store.  Their website looks clean and neat.  Their store in South Philadelphia is a different story. It just screams "prosperous holiday business" at you, doesn't it?  We had heard that this was THE place to go for holiday decorations so we got there at 10 am and there was a line waiting for the doors to open.

Inside was decidedly underwhelming.  The shelves were not as stocked as one would wish and the variety was less than ideal.

They did have trees in every color of the rainbow (and some that would put a rainbow to shame). 

We bought some new lights for the front of the house and the windows. We should be putting them up today but we are tired and in need of some down time so probably next weekend.

After the excitement of Kindy's, we went to the Franklin Mills Mall.  It's an outlet mall and about a mile long on one floor.  You start at one end and if you're lucky, you have someone else pick you up at the other.  If you're not lucky or smart, you make your purchases on the way down and then have to schlepp them back.  We are not smart.  We spent a few hours walking the mall.  It wasn't as crowded as I thought it would be.  And some outlets (Neiman Marcus, for example) are still expensive.  40% off a 500 dollar dress is still a lot of money.  We did better at the Old Navy outlet and a few others. 

We got home and I fell asleep for an hour before going to get my hair trimmed and shaped. My hair stylist asked "how are you doing with letting it grow in?"  My response was "well, I have been tempted to take the scissors to it several times but have managed to stop myself".  She trimmed and shaped it up and while it doesn't look much different, it feels better.

Today we got up and went to the grocery store and then to get our tree.  That's El standing next to the tree that came home with us and is currently taking up a good portion of the living room.  If you think this is big, you should have seen the first one Peter Kevin saw and said he wanted! 

This one is shaped beautifully (aren't they all any more?) and is a nice size.  It didn't need to be cut down much to fit.

We also bought some pointsettias and some star cookies.  And I had an odd experience.  I was in our downstairs storage area where the curtains were open.  A reflection on my glasses looked like Hobbes walking across the room for just a flash.  It took my breath away and it took me a minute to remember it couldn't be Hobbes.  I didn't believe how sad that made me.  God, I miss him.

I did bring a new animal into the house.  Look at that face!  Could you leave him on the shelf?  I couldn't.  Especially since he has a Santa hat that matches mine and Pk's.  If you push a button his hand, he hops around and sings a holiday song.  It makes me laugh out loud. 

Kate told me he was cute but was quick to add that I should give him to Em.  I think she was afraid I was going to give him to someone and she didn't want it to be her so she threw Em under the bus.  I had to explain to her that he is mine and I am keeping him.

Pk is watching a soccer game and I'm going to watch some Dr Who dvds I got in the mail.  The laundry is going and there will be some barbecue chicken for dinner with some macaroni salad.  The lovely, warm day seems to require a summertime type meal.

Work should be fairly quiet this week since one of 'my' doctors is on vacation all week (for which I am very grateful).  Next week I'll be at a conference on helping people find some spirituality to help them in their recovery.  I'm signed up for workshops in 'bringing art and music into recovery' and 'using spirituality in recovery'.  They both sound like they'll be interesting and not heavy or deadly serious. 

Life is pretty good, isn't it?

Happy Sunday!  I am sitting here working on my sweater made with the cashmere yarn my husband gave me for my birthday last year. I’m further...