Thursday, November 19, 2009

Turtles Ready For Duty

I thought I would drop in a quick posting with some pictures of the new turtles. A few months ago, I posted about making toys for Jozef's birthday. One of the toys I made was a turtle that came out of his shell. This apparently has become his favorite thing, as in cannot be apart from it for even a few minutes. Of course, this means that the original one has been basically loved to death. He has been a constant buddy and even made a trip to Poland with Jozef to visit family for a few weeks. After all of this activity, he has gotten, well, loved to death. A call was made for some "stunt turtles" as I like to call them. They will now stand in and do all the original turtle's stunts, so that the first one can get a much needed retirement. I hope they pass muster and are undetected when we do the first switch. Time will tell if all the training I did with them will work and they can slip into duty.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Disaster Zone

It has officially started. My once clean office and sewing room has turned into a disaster zone. The crafting for Christmas is in fully swing, and the Etsy Store sewing has temporarily come to a close. There is too much to do to get ready for all the handmade gifts, so the pants and belts will have to wait again until after the holiday season. The shop will still be open to sell the items that are already made, but no new items for a little while. The bins of fabric are off the shelves, and piles of fabrics are being sorted through to find the perfect piece for this or that.

I am almost completely done with Jozef's toy, and I only have the hand embroidery parts left on that one. I am doing that in front of the television at night. Today I am working on cutting out some of the items for Craig's gift. I hope to have his fully cut out today. I am also working on another thing for Jozef. I am training up some new turtles to "stunt double" for his original one. I guess it has been loved almost to death, so we need some replacements to stand in since the original one can no longer do his own stunts. ;) I got all the pieces cut out:

I am working on them today as they need to be brought back to Illinois with me over the Thanksgiving holidays for stand in duties. I am going to take this opportunity to warn you all that blogging may become rather sparse now that I am starting to run on deadline for the holidays. I will again do the holiday round up at the end of the gift giving season, so that you can all see the toys and items I made for all the family this year. I hope that you come back and check in at the end to see it all. Until then, you can find out if I have a new posting by following me on Twitter or subscribing to the RSS feed for the blog. Till the next check in, I hope you all have great holidays next week and wonderful crafting times.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

An Apple A Day

Yesterday I did get some things accomplished. I got a bit more sewing done, and I was good and started in on the house cleaning again. While the cleaning did not get totally finished, hey there was a hockey game and parents on the phone, I did get some things cleaned up. In this time, I also managed to get an apple pie made. It turned out pretty good, with the exception of being too watery.

I made a Dutch pie for the first time, and I really like it. I have always loved streusel type toppings, and this seems like another great application of it. I did not use enough tapioca this time, so I had my opposite problem, too runny. Lately I have been using too much of the tapioca and my pies are too gummy. I am hoping to find tapioca flour in the future to avoid the small gummy ball texture and more evenly distribute the thickener across the filling. Well keeping it short today in the hopes of getting more sewing done. Hopefully today proves to be a bit more productive in that area.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Reorganization and Restarts

My bread making skills have been steadily improving as I get more and more practice with the methods. I was really proud of this first attempt at French bread. It turned out to be more like Italian bread though as the loaf was too large and not a small diameter like a baguette. After the second rise, I knew it was too big!

It was still very good and came out of the oven golden brown!

I did not slash the loaf deep enough, so it expanded out of the side, however it was still delicious. I think I will be working on this more and buying bread less. The pan was also wonderful. The bottom of the loaf was really crusty, just like from a bakery. It also released the loaf with out any extra butters or oils. It popped out with out any fuss.

On Friday, Dan and I did something that we never do. We went out and bought the newest thing on the day it came out. We got ourselves new Droid phones! The last time we got new phones was when we got our first phones in 2003. It was a long time coming, and I am really happy to have a new smart phone. There has been a huge learning curve, but I am catching on very quickly as the user interface is really easy to figure out. Usually we wait for things to get older and almost ready for new models to come out before buying, but for once, we treated ourselves. That actually took up most of our day on Friday. Then, we both started to feel a bit sick. We spent all of the rest of the weekend feeling a bit awful and working on the house a bit. We reordered Dan's office, and I did the same to the sewing room. Most of it remained the same, but I switched up where my desk and storage shelves are. My desk is now in a cozy nook sheltered by the shelves of supplies and fabrics. The sewing area remained the same as it was working well before. Now, though, I can actually get the bins of fabric off of the shelves with out any tricky maneuvering or yelling. The only bad thing about the arrangement is that I am looking at the electrical panel for the apartment. All in all though, a good switch.

After the weekend of rest, I am off to a roaring start today. I have already gotten banana bread made and out of the oven, the whites and bed sheets laundered, and some light pick up around the house done. I hope this reordering of things continues. I would like to get harp playing back in the routine, and I am going to try to start that again today. I hope to add it to my Mondays, Wednesdays, and Friday schedules. Well I am off to sew since I am feeling the urge to finally complete the first Christmas project and move onto the next sewing one. I am also hoping to get some light housecleaning accomplished today as well. Wish me luck on the cleaning and that the crafting does not fully take over!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Jury is Out

Yesterday was kind of a pins and needles kind of day. Our jury system in California has a hotline that you call to see if you need to serve the night before your date. I called said number and was told to call back at 11 on the day of service. So, nervously I told Annie that she could head in for a girl's day but there were no guarantees of fun after 11 if I got called in to serve. She ended up deciding a few hours was better than no hanging out time, so we went to the restaurant supply store, and I also showed her the neighborhood a bit. Eleven o'clock rolled around, and it was time for the call to see what I was to do for the rest of the day. Luckily, they ended up not needing me, so we headed into the city for some girl time! It was very fun. We hit up some stores, had a fabulous lunch, rummaged through more cooking things, and headed to Imaginknit to check it out. It was a wonderful knitting store! Floor to ceiling yarns all in neat little bins just does something for me. I am not a big stash maker, but Annie had me convinced on this yarn.

It is made from recycled saris in India and is also fair trade. I am excited to eventually get to working on that. I also bought Annie a skein of a beautiful purple, blue, and green version of the yarn. It was a early Christmas gift to her as she brought me an early gift that day as well, a wonderful preservation book! I cannot wait to dive into some of the recipes!

In one of the kitchen stores, I managed to not talk myself out of buying a bread pan. I have wanted a French loaf pan for a while, and this one was too good to pass up.

The bread dough is in the oven right now proofing! I cannot wait to see how it turns out. Well I am debating going to craft night tonight at the Museum of Craft downtown, so if I go, I will report back tomorrow. For now I am off to get some sewing and kitchen cleaning done before heading out to 826 for tutoring. Happy crafting!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quince Jam

Yesterday was kind of a comedy of errors. I went to go and get jars as soon as I cleaned up from my breakfast and blogging, and I walked to my local hardware store in the district to pick up a flat. The last time I went to get jars in August, they were stacked floor to ceiling. There were several types of half pints there, both wide and regular mouth. Jelly jars were also there in plentiful supply. I figured there would be no problem because hey, how many people in this urban setting are making jam? Well I was shocked to get to the store and find they only had a few flats of quarts left. No pints, half pints, or jelly jars to be seen. This made even the store manager scratch his head. He said they would get more in this Friday, but my quince would not make it that long. So, I thanked him and left to ponder my options. I have learned recently that my time is much better spent calling around rather than trying to navigate around via public transportation and walking from place to place to find out they are also out of what I need. I made calls to many stores to find the same thing, sold out. Finally I found some in the city, and my awesome husband swung by the store on his way home and picked me up a flat. We had a wonderful dinner out and then he headed to a guy thing, so I went home to jam it up.

I washed the quince that are pictured above of all their fuzzy outside layer. It was an interesting texture and feeling. Kind of like wiping felt fuzz off of a waxy floor. They were yellowish and smelled very floral, like perfume, and the smell was quite pleasant but strong. I then started to cut them, and myself, over the next hour. Granted our knives are not as sharp as they could be, but this was beyond ridiculous. The quince, while ripe as far as I can tell from my research, were like cutting a butternut squash. I expected something more like an apple, but the texture is quite firmer. When I cut them open, I revealed a beautiful arrangement of little seeds.

I then worked on cutting out bad sections, cores, and paring up the fruit into smaller pieces. Then the fruit, water, lemon, zest, and sugar went into the pot, and the cooking process began.

It was a long one for this, and I am sure I could have taken it further to get a more rosy red jam. I was, however, quite fearful of breaking my pectin down and having a sauce rather than a jam, so I cut it off. I ended up with nine full half pints of jam. They look good, and the few tastes of the jam I had while doing my jelly test revealed a sweet, but perfume smelling jam. It is very similar to rose tea in the flavor, and I can see why this is good with cheese.

Today I am planning on getting all the things done that I did not accomplish yesterday due to the jar debacle. I also have the possibility of disappearing from the blog for a while. I am performing my civic duty by attending jury duty this week, so if I am not here, you know where I am.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Jack O Lanterns and Dance

Halloween was a very busy day for me this year. I have been convinced by a friend that I should get back to bellydance, and I have listened. I moved up in levels at Fat Chance Bellydance, so now I am taking levels two and three. It is a nice and comfortable step up. I feel rather interested in dance again and am so thankful that I was convinced to come back. It was kind of like finding a long lost friend and picking up right where you left off a long time ago. It was comfortable and felt in a way like being home. I do also have to thank my old teacher Ishara for giving me such great fundamentals. I find that I can pick most things up quickly due to this fine foundation she created. It is great.

So, to go back to the Halloween festivities. After another marathon dance lesson session, I came home and got down to watching "It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" while making our Jack o Lantern. I scraped the interior and did the drawing. Dan and I decided on the design, and he did all the cutting. We ended up with this as our lantern:

We watched scary movies that night and ate the roasted seeds from the pumpkin. We put our lantern out on the patio and kept the candles lit inside until we went to bed really late that night.

Sunday we went to the market in Jack London. We have not gone in quite a while as I tend to over buy, and it took us a while to get through all the old stock pile of fruits and veggies. It was nice to get down there and see all the wonderful fall fruits and vegetables. I happened to find something very neat that I have wanted to work with for a long time, quince. I am going to work on making some jam out of them today. I cannot wait to see what they taste like. It is one of those things that I have read about many times in my Medieval stories and have always wanted to find out for myself what it was like. Now is the time. I have to walk down to the store to get more jars today as I am, once again, out of jars. I then spent most of my time on Sunday working on knitting. We watched some television that we had taped from a while ago, including the original Nixon Frost interviews. Then, I made one of my favorite fall type meals, ham and sweet potatoes for dinner. The night was wrapped up with me falling asleep as we tried to watch the original series of "V". I am going to watch the segment I fell asleep to last night again today. There are also some presents I am working on today. I also hope to get those pants finally photographed now that we have a cloudless day for me to work with. Needless to say, I have a lot on my plate. I guess I should get off the computer and head out to the store before beginning to get these quince under control. I will report back on that tomorrow!