Saturday, December 31, 2016

Got a 14 Point Buck

I went to Wal-Mart the other day to scope out the marked down Christmas decorations. There wasn't a lot left, but I spotted a small silver glittered deer head. It was made of plastic and had a small metal loop on the back of the neck for hanging.

All of a sudden, I knew it had to come home with me.

I got a scrap of pine from the garage, and cut it into an oval. Shane routed the edges for me, and I did a quick sanding job on it. Then I stained it with the same stuff I bought for Mom's china cabinet. I even did three coats of clear paint on it. The wood itself, like I said, was scrap, so it was a little rough, but that was okay.

I used some epoxy and screws to attach the deer and plaque together, and added a saw tooth picture hanger on the back.


This is going to be a Christmas decoration for next year, and it's actually pretty small, as you can see by the four slot toaster behind it.

I'm not sure why I went with a plaque that size, because I really could have gone smaller than that, but I like this little project. There were some errors I made while making it that were easily fixed.

For one, I actually tried attaching the head with the hanger upside down on the back. And the epoxy alone wasn't enough to hold everything together, so that's why I had add the screws. That was Shane's idea and a good one. I drilled the holes through the back of the wood, epoxied the head on again, and held the two pieces together while Shane added the screws. I had to go with 1.25" long screws in order to get through the wood and the plastic.

Coconut Macaroons/49 Recipes Down

Because tonight is New Year's Eve here in the States and my husband is home, we actually have plans tonight with friends. Shane wants something a little more typical (think chips and dip) to take with us. I did make a dip from Just a Bunch of Recipes. Once I know how that turned out, I'll post the results here.

However, I needed to make something else, so I bused out Awesome Recipes & Kitchen Shortcuts, and made Sam's Coconut Macaroons.

What did I learn from this recipe?
Sam made his with just two ingredients. I decided I wanted to double the recipe and added just a touch of chocolate in them. I bought chocolate sprinkles (not chocolate chips) and added about 1/4 cup of them to the recipe. Once baked, they taste like Mounds candy bars. The nice thing is, the sprinkles, probably because they are so small, didn't melt into everything like chips probably would have. You can still see the intact sprinkles.

However, these suckers are incredibly sweet and sugary! Not that I'm complaining, but damn! We'll need Shane's chips and dip to cut through the sugar. Another note: they are incredibly sticky.

One change I noted that I needed to make was the baking time. Sam said to bake them at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. The edges of my macaroons came out a little darker, on the first batch, than I would have liked, so I shortened the baking time to 13 minutes. I could have easily gone to 12 minutes and that might have been a little better yet.

But I am pretty happy with how these turned out. I usually can't make cookies to save my life (probably an error in my cooking temperature or my ingredient temperatures), but I think these are right on the money.

Not a Sam The Cooking Guy Recipe, But it Should Be

Before we left on our Christmas trip, we were watching some pizza episode of a restaurant show on The Travel Channel. I don't even remember what show it was. But they were talking about innovative and original pizzas around the country, and one of them caught my attention.

The narrator talked about the white clam pizza, which was first made famous by Frank Pepe of Pepe's Pizzeria in New Haven, CT. The recipe wasn't given but the ingredients were mentioned just enough for me to jot them down. "Frank Pepe originated the New Haven-style thin crust pizza which he baked in bread ovens fired by coke. Coke is a byproduct of coal and it was used extensively until the late 1960's when it became unavailable and hence coal was then put into use to fire the oven.

"Pepe's signature pizza, the White Clam Pizza, was most likely an organic inspiration by Frank Pepe; an idea born from the fact that Pepe's also served raw little neck clams from Rhode Island, on the half shell, as an appetizer."

Last night, I took my own crack at it. There is probably a lot more to the Pepe version of this pizza than what was revealed, but I was fairly impressed with how my version turned out. The thing is, I think I have been more inspired by Sam the Cooking Guy than I have by any other cook. A year ago, before I started using his cookbooks and really paying attention to him, I would have had to look this recipe up online first. This time, I just jumped right in without an actual recipe.

Right off hand, this should really be made in a wood fire oven or on a grill. However, it was windy last night and I didn't feel like standing outside to grill a pizza. so, I wimped out and made in the oven.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound prepared pizza dough--Shane didn't want to try this pizza, so I cut the rectangular roll-out pizza dough I bought right down the middle and turned it into two smaller, different pizzas.
  • 4 large cloves garlic--I used store-bought minced garlic.
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive
  • ¾ cup shredded Parmesan cheese--I thought for sure that I had Parmesan cheese, but I didn't, so I had to substitute some sliced Fontina cheese instead.
  • 1 can of clams, drained
  •  

    Position a rack in lowest position of oven; preheat to 350°F.  Roll out the dough on to your baking sheet. The dough I bought came rolled up on parchment paper, and it was recommended to use that paper on the baking sheet while it was being baked.

    Brush the top of the dough with the olive oil. Top the dough and olive oil with your cheese, and then spread the minced garlic over that. Scatter the clams over the cheese. Just so you know, if you've never opened a can of clams, they are kind of stinky. However, once they come out of the oven, that smell is gone. 

    Put the pizza in the oven and bake until the crust is crispy and golden and the cheese is melted, 15-17 minutes, or whatever your dough calls for.

    Like I mentioned above, I was quite happy with how this turned out. I do think the Parmesan would have been better than the Fontina, because Parmesan tastes salty to me. That would have paired well, naturally, with the clams. But overall, this needed a light cheese, both in taste and in color. The whole pizza itself had a very light taste. Because it's got just a few toppings and no traditional pizza sauce on it, it's not a heavy thing to eat.

    Friday, December 30, 2016

    A New Elf Hat

    One of the sets of yarns I bought was three skeins of Facets by Loops and Thread yarn, in Montana (color #44), from Michael's. I wish I had purchased a fourth skein, so I could have made this hat longer and wider. This became another addition to my crochet project list.

    When I bought it, it reminded me of the Joker: purples and green, with just a touch of blue. I figured it would either turn into a hat or a scarf, but it wasn't screaming a specific project to me yet.

    We got to my father's house, and on Christmas Eve, we were watching "A Christmas Story," and my husband said something about a hat he had as a kid that was long enough to wrap around him as a scarf too.

    About that time, Schwartz in "ACS" appeared on the TV.  I didn't have any white yarn with me, but all of a sudden, that Montana-colored yarn spoke to me. I'd turn it into a hat, however long I could, similar to his.

    It was something I would have to wait to finish, because I knew I'd want it to have a white brim and a white pom pom on the end.

    I started with this pattern from Third Time's A Charm, but I didn't feel like it was working for me. There's nothing wrong with the pattern. It just was that I was using a J sized hook and the body of the hat is made with DC's, so it ended up looking kind of hole-y.

    I frogged what I had started, and used the pattern more as a guide, making it from SC's instead. It's made from the tip down.


    Right now, it's 33" long. The brim and pom pom are made from white acrylic yarn from my stash. I used a C sized hook for the brim, and worked in the front loops of the rows to give it a ribbed look. It's actually pretty snug on my head.

    It definitely has an elf-kind of feel to it, as opposed to reminding me of Santa's hat.In fact, one of my nephews, Lizie's brother, requested a blue scarf from me. I think I'll send this to him, and then make another hat of some kind for their older brother, Nick.

    Thursday, December 29, 2016

    Got Two Scoodies Crossed Off My List

    I was able to just finish the two crocheted Ewok scoodies that I've been working on. One of them was of course, for me (because what 42 year old woman DOESN'T need an Ewok scoodie?). The other is for one of my other nieces.

    Lizie saw me working on my scoodie while we were back, and that was the catalyst to all the kids asking for something (except for the youngest, because she's only barely a year old). I kind of described it to her in general terms, because I figured she didn't know what was an Ewok is, because she's only six. She decided if I was going to have one, then she needed one too.

    I used Barcelona by Loops and Thread yarn, in Flaxen (color #BA-11), from Michael's, on a J sized hook. The leftover yarn became a couple of washcloths. I used the Yub Nub Scoodie pattern by Kristin Stevenson. This is a free pattern, but you will need a username and password to access it.

    Kristin does include directions on how to make the ears, but I bought two Teddy bears from the thrift store today and hacked off their ears for the scoodies. I got the brown ears and Lizie will get the blonde ears (she has lighter colored hair than I do).

    Brown Bear: "My head hurts!" Blonde Bear: "What?"

    Shitty selfies here, since my phone doesn't have a flash when it's in selfie mode. This yarn is actually pretty vibrant.
    For Lizie's scoodie, I used some wooden buttons from my stash and stitched them on, using them to hold the ends around the neck. The buttons don't do anything on their own, and there's no holes for them.

    I tried to do some rustic-looking stitching in dark brown yarn on top of my scoodie, like what Wicket the Ewok had on his hood. That's where the color inspiration with the yarn came from. Wicket's hood was more of an orange/burnt orange color.


    For my scoodie, I laid the ends flat and used more brown yarn to lace them together, side by side. I flipped it over when I was done, and used some burgundy colored thread to whip stitch that portion together, to help sure them.

    This is going to be very warm once the weather cools off again here.


    Preparing to Lie to a Six-Year-Old

    So here's the first of my requested items from our trip: a chemo hat for my niece.

    No, she doesn't have cancer. I guess she woke up a couple of nights before we got into town, and woke up her dad to tell him she was upset because she didn't have one of Nana's hats. She remembered them and wished she had one. Neither me nor my sister have any. They weren't something we wanted to keep, and I think the ones Mom had were given to the hospital for others who might need them.

    My sister asked me to make one and send it to her daughter, passing it off as one of Mom's.


    I used this pattern, from Oombawka Design. It was made with a C sized hook, out of some unknown boucle yarns from my stash. The white yarn has a thin silver tinsel running through it. It's incredibly rough and would be SO uncomfortable on a bald head. However, it does look like something Mom would have worn. She wore a lot of pastels.

    So I'll get this packaged up and sent off to my niece. Hopefully, she'll be happy when she gets one of Nana's hats.

    And, by the way...yeah, cancer can't cripple love. But it sure as shit can make a 6-year-old cry for her grandma, 3 years after she's passed away. Age is something that can suppress memories in the very young, but how heartbreaking is it to have that same little girl say she wishes she had one of Nana's caps, "because of the memories"?

    Fuck you, cancer.

    Wednesday, December 28, 2016

    Made Some New Wash & Dish Cloths

    I travel with yarn. This is probably not a surprise to anyone that knows me. I actually went yarn shopping at Michael's before we left for our Christmas trip so I'd have something to do while we were away. I think the act of crocheting might keep me sane, especially when I'm making something that is basically freeform.

    I took enough stuff to almost finish off four new hats, but I'm going to wait on posting those here until I actually get them all squared away. I didn't want to bring any bit of the new travel stash home with me.

    However, I was using the leftover yarn to make some new dish and wash cloths, and I'm going to stash these away in the camper stuff in the attic. They are just squares of either SC or SC and HDC, and were made with a J sized hook. There is nothing uniform about any of these.

    Barcelona by Loops and Thread yarn, in Flaxen (color #BA-11), 11.5" x 10"

    Might be hard to see on the pile here: unknown leftovers from a previous stash, chenille in variegated blue and hot pink, a little on the wonky side, 8.5' x 7.5"

    Facets by Loops and Thread yarn, in Montana (color #44), 10.5" x 12.5"

    Leftover from a previous stash, unknown chenille in hot pink, 11.5" x 10"

    Barcelona by Loops and Thread yarn, in Flaxen (color #BA-11),10.5" x 9.5"

    Leftover from a previous stash, unknown chenille in variegated blue with in Homespun from Lion Brand Yarn, in Montana Sky (color #368), 8" x 7.5"

    I actually came home with a list of things to make for 8 nieces and nephews: individually colored scarves, and 1 chemo-style cap for my sister's daughter. She's six and was upset before we got home, when she realized she didn't have any of my mom's caps because she would have liked to have one. So, my sister requested one that we're going to pass of as being Mom's. Plus, I have a request for a hood and matching cloak for Nicole the Knitter's partner. He's apparently coveted her cloak for years. :)

    I also have a need to make a new scarf for myself. A couple years ago, I crocheted a scarf for Aunt Susie. While we were back, she asked for another one that was longer so she can wrap it around herself more, and she said the scarf I was wearing would be a good length. I like crazy long scarves.

    The yarn of the scarf I was wearing was just some funky, chunky, patterned, bright yarn I picked up at AC Moore about a year ago. One skein of it was the perfect scarf for me, so I whipped it off and gave it to her. :)





    Tuesday, December 27, 2016

    Not Sure What to Call This Entry

    I'll warn you right now, this entry might just be mental diarrhea. I'm not sure why I'm posting it.

    I just got back from a quick visit back home for Christmas, first with my in-laws and then my side of the family. This was the first visit I've made home in about two and a half years, really, since my mom's funeral. It was quick enough that we didn't even have time to get together with any friends.

    My in-laws live about three hours west of my side of the family. I like to start with visiting my in-laws, because I feel like it just sets the tone better for the rest of the trip. It's busy and crazy and chaotic, but it's typically quite happy. His assorted aunts and uncles are happy to see me. They treat me like I'm their own niece.

    The on the flip side, for about the last 10-12 years, every time I'd go home, I'd wind up being sick as a dog once we left my side of the family. My goal this year was for that to NOT happen. I think it was a combination of being run down and mental stress working together, but against me. Here's my ghoulish thought: Mom's gone, so my sister and I don't have anything to argue about anymore.

    I had been loading up on vitamin C, plus my usual iron and vitamin D. So far, I'd like to report that my visit was not as bad as I was expecting it to be and I don't feel sick. Amen!

    The house my mom lived in felt odd. My parents didn't put up pictures of themselves. There were only pictures of me, my sister, and then our families as we married. I never realized it until this visit. Hell, Shane and I have pictures of us and our extended families all over the place here. You walk into our house, you're going to know who lives here!

    Most of Mom's things are gone. I have a lot of them, and so does my sister. Knick knacks are what remain in the house, along with some furniture my father is still using. Right now, I'm pretty sure he'd give me anything else I asked for, and he given me things on this last visit again, but I feel the need to sneak odd things out of the house for no good reason.

    My mom sewed. I took a set of animal print pillow cases that she made. No one will notice they are gone. I didn't need them. I just wanted them. Shit, I have almost half of her jewelry and some of her crystal and furniture here, but I'm stealing pillow cases like I'm visiting fucking Bed, Bath & Beyond because Mommy liked the fabric. I think I have some kind of odd hoarding instinct starting in me. At least I'll actually use what I'm stealing though. There is some comfort in that.

    So yeah, the house feels odd. It feels devoid of her, in just about every way. I lived in that house for about 20 years. It was the house I moved from when Shane and I got married, and moved together to start our lives. But I don't sense her anywhere it in anymore. I might as well be visiting my in-laws and looking for Mom there. Hell, my sister's house felt more like home to me now, than my actual home did.

    I guess I wasn't expecting that, because Mom was everywhere in that house the last time I was there, even though she had already been gone for months.

    My father, Shane and I went to the park where we scattered her remains, along with the remains of her dogs. I would have preferred to go alone, but I knew that if I did that, I'd sit at the picnic table there, under the tree, and cry like a baby all over again. And it felt rude of me, to tell them I wanted to go alone. She was a wife and a mother-in-law herself.

    I bit the inside of my cheeks and my tongue when we got there, and I kept myself together. I kept telling myself that Mom wasn't there anymore. She was gone, in the physical sense, because what we scattered of her, and the dogs, had washed and blown away since that day in April. Wind, rain, snow, and ice have taken them much further than I'll ever go.

    And when we came home, I went into the bathroom, cried a little for about three minutes, got myself together, and no one was the wiser.