Sunday, January 23, 2011

Fun in the Sun

Soon, we are headed south to warmer and sunnier places -- a visit to my brother's family in Las Vegas followed by our annual stop at the gem shows in Tucson, Arizona.

Both of my etsy shops are in vacation mode, but I will have access to email, should you feel the need to contact me.

I may find the time to blog while away, but no guarantees on that!

See you in mid-February!

Friday, January 21, 2011

My First Pair of Knitted Socks

It was with some trepidation that I started knitting a pair of socks a couple of weeks ago.  There were parts that were sort of tricky, but overall, it was not as bad as I was expecting it to be.  For me, it all came down to not overthinking it.  I'd heard and read about how challenging "turning the heel" would be.  I found that if I followed the instructions, one step at a time, it wasn't difficult at all.

Doesn't this apply to so many things we tackle everyday of our lives?

Here are some pictures of the completed socks.  I used Lanaloft (by Brown Sheep).  It's 100% wool sport weight yarn.  This means that it will need to be hand washed -- luckily, my washing machine has a hand wash cycle.

A close up of the heel.

I love the way this self-striping yarn "patterned-out".   The best part?  They actually fit!

I've already started a second pair with sock weight yarn, which is much finer and proving to be a bit trickier.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cool New Book

I saw this great tutorial on my friend Shari's blog, and decided to give it a try.  You know I have all the supplies (and then some) to make a few of these cute books.  Wanna come over and make some books with me?

Last week, I found this Naga Bar by Vosges in the secret chocolate cabinet (it's secret because Rick doesn't know that's where I hide the special chocolate).  If you've never had a Vosges chocolate bar, you have not lived.  Seriously.  But I digress ... back to book making.

I kept this project really simple by including only 2 signatures (the bundles of pages within a book).  The size of this little box was perfect for 2 signatures and it would not have held a third!

I still need to figure out how to best decorate the ends of the thread you see at the top of the book.  Maybe I'll add some seed beads ... in chocolate brown.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Birthday Gift Exchange

On Monday, Carol & I got together to exchange birthday gifts.  Both of our birthdays are in January and we usually just pick a date and "do lunch".

The gift I chose for her would not have done well spending too much time in the car (it has been well below zero for several days now), so I basically invited myself to lunch at her house so I could deliver her gift personally.  Hehe.

(have I mentioned that she's a fabulous cook?)

Here's the item that I bought for her that will not withstand the cold:
It's an Calamondin Orange tree!  I bought it at Mile 5.2 Greenhouse in Eagle River.  They tell me it will flower and produce fruit year-round.  Maybe under Carol's care this will be possible, but most certainly NOT in my hands!

She surprised me with a gorgeous ring from an etsy shop I had never seen before.  Here's the ring:

Have a look at this amazing shop:  Arts Gallery

I think we both were very happy with our gifts.  AND, lunch was awesome!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

New Necklace : White on White

I suppose being surrounded by the white stuff inspired me to make a very white necklace.  The focal point is a beautiful moonstone briolette.  Part of the chain consists of white freshwater pearls securely wired together.  The remainder is oval rolo style chain (my favorite, but generally more expensive that regular cable link chain).  Click on the photo to go directly to the listing.

Ever since I've started using the "auto" feature on my too-complicated-for-me digital camera, my results have improved dramatically.  Imagine that.  I decided that I didn't have anything to prove, so I calmly switched to auto and I felt an immediate sense of relief.  Apparently, my camera is smarter than I am.  And I'm ok with that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Environmental Impact Statement

I, do hereby solemnly swear to be more environmentally conscious in the year 2011. 

There, I said it out loud.  I feel like I'm pretty good at this already.  I recycle whatever is recyclable in Alaska (we are limited because of our remoteness -- it is no longer economically feasible to recycle glass up here).  So, what else can one woman do?

This may seem trivial, but I plan to use a lot fewer paper towels in the future.  Of all the things I see in my garbage, paper towels really jump out at me.  How will I do this, you wonder?  Meet the un-paper towel:

This amazing product is the brain child of Athena Creates on etsy.  I purchased the 52 pack, but she offers smaller sets as well. They are machine washable organic cotton.  Brilliant, I say!  I just received them yesterday, so I can't do a full report, but I feel that these will help me achieve my goal.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A New Sweater

I've been working on this sweater for a few weeks now, knitting almost every evening for a couple of hours.  The yarn is a fabulous blend of wool and silk.  At first, the randomly spaced little white nubs annoyed me, but now I like the way they look.

Against the advice of Roberta, good friend and owner of the local yarn shop, I followed the directions for a size XL.  It's huge.  I should have made it in size Large, as Roberta suggested.  The good news is that I like the way it looks with a cotton turtle neck underneath and I really don't even need a coat to go outside!

Now, I've started to knit my first pair of socks!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bittersweet Anniversary

Today, Rick and I celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.  Why it is bittersweet is a long, complicated and heartbreaking story.  I'll keep it brief.

Many of you know that I was married once before.  Bob and I were married for 13 years before he died tragically and violently, exactly 2 months after that anniversary. 

Today's anniversary feels like the saddest type of milestone  -- I've now been married to Rick the same number of years that I was married to Bob.  Two months from today will also be a difficult day -- almost as difficult as the actual anniversary of Bob's death, which I dread and suffer through every year.

I've pretty much been in a sad state for the past few days in anticipation of how I would feel today.  We just went for a long walk, which helped immensely, as the view of Denali was spectacular.

A normal life includes a mix of pain, heartache and hopefully lots of joy and happiness.  All of those things combine to make us whole, complete people.

Hug your loved ones and do it often.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Rick Requests ... Chocolate Pie

I asked Rick what he wanted for dessert on New Year's Eve.  We were having some friends over and he was cooking cioppino

(sorry, can't share that recipe -- his version is Top Secret)

so dessert and appetizers were my job.  I scoured my recipe file and did not find anything worthy of New Year's Eve, so I selected this book as my next possible source for a good recipe:

I have been collecting Pillsbury Bake-Off books for about 15 years and found this beauty at an antique store several years ago.  Now, of course, it is available on Amazon (click the photo to go to the listing there).  This book is from 1959, when the Bake-Off had only been going on for about 10 years.  It is a treasure trove of old fashioned recipes.

Looking in the cream pie section, I found a delightful recipe for Coconut Shortbread Chocolate Pie.  Now that sounded festive enough for a New Year's celebration.

Coconut Shortbread Chocolate Pie

1/3 cub butter
2 TBSP sugar
1 egg yolk
1 TBSP cream
1 cup flour
1 cup coconut, cut up (I used unsweetened thick shavings and they were perfect for this)

Cream the butter.  Add the sugar, combining well.  Blend in egg yolk and cream.  Add the flour gradually and mix well.  Blend in the coconut.  Press into bottom and up the sides of a 9" pie pan.  Bake at 350 for 20-22 minutes. (yes, those 2 minutes can mean the difference between just-right and burnt coconut).


3/4 cup sugar
3 TBSP cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 cups milk
2 squares unsweetened chocolate
3 egg yolks, slightly beaten 1 TBSP butter
1 tsp vanilla

Combine sugar, cornstarch and salt in top of double boiler (over boiling water).  Gradually blend in the milk. Add the chocolate.  Cook, stirring constantly, until thick (this always takes a bit longer than I think it will).  Stir a little of this hot mixture into the egg yolks.  Then add the yolks to the hot mixture, still stirring constantly.  Cook about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.  Cool at least 20 minutes.

(my chocolate did not fully melt, but I decided I liked the way it looked with the little darker brown specks throughout)

Turn the filling into the pie shell.  Chill.  Serve with whipped cream and toasted coconut.

Happy New Year!