Tuesday, November 29, 2011

No More Turkey

Thanksgiving was awesome.  I spent time with family every day over the four-day weekend, acquired the bulk of my next project, spent lots of time in the kitchen, and shopped just the right amount.

But if I have to look at another turkey between now and next November, it will be too much to handle.

Wednesday night saw Mom meeting me at an undisclosed location to transfer The Turkey.  I used caps there to indicate this bird as the "official" bird used for the Thanksgiving dinner.  You know, as opposed to any ol' turkey I might be cooking in late November.  Dad got a turkey from his employer, and Mom had the fridge space to thaw it out, so she did that.  In the doling out of cooking duties, I got the bird, so she had to meet me somewhere to give it to me.  I also requested her roasting pan (which was a ton easier than last year's turkey-on-a-cookie-sheet debacle).  The turkey sat in my fridge overnight, jammed between the SodaStream bottles, milk, and leftover pizza.

On Thursday, I got up early and stuck The Turkey into a turkey bag, squeezed it into the roasting pan, and cooked it.  I cooked it and cooked it.  Nineteen pounds of bird took three hours in my little oven.  I watched TV and lazed while it baked.  At 12:00pm, I slid the hot, juicy turkey out of the pan and onto a cutting board--after letting it rest a few minutes, you know, like they do on those food shows.  I washed the roasting pan before setting both legs, both wings, the neck (for Grandma--she likes it), and the majority of both breasts back into the pan for transport back to Mom's kitchen.  I had to work very, very fast to keep the meat as hot as possible during the half-hour drive.  All of the drippings went into mason jars with lids to keep them hot and liquidy during the trip so that we would have fresh gravy.  It was quite an ordeal.

And just for the record, aside from the fact that my mother measured out the butter and flour to make the rue and poured the drippings into the pan (tasks of which I'm absolutely capable), I made the gravy.  Technically I just stirred since Mom did the whole 'applying to pan' bit.  But it was really the stirring that made the difference.   And it was awesome.  The Turkey was fantastic, perfectly cooked, juicy and hot still an hour later.  The entire dinner was amazing.

Black Friday anyone?  The Man and I got up around 7:00am to get to Fred Meyer for socks.  We also got new sheets at Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  Their Palais Royale flannel sheets are perfect.  That was pretty much the extent of our shopping.  We were home by 9:00am and were rather lazy until the afternoon.  Mom and Dad went with me to the Philomath quilt store where we picked out lots and lots of fabric so I can make them a king-sized quilt.  No details yet, just big.  It's going to be massive.  If I've counted correctly, we're looking down the pipe at over 3,000 pieces.  Ouch.

Saturday included a trip to The Man's parents' house where we played games, went to Mass, and then out to dinner.  It was a nice, quiet day sitting by their fireplace.

Sunday saw the other half of my turkey saga.  My sister's husband received a turkey from his employer, and my sister isn't so hot on handling poultry (any meat?).  I offered to help her wrangle it from her fridge to the oven, and she offered me the bulk of the meat in exchange.  Whoo, free turkey!  The twenty-two-pounder put up quite a fight, but we got it stuffed into the roasting pan and into the oven pretty early Sunday morning. We crafted, talked, and cut fabric while the turkey (lowercase) baked.  Three-and-a-half hours later, we judged it to be done.  It was a beast to cut up, portion into freezer bags, and dispose of, but we made it.  I'm so done with turkey this year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Orange Lone Star Quilt

It is finally done!  I received the pattern for this quilt not quite a year ago from my aunt.  She has been a quilter forever, and she was kind enough to send me the pattern along with a couple books from her personal quilting library.  I determined the quilt would be my next project after I finished hand-quilting my last quilt at the end of May.  Here we are, six months later, and I can say it's finished. 
The pattern is sometimes called a Lone Star Quilt, other times it is a Le Moyne Star Quilt.  I have seen them called sun bursts, star bursts, gradient stars, and other names.  My orange and black (Go Beavs!) pattern was machine pieced and machine quilted.  I purchased the fabric at the Philomath quilt store.  The wonderful ladies there were incredibly helpful with the fabric selection when I told them what it was for (so if you ever visit, don't be afraid to ask for help--unlike the big box fabric stores, these people are good).
I learned a few lessons as I was piecing this beast.  First, cut your pieces correctly.  I had all eight points pieced into blocks when I realized I'd have to tear everything apart due to incorrect cutting on my part.  Don't get me wrong, the pieces were cut perfectly.  They were just a half-inch larger in one direction than they were supposed to be, and I'm not exactly sure where that happened or how I missed it, but kicking myself and cursing myself didn't help anything, so I sat there with a seam ripper for two nights destroying my own work.  Repiecing was painful, but I made sure things were exactly correct the second time.

Lesson number two: don't rush.  Bad things happen when I rush.

And lesson number 3?  Have faith in yourself and in your project to turn out better than you ever expected.  I hoped and prayed and wondered if my five incredibly daring color choices would turn out the way I wanted, not Halloween-y or harvest-y or ugly.  I hoped for an orange star, a beautiful orange star of brilliant color and movement and blending... and it worked.  It all worked. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Belated, but Perfect

Though my birthday was weeks ago, due to conflicting schedules I was unable to celebrate with family until this weekend.  My mom spoiled me rotten with her homemade swedish meatballs, mashed potatoes, and green beans, three things The Man and I never have together as he's mostly opposed to them.  After a very yummy dinner and homemade cinnamon rolls for dessert, Mom, Dad, my sister, brother-in-law, The Man, and I sat around a table and played games together until the little-number-hours.

I also finally finally finally finished my orange quilt last week.  Pictures coming soon.

With absolutely nothing on my plate yesterday, I was able to sit and do nothing.  My brain was able to zone out, my sense of self was restored, I relaxed.  I relaxed through ten episodes of Private Practice.  I love Netflix.  This weekend was perfect.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Wings

Via Netflix, I successfully watched every episode of Wings.  All approximately 150 episodes.  If there was a better early '90s sitcom, I have yet to see it.  Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Crystal Barnard, and Tony Shalhoub were the larger part of a fantastic cast.  I was so sad to see the show come to a close, but the ending couldn't have been better.

What do I do with my evenings?  I watch old TV shows on Netflix.  And, at least when it comes to Wings, I'm pretty okay with that.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Not In My House

Dear World,
Please stop with the glitter.  No, I don't want to encrust my shoes with glitter.  No, I don't need glitter wallpaper.  I definitely do not need to glitter up my KitchenAid stand mixer, tiles in the shower, or parts of my car.  I'm not even a huge fan of glitter in my make-up.  Glitter is bad.  Glitter is the gift that keeps on giving and giving and giving no matter how hard you try to get rid of it.
Sincerely,
Glitter is the herpes of the craft world.

P.S. To the woman I met at a Stampin' Up (greeting card making) party last weekend that stated, "I want to put glitter in my hair!" No.  No you don't.  Step away from the shaker bottle, ma'am. Just... step away.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Be Not Afraid

The Man and I encountered something new, something completely unexpected, yet understandable.  We have noticed this in the past, but we never actually discussed it.  Recently, we went over to our friends' house for dinner, and before we ate, our host said a prayer of thanks.  No big deal, right?  Except we all had an air-clearing moment where our non-Catholic friends agreed that it's somewhat awkward to pray before meals in front of Catholics.  I think I've sensed some apprehension about mealtime prayers when The Man and I are with my family as well.  Apparently we are an intimidating bunch.

Having spent the majority of my life on the other side of the Tiber, I understand this more than our friends can know.  Catholics pray very differently than Protestants.  First there's that whole Sign of the Cross deal, then there's the memorized prayer recitation--but sometimes it's made up and you don't know it wasn't simply recited, and then another Sign of the Cross.  Three Amens after all is said and done.  It's confusing, elaborate, and intimidating.  To a Protestant, it can seem like Catholics know the right way to pray and that Protestants are just making things up.

But, having become a Catholic, I can tell you for sure that those made-up-on-the-spot prayers are totally fine. Yes, [some] Catholics have lots of memorized prayers to pull from our hearts on any given occasion.  We have a mealtime prayer, a bedtime prayer, a prayer for hope, a prayer for help, prayers for everything including the sun.  Having these tools doesn't make them better or more right, it just means that we think someone else said it better first.

I guess the same could be said as a Catholic.  Sometimes I worry that if The Man and I recite our very common Catholic mealtime prayer complete with the Sign of the Cross at either end that we'll seem over-ritualized or lacking emotion.  I wonder if our non-Catholic guests are scared of, in awe of, or even mind when we cross ourselves.  I know I used to be weirded out by those rituals.

I think there are two important lessons to take away from this:
1) Praying in front of anyone from a different faith or tradition is scary!
2) It's okay to talk about these differences and reassure people that neither side is going to take arms about a simple mealtime prayer.  Despite the multitude of differences between Catholics and Protestants, food isn't one of them.  If nothing else, give thanks for that.

If you pray before meals (even once in a while with the "big" family), what do you say?  Are you scared/intimidated/worried about praying in front of other people?  Do you all join hands or clasp your own in front of you?  Do you have a favorite mealtime prayer?  Do you get annoyed when someone doesn't do it "your" way?  What do you think about all of this?

Friday, November 11, 2011

We Watched, We Laughed, We Learned

The Man and I have been very fortunate this week to have watched some fantastic stories.  On Wednesday night, we were in need of some comedy.  We enjoy comedians, but I think we're both pretty picky as to what we consider "good" comedy.  I don't like a ton of swearing, crass jokes, or potty humor, but there's a time and a place for a good fart joke.  The Man isn't big on dry humor or English comedy.  We lucked out when we chose to watch Adam Ferrara's comedy on Netflix.  It was hilarious.  I had tears running down my face, neck, and hands as I desperately tried to catch my breath from laughing so hard.  We were both in a great mood afterward, and my tummy muscles felt the workout a little the next day.

Tonight was a very different show.  We got In the Shadow of the Moon on disc from Netflix.  The documentary follows the Apollo space missions as they set out to put Man on the moon.  The Man and I, both born well after these lunar landing missions, have only been able to experience the overwhelming unity the world felt as these courageous men attempted to walk on a different space rock.  Yes, Americans were the first to get there, but I think the whole world was American in that moment.  There was hope.  There was so much of it.  The Man and I both agreed that never in human history have all humans been so united in one mission, one hope, and that we likely never will again do so.  The thought is both powerful and disappointing.

Two very unique experiences in one week.  We are thankful.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

A Trip to Boise, A Trip Through No Where

For those of us living on the west side of Oregon, the land east of Bend is often considered a wasteland, a deserted, sagebrush encrusted, cattle riddled expanse of nothing.  Valley people tend to stick to the valley.  It's just safer that way.  Last weekend, The Man and I set forth from the densely wooded, blindingly green surroundings of home and drove through our fair state all the way out the other side and into Idaho.  Next time?  We're flying.
Hwy 20, Santiam Pass
The Man's oldest childhood friend and his wife recently moved to Boise, Idaho, from Oregon.  We had not seen them in four or five months, so we set out on this trip to spend some time with them, see their new life, and enjoy far too much good food with them.  We left the valley early on Friday and made it to the Santiam Pass around 10:00am.  We saw our first snow in the trees and on the ground a little bit past Cascadia, but thankfully we never encountered snow or ice on the road our whole trip.  Except when we were in Sisters and Bend, we could see at least some snow or a couple inches of snow almost all the way to Ontario.  The Man drove the first leg to Sisters, and then I drove to Burns where we traded back.  Our road food consisted of sugar cookies, some cheese slices, a tube of crackers, Halloween candy, and all the pop, juice, and water our bellies could hold.  We took about nine hours to get to Boise including the hour lost for the time difference.
View from Table Rock, Boise
In Boise, we were able to experience lots of new and exciting places.  Our friends took us to the top of Table Rock where we took lots of pictures and enjoyed the snow dusting.  We visited where The Man's friend works and toured the huge facility.  We also toured the Idaho State Capitol building which was fantastic.  Our friends commissioned a special cake for my birthday complete with a sea monster fondant sculpture that was very, very special.  We played games, shopped, went out to a movie, ate lots and lots of yummy food, and slept well each night.  That's what great trips are made of, right?
My "sea monster" cake
Our drive home on Sunday was no less exciting.  We broke back into snow just after we crossed back into Oregon and didn't leave it until we dropped into La Grande.  Cabbage Hill proved to be as annoying as ever, thankfully The Man drove through that nightmare.  We stopped for a couple hours at the Oregon Trail Museum in Baker City, a place we've both seen before but as children.  We were the first visitors of the day, a very slow day from what we could tell, and had the museum almost entirely to ourselves.  SO nice to visit a place like that and not have to worry about getting in someone's way or moving slowly or wincing over screaming babies.  Also?  The view from them museum over the valley there was spectacular.  Yay for the Oregon Trail!  I took over driving once we got into Hermiston, and we pushed through to Troutdale without so much as a pee stop.  The Man drove the last leg from Troutdale to home since I am not a huge fan of city traffic.  The drive took about eight hours if I don't count the stop in Baker City and the time difference coming back.
Idaho State Capitol
We loved visiting our friends, and we are glad to be home.  That was too much time in the car for this couple, though, and next time we will definitely not be driving through what I still consider the barren wasteland that is Eastern Oregon.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Blog Year Retrospective #6

Happy Blogiversary to me!

Six years and counting.  I'll be the first to admit that my posts aren't as frequent as they used to be.  In my own defense, however, I've progressed from single lady on the town to married, very busy, and not at my computer as often in the evenings.

Just one year ago I finished my first queen-sized quilt.  Yeah.  I've officially been a "quilter" now for a little over a year.  Still loving it!

In December I bought Plant Deux.  Though I thought he was a goner just after Christmas, Planty is still kicking. I don't expect any blooms this year, but we'll see.  He is green and shiny and looks pretty good for having been watered, oh, about six times in the last year.  Whoever said a Christmas Cactus is for non-green-thumbs was absolutely correct.

January was very exciting.  The Man and I both received new job offers within a day of each other.  I transitioned into a new office that month, and he moved from a part-time job to his first full-time position (which he hated within days).  Thankfully, he was able to find another position in August that seems to fit him much, much better.  We are both thrilled with his new job.  I also went gluten-free around the first of the year in the hopes of figuring out why my guts were in rebellion constantly.  Only this past summer did I reintroduce gluten with some success.  I'm thinking getting out of a bad situation at work and ending some stresses in my life also contributed to feeling better.

With new jobs came new money.  The Man and I are so very thankful to finally be living on two full-time incomes.  We were able to upgrade our old college furniture to new couches, buy a much-wanted digital piano, get a new sewing machine, acquire phones that actually do things other than make calls, and upgrade two computers this year.  We also stuck a chunk or two away into savings toward an eventual downpayment on a house.

We did some exciting things, too!  I finished my first hand-quilted quilt in April, joined Twitter, and got stuck with a newly crowned tooth this summer.  I tackled my first real home repair job when I recaulked the bathroom--rather than fighting with our apartment maintenance again.  We bought a SodaStream and love it!  The Man had an exciting birthday outing in Portland.  We took a few days of work/pleasure in Seattle.  We took a few classes about how to buy a house.  I took some cooking classes.  And we celebrated our second anniversary as a married couple.  Oh, and this last weekend we traveled to Boise, Idaho, by car, over and back in under three days.

We also didn't do some things this year.  I missed out on making homemade strawberry jam and canning applesauce.  We didn't get to see friends as often as we'd like since many of them have moved away.  We didn't kill the upstairs neighbors and their annoying stompy children (good thing they moved out before our plan could be hatched). I didn't get as much quilting done as I would have liked.  We didn't get as many books read together as we should have.  I didn't take my camera out half as often as I ought to've.  I'm not sure if we went dancing even once this year.  Just put those things on the list for next year...

But we discovered new places, made or renewed a few friendships, learned to do a few new things, practiced compromising, and loved and were loved a whole lot.  Not really sure we can ask for much more. Here's to another year on the blog, another 365 days of life recorded for all to see.  Happy 6th Blogiversary.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Twenty-Eight

Yesterday I had only been on this blue-green space marble a mere twenty-seven years, but today I rounded it out to twenty-eight years, you know, just for the fun of it.  No birthday cake in sight, although I did make a double-batch of Ghirardelli triple chocolate brownies last night (in addition to the leftover cookies from last weekend and a slug of Halloween candy).  Somehow I will manage... oh, oh the misery. ;)


Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Sheets Snob

I'll admit it, I am a total snob when it comes to sheets.  My mother taught me well.  Never buy less than 300-thread-count sheets.  Never buy less than 5oz flannel.  Never buy sateen.  These are easy rules to live by, easy to follow, easy to understand.

But finding 300tc or 5oz or non-sateen sheets isn't always easy on my budget!

The Man and I got very lucky and found some 600tc sheets at Ross that actually fit our bed over the summer.  They were off-white, which I don't really like, but they were good sheets.  Now that it's cooler at night, we want our flannel.  I should say, we want our flannel.  We love flannel sheets.  Love.

But the $120 set from The Company Store?  Fuggedaboutit.  L.L. Bean has some nice ones for about $90.  Eddie Bauer's prices are ridiculous lately, so I didn't even bother with them.  Target, Kohl's, Fred Meyer, and other stores don't sell sheets by weight, and you never, never, never buy flannel sheets without an ounce-weight.

So when we were in Bed, Bath, and Beyond this weekend looking at sheets, I was absolutely floored to see 6oz flannel sheets for $70.  That's... like... unheard of!  Both a weight and a low price!  We quickly picked out a nice green color, paid for them, took them home, washed them, threw them on the bed, and waited impatiently until bedtime.

Let me just say this: two nights in, and I have yet to wake up in the middle of the night either cold, too hot, or uncomfortable.  They are perfect.  They are snuggly warm perfection.

Love.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Lappy486

I finally did it.  I bought a laptop.  After ten years with two desktops, I opted for a laptop.  That's not bad, I figure, at five years per system.  I made a Vista (nightmare) machine go four years and counting, and that was two too many.

The Man has had laptops as long as I've known him, and he upgraded last year to a fantastic gaming laptop that made me a little... well, okay, I was totally jealous.  Always tied to my desk, always having to sit in one place to do things, always fighting the same stupid problems...

I wavered for months about which laptop I'd get, which operating system I wanted, and how much I was willing to pay.  Is it better to spend a lot and get a great laptop that will be awesome three years from now, or should I get the cheapest laptop I can find and continuously upgrade?  Wavering.

The Man is a bargain hunter (it runs in his family, and we're not talking just a little bit), so he was on the lookout for great laptops at great prices.  My mom also did a ton of research before she purchased her new computer last month.  And, naturally, I talked to my geek friends about which computers are best right now.  It was not a short process of elimination.

My biggest hurdle was getting a laptop with nothing on it.  I wanted it to arrive on my doorstep completely unusable, void of any software, no operating system, nothing.  I wanted a very expensive brick.  The reason?  So that nobody else could install all the junk computers typically have pre-installed.  The only programs I want on my computer are the programs I put on there.  It's my lappy, I'll do what I want with it!

Thankfully the very awesome people at Powernotebooks.com are willing to sell systems without software.  YAY!  They even shipped the lappy to my workplace so that I wouldn't have to wait until the weekend to pick it up from our stupid apartment complex that doesn't stay open past 5pm.  Double yay!

I got the Sager NP5160 with a few customizations.  I had to get the matte screen, a better processor, and more hard drive space.  It's a sweet configuration, so incredible that my super computer-savvy brother-in-law bought the same laptop.  Well, he bought his own.  And he may have some different upgrades.  But he's in the computer field by both education and trade, so his opinion is pretty important to me when it comes to computers.

Oh, and no more Vista.  I purchased Windows 7 and installed it myself.  My headache machine is gone!  Until you've had to deal with Vista, you will never know what horrors I've suffered.  I won't exactly be mourning any losses.  Happy dance!