Randomness on a Monday

Happy Monday,y’all.

Today is the first day of autumn – well, it will be at 10 something tonight, anyway. 

Autumn.

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My favorite part of the year – when the miserable heat and humidity of late summer finally gives way to the crisp, cool days of Fall.

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I love the temperatures, the falling leaves, the crisp, shockingly blue skies punctuated with cotton-ball white clouds.  I love walking in the crunchy leaves and watching Mother Nature put her creation to bed for the winter – going out with a spectacular explosion of colors and sights and smells.

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I can’t wait for the cooler temperatures they’re promising later in the week. And I’m hoping they stay that way with no boomerang of Indian Summer to surprise us in October like it sometimes does.

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The girls are both at home sick today with viruses. Not sure they’re the same virus, but they are both sick nonetheless.  Little Bit has been sick since last Thursday and I am hoping that we’re at the end of her virus and that she’ll be back to school tomorrow.  Big Girl just started today, but maybe we’ll get lucky and she’ll be feeling better by tomorrow.

I made them some potato soup for lunch…  Good for what ails ye.  I used Pioneer Woman’s recipe and substituted some frozen hash browns instead of the fresh-cut potatoes to speed the cooking process along a bit.  Big Girl’s in the dining room enjoying her soup and toast very much.  She says it is one of her favorite soups.

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I’m making some progress on the shawl I started a few weeks ago.  I think I have about 6 or 7 more “points” to make, which translates to about 50-60 rows left to knit? I think.  I think 6 or 7 more points sounds a lot closer to being done than 50-60 rows. What do you think?

Anyway, I love it and I am looking forward to finishing it so that I can wear it as the weather cools down.

In other news, we have (another) new kitty.  This one showed up a month or so ago as a stray and has decided she kind of likes it here even if we do have puppies in the back yard.  We’ve named her “Mushi” – partly because of her moustache and partly in honor of a kitty I had as a teenager that had the same tuxedo coloring.  This new Mushi is quite the chatterbox and demands to be petted and talked to whenever she is around when we go outside. Her favorite place to lay is underneath the bird feeder (smart kitty) and she has her very own “blind” of shrubs that she hides in and melts into the shadows.

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She’s very sweet. Very independent – doesn’t like to be held or cuddled.  She is also very curious about the Triplets in the house (as they are about her as well) but we have not attempted any introductions yet.  I let them smell my hands after I’ve been petting either of them so that they can at least get used to the smells of each other.  I have dreams (nightmares?) about Mushi sneaking into the house while we’re sleeping and being awakened to kitty cats who are “getting to know each other.”  Yikes!

We will see what happens when the weather gets cold.  The girls are already campaigning for the puppies to spend the winter indoors again.  And Mushi, too.  I’m not sure I’m up to a winter filled with 2 dogs and 4 cats (plus 2 kids and one husband) in the house with me!! That just sounds like crazy-town to me.

Speaking of crazy-town, I should probably go check on my sicklings…

Unruly socks and never-ending scarves

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I’ve been doing a lot of knitting lately.
I’ve been doing a lot of knitting, but I haven’t gotten a lot done.

You see, I have this pair of socks.

Well, actually I have a sock and a quarter, truth be told.

This second sock is really giving me fits.  I’ve ripped it out completely once, ripped back 2/3 of it another time and now I’m about to rip out the heel and re-do it as well.

The sock really has an attitude.

Which is surprising to me because the first sock was so malleable and easy going. Quick on the needles, quick to knit and easy off.  Lovely.

It’s sibling, however, has other ideas.  It’s the Mr. Hyde of the pair, I think.’

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Do you see that dratted hole? I had to fix that one, too.

Thank goodness for lifelines.

They have saved this sock’s life a couple of times. *ahem*

And, to be quite, honest, I’m kind of fed up with the sock’s attitude.  All these issues and such.

So, I’ve put it in time out for a couple of days. I mean, when you only have an hour or so to knit a day who wants to be aggravated with an adolescent sock with an attitude?

And so I’ve moved on to prettier, more pleasant things for a while -

This beautiful scarf, to be specific.

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Here’s the Ravelry link if you are interested in looking at the details of the pattern.

It’s an asymmetrical scarf with these neat notches on one side – I am loving the variegated yarn that I chose. It was what the shop sample had been made with and I decided I wanted one just like the sample.  So far, so good.

I fell in love with the shop sample and just had to cast on as soon as I got home with the yarn. And then I was really in love when I read the cute story behind the pattern – it has 42 “points” on the edge, which corresponds to the answer to the universe and everything (read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

Having read that book in high school (or college?) I decided I really had to have the scarf that was the answer to everything. *grin*

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Aren’t the notches pretty?

I’m thinking if I ever make this again, I may add some beads to that end section for some additional interest – especially if the yarn I use is not so interestingly variegated.

But it does seem to be taking for-ev-er to knit.  I am a slow knitter and the back and forth and back and forth of just straight knitting with only something “interesting” at the end of each row gets a little mundane.  However, it’s is a great project to do around people because there’s very little counting involved.

What are you working on?

On the needles

I’ve decided that this is the year to tackle sock knitting.

I’ve been terrified of the whole process – the heel, the toe, the double-pointed needles, etc.

That is, until the nice ladies at Unwind Yarn and Gifts gave me a great start.  They pointed me to the best beginner pattern – Churchmouse Yarns Basic Sock – and helped me select some yarn to use.

I had read this blog post about knitting a sock using a 9” circular needle and that was the “Ah-Ha!” moment for me.  I hate double-pointed needles. Circular needles I can do. Socks suddenly became a possibility.

I ordered the needles on Amazon (here and here and here) and visited the ladies at Unwind.  They helped me with advice and recommendations and I was off and knitting on our ride home from Savannah.

The first sock was actually so very easy – even the heel.  I got some more excellent advice at a local yarn shop (Knitting in the Red) when she told me “just do what the instructions say.”  Oh yeah? I thought.

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But, you know what? It worked! (crazy, I know)

So, I have one sock finished and I’m working on the second.

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The second sock is being a little cranky – dropped stitches and the like – so it’s in time out right now.  I think I’ll pick it up again in a few days when I’m not so annoyed with it.

The yarn is Berroco Sox in “Humberside” colorway. I love the pattern. But I’m not crazy about the yarn. For someone with a wool sensitivity, it’s scratchy and irritates my skin when I knit with it – I feel like I have rope burn where the yarn slides across my skin.  Not sure yet if I will keep the socks when they are done.  I’m not sure I want to give away my first-ever socks, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to wear them, either. Maybe Big Girl will get them. She’s been asking for them for a while.

So, while these are in time out, I’ve decided to start another pair (because who has only one knitting project going at a time?!?)

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The pattern is “Vanilla Latte Socks” and I love the way it looks and can’t wait to see how this Republic of Wool yarn knits up. I love how soft it feels.  It’s 80% superwash merino and 20% nylon.  Happy, happy colors.

Hopefully, these won’t be as cranky as the purple ones.

And, hopefully, I’ll have warm footsies this winter with new socks to wear!

Easy weeknight supper idea

For the past month or two (or maybe longer) Little Bit has been asking me to make “pizza bread” for dinner.  I made it once a long time ago and it was apparently one of her favorite incarnations of pizza that I have made.

I’ve resisted making it because, frankly, it was a lot of trouble.  Making the dough, letting it rise, rolling it out, chopping up all the ingredients, etc.  And it has just seemed like we were too busy to bother making it again.

But she has persisted in asking and so, when I saw that the grocery store had French bread dough on sale last week, I decided to try an experiment.

And it worked!

Super easy, super fast pizza bread!

A perfect weeknight dinner idea, ready within 45 minutes and so very tasty. Almost as good as the made-from-scratch version.  The family loved it and I loved how easy it was.

Here are the cast of characters:

Easy Peasy Pizza Bread Ingredients

Easy Peasy Pizza Bread Ingredients

Not pictured, frozen bell peppers (chopped) and Italian seasoning.

The most difficult part of making this dish (and seriously, this is not difficult) was unrolling the bread dough.

Unrolling the dough

Unrolling the dough

Once I unrolled the dough, I sprinkled it with the mozzarella cheese blend and added the toppings.  We like sausage, pepperoni and bell peppers. I was super lazy last night and used frozen bell peppers that SuperMan had chopped for me when we only needed half of a pepper for a recipe.

Toppings

Toppings

(I hadn’t put the cheese on yet in this picture)

Once I had all the toppings in place, I rolled the bread back up into a loaf, sealed the seams and the ends and popped it into the oven.  I baked it at 350 for about 35 minutes.

While that was baking I warmed up some spaghetti sauce I had left over from another recipe. You could certainly use jarred sauce if you have that, too.

Once it was finished, we sliced the bread and gobbled it up.

And I mean, literally gobbled. I didn’t get a single picture of the finished product!

Seriously, though, this was so easy and perfect for a busy weeknight meal.

I hope you give it a try.

Quick and Easy Pizza Bread

Pillsbury prepared French bread dough
Shredded Italian cheese blend
pepperoni slices
Cooked sausage crumbles (I used Jimmy Dean frozen turkey sausage crumbles)
chopped bell pepper

any other pizza toppings you like

  1. Unroll the bread dough. (I did this on my silpat baking mat. If you do it on your counter be sure you spray it with cooking spray first so it won’t stick)
  2. Sprinkle about 1 cup of cheese on the dough
  3. Add your toppings
  4. Roll the bread dough back up, sealing the seams and the ends. Score the top with 2-3 shallow slices to allow for expansion in the oven.
  5. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Allow to cool for about 5-7 minutes before slicing and serving with warmed spaghetti sauce.

First Day of School 2014

Where did the summer go?

It seemed like it was just yesterday that we were packing our bags for Disney and counting down the days until school was out for the summer. And before you know it summer is over and school has begun again.

I have to say, though, I think my girls were more ready than me this year. Usually, I’m counting down the days, ready for the routine and structure that school time brings and they’re hoping and praying someone forgets that it’s time for school again. This year was different. Even though they said they were not excited or ready for school to start, I could tell they were.  Big Girl was checking the online schedule system a week before school started to see if they’d posted anything.  Little Bit had her book bag packed with her supplies days before school started.  They both had new clothes, new shoes and new supplies. They were ready.

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Only I wasn’t.  It was such a fun summer.  It’s the first one where I just threw schedules out the window – I sort of had to while we were at Disney and then I just never started them once we got home.  The girls are big now and schedules just didn’t seem to be as critical.  Our days started slowly. Tea and the morning news together. I’d go to work and they’d wander off to their rooms or the basement for a while to watch TV or play.  We’d break for lunch and then they’d do chores and then it was time for SuperMan to get home and dinner and maybe a swim. 

But I didn’t fret about dinner time or bed time – we often ate late – 8 or 9 PM even – and bedtimes seemed to creep closer and closer to 11 or 11:30 as the summer wore on.

But you know what?

It was OK.  We had fun. We relaxed and enjoyed our time together.  And they got to just veg out and be kids.  Be creative.  Be imaginative.  Be BORED. All those things I remember about my summers growing up.

And as July wound down and August blossomed bright with school, they were ready.

But I wasn’t.

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Not quite ready to set the birds loose from the nest again.  To watch them spread their wings and fly a little higher, a little further from Mama Bird.  To watch them walk into school with their heads held high and ready to tackle whatever was thrown at them.

And the house was quiet today.  Almost too quiet.

I kept thinking about all the mamas that are packing up their college freshmen and preparing to drive them to their dorms – knowing their baby bird is really flying the nest. 

Thank goodness it’s not time for that yet.  Because I’m sure not ready.

Back to school means back to menu planning

Tomorrow the girls start school. With that milestone, many things will be changing in our household. Most notably, we’ll be getting back on a regular schedule. No more dinners at 8PM and bedtimes creeping closer and closer to 11PM (!). We’ll be back to eating dinner at 5:30-6:00 each evening and bedtimes closer to 9PM.

AND – I’ll be back to menu planning. I’ve sort of kept it up all summer. But I have been pretty loosey-goosey with the plans.  Thankfully, I had a lot of meals in my freezer and we were stocked up on meats there, too. I have been trying to “cook down” the freezer as much as I could. Especially since it was so hot and our poor, ancient freezer was not doing the best job keeping everything frozen. (soft serve ice cream, anyone?)

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So, I thought I’d share with you the list I brainstormed to help me when I’m stuck on my menu plan. I went through a lot of my old menu plans, picked out the favorites and the tried-and-true hits.  These are the ones that will be my go-to items this fall when life is crazy and I need inspiration as I’m planning out my week’s meals.

Menu Ideas:
Chicken Enchiladas(crockpot/oven) Potato Soup
*recipe coming soon*
Tacos Beef Stew
Chicken Stir Fry
(served with
Fried Rice)
BBQ Chicken
Fajitas Asian Chicken
Bourbon Street Chicken (crock pot) Roast Beef (crock pot)
Shredded Beef Burritos (crock pot/oven) Salisbury Steak with Mushroom Gravy
Meatloaf Beef Tips with Gravy
*recipe coming soon*
Ham & Rice & Black-eyed peas Creamy Chicken & Rice (crock pot)
Chicken Chili Chili
Baked Potato with Salad Shepherd’s Pie
Sub Sandwiches Breakfast for Dinner
Homemade pizza Pizza Bread
*recipe coming soon*
Salmon Croquettes Cuban Pork with Black Beans & Rice
Beef Stroganoff Pasta Fagioli
Chicken Noodle Soup Chicken &Wild Rice Soup
 Chicken & Dumplings “ Rotisserie” Chicken (crock pot)
 Bourbon Chicken
How about you?

Do you menu plan? What are your family’s favorite meals?

Click on the links to access the recipes.

The end of Summer…

Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve been online here. I’d like to say I’m sorry about that, but, in truth, I’m not. Life was crazy busy and when it came time to evaluate priorities, the blog took a back seat to the family. I think you’d agree that it was the right choice.

Things are still crazy busy. Work projects piling up, kids starting school, etc. but I’m going to try to get back into the swing of blogging again. I make no promises on posting on a regular schedule, but I am anxious to share some new recipes with you and the latest updates on my crafty projects and family adventures.

So, what have we been up to this summer?

Lots of things – a fantastical vacation to Disney World, mini trips to see the family in Savannah, local adventures around town, and lots of good cooking, crafting and swimming.

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I’ll bring you up to date on our adventures and share some pictures with you in the coming weeks.  I promise not to bore you with the “virtual slide show” of vacation photos.

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I’ve also been doing some knitting. I’m currently tackling my very first pair of socks. One is done, the other in progress. Hopefully, I’ll finish soon and can start on another to stockpile the warm socks before the weather gets cold.

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The kids start school this week and we’re off to our first Open House this afternoon. It’s hard to believe summer is over and we’re headed into another school year. But, I have to say, I’m ready. I’m ready for the cooler temperatures. I’m ready for the routines and regularity of the school schedule. I’m ready for fall clothes. I’m ready for hearty fall suppers and freshly baked breads. I’m ready for change.

So, what’ve you been up to this summer?

And what are you ready for?