Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Update Number One

Okay, I have about 6 weeks of stuff to catch up on, right? I'm going to start with the non-knitted stuff today, and I'll do the knitted stuff next time.

In the sewing department, it's mostly been about the grocery bags. You might remember that I cut out a boatload of them a while back. Well, I finished the first batch of them, but was a bad blogger and didn't take a picture of them. I gave most of them away to my family at Thanksgiving.

Then I made some more and did get a picture.

Aaaannnnnd a bunch more....

Some of these were done and have been pictured before.

I gave nearly all of these away to friends and John's family for Christmas. I'm definitely taking a break from making grocery bags for a while. I got a bunch more fabric out of my stash, though.

Sometime just after Thanksgiving, I got an unexpected package from St. Martin's Press with this inside.

That would an advance copy of Jonathan Maberry's latest Joe Ledger novel! It doesn't come out till March, but I have a copy now. I read the first two Joe Ledger books (Patient Zero and The Dragon Factory) and really enjoyed them. I went to the website and put my name on a list for a chance to get the book early, and they picked me! I currently have a couple of library books to finish (one of which is overdue), but then I'm looking forward to checking this one out. Thanks, St. Martin's Press!

Earlier this year, I joined a group that meets every Thursday night to knit. I LOVE this group. They are funny, inspirational and occasionally a bad influence on me. I have purchased a lot of yarn this year from and and because of them. But you should see the great stash I have! :) The second weekend of December, we had a Christmas party, with tons of good food and prezzies! Each of us brought food and enough stocking stuffers for everyone else. After we stuffed ourselves with the food, we opened our stockings. This was my contribution:

Tissue holders made with fabric that looks like knitting

We got some really excellent stuff! I didn't take any pictures, but Pam and Andrea both blogged about it. My foot is the one in the solid green sock in the pictures on Pam's blog. It was loads of fun. We had a pajama/Festivus party the night before Christmas Eve, with a Festivus Pole and Airing of Grievances. We skipped the Feats of Strength, but it was a good time. What a great group of people. I haven't known them long, but I love them to pieces.

Santa was very good to me. In keeping with the bag theme I've had going lately, I got some great bags for presents.

First, John gave me this:

A Namaste Newport bag in Hollywood Pink. The little knitted bag was one of my stocking stuffers. It matches well, doesn't it?

Then my friend S. in Massachusetts sent me this one, also pink:

Isn't this great? It's made from a chicken feed bag. S. and her family raise chickens, so I'm sure there's no shortage of these bags at their house. It will be perfect for carrying around my latest project, which I'll show you next time. I'm going to show it to Andrea. It might be something she could sell at the farm once they open the shop.

Yesterday I got together with some other friends for craft day and more food. Two of us knit while the third one sewed. She gave me this.

A little pouch with this inside:

The storage pouch clips to a D-ring inside the bag

How cool is that? J. and S. are going to trade each other for their bags, since S. is part of this group, but now lives in a different state. I've known these friends a lot longer than my new knitting friends, but I love them to pieces, too!

In other news, I was on vacation all of last week and this week. Today I'm catching up on all the Christmas DVDs I didn't get to watch before Christmas. It's going to be really hard going back to work on Tuesday.

The cats have enjoyed my being home during the day, too.

"We love the heated kitty bed."

Next time: Knitting!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas Eve!

I did some baking yesterday.

M&M pretzels and sweet potato rolls.

That and a pan of fudge are the extent of my holiday baking this year. If I make it, I'll eat it, and I don't want to gain back the 10 pounds I've lost since last month.

I thought I'd share the goodness with you, though.

The pretzels are super easy. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. That part is optional, but you'll thank me later. Lay out as many pretzels (I use Snyder's Snaps) as you can possibly get in there in a single layer. Place a candy melt (I used Wilton's white/vanilla, but you can use any color/flavor you like) on each pretzel. Bake at 250 degrees F for 8-10 minutes or until they are are shiny and soft the middle, but not completely melted goo. Take them out and put an M&M in the center. Let cool completely. Using the parchment helps make them faster, because you can slide one sheet off and immediately fill up the pan again. What you see in the picture is most of a 1-pound bag of pretzels, all of two 14-oz bags of candy melts and most of a bag of holiday milk chocolate M&Ms. I think the color contrast is very festive and they're very tasty. You could use dark chocolate or mint M&Ms, too.

The rolls are blatantly stolen from the 2001 Taste of Home's Quick Cooking Annual Recipes cookbook, page 172. The difference is that my bread machine bakes lousy bread, so I just use it for making dough. Here's the recipe:

Sweet Potato Bread
Recipe from Christi Ross, Mill Creek OK

1/2 c. plus 2 Tbsp warm milk (70-80 degrees)
1 egg, lightly beaten
1-1/2 tsp salt
4-1/2 Tbsp softened butter
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 c. chopped canned sweet potatoes, drained
1/3 c. mini marshamallows
3 c. bread flour
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast [equiv to 1 pkg]

In bread machine pan, place all ingredients in order suggested by the manufacturer . Select basic bread setting. Choose crust color and loaf size, if available. Bake according to bread machine directions (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1-2 Tbsp of water or flour if needed). Yield: 1 loaf (about 1-1/2 pounds).

My notes/mods: I soak the uncracked egg in hot water for a few minutes to warm it up. I don't chop the sweet potatoes, I mash them into the measuring cup with a fork. Then I measure the milk into a glass measuring cup, add the butter and sweet potatoes and microwave for about a minute to warm everything up before adding it to the machine. My dough always comes out a bit sticky so I skip the extra 2 Tbsp of milk and sometimes still need to add a bit more flour; your mileage may vary.

I make the dough in the machine, then knead small handfuls of dough into roll shapes and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Cover them with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray, and let rise in a warm place for 40-45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or browned as you like them. I have small hands, so I get 18-24 rolls. It's not an exact measurement.

I don't have to go back to work till January but I decorated my monitor at work, anyway.

USB LED lights, from Big Lots -$4

I've been busy this week running errands, shopping, wrapping, baking, cleaning, sewing, and etc. It hasn't felt like much of a vaction yet.

I haven't done much decorating but...

"Mama loves me - she put up a tree in the living room for me to climb!"

More about my activities since mid-November later. I have to get back to my sewing room. Have a safe and Merry Christmas, everyone!