Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Another Christmas is upon us and guess what -- I'm sick. What is it with me being sick at Christmas? I'm frankly quite tired of it. The bright side is that I won't be going to the emergency room this year. I did my stint at urgent care yesterday afternoon. I have the world's worst bladder infection; at least the worst I have ever had. I won't go into details, but just trust me when I tell you that it is beyond anything I've ever gone through in my entire life, and given my medical history, that's really saying something. However the bright side is that as long as my fever doesn't spike I don't have to go to the hospital. The next step is IV antibiotics, so I'm really hoping that the cipro does its thing quickly and I start feeling human again.

In happier news, there is knitting to share. Some of these were finished some time ago, but I thought you might like to see the gifts I gave to Beastie's teachers and his two classroom aides. I don't quite have enough energy to post all the details, but they are all in my ravelry.

This one is the Cherry Garcia Cowl done in a chunky wool/acrylic; it's very cute on, although this picture doesn't give you much of a reference for scale. So i'll give you the very unattractive nostril shot as well.

Next one is the Crocheted Fan Bookmark Scarf. I fell in love with this in someone else's projects page and blatently copied it, right down to the yarn choice. Imitation = flattery.

And finally, a set of lace wristlets in Manos silk blend. This yarn is SO yum. You have to go find some and try it for yourself, trust me.

Now I'm off to go play x-box with the teen and watch the ice continue to fall from the sky. If it's going to be this cold, miserable and nasty, it should at least be snow. Happy Christmas Eve!!!

Monday, December 22, 2008

We've got balls!

I am oven-less. It is truly depressing to be without an oven at Christmas time, but a new one isn't in the budget until January, so there you have it. Meanwhile I had to get my fix of holiday sweets taken care of some how, so this has been deemed the year of the no-bake dessert.

First up, we have Rum Balls. These can be made with bourbon, but I'm more of a rum girl.

4 c. sifted confectioner's sugar
3 c. finely crushed nilla wafers
3 c. finely crushed walnuts
1/2 c. cocoa powder
1/3 c. corn syrup
1/3 c. rum
1/3 c. water
extra confectioner's sugar

Mix the dry ingredients thoroughly. Add the wet ingredients and stir. I use a rubber spatula to scoop up about teaspoon size balls of the yummy. I drop the ball into the powdered sugar and then roll it between my hands into a ball. Put the balls in an airtight container with wax paper between the layers and refrigerate. Makes about 60 rum balls.

SOOOOO simple and SOOOOOO good. The rum makes your tongue tingle a little but it's in such tiny amounts it can't hurt anyone. You would get sick from all the sugar before you got drunk.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Put on your aprons!

I have recently fallen back in love with my slow cooker. Not that I ever really fell out of love with it, but my stupid tiny kitchen makes it tough to store it, so I had been keeping it in my pantry where I would often forget about it's existence. So when I finally did some seriously kitchen cleaning, cleaning so serious it included throwing out ALL of the plastic food storage and the 3,792 lids I had been keeping for said plastic containers. I bought one very nice set of rubbermaid storage containers and that's it, the rest are history! So anyway, this massive cleaning has freed up space in my kitchen cabinet for my slow cooker and now that I can see it, I think to use it much more often.

As any of you who really know me know, I'm a cook, not a baker. I don't measure; I toss and throw and dash and dab until things taste good. Great for when I'm cooking, not so great for when I'm trying to replicate that awesome meal I made three weeks ago. I don't have the discipline or patience to bake, I'm all about the throwing stuff together and calling it a meal. Not that the ample men in my house ever complain, but sometimes I regret not knowing what the hell I just did. I get into mad scientist mode and before the balsamic vinegar scent is out of the air I've forgotten what I used to make the dish. This became abundantly clear last year when I attempted to contribute recipes for our ASA fundraiser cookbook. Me, one of the best cooks I know, was stymied for recipes. Oh, I managed to contribute my fair share (about 20, I think) but it occurred to me that maybe my life would be easier if I started writing these things down.

Now add to that my new favorite online toy, springpad, which has a place for just this sort of thing (recipes, shopping lists, meal planning, etc) and I have newfound motvation to keep track of my culinary exploits. So, dear blog reader, I present to you the first in what is hopefully a series of "what I am cooking today" posts in hopes that we all will benefit from my desire to become more organized.

Mexican Mac n' Mmmmmm
(forgive the naming, I can't promise they will get better)

1 1/2 lbs browned ground beef, drained (i browned w/onions, basil & oregano)
2 cans condensed tomato soup
2 c. milk
2 cans black beans, drained
1 can corn, drained
2 T. Taco Seasoning
2 boxes Macaroni & Cheese (uncooked including cheese powder)
1/2 c. velveeta cheese, cubed
1/2 c. shredded colby-jack cheese

Mix all the ingredients in slow cooker, stir thouroughly. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Now, I will put the disclaimer here that I've only just put this in the slow cooker 37 minutes ago, so I'm guessing on the time based on my past experiences. I'll let you know my thoughts on it tomorrow.

Now that I've gotten all that off my chest, let me share some pretties with you. My favorite Ravelry group, the Harrisburg Sock Knitters has once again had another of our wonderful exchanges. I was lucky enough to have the tremendously talented Crimson Orchid as an upstream (yes, I know she lives in Canada, just because we say we are from Harrisburg, PA doesn't mean we won't keep you from playing with us just because you're not lucky enough to live here). She sent me the most yummy stuff...

Okay, for starters, that's an autographed copy of the Yarn Harlot's "Free-Range Knitter". Which thrills me to no end, because the only time I was lucky enough to meet Stephanie in person I had her autograph a book for my swap partner and was too stupid to get her to autograph my own copy. Can you say, 'star-struck' anyone? So once again, karma has smiled on me and I've been granted a swap partner who is a bit smarter then me. She also sent me incredible chocolate (notice how the bag is already ripped open, pre-pic), some amazing yarns, Canadian 'jam type spread', chocolate truffle hot cocoa mix (what can I say, I'm a simple girl, just give me chocolate & I'm happy) and of course, her awesome stitch markers, in all my favorite colors. Go check out her etsy shop to appreciate just how beautiful her work is; I promise you won't be disappointed. The purple yarn is from Mama Blue. It's Sea Merino Semi-Solid in the colorway "Dainties" and it's a gorgeous fingering weight. The striped is from Sunnyside Ellen and the colorway is called "Pirate Cove", which I just love! Thank you so much!!!

Yay!!! I love being spoiled!!!

Next post, knitting photos & an update on the Mexican Mac n' Mmmmm! Yay!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Welcome to the world of the employed...

So mucho excitement here in happyneedle-land lately. For starters, I got a job. I know, it's a shocker. I haven't had a "real" job since I had to stop work because of being pregnant with the Beastie and I haven't earned a steady income since Material Whirled moved to the west coast. But all that has changed, I have entered the land of the employed. And oh boy, did I land a dream job! Let me tell you all about it...

My friend Beth co-owns my LYS, Uncommon Threads. She also owns The Alpaca Yarn Company. This is clearly someone who it pays to be friends with. NOT that I am friends with her for those reasons. We are friends because she makes me laugh and that she is even MORE anal-retentive about things then me, which makes me feel like the normal one. Add to that the fact that she is super smart, has great taste in men, pets and friends and works harder then 2 average people put together and it's obvious why I like spending time with her. So when my LYS went to Stitches East & they invited me to go along and help out at the booth, I jumped at the chance.

I love going to shows. I love selling yarn & notions & patterns. I love helping someone who only has a vague idea of what they want to make and helping them see how certain yarns will be perfect for the project or helping them find the perfect pattern for the yarn they just fell in love with. I get a thrill when someone buys enough yarn to make a sweater or when I give them the confidence to tackle socks or their first lace stole. So yeah, I go to help out at shows for totally selfish reasons; I go because I get off helping other people fulfill their yarny dreams.

So anyway, during Stitches while we were hanging out at the hotel on Friday night Beth was poking around on the computer and we were talking about ravlery and blogging and plurk and twitter and all sorts of virtual marketing possibilities that are out there. Turns out Beth was looking to hire someone who had exactly the skill-set that I've been unknowingly honing with all my online yarn obsessions. She asked me if I wanted a job and I said yes before either one of us had a chance to sober up. So, my dear blog friends, you are now reading the personal blog of the Marketing Director for The Alpaca Yarn Company. Yay!!! Sounds all sorts of professional, doesn't it?

My first duties were to get set up on ravelry (check), set up a blog (check), get up and running on plurk and twitter (check, check) and lots of other stuff that thrills me to no end but would probably bore you to tears. The best parts, I can work from home, while Beastie is at school and I can work around his doctor/therapy/specialist schedule. I can still do those two+ hour calls to the insurance company. And, I can do it in my jammies, because we all know how I'm ALL about the jammies.

So yeah, I'm more then a little excited about this opportunity. It feels so good to be working again and using my brain and let's face it, the money helps too. Thanks Beth for giving me this chance! Hang on folks, it should be a fantastic ride!!!

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Lunchbox lifesaver

I was recently able to participate in a sample program through bzzagent involving Smuckers Uncrustables. For those of you who don't know, Uncrustables are frozen peanut butter & jelly sandwiches that you can pop into your child's lunchbox in the morning and by lunchtime they have thawed to the perfect eating temperature. I know it sounds silly, but even taking my eyes off of Beastie for a minute while I make a sandwich can be enough time for him to climb into the windows, take his clothes off or run and hide in his bedroom. And of course he usually does these things as the bus is coming down the lane and I am frantically trying to get him out the door. I figure life is hard enough for us, if there is one little thing that can make it easier, I'm crazy not to take advantage of it. Plus we all know how much Beastie, and most kids with autism crave consistency, so this is just one more (EASY) to give him the sameness that he loves. I have some coupons for these little pockets of sunshine, so if anyone wants one, hit me up at the next ASA meeting or drop me a comment and I'll mail you some and you can see for yourself what a lifesaver these can be.