Friday, July 13, 2012

Crochet Projects

Lots of crochet projects have filled the last few months as well. A number of afghans, and some branching into other areas as well.

Baby Dress
In my early days as a Pinterest convert, I found this pattern. And new that I wanted to make it right now for the daughter of a friend. I waited until some larger projects were finished, and then bought the yarn and experimented. It was rather strange to suddenly be using a much smaller hook and super soft yarn. Threw me for a loop (ha ha) for this first little while, even. But I got used to it, and I'm very happy with the result. Of course I made it a little big, and I don't think she can wear it for awhile, but that's OK.

Baby Afghans
And influx of (expected) boy babies has had me working in a lot of blue and brown.
Granny Spiral
Long wave in blues
There was another blue and brown baby boy blanket in a really neat chevron granny stitch, but I forgot to take a picture...guess I'll have to make another one.  :-)

New Purse!
I got the general idea for this from (where else) Pinterest, but the pattern and design are quite my own (and also quite universal :-). The rainbow colors make me so happy!

Secret Project No. 1
OK, it won't be a secret any more, although I'm not going to actually post the recipient's name here. I was quite taken with this pattern, but wanted to do something sunflower-ish, while keeping in the color scheme I surreptitiously got from the future owner. I'm very happy with the result, and I hope that she will be too.

Secret Project No. 2
I'm rather astonished by this afghan. I love the color scheme and the pattern and the way those two elements mesh. It's exactly what I envisioned when I first thought about making an afghan for this person. The pattern is from “50Sensational Crochet Afghans and Throws,” a book I was able to get through inter-library loan after I saw someone else's project on Pinterest.

Secret Project No. 3
Granny stripes, as described by Lucy at Attic 24. A great way to use up some of the remnants I've collected over the years - there are 30 different colors in this afghan! No real color pattern – just basically a dark color followed by a light color. And I'm especially fond of the border on this one.

More things are in the works, of course. I'm currently experimenting with a sweater-jacket for Judith...I intend to post about it once it's finished.

The Joy:
With the exception of the purse, these are all gifts – what JOY there is in creating something for another person! Each of these projects is filled with the joy I have in crocheting, as well as prayers and love for the intended recipient.

Baking Highlights

Oh, there's been a ton of baking that I've done in the last two-plus months! Here are some that were impressive or new enough for me to actually take pictures of.

Mother's Day Chocolate Boxes
After the phenomenal success of my Valentine's chocolate box special, I decided to offer chocolate boxes for Mother's Day as well. So these beautiful flower boxes were filled with chocolate truffle hearts. They turned out quite well, but the weather was much hotter than I'd been expecting and I had to crank the air conditioner so I could actually temper the chocolate. As a result, I'm not certain whether I'll do them again next year.
Jar Cookies
As I was searching for a fantastic end-of-the-year gift for my MOPS table, I stumbled across these and these on Pinterest. And was persuaded to try them. I just happened to have started saving my old peanut butter jars, and they worked fantastically! They're nice, large, wide-mouth jars, and they were just the right size. I ended up making basically two varieties: toffee cookies, and chocolate chocolate chip cookies (see links above for recipes). And the people who've baked them since have told me they were fabulous.
 I had help. 
Toffee Caramel Crunch Cheesecake
Our very good friends recently moved to Alaska, and I needed a special dessert to say goodbye. Since I know toffee is a favorite of theirs (and cheesecake is a favorite of mine), this recipe that I found on Pinterest (again) looked perfect. And it was. Because brand name toffee bars are so expensive, I made my own toffee (which I also used in the toffee jar cookies above) using this recipe.

Tie Cookies
I needed a Father's Day special to follow my Mother's Day one. And when I saw this tutorial for creating one's own cookie cutters, I decided tie-shaped cookies would be a good choice. The tutorial was easy to follow, and the cookie cutter worked well, although it was pretty flimsy. My initial idea of using it on cocoa nib-pecan cookies would never have worked...that dough can be difficult to cut through. Instead I chose to decorate vanilla and chocolate sugar cookies...time consuming, but lots of creative fun!
pristine cookie cutters
a sample of my decorating...I forgot to take pictures until more than half were boxed up.
Birthday Cakes
My husband's and my niece's birthdays fall very close to one another. So I made two “fancy” cakes in a week. Since my husband is 42 and he's a fan of “The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy” (in which “42” is given as “the answer”), I made this cake and conspired with one of his coworkers to surprise him with it at work.
You probably have to be a Douglas Adams fan to really get it.
My niece requested a castle:

Chocolate Cheesecake Cookie Bars
Another Pinterest recipe that I found for a dinner party in June. Another phenomenal result! This bar is chocolate graham cracker crust topped with chocolate cheesecake and chocolate chip cookie dough. I'm not a huge fan of plain chocolate chip cookies, but in the instance the dough isn't super-sweet, and is a great, crunchy complement to the creamy cheesecake.

Brownie Layer Cheesecake
I don't really know what to call this one. The original recipe called it “Bittersweet Cheesecake Torte”, but that doesn't seem quite descriptive enough. Instead of a crust, this cheesecake starts with a layer of fudge brownie, then chocolate cheesecake, then more brownie, then white chocolate cheesecake, then ganache. Absolute decadence.

So...there you have it. An overview of the last few months baking-wise.

The Joy
It feels redundant to even write this section for this particular post. There's joy in just looking at the pictures of these delicious things! There's joy in remembering the joy other people got from eating these things. And, as I've said so many times before, I'm so totally wired to bake! Few things give me quite as much joy as experimenting in the kitchen, even when I've been working at the stove for hours.

Diving Back In

Golly. It's really been almost three months since I last posted anything on this blog! So much for that goal.

Well. It's time to dive back in. Because the longer I've put off blogging, the harder it's been to start again. And the more there is to write about. And the more sheepish I feel. Apologies (where they're needed), and the best of intentions for the future!

This post will be an overview of our lives for the last months – good and bad. Baking highlights can be found here, and crochet projects here.

A Really Hard Month
Around the middle of April, when I last blogged, this family was suddenly snowed under. (No, not literally...we live in California for goodness sake!) We all got a bad cold and were feeling really under the weather. And then we found out that my car (which we thought needed some work) is basically on it's last legs – I'm just biding my time waiting for it to die by the side of the road (prognosis was 3-6 months of driving time left, and it's been three months). So my husband started teaching me to drive his car – it's a stick – so that we could share one car if necessary, and his car died. Fortunately his car was fixable (if expensive) and isn't likely to die at the side of the road any time soon. And then the lawn mower died too. And with one thing after another it was very hard to keep the joy going. And I certainly didn't want to blog about it! But we made it through! And here, on the other side, I have joy that we persevered. [Although, in hindsight, it would probably have been somewhat cathartic (if depressing for any readers) for me to write about it all.]

A Visit from Grandpa Lynn and Grandma Tee
Lance's parents came to visit at the end of May. Judith had fun playing with Grandma and Grandpa, although somehow we managed not to have the camera out very much!
Grandma Tee painting Judith's toenails
Grandpa Lynn reading with Judith
New Skills!
Out of the blue, Judith's fine motor (specifically writing and drawing) skills have blossomed. For Daddy's birthday in early June, I asked Judith to make a card. I was expecting to have it be her customary scribbles (with probably a lot of pink). Instead, I got this:
"That's my Daddy"
It is very important to note that this was the first time Judith had ever drawn a face. For Father's Day a few days later, I asked her to copy the letters (her name) I'd written on his present, expecting, again, that I would need to give her a lot of help. But she copied them beautifully, and has now progressed to writing J-U-D-I-T-H on her own, without anything to copy, or even any help remembering which letter comes next.
writing her name
The letter-copying surprise sort-of threw us into our first real “homeschooling” lessons – I got some dry-erase letter-writing books that Judith's been using for a few letters each day. We've also been playing a lot of pre-reading games using phonics to figure out words that she sees and asks about. I'm continuously amazed by how quickly she catches on when she wants to!

Swimming Lessons!
For the third year in a row we enrolled Judith in swimming lessons through our local rec department. This was the first time, though, that I wasn't in the water too. What fun she had, and so much improvement! She's now able (and willing) to duck her head under the water.
swimming lessons
We also got her a swimming vest (a no-no at swimming lessons, but a huge help in any private pool!), which has enabled her to be independent in the water for the first time. This is, naturally, very freeing for us!

A Night Apart
June 22 was very momentous day in our family. Judith spent the night away from us for the very first time! She stayed with Grandpa Tim and Grandma Sandy for Friday night through Saturday evening while Mama and Daddy had a day together. Apparently it took her awhile to go to sleep, but otherwise she had a fabulous time. (Considering Grandpa and Grandma took her to Fairytale Town, that's not surprising :-) Lance and I went for a hike, and watched a grown up movie, and got a full night of sleep!

July 4th Celebration
Independence Day was HOT here, but we managed to have fun anyway. We started the day with a breakfast of Grandma Sandy's famous Swedish Hotcakes, and then walked to the Roseville parade. We intended to go to the park for some music, but it was hot and crowded, and the line for the bathroom made me extremely nervous. It's possible that people would have would have been understanding of an almost-four-year-old needing to cut to the front of the line, but I decided not to chance it, and we went home. We spent the evening with our good friends Renee, Jessica & Jayden. It's become a tradition for us to do fireworks with them – I think it's been about six years now. This year Judith got to hold a sparkler - which she lit the grass on fire with! Fortunately, I was ready with a bucket for just such an occurrence!

Daddy explains how careful we need to be.
Hand, Foot & Mouth
A week ago, Judith went to bed a little warm, and woke up in the middle of the night so hot that I got into a cool shower with her.  Then she spent the day throwing up if she even drank water, and lying around the house doing absolutely nothing.  Then she broke out in a rash on her feet...yep, she'd caught hand, foot & mouth from a friend's daughter.  After the day of vomiting, she's been extremely cheerful and her normal self, but the rash on her feet has looked pretty nasty.  It's starting to clear up (blister and scab over), and she's well on her way to being completely healthy about it.  The hardest part has been the isolation - because hfm is highly contagious for children under 5.  So we've been at home for a week.  We're definitely looking forward to being let out!

The Joy
God is faithful through good times and bad times.  Yes, that's a cliche, but it's very obvious now, as I look back at the hard(er) times from a few months ago.  We came out the other side - with our faith and our joy intact, strengthened in fact!  Judith brings joy every day - she's full of joy, no matter what she's doing, even when she's sick.  And it is pure joy to watch her developing writing and reading skills!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Easter (a little late!)

Easter Fun

Our MOPS group hosted an Easter egg hunt in a park.  We got to play at the park,
Judith with her friend Lily
 make crafts,
coloring a coffee-filter butterfly
and hunt plastic (candy-filled) eggs.  
finding eggs
As I watched Judith hunt eggs, I noticed she was bypassing most of them.  When I came closer to ask her about it, I noticed that she only had pink eggs in her basket.  Apparently the other colors just aren’t good enough!

We celebrated with Lance’s family.  We dyed eggs, 
making a pre-dye design
pink (of course!)
hunted eggs, 
hey, I found one!
Cora and Olivia had a great time pointing out all the not-so-hidden eggs to Judith!

Easter girl

and hung out with family.

Easter Meaning
We celebrated our Risen Savior on Easter morning.  Most significantly to us, Judith was baptized. While the church we attend and my own upbringing support infant baptism, the time never seemed right when Judith was an infant.  But we’ve been discussing it more and more lately, and when we heard that they planned to have some baptisms on Easter morning, we decided to do it.  Judith is God’s covenant child, and we need all the help we can get raising her as such.  Baptism is our way to recognize and emphasize that.  We are so so so blessed to be in our church family.  We have participated in the lives of many children there over the years, and we are overjoyed to be commemorating Judith as a part of that community. 

Easter Baking
I didn’t take pictures of most of my Easter baking.  I made a strawberry cheesecake for the Saturday family meal, and I made a whole bunch of mini cupcakes for church; our worship leader and his wife are moving away, and we were commemorating their time with us.  
I had one Easter order: a woman from Curves ordered three hand-painted rabbit cookies for her grandchildren (I made some extras for family).   
Judith painted some cookies for Daddy while I was painting mine.
 And I made some Easter butterflies for the women at my MOPS table.
love how this one turned out!

Easter Joy
If any day in the Christian calendar promotes joy, it’s Easter.  Our Lord is Risen!  Death is conquered!  We will live forever with Him!  And then there’s joy in seeing family.  And there’s joy in baking.  And there’s beyond-joy at officially welcoming my precious daughter into the covenant family.
posing in her new after-Easter dress from Great Great Aunt Nancy

Joy to you!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grandpa and Grandma Visit

Grandpa Ron and Grandma Judi (my parents) came to visit March 16-26.  Most of our time together was spent at a time share in Bass Lake (near Yosemite). 

It's a four hour drive.  We broke it up by stopping at a tiny zoo in Modesto.
Judith stretching her legs at the zoo

Bass Lake had gotten about two feet of snow a couple days before we got there.  All that was left around the condo was a pile in the parking lot from the bulldozer.  Judith climbed on the pile every day, and threw snowballs at Grandpa.

We visited the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite, where there was still a LOT of snow left on the ground.  Daddy and Judith got into their snowsuits.
a really big tree fell over
posing in the snow
I got you Grandma!

On a different day we went down into Yosemite Valley.
A BIIIIIIG waterfall (Yosemite Falls)
Obligatory family photo at the Half Dome Overlook

We spent a final few days at home before Grandpa and Grandma left.
Judith and Grandpa went fishing
Grandma helped Judith do a really big puzzle

And now we've said goodbye :-(.  And we're settling back into routine.

The Joy
Well, of course there's joy visiting with my family.  I love watching Judith interact with my parents, and I like being with them too.  And Yosemite was (is) absolutely beautiful. There were a few trials involved in being away overnight with a three-and-a-half-year-old that still isn't fully potty trained and likes to get up with the sun (the sun was up at 5:30 a.m. in Bass Lake!), but we persevered and enjoyed our time anyway :-).

Joy to you!