Monday, December 31, 2007

Menu Planning Monday

Well, Ben's parents are safely on the road on their way to see some friends in Vandalia and then up to Chi-town (okay, really McHenry) to see Joyce's life time friend, Aunt Mary. We had a really wonderful visit. But I will not be talked into going to the top of the arch any time soon. It wasn't so much the height or the ride, but the tiny egg shaped styrofoam car. Yeah, that's kinda what got me. But it was really fun at the top.

We did CVS yesterday. So fun! Joyce wanted to go this week and see how it worked. It was a good trip, but I'll save the description for another post.

It's a pretty sunny day today, so we might try to head out to Defiance and go to Boonesfield village, but we might stay closer to home and do something fun around here. Then we'll do some things around home. There are so many pictures that need to get hung! And the christmas decorations to take down, too. And so much Wii playing that Ben needs to finish before work on Wed.

Tomorrow is a Holy Day of Obligation, so we'll be going to church this evening. We actually didn't go yesterday, so I'm splitting the difference and going today for yesterday and tomorrow. Yes, I know that doesn't really work, and I should be going to confession instead. ;)

Here's the menu for this week:

B: Oatmeal
L: Leftovers
D: Appetizer Buffet

B: Oatmeal
L: Chicken Salad
D: Baked Potato Bar

B: Bagels
L: Bean soup for Ben, Noodles and Sauce for me
D: Shepherd's Pie

B: Bagels
L: Bean soup for Ben, Leftover Shepherd's Pie for me
D: Ham and Cheese Omelets

B: Oatmeal
L: Shepherd's Pie (If there's not enough, Ben can have it, and I'll have grilled cheese)
D: Pizza Night!

B: Cereal
L: Leftover Pizza
D: Omaha Steaks, baked beans, corn bread (They didn't even get thawed last week. There were just a lot of leftovers.)

Baking for the week will probably just be a loaf of bread or dinner rolls, and possibly, bagels.

Check out more menus here!

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Saturday, December 29, 2007

A Quick Update

Ben's parents arrived safe and sound yesterday. We all made pizza for pizza night, and then exchanged presents. It was very nice for have company. We took them out to the Shrine to see the huge Christmas display. They really enjoyed that, and we stopped at the gift shop as well. I picked up a book about the contributions that St. Clair and St. Francis made during the middle ages.

Today we're planning to head out to the arch. I'm pretty excited about that, since I haven't been back in St. Louis since we went to Ben's Christmas party. I kinda miss the city, lol. Not enough that I'd actually want to live there, but enough that it's exciting to go back to. I'll be bringing some simple knitting to keep me occupied, since I'm not planning to head up the the top of the arch, and there's lots of signs to read in the museum I've already looked at. But Ben's dad loves to read every word in a museum, so I'm looking forward to settling in and watching all the people at the arch and maybe doing a little gift shop shopping.

Tonight we'll be having bean soup flavored with the ham bone from Christmas. I'll set it up in the slowcooker before we head out, and it should be nice and yummy when we get back home. And if we're back before dinner time, I'll make some dinner rolls too.

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Christmas Continues

So, as I said before, since I missed out on a lot of the preparation and anticipation before Christmas this year (This is mostly my fault, for being so distracted, but also I couldn't help having to spend most of the pre-Christmas days unpacking instead of Christmassing.), I've decided that this year, I'm definately celebrating all Twelve Days, right up to Epiphany. It makes sense actually, since I'm behind in sending out gifts, so I'll just pretend that's it's completely normal for Christmas to keep on going.

I was thinking about it, and really, it's sad that people start Christmas so early in the year in October, because lots of people are just completely sick of it on the 26th. Presents seem to lose some of the fun when they're given after Christmas, and people forget about all the charitable intentions they had. I've decided that this year, even beyond Epiphany, I'll try to live like Scrooge.

"I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach."- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

I'm planning to start a Christmas in My Heart series here on my blog. Every month, I'll post a project or an idea or meditation about Christmas and its meaning, so as to honour Christmas and Jesus' incarnation as man all through the year.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas to All!

I wish everyone a blessed and peaceful Christmas day!

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Recipe Tuesday

Breakfast Casserole

4 medium Russet potatoes
5-6 Eggs
1/4 C. Milk
1 C. Shredded Cheese
1 Package of Polish Sausage

These amounts are just suggestions, I pretty much just go by eye with this one. Peel and shred the potatoes, put them into a clean dish towel and wring as much of the water out as you can. Scramble the eggs and add the potatoes, milk, and cheese. Cut the sausage into bite size chunks and mix everything all together. Pepper to taste. I wouldn't salt it, what with all the sausage and cheese, it shouldn't need more salt. Pour into a very well greased 9X13 cake pan or casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-60 minutes. You could add grated onion or chopped peppers too, if you'd like.

This is the recipe that I made up to try in the slow cooker, but at the last minute, I decided that the eggs might over cook in the slow cooker overnight. I made it up all ahead of time and just popped it in the oven first thing when I woke up.

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Monday, December 24, 2007

Menu Planning Monday

This week's menu is stretching right out to the first of the year, so it's a long one. Also, I have to put a disclaimer: This is a menu for the holidays. There was not alot of attempting to be healthy. We put in some of our favorite meals. Sometimes more than once. ;) Also, I didn't attempt prices this week because that would have just been sad. There was a lot of splurging, especially on the ham, but I think that one ham will last the two of us months, if I slice it up and put it in packs for sandwiches, etc, in the freezer.

B: Bagels
L: Chili
D: Grilled Cheese

B: Bacon and Eggs
L: Baked Potato Bar
D: Nachos

B: Sticky Buns
L: Ham with all the fixings.
Mashed potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, corn, green beans, stuffing, salad.
D: leftovers of Christmas spread

B: Cereal
L: Nachos
D: Steak (Omaha Steaks from Ben's work present), potatoes, cornbread, baked beans.

B: Oatmeal
L: Out (we're trying to go to Boonesfield Village again, wish us luck!)
D: Chicken Fajitas (chicken in the slowcooker, then shredded when we get home, black beans, salsa and cheese)

B: Steak Scramble (with leftover steak from Wed.)
L: Nachos
D: Pizza Night! (We should have company here too. Ben's parents are arriving, hopefully in time to decorate their own pizzas!)

Saturday (We're taking Ben's parents to see the Arch.)
B: Oatmeal @ home and Donuts @ World's Fair Donuts
L: Max and Erma's downtown by the arch
D: Bean soup from the slow cooker using the ham bone from Christmas dinner. Homemade rolls.

B: Sticky Buns
L: Ham and Cheese Omelets
D: Noodles and Sauce, garlic bread and salad

B: Muffins and Oatmeal
L: Leftover Buffet
D: Appetizer Buffet (Ben likes to do an appetizer spread for New Year's Eve. We'll have jalapeno poppers, lil smokies in bbq sauce and in cresent rolls, veggies and relish tray, and dips with crackers and tortilla chips.)

B: Oatmeal
L: Grilled Chicken Salad (with leftover fajita chicken)
D: Baked Potato Bar and Salad

Things I'll be baking this week include the biscuits for Christmas dinner, sticky buns, rolls, banana and blueberry muffins, cornbread, and a couple of special desserts. I'm really looking forward to it!

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It's finally Christmas-time at my house!

Yesterday we went to church at the new church that we'll probably be joining now that we've moved. It's so pretty inside! It's one of those older huge brick ones, so I was afraid there'd be big scary statues, but there weren't. (Yes, I'm scared of statues, but I am getting less scared as I get older.) It's kind of a gothic style, with pointed arches and all. And the people all seem pretty nice. The deacon read his homily, and Ben doesn't usually care for that, but at least it made sense. It was pretty much about the importance fathers play in all our lives, in honor of St. Joseph and his choice to follow God and marry Mary even though she was pregnant.

After church, we came home, but we ended up going out again because Ben's new coffee maker leaked water all over the counter, so we went to Target to exchange it. At Target, I picked up some stocking stuffers in the $ spot, and got Ben one of his Christmas presents. I got him a nice set of hobby tools all in a case. He keeps saying he wants to have a hobby, so I thought this would be good for whatever he wants to do. He says woodcarving, so these should all come in handy. Though I have to admit, I keep looking at it and wondering if I've done that thing where I bought him something that's really for me again. Anyway, I know he'll like what else I got him.

I got him Office Space. I picked that up a long time ago. And I got him a post it pad that's a mouse pad, with The Office on it. I also got him a fossil. This is his big present. He really likes these, and we saw a show on tv about finding them, and he thought it was so cool. Well, on the way out here, right before we hit the AZ border, we stopped at a petrified forest/fossil store. And they had so many of them! He kept looking and looking at them. And he never really spends money on things that he wants, so I kept telling him to just pick one. So, I finally told him I'd buy it for him out of my savings from working at Curves and he picked one. Well, while he was in the bathroom, I picked out the other one he wanted too, and got them both. So he knows about one, but the other one is a complete surprise.

I'm totally excited to give him his presents.

We went to CVS yesterday and got another photo book. Ben liked doing the first one so much, he really wanted to do another one. I didn't get quite as good of deals, but we got some lights to go under the cabinet in the darker part of the kitchen, a farmer's almanac, and the photo book. Also dish soap, tissues and baby soap to donate. I spent all of my ECB's on that stuff, but only two dollars out of pocket. And I got 3 ECB's back for next time. We do need batteries for the lights, so I'm kicking myself for messing up the battery deal, since the $5 off battery coupons expired yesterday. I'm still going to see what I can figure using the $5 off fifteen coupons and the $2 off ten coupons.

Today we're planning a quiet day here at home. We've both got present wrapping to do, and maybe we'll watch a movie. We're planning to make some fudge or brittle, and then we'll go to Christmas eve mass at 4:30. I'm looking forward to going to Christmas Mass at our new church. They decorated yesterday afternoon. I'll bet it's really pretty.

We got all our decorations up yesterday too! I've decided that since the Christmas season was late coming to me this year with all the unpacking distractions, I'm going to keep Christmassing long afterward. So I'll go with the Church this year and celebrate Christmas right up to Epiphany.

We made a gingerbread house last night too. It was super fun. And it turned out so cute! I got the kit at Aldi's and it only cost five dollars. It was a way better kit than the Wilton one too, with the frosting premixed and in bags for piping already and way more kinds of candy for decorating. It even came with two gingerbread men too. So, if you're looking for a gingerbread house kit, I'd really reccommend the Aldi one over the Wilton one.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Super Saturday Savings!

Today we went to CVS to take advantage of some of the deals. In the picture, there are candy canes, a whitman sampler, baby shampoo, D batteries, tissues, three razors, and a photo book.

I paid $.31 out of pocket for all of this together!

I did spend $5.99 in CVS money, but I got $6 CVS money back. The baby shampoo was free with the $2 off Johnson's coupon, I'm collecting them to donate to a women's shelter or something, and the tissues were free with the CVS coupon too. Those I'm just collecting to have enough tissues around for the winter. The razor is for me, becasue Ben says four blades is just too much for him. The other stuff is various Christmas stuff.

The photo book was so much fun to make! I'd love to do another one sometime too. It was super easy, I could see doing one everytime we take a trip or something like that. I could have a series of them, lol.

We also went to pick up our free 8X10 print at Walgreens. It was there, but they'd printed it portrait style instead of landscape, so the sides were cut off. I asked if we could get it printed right, and the guy ended up printing three of them and giving them all to us. So that's ten dollars worth of prints for free! Pretty cool, I'd say. I put ours in a frame right away, and I'm planning to frame up the other two for family as well.

Hope everyone else had some super savings this week!

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Wii related injuries

Well, this week has gone very well. I'd like to thank everyone for their nice comments and prayers for us as we settle into our new house.

We've gotten a lot of the boxes unpacked. I'm completely unpacked in the bedroom, the kitchen and the master bathroom and closet. There's still lots of pictures to hang in the living room, but after that, the living room will be box free. We've got to do Ben's office and my desk and the desktop computer, and my whole sewing room yet. So, there's still lots of unpacking fun if anyone wants to come over and dig through boxes filled with more paper than actual things.

My menu went pretty much according to plan. The dinner Tuesday night was a buffet, so I made the back up plan of a roast in the crock pot for our company. Everyone liked it a lot. And there was plenty of roast left to be shepherd's pie in a week or two. We planned out our menu from here until the first yesterday. And we went shopping. Ben's parents will be visiting during that time, and we're planning some candy making and lots of baking, so it was a huge shopping trip. I'll post the menu tomorrow or Monday for menu plan Monday.

I've been feeling better in the last few days than I was last weekend. My high anxiety isn't usually a problem, since I lead a low stress life, but when there are large changes in my life, it sort of takes over, and I get wound pretty tight. I've been trying to include more time for prayer and reflection. Getting uppacked and being able to do things I really enjoy, like cook and bake, again, have really helped too. Also, I wasn't being very diligent about taking my synthroid, and I know that those hormone levels can do some wacky things to your emotions, so I've been much more careful about taking that every morning as well.

Ben's got his Wii and the dvd player all set up. Angie's boys really enjoyed playing. Gabe was so cute, he kept running back and forth to try to get his little cow to run in the right direction. I might play some this evening, since Ben's got it on now and he's golfing. But I'm not completely into it for two reasons. One, I'm so bad at video games it's actually not that much fun, and two, I always end up with Wii-Arm. I wonder if that's an injury doctors see a lot of.

I haven't gotten any knitting done this week. Which is really sad, becasue that means that Ali's mittens are going to be dismally late for Christmas. I know she'll forgive me because she so super great and nice (right, Ali?), but I'm frustrated with my lack of deadline meeting. I'd like to say that I'll get them done this weekend, or right away on Monday, but with more company coming and so much unpacking, I think they'll probably have to wait till later in Christmas Break.

Yes, I'm getting Christmas Break this year even though I'm not in school anymore and we don't have kids. Ben's taking the rest of the month off, including the First of Jan. so we're planning to do it up right, just like when we were kids. I'm excited to have a nice vacation with him, so even though it's sad to not be going home for Christmas, I'm definately planning to make the best of it and enjoy a relaxing time here, making the new house more home-like and spending lots of nice time together.

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Moving Day!

Our stuff is coming today! We're pretty excited to get everything all set up and home-like. I can't wait to bake something too! I'll finally have all my baking pans and stuff. I think I might make a cake sometime this week. But I don't want to go overboard and bake more than we should eat, lol. I am planning banana bread for Thursday, since my sister Angie and her family are staying here on the way to Texas to visit her in-laws. I want to send it with them for snacks in the car.

I've been doing fairly well. My anxiety levels are through the roof, but I've been trying my best to trust in God and look forward to arranging all our things and starting this new adventure. One good sign (I think) is that I'm not worried about specific things, I'm just feeling jumpy and anxious. I think this is just because I'm not used to big changes, and it's just in my make-up to have high anxiety during big change times. I'm actually pretty happy with the house and the land. It's pretty much just the huge change in my life that's hard to process right now.

We went and picked out a new washer and dryer. I'm glad that's out of the way. I hate making big decisions like that, lol. We picked out an energy star set and they'll be delivered on the 26th. I'll be so glad to be able to do our laundry! It's taking so long because we've got to have a gas dryer and that's a special order.

I have to admit, it's intimidating for me to have gas appliances. I've never had them, and truthfully, the oven having fire in it is just scary. Not to mention the fire that's always in the fire place for the pilot. It's just weird having flames in the house. I'm sure I'll get used to it though, and Ben's excited about it because he says gas is better to cook with. I am looking forward to getting one of those cast iron grills. Yum.

No knitting progress, we've been busy cleaning and running errands. But I'm hoping to finish the mittens tonight after we get the kitchen and the living and bedroom unpacked and put together.

I'll try to steal Ben's computer again tomorrow for another update!

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Menu Plan Monday

I've been itching to participate in Menu Plan Monday, and now that I'm finally in a house of my own again, I can! Here is our plan for this week:

Breakfast: Bacon and Eggs
Lunch: Out after Mass
Dinner: Noodles and Sauce

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Chili
Dinner: Chili

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftovers (Noodles and Sauce)
Dinner: Out with Ben's work for the Christmas party

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Bagel Pizzas
Dinner: Shepherd's Pie if we have good steak leftovers from the party. Otherwise, beef roast in the crock pot. Also, we'll have company, Angie and Cruz and the kids are coming!

Breakfast: Slowcooker breakfast casserole
Lunch: Leftover Shepherd's Pie
Dinner: Leftover Breakfast for Dinner

Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Sandwiches
Dinner: Homemade Pizza Night!

I didn't get the chance to do the prices, and my internet time is limited, since I'm still using Ben's computer. I'm hoping to break down the prices next time, and plan a dessert or two as well. I'm also planning to make banana bread this week to send with Angie and Family as they head on to Texas.

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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Settling In

I have to hurry, and make this a quick post because I'm using Ben's computer and air card. We don't have the internet at the house yet, so I can't use mine.

We're settling in okay. There was a big storm last night and we lost power, but only for three hours or so.

I'm feeling a little jumpy here, just because it seems so big and empty now. I hope I'll feel more at home when our furniture gets here. I'm really looking forward to getting unpacked!

I'm hoping to participate in m

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last night was a big big storm and the power went out. it's a little hard being in a strange new place, but i'm sure i'll feel better tomorrow.

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things are going well so far. yesterday we replenished the pantry and went to cvs. today we're planning church and buying a washer and dryer.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

New House!

We've got our house! I'm so grateful and happy!

The signing was this morning, and everything went really well. After the signing, we took some things over to the house. We walked all through the house and around the yard. It was really nice to just look around at everything and talk about our plans together.

After that we grabbed some lunch and went to the Goodwill to get some sheets to sleep on tonight. We're planning to get an air matress, so we needed sheets to sleep on, but I just couldn't see spending money on new sheets we don't really need, and I can use them to make mock ups of patterns later. I did insist on getting them before we came back for the cats so I could use the hotel's washer and dryer to washer them. Hopefully, we'll get our own washer and dryer next week.

It was so crazy everywhere today! Even the Goodwill was completely packed and so busy. And it seemed impossible to drive anywhere! I'm so glad I don't have to go out shopping in that. I do still have $45 dollars of the agreed upon amount of $75 to spend on Ben's presents, but I think I'll probably order things online.

So, we came back here to the hotel one last time to get the cats and finishing up packing. Everything is all packed up now except for the cats, so as soon as the sheets are dry we'll be on our way.

I'll be without internet for a while. I'm hoping to go to a Starbucks or Barnes and Noble to be able to update sometime this weekend, but for now, we're just going to be cleaning up the new house and maybe working on a puzzle Ben picked up while we were at Goodwill.

I'll be finishing Alison's mittens. I've gotten them pretty much finished, I just have the thumb to do and the pocket for the right one. I'll post phone pictures when I get them all finished. Then I'll start her scarf I think. Though I think I might wait till I get my crochet hooks because I want to crochet it, not knit it.

Anyway, we get the weekend to spend together now in our beautiful new, but empty, house! I can't wait to post lots of pictures, but until then, I'll try to keep up to date with my phone and if I can get somewhere with wireless.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

It's the Final Walk Through!

(yes, the title should be sung to the tune of "Final Countdown". no, I couldn't figure out how to spell the do do loo do doo doo do do do part.)

Google has taken over the internet here at the hotel. I can only get blogger and google sites to work. I even checked the computers downstairs and they won't open anything else either. Very annoying.

So, today Ben and I are going to have our final walk through at the house and then tomorrow is the closing! I'm pretty excited, but kind of anxious too, just to have one more big change. I guess I've gotten pretty used to this living in a hotel thing. I am very glad to be getting into my own house again though, and being able to go about making it a home. And it's the last big change for a while, since we'll be living there for the foreseeable future, even though there are ongoing changes that come with this move. Like learning to have a large garden and grow plants. I'm a little nervous about that, since growing things is one of those skills that's always seemed to escape me.

So, I keep thinking about those cool hoodies with the neat hidden mp3 pocket and the cord grommet and stuff. I've decided that one of my first sewing projects once I get my new sewing room all set up will be an apron with some of the same features. I know I've got lots of fabric to keep me busy sewing for a long time because I sorted it all before it was all packed. I'm planning a few dresses and things like that. And soon (like next month, I think, if all goes well with my google ads!) I'll be able to buy myself a dress dummy. I can't wait, since that will make sewing my own clothes so much easier. I'm going to get one that has adjustable height, so I can do my own hem marking and stuff.

Anyway, I'm just finishing up the laundry, and then I'm going to pack up some of our things in the room to be ready to start getting stuff over there. I've got to pack up all the yarn and the books and things like that. We're planning to take stuff over to the house after the closing tomorrow, and then on Saturday move out of the hotel completely with one last trip over to take the cats. It's getting so close and exciting! I kinda want to puke, lol.

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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Recipe Tuesday

The Best Banana Bread You've Ever Eaten

I almost forgot today! But I promise, it was worth waiting for.

This is by far the best banana bread you'll ever eat. Everyone says so. I will say, it's okay for me to brag so much about this recipe because it's not one I made up. I got it from my sister, Donna, and I'm not sure where she got it. And it definately always works for me.

You just have to make sure not to over bake it. Try to catch it just as it's done and not let it go any longer.

I have a quick tip about saving bananas for this recipe. We buy bananas every week, and there's usually at least one that just doesn't get eaten before it goes black. So I take that one and peel it and put it in a freezer bag in the freezer. Then I just add to the bag as the bananas go black, and when I want to make bread, I get out the bag and let them thaw. Then I just squish them all up in the bag. I think this makes the bread even more moist than using the bananas unfrozen.

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/2 C. Flour
1 1/2 t. Baking Powder
1/4 t. Baking Soda
1/4 t. Cinnamon
1/4 t. Nutmeg
1/8 t. Salt

Moist Ingredients:
1 Egg - Lightly Beaten
1 C. Mashed Over-Ripe Banana
3/4 C. Sugar
1/4 C. Oil

Mix the Dry and the Moist ingredients together seperately in different bowls. Form a well in the dry mixture and pour in the moist mixture. Mix just until blended. Pour into a greased loaf pan or muffin cups. Bake loaf at 350 for give or take 50 minutes. Muffins will bake more quickly. Makes a medium sized loaf. A triple recipe will make about two dozen muffins.

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Mitten Cuffs!

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Five New Cards Made, Nine Cards Ready to Mail

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Hat Drive Hats Finished

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Book Review: The Sweater Workshop

I first heard about The Sweater Workshop by Jacqueline Fee during a podcast by Kelly Petkun of KnitPicks. I've been a big fan of KnitPicks for a while now, and I really felt like she must know what she's talking about, so I took Kelly's reccomendation and bought the book.

I'm so glad that I did buy it! It's such an interesting book, and, most importantly, I have learned so much! The concept of the book seems like that of The Knitter's Handy Book of Sweater Patterns by Ann Bud. Without belittling that book, let me say, it is so much more than that. While Ann Bud's book provides instructions for lots of sizes and lots of weights of yarn, that's pretty much where that book stops and The Sweater Workshop takes up.

Jacqueline Fee's book explains all the reasoning and all the math behind every shaping decision and all the design choices. Reading this book prepares a knitter to become a designer as well, and shows that it probably isn't as difficult as we may have thought. Understanding how the numbers are figured for each part of a sweater, from the armhole to the neckline depth really lets a person understand how they could go about changing these design features and coming up with designs of their own.

The sampler that she has you make at the beginning of the book will obviously provide valuable experience for a knitter who has never knit a sweater before. A beginner who has learned only to knit and to pearl could easily use this book. In fact, a sweater from this book would be a much better first sweater than most, because the technique saves a new knitter from the frustration of messy seams and ill-fitting drop shoulders.

Though the book will be great to get new knitters started on the right track, it is also a very good book for experienced knitters. They will be introduced to concepts in design and techniques in sweater making that they may have never seen, and they will be able to branch out and practice many new skills while they make the sampler. Even in the unlikely event that a knitter has already used every skill taught in the sampler, everyone needs practice now and then, and the idea of having all the different ribbings, decreases, finishes, etc on one piece, always available for reference, is a great one.

Though I haven't gotten the chance yet to make my sampler or cast on my first sweater in this method, I strongly recommend this book for anyone interested in knitting design, or for anyone at all who would like to improve their understanding of sweater construction.

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Making My Hotel Room a Haven

Crystal has been having a "making your home a haven" challenge on her blog for the last week or so. I've been following along and it's been a good reminder and good inspiration to keep things well organized around here, since while we're here in the hotel room space is at a premium.

I got my kitchenette cleaned up right after I came back from breakfast, and I'm saving the laundry till Thursday so we'll have as much clean as possible when we go to the house on Sat.
I don't actually have to make dinner because they always have nice food at the "social" in the lobby (tonight is chef salad night). I cleaned out the fridge and put all the trash out. I'm planning to listen to and pray along with my rosary cd while I knit, for my renew my spirit time, and I'll also listen to the book I've been listening to about Thomas Aquinas. Very interesting to learn about theology, btw.

Today the challenge is to clean out, declutter or organize a drawer or shelf, and also to work on something that's been procrastinated. I've got lots of things going on right now that I have been procrastinating on. So, I'm planning to write at least one article and think up ideas for two more, finish the last two rounds on the last hat for the hat drive, get Ali's mittens started and done to the top of the cuffs, and make five more Christmas cards, and address and sign at least eight. For the decluttering, I'm going to sort out all the cupboards and food we have around and see if there's anything at all that I have here for the food drive in the lobby.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

My Experience with Google Ads

I've been using google ads on my blog and my website since Oct. 2005 I've never had any problems with inappropriate or offensive ads and it is an easy program to use. The earnings can be slow though, and people tend to ignore ads usually.

It took about a year for me to earn my first $100. Google will only send checks after you've reached $100 payout. I got my first check in Oct. 2007. It has taken me longer to earn $100 dollars this year, Oct. has come and gone, and I'm up to $60. But this works for me, because I know that it's building up a little at a time, and even though it might take another six months, I will get $100 sometime for just putting up the ads.

With Blogger, putting up ads is simple. You don't have to use code from the Google site. There is a widget in the layout tools that you can use to add the ad boxes on your blog. You can even click "match blog" or "blend blog". That way, you don't have to change the colors in the code when you change your template colors.

I think one reason earnings with Google Ads are so slow is the fact that people's eyes tend to skim right over ads. The Google Ads are starting to seem ubiquitous, so people don't click on them, because I think, often they don't even fully see them.

So far, my experience with Google's ad program has been a good one, and I plan to continue to use them, though I am looking into expanding into other ad programs as well.

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We had a very nice weekend. On Saturday, we tried to go to Daniel Boone's home again. It poured rain and made everything muddy again, so we didn't go. I think we might give up on that one for the time being. It seems to be pouring rain everytime we try to go.

We did go to some thrift stores, because I'm looking for a winter coat. I want a gray wool one, but I'm afraid I've gotten way too late a start to find one in my size at the thrift stores. I can do well enough with the fleece lined one that I have for this winter, and next year I'll start looking a lot sooner in the fall for what I want.

I would just buy a new one, but I'm thinking of taking the pledge on this website, and I wanted to see if I could do it.

We went to mass yesterday and then went to get presents for the giving tree. We picked a tag from a fifteen year old boy who wanted guitar strings and picks. Since we didn't know whether to get electric or accoustic, we got a pack of both and a pack of picks. I also picked up a magazine to go with it that had a learn these songs cd. We also picked a tag from an eleven year old boy who wanted a hoodie. There was a discount type store next to the guitar store, so we just went there to get the hoodie. I've got to say, I wish they were grown up sized! We picked one that has thumb holes in the cuffs and under the kangaroo pocket, there's another special pocket to hold an mp3 player. There's a button hole that leads to the inside of the sweatshirt for the earbud cords! I'm definately going to have to make myself something like that.

We had lunch at a Chinese Buffet that was just like the one in Midland that my whole family likes to go to. It was pretty good. And after that, we came back to the hotel and just relaxed. We watched food network and I read and knitted.

I was feeling sheepish about the hugely gigantic hat that won't fit anyone, but I've redeemed myself, because I've finished three hats for foster kids for the hat drive with Ben's work. I've got one more to finish in the car today, and I'll start Ali's mittens this afternoon. I'm going to experiment and make them both at the same time with the magic loop method. Also, I'm planning to try to shrink the giant hat. It is wool, so I should be able to make it fit someone I know by shrinking it.

Later after we get back here, I'm planning to write a book review about The Sweater Workshop, and maybe about The Knitter Almanac.

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Thursday, December 06, 2007

one quick funny thing

Last week, when Ben went to Virginia, he told me he was meeting with the Care-a-Lot team. It wasn't until he got back that I realized what he was really saying. I kept thinking he was meeting with a woman named Carol Ott. And I kept asking about her like she was a person, not a store. It's not looking quite as funny as it seemed a the time, but it was really funny to me. Come on, try saying them out loud. You can't tell the difference. Maybe I just have an odd sense of humor...

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A Comfortable Cold

Well, I think I've got myself a cold. But I'm not too upset about it, because I'm lucky enough to be at a place in my life where slowing down won't do any harm to much at all. I'm just relaxing with tea and chicken noodle soup, so even with a cold, I'm grateful to have a blessed life.

Everyday this week I've written an assignment for AC. They sure are quick with the payments when it's their assignment that you're submitting. Two of them have been published already. One is about homemade cookie cutters and the other is about personalized gifts for newborns. I have a few ideas for articles of my own, but I think I might save them for another day and just knit today.

My knitting hasn't really come along as quickly as I would like it to. I did finish Ben's improved hat, but I'm afraid it's turned out to be way too big. Too big even to fit cousin Greg's unreally sized head. So, you know, about the biggest hat in the world. I think it might be destined to be ripped out again. Which is slightly disheartening, because I spent four days knitting it. Oh well, I seem to rip just as much as I finish, so I might as well get used to it.

I'd really like to start a shawl (yeah, I know, that's weird, but the Knitter Almanac is inspiring me), but I'm going to be practical and today's new project is going to be a hat for the hat drive at Ben's work. I picked up some really pretty blue and purple Simply Soft to make kid sized hats. And the good thing about these is that they're bound to fit someone, as long as I make them vaguely head sized. I'm thinking about winding the yarn into balls so it'll be doubled. Then I can use bigger needles. I'll see if I think it looks neat enough when I start.

Things are looking pretty good with the house and all. The appraisal came back just fine, and I think we'll be set to close on the 14th still. Of course, our stuff isn't getting delivered till the 17th, but at least we should be unpacked before Christmas if I keep up at it. We'll probably spend the weekend in the house and just get a new air matress, because even a really nice air mattress will cost far less than another three nights in this hotel.

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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

7 things

Melonie at Momma (and More) tagged me for this game. I'm not sure if I know seven people to tag who won't be annoyed that I've tagged them, but I'll think of some at the end, and if you're one of them and are annoyed, you don't have to do it. And if I didn't tag you, but you would have liked me to, just do it anyway and leave a comment and I'll link you later.

Here are the rules:
1) Link to the person who tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2) Share 7 facts about yourself.
3) Tag 7 random people and include links to their blogs.
4) Let each person know they have been tagged and comment on their blog.

Seven Facts about Myself

1. I really want a tattoo, like the ones on Miami Ink, but I can't think of anything other than God and Ben that I like enough to have right on my skin. So I guess it's not so much that I want a tattoo on me, it's just that I really like tattoo style art and would love to draw things in that style.

2. I love giving people gifts, and ever since my family has decided we're all too old and broke to exchange presents at Christmas, I've been tricking them by making and giving them things all through the year.

3. When I was young, I carried a book with me where ever I went. My Uncle Ed used to ask me where my book was when he saw me if he didn't see a book in my hand. The answer was usually, in the car. My parents would tell me to leave it in the car when we were visiting people.

4. I wrote a thesis project in college on the motif of quilting in adolescent literature. It was part of a program for first generation and minority college students who wanted to go to grad school. It was called the McNair Program. I knew by then that I probably wasn't going to go ahead with my plan of grad school, but they offered a large stipend, and I thought it would be a valuable experience. It was a very good experience, and it taught me how to organize an academic length article of forty pages or more. I presented my paper at a conference in Maryland and one of the people in the back of the room fell asleep. I felt a lot of sympathy for my professors then.

5. I'm very glad to have moved to St. Louis because the bright sunlight in Phoenix hurt my eyes and gave me headaches a lot of the time. But I also am worried that I'll have seasonal dissaffective disorder here now that I don't have as much sunlight. I know that I didn't like the sun, but I'm concerned my body got so used to it without my consent that I'll find myself missing it.

6. My nickname, Beppy, came from when I was very small and my cousin Greg, who is only a few months younger than I am, couldn't say Bethy. So, all my uncles on that side of the family stuck with Beppy and that's what they still call me, I think. It could have been worse, Wayne was Wayne the Pain, Donna was Dino, and Adam was Winger. Adam's was the result of a broken arm. So, Ben liked it so much, he started calling me Beppy too when we met. I added the cat part myself for online purposes, because believe it or not, beppy is usually taken. And when I signed up for my yahoo mail address beppy and beppers were both taken, so that's how I ended up with beppers777 (i hadn't thought of the cat part yet). I won't change it now because I've been using it since I was fifteen or so.

7. I believe that my skill for baking is genetic. I never met my Grandma Salgat, my dad's mom, but I've heard lots of things about her and my mom likes to tell stories about her. And everyone says that on a Sunday, her house was the place to be. All my dad's cousins and aunts and uncles (and there were a ton, my Grandma Salgat had thirteen kids in her family growing up) would come to their house after church and she would make tons and tons of food. I'm pretty sure I inherited baking from her. My dad and the Betty Crocker cookbook taught me how to make pie crust when I was about twelve, so I got lucky to learn at a younger age than most, and I love learning more and more and building my skills. If I lived close enough to my family, I'd have them at my house eating and eating every weekend too. Just like Grandma Salgat.
And my mom's mom, Grandma Trudell, and her mom, Great-Grandma are the ones that I inherited sewing and knitting and tatting from.

Okay, so now I'm going to tag:

1. Adam
2. Donna
3. Ali
4. Julie
5. Hadias
6. Brian
7. Mary

Molly, I would have tagged you, but I couldn't find your blog anymore?

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Recipe Tuesday

Pizza Night!

Today's Recipe Tuesday is actually more of an idea than a recipe. Everyone has their own favorites when it comes to crust and sauce, but here is how we do pizza night. Ben and I totally love having pizza night once a week. Ben likes it because he really enjoys getting in the kitchen and making his crust, and it's like a date night celebration. I don't know, there's just something inherently fun about pizza. And I love it because it's almost like a night off cooking, it's so easy to do, and I could eat pizza breakfast, lunch and dinner, so it's a big treat for me.

We start by making the sauce. Either I'll do it the day ahead or on Friday morning or while Ben is mixing up the crusts. Our pizza sauce is very simple. I start with olive oil and about four cloves of diced garlic in a small sauce pan over medium low heat. After the garlic is soft and the oil is flavored, I'll add an 8 oz can of tomato sauce (hopefully no salt added). That's it. I turn the heat all the way down as low as possible and let it heat through. It's super easy to make and fits both our tastes, as I don't care for basil or oregano much. Ben adds these herbs on top of his sauce and under the cheese when he puts his pizza together.

We like to plan pizza night for Friday nights and we make sure we have enough toppings every week. I like hamburger on my pizza, so I'll brown a whole pound and package it in about four different snack bags all inside one freezer bag. Then I just have to pull out a baggie of hamburger, and I'm all set to "decorate" my pizza. I don't use this hamburger for anything else, because for pizza, I like to cook it so brown it's almost burned, and the crispy meat doesn't really work for other recipes.

Ben likes to change his toppings around every week, so before we go grocery shopping he checks the ads to see what he might like that week. He also uses leftovers often, like cooked chicken or pork. He'll use barbecue sauce sometimes and make bbq chicken pizza. Or he'll do ham if we have leftovers of that, with chunk pineapple.

I like to use the Jiffy crust mixes, that's my favorite kind of homemade crust. Ben likes to make a foccacia bread recipe to use as his crust. After he's made the crusts and spread them on the pans, we each build our own pizza with the toppings that I laid out while he was doing the crusts. We both like mozarella and when the pizzas come out of the oven, we add shredded parmasean.

I've absolutely made myself homesick for pizza night. I think that as soon as we move into the new house and have an oven again, the very first thing we'll make is pizza!

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Our Weekend

On Friday, Ben came home at one in the afternoon! I was totally surprised and excited, because he hardly ever will take an afternoon off, and I hadn't left the hotel since the previous Sunday morning! We went to the movies, and he even let me pick the movie. I decided we should see Enchanted. It was very cute and romantic. I'd recommend it as a rental pick for sure. While we were at the movies we saw flyers that they were having a canned food drive there the next day (a "Cans Film Festival" hehehe). If you brought in 5 cans of food you got free admission to the movies, but if you brought in 15 cans, you got free admission and a free pass for next time.

So, on Saturday, while we did our grocery shopping at Super Walmart (shudder-it was so crowded!) we picked up thirty cans of the store brand canned veggies, beans and tomatoes for $.50 each. And before anyone accuses me of giving the poor cheap food, that's what we buy for ourselves too, lol. Anyway, for $15 dollars, we each got to go to the movies and we each got another pass for a different day. Plus, we helped the Salvation Army. That comes out to be half priced tickets. The deal is even better if we use our passes sometime at night. We rarely go to the movies in the evening becasue it's so expensive! Anyway, on Saturday, we saw Bee Movie, because that's what was playing at the time we got there. It was pretty cute, but not as good as Finding Nemo.

We came home and read our new book about homesteading (review below), put together a Mexican casserole in the slow cooker for Sunday's dinner, and had a quiet evening. Then yesterday, we planned to go to Boonesfield Village. We set out and stopped at a mall we saw from the highway along the way for Ben to get his haircut. He just about choked on paying for a haircut, since I usually do it, but it was much needed, and I couldn't really see how I could do it here at the hotel with no clippers or scissors or broom. We got back on the road, but it started pouring rain. Ben hates turning around, so we drove all the way there, thinking, maybe we'll drive out of the storm or maybe it'll stop. But it was pouring even more in Defiance, so we turned around and came back home. We stopped at Chili's for lunch, and then spent the rest of the afternoon just hanging around watching food network, since the rain didn't seem to let up all day. We had our Mexican casserole for dinner, and it was pretty tasty.

Last night I tried to make nestle break and bake cookies on the stove top like pancakes. I ended up with a pile of warm cookie dough, so I'm not sure if you'd call that a failure or a success.

The yarn for Alison's mittens came from KnitPicks yesterday, along with my copy of the Knitter's Almanac and Sweater Workshop. I can't wait to really get into them and start reading. But first I'll have to cast on Ali's mittens so I can work on them while I read. I know that Sweater Workshop will stay open for me at least, because it's got a spiral binding. Knitter's Almanac is too small and paperbacky to stay open, but my new homesteading book is big enough if I end up getting confused by knitting and reading about knitting at the same time. I'm also making a v. 1.5 of Ben's hat for him. The first one was a bit small, so we'll donate to the hat drive at his work, since it's a good size for a kid, and I'm making him a bigger one that will be long enough to fold up over his ears. I finished my mittens on Friday, and they're really cute. Well, they're soft anyway. I'm not sure if I can call them cute, because if you saw them, you'd think, oh isn't that nice, she knit mittens for those long fingered aliens. Because I have unhumanly long fingers. They look much better on my hands than off.

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Money Making Monday: Associated Content

I read about Associated Content on Crystal's Blog right after Ben and I moved into this hotel. Since I knew that I'd be living for the next month or so in a hotel room and wouldn't have my regular homemaking work to keep me busy, I decided to give it a try. I signed up and submitted some articles that I'd already written for Those were accepted, and I was paid about an average of $4 dollars for each one. Not bad, I figured, for work I'd done months ago.

I decided to take one of the assignments they offered next. I wrote an article on finding the best jobs during college. It was fun to write and interesting, and I enjoyed the challenge of writing about something I wouldn't have thought of. They paid me what was promised, and that article was published right away.

After this success, I started writing articles about other subjects and submitting them. Some of them were a great success, my article about roasting turkey in the slow cooker was featured on AC's front page, and some of them were not accepted for various reasons, mainly the fact that there's already a lot of info on the subject available.

I've made about $60 dollars in the past three weeks for all the articles I've written. This has averaged out to be about $7 an hour with the work that I've put in. Not bad, considering that's how much I made at Curves when I worked there, and that I didn't have to leave the house or interupt my routine to write these articles.

I've always been paid directly into my paypal account with no fees taken out within a couple of days of the acceptance of an article, and the payment has been, for me, an average of $4-$5 dollars an article. I know that you can make more if you happen to be writing on a topic that is highly searched or popular. I'd highly recommend Associated Content to anyone who likes to write and has an hour or two a day to devote to writing interesting content.

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Book Review: Country Wisdom and Know-How

We were at Sam's Club on Saturday morning, and I was looking through the books when a book called Survival Skills caught my eye. I've written before about how I love survival stories, so I just had to stop and look. I was deciding whether my brother and sister in law would like it because they love outdoorsy stuff (i decided against it, shipping would have cost a lot, it was a really big book), when I noticed a very similar book call Country Wisdom and Know-How. It is subtitled Everything You Need to Know to Live off the Land. Of course I was interested right away since I'm about to start a homesteading adventure.

At first I was a little disappointed by the quality of the materials the book is made of. The pages are printed on newsprint type paper and so they are thin. It is a soft-cover book, and with a book this size, it's about 11x14, that can make it seem unwieldly to read. But once I read a few pages I knew it was a book that I'd love to have.

There is so much information in this book, with real practical advice. It is a complilation of newletters from the seventies, with updates and editing where needed. The subjects it addresses are varied, from gardening to building a fountain to preserving food. There's information on making perfume, slaughtering chickens, cooking rabbit, building cat condos, and growing blueberries. I'd recommend it to those who aren't homesteading, or even mini-homesteading, like me, because there's lots of recipes, food drying and canning tips, and fun things to do and try. It's an all around interesting read.

I've even learned that the large size has its advantages, since Ben and I were able to sit together and both look at it once. We enjoyed talking over which projects we might like to try as well. There were lots of subjects that Ben was very interested in as well, different construction projects like root cellars and animal husbandry. So it might make a good present for men too if you know one that likes country things.

I did end up buying it, and it was $13 at Sam's, so it's even cheaper on Amazon. So far we've both looked at it a lot and we keep finding more and more interesting advice in it. If the one about survival is as interesting, I might have to go back and get it. Or I could just add it to my wishlist.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Apron Tutorial

I thought I'd repost the link to my dishtowel apron tutorial since they could make such good Christmas gifts.
These can be finished in an hour or less if you've got any experience sewing.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Mitten Action Shot!

But first, here are some other pictures that should be shared.

This bear is in The Museum of Westward Expansion. Isn't it so creepy that the taxidermist gave it a person face?

Here I am with the bear pretending that I'm not terrified to have my back to it. What's even worse than being near these stupid taxidermied things is having to turn my back on these stupid taxidermied things. But I wanted to show how brave I am. See how brave?

Ben took this one of the arch from right next to the leg.

Ali sent me a writing muse! I hung her right up where I can see it. Not that I couldn't see it from just about anywhere, because I live in a hotel.

And finally... the mitten! This is actually the second mitten, but I finished it first. Tomorrow, I'll just have to do the top shaping on the hand and the thumb on the other one, and I'll have pair!

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Frugal Gifts to Make

As the Holidays quickly approach, many people’s thought turn to gift giving. Sometimes choosing holiday gifts for everyone you know can seem so overwhelming, both to the mind and to the budget. But if you are one of the lucky few who enjoy crafting or needlework you are way ahead of the game when it comes to gift giving.

If you’re a paper crafter, you’re probably already making your own Christmas cards. Why not take that one step further and create enough cards to be your Christmas gifts too. You could make an assortment of all purpose cards, six cards with envelopes would be a nice gift, and package those nicely with a pen or some postage stamps. This would be a lovely present for almost anyone, even the guys. If you happen to have crafty friends, it gets even easier. Design a nice card and then put all the parts for making it into a bag. You’ve just made the perfect card making kit to give to your friends. Cards are especially nice projects because their small size makes them just right for using up scraps and leftovers from bigger scrapbook pages or other projects.

Maybe you love to craft bath luxuries, such as bath salts or lip balm. There are lots of recipes on line for great bath items, like coffee bath salts, or sugar body scrub. In the winter months, these things are especially nice to receive and they seem so much more special without the questionable additives included in store bought products. If you knit or crochet as well, you could also include a bath mitt or special face cloth.

Knitters are usually ahead of the game when it comes to gift giving. It seems that everyone loves a hand knit something, and many times you can make everyone on your list the same thing, and just change the yarn or colors, and it’s just right for them. Hats are a great example of this, since you could do cables for you sister who loves the outdoors and hiking, angora for that girly girl friend, stripes for the preppy guy. Really, it goes on and on. You can make a hat match just about every personality. The same goes for mittens, socks, scarves, etc.

Of course, if you’ve waited to long to get started or if inspiration has struck on Dec. 8th, there’s still time to give everyone you know a little hand knit something. You could make ornaments. Using size 1 or 2 needles and leftover sock yarn cast on about fifteen stitches and knit in garter stitch for about an inch or two. Stop in the middle of the row, don’t cast off. Break off the yarn, leaving enough to roll into a small ball of yarn. Take a tooth pick, cut off one pointy end, and glue a bead on the flat end. Repeat with another toothpick. Transfer the stitches onto the toothpick “needles” and stick them through the mini ball of yarn. There you go, a miniature knitting ornament for the tree!

Crocheters, of course, can make all the same items listed above for the knitters. There are also some ideas that apply very well to crochet. In a stitch dictionary, find a few pretty motifs that will shape nicely on a neckline. Sew these to a store bought camisole or ribbed tank top, and you’ll have a very pretty gift. If you’d like to make it particularly special, you could knit or crochet a matching shrug, making a modern version of a twin set.

All of these things can be made quickly and fairly inexpensively, and are particularly nice to receive. Most people enjoy knowing that something was made just for them, and there’s a lot of satisfaction in making something that fit’s a friend’s personality perfectly. So, avoid the crowds at the malls and spend the weeks leading up to Christmas right where you want to be: in your crafting chair.

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Packaging Food Gifts

A great gift during the holidays are sweet treats and special foods, and it’s quite simple to prepare these things ourselves. One problem with making your own food gifts though, may be a lackluster presentation. A bunch of cookies on a paper plate loosely covered in red Saran Wrap may not evoke grateful cries of joy from your friends and family. Especially if the wrap looses it’s cling with repeated use as people help themselves to cookies and the plate is in danger of collapsing and spilling it’s burden of sweets on the ground. Learning how to package your home baked sweets will go a long way in improving the response to your gift. We eat first with our eyes, so it is important to make food gifts appealing and appetizing in appearance.

The correct packaging can keep your homemade treats from looking cheap and will give them the same luxury look as the fancy department store. Take the time to create some custom gift tags listing the ingredients and serving and storing suggestions. You can easily make a professional looking project with the computer using these downloadable labels( Or you can use leftover scrap booking supplies to make great labels for your special items.

Beyond the label, you must put thought into the containers that your treats will go into. Jars can be good for smaller pieces of candy, or for layered mixes. You can put things such as spice blends or wrapped candies into Ziploc bags, but go the extra step and really make it look professional by designing a cardstock header that can be stapled sandwich style onto the top of the bag to hide the zip and list the contents. Another good packaging idea that is inexpensive are the plastic trays Chinese takeout comes in. You can save them, or if you don’t eat out very often, you could ask your local restaurant if they would sell some. These are nice because they have lids. The small plastic containers that frozen dinners such as Lean Cuisine come in are also nice. You can pour fudge right into them, and then when it is set, slide them into a nice clear bag and tie closed with ribbons. Then it is portioned and packaged already.

Bear in mind, that since these gifts are meant to be consumed, you should do your best to keep the packaging appealing, appetizing, and sanitary looking. Make sure that you don’t put cookies together while they are warm, or they will stick and become distorted. If you’ve made candies that are in pieces, such as caramel, take the time to wrap each piece individually in it’s own square of waxed paper. Avoid colored food wraps, since they very often make the food look “off”. Bread can be given in decorated paper bags, or perhaps set into a tin or tray, then slipped into a clear plastic bag. Layer stickier candies and treats such as barks and brittles with waxed paper so they do not form one big block of brittle.

Wilton, the cake decorating company, sells many different bags and papers for packaging treats, but you can also look around the kitchen and see what you can do to make the common containers more festive and professional looking. Using paper bands to wrap around loaves of bread that have been securely wrapped in clear Saran Wrap or jars of jam can really add a special touch without a lot of effort. Sewing fabric baskets to hold an assortment of treats will really make a gift special. Look at the packaging used in store bought food gifts and take some tips from those manufacturers. You food surely tastes better than mass produced treats, so it deserves packaging that’s just as good, if not better.

Clear, cute labeling will go a long way in making your homemade food gifts a big success, as will close attention to clean packaging and creating a neat appearance. Many people are hesitant to give homemade food, because they’re afraid it will make them look cheap or childish, but with appropriate presentation your gifts will look chic and luxurious.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dirty Laundry

Bet you thought this would be a juicy post, huh? Not really, I literally am referring to laundry in the title. I was going to post about how annoying it is to have to do laundry while living in a hotel, because that was my big chore yesterday, but then I realized that I'm lucky the hotel has laundry rooms that I can use. Because it would be so much worse if I had to take it out to a laundromat somewhere.

Anyway, I did do all the laundry yesterday, and Ben got home from Virginia last night, so yesterday was a pretty good day.

I started a pair of purple mittens to match my purple hat. I've got one almost finished, it's at the top shaping stage and I started the second one to have some non-instruction looking knitting for while I watched tv. The second one is at the gusset starting stage. I started them on dpn's but I decided that I wanted to try magic loop knitting so I put them on one of my 40 inch knitpicks circulars and switched to that. I'm not sure if I like it better, but I understand the theory behind it now and I can see the appeal. Maybe I should try both mittens on one magic loop next.

I got the email today that the yarn I ordered for Ali's mittens and scarf is on it's way. I think I ordered too much, but I just love buying yarn so. I need to go to yarn buying addicts anonymous.

I've submitted five articles so far this week, so I'm almost at my quota I set for myself. I am pretty sure that one of them they for sure won't pay for because it's pretty much a recipe, but the rest I think were pretty good. They're non exclusive to AC, so I'll probably be posting them here too as time goes by.

I picked up the two disc set of 300 that is regularly $35 for only $3 today. If you sign up to use google shopping cart for the first time, you can get $10 off at this site. Some things come out to be absolutely free if you pick something that has free shipping, like the Barry Manilow CD.

Mitten pictures tomorrow!

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Recipe Tuesday

I'm going to give my method for making chicken fajitas for today's recipe tuesday. This is also how I cook chicken breasts for anything I want chicken for, like fried rice or mexican casserole.

Start with a package of boneless skinless chicken breasts. Depending on whether you're going for leftovers or not, you can do this with lots of pieces or just a couple of pieces. I'd figure one boneless skinless breast for every two people if you don't really want to have leftovers. Lay the chicken in the bottom of a casserole dish or pyrex baking pan after rinsing it under running water. I don't bother to trim it at this point, because I just shred it after it's cooked and clean it then, (not to mention, I hate touching raw meat). Use a dish the size needed to have the chicken pretty much cover the bottom. That is, if you're doing a lot of pieces at once, use a 9X13 dish, but if you're only doing four or so, use a 8X8 dish.

Pour some chicken broth into the dish, enough to go halfway up the chicken pieces. Peel some garlic cloves and put them into the dish as well, scattering them over the chicken and slipping them between the pieces. I usually use about two cloves per breast. Pepper the top and use salt too, if your broth isn't already really salting.

I love using my probe thermometer when I make this dish. Put the probe in the thickest part of one of the middle pieces of chicken. Cover the whole dish tightly with foil, and put the whole dish into the oven at 350 to 400 degrees. Run the cord of the thermometer out to the digital part and set the temperature alarm for 160 degrees. The safe temperature for eating chicken is 165, but there is carryover once it's out of the oven.

When the alarm goes off, take out the dish and allow the chicken to rest still covered in foil. When the digital read is 165 degrees, you can remove the pieces of chicken from the dish and allow them to cool slightly for you to handle. You can then cut the chicken into bite sized chunks or shred it with two forks. Mix the shredded chicken with a little chicken broth, some chili powder and some cumin for your fajitas.

I also serve black beans to have in the fajitas. Drain a can of black beans and in a skillet over medium low heat, put a few of the cloves of garlic that cooked with the chicken. Smash this roasted garlic up and mix it into the beans while they heat through. These beans are so simple, but they're so delicious with the cooked garlic. Don't worry too much about going too heavy with the garlic, after it's cooked, it's quite mild.

I usually serve this meal buffet style, with dishes of the spiced chicken, the beans, cheddar or jack cheese, shredded lettuce, quacamole, hot sauce, salsa, olives, peppers, onion, and flour or corn tortillas.

To keep the leftover chicken, portion it into meal sized amount in regular sandwich zipper bags, then put all the smaller bags into one large freezer zipper bag. This will save you from wasting lots of the more expensive freezer bags but still allow for freezing the chicken in portions. Don't for get to label the big bag with the date and contents.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Attack of the Long Weekend

Wow, I've got long weekend jet lag today. I'm feeling very out of it. We had a really good weekend, so that was nice. Thursday we did the turkey and potatoes and lots of yummy extras. My experiment with the no bake pumpkin pie went fairly well, but I overspiced it a little, so it needs lots of extra cool whip to keep from tingling the tongue.

Friday we went to Forest Park and visited the Missouri History Museum. It was pretty good for a free museum, but the exhibits seemed kinda jumbled and it was difficult to understand what exactly the things on display were. I did learn that Charles Lindbergh was super super popular. People really truly loved him. I knew he was famous, but I didn't know he meant so much to people.

Saturday we went back over to the Arch and went down into the Museum of Westward Expansion. Again, I guess it was okay for a free museum, but it's got to be one of the most confusing ways to organize exhibits I've every seen. It was set up as a bunch of concentric half circles, but there's pillars and things everywhere, and you can't get any idea of the timeline involved. And again, there were lots of things on display with no explanation or title cards. I learned there that I'm less scared of taxidermed animals than I thought, but still very very scared.

After a picnic of leftover turkey at the Arch, we went to Belleville to the CVS to start doing the CVS deals. I don't have my reciept because it's in the car, but my deals were something like $18 worth of things, $11 out of pocket, and $18 dollars worth of CVS bucks for next time. For a detailed explanation of how the CVS and other drugstore deals work, check out Crystal's Blog. There are links on the right side that explaing how to use the rebate programs to get free stuff from the drugstores. She does a really nice job of explaining it and breaks down the deals every week too.

Yesterday, we went to church at the Shrine in Belleville, and went to Walmart to pick up some long sleeve shirts, because it's freezing here. We had lunch at Pizza Hut, which was a very nice treat, and then we came back here. I ended up taking a nap and Ben got insurance quotes to get that all lined up for the new house. We had leftover pizza and turkey soup for dinner and then we watched the special Iron Chef on Food Network. It was really good, but it so made me want to bake! I would love to just bake and bake for an hour straight and see how much I could get done.

So today it's back to work. I've cleaned up the room and put away the souveniers we picked up during our site seeing. I still have to get the kitchen cleaned up and run the dishwasher, make the bed (I haven't done that yet, because I hate to have to make Columbo move when he's all cozy and sleeping in the blankets), and do some laundry. After I finish my housework (hotel room work?), I've got a few ideas of articles that I want to sit down and write so I can submit them to Assciated Content. I haven't submitted anything since Wednesday last week. But I have earned $35 dollars since the fourteenth with my articles. It would be more if I could just stick to writing and submitting two a day. But it's been difficult to come up with ideas that aren't over done. They don't accept things if there's already too much like it. So that's my next challenge, finding things to write about that are different enough to get paid.

As for knitting projects, I did make Ben a hat on Friday night, because it was so cold, he needed one. He wore it on Saturday and likes it a lot. I think I might make some purple mittens to match my hat, because I wore it this weekend, and I like it, but I definately need something on my hands. The green winter set is on hold, just because it won't match my sweater, and that's what I have to wear right now. I haven't gotten yarn yet to make Ali's set, but I did see that there's a pattern for the mittens with a pocket in my latest issue of Interweave Knits. So I'll have that as a guide. I might get out some knitting later after my writing is finished, because I feel like I've been neglecting it lately.

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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Kid and Teen books with quilting stories

In an attempt to make my blog more of a resource and companion to my website, I've been interspersing some informational articles and things with the more personal "what I've been up to" posts. Feel free to ignore either if you prefer one or the other, but I think most of my readers will find both kinds of posts interesting. This bibliography is part of the one that I put together for my thesis project in college, "Quilting as a Means of Control and Transformation in Terris' Nell's Quilt". Maybe someday I'll post the whole paper, just to show how smart I was once. :D

Quilting is a very popular theme in books and short stories. It can very easily become a metaphor for story telling and also for the drawing together of people and groups of women. I’ve compiled a short list of books for children and adolescents that involve quilting and needlework. Some of the books in this bibliography address the use of quilting in books and stories. This list includes books that are appropriate for many grade levels, including older kids and teens. These books are those in which quilting is a central theme, not one in which there is a passing mention of quilting.

Story books with quilts and quilting in them are a great way to connect a child’s imagination to an activity if you’d like to teach him or her to quilt. Children as young as seven can learn to put together a quilt block like a simple four patch block. A four patch block is like a checkerboard of four small squares of fabric making up the larger square. A sewing machine isn’t at all necessary, since it will be easier for little fingers to handle the slower pace of hand sewing. Many of these books would be great for a home school unit that includes learning to quilt.

Benberry, Cuesta. A Patchwork of Pieces: An Anthology of Early Quilt Stories.
Paducah, KY: American Quilter’s Society, 1993.

Cobb, Mary. The Quilt-Block History of Pioneer Days. Brookfield, CT: The Millbrook
Press, 1995.

Coerr, Eleanor. The Josefina Story Quilt. New York: Harper & Row, 1986.

Dallas, Sandra. The Persian Pickle Club. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995.

Elsley, Judy. Quilts as Text(iles): The Semiotics of Quilting. New York: P. Lang, 1996.

Flournoy, Valerie. The Patchwork Quilt. New York: Scholastic, 1996.

Geras, Adell. Apricots at Midnight. New York: Atheneum, 1982.

Johnston, Tony. The Quilt Story. New York: Putnam & Grosset, 1996.

Kirby, Susan E. Ellen’s Story. American Quilts Book 1. New York: Aladdin
Paperbacks, 2000.
---. Hattie’s Story. American Quilts Book 2. New York: Aladdin Paperbacks, 2000.

LoPinto, Celia. Stitch Me a Story: A guide to children’s books with a quilting theme.
San Francisco: C. LoPinto, 1994.

Love, D. Anne. Bess’s Log Cabin Quilt. New York: Bantam Doubleday Dell, 1996.

Parker, Sandra. Home Material: Ohio’s Nineteenth-Century Regional Women’s Fiction.
Bowling Green, OH: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1998.

Parrish, Shelley Berlin. Sharing Grandma’s Gift. Milwaukee, WI: Peanut Butter
Publishing, 2000.

Paul, Ann Whitford. The Seasons Sewn: A Year in Patchwork. San Diego: Browndeer
Press, 1996.

Rinaldi, Ann. A Stitch in Time. The Quilt Trilogy. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1994.
---. Broken Days. The Quilt Trilogy. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1995.
---. The Blue Door. The Quilt Trilogy. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1996.

Smucker, Barbara Claasen. Selina and the Bear Claw Quilt. New York: Dragonfly
Books, 1999.

Terris, Susan. Nell’s Quilt. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1987.

Torsney, Cheryl B. Quilt Culture: Tracing the Pattern. Columbia, MO: The University
of Missouri Press, 1994.

Turner, Ann Warren. Sewing Quilts. New York: Macmillan, 1994.

Webb, Aliske. Twelve Golden Threads: Lessons for successful living from Grama’s
quilt. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1992.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Making Presents Guys Will Really Like

The guys in your life can be notoriously hard to buy for. A nice American Eagle sweater can only be given so many times before you feel like a sellout. Lists of gifts that men will like seem to only contain high ticket items, like electronics, DVD’s and CD’s. What can you do when you have a low budget and a picky man to buy for?

One of the best things is to make a gift. Now, at first this may seem like a terrible idea. Everyone knows that a man wants an HDTV and not a hand knitted scarf, right? Well, not always. Of course, anyone would love a new flat screen, but your boyfriend or father isn’t completely shallow. He’ll appreciate the thought put into a hand made gift. But to make sure he’ll also appreciate the gift its self, there are some tips to follow.

First make sure that he’s involved in the picking out of the yarn or project. Tell your brother you want him to help you pick out supplies for a friend’s gift because their tastes are so similar. Get him to help you plan the entire project under this guise, and then you can be sure that he’ll approve of the finished item when you present it to him on Christmas day.

Take a look at what he wears and uses already. If your dad never wears long sleeves, he probably won’t really enjoy the wool sweater you’ve made him. If your boyfriend thinks royal blue is a little too wild of a color, it won’t please him to wear the Kelly green vest you’ve knit him. If your brother loves modern sleek d├ęcor he probably won‘t have much appreciation for the needle pointed desk set. Sad, but true. It’s best to try to truly reflect the style and taste of the person you’re making the gift for. And if knitting an entire sweater in plain black sounds like torture to your creative soul, try some of these more untraditional homemade gifts for your men folk.

Small accessories work well with inexpensive gifts, because even if you’re only spending five dollars on a gift card, you can find some scrap yarn and whip up a small gift to go with it, adding a lot of value for little effort. Gifts that go well together in this sense are coffee mug sleeves paired with a Starbucks gift card or an iPod sleeve paired with an iTunes gift card. Hats and scarves can work well because men who don’t care for bright colors or textures in their clothes will usually allow some leeway on the small winter accessories.

Use charts from video games to plan these things. Your boyfriend might give a lukewarm response to cross-stitched coasters with a bargello design, but stitch him up a set of Mario, Luigi and Princess Toadstool and you may find that you’re the best girlfriend ever. These charts can be use in knitting (how about Mario mushrooms around a hat). I’ve even seen some great projects done with these charts using the beads you put on a pegboard and iron together. What guy wouldn’t love a set of old school video game ornaments. Google Mario charts or video game charts or check out for some awesome guy friendly projects.

If all else fails, food is definitely the way to go if you want to give an inexpensive, but guy-friendly, gift. Make a “Meal of the Month” club. Offer to cook him dinner once a month, including dessert. Make some special candy, like fudge. It’s fairly simple to do, the ingredients aren’t too much money for the amount of fudge you get, and any guy with a sweet tooth will love you forever for homemade fudge. You could even put together a Football Party in a Box. A large football themed serving dish or bowl filled with chips and dip makings, decorations and fun party ware, including a coupon to play hostess for the night of the big NFL game, complete with cooking, carrying and cleaning would please any guy any time. This of course could be tailored to your particular man’s interests, like NASCAR, MLB or NHL. A party in a box gift won’t cost you much more than your time, ingredients for snacks, and some effort, but it will be much more memorable and special than yet another store bought sweater or CD.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Frugal Gift Baskets

Gift baskets make great gifts for anyone because they can be personalized in so many ways. Everyone loves to get lots of things to look through and discover in a basket, but many people find that ready made gift baskets are much too expensive and impersonal to give to everyone on their list. Even basket ideas of different themes that you can put together yourself can get prohibitively expensive as all the individual items add up. Here are some of the best ways to save money while putting together an excellent basket for every person on your list.

The first way to save money while building a gift basket is to save on the basket its self. First of all, be willing to shop at thrift stores or dollar stores for baskets and containers. They can be cleaned or painted or just tied with a bow to look just as good as new. Also, think beyond the basket when putting together these gifts. At the Goodwill or other thrift stores, it’s fun to look at everything with a gift basket in mind. Lunchboxes, crockery, children’s suitcases, baskets, vases, tins, and purses can all be found and will all make interesting containers to build a gift. I’ve even found FTD or other floral containers at Goodwill, which is great because they’re usually pretty high quality, have nice sentiments for the holidays, and are meant for just such a thing as being filled.

Using one big ticket item as the star of the gift basket will also help you save money. Decide how much you’d like the complete basket to cost and consider spending half of the budget on your star item. This can be easier than you’d think, particularly if you find a good coupon for a specific item. Last year, Bath and Body Works had coupons that entitled you to a free body wash or body splash with any purchase. We used the coupons, and bought a one dollar ornament as the purchase, giving us gifts for our family of a value of twelve dollars for just one dollar. These body washes became the star of the basket. I rounded out the rest of the basket by spending about twelve more dollars and ended up with twenty-five dollar baskets for only thirteen dollars each.

Coupons are a great way to get basket items, as are the specials that drugstores offer. If you sign up for a CVS or Walgreen’s rebate program, many times you can combine coupons with rebates to get items for free or even better than free. The things like scented candles and special candies are all great things for gift baskets, but even the hygiene items, lotions and body washes can be great as fillers in pamper or bath baskets. You can put together entire baby needs baskets this way for practically nothing.

Other ways to get inexpensive fillers for your baskets are to shop at the dollar store. Many dollar stores have nice things, and it’s simple to stick with a theme. Say you wanted to do a cooking/kitchen basket for your favorite chef. You could purchase a nice apron or make one with hand embroidery or something else to make if very special. The you could get, at the dollar store, a colander or bowl to contain the gift, a whisk or mixing spoon, a spoon rest, cookie cutters, pot holders or dish towels, dish soap or scrubbers, and even recipe books! Add to this some special ingredients like organic flour or pecans or dried fruit and you’ve got a great baking/cooking basket to give. Buy the ingredients at your favorite farmers’ market store from the bulk section and package them nicely in a jar or pretty bag with a ribbon for further savings.
If you knit or do crafts, gift baskets are a great way to showcase homemade presents. You could knit bath mitts or face cloths for a bath basket, or dish cloths for a kitchen basket. I’ve done coffee mug sleeves for a special coffee basket, hats and head warmers for winter pleasures baskets. You could make a nice correspondence basket with a pretty box and homemade cards and nice pens. You could even make a crafting basket with supplies, such paper scraps, stickers, blank cards and embellishments.

Used books are another wonderful gift, because most people like books, they’re easy to find in any theme or for any occasion, and they’re particularly frugal for the value they’ll add to a gift basket. I used books especially one year when I was doing a “You’re the sweetest cookie of the batch” theme. Everything in the basket was somehow baking themed, particularly cookie themed. I put it together in a basket that had gingerbread men on it that had been bought at the Goodwill. Into the basket went cookie cutters and holiday cookie recipe books from the dollar store. I made a nice hat out of tweed yarn that was decidedly oatmeal cookie colored. There were sugar cookie body products bought with coupons and a spice cookie scented candle. To really add value to the basket without overspending, I found used mysteries with baking and cooking in their central theme. Mysteries are great books to check out when looking for a theme, because it seems like there’s a sleuth to match every interest out there. Good places to look for books are used book stores, annual library sales, thrift stores and friends of the library book stores in libraries.

It’s simple to put together a basket of second hand or recycled things that won’t cost a fortune, but won’t look cheap or tacky either. If you mix used items with new or luxury items that have been purchased at a discount, you’ll be able to afford to give so much more in a gift basket, and your friends and family will love it.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Holiday Preparations

I'm still feeling a little down today, because the bank is giving us the run around and stalling and wasting time, which is driving Ben crazy. I just worry too much, I suppose. I should learn to trust in God and in Ben's judgement better, but it's difficult for me, because I always feel like I have to be extra competent and make good decisions. I think that it'll be best if I just trust that Ben will make a good decision regarding the mortgage and stop worrying about it myself.

BUT, I have decided for sure that I don't want to be mopey anymore, so I took some pictures of things to cheer me up, and I started on some of the dessert for Thanksgiving. I decided to make a peanut butter pie today. The recipe is here on Lorie's menu plan for last week.

I saw it and decided it would be the perfect recipe to try to adapt to be an oven-less pumpkin pie. I'm surprising Ben with it, because he thinks there's no way I could make pumpkin pie. I'm going to pretty much use the recipe as is, with a little more sugar perhaps, and replace the peanut butter with canned pumpkin and spices.

So I made the regular peanut butter version today to see how beating the cream cheese and sugar together would go by hand. Everything worked out really well, and it looks totally yummy. I have to admit, it probably won't actually last until Thanksgiving before we cut it.

This is what the fridge looks like when I do my grocery shopping downstairs at the complimentary breakfast.

Here are supplies for the weekend. This really makes me think of my mom's house for some reason, all the groceries getting put on the counter because there's no room for the yummy extras in the cabinets.

Here's my new slow cooker. Isn't it so pretty?

Are you drooling over my peanut butter pie?

I just had to go down to the snack shop and get some reese's peanut butter cups to chop up for the top. Poor pie looked really plain without them. I think this will be a nice surprise for Ben when he gets home.
Another nice surprise for him will be how clean it is in here. I've been making the bed and cleaning up myself for the last week, but I don't have a vacuum, and it was really needed with the cats' litter everywhere. So, earlier, I tricked the cats with catnip and locked them in their boxes. Then I let Dorothy, our housekeeping person, come in and clean the room really well and change the sheets and towels and vacuum. It's nice to have it done, but I don't think I'd do it more often than once a week, the cats are stressed out enough as it is. I also did all the laundry and it's all clean and put away now, so today has been a very productive day.
Since I've accomplished so much so far today, including submitting my two articles this morning, I'm planning to just relax and read for a while now. I'm sort of in between projects with my knitting right now. I have some things that I brought with me to work on, but they're all at starting stages. If I get motivated to start something, I might do that, but I might just read for a couple of hours too. Ben will be home in an hour or two, and then we'll probably go over the loan stuff so he can explain to me how it works.

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