Liam and the dirty sheep

Several years ago I bought a pair of Haflinger slippers with a sheep on them. The sheep is gray. It started out gray. But Lee and Billy thought that it started out white, and that I just took such bad care of my things that they turned gray from dirt. They didn’t tell me that for a long time, it came out years after the fact. Of course, I still have the sheep slippers. We now refer to the slippers as the “dirty, dirty sheep”.

Last week Joey was taking care of Liam and I was working in my home office. Joey, Liam and Elanor came in to visit for a minute. Liam found one of the sheep slippers. He was completely fascinated by it. After about a minute of watching him play, I took out the iPhone and recorded his play. Enjoy!

Liam at the Grocery Store

Liam at the grocery storeI got Liam a onesie with a picture of a dump truck, and the words “Tipper Lorry” on it at the Brooklyn Flea back in July.  It was way to big for him at that time, and he has finally gotten big enough to wear it.  Billy sent me this photo while I was traveling yesterday.

Salt crystals

Joey and Lee had vestry responsibilities at church, so Billy, Liam, and I hung out together for the evening.  Once Joey and Lee got to our house, we had steak, asparagus, salad, and salt potatoes (see recipe below) for dinner.

If you have never had salt potatoes, don’t let the amount of salt freak you out.  The large amount of salt changes the boiling point of the water enough that the texture of the cooked potato is quite different than regular boiled potatoes.  The skin gets a nice salty crust, and the inside is creamy and smooth.  Although you can serve salt potatoes with a meal as we did, they also make a fantastic snack with drinks and other finger food.

We served up the meal as soon as everything was cooked.  When we went back to do the dishes (I use “we” loosely here.  Anyone who knows me knows, I was not really involved in doing dishes), we discovered that very large salt crystals had grown in the pot that we cooked the potatoes in.  It was actually quite pretty.  Who doesn’t love a science experiment with dinner?

Salt Potatoes:
3 pounds small new potatoes or fingerling potatoes
14 ounces of salt
2 quarts of water

Wash the potatoes and leave whole.  It is critical not to puncture the skin of the potato.
Bring all of the water to a boil.  Add the salt.  Stir the salt into the water until it is dissolved.
Maintain heat and let the salt water come to a boil.
Add the potatoes and boil for twenty-five minutes.   Remove the potatoes to a cooling rack.
Serve with sour cream.

Delayed Shrug

Last summer I made Lee a shrug for her birthday. I almost finished an entire sleeve before I realized that it would be big enough for two of her. I ripped the whole thing out – this is called “frogging” in the knitting world because you rip it, rip it.  I started again, but was disheartened by the set back, and took a LONG time to finish it.  Her birthday is in July.  I finally delivered it in November.

Lee and Bamboo Shrug

The first time I saw her wear it I realized that the back was too broad.  This was my own fault.   I totally did not trust the pattern (in my defense, it had already lied once) or the measurements I had taken of Lee’s back.  I have a very broad back, and I just could not make myself believe that it was possible for a grown woman to have such a tiny frame.  I should have trusted the tape measure.  I convinced her to give the shrug back to me so that I could cut it apart, rip it back to be narrow enough for her, and sew the back seam again.  All of that happened fairly quickly, despite a major disagreement with the seam about whether or not it should be bumpy and weird, and I returned the shrug to Lee.

After all that work, I did not have a single picture of the thing!  Last night Lee modeled her shrug, and I got some photos.  You can see the details about the knitting aspects of the project on Ravelry. You can also check out pictures of more of my knitting projects in my Knitting Projects set on Flickr.

Bamboo Shrug

Notice that the sleeves are actually “too long” by ordinary standards.  That is by design at Lee’s request.  As if to make up for her impossibly narrow back, she was blessed with extremely long arms.  She was absolutely thrilled at the idea that the sleeves of ANYTHING would dangle over her hands.  The lace on these sleeves makes it especially nice.

Birthday Cake, aka – if you DO have a flame thrower…

Billy icing my birthday cake

Billy and Lee offered to host an early birthday dinner for me, since I will spend my birthday in Europe. We decided to combine the dinner with our regular Twenties and Thirties Design Team evening.

Misty, Brian, and their boys, Don, Lindsay, Eric, Daniel, Lee, Billy and Liam were all there. Misty made some fantastic appetizers: asparagus fritata, potato fritata and cheesy poofs (not their real name, but we have to go with the South Park reference). Billy and Lee cooked spare ribs. Lindsay and Don made a lovely spinach salad. We all took turns holding Liam. Don was the only person who got caught on film! He had a great time holding Liam, and actually said to Billy, “Why didn’t you all have a baby sooner, this is great!”
Don and Liam

Billy let me pick the kind of birthday cake I wanted. I picked chocolate cake with Italian meringue. Because the meringue is not strong enough to support cake layers, he added chocolate ganache between the layers. It was amazing! He actually used a flame thrower to finish the top of the cake.

Survived the Holiday Season

img_7721-final We did not take many pictures this year.  No, not even Joey!  Lee took this one of us together with the dogs on the night we put up our Christmas tree.

We went to the Mercado Christmas celebration with Grandma Margaret on 24 December.  We had a lovely Christmas Day meal with the Lupa/Carlson clan, Joan Jones, and the Reads.  It was pot luck, so we didn’t have to do too much cooking, but we wound up with all the leftovers.  Yum!  Joey did make plum pudding, and it was a hit.

George and Nancy joined us late in the evening on Christmas Day.  We went to breakfast with the Etheredges, Zimmermans and Schoors on the second day of Christmas, and then returned to our house to open presents.

Speaking of presents – after years of nagging and hounding, my husband finally gave me some earings from James Avery.  He feels that James Avery is too easy an answer, and prefers to be more creative.  While I certainly appreciate that sentiment, and I have gotten some fabulously creative presents over the years, a nice pair of earings is fun too!

Mom and Dad joined us on New Year’s Eve.  Lee and Billy came over to assist with the preparations for New Year’s Day.  We held our 6th Annual New Year’s Eve film fest.  This year’s theme was Bruce Willis.  The favorite movies were The Fifth Element and Die Hard with a Vengence.  Lee and Joey kicked butt in the kitchen – it was the most organized I think we have ever been.

On New Year’s Day we ate breakfast with the Mercados and Etheredges before George and Nancy had to leave for the airport.

The New Year’s Day party was a fantastic success.  The food was fantastic – the hoppin john really gets better every year!  It was fun to see all of our friends throughout the day.  I really missed Ross and Kat, and thought of them several times during the party.  Laura and Jason joined us late in the evening – I am so happy they were able to make the drive!  The first guests arrived at 14:15, and Jason and I left to drive Jacob back at home at 02:27 on 02 January, so the party officially lasted 12 hours and 12 minutes!

Despite the late night, on 02 January, Joey, Mom, Dad, Laura, Jason and I drove to San Antonio to visit with the Rodriguez side of the family.  We had a great time visiting and catching up with all our cousins and Aunts and Uncles!

On 03 January we had brunch at Zax with our cousin Ben, and then it was time for everyone to go their separate ways.  I left with Mom and Dad to go to Houston.  Jason dropped Laura off at the airport so she could fly to Albequerque so she could perform in Amahl and the Night Visitors in Santa Fe.  Jason drove back to Denton, and Joey went home to a empty house to begin the clean-up!

Ginger Dogs

Recently Joey and I have been going to a great bakery that is just on the other side of I-35 from our house.  The bakery is called Pablito’s.  It is a family owned business.  They have awesome empanadas, pan dulce, and all kinds of other baked goods as well.  Joey really likes eating baked goods for breakfast, and their prices are so good that it is reasonable to go there frequently.

My favorite item at Pablito’s is a ginger/molasses cookie in the shape of a pig.  The ginger pig is soft, and not very sweet – more like bread than a cookie.  About a week ago, it dawned on me that part of the reason I like the ginger pig so much is that it reminds me of the ginger dog cookies my mom used to make for me.

I got out the Becky’s Kitchen cookbook that mom made for me and Laura back in 2001, which has all of our family recipes.  I looked, and sure enough, the Ginger Dogs recipe was in there!

Here is what my mom wrote about the history of this recipe:

This recipe is from the Natural Baby Food Cookbook, a very trendy topic in the mid-70′s when jars of baby food were filled with preservatives.  LisaDiane was a toddler when I first made these cookies.  Because the gingerbread “man” was too big for her to eat, I used a Scotty dog shaped cookie ccutter that Grandma Hope had given me.  It made just the right sized cookie, and they became known as “Ginger Dogs”

Joey had given me a dog-shaped cookie cutter many years ago, and even though it is not a scotty dog, it seemed appropriate.  We had all the ingredients, so I made a batch last night.  Billy lent his cooking expertise to the process.  We actually used weight instead of volume for the butter and the flour, so I have included the volume measurements in parenthesis.  One cup of flour weighs five ounces.  Weighing the flour was so much easier than using a measuring cup!

Here is the recipe:

3/4 cup (6 ounces) melted butter
1 cup molasses
1/2 cup honey
1 cup buttermilk
6 1/2 cups (32.5 ounces) flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ginger
4 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 tablespoon orange extract
Mix melted butter, molasses and honey until smooth.  Stir in buttermilk.
Stir together dry ingredients and add to liquid mixture.
Add orange extract. Mix to a smooth, stiff dough.
Let the dough rest in the fridge for 20 minutes (this step is not in the original recipe, but Billy suggested it, and it worked out well).
Roll out on a lightly floured surface to 1/3 inch.
Cut into shapes and place on an ungreased baking sheet (I used the silpat half sheet that Mom gave Joey for our first anniversary)
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 mintues.
Cool on racks
Yield = 48 cookies [dogs]

Joey, Billy, and I ate some Ginger Dogs right out of the oven!  They were delicious, just like I remembered.  The guys both felt that they could use more sugar, but I enjoy the breadlike quality these cookies have.  I only baked about 1/4 of the dough.  The rest is in the fridge waiting for me.

Changes at the House on Hornsby Street

CIMG3485 Several people have given Joey and me grief over the years about our lack of furniture.  Joey is not fond of stop gap measures, even when the “gap” is five years (amount of time we have owned our house) or eleven years (amount of time we have been married), so we still have the same furniture today we inherited when my folks moved to Pennsylvania! We know what kind of furniture we would like to purchase, but somehow it is never the top priority.

Sujata and Aaron have decided that Joey is morally opposed to coffee tables.  I do not think he hates them, but he does not have a strong desire to have one either.  I, on the other hand, having inherited my father’s distaste for sitting on hard chairs, have often wished for a coffee table and a living room layout that allowed for people to congregate, and visit in the living room instead of around the kitchen table.

CIMG3488 A few weeks ago, my dream was realized when one of Joey’s long time computer clients needed some work done.  It turns out the client was moving, and was having an estate sale to reduce how much stuff he had to move.  He offered Joey the opportunity to select items from the estate sale as payment for the work.  Joey spotted a coffee table he liked and agreed to the arrangement.  When we went to pick up the table, it turned out there was a matching end table, and we brought that home as well. Lee and Billy helped us move the furniture around the living room several times as we found the best arrangement.

CIMG3483

Another recent change to the house involves a wall mounted coat rack in the entry hall.  Joey and I each only carry a car key and a house key.  I typically do not have the key to his car, and he doesn’t have the key to mine.  However, we often switch cars depending on what we are doing.  If one of us is carrying the dogs, or a bike, we take my car.  Just driving to the office, I take his car.  What does any of this have to do with a coat rack?  Well… Somehow I never have the keys I need to drive the car that is in the driveway.  Lee and Billy constantly make fun of me for not having keys.  Since we just pick up the first set of keys that operates the car we need, sometimes we wind up with both sets of keys, and then the other person is stranded.  What happened to the spares, you ask?  Well, those are around too, but they often wind up in the glove box of the opposite car!  After a frantic afternoon of searching for a key to drive the only car left at the house (Joey was at the park with the dogs), Joey and I decided we had to have a single location for the keys.  The problem was that we couldn’t agree about where that should be, until the idea of hooks near the door was put forward.

Joey did a beautiful job picking out the piece, and installing it.  It required quite a bit of work to hang it.  Since it has a mirror, it is heavy, add purses, coats, and, of course, keys, and you have quite a bit of weight… too much to mount it just in the drywall.  Problem was that the hooks on the coat rack were 25 inches apart, while the studs in the wall are 24 inches!  Joey solved the problem by mounting a thin piece of oak plywood to the studs, and then securing the coat rack to the plywood.  Dad says that it sounds like the coat rack won’t come off the wall, even if the wall itself falls down!

Check out all the pictures of the changes at our house below.

Mighty Cones!

20090702-billy-eats-a-mighty-cone_0 Right after we got back from El Paso, Lee had a birthday. Billy and I went down to Hill Country Weavers to get her a present. Since I was on vacation, I slept late, and had not eaten breakfast or lunch when Billy came to pick me up to go shopping. We had fun in the yarn store, well, I did, and Billy worked on not killing me for taking so long. By the time we were done we had worked up an appetite!

Next to Hill Country Weavers is a vacant lot, and over the past couple of years, the lot has begun to fill with food vendors. Billy and I strolled along looking for one that looked good, and we found Mighty Cone. The mighty cone is an amazing invention. It is awesome food, like shrimp and avocado or pork and purple cabbage slaw wrapped in a tortilla and served in a paper cone. They also have very yummy french fries. It turns out that the folks over at Hudson’s on the Bend are responsible for the Mighty Cone. Check out the review from the Austin Chronicle – they explain how this amazing food came into existence.

We are hooked!  If you have never tried a Mighty Cone, I highly recommend you check it out!

Maybe, if I’m really quiet, they won’t see me

Last weekend I went camping with some friends at Canyon Lake (a little west of San Marcos). Lee and I carpooled out to the campground. We loaded the car with gear and tied everything down before we loaded the dogs. Ela and Cali made the ride down without incident and with only a little whining. Saturday turned into a lovely day at the lake as we set up camp, made dinner, played Apples to Apples, roasted marshmallows, and counted stars – all the stuff that makes for a good campout.

So we got up the next morning, everybody cooked breakfast, we chatted for a while, and a little before noon we decided to break camp. We loaded the car once again, tied down the tents, coolers, and other gear, then loaded the dogs into the back of the car.

Just as we were about to drive away we decided it was best to stop and use the facilities before we got on the road. So we both got out of the car for a couple of minutes. When we got back to the car, Lee opened her door, sat down, got comfortable, then turned her head toward the driver side and…

If Ela was a bear she could have eaten Lee head first and Lee would never have seen it coming. Ela was so quiet that Lee didn’t notice her until she looked right at her. Lee nearly fell out of the car she was laughing so hard.

Ela had wormed her way through the ropes that were securing the gear and had become hopelessly tangled just shy of the front seat. It took two tries to get her into the back of the car again. Here are the pictures we took before we got her untied.