Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Color Collaborative: July: Mend

 
A battered and faded stuffed baby doll lives in our house. Her name is Stinker, and she belongs to the GB. Stinker, so named by the GB when she was a toddler, was a present from Santa Claus for the GB's first Christmas. The GB was three months old then. Stinker was the first toy she ever really loved, and the attachment has grown over the years. Now at six, the GB still sleeps with Stinker every night and carries her from room to room during the day.

2011

Stinker started life as a soft doll with a velour-like covering. Her hands and face were pale peach. Her hat and bodysuit (both non-removeable) were candy pink with satin trim on the sleeves, feet and hat. The trim was in pink, yellow and green - stripes for the sleeves and a swirly pattern for the feet and hat. Stinker's hair is straight now, two narrow, faded yellow ribbons hanging down over her face, but it used to be curled in corkscrews. Her once-vibrant blue eyes and pink facial features have faded to less distinct shades.


Over time, Stinker has taken on a dinginess. She is sort of grayish all over now, but that doesn't bother the GB. She comes up with the most interesting situations and scenarios for Baby Stinker. Above, Stinker is seeing a doctor, who wears Ziploc sandwich bags on her hands and uses the handle of a jump-rope to administer crucial medical treatments. It has been interesting to watch their relationship evolve. Stinker is more than just a soft thing to cuddle. She is also a conduit for many of the GB's thoughts and feelings and fears, and the GB often speaks through her, telling us when Stinker is worried about something and reassuring her about new experiences.


Stinker was a woman of action when she was younger. Both small Bears played with her a lot. She was thrown across rooms and dangled over stairwells. She raced at high speed through the house, strapped precariously to a doll stroller. Noses were wiped on her. She was vomited on. Back then, Stinker took rides in the washer and dryer, tied inside a pillow case, until she became too delicate for such adventures. Now, she is gently hand-washed in a basin with warm water and a drop of Woolite. She has given up the dryer altogether.

Thankfully, Stinker stays cleaner in general nowadays than she used to, but she still gets plenty of attention. Stinker is so deeply loved that she often develops holes and tears in her seams. We try to mend her as soon as possible when this happens, so as to preserve her for good playing and sleeping. She has stitches on most parts of her body. It's actually the Bear who mends her most often, getting out his own sewing kit to repair these injuries to dear little Stinker. Here, he repairs Stinker's hat earlier this summer; the little satin piece at the top had torn and the stuffing was starting to come out.


He really enjoys the opportunity to fix Stinker for the GB. He talks to Stinker while he works, telling her each step of the way as he threads his needle, prepares to make the first stitch, closes up the hole with tiny, neat stitches, ties the thread and cuts it off. The GB watches raptly, looking a little nervous and listening carefully, knowing that Daddy will fix Stinker and make her as good as new, or almost. She tells Stinker not to worry. When he's done, he gives Stinker back and they hug and hug. I love that he does this for her, and that he does it cheerfully and with imagination and kindness.

Christmas Day 2008

It's just my own personal theory, but I think Stinker and the GB get along so well because they looked alike when they first met. For the GB, it must have been like looking in her (plastic, somewhat distorting) toy mirror. No wonder they fell in love so fiercely and enduringly.

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Don't forget to visit the other Color Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts. Just click on the links below: 

Annie at Annie Cholewa 
Sandra at Cherry Heart 
Sarah at mitenska
 
What is The Color Collaborative?
All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a color related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about color in new ways.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Martha & Me - July



This month, with Martha's help, I made Strawberry Shortcake Sundaes, from the July/August double issue of Martha Stewart Living. The recipe can also be found on Martha's website; just click on the link to see it. This month was pretty hectic with the LB's surgery, so I only had time to try one new thing from the current issue of the magazine. I absolutely loved this recipe. It was a little complicated as ice cream sundae-prep goes, but it made for a really special dessert on a Friday night. And you know how I feel about strawberries; when I saw this recipe among the several Martha suggested for fun ice cream treats, I just had to give it a try. I started the day before I planned to serve them, which seems a little odd for ice cream sundaes, but it took some labor.


Pound cake is a major component. I considered baking one from scratch, and I also looked at pre-baked ones in the grocery store, but in the end, I went with a Betty Crocker mix. It was less expensive than either the bakery pound cakes or the frozen Sara Lee ones in the store, and I could use real butter and fresh eggs. Another bonus was that it actually makes enough batter for two loaves of pound cake. I'm sure that a fully homemade pound cake would be even better, but this seemed like a good compromise because there was other work to be done.




There was also a strawberry sauce to make. This would be used in two ways. It was an easy little sauce, very similar to jam, actually. I liked that it included salt and lemon juice, making it slightly less sweet than jam. The technique was simple; just quarter the berries, place them in a saucepan with sugar, lemon juice and salt and bring to a boil while crushing the berries with a potato masher. Then the sauce stays at a low boil for 10 minutes, stirring often, until it coats the spoon.



Sauce and cakes were left to cool. I removed about half of the sauce for the next step, which was to add the strawberry sauce to vanilla ice cream, to give it a swirly-ribbon effect of strawberries going through the vanilla.


I used basic vanilla ice cream by Dreyers. I'm sure you could use any type (premium ice cream would probably be amazing here), but this is the brand I usually buy and it was on sale in the store.


I removed about half of the ice cream in the carton (the total amount in the carton was 1.75 quarts) and put it in a large mixing bowl. I let it sit at room temperature for about five minutes, just to soften a little, then I stirred it with a big spoon to make it soft and creamy.


Next, I folded the strawberry sauce into the ice cream with a rubber scraper. Martha said to leave some streaks of strawberry; I probably went a little past that, but it was fairly difficult to do because the ice cream was melting fast.


Then, I spooned it into a loaf pan, covered the pan with plastic wrap and put the pan in the freezer for the night. You have to do this ice cream step at least two hours ahead, but I decided to do it a day ahead just to be safe. You never know when something might take longer to freeze - or, heaven forbid, never freeze at all. I was kind of crossing my fingers for this part of the recipe.



The next evening, it was time to assemble the sundaes for our dessert. Finally! I made an alteration to the assembly in that I used ceramic bowls for our sundaes. Martha used glass parfait-style glasses but I don't have those. She cut her pound cake slices into rounds, using a circular cookie cutter, to help them fit in the glasses. I didn't see any reason to do this with my bowls, so I just cut my slices in half vertically to make sort-of squares. I layered them in the bowls with cake in the bottom, sauce, a scoop of ice cream, cake, sauce, ice cream, etc., until there were three layers, then put a little whipped cream on top (I used Reddi-Wip, though the recipe would have you whip your own cream. Additional sliced, macerated strawberries were called for as well, but I didn't bother with them. I thought baking cakes, making strawberry sauce and remaking ice cream seemed like quite enough, thank you very much).


The verdict was positive, as you might expect. Everyone liked the sundaes very much. It seemed that the ice cream was the best part. I liked that a lot myself; it reminded me of a kind of ice cream I loved as a child, Sealtest raspberry swirl, which had a very mild, sweet vanilla base with a generous ribbon of jelly-like raspberry sauce (without seeds) swirled throughout. Aside from being made with strawberries, my ice cream was different by having small chunks of fruit intact, which I liked too. The strawberry flavor was intense. The cake was good too; it soaked up the strawberry sauce nicely. We had some ice cream left over and we added more as we ate. As far as we're concerned, there is no such thing as too much ice cream.


It was an elaborate recipe, and I don't think I'll make it very often, but it was the best strawberry shortcake I've ever had, and I think my favorite Martha project yet.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

They like buses






They drew a mural of a school bus, on the big roll of paper we bought at IKEA in Denver, which we visited on our vacation in June. We also bought a package of stamping markers. It's a band bus, on its way to a musical gig somewhere (we don't know where). They love buses, more than I can really describe because I don't share their feelings. I think it's because I rode the school bus twice a day for thirteen years and they're driven to and from their school in the car. They ride a school bus occasionally when I take them to a daytime play at the university; we have to park our car in a big lot far off campus near the stadium, then ride a shuttle bus onto campus and back to the lot again later. The bus rides are at least as exciting to them as the plays are. Daddy thought of drawing a musical bus and they liked that idea very much. Magical, musical bus! Now it hangs in the family room.

I feel much better today. Thank you for what you said. I don't always do a very good job of feeling my feelings. But I'm learning how, and it's better this way.

I've had a fairly busy day so far; I went to the grocery store alone this morning and did a really thorough shopping, which always makes me happy. I'm doing better with meal-planning lately and I have the whole week's dinners scheduled. I got my money back from some chicken I bought earlier in the week; it was bad in the package! Ugh, the horror of that experience. I bought everything I need to make Cobb salads for the Bear and me tonight, for our at-home date. We have some cheese and crackers for later in the afternoon, and coffee ice cream for dessert. We ate up all our leftovers for lunch and I cleaned out the pantry a little.

Oh, and I felt so good and productive and bolstered that I had the chutzpah to frog a crochet project! Yes. The queen of plodding along with projects she doesn't even like frogged something. Remember the little cardigan I've been making, the one from Simply Crochet magazine (which I still plan to talk about here)? I didn't like it. The colors were pretty, but I should have used heavier yarn and a bigger hook. It wasn't coming out right. Begone, bad cardigan! I can start over and do it right.

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I've drawn a giveaway winner, using the Random Number Generator. The winner of my giveaway is Gracie of One Saylor's Log. Thanks to everyone who played along.

I hope you're having a good weekend. You're a nice bunch of people.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Muddling





 


And so we plod along, making our way through these final weeks of the long, drawn-out summer break, made exponentially more mind-numbing by a post-operative recovery. I think we're all going to lose it some days. It must feel like a special kind of hell to a nine-year-old boy to have to spend his summer days sitting sedately, when he'd rather be running, jumping, climbing, just plain moving around. At least the catheter is out; I don't miss my pee-decanting responsibilities one bit. And we're down to only three medicines per day, and that will be down to two, just the normal ones, in another ten days. So there's that to look forward to. In the meantime, our days have taken on a restless sameness; there's plenty of time and I'm getting a lot done, but I'd rather be doing just about anything else. In a heartbeat, I'd trade all the creative meals and the current spotlessness of my home for an afternoon at the pool with some friends. I'm not depressed, exactly, but I am restless and bored, and I feel badly for both of my kids.

I shouldn't complain. I keep telling myself not to complain. Last week, in the thick of our post-op chaos, I found myself getting irrationally angry at an article about the writer's longing for a gigantic family and feeling unfulfilled with the numerous healthy children she already has. I actually had to walk away from the computer, just stood up and exited the room and went and emptied the catheter bag. We all have our crosses to bear, but it was precisely the wrong time for me to read about that one and it reinforced for me the pointless negativity of complaining.

We did make it out to the library this week, which was nice. It was the last week of the summer reading program and there was a demonstration about the life cycle of butterflies. I remembered that we have a mesh butterfly house in a closet somewhere around here. I think we'll try to find some caterpillars next spring. I remembered while I was watching the demonstration that we hatched butterflies in elementary school, maybe around fourth grade. The teacher had these big boxes with clear plastic windows in the sides, and we could watch the caterpillars form their chrysalises inside. When they hatched, we released them in the field behind the school. It was fun. What I remember best, though, was when a boy in my class pointed to a drop of reddish fluid on the floor of the box and said that the butterfly was "on her period." The same boy had drawn genitals on my Cabbage Patch Kid eraser the previous school year. He was not what you'd call a nice boy.

I have to repair Maggie Rabbit. I had a feeling when I gave her to the GB that this would happen. One of Maggie's legs is hanging off by a thread, and she has a hole in her neck seam. Right now she's sitting forlornly on top of my sewing machine. She wasn't even played with much; she sat on the GB's nightstand and was really just decorative, or so I thought. I probably should have kept her for myself. 

I had my hair cut this morning. I couldn't take it anymore. I meant to have a haircut weeks ago (you may recall that I complained of having Meatloaf hair). It was getting progressively worse. I could barely comb it. I have the kind of hair that can look pretty nice if I take my time with the blow-dryer and big round brush, but I haven't been doing that lately, needless to say. The stylist cut off about five inches of scraggly, dry blah and I'm happier now. It's just to my shoulders so I can still put it up in a short ponytail but it has some body and can look nice with just a brushing at this length. When I got home, I washed my hair in the kitchen sink using the spray nozzle. My kids watched me in awe and I realized that I hardly ever wash my hair in the sink now. I used to do it all the time, though. Did you? Maybe it was an effect of living in a house with six people - three of them girls close in age - and one bathroom, but I washed my hair in the kitchen a lot.

It's taco night here. I feel like eating something really crappy. I don't want to go out for it and I don't have enough cash on hand to have anything delivered but I do have tortillas, meat, veggies, cheese and Old El Paso seasoning. Tacos, it is. Later, it will be a hard cider and stove popcorn with something mindless on TV. I can't wait.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Yarn Along


Against my better judgment, I started crocheting something new. I'm still working on the ripple and cardigan of past weeks but I came across a pattern I just had to try and here we are. I didn't used to be this way; I would finish every project before picking up a new one. But life has been fraught lately and I've had trouble focusing on the ripple throw, especially, so I'm cutting myself some slack. The item you see above is going to be a table decoration, I think. I'm using a potholder pattern, the Vintage Climbing Trellis Hexagon, by Alipyper. Instead of making it with crochet thread (sooo hard for me, seriously, I try and try but I'm bad at it), I'm using regular cotton yarn. This makes it bigger, more like a trivet. I like the pattern; it's simple and easy to follow and things like this always make good stashbusters.

On the reading front, it's mostly cookbooks at the moment. Now that the LB is more self-sufficient, but still needs to hang out at home most of the time until he's more recovered, I seem to have plenty of time of my hands. Sure, there are household chores and I do have to keep these two small people occupied, but I have more time than usual for cooking and baking, which is good but also sort of frustrating because it makes me feel like I'd better step up my game while I have the chance. I've been in the proverbial cooking rut again lately. So I've been looking through my cookbooks more lately. This Jamie Oliver book, Jamie's Food Revolution, is one of a handful of true favorites that I keep on my kitchen counter at all times. I find his recipes very interesting and fairly easy to make, and they usually go over well with the Bears. This is my favorite of his cookbooks, in large part because of the real, everyday people in it. I feel more inspired when I see them, like they're cheering me on.

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along

Monday, July 20, 2015

Bouncing back










I'm so happy to report that the LB is doing a lot better now. I'm feeling better too, naturally; it's so hard to see a child in pain or discomfort, even when you know it's for a good reason. We're bouncing back, physically and emotionally, after a hard couple of weeks and it's getting better all the time, thankfully.

The Bear came back at the end of the week and we spent all weekend at home together, doing jobs around the house and relaxing too. I missed him so much; the week without him was hard, and I know he'd rather have been here too, but work called. Anyway, it's good to have him back and I enjoyed our quiet weekend. The normalcy of it was perhaps the best part: our "stove popcorn" on Friday night, our at-home date on Saturday night, the radio tuned to NPR all weekend, chickens and children playing in the backyard. The LB had his catheter removed on Friday and is getting around a little more, and we're all feeling a sense of relief that the worst is behind us. This little boy is SO brave and I am so proud of him.

Thanks for your support and kind words over the past couple of weeks. They have meant so much to me. I really appreciate it. If you haven't already entered my little giveaway, to win a few simple items as a token of my appreciation, you can do so here. I feel like I can get back to blogging more now, and catching up with other blogs too. Thanks for being patient with me. Today, I'm making minestrone soup in the slowcooker and hoping to bake some cookies too. The next few weeks are all about rest and recovery for the LB before school starts, so I've got some peaceful at-home activities planned for the three of us during the days.

What are you looking forward to right now? I'm excited for RAIN this week, the monsoon is here and we're getting a little bit of rain every day lately. I'm also looking forward to the Bear's birthday in a few weeks, which kicks off our household's birthday season.

I hope you have a great week, my lovely friends.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A little giveaway


We've had a tough week. I won't get into the details but it hasn't been easy and I'm just tired. I'm run down and kind of sad. The LB is recovering steadily, but I know he wishes it were quicker. I'd like that too, but I'm doing all I can to be patient. On the bright side, it's nice to be together at home, with nowhere we need to be. We've watched movies (Shrek the Musical, on Netflix, is awesome if you get the chance to watch it!), played games and enjoyed some of our favorite comfort foods like homemade pizza and rice pudding, and Chinese food (we had that delivered). He will be fine, it just takes time and care. I can give him lots of both, thankfully.

You were all so sweet to offer your prayers and positive thoughts for him (and me) over the past week. I'd like to say thanks with a little giveaway. The winner will receive the items in the photo above. There are rosy paper beverage napkins, pink-and-white striped paper drinking straws, a spool of dotted pink grosgrain ribbon, a bag of pastel flower-shaped buttons, a sheet of sparkly flower stickers and a ball of I Love This Cotton yarn in variegated pastels. It's just a few pretty, girly things I like. I hope you like them too.

To enter my giveaway, please leave a comment on this post letting me know your favorite thing to drink in hot weather - don't be shy, if it's a grown-up drink, say so! I can always use new ideas, and it would lighten my current mood too. For an extra chance to win, let me know in a separate comment how you follow my blog. You can follow now for the extra chance if you like. The winner will be chosen at random from the comments.

The entry period will end next Friday, July 24. I'll announce the winner on my blog and via email shortly after that, so please make sure I can email you. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Yarn Along


I'm back to working on my ripple throw this week. I find the mindlessness of it soothing and relaxing right now. The little cardigan I shared last week is almost finished. I'm still mostly enjoying the ripple; it can get a little tedious after a while, and it isn't growing as quickly as it was a few weeks ago, but I really appreciate having a project I can work on here and there.

I think I'm reading even less than I'm crocheting right now. At night, after a long day of nurse-mothering, I'm kind of collapsing on the couch with snacks and something on the TV. Last night, it was popcorn, orange soda and Muriel's Wedding (one of my all-time favorite movies) on Netflix. I'm still reading the Nora Ephron collection I shared last week, and have been thumbing through this book too, Other People's Rejection Letters, which I found at the library. It's depressing and hilarious at the same time.

(Hey, come back on Friday, I have a surprise for you!)

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along

Monday, July 13, 2015

Home!










I really don't think I've ever been as ecstatic, thrilled and grateful to walk through the front door of my home as I was this weekend. We left the hospital and I practically ran out of the place. They did a fantastic job of caring for the LB, and it was important to me to keep my mood upbeat and my face smiley while we were there, but you know what the hospital is like. I was feeling positive about his surgery, though; if it worked, it gets one anatomical problem out of the way and will make it easier to focus on the larger issues of kidney function, metabolic health and overall health and growth, all of which will need to be watched and monitored for the rest of his life. Having good doctors for him now, and hopefully right through childhood and adolescence, means the world to us.

He was such a good little patient and everyone loved him. The housekeeping woman told him that he had pretty eyes and that she wanted to take him out with her on a Sunday to show him off. He was bashful but I think he liked it. Doctors and nurses told him he was smart and well-spoken and that he seemed much older than nine. Between the compliments and the cable television and the unlimited cups of juice (we don't have either of those at home), he had some good distractions and made a satisfactory recovery, at least by hospitalization standards.

Now at home, the recovery continues, and it hasn't been easy. He's in a lot of pain. We've set him up on the couch in the family room. The end seats of the couch recline, so he's been laying back in his seat with a small table pushed up beside him where he keeps his water bottle, books, tablet and writing materials. He has done a little math work, which seemed to make him fall asleep, so we haven't pushed it. We take walks through the house and around the backyard, arm in arm - he needs support for walking right now. He sat outside on the patio last night with Penny Hen on the chair with him while the Bear grilled hamburgers for dinner. At least it's nice out, and we've had wonderful cloudy afternoons and evening storms. Fresh air does him good and he sure loves his chickens. Inside, we're watching movies and food shows. He reads the newspaper comics on the tablet every day. He's enjoying the forbidden luxuries of juice and jello. He's getting there.

It's not really about me, of course, but I'm so glad to be home. I ate and slept very little in the hospital. I've been very grateful for wholesome food and my own bed, which has never seemed so comfortable. My days are packed at home, there's no time to get bored with the catheter care, medications, temperature checks, incision checks, bathing and other general care activities. It's okay. I actually really like to take care of sick people. I never considered it when I was younger, but I would probably have made a good nurse. The GB helps a lot, little sweetheart. That's especially good as I have my work cut out for me this week while the Bear travels to Washington, DC. He won't be back until Friday, and since I can't go out right now, I shopped yesterday and laid in lots of food. I have a full Netflix streaming queue, library books I haven't read yet and plenty of yarn to knot. In between care cycles, and at night, I'll have plenty of time for me.

Thank you so much for the get-well wishes and lovely, kind comments over the past few days. They mean so much to me. It was a delight to have your comments to read in the hospital. They made a hard situation a little bit easier. It was comforting. I'm sorry to say that my blog feeds are a lost cause at the moment; I'm just going to start over when I have more time. I'm determined to keep blogging as I can while we work through this; the routine and normalcy helps a lot. I look forward to getting back to reading blogs too. Thanks again for your kind words. I hope your week is getting off to a good start.
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