Wednesday, February 28, 2018

All happening

Greetings on the last day of February. This month felt fairly quick to me, in spite of the fact that we had a full week of illness in there. We also had some deliciously wintry weather and fewer of the very warm, sunny days than we've had in Februaries past, which is exactly how I want it. Here at home, the illness has moved on and everyone is feeling better. Still sniffling and coughing, of course, but that can go on for weeks, so I'm not worried about it. Nope, February was pretty good and now March is forecast to enter in lamb-like fashion, so it's all good. I like March, especially when Easter is relatively early. I bought Easter-egg dyes yesterday. I bought some Easter stickers too - pretty, sparkly eggs. I'll use them for the homeschool/chore charts after we pass St. Patrick's Day and finish up the shamrocks.

I've been stitching and crocheting these past couple of weeks, since I started being stuck in the house more with sickies. I finished the Vintage Red Coffeepot I'd been working on and have moved on to the Little Vintage Teapot (both designs are from Stitchrovia on Etsy). I really like these designs; they're very straightforward, just cross-stitches without special tricks like half-crosses or backstitch outlining. Just simple blocks of color with a little bit of pretty detailing, like a small floral design on each one. Sometimes I want to do intricate stitching on high-count linen, I like that very much too, but this kind of stitching always feels therapeutic to me. The design takes shape quickly and progress feels real. I'm always happy for an hour or so of stitching in my chair with the sun behind me.

In crochet news, I'm making granny hexagons. I'd made some hexes here and there over the past couple of years while trying to decide on a motif for the blanket which eventually became Maybelle. I'm still stashbusting with worsted acrylic yarn, having amassed a huge supply that I can no longer comfortably store in our office/craft room. I got interested in hexes again recently, and I went back to a pattern I'd tried at least a year ago, which I came across on a blog called Novamade. I've long loved the look of Nova's blanket with large, multi-colored hexes edged in white. For a while there, I was feeling a shift away from multi-colored crochet, finding it a bit too busy and fussy, but lately I've been drawn to it again. I have lots of cream-colored yarn and can put it to good use in a blanket like this. It turns out that I really like making hexes - like really, really. They're fun! And portable. Joining them is fun too. I did some looking around for a JAYG method but didn't feel satisfied with what I found, so I improvised my own. I'm not saying I invented it, but I found something that seems to work for me. I've made about eight hexes so far. I don't know what I'll do with this blanket - if I actually end up making something that can be termed a blanket - but for now, it's a really nice way to fit some crochet into my days.

This morning, I bought a potted hyacinth! So excited about this. I went to Trader Joe's for groceries, hoping to find bunches of tulips, or at least daffodils, but they had neither. They did have potted bulbs, though, and the hyacinths called out to me. I haven't had a hyacinth in a few years; I love them but I always forget about them when they're in season, or I go for the instant gratification of flashy tulips already in bloom. It isn't always like me, but I'm glad I chose something I need to be patient for this time. Hyacinths are totally worth the wait.

Outside, my few tough old tulips are starting to poke up, along with some daffodil and grape hyacinth shoots. I don't always get flowers from any of this, but I'm ever hopeful. The plum and apple trees are starting to bud. We should have plum blossom, at least, but the end of the month, if not sooner. I went to Jo-Ann Fabrics yesterday to return an online yarn order that looked way better online; while I waited for my turn at the counter, there was a conversation between all of us customers about flowering trees and their current progress. There were about six of us, men and women, thirties to maybe seventies, I'd guess. It was like an old-time chat in the general store. Everyone had something to say and all were polite and cheerful. I learned a couple of things. I loved it. I wish it happened to me every day. I felt so good about people.

Today, I have bean soup in the crockpot, to which I will be adding the last of my Christmas ham from the freezer. I have to make room for the Easter ham leftovers. We have the LB's guitar lesson and the GB's ballet class this afternoon. When we get home, I'll make a salad to eat with the soup. I finished all the laundry and washed the kids' outer shells from their winter coats; it's warm enough to wear just the fleece liners now (we'll put the shells back on if we have to, of course). They seem so sprightly and free when they stop wearing their bulky winter coats.

I've started making hold requests for my summer library books; some of the most popular titles have hundreds of holds on the already, so there's a good chance I won't have my turn until June or July. What are you reading lately? I'd love to check the library for copies, so let me know what you're liking to read right now.

What's going on where you are? I hope the end of the week is good to you. Here, we have Private Friday to look forward to (probably errand-filled, but there should at least be time for lunch), and a return to the GB's Saturday guitar lesson, which she missed while she was sick. I'm planning to make Cobb salads for our at-home dinner date on Saturday night. I bought avocados today, to make sure they're ripe in time. The weather is supposed to be very nice, so maybe we'll have a long walk. We could do yard work, and I'm sure we will, but we'll definitely play too.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Slowcooker shredded chicken + easy enchiladas

Hello! Thanks for your sweet comments on my last post. I've been wanting to get back here all week, but the Dreaded Crud has hit my house and I've been too busy taking care of ill children to be able to blog. Everyone will be fine, but the illness drags on and on. I'm hoping that a nice, calm weekend at home will get everybody back to robust health. I'm feeling fine, by the way, and doing everything in my power to stay healthy. I had a whole list of things I'd been wanting to accomplish this week and I did exactly none of them, but there's always next week. Hopefully, everyone will be well by then and life can resume as usual. As I've said before, I don't think illness in the house is all bad. You are forced to slow down, stay home, and tend to the basic things. I'd never wish for anyone to be sick, but in a way, the break from life at normal speed is almost welcome. This morning, I'm watching snow fall outside and enjoying a marathon viewing of Animal Airport on Netflix.

I've read some fantastic blog posts lately, dealing with meal-planning and cooking. I think I'll write a similar post soon, when I have a little more time to sit and think, but I wanted to share a couple of cooking tips/recipes today. I've been finding myself feeling sort of bored with a lot of my cooking lately, and have been looking for new, interesting ways to do things. One thing I've been doing fairly often is to cook chicken breasts in my crockpot that I can shred for use in other recipes. Do you ever do this? It's a really convenient way to have cooked chicken on hand, for use in salads, sandwiches, casseroles, and more. There are many ways to make crockpot shredded chicken, but here is the way I've been doing it; I'm aiming for chicken that has a versatile seasoning so that it can be used in a variety of different types of cooking.

Crockpot Shredded Chicken
2 lbs. uncooked chicken breasts
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. Mrs. Dash salt-free seasoning
1/4 tsp. black pepper

I always coat my crockpot liner with cooking spray before I put any food in, to help keep it from sticking. I place the chicken in the pot, then pour in the liquid around it. You can use water or chicken broth. I tend to use water, because I rarely have ready-to-use broth on hand (I usually use bouillon cubes in soups), but if you were to use broth, you might wish to adjust the added salt. Then I sprinkle the spices evenly over the meat. I know it seems like you're just boiling chicken here, which I admit doesn't seem appetizing, but it works well and gives you very tender meat - trust me.

Crockpots can vary a lot in cooking time and temperature needs, but in my old-school, manual, dual-setting Rival crockpot, I cook this chicken on LOW for 2-3 hours. You may have to experiment with your own crockpot. You can also do what I do, and use a thermometer to know when the chicken is ready. Chicken is safely cooked at 165 degrees. When my chicken is fully cooked, I remove it from the crockpot and place it on a cutting board to cool a bit until I can handle it. At this point, I turn off the crockpot, reserving the liquid inside for later.

Have you ever shredded meat before? Some people like to use two forks to pull the meat into shreds. You can even get a special tool that looks like a giant comb for this purpose. I just use my hands for this chicken. I put the chicken in a bowl that has a lid, and use a ladle to pour some of the cooking liquid over the meat, to keep it moist. Then I cover it and pop it in the fridge until I need it. This chicken will stay fresh for several days in the fridge. I take some as needed for my lunch, to put on a salad, or mix with mayo for a chicken salad sandwich, or I use the whole recipe for one family meal. One thing I love to make with shredded chicken is an enchilada recipe I found in one of my Betty Crocker calendars a few years ago, which I've adapted a bit to our own tastes.

Chipotle Adobo Enchiladas (adapted from Betty Crocker)

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups cooked, shredded chicken
20 ounces canned enchilada sauce
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce
1 tbsp. taco seasoning mix
2 cups shredded monterey jack cheese, divided
6 flour tortillas
Sour cream

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9 by 13 baking dish with cooking spray, set aside.

In an 8-inch skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, cook 3-5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, cook additional 1-2 minutes.

Transfer onion-garlic mixture to a medium bowl. Add chicken and taco mix, stir until well-combined.

In small food processor, process chipotle chile and enchilada sauce until smooth. Pour 1/2 cup of the enchilada sauce into baking dish, and spread in even layer. Add 1 cup of the enchilada sauce to the chicken mixture along with 1 cup of the cheese. Stir until well combined.

Place slightly less than 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture along middle of each tortilla. Roll up, and place seam sides down in baking dish. Top with remaining enchilada sauce, followed by remaining cheese.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes or until filling is hot and cheese is melted and bubbly. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve with sour cream.

This recipe is very flexible. When I first started making it, I followed it as written. The recipe uses much less enchilada sauce. I don't know about you, but I need a lot of sauce in my enchiladas - both to soak into the tortillas as they bake, and to have extra for serving. So I use two 10-ounce cans of green chile enchilada sauce, which is the type we prefer. The enchilada sauce and chipotles in adobo can be quite spicy, so I stick to mild taco seasoning to keep the enchiladas from being so hot some family members can't eat it. With this combination, it's just hot enough.

If you aren't familiar with chipotles in adobo, they're a really wonderful ingredient that gives a smoky, spicy flavor to any dish. A chipotle is a kind of roasted, smoked pepper, and adobo is a sauce that it's sort of stewed in. You can buy them chopped or whole. I prefer to buy them whole because they're a bit easier to work with that way. When I open a can of chipotles, I use what I need for a recipe (usually just one pepper plus a bit of sauce), then I freeze the rest of the peppers in an ice cube tray, added a bit of sauce into each compartment. When everything is frozen solid, I remove the chipotle cubes from the tray and wrap each one tightly with Saran Wrap. Then I put all the wrapped cubes into a Ziploc freezer bag and store them with my frozen vegetables in the freezer. This same bag also usually contains frozen cubes of green or red chile sauce (we make our own supplies of both types). It's great for cooking, especially with something like chipotles, since I pretty much never need very much at one time.

I make the sauce mixture in my blender, because my small food chopper isn't large enough for the additional sauce quantity I like to use. It only takes a few seconds to whizz up the sauce with the chipotle and blend them well. I leave the chipotle a little chunky; it looks pretty and gives you a little bite here and there. I also like to use my blender for this step because the blender jar has a pour spout on it, which makes it easier to control as I measure the sauce for each step of the recipe.

Shredded chicken is hard to stir. When I combine it with the onions/garlic, taco mix, sauce and cheese, I find it much easier if I use tongs and sort of toss it around the bowl to mix everything up.

I like to use larger (8 to 10-inch) flour tortillas for this, to make it a more substantial meal, but you could use any kind or size you like. I'm sure corn tortillas would work here, and smaller ones as well, but you'd have to fill them accordingly. With my larger tortillas, I have to shingle them a bit to fit them into the pan.

We love this meal so much. It's a little more labor-intensive than most things I make, so I tend to save it for a weekend. I usually cook the chicken the day before I plan to make this recipe, so that I don't have to do it all in one day, but you could do it all if you cooked the chicken in the morning. OR, you could use leftover roasted chicken, or even meat pulled from a store-bought rotisserie chicken. You can do whatever works for you; adjust the sauce quantity, the spiciness, or the cheese type or amount, along with the tortillas. You could even mix up your own spices instead of using the taco mix. It's a nice recipe for planned leftovers too; we usually get a family dinner and lunch the next day from this recipe, or a couple of days of work lunches for the Bear instead. You could even freeze the whole pan and reheat them on a different day. I love having recipes like this in my plan, and it's even better with easy-to-make, recipe-ready chicken.

Friday, February 16, 2018

February flowers

Hello! It's Friday night and I'm relaxing in front of the TV with the Bear. We had a good day today. It was Private Friday and we opted to stay home most of the morning, before going to the library and lunch. He had work to do this morning and I was happy to sit on the couch and read. The weather wasn't very nice - we had our best storm of the winter from Wednesday to Thursday, with lingering cold and dampness today - and it was good to stay inside and relax. At the library, I picked up my hold book, a new biography of my girl Stevie Nicks. Then we went to a bakery/sandwich shop and ate paninis. We picked up the small Bears at school and came home for more relaxation. I made fish and chips (frozen Gorton's fillets and french fries). The children recently went to bed and now we're watching This Old House. Soon, I'll make our customary Friday night stove popcorn, and we'll be watching The Grand Tour - not my favorite, but I do like to support other people's interests from time to time.

Thank you for the nice things you said about my budding Elise Shawl. I'm still plugging away. I'm only just starting to find it a bit easier lately, but it's still slow going. That's okay, I'm not in any hurry. Making it has inspired me to try crocheting other garments for myself eventually. I'd like to make some shrug-type sweaters to wear with dresses and sleeveless tops. I have a few patterns in mind, but I'm not really sure where to begin with yarn. I'd like to use something nicer than my usual budget-priced acrylic yarns, which I love for blankets, and preferably a natural fiber. But my budget isn't going to grow much, so I have to really look. If you have a suggestion for a nice, affordable yarn I might try, please share. I'm very open to ideas.

Speaking of low-priced yarn, I did buy some Vanna's Choice worsted acrylic this week, to add to my blanket stash. I realized that even though I'm on a stash-busting mission, I was missing a few colors that I needed to tie the others together. I like Vanna's Choice well enough. I prefer I Love This Yarn, but last time I went to Hobby Lobby, their stock was very low in the kinds of colors I like. I didn't want to keep running back there, and I have trouble justifying an online order when HL is, like, five minutes from my house, so I bought the Vanna's instead. Whatever it takes to get this stash down, right? I knew you'd agree.

Have you been watching the Olympics? We try to watch a little every night. I greatly prefer the winter games over the summer ones. I've been watching figure-skating, as I always do, and thinking about the Nancy Kerrigan-Tonya Harding scandal of 1994. I was a teenager, watching every night with my whole family around a small TV set. I remember being pretty defensive of Tonya, which kind of appalls me now, but I thought she was cool, I guess. It was all we talked about - me, my sisters, our friends. We ate it up; we had a horrendous winter (in New York, where I grew up) that year, with something like 23 school days cancelled for snow. We needed something to do. Everyone took a side. At the time, my favorite TV show was COPS; I think I've always been attracted to people acting their worst. The Nancy-Tonya scandal combined such exciting elements - violence, glittery costumes, sneering women, fabulous athleticism - it was better than COPS, even. I haven't seen the new movie about Tonya, but I did watch the ESPN documentary a few years ago. I hope they're both doing okay now. I feel a little badly for contributing to the drama by being such an avid consumer back then, but it was the thing to do in that long, miserable winter. I'm glad to see better sportsmanship this time; adult-me prefers kindness and friendly competition over the cutthroat ugliness cheered on by kid-me.

I think winter has finally come to my neck of the woods, after months of warm, dry weather. This week's storm brought about three-quarters of an inch of rain to my backyard, with snow at higher elevation up the mountain. I've enjoyed having cold, damp weather for a change. There may be more coming in the early part of next week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Meanwhile, spring is starting to happen outside too; there are tiny green shoots coming up in my backyard planter beds, and the winter jasmine is in full, golden bloom in the front yard. We cleared out the backyard beds and pruned everything in the front yard over the past few weekends, so we should be ready for the new spring growth.

This week, I was given a beautiful vase of yellow tulips for Valentine's Day. They're the kind that have the bulb attached at the bottom of the vase, in a couple of inches of water. I'm so excited about these tulips. You're supposed to be able to plant the bulbs for future blooms. I've had terrible luck with bulbs here (squirrels dig them up and eat most of them), but I'm willing to try again. I love tulips so much. I do have one small yellow one that comes up every year in the backyard bed. I can see it from the kitchen sliding doors, tiny and bright.

This weekend, we'll be taking it easy at home, puttering and hanging out. We've had a few sniffles and we're tired from a hard few weeks of endless school projects and work commitments. We won't really have a break from school until the end of March, unfortunately, but I know we're all counting down. In the meantime, we're relaxing as we can and enjoying the stay-home weather we're getting at the moment. I'm going to finish my little red coffeepot cross-stitching and start the teapot. I have plenty of crochet and lots of new library books. I hope you have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Crochet frontiers

Happy Thursday! It's almost the weekend. I hope you've been having a good week. Thank you for all the nice things you said about my blog after my last post. I hope you know I wasn't fishing for compliments, but it's lovely to receive them all the same. I really just wanted to let you know that I've been struggling a little bit lately with blogging. I worry sometimes that there isn't much I can share here that will keep people's attention anymore. I shouldn't let myself get caught up in those kinds of thoughts, but it does happen now and then. The main thing is that I love blogging and I plan to keep doing it. Thanks again for your support and kindness, and for sticking around to read what I share here. It makes me happy to know that I bring something enjoyable to your life.

Today, I want to share something new I've been working on. I have been hoping to expand my crochet horizons lately, by trying to create more wearable items, and using different kinds of yarn. That's one reason I've been trying to plow through my sizeable stash of worsted acrylic yarn, which is most appropriate for blankets. I'd like to have more space for other types of yarn, to make different things. I've wanted to do this for a while now, but it was a little daunting when I thought about all the yarn I needed to move out before I could.

After Big Gulp, I've made a good dent, so I'm letting myself take a little dip into the new frontiers I've been dreaming about. I'm trying my hand at lace crochet! Yes. I'm starting with the very popular Elise Shawl by Evan Plevinski (link goes to Ravelry; there's a free pattern download). I have had the pattern in my Ravelry library for several years. I've always liked the look of this design when I've seen it on blogs (Meredith is a prolific maker of beautiful Elise Shawls). Also, the shawl shares its name with someone very dear to me, which is one reason it caught my eye in the first place.

It took several tries to get to grips with the pattern, which was very confusing to me at first. I finally figured it out and it's been smoother since, but I wouldn't say easy, exactly. Not yet. I'm working fairly slowly and I have a long way to go, but it is making more sense now. One cool thing is that I'm using a stitch marker as I work, to help me keep track of the center stitch in each row. I recently upgraded from my first set of plastic markers, which were breaking one by one as I used them (I guess the plastic dried out or something), to much more durable metal ones. I feel like a Really Serious Fiber Artist.

The shawl is meant to be crocheted with a light yarn, such as sock-weight. I'm still learning about yarn types and weights - I've pretty much only used worsted or DK/baby/sport-weight yarn in most of my crochet, with a few attempts at thread crochet. So I wasn't totally sure what to use for this shawl, but in my poking around at the craft store, I came across Lion Brand Shawl in a Ball, which seemed like a really good way to start. Plenty of yardage, a light, airy weight, and many pretty variegated colorways, so I didn't need to worry about buying lots of shades. The yarn is a cotton-acrylic blend; the colored part is acrylic and the white ("slub") part is cotton.

I searched within the Elise Shawl projects on Ravelry for shawls made with Shawl in a Ball, and they looked lovely to me, with the colors pooling beautifully in the crochet. I chose the Calming Desert colorway because I really liked the purple-to-orange progression within it. This yarn has been a learning experience for me; it's finer and softer than most yarns I've used, and the texture is a bit inconsistent - smooth and silky in some places, sort of fuzzy in others, but I think that's part of the appeal. Worked up, the shawl is lightly rustic, pretty but not overly polished. I'm using an I/9 (5.5mm) hook, one size smaller than Lion Brand's recommendation; for me, the larger hook made the yarn harder to work with.

And check this out - blocking mats! I've only done a little bit of blocking here and there, with small decorations crocheted with cotton yarns. But this shawl is going to need a pretty good amount of blocking and shaping when it's all finished, to give it the beautiful winged shape and to give the stitch pattern the openness and definition needed for the beautiful lacy design to show up. I ordered these Hephaestus Crafts blocking mats, which also included a box of T-pins, from Amazon. I haven't used them yet, but they seem sturdy and well-made, and I'm looking forward to trying them out. I can't wait to see how this shawl works out; I'm not sure it will be gift-grade on my first try, but I'd wear it myself and keep trying. For now, I'm just really glad to be learning something new.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Winter waning

Hello! I hope you're having a good weekend. Here, it's Super Bowl Sunday and I'm getting some things organized so we can have a fun plate-on-your-lap kind of dinner later on while we watch the game. I did laundry all morning and I'm so glad that's over now.

It's good to be back here on my blog again. I'm still having some trouble finding interesting things to say and share here; life has been quiet and pleasant, and I'm feeling much better after a stressful few months. But I'm starting to notice that blogs are disappearing and that worries me. I don't have any plan to quit my blog, but I do think I need to adopt a new mindset. Instead of wondering whether the things I write here are interesting enough (there's enough navel-gazing in the world), I'm just going to assume that if you've been reading my blog for a while (I've been doing this over five years now, holy cow), then you like the kind of mundane, daily-life stuff I share. You're not looking for beautifully styled food, artfully battered furniture or expertly planned wardrobes. And a good thing, too - I don't have any of it. I completely get that there are lots of places to go for inspiration, and far be it from me to dictate where anyone else should look for it. I just wanted you to know, lovely reader, that I'm still here and still thinking basic, everyday life stuff. It's what I do, and who I am, so it should be what I write about.

Thank you for the lovely things you said about my Big Gulp blanket. I'm really happy with it, especially because it's big and warm, and it used up so much yarn. I still have plenty left over to make at least one more blanket. I'm thinking about something with hexagons. I've tried them in the past and given up quickly, but I feel like giving them another shot. Some of my oldest blankets, which we use in the family room for TV-watching and tent-building, mainly, could stand to be replaced. I've realized lately just how important proper sewing-in of ends actually is, because when I look at my early blankets where I tended to take it for granted, there are holes and unraveling sections galore. My first ripple, made in 2011, looks like a big slice of Swiss cheese. Sew your ends in properly, kids. Avoid blanket cheese.

I've been cross-stitching while I think about the next stash-busting, cheese-replacing blanket. I'm working on the Vintage Red Coffee Pot design from Stitchrovia, a cross-stitch pattern shop on Etsy. I also plan to stitch the similar design, Little Vintage Tea Pot, and hang them together in my kitchen. I bought the patterns way back in 2014 and have been excited to make them ever since, but other projects kept coming up. I really like Stitchrovia, by the way; the designs are modern, colorful and very striking visually. I have also stitched the adorable, kitschy Retro Kitchen Sampler design, which has been hanging in my kitchen for a couple of years. I'm thinking about doing this Strawberries and Cream design eventually too. My kitchen has a strawberry theme, and there's a wall in the breakfast nook that I really want to restyle. Right now it has a poster-sized, framed botanical print of strawberry plants and...that's it. The wall has looked this way since 2009 and was meant to be a stopgap while I decided what I wanted. Nine years later, I really think it's high time to move on.

I wanted to report on our successful new plan where the LB stays at the library for computer coding club by himself. It's going so well. I'm really pleased. He already knows a lot about coding (programming), but he's learning a lot of new things (to his great surprise; I knew he still had plenty of room but you know how it goes). The club is for ages 12-17, and the kids are at all different ability levels. They provide snacks, which is obviously a selling point (I've heard about mini bags of chips, granola bars, and Red Vines licorice whips). The instructor is also one of the children's librarians and we've known her for ages, so he's comfortable with her and I'm happy knowing she's a good egg. Really, it's been a great addition to our family's life. I'm proud of him, especially. He's growing up and while I'm not always thrilled about that, we're figuring it out together. 12 has been easier in certain ways that 10 and 11 were. I don't know if that's true for girls as well, but I guess I'll soon find out.

We finally had some snow about two weeks ago. And by "some," I mean a very tiny dusting. We woke up to a thin layer of snow that was really more like a sheet of ice. It was kind of dangerous, actually. The back patio was like glass. But there was a little snow on the tops of the railroad ties edging the planter bed, and a little fluffy layer covering the empty pots on the patio, and even a little on the trees. It was nice while it lasted. Now it's warm out, like so often happens in February. It could still go back to being cold again, but it's been such a weird winter that I won't count on that. A shame, really, because I love winter. I look forward to bad weather, wind in the chimney and fires in the fireplace. I hope there's still a little more to come.

All the same, I'm already thinking about summer. We'll continue with swimming and diving lessons. I will need to consult the library summer programs calendar when that gets released, but I'm sure we'll make it to many of those events, as we always do. I've made camping reservations already, for one weekend in June and one in July. We're going to try one new campground this year (well, new to me and the kids; the Bear has camped there in the past), and stick with one of our old favorites too. I'm hoping for dry weather, unlike last summer's monsoonal experience, but we'll make it work whatever happens. I really like camping, and there's a lot to be said for adaptability and resilience, or so they tell me. I mostly agree, but I also like dryness and comfort. Oh, did I mention that the new-to-me campground has showers? Heck yeah.

Did you hear that there's going to be a movie with Tom Hanks playing Mr. Rogers? I can't wait. I think that's perfect casting, don't you? They even look alike. The Bear and I were just re-watching Apollo 13, on Netflix, the other night and thinking how great he is. Then I saw the Mr. Rogers news the next day. We also watched A Futile and Stupid Gesture, also on Netflix and really good, about the founder of National Lampoon. We're both big fans of such classy entertainment as Animal House and Caddyshack; movies like this are one of the major ties that bind us, really. I've been watching Victoria, with moderately reluctant participation from my other half, and I really love it. The second season is even better than the first, I think. I'm reading the novel the show is based on at the moment too. I like it, but I prefer some of the Victoria biographies I've read, particularly the recent Julia Baird one.

Oh, we're trying to make sauerkraut right now. I don't eat it myself, but the rest of them like it. I'm not sure how it will work out, but I like the idea of trying to ferment things. We used to make beer, way back in the pre-parenthood days when we actually drank enough beer to make the cost and the effort worthwhile. We've made some pickles, but mostly fresh ones, not really anything fermented. So we'll see about this sauerkraut. Salt and green cabbage are cheap enough to try as many times as it takes.

I hope you have a good week. What have you got going on? It's going to be nice here, so I may take the kids to the BioPark tomorrow morning, to walk around the small aquarium and the botanic garden. Our hens seem to have decided it's spring, what with the lengthening daylight, and they're back to laying eggs. I plan to resume my frittata, omelet and quiche dinners soon. I want to bake something soon too; last week, I baked one of my favorite muffin recipes, Chocolate Chip Muffins from the Brown Eyed Baker blog, which I'd like to try next with blueberries instead of chocolate chips. I really like the lower sugar and the muffins' texture in this recipe, so I want to experiment. I might start that new blanket too. I'll definitely cross-stitch. I've got a big, white wall to fill up!
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