Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Knit a Pumpkin

It started out as a hat, honest.

I found the pattern on Ravelry . We needed costumes for the front office for Halloween. This seemed the perfect thing to top off our orange shirts and jeans. It was written for kids sizes but no problem, I'd just use bigger needles. Right? I cast on for the XL. Just like the Great Pumpkin, it kept growing and growing and growing! Pretty soon it was obvious that I was not going to be able to finish 3 more hats by Halloween, not to mention that this hat was taking on gargantuan proportions.

When I finally bound off the last stitch, I tried it on my husband's head. With his hair in its current manifestation, it's bigger than most heads, but the hat slipped so far over his ears even his beard was dwarfed by it. He looked like a sultan in Aladdin. Not a look to which he aspired. Probably just as well because I was getting the vibe that he wasn't about to wear a pumpkin hat anyway.

I wasn't about to waste the knitting time however. I decided to pick up stitches from the brim of the hat with a circular needle and knit the durn thing closed. I continued in seed stitch until the pattern was suffering due to being decreased, then I went to stockingette stitch until I had about 9 stitches left. I cut the yarn, threaded the remaining stitches on the cut yarn and pulled the opening closed. Ta dah! A pumpkin bottom. I stuffed it and stitched it shut, stitched on the leaf and ta dah again! A fat pumpkin!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dizzy Baby Sweater

There once was a sheep named Dizzy,
His hair was white and frizzy,
He loved to give deals,
That were almost steals,
And that make my heart warm and fizzy!

If your a knitter and you've never checked out www.dizzysheep.com, you are missing out! It's like Woot for knitters. Every day they have a new deal on a different kind of yarn or needles or spinning wheel with one dollar shipping!

On May 1st, I checked out the Daily Dizzy Deal and found Plymouth Cotton Kisses Baby Sweater Knit Kit. It consisted of Cotton Kisses, a multicolored, multi-thickness cotton yarn, 3 duckie buttons and 2 patterns, in 3 sizes. My husband's office mate had just had a new baby added to his family, so I bought one in blue and green. Straight blue had already sold out! Both patterns are knit in pieces and then put together. Then the button band is picked up and knitted for the cardigan and the placket and neck picked up and knitted for the pullover. I made the cardigan. It turned out bigger than I expected but then I didn't swatch (gasp) and I never gave it to the family until September so the boy needed the extra size. It all worked out. I think I'll swatch next time though. It was a quick knit and very satifying.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Christmas Carol Train Tour

All Aboard!!!! The Disney Christmas Carol Train Tour pulled into Union Station at Washington, DC September 29th and 30th. Hubby and I just happened to have a free, comp-time afternoon, so we jumped on the Metro and headed to Union Station. We found the Train Tour at Gate G. That a way!

We walked all the way down the train on the outside and then walked back on the inside. The outside decorations were stunning. I can just imagine seeing this train fly past on the rails.

To set the mood, a quartet of singers clad in Victorian dress entertained us with Christmas Carols (go figure! ).

Just inside the door cast members instructed us not to use flash photography. The first room showcased costumes from the movie along with pictures of the characters. The picture shows Bob Crachett's character, one of the characters played by Gary Oldman. In glass cases were memorabilia from the Charles Dickens Museum, sometimes from the Christmas Carol, sometimes not.

The second room showed maquettes and scenes used to provide a "real" picture of what the computer was supposed to simulate.

The next two rooms explained the motion capture process. The actors dressed up in tight fitting leotards covered in what looked like half ping pong balls but what were really "eyes" for the cameras. They provided data for the computers that would be used to animate the movie. The actors themselves had a myriad of dots on their faces that captured their facial movements. The actors were truly acting. The sets were sparse, the costumes non-existent so the actors had to rely almost exclusively on their imaginations.

To finish, we used a touch screen computer to explore the world of A Christmas Carol and then got to morph our own faces into one of the movie's characters. When the email gets to my inbox, I'll save and post it.

When we exited the train, we were almost back at the gate. Next we headed into the main concourse where you entered a balloon tent (even the doors had air in them) to see a sneak preview of a couple of 3-D scenes from the movie in some really attractive mirrored glasses! After the preview, adults could enter a sweepstakes to win a touchscreen computer and printer, and kids could enter to win a chance to be a Movie Surfer in their own hometown as well as score some Christmas tattoos.

The Christmas Carol stars Jim Carrey, Gary Oldman, Cary Elwes, Robin Wright-Penn and Colin Firth. It opens on November 6. I probably won't be fighting the crowds for the opening weekend, but it sounds like a fun Friday after Thanksgiving kind of movie, just right to get into the Christmas Spirit. And those glasses, too cute! :0)

Monday, August 31, 2009

The Best Pancakes I Ever Had

Saturday, Steve made the best pancakes I ever had. (Although honestly, anything he cooks is just great because I didn't have to cook it myself!)

He started out with Krusteaz pancake mix. Then he added mini chocolate chips. If that wasn't wonderful enough, he added a 1/3 cup of cocoa powder! We shared one to see if he needed to add sugar. Nope, with syrup it was perfect. I wish I'd taken a picture of how lovely they were. Just too good! Photos will have to wait for next time because we definitely be having them again!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Smothered Chicken Poblano

Oy! What a week! I barely remember the chicken poblano that titles this blog post! The teachers were back this week which means that the students are back next week. Please understand, this is the normal rhythm of a school and by no means unwelcome (to double my negative), but hectic is the first word that comes to mind and busy is the second. Schedules don't mesh for some reason and computers choose to work at half speed. Printers that were networked last year seem to have taken the summer off and don't want the vacation to end. Elevators used in the morning have burned up motors and a visit from the fire department in the evening. Smothered chicken poblano is last week's recipe. Cookies 'n Cream shakes with a side of fries is this week's, but if smothered chicken poblano intrigues you, head to the Old Hickory Grill in Burtonsville. In DH's opinion, their smothered chicken poblano is the definitive smothered chicken poblano. My recipe wasn't dog food, mind but just not real smothered chicken poblano. Now if I can just recreate OHG's recipe at home, so we don't have to pay $14.99.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Amish Friendship Bread

When DH came home with a bag of Amish Friendship bread starter, I told him, "Honey, friends don't give friends Amish Friendship Bread starter!" Have you ever kept a starter? You have to mess with it for 10 days, either burping it and mashing the bag or adding ingredients. And then on the 10th day, when it is ready, you have to find a few "friends" that you want to bless with the same headache you just went through for the last 10 days! JUST SAY NO!

I froze the starter after I made my last batch of bread. I figured I'd just use it for myself and not burden my friends. I made the chocolate variety. I added small chocolate chips and dried cherries. It made 2 medium-sized loaves and one large one.

I still had a cup of starter, so I made traditional Amish Friendship Bread, too.Well sort of. I added banana and coconut extract and almonds. Not very Amish I guess. Read the reviews after clicking on the link. One says that you don't need starter. In fact a friend of mine at work makes it all the time without the starter.

So the moral of this story is that while friends don't give time consuming starter to friends, they do give yummy, chocolatey, cinnamony bread for their friend's consumption! :0)

Monday, August 17, 2009


You never visit the sights near where you live. Unless you get some free Metro passes and decide to explore Washington DC and get hooked. At least that's my experience.

Our latest foray into the wilds of DC was to the Newseum, last Friday. It wasn't our first visit there. We read too much in exhibits and we like to sleep in so have an annoying habit of not being able to finish one museum in one day. 5 o'clock comes quickly when you don't get to a place until 1.

We skipped the orientation video this trip and most of the upper floors. That's the weird thing about this particular place--you start at the basement and then take a great glass elevator (largest one outside of Charlie's chocolate factory) up to the top floor where you wind back down to the ground floor. Having seen floors 6 through 4 as well as the Berlin Wall and the G-Man exhibit on the basement level, we started with the First Amendment Gallery. It lists our first amendment rights and what they have come to mean in the intervening two centuries and change of existence. Ice T even makes an appearance in the video as well as Martin Luther King, Jr.

From the interactive computers where you can play a game showing how well you know your rights, the exhibit segues into Journalists Memorial. It's not quite as touching as the 9/11 gallery but you can see examples of the trouble that journalists around the world willingly get into as they seek to convey the news to their audience.

From there you wind your way into the Bloomberg Internet, TV and Radio exhibit. There are nifty time lines on the walls showing how the three interact with each other as people get their information from these different sources. You can choose video and soundbites from eras of history on computer/video monitors posted throughout the exhibit. One of the most fascinating interactions of tv and radio was the Kennedy-Nixon debate shown. The radio audience compared Nixon's calm, even Midwestern voice to Kennedy's broad Massachusetts accent and gave the nod to Nixon. The tv audience, however, saw Kennedy's youthful, handsome visage and compare it to Nixon's sweaty, shifty-eyed performance and said that Kennedy won the day.

On the next floor down sits the interactive newsroom where guests can try out their skills as newscasters and for a price, take their efforts home. Not feeling the playacting vibe, we bypassed that opportunity to play interactive games about ethics. Then ACK it was nearly 5 o'clock. How did that happen? We were going to miss the 4D movie again! NEWMAN! We rushed downstairs. Yippee, the docents were still ushering folks in to the movie! We took our seats in the middle (because those were the ones with movement whatever that meant), put on our glasses and waited for the show. 4D meant a 3D movie and the seats rocking forward and back and spraying us with mist. Not Disney World but not meh either.

A fast trip through the Pulitzer prize winning photos enabled us to feel like we'd actually done the Newseum well enough to wait until the exhibits were updated for another trip. A quick trip up the hill to the Verizon Center and the green line (after stopping at the Red Velvet cupcakery for a treat), and we were home again, home again jiggity jig.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski

On the back of the book jacket, Stephen King says that he "flat-out loved" The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. He also said that he never usually re-reads books but that he will this one. Oprah made it one of her 2008 Book Club selections. Due respect to these media titans but I disagree. (BTW, if you intend to read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, perhaps you'd best return to this post after you've read it. Otherwise, be warned--there be spoilers ahead!)

I finished the story on Friday morning before DH and I headed to the Newseum (the subject of another post, I'm sure). The rest of the day, I was shaking my head and saying to myself, "What?" It ends with most of the human characters dead and one of the dog characters making her choice on where to start her new life without humans with her pack of those who survived the trip, the fittest, I guess, following her. I thought, "What a lousy way to end a book," and "Oprah has really lost it this time."

I kept mulling it over. I fell asleep and in the night God's Spirit must have talked to my spirit because I had an epiphany--it's all about the worldview, baby. Neither Stephen King nor Oprah share my evangelical Christian worldview. So it stands to reason that they'd see this book differently than I did.

I don't believe evolution explains the world very well. The author of this book seems to with the Sawtelle dogs evolving into the "next dogs" who could decide for themselves. (Although I'd submit that the Sawtelle men had a lot to do with the intelligent design of this breed.) Essay at the end of the book seemed to be the first of these "next dogs" who could decide where they were going in life--after all she did bark back a water spout (in her opinion).

I thought that justice should have been done--Edgar should have been made responsible for his manslaughter of Dr. Papineau (even if it was wiped off the books at 18), Claude should have paid a la the best detective shows for his murder of Gar Sawtelle, Trudy shouldn't have lost her son, her husband and most of her dogs. The author had a different view of justice--Claude did die and Edgar did pay and life was just tough to Trudy, but one day she'd be with those she loved probably if Edgar's seeing Almondine at death was any indication.

To me the book was unsatisfying--why in heaven's name should you bother with a "coming of age" story about a boy who is going to be murdered as soon as he gets home? In the worldview of the book, however, that scenario makes perfect sense because it wasn't just the boy who was growing up, it was the dogs, too. They survived even if the people didn't.

One of my fellow book-clubbers summed up my sentiments about The Story of Edgar Sawtelle exactly when she said that we shouldn't read any more Oprah Book Club books. I did learn how hard dogs were to train without having to train one myself, but that wasn't enough to recommend the book. This is one I'm selling to my local used book store.