Thursday, May 29, 2008

This Takes The Cake

My birthday was this weekend. I turned 29. Eeek (I really can't be that old, can I?) For the last 23 years I've shared my Memorial Day birthday festivities with my little brother, Alex.

My dear husband has a reputation for making "special" birthday cakes for family members. Alex and I agreed we could share a cake -- it wasn't always that way, though. Jeremy racked his brain coming up with a way tie my interests -- yarn, knitting, sheep -- with Alex's -- guns, military and other fire arms.

When he unveiled the birthday cake Sunday night it was decorated with the standard "Happy B-day Mariah + Alex." Then he hand drew a sheep with -- get this -- machine guns mounted on their backs. It was inspired by Ausin Powers movie where Doctor Evil's son gave him sharks with lasers attached to their heads. I think the sheep with machine guns cake is the coolest cake ever! Tell me what you think.

He told me he was frustrated because he had red, yellow, blue and black food coloring and his options "were limited." I still love it. A cake, I didn't have to make.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I have a garden gnome

She's almost 2 1/2 and is really quite helpful.
She and my brother -- Uncle Dan -- planted the majority of the garden on Sunday.

Over the course of the morning she helped planted all of the tomato and pepper plants. Then she planted a row of cucumbers, beans, and a double row of sweet peas before she got bored/hungry for lunch. After nap the minions helped plant the gourds, mini pumpkins, regular pumpkins and canteloupes. Then we watered the garden. Any time you play with the hose is a fun time.

Say a prayer to St. Anthony

I vividly remember when I was about 4 losing one of my patent leather Mary Janes after church on Sunday and my mother ripping apart the living room in search of this one shoe. I watched in awe -- I'd never seen a tornado in action, but this had to be pretty close.

"Mariah, we've got to find you shoe. Say a prayer to St. Anthony. He's the patron saint of lost things." My mother grew up in a solid Catholic family where saints were apparently frequently called up on to find lost items. She was transferring it on to me -- a child growing up as a Catholic with a father who thought organized religion was a crock.

"Please St. Anthony help me find my shoe." I prayed out loud and then quietly added "Before my mom loses it."

Soon the shoe reappeared, which was inevitable -- the house wasn't that big. It had fallen into my mom's craft basket next to her rocking chair and I was given a reprieve.

This weekend I found my self uttering a prayer -- albeit a silent one -- to St. Anthony to help me find the pattern to make a knitted hoodie for my daughter. Last fall I made one for my son -- but said I'd wait to make the other one until I got a new set of circular needles. Which I did for Mother's Day. The pattern has grown legs and walked off.

The first place I looked, and have done several times since, was my craft basket next to MY rocking chair. No dice. A quick, and semi-systematic search through the chaos known as my craft room yielded similar results. I was mad now.

The sage green yarn is wound. I've found some pretty pink or purple to add as stripes, but alas no pattern.

So, wish me luck in finding it. I'm making a size four. She is 2. Hopefully, I'll find it before she gets to big for it.

Here's the one I made for her borther. It's officially SDSU Blue and Gold. I didn't plan it that way. He picked the blue. I added the gold because it was just too blue. I think we'll be heading to some Jacks games in our future.

Three minutes to spare

There are times in life when you switch to survivor mode even though it isn’t a life-or-death situation. You switch to automatic pilot and go. Get up. Dressed. Wake minions. Feed Minions. Dress minions and head out the door. At work it’s working for survival -- trying to push a gigantic project out the door. We’re talking the size of project that some people spend a year and a half on. Since I’ve been at my current job for not even six months, I didn’t have that luxury for this most recent “project of doom” as I like to call it.

It had been a topic of discussion since I started, but it wasn’t until March that we actually got started figuring out what we were going to do over the five-year grant period. Deciding exactly we would spend a maximum of $2 million tax payer money to improve student learning at the college where I work didn’t begin in earnest until April 22. That’s the day the grant was announced in the Federal Register. The instructions were given in tiny type. 50 pages, 12 point font, 1-inch margins and the deadline was 3:30 p.m. May 22.

I’m not a number person but that’s 30 days. Thankfully, everything pulled together in the last two weeks. When I left work two days before the grant was due, the budget numbers that I had come up with, didn’t match the numbers that automatically added up on the forms I filled out. I left, on time, because I had to go and be a mother. But the nagging sense of dread never left. I was convinced that we’d never get the numbers to add up, the totals wouldn’t balance and I’d was doomed to fail as a grant writer. Did you know sometime’s I’ve got a fatalist attitude?

That night I went to bed and dreamed of work. Set in a lush tropical setting near a waterfall. I stood at the bottom of a cliff and way up top there were hordes of numbers. Like Muppet numbers – soft foam and had arms and googlie eyes. They milled around at the top of the cliff searching for some semblance of order – running into each other -- until the command came.

Suddenly they all ran to the edge of the cliff and jumped. It was a leap of faith – hoping I would catch them and put them in order. Instead I broke their fall and was crushed in the process.

The budget did balance – thanks to the help of a spreadsheet goddess who helped me write formulas and help me solve my problem. And to top it off we submitted the grant at 3:27 p.m. Ladies and Gentlemen that is exactly three minutes before the deadline.

I’m not a procrastinator. I do like to work on deadline. This, however, was a bit close for comfort. The only time I truly began panic was at 3:15 p.m. and the 50 page document was not ready to send electronically.
Consequently Memorial Day weekend I spent in recovery with family and am now just getting caught up with life, knitting, and my desire to raise my own food.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

A Cherry Yarn

I needed something to do the other night when a friend was visiting, so I decided to dye yarn. After a quick rooting through the cupboards I came up with two packets of Walmart brand “cherry” drink mix, one “cherry” Kool Aid drink mix packet and one cherry burst or some other cleverly designed marketing name for a cherry flavored drink mix from Kool Aid. The yarn of choice was a skein of Reynold's Lopi in ecru that I scored at our local craft store for about $4 per skein.

Like so much of my life, I just kind of winged it. It's basically the procedure outlined in
knitty's directions.

The process: Wind the ball into a hank. Soak the yarn in warmish water for at least 30 minutes. I think it ended up being about 45 minutes to an hour, because I started this before supper. Dump the powder in a glass mixing bowl and dilute with water to dissolve. Pour into the pot. Add yarn. Add more water to make sure yarn is covered. Heat it up until almost boiling. Shut off and let soak. As the yarn takes up the dye, the color in the water will disappear. Let it cool. Rinse. Wash with mild soap. I usually use the minions’ baby soap. Rinse again. Hang to dry. I usually hang it over a hanger with a grocery bag hooked on the ends so it will catch the water drips.

I then inhale the wonderful aroma of the yarn/drink mix combo. It's a strange, yet oddly comforting odor. I then re-skeined the product and begin the process of identifying what I’ll knit with it. I’m not a huge fan of the yarn itself, but it does felt nicely. I sure this yarn is destined to become a felted proejct.

Lesson of the Night:
Putting freshly dyed yarn on a freshly cut lawn will guarantee that there are little flecks of green grass interspersed in the wooly goodness. And, that will tork you off.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Peanut Butter Gnomes

We have hit critical mass. I must. get. groceries. While I have bread, milk, butter and eggs, I am out of peanut butter and cheese. Until recently I’ve been convinced that there are peanut butter and cheese gnomes that keep my fridge and cupboard stocked with these staples. They must be on strike.

That means no "peanut sandwiches" – a favorite breakfast/snack for both kids. It also means the frozen Hershey bar that is patiently waiting in the top bin of my freezer for a special night to be unwrapped, smeared with peanut butter and consumed with reverence along with a glass of ice cold milk is ignored.

Our cheese status is also in dire condition. I am out of American cheese to make the staple of mac ‘n’ cheese. I always make homemade – never the stuff in the blue box, ick! It seems like the kids suggest this for supper nearly every night. To complicate matters, I'm almost out of mozzarella, cheddar and the sliced cheese I use to make cheese sandwiches. Our meal options are suddenly limited.

Tonight’s agenda includes going to town, buying groceries, schlep them home, unpack and put away. Did I mention I love to shop for groceries, but don’t like to put them way?

Country Livin’

There are certain perks for growing up in the country. The kids are just beginning to learn the benefits. The other night we staked out the garden and will till it up in the next couple of days.

We planted marigolds in the big planters in front of the house. I’m glad that I had a moment of brilliance to pick up a pair of garden gloves for each of the kids. As soon as I pulled my purple and white gloves with the little nubbies, the kids wanted a pair. All I had to do was pull them out of the bag and then manage to get fingers in the appropriate slots. I think the favorite part was watering the newly planted seeds. Is it a surprise that little I.minion pointed the hose at his sister and mother as soon as I pulled it out? Thankfully when we were done everyone remained dry.

Perhaps the best part was the fact that J. got our Farmall Super H running to move a couple of non-self propelled heavy objects in the yard. I.minion was thrilled when it fired up, and the grin he had was visible from at least 100 yards away. He was so psyched. J tooled around the yard. When E.minion had the chance to go for a ride, it was “too loud” and she wanted to “plant fowlers.” So, that’s what we did.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Mudder’s Day

I hope everyone had a wonderful Mother’s Day. It was quiet warm day that we spent outside. J. cooked, made an angel food cake, my favorite, but J. was disappointed that my Mother’s Day/Birthday present didn’t arrive in time to wrap and deliver on the holiday. But, today, the wonderful brown box arrived in the mail. Inside was the most amazing gift ever -- KnitPicks Harmony Interchangeable knitting needles. I’ve lusted after the colorful laminated wood needles since they were introduced. I have a set of interchangeable needles – which are a necessity for those who knit in the country and want to be able to start projects as soon as the yarn is in hand. I held off ordering because I didn’t really NEED to have another set of interchangables. As soon as I slit the packing tape I was in heaven – the wood is so smooth and beautiful to behold. Then when I cast on some Berroco Comfort DK in the same rainbow shades as the needles I realized what a treasure my treasures had given me. The joins are amazing, the nylon yarn, I know not a great test yarn, but it was in my basket, slid over the joins like butter. The points are so precise and they have just the right amount of slipperiness. I’m anxious to actually start a project. Then the kids’ “Happy Mudder’s Day” just melted my heart. Thanks kids and J. It has been a wonderful Mother’s Day.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

An Owly Experience

Opportunities abound when you live in the country. You can pee outside, if you want -- I prefer indoor plumbing, but it is still an option. You can see red-tail hawks living in your grove, deer grazing and bunnies frolicking in the sun. The chances of seeing the dogs try to catch the deer and bunnies are pretty good. But, I never expected my dogs to corner an owl in my front yard in the middle of the night.

When I heard the dogs barking I assumed they were tormenting the cat, who had escaped earlier that evening. I was wrong. When I went to the door less than 15 feet from my front door was a horned owl sitting on the ground -- all puffed up -- looking big and mean as she hissed and clicked at the dogs. After getting the dogs inside I had to, of course, take pictures.

We consulted the local sheriff's department and in turn, the state game warden who was on duty, to find out what we should do since she didn't fly off immediately. After talking to both, we checked on him/her and he/she had either waddled off or flown off once she was alone.

Lesson of the night: In the spring owls will kill prey -- usually small stuff like bunnies -- and bring their fledglings, aka baby owls, to the site to let them feed. That's the reason why our owl was on the ground where Rocky and Jasmine could get her.

This morning I heard an owl hooting. I don't think the dogs hurt her.

My Mount Olympus

OK, OK, I realize that my Mount Olympus is really just a farm house anchored in a sea of corn and soybeans in northwest Iowa. It certainly isn't the highest point in the state --
That's not far, though. This is home. I share it with my hubby and our twins, the minions. Individually known as E.minion and I.minion. We have a pair of dogs the size of small calves and a fat cat who call this seven acres of turf home. I'm originally from western South Dakota and miss the tall grass prairie and open spaces. I find solace in the fact that I can see a 13-acre restored prairie out my kitchen window. My dogs chase white tail deer, bunnies and the occasional skunk. I dream of turning this gem on the prairie back into an operating farm -- growing food for the family and raising sheep for fiber.

Blogging for the very first time

I've been yearning to establish a blog that will encompass my life as a writer, photographer, wife, mother, chef, knitter, seamstress and wannabe domestic goddess. Tonight's the night. People will tell me I'm a domestic goddess, but really I'm just a pretender. Sure I can sew clothes, whip up a mean meatloaf and sinfully delicious cinnamon rolls and can bake with a pair of 2-year-olds, but I'm an impostor. This blog will chronicle my attempts to ascend to the ranks of goddess. Welcome to Portrait of a Wannabe Domestic Goddess.