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Friends.

25 Oct

The joke at our house is often that I don’t have friends. It’s a joke because it’s not true but – also in reality – I have no LOCAL friends. Dave has made oodles of pinball peeps; he has people over on a weekly basis or is going to pinball events with his pinball friends. I have coworkers that are lovely and social on occasion. But I have no “let’s go see this movie” or “let’s take a pottery class” friends.

So I have no local friends. But the list of really, really spectacular people I consider to be friends is long. I’ve been reminded of that recently.

In the middle of September, I attended my 20th high school class reunion. Whoa. 20. But I didn’t just go to the reunion. Kim and Kris – twins with whom I’ve been friends since, oh, first grade – and I rented a cabin (at the campground we all used to work at) for the weekend. We went to our friend Jenni’s childhood home for a birthday bonfire in her driveway Friday night. (Not unusual behavior for us as high schoolers.) The next day, we attended our reunion where we saw lovely people and added Dancing Banana Lynn to our list of friends who gathered. (That made for 5 of 7 Dancing Bananas gathered, missing our Texan and DC-er.)

(AND THEN, that night, Kim and I built a campfire BY OURSELVES. We were so proud. We sat by it long enough to eat a s’more and then retired to our cabin. Where all three of us climbed the narrow, steep stairs to sleep on thin mattresses in the loft, slumber-party style.)

Fast forward to this past weekend when I jam-packed two days with meet-ups in Minnesota and northern WI. I saw my Dawson-turned-Owatonna friends for dinner. When I first met Aaron and Sabrina in Dawson while I was on internship, I became best buds with their son, Carter, who was, oh, three at the time? He’s now 15 with a learner’s permit. Oy.

The next day, I had coffee at the farm with Marilyn, the admin at Red Oak Grove, the church I used to serve. From coffee, I went to lunch with best-pastor-friends JD and Paige. From lunch, I drove to an early supper with college friends, Amanda and Deb. (Who, after calculations, I’ve known for TWENTY years now, first meeting while I lived across the hall from them in the freshman dorm.)

The following day, I started for home, making a stop in Menominee to visit an aunt and uncle and their NEW PUPPY. We had a delicious lunch, lots of puppy laughter, and then – sadly – it was time to make for home.

… when I met the friendliest people due to my flat tire on the side of the interstate.

Sigh.

News flash: I can’t change a tire.

Updated news flash: They don’t like you to change a driver’s side tire on the side of the interstate anyways. Mr. State Trooper told me so.

I called Dave, freaked out momentarily, before googling local towing companies. The first call was answered and he said he’d be on his way. I maybe had to wait, oh, 20 minutes? Mr. Tow Truck Man arrived and loaded my car onto his flatbed. He was super friendly and made bunches of phone calls to find an open tire shop on a Sunday because my donut spare would not get me the rest of the way. We’ll focus on his friendliness and helpfulness … not the fact that his tow truck had no passenger seat belt and that he was spitting his chewing tobacco into an empty gas station coffee cup as he drove. Nevermind that.

The state trooper that pulled up behind me before the tow truck arrived and approached my passenger window was also the friendliest. I was a bit frazzled at the moment. My phone was ringing with Dave and the Mr. Tow Truck Man and I couldn’t get my audio book to stop playing and cars were zooming by … I apologized for my frazzled state and the trooper kindly responded, “It’s okay. You’ve got a lot going on.” Indeed.

Mr. Tow Truck Man found that Farm and Fleet was my only tire option and so he towed my car there. I was grateful; in an afternoon of chaos, Farm and Fleet is a known entity in my life. I could comfortably sit at F&F and compose myself while they work on my tire (which could be patched, thankfully). I could do that. The service gentleman behind the counter was maybe in his early 60s and kind as kind can be. He had heard my story from Mr. Tow Truck Man and knew I had a bit of travel time still ahead of me. He himself personally re-torqued my tires (Is that the right language? I don’t know. Close enough?) and sent me on my way; he awkwardly paused outside my driver’s side door and wished me well.

Of course I had sewing with me as I waited.

I made it home just after 9pm, about four hours delayed.

I went straight to bed, grateful for splendid friends and friendly people.

Recipe Round-Up

9 Aug

Here are a few things we’ve tried – and a few I have in the docket.

I made change-your-life-chicken tonight. It’s a game-changer. We’ve made it a handful of times with whatever we have on hand AND we’ve actually started to make it with frozen chicken thighs. It’s not too often we buy fresh chicken, mostly opting for the convenience of frozen. (Plus, our beloved Aldi – where we do our weekly shopping – does not carry fresh bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.) But here’s the deal – we think it’s just as good. I made it tonight, as it was finally cool enough to open the windows and turn off the air conditioning; I thought, hey, let’s heat the house up with a 500 degree oven. (I’ve actually been toying with the idea of making it in the Traeger on hot nights. Still to come.) Tonight I used sweet potatoes, red potatoes, carrots, onion, and green beans I picked up from the farm stand down the road (because my green beans remain only an inch long – slowest growing season EVER here by the lake).

Last week, Dave and I attended a local Kenosha Kingfish baseball game, complete with tailgate beforehand. My work offered employees two free tickets so a bunch of the hospice team + families gathered to tailgate before the game. As luck would have it, I stumbled across a dessert blog a couple days prior and suddenly knew exactly what I wanted to take to share. DESSERT CUPS aka dessert in a small disposable cup. They were pretty simple to make, perfect to take to a tailgate, super cute, and DELICIOUS. Even Dave – I-can-say-no-to-dessert-Dave – loved them. I made two batches – cookies and cream & strawberry crunch. The blog has a ton of fun flavor combos.

I’m hoping to have time this weekend to give this a go – bagel bread. Dave loves a good bagel but making his own is time-consuming. I kind of hope that this bread with be an adequate stand-in when we don’t have individual-bagel-making-time available. PLUS – if you read through the recipe – I will get to dump a loaf of bread dough into a boiling water bath. Could be fun. If Jennifer Garner can do it, I’ll certainly give it a whirl.

This birthday cake babka remains on my list of want-to-tackle, along with any type of macaron. We also just used our last jar of homemade pasta sauce. DANGER. DANGER. If the tomatoes in the garden would ever ripen, we’ll be canning some more. MUCH more. (We planted, like, a million tomato plants this year with the hopes that we can become a pasta-sauce-canning-factory.)

We went on a trip.

26 Jul

Michigan is lovely. I had some idea but not a complete understanding of how very lovely until after our week there earlier in July. The dogs stayed back and we enjoyed a road trip up the coast and home through the upper peninsula.

We took the USS Badger car ferry from Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI. I don’t love boats; this was not a whole hearted exception. It was okay but not necessarily my favorite part of the travels.

From there, we drove north discovering cute harbor towns, biking through Sleeping Dune National Lakeshore, picking cherries, and eating lunch out of a cooler. It was low key and super fun.

We met up with many of Dave’s family for three nights in St.Ignace. This included a day trip to Mackinac Island where Dave and I biked around the island and ate fudge samples. We spent time on the many beaches of Lake Heron, picnicked in parks, and swam in the hotel pool.

It’s a BIG boat that holds approx. 140 vehicles.
Looking for Petoskey stones.
Sleeping Bear dunes.
We happened upon Traverse City in cherry season. Dave was thrilled. We even picked our own at one stop.
A ‘mushroom house’ in Charlevoix.
Seven miles into our bike around Mackinac island.
Where’s Dave? Matching the couch in the Grand Hotel.

Kitchen game-changer.

21 May

It feels like such a little thing but it also feels like such a win.

Do you have bunches of recipes torn from magazines, printed from the internet, copies from family and friends? Come on. I can’t be the only one.

They were folded in a stack in a drawer and the chaos of it kind of made me crazy.

So I bought a binder. And a bunch of page protectors. Viola. Recipe binder. (They totally sell ‘recipe binders’ on Amazon but I like my budget $4 version.)

When I meal plan for the week (when I’m organized enough to meal plan … which isn’t every week), I can look through and pull out any recipe we’ll be using. The page protector saves the recipe from any splatter. It works for us.

Dave’s bagel recipe and its many revisions.

We also use an index card system. That’s not new but something we’ve used for a long while. Simple favorite recipes that don’t require fancy instructions or lots of words get an index card on a book ring.

A tiny macaron obsession.

3 Apr

I’ve tried many times over the years to make a French macaron cookie. I’ve tried many times … and failed.

Enter Sur La Table virtual cooking classes and the one Saturday afternoon they offered a course on pistachio macarons. I joined 83 other bakers in a zoom video chat as we learned the basics of the delicate sandwich cookie.

That course, combined with three other attempts in the last week, has gotten me farther than I’ve gotten before with egg whites, almond flour, and sugar. I have succeeded in baking the cookie with consistent “feet” – the wrinkly bottom edge, a must have with macarons. Win! However, they’re hollow. And they shouldn’t be. Many more batches, trial and error, and following a super-intense-macaron-baker-facebook-page will hopefully get me there.

In the meantime, I have two Tupperware containers full of macaron trials in my freezer. They’re not perfect but they still taste good. My coworkers are about to have their pick of French sandwich cookies. (Because what else does one do with so many cookies?)

Vacation sewing.

20 Mar

Don’t be confused. I don’t mean sewing on vacation (at least not this time). This is sewing FOR vacation. We’re anticipating a week in Florida in mid-April and have been looking forward to the beach, time away from work, and chill time. We’ll be meeting up with my brother/sister-in law and their two kiddos to rent a house on 30A, a stretch of highway between Destin and Panama City Beach.

It can’t come fast enough. We haven’t had a week away since … early September? I’ve been working full weeks but for a few three-day-weekends and I am ready for a bit of a break. Enter vacation anticipation. This time around, I’m anticipating vacation by sewing.

First up — a countdown chain. A fabric, REUSABLE countdown chain. This isn’t construction paper but quilted layers of fabric with snaps. (Hey. I learned how to do snaps!) I’ve had this pattern from Maker Valley for forever and finally decided to tackle it. Right now, it will count down the days until Florida. Then, snap it back together and we’ll pick something else to count down. It’s good to have exciting things on the horizon.

Peeps on Instagram have been posting photos of the yarrow clutch (a pattern by noodlehead) and I decided that was next. It will be my purse while away. I don’t need to carry much and it’s easily thrown in a larger bag if needed (see next project). I made one … and then decided to make a second with some improvements. The rainbow stripe one has an added snap on the front pocket and an added zipper pocket on the back, in addition to interior zipper and card slots like the first.

THEN I was thinking I needed a larger-ish bag for the airport. I combed through sotakhandmade’s Etsy store (a favorite go-to for patterns) and decided on her Kensington tote. For fabric? An ode to former home, Austin, I found Spam fabric. It’s got bunches of zipper pockets, a recessed top zipper that opens wide, polka dot interior fabric and will be large enough for my clutch, water bottle, book and snack. I finished it up just today.

What’s next? No idea. I think that may be all the vacation sewing I can think of right now.

What Einstein Ate

16 Jan

In this edition of what Einstein ate —

Soap. A portion of a bar of soap.

The soap had been sitting on the lower shelf of the shower for months. Months. He never paid it any attention until one day, when I got home from work, I found him chowing down. (He wasn’t already in the process of eating it when I got home. See, the dogs sleep all day and are perfectly lazy while Dave works from home. Then, the minute I walk in the door, they decide they want attention. And sometimes the puppy declares he wants attention by doing not-so-great things. Case in point. Eating soap.)

Now, it was a smaller, used bar and he ate maybe a third of it. But still concerning? It was a black soap, charcoal of some kind. I was concerned.

Our first instinct is to induce vomiting. This we had to do many times with puppy Emmett; this was a first with puppy Einstein. (I can hardly believe that, based on the things he has ate.) Hydrogen peroxide down the throat and the dog was thrown outside to throw up the chunks of soap.

Except he didn’t. And didn’t. And just stared at us through the door as we stared at him. It’s like he wasn’t even phased by the bubbles in his stomach. And then we started to worry that somehow the combination of peroxide and soap was ineffective or terrible or … and then I just got worried.

So I called the vet. Because the kind of soap was unknown, they suggested I bring him in to induce vomiting there. Sigh. Another vet bill but I knew I would feel better if he just got it out of his system. Into the car we went.

I put the car in reverse, we got to the end of the driveway, and then I thought – well. If this isn’t dumb. I really should cover the seat with a towel in case he pukes in the car. I was so concerned with getting out the door quickly and packing my work computer so I could sit in the car to finish the work day while he was inside the vet office ridding himself of soap.

I put the car back in drive to pull back to the house so I could get a towel —

And you guessed it. Puke. All over my car seat. Chunks of black soap and all.

Pro: no vet bill necessary. Con: cleaning the car.

A couple lists of things.

11 Jan

I sure haven’t been blogging (Sorry, Marilyn.) but I have been doing other things.

Like reading. FOR FUN. I think eight years of post-high school academia stomped the desire to read out of me. This is the kid who would stay up late reading, who read The Babysitter’s Club books four times over, and who spent a campout with friends in the tent reading the last chapters of the most recent Harry Potter by flashlight because she couldn’t stop.

Ten years distance from seminary graduation (Let’s pause to ponder how that is even possible.) and I find myself reading on a more consistent basis. Not in any crazy capacity but with steadiness. I’m the first one up in the morning (Well. First human. The dogs will make sure I am up because they eat their breakfast at 6 am, people.) and will often enjoy a few chapters while I eat breakfast and take my first sips of coffee. If the book is a can’t-put-it-down-kind-of-book then reading spills into the evening, sometimes while riding the outdoor-bike-on-an-indoor-trainer that we have set up in the living room this time of year.

Here’s what I’ve been reading the last six months* –

  • The Guest List by Lucy Foley (This was a finish-at-night book.)
  • The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune (I still think about this book. It lives in my heart. I laughed. I cried. So good.)
  • Anxious People by Fredrik Backman (A curious group of people knit together in funny/poignant ways.)
  • The Inheritance Games by Jennifer Lynn Barnes (A sucker for YA lit.)
  • Before the Ruins by Victoria Gosling (Eh. Okay.)
  • The Last Thing He Told Me by Laura Dave (Another finish-at-night.)
  • The Midnight Library by Matt Haig (Thoughtful.)
  • Elinor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (Another favorite from the list. Charming.)

* I read on my kindle 95% of the time. I check out the digital books from the library which sometimes means, if they’re popular titles, they sit on my holds shelf for months until they are available. Then – oh – the excitement when they become ready to download!

The other fun thing I’ve been up to? Cooking new recipes.

Not every night allows for a new recipe but I try and sneak one in every couple weeks. Tonight was sweet potato and cauliflower chowder, a recipe I originally tore from a magazine but is obviously available online which makes me wonder why I subscribe to said magazine. Anyways. (Always a sucker for soup season here.) It’s on the fence as a keeper or a toss. Jury’s out. A couple nights ago it was turkey chili calzones. Meh. We won’t make those again. We tried Christina Tosi’s haute dogs to use up some meat market hot dogs on the verge of freezer burn. They were pretty tasty … but then again, what of hers is not? Quick chicken lo mein with some substitutions (We subbed out the mixed veggies – ew, corn in lo mein – for frozen broccoli and peppers) was pretty decent. Italian wedding soup from Iowa Girl Eats (one of our fav sites for recipes) was outstanding. (Again. Soup season.) Oh. And we’ve become we-make-our-own-granola kind of people, using the recipe from thelazygenius Instagram account of all places. (The Lazy Genius Way is a book I own and have only half read. Hence it not being on the list above.) Below is her magical concoction a la screenshot. We keep a container in the fridge at the ready for yogurt&fruit time.

Updates from the craft room.

19 Apr

Over the course of the last couple months, I’ve added a new item to my craft show inventory. Ever in the colorful and practical way, eye glass cases have made their way into my heart. I keep one in my car for my sunglasses (which before I’d just throw in the cupholder) and another in my office for my blue light blocking glasses. There are some listed in my online store but I’m super excited for them to make their craft show debut, hopefully in the fall when craft shows have resumed. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, I keep plugging along and adding a few to my inventory here and there so I’m ready when the first show arrives.

There is now yarn in my craft room. YARN. I tried knitting years ago; no thank you. This year I decided I would try crochet. Maybe it would help me stay awake when we watch tv on the couch at night? (Otherwise I’m usually drooping by 9:30. Sometimes 9 depending on how exhausting the work day was.) I was inspired by instagram and modern granny square blankets; I thought to myself, I could do that. YouTube will teach you anything days. I think I’m getting the hang of it and rewarded myself with oodles of yarn colors to choose from as I continue on this new crafty adventure.

I finished a heart quilt back in February. It’s backed in minky and is a cuddly couch quilt. It was a kit I bought from Maker Valley in an after-Thanksgiving sale. It was super easy to assemble and, as always, I love the bright colors. Here it is being basted on the sunroom floor –

Recipe recommendations.

12 Apr

Every time the conversation has an appropriate opening, I’ve been telling everyone about Iowa Girl Eats. We’ve followed her blog for a couple years now but recently have made a couple more meals that have astounded us. I love her use of unsweetened almond milk and cauliflower rice. While most of her meals are gluten free, because that’s not a necessity for us, we just sub standard ingredients. Here are our favorite Iowa Girl Eats:

The other place we’ve gathered recipes that have been nothing but home-runs is King Arthur Flour. I’ve made their 2021 Recipe of the Year a couple times now with nothing but tasty results – Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls. Dave gets his bagel recipe from King Arthur and their cheesy pan pizza (2020 Recipe of the Year) is amazing. We picked up their Baker’s Companion at Costco; it’s 500+ pages of recipes, science of baking, and tips. I am convinced they can do no wrong.

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