Monday, November 24, 2008

KCCX - Cross Nationals: Here We Come!

The reality that we are going to Cyclocross Nationals kind of hit home this weekend. It was a hard decision as to whether we should go or not, but as long as Grandmother Eleanor is doing okay, we are heading out to Kansas City, MO the second week in December and we are EXCITED! We've taken a look at the other girls signed up in her category and we believe she has a good chance to do well. Besides, were going to Nationals - what a cool experience that will be. I even found a link where we can preview the course online.
We will leave on Wednesday for the long drive. We'll check in and watch the races on Thursday. That evening we will go to The Mud & Blood Ball, a rowdy kick off event for the event and view the movie of last year's Nationals. Ellie will race on Friday morning. We'll stick around to enjoy the rest of the day and maybe even collect an award, if all goes well. Then it'll be back home again on Saturday.Time to get ready for a road trip!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Cranberry Salad and Orzo Salad with Red Wine Vineaigrette Recipe Cards

Remember when I tempted your taste buds with descriptions of what we dined on at Keenan's going to Boot Camp party? Well, today you can make them for yourself. I started with these because I thought they were so wonderful. They may not sound very remarkable, but my whole family liked them. If you want to print a copy for your self simply click on the image to open it up in another window. From there you can either print it or save it as a picture. I saved them in a jpeg format so they can be printed like photos from a camera.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Nearly to the End of My Dance Card, or Now We Plan for Nationals

The last few weeks have been a blur, a blur of fun, of family, of dinners with large groups of people and reckoning. I think we have been busy every night for over two weeks. I am excited at the prospects of being home this evening. I have fantasies of sitting on the couch knitting, watching a movie with my family and hopefully petting a cat (even as he tries, and usually succeeds, in eating my yarn).Here's what we have been doing:

Uncle Doug came to town. When that happens we see very little of Ethan as the two of them spend as much time together as possible. They always build something ubercool. This time is was a home made vacuum plastics molding machine so that Ethan can make cool stuff life a Master Chief (Halo) costume. Now, I know this is not your usual 15 year old boy thing, but that's what comes of having a plastics engineer grandfather. It is not unusual for our family dinners to contain talk of grades of plastic, how things are formed or molded and how to invent things. Ethan was thinking he would be an architect, now he is thinking about plastics engineering. Anyhow, Doug is a master at understanding how to construct nearly anything you want. I love that they have so much fun together.We had lots of get togethers when he was in town for eight days.

Aunt Lynne, Uncle Ed, Paul and Kathy came to town the day after Doug left. We love to visit with them, too. Lynne and I discuss fibers. We played several wicked games of Scrabble and Scrabble Up. We had dinners in restaurants, at various houses and simply enjoyed the visiting.

A Good Luck Dinner for Keenan who is a young friend going into the Marines. He left on Sunday and will be in Basic Training until February. When Keenan was young he used to hang with us a lot since his parent's worked. He went to our school so he would come in the early morning, have breakfast, go to school with the kids and Larr. Sometimes he would come home with us, too. He also spent many summers being a pseudoWelshon, going to swimming lessons, trips to the mountains and everything else we did. He has been in the Young Marines since he was 10. He has worked towards this goal for years. I am both excited for him and fearful. We love him and don't want him in harm's way. His mother, Janet, had a large Thanksgiving style dinner that many of us enjoyed. I will be posting a few of her recipes soon.I especially enjoyed watching and listening to my son, seeing how he is in his group of friends. I had to be a bit brave at the party because I am sad that he is going.

We've been at the Races. This past weekend we had two races that were both the final race for each of the seasons and my kids did well. Ethan came in first place in both series. I am so pleased that he finally got a medal. The race on Saturday awarded prizes as well medals and both kids got nice sun glasses. (I had hoped to have a photo of that but Ethan changed out of his uniform very quickly and I missed the opportunity to snap the photo.) They look like 1970's throwbacks, but the kids dig them and that's all that counts. On Sunday they got to pick a prize from the table. They had fun at the races with the unseasonably warm weather we have been having.

I've been at the teacher appreciation event at Meininger's Art Store. They have a wonderful and exciting event each year for art teachers. While I am not actually an art teacher, I do enough with the Anime club and other art related things at school that I get an invitation each year. I had so much fun learning new things about products that I love, eating fun food (like potstickers and coconut shrimp) and being tempted to buy stuff. Sometime I forget how much fun it is to do art for the joy of creating. I am so into the Adobe style art right now that I have gotten away from the art room. I have some plans to get back to it soon.

I've been at meetings. They usually don't bunch up like that, but somehow they converged to having too many in two weeks time.

And I have been in class. I am excited to show you what I have been creating, but that will have to wait until it is closer to being finished.

Whoa, are you tired yet? I know I am. Let's hope my knitting, cocooning fantasy comes true tonight, after we get hair cuts and I make dinner after work, that is...

Friday, November 14, 2008

What I'm Reading Now - Wesley the Owl and Pillars of the Earth

My mother-in-law, Eleanor and I often share the same taste in books. When I spied Wesley the Owl T her house one day I promptly sat down and began to read. Of course I had to check out the chapter titles and take a peek at the sad one near the end. Then I knew I needed to read the book. I found that it belonged to a friend of ours who agreed to let me read it. Now, these kinds of books are fast reads for me and are often full of sobbing. So far I have just been fascinated with the story. I will have to share some of the interesting tid bits when I get a chance.

I am also rereading Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett. It is one of my top five of all time favorite books.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Case for My Bamboo Graphic Tablet

A little while ago I got a Bamboo Graphic Tablet.It is by Wacom, the same company that makes larger, fancier graphics tables. What is a graphics tablet, you say? Well, when you work with graphics (drawing) programs, like Adobe Photoshop and/or Illustrator you do a lot of "drawing" with your curser. Traditionally this means you control the movement with your computer mouse, which is akin to drawing with a bar of soap in that it is large and unwieldy. A graphic table uses a pressure sensitive pad with a special"pen" that allow you to control the curse like you would control a pencil or pen. It is very cool. I love mine and wanted to be able to take it to class with me. I stuck it in my regular bag a few times, but I was always worried one of the parts would get lost. I decided to make a case so that it would have extra protection.

I started out at the quilting store and picked up a few fun pieces:

Next, I calculated what I would need and spent part of an evening constructing it. I had not quilted anything for a while and you can see that clearly on the case. However, I am not going to worry about that. I am going to be happy that my parts will stay together and be a bit more safe than they might be when they are part of the happy mix-o-stuff in my regular bag. Besides, I think it is kind of stylin'.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Bag Lady Banished

I love, love, love this jacket, and it has a good story to boot! You see, about 13 years ago we spent some times in Door County, Wisconsin and had a wonderful time. The Riggs family has a home on the lake. They invited us to vacation there for a week or so. All we had to do was get there, do something to improve the cabin in luie of paying for housing, and feed ourselves. I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband had not been long in his career so money was very tight. We were delighted to have a real vacation.

When we arrived we found that the Riggs had left us a kind note and a gift of spending money. Each of us got $100 to spend on whatever our hearts desired. Larr bought home a pair of nice matching lamps. I selected this jacket, a ceramic hand-thrown bowl (by Thor of Egg Harbor) and a print of a bird painting that lived in our dinning room until it was ruined during our remodel. Ethan, being just a little sprout, bought lots of fun toys, including a wooden, handmade firetruck complete with an extendable ladder.

Each time I wear the jacket I think of that trip and the fun time we had. The jacket links me to standing on the sandy beach of the lake and enjoying the warm breeze as it tickled my face. I remember the ferry ride to the small island that has and artist retreat with a quilting school. I remember the fun of allowing little Ethan to pick anything he wanted. Now I remember how simple parts of our life seemed on that trip. I just remember. And that seems more important to me than a fashion statement. One look at me and you know I am no fashion diva.

However, whenever I wear it my mother tugs at it, huffs a bit and tells me I look like a bag lady. When it was newer I figured it was the untaylored look of it. In recent years the fraying sleeves did not help me to defend against this idea. In fact, I have meant to fix that problem of the fraying sleeves for few years. On Friday I finally got around to doing something about it. When I fix something like this I always worry that people will look at that and think to themselves, "hum...(small pause here) did you notice that she fixed that jeacket? You can tell that it was an amiature job." However, I love the jacket enough that I was willing to risk it. I selected fabric that I liked and set to work. I have worn it twice since the repair and no one seems to notice. That makes me all the happier. Perhaps I can go on wearing it for a few more years.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Trying to Use Brail SKills To Make My Daughter Happy Again

The Junior Cyclocross Championship race was on Saturday. The location at Chatfield Reservoir was wonderful, but we thought it was a little funny to have the championship and still have a full month of racing left to go. Anyhow, Ellie had spent the night at Arianna's house and had a wonderful, silly, fun time. Once they arrived at the race she got her game face on and focused on the race. Ethan went first. He got a good start, and a nice place in the starting line up since he got a call up. However, part way through the race a twig got in his front wheel in between he spokes and he went over. He lumped his way to the finish line, at times riding slowly and walking some of the way. I was proud him for finishing. I imagine that it had to have been tempting to quit the race and take a short cut back to where we were. The boy is just having a difficult season. I wonder if it is because he had Walking Pneumonia in August or if it is that he is growing so fast that he is gangely and awkward. Either way, I applaud his resolve and determination. It has to be hard crashing nearly every race. Ellie, on the other hand, did pretty good, coming in 4th overall, but still unhappy with her placing. All but one of the girls that beat her on a regular basis are a year older and will not be in her category next year. This time she beat the girl who is her same age. She is anxious to move up in the ranks.

By the time we got back to the car she was in a terrible mood, crossing her arms, grunting or ignoring you when you speak to her and generally brooding. I never did find out what was wrong. I was disappointed since Uncle Doug was spending the day with us. I wish she had not been so closed down. After the race we went to Grandma's and Grandpa's house. Mark and Lilia were already there. We had a big Scrabble tournament planned. Ellie loves Scrabble, but refused to play the first game. Towards the end she started to help Mark and he kicked our butts. By the second game she had snapped out of her funk and wanted to play. She was all excited to get the last "l" in the bag so that she could spell "elixir." Once we got down to three tiles we knew it was still in there. I got to draw two. She was so excited and hopeful for that "l" that I had to use what little Brail skills I could muster to make sure she got it. I put my hand in the bag, feeling the letters on the tiles and selected the two that did not feel like an "l". Everyone knew I was cheating,but they let me because we were all rooting for Ellie to get that word on the board. By the end of the game I kicked their butts, Ellie came in second and she was back to being the lovely girl I know and love, having kicked out the grunty that had taken her place for part of the day.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Best Dense, Moist Chocolate Cake with Fudge-Like Frosting Recipes

Did you know that on average, only 10% of the recipes in cook books are actually tried before they are published? This is most notably true in celebrity personality cookbooks. I had long assumed that everyone had been cooked several times and perfected. Indeed, there are honorable cook book writers who labor to make sure their submissions are good. One such cook book author is Ree, from She just recently finished writing her book, which is due for publication next summer. Her recipes are ALWAYS lovely and spot on. Her portions are large, but I imagine that comes from the fact that she lives on a ranch and appears to feed more than just the six people in her family. Today's recipe is from her.

A while back she posted this recipe for the best chocolate cake, ever. The photos made it look plain, but also dense and moist, a nice break from the fluffy results of box mixes we are all so used to. I wanted to try it. The process and portions were different from the from scratch cake recipes I had tried before. I made it for the first time earlier this week to use as a celebratory cake for my colleague's birthday. Portion control is not my strong suit, so I made two, making sure we had enough for the 16 people in my department. We ate part of one on the birthday day, and the rest on the next. I found that I like the recipe even better the second day. This morning I made it again to use as a cake to celebrate my Aunt Kathy's birthday.

As I have already said, the cake is moist and dense. The frosting has a fudge like quality that is poured over the cake when it is still hot (the frosting, that is. The cake can be hot, too). I am pretty sure that the cake, at least with this frosting, would have to be served in the pan it was made in. The frosting is lovely, but not the kind used to decorate or make swirls. It is tempting to simply eat the frosting with the spatula used to scrap it out of the bowl.

My one adjustment that I might make is to use a bit less frosting. When Ree makes it she uses a jelly roll pan so there is more surface. I made mine in a 9"x13" pan. Most of my colleagues disagreed with me and said they would have it just the way I made it that day. You'd have to make your own choice.

It's nice to have a good recipe that I can make with items I have on hand. If you need a nice cake, this might just be the ticket for you, too.

Monday, November 03, 2008

A Thanksgiving Card

The most recent homework assignment for my Adobe Illustrator class was a bit of a challenge from a conceptual point of view. We needed to create a holiday card using type and brushes, but no illustration. It took a bit of searching, but once I was onto it, I had a great time.

Today we go vote. I find that more people are turning out to vote than ever before. At my school we are running a mock election and those are gather a great response as well. Regardless of who wins, it will be a historic day. We will either have the first African American president, or the oldest person to serve as a first term president and a woman for vice president. It may be an anxious night waiting to see how it all comes out.