Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Jane: Xmas Eve Day sightings

Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? We're having one!
It was a bit warmer yesterday, but it's getting colder again.
The cardinals, chickadees, titmice, and nuthatches like our safflower feeder.

Eli said the snow was going down his neck, so he didn't stay out long.
Robbie skied in the alley. He needs new boots--his are too small so he had to wear Bruce's boots and skis.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Robbie: Video Game Reviews

Inspired by Tolstoy Kafka Evsky* and the Angry Video Game Nerd**, I decided to make some reviews of my own. I haven't done many but here are some I have done.
Watch and learn... or not...
If you have any requests send them to me at

Enjoy the videos and don't forget to comment and rate :)

*He reviews obscure systems
**He angrily reviews games that are really bad. (PG-13)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Jane: Crochet Project

Isn't this little robin cute? I got the pattern online, and it's pretty easy--a nice change from the sweater project.

He's a British Robin--I didn't have quite the right brown for him--should be a bit lighter. Still, he's cute.

I think I'll make some Iowa goldfinches once I can find some bright yellow yarn!

The birds had a tough night of it last night--we had blizzardy winds and icy temps. We got up this morning to find the thermometer at -10F. Ugh. It's warmer now (maybe -1) but the winds are still nasty. I'm staying in to crochet and watch a movie called Center Stage, supposedly a fiction piece about the ABT.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Jane: Basketweave Crochet

I got a request for instructions on how to do the basketweave crochet.

Yes, it's a front post double crochet! At least that's half of it. But the rest is easy.

The pattern: 3 fpdc, 3 bpdc (back post dc). You do a bpdc the same as a fpdc, but just from the back of the work. YO, insert the hook from right to left around the post, YO, etc.

On the next row, alternate. That makes the lovely basket weave pattern.

My foundation row is just plain dc.

Keep in mind:
  • this goes slow--each row overlaps a bit with the one before it, so you make progress about 3/8 inch at a time
  • it makes a very thick fabric. You may have to crochet your pattern bigger to make up for the thickness of the fabric . . . something I didn't consider when I started my project :-(
Now if you don't mind, I'm going to take a bit of a break from that project! As you know, I'm crocheting sans pattern, just using measurements and drawings from a couple of other patterns to guide me. I'm figuring it out as I go along in terms of decreasing, etc. And it's very tricky. I've had to start and rip out my sleeve 4x already. I'm not in a hurry or anything, but it's getting a bit tiresome.

I'll do some small projects for a bit and then come back.

And if anyone has any thoughts about how to deal with a project that looks like it might be too small, let me know. One idea I have: crocheting around the sides and shoulder seams to make it bigger. Might make pretty seams to have something different along them . . . maybe a crocheted cable, or even just a row of plain dc.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Jane: Kitten in the snow

Look! Kitten tracks in the snow!
The kitten wants out!
What's that cold stuff?

Let me in!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jane: Book mini-review

Mini review (in my Reader's Notebook):
Scientific explanations of what happens in "A Day in the Life of Your Body."

I like this kind of non-fiction, books that make science come alive. This one's angle, following the body's activities through a day, is clever and fun.

I found out the title of the book is also the title of a 1995 song by King Crimson.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Jane: Thank you, Governor Blagojevich

On the way to Robbie's trumpet lesson the other day, we were listening to a story about Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on NPR. His profanity-laced (bleep-laced), corrupt statements filled the car. What a slime-ball.

"I think the coolness factor of swear words is going to fall because of him," I commented.

It's true. We haven't heard as many swear words in our house since the story broke, even from the person who, when about 8, said to me "Mom, aren't swear words cool?" (Robbie denies saying this, but I heard it from his lips.)

When the occasional swear word does occur here, all I have to do is yell downstairs (where video games seem to cause occasional swearing) "is Governor Blagojevich down there?" No more swearing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Jane: Weird Cookies

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and told him I was making cookies. He looked interested until I told him what was in these cookies.

Besides the usual ingredients, they have candied fruit, strong coffee, and anise flavoring.

The cookies are Pfeffernusse, or, as my grandmother called them, peppernuts. They must be some odd variety, because most recipes I've seen for pfeffernusse call for the anise, but other than that are basic refrigerated butter-and-sugar cookies. My friend Karen makes them.

Ours are strange, but we all love them! When Grandma couldn't make them anymore, Mom did. Then I took over. Now it's tradition that I bake them.

It's an all-day project. First you make the very sticky dough, made with honey and corn syrup, as well as those odd ingredients. Chill the dough. Make small balls and bake them. Cool. Then dip them in icing made by boiling sugar, water, and anise.
Finally, roll them in powdered sugar.After all that, the icing hardens so they stay fresh pretty long, and freeze well.

I divided the batch in 3rds and sent some off to my siblings, who love them. Might as well; they're a little too weird to take to a cookie exchange or give to the mailman!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Jane: Useful Crochet

It's finals week, which means I've been doing a LOT of reading: final papers, portfolios, final exams. When I get home from work, I don't want to read a book . . . so I've been working a lot on my most recent crochet project, a cardigan of creamy wool-blend yarn. Here's the back:

I like this pattern and this yarn because it gives a kind of Fisherman's Knit look: bulky, textured, and warm. I had considered doing some crocheted cables (had a nice pattern) but I didn't like the way they worked up. Crochet can look very clunky sometimes, with chunky rows that fold in on each other. So I opted for this "basketweave" stitch instead. It makes a better whole fabric than many of the cable-y stitches, and it almost looks like knit basketweave.

The only trouble with this basketweave is it goes very slowly. It's almost two layers of yarn for each row, as you crochet "around the post" to make those neat basketweaves. That also means I'm using a lot of yarn!

Why didn't I just knit a fisherman's knit sweater, you say? I'm really a beginning knitter, and much more comfortable with crochet. In fact, I'm designing the sweater myself, working it out based on 3 different patterns. Crochet's construction makes it easier to tear out mistakes, too, and when you're making it up as you go along, this is important!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Jane: On Not Finishing a Book

Normally, I finish books I start. But not always.

I started this book with the expectation of enjoying it. I love "family under stress" novels and generally like 1st novels and novels from the UK. But I read the first two "Junes" of Three Junes, and I'm not going to read the last.

My 1 sentence book summary: Members of a Scottish family, most notably the gay son, have trouble communicating with others as they go through life and consider their past.

I couldn't figure out why this book won an award. Normally, I've enjoyed National Book Award winners. I read some reviews. The author called the "Three Junes" a triptych. Nice metaphor. But I didn't like the characters (nor did I find them intriguing), and the story, especially the middle "June", rambled along pretty loosely. So I just stopped reading

Oh well. Time for a new book!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Robbie: Duct Tape

My mom checked me out a book called Ductagami and it has the instructions for all sorts of crazy projects. I chose to make a wallet. Here is a picture.
After I finished that, I looked in the book for other cool things. I decided on something not in the book. A Nintendo DS cover. I freehanded the strips and did not stick anything directly on my DS.
It is possible to take off. Here are some pictures.

Btw. If you noticed a Yu-Gi-Oh card in my wallet I will clear things up before I get loads of hatemail.
NO I do NOT play Yu-Gi-Oh and that is my one of a kind uber rare card. Don't dis it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Jane: It's beginning to look a lot . . .

It's been cold here in our town: in the teens with a wind chill. At least we have this beautiful snow cover to make it bright and cheery outside. It's also enough for the boys to enjoy when they go outside: Robbie to sled, and Eli to fiddle around with friends.

I haven't been outside to play; I've been very busy writing for City Revealed magazine, where I just got hired to do freelancing. They're keeping me busy. That's why there haven't been any blog posts recently!
Despite the busy times, I put up my mom's creche during the first week of Advent--I think she always put it up then, too. I wanted a star to hang above the stable, but couldn't find one I liked. But then I saw this beautiful berry wreath and knew that's what I wanted above the creche.

Maybe I remembered Mom's: I found this photo in the box with the creche. It was labeled "Christmas 1969."