Thursday, July 30, 2009

Jane and Robbie: Croutons

Robbie had an idea this noon. We had a left over seasoning packet from Ramen noodles, and he thought it would make a nice crouton seasoning.

We found a recipe for croutons (more of directions than a recipe), and he made them this afternoon.
Here's how you do it. Brush the bread with olive oil mixed with ramen seasoning. Then cut the bread in cubes.
Fry in a medium-hot pan for 5-8 minutes, stirring constantly, until the croutons are browned.
Eh voila!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Jane: Yarn Store Pro and Con

I've been CRAZY busy this week and last writing up stories for my freelancing jobs. I have done/will be done with 8 in 2 weeks. I'm glad to have the work, and it's not like it's rocket science or anything, but still . . . haven't had time to blog OR crochet!

But I've been thinking about a yarn store I visited in Cedar Falls. The boys and I were up there to see an exhibit on Slow Food to Fast Food at the UNI Museum . . . and poke around the town. We saw a sculpture garden and the University greenhouse as well. But downtown, I spotted the Yarn Store and was magnetically drawn in!

Once inside, though, I didn't feel so drawn in. There were the bins of beautiful yarn, there were the racks of patterns, there were the ladies sitting and knitting, but I felt out of place.

I suddenly had this memory come back to me of when I was learning to knit. I was in grad school, and my neighbor in the dorm was teaching me to knit. I had done a couple of hats, and wanted to try a sweater. So we went to the Yarn Store to get yarn and a pattern. I found some beautiful yarn, and a cute and easy pattern . . . but when I went to pay for it, the supplies added up to more than $30!

OK, you say, $30 isn't that much for good yarn and a pattern. But I was a grad student--very poor--and that was a LOT. I was used to sewing, where you could actually save money if you knew how to sew. I remember that it dawned on me that unlike sewing, which was frugal, knitting seemed like a very expensive hobby.

That $30 ticket scared me away from knitting and serious crocheting for many years, I think. I kept sewing (until recently, I ALWAYS had a sewing project going), but didn't ever get back to knit & crochet . . . until eyelash yarn!

And recently, it was an article about the crochet coral reef that got me going again. I made some fun forms with CHEAP yarn--they amused me! And of course it was just a tiny step from there to amigurumi--quick and cheap thrills, if you ask me.

So I may go to a yarn store again . . . or I may not. Right now, I'm working with some beautiful sport-weight wool-blend yarn I rescued from a garage sale . . . finding an unexpected treasure like that (for $1 a skein) is just as cool as a yarn store, isn't it?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Robbie: TI-BASIC

I made some cool programs on my calculator including one that displays the Fibonacci Sequence. Because there are Less than and Greater than symbols, I can't accurately post them. If anyone wants these programs, comment with your name and which one you want.

Guessing Game

If anyone has any programs of their own or ideas for a program, Comment with those! But remember: I am only using TI-BASIC which is pretty limited.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Jane: taking matters into my own hands

Or gloves, rather.

I did some more reading about magnolia scale, and found that it is slow to get rid of (just as it is slow to infest). Sigh. One site, though, said that you can remove the scale by hand.

So that's what I've been doing. It's not difficult, but it is a bit gross, if you remember that it's bugs you're squishing.

Still, you get to a certain point where you're desperate enough to do it. I remember this happening when my cats have had fleas. At first, I'm grossed out, but eventually, I'm squishing fleas between my fingernails. Same with *ugh* head lice. Get off my kid's head! You suddenly lose your squeamishness.

That's how I feel about these annoying vampire bugs sucking the life out of my magnolias. I just pull, scrape, and squish those things off. They leave a bright red stain, as you can see on the gloves.

This kitten kept me company.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jane: Sewing Project

I haven't done much sewing recently, but a project beckoned this weekend.

It began with these exotic brocade trousers that Bruce bought me for my birthday.

I was looking forward to wearing them at an upcoming TKD test (black belts dress up to judge), but they were, um, well, they only fit if I stood up and didn't move . . . TOO TIGHT!

There was no way these were going to Goodwill, so I looked around for a way to use the fabric somehow. When I found a pattern for a fitted vest, I decided that's what I'd do with them: make them over into a vest.

It was scary making the first cut, as usual. But I've made vests before.

I made only two minor alterations to the pattern, a record for me (I usually make many alterations, often combining two patterns to get the look I want when I construct a garment). I decided against using a lining because the reverse side of brocade is so beautiful--I wanted it to be seen when I take off the vest. Also, I used brocade for the entire vest, including the back--the pattern called for using lining fabric for the back.

Brocade is very nice fabric to sew. It's slippery, so you have to use a lot of pins, but I do that anyway. It's also nice and tightly woven, so it doesn't stretch.
Pretty awesome pattern in the fabric, isn't it? The flash on the camera makes it seem shinier than it is--it actually only has a soft sheen to it. It does shed a lot, but I decided to use fray-check instead of overcasting the seam allowances--so I just fray-checked all the pieces before I started sewing. This worked nicely. No little bits of thread all over me!

The pants had knot and loop closures as decorations on the flared legs; I took them off and used them as closures on the vest.

The project didn't take much time--I cut it out last night, and finished it this afternoon (taking a break to go to a brass choir concert at 2 p.m.!) It came out beautifully! I wore it the rest of the day--I'm wearing it now!
I can't wait until our next TKD test to wear it again--with black slacks and a black turtleneck and my yin-yang necklace . . .

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Robbies LEGO showcase

Here is a recent project I completed with help from Madalyn Adams. A Hylian Shield! (sorry, there is no wikipedia page on the shield itself but here's the game it's from.) anyway... the picture.

Robbie: Garage sale+$3.50=score!

At a garage sale I found these two items (i would have an iMac if I had $50 more...)

An MP3 video player for the low, low price of $3 (it has 51 Beatles songs) 

Woohoo! look at its enourmous 1.6 inch screen... Well, you get what you pay for.

A revolutionary pointing device (trackpad) that connects to ADB (Apple Desktop Bus. It's sorta like PS/2 except less... usable) with technology first used in the PowerBook 500 for $.50 which conveniently works on my PowerBook G3.

If I had an ANCIENT computer I could have gotten more things. most of the accessories were for the paralell port (25 pin) that was replaced with RS232 (9 pin) and then the USB series and firewire. That was added just to give you an idea of how old it is...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Jane: a borrowed garden

I don't have a perennial border at my house, so when I want to see flowers, I walk a block to the Brucemore Historical Site. There's an old mansion there, but what I love to see is the grounds. Today it was overcast, perfect weather for taking garden pictures, so I'll give you a tour. This is the gate we go through--it feels very British right-of-way entering here, but the grounds are open to anyone!
I love this white garden. In the spring, there are forget-me-nots.
The main perennial gardens are absolutely beautiful recently. I love the gardeners' sense of color. They also seem to LOVE plants and have all sorts of different varieties.

There's a grape arbor, cool and shady in the hottest months of an Iowa summer.
I don't think the photo does the perennial garden justice.
I LOVE this color combination!
My boys used to climb on the dog statue that marks the entry to the dog cemetery. All the family pets had headstones here.
Eli likes this pond--it's where a few turtles live and the frogs lay eggs. We don't know what became of all the tadpoles this year--last year there were tiny toads everywhere, and this year we haven't seen them. I think the ducks may have eaten them this year.
Sorry this picture's so blurry. It shows the path behind the pond. It's a great place to walk in early spring to see the spring ephemerals--there's an absolute swath of snowdrops, as well as bluebells, wake robins, and mayapples, each in their season. Once those snowdrops bloom, you know you'll have flowers straight on until frost.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Robbie: Cedar Point!

Recently I went to Cedar Point and went on the three coasters I hadn't been on yet as well as some other ones. These were Millenium Force, Top Thrill Dragster, and Maverick. There is a funny picture of us on the Top Thrill Dragster, but I don't have it yet. For now you have to wait and imagine...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Jane: Wonderful wedding

Just a brief post after returning from my brother's wedding. Eli took these nice shots with my camera--I was in the wedding.

And of course there's an amigurumi involved!
I worked up these wedding peas-in-a-pod in the car on the way to Cleveland. Aren't they funny?

There will be more posts about our trip . . . we spent a day at Cedar Point and I'm sure Robbie will share details.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Jane: Reading

Lest you think that all I do is crochet and garden, here are some books I've read recently--I'm on a committee that will help select next year's book that incoming students will read. Apparently, this is a big trend in colleges.

I'll share my one-sentence reviews from my reading journal and my other thoughts about the book. So far I've read:

Ghost Map by Steven Johnson

The story of a 19th c. cholera epidemic in London and one doctor's detective work to determine the cause.

How do you identify the cause of a disease if you can't see it? How do you convince people that you've found the source . . . when they subscribe to a paradigm that won't let them see the truth? The doctor who's the protagonist of this non-fiction book figures out that cholera comes from water--but the prevailing view is that illness comes from smells: "miasma." The prevailing view is causing more and more people to die. This book is a detective stsory about a disease and the efforts of two people to find a way to stop it. Well written and provocative. The last chapter looks forward to suggest future scenarios for cities and disease.

This one would be a great book for incoming students. It raises all sorts of questions about epistemology and sociology and urban life! And it has its own website. But . . . our book for this year is about illness (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman--GREAT book, btw) and I don't know if we want to do two illness books, one after the other.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

High-energy and intense multi-perspective story of Oscar and his family of Dominican immigrants and how love, violence, and politics (not to mention books) shaped their lives.

One review called this book "delightful." I disagree. This is not a delightful book. Although it's funny and engaging and wondrous, it's also dark and violent and full of profanity. One of the background "characters" who shapes the lives of the main characters is the horrible Dominican dictator Trujillo. I found this to be an exhausting read--very "literary" in its use of multi-perspectives and stream of consciousness-ish style, and footnotes (yes, footnotes).

I would love to teach this book in a class on coming of age stories. That way the students and I could check in after reading sections and talk about it--so much to talk about! But I don't know if I could expect incoming 1st years to handle it alone very well. The best readers would, of course, but I fear it would totally alienate most students.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Robbie: Cybikos, SD Card

Eli and I got a new form of entertainment, or should i say INTERtainment. If, up to this point, you know that I am talking about the Cybiko, then I must have already told you about these or you watched... oh I can't even remember the name of the channel... in 2000. I didn't see it this way, but found out about it when my brother was talking about an
open source system.
Here is a picture taken from my DSi camera:

Yes. I got an SD card so now I can put music on my DSi and take 3000 pictures and put them either on my Wii or my mom's laptop.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Jane: Happy 4th!

This morning, people were racing past our house.

It's the annual FreedomFest race--this year it went right up our street to Bever Park. It was especially fun to watch the runners at the front of the race--they run so gracefully, stretching out their long legs.

It was raining, though, so we didn't have our flag out.

The rain didn't stop my ballet class! Just like New Year's Day, Carol held a ballet class today. It was just me and Corinne, a high-school girl. Carol tried to recruit my boys to help in the ballet this fall, La Fille Mal Garde.

I wore this new necklace to class.
I whipped it up in about an hour last night. Thought it would be fun to have something patriotic.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Jane: Black Belt highlights

I finally got around to creating a movie from the video footage I took of Robbie's black belt test.

Here it is!