Thursday, December 31, 2009

Jane: Now a Facebook user

So yesterday, I started a project I had on my list for Xmas break: set up a Facebook account.

Although most people just think of it as socializing, Facebook is so much part of the online writing world--especially for those who need to know about guerilla publicity and public relations--that I figure I better figure out how it works! (I teach an upper-level writing workshop class that lots of PR majors take.)

When I got to my new Facebook page, it feels like I'm stepping into a lively party, populated by my friends. Some of those friends are people I haven't seen or heard from in years, some live far away. It's amazing to see them all in one place.

Like a party, it's loud. That's the only way I can describe it. Everyone's talking at once, and about all different things. I overhear conversations my friends are having with other people, and some people try talking to me amidst the hubbub. Some people don't seem to care if anyone's listening, some seem to need a response, others seem to be asking for a response from me in particular!

It's exhilarating. But it seems exhausting, too, like many big parties are. You have to be in the mood for it.

So I don't think facebook is going to replace blogging for me. I like the quiet of blogging, the time to think, the time to formulate some ideas and maybe come back to them. I like reading the blogs and long e-mail messages that my friends write, too--it's kind of like having a quiet one-on-one conversation with them. Actually, I am the sort who likes quiet one-on-one conversations more than parties!

Still, I'll check into the FB party now and then. And if you're there, stop by and say "hi." Or, as they say, "friend" me!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Jane: Xmas Amigurumi

Did you know Santa made amigurumi? These appeared in my boys' stockings on Xmas morning :-)

You might recognize the 1-up mushroom from Robbie's earlier post. And Eli kept saying this fall that he wanted a baby raccoon as a pet, so that's probably why that little fellow appeared in his stocking.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Jane: Fleece Mitts Instructions

After I sent those crocheted mitts to my sister-in-law (btw, the pattern's in Fall 2009 Interweave Crochet, and the yarn is a Japanese silk/wool blend), I heard that my niece Anna always has cold hands and was eyeing them covetously :-) So I decided to send her and her sister Maggie a couple pairs of fleece mitts. They take practically no time at all to make, and I love the ones I made for myself.

And in case Anna and Maggie would like to make a pair--or anyone else, for that matter--here are the instructions.

scrap of fleece--at least 9"x20" or 18"x10." If you buy fleece you can get by with 1/4 or 1/3 yard.
1/4 inch elastic

Sewing machine
scissors or rotary cutter, ruler, and mat

Begin by cutting out two rectangles of fleece, 9"x10."

Sew these rectangles into tubes the long way, sewing along the 10" side.
Shape them by trimming off a triangle at the top. Measure down 2" on the side without the seam to find the angle.

Cut two pieces of elastic 5 1/2" long. Measure 2" up along the seamed side and pin one end there. Then pin the other end of the elastic to the top of the seam. It won't be long enough!

Sew the elastic along the seam with a zigzag stitch, stretching the elastic so it fits.

It might help to have a friend stretch the elastic while you put in some pins along the way first.

Lay out the gloves, with the elastics to the outside. Next, cut the pinky slits about 1/2" from the top right next to the elastic.

Trim off the pointy tops above the elastic.

Turn inside out and put them on! Your pinky goes through the slit on the bottom of the mitt.

You can fold up the cuffs if they are too long, or tuck them into your sweater or shirt.

Hey, don't forget to tidy up your workspace!

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Funny Christmas Eve Story . . .

Last night, Bruce and I ushered at the Christmas Eve service. Robbie and Eli helped for a while, then retired to the couch outside the sanctuary, where they usually hang out.

The sermon was Pastor Paul, dressed as a 1st century shepherd who was looking for a lost goat, all the while telling us about the Good Shepherd calling to his sheep by name. "He knows your name and he's calling you!" he said.

At the end, he "found" the goat--and brought a real goat into the sanctuary on a leash! She was very well-behaved, but someone needed to take care of her while Pastor Paul changed back into his civvies . . . I saw him hand off the goat-on-a-leash to Robbie! The boys took charge of the goat, walking her around outside while we finished the service, keeping her from eating the poinsettias inside, and holding her while the children petted her on their way out of church. They enjoyed her company much better than sitting in church.

We'll always remember this Christmas Eve as the goat Christmas eve!

A merry and memorable Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Jane, Robbie, and Eli: Cookies

We made some unusual cookies yesterday: candy cane cookies.

The dough was pretty much butter and sugar with some flour and vanilla, too. We rolled the dough out into snakes, like play-doh. Then we twisted them into candy canes and sprinkled with some crushed REAL candy canes.

We ran into a problem when the dough kept getting sticky. Robbie had a solution to this problem: we put the bowl of dough into a pan with snow in it, and put an ice pack on top of the dough. This kept the dough cool so it didn't get melty and sticky. We also put ice packs on the granite countertops to keep them cool, too.

The cookies are great!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Jane: Handmade gifts . . .

One nice thing about being good with yarn or a sewing machine is that you can create one-of-a-kind gifts for people at times like birthdays or Christmas. This used to be especially essential for me--at times when I didn't have much disposable income for presents. Instead of going shopping and feeling sad because I couldn't afford to buy friends and family the gifts they deserved, I could stay home and create gifts--and usually creating gifts is less expensive than buying!

When I was a girl, I remember working for a year on a crocheted scarf for my grandmother (who taught me to crochet). I felt so proud when I gave her that gift! And I remember other hand-made gifts, too--embroidered pictures for grandmothers, Christmas doodads for mom and dad, etc.

Money was tight when the boys were babies, too. I remember using nap time (ah nap time! How I miss it!) to create a flock of fleece vests for my family! I found it relaxing to go downstairs and sew in peace and quiet while the boys slept.

I guess I still enjoy the creative process of making gifts . . . I still do it every year, even though money is no longer tight!

Here are a couple of gifts I've created recently. I'll share more later . . . :-)
Jigglypuff was for my niece Maggie, who loves video games.
These handwarmers were for my sister-in-law--my brother keeps the house rather cold :-)

I'll share more photos later!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Robbie: My mom is a N00B

I was playing Pictionary with my mom and brother and I drew this picture for 7UP.

For all of you other N00Bs out there, #00FF00 is the hexadecimal color coding for green and green mushrooms in Super Mario Bros. give you a "1up" (extra life) so there are 7 so that means that you get 7*1up or 7UP (the soda bottle was added so that my N00bish mom could figure it out.

anyway... until something better comes by (acekard 2i) Bobbert out.

Jane: Meat

I got an early Christmas present this weekend: a pound of Italian sausage.

Odd gift, maybe. I got it from Glenda and Keith at Forest Hill Farm when I went to pick up my order of 5 pounds of ground beef made from their grass-fed herd of cattle on their farm in Northeast Iowa--they make a stop in downtown Cedar Rapids every other week with orders for people here.

I found out about their farm when I stopped at their table at the farmer's market where I spotted a copy of Omnivore's Dilemma.

"I taught that book," I said to Glenda, and we were off into a conversation about free-range hens, grass-fed beef, and responsible farming methods. I bought their eggs, about a dozen every other week, all summer. Apparently their two sons, about the ages of Robbie and Eli, run the egg business!

I tried the beef a bit hesitantly--Bruce has a bit of trouble digesting beef. But Glenda suggested that he might have a different experience with grass-fed beef, which has higher levels of Omega-3s and Linoleic acid (whatever that is). It was true--the beef was easier for him to digest, and we loved the flavor! So we're back to eating the occasional burger again.

It might be a bit more expensive than ground beef in the stores: I think my 5# were $22. But it's better for us, better for the environment, and better for the cattle--who live a decent life out in the pastures instead of in horrid feed lots. And the farm isn't far away, which reduces transportation costs.

I think my Forest Hill Farm experience would be complete if I got a chance to visit there--I'd love to see their happy pigs, the mobile pasture pens for the chickens, and the happy grazing cattle!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Robbie: Opera Unite!

I downloaded the newest version of the Opera Web Browser and was messing with the apps. Here is a link to my fridge so you can post sticky notes on it. Here is my lounge (a chatroom). Here is my whiteboard.

Jane: Early Christmas Present

The present? It was seeing Robbie in his Washington High School Wind Symphony tux. At first he wasn't crazy about wearing it--"collar is too tight!"

But I think he got used to it. Here he is with two buddies from Concert Band. They also had tuxes, though didn't have to deal with the wing-tip collars!
(Yeah, I know the hair on all those boys wants cutting.)

The band holiday concert last night--very enjoyable! The Concert band played Sleigh Ride (the horse seemed to be going very slowly . . . ) and Wind Symphony (the top band--Robbie is in it) did 5 really nice pieces, including one that evoked a joyful Jewish wedding. Robbie had to work hard on music this term.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Eli: Mitzi in cold weather

This is how Mitzi stays warm in cold weather.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jane: Snow Days

The sound of the phone ringing rocketed me out of bed yesterday morning at 5:30. It was a robo-call from the school system saying school was canceled because of weather.

We had about 1 inch of snow.

This is kind of a Cedar Rapids tradition. During snowy weather, the schools just shut down. The rest of the town keeps going, but schools are closed.

Part of the reason for the closing was the hyperbolic discussions of a snow storm that was making its way through the area. I heard one meteorologist say it was "an epic snow event." Bruce is sure that this kind of talk is partially marketing. If it's just some heavy snow, big deal. But if it's an "epic snow event," then you need to watch the news, he thought.

So the boys were home from school yesterday, in anticipation of an "epic snow event" which didn't really start until about 5 that evening. Still, I'm glad they got to enjoy the weather. They both got together with friends and went sledding. 4 of them (Robbie and friends) ended up here afterwards, so I had to feed them and put up with the noise while attempting to write some stories and get ready for class that afternoon (Coe never closes because of weather).

The epic snow event dumped about 8" of snow on us between 5 p.m. yesterday and 6 a.m. today. Of course there's no school. Robbie is out helping Bruce get rid of the snow with shovels and a wheelbarrow, and Eli is playing around.

I'm not sure if I'll be able to get in to Coe for conferences with students. I also have a doctor's appointment this afternoon. The tricky part is the alley. Our driveway is about clear, but we're on an alley, which is snowy. I've gotten stuck there before.

Bruce is going to walk, but that does not appeal to me. Besides deep snow on the sidewalk, the winds are picking up and are expected to be gusting up to 50 mph later today!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Jane: Advent Weekend

Usually I don't get much of a chance to enjoy Advent. It's always during the last couple weeks of classes and I'm usually distracted and busy! My dad and I used to say we couldn't even think about Christmas until our grades were in. . .

But I must be getting better at this time of the year. This past weekend, for example, I had a wonderful Advent-y time.

Saturday morning I got up early so I could go with my friend Anne to Nature's Noel, an annual fund-raiser sale at the local nature center. Anne goes every year--she even works at the nature center making centerpieces out of freshly-cut greens. She also prides herself on being the first in line at the sale--which begins at 9. So there we were--first in line!--at about 8:20!

I've never been to the sale, so Anne filled me in on what to get. I bought a special decoration--a "kissing ball" which I hung outside from the magnolia tree. Isn't it pretty?

I also got a little Yule log table decoration. I couldn't resist the little bird on it!

The last thing I got was a HUGE bundle of freshly cut greens--branches of fir, yew, and cedar, all of which had been treated with a preservative. I only wanted a few branches to decorate the mantel with, but when I got the big bag, I decided to make some centerpieces myself.

Here they are:

Items like this were $20-30 at the sale. I got the bag o' greens for $4 and the baskets and doodads for about $12. I'll save the baskets and doodads for next year. Making those arrangements was surprisingly fun.

After the sale, I went off to a rehearsal. I played flute at our church's Christmas cantata. The music was very fun--kind of folk-y. The instruments were 2 flutes, acoustic guitar, and percussion. Some of the pieces were slow. "This one reminds me of the Paul Winter consort" said our director about one piece. A couple were fun and upbeat.

I even got to play percussion with one piece, a bossa-nova beat version of O Come O Come Emmanuel. The director gave me claves

and I got a very brief lesson on how to play them from Dennis McPartland, our percussionist, who's a local professional musician! Cool. I think I now want to become a clave player . . .

What a weekend to get me in the Advent frame of mind. It was all good.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jane: Thanksgiving in Atlanta

I didn't take my camera to my sister's for Thanksgiving because I always forget to take photos anyway. And look--I was too busy making pie crust!

But Bill took some--here are his photos.