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I need to remember this February 12, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Uncategorized.
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Twenty years from now

you will be more disappointed

by the things that you didn’t do

than by the ones you did do.

So throw off the bowlines.

Sail away from the safe harbor.

Catch the trade winds in your sails.





Mark Twain


I have a perfectly good explanation for this February 11, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Creating, Knitting, Monthly Challenge.
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This wasn’t supposed to happen until March.

Wingspan 4On my list of projects to complete in February is “Purple scarf for the silent auction at church in March.” Technically, what I meant by “complete the scarf” was “start and complete the scarf,” I just didn’t add that little detail to the list. The yarn above, although it includes purple, is not the designated purple yarn. That would be this purple yarn, with the flashy silver flecks.

Purple yarn

I took a little trip last week and needed something to knit. I’d started a scarf using the purple yarn a few times and it just wasn’t working. I thought I’d use the yarn in the top picture instead and donate that scarf to the silent auction so I tucked it into my bag, along with needles. Turns out the needles were too small for the scarf I planned to make — it was barely three inches wide. I ripped it out and wondered what could I knit, without a pattern, out of fingering yarn and size 4 needles? A Wingspan, of course!

I couldn’t just sit there drinking coffee all day.

Sunday in the Kitchen February 10, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in cooking, Gluten Free, Groceries, Monthly Challenge.
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I did my monthly grocery shopping yesterday. I’ve decided that’s how I need to think about it — that I grocery shop once a month only. I might make a quick dash into the store to replenish milk or produce, but anything else will wait for my big shopping trip. I was pretty good about sticking to my list. There were a couple things I remembered while I was in the store and one or two impulse buys (a big jar of pickled cauliflower for only a dollar, for one). Mostly I bought a LOT of produce and I’ll be making that the star of my meals for the next couple weeks.

Today I’ve been doing some of the prep work so I actually use the produce. I hate to admit that too often I buy the stuff, then I’m too tired or rushed or let’s face it, just too lazy to prep it and cook it. So today I roasted some beets (will be cut up for salads or as a side dish), sauteed mushrooms (add to salad, and use as a base for soup), enjoyed some fresh guacamole* and will be putting together some jars of salad. My plan is to eat one of these salad jars daily for either lunch or dinner. I’ll also be making a batch of this celery salad with Feta cheese.

Around Thanksgiving I bought a crate of butternut squash and split it with my daughter. I have only a few squashes left and I’ve been experimenting with this recipe for Butternut Fries. I think the picture in the link might be real potato french fries because they look nothing like how mine have turned out. I did a couple batches this past week with the squash cut think like the link shows. As they are baked and not deep-fried, they don’t really crisp up. The thin fries were very floppy. Tasty dipped into a little ranch dressing laced with Frank’s Buffalo Sauce but floppy. I tried again today cutting them about a half-inch thick and was pleased with the results. Still not crispy, but they browned nicely and had enough substance that they weren’t floppy. I don’t see these as an alternative to french fries made from potatoes, but for a healthy snack, they fit the bill. (I didn’t use the non-stick spray on the squash but instead used about a teaspoon or so olive oil.)

Butternut Fries


* Guacamole – Smash an avocado in a bowl, add some chopped tomatoes, diced onion (I prefer red), fresh cilantro and some type of spicy ingredient (I used a spoonful of adobo sauce from a can of chipotle in adobo). Squeeze on juice from half a lime, salt and pepper to taste and enjoy with tortilla chips.


A little college visit February 9, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in College, Kids, parenting, snow.
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I’m back home from a college visit trip downstate with my youngest son. One would think that after four children I’d have this college search thing down pat but nope, this is a first for me. My oldest two started with Community College, and for one, that was enough to meet his needs. My middle son wasn’t interested in college right after high school — maybe sometime in the future, but not now. We’re in the middle of short visits, auditions (he wants to major in voice), comparing options, considering offers, thinking about finances… it’s all very exhausting.

I live a little over an hour north of my son and planned to drive down after work to spend the night at his place on Thursday. What happened was we had the worst storm of the winter start Thursday morning. By one o’clock we had at least two inches of snow so I asked my boss if it was alright if I left early as long as I made up the time over the weekend. Thankfully she agreed. As I posted Thursday evening, that was without a doubt, one of the most stressful drives in my life. The snow was wet and heavy and slushy. Plows were running, but the snow was coming down fast so unless you were right behind a plow (and I was not), you were driving in slush. At times the snowflakes coming at me were the size of fists. The drive took a bit more than twice as long as normal, but I made it… exhausted but also rather proud of myself. It wasn’t too long ago that I was afraid to drive in even the lightest snow and a storm like this one would have had me in tears.

By morning the snow had stopped and streets were very clear. Bright and early we headed out on our three hour trip downstate. Marc and his friend explored the campus, felt great about their auditions, and dreamed about being college students. We were given tickets to hear the University Symphony (Awesome!) and didn’t get back on the road until late. I stayed another night in Chicago as it was just too late to keep driving.

The drive home today was beautiful. The trees were still covered in thick snow and were absolutely breathtaking. Every once in a while I would see a clump of snow fall from a branch so I know this beauty won’t last long, especially if we get the freezing rain predicted for tonight

Antioch Snow

The cat was not pleased about my absence.Kitty Face

I’m happy to be home and sleeping in my own bed tonight.


Dashing through the snow February 7, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Uncategorized.
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Today we had our worst storm of the winter and I had do drive to Chicago. This trip normally takes about an hour twenty, maybe thirty minutes tops. Today it took almost three hours because of this…


Luckily people were driving sanely and I saw only one accident – a car in a ditch near my home. The snow was pretty wet and slushy. A few times a passing truck hit a slush puddle that splashed up totally covering my windshield.  Good thing I’ve got good wiper blades.

The drive wasn’t really scary – I have a good car and took my time – but it was, without a doubt,one of the most stressful drives ever. I hope the snow slacks off so our drive downstate tomorrow OS an easy one.

Chu’s Day by Neil Gaiman February 6, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Books, Kids, Neil Gaiman, reading.
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Chu's Day

Neil Gaiman says adults can’t read Chu’s Day… unless they are reading it to a child. I don’t have a small child handy so I cheated and read it to my cat. I’m not sure she appreciated the humor but I loved it. This is a simple story about a small panda with big sneezes. When Chu sneezes, bad things happen.

I borrowed the book from the library but I’ve also added it to my Amazon wish list. This would make a great gift for a young child’s birthday… as long as you’re prepared to read it over and over.

What’s one of your favorite read aloud books?

Victories! February 5, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Goals, lists, randomness.
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I almost titled this post “Small Victories” but any step forward is progress. Those baby steps deserve as much recognition as the humongous giant steps. I am happy to report the following victories:

  • I took breakfast and lunch to work and drank the free coffee (instead of visiting the Starbucks conveniently located just one floor below me) all of January. The only money I spent on food at work was 84 cents to buy some cheese to put on my chili one day. 
  • I cut back to Basic Cable, saving at least $40 a month.
  • I’m learning to cook in smaller quantities. It it quite the challenge to transition from cooking for six to ten people at every meal to just one, even if that transition takes a few years.
  • My middle son started a new job (technically that’s not my victory, but it’s a huge one for him and I am sharing in the celebrating.)
  • I have exercised in the morning, before getting on with my day, for two days in a row. I, uh, kinda slacked off this past weekend but I’m back on track and rarin’ to go.
  • I unsubscribed from some of that annoying junk e-mail, clearing some of the clutter from my in-box.

What victories are you celebrating? Big or small, each victory deserves recognition and celebration.

No Spendy Week 5 February 4, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Consumerism, Finances, My No Spendy Year.
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Something happens to me when my checkbook balance gets low — I start wanting to buy stuff. For most of January I was feeling really good about this challenge. I was staying within the rules and seeing a nice little cushion in my bank account. Then I had a week with unexpected expenses, plus bills that had to paid NOW and that cushion vanished. I was back to living paycheck to paycheck and all I could think was “I’d really like a comfortable, overstuffed chair to curl up in and read. Maybe even two — one for the living room and one for my bedroom.”

I’m not about to run out and buy a chair but this hasn’t even been on my radar. I had no idea I wanted a reading chair, much less two. I’m certainly not at a point in my life where I am totally satisfied with what I own and have no desire to add anything new. There are some things I’d like to get someday, both expensive and not so expensive. I also know there isn’t anything that I don’t have that I honestly need. Things I want? Yup, lots of things I want, but nothing I really need.

So why is it, when my bank balance started dipping, that I started making lists of things I want? (To give myself a little credit, I also thought “I wonder how much longer until garage sale season and could I maybe find some nice chairs at a garage sale?”)

I didn’t run out and blow money I don’t have, but I sure wanted to. I really wanted to get carnitas tacos from the local Mexican restaurant and I wanted a dressform and I wanted hot wings and I wanted an Ott light. All of those are things that would add some level of happiness to my life. I love carnitas tacos and crave hot wings. Those two items are the main reason I added Number Nine to my Rules for this year. I also know there is no reason I must indulge in either on a whim. I’m not forbidden from eating either of those, it just needs to fit into my spending plan. I can either make them at home, or go out to eat with friends. (Anyone want to guess what’s going on my grocery list this week?) Someday I will get a dressform but I know that purchase needs to wait.

It is possible however, that I will buy an Ott light this month. Joann Fabrics is having an awesome sale — buy a table lamp and get a floor lamp free. Two lamps for $109.99. Plus, I have a coupon for 15% off my entire purchase, including sale items. I have wanted an Ott light for literally years. As much as I hate to admit it, my eyes are getting older and sometimes close work is a bit challenging. I can use my Free Spending Money so this purchase would fit within my plan, but I’m very on the fence about it. The sale goes through most of this month so I have time to decide.

And I still don’t know why I really want to spend money when I don’t really have any to spend.

Wingspan February 3, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Creating, Knitting.
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This pattern typifies process knitting for me. It’s all garter stitch (which alone could get very boring) with short rows thrown in for variety. There’s not much counting necessary – every few rows I count “1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3” to make sure I haven’t lost, or added, any stitches. I’m very good at counting to three. Plus, the exciting part for me is the self-striping yarn. I love self-striping yarn!

The pattern is Wingspan and I am hooked. If I hadn’t pledged to this month of finishing projects I’ve already started, I would probably have another one cast on by now. Here are the ones I’ve completed

WingspanMade using Lion Brand Amazing yarn (can’t remember the colorway) and was gifted to a friend.

Wingspan2This one was made using souvenir yarn from my trip to Missouri last summer with my youngest (Lang Yarns Jawoll Magic, color 84.0099). I’m keeping this one.

Wingspan - Mary's 2I love Chroma yarn from Knit Picks so much I call it my Happy Yarn. I just love knitting with it. I’ve used both the worsted and fingering and made scarves and mittens. If I was letting myself spend money on yarn this year I’d be ordering some of the new colors that are available. This colorway is New England and it looks like it may have been discontinued. This one is also going to a friend.

My next Wingspan will also be out of Chroma in the Mix Tape colorway. I have two skeins so I’m considering making the triangles a bit bigger. Since I can’t start it until all my February Challenge projects are completed or March 1, whichever comes first, I should stop tempting myself and get busy checking other things off my list.

PS – I apologize for the shadow in the pictures.



















February Challenge progress February 3, 2013

Posted by phoenixhopes in Creating, Monthly Challenge, Quilting.
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This weekend I was able to cross a few things off the February Challenge project list. Woo Hoo! Progress feels great!

First the Shop Hop Quilt Top. This top has been in process for a long time — at least 12 years. That’s when the quilt shops in our area held a “Shop Hop” with special sales and a special pattern. One piece of the pattern was provided by each store so, in order to have the full pattern, you had to make it to each store. I went, along with my daughter and a friend and we had an enjoyable day. We bought a yard of fabric at each store and divided it into three. Then, we used that fabric and the patterns provided, to make the blocks, each of us using a background fabric of their own choosing. There was some friendly competition going on to see who could finish their top first and, as I recall, my daughter won. I got as far as making the blocks and then they sat. And sat. And sat.

Recently I came across that box of blocks and thought I’d crowd source a quilt design. The blocks went up on my design wall (a neutral flannel sheet tacked up in my hallway) totally randomly and I started playing with designs. I left it up over the Holidays and my kids also played with the blocks. This is what it looked like at one point

Shop Hop Top 3While I liked the combination of randomness and bits of patterns, it just wasn’t gelling. Once everyone went home, I went at the design again and finally found something I liked. This is the end result. It’s more structured but not quite symmetrical. There is a bit too much white space near the bottom but that will have to be ok. The top is sewn together and will go back in a box to wait until I know how I want to finish it. Hopefully it won’t be another 12 years!

Shop Hop Top

I have two more projects to check off the list — when I had the iron set up last night to press the quilt top I fixed the pant hems as well. Five minutes and a couple of strips of double-sided hem tape and I was done. I was so happy to get those pants back in my closet I wore one to church this morning.

I was going to add some pictures of past knitting projects to this post but I think that deserves one of its very own.