Sunday, December 31, 2006

One Moment in 2006


New Year's Eve 2006 and as I try to summarize the year - in my mind, in words, in photos... I am at a loss. So much has happened, so many photos, so much to say, so many feelings. But here is a photo of one moment - just one golden moment of many from 2006... may this memory last forever in my heart... a beautiful, healthy boy snuggled in Momma's loving arms, photo taken by DH on a slightly chilly September evening.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blank Recipe/Cookbook

















Did you know that I have a food blog? It is over at www.starfishyskitchen.blogspot.com and pretty much centers on fast and fun FAMILY fare from this busy Momma. I haven't posted any "fancy" foods over there... yet. Actually, I have difficulty remembering to take photos of what I've made to eat before eating - so many times I make something and eat it and then think - 0ops, forgot to take a photo for my blog! So - there aren't a whole lot of entries on my food blog, but I am going to try to better about it this year!

And, despite my rather simple food blog, I am actually a very good cook when I have the right (fresh) ingredients and a smidge of time. I cook often and for lots of people at that, but shhh - don't tell anyone - being a good cook is a bit of a secret! Believe it or not, it is usually much easier to pull off a sit-down dinner menu than to throw together a last minute meal with a hungry child at your feet!


Anyway, I sent my DH off shopping today with a list, including explicite instructions for the butcher. Tonight my DH and I are making rosemary marinated little lamp chops with a fresh mint/parsley sauce, a brocolli puree that is baked in custard dishes in a water bath and small potatoes, plus a green salad. DH and I enjoy cooking together and like to experiment with different combinations, foods, etc.


I'm hoping my NEW blank cookbook will remind me to take photos of some of my/our dishes and write the recipes down! My nephew's wife has one of these books and I've been wanting and wanting one, so I was very excited to finally see one in a store! It has all kinds of dividers too, plus full page clear pockets for recipes I might photocopy or print out. Because it is a 3 ring binder format - one can keep adding and adding to it. An empty book - so full of many, many possibilities - just waiting to be personalized. Isn't food very personal? How many of you have cherished long-standing recipes written on scraps of paper here and there? Or - you know it is in "this magazine" or "that book"? Well - same for me, but no more! I am going to really put this new book to use!


And just because I know someone will ask - no, it isn't on a quilt - it is on the rug in my son's room!










Sunday, December 24, 2006

Tranquility

















Tranquility - calmness, peacefulness, quiet, serenity.

My wish to everyone is a bit of tranquility somewhere within your busy days.

Photo taken on one of my solo walks.

And even though I hardly ever touch up my photos, as I prefer to remember the "realness" of the moment - I couldn't resist adding a quick touch of color using a photo editor... I think the color is pretty, but I still prefer the original. I'm sure if I had oodles of time to work a bit more on it I could refine it more to my liking, maybe a project for another day. Sorry for the ugly text box - don't have time to figure out a subtle watermark right now, but I've read a few blogs that talk about photos being "lifted" - so thought I should start adding my name to some of my photos.














Saturday, December 23, 2006

Shakespeare Stars

















No, I am not sewing on holiday, but I have these photos already in my computer so thought I would update my Shakespeare progress - as you can see, I am up to the stars. You need 18 little dark stars and 18 little light stars (and then you have to make more small stars to go in the bigger star blocks, but I like to do everything in sets so I start at the number 18). 18 dark stars almost done - when I get back I will tackle the 18 light ones.


All these little pieces are enough to drive a person to distraction and it is about at this stage somewhere that I wonder why I didn't pick out a pattern with bigger pieces! Just start pinning and keep the pieces in little rows of 5 so you will know when you have 18 sets done. A little hint when you are cutting all these small triangles - a new, sharp rotary blade is a big help! My DH was reading a cookbook at the table - keeping me company while I suffered through all this pinning! It really isn't that bad, but just don't get distracted at this stage and wander off to another project or else you might never want to return to make all these little stars! As you can see by the 1st photo - I kept at it until almost all 18 dark ones were finished!



I made almost all the star points scrappy - less to keep track of that way. Here you can see my very favorite, little pair of scissors that I use to clip threads and dog ears (dog ears are the little triangles that poke out when you are sewing triangles!). Aren't these cute - I always think I should use the cutting directions some day to make a Flying Geese border on a different quilt!



A seasonal photo - every year downtown Graz has a beautiful nativity ice sculpture - it was a bit warm this year so was slightly melted by the time I got there with my camera, but here is a photo anyway!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Year 2014 Olympic Skier?




















Look - his pacifier matches his ski jacket! What a sense of style! (He did give it to me just before he set off, lest you think this little athlete is actually skiing with a schnoo!). And - I did change his teddy bear mittens for ski mittens.

Getting ready to go down a long, gradual slope with DH.



Look at that form!








With a Happy Momma! He liked skiing, Yes, Yes, Yes!!! (I am so looking forward to years of skiing with him - hopefully - but once he gets good he will probably leave Momma in the snow dust) - and although he didn't want to go again today - he wants to go again tomorrow. Believe me - this is already a good sign!


He didn't complain one bit about falling either - he kept telling DH - "I'm OK, I'm OK", and he likes the sensation of skiing. He tells me - "I want to go FAST Momma".



In case your wondering - 2014 Winter Olympics might be in S. Korea, Russia or - practically in our very own backyard - Salzburg, Austria. Hummm... And NO - I am not some sports nut parent who will push my kid whether he likes it or not for the sake of being in a sport - I am just having a bit of fun here, so don't worry. But, I am thrilled that he loves skiing so much because I really think it is a fun sport!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Stockings















Look what I found in a box this summer while cleaning out a closet! My Nana made the 2 red stockings probably more than 25 years ago?... and I made the bigger one about 13 years ago out of many different fabrics from the sewing scrap bag (WHAT was I thinking, LOL!). Nana always made us all kind of fun things when we were kids. She was such a good sewer! Look closely - maybe you can see the chunky yarn she tied them with? Anyway, 1 red stocking was made for my nephew - my Nana would neatly pen our names on everything she made - that was my clue! The other red one wasn't labeled - perhaps an extra in case needed? Last time I saw my nephew I gave him the 2 red stockings so now he and his wife have matching stockings made by his Great-grandmother. Perhaps a happy twist of fate that the 2nd stocking was unlabeled and the 2 are now a pair!

About my little rhinestone trees I showed in my last post (they are about 3-4")... I bought them in some little antique-y type shop in Graz, Austria, although they aren't antiques. If I remember correctly - the shop keeper told me they were made in Croatia? The store had a big variety of them and I kept going back and buying just one more and then one more... etc. and now I have eleven. I like them - they are small and not very fragile - both good things as I always seem to be moving, plus they are pretty and my Little Boy just loves them too!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holiday!

















Thankfully, I have a big car, because when it comes to packing for a week long holiday, I pack just about everything BUT the kitchen sink! Honestly! Sometimes I even go so far as to pack the wok and my favorite SHARP kitchen knife. And for a winter holiday all that winter gear takes up space, add what Christmas presents you have (more on that later) and groceries - including favorite spices, etc., a toy box for Little Boy... well, a big car can be nice. And this time around, I am pleased that so far it seems like I only forgot sugar, butter and my everyday winter scarf. Not bad!

We have left the city for my DH's childhood stomping grounds in the mountains and will be here until after Christmas. My DH's family start arriving today and while they do have a house here it will be crowded so we have our own small apartment for the week which is super close by so we can just go back and forth between the 2 places. Convenient!

A bit short in the present department... I paid a small fortune airmailing boxes from the US this year and wouldn't you know - the box with my bathrobe and goofy odds and ends (like icecube trays - they don't have decent ones in Europe which I think is why you never get ice in your drinks in the first place?) that I mailed the morning of my departure arrived very quickly. But nothing else. And then, finally ONE box with the explanation that it had been mistakenly routed to AUSTRALIA instead of AUSTRIA. So, I fear the majority of Little Boy's presents, plus lots of other things that I wanted for Christmas (like my hot chocolate thermoses and knitting project!) are somewhere enroute. But - smart Momma, packed the Christmas stocking and the 2 requested items of Santa in my luggage, phew (Lady and Diesel 10 - both from Thomas the Train). Actually, only 10% of Austrian's have Santa come - this is the land of Chritkind who is the baby Christ angel. Little Boy will also have presents from Christkind, but I figure if he was brave enough to climb up on Santa's lap while we were in the US and ask for these 2 items, and THEN proceed to make sure Santa knew how to get to Austria and that it would involve a long airplane ride and it would hurt his ears... well, I figure, he certainly can have a Christmas stocking this year too!

Today we spent a wonderful 3 hours outside just enjoying winter walking, pulling Little Boy behind in the sled when he got tired and sending him down the hills as we came to them. Seeing his absolute JOY made all the shopping for HIS winter clothing worth while (my snowsuit is true vintage 1980's, but with kids, you just have to bite the bullet and buy new stuff every year because they are growing, growing, growing!). Do I have a story about his winter boots this year? Well, gosh - yes I do! You see - I went to one store and they had very reasonably priced winter boots, but the sales clerk could not tell me any type of temperature rating... and where we go in the winter it can sometimes be -20C so a temperature rating is a bit important to me! So, I brought Little Boy to LL Bean in Maine where they had 2 different syles of boots that the sales clerk felt fairly confident would be nice and warm. The 1st pair was tried on and the biggest temper tantrum ensued with Little Boy lying on the floor screaming and tears just popping out of his eyes and kicking his little feet as hard as he could on the floor (have I ever mentioned just how much he hates going into a store in the 1st place?). All parents and kids stare at us. Sigh. So, I very nicely tell the salesperson that he doesn't like that pair could try the 2nd pair. The salesperson seems a bit surprised, but none-the-less brings out the 2nd pair, which were tried on... and Little Boy was instantly transformed into a ballerina doing flying leaps through the air and twirling around with GLEE. "We will take that pair", I instantly say. One father was there was his 2 girls asking - does this fit? does this hurt your toes? do you like this pair or that pair? etc., etc. He came over to me and said - well at least you instantly know what your son likes - no guessing games there! You could say that again!

Photos: Little Boy with his Advent calendar - in a pair of PJ's that he wore for all of about 1 hour and then decided he hated them - he likes the ones I make for him so much better! He just loves this calendar and we had "peeked" in many windows well before the actual day arrived - "just one little peek, Momma!" And - a photo of my little rhinestone Christmas trees...it is hard to photo them, but they are really lovely - all glittering in the light, surrounded by a real greenery swag.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas Cookies
















Baking with a Toddler is no small feat... but the plan for yesterday was to make Christmas cookies, and make cookies we did. Now, I will be the first to admit - I just love the 99 cent soft cookies that you can buy at the grocery store, but I think holiday traditions are important and baking Christmas cookies is a fun one. What is a little mess in the kitchen?

My sister-in-law often hosts a Christmas cookie party at her house - everyone has to bring their pre-made dough (you have to make it a day ahead anyway so that it has time to "set" in the fridge). If you do one of these parties - tell everyone to make sure they know the oven temp and time for their dough - and be prepared with plenty of parchment paper and either paper plates/wrap or cookie tins for when everyone leaves! Anyway - my sister-in-law makes up bowls of colored frosting, plus colored frosting tubes, paintbrushes, all the tiny cookie decorations, etc. ahead of time, plus bakes her dough - when everyone arrives with the kids - there are cookies all ready to be decorated spread out. Some adults supervise the decorating table, other adults/kids help roll out more cookie dough and cut more cookies - my sister-in-law mans the oven! Oh - and all the kids typically get a Santa hat and an apron to wear! Can you see the apron Little Boy is wearing? My sister-in-law made it for him this fall - she is a real pro when it comes to making kid's aprons! At the end of the party everyone gets a large assortment of different cookies, all VERY creatively decorated by the kids, to take home!










So - the other day I sent my DH off to the store with a shopping list (including molasses, but he came home a bit uncertain about where to get molasses over here!). Well, after giving it a bit of thought I realized that the KitchenAid with the K hook is in Canada so making a stiff dough would be a challenge. Plan B: store bought cookie dough, which worked just fine, and bless his heart - he also got the pre-made lemon icing plus a shaker container of confetti that amused Little Boy to no end. Can we all say major sugar rush and confetti all over the floor? LOL!













The end results of our efforts... In the forground you might be able to see the 4 little spread knives that I bought at Cosco and brought over here - they have a Santa, snowman, Christmas tree and nutcracker on them - we used these knives to spread the frosting, which my son just loved - he couldn't make up his mind which one to use so kept switching from one to another! We did make a few Christmas trees and stars, but my very favorite cookie cutters are the hearts and flowers - easy to pop out and you can cut alot from 1 rolling of the dough - the less you handle the dough the better the taste...

Maybe not the prettiest cookies, but Little Boy sure is PROUD of them! And they sure do taste good (especially for breakfast... sshhh). Yup, I see Christmas cookies being a long-standing holiday tradition.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

A Night Out















As planned, we went downtown last night to enjoy the Christmas lights, Christkindl Markets, have heisse maroni's (hot roasted nuts), and Little Boy's favorite - a ride on the Ice Train plus hotdogs (and Momma and DH shared a gluewein) at our favorite hotdog stand. It was actually a very nice time out as it wasn't very cold... but the temperature did drop just before we headed for home, so I guess we had perfect timing. We did this last year too and I have additional photos of these sights on my December 19, 2005 post in the archives if you want to take a look.

Earlier in the day I brought Little Boy out for lunch as DH was finishing putting together the new cabinet we got at Ikea. When we came home Little Boy was determined not to take a nap, but once I said we were going out at night to ride the Ice Train and he had to take a rest first - you never saw little feet fly into bed so fast! Here is another photo just so you can see how very excited and happy he is riding the Ice Train (click on the photo to enlarge - there is a big smile under all that winter clothing)! Oh and look - I am wearing a super-fab beret that one of my sisters crocheted - I loved hers so much that she made one for me. She doesn't use a pattern, but I am trying to get her to write it down next time she makes one.








































And just because sometimes a photo is worth a thousand words - and this is hard to describe - the main street Christmas decorations this year are 100's of upside down Christmas trees hanging over the street! Not the best photo, but you get the idea! If we go again before Christmas I will try for a better shot.




And for those who are keeping track of my Shakespeare progress... 20 blocks now done - funny thing about snail's - when I make them I think of them as Snail's Trail blocks, but as soon as I set them altogether - I think of them as Virginia Reel blocks! Anyway - this is NOT how the blocks will be set together - I just laid them out like this for the photo... on to making the STARS!





Thursday, December 14, 2006

December Days

















Look at this cute little car - it is a car with a moped motor and has moped license plates - and is only allowed to go 40 km (which is about 30 mph). It can't go on the highways, but is great for the inner city - especially when it comes to parking. We saw this car today at Ikea - not sure WHAT the owner thought he was going to buy... a lightbulb maybe? Ha, ha - when I had a little Geo Tracker my Mom would call it my "Budget Mobile" because I never could buy anything big! Small cars are common over here, but this is the first time I've seen one this small - Little Boy declared it "just my size"!

A nice thing about Ikea over here is that they have a wonderful play room for children over the age of 3... It wasn't too busy there today so we left Little Boy to play for a bit... they give you a phone and call you if you are needed, phew. I think I was a bit more worried about the whole thing than my son was, but he did wonderfully well and played happily for over 1/2 an hour before they called me - he was starting to miss his Momma! And - he had so much fun and now knows that Momma will come right back - that he wants to go again another day. I did manage to get a cabinet that I went for... but didn't manage to get Christmas napkins - hence the Valentine's Day napkins in the next photo...

We had fondu tonight... it is our lazy dinner as we buy many different little prepared salads... tonight we had egg salad, wurst salad (think bologna salad here?), curry carrot salad, tuna, and mixed veggie/mayo salad with green salad, bread, pickles... and horseradish sauce for dipping the pork/chicken into - yummy! The salads make great snacks/suppers during the week. We usually do fondu every Friday night in the winter, but are thinking about going to town tomorrow to enjoy the Christmas market so we had it tonight instead. We won't have fondu next Friday because we are having a big Christmas fondu.






My snail's progress - 20 blocks with just 1 more set of light triangles to add to each edge! So they are growing - around and around we go! I think Snail's Trail is a wonderful scrap block too - maybe in the spring I will buy a bunch of spring-y fat quarters and a fun light print and make a Snail quilt. Just remember - always keep the dark in the top left when adding a dark.






About this photo, I had a fun thought today when looking down into my shiny, glittery pin box - wouldn't it be neat if they made "seasonal" pins - like oranges and black for Halloween, reds and greens for Christmas, reds and pinks for Valentine's day...


A final note: I am a Beta Blogger as of last night. My blog seems to have switched over fairly well intact, except many of the previous comments have lost the author information and are now just showing as anonymous. I had to switch because all of a sudden I wasn't able to leave comments myself anymore and that was frustrating. Then, it took me a while to figure out that my "User Name" is no longer the user name I've always used - but rather it is my e-mail address... so for anyone else out there who may be having trouble signing in to the new Beta - try using your e-mail address instead of user name and see if that works.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Snailing Along













Shakespeare in the Park calls for 20 Snail blocks - so here is my progress so far, step by step... Don't just sit down and start chain sewing those little squares because you only need 40 light and 40 dark to make the 20 blocks and you cut 136 light and 136 dark... this is a little lesson I learned the first time around. These guys are so little and the placement is so obvious that I don't bother to pin. Here are my little 4 patches -aren't they cute?











Next up are the dark side triangles, followed by the light side triangles. Here it is VERY IMPORTANT that you pay attention to the dark triangle placement - I put all my blocks with a little dark square in the top left corner and then put a dark triangle on top of that. Once you have the 1st one done, the other 3 are obvious. But - pay attention to the placement of the 1st dark triangle on EACH round (there are 3 more rounds, each round getting bigger and bigger as you go). I like to center each triangle by lining it up on a center seam - see?












First round all done - just have to trim the little triangles off. I pinned all the white triangles down while Little Boy was coloring at the table and we were talking about colors and shapes and practicing our counting. I like leaving off on a project where it needs to be pinned because I will often pin while he colors - this way we both are sitting at the table and can chat. And - see where I left off - right back at the trimming and pinning stage so I will be all ready for round 2 tomorrow.














And - just to prove that I haven't been glued to the sewing machine... a photo of us on a suspension bridge... out enjoying the nice weather - look, I am not even wearing gloves! Little Boy is absolutely happiest if he gets lots of outdoor time! And, doesn't the fresh air always make kids sleep? Last night was the 1st night he slept through the night since our arrival so I think I am seeing the end of jet lag - phew!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Shakespeare-ing Again



My jet-lag project... cutting out my 3rd Shakespeare in the Park (a Judy Martin design). My pattern is in the Jan/Feb 2001 issue of Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, but this pattern is also in one of her books (Judy's Creative Pattern Book). Linda gave me this link before - if you go to http://www.judymartin.com/Viewer-Photos.cfm you can see lots of quilts that other people have made using Judy's patterns.
I am using labeled freezer bags to keep all the pieces organized. You can see the other 2 Shakespeare quilts I've made in my April 23rd post. This one will be my 2nd blue/cream version. It is an easy quilt to make, but looks complicated - the time consuming part is in the cutting.


Sunday, December 10, 2006

Pre-testing new fabrics

















Little Boy just loves water - any excuse to splash around and get all wet and he is one happy camper. Soooo - I made an event out of pre-testing some new quilting fabrics. It was good for a bit of evening entertainment in anycase. Here is my helper stomping the fabrics into a bucket of water, testing each fabric for bleeding. OK - so I wasn't expecting the stomping bit - but I should have known!

Wet clothes are ok though because guess what? My tub has a handy-dandy clothes rack - so very convenient to hang up the wet clothes to dry. Actually, I have 2 clothes racks - the one over the tub and also a big one that I like to put out on the balcony. Here you can also see my hot water heater - which is about 50 gallons... that is all the hot water you get for the entire day - our hot water heaters don't kick on until mid-night when energy costs go down -so you use your hot water carefully. There is a little guage on it that tells me how much hot water is left and I can double check my usage during the day to make sure there is enough for night-time bath. See Little Boy's toddler tub? They don't sell these in the US, but they are wonderful for toddlers - the water comes right up to his armpits and he doesn't slip all around - he really likes it! I think these tubs are very popular over here because many apartments only have showers, not tubs - and we all know that little kids love a tub! I also have a 10 gallon hot water heater for my kitchen sink - which my other apartment did not have - and let me tell you - the extra 10 gallons a day is nice!

About clothes racks - very common over here and you sure can get some nice ones in the stores! Dryers in apartments are not too common, although the American in me really wanted one, so we have one although I don't use it all too much. But, it is important especially when I wash Little Boy's blanket! The dryers don't vent to the outside - instead they have a water basin that you have to empty every load. Amazing how much water gets put into that basin per load! Which is another reason why I like the clothes racks - the wet clothes put a bit of humidity in the dry winter air!





Saturday, December 09, 2006

New Kitchen!















Ta-Da! Our kitchen WAS vintage 1950's. DH took advantage of our absense by having a new kitchen installed. Phew - what a relief. I didn't have to make 1 single decision - it is all done - right down to the cabinet knobs. This new kitchen hides lots of surprises including a closet pantry, concealed dishwasher next to the sink and a fold-out ironing board from that free-standing cabinet. I love it! What's not to love about missing out on a construction zone, with a toddler, right in the heart and soul of your home?

Thursday, December 07, 2006

My Little Traveler



Little Boy and I had safe and uneventful travels this week. And let me tell you, my son is one heck of a good traveler! The trip was LONG, but we made all our connections successfully (1 just by the skin of our teeth thanks to lots of running on our part, which Little Boy thought was all great fun), we had good weather and no delays. Can one complain? And yes, I LUGGED that HUGE carseat with me on the bus and through the airports - from terminal to terminal. You see... he is so very comfortable in it - and it is FAA approved, which means he can sit in it on the airplane - so that is what we do. And then, because he is nice and comfy (and well contained, might I add) - he actually takes a nap. And this trip - he just so happened to be napping during meal time so I actually got to eat my perfectly horrible airplane food in peace and quiet and then the steward brought him his food when he woke up.

As to be expected several of the security lines weren't fun - 1 just very long and slow and the other - well, let's just say it took a bit of coaxing to get Byron the bulldozer out of Little Boy's hands and into the tote for x-raying! Oh, and 1 very HARD landing - actually one of the roughest landings I've ever had, goodness! But we came through in 1 piece and my DH met us just outside of luggage claim, on schedule! Doesn't that just make a long trip worth the while!

Nope, the trip itself wasn't bad at all... it is just the jetlag we are battling now.

And - a few more photos... mountains in Germany from the car - look - no snow, and the ice skating rink in downtown Munich.