Saturday, December 29, 2012


I've been meaning to write this post... about appreciation.  Sometimes we just do things because it is the right thing to do and we really don't expect an "award".  And along the way, when we are doing the "right thing", we actually have fun. So - in a way, you are already getting 2 awards - doing the right thing and having fun.  I really believe that it is better to be busy than bored.
One of my nephew's Boy Scout troops has an annual "Turkey Shoot and camp-out"... in November.  Remember what happened in November?  Hurricane Sandy.  Turns out that some of his leaders went down there to help out, but the kids had this big weekend all planned so some extra help was needed.
Enter, my sister and myself - as cooks. 
OK - so we didn't do it all by ourselves.  When we arrived, the guys had already made the "oven" (it is made out of old metal tent poles and plumbing pipes, chicken wire rolled in the corners to stack the charcoal, covered in tin foil and metal taped together (leaving the corners free for feeding the charcoal).  Here is a photo before the lid was taped down.  How else are you going to cook 3 huge turkeys, outside at a campground... in a few hours?  OK, so I had my doubts, but this thing really worked and it was the best turkey I have ever had!  Seriously.  But maybe that was because by then I had been cooking outside for several hours, in 40 degree weather and was starving!

Our outside kitchen.  To cook for over 50 people.
The "mega" stove.  This thing was a life-saver because it could hold 2 very large pots at a time and was much hotter than the other camp stove.  My sister and I were constantly switching pots back and forth depending how hot we wanted things to get.
This photo - I just love this photo, it is my sister... looking so much like our Mom with a big smile on her face and holding a bit pot of food!  We lost our Mom before my son was born - to cancer.  But she loved kids so I could just see her here - pitching in to make sure the boys had a good weekend!  Did I mention that it was cold and got colder as the evening went on?  We kept a big pot full of hot water just for the hot chocolate requests!
We made 8 boxes of Stove Top, peeled and chopped I think 20 pounds of potato for mashed potato, peeled and chopped I think 5 pounds of potato for scalloped potato loaded with whipping cream (yum!), I think we used 10 cans of gravy and should have used more!, we had butternut squash, several big bags of green beans that needed to be chopped and then we peeled and chopped lots of apples for jumbo apple pies - although one cute younger scout helped out with the apples.  We used store bought pie crust.
Once we fixed the scalloped potatoes and apple pies - we handed them off to the guys to look after.  See - they are in those big dutch ovens with coals underneath and on top.  Those things in the front are to get the coals hot.  And one of the guys is checking the turkeys!  They have yellow tape around our "oven" area to keep out the rough-housing boys!  Lots of boys!
The guys did a great job looking after our masterpieces!  See... (that's the apple pie - in progress).
About this time - they all figured out I liked to take lots of photos!  I told them that I posted photos on my blog and was being careful to take extra photos that would not show them or the boys for my blog because, well, because I am considerate that way.  Anyway, they told me I could take their photo and post it, so here is a photo of them lifting 2 of those yummy turkeys out of the "oven".  Pure perfection, I tell you!  And look - it is still daylight.  These things cooked just as quickly as if they were in a normal oven in a house!
My sister and I timed everything to finish at the same time.  And it worked, despite the different cooking temperatures on the stoves, phew!  We had lots of fun, joking and laughing all the while.  I think we almost talked the guys into hosting their own Pampered Chef party.  I have to say though - their camp kitchen was VERY well stocked, and organized.  I felt right at home!  Except I missed some of my "goofy" gadgets - like that Pampered Chef tube that you roll garlic in to get the peel off.  Yes, they were laughing at me!
To serve all the hordes of hungry boys, the dishwashing stationed was emptied out, turned over and balanced on top of a long table.  This provided a stable holder for all the pots and pots of food.  The guys all lined up and got ready to serve.

As a special honor, my sister and I got to go first.  I was really touched.  I wasn't expecting that!  Everything was hot (an accomplishment considering the outside temperature) and delicious!  And for dessert, that special young scout that helped with the apple pies got to go first.  My sister and I left before the dishes had to be done, but everyone ate on paper plates with plastic utensils anyway.  We did NOT sleep in the tents (brrrr), but we helped cooked the food - and let me tell you, it was tons of work, but fun too.
Not too long ago, my sister e-mailed me the photo of the turkey shoot patches.  The Boy Scout troop ordered my sister and me our very own patches as a special thank-you for all our help.  It is nice to be appreciated!  And we had fun.  And the boys had fun.  And I think that the guys were relieved when we showed up to take over "our" part of the kitchen.  And everyone was well fed.  And happy.  And did I mention - my sister and I got to eat first?  Yum.  

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Sewing Inspiration

Don't you just love thumbing through the "resort wear" section of catalogs during the winter months?  Sneak previews are always available right after Christmas.  Let's look at the photo above (Nordstrom's).  Knit jacket (it does have princess seams on the front, no seams on the back) for 1038 Euros, Skinny pants for 397 Euros and a scoop neck tank top (ribbed knit) underneath for 236 Euros.  No mention of shoes, but truthfully, I wouldn't wear shoes like that anyway!  But the outfit - I like it.  So, let's see...

Simplicity 2136 looks very similar to the jacket (loose the bow!)  Or - there are lots of other similar ones - this is just the first one I came across in a search!  You have to love that it is an "It's so Easy" pattern!  I think I might even own this pattern - if not this one, then something similar that I bought with the idea that I might make a fleece blazer.  If it works for fleece, I bet it will work for a nice, thick double knit, you could even line it so it won't be clingy.
Skinny white jeans.  Old Navy?  Gap?  I take a long length which isn't always easy to find.  I made a pair of skinny pants 3 years ago from a German magazine and I still have that pattern - it would work perfectly.  Or, maybe Jalie stretch jeans pattern has many happy reviews over on  You need just over 1.6 yards of 60" wide fabric to make these jeans (plus/minus depending on your size).  Stretch denim (60") is on sale right now at for $5.25 per yard.  Order the 2 yards and use the scraps to make some cute coin pouches or whatever.  Add a zipper, jeans thread, jeans needle, grommets and top snap.

Black tank top?  I think I have that covered!  However..  there is always Simplicity 2599... another patternreview favorite.  1 1/2 yards of 60" wide knit should do it for most sizes.

Almost 1700 Euros for the outfit from Nordstrom's.  Not that I shop at Nordstrom's anyway - but I do like to look at their website because their fashions are very current.  If I am going to take the time to sew something, I don't want a mish-mash of bargain basement fabrics.  It is easy to get distracted when buying fabrics and then end up with something that you weren't envisioning in the first place!  If you line these 3 patterns up in a row, would you imagine the Nordstrom's outfit unless you already had that in mind?  I don't - that is why I like to have a plan in place before I go pattern/fabric shopping!
So - that is part of what I did today.  Post-Christmas - spent putting together Lego's, a model with evil soak off decals that are fragile and easy for a boy to rip, drawing, hanging out, etc.  We were going to go ice skating, but it is raining.  Very warm for December.  A perfect day for thinking about some clothes that I would like to make!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Greetings

 For us, December is a month where we really enjoy our candles, starting with the first candle in the Advent wreath.  This photo is from right after we light the 4th Advent candle, plus the many others!  The white pillar candles we decorated with colored sheet wax during a craft activity at one of the churches.
 This is the first year we have had lights on our tree here and I have really enjoyed it!  Lights in the home for decoration are not typical here - candles are still preferred!  You will notice that the tree is cut in such a way to make room for the candles on the ends of each level.  The first few stores we looked at, lights were about 50 Euros so I was thinking that lights weren't going to happen, but then I tried a discount store from a big chain and they had these for a price I could bear.  This really is the nicest tree we have ever had - we have purple, red and gold decorations, lots of hanging chocolates, purple candles, a red topper and a few other odds and ends of special ornaments, and lots of goodies all wrapped up underneath!  
 My son and I - so very happy to be together on Christmas Eve!

 In the afternoon, we took a walk along the river.  The temperature today is fairly mild for December, which is good because my son has been running night fevers and the cold weather gets him coughing.  But today was a good day for a walk.  We like to look for ducks and usually see one or two.  Today we saw over 24 ducks... and a swan!  My son was most thrilled with the Christmas swan and took many photos - thank goodness for digital cameras or else, in the old days, that would be an entire roll of film!

In the early evening on Christmas Eve, we leave the house and Christkind brings presents.  In Austria, there is no Santa Claus, but rather an angel who brings the presents.  It is a bit of a challenge to get everyone out of the house at a certain time, so a neighbor can bring the presents from Christkind into the house!  Then all the presents are opened.  I love it that my son stopped mid-presents to try on his new house slippers that I knit for him.  He is really appreciative of every present.  A funny thing - one of my sisters sent him a fleece jacket that she smooshed into a zip lock bag so it would fit into my suitcase.  He even likes that zip lock bag!  Perfect for storing Lego bits in, you know?
Speaking of Legos - my lovely boy.  Here he is excited to get a box of Lego pieces from Christkind.  This year Christkind's paper was blue.
In the evening we had DH's favorite Christmas Eve meal - meat fondu.  Steak, chicken and pork, plus salads, sides, and bread.  I also set out carrot sticks, pickles and sliced pears.  With lots of candles.  We wound down with watching Home Alone and then went to bed... because... well - even if Santa isn't traditional in Austria, he does make a special detour to our home! :)  

Personally, when I was growing up, my stocking was always a favorite gift, and I think the same goes for my son.  I love this photo - don't you love how kids wake up and run to see if Santa has come?  Santa always brings a stuffed animal, chocolate and one "big" gift, plus all those odd bits like toothbrush & paste, chapstick, flashlight, etc.  That stocking comes in useful!  See that Lindt chocolate bear - Gummi Bear sued and won the rights, so Lindt can't make the bear anymore but if I tell him that - he will never eat it.  So, shhhh.  He hardly eats candy anyway, so if it is still left by mid-January for our Snowman party, we will melt it (and all the other left-over Christmas chocolates) in the chocolate fondu pot for dessert with pound cake, bananas and strawberries!
So, Christmas continues...  why rush it - my son is growing up so fast!  Today... Lego marathon (because that is what Santa brought, did you guess?), left-overs, the last day of Christmas music over the radio, and candles.  A peaceful, stress-free day.  Wishing all my family, friends and blog readers the same.  

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Crafting Together

The other week when I was finishing up this sock, my son was sitting right next to me crafting away on his little cardboard circle loom that he made in school.  I wasn't exactly sure what he was making, but I did notice snips of cashmere, angora and other specialty yarns going into the project!  Much, much care went into selecting each yarn.  
He was anxious to get the weaving part done so his crafts teacher at school would help him finish it on Friday.  

Meet Mr. Turtle!  The circle part is stuffed and sewn onto a double thick layer of felt.
And this lovely ornament he made at school.  My son has crafts every Friday and they always seem to be making neat projects!

Friday, December 21, 2012

On The Needles Friday - House slippers

I can't believe another week has slipped by.  I have been right out straight, busy!  
On the needles - well, not this!  I made this pair of house slippers for a great niece for Christmas and this is the photo before I added the crochet trim around the top (or finished that 2nd slipper).  Then I made pair in red/blue for her brother.  I also made a pair for my son (blue/gray) - I finished knitting them about a month ago and just added the crochet trim today, got them wrapped up, put under the tree - and then remembered that maybe I should have taken a photo for my blog!  
I didn't really craft as many gifts this year as I would have liked to.  I made some jelly and apple butter, knit a pair of socks and 3 pairs of house slippers.  Still, I think that all is pretty good when you consider my schedule!  I hope all the kids slippers fit and they like them!  They feel nice and cushy since they are double knit.  I used Wool Ease for the boys and my sister gave me some mystery yarn for the pink pair!

Friday, December 14, 2012

On The Needles Friday - socks!

The LEFT sock - well, I actually have 2 of them done.  Just have to weave the ends in.  I am not happy with them - they are my standard K3, P1, down to the toe.  But the YARN instructions said to use a size US3 (3 1/4mm) needle and to cast on 48 stitches.  Trying to branch out from always doing the same thing - I tried it.  Guess there is something to be said about "tried and true".  I think that the knitting is a bit loose for a sock and wonder how comfortable it will be.  Sigh.
The LEFT sock - I caste on this summer, using my favorite sock needles - size 2 (2 1/4 mm) and cast on 52 stitches.  It is a cotton type of yarn and doesn't have much "stretch" at all.  Since I had just finished the purple sock, I used the same measurements, but now this sock is about 1/4" too small.  Agh. I forgot about the needle difference.  And I already cut the yarn.  I am soooo annoyed.  I would happily knit the 2nd sock and gift them to my mother-in-law for Christmas (she has smaller feet than me!), but I cast on 52 for my skinny legs, not 60. 
So, I have 2 purple socks that I don't like and 1 finer sock that is a bit too small.  And a sock request... my son really liked the left sock and even tried it on.  He wants me to make him a pair of socks... right away, but not in girl colors.  I used to knit most his socks, plus he got hand-me-down hand knit socks, but the past 2 years he has been wearing store bought socks.  Now he says they bother him - dig into his leg.  He showed me, and yup - they dig into his leg, so it is back to hand-knit socks. This is the yarn he picked (don't worry, I have 2 balls).  I love how it exactly matches the colors in my favorite rug.

The sock shapers are a present for someone here in Austria who wears hand-knit boot socks and I thought he would like them to dry his socks after washing, so I brought them with me.
If you want to see what everyone else is knitting these days, head on over to Judy's Blog where she hosts Friday's "On the Needles".
Amazon book wish list:  I saw this book at the bookstore and loved it!  I plan on buying this book in the Spring.  I thought I would share it with all of you since this is a post about sock knitting!  It is more than a sock pattern book - it has all sorts of techniques, different ways of doing things, great information.  Thank you to everyone who have used my Amazon links to buy things - I get a commission from your purchases when you use my links.  Like all things "too good to be true", it isn't going to generate hundreds of dollars for me, but I think that every little bit does add up!  Last month I got enough to get a taxi home from the airport instead of lugging my bags through various modes of public transportation, which was great.  I have been thinking that some months I will buy crafty books that I really want with my Amazon commission and share my reviews with you!  This book is currently at the top of my book wish list!  How fun is that going to be?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Making a Wooden Christmas Star Ornament

Wooden Christmas ornaments are very popular in Austria!  Last weekend my son took part of a mini "make and take" workshop and he created his very own wooden star!  It was not hard at all - just took a bit of time (like all things hand crafted).  He had a great teacher - very organized and patient - shown above with him.  This is the website for the man who was running the workshop.  It is in German, but easy enough to translate in the funny way that computer translators translate!
Below you can see the man's set-up, which is in a Christmas tent in the city right now.  Plus, he had a long table with a bench for the children to sit on while they created their masterpieces.  After seeing this, I guess lugging a sewing machine to a workshop is a piece of cake!

Here you can see my son gluing the segments together with the glue gun and then, quick, quick - clothes pin the units so the glue sets!  The mat in front of him is the "measuring" mat with all the lengths and how many units needed clearly marked.  In this way, the children were able to do the project by themselves with minimal supervision.

A close-up of the progress being made.  You need lots of clothespins!  One of my friends is going to try this in her daughter's classroom as a Christmas craft - using colored paper.  I think that is a great idea!  I can just imagine a window all decorated with colorful paper stars!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

More St. Nicholas's

 If you read my last post - it was about St. Nicholas Day.  Turns out, we had our celebration 1 day early and I thought that would cover it.  Nope.  Wrong!  The very next day my son tells me that it is St. Nicholas Day and St. Nicholas is going to bring him a gift that night.  Huh?  He brought you something last night.  Well, that was the FAKE St. Nicholas - the REAL St. Nicholas was scheduled to come tonight.  OK - that meant I had to run out to the store to buy "milk" (read oranges, apples, peanuts, a St. Nicholas chocolate and the red bag).  Did that in the afternoon.  After homework we went downtown and the St. Nicholas's were out in full force!  These were church St. Nicholas's trying to get the kids to come in for some kind of kids' program they were having.

 We missed the "town" St. Nicholas by a matter of seconds - here he is going off on his horse drawn wagon!
 And here is another St. Nicholas - my son got an orange from him!
 St. Nicholas came to OUR house (my son basically got the exact same things the night before, but that wasn't from the REAL St. Nicholas, so he was absolutely sure that the REAL St. Nicholas was still coming to our house when he was sleeping, bless his heart).
And DH had purchased these 2 smaller chocolates of Krampus and St. Nicholas earlier at the store.
OK - I think we are done with St. Nicholas Day now for another year!  I have to say though - we have eaten all the oranges - they are so sweet this time of year!

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Happy St. Nicholas Day!

Today is the day that St. Nicholas comes in Austria.  He gives the good children a red gift bag filled with oranges, apples, peanuts, chocolates (chocolate coins are popular), and sometimes dates.  This represents the real St. Nicholas giving coins and food to poor children (about A.D. 300).

Here you can see the older children eagerly looking out the window for St. Nicholas to arrive before our dinner.

In Austria, St. Nicholas has a helper - Krampus.  Seriously, I think the purpose of Krampus is to terrify the children into behaving!  Krampus punishes the bad children.  This is the Krampus that visited the house we were at tonight.  People take great pride in constructing their Krampus costume.

All in good fun.  My son looks terrified here, but actually the older kids had a blast running and screaming around and around the house!  All the way home he talked on and on about how much fun he had and how much he loved running from Krampus ("Krampus couldn't catch me!").  Krampus will hit you with the switch if he catches you (but THIS Krampus did not switch the kids!).  Of course, the smaller children were terrified and were taken out of the rooms.  Lots of noise, what with the running, screaming and the ringing bell of Krampus!  Then Krampus left (so the little kids could come out of hiding) and St. Nicholas gave all the kids their red gift bags.

The stores are filled with chocolates with St. Nicholas and Krampus coverings.  Also, you can get shaped sweet breads.  This was my son's Krampus sweet bread - a gift from Krampus.  Afterward, we all had a big dinner (or feast, as you will).  
I blogged about all of this last year in this blog post and included photos of many different Krampus costumes from the parade. This year the Krampus parade was a few days ago, but it was raining so we did not go.  
In 2009 we went downtown for the public arrival of St. Nicholas and Krampus and I blogged about that in this blog post .  
I hope you enjoy learning about our family traditions!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Happiness Is...

Happiness is ... being re-united with my family.  The first photo was snapped within a hour of my arrival, with me being awake for about 24 straight hours by that time.  As much as I tried, I just couldn't sleep on the plane.  The 2nd photo after I had a much needed 3 hour nap.  As you can see, School Boy is thrilled!  Me too.  Well, the traveling bit is not so fun, but it is worth it!  My poor feet swelled up like lemons on either side this trip, ugh.  Laying down never felt so good and after a day, I felt much better.  Still struggling with jet lag though, but then again, I have only been here 2 days.
Yesterday DH and I went to the DR together.  He had his routine cancer screen done and was nervous about it so was waiting for my arrival to get the results.  Happiness is... another cancer-free scan!  Three years and counting now.  They have now decided to do the scan 1X a year, so he has graduated to the next level of recovery.  This is great news - because his tumor was 3 kg they thought it was a very fast growing tumor and have really kept an eye on him these past few years.  But now, 3 years clear - they are starting to relax.  There have been long-term, lingering side effects, but compared to cancer, well, it is something we can accept.
If you are buying anything on Amazon, please use my blog links!  In case you are curious, after 1 month, I am happy to report that I had earned enough in commission to pay for the taxi from the airport.  So, obviously, I am not getting rich, but every little bit does help.  Last year I waited over an hour for the bus - it is a round-about route and finally gets me to the train station, where I transfer to a city tram and that lets me off about a 10 minute walk from home.  The taxi this year was such an improvement - zip, zip and no lugging of my bags.  So for those of you who placed an order, thank you very much!  Your order helped make my life so much easier in the final leg of my trip.

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Sailing Wives of Sea Captains

That's me standing next to whale jaw bones.  They are in front of a successful whaling captain's home from the 1850's on Cape Cod.  Captain Penniman built his beautiful home after his 4th whaling trip.
His wife "Gustie" often went with him on the long journeys, as well as his children!  Gustie was infamous because she wore... trousers, gasp!  You can read more about Cpt. Penniman on this website here:  Cpt. Penniman House .

My photos from my "Big Sky" post a few posts back were taken on the same day and show the view.

I have read several excellent books about sea captain wives, plus have gone to museums and various sites.  I started this post this morning and I wanted to reference a particular book and could not find it anywhere on the internet.  Hummm.  I know exactly where the book is at my own home - being on the move all the time can be frustrating.  So tonight, I asked my sister about it and - she has the exact same book as I wanted. It often happens between my sisters and myself that we have the same things, it is too funny!  I love this book.  It is called "Sail Away Ladies, Stories of Cape Cod Women in the Age of Sail" by Jim Coogan.  I noticed that my sister's copy is autographed by the author.  I just love local history and this book brings it to life so vividly.  Don't miss the story about poor Viola Fish Cook of Provincetown who went nuts after NINE years on a whaling boat, overwintering in the arctic because the boat kept getting stuck in the ice (can you imagine?).  Understandably, she went nuts and that was just the way it was.  The book is filled with other short stories too and many photographs, illustrations and maps that bring it all to life.
Another great, great book (this one a historical fiction novel) is by Beth Powning, is called "The Sea Captain's Wife".  Beth went to museums and spent a long time getting the period details accurate.  She led a writer's workshop that I was fortunate enough to attend several years ago before the book came out and she was telling us a little bit about it, so of course, as soon as it came out I snatched it right up and was not disappointed!  It is a lengthy novel and easy to loose yourself in a totally different time period.
If you have read either book - feel free to leave a comment telling everyone else how you liked it!