January 31, 2004

You spin me right round, baby right round

Like a record, baby. Right round, round, round.

Happiness is getting a new knitting tool and being successful at it right away. Yay for my round knitting loom! Yay!

So sorry to any parties now stuck with that song in their collective heads. Whether the original Dead or Alive tune or the one of many (at least seven!) covers. Whaaa? Seven independent music "artists" covered this 80's tune? That's right crazy!


I bought two round knitting looms right before Christmas for my mother and me. I had previously tried to teach her how to knit this past summer, but needles were not her thing. So I figured that we could learn to loom knit together. (Awww.) And it seems to have been just the thing. My mom can knit!

She took her loom and instructions back to OH with her and last I heard is in search of yarn to match her jacket. Since then, I have made a couple more hats and am nearly ready to try a flat object on the loom (but who needs more scarves?!).


Here's some pics. It's a round, "adult hat" knitting loom made from Urethane (rubber-based) purchased from In the Attic. The material used is supposed to be easier on your hands, but there's a bit of give in there which may affect the stitches. If'n I were to buy another, child or baby loom, I think I might look at the wood kits.

Here, I show a hat in progress on the loom and the finished product. It's pretty darn quick knitting, and I can watch TV without much worry about a dropped stitch or some mishap.

I've tried a couple of different yarns so far (and forgot to take pictures, duh). My two favorites have been Lion Brand® Jiffy Thick & Quick in Ozarks (red to black shading). This makes a thick, snug hat that's all about the warmth. The other yarn that worked up nice and quick was Red Heart® Light & Lofty in Aspen, a nice soft cream with gentle waves of color. PeeWee_Hat.jpg My mom picked it out and I made the hat for her. She loves it. (Yay!) Regular Lion Brand® Jiffy works well, too. It makes a fairly loose knit hat if just a single strand is used.

I loom-knitted this hat using two strands of the yarn, which was Bernat® Camouflage in Blue Frost Ombre. I think I'll give this to my nephew, big D. But first, PeeWee gets to enjoy it!

Posted by Nanc at 06:19 PM

It's SMURFadelic!

When you live with a collector, there comes a point in your relationship when they start to wonder how is it that you don't have any collections of your own. (Fabric and yarn don't count, I'm told.) Like there might be something wrong with your mentality.

What? You haven't checked out his PEZ collection yet?!

So I dipped back into the pools of my youth and thought about what brought me joy and happiness. Hmmmm. Sure, there was that phase of the penguins, but I'm all over that now. And I do like the dragon- and damselflies, but there's too much ugly out there that people will think make great gifts. But I do recall a small, blue figure.

I remember saving (ha!) my money (ha-ha!) to go to a really unique set of stores called Markets International (or something). This was an awesome collection of stores, many of them carrying foreign goods (way before Pier 1 and World Market got in the game). And the food court of this mall was an aromatic paradise.

One of the stores sold mostly Snoopy merchandise, but they also stocked Smurfs. Schtroumpf. Schlumpfe. These little, blue guys (and girl) were my friends for many years. (Probably more years than my parents could be happy about.) I loved my collection of Smurfs in crazy and outlandish poses! I watched the cartoon and, even to my own dismay, was a member of the Smurf Club... for two years.

Well, my blue buddies were packed away and lost to adolescence. I don't know what ever happened to them, perhaps one day I'll find this treasure again. But for now, I've started a new group of blue.

Most, if not all, of my collection was purchased on eBay. I've only seen one or two Smurfs at flea markets around here, and they were overpriced. Peyo® still makes new Schlumpfes for European kids; and by no means am I the only collector out there. But here's my humble beginning to my Smurf army. Click on the pix for a different angle.

Check back, as I'll be focusing my attention on various Smurfy goings-on.

Posted by Nanc at 03:39 PM

January 29, 2004

The General

After an another tour of duty, The General has returned to toysaregoodfood.com with new advice for you, and he has brought some friends.

Not exactly a stupida item, but the general has been an important member of our household for a while, and it's time that he receives his due.

until i fix this, the general only plays well with IE browsers.

Your message from the General:
will appear here after you press the dang-fool button.

Quick instructions: Ask a yes or no question out loud at your computer, click the button, and get an answer.

The backstory on the General is that we ran across his picture while thrifting. Abandoned photos are an especially sad part of thrift stores, so we grabbed him right up. The General has helped us answer so many difficult questions over the past several years, so we decided to offer up his same advice to the fine internet community.

This summer, Nanc and I ran across another abandoned picture, so we bought that, too. For the first time anywhere... I would like to present to you the council of elders.

While the council doesn't do or say much, they are available any time of the day or night to consult with the general (as if he needed any help).

I will have some exciting pix of the council of elders after I get home.


As promised, here are pictures of the entire wisdom council in our home. Some items that you should make sure to note, is that the full general council contains: Pee Wee Herman, Dr. Zaius, a Magic-8 ball and of course the council and the general. Not pictured is Darth Vader, and C3-P0, who add a zesty Star Wars-based cleverness to the mix.

Posted by Matty at 03:44 PM

January 28, 2004

Simple Stir-Fry

I never used to like stir-fry, or Chinese food for that matter. The brown sauces reminded me of gravy - yucky and thick, coating anything tasty in sludge. Thanks to Bonez, I've been shown the light. Good things can come from the wok, and there are more seasonings for stir-fry than just soy sauce. I've also learned that there are plenty of non-gravy/sauce dishes on a Chinese menu.

Last night, I made a simple and tasty stir-fry based on a Cooking Light® recipe, but changed for my tastes. So simple, anyone could enjoy it. I served it with steamed rice (thank g*d for the rice cooker) and a tasty ambrosia. (Pineapple chunks, honey tangelos and clementines, some coconut flakes and 2 Tbls of powdered sugar. Yum, yum.)

So get your wok out and make some Pork and Broccoli Stir-Fry.

Pork and Broccoli Stir-Fry

  • Cooking Spray
  • 1 pork chop (about 1/2" thick), cut into strips
  • 1 c. small broccoli florets
  • 1/2 c. vertically sliced onion
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts
  • 1 tsp. minced ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 c. fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/4 c. apple juice
  • 2 Tbl. low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper

Tip: Prepare all ingredients prior to start cooking, as this dish makes up pretty quick. Place the pork in one bowl, broccoli in another, and the onion, water chestnuts, ginger and garlic in another bowl. Whisk together the broth, apple juice, soy sauce, cornstarch, sugar and red pepper. Now you're ready to cook.

  1. Heat a large non-stick skillet, or wok, coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Add pork strips and sauté 2 minutes. Remove pork from skillet.
  2. Add broccoli, and stir-fry 2 minutes. Stir in onion, water chestnuts, ginger and garlic. Cook 2 minutes, and return pork to pan. Add the broth through red pepper mixture to the wok.
  3. Reduce heat, and simmer 4 minutes, or until sauce thickens and pork is cooked thorough.
Posted by Nanc at 10:09 AM

January 22, 2004

Big Xmas PEZ wrapup

I'll be honest. There was a whole lotta PEZ this year during Christmas, and in the post-Christmas time.

Wanna see 'em? Umm, hrmm...okay.

PEZ goodness #1

First up, the Funky Faces (a.k.a. emoticons). These have been out for a while, but I hadn't been able to find them in the horrible PEZ vacuum known as Texas. My sister Lisa bought these for me. She lives conveniently by one of my favorite PEZ joints in Michigan, Small Town Coins.

I have mixed feelings about this set. Yes, some of them are pretty cute, but I am pretty sick of "the PEZ Man" reusing the round mold (it's a baseball, it's planet earth, it's a Wal*Mart smiley, it's Funky Faces, etc.). Hopefully, in 2004 PEZ will be able to afford some new molds.

PEZ goodness #2:Emergency Heroes

The Emergency Heroes set came to live with us before Christmas. I got them by stopping at every Wal*Mart and ToysRUs between San Antonio and Dallas. **BTW** Nancy wants me to let you know that there are many, many Wal*Marts between San Antonio and Dallas.

My thoughts: It's a great set. Sure, PEZ is cashing in on the current trend of "America is Super." Sure, they are reusing a few main molds (man, woman) and dressing them up with different accessories. It's still a good-looking set for being non-licensed.

Interesting note... PEZ has multicultural heroes in this set. The interesting thing is that they didn't just change to color of the plastic. For instance, the hair on the white construction worker is a different texture that the black construction worker. The face also has a slightly different shape.

PEZ goodness #3:Jeffrey Bunny

Jeffrey Bunny is a licensed PEZ that was created especially for a store called Dylan's Candy Bar in NYC. The bunny came on a custom card that was pretty nice (now I wish that I had taken a picture of it).

The mold is a standard PEZ Easter bunny mold, but it was cast in brown plastic to make it look like a chocolate bunny. This was a wizard idea. I wish I had thought of it. It looks so much better than the regular release.

btw, Jeffrey is standing inside of a Brannock device... you know, what they use to measure your feet at a shoe store.

PEZ goodness #4:Hello Kitty

The Hello Kitty PEZ were another Xmas giftie (from Nanc) that came from Thailand (insert underage prostitute joke here). Nice set, beautifully done. Tres kitty.

The Hello Kitty PEZ are only available in Europe and Asia due to licensing with Sanrio, so don't expect to see them at 7-11 (sigh). They are a set of four, including Hello Kitty, umm.... hello kitty's cute friend and... uhhhmm --okay, I really don't know the names, and I am too lazy to look them up. I assure you though, they have names, they are pals of Hello Kitty, and they are cute.

In one shot, Hello Kitty is posing with another Xmas goodie from Nanc, a kit-cat clock.

Nope, I'm not even close to done with this freakish celebration to small plastic candy dispensers. Get comfy, you're gonna be here a little while longer.

PEZ goodness #5:Looney Tunes: Back In Action

This was a giftie that I bought for myself from sjglew. They arrived earlier this week. I don't mind 'em too much, but Nanc thinks that they're ugly. In the past couple of years, PEZ has been starting to decorate the stems, instead of just the head.

I'm not really happy that they transformed tweety bird into a cheese-eating surrender-monkey replete with beret and Eiffel towers on her stem. oh, well...

They stand proudly in front of an Audrey showing a picture of them. Is that life imitating art imitating life? Let me know.

PEZ goodness #6:Sesame Street

This is a set that should've come out several years ago. Very very nice. So happy with this one. It's another giftie from my sister Lisa. Originally released in Europe last year, the set is also starting to be released in the U.S. There are two additional characters for the States release (Elmo and Zoe).

I don't have Elmo and Zoe yet, but I'm not really in a big hurry either. I don't want to get into a huge discourse about this, but let's be honest - Elmo and Zoe really suck as characters. The Sesame Street that I grew up with didn't need 'em, and neither do I.

PEZ goodness #7:PEZ factory playset

This is pretty cool, a playset for kids along the same line as the BRIO toys. The set is well-made, and pretty big (my feet are used for scale in the wide shot).

I guess that these sets didn't sell very well, because they were liquidated at TJ Max after Christmas for twenty bucks. Oh well, their loss, my gain. Now, the only issue is storage. It's pretty bulky, and heavy.

I never thought that I would get here, but this would appear to be the end of this entry. Stay tuned though, I'm sure that more is on the way!

Posted by Matty at 02:20 PM

Gung Hey Fat Choy


Happy Chinese New Year! Wishing you prosperity and wealth (gung hey fat choy).


It's the year of the Green Tree Monkey (seems kind of specific, huh?) and I'm wishing you all good luck. I enjoy the Chinese New Year celebrations more than the countdown on New Year's Eve. I think it's because it focuses less on getting shit-faced drunk and more on what a new year should be about. (I'm not diss'ing the drunkenness. Trust me, I've celebrated many a new year in this fashion - or so I've been told afterwards.)

But the symbolism and festivities of the Chinese New Year call to my sense of tradition. (And I'm a sucker for any ethnic traditions that I can mooch.) The wishing for prosperity, health, luck, love and money using symbols, colors and superstitions feed my soul. We've lost the traditions of my ancestors, so why not pick up some new ones that I like. (Hey, we're all Irish on St. Patty's day, right?)

One of my fondest Chinese New Year memories was a few years ago. A group of us friends went to our local Chinese restaurant that celebrates the holiday. They have karate and noodle-making demonstrations, as well as drums and -the best- the lion dancers.


Tradition is to place a dollar into a small, red envelope and then "feed" this to the lion for good luck. We all nominated my then roommate "S" for the job and she seemed eager. Well, as the lion's progression moves closer, "S" is starting to get nervous. The crowds of tables around us are cheering and clapping to the beat of the drums - they're all having loads of fun. "S" is looking a bit pale in the face. I don't know if it was too much enthusiasm and gusto in the lion's gait, or if the costume was too extravagant and lavish. ("S" is a renowned prudent and thrifty gal. Remind me to tell you the brie story one day.) "S" is seriously freaking out, and only with the help of a friend (the rest of us are laughing too hard to do much other than wet ourselves) "S" throws the envelopes at the approximate location of the lion's maw and then runs away and hides. he he he

Things calm down and "S" returns to the table. We continue dining and enjoying ourselves. (Yes, even "S".)

This year a different group of friends will be going out in a different city. There's no lion dancers or drums this time. (I can't believe it, but no one in this town is celebrating Chinese New Year, 'cept one tiny museum at noon.) So we'll make our own fun, much like we make our own luck.

Gung Hey Fat Choy

Posted by Nanc at 08:15 AM

January 21, 2004


I don't know why I skipped past the washcloths in my knitting journey. I mean, I made the requisite coasters and bookmarks. Washcloths were the next stop before scarves. (And I'm still there, it seems.) For whatever reason, I did and now I find myself backtracking.

I stumbled across an article on how nasty and disgusting those disease-harboring kitchen sponges are. Although Bonez claims that he has always been anti-sponge. Well, this was enough ammunition to disgust me and I am now in the process of knitting up a bunch of kitchen washcloths.

Why knit them when I can buy them quicker? Because, silly - I can KNIT them. Duh.

I'm working through a bunch of different patterns that I found at Dishcloth Boutique. I've only completed two so far, but I've got plans. It's proving a little challenging, since I started my Stash Lock Down! prior to this brainstorm.

And look at my new, pretty Fiesta ware. Yay! The pieces in this first pic are new; two coffee mugs, a spoon rest, serving platter and bowl. And in the pure style of Fiesta ware - none of it matches. %-)

Luckily, my friend Ang is willing to donate some of her cotton stash. I'll just have to figure out what to trade her. Perhaps I'll start and finish that Alien Scarf from Stitch 'n Bitch that I planned for her - and bought the yarn for. ;-)

I used Lily® Sugar'n Cream for both washcloths; Cool Breeze (blue and yellow variegated) knitted up in Grandmother's Favorite pattern, and Strawberry Cream knitted in Chinese Waves. Both were knitted on US #7 needles and were easy. The Grandmother's Fav pattern seemed to go a lot quicker, as the Chinese Waves was very repetitive.

I'll be posting more pix as I make them (without the extended dialogue). So now, what's in your kitchen?

Posted by Nanc at 01:13 PM

January 19, 2004

A Greater Meal than Necessary

This stuffed pork loin dish is much fancier than I'm used to serving for just Matty and I. But it was good, real good.

I don't know why people are afraid of prunes, but this irrational fear has encouraged marketing goobers to retitle them "dried plums." Like that's gonna fool anyone. Ha!

Try the Pork Loin with Dried Plum Stuffing and accept that they're really prunes. I served it with leftover Smashed Potatoes and a bottle of Il Bastardo Sangivese opened for the recipe.

I'd definitely make this again for company, and it's not as much work as you'd think. Enjoy.

Posted by Nanc at 11:03 PM

January 16, 2004

The Great Slipper Battle

Come on, with a title like "The Great Slipper Battle" you think I am gonna give you any hints? Don't be a lazy, click on the read more link.

It all started with Christmas shopping. Nanc and I were going out with the rest of the evil hordes of shoppers in early December and I said, "I bet I can get most of my shopping done at Restoration Hardware."

She took the bet.

I won the bet.

(You're probably asking yourself and the computer, "where are the slippers?" Patience young swain, and you will be rewarded.)

On Christmas, I talked to my mom (she lives about 2000 miles away), and found out that one of the gifts that I'd sent her, foot duvets (read: fluffy, warm slippers) had been incorrectly packaged. So, I sent an email, because that's what I do.

Read on for the email.

Hi there,

There was an issue with a gift that I purchased for my mom this year, and I would like for some assistance in correcting the issue.

I live in Dallas, TX and purchased a pre-wrapped set of Red Foot-Duvets at the Restoration-Galleria store.

When my mother opened the gift, one of the slippers was the correct size and one was a much larger size.

I contacted the store where I purchased the item, and the gentleman that I spoke with stated that my mother would have to exchange the item at any Restoration Hardware. After researching your store locations, this does not appear to be a valid option. The nearest location is over 50 miles from her home in Michigan.

To correct this situation, would you please send one red Foot-Duvet to my mother? I believe that the size purchased was an adult-small (she has size 7 feet).

Please feel free to contact me if you need any additional information.

My Mom's address information is:
Blah (Sorry, I won't publish my mom's address on the internet)

Thank you for your time and consideration.


I received a quick reply. This was exciting!

Thank you for choosing Restoration Hardware. We appreciate your taking the time to write us, and we will respond to your email within 24 hours.

¡Woo!, thought I. Then, I read the rest of the e-mail.

This is an automatically generated response. Please do not reply to this email as it will not be answered. Thank you

Oh...well, it was still okay. I knew in my heart of hearts, that both of my Mom's Michigan feet would be warm this winter. I had that confidence.

But then, I didn't hear anything. So, I waited a week, and tried again. I received the familiar autoresponder. Again, the autoresponder lied to me with promise of a quick response.

It was a dark time as I put fingers to keyboard again. I knew that severe action would have to happen, or I would have to pick up a telephone and talk to a live person.

To whom it may concern,

This is my third request for assistance with a recent order. To date I have not received a response. I have formulated a few different scenarios as to why I haven't heard back yet.

Scenario #1: overzealous customer service agent
Perhaps a customer service agent has been hard at work drafting a response for three weeks. Perhaps my prose was murky in earlier e-mails. I do not need for the response to be specifically formatted in iambic pentameter, haiku or translated into Esperanto (though I would appreciate the effort). I would really like open a dialog with anyone who can assist me.

Scenario #2: too many words
Perhaps my original description of the issue was verbose and difficult to follow. Allow me to correct this with a seventeen word description of the problem.

  • Bought wrapped gift. (woo!)
  • Incorrect item inside. (sad!)
  • Restoration Hardware make mistake. (oops!)
  • Restoration Hardware fix. (yay!)

Scenario #3: Customer Service was overrun by pirates
Since pirates don't use e-mail (arrrgh!), this is a valid reason for the lack of response.

Now, that I've hopefully got their attention, wham! - the letter gets serious, you know, like ... "Tonight on a very special episode of Family Ties" kind of serious.

I have been a fan and customer of Restoration Hardware for several years and have always had positive experiences. It's frustrating that I am expending so much effort to have this situation corrected.

For original text containing specific details, please read below.

Matt Collins

Oh well, I figured even if I couldn't get the issue resolved, I could at least make a couple of beleaguered post-christmas customer service folks laugh. (The other part of the plan involved hoping that my mom would get a club foot, so that the slippers would fit.Then, I received an e-mail back from Justin. You know, Justin, a Senior Customer Rep at Restoration hardware.

MR... Collins. Strange as it may seem we actually were overrun by E-mail pirates *arrrgg* the Scurvy rats boarded our call center and have held us captive for well far too long. 

And tho I would love to translate the whole resolution to you in Esperanto alas I am not versed in such language so English will just have to do. 

Honestly Mr. Collins I would like to apologize for the time its taken to get a reply.  Trust that now this has been brought to my attention this will get taken care of.   I am going to buy a pair from my Atlanta store and have them ship it out to your mother tomorrow. She should see them by the middle of next week at the latest. If She does not see them by mid week or so please contact me directly and let me know so I can get tracking info and find where in the mix they are. 

I am very sorry for delay and the inconvenience this purchase has made for you and your mother.   And I did write a poem outlining the resolution but I figured its best to just leave it out as my writing skills are we... not the greatest.


If there is anything else I can possibly do for you please feel free and do not hesitate to contact me. My Direct phone is ....

Justin ...
Restoration Hardware
Sr. Customer Service Rep.

So, that's pretty much the whole tale of the Great Slipper Battle. Today, just before I left work, Justin called, to again extend an apology and let me know that my mom's slippers shipped out today.

He was a nice guy, and I feel renewed faith in the common good of mankind. That's probably a pretty good way to start the year.

Update: 2004 Jan 28 -- I talked to my mom last night and she did receive the new set of foot duvets, and likes 'em. She is going to send me a picture of the slippers, but she is going the old-fashioned film route, so it might be a while.

Posted by Matty at 03:35 PM

Mornings are for the birds


I like birds.

I mean, sure, I do like birds (but not for pets) and their little chirping ways, and such. But what I really like are when my cats are stalking the birds!

Oh, everyone is safe and good. The cats watch the bird antics from the balcony and there's no fear of them jumping down. (The only cat that would fit is too damned scared to do anything so dangerous.) So the happily stare and anticipate for when they capture the birdies (or at least that's what it seems like when their butts twitch - anticipation).

Ah, an indoor cat's life must be grand.

I tried capturing a pic of the cat-bird relationship, but neither party was willing to participate. So here's a pic of Dil and Mrs. Slocombe waiting for their turns.

Posted by Nanc at 08:58 AM

January 15, 2004

Matty's Meal

It's not that it's Matt's favorite, or that he's renowned for the entrée. It's just that it was the first meal that Matty made for us (in his wee-tiny Columbus apartment). He makes it fairly frequently and he makes it well.

Tender, succulent pork chops and magnificent smashed potatoes. Heaven on a plate.

There's no real "recipe" for either of these items, it's kind of a taste-and-go thing. Bonez developed both of these and they're pure genius.

Pork Chops à la Matt

  • 2 pork chops
  • 1 pkg dry onion soup mix
  1. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.
  2. Sprinkle some of the onion soup mix on both sides of the pork. Do not use all of the package, as that would be way too salty. Less than half is plenty.
  3. Sear the chops for 3 minutes on each side.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium and cover; cook an additional 5 minutes, or until done.

Served up with these smashed potatoes, this is a meal fit for... well, me. Please note that these are mashed potatoes, not diet food. Mashed potatoes are meant to be full of scrumptious fats and creams, not to be healthy. There's no substitution for the flavors. My advice to dieters: don't eat mashed potatoes. Simple, huh? ;-)

Matty's Smashed Potatoes

A quick snippet about potatoes: any potato will do. Goldens work well, as do reds, but but these can be made with most any 'tater. And I use about half of a 5 lb. bag. That leaves you with plenty of leftovers (bonus).

  • potatoes, washed and cubed (approx 1-2") and leave the skins on, it's the best part!
  • 3 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 4 Tbl. butter
  • 2 Tbl. cream cheese
  • 1/4 c. milk
  • salt and pepper
  1. Bring potatoes, garlic and enough water to cover them to a boil. Spray a bit of cooking spray, like Pam®, to keep the pot from boiling over. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until done. (Check tenderness with a fork.)
  2. Remove from heat and drain. Place back in pot.
  3. Add the butter, cream cheese, and milk; mixing with a masher as you go. (These are better served clumpy, not smooth.) Add salt and pepper, as you like.
  4. Continue mixing in the three dairy items as you see fit. The actual amounts are a mystery, as they seem to change every time. Taste them and make it how you'd like YOUR potatoes.

Oh, and we tried canned peas... a big YUCK! Too bad we didn't have applesauce. [imagine "pork chops and applesauce" in a peter brady/bogart voice]

I like my peas with honey; I've done it all my life. It may seem kind of funny, but it keeps them on the knife.

Posted by Nanc at 10:41 PM

January 14, 2004


Everything has a balance of yin and yang. It makes the world a livable place and (most) people tolerable. This balance can be found demonstrated in some truly odd ways.

I crave order and planning. (Yin) I am a huge procrastinator. (Yang)

This works itself out in ways that could drive a normal person (or matty) nuts. I purchase organizational tools and gizmos for each and every occasion. But I never get around to entering the data or keeping up with the projects. I vowed that this time would be different!

I'm fairly new to knitting so although I may make a swatch, it's not for the right reasons. I like to play with the yarn. Touch it; feel it; enjoy the colors. So I make a wee small swatch in garter stitch. Sometimes, it's even to tell how it'll play out on the needle size chosen for the swatch. But only sometimes.

But what to do with all those swatches?

Keep 'em! I've been holding on to these knit swatches and their corresponding yarn labels since I've started buying yarn. The trick was finding something that will keep them nice and neat, and that would allow for the bulk that would eventually come. I tried making my own bound book, but it wasn't working out. Patience was my friend.

Today I found a small-ish (6"x6") photo album that had sleeves on 2/3 of each page and a small area for notes. (The cover "art" was a bit wanky, but oh well. I can cover this if need be.) This would work! I can slip the label and the swatch in the clear pocket and make notes about where it was purchased, how it was to work with, and what I knitted. I could even place pictures on the opposite pages.

So tonight I worked on placing all my swatches, making some that I skipped previously, and made notes. It was orderly heaven. Sure, it's bulging already, but I figure that's what rubber bands are for. :-)

The extra nice thing about swatches? Since I don't knit for myself (yet), this gives me a small memento of the yarn and project. Ain't that swell. Ah, the peace and harmony when things are in balance.

Posted by Nanc at 10:53 PM

Challenge #1: Fleece

In order to reduce my sentence (and my stash, he he) for the 2004 Stash Lock Down! I need to be on my best behavior. To encourage this, I'm planning a handful of challenges to get me motivated. The first of these is to deplete my fleece stash by leap day (Feb 29).

That's my current stash of fleece. Sure, it may not look like a lot, but it is. There's quite a bit that you're not seeing, too, because I've already started on this challenge and have hats on my sewing table as we speak.

Right after Christmas, I went to the Joann's and picked up a LOT of fleece on sale, with plans of making hats for Ship Support. When I got home, I realized that I already had tons of fleece in my stash, but mostly in baby or girlie colors. (Which won't work for tough soldiers.) So I put together this challenge.

I'm giving myself until February 29 to use up all of my fleece. Here's my strategy:

  • I'll sew adult hats for Ship Support (in dark, manly colors and patterns).
  • Gonna work on baby clothes, booties and mittens for Bundles of Love.
  • I'll make toddler, teen and adult hats for afghans for Afghans, Klamath Falls Mission, and Father's House International.
  • Scraps of any size will be sewn into ugly quilts for Cuddles Animal Shelter. (Donated to local animal shelters.)

And the best thing about this... is that all of the above groups are projects for the first three months of AC4C! Bonus.

Posted by Nanc at 02:54 PM


I was/am the secret Santa to my brother, Mike. (Secret's out, so no worries.) I had this great scarf in the works. Then I hit an obstacle. So I came up with a solution...

...that didn't work out in time.

And still no giftie for my bro. What a snafu.

So now I have two, count 'em - 2 cable knit scarves on my needles. Neither have much done on them, so it's not like I'm committed to them. But my bro still needs his gift.

The first scarf is made from some pricey, yet yummy Italian yarn called Merinos Dodici by Zegna Baruffa. It's super soft and quite bulky in a great gray color (not too dark, not too light - you understand). I got this at an upscale, snobby store that I'd rather not return to, if possible. This was my first trip out trying to find a good LYS.

I purchased two balls of this and started working on the scarf. Well, sooner than expected, I was almost out of yarn! The bulkiness of the yarn was deceiving (pretty small skeins) and making cables and ribbing just gobbled it all up. When I went back to the store to pick up some more, they were just closing (already closed the register, sorry dearie) and weren't going to be open again until January.

Well, that doesn't bode well for a Christmas present. So along comes plan #2: start a new cable knit scarf in an easier to come by yarn. So I picked up some Lion Brand® Wool-Ease in Wheat (an oatmeal-like color with small brown threads coming out).

I changed the cable pattern and got started, but so did the holidays. I wasn't able to get much done on the scarf and Christmas came and went. Oh, well. So now I'm looking at these two WIPs, wondering where to start (and stop) and that gets me thinking. [collective gasp]

I think that I'm going to ignore these for now, perhaps even rip them out, and start fresh. I'm thinking about using the Wool-Ease for the "Matt" seaman's scarf for my brother. I'm not certain what I'll do with the Merinos Dodici, but preferably something that only requires 138 yds.

Posted by Nanc at 02:40 PM

January 12, 2004

Best. Spinach. Dip. EVER.

With a statement like that I better be able to back it up, right? Well, make the dip and then you tell me. It's grrreat! [Finger in the air like Tony the Tiger.]

I made this for a fairly impromtu get-together of friends and it was appreciated. Luckily for Bonez and I, I kept some hidden back from the crowd so that we could enjoy it on Sunday while yöging and watching the Discovery channel. Ain't life swell?

Best Spinach Dip

  • 1 c. mayo
  • 1 (16 oz.) container sour cream
  • 1 box dry leek soup mix
  • 1 (4 oz.) can water chestnuts, drained and finely chopped
  • 1 (10 oz.) pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  • 1 round loaf Hawaiian bread
  • misc. snacking crackers, or preferred dipping chip
  1. With a strainer and plenty of paper towels, remove as much moisture from the spinach as possible. It should become almost crumbly.
  2. Mix all ingredients together, except for the bread and crackers, and chill for at least 6 hours.
  3. Be fancy by serving the dip in the bread bowl. Simply cut out a large circle on the top of the bread, leaving a bowl-shaped cavern for the dip. Cut the removed portion of bread into bite-sized pieces to serve along side with the crackers.

Tip: Use a small bowl to hold the dip inside the bread bowl. That way the bowl itself doesn't become saturated and mushy with dip and is edible all the way down to the tasty crumbs. Mmmm, mmmm good.

Posted by Nanc at 11:42 AM

January 08, 2004

Basalmic Pork Chops

Simple and tasty.

Tonight's delish meal was served up with steamed aspargas & Israeli couscous. Mmmmmm, yum. And leftovers ta'boot.

Nan happy.

Basalmic Glazed Pork Chops

Cincinnati Enquirer

  • olive oil
  • black pepper
  • 2 pork chops
  • salt
  • 1 Tbl onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 Tbl vinegar
  1. Rub oil and sprinkle pepper onto both sides of the pork chops; let sit, covered for 30 minutes to an hour.
  2. Preheat skillet on medium-high heat. Add chops and sear for 1 1/2 minutes each side.
  3. Sprinkle with salt, onions and garlic. Cover pan and cook for 3 minutes on each side.
  4. Remove cover and add basalmic vinegar. Cook chops 30 seconds per side, turning to coat w/ vinegar.
  5. Serve chops immediately and pour sauce on top.
Posted by Nanc at 08:43 PM

Magically Delicious

No. I'm not talking about that kid's cereal with the leprechaun. And those who know me know that I wouldn't tout the word "magically" about unless I really meant it.

And I do. These are the most incredible, edible frozen treats ever! * See what all the hubbub's about.

* Qualifier: non-chocolate, frozen treats.

Melon Pops!

I can't get over how yummy they are. The box I have is Kroger® brand. They are watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew flavored frozen popsicles.

No, wait. The flavors don't do them justice. They are awesome. It's the middle of winter and I can have the summer goodness of melon anytime I want! Sure, it's not real fruit and they're not healthy (but at 40 cal per pop and 0 fat, they're not a tub o' butter either).

It started because I was feeling a bit sick with sore throat, and frozen dairy wasn't gonna cut it. I wasn't expecting them to taste anything more than 'cold'. I mean, come on now, they're Kroger brand and simply state "Refreshing Flavors... Melon Pops" on the box. At most, I was expecting the overly sweet muck of Jolly Rancher candy.

But they are refreshing mana from the icebox heavens! They really nailed the melons' flavors, too. Yes, watermellon! Yes, cantaloupe! And Oh Yes, my sweet, sweet friend honeydew!

And an odd bonus ta' boot... the color of the honeydew popsicle is unbelievably gorgeous! An icy green; barely a tangible color hidden beneath the cold.

And I swear that I'm not delirious with fever, or even plain nuts.

Posted by Nanc at 03:51 PM

January 07, 2004

And where will your pet sleep?

Every dog has it's day. Every cat has it's...

What? What do cats have? Whether cat, dog or ferret?, your pet may now have it's own bed to snuggle down in.

Pet beds: made by me; sold through eBay; supporting a good cause.

I'm working with a great organization, Feral Friends, a non-profit cat rescue group. They do way too much for me to discuss here, but take a look at their website. There's always stuff going on and good things being done.

One of my "jobs" with them is as a seamstress (ha!). Don't ask me how I fooled them into thinking I'm that, but I do produce a pretty good pet bed. Dil seems to like them - all of them!. (And yes, Dil's a big girl.) She's even testing them out for durability. (Anyone else think that the Samsonite gorilla has some new competition!)

Here's another stack of beds completed and ready for sale. I work with purchased or donated fabrics, and the profits go to support Feral Friends' adoption overhead, foster expenses, and feral TNR program.

Pet bed Jenga, anyone?

I sew other items for Feral Friends like catnip toys, Christmas stockings, and cat collars. If there's a sewing request, I try to make it. I also volunteer as an adoption counselor and however else I can help.

Posted by Nanc at 10:01 AM

January 03, 2004

Stash Lock Down!

Within the past four months, I've seen a lot of knitting blogs referring to "Stash Reductions" and "Yarn Diets." I've been intrigued, but never jumped in.

Recently, it has come to my attention that I have more fabric and yarn than this home will hold. (Funny how if it's hidden in the back of the closet it doesn't really count. ;-) I've been found guilty of amassing masses of textiles and fibers.

Starting immediately, I am self-imposing the 2004 Stash Lock Down! program. It will be a tough-love situation with sweatshop-like conditions. An' I ain't gonna be no fabrics' biatch!

The topic has rarely come up in blog conversation, but I have a lot of fabric and yarn. (Only notable comment came when my folks unloaded a huge box full of yarn that was my gndma's.) And honestly, I don't have a huge stash compared with many of my compatriot. But living in a one bedroom/one computer-room apartment doesn't lend itself to hoarding anything.

So I resolve to use up my stashes of flannel and fleece, of acrylic and wool, and of white denim and scraps. (Pretty specific on that last one, huh?)

The rules are:

  • No new purchases of fabric or yarn. *
  • If by 12/31/04 I still have a lot of fabric or yarn, then I must find homes/donate 50% of the remaining stash.
  • If prior to 12/31/04 my stash is completely depleted, new purchase can be made for immediate projects.
  • Every scrap is included in the stash count. No saved bits of fabric for the eventual quilt square. No snippet of yarn held over for catnip-mouse stuffing.
  • Bonez will preside as final judge in the event that there is remaining stash after this sentence, er... year is complete.

* A caveat to the first rule: purchases may be made if required to complete a current WIP.

Can I serve the time? Will I be "scared straight" and keep my future stashes to a minimum? Come back for visitations and I'll keep you updated on how it's going.

Posted by Nanc at 10:54 PM

January 02, 2004


Dil wants to wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year.


That and you had better pet her soon!

Posted by Nanc at 02:03 PM

A ham for all seasons

Many of the folk I know wax poetic about having a big, juicy stuffed turkey for Christmas dinner. But for me, it's always seemed like we've just finished the Thanksgiving turkey leftovers and I'm ready for something different.

This year I conceeded to the ham request and I was justly rewarded.

If you've never tried it (and you eat pork), check out Honey Baked Ham. This delicious hunk of salty and sweet meat goodness made my holidays brighter. A lot less time spent in the kitchen Christmas morn', and tasty dinners, sandwiches and a soup that kicks butt as added bonus.

I was amazed at how well HBH had the holiday meals covered. They're not just about the pig, ya' know - turkeys too. I didn't go in for any of the side dishes (they might be great, I just don't know), but I did pick up a package of their split pea soup mix. It was mighty fine soup, my friends.

Please note that this is not a paid advertisement for HBH. I'm just a friend that has found it mighty tasty. And it probably saved my sanity a bit this Christmas.

Posted by Nanc at 11:01 AM

January 01, 2004

Happy New Year!

Well, it's a new year... what are you gonna do about it?

If I haven't mentioned it already, it's a new year and hopefully you're having a good one. Things are slowly starting to return to normal.

Nanc's parents were here for the week and Nancy's cousins drove up from San Antonio yesterday. We had lots of fun, and now it's time to start to put the house back together and take down all of the Christmas decorations.

In other news, there is a new website design (you are lookin' at it). The site has been up for about a week, and I am still tweaking bits and pieces of it. All of the old content should be transferred over from the old site to the new one.

We made the decision to change the site a couple of months ago, and have been working on it in our free time and has changed with us. The coding is less IE-centric, as we use Opera and Mozilla more now. Also, coding by hand meant that we would update less, so after searching around for a while, we ended up with movable type for content management. So far, the installation has been smooth, and it allows us more freedom to write an update in 10 minutes.

So, that's really about it. We wish all of you a happy and fulfulling new year.

Posted by Matty at 08:00 PM