Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Year In Review

Pinched from Fidget

1. What did you do in 2008 that you'd never done before?

Drive on the highway to the King of Prussia Mall! (Those of you who know me in person know I have an aversion to driving on highways.)

2. Did you keep your new year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Hmm. I didn't make any new year's resolutions this year. I challenged myself to read 100 books and you will find out the results to that soon.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

My sister Teri had a daughter in February and my friend Asami had a son in May.

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully, no.

5. What countries did you visit?

USA and Canada

6. What would you like to have in 2009 that you lacked in 2008?

More comfortable shoes.

7. What dates from 2008 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

May 29th. But I can't tell you why.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

I don't know. I was happy to finish my Mr. Greenjeans sweater - but in retrospect I wish I had chosen a different yarn. Cables need wool. Willow and I did a lot of reading together this year, and I think that was an important achievement as well.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Miscarrying twice.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

See above. Other than that, I am as healthy as the proverbial horse.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

My freezer! Even if it won't fit in my basement!

12. Where did most of your money go?

Mortgage. Followed by car repairs (it took 4 different mechanics and garages before they figured out what was wrong with my car. &!$%@^$ing fuel pump!)

13. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

My parents coming to visit. And seeing my new niece and nephew in the summer.

14. What song will always remind you of 2008?

Foo Fighters' 'Everlong'

15. Compared to this time last year, are you:

a) happier or sadder? About the same
b) thinner or fatter? Fatter, unfortunately.
c) richer or poorer? About the same.

16. What do you wish you'd done more of?

Exercise. Talk to my family. Yardwork. Home repairs.

17. What do you wish you'd done less of?

Yell at Willow.

18. How will you be spending Christmas?

Done! Opened presents here, went to my in-laws for a delicious lunch and more presents, and then back to our place to watch movies on TV.

19. What was your favorite TV program?


20. What was the best book you read?

You will find out that either tomorrow or Friday.

21. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Rachael Yamagata

22. What did you want and get?

Lots and lots of yarn!

23. What did you want and not get?

A spinning wheel - but that is only because Andrew and I haven't had time to go on a road trip to shop for one.

24. What was your favorite film of this year?

I really liked Across the Universe.

25. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I turned 36, but it was uneventful as Andrew had to work late so all I did was take Willow to her swimming lessons. We did go out for dinner at a hibachi restaurant the next day.

26. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

Staying pregnant.

27. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2008?

Comfort. I'm pretty much a Lands End girl all the way around.

28. What kept you sane?

Meeting my knitting friends at Brew Ha Ha.

29. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Paul Rudd

30. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2008.

You can laugh at things in the most horrible of situations.


All in all, it has been an okay year. Stressful as hell at points, but there was much laughter and learning and love. I have a wonderful husband (for the foot rubs alone!), a daughter who surprises me every day with her insight and intelligence, a family support system I appreciate more than I could possibly say, a home of my own, and a job that keeps me interested every day.

I'm a lucky woman.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Blog Contest Announcement - 100 Book Challenge

You didn't think I had forgotten, did you?

The year is almost up, and it is time for all of you to make guesses on where I landed in my personal challenge of reading 100 books in 2008. I am only giving you one hint...

I came within +/-15% of my goal.

Now it is up to you to guess just how many I read. Mind you, I have 28 hours or so still to go here... I might improve on my current target. Some of you may remember what inspired this personal challenge - this MSNBC article that said that 1 in 4 adults read no books last year. It's scary and sad all in one go.

So, I guess you will want a prize if you win, huh? How about this - I'll only be able to open this up to Canadian or American people, but if you win, I will send you a $20 gift certificate to the online bookseller of your choice. If a few people guess the same number I will have to have a drawing.

Please remember to include an email address in your comment so I can get in touch with you if you win. I will not accept any guesses past midnight EST on 12/31/08.

Stay tuned for Friday's post, where I will reveal the winner and dazzle you with all sorts of statistics from my snazzy Excel spreadsheet!

You'll Wish You Had Smellovision for This One!

One of the wonderful things about having my parents come visit is that my Mom can teach me how to make things. You already know that I have never cooked a whole turkey - and although we won't be fixing that situation during my parents' visit, I did accomplish some other things... like making pie!

Mom and Jo's pies

Look closely... which one was made by the person who bakes for a living and which one was made by the person who was so awkward at putting the top crust on that it ripped and the holes had to be patched in with pastry leaves...? Mom assured me they will taste the same.

And then we made pudahha (or perogies, as some people call them). Of course, I have made pudahha before - it was required child labour in our house growing up - if you wanted these for dinner, you had to take part in the filling, folding, and pinching. I have even made pudahha all by myself once - but it is back-breaking that way and much more fun if you have cohorts.

First you drive the cat crazy with the smell of bacon frying:

Frying the bacon

Once the bacon and onion has been fried almost crispy, you add it to your mashed potates, reserving your potato water (you will need it for the dough). Season with salt and pepper until it's perfect (this will require much tasting of the potato filling). Then make the dough in your food processor - it is a combination of flour, salt, oil, and potato water. I'm a little embarrassed to say at this point that Andrew gave me the food processor about 5 years ago and yesterday was the first time it was out of the box. In my defense, I have had very small kitchens ever since and it's not easy to store these things.

Then you roll out the dough and slice it one-hand width thick in both directions to make squares:

Slicing the Pudahha dough

Stretch the dough out a bit, fill with the potato mixture, and then pinch all around to make triangles. Freeze what you won't eat, and boil the rest for 8 minutes.

Pinched Pudahha

Serve with melted butter and onions... (okay, my mouth is watering right now)

Finished Pudahha

I meant to take a picture of the pudahha on my plate, but suffice to say, they weren't on the plate very long.

But I have about 7 dozen in the freezer!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Dropped in on George...

... but he wasn't home.

White House close

Mom, Dad, Andrew, and I headed down to Washington, D.C. yesterday for a whirlwind trip. In the summer when Mom and Dad first announced they were coming down south, Dad said they only thing he really wanted to do was go to the Smithsonian Museum. I floored him by saying, "Great! It's free!" So we drove down to Silver Springs, MD and caught the train from there.

Dad knew that we wouldn't be able to hit every museum on the Mall, so we concentrated on the Natural History Museum because he wanted to see the dinosaur and ice age animal bones. We arrived about 11am, and while not overly crowded, it was already a bustling place. I think we definitely made the right decision of leaving Willow with Andrew's parents for the day. I do want her to see all the exhibits, but I think some day that isn't a Saturday when many people are on vacation would be a much better choice!

We went through the Deep Sea exhibit where I was mostly creeped out by the things in the ocean (you must all know of my aversion to deep water by now). Then we went to the Mammals exhibit that I was largely surprised to see an abundance of taxidermied animals.

Pouncing tiger

Lion attack

The poses were quite realistic and it was interesting to see. I can't say I was terribly impressed with the sterile white background to all of the animals. I suppose if they had more complex sets they would have to dust it all the time.

From here we went to the Dinosaur Exhibit, which was much more crowded than the first two:


I liked how there were different scenes set up to demonstrate different epochs of history. It was a little amusing how the humans (or rather neanderthals) were just an afterthought scene at the end - very reflective of where we are in the scheme of things chronologically.

We were hungry by this point and tried to eat in one of the cafes, but the Fossil Cafe had no seating and there was a long line outside of the Atrium Cafe... so we went outside and got hot dogs from the street vendor. It's a chancy bet - Andrew told me something weird about his hot dog that I am very glad he waited until I was finished eating to do so! After our quick lunch, we headed back in to my preferred exhibit, the Mineral and Gem Exhibit! I don't know what it says about me that I am so enamoured of shiny, pretty things...

Green Beryl

Who wouldn't be?!!

Okay, I do have a scientific interest in all of this - I started out on the asteroids hall and learned how to tell if the rocks you find are earth rocks or space rocks - it has a lot to do with if a rock looks aerodynamic (shaped during entry into the Earth's atmosphere), or has certain striations in it that demonstrate how it was cooled over millions of years. After learning about copper mining, gold mining, and how aluminum mining was once a more lucrative prospect than either of the other two, we got into the pretty stuff:

Jewels E

Jewels B

Jewels D

Jewels A

As well as big hunks of natural crystals such as this garnet:


and this amethyst:


(That person's foot beside the amethyst should give you a good idea of how bid the rock is.)

We finished by pushing our way through to see the Hope Diamond, and I have to say I was a little surprised at how small it was in person:

Hope Diamond A

The jewel itself is about the size of a large egg yolk.

The museum was getting a little too crowded by this time so we thought we would take a walk outside and see another museum. No such luck. We walked by the American History Museum and the line for that one extended all the way down to the intersection where the Washington Monument is:

Washington monument close

Look how little the people are at the bottom!

Dad wanted to see the White House, so we walked up there, and everywhere we went we saw the seat risers for the parade. I wanted to sit in one and have Mom take my picture and caption it as, "Jo is punctual as ever" but the many police around were not happy about people getting anywhere near the seats. We decided to walk back to the Metro Train station, and after walking many many many blocks we found an Au Bon Pain cafe, had snacks, and hopped on the train back to Silver Springs.

It was a great trip - my first to D.C., and I would love to go back. I will definitely take Willow with us next time, but I think it will be some warm spring mid-week day not anywhere near a holiday!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Fruits of My Labours

Isn't she the prettiest thing around?

This is my niece, Dharma, in the Offset Wraplan I knit her for Christmas. It's a bit big on her, but she will only grow into it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas


Looks almost tropical, doesn't it?

Don't believe the hype. My parents are here - finally - their 3 days train journey across country took 5 days due to the snow and train derailments (not their own, thankfully). We went to Longwood Gardens on December 23rd, and spent our entire time inside the conservatory because it was 15'F / -9.5'C outside! I actually had to take off my jacket in the conservatory - it was nice to be that warm.

If you would like to see some more of the beautiful flower pictures, you can click on the slideshow here.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Do you know how hard it is to keep a really good secret?

Congratulations, Bezzie!

I posted a tiny snapshot of this baby blanket when it was a WiP, and even Bezzie said she didn't realize it was for her.

Bezzie blankie

The Particulars

Yarn: Um. I think Bernat Baby Coordinates, but I can't find this particular colourway listed - when knit up it reminded me of Monet's waterlilies and I really liked that. 2.5 skeins.

Needles: Not! Actually, I crocheted this one. I like crocheting baby blankets because then they are the same on each side. Size H crochet hook.

Pattern: Not a particular one - just single crochet and double crochet in the same stitch, skip a stitch, and repeat. Easy and mindless, but it makes a beautiful baby blanket.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'll Just Distract You With Yarn... make up for the fact I haven't been able to come up with blog posts.

Spunky Eclectic DK Mandy

It's Spunky Eclectic DK sock in 'Mandy' bought during Woolgirl's Thanksgiving Weekend sale. Destined to be socks for me.

I'm worn out, people. More work than I know what to do with, I wake up in the middle of the night planning out what has priority, and in the meantime I am nowhere near finished my Christmas shopping or crafting. Tomorrow's my last day in the office so I need to write up my office Christmas cards tonight, and my parents arrive on Saturday.

And my %$@&*% freezer doesn't fit through the frickin' basement door.

Joy to the world.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Christmas Baking Part 2

I love how my home smells right now!

Ginger Molasses Crinkle Cookies B

These cookies are based on this Ginger Molasses Crinkle Cookies recipe I found in a Canadian Living Magazine a few years back. What I love about this recipe, other than the flavour, is the fact that the fat in the cookie is vegetable oil, so it is a cookie whose dough takes about 5 minutes to make and you don't have to worry about having to soften the butter or anything like that.

Of course, I made changes to the recipe. I approach my knitting the same way - I always have to make it a bit different. These are my changes:

1) I added 1/2 tsp of cardomom to the dry mixture.
2) Rather than rolling the balls in normal white sugar, I roll them in turbinado sugar (raw sugar with large crystals) for that extra crunch and richer flavour.

I love the texture of these cookies when cooked - they are crispy on the outside, but still retain some of the chewiness in the middle.

And because I couldn't resist another picture:

Ginger Molasses Crinkle Cookies A



I even have a WiP to show off:

Sam's hat

It doesn't look like much right now, but it will be a present for a little boy I know.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christmas Baking Part 1

I love baking. And you might expect that for someone of my size it would have a lot to do with loving to eat what I bake - but that really isn't the case. I mean, it tastes good, but for me it has almost everything to do with the process. I love measuring and mixing everything together and seeing what comes of it - and I definitely subscribe to the Alton Brown scientific cooking theory.

I was finally able to get some Christmas baking in this weekend - not as much as I would have liked, but it was a start.

Cherry Ice Box Cookies

Cherry Ice Box Cookies

This recipe is based on this Cherry-Pecan Icebox Cookies recipe, but I have tweaked it a bit.

Number 1) I can't stand nuts in cookies (so no nuts!)
Number 2) I add a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract so bring out the sugar cookie taste.
Number 3) And this is a guess - I use one small container of green cherries and one small red container - that probably comes to more than the 3/4c the recipe calls for.

The recipe says it is supposed to yield 13 dozen cookies - I'm lucky if I get 5! I think I slice mine on the thicker side.

Why do I like these cookies? Well, other than the fact that they do taste good, it is so neat to see how every slice makes the next cookie different from the one before. Sometimes they are all red, sometimes all green - and every permutation in between. And on a practical note, with my schedule being the way it is right now, I love the fact that I can make the dough, put the logs in the refrigerator, and pull one out and bake a dozen or two at a time, when I have time. It's just less stressful that way.


Saturday, December 06, 2008

Tara's Question

Tara asked in the comment section:

Hey, did you add the "books I'm reading" when you changed your layout? I just noticed it. I was wondering why you didn't have one. How is the 100 for 2008?

Glad you asked! I have been trying to update the "Books I'm Reading" section as often as possible, but I miss some of them. I need to finish Krakatoa before the end of the year. I actually was inspired to put his widget on my blog from seeing it on your blog!

And as for the 100 in 2008 challenge, I'm really close! I am not going to give away numbers because I am going to have a blog contest at the end of the year and people can guess how many books I have read and I will have some prizes to give away. I also have this massive spreadsheet that will have statistics galore for those geeky number people (like me) who get off on knowing these things.

Friday, December 05, 2008

What Color Is your Rainbow?

Blatantly pilfered from Pam:

Your rainbow is intensely shaded indigo, green, and blue.


What is says about you: You are a proud person. You appreciate friends who get along with one another. You share hobbies with friends and like trying to fit into their routines. Those around you admire your fresh outlook and vitality.

Find the colors of your rainbow at

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

More Entertaining Stuff

One of the best things of having a kid is sometimes you get to watch some cool cartoons. One show that Willow has been watching lately on Nickleodeon is called Making Fiends and I think this is definitely one of the cases where I get more out of the show than Willow does. If you go to Amy Winfrey's website and click on "Original Web Episodes" you can get a taste of this funny cartoon.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

To Entertain You While I Am Out

...but not down. It's just that this is the busiest part of my work year, I have less than three weeks of work before my holidays and when my parents come, and my mojo for anything creative is in hiding.

So, I leave you with one of my favourite MadTV skits - enjoy!