Saturday, January 7, 2012

Observations from My Children

For Christmas, my mother in law got me an awesome how-to book on knitting.  When I tried it out though, I realized that I wasn't going to learn this from a book.  It's more complicated than that.

So she spent a day with me showing me how to knit (:  Then she gave me homework and told me to practice.

So I'm practicing my knitting.

I'm so excited to be learning this!!  Please don't ask me what it's going to be.  (lol)  Right now, it's just practice.  This first picture is from the day before yesterday.

And this picture is from tonight (:  My current game plan is to use the entire skein.  1.  To see how far a skein goes.  and 2.  To give me good practice with my knitting.  If I get lucky, I might get a scarf out of this practice.  If not, I can always unravel it, right?

So what does my learning to knit have to do with my kids' observations?

Well, they've been watching me knit (:  My oldest has asked me to make him something.  My youngest wants me to teach him how to do it once I've learned.

And yesterday, I was wearing a set of my re-purposed hair sticks.  (Two years ago, youtube taught me how to put them up.)

(Yeah, it really is -that- simple.  A second stick is purely decorative.)

While we headed over to visit Mark's parents, my youngest was riding behind me in the vehicle, with a clear view of my hair.  Suddenly, he chimes in, "Hey Mom!  You could use your hair sticks to knit!"

And I realized that he's absolutely right!

Then my oldest (who was with me when I purchased them from the local Asian food market as part of a set of chopsticks) said, "Or you could eat with them!"

Between them, they reminded me of two cartoons floating around fb lately:


I'm going to have say that it's because 2 sticks turn out to have multiple purposes and come in quite handy (;

Friday, January 6, 2012

Pay It Forward 2011 Project 1

I sent off my first 2011 Pay It Forward gift today!

This one was for my friend Annie, who signed up first.  I knew -exactly- what I wanted to make for her, it just took me time to find the time to make it....them (as it actually turned out to be in 6 pieces).

Getting started.
 I realize I might be a bit of a crafting hoarder, as ALL of these things were readily available in my craft bins... but everything has a place (when it's put away) and obviously, I'm using them, so may be not so much hoarding as 'saving for later', right?  Anyway, this was the stage when I decide what I was going to be making and out of what.  Last year, she'd seen the hair jewelry that I made and expressed an interest in them.  So I figured I would make some for her (:

Since she's a red head, I chose to work with browns, greens and beige for hers.  I decided I would make her 2 sets of hair falls (one cowry, the other coin), and a set of hair sticks.

Working through a process of elimination (;

Getting started on the cowry falls.
Almost done with this set! (:  It's a combination of embroidery floss, crochet thread, wooden beads and cowry shells.
I decided to get started on the coin falls before finishing the cowry ones.
One finished portion!
Close up on the hair sticks that I did for her from a combination of stone and wood beads, thread, and pieces from a broken bracelet (:  I'm a big fan of recycling!
A close up on the two sets of finished hair falls.

All three finished sets.  Hoping that she'll send me pictures of them in her hair for my portfolio, since I don't put other people's hair jewelry in my hair, even for display (:

I hope that she likes them!

Rainbow Cats and Fire Wizards

I laid down for a quick nap and dreamed that I was visiting an Asian Island city built into the sides of a massive volcano
Shaped much like this island.
where cats were abundant and signs of good fortune.  You might like the link-- It's about a real cat island.
Through the center of the city, they had a tremendously wide and long staircase that went from the top of the volcano down to (presumably, as I couldn't see it in my dream) the beach/ base.
Today was their fire celebration and everyone was out celebrating with merchant and vendors all along (and out on) the stairs, waiting for the fire wizard's parade.

I was with a local friend, and for good luck, we dyed my Peeve cat's fur in vibrant rainbow colors.

Just as we finished, the parade began, but they didn't given the vendors time to move and stalls began falling down the stairs in slow motion.  They froze before anything was really broken and by magic, righted themselves where they were (even if that meant they were 30 stairs further down than where'd they'd been).  Every surface was covered in glass jars of unlit candles and as the fire wizards wound there way down,

they magically lit them.

People stood stock still, even if you were in the middle and the wizards would practically be standing on top of you-- No one moved while the wizards were passing.  I don't know if it was simply tradition, or we actually couldn't-- because with a wizard standing directly behind me while they lit the row, I wasn't going to try.  You should visit the link to read about a real fire and light festival!

Once they'd passed our section and continued down the volcano and out of sight leaving a lovely trail of flickering light and mild chaos in their wake,  Visit for more amazing photos of the Banaag Festival!

my cat came out to visit and rubbed against my leg.  I bent to pet him, realized that it was the spirit of his sister, and woke up, missing her.

In the course of writing this blog and learning more about the Banaag Festival, that seems like a fitting end to the dream.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lazy Man's Open Face Burger

Or, "How I got my 6 year old to finally eat hash browns".

It's what I made for dinner tonight, but that's boring.  Instead, I'll share how I ended up making it for the first time, because that's more interesting (;

My youngest has absolutely failed to eat hash browns of any kind, for practically ever.  We've tried the multiple little round ones.  We've tried the large flat ones at fast food places like McDonald's.  I've even tried making them at home.  He turned his nose up at all of them.

But he adores french fries.  And his Daddy makes them better than McDonald's in the 80s!  Mark says it's the freezing them after cutting the potatoes and before putting them in the deep fryer that's the key.  But he made them the other day and didn't bother freezing them--and they were -still- awesome.  I'm just chalking it up as one of his personal skills.

So the evening came that I decided to make burgers and fries.  I defrosted a pound of ground beef, divided it up into 4 patties, seasoned them with salt and pepper and started pan-frying them.  Then I went to start the fries (I can make them, following his directions and they're good, just not as good as his)...and discovered I didn't have any potatoes.  Crap.  How am I going to make fries without potatoes?!?

So I figure we'll have hamburgers without fries-- when I go to gather the bread and discover:  What the heck?!?  I don't have any bread either?!?  What kind of cook/ Mom am I who makes burgers and fries having neither bread (or buns) OR potatoes in the house?!?  (Okay, I own up to a complete fail on this particular evening.)

But that's where you have to get inventive and creative, right?

So I started rummaging around in the freezer and see our package of ready made hash browns (because my oldest and I enjoy them with breakfast sometimes).  Now, I know my youngest won't eat them, but I suddenly have an "Ah ha!" Momma moment:  I decide I'm going to make open face burgers on top of hash browns and try to sell my boy on the idea that it's the best of burgers and fries combines in a single dish.

And it worked (:

AND it turned out to be pretty good.  So like our bacon wrapped chicken, it's become a Wise family favorite.

Mom, You're such a GIRL

So this morning, a friend of mine's status update on facebook said, "To the squirrel being stalked by the 4 stray cats in the backyard.... Good luck."

Squirrels are kind of a running theme at our house.

My boys are still teasing me about this, but 2 weeks ago, I opened the door and called all the dogs in.  Then I glanced at the laundry room and thought, "Wow.  That's a very lifelike stuffed squirrel they have.... ...But... .....I...didn't -get- them a stuffed squirrel....It's REAL!!" and then I screamed and slammed the back door shut.

You have to understand--

1.  It was a -giant- squirrel.
2.  There were no puncture wounds or anything.  and
3.  My pets had draped stuffing from one of their other toys across it like it's stuffing was coming out.  (I'm betting they did that last one on purpose as a group effort practical joke.)

My boys are teasing me because once it scared me-- I couldn't go out and dispose of it.  My 9 year old had to rescue me and do it.  So both of them are still laughing and will shake their heads and say, "Mom, you're such a GIRL."

Image from

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Your Lunch is Happy to See You

My little boys just hopped on the bus for the first time in 2012!  Their winter break is over, Woohoo!!  Not that I haven't enjoyed our time together, because I really did.  They've been wonderful.  But I'm glad to be getting back to our regular routine.

But since it's the first day back in almost 3 weeks, and I know how hard it is to get back into the swing of things and following the rules, I made their lunches just a little bit special today:

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Ground Work

For 2010, I completed my first Pay It Forward project.   And last January, I posted the facebook status again:

I will make something handmade for the first five people who respond to this, but I decide what it is and I'll send it within (roughly) a year.  The catch is that you have to post it in your status and make something for the first five people who respond to yours.  It doesn't have to be art-- it can be food or whatever, but you have to make it for that person.

So now, I have until the end of this month to finish them.  My creative challenge today doesn't have a tangible object (yet)-- instead, tonight I was cementing and researching the ideas that I'll be using to create my 5 projects.

I'm not going to leak any spoilers, but in the next 5-20 days, I'll definitely blog about each finished piece as they head off in the mail to their intended recipient (:

Monday, January 2, 2012

Start with Barley, End with Barley

Today's creativity challenge came about while I was making dinner yesterday.  See, my husband adores black eyed peas.  And I make them because, (well, one because he adores them, but two, because) we live in the south and it's a traditional New Year's fare meant to bring good luck and prosperity.

I started my day today by making barley porridge in the crock pot based on the apple barley pudding recipe.  I'm so glad that I finally figured out the right consistency for the porridge!

Apple Barley Porridge for the Crock Pot


3 cups of barley
5 apples, peeled and diced fine
15 cups of water
lemon juice
2 1/2 cups of sugar
3 cups of water


In a Large crock pot, mix the dried barley and diced apples.  Cover with 15 cups of water, stir and cook on low for 6 hours.

At the 6 hour mark, add 3 large splooshes of lemon juice, the sugar and the other 3 cups of water and stir to mix it all in, then reset the crock pot to cook an additional 2 hours on low.

Serve with a bit of brown sugar, or honey, or milk, or cream or none of the above as it suits you and enjoy (:

So how does barley porridge have anything at all to do with black eyed peas?  Well, as I've previously mentioned, my husband adores them on New Years-- but I don't.  So when I fix them, we have this huge left over container full of black eyed peas and he won't eat all of them-- he can't.  And I hate seeing food go to waste.

So I looked up a recipe for Black Eyed Pea Gumbo.

If you've ever read any of my other recipe posts, you've probably already notice I'm not very good at following (or giving) recipes exactly, so I'll share how I changed it to make dinner tonight (:

(Especially as part of the point of tonight's dinner was to make use of leftovers and what I have on hand!)

Black Eyed Pea Gumbo


3 cups of barley, soaked in water overnight
4 cups of left over black eyed peas
6 slices of left over ham, diced
5 stalks of celery, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 cans of broth (I happened to have 1 of chicken and one of beef, so I used both)
diced garlic, to taste ( I use a lot because I like garlic a lot)
a good sploosh of canola oil
1 can of diced tomatoes
1 can of diced tomatoes with green chiles
salt, pepper, paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, and parsley-- all to taste


In a large stew pot, combine the drained barley, the black eyed peas, both cans of broth and both cans of tomatoes.  Season with salt, pepper, parika, onion powder, garlic powder, and parsley, to taste.

With everything cold, that sure doesn't look appealing yet.
In a large frying pan, start with the sploosh of oil, over medium high heat, and cook the ham, celery, onion, garlic and bell pepper, also seasoned with the spices.

And even before it's cooked, it already looks festive and yummy (:
When the ham starts to brown, the celery to soften and the onions to go clear, add it to the stew pot.  Stir it all up and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

And enjoy!

With two delicious barley based meals to start and end my day, what I learned today is that it's so easy to creatively alter recipes that it hardly feels like being creative at all! (:

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Uncle Kennard's Sweet Potato Pie

Happy New Year!

I decided to take on the creative every day challenge for 2012 (:

For this first day of the year, I'm making sweet potato pie for my husband's Uncle Kennard.  It's baking right now, so we'll see how they turn out, but I have high hopes. (:

It can't be any harder than making pumpkin pie from scratch.

I used this Recipe as my guide.

But I'll share how I modified it.

Sweet Potato Pie Recipe


2 large sweet potatoes
a stick of butter, softened
1 1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 unbaked pie crusts


Peel the sweet potatoes.  (Don't bother trying to dice them-- these suckers are -tough-!)  Just cover them completely with water and boil them for an hour.

In the last half hour while the potatoes are cooking, let the pie crusts thaw and preheat the oven to 350.  Place the crusts in the pie pans, poke the bottoms and sides with a fork and prepare to bake them unfilled for 10 minutes-- it makes a tremendous difference in the taste of the pie, I promise (:

Run cold water over the sweet potatoes then break the potatoes apart in a large bowl. Add the butter, sugar, milk, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.  Use an electric mixer and beat until smooth.  Pour into the lightly baked pie crusts.

Bake at 350 for an hour or until a tooth pick inserted into the center comes out clean.

And enjoy!