Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Knitting Fool

Over the years I have done a lot of fiber arts. I love knitting, crochet, needlepoint and crewel. I have made numerous afghans but all for others. I made them for family members for Christmas. This year I decided to make one for us to keep.

Then our older daughter said she wanted one. We spent quite a bit of time trying to find the right yarn. There is no point in making an afghan and using crummy yarn. They take hundreds of hours and why end up with a substandard product? We ended up with some beautiful yarn from the Yarn Explosion in Roanoke.

Halfway through the project I realized that if I made one for one of the kids, I would have to make one for ALL of the kids!

At the time, I was still working at the library, so that limited the time I could knit. I took it to work and got about 30 minutes in on my lunch hour and then I would knit each evening for a few hours and on the weekends. It took about 4 months and roughly 260 hours. So when people say i should make these and sell them, I wonder who would be willing to pay thousands of dollars for a hand knit afghan? However, this was a labor of love!

I finished Trista's afghan in October and then thought to get started on Tara's. Her birthday is in March and I thought I could easily finish by then. I left the library at the end of October and was making a lot of progress on the second afghan and then decided to work every day and get them both done for Christmas. Our son and his wife were not going to make it home for Christmas and it was going to be just the two girls with us. I really wanted to give them both an afghan.

Talk about stress! I finished on December 20, just a few days before they were to get here! But now they have them and I can blog about the project and I won't spoil the surprise!

I have the pattern from years ago. I made the same pattern for my sister back in the 80's. I learned a trick to keep you on track. Most patterns have a set number of rows and then the pattern repeats itself. I write each row on a 3X5 card. When I finish a row, I remove the clip holding the cards together and move it to the back, so when I pick up my piece I always know where I am.

Each afghan is made with three panels. The panels are then sewn together with large needles. I saved yarn at the end and beginning of each new ball of yarn, making sure to finish on the start of a new row. Rather than hiding the ends in the rows as I worked, I used them to sew the panels together when I was finished.

Both afghans were made using the same pattern. I like it because it has a lot of interesting stitches. There are seed stitches and cables so it is fun and challenging.

Trista's is sort of a greenish khaki.

Tara's is almost teal.

I loved making them and hope they love getting them. Travis may have to wait awhile for his. Not so interested in starting another project any time soon. Ours will have to wait QUITE a while!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Baked Apple Cinnamon French Toast

Whenever we have company I spend a lot of time trying to come up with new and delicious recipes. When it is our kids I try to mix this in with old favorites or variations on a theme. I have made the croissant Bread Pudding recipe from Ina Garten, but I wanted to make a few changes. Tara wanted croissant French toast and Trista had a few comments about that, but here is the compromise I came up with. By the way, there will be no more fancy breakfast. Too fat and too full.

Baked Apple and Cinnamon French Toast

4 Croissants
1 cup or more chopped up apple, I used a VERY large Granny Smith. (I bought 2 to use, but one disappeared from the fridge)
8 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk (I mixed it up with half and half and 2 percent, about half of each)
3/4 cup Splenda brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon maple flavoring
maple syrup or whatever you have in the cupboard

Pre-heat oven to 400.

First I put a large chunk of butter in a glass dish and heated it in the microwave for 20 seconds or until melted. Pour this in a 9X13 dish and spread it around. Chop up the apples and place in a large bowl. Add the cinnamon and brown sugar. I used the kind with Splenda. If you have the regular brown sugar double the amount to 1 1/2cups. Mix well.

Cut the croissants in half lengthwise and place the bottom half in the dish. I broke off pieces where they overlapped and put those pieces where there was no bread. Distribute the apples over the bread and then add the top pieces of the croissants, fitting them where necessary to cover all the apple pieces.

Using the now empty bowl, add the eggs and the milk. Mix well and add the vanilla and the maple flavoring. Carefully pour this over the bread and apples.

Place the dish inside a larger pan. I used a roaster. Then add hot water about half way up. Don't over fill and spill the water inside the bread pan. Carefully place the pan in the oven.

I set the timer for 45 minutes. You may want to check it then. Use a clean knife and insert it in the middle of the dish. If it comes out mostly clean, you are done!

While I waited for it to cool, I put another hunk of butter in a ceramic gravy bowl. Heat it in the microwave until it is melted. Add the maple syrup and heat about 15 seconds longer until warm. Cut and serve the Baked French Toast with the syrup poured over the top. Yum. And it covers all the breakfasty food groups. Eggs, bread and fruit. All in one pan!

I made another recipe compromise for which I have no pictures and they really are not needed. We wanted a green bean casserole for dinner Christmas night. But not the cream of mushroom kind. However French fried onions are definitely needed.

I put butter and olive oil in a large fry pan. Add about 1/4 cup of slivers or slices of almonds and about 1/2 cup of onions. Saute. Add the frozen green beans of your choice. Saute until all is mixed well. Dump everything in a casserole dish and sprinkle with the French fried onions. Bake for 20 minutes or so in a 350 degree oven. Delicious and easy. Maybe our new tradition.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Shacklegate Update

I just received this update about Shacklegate from my Aunt Suzy. It is slightly different from the way Mom tells it, but it's probably like playing telephone. The more times a story is told little things get changed and Mom's memory is a little shaky these days. So let's go with Suzy's version.

"Becca, loved the painting but our grandfather built the log house – my mother’s father. My Daddy probably didn’t know how to hold a hammer as he was a city boy, but my Mother did. My grandfather also built the brick house across the street from the log house where my grandparents and my mother lived after they moved to Ashland from Huntington, WVA. My grandfather helped run the brick factory that his brother owned in Huntington . The house they lived in there is still standing and is still beautiful. Just thought I’d let you know.

Luvs, Suzy"

It is cool to think my Great Grandfather actually built this house. Even better than thinking my Grandfather just hired a builder. When it came for sale a few years ago I had a the idea of buying the house and moving it to our property to use as a B&B. I even bought a lottery ticket so that I could afford it. I didn't win the lottery and now the house is owned by someone else so maybe it was meant to stay in Ashland.

Maybe I'll go buy another ticket and if I win I'll STILL buy the house and move it here. Based on past lottery buying experience no one needs to worry about how to move the house any time soon.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Oh, Dear

I have hired a trainer to help me with the horses. We recently took them on a trail ride. The trails were covered with leaves and it was difficult to see what the footing would be like. There were a lot of rocks on the trail and they were narrow with a steep fall off. A little scary. Scary for me. The horses did great. There was a little hesitancy going through the two large rocks on either side of the trail at the beginning, but after that they did great.

The weird part was at the end. At the edge of the parking lot, I could see a part of a deer head with the antlers attached. I went over to see, thinking it was a road kill that someone had moved off the road. I even considered taking an antler as that is a favorite dog treat of RJ's. No, we don't kill deer for that, but antlers are shed every year and RJ has found and loved them in the past.

When I got closer the smell was bad and I could see multiple carcasses in varying stages of decomposition. I saw everything from some neck bones to the entire front of a deer. The only parts missing were the tenderloins and the haunches. There was a bag of intestines. There was even a decomposing bear head and a skinless body. Yuck.

So I guess there are some hunters that only want a few parts of the animals they hunt. Maybe just a pelt or a small portion of meat. Then they can't be bothered to dispose of that which they don't want properly. Perhaps they want to leave the rest for scavengers, but I wouldn't think it a good idea to attract large carnivores to a place where people hike or ride horses.

I am not a hunter, so maybe those of you that are can tell me the way this is supposed to work. Should you bury a carcass? Or is leaving it in a pile of others the proper thing to do?

Saturday, December 17, 2011


When my mother was young her father built a log house for the family. Her mother loved all things old fashioned and had always wanted to live in one. So my mother and her 3 brothers and one sister grew up in a log house. One day my mother told me that Grandmama had named her house Shacklegate and that if you wrote that name on the letter it would be delivered. So I wrote her a letter with the only address as follows
Saja Montague
Ashland, Kentucky

There were no zip codes then. It took a few extra days, I can imagine asking around for an old-timer who knew my grandmother, but it got delivered.

Now my mother lives in a beautiful assisted living community. She has all her needs taken care of and she doesn't want anything, so gift giving is a real challenge. Outside each resident's door is a small shelf where you may display any art work or picture. Mom currently has a vase with some fake flowers. On a recent visit I noticed that one woman had named her home. This reminded me of Mom's story.

I asked Mom if she wanted to have a plaque outside her door and name her place. She liked the idea, but couldn't come up with a name. I reminded her of Grandmama's name for her house and she then decided to name her place Shacklegate.

My artistic talent is non-existent, so I wondered how I would get something for Mom. One of the best thing about working in the Fincastle Library was the many friends I made there. The Kattenbrakers were some of my favorites and Dreama is a marvelous artist who frequently donates art for the various fundraisers for the library. ( You can see her work at her web site I approached her with the idea and she was excited about the project. I have a stained glass I made of the house for my parents and my cousin Phillip was kind enough to go by the old house in Ashland and send me a current photo. My father had written several genealogies so they were also provided to Dreama to work her magic.

Dreama sent me an email this week and said that she was done. You can't imagine how thrilled I am with her finished product. It is so wonderful and I am excited to be sending it to my mother. My sister and two brothers will all be giving this perfect gift for my mother. I hope we do what all kids want to do for their mother for Christmas. I hope we make her cry.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Free Heat....eventually

It was 27 degrees when I went to the barn this morning. The tank heater was working great so I didn't have to chop ice. That's a wonderful thing. The horse "apples" in the turnouts were frozen to the ground. After a few minutes of scraping I gave up and decided to finish that part of the daily routine at a warmer time. There was frost everywhere so we have started feeding hay in the mornings in addition to the evenings. This adds a bit of time to the barn work, but I bought some new gloves, so it's not as bad as it could be!

Lee has found that working in the shop when it is this cold is impossible. Cold weather and bare hands on metal is not conducive to a pleasant day. So we have been looking for a wood stove and today we bought one. The stove weighs about 300 pounds, so the man we bought it from loaded it in the a long pipe attached to his tractor front loader. Sort of a jury rigged fork lift. I love the ingenuity of the local farmers! Lee then backed the truck into the shop and we used the engine hoist to get it out and on the ground. Boy, that thing sure comes in handy. Lee said it was worth buying even if you didn't use it for engines! It sure makes moves moving heavy items around the shop easy.

The stove has a bit of rust, so we think we will paint it. A bit of cleaning will help! Then we have to figure out the location of the chimney and then buy and install all the sections. It is a TALL roof to accommodate lifting up trucks to work under them. We may need to consult a contractor or do it ourselves and hope for the best. And THEN we will get "free" heat.