Apocalypse Babies Now!!!

Today is December 21st, 2012 and the world is supposed to be ending.

However, the only thing that actually happened is that a friend of mine gave birth to her son.  Which is pretty cool because it means that the two of us have something really unusual in common.

We are both BABIES OF THE APOCALYPSE!!!! 

I too was born on one of the great failed apocalypse prediction dates:  March 10th, 1982.  On this day all of the planets decided to line up on one side of the sun.  It was called the Jupiter Effect and it actually did happen.  According to a couple of doomsday scientists, this should have caused a massive gravitational pull with solar flares, earthquakes and all manner of natural disasters.  I like to believe that dinosaurs would have been involved somehow.  Perhaps if the planets could have gotten their collective shit together and formed a really straight line, we all wouldn’t be here now.  But for whatever reason this great cosmic conga line had no real effect at all.

Except for me.

I was born in a small Vermont town with a small local newspaper.  Without any real news of total destruction to report, the paper came by the hospital and took a picture of all the March 10th babies.  My mom still has the newspaper clipping somewhere.  I would LOVE to share that with you but she’s about 2000 miles away.  So instead, I’ll just show you some fun links that I found.

Top 10 Failed Apocalyptic Predictions

I’m number 3 on the List.

The Jupiter Effect – Are We Dead Yet?

This is a great clip from the news in Fargo, ND on March 10th, 1982.

I like to think that my friend’s baby and I will get on pretty well.  It’s nice to welcome another doomsday sibling into the world.

Rock on little guy, and do great things.

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Reindeer Antlers in Review. See how they held up out on the town!

I promised you pictures, so here they are!  The antlers AND the full reindeer costume!

See the original post with the free pattern here!

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Here I am with Max and my extra shiny Christmas Tree before leaving the house.  As you can see, the antlers end up pointing out more than up, but I think the effect is pretty great.  Also, my cat totally poses for pictures.  That ham!

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Picture by Brent Thomas

In this next picture Jamie and I have arrived at our gathering point.  The night is still pretty docile, and the antlers still in pretty good condition.  Doesn’t Jamie make the cutest elf?

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Picture by Brent Thomas

Clearly the evening has progressed.  There has been dancing, imbibing and general reindeer games.  The antlers are drooping a bit, but still holding their own.  Go antlers, go!!

All together, I’d call this a successful night.  Next year, I’m totally going as a reindeer again.

Pasta With Chicken and Vegetables in a Garlic and Olive Oil Sauce.

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This is a delicious variant on the first dish I learned how to make while growing up.  I wish I had a name for this combination of pasta, meat and veggies, but I’ve never heard one used.  The best description I can come up with would be “Italian Stir-Fry.”  If you’re sitting at home thinking, “That’s totally ________!”  Feel free to let me know.

The dish has three basic ingredient groups, and you can substitute anything in my recipe with an item that matches one of the following categories.

Pasta:

Any kind of short sturdy pasta will do.  Long spaghetti type pastas don’t really work all that well.  A plain cheese ravioli would be good, but if you’d like to use a stuffed ravioli I’d omit the meat category. I’ve definitely done this before and it’s a great option.

Meat:

Chicken or Italian Sausage seem to be the two best options for this meal, but its your dinner.  Go wild! If you want to go with seafood, I’d suggest scallops.

Veggies:

Sweet Onions, Mushrooms, Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Sun Dried Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Brocoli Rabe, Tomatoes, Capers, Eggplant…Pine nuts aren’t exactly a “veggie” but they go here too.

That’s pretty much my normal go to list.

Non Negotiables:

Ok.  So here’s the one part of the dish that shouldn’t be messed with because it becomes a different dish if you do.

There’s no actual sauce.  The whole thing gets tossed in the olive oil and fresh garlic it’s been cooking in.  After the dish is complete you can use any kind of dry Italian cheese for grating on top.  I pretty much refuse to forgo the cheese.  Last but not least, use plenty of basil and oregano.  Whether or not these are fresh or dried is up to you.  I’ll use fresh if I have them available, but dried really works just fine.

Step 1:

Prep your meat!  In this case I used two boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  I think chicken breast gets dried out and chewy way to easily on it’s own, so I pretty much refuse to use it without beating the hell out of it first.  As you can see in the photo below, you don’t need a meat mallet.  My favorite way to “beat the meat” is to take an empty beer bottle and wrap it in plastic wrap.  That way you can just throw it away when you’re done and not have to worry about cleaning raw chicken out of every little crevice.  When you’re done tenderizing the chicken, lightly coat each side with salt and give it a little rub.  This will help break down the meat even more before cooking the chicken.

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When you’ve finished prepping the chicken, cut it up into nice even chunks:

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Now it’s time to get the pasta cooking.  Gemelli is one of my favorite pasta shapes and that’s what I’m using in this recipe.  For the amount of chicken I have, I’m using about 2 cups of pasta.  Make sure to salt your water to flavor the pasta, and and add a little bit of oil to keep the water from boiling over.

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Step 2:

Let’s get some veggies going!  Today I decided to use about a cup and a half of mushrooms, half a large onion, a cup of marinated artichoke hearts and a half of cup of sun dried tomatoes.  I sliced the mushrooms nice and evenly, sliced the onion into thin slivers, left the artichoke hearts alone and chopped the sun dried tomatoes.  This is also the step where you’ll want to crush and chop a bunch of fresh garlic.  I used 4 cloves in this recipe, but you can use more or less depending on how much you love garlic.

Lightly coat the bottom of your skillet with olive oil, heat to medium and toss in your veggies and garlic.  If your veggies start browning before they have broken down to that soft and delightful place, turn your heat down.  You don’t want to get a brown on the veggies until they’ve reached their maximum tastiness!!!

When the veggies appear to be good and cooking, lightly salt, and add the basil and oregano.  Other Italian spices are totally cool here.  I have this great “Italian Spice” grinder, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

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Step 3:

At this point, your veggies and your pasta should be mostly cooked.  If your pasta is not totally cooked, but your veggies are starting to brown, turn the heat down to low on your veggies and wait for the pasta to finish.  Drain the pasta just shy of al dente, because you’re going to toss all that lovely pasta in with the veggies and meat.

Once your pasta has been drained and is chill-axing in a colander in the sink, throw the chicken in with the veggies and turn the heat back up to medium.  The chicken pieces should be fairly thin and small and will cook quickly.  When you don’t see any more pink on any pieces of chicken, it’s time to throw the pasta in.  Keep turning the pasta in with the veggies and chicken until all excess moisture has cooked off.  This is a pretty good time to take a taste and see if your balance of seasonings makes you happy.

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Step 4:

Last but not least, grate some high quality Parmesan Reggiano or Pecorino Romano to garnish. (You will be able to tell the difference if you buy the cheap stuff)

Ideally you’ll have someone that you’re cooking for sitting on the couch and you can make this his or her job to complete before the meal is finished.

Enjoy!

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Ruffled Flower Motif

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I was looking at a hat I made last winter and thought to myself, “MAN, I really like the flower on the hat.  Why didn’t I write that pattern down?”  So I sat down and decided to work through the pattern.  I’m going to use the flower motif for a project I’m working on for my mom this Christmas.  However, this time I worked the flower in a size 30 thread because the gift will be an Irish Crochet piece on a decorative pillow.  (That project will be coming soon too!) Since I had to go through all the steps to do that, I figured I’d share them with you!

Ruffled Flower Motif:

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For Flower on Hat:

Yarn:  DMC size 5 embroidery thread        Hook:  2.1 mm

For Irish Crochet Flower:

Yarn:  DMC size 30 Cordonnet      Hook:  .9mm

Start:  Ch 6, join with a slip stitch to form a ring.

Round 1:  Sc 17 times in ring, sl st to join.

Round 2:  Ch 1, sc in the same sp.  * Ch 3, skip 2 sc, sc in the next sc.  Repeat from * 4 times.  Ch 3, sl st to join.

Round 3:  Sc 6 times in first ch 3 sp.  Repeat 5 more times.  Sl st to join.

Round 4:  Ch 6, (This counts as first dc plus ch 3)  Skip 2 sc, sc in next sc.  *Ch 3, skip 2 sc, dc in next sc.  Ch 3, skip 2 sc, sc in next sc.  Repeat from * 5 times.  Ch 3, sl st to join.

Round 5:  Sc 6 times in next 3 ch sp.  Repeat 11 times.  Sl st to join.

Round 6:  (first petal, work behind round 4)  Ch 1. *Sc around dc of round 4.  Ch 7. Repeat 5 more times.  Sl st to join.

Round 7:  10 sc in first 7 ch sp.  Sl st to join.

Round 8:  Ch 1, sc in same sp.  *Ch 5, skip next 4 sc, sc in next sc.  Ch 3, sc in same sc.  Ch 5, skip 4 sc and sc in next sc.  Repeat from * 5 more times. Variation for 5th time: sl st to join instead of final sc.

Round 9:  *7 sc in first 5 ch sp.  3 sc in next 3 ch sp.  7 sc in next 5 ch sp.  Repeat from * 5 more times.  Sl st to join.

Round 10:  (second petal, work behind round 8)  Ch 1, sc around sc from round 8.  *Ch 8 skip 2 sc and sc around the next sc of round 8. Repeat from * 4 more times.  Ch 8, sl st to join.

Round 11:  *In the first ch 8 sp:  Sc, ch 1, (dc, ch 1, 15 times) sc.  Repeat from * 5 more times.  Sl st to join.

As with any project, please let me know if you create this flower and if the pattern is easy to follow!  Thanks for reading and happy flower making!

Also…for your enjoyment, the smaller flower next to a quarter for size gauging!

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Growing up “Italian”

The kitchen was always the happiest place in my house as a child.  Both of my parents are amazing cooks with different loves and specialties.  My mom still makes the best chocolate chip cookies I know of to this day.

Most of my dad’s life has involved food in one way or another.  He started off bagging groceries as a teen and has been in the industry since.  When I was a little child he was a store manager, and then a bit later a sales representative for a food wholesaling company.  Around the time I was 6 or 7 I began tagging along with him to work on Saturdays.  Both of my parents worked Saturdays for extra cash and my dad’s job promised more fun than my mom’s office cubical.

There was an Italian family he knew who owned a grocery store in Hartford, CT.  They needed the extra help and my dad needed the work, so for the next several years I spent my Saturdays having my face stuffed full of prosciutto behind the deli counter.  The Italian Grocery family had 4 sons, and no daughters.  So what this really means is that I got spoiled rotten by Mama Grocery.  She was pretty critical in developing my love of fine chocolate.  This also made me a remarkably obnoxious 8 year old.  Over the years I spent my time playing in the back room, “pretending” to cook behind the deli, and occasionally being the cheese sample  girl.  The boys were a lot like brothers.  They teased me, helped me out, and even informed me that Santa wasn’t real!

The real point of this story though, is how my “Italian” up-bringing came more from my non-Italian father and that grocery store, than from my mom’s sicilian heritage.  For a large part of my formative years I was taken under the wing of a delightfully loud and classically American Italian immigrant family.  I now have the recipes I learned growing up and a true love of food to show for it.

Crochet Reindeer Antler Hair Clips! Free Pattern!!

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So there’s this thing that happens in cities all over the world every year.  It’s called SantaCon.  Here’s the link!  In Austin, it’s fondly called Santa Rampage, because that’s pretty much what it is.  People get dressed up in Santa or holiday garb and rampage the heart of the city spreading Christmas joy and pissing off anyone without a sense of humor.  I’ve been a lady Santa for the past two years, so I think it’s time to start changing things up. Reindeer it is!!!

My first order of business is the antlers.  I HATE headbands with a passion.  They don’t stay put and always give me a headache.  Therefore all of those cute little reindeer headbands available in stores are OUT.  Second, I need to be able to dance in them. So they have to be light and really well attached to my hair.

Here’s where I get to share what I did with you!!  Yay!!!!  Also, if anyone reading this actually makes a pair, please let me know how it went and if the directions were easy to follow.

A note from the future:  The Antlers were a success!!!

For This Project You Will Need:

  • Yarn!  For the antlers I used Paton’s Bamboo Silk and for the white fluffy base I used something I had left over from my first Santa Rampage 2 years ago.  Anything big and white and fluffy would work.
  • A size 4mm crochet hook for the antlers and whatever big ass crochet hook you have lying around for the white fluffy stuff.  I used a 9mm hook and it still wasn’t really big enough.
  • Craft needle for attaching pieces
  • 12 gauge jewelry wire
  • Jewelry wire pliers/cutters
  • Fray Check.  You should buy this even if you’re not making this project.  It’s magical.
  • Aligator clips with bezels
  • Hot Glue
  • 2 Hair Elastics that you don’t mind cutting up.
  • Sparkly Red Ribbon!!!

Antler Parts:

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For the Main “Prong.”  (I guess that’s what we’ll call it.  My girlfriend was insistent on calling them little penises last night):

1.  6 sc in a magic ring.  (If you don’t know what that is, here’s a handy tutorial) Also, after cinching the yarn tail and joining with a slip stitch, pull the yarn tail again to make sure it’s really closed tight and tie a knot against the wrong side.  Leave a little tail and cut.

2.  Ch 1.  Sc once in the back loops of all 6 sc.  Then there’s going to be something that kind of looks like a sc but its really your ch 1.  Sc in that too. So that means there is 7 sc in your round. (This is to make the main prong just a little bit bigger) Then slip stich to join in the first sc.  (The reason for using back loops only on this round is to make it easier to flip the crochet into a tube shape.)

3.   Complete round (7 sc) 20 times.  Except go back to crocheting in both loops. You know, like normal.  Slip stitch in the last stitch.  Leave a nice, long tail of yarn.  You’ll need it later!

4.  Make another!!!  One antler looks funny!!!

For the little prongs:

1.  Follow direction # 1 from above.

2.  Start to follow direction #2 from above, but DON’T add the 7th sc.  Slip stitch to the first sc after making the 6th.

3.  Complete your round of 6 sc 7 times.  Slip stitch in the last stitch.  Make sure to leave long tails of yarn for attaching to the main prong later.

4.  Make 4 of these.

Adding Cotton Batting and Wire:

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Long and skinny pieces like this are a pain to stuff, but if you make little balls of cotton batting and stuff it with the end of a pencil or a larger crochet hook, you’ll get there eventually.  You can roll the piece around in between your fingers to get the batting to sit a little more evenly.  Fill it about half way before taking your piece of wire and wiggling it up on in there.  I cut a 9 inch piece of wire for the main prong.  Turns out, I didn’t really need that much but I didn’t exactly know what I was doing yet and figured it couldn’t hurt.  After putting the wire in, stuff the rest of the main prong.

Adding the First Prong:

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First, stuff one of the little prongs.  This one doesn’t need a wire and will end up following the main prong.  Second, sew on to the main prong in between the 8th and 10th rounds with the long tail you remembered to leave.  Forgot to leave a long tail?  Shame on you!  Get another piece of yarn and figure it out!!  After sewing on the little prong, tie a small knot and then feed the rest of the yarn through the main prong and out the bottom.

Attaching the Second Prong:

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Ok, this one is going to need a wire.  Take another piece of wire, (again, I used 7 inches which ended up being way more than I needed,) and poke it into the main prong on the opposite side from the little prong you just attached at the 7th round from the bottom.  Then slide it through the main prong until the amount you have hanging out is the length of the little prong and the rest is hanging out the bottom.  Stuff the little prong and sew on over the wire.  Do the same thing to finish off this prong as you did to the last.

Securing the Wires:

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Next, lay the antler down on the table and bend the wires out like they appear in the picture.  This is to keep them from flopping around.

Finishing Off the Bottom of the Antler:

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At this point you should have three pieces of yarn hanging out the bottom.  One will probably be shorter and belong to the prong that doesn’t have a wire.  Cut this one off.  Then you have two long pieces of yarn.  Sew the bottom of the antler shut with those pieces making sure that each of the wires are at the ends of the enclosure.  After cutting the extra yarn, use a whole bunch of Fray Check.  That stuff is amazing.

Put together the other antler!  You need two! Make the second one exactly the way you made the first one as you can just turn it over and have the opposite antler.  I purposefully made mine opposite of each other because I’m neurotic like that.  If you’re as neurotic as me, you can probably figure out what sides to attach the little prongs to.

When you’re done with both antlers, shape the wires for desired cuteness!

Attaching to the Hair Clips:

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I had these alligator clips with bezels lying around the house in this vast waste land of, “Why did I buy that?”  The answer to that question is, “Because silly, you’re going to make something two years after you bought them and feel like a GENUIS.”  So basically I set the bottoms of the antlers into the bezels and clipped the wires short enough so that they’d fit.

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As much as I hate hot glue and probably should have just taken my shower and gone out for super glue, I decided to fill the bezels with hot glue and squish the bottoms of the antlers down into them.  And then I put more hot glue over the base of the antlers just for good luck.  If they fall apart while I’m dancing, this is why.

At this point I FINALLY had antlers, so I ran to the mirror and immediately clipped them to my hair.  First problem:  Still kind of wobbly.  Second problem:  The clips are super visible and ugly.

SOLUTION!!!!

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The first thing I did was take two hair elastics, cut them, and tie them around the base of the antlers.  Then I took the elastic off the antler, tightened the knot, and cut the ends.  After that I took this super fluffy white craft yarn, (which just happened to come from my first Santa Rampage two years ago) and I made 4 sc around the elastic ring.  I tied it off, used a crap ton of Fray Check, tied on a cute little red bow and called it a day!  I put the fluffy white elastic pieces back on the antlers and you have the picture at the top of the post!

So This is Christmas…

I really, REALLY love Christmas.  I love tiny white lights on everything.  I love the smell of fresh cut pine branches.  I love making cookies, and Christmas cards, and singing carols at the top of my lungs.

Over the years I’ve devoted an absurd amount of time to glittering ornaments. crocheting snowflakes, making fudge, and forcing good will down the throats of everyone I know.  This year I’m doing it in the form of a light up T-Rex on my front lawn.  He’s holding a package and turns his head from side to side with these big white plastic eyes and tiny pin point pupils.  It seems like he should start salivating into a psychotic break of Christmas joy at any moment.  Just the way I like it.

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This is probably a good lead in to my actual job.  You know, the one pays the bills and gives me health insurance as opposed to the crazy business schemes I keep coming up with in hope that one day one of them will actually give me money, instead of just taking start up capital.

I am the music director at a Methodist Church.  I believe my official title is Director of Music Ministries.  It’s all pretty funny to me.  If you had told me at the tender age of 12, as a Mormon in CT, that I would end up a gay Texan I wouldn’t have believed you.  Just as much though, as if you had told me a year ago that I was going to end up back in church.  And that they’d pay me!!!!!

It’s actually a pretty fantastic job.  No longer do I have to wave my hands around in front of screaming middle schoolers while day dreaming of sticking forks in my ears.  Now I hang out with adults that sight read and appreciate that I have the same taste in music as an 80 year old woman. I’m still really excited about the William Billings carol I picked out for this year’s Christmas Program.

What this really means, is that not only is Christmas my hobby this year but also my job.  And I’m am going spread joy and tinsel like I’m getting paid for it.