Thursday, December 31, 2009

White Chocolate Caramel Apples (or Pears)

After many years of failed efforts at making caramel apples, in the fall of 2006 I finally found the secret that makes it work. I've shared this with friends, done demos for Relief Society, and made these many times. I had the idea to use pears after seeing white chocolate covered pears on Martha Stewart. Meant to be Halloween ghosts, they were cute, but the chocolate cracked right off when you cut them up to eat. I figured the caramel would help hold things together, so I tried it. Amazing flavor, and you won't find them anywhere else. You want a pear that's not quite ripe, otherwise the stick just comes right back out, and you won't have anything to hold on to while you dip it.

The big secret is simple: dip the fruit in boiling water for about 10 seconds. This removes any waxes or other residue, and the caramel is guaranteed to stick.
I can't recall where I ran across this valuable nugget of information, but it wasn't on Martha.

So, here it is, my personal recipe/directions for making your own gourmet caramel apples/pears.

4 Granny Smith apples, or 4 D'Anjou pears
4 sticks (usually included in bag of caramels)
small saucepan of boiling water
1 14 oz bag of Kraft caramels (about 50) or 11 oz bag of caramel bits
1 Tbl water
microwave-safe bowl
Waxed paper
Butter for waxed paper
cookie sheet
2 Tbl sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
12 oz bag Nestle Premier white chocolate chips
2 Tbl shortening

Prepare fruit by washing thoroughly and inserting stick. Then dip in boiling water for about 10 seconds, and allow to dry. This removes all residues and waxes from the fruit, which allows the caramel to stick. (this will also discolor the fruit a little, so make sure the top part that will not be covered in caramel is not dipped in the water, to maintain a nice appearance)
Unwrap all the caramels and put in a microwave safe bowl. Add 1 Tbl water (use a little more water if not using Kraft caramels). Microwave on high for 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Caramels will not all look melted;
stir to complete melting.
You can microwave for 30 seconds more if needed, but it’s important not to overcook.

Dip and swirl fruit in melted caramel until evenly coated, and set on buttered waxed paper (placed on a cookie sheet, so you can move it if you need to, or on your counter if you don't) to cool.
It should take at least ½ hour to set up enough to dip in chocolate. (You can set up faster if you place your cookie sheet on top of ice or other frozen stuff. I have a serving platter with an insert you freeze to help keep the platter cold on a buffet, and I use that under my cookie sheet) You'll know it's set up enough when you can touch it without it sticking to your fingers.

(if you have some extra caramel, but not enough to cover another apple, or you didn't prep another apple, scoop up caramel with a pretzel, set another pretzel on top of that. yum.)

Mix together 2 Tbl sugar and 2 tsp cinnamon in a shallow bowl and set aside.

Place white chocolate chips and 2 Tbl shortening in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on high 1 ½ min. Not all the chips will look melted;
stir to complete melting.

Dip and swirl carameled fruit in chocolate until evenly coated.
Hold over bowl and swirl to allow excess to drip off.

Dip and roll in cinnamon sugar mixture, and/or hold fruit over bowl and spoon/shake cinnamon sugar onto fruit. This is a little messy, because the chocolate will still be dripping a little, but you have to do it before the chocolate sets up, or the cinnamon sugar won’t stick. I discovered that if I put some in the bowl, to set the fruit on, and some in a shaker, to sprinkle over, it's a little less mess. You'll have some cinnamon sugar coated white chocolate drips in the bowl - but that's okay, because they're a tasty treat once they set up.

Set back on waxed paper and allow chocolate to harden before serving.
Granny Smith apples have a tart flavor that I think goes nice with the sweetness of the white chocolate. Fuji are sweeter, and seem to go better with milk or dark chocolate. You can use any kind of apples, as long as they are crisp and fresh.

Substitute regular or dark chocolate chips for a different look and flavor, drizzle more melted chocolate over the first coating, or double or triple dip the fruit in different layers of chocolate. Use crushed cookies, chopped nuts, crushed candy bars, or sprinkles instead of cinnamon sugar.

Finished Objects 2009

Moving this list from the sidebar into a post, so I can clean up the sidebar. Dated to reflect end of year, nevermind when I moved it. Whatever.

4 pr fleece socks for fam
2 pr pj pants for twins
satin-edge fleece blanket&pillow (gifted)
9 pr crochet slippers (gifted)
8 scrabble tile pendants (2 gifted)
2 cute crochet snails for niece
2 pr flannel pj pants for brother
2 pr Alice's New Moon Mitts (gifted)
2 Bella's La Push hats (given away)
1 pr Bella Gloves (for me!)
1 pr Bella Mittens (gifted)
1 crochet slice of swiss roll
1 failed attempt at an oreo - looks more like a reject round ice cream sandwich, way too big
3 pr knit baby socks (2 gifted)
1 crochet safety cone (so cute!)
3 crochet pieces of popcorn
1 crochet drumstick - looked more realistic after I blushed it
1 i-cord chocolate pretzel
1 knit cupcake
1 crochet curly fry
2 crochet cupcakes (of 12)
1 knit soft-serve ice cream (of 4)
2 knit eyeballs (for me)
8 knit eyeballs (given away)
1 tiny crochet cranberry sauce
1 cute crochet fox
1 crochet octopus (gifted)
1 crochet red chili
1 knit eggplant
1 patriotic "Babe Chick"
4 felt dbl pnt needle holders (3 gifted)
1 crochet Nubby
1 adorable crochet dodo
crochet veggies & dip: dip bowl, brocolli, cauliflour, celery, cherry tomato, green olive, baby carrot, cucumber slice (just one of each, but I'll make more)
1 crochet acorn "purse"
1 crochet sausage, my own pattern
15 (or so) knit strawberries
1 crochet owlette (gifted)
pink brocade vest & bowtie for Twin2, for prom
1 crochet double-scoop cone (of 4)
1 crochet chocolate
1 pr knit socks (for me)
1 knit peach
1 crochet love-bird (it's lonely)
magic loop sock practice pair
4 knit donuts (of 12)
1 crochet cloche (not good on me)
1 dorky monkey ami (gifted)
1 knit garlic
1 crochet dalek (of 2)
1 crochet toad, not quite right
1 knit worm - strangely enticing
Cthulhu, Ninja & Alien from Creepy Cute Crochet

Monday, December 28, 2009

all the hot girls...

raise your hands up and say "Om Shanti Om"!

I am one lucky girl! my brother got me this DVD for Christmas. I saw this at BYU International Cinema a while back, and it has to be, by far, the best Bollywood I've ever seen. Even the guys right behind me, who seemed confused and sceptical at first, were dancing in the aisles at the end of the movie.

You can't help yourself. It's very catchy. "all the cool boys, make some noise and say "Om Shanti Om"!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Day

Like I was saying, I'm glad I have teenagers. They/we slept in until at least 9am, so I did get some rest. In fact, I had to get one of them out of bed, because the other was ready and waiting.
Teenagers can rip open presents really fast! I sat in a comfy chair, wielding the camera (um, yeah, I'll be putting up some of those later...) while they tore through the bulk of the gifts. Then, each of them warily approached their largest and last gift under the tree.
Twin1 first. His last box was approximately 1'x1'x5' (that was a challenge to wrap). He carefully undid the tape at one end and opened just that end of the box, pulled out various bits of crumpled paper, and then pulled out the much-coveted and wished for Ninja Umbrella. He was one happy boy.
Then, Twin2 cautiously pulled his last box over, and tore the polka-dot paper off quickly. This box was heavy. I told him he should read the tag first, so he paused and read, "this may not be what you'd hoped, but it will have to do for now, Love, Mom", and then, yanked the top open to reveal...a beginner book on learning the accordion. Below which, giving the box the hefty weight, was a collection of cans of chili, a 2 liter of sprite, and a large bottle of pomegranate juice. But not, as he'd not even dared to hope, an actual accordion. I asked him to show the camera what he got. He mumbled "maybe later", and behaved very well for someone who must have been sorely disappointed.
I reminded them both we needed to get to grandma's soon. They headed downstairs to play some new video games (not from me - I don't support that habit) and I headed for the kitchen to finish the sausage and scotch eggs I was taking over for breakfast at my parents. A little while later, we were finally on our way.
It was almost noon when we arrived, and that meant I had just minutes before I needed to meet my friend at the movie theater. (I never do that - go to a movie Christmas day - but Sherlock Holmes was out, and I wanted to see it.) I had planned to just wait it out, let Twin2 notice the large black case under the Christmas tree in his own time. But I wanted to be there when it happened, and I had to get going. I asked both boys if they'd found anything under the tree for them. They both shrugged. I went down, and pulled out the black case to make it more obvious. We hadn't labeled it. Then both boys came down to have a look. Twin1 found something right away, for himself, and for me. But Twin2 just stood there. Finally, I asked him again, didn't he see anything for himself? He said, very morosely, no. My sister looks at me, rolls her eyes, and asks him "what's that big black thing right next to your foot?" His foot was literally touching the case, but it just hadn't registered yet. He looks down, and says "what? this thing?...hey, is that this mine?!?". Within seconds, he's tipped it over, opened the clasps, and his face is all lit up as he stares, unbelieving, at his very own, shiny, red accordion.
Both boys happy - what more could a mom want for Christmas?

Christmas Eve

I'm in the shower by 3am, and headed for mom's by 3:30am, for our annual Christmas Eve WalMart run. I can't wake mom, so I finally head to WalMart on my own. 4am, mom calls and asks if I'm coming. I tell her I'm already at WalMart. She's miffed, so I have to apologize and bribe her with breakfast to get her to come down.
We finish shopping around 7am, and head for I-Hop, just as the WalMart gets to feeling a bit crowded for my liking. Great breakfast! (I can see us adding this to the annual tradition.)
After breakfast, I run home, stash what I can in the house, out of sight, leave the rest in the car, and go to work. (Yes, work. Only 1/2 day, they'll kick us out around noon, but I have stuff that needs to be done, and I need the hours.)
About 3pm I call the boys to remind them we're going to a friends for dinner, and then I leave work, and run an errand on the way home. Once home, I see Twin1 is still in the shower, so I make some caramel & white chocolate apples and pears while I wait (yes, he takes that long. don't ask me how he makes the hot water last, because it's a complete mystery to all of us.) We finally get out the door shortly after 4pm, on our way to dinner. Dinner at friends is great, we head for home around 7pm, stopping off at mom's on the way to pick up/drop off various Christmas goodies and such, pausing in the driveway to listen to "the H street sledding record", which I've never heard all the way through before. We're home before 8pm.
I measure both boys, and head for my pj patterns. Theirs is missing. I finally realize it's in with pj tops I cut out 2 years ago (they've not grown much except in height since then), which is deeply buried in sewing room. Deeply. (Just what possessed me to put something I knew I'd need before Christmas in such an inaccessible place, I really don't know. Especially as I placed it there right around Thanksgiving, so no way did I think I'd reorganize that again before Christmas.) About an hour later, I've retrieved the pattern and restored order in the sewing room, and I start to cut out the pj pants. No problems there, and I proceed to sew them. I'm fast, so I'm not worried. I'm done within another hour, maybe a little more (it was 2 pair, after all), and send boys to bed in new pj pants.
By about 11pm, I'm putting lights on the tree. I think my boys engineer our holiday just so I can't put up the tree until Christmas Eve, because they really really really like how that feels Christmas morning. Whatever. I've got SheDaisy's Brand New Year on the stereo, and I'm feeling pretty good.
Lights take me forever. (Christmas with the Rat Pack, Alley McBeal Christmas, Barenaked for the Holidays, maybe more)
I put on a few ornaments, tuck in some holly and poinsettias, put on a few more ornaments. Finally I give it up, put the star on top, tuck the rest of the ornaments behind the tree (you can still add some later - the tree will be up for at least a week more, right?)
About 1am, I start wrapping presents. I mentioned before how the twins like to get their cereal, ramen, and whatever else, right? All this must be wrapped. Because at their age, what's the fun if it's not wrapped? By 3am, I am cursing myself for not having wrapped the other stuff I've had for a while, because I'm still not done. I don't know how I'm still awake.
It's probably 4am before I finish. Luckily, I have teenagers, and they won't be up early. I grab a book, and settle in to sleep on the window seat, next to the Christmas tree, just so I can enjoy it a little longer.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa: real or not?

I had a typical "Santa" upbringing, I think. My parents would shoo us off to bed on Christmas Eve telling us if we didn't go to sleep, Santa couldn't come. We would all get in our pajamas and take a drive up in Indian Hills to see all the fancy Christmas lights on the big houses, and generally see at least one Santa arriving at someones house. Really. As in, an actual person, dressed in the red suit, carrying a big sack, knocking on the front door and booming out "Merry Christmas". For real. I even recall one that was up on the roof - we stopped the car and watched that together. (Them rich folks will do anything, it seems.) The drive was intended to put the younger kids to sleep, as well to get the entire family together for one more relaxing Christmas activity. The Santa sitings were an unexpected bonus.
As we got older, we would graduate to Christmas Eve helpers (another reason a large family is a good thing - helping to make that Christmas magic for my younger siblings is something I remember fondly). I don't remember ever having that moment of disappointment, or thinking my parents had been lying to me.
I'm not saying I believe there's some guy that lives at the North Pole making toys all year. Because that's just ridiculous. My personal concept of Santa includes the idea that he's a representation of how we should all behave - giving without expecting anything in return, because we see a need, or want to let someone know that someone does care. (Santa is Spanish for Saint, so it's not even totally at odds with the Christian side of the Christmas celebrations.) Add to that, there were, historically, in various countries, if you believe the legends/stories, some mysterious generous individual who left gifts anonymously, in honor of the Christmas season.
I can't honestly tell my kids he isn't real, because we've been recipients of someones kindness and generosity more than once, without having any idea who had left us the gifts. I'm happy not knowing who it really was, because it doesn't matter. It was done in the spirit of Christmas, therefore, Santa left the gifts.

One year, when the boys were in grade school, they did confront me with "there isn't a Santa", I responded with a quote I like: "When you stop believing in Santa, you get underwear for Christmas". And then proceeded to take down the stockings, since they wouldn't be needing those. The remark was quickly rescinded, and Christmas continued as per usual. Since that time, we have discussed the "Santa concept" many times, and I think my boys have come to think of it in a similar way. (There was that one discussion in which one of them was mocking me for thinking there was really some guy in a red suit that traveled around the world in a sleigh pulled by reindeer, but I explained my reasoning as best I could, and I'm pretty sure that twin stopped thinking mom was cracking up. I think.)

By far the funniest Santa explanation I've heard comes from Bil Lepp (my hands-down favorite story teller ever). He was driving around town with his young son in the car, and passed a house that had one of those huge blow-up Santa's, of the variety that has a fan blowing the air in all the time, in the front yard. It was daytime, though, and the Santa was splayed out flat on the lawn, because the fan was off. His son asked if Santa was dead. He's a good dad, he couldn't let the boy believe that, so he said "no, he comes back to life at sundown", which is generally when folks will turn on their fan-blown yard ornaments. It was real quiet in the back seat, for a bit longer than Bil was comfortable with, and he was starting to worry about what his son was thinking. His son finally says, "dad, is Santa a vampire?" Well, like I said, he's a good dad, so of course he said, "yes, son, Santa's a vampire." Bil claims this works like a charm for getting good behavior, and getting the child to go to bed early Christmas Eve. He just goes in the bedroom with some garlic and starts putting it in a circle around the child's bed, assuring him that it will protect him, as long as he stays in that circle.
To tell the truth, I can see the merits of that explanation. He never ages, despite being around for hundreds of years. The cold doesn't seem to bother him. He "moves impossibly fast" delivering toys in record time all over the world, and seems to know what we most want to find under the tree, as well as being irresistible, drawing us to him just by being who he is. I don't know about you, but I see some parallels here.

One last argument for allowing your sweet children to believe in Santa (and other fantastical creatures): a family I babysat for in my teens had done the bit about raising their kids without Santa, on the grounds that it was a lie. They now regret that decision, because they realized, after the kids were grown, that they had taken some of the magic out of their childhood. All the kids, at some point in their teens, had asked their parents why they had done that, and said they'd wished they'd been allowed to believe.

I think we could all use a little magic in our lives. But you can make your own decision.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Best Christmas Ever

The first year I got a Grand Fir, the kind that smells so heavenly, I didn't get it until a few days before Christmas, due to finances being rather low (my boys were very understanding about this, and had not complained at all, despite the obvious lack of Christmas in the house), and I hid it in the back yard until Christmas Eve. I spent the next couple of days clandestinely gathering white and silver ornaments for the tree. Anything in white or silver was game. A tiny white teddy bear, silver doilies (rolled into a cone shape and glued), crocheted snowflakes given to me by a friend years ago, tiny silver balls intended for a tiny tree, dozens of mini ornaments in pearl and white, bought years ago on clearance somewhere, and sheer white ribbon with silver trim. After the boys went to bed on Christmas Eve, one of my brothers came over to give the tree a fresh cut and help us get it in the door, and my baby sister stayed up with me to light and decorate it. All in silver and white, it looked magical.
In desperation, with my limited funds, I had gotten each boy their own box of cereal, case of ramen, and some mac-n-cheese, and wrapped these up so they'd have something more to open Christmas morning. It felt like a lame attempt. At the same time, having come from a large family (8 kids), I appreciated the value of having food that was only yours, so you didn't run the risk of "hey, who ate all the ramen?" if you didn't happen to have gotten your share.
No one can remember what any of the other gifts were, but if you ask either boy about his favorite Christmas, both of them, without any hesitation, will immediately say "that Christmas with the silver and white tree, when we went to bed with almost nothing, and woke up to that beautiful, magical tree."
I keep expecting them to tell me how lame it was/is to wrap up cereal and ramen for them, but every year, they remind me I need to get them their usual Christmas groceries, and make sure I wrap them up. And every year, they try to get me to hold off getting the tree. They always want me to wait and put it up Christmas Eve, so they can wake up to that same feeling. Sometimes, they get what they want.

it's really, really big

The tree is mega bushy. It sort of is this humongous thing, dominating the room, and hitting your nose with a deeply piney scent that almost makes you sneeze, but not quite.

I like to choose my trees by scent, due to one year in which I happened across one of this variety and enjoyed the scent for weeks (and still have some of the needles, which put off a great scent when you crush them or shake the jar). So now I'm addicted to having this particular scent, though some years I can't find one.
When I stopped at the tree lot last night, the guy knew exactly what kind I meant when I mentioned the scent, and, though he was out of them, knew where I could find one. It's called a Grand, and the smell is out-of-this-world heavenly, They look like this close-up (wish we had a scratch-n-sniff feature on here - it would knock you out, seriously)
I did not get so far as putting lights on yet. I know, it's getting a bit late in the month for that, but that's how it goes. It will get done.

Monday, December 21, 2009

further porch musings

Over the weekend, I was talking with a friend about the dimensions of the porch, describing the roofing, etc. (he was very involved in building his house this year, and the house before this, so he's into that kind of thing), and he asks me why I'm not following the line of the house instead of doing the porch straight across. Hmmm. Interesting notion.
I'm sure the original idea is easier/cheaper. But now he's got me thinking. He has a good point, because it's possible it would help to make it look more like it came that way. Which is important to me. But if you follow the line of the house, build out x number of feet from the outer walls instead of letting the front of the porch be straight across, what do you do about the roof?
That's when I wished he hadn't said anything. Because of course what makes sense there, is to match and extend the gable over the north end, and change the pitch on the south end so you can extend the roof the full depth of the porch. I can hear that ching-ching noise in my head. Like a cash register, you know? Not the best sound right now.

hemp yarn tangle of doom

While making an attempt at breaking the speed crochet record (or, in other words, trying to finish the last 2 pairs of slippers for my grand-nieces and nephews in time to mail them to their grandma before Christmas) I had a little set-back.
I'm down to the remains of a couple of balls of hemp (had to wind these balls myself from hanks, to begin with - which should have taught me the dangers of hemp tangles) and the looser coils of hemp are starting to get friendly with each other. Finally, I stop my work to untangle and rewind the remaining hemp into smaller balls, in hopes they can get along better (somewhat like dealing with small children when you're trying to get something else done). At this point, I should have placed each ball in a separate bag to discourage friendly behavior, because I'm using 3 strands at the same time. After a few rounds on the second sole, the smallest ball comes to an end, and I'm forced to use both ends of one of the other two balls of hemp, thus increasing the tangle factor. But, no, that wasn't the part that gave me trouble. It was the loose end of the second ball. Apparently not knowing what to do with itself, it decided to try to climb up the other strands and see what I was doing, and then maybe meander back down for a rest before climbing up again. I would crochet a couple stitches, force the tangle away from my work, and crochet a few more. Slowed me down a bit. Enough that by the time I had both soles completed (and about 1 yd of hemp left, from roughly 660 yds...that's a lot of hemp. If it had to get friendly, I wish it had been friendly enough to produce more hemp. I was hoping for enough leftovers to make my own pair of slippers), it was sort of late. But, I kept working. (I hoped to mail these today, to be sure they got there in time.) Alas, midnight arrived before I had finished the top of one slipper. I surrendered to sleep, knowing I may be causing Christmas morning disappointment, but not able to wield my hook any longer. My battle with what we will forever refer to as "the hemp yarn tangle of doom" just wore me out.
(Note to self for future hemp projects: confine each ball of hemp (after winding said balls myself, carefully, with hank placed over back of chair or hands of friendly helper/child) to it's own bag or container, even if I'm not using 3 strands at once.)
Anyone wondering why I mentioned 2 pairs at the beginning, and then proceeded to ignore the other pair? Um, yeah. The hemp portion of the soles are done for that tiny pair, but as it happens, I am down to only a few yards of the espresso Vanna I'm using for the inner soles and trim of all the slippers (that's 3 skeins of that one, pretty much gone), and felt the need to finish the larger pair first, in case I completely ran out. I am picking up a new skein of Vanna on my way home tonight, provided they have some in stock, after which I can settle in confidently to polish off this project.
What are my kids getting for Christmas? Let's not discuss those projects yet. I haven't even started, so it will just depress me to think about it. I have the store-bought items. Some are even wrapped. But the hand-made? They have a birthday in March. That works, right?

Friday, December 18, 2009

aah, Thursdays...

I finally made it to Fabulous Fibers again! We had so much to catch up on, though, I kept losing my place and didn't get as much done as I'd hoped. But it was good to be there. We'll have the next two weeks off, due to the holiday, so this was my only chance to stop my withdrawals from making me crazy until after the new year. Only got 2 inner and 1 outer sole done, and I've still got 3 pair of slippers to go. yikes.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

True Confessions

So, I think it's time to face facts. The root of the current stress and anxiety over the roof, furnace, and porch, and the debt involved in doing those things, is, well, not just the things themselves. It goes a little deeper.
My boys attend a charter school, which means no bus. So every day, I have to take them to school and pick them up after. The school is about 20 min away from home, about 15 from work. My work day should be 8 hours, and their school day is only a little shy of that. Theoretically, it should work out okay, if I don't take a lunch, and if I can have just one day a week when I can either come back to work, or not leave to pick them up. However, my boys are punctually challenged, so most days, I'm not at work until 9 or so, and I have to leave to pick them up around 3. Do the math, and you can see how this does not translate into me having 8 hours of work in between dropping them off and picking them up. Even though I work through lunch, I'm still short a couple hours, every day. By the end of the week, I've lost a day or so, meaning I should come back after picking them up Friday (they're out at noon), and/or come in Saturday. Sure, that time is theoretically available to me to work, but what about all that other stuff I'm supposed to be doing at home? Things like housework, and errands.
For a while, I had some comp time and vacation time I could use to fill in the gaps. But that's gone now. As a result, my paycheck which included the Thanksgiving holiday (I host, so I took off 1/2 day before, and the day after) was a tad short of my usual. Even before that, I wasn't quite getting enough hours to make a complete paycheck for myself. Then, I had to take time off during the day to get estimates for the roof, and it got worse from there. I had an old filling come apart, and had to schedule dental appointments. My car needed new tires (normal), and then needed a new blower motor. (picked up yesterday from that only to find out some of the instrument panels don't light up, and the radio can't tune any station - not paying for that, as it worked before they did the other, but still have to take it back down and leave it for the day. again.)
All these things are cutting into my work day. And it's almost Christmas. And my paycheck is shrinking. I'm trying to work more hours, make up for all the time I'm out for other stuff, but it's hard. And I feel guilty when I'm not at home after what would be normal work hours. (Thankfully, my office is sympathetic to my situation, so I'm pretty sure I won't loose my job over this.)
I accept that I have to take the kids back and forth. And this is their senior year, so after May, this won't be a problem. But there's the clue to the next problem. My boys are seniors. This means, once they graduate, my child support is gone. And the health insurance coverage under their dad. Come June, I have to provide their health insurance, and do without the child support. Essentially, this means that my net take-home pay will drop by a little less than 1/3. Add to that the fact that my office didn't give raises this year (the economy and all), and I'm looking at a tighter budget than I'd prefer. At least, I'm pretty sure I'll manage, but I'm also pretty sure we won't have much left over for anything fun.
So taking on debt for putting on the new roof and getting the new furnace isn't the best idea right now. But those items won't wait. Yes, the porch is optional, mostly. Except that the extra roofing for the porch should be done in conjunction with the new roofing, or I may have trouble getting them back to finish that part. Which would be mega stupid, having a front porch without a proper roof.
Probably you know more than you wanted to about my economic standing of the moment. I know I don't want to think about it. I want it all to go away. Except the porch. I want the porch. And for the boys to graduate high school, so they can go on to college, jobs, and lives of their own. That's all a good idea.
I'm just a tad worried about how we'll manage fiscally.
I pay my tithing, and I'm determined to pay for as much of both their missions as I can, though I know I probably can't handle all of it on my own. We're going to be okay, we're likely not headed for total financial ruin. But it's still freaking me out. you know.

Monday, December 14, 2009

what is it with me and blower motors?

That's what's wrong with the furnace, the motor for the fan has a "dead spot", which basically is like having gears that have a tooth missing. If it stops at that point, it can't start up again, because something is missing in that spot. Basically.
I just found out that the same thing is wrong with the car. The fan on my air/heat stopped working a while ago, and we've just ignored it until I could take the car over. Took it over today, and after most of the day, they finally figure out that while everything should work, the blower motor just isn't. It's like an identical problem, just on a smaller scale. Roughly the same price to fix, though. Which is weird.
My brothers were saying that it used to be that you had one or two little motors, and you just hooked them up to whatever you needed to run at the time. Looks like not much has changed since then. A motor is a motor, apparently.
(note: while I will be replacing just the motor on the car, the age of the furnace dictates that I replace the entire furnace, as not all the parts are likely to still be available should something else go. But if I were to just replace the furnace fan motor, it would cost roughly the same as the replacement for my car's blower motor. which makes no sense, considering the size difference.)

not festive yet

I got a pre-lit fake tree at the school for only $20, part of a silent auction they had going. I actually have another fake tree, which I rarely used before. This one has multi-color lights, and my old one has clear/white. I just thought it might be cool to have one with multi-color, since I only have one string of colored lights, inherited from my grandmother, and I didn’t want to buy lights right now. I didn’t put it up yet, because Twin1 had suggested we do red and black for our ornaments this year, and I’d been headed in that direction. So, I don’t know yet, if we’ll get a real tree, and do the red and black, or if we’ll put up this new one and do whatever colors and ornaments strike our fancy. We’re not festive yet. I did get up in the attic, get out a few things, because I needed some Christmas cards, but I didn’t get out all the stuff yet. If I have to stay home with the furnace guy for a day, I’ll do it then. I’ve got most my gifts taken care of, though. Not all wrapped, but most are either ordered or already here, or finished, or whatever. Wrapping to do. always something.

more porch musings

Okay, so maybe I'm looking for reasons to make it bigger rather than smaller, but here's something else to consider:
I remember hearing once, about someone who put her quilt frame out on her porch, and had a pulley system so she could raise it up to the ceiling (that'd be just the frame part, the legs would be put to the side until they lowered it again) and out of the way when they were done for the day. This appealed to me, at the time, because I had put up a quilt out in the back yard (no room in my house big enough, as I lived in the basement then), in June/July, and had to one day run it in the garage to get it out of the rain. That was quite the adventure! Shortly after that, the quilt, still not finished, had to be removed from the frame and taken inside, where it was folded and stuffed away in a closet. It has moved to a couple different locations since then, but has never again been put on the frames to finish quilting. This is a sad thing for the quilt. I would like to remedy that. I do now live in the whole house, and the upstairs living room is plenty big enough (I think, but I haven't tried it) for the quilt frame. However, I think it would dominate the room, which one can't do indefinitely. Sadly, my 8 foot ceilings do not allow me to prop it up on end to get it out of the way, either. No, it needs somewhere else to be set up, somewhere out of the way, but also out of the weather. I think a big front porch is just the thing, don't you?

I think 10 is good

After measuring, contemplating, and holding up the hammock in it's future position, I think I'll have to go with the larger porch. The 10 foot end of it seems so very huge, but if I cut it back, the narrower end is too narrow. Plus, 2 feet less of grass to water and mow, that makes me happy. The price difference, without the extra roofing (because that's not Ed's department) is only about $250. That seems a small price to pay for having the room I've planned, as opposed to having maybe enough, but maybe not. See, my grandparents, when they built their home together, let the builder/contractor talk them into taking a foot (or there-abouts) off each of two sides of their dining room, and basically, they never got over it. They had to get a smaller table than originally planned, and even then, if you were back in the corner, everyone else had to get out so you could get out. Seriously. I don't want to save a little money just to curse myself for it every time I trip over a chair leg on my way to the car. I know, you're thinking 8 feet sounds like plenty of room to not trip over furniture on the porch. And it probably would be. It's the other end of it that would be too skinny. I have ideas/plans for how I want to use this space, and if it's too small, I'll just hate myself. Of course, if it looks like I've tacked on a huge garish thing on my cute small house, that'll be sad. I'm hoping it won't look like that. I'm pretty sure it won't. And I kinda don't care if it does, if I have the space I'm looking for. But only kinda.

Friday, December 11, 2009


Thinking about the house, the roof, the porch, the furnace, the funds involved in all that...
I'd like to just crawl under my desk and curl up in a ball until it's all over.
That additional roofing on the porch is scaring me. But I know I want a real roof over it, not an awning, because I want lights out there, and maybe a swing hanging from the porch ceiling.
And Ed has to go and say that he's sure the guy quoted me too much on the furnace. So obviously I should get other estimates on that. Except I don't want to, because I'm already loosing work hours trying to choose a roofer. Sure, I don't want to get taken, and I want it done right. I just hate all the research.

8 feet, or 10? I think 10.

The porch. Which will need, because I want it deep, not just an extension of the roof line, but an entire gable. Apparently, sort of a large one, a bit higher than the existing roof even. (Does that mean I'll have more space in the attic? or a separate space just over the porch?) So, okay. But now that we have an idea of the porch dimensions, and the necessary roofing for that, I guess I have to get back to the roofers and see how much more for that. I hadn't imagined anything that extensive, as far as building goes, and maybe the roofers didn't either, though I mentioned the porch to all of them. I bet they imagined just a skinny one, and only on one side. But, no, I want it across the entire front, and at least 8 feet deep. Probably 10. Because on the north end, the house bumps out a couple feet, and I don't want that end to be too skinny, either. I want to hang the hammock there, and it will need a minimum space of whatever it needs. I'm going to get it out and lay that on the snowy ground below where I imagine it will hang, and see just how much room. I suspect I'll need the 10-foot depth on the south end in order to have enough room on the north end.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When it rains, it pours

Okay, so the idea of putting on a new roof was already making my head spin. Then, over the weekend, it became apparent that we need a new furnace. Like, now. Which is kind of okay, sort of expected. I mean, it was original to the house, which was built in the 40's, so I really can't complain, right? Yes, seriously, that's how old the furnace is. And in the 22+ years I've been in my house, I've only had one repair on it (plus regular maintenance and such, because you have to do that), and that was at least 18 years ago. But really? Now? Do I have to? Pretty much, yes, I do. It's truly dying. Plus it's not very efficient. Not compared to what you can get today. I looked at the repair guy, who had been kind enough to come out on a Monday night without an extra after-hours charge, and said "I don't think the teenagers are going to like 'look, boys, we got a new furnace for Christmas!'". He laughed, so did I. But, seriously, who wants to hear that?
Then, I called my dad, just to commiserate. After a few minutes, he asks me how much equity I've got in the house. I'm thinking, you don't want to know because it'll make you jealous. I remind him how long ago I bought the place, and how much values have gone up. Basically, even if I'd never made any headway on the mortgage (and believe me, I have), I'd still have at least double the value in equity, just because I bought it so cheap. So, yeah, duh, since I have to do the roof AND the furnace, a Home Equity LOC might just be the ticket. I avoid debt as much as the next guy, but sometimes, you just have to go there. And if I'm going there, I'm doing something I WANT done. (yes, I'm a selfish spoiled what?) So, you'll be noticing some changes at my place. First up, a front porch. Oh yeah! Wanted one ever since I bought the house, actually got an estimate from my trusty contractor years ago, been sitting on the idea, hoping to make it happen "someday". Well, "someday "has finally arrived.
Applied for the loan, totally got it, (banks love me - I have enviable credit) and Ed is coming tomorrow afternoon to tell me just how soon we can make it happen. And, oh, I guess I'll arrange for the furnace, and choose a roofer, too. Until I decided to do the porch, the most exciting thing about this was going to be choosing the color for the shingles.
I promise, for this project, I'll take and post plenty of before, during, and after pics. The furnace replacement I expect might be boring, and the roof, too. But the porch project...well, I may have to ask someone to pinch me. I can't believe I'm finally doing it!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I love Thursdays!

A couple months ago, I finally found a knitting group to join. Well, it's actually a whatever-fiber-art-you-prefer group. We are not snobby about what form your fiber manipulation takes. Knit, crochet, quilt, sew, weave, spin, embroider - it's all allowed. Some habits are less portable than others, so most of us are found knitting or crocheting, every Thursday night, 7pm, at Barnes & Noble on the Parkway.
I get 2 hours of uninterrupted time with my yarn, and time with some fabulous ladies. We've listened in on dates-gone-wrong and questionable research or business meetings at the next table. Apparently, the other regulars are starting to accept us. And we may have a stalker - yellow sweater guy. We're not sure if he's a knitter himself, but too shy to ask if he can join, or if he's just...odd.
I had to miss last week - my son called at about 5 to say they would be performing some one-act plays at school at 7, and you know family always wins. But now, I'm going through withdrawals. I need my weekly fix of knitting gossip!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

more stuffing! (and some stuff I've made)

Found some more, this time downstairs under my desk. Why was it there? No clue. Except my basic disorganized organization/tuck-this-in-somewhere-out-of-sight technique. (In my defense, at the time, I think I didn't have a separate sewing room yet, so it had to go somewhere unusual, see?)
I don't really care how it came to be there, just that I have some, and can now Amigurumi again to my hearts content. That is, once my hand is back to normal. It's better - I finished one pair of slippers last night for a grand-niece - but it hurt like crazy when I was done. The slippers are mega cute (insert picture here...), of course. I'm just afraid they might be too small. I crochet a little tight. Sometimes.
Did I mention, I made the dang cutest little snail, was it on Sunday? I think so. Anyway, it's for my niece, and it's way adorable. From this pattern. I used this great yarn called Ticker Tape for the shell, and I think it's perfect. Too bad they don't make it anymore...