The bunny that used to hang out near our living room windows has been missing for a year or more. There is a rock with a slight overhang where he had hollowed out a dish of soil to relax in on hot days, or to shelter on blustery days. This spot is now sadly abandoned and no longer used by a bunny. No idea what happened to him, but there is now also a small, empty place in my heart because I miss our Watch Rabbit.
In recent days there have been several of what I can only assume to be his kinfolk hopping around the property off and on, nibbling the lawn down to the roots in places (dern it) and generally taking it in turns to look at us either like "Aren't we cute?" or "Keep away, dangerous, terrifying human!"
I managed to capture (with my camera) one of them as he gave himself a little wash. Enjoy.
This first picture says the most: Wind.
Can you see the poor little apple blossoms trying to hang on for dear life? And today the wind is blowing even harder and from the opposite direction. I don't think they'll have much of a chance this year. Most years you can't see any green for all the pink there is.
I was wondering how the lilacs would turn out, since last summer I didn't prune them and they'd gone to seed. Happily, for some reason it didn't seem to matter. Plenty of blooms to enjoy looking at, and even extra to pick.
Some of my daylilies had me worried. There was a week of warm weather followed by two snow storms a few days apart. They had sprouted in the warm and then the snow came and gave them frostbite. Do you see their poor, crunchy brown tips? So sad.
But three weeks later...
If only my phlox showed signs of coming back so strongly. And don't even get me started on the poor strawberries...
But all in all, it's a good spring in our yard. The peonies started out with just a ferny hint of growth and overnight sprouted up to look like some sort of mutant asparagus. With the recent rain we've had the countryside has a lovely fuzz of green across it. I'll soak in the green with my eyes while it's here, because if this summer turns out anything like our previous summer, there will be a lot more of the tan color to look at again soon.
I hope I don't have to dampen my optimism when I go outside tomorrow to see what kind of havoc today's wind wreaked!
I must've mentioned it here before, but in case you missed it — I've lost my mind I am a member of the Armitage Army. I didn't set out to join "the service" but apparently if you admire Richard Armitage's work and admit it publicly, you are automatically drafted. I'm not complaining. It's been great fun being conscripted with so many lovely people. And the creativity! Very inspiring.
But I'm not going to start promoting the fandom here. If you are in the Armitage Army, you don't need any links from me, and if you are not, well, what is wrong with you I suggest you search #RichardArmitage on Twitter, look him up on the IMDB, or just smile and nod, read on for the craft, and never mind my fangirling. Besides, even though this project was made with Richard Armitage in mind, it is essentially a Hobbit project so that ought to hold some interest for the rest of you. And if you don't like Tolkien, I'm afraid we may have to part ways. I mean, really. The Hobbit is the first chapter book I remember picking up on my own, and it has been part of my imagination ever since. I was in Second grade. Yes, I do believe I read Tolkien before I read Laura Ingalls Wilder. Which I suppose says more about me than I thought it did, though I'm not going to wade into those waters here, either.
I made this card for a collective project. From what I gather, most participants wrote lovely, heartfelt letters. Well, if you have it in you to do that I say more power to you. But I couldn't think of a thing to say. He hadn't saved my life (figuratively or literally), I wasn't going to propose to him (I'm already happily married, thank-you-very-much), and he doesn't feature in my dreams at night (not kidding, sorry Richard). It's just that he happens to be my favorite living actor, and seems like an all-around decent sort of person. I'd like to invite him camping with the family. Ok, I'm going to shush now before I get kicked out of the Army.
Besides, I'm afraid my version of "thank you" cards are still somewhat stuck back there in the Second grade.
Dear Uncle Schnozzer,
Thank you for the widgetropple. I never knew they made such a thing! I'm sure it will come in handy when I'm galimphing badoodles next summer.
The weather here is lovely. I hope you are well. Please say hello to Aunt Piquentina for me.
You get the picture. No way I'm sending something like that to Richard Armitage. *sigh* Hopeless.
So even though I wanted to be part of this project, I had no idea what to say.
Thank You would have to be enough, and I would leave it at that. But of course I couldn't just leave it at that. If you know me you know I never can leave well enough alone. Besides, the Thank You was already printed on the card, and I could hardly just autograph the thing, could I now. (No, that was not really a question which is why I didn't use a question mark. Shush.)
I began by printing a few copies of the provided image so that I could play around with some ideas. Here's an early prototype:
Hey. Don't judge! Pro-toe-type. For me it's like brainstorming in 3D. And you have no idea how embarrassing it is for me to show it to you. But this post is supposed to be about sharing my process, so in the name of science... Oh, whatever. I was going for an old fashioned hand-painted photograph sort of look, but I ended up with Thorin wearing lipstick. (It's called Perfection and it comes in Pink!) Yeah...no. This one hit the bin rather quickly. Then I had to fish it out and take a picture of it for you. But then it went right back in the bin. You're welcome.
I did finally come up with an idea I could live with. I'll just get to the pictures, shall I?
If you don't recognize a Hobbit door when you see one, is there any hope for humanity?
Now for the inside:
And, as long as I'm being honest, the back is my favorite part:
Once I had it finished, there were several back-and-forth moments where those little annoying voices in my head said,
"You aren't honestly going to send a cut and paste project to a movie star, are you?" "Um... yes?" "Seriously? You are such a dork." "I know. Shut up."
I finally got the niggling from my subconscious down to a dull roar and stuffed the card into an envelope to mail off to Janine.
Only to realize - I'd forgotten to put Gandalf's mark back on the door! *quelle horreur* You see, I'd remembered it the first time but somewhere in the middle of the lovely process pictured above, this had happened:
I can't even explain it. It was a definite Don Music moment. "What is life anyway?"
Actually, it was the glue. Which I continued to use because only in hindsight do you think of the perfect adhesive sitting in plain view five feet away on your other desk. No. In the midst of the creative moment you only see the stupid, wrong, paper-buckling glue that is right in front of you.
So I filed that bit in my Oval Office:
And then I had a panic moment where I realized I did not have any more of the red border paper and what was I going to do because I wanted it to look like bricks and that was as close as I could come and I'd already made a special trip to the store for the stupid brad for the doorknob and .... BREATHE, STACIE.
I found some more of the red paper. I had to take apart an origami Christmas decoration to get at it, and I had to iron a crease out of it, but I found it and I used it and it worked well enough, dangit. Even with that dumb glue that still made it buckle.
Anyway, back to the (nearly) finished card. I got it back out of the envelope (cutting through a Fort Knox of packing tape), scratched Gandalf's mark on it again with my magic staff silver pen and packed it up and sent it off before I could change my mind.
I have no idea where it is now. Unfortunately, when you release a creature like this out into the wild, there is no real way of tracking it. Which, all things considered, is probably a good thing. But my Second grade self still wants to know if it made it to The Lonely Mountain Richard's hands...
I bet you've been there too.
It's that place... You find yourself there when you realize you are spending too much time online, talking about things but not actually doing very much. Your days pass by in a bit of a blur, you spend a lot of time reading or listening to audio books, your head still feels fuzzy from the cold you're getting over, and one day you look at the snow blowing by outside your window and you say to the world, "WHAT?"
Or something like that.
I'll be back tomorrow to show you the card I made for Richard Armitage.
Yes, I said Favorite Best, but if you'd like other adjectives to go by I can quote a couple of women at last week's Bunco night: "Addicting." "Evil." "Wow-this-is-good." And of course, "Mmmmm! Take it away already!"
Here's what's in it:
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup popcorn kernels, popped to fill one roaster pan
I am going to tell you the approximate times that work in my microwave and oven. Because appliances vary widely, you must use your own good judgement when cooking your ingredients.
First, pop your popcorn. Use your favorite method. I have a Presto Power Pop which is for the microwave (doesn't work in every microwave, so do some research if you want to purchase one). When I make it without oil it basically turns out the same as air-popped, but if you want to make yours in a pot on the stove w/ oil, go for it. My popper does 1/3 cup of kernels at a time, so I do three batches and put them in the roaster as I go.
Note: Be meticulous about fishing out any unpopped kernels. No one wants to be responsible for a broken tooth.
Now it's time to make the caramel.
Add the brown sugar, corn syrup and butter to a microwave safe bowl. Best is a glass bowl that holds at least one quart. My favorite is the small Pyrex bowl from a vintage Hamilton Beach mixer set which holds 4 cups of liquid. Your ingredients are not going to fill your bowl full, but you need a bowl that has extra space because when your caramel mixture boils it needs room to expand. If you have a four cup Pyrex measuring cup that would be ideal. The handle will come in handy (har-har) when it's full of bubbling goodness.
Microwave your butter-sugar-syrup for one minute. Stir to help the butter melt.
Now is the trickiest part, microwave for about 2 min 30 sec. You need to watch your mixture as it cooks because what you're aiming for here is a 2 minute boil, so pay attention.
After it has boiled, it will darken some and the butter will be incorporated and no longer floating around the edges of the bowl. Now, while it is piping hot, sprinkle in the baking soda and stir. Don't be shy about the stirring - get it good and mixed in. (No one wants a salty lump of soda in their caramel corn.)
The soda does something magical. The caramel will puff up and become very light and airy. (The same thing happens when you make peanut brittle, if you've ever tried that.)
Carefully pour your hot, fluffy caramel syrup over your roaster full of popcorn. If you can manage holding the very warm bowl with one hand, use a heat-resistant rubber spatula to get all of that goo out of the bowl. Or get someone to help you. I just use a hot pad to hold the edge of the bowl. Sometimes it gets syrup on it, but it's just sugar and washes out fine. The syrup doesn't stick to the bowl as much as you might think because of the lovely butter that's in there, but it does need a little encouragement with a spatula.
Now, use a large spoon to stir/fold to combine the caramel and the popcorn. Try to be gentle so you don't break the pieces. Also: Don't panic. It will look for a few moments like you're going to have a huge lump of super caramel-y corn with lots of plain, naked popcorn around the sides. But as long as everything is still nice and hot, if you stir carefully you will see that the caramel is becoming nicely distributed.
After you think it looks like almost every piece of popcorn has as least met the idea of some caramel, bake the entire batch at 275℉ for about 45 minutes, stopping to stir every 15 minutes.
I actually set my oven to 285℉ because mine runs cool. And the caramel corn is probably done after 30 min., but I like mine to get a bit more brown, and for it to have that toasty smell. How do you know if yours is done? Take a few pieces out, let them cool, and taste them to see if they have the proper crunch. You don't want the caramel to be sticky because —well, let's face it, caramel corn that sticks your teeth together as you chew is just plain annoying.
Now, other recipes add things like salt or vanilla or nuts. And while those things may be lovely, I don't think this recipe needs them. The corn syrup I use has salt and vanilla in it already, and the baking soda is also salty. If you decide to substitute salted butter or margarine, well — there you go with the salt all over the place. Other recipes also use less popcorn. I find them way too sugary, but maybe that's just me. This recipe has enough syrup that every piece of popcorn gets a kiss of it, and yet you can still taste that it's popcorn underneath. It's your call when you're the cook.
Enjoy! And don't forget, when my friend said "Addicting!" she meant it. Seriously, if this turns out to be your thing you might need an intervention. Have a friend you can count on on speed dial.
So they can rush over and help you eat it, of course.
I still plan on "Making a Dent" but deciding to post every day obviously didn't do it for me. I've learned that a daily deadline for me just results in a lot of rambling.
You know what I did get finished? I organized my yarn. So there's that. Here's a bit:
I also managed to reacquaint myself with some of my supplies. I didn't remember I had those little wooden doll head beads, or the bag of mini clothes pins buried underneath.
As far as the other stash goes, I didn't even touch the fabric, which was where I had decided to begin. So... yeah. Still on the list. There is a plan for that polar fleece, though, thank goodness!
So if "well begun is half done", what is "half begun"? Better than none! Lol
And don't even bring up NaBloPoMo. Really.
It's all very well and good to decide something, but it's better if you remember that the calendar pages keep turning no matter what's going on inside your head.
Halloween is tomorrow. Today it was time to carve the pumpkin. The kids spread newspaper over the dining room table and pored over our thin book of pattern ideas. I let them dream, and then I gently pointed out the practicality of the different designs, and how a simpler pattern would be more likely to turn out well. That spider design looks cool, but it's not so easy to get those thin lines straight. That cat silhouette looks neat, but what if we snap off its tail by accident? I didn't try to talk them out of anything, but I wanted to be realistic so they wouldn't be disappointed. I wanted this to be their project, not mine. They decided a traditional face would make them all happy. They found paper and each drew a design. They voted on their favorite, and I don't know how it happened, but the vote was unanimous in favor of one design and there was no fighting whatsoever. I had nothing to do with it - I wasn't even in the room. It was a Halloween miracle.
Today's weather was lovely and warm, in the 60s. We moved the paper and pumpkin outside to the patio and I turned the kids loose. The design was transferred using a washable marker. The pumpkin was gutted (everyone took a turn scooping seeds but I had the pleasure of scraping the strings out - it's all in the wrist, yick) and carved (by the winning designer) using the lovely little plastic handled carving tools I got on clearance one year. Do you know the ones? The best piece in the set looks like a miniature saw blade and works a treat.
And everyone was happy with the results.
Ok, never mind having a saw mill for those other benches. This one looks to be from stock lumber so really it's just a matter of figuring out some angles, right? I know - it always sounds easier than it is.