Pinterest-y Things We Did This Weekend

I was in Indianapolis this weekend for my friend Austin’s 40th birthday.  I think 40th birthday parties are meant for us to drink like we are 20 years old and decorate like we are four.  Austin’s fantastic boyfriend, Justin, threw a party with a Rainbows & Unicorns theme.  Or, My Little Pony farting rainbows:




My job was to find the perfect sangria recipe.  “Perfect” means:

  1. Easy to make
  2. Not too many ingredients
  3. Nothing in it that I won’t personally consume (like cloves or something)
  4. Does not have to sit overnight.

I found this. But neglected to take pictures of it.  We tripled the recipe and used Menage a Trois Cabernet Sauvignon, which was a random find at the store.  While the recipe says to let sit overnight for the best flavor, I don’t think ours was sitting for much more than two hours.  Justin liked the idea of using ginger ale instead of sugar and it was fabulous.  I was inspired to write this blog to be sure that I don’t lose the recipe.

Then there was the cake:



Justin rocked this.  The recipe is simply yellow cake mix, prepared and separated into six cups.  Then food coloring is added to each cup.  Then the batter is poured into the baking pan one at a time for the swirl effect.  Very pretty and very tasty.  I found an online recipe if you don’t believe me. 

That, Ladies and Gentlemen, is as crafty as we get.


Some People Doing Great Stuff This Season

We in Chicago are finally starting to celebrate Springtime.  This year it is a particular relief, but I suggest that it is always a time for feeling grateful.  In that spirit, I thought I’d highlight a few people that I know who are doing something to make a difference in the world in case you are in the mood to contribute:

Grace Oliver is the niece of my work friend Steve, and is battling brain cancer.  As it happens, brain cancer took my grandfather 20 years ago and recently Carole, one of the awesome neighborhood moms of my childhood.  The Oliver family is participating in the 2014 Breakthrough for Brain Tumors 5K in Chicago next weekend.  They are rocking the fundraising, and right now my friend Steve is half-way to his goal of $2,000 in donations collected.  And you will not believe how many people have joined this fundraising team.

Shannon Long is a friend from high school that has supported the National MS Society for several years, in part by joining the Walk MS event each year on the North Shore of Chicago.   This year’s walk is on May 4 in my hometown of Glenview.  The team is just past the halfway point of their $2,000 fundraising goal.

Big Ed is a dog trainer that I met through a local rescue group called Secondhand Snoots.  Big Ed’s Dog Training recently opened a new facility and some friends started a fundraiser to help with the start up costs.  It may seem weird to participate in a fundraiser for a business, but Big Ed is actively engaged with the Chicago area rescue community and has been trying to keep rates low in order to assist small local rescues in preparing homeless dogs for adoption.  I have seen two of Big Ed’s pack walks and met many of his former students.  Dude’s got game.  I don’t expect these donations to be tax deductible (for those that care) but I am certain they will go to a good cause.

Dana Hopkins is a new friend that owns the title “Survivor” several different ways.  She is also an artist and activist working on a couple of different projects right now, including a short film.  She is fighting some online body shaming demons and morons by participating in a photo series of her lovely, nekkid, cancer-surviving body.  And she is in the middle of a series of surgeries designed to repair some of the damage from cancer treatment and reconstruction that has left her with rather debilitating pain.  Also, she has a spectacular service dog named Wilbur.  Dana has a fundraising page on Indiegogo that tells her story far better than I can.  Survive and Inspire.

And.  Because all blog posts need a good picture, here is one of Wilbur that I took this weekend:





Starting with Project Linus (Because Posting Pics is the Easiest Thing)

Blankets 1 – 17 2014

Please note:  This year I am including both blankets that I made entirely on my own, and those that I started with a foundation row and then handed of to my mother, Kay, to finish:


The multicolored blanket below is what we call a “Community Blanket” meaning that more than one person worked on it.  Karen came up with the idea of starting a granny pattern and passing it around for volunteers to work on and use remnants of yarn from other blankets.  Charming, colorful and reduces waste!4-5 2014

1-3 201412-17 2014 2014 6-7 2014 8-9 2014 10-11

Finishing Up Project Linus 2013

I didn’t finish as many blankets as I expected, but that was because I was working on a project for my grandfather’s church.  I will do better next year.  These were the last of 2013:

61 - 65 2013These five were from November.  I couldn’t really tell you anything about the yarn

66 2-13This one with the ladybugs is one where I did the foundation row and my mother finished it.  It counts.

67 - 69 2013

And the last three.  The bears on the left and the new fangled Holly Bobbie on the right used Red Heart Royal Blue.  The pink in the center has the applique fleece pieces that another volunteer does before handing it off to me to stitch.  The yarn is Red Heart Spring Green.  And that brings the total to 69 on the year.

Finishing Up the 60 Book Challenge of 2013

Book 71: Seems I forgot to log my fourth book in the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge:A Christmas Visitor, by Anne Perry

Three brothers plan to return to the (relatively new) family estate for the holiday.  The brother who lives on the property has died while the others are in transit.  The mystery is pursued by the widow’s godfather.

Everyone in the family is likable enough, and while I can’t say the ending is happy, it is satisfying.

Book 72: Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn

Another really disturbing mystery by Gillian Flynn.  Wife disappears on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary.  One of the endorsements said it was like Scenes from a Marriage written by Alfred Hitchcock.  Yeah.  And I understand Ben Affleck is going to play the husband in the film.  I will not be seeing this film.

To go into any detail at all about the plot would be to spoil it for serious.  Having said all that, I could not put this book down.

Book 73:  The Book of Daniel, by E.L. Doctorow

Fictional account of the Rosenberg saga from the point of view of their son, who was 11 or so at the time of the trials.

I had remembered that the trial was very controversial and there was some doubt as to whether the Rosenbergs were guilty of passing the secrets of the bomb to the Soviets.  This book, written in 1971 was extremely sympathetic to the family.  So I had to go back and read a bit of history.  There have been several recent developments in the last decade that suggest the wife was completely innocent and the husband was guilty of something.  Perhaps even the charge for which they were convicted which was Conspiracy, as opposed to straight up Treason.  But the theory is there was no way Dude knew enough to actually pass on atomic secrets to the Soviets.

So besides a really well told story, (although I really could have done without Daniel’s abuse of his young wife) I also had the benefit of historical perspective.  Glad I read this.

Book 74: Hitch 22, by Christopher Hitchens

So my count didn’t match what GoodReads says I read this year and I had to go hunt for the book I hadn’t counted yet.  I read this memoir by Christopher Hitchens over the summer.

Hitchens died a year or two ago, but he finished this before he knew he was sick.  I don’t agree with everything he says, but he tells a good story.  He will be remembered, I think, for two things – his outspoken atheism and his defense of Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses (which is on my shelf and I really need to read).  He talked about both of those things.

I miss Hitchens’ column in Vanity Fair magazines.  In fact, I just realized that after Hitchens and Dominick Dunne died, I haven’t really been reading it.  Happily, there are a few books left in the repertoire that I haven’t read yet.

I’m Never Filming at the Right Time

IMG_0804Before dinner, I had just put the birds back in their room and we were in the kitchen with the dogs. There is a baby gate between the two rooms. Kiwi the Grey started swinging from her rope toy, ringing the bell. Fiona the Crazy Herding Dog jumped up on the baby gate and bark/whined at her.

Kay: Fiona, Kiwi is just teasing you again. You have to learn to ignore her.
Me: You can’t rationalize with a dog. Give her a command.
Kay: I can rationalize with the dog. I can’t rationalize with Kiwi.
Kiwi: WHAT?!?!?!
Me: (laughing)
Kay: Kiwi, are you getting sassy?
Kiwi: You’re all done.
Me: (laughing harder)
Kay: Is that her entire repertoire?
Me: She just went three rounds with you. In context!
Kay: (Sighs) Fiona, go now.
Kiwi: Come on, Shadow!

OK, Shadow was the name of the last dog and Kiwi hasn’t learned to say Fiona’s name or Gibbs’. But that last part – giving the dog the opposite command as my mother’s – was also in context.

I freakin’ love that bird.