Tuesday, March 29, 2011

"Shooting Beauty: Everyone Deserves a Shot"

Tonight I did something a little different from my normal Tuesday evening routine: I went to a screening of a documentary with a handful of my co-workers.  Admittedly, I do really enjoy documentaries (I'm geeky like that) and often just pop one on the tv when I'm working on a project or doing some cleaning up around the apartment.  It's usually background noise, something I'm not always paying attention to, just a diversion.  So, as per usual, I brought a project with me to work on tonight to keep my hands busy.  It was just something easy that I didn't have to think about at all.  But I have to tell you, I didn't work one single stitch once the film started.

I had heard about the screening via an email list I am part of at work.  Generally I don't talk about my work a lot on this blog, but for those of you who don't know me personally I'll give you a bit of background.  I work for a small non-profit which provides services such as employment, housing, and therapy based day programs to individuals with developmental disabilities.  Before I started working there I was completely unaware that agencies like mine even existed.  I also didn't have much of an idea of what life was like for those living with physical or intellectual disabilities.  This job opened my eyes to a different world.   

The documentary is saw tonight, "Shooting Beauty," delves into that world that I knew so little about.  It is the story of a photographer who helped people with significant disabilities document their lives through photography.  The story is absolutely beautiful and it touched me deeply.  I think I can safely say that when the group of us left that auditorium, everyone felt that the hour and a half screening was time very well spent.  

While "Shooting Beauty" is unfortunately not widely available, you can see enough of it in the trailer below to decide if you are interested.  If you like what you see, you can purchase a copy for $20 by going to the documentary's website.  Even if you only watch it once I think it is worth the money.

SHOOTING BEAUTY trailer from George Kachadorian on Vimeo.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Afghan Block Bites the Dust!

I had a pretty busy week last week, so on Sunday I decided to sit back, relax, and spend my Sunday afternoon crocheting another block for my afghan.  Pineapple Blossom was written by April Moreland and is one of the February blocks for the CAL.  It was pretty easy as these blocks which was a good choice since my brain was so fried from the shenanigans of the week :-)

In addition to making the two different 12" blocks per month that are selected for the CAL, I'm going to also make another 6" block that is optional.  I figure that way the afghan will be more interesting to look at rather than being just made up of blocks of one size.  That way I can also choose to do a smaller block one day, rather than putting in the time to make a big one, which can take me the better part of an afternoon without any major interruptions. The real question is, which block will I start next?  I think I've managed to do both the easy ones first, so I may just be destined for failure or at least frustration until I can sit down with one of the awesome crocheting FiberKnots in a couple weeks.  Waaaaah!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Recipe: Balsamic Marinated Grilled Vegetables

Well, it's official... the grill has emerged!  Due to the tremendous amount of snow we got this year (that has only recently melted away I might add) we haven't been able to grill at least since December.  But now that we can actually get to the darn thing, we have a freezer chock full of Omahas Steaks stuff that is just begging to see the fire.  While meat is nice and all, I am trying to eat better these days, so when hubbie wielded his grilling tongs for the first time last weekend, I decided to have him make us something healthy in the grill stir fry basket.  Here's the recipe I came up with:

Balsamic Marinated Grilled Vegetables

1 bell pepper, cut into 1x1 inch pieces (this time I used a bunch of different mini bell peppers)
1 head of broccoli, split up into bite sized pieces
1 onion, cut into 1x1 inch pieces
2 baby zucchini or summer squash, cut in half then cut into 1 inch pieces
1 container button mushrooms, large ones cut in half, small ones left whole
3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
4 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Basically all you have to do is cut up your veggies as specified, throw them into a large resealable bag along with the olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper and then let them sit in the bag to marinate for about an hour.  I tend to just flip the bag over every once and awhile to redistribute the marinade so all the veggies get an adequate coating.  You can let them sit for less time if you don't want to wait the whole hour.  Just tonight I think they only got about 15 minutes before hitting the fire and they tasted great.  We have a grill basket and once the grill is all heated up my hubbie then just dumps the contents of the bag into the basket and cooks the veggies on the side of the grill where there is no flame until they are tender.

Voila!  A really easy and healthy side dish :-)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Work In Progress Wednesday: Crochet Water Lily

This week I'm actually working on a whole mess of projects.  Most recently I've been crocheting quite a bit, working on a rather large project and also working on the monthly aquares for the 2011 crochet along block a month afghan.  Today's WIP is a water lily/lotus I decided to make because it was just so darn cute!  It's turning out pretty well, but I still have more than half of it left to go.  I'll make sure to post a picture of it when it's done. 

The pattern I am using is the Lotus Kyusu Cozy by Hilary Robbeloth and the flower itself is only part of the pattern.  The whole pattern is meant to be a cozy for those little Japanese side-handle tea pots.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cause for Celebration

I want to wish my very wonderful mom an even more wonderful birthday!  To celebrate we had a lovely dinner at one of her favorite restaurants, The Sole Proprietor in Worcester, MA.  We left very full of  fish, wine and dessert.  Mom, I hope you birthday was what you hoped for and you know how appreciated you are.  XOXO

Saturday, March 19, 2011

A Crocheted Afghan for 2011

I finally have a project I can share with the webiverse... My first ever crocheted afghan block.  I've been wanting to make an afghan for quite a while now and just got the nerve to get started.  To keep me on track and completing this afghan in a reasonable amount of time I am taking part in the 2011 Block-A-Month Crochet-Along which is hosted on Ravelry.   I'll be making at least two blocks a month and then by the end of December I will have 24 blocks (or more) to assemble the afghan.  

So, without further ado, here is my first block, one of the crochet along January blocks, Maggie's Square by The Crochet Dude. It was a good starting block and fairly simple in construction.  Even a relative newbie like me didn't have too much trouble making it.

In order to match almost anything in my bedroom, I've selected 7 colors from Lion Brand's Vanna's Choice yarn in greens, blues, purples and a pink.  That grouping should just about cover everything in a muted color palette quite nicely.  The yarn is worsted weight,and acrylic so it should work up fast, wear well and wash easily.  Next on my list to crochet is Enough Love to Go Around by Penny Davidson.  I think this square is really going to challenge me.  Thank goodness there are some very talented crocheters in the Fiberknots to save me when the inevitable "what the hell" moment occurs! 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles

I always have so many great ideas for blog posts but only rarely seem to follow through on their creation.  Must get my blogging priorities straight!!!  Today's post is another addition to My Recipe Box: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles.  I made these in honor of Valentine's Day for my fiber group, the FiberKnots (cool name huh?). Our real name is Fiber, Knot Just for Knitting, but I really like the shortened version.  If you are local to Worcester, MA and are looking for a friendly bunch of knitters, crocheters, weavers and spinners, we meet every Tuesday night at 6:30 at the Leicester Senior Center in Leicester, MA.  You can get to know the group beforehand by checking out our Ravelry Group

So, now that I've babbled on forever about the FiberKnots, lets get on to the recipe shall we?  I have to admit that it was a fairy easy recipe.  The only thing I had trouble with was the whole dipping in chocolate thing, but I'll get to that part later.

Most of this recipe ended up being "dump everything in a bowl and stir" which worked out just fine for me!

Mmmm, mini chocolate chips... some might have escaped and never quite made it into the bowl ;-)
I made all the truffles with my handy cookie scoop.  I believe it dishes out 1 ounce portions, but don't quote me on that.  They were about 1 inch in diameter.  Once they were all set on the tray I had to put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes to harden up before dipping them.

So, I mentioned that had some chocolate dipping issues.  The truffles shown above are the ones I dipped with chips melted in the microwave.  Not my best work.... I don't always follow directions (because my way is better of course) and this was one choice that didn't end up working out so well.  While the chocolate melted just fine, as it quickly cooled in the bowl, I had an increasingly difficult time getting the chocolate to coat the cookie dough centers evenly.  

For my second batch I actually followed the directions and made use of a double boiler (small pot with an inch or two of boiling water in it and a glass bowl perched on top).  It is a bit of a pain, but on the second batch I realized why it was so important.  Instead of the chocolate cooling down and getting gloppy and hard in a bowl, I kept the glass bowl on the heat and dipped the centers right at the stove by using a fork.  The chocolate stayed warm and dippable.  Once the center was coated all I had to do was pick it up with the fork and gently tap the middle of the fork on the side of the bowl to have the excess fall back into the rest of the warm chocolate goo.  Needless to say, batch two went waaaaay better! 

Overall, I think these truffles were a success.  They do come with a bit of a warning though:

They are very sweet, so don't eat too many or you will get a belly ache (trust me, I know first hand).

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Work in Progress Wednesday: Schooner Shawl

This is a shawl I started back in Septemeber of 2010, worked a little bit on and then had a massive yarn barf moment that caused me to put it down until last week.  I liked the yarn I was using but when I started, I had the brilliant idea that I could knit right off the skein if I just kept the circle of yarn around my neck.  Good idea in theory.... massive mistake in practice.  The yarn was way more tangled up than I though in the skein and I just made it worse by trying to unwrap it slowly around my neck as I knit.  Well, while the yarn barf was unfortunate, I'm kind of glad it happened.  Otherwise I never would have noticed that this beautiful yarn is a perfect match for the project: Malabrigo Rios in the Solis solorway.

Isn't it so gorgeous!!!  It reminds me so much of the ocean and sailing.  Which was my inspiration for this project in the first place as the pattern by Classic Elite is named Schooner.  Now, Malabrigo is one of my most favorite yarn companies out there.  Their product is wonderful and very high quality and Rios is no exception to this statement. 

The subtle color changes are enough to be interesting but not too much to detract from the pattern itself, which is surprisingly easy to knit despite a 16 row repeat.  I am on pattern repeat 5 out of 10 at the moment and have only been working on this for about a week now, so I am making good progress.  I'm sure things will slow down soon though because almost every row has some increasing in it, so they are getting longer and longer as I progress.    

Here are some more gratuitous project shots, you know, just because :-)

While I do have enough of this yarn on hand to make the shawl as written, I think I might add some more repeats to make it a little more, well, me sized.  Little tiny shawls just don't cut it on my body type, so I'll probably have to pick up an extra skein or two to make it the size I want.  There is also some very pretty edging that will be knitted onto the edges of the shawl.  When I get to that point, I'll share some pics of that too. 

Want to find out more or see other examples of the Schooner Shawl?  Create a free Ravelry account and click on the project link below.

Introducing: My Recipe Box

Recently I have noticed I've been cooking a whole lot more than I have been in a very long time.  I thought it might be nice to start sharing those recipes with you in a format that would be easy for you to go back into later, so I have started a new page on my blog called My Recipe Box.  A link to the page is up at the top of my blog underneath the header and allows me have a list of all the good (and free) recipes I have come across and tried. 

I'm grouping them according to the standard cookbook headings i.e side dishes, main dishes, desserts, etc. to make the recipes a little bit easier to weed through if you are looking for something.  Anyway, I hope you enjoy it.  If I can keep my act together in the long run, I am going to link each recipe to the blog post that I talk about it in so you can see pictures and my comments before trying it out yourself.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: 10 Favorite Smells

1) Pine needles - They remind me of being in Maine and playing in the treehouse my grandfather built for me along the path through the woods between my families houses. 

2) Freshly cut hay - The smell of hay is so sweet!  I usually smell it when I'm driving by some humongous field in my car, but I would be completely happy just rolling around in it too.

3) Sheep fleece - I had no idea how much I liked this smell until I bought my first fleece back in October.  It is so gloriously sheepy smelling!  I just kept on going over to it, opening the bag and taking a huge whiff.  I always walked off with a big smile.

4) Baked goods - Enough said.

5) Green tea - I love the clear crisp smell of green tea.  I even used to wear perfume scented like it.

6) Campfire, grill or fireplace smoke - Ok, so what I really like it the smell of good wood burning.  It reminds me of camp and cozy nights by the fireplace.

7) Crisp spring/fall air - At these times of year I seem to always want to hang my laundry out to dry.  I think the freshness reminds me of clean clothes somehow.

8) Freshly brewed coffee - There is nothing as eye opening as the smell of coffee.  It's truly a psychological high.

9) Sea air - I love the ocean and sailing, so the salty crisp sea air is a very comforting smell for me.  Reminds me of all kinds of great memories.

10) Clean laundry - Again, another thing I could easily roll in and smell all day :)