Monday, January 31, 2011

This is what it's like to live in Wisconsin.

The Packers are headed to the Super Bowl next weekend, and everyone is getting in on the action... even the local grocery store. I was there yesterday and saw this, made of soda cases:

Pressure Cooker Pasta Fazool

I am so in love with our pressure cooker. I used it twice yesterday: once to cook garbanzo beans, and once to make a delicious Pasta Fazool for dinner.

Get out your pressure cookers... this one is definitely worth a try!

1 1/2 cups dried white cannellini beans (I used Great Northern Beans)
3 T olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4 oz. pancetta or prosciutto, finely chopped (I used prosciutto but I really think you could use any kind of ham, or leave the meat out altogether)
1 t chopped garlic
1 T chopped rosemary (I used 1 t dried)
1 t dried basil
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1 can of chopped plum tomatoes (or regular diced tomatoes)
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 cups dry short pasta (penne, rotini, etc.)
Parmesan for garnish

  • Soak the beans overnight.
  • In your pressure cooker, heat the oil and saute the celery, onion, garlic, prosciutto, carrot until the onion starts to brown. Stir in the beans, herbs/spices, tomatoes, and stock.
  • Lock the lid and cook under low pressure for 16 minutes. Allow the pressure to drop naturally.
  • Remove the lid and use the "brown" setting to bring the mixture to a simmer. Stir in the pasta and simmer 5 to 7 minutes or until pasta is tender.
  • Serve with parmesan on a cold winter night!

Friday, January 28, 2011

My Husband is the Best

Earlier this week, I hosted a knitting potluck. Karl was gone at class and work, but he was so sweet to leave this on the kitchen counter:

It made me smile. A lot. Here's a closer look at the note:

What a sweet guy! He knew we'd want to have a fire in the fireplace, so he got it all ready for us. The logs were even in place. It's been a tough semester so far with schedules, but he's so thoughtful. I just love finding things like this. Plus he loves the Muppets as much as I do!

Speaking of Muppets, head over to Kate's blog to check out her newest knitting creation!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And another thing...

The shirt I'm wearing today (and also wore yesterday) has a hole in it, I just found out. A kind of noticable one, in the back. Nice.

I went to yoga at 6 this morning, and the teacher, David, was someone I hadn't met before. Everything was all fine and normal and then it was time for Savasana (how ever you spell that), where you lay on the floor and it's really quiet. Well, it was really quiet for about 15 seconds, until David's voice rang out clear and loud, singing: "I went down to the river to pray, studyin' about that good old way..." I darted my eyes around, trying to see if anyone else looked like they thought it was kind of hilarious. Nope. Everyone was just laying there looking peaceful. And then David got to the chorus and did a little word swapping: "Oh, yogis, let's go down, come on down, don't you wanna come down. Come on, yogis, let's go down, down to the river to pray." It was too much. I had to leave or risk laughing out loud.

False Start

I just realized (at 11:42 a.m.) that I'm wearing the same shirt I wore yesterday. And also I was ready for lunch at 9:30 this morning. Can I have a do-over for the morning, please?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Muppetational Field Trip

On Thursday, my friends Kate and Anna and I, plus kiddos, and drove down to Chicago to vist the Museum of Science and Industry.

We packed up early and hit the road in the minivan! As you can see, William was all set with his sunglasses. And Henry rocked the PowerPuff Girls hat. Baby Kieran was in the back seat, being antisocial in his rear-facing car seat. Kate knit an entire hat during the car ride.

Thankfully, we had a big box of goodies to keep us occupied on the road. Anna said she packed these toys for the kids, but I know they were really for me. I get antsy.

At the museum, we spent a long time looking at the humongous pinball-type machine from Switzerland. So cool.

But the hit of the day was...

The Jim Henson exhibit! As a lifelong fan of the Muppets, I was thrilled beyond words to see this. It included original sketches and early work by Jim Henson, along with some tried and true favorites. Bert and Ernie were there and I just wanted to hug them. I wish I could move to Sesame Street. Many thanks to Anna, Kate, William, Henry, and Kieran for a superful field trip!

Homeroom Angel

In high school, I took a ceramics class, and the teacher always played the radio while we worked. One day, Centerfold by the J. Geils Band came on. A girl in my class, Kari, immediately ran to the door, closed it, ran to the radio, turned it up full blast, shimmied, and screamed, "Now this is what you call GOOD MUSIC!"

Last night, I went to the first meeting of a community ed. ceramics class. After the introduction and instructions, we went to the wheels and the teacher turned on the radio... and the first song to come on was Centerfold. Seriously, after years of telling the story about Kari, what are the chances? I will be tracking down her phone number so next time I hear that song, I can call her and say, "Kari? This is Amanda from your high school art class. And this is what you call GOOD MUSIC!" I bet she'll shimmy on the other end of the phone line.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hats Off To Babies!

We had an all-day inservice at the library yesterday. It was the perfect opportunity to work on this little number for my sister-in-law, who is expecting a baby girl in April.

It's Debbie Bliss Cashmerino (a lovely blend of cashmere and merino wool) in a simple seed stitch. 49 stitches on size 7 needles made the perfect newborn size. I was torn about the pom-pom, but Karl was certain the hat needed one. I think he was right.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Outstanding Results

Do you ever do things you're not especially comfortable doing, only to find that the results are more than you could ever have hoped for?

That has happened to me a few times lately. For example...

Not wanting to leave the house after a loooong day at work, but dragging myself to go-go dance practice anyway... and loving the evening full of laughter and shimmies. So much better than an evening on the couch.

Reluctantly getting on a Greyhound to see a friend I've only ever met through her blog... I'm not usually a meet-new-people kind of girl. But it was such a fun afternoon of lunching, antique browsing, and chatting. So glad I got on the bus!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Brrrr.. and I don't mean Raymond.

It is seriously cold here. Like right now I can't feel my toes and I'm inside the house. The good news: I get to go to California tomorrow! The American Library Association conference is there. I cannot wait to get off the plane and not have to wear a parka and boots.

My brother will be there; he's on the Caldecott committee right now, so he'll spend most of the conference locked in a room with 14 other people trying to decide on the best illustrations of 2010. My friend Lindsay lives there, and I'm going to try to sneak her in to a publisher's cocktail party. Shouldn't be too hard, since she's a social butterfly and instantly becomes best friends with everyone she meets. And I get to meet Leslie, whose blog I adore.

Neil Gaiman, winner of the 2009 Newbery Award (whoever picked that book must have been really awesome...), is going to be speaking. Neil may or may not have been featured on our Christmas cards last year. Oh yes, the family photo.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Remember my Muppet Whatnot? He has totally become my storytime mascot. And he's not just a whatnot... he's a meteorologist. Yep. It's true. Every Tuesday, he sits next to me at the beginning of storytime and gives the weather report. Sometimes it's accurate (like the time it was "raining cats and dogs" on our dog-themed day... what a happy coincidence), sometimes it really has nothing to do with the weather (like on the meteorologist's birthday, when all he can talk about are presents and hats and cake. He is very birthday-focused, let me tell you), and sometimes it's downright incorrect.

Like yesterday, when he said that it was hot out. Good thing there was a room full of kids ready to correct him! Then he said it was rainy. Silly meteorologist. It wasn't rainy. "Nooo!" all the kids shouted, "It's cold! It's snowy!" Finally he listened to them. They're so smart.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Eve, Knitnosh Style

Knitnosh is what we call our knitting group... because we do as much noshing as we do knitting! We got together on New Year's Eve for a super fun get-together at Kate and Jeremy's house. They have a 3 month old baby, Kieran, who was such a good sport and slept through all of our ruckus.

Check out the stocking Kate made for her husband! So gorgeous. She also made one, in the same pattern but opposite colors, for her sweet son. She's amazing.

Wii rang in the New Year playing!

Drinking vessels for the masses.

What would New Year's Eve be without a few guinea pig puppets to celebrate with?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Christmas Wrap-Up

Do you know how many pictures I took on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas, combined? Zero. That's how committed I am to preserving family memories. I did manage to remember to get my camera out a few times, though... here are a few tidbits for you.

When I went to Milwaukee for my sister's college graduation, my mom, my brother, and I went to the annual Steiff exhibit at the M&I bank downtown. We usually go every year at Christmastime. The exhibit includes all of these store window display-sized Steiff stuffed animals dressed up according to a theme, like "filling station," "candy factory," or "prom." Okay, there hasn't been a prom one, but if I were in charge, there would be. There would also be a shoe store one. Not because I love shoes, but think how funny it would be-- there would be giraffe-foot-shaped shoes, elephant-foot-shaped shoes, penguin-foot-shaped shoes... This year's theme was kind of weak. I think it was "Enchanted Forest" or something boring like that. Basically just a lot of stuffed animals dressed up, wearing flower crowns and holding hands. But there was one cute side display. It had smaller animals in folktale scenes. The photo above shows the Brementown musicians. Look closely... there's a robber on the roof!

Karl and I took a little trip to Cedarburg after Christmas. We love our room-- it's got a whirlpool bath and a gas fireplace. I could live there. It's also got this special washcloth just for makeup. Unfortunately, I did not wear or bring any makeup on our trip. Next time I'll wear a lot so I can use the makeup washcloth.

On our way home from Cedarburg (yes, you just saw the one and only photo I took during our trip... a washcloth... lovely), we stopped at a big monastery on a hill called Holy Hill. We went up into the church and checked out the stained glass. It was so beautiful. We were there right at sunset, which was perfect. You can see for miles from there, and the monastery is surrounded by beautiful country land. Gorgeous.

So, uh, that's it for my Christmas pictures. Fortunately, my mom is a prolific photographer, and we've already received an envelope of pictures from her. Thanks, Mom!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New for Christmas

A goal in our household is to keep the size of our Christmas decoration collection in check. I just put everything away today (cue Hallelujah chorus... the house has never felt so good. I love Christmas, but seriously it was time), and I was thrilled that it all fit into two medium-sized tubs-- with room to spare! We try to be really choosy about what we get and what we keep. Here are a few new additions this year:

I made this Christmas tree skirt to replace our old mini-skirt. We got a new tree stand, which is larger than our old one, and the old skirt just wasn't covering what needed to be covered. So I whipped this one up using some fabric I got at a sidewalk sale for next to nothing last summer. I love the blue and brown... so not reindeer-y. Like a breath of fresh air.

I know I already showed these off, but honestly, are these not the cutest little Santa mugs ever? They found a home on the shelf below our tea cabinet. So perfect. Vintage, from a local thrift store, $1.50 for the whole set. Love.
On our after-Chrismtas getaway, we went to a town that could be considered "antique store-heavy." Karl and I love poking around in the shops, seeing what treasures we can find. This time, we picked out a few tree ornaments (including one super sweet clip-on bird... too bad it's already stashed away... you'll have to wait till next year to see it) and this delightful NOEL. The letters each have space to hold a candle. It's perfect for our mantel.
This last one isn't for us to keep. I knit up this little jultomten (Chrismtas gnome) for my little brother, who is trying to establish a collection of 100 percent handmade Christmas decorations. You may recall last year's gifts. Those were given on Christmas day, but this little guy was just finished, so he'll be a little bit belated. Sorry to ruin the surprise, Elsworth!