Saturday, December 31, 2011

December 31

December 31 is New Year's Eve. It's the last day of the year. Tonight is possibly the biggest party night of the year, regardless of your nationality. It's time to say goodbye to this year, and prepare for new beginnings.

This is the last entry in this blog. My year-long challenge is complete. I have learned a lot from this experience. Perhaps the biggest benefit is that it has been a tremendous confidence booster. Before I started this blog, I was hesitant to let anyone read anything that I had written. Many of my friends, and perhaps some strangers, have read my daily musings, and have provided valuable feedback. I no longer feel the need to hide my writing, or my talents. I feel like I have come out of my creative shell and am ready for the world to accept me as a creative, talented person. Sure, I still have some doubts. I think the doubts will always be there. But I think this exercise is something I needed. I needed confidence. While my family and friends have always been supportive, this experiment gave me that extra boost I needed.

I also learned that the things you enjoy doing shouldn't ever feel like a chore. If they feel like a chore, it isn't fun. I never want my writing, or my knitting, or any of my creative outlets to rank in the same category as scrubbing the bathrooms. So there were days I walked away from the writing. It's ok to do this. There may be writers who will argue with me. Maybe for them, walking away isn't the best. I found though that if I walked away for a day or two, the creative juices returned. I didn't resent the project. I still enjoyed it. Even though there were plenty of days that were curve balls and left me digging a little deeper into my creative pot to find something to write about.

I had originally hoped to have my first book published by the end of 2011. Due to family issues, work commitments, and life in general, it didn't happen. I don't think of that as a failure though. Because I was writing. Maybe it was just a blog, but it was writing. And after years of not writing at all, it was a huge step forward.

I am not a person to make resolutions. I don't have a lot of will power (if you've ever seen me with a box of chocolates or shopping in the yarn section at the craft store, you can vouch for that). I always felt that making resolutions was just setting myself up for failure. After a couple weeks, it's much easier to say 'I'm not going to work out today'. And then the next day you think 'what's another day going to hurt?' and then before you know it, your gazelle glider has been stored against your bedroom wall for months, and the only exercise it gets is holding your towels after your shower. I learned years ago to stop torturing myself with fake promises.

That doesn't mean I don't set goals. I do. While there is a part of me that is sad to see this experiment come to an end, I am much more excited about the prospects for 2012. I have eluded to them periodically, so I guess it's time to let you in on my plans.

A few weeks ago, a dear friend sent me a picture of a yarn ball wreath. It was a wreath, made out of various colors of green balls of yarn, with a pair of knitting needles stuck through a red bow. Very simple. She said I needed to make myself one of those. Something inside me kind of snapped, and a plan hatched. I started researching how to make them, and realized it would be a great way to use up the odds and ends of yarn that I have leftover from all my knitting projects. So I thought I'd make them for gifts for my mom, sister, and maybe aunt next year for Christmas. Then another dear friend asked if I would take orders, or maybe sell them online. The small seed that had been planted by friend #1 sprouted into a live oak tree, with branches extending in various directions. The idea was fertilized by my new found confidence. In the matter of hours, the idea went from making Christmas presents for family members to opening my own shop on Etsy to sell the wreaths.

But it didn't stop at just the wreaths. I enjoy knitting, so why not make blankets to sell too? I've run out of people to make them for. Even though sometimes it is painful to do (but I've learned that just like my writing, it's ok to leave it alone for a day or two), I like keeping my hands busy. It's a great way to pass time in doctor's offices, or even as I'm watching TV at night. I had the day after Christmas off since Christmas fell on Sunday, so Erich and I went to Michaels. All yarn was on sale. Some was 50% off, others were maybe only $1 off. I bought yarn for eight projects. Some of the yarn they didn't have enough of for a full blanket, so I'll have to go back. I have enough to keep me busy for a while. I bought some baby soft yarn, some that is good for kids or teenagers, and some that will make beautiful blankets for adults. I filled the cart with yarn. Which really isn't saying much, because their carts are small. Between Erich (who has decided he's going to take up knitting also) and I, we spent $200. Which seems like a lot, but we did get some good deals.

I need to create some projects, or 'stock', before I open the store. You have to have things to sell. I figure this may take me three or four months, so hopefully, my store will be open by my birthday. I did wrestle with my internal voice about selling the things I have created. I quieted her by telling her when the books get published, it would be the same thing. And yes, I know that my friends will be looking at the store, and that seems a little weird. I don't expect any friends to buy anything. I don't want them to feel obligated. If they find something they like and are moved to buy, that's wonderful. But I don't want my friends to think I'm going to start being a high-pressure sales person. I do hope they will share the site with their friends.

As if the plans for an Etsy store were not enough, around this same time I was emailing my youngest cousin, Mike. Mike and two friends opened their own graphic design company earlier this year. They made up t-shirts with their company logo and were selling them. I like to support family, so I ordered one. And then I thought: graphic design, I know Mike's an artist, hey... So I asked if their company would be able to do illustrations for children's books. I've been wanting to write children's books for years, I already have the ideas and some of the books half written in my head. But I cannot draw. So that has been keeping the whole project from moving forward. Mike responded with the answer that further changed my plans for 2012: Yes! We still have to work out the details, which means I have to really get the characters down and figure out what I want. It felt like the missing puzzle piece had been found. And it was hiding right in the family! I plan to have at least the first of the books published next year. It will most likely be self-published, which I think is fine. I'm planning a whole series of books. The books are based on the adventures of two adorable beagles. Writing 101: Write about what you know!

At the end of November, I had no real thoughts on 2012. I was hoping it would be better than 2011. I was hoping there would be no emergency trips to NY. I knew I'd be joining the family in Orlando for a week in September, and hope to drop a few more pounds by then. I also knew I really do need to start using my gazelle glider again, so I can build up my stamina to walk through amusement parks. And I was certain it would be a good year because it's an even numbered year and I will turn 36. I really dislike odd numbers, and it seems my best years are always the even ones. Then, within a matter of a couple of weeks, I have amazing prospects for 2012. I feel like I have a reason to get up every day. I am incredibly excited about these new ventures. Sure, I'm taking a risk. What if no one likes my crafts or my stories? I brush that doubt away with all the positive feedback I have gotten on the pictures of the various crafts I've posted on Facebook, and with the feedback provided by my friends on this blog. There is always risk. Life is a risk.

I cannot remember the last time I felt so full of promise and excitement as January 1 approached. I hope each of my friends and family members will enjoy the same enthusiasm, and that each of you will have the best year! Remember, even though this blog is now closed, you can still keep up with me at my other blog (which hopefully I'll have more time to write on now). Thank you all for your support and encouragement throughout this project!

Friday, December 30, 2011

December 30

December 30 is 'Bicarbonate of Soda' day. I would bet you have some of this in your house. Somewhere. It is most commonly found in a yellow box under the name 'Arm and Hammer'. Bicarbonate of soda is more commonly known as Baking Soda.

Baking Soda has many uses. While you may think of all the ways you use it in cooking- cookies, breads, cakes, there are many household uses for baking soda also. It is a terrific deodorizer. Have you noticed that your refrigerator or freezer has an odor? Perhaps your refrigerator smells of the leftover onion you are storing there, or your freezer smells like last month's catch of the day. Put an open box of baking soda in the frig and freezer, and it will absorb the odors. You should change the box every 3 months.

Since baking soda is a great deodorizer, you can use it in those unspeakable places- like a litter box or diaper pail. We have a stainless steel double sink in the kitchen, and it can be hard to clean. Sometimes the drains also smell unpleasant. I cover the inside of the sinks with baking soda and pour vinegar over it. Let it set for a few minutes, then rinse with hot water. It helps keep the sink clean and gets rid of the funk coming from the drains! If you mix baking soda with water, you could use it to clean your stainless steel appliances. Unlike many other cleaners, it isn't toxic or harmful to the environment (or your family).

You can freshen your carpets easily without steam cleaning them by sprinkling baking soda on the carpet. Let it sit for 15 minutes (or more if there are strong odors) and then vacuum the carpet. It won't damage your carpet and will leave the house with a pleasant refreshing feel.

Apparently you can also use it as a pet shampoo. Create a thick paste of baking soda and water to remove tarnish from silver. How often have you fixed dinner, only to have the pan or dish covered in cooked on food that you have to scrub for days to get clean? Dampen the area covered in food, sprinkle with baking soda, and let set overnight. Then scrub with a sponge. I think I'll be trying that next time Erich forgets to use the Pam on a baking dish!

Baking soda has many uses for health as well. You can use it as an antacid to help with an upset stomach. You can gargle it as a mouthwash. Or you can use it as a toothpaste. When I had my braces, the orthodontist recommended baking soda and peroxide toothpaste. It didn't taste very good, but it did help keep my teeth nice and clean. It will also soften your skin- add one half cup to your bathwater and soak away.

This is such a versatile staple, it's no wonder most people have it in their pantry. And if you don't buy it because you thought it was just for baking, maybe you look at that yellow box differently now. For more ideas on how to use baking soda around the house, check out this link.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

December 29

December 29 is 'Pepper Pot' day. Pepper Pot day commemorates the first time Pepper Pot soup was made. We heard in our history classes how harsh the winter of 1777-1778 was for the Continental Army and George Washington's troops. According to legend, on December 29, 1777 George Washington asked his chef to create something that would warm the troops and lift their spirits.

The chef took scraps of tripe (stomach from an animal such as a cow), pieces of meat, and peppercorn and mixed it with other ingredients. The soup was hot and kind of spicy. The troops loved it. It has been called 'the soup that won the war'.

I know, many times when we've celebrated a particular food day, my friends have gone searching the web for a recipe. I have tried to save you some trouble, and found a recipe for you: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/authentic-pepper-pot-soup/ . From what I've read, you can still make the 'authentic' soup but substitute beef, chicken, sausage, or ham for the tripe. Good to know! I know very few people who like tripe.

December 28

December 28 was 'Card Playing 'day. Playing cards is a good way to pass a cold winter day. My dad's side of the family are really into playing cards. In the basement at Grandma and Grandpa's house is a bar. Not the yuppie type of wet bar that you find in so many basements today. When you walk into Grandma & Grandpa's basement you think you've walked into the bar on the corner. There's a huge bar, which when I was a child always had a keg of Genesee (or Genny as everyone calls it) beer on tap. There was a big table that was used for playing poker. I think it was felt covered, but I could be wrong. I haven't been in that basement in easily 20 years. Big, colorful glass lights hung over your head. Each year at the Labor Day party, the table was full of Dad's cousins playing cards. They played poker, pinochle, and hoss (which we pronounced haas-ey). There were some people that you only saw when they came out to get food. You could go all day and not know they were at the party.

Grandma and Grandpa loved to play cards. They played in tournaments at the Senior Citizens. They had friends over for card nights. From the family stories I've heard, Grandma's family loved playing cards too. Several of Dad's siblings play cards, and some of my cousins do. Dad goes to a Texas Hold-em game at least once a month. If there's a party or dinner with several Primeaus in attendance, you can bet at least four of them have a deck of cards between them.

I have never really gotten into playing cards. As children we played Go Fish with my parents. I remember one babysitter taught us to play War. Somewhere along the way we learned to play Uno, and I still enjoy playing that. Usually I end up playing it with my parents. Erich isn't really into cards or games at all. The top part of the closet in the bear room is full of board games that we have never played.

If you enjoy playing cards, now is a good time to have some friends over. Socialize and snack without feeling rushed. The bulk of the holidays are over, it's time to unwind.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

December 27

December 27 is 'Fruitcake' day. Ah, fruitcake. That old holiday joke. You've heard of fruitcakes sticking around for years. Last week on the local news there was a story of a fruitcake made by the Kroger Company (a grocery store chain based in Cincinnati) in 1941. Someone bought it in 1941, and then proceeded to drag it with them as they moved around the country for 30 years. In 1971, they sent the fruitcake to one of the stores, with a letter explaining the adventures of the fruitcake. The owner thought Kroger might like to have it back. Kroger wasn't interested, but the manager of the store kept it anyway. This year an estate company put it up for auction. The 70 year old fruitcake sold for $525- with all proceeds going to charity. The TV station interviewed 'experts' who felt it would still be good to eat, because it was still in the vacuum sealed canister, and the seal had not been broken. Kroger immediately released a statement recommending that whomever bought the fruitcake should not eat it, but just keep it for a conversation piece.

I have never eaten fruitcake. Mom never made it. When Mom was here for Thanksgiving, I found out that my Grandma Wager used to make fruitcakes. At first I chuckled. And then Mom told me that Grandma was famous in town for her fruitcakes. My grandmother was an incredible cook, so if anyone could make fruitcake desirable, it would have been her. But then Mom told me Grandma's secret. Mom said they started making the fruitcakes in September. I forget how many she said Grandma made, but I know it was several dozen. She wrapped each fruitcake in cheesecloth, and stored them in the basement on shelves. Each week until Christmas, Grandma went through the fruitcakes and doused each one with a healthy dose of alcohol (I forget if Mom said Brandy or Rum). So by the time Christmas came along, you could get quite a buzz off Grandma's fruitcakes. Which is why people lined up for them, and thought it was wonderful to get one. I'll never think of fruitcake in the same way again!

December 26

December 26 was 'Whiner's Day'. I guess it's a good day for you to whine about the presents you wanted but didn't get. Or maybe it has its roots in children whining because they are already bored with their toys. Either way, it doesn't seem to be a very pleasant day.

One of the advantages of being an adult is you can buy your own things. If there was something you wanted that you didn't get, you can just go buy it. I tend to make a list of things I'd like to get 'someday'. Sometimes I give the list contents as gift suggestions (such as the tea box I wanted). Otherwise, I just keep the list and buy it when I have the funds (or when I remember). So there should be no whining.

Here in the US, December 26 starts the next big round of shopping. It's time to head back to the stores and return the gifts you don't like. Or that don't fit. The news said it's the day we take back all the things we don't want our cousins knowing we are returning. Our cousins? Diane Sawyer must be closer to her cousins than I am to mine. We don't exchange gifts. Maybe some of the 13 of them do, but none of them exchange with me, nor I with them. I don't often have to return gifts though. The way to avoid returns is to either be very specific about what you want, or ask for gift cards. Or books.

December 26 is also a good time to snatch the sales on Christmas merchandise. We went to Target yesterday. I'm going to start making yarn ball wreaths to sell in my upcoming Etsy shop. Some of the wreaths I saw online also have Christmas ball ornaments. So I went to Target to get some! I found sets of 50 ornaments online. Regular price $15, online they were on sale for $10.50. In the store, they were 50% off- so $7.50 each. I thought for sure they'd be sold out, but the store still had a great selection. I bought six boxes of ornaments, plus a few boxes of mini ornaments, to vary the sizes on the wreath. I saved $68! I was so excited, I drove across the parking lot to Michaels' and spent all that I saved at Target, and then a whole lot more. I needed yarn for my many projects. I bought yarn for eight different projects. I am so very excited about 2012 and the new opportunities in front of me.

I think instead of whining today, everyone should take time to look at the gifts they received, the family that surrounds them, and the new year stretching in front of them. I'm sure everyone has plenty not to whine about. Maybe you'll even find that while your life isn't perfect, it certainly is blessed.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

December 25

Today is Christmas. I was really looking forward to having Christmas in my own house. I could sleep in because I didn't have any place to be. It was going to be a nice, leisurely holiday. And I was determined not to miss my family (too much). I wasn't going to cry at the thought of missing them. This was going to be a wonderful Christmas.

It was a great Christmas, although not quite the storybook one I envisioned. It was more of a hilarious Christmas. But that's ok. At least it wasn't a blue Christmas!

I woke up around 9:30. Not as late as I usually sleep on Sundays, but it wasn't incredibly early either. I keep the beagles' Christmas gifts upstairs until Christmas morning. I learned the first year that if I put their gifts under the tree, they will tear everything apart looking for them. I came downstairs with their bag and put it in the middle of the floor while Erich got the video camera ready. They circled the bag like vultures- sticking their noses in and trying to get to the goodies. Once the camera was recording, we sat down to open presents. Onyx decided the entire bag was for her, and plopped herself down right in front of the bag. Every time Cobalt came near, she licked his face. Licking him is one of her many ways of chasing him off. It annoys him when she licks his face, so he leaves. I have a video clip of this- several minutes of her pushing him away as I tried to open their presents. I just can't seem to upload it.

After the beagles opened their presents, it was our turn. I bought Erich a new coffee maker in November, and he had given me money (all in dollar and half dollar coins. I think he did this to annoy me.), so the gifts were mostly from our families. Erich's parents gave me a very generous cash gift that left me speechless. And you know how hard it is to leave me speechless! My sister gave me a calendar and new pictures of Syd and Drew. My big gift from my parents is a family trip to Disney World in September, 2012. But my mother believes even if you are getting a 'big' gift, you still have to have something to open. I had quite a lot to open.

I had originally asked for the complete Little House on the Prairie DVD set. All nine seasons, plus the specials, are in one boxed set. A couple of months ago, Mom asked 'what else I wanted in case she couldn't get that'. It was an expensive set, so I understood that. After all, these were just supposed to be little things to open. So I asked for a tea box. I have wanted a tea box for a while- a nice box to keep the different types of teas in. Erich and I are big tea drinkers, and we each like different types. I like to be organized, and thought it would be so much nicer to have all our teas in one place, than boxes all over the place. I was so incredibly surprised and happy this morning to unwrap not only the DVD boxed set, but also a tea box. The tea box is filled with teas- so first we have to enjoy the 8 different kinds of teas in the box, and then I can refill it with our usual.

If you're going to have a tea box filled with teas, you need something to brew them in. Mom bought me a tea ball, it's this little personal sized tea pot. It has a filter basket inside it. You put the tea in that, then pour the hot water around it and let the tea steep in the pot. It's kind of neat. I've already used it tonight and sampled the cherry tea from my new tea box.

There was a Yankee blanket and a book about baseball. I suspect Dad helped Mom with her shopping at that point. There was a new reusable grocery bag, but this one is insulated which will come in really handy in the summer. Erich and I received ceramic travel mugs. His is red and mine is blue. My mom knows us so well! And then, there's a cookbook. I thought perhaps Mom gave it to me as a joke. But it's a Potluck Cookbook, filled with recipes that you can take to a Potluck supper (or Covered Dish Supper or Pitch-in). Most of them are casseroles, and I love to make something that goes in one dish, so I know why she gave me the cookbook. It was a great Christmas!

We were supposed to have Erich's parents over for dinner, but his Mom is sick. We didn't want the sickness to spread, and she didn't feel well enough to come over. So dinner then became a 'cook and transport' operation. I would cook everything at my house, divide it in half, and take their half over to them. It's a good thing they live close by! The only problem is that the turkey wouldn't cook. We had a turkey breast roast- which is basically just the breast meat rolled up. There's no bones in it. It was 4 lbs, and should have only taken 2 hours to cook. I poured maple syrup over it for flavoring. Maple syrup will caramelize as you cook it, so it created a nice glaze. We kept checking it and checking it, and it still wasn't done. When we thought it was done, we used my meat thermometer, which isn't the trustiest of things. We took a chance, cut it open, and half of it was still pink. One end was done and one wasn't. My oven is only a couple of years old, so it's not the oven. We cut the turkey into medallions and put them into a pan, and put them back in the oven. I turned on the 'speed bake', which turns on the convection part of the oven to cook things faster. We walked the sides and desserts over to his parents and I carried over their present. I felt terrible that the turkey wasn't cooperating. No one else seemed to mind. They opened their blanket and loved it. And they started right in eating the sides.

When the turkey was finally done, we realized that half of it was white meat and half dark meat. None of us like dark meat. Erich took the white meat to his parents, and ate some of the dark meat himself. So after all that, I didn't even get any turkey! It's ok, we had too much food anyway so the sides were enough.

By this point, I was worn out. I've wondered where all of my energy came from over the past couple of weeks. Well, that tank hit empty this afternoon. I curled up on the couch to rest while Erich worked on clean up. At this point, I think Cobalt must have had enough of his sister bullying him all morning. He marked his territory all through the house from the living room to the dining room. He is usually so good about telling us he needs to go out. So Erich immediately steam cleaned the carpets. All we could do was laugh. Not your typical Christmas, but it's one that is memorable!

Even though the day had it's moments that were borderline dysfunctional, it was still a wonderful day. I am so blessed, and days like today remind me of that. Merry Christmas!