Saturday, December 21, 2013

2013 Books to Remember

I am a reader.  I love it and always have a book or two going.  Most of the books that I read though I can walk away from after 20 minutes and come back the next day for another 20 minute session.  It's that rare book that sucks me in for hours at a time.  Those are the books that I develop a relationship with the characters.  I picture them coming over to my house for dinner, and we have the most interesting conversation over a bottle of wine.  Or, if it's set in an exotic place maybe I go and visit them.  I come away feeling like we are long lost friends.  I don't want their stories to end, and I make up little scenarios of what they are doing for several days after the book is finished.  Well, you get the idea.

So what books have transported me to that special place this past year?  I'm so glad you asked!  I will start with the book A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter.  This was a book chosen by a member of my former book club (I moved away).  This book was first published in 1909 and is actually the second in the Limberlost series.  I didn't realize that when I first started it and was a little confused when characters were brought into the story with no introduction.  But, once I figured that out, I was happily lost in a swampland in Indiana with Elnora Comstock through her high school years and beyond.  It is a very sweet and touching coming of age story.

Book 2 is A Season of Gifts by Richard Peck.  A little background for you on why I even read this book in the first place... every year for the past 5 or 6, I would read aloud A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck to my 7th grade students.  It is a unique story in which each chapter is a short story about another summer spent "at Grandma's" in Indiana.  Each time I read this book aloud I became more and more attached to Grandma.  She's rough around the edges, but her heart is huge.  Last year I was crying so hard during the last chapter that I had to have a student finish it for me.  Anyways, when I saw A Season of Gifts featuring Grandma, I just had to read it!  Maybe it's not as good of a book as I would like to think, but because I love Grandma, I loved this book.  If you have an old Midwestern grandma figure in your life (you know the type), then you'll probably understand Grandma and come to love her for who she is too.

Book 3 is The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.  It was my turn to pick a book for that book club of mine, and I had no idea what to pick.  My friend Brad is a big reader, so I asked him what he thought would be a great book to read.  He told me The Name of the Wind was one of his favorite books of all time.  I had a list of about 5 books for the club to pick from, but this one was the winner.  I know, I know, fantasy, you don't read it.  Yeah, I don't read much of it either.  We just thought we'd try it to put some variety in our reading, besides it has the highest Goodreads rating ever so it was worth a shot.  We all enjoyed the book!  Every single person in the club liked it.  When does that ever happen?  And a fantasy book nonetheless?  I think it works though because it's really not too fantastic.  It's a very interesting blend of "magic" and science, and the characters are really mostly human with a few interesting side characters to keep the plot moving.  This is a long book, but one that I don't think you'll mind reading.  So if you're looking for some variety in your reading, please, please at least get this one from the library and read the first few chapters.  If you're not hooked by then, this isn't the book for you.

And finally, book 4, Moloka'i by Alan Brennert.  Be prepared for an emotional ride here.  This book is about a leper colony in Hawaii.  The disease hit the islands very hard when white men came to settle.  To keep it from spreading, a colony was set up to quarantine the sick.  They spent the rest of their lives there.  This story follows Rachel Kalama as she is diagnosed with the disease at an early age.  She grows up and makes an entire beautiful life in Moloka'i.  The story chronicles her struggles and triumphs with Hansen's disease (leprosy).  I know that it sounds incredibly sad, and yes, there are some very sad parts, however, this is ultimately a touching story of triumph.

That's it!  Not too long of a list actually when I consider all that I've read in 2013.  Most of the other books I read were decent, but really not worth mentioning in detail.  They were also easy to put down after 20 minutes to get the rest of my life taken care of.  However, if you're interested in knowing what else I've read, check out and find me on there.  If you're not already on Goodreads and you like reading, go open an account today!  It's the only way that I remember what I've read and what I want to read.

What have you read this year that transported you to another world?  What should be on my to-read list for 2014?  Let me know!  I'd love to add it to my list.

As the year comes to a close, I hope that you and your loved ones have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Two Fabric Flannel Infinity Scarf Tutorial

I've been making a lot of infinity scarves lately.  I decided to document the making of one of my scarves so you can join me in the fun!  

Materials needed:  2 different flannel fabrics.  If the fabric is 45 inches wide you'll need 1 2/3 yards to get the length you need without a lot of seams.  If the fabric is 60 inches wide you'll only need 1/3 of a yard.  

Step 1: Wash and iron the fabric.  

If you're using the fabric that is 60 inches wide you can skip to Step 5.

Step 2:  Fold the fabric in half lining up the salvaged edge. This is only for fabric 45 inches wide.

Step 3: Trim off the salvaged edge.

Step 4: Measure and cut off 11 inches from both fabrics.  Make sure that you are cutting the correct direction so you get a piece that measures 11 X 60 in the end and not 11 X 45.  I used my quilting rotary cutter, but any scissors will do the same thing. 

Step 5: Make sure that your fabric is square at the ends.  I had to cut of a significant amount from the ends of each of my fabric pieces to get them to be square.

Step 6: Place the right sides of the fabric together and pin both of the long edges together.

Step 7: Sew the long edges together removing the pins as you go.  Stitch the entire length of one of the sides.  On the other edge though be sure to leave about 2 inches unstitched at the beginning and end of the edge.  You will need this opening in the next steps!  

Step 8: Turn the fabric inside out.  You now have a tube with open ends.

Step 10:  Pin the right sides of the open ends together and sew the edge.  Make sure that you are matching the fabrics.  You can keep the majority of the scarf out and pin the edge all around, but at this point I find it very helpful to tuck the scarf into itself so I have a flatter surface to work with.  It is really up to you and what you find easier.  This is the hardest step and you have to be really careful when sewing to only sew the edge and not get any of the rest of the scarf caught up under the stitching.  
If you have tucked the scarf into itself then at this point you need to pull the scarf back through the opening that is now on the side of the scarf.  You're almost done at this point!!!

Step 11:  Now you have a complete tube with one small opening on the side seam.  Iron the seam so that it is flat and looks like the rest of the side seam.  

Step 12:  Either use your sewing machine to topstitch just along the edge of the opening in the seam or get out thread and needle and stitch up the seam.  Hand stitching will create a neater overall look, but someone will have to be looking at you very closely to see a top stitch.  This is really up to you and your personal preference.  

Step 13: Wear your new scarf and enjoy all of the compliments you'll receive!

If making this doesn't sound like fun to you, check out my Etsy page by clicking here and you can just buy this one or one like it! :)  

Have Yourself a Merry LITTLE Christmas!

I love Christmas!  I love the church services, the gathering of family, the music, the baking, the gift buying, wrapping and opening and I love decorating for the season!  Last year at this time I was getting married in 9 days, and we had a lot of Christmas decor in our wedding and got a lot as gifts.  It was really beautiful, and the best day of my life so far!

This year however is a little different for me.  Joe and I spent the first 6 months of our marriage apart, but now we have a place together.  It's grand being together.  We're both enjoying it so much, and I'm incredibly content.  Here's the catch though, all of my Christmas decor is in storage in Phoenix, and we are in Pasadena.  And even if the decorations weren't in storage, our apartment is 560 sq. ft.  If we cleared out everything else, we would have a lovely Christmas apartment.

But you know what?  I don't care at all.  In fact, I love this Christmas as much as all of the rest, if not more.  I'm finding that keeping it simple is allowing me to appreciate all that I have and to focus more clearly on the first Christmas in which Christ came to earth humbly.  But there was still a little celebrating when the angels told the shepherds the Good News that the SAVIOR had been born!

Our first Christmas tree!

So this year, I pray that you may have a merry LITTLE Christmas as you celebrate our Savior's birth.

I leave you with the King James Version of Luke 2: 1-20 because it is truly beautiful.

Luke 2
And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. 16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger. 17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherd. 19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Roasted Almonds and Walnuts with Garlic and Salt

The following is my very first post with a few edits and much better pictures. I know I can still take even better pictures, but it's a work in progress!

Today I was making the Butternut Parmesan Sauce from which is one of our favorite pasta sauces!  I was preparing the garlic for that recipe and found I was getting quite hungry.  So I grabbed a handful of almonds without washing the garlic flavor off of my hands.  I was shocked at how delicious the almonds were with the garlic flavor.  I was just going to use almonds, but realized I didn't have that many in my cabinet.  I decided to try adding walnuts, and it was a wonderful balance between the sweetness of the almonds and more bitter flavor of the walnuts.

It inspired the following roasted nut mix.

Eat and enjoy!  My husband liked these so much that he added them to the top of his salad for dinner and suggested that I make some to take home for Christmas.

Recipe: Roasted Almonds and Walnuts with Garlic and Salt

Preheat Oven to 350ยบ

2 cups each of almonds and walnuts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves of crushed garlic
salt and pepper to taste
(This is the basic recipe. I've also added dried rosemary)

Mix the ingredients until the nuts are coated evenly.  Spread the nuts on a baking tray and roast for 12 minutes.  Place the nuts back into the bowl with the leftover oil mixture and stir.  Spread the nuts onto a paper towel to cool completely.  Eat and enjoy!