"Imagination is the beginning of creation. You imagine what you desire, you will what you imagine and at last you create what you will."
George Bernard Shaw

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


No thanks. This is absolutely the most insane, terrifying thing I've ever seen. 

Click on it and make it bigger! Way more terrifying. This picture is from Patagonia's 2009 holiday catalog,
but I found it here
The quote on the upper right of the picture is also hilarious. It says "For me, the most fun of climbing was bivouacking: getting up on a wall and sleeping in god-awful conditions, in hammocks or just hanging from your ropes all night trying to sleep. You really get into the rhythm of the wall. It's all about the process, not the goal." Yvon Chouinard, you're insane. 

On a side note, I had no idea that this was actually called "bivouacking." I kept searching for "cliff sleeping" or "sleeping on the side of a cliff" and Google kept giving me a million pictures of guys named Cliff, sleeping. And not even on the sides of mountains! Once it gave me a guy sleeping with a kitten named Cliff. I was okay with that one. I'm sure there's other names for this activity since bivouac actually has a more broad meaning--improvised shelter--but isn't bivouac just more fun to say?

Congrats to Brian!!

It has been a whole week since my last post! I blame the holidays. :) I hope you all had a wonderful holiday and relaxation time away from your jobs and school. 

Brian received some big news the week before Christmas, news he's been waiting to hear for a couple months now: He made it on staff with Blue Stars for the summer!!!

Some of you are reading that and thinking, "Wow! That's amazing Brian! Way to go!" The rest of you are thinking, "What's Blue Stars? And what do you mean by 'staff'?" 

Blue Stars are a Drum Corps (a "professional" marching band if you will), and in the top 8 (Elite 8? Or is it too early for college basketball references?) of all the corps in the activity. Brian will be teaching the baritones (that's a brass instrument. It's big and heavy) all summer as they tour the country. When I say all summer, I mean that he'll be leaving for Blue Stars camp when high school lets out at the beginning of June, will come back for his own away band camp in mid-July and then will go back on tour till the season ends towards the end of August. All summer. 

***I'd like to take this opportunity to bring up two important points!***

Point #1: This summer, if you would like to hang out, have sleepovers, talk to me on the phone, invite me to your home, etc. etc. I ACCEPT!!! Right now, in advance. This is going to be a challenging, crazy, quiet, very alone summer. I think it'll be good for me. I think it will be a growing and learning experience for Brian and I. But when it comes down to it, it's just going to be plain old hard. 

Point #2: You may have noticed that I just let the world know I'll be by myself for most of the summer. So for any moronic creeps out there thinking it would be a great time to rob the house or attempt harm to me or my fur children, here's what I have to say to you: 

This is me. And this is my shotgun. It lives next to my bed. Do you know what I use as a coaster for my water glass on the bedside table? A box of deer slugs. See the smile on my face? That is how much I love my gun. I've taken a concealed carry course. Trust me: I know what to do to defend myself while incurring absolutely no legal repercussions. 

Need any more deterrents? Check out my sweet knife skills. One of those lives next to my bed, too. Okay one more? A solid miniature Louisville Slugger bat. (I've listed my weapons in order of most lethal.)

Well, now that that's out of the way, I found some really great videos on YouTube when I was searching for examples of the Blue Stars to show those of you who still have no idea what I'm talking about. The Blue Stars are out of La Crosse, Wisconsin, and man do those people love the Blue Stars. They make these promotional packages every year when the Blue Stars come back to town to rehearse. They're very well done! It gives you a sense of the corps and the activity in general. These first two are a couple years old, so please excuse the old ugly uniforms. 

One of these also has a really horrific drumline feature. Please excuse it as it's early in the season and the news people putting together these packages have no idea what they're listening to (i.e. that was embarrassing don't feature it on the news and then put it on YouTube!)

**Also, a funny note, especially for any Milford band grads out there. Our very own Brian Kraft is in that first video! Wearing a Bengals jersey, told the corps they sucked at something and to do it again. Cracks me up. :)**

These last two videos are packages from the 2010 (last season) corps. You can see how much improvement they've made in just a few short years from the first videos up to the present. I'm so proud of Brian and so excited for him to be a part of a wonderful group of young people and staff!

I'm personally very excited because I plan to go to camps and on tour for at least a week this summer (and perhaps various weekend trips) to help cook! There's a cook truck and lots of mouths to feed 4 times a day or so. They need lots of volunteers to make this activity work. Plus, I'll get to see Brian more that way. Yay for exciting things in the future!!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Pets, Part 2

I can't believe I have to write this, but Dad's other cat, Chuck, passed away this morning. That's both little babies gone in a month. I think that losing Tabby, his companion, was harder on Chuck than any of us would have thought. It seemed that he's been depressed the past couple weeks, and then, like Tabby, he got much worse, very quickly in the past day and a half. 

There's our boy. Seducing those ladies one last time with his little wink. 

Dad was with him, and it didn't sound like that peaceful of a departure. I'll spare you the details but I'm sure that Chuck wasn't really "there" at the end. Tabby was Josh's buddy, but Chuck was mine. I was going to leave work early today to go say goodbye, but I just headed home instead since he's already gone. 

I did get to have a nice little moment with him after Tabby died, which I'm thankful for. He had been so weird and standoffish in the morning before we took Tab to the vet. He knew something was up with Tabby and was very skittish and didn't want to be petted or held or anything. When I brought Tabby back to Dad's, I made sure Chuck examined the box and smelled it, hoping he would get some sense of what had happened. And then I sat in the chair for a few minutes and he jumped right up and layed down and started purring. He was a completely different cat from the morning, back to his normal self, and he made me feel a lot better. 

We were hoping he would hang on for a couple more years, but a few weeks was all he could handle. I didn't want all dad's companions to be gone in such a short amount of time, and right before the holidays, but we really don't get to choose those types of things do we? 

Last night Brian tried to remind me of something we heard at church a few weeks ago: Chuck wasn't OUR cat, he was GOD'S cat. It made me feel a million times worse at the moment because it sure felt like he was my cat! But this morning on the way to work I was praying about it and decided to just thank God for giving Chuck to us for 12 whole years. He could have decided to take him back much sooner. And I can totally understand why he'd want him--Chuck was the most loyal, loving, wonderful companion to us (and especially my dad). But instead he let us have him, and love him, and get all that love back in return. God will be so happy to have him home. 

Some things we have taken away from this experience: 
      1) When your pets do something wrong--don't be so hard on them. They're just being themselves. They're not little people who you can train to obey all the rules. They animals! :) The less you yell the easier it is when they're gone to wish you'd done things differently. So happy Chuck was such a good boy. 
      2) If your pet is getting close to the end and it doesn't look like they're going to make it, take them to the vet and have them put to sleep with a shot. Chuck's end wasn't peaceful in his sleep. We had no way of knowing it would be like this, and so fast after his vet visit yesterday afternoon. 
        But if we had really thought carefully, we probably could have come to the conclusion that the blood tests weren't going to come back with a direction for a magical cure. At least not when you have masses in your abdomen. We did the best that we could with the information we had, but believe me, when it's time for my babies to go, I'm now going to take them to the vet at the beginning of the end (maybe towards the middle....) instead of the end. I think we've all learned from this it's just the most humane thing to do. Because you just don't know when their health is going to turn on a dime, like Chuck's did. 

I ended Tabby's post with a list of her favorite things, and I'll do the same thing for Chuck: 

Cream filling from donuts
Caramel candies (you know the little square ones wrapped in clear plastic?)
Being brushed
Annoying Tabby until she leaves your lap so he can take her place
Pretending like he's going to fight the stray cats outside
The fireplace
Playing fetch with Hershey kiss wrappers and stuffed cows

(Am I forgetting anything Joshua?)

Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers! Make sure you're sending them my dad's way too--he just lost a very special little buddy. 


Monday, December 20, 2010

Pie Crust Cookie Cutters

Guys this is super exciting. My mom-in-law got me these awesome cookie cutters that work well for dough and pie crusts from Williams Sonoma for my birthday.

Cute! There's 4 different leaf shapes. (These were the fall ones)
Seems easy enough, right? 
I've been waiting for a chance to use them! I prefer my apple pies Dutch so I needed to make a cherry pie so I could lattice the top. First, you have to make pie crust. My aunt showed me how after cutting up deer this year--man is it easy. There's no sense in buying store crust when you can make your own in 8-10 minutes (seriously no more than that). It is flaky and buttery and light and delicious.

{Pie Crust Recipe}
2 cups of flour (instead of sifting I just use my hand to scoop it into the measuring cup)
3/4 cup vegetable shortening
-->mix these together with your hands or a fork, until it's crumbly and the bits are the size of peas (ish)

Then add 1/4 cup of COLD water (no more no less, my aunt is very strict about this part). Mix the flour mixture with the water by hand until you form a ball of dough. This should not take very long and the point is to not handle the dough much. 

Now, this will create TWO pie crusts. So you can either do two dutch apple pies or have one pie covered with the second crust. 

{Rolling out the Crusts}
To roll them out, you again want to touch them and work them as little as possible so they don't get tough. Flour your table and put half the dough on it. Use the palm of your hand and push outward in a circle to start widening the dough and flattening it as well. Flip it over and do that again. (add a little bit of flour if it's sticking. Not too much!)

Once you have a decent circle, get your rolling pin (don't have a rolling pin? A drinking glass or wine bottle work just fine) and flour it if necessary. Roll the dough out into a circle that is fairly thin. The edges are going to be imperfect in places--that's okay, you'll trim it up later. Use something flat like a huge spatula or food scraper and gently unstick the dough from the table. Place it in your pie dish. (I lightly flour my dish beforehand. I'm not sure if that's necessary, but I get paranoid about sticking!)

Once it's in the pie dish, you want to gently push it down into the dish and fold the edges under so you have a lip to the crust (we're going to crimp that sucker next!). You can gently trim back really large parts of dough and use those extra pieces to fill in other parts of the crust that are a little thinner and don't have much height to them once folded under. Then, gently crimp the edges with your finger tips. There's no exact science to this, and I think it takes some practice. 

Meh. Not bad. This side looks better than the other for sure! 
Now for the fun cookie cutter part of this story. I took the second part of the dough and flattened it in a circle as mentioned above, then rolled it out. You don't have to worry about the shape here because you're just going to cut it up! Be sure you don't roll the dough too thin--your little pieces will break apart and the pie will seep through if it doesn't have something sturdy on top to keep it in.

I picked a very straightforward, thinner leaf so that I could easily lattice the top of the pie.
This is just like cookies--take your extra dough and roll it out again and make more leaves! 

I used the "bash and chop" to scoop my little leaves off the table! Worked like a charm.
The rest is pretty straightforward: place your leaves, slightly overlapping, on your pie!

I had to seriously resist the urge to make this into a peace sign after starting with the middle row...
Yay leaves! What a pretty impact for such little work. 
And, here's the finished pie, just out of the oven!

Yeah I know it looks basically like the picture above...
So here's some important things I've learned. 
      1) When you're reading the recipe you want to use, take note that canned cherries are not the same thing as canned cherry pie filling. My epic fail of this pie is that I didn't even realize what I had done until I opened the can and went "EEEEEEEKKKKK!!!!! This is syrupy!!!!" And then realized my mistake and all the corn syrup I was about to make us injest. Don't be on auto-pilot when you go to the store!! Regardless, it will hopefully taste fine. I added a 1/4 tsp of almond extract and a tablespoon of butter to the cherry pie filling, which I heated on the stove before adding into the crust so the butter would melt. (Those things were in the original recipe I was trying to use). 
     2) When people tell you to "seal" the edges of your pies, they're not joking. See how all the filling has seeped out around my pretty leaves? To remedy this, next time I'm going to start with a layer of leaves around the crust, and push it in a bit to seal the filling. And then I'll make my lattice. I think that will be both pretty and functional in fixing the filling seepage. 

The outside crust on this is nice and golden and the leaves are still a bit light, but I think that's okay. :) It's going to take awhile to cool on the stove so we're going to wait to try it tomorrow night with Brian's parents before the Christmas play at Crossroads! 

Have a great evening!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Turn up the Heat???

I think the babies may be trying to send me a message: 


Friday, December 17, 2010

How Did People Live Before Dishwashers?

No, seriously. Does anyone know? Because it just took us over two weeks to get all the dishes done from several different large cooking projects. And a lot of that is procrastination and pure laziness. And then a lot of it is that the pile of dishes was SO BIG and took up one whole section of our counters (we have two L's of counter tops...I know we're super lucky) that we were so overwhelmed we didn't know where to start. I wish I had a picture of how many dishes Brian had to wash. (Note: I don't really wish I had a picture. That would be embarrassing.) 

One of my theories on how people lived is that before dishwashers women just sat at home all day and waited on the male species and therefore didn't have anything else to do but the dishes. They were probably so bored that doing the dishes seemed fun. 

My only other theory is that they were so bored with the life of a 50s housewife that they were in some kind of stupor while they did the dishes and didn't even know how boring and time consuming doing dishes by hand actually is. 

One of my first apple pies, and one of the biggest culprits of so many dishes. (this was before I added the Dutch topping) Yes, that is butter melting on top. Amazing. I'm going to go eat a piece right now.
*shrug* I thought it was time to add a photo. 

And I also thought I should look up when dishwashers were actually invented since I was knocking the 50s so badly. 

Turns out, a rich lady in 1886 invented the first one that actually worked decently because she was tired of her servants being slow and chipping her china. My bad. I'll stop ragging on the 50s for the rest of this post, especially since dishwashers actually didn't become really popular UNTIL the 50s. (Another interesting note about this lady--she formed the company that eventually became KitchenAid. I bow down to you, Josephine Garis Cochran, and your amazing inventions.)

Also, Granny, I know that Mom reads you all my posts (which I think is the coolest thing ever), and that you think everything went downhill after World War 2. I hope you'll forgive my modern, feminist perspectives on life and washing dishes. 

So anyways, not having a dishwasher is really hard because I cook a lot, and I cook so much from scratch. When you cook "from scratch" you use a whole lot more mixing bowls and measuring cups and spoons, etc. And Brian is so wonderful because he does so many dishes. And so many more dishes than I do! I'm going to make him a cherry pie in appreciation of his help around the house. And, in the process I will create a ton of dishes that need to be washed. And he will probably end up washing them. It's a vicious cycle, people, of delicious food and household chores.

But let me tell you: the day that we finally have one of these again

I will be SO HAPPY. And I'll speak for Brian here as well here and let you know that he's going to be ECSTATIC!!!!! 

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Family Parade Float: Finale

So here we are. It's the final post of our family parade float saga. We've been on quite a journey haven't we? In my first post about the parade, I tried to explain why this particular parade happening in this particular town is so funny. Here's exhibit B, the sign greeting you to Mentor: 

It says "Last one out of town, please turn off light." Again, I can't make this stuff up. And I intentionally left the church entrance sign in the background because its fine, church-going population is one of the really wonderful things about Mentor. When I looked back at this I said to Brian "Of course there's a church sign in the background...". 
So, it's parade day and it's cold and windy and it's set to rain at 4pm, the exact time of the start of the parade (it started raining at 3:59 on the dot). We show up to Granny's at noon to put the finishing touches on the float. 

Aunt Cherry's copy of the Welcome Sign!
The lovely sign on the back of the float!

Our sleigh and Route 8 sign (Granny lives on Route 8, which runs through Mentor). 

And then we stuffed another 1000 napkins or so to finish it off. We had to get all the reindeer and our elves ready to go and I painted their noses and faces. Granny got some white face paint and "hoof prints" on her face--she did get run over by a reindeer after all. So, here is the finished float with the elves and deer in place!

This is from when we were going down Rt. 8 to the staging area. I'd like to point out that Kylie is holding on to Ken's elf hat for support. It was too funny. 
And here is the float with it's show-stopping actress--Granny! I thought the biggest challenge for her would be the weather and the rain. But no. She told me the most difficult thing was not laughing since she was trying so hard to look dead. Way to participate Granny!

Aunt Kate said Uncle John was mourning Granny in this photo. I think he's actually celebrating?
The rest of us were dressed in black and sat on the sides of the truck bed singing "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" at the top of our lungs over, and over, and over again. Usually to nobody in particular, but sometimes to a parade watcher!

I know it looks like mom has duct tape in her hair, but I assure you we all had custom-made mourning veils bobby pinned to our heads. :)
I would automatically think, from looking at this photo, that Brian is mourning the loss of Granny. Mom said he is checking the marriage contract to see if there's a way out of our crazy family. Hmph!
So at last the parade began, and we left our staging area to turn onto Main Street (the only side street in Mentor). 

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that, if you look to the left in the photo (and click to make it larger if need be), you will see that Main Street dead ends IN THE OHIO RIVER. 
This is the view going up Main Street (and our boom box playing the song balanced on the roof of the truck)
The main objective in this parade is to get to the church, Mentor Baptist, which is the white building in the top right of the photo above. (They have now moved on to a bigger and better building, but this one will always be Mentor Baptist to me!) 
Almost there! Look at the crowd!!
There are about 150 people who live in Mentor. Maybe 30 of them were involved in the parade. Which left a handful to watch from the church steps and cheer us on. 

On the way back through Granny sat up to wave to her fans. 
So now is the moment you've all been waiting for? Which float won the parade!?!? Well, obviously it wasn't us or I would have been gloating in the title! We came in a respectable second. And what did we win for our efforts? $10!!! Yes!!! Here's a crummy picture of the winners. If I had realized we wouldn't have swept the competition I would have taken better photos of them!

Sunnyside Daycare from Toy Story 3. 
If you're like us and haven't seen Toy Story 3, you would have spent the staging part of the parade whispering about how you'd never send your kids to that daycare because they were just walking around the float while it was moving and not safe at all! Yep. We sure did. And then we found out what it really was and talked about how we hadn't even heard there was a daycare in Mentor! *sigh* oh family...

The "wedding chapel" addition to the back of the church.
So after the parade everyone gathered at the church and there was a big beautiful Christmas Tree, Santa gave out candy to the kids and took photos, a big pot of bean soup and cookies was there for everyone to eat and a fire pit blazed out in the yard. We mingled for a bit, and then everyone got quiet. And then it was time for what was one of the most memorable parts of the day for me: a lovely prayer was said before the winners of the parade and Christmas lights contest were announced. 

I may joke all day about small towns, but you cannot beat the people that come from them. It just makes me feel warm knowing that every single person there was okay with that prayer--expected it even. I think wonderful, unique families come from small towns. And they generally make it out with great values and morals and a respect and generosity towards the rest of humanity. 

So, we didn't win. But what more do you need to fuel your hunger for a win next year than being the runner up? And as some of us have discussed previously, even if we didn't win, we've had so much fun on this project we'd do it again in a heartbeat. It gave us a chance to get together for planning and building half a dozen times, in different combinations of family members, and it wasn't a holiday! My family genuinely enjoys being together, and I cannot wait to see what we put Granny through next year on our FIRST PLACE float. 

Thanks for reading everyone! I hope you've enjoyed the story. :) 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Odds and Ends from Granny's

There's two things I took away from Granny's last weekend that I'd like to share. 

#1: Granny has the best and easiest barbecue recipe. Here it is for your eating pleasure. And, unlike some of the family recipes I've been recently trying to use (ahem, Aunt Cherry's amazing apple pie recipe), this one has actual measurements for the ingredients!  (click the photo to see it larger!)

"Ketchup" works just fine too....
 #2: I looked in the mirror in Granny's bathroom and saw these towels on the shelf behind me. I wouldn't necessarily say it's my color scheme, but something about it just struck me immediately. I was so excited to get my camera. I love how they're all so neatly folded (I would expect nothing less from Granny). And I like how she didn't put all one color in one stack. And I also like how she's matched them by size so they taper off as they get closer to the window. It all just works. I'd even call it beautiful, frame it and hang this photo on a wall. It makes me smile. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Family Parade Float Part 2

It's the post you've all been waiting for! An update on the family parade float for the 2010 Mentor Christmas Parade. :)  If you missed part 1, read here first. 

Check it out! One whole side done. Pretty impressive if you ask me. 
This time we set up in Granny's basement. It was SO COLD out and even our Fort. Knox double tarps couldn't keep us warm in the garage. 

We had to beef up security after the competition kept driving by trying to peek!
We strung up the chicken wire across the basement and began stuffing indoors. 
This was also crunch time for more of the creative projects that are going into our float: 

Aunt Kathy painted the "Moore" sign to go on the knocked-over mailbox. (That's the family/maiden name of the family)
Aunt Cherry made the sign that's going to be on the back of the float. It says "Merry Christmas from the Moores." 
I came up with the idea of spraying the tissue paper with glitter! I thought it would look more like snow if it was sparkling under the lights. 

It was surprisingly hard for me to get a good picture of the glitter. Back to the fancy camera manual. 
I also ended up under the trailer spraying adhesive onto the back of the chicken wire/napkins. I only thought I was going to pass out once. And I'm fairly certain I only hallucinated twice while being stuck in the enclosed garage with all those fumes. Other than that it was a major unfolding napkins day. Peggy, Kimberly, Mom, Dale, and even Granny joined in the fun. I'm curious to see what the final count of napkins will be. We're over 3,000 at this point for sure. (And we're only a little over halfway done!!)

There's my lovely momma stuffing napkins into chicken wire.
Dale the elf shelf unfolding napkins above the fireplace.

Granny couldn't use the excuse of cleaning up the kitchen any longer--she, too, was recruited for napkin duty. 
So this Saturday, Dec. 11th at 4 p.m. in Mentor, KY is the parade. You are all welcome to attend and cheer on our winning float. When you enter Mentor don't blink! You'll miss it and have to turn around to come back. 

Check out the finale of the parade float saga here

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deer Season 2010

**Warning! Somewhat graphic photos are in this post!**

Remember how excited I was to go hunting this year? It unfortunately didn't happen. :( I got the email about the craft show, which would have been on the same day I went hunting, about a month ago. I considered taking a vacation day during the week to go (which actually would have been better because the earlier in the week the less the deer have been shot at. They're less jumpy!). But then I found out my job was being outsourced. And we can cash out all our vacation as part of the severance package. And then I realized I need new hunting gloves, new hunting socks, and the license and tags of course. The expense of it all just seemed a little much this year. (So instead I invested a ton of money in my craft show booth?! hahah...I love the way I rationalize things in my brain.) This year I had to be happy with just one day of butchering, my traditional day after Thanksgiving trip to cut.  

Yay! I'm in my happy place! 

Hard at work. 
Going to the farm is probably one of my most favorite things in life. I love the work. I love that it's often hard work. I like when there's calves to feed and pigs to watch and lots of things happening. We just talk and cut and talk and cut and it's very methodical and therapeutic and relaxing. Take the fat off the meat and the meat off the bone. Easy as that (for the most part... ;-). And I won't lie--I love being able to do something that a lot of hunters can't! Yes I wear a lot of pink when I'm hunting or at the farm, but I am a good worker and I know what I'm doing. So if I ever feel like someone's wondering what this little blonde lady is doing with their deer I just remember that I'M cutting up THEIR deer because they can't! 

This year, because it was so cold, we set up in the garage with the door shut, right next to their wood-burning furnace. We're usually in the meat house. 

Working in the meat house last year. It was much warmer last year!!

There is about 3 times this stacked up in the garage for the furnace next to where we were working--and they'll go through way way more than all that through the winter! That furnace can get their house to 75 in no time at all! It's insane. 

Uncle John cutting at the island in the basement kitchen. 

Brian really liked this telephone. I think he said "It actually works!?" several times. 

I'm talking to my dad in the background about how hosting Thanksgiving went. :)

One of the fun things this year was getting to know my aunt and uncle's new dog, Patches. She was such a sweetheart. A tiny little thing but really spunky.

Brian liked to pretend like she was attacking him when she was just playing. 

What a goofy little pup. 
When we got home I just dropped my camo on the floor. And in no time at all our little kids thought it was the greatest thing ever. Vivienne just disappeared!!

I've put all my camo and my fleece hunting vest on the floor by the bed and she's made a nest for her and Finny out of it. I'm all for it because if she's on the floor sleeping she's not eating my hair in the middle of the night!
So no hunting this year, but honestly the first Saturday in December was the first snow (for the second time in three years in case anyone else didn't catch that) and I would have been sitting out in that for hours. And then I'd be sick, etc. Next year the plan is to hunt on the farm a week or two earlier when the weather is much warmer. And then I can just take my deer up the hill and cut it up. :) I WILL be getting a deer next year!!! :)
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