Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Life List

I don't think I've done one of these before and really I'm too lazy to search my own archives. And, since Natalie wants to get to know me better, I'm game!

Bold the things you've done & post on your blog!

1. Started your own blog
2. Slept under the stars - Yes people I've camped. Grades 7-12 I was forced to go on retreats with my school. The most distinct memory of this was along the Colorado River...5 days. Wow. And some of you wonder why I don't camp anymore.
3. Played in a band
4. Visited Hawaii and danced on a lava cliff with the roar of the Pacific below.
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Been to Disneyland
8. Climbed a mountain - See retreats reference above.
9. Held a praying mantis
10. Sang a solo - For those of you who don't know, I'm sure you'll be shocked to hear that I was a drama geek. My favorite solo was the dead grandmother come from beyond the grave in Fiddler on the Roof. Not only did I have my solo but I did it on stilts walking down the isle of the theater.
11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Taught yourself an art from scratch - Hmmmm, does teaching yourself poorly count?
15. Adopted a child
16. Had food poisoning
17. Walked to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown your own vegetables
19. Seen the Mona Lisa in France
20. Slept on an overnight train
21. Had a pillow fight
22. Hitch hiked
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Run a Marathon
28. Ridden in a gondola in Venice
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Watched a sunrise or sunset
31. Hit a home run
32. Been on a cruise
33. Seen Niagara Falls in person
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors - Does going to Italy count?
35. Seen an Amish community
36. Taught yourself a new language
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Seen the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person
39. Gone rock climbing
40. Seen Michelangelo’s David
41. Sung karaoke - Yup, in and after college and there may have been alcohol involved.
42. Seen Old Faithful geyser erupt
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant
44. Visited Africa
45. Walked on a beach by moonlight
46. Been transported in an ambulance
47. Had your portrait painted
48. Gone deep sea fishing
49. Seen the Sistine Chapel in person
50. Been to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris - Dude, and I walked up all those gosh darn stairs.
51. Gone scuba diving or snorkeling
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Been in a movie
56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business - Does a store on Etsy count?
58. Taken a martial arts class - Long, long time ago. If anyone knows of one that an asthmatic could take (i.e. not hard-core cardio) let me know!
59. Visited Russia
60. Served at a soup kitchen
61. Sold Girl Scout Cookies
62. Gone whale watching
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Donated blood, platelets or plasma - I have bad veins and my doctor recommends that I have my significant other donate. He does!
65. Gone sky diving
66. Visited a Nazi Concentration Camp
67. Bounced a check - Technically no since I've always had check protection but once there might have allegedly not been enough funds in the account without the bank's assistance.
68. Flown in a helicopter
69. Saved a favorite childhood toy
70. Visited the Lincoln Memorial
71. Eaten Caviar
72. Pieced a quilt - Class starts in February!
73. Stood in Times Square
74. Toured the Everglades
75. Been fired from a job
76. Seen the Changing of the Guards in London
77. Broken a bone
78. Been on a speeding motorcycle
79. Seen the Grand Canyon in person
80. Published a book
81. Visited the Vatican
82. Bought a brand new car - 1998 Honda Civic DX, baby!
83. Walked in Jerusalem
84. Had your picture in the newspaper - Does a Church newspaper count?
85. Kissed a stranger at midnight on New Year's Eve
86. Visited the White House
87. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
88. Had chickenpox
89. Saved someone’s life - Yup, I made my best friend stop wearing pleated pants. Seriously, she's a size 4 and has not reason to add extra bulk to her tiny frame. Total life saver!
90. Sat on a jury - Yup, twice - one criminal, one civil.
91. Met someone famous - I doubt anyone wants to read the list....I worked high end retail for about 10 years, we'll leave it at that.
92. Joined a book club
93. Lost a loved one
94. Had a baby
95. Seen the Alamo in person
96. Swam in the Great Salt Lake
97. Been involved in a law suit
98. Owned a cell phone
99. Been stung by a bee

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Monday, December 22, 2008

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Keep them holiday gifts rollin'
Rollin' rollin' rollin'
Christmas!

Yeah, I just made that up.

Here at the cube farm there are many people who make my job possible. Several people I know call that "doing their job." Since, I'm also support staff, I understand that in theory, but, its still nice to say "thank you" and "please eat this." Besides, when I really need something I can say "would you like another cupcake?" and then magically files appear in my office. The people I work for think its my winning personality that gets them everything they need done in record time. The truth is my mom is an exceptional baker and I'd rather share than gain 100lbs.

Since it is the holidays, I wanted to give mom the weekend off (and besides I think violence would have occurred if I had tried to add to her already busy baking schedule) Therefore, today I handed out chocolate dipped hand-made marshmallows. They're fantastic, if I do say so myself. And, since I pretty much dislike everything I make, that's saying something.

Cute right? And I so don't do cute well.

You too can do this! And cheap!

Packaging:

  • The boxes are from Smart & Final ($6 for about 50 - 100 of them).
  • The gift tags are from Costco (seriously people if you're buying gift tags anywhere else, even those sticky ones for $3 at Target, stop now. 100 of these tags were $10. Aren't they cute? And, they have different ones every year. Next year pick them up. Seriously.)
  • The stickers are from Target.
  • In stuffing the boxes...you know those wax paper sheets they use at the bakery to give you your muffin? Yeah, you can buy a box of those for $6 at Smart & Final as well. Voila! Instant non-stick paper for the gift and it looks fancy too.
The actual gift:

Ok, you already have the link to the recipe (which I'm printing again right now since mine is covered in Pam.) Here's how we do it my house, with a few tips the recipe doesn't give you but my mom gave me.
  1. Spray any utensil you plan on using with Pam. I don't know how you're getting your marshmallows out otherwise.
  2. Senior Brown uses a metal baking pan, we used our silicon baking pan. Honestly we haven't loved how many of our baked goods have cooked in ours (hence our sacrificing it to the marshmallow doGs) but nothing sticks to it. Its sort of brilliant. Don't get me wrong, you need to do the Pam & the powered sugar/cornstarch lining to it. But, when my marshmallows got a wee out of control and went up over the side to the other side of the pan, I peeled it right off...no drama!
  3. Cleaning your stuff is super easy. Two words: Hot Water. I found this to be an easier clean-up than making cookies.
  4. You need a Kitchen-Aid mixer. I'm sorry, it won't be the same otherwise. You need a big engine and the ability to flog your machine to mix on high for 12-15 minutes. Any other mixer in our house would have caught fire from trying this. I'm not trying to be a brand snob here people; I'm just looking out for your safety.
  5. Follow the recipe. Since this is complete chemistry if you do something silly like mix the marshmallows on low instead of high you'll end up with taffy, er, so I heard.

As for the chocolate dipped part...

  • Let the marshmallows set for at least 3 hours. We usually do overnight but I didn't have that much time and 3 hours did nicely.
  • Get a big knife and, all together now, spray it with Pam. Then, cut whatever size you like!
  • Mom picked up a bar of Bittersweet chocolate at our brand new Trader Joe's but you can use anything. My absolute favorite was mint chocolate chips. Mmmmmmm.
  • If you're not using chips, chop up some chocolate (about a cup's worth), as small as you can, put it in a small bowl, nuke it for a minute, stir and if its not melted keep nuking in 30 second increments.
  • Make sure your marshmallow is dusted on all sides (again, not that I made this mistake or anything) with the sugar/cornstarch mixture, then dip into chocolate and let it set on a wire cooling rack (wax paper will do if you don't have the wire cookie cooling rack thingies.)

My mom did the math and I think all 20 of my boxes cost me a total of about $20 since everything except the containers were on hand. But really, if you had to buy all of the ingrediants that might set you back like $10.

I have a few extra...please come visit me and take them away before I eat the leftovers. .

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Enzo & Angela

Like everywhere else I seem to end up, I had heard about Enzo & Angela. I mean, we've all driven past it about a thousand times, up there on the second floor of that cheesy mini-mall at Wilshire & Barrington.

But then, a lunch was given for a very dear friend of my mother's by one of the owners. And that lunch was so sweet and unnecessary, I promised myself that I had to go there. I couldn't even remember if my mom liked the food, but I felt that I needed to pay forward the nice thing this nice person did for my mom's friend.

On a whim, we went to Enzo & Angela's on a Friday night with no reservation. Please note that although we had a great experience, I don't recommend this, even in the current economy. All the tables, save one small one on the far side of the restaurant, were booked. We were lucky. Learn from us. Go here and make reservations.

Typically, I have very low expectations for Italian restaurants. Very few people or restaurants can touch what my mom can make. Valentino rocks my world, but really, I don't roll like that, unless someone else is paying.

Ok, so mini-mall, low expectations...great introduction, right?

The restaurant itself is relatively quiet and the staff is very knowledgeable about the food. The menu is quite diverse but to obtain the full experience, you need to order from the specials. They're the same price as the regular menu items but holy wow are they good. I'm a sucker for risotto and had my heart set on a seafood one. After hearing the specials and insisting on my beloved risotto, our waiter walked over to the kitchen and asked a question. Upon his return he said the special risotto was the same price but is a completely different experience...its made and then baked and then covered in sauce. I was sold after "special" and "risotto" so really he could have said anything.

Rocked. my. world.

The entrees were great, the salad we shared was fabulous...all in all it was a fantastic experience. Is it cheap? Nope. Is it worth it? You betcha! In fact, mom & I are doing our annual Christmas Eve dinner there. Seriously, Enzo & Angela were able to steal us away from Mimi and that's no small feat.

Enzo & Angela
11701 Wilshire Blvd (at Barrington)
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: 310 477-3880 Fax: 310 477-388

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sewing Arts Center

We all drive by it.

The Sewing Arts Center on Pico right next to the 10. You know where it is...just east of Stitches from the Heart and Trader Joe's. I've never been there. I'm so embarrassed, which is why I'm talking about it on the interwebs.

One of the girls here at the cube farm notified Regina & I that the Sewing Arts Center needs our support. What? A crafty business needs help? Let me borrow one of Regina's capes so I can fly right over...or maybe I'll just jump into the passenger seat of Regina's car.

Yeah, the three of us headed over there at lunch.

If you've never been there and you have any interest in sewing or learning how to sew, now is the time to go. Holy crap, these people could not be any nicer. My two cohorts wanted to take the apron class this weekend but it was cancelled due to lack of sign-ups. Oh well. No oh well. Russell offered to teach the class to the two of them on a night that worked for them for the same price.

I heard that and I signed up immediately for the beginning sewing class starting January 5th. I've wanted to take another sewing class and this one seems perfect....$125 for four classes (4!) and you learn the basics. I'm so excited. I have a few projects I want to do but won't start since I don't know what the he!! I'm doing on a sewing machine. And really, I need to be nice to Hello Kitty. She's a good sewing machine.

So yeah, Sewing Arts Center has classes and sewing machines and fabrics and notions and electric bikes (not kidding) and super nice staff who can help you will all of it.

Sewing Arts Center - 3330 Pico Blvd - Santa Monica, CA 90405 - ph: 310-450-4300

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Monday, December 08, 2008

Where the wild things are...

One aspect of gift-giving that I spend an embarrassing amount of time trying to wrap my head around is that the gift be something the person wants and not something I just want to give.

As you've seen from my pictures, my knitted gifts are pretty vanilla. I mean, other than me, I can't imagine many people wanting a HUGE dayglow yellow and green bag with pink flowers or a sweater that can be worn to work or as part of a Freddy Kruger costume. Personally, I think that's where the loving hands at home thing gets a bad rap. Many people think that everyone likes what they like.

But, that gift theory goes beyond crafty gifts. My Amazon wish list started because one year my dad gave me books about Hasidic Judaism. I'm not kidding. Boychiks in the Hood was an actual gift for a twenty-something working high-end retail. I totally understood the thought involved. Dad was in his Jewish phase and he was really moved by this book and wanted to share it. I get it. I tried to read it. After my dictionary failed to have some of the terminology I needed to understand the book, I started my Amazon list. How about you get me books/cds/dvds/stuff that I want? So, I try desperately to employ that thinking for others. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail. But, if thought counts, crazy lady here wins.

On to today's finished object....

Its a bird, its a plane, its...


...a happy bear made out of organic cotton.

Ok Allison, you win. Organic cotton really does kick regular cotton's booty. I picked this up when Supercrafty was moving from L.A. to PA and Allison was having a sale. Now I'm hooked. I don't think I can make baby things out of anything besides organic cotton. It didn't hurt my hands as much as regular cotton does and after I washed the bear once to get my stitches even, I wanted to keep it....sooooo soft.

This little guy is going to a 20 month old with parents who I know will approve of the colors and the organic cotton. At least, I hope everyone likes it. Crazy lady strikes again!

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Friday, December 05, 2008

So I didn't give up, exactly...

I started the England recap and then the economy fell apart and all sorts of other real-life drama and I just felt weird blogging about my trip to the UK. But there is some good information you all need....like where I bought yarn. This is important.
On the L.A. Stitch & Bitch board there are posts weekly asking advice about where to find good yarn shops when visiting (fill in the city here). As we're all L.A. based knitters, I felt a little odd doing this. I asked the google instead.

Now, the google had lots to say and many suggestions, but the best site belonged, oddly enough, to the London Stitch & Bitch. Not only does it have a list of the shops, but the address, hours, websites and most importantly, maps.
Oh maps, how I do love you, especially in London. If you want the best map of London, you want an A to Z (pronounced "A to Zed"). I found mine at a used bookstore in Pittsburgh but you can get them EVERYWHERE in London (drug stores, book stores, newsstands) and they're 5.50 pounds, so not expensive. You can find anything in London with this, even random yarn shops.
First stop was All the Fun of the Fair. I chatted about this shop in my previous London post but since this is a knit shop round-up, it still deserves a mention. It is the size of the closet with the merchandise of an entire craft fair. You have yarn, needles, notions, gifts...this is seriously one stop shopping. Its a great little shop with fantastic staff.
As you can tell, we're not on ground level. There's this fantastic open-air mall just off Carnaby Street. Though, don't even try to find this place without a map. As with all of the charming yarn shops of London, they are not jumping out in front of you.

Next up, I Knit. We went there after we hit the Tower. I'll admit, I was a little freaked out that we were going underwater to get there. (The shop is super close to the Waterloo Tube Station and to take the tube to that station, you guessed it; you go underwater.) But, once I got over that, super cool.

The people who work at this shop know and love their merchandise. And, they know and love their knits. They were stocking the shop and showing each other stuff on Ravelry when we walked in. I felt so comfortable. After Todd started working on his Blackberry while I looked at the yarn and they told him he HAD to sit down and relax while I shopped, I absolutely knew these were my people.

At this shop I picked up some lovely natural locally grown, sheered, spun, loved, tended to yarn in a gorgeous dark natural brow. The most difficult thing about shopping here was trying to limit myself on what to buy. As I did on every yarn stop, I asked the staff what could I not find in the U.S. Since these guys are proud to carry tons of locally grown, spun, dyed, etc... types of yarn, there was a ton to choose from. They could even tell me the exact part of the UK the sheep my yarn came from live.

Third and final stop was the most famous of the bunch, say it with me now, Loop.



Ok, for a shop this famous, it was tiny! Not, All the Fun of the Fair tiny, but considering everything I had heard about it, I was surprised. Now, that isn't to say that they didn't have a ton of stuff, knowledgeable staff and a class full of people downstairs...it was just smaller than I expected. But, as evidenced by my bag, size did not stop me. There was lovely fair-trade African bamboo yarn not available in the states as well as a skein of orange cashmere spun on an island that I needed.

One thing I will say about Loop is that it resides in my new favorite area of London. We got off the tube to walk over to the shop and we never wanted to leave. For lack of a better word, it was just lovely....shops and restaurants and people walking dogs. When I win the lottery, I'm renting a place here for a month.


I had a great experience at all three shops. The staff was friendly, the merchandise was well-priced (you can't blame a shop for the exchange rate!) and the shops were just so fantastically charming. And, with all three, when you think you've walked too far, you're almost there. (See map notes above.)


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Thursday, December 04, 2008

And the beat goes on

As do the holiday gifts.

Thanks to my elves, I think I might actually get to all of my holiday knitting this year. Of course I added yet another something I want to make to my list at about 10pm last night. And its brilliant and the person would love the concept. Yeah. If I could stop adding to my list, I might just finish it.

Anyways, today's finished object... mittens!


Isn't weird what scares us? I wanted to make mittens for ages. And the idea of a thumb totally scared me. I have no idea why. I can't explain it. But, after realizing I had made socks and came out completely unharmed, how tough could mittens really be?

Not tough at all I tell you.

Unless the pattern is meant for elves, with short fingers.

That was an easy fix as I just unraveled the decrease and redid it based on the mitten fitting my hand and then matched the second. And before you ask, yes I was on target for gauge. So there.

(I bet my non-knitting friends wish I'd try a new restaurant or something...Sorry! Go read Yarn Harlot's post on the Canadian Parliament for some balance.)
And, since you can't pet the screen (though one of my co-workers tries when she comes to visit the puppy cam), I'll share that this yarn is scary soft. Its seriously the softest wool I've ever worked with or worn. Its Naturwolle, a German yarn I picked up at the great Black Sheep Knittery Sale last year. Sadly, the BAG of yarn (i.e. 8 skeins) that I picked up wasn't enough to make the sweater I wanted so I've had to break up the yarn into individual projects. And that's fine. It knits up stupid fast so I'm sure a matching hat will be joining these mittens soon.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

A Moment of Thanks - A Thanksgiving Wrap-up

Obviously, I'm thankful for my friends, my family, my dogs, my home, my job, my Miu Miu shoes. With that in mind, here is what I was most thankful for this holiday weekend:

As you've read by now, Regina has created some unbelievable holiday hats. I'm thankful that she allowed me to share in her fabulousness and I was able to model my very own pie fascinator at our modest dinner for 41.


I'm thankful no one caught me in the bathroom taking headshots of myself.

I'm thankful for untraditional Black Friday sales at Wildfiber, A Mano, Giant Robot, Cusp and J.Crew. Not that I bought anything at the above stores, I'm, uhm, just thankful for them generally.

I'm thankful for the 3 pies I was able to score on Friday night. I made a call to my dealer (aka the scene of our Thanksgiving) for a piece of leftover pie and was sent home with 3 pies and homemade ice cream. (OK, the ice cream I lifted, but whatever, I left the other flavors behind.)

I'm thankful that I still have two dogs after one of them allegedly ate about 3 lbs of turkey off the kitchen counter on Saturday. Not that I'm naming names or anything...


I'm thankful that I live with a chef who felt the need to make mashed potatoes, Waldorf salad, and soup to go with the last of the turkey I was able to salvage from the above-mentioned turkey incident.

I'm thankful for two days of errands, dog walking, left-overs and knitting with nowhere really to be, no time to really be awake, and no tight fitting pants really to wear.

Now, I need to be thankful for a treadmill.

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