I can see you from here

Ship Island

So I did a thing, I turned 42 this year. We were in Louisiana visiting David’s family and friends. For my birthday David took me out to Ship Island, a place that means so much to me. We walked up the beach until we found a quiet spot away from the crowd. We swam and ate and played. This time I put on my goggles and snorkel and went to float on my belly. The world became silent and close. David grabbed my feet and floated me around as I relaxed in my oceanic cocoon.

When we got back to David’s parents house we found that his mom had set up a little birthday dinner complete with brownies and 2 kinds of ice cream.

Birthdays after about 36 or 37 don’t really seem to matter as much unless it’s a ‘milestone’, like 40. I turned 42 and it wasn’t a big deal but also it was perfect.

As a bit of a side note… there was almost no life in the waters where we were swimming. No crabs, maybe 2 comb jellies, no periwinkles on the beach. A sheepshead fish followed us a bit but there was nothing to stir up for him to eat. Weird? Sad?

An Order of Protection pt2

From Maddie’s perspective she has 2 jobs. One is to get as many be-bys (as in be by me. be-bys) as possible with me and to keep me safe. She guards me, she puts herself between me and the world and she does an excellent job. She has earned many peanut butter biscuits for her efforts. And this is what I see…

fort4

I see her little piggo tail, it’s how I know I am safe.

This is what I see when I build a blanket fort in the living room
fort3

This is what I see when I am cleaning the kitchen
IMG_0700

This is what I see when I am cooking dinner
IMG_0711

This is what I see when Maddie isn’t quite sure about what’s going on
IMG_0608

This is what I see when I am peeing
IMG_0046

This is what I see a year later when Maddie suddenly got old and her skin super rumpled
IMG_0623

This is what I see when I take too long in the bathroom
IMG_0626

This is what I see when I go camping
IMG_0305

This is what I see when I am spinning yarn on Kristen’s back porch
IMG_0445

This is what I see when we go on a picnic
Maddie guards our most precious campsite

This is what I see when we move into a brand new apartment
Maddie doing what she does

This is what David sees when I take a shower
The Guard

This is what David sees when I take a shower while on vacation
Maddie guarding the bathroom as I shower

A year ago we found out Maddie has cancer in her bladder. I expected it would happen sooner or later, she’s an old dog. We took her off the prednisone put her on piroxicam because it’s good at reducing inflammation. The tumor in her bladder was causing constant bladder infections and piroxicam can sometimes reduce the size of the tumor. I read up on it, it seemed like a 50/50 thing for shrinking the tumor and it would be good with her arthritis. Much to everyone’s surprise the piroxicam didn’t reduce the tumor, it got rid of it. She still has the cancer in the walls of her bladder but the tumor is gone.

I AM NOT in any way touting piroxicam as a miracle drug. It had a 50/50 chance and it worked out for us. I did a lot of research and I tried to be very realistic about what might happen on the piroxicam. I was not keen on switching her off the prednisone, which had kept her healthy for many years, and putting her on a new drug. I did a lot of research and worrying. But it worked and I am grateful.

Maddie is 14 years old. She’s headed to 15 years. She is 14 years old and she has cancer in her bladder, she is losing some control over her back legs, she a little noodly in the head sometimes. She is Maddie

IMG_4702.JPG

Handshakes

As I have mentioned before, I like projects where I have a hand in as many steps as possible. This one is special.

First, my mom sent me a couple bumps of black shetland wool roving. This roving came from sheep owned by my mom’s friend. I don’t have a great picture of it but it is on the right side over there.

backlog.

I have a backlog of fiber to spin. I know!

My friend Kristen lets me use her drum carder. A drum carder is a terrifying machine with a million horrifying teeth that want to scrape the flesh from your bones. Also, you can use it to blend different fibers so that you can spin them up together. I took the wool, ran it through the carder with some very sparkly bits. Not too much, just enough to accent it.

The Mayor's Wife

There i have it, wool from my mom that she got from her friend and now I have it and it is ready to be spun.

Pre-drafted:
The Mayor's Wife

Singles:
The Mayor's Wife, singles to be plyed.

Plied:
The Mayor's Wife, plyed

Washed, thwacked and ready to go:
The Mayor's Wife

I asked my mom to help me line a purse and in exchange I gave this yarn to her. It was the best thing, sharing this gift with her. And then for Christmas I got a most excellent present from my mom.

My scarf

My scarf

She gave me the wool, I gave her the yarn, she gave me a beautiful scarf. This is one of those projects that really mean a lot to me. I get many compliments on it and I love to tell the story. There is a photo of me in the scarf but also I am covered in dirty ice and crappy grit because I fall down all the time and a picture of me coveren in crap really isn’t something you want to see.

Stick Figures

Caramels is now my Christmas thing. The old lady that makes all the cookies or pralines or fruitcake for everybody for Christmas? That’s me, I make caramels for Christmas. It’s a bit of a cheat out for me, making it so I don’t have to try to find the perfect gift for everyone every year. You know what’s perfect? A great big box of caramels! Totally perfect.

Let’s back up a bit. This is my base recipe for caramels. I’ve made a few changes, I don’t know which of the changes really made the difference but these caramels this year were my best ever. I am actually going to brag about this. This was my best year ever for caramels.

I made most of the changes together without doing ‘control’ batches. I just said, hey! this might help!

I dropped the finishing temp from 248 to 245, and I am using a digital thermometer instead of a regular thermometer. I made sure to use regular pasteurized heavy cream instead of the ultra-pasteurized, this does actually make a difference. I do have access to raw, unprocessed cream but that doesn’t make a difference since I bring the temp higher than the 162 degrees used for pasteurizing. I started using only 100% cane sugar. I know there is debate about this and mostly I don’t care. I don’t know for sure if the cane sugar made the difference or if bumping the temp down changed it. I don’t know but I do know that this year I was strict about these factors and it worked beautifully.

This year I made butter pecan, gingerbread, chocolate orange and dark coffee chocolate caramels. The coffee chocolate caramels where the best of the bunch. I used a much richer and darker cocoa powder. It had a much deeper and darker flavor than the cocoa powder in the grocery store. I had a bag of really terrible coffee, so dark it seemed burned. It was perfect in the caramels, so much dark coffee but choco-sweet. The orange chocolate caramels were not quite as I had hoped. I didn’t quite know what proportions I needed for orange and for chocolate. They were orangey good but there wasn’t much chocolate flavor. I cut the caramels and tossed them in the unsweetened cocoa powder. On first bite your mouth fills up with unsweetened dark chocolate, it’s almost too much. But then you chew and the sugar sweet rolls in and on the tail of that is the orange. Not my best but I think they worked out okay. The butter pecan caramels were solid and good, exactly as expected. Butter, vanilla and roasted pecans. Took some notes about how make them better for the next time.

Gingerbread caramels were my favorite. Okay, the coffee chocolate caramels were my favorite favorite in terms of flavor and chew, but the gingerbread caramels were my pride this year. I worked a perfect balance of ginger, molasses and spice. Not too strong one way or another, good flavor, good chew. I ended up making a double batch of them because I dumped 2 bottles of corn syrup into the pot instead of 2 cups. I still have some leftover gingerbread caramels in the kitchen. I can’t eat anymore!

I’ve started to feel a bit possessive about my caramel recipes. I like them, I am proud of what I make. I want to leave a little mystery in there. Maybe I’ll pass on my caramel knowledge to one of the noogles and they can expand on the recipes and pass them on.

The hard part of all of this is experimenting. Making caramels isn’t cheap and it certainly isn’t calorie free. I can’t just whip up a batch to see if an idea works. If it doesn’t work out at all then the money is lost. If it sort of works out and I make something that can be easily tweaked into better form it’s a good deal but also it is a jelly roll pan of sugar and cream that needs to be eaten. I wish I could email caramels to people, so much cheaper than postage. You wouldn’t download a caramel, would you?

I’m still trying to get a good chocolate orange caramel for my grandfather. Rumor has it he likes a good chocolate orange treat. Also might work on an orange creamsicle flavor and revamp my apple pie caramels. Coffee chocolate will always be on the list, people love them and gingerbread feels like a solid holiday flavor.

Caramels