Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blue Screen of Death

Last night I was sitting on the couch, watching Big Bang Theory and knitting all snuggled under my new favorite blanket with my feet propped up and a cat in my lap when my dear partner comes over to say that the computer unexpectedly shut down and is now showing an error message. Wondering what virus my Dear has inadvertently invited into our system, I went to the computer to fix it and came upon something very different. This, my friends, is a stop error. Some refer to it as the blue screen of death.

I was able to save our pictures, documents, and (I think) our music; but the search for a new computer begins today. *sigh* And I was hoping to work on replacing my old truck this spring.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Michael and Kona

Michael, my long lost friend from Penn Valley Dog Park and the father of Kona, I hope you are reading my blog because we miss you and hope to see you bright and early tomorrow morning. Be there! (If not tomorrow then sometime soon. Quit avoiding us! :) Merry Christmas!

H&K and Harper

P.S. If Kelly did something to piss you off, I can make her apologize!

Kansas City Gypsy is now on Facebook

Kansas City Gypsy is now linked up with Facebook! I knew you'd be excited, too. Seriously, this is for those of you who tell me you can't remember the link. Now what is your excuse? Huh??

Have a happy, festive weekend, everyone!

English Toffee and Fingerless Glove Knitting Woes

Today is the final work day that all of my co-workers will be together before Christmas, so I decided to make English toffee for them. I have a tried-and-true recipe that my grandmother used every year at Christmastime. Of all the candy Grandma made at Christmas, her English toffee was my favorite.

          Grandma’s English Toffee

          1 cup sugar
          1 cup salted sweet cream butter
          6 oz. package semi-sweet real chocolate chips
          ¼ cup finely chopped pecans

          Line 15x10-inch jelly roll pan with waxed paper

          In 2-qt. saucepan combine sugar and butter. Cook over low heat, stirring occasion until candy
          thermometer reaches 300 degrees or small amount of mixture dropped into ice water forms brittle
          strands (25-30 minutes).

          Quickly spread into prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over hot candy; let stand 5 minutes.
          Spread melted chocolate evenly over candy; sprinkle with nuts. Cool completely; break into pieces.

One of the things I like about this particular recipe is that the toffee never comes out hard. I know that toffee is supposed to set up harder, but I like it more when it doesn't. Each time I've made this recipe, I have carefully taken the mixture to 300 degrees, trying to reach that elusive stage of toffee-ness. Fortunately, I have never succeeded.

As I was making my first batch last night, I used unsalted butter for the first time. I quickly learned that is a no-no - the mixture completely separated and was ruined. The next two batches, using salted butter, separated a bit, but not so much that the end result is anything less than delicious!

Another project that I have recently picked back up is the elusive hunt for the perfect round knitting loom fingerless glove (aka arm warmer, aka wrist warmer, aka fingerless mitts). The results of my first attempt, following Lisa Clarke's pattern  here., were okay, but not exactly what I wanted. The yarn was all wrong and I wanted a longer, more luxuriant glove that would gather along my arm, reaching my elbow.

But instead of trying a different yarn, I tried a different yarn and different stitches. The results have been so hideous that I ripped out all of my attempts but the very latest. On this attempt I found that a very tight knit, purl, knit, purl pattern (there is a name for this stitch, but at the moment it just won't come to me) is a nice option, if a bit chunky, when done on the blue round loom.

Then I happened across this funky pair of mitts at Kohl's on Wednesday night and snapped them up, 'cause this dream has been so long in the making with no pair to wear yet, that I just had to have a pair to wear until I make my own.

More resolved than ever to enjoy a pair of my own making (cause, face it, this pair I bought, though cozy, is ridiculous. They were made for a 12 year old, I think. And who knows what will happen if I wash them - they're falling apart after one day's wearing.) I have come up with a plan for what will be my first pair of successful fingerless gloves. I'm going back to Lisa's pattern, same stitch, but I'm going to use a bulkier yarn, this Lion Brand Homespun in the color Regency.

I think it will work because it is super soft and a single strand will still give me some much needed textural interest. My one concern is how tight I should make the stitches, but I'll figure that out in the process.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Wish List for Santa

Dear Santa,

Here is my wish list:

  • world peace
  • snow on Christmas Eve
  • more new episodes of The Big Bang Theory

You know how I have been reading crafty blogs and wanting so badly to make those cloth napkins over at Lisa Clarke's blog? Well, Santa, I've been held back from making those napkins because I couldn't find just the right collection of fabrics. I had to LOVE them, you see....and guess what!!?? I found it! I found the perfect fabric at the Fat Quarter Shop! It is called the Essence Fat Quarter Bundle by Sandy Gervais for Moda Fabrics.

Isn't it beautiful, Santa? And the linens I make will go so well in the kitchen and dining room.  And can't you just see yourself dabbing the corners of your mouth with one of these lovely prints when you stop by for our usual milk and cookies? Just follow this link to the Fat Quarter Shop. So, Santa, what do you say?

Monday, December 7, 2009

A Lovely Weekend

Okay, first things first. I finally took some additional photos of the wreath. So here it is, albeit a bit dark in the photo:

It's beginning to feel a lot like the holidays around here. Snow should transform my neighborhood into an ethereal winter fairy land by the time I wake up tomorrow and I can't wait!

I started this post last (Sunday) night, but had so much trouble getting my photos from flickr that I decided to go to bed and try again today. Here is what I wanted to tell you:

What a weekend! After a Friday night trip out to Legends and a Saturday shopping trip to Hobby Lobby and Wal-mart, my holiday shopping is complete, though I have a short list of handmade items to complete. The kitchen is stocked with holiday yummies, like Shatto eggnog and Starbuck's Christmas Blend. We tried the Christmas Blend in the French press last weekend. MMMMMMwah! SO good!

Today, we attended the Kansas City Zoo Pancakes for Penguins fundraiser. For $8 each, we had Chris Cakes, Roasterie Coffee, a free photo with Santa (no photo, we bailed after being swarmed by toddlers), a reusable shopping bag featuring the Zoo's centennial celebration, as well as the opportunity to pet a real chinchilla. She was precious. The sea lions and the trumpter swans were out. And we had the opportunity to see the new baby blue monkey, Indigo. Many of the animals in the new Tropics exhibit were energetic and curious about the crowds. It was a lot of fun.

Sunday afternoon was dedicated to making a sweet holiday buffet for my dear partner's coworkers. We made chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter cup cookies,

and then played with the Wilton pretzel candy molds and Oreo cookie molds. This was the highlight of the afternoon. We are both new to making candy, so we had a lot to learn.

Like to screw on the lids to the squeeze pretty tight to avoid a green candy explosion. It was a blast, literally! Don't let the microwave in the picture mislead you. The candy is melted strickly by bathing the candy pieces  in hot water using these squeeze bottles. It was a lot of fun, and the results are cute.

After all of the fun in the kitchen was finished, I prowled around the house taking pictures.


Zeus was feeling particularly photogenic this evening.

He is a handsome little rogue, isn't he?

Monday, November 30, 2009

I made this wreath!

I know, I know.....I've been away far too long. You missed me, no? Well, I missed you, too. I have so much to share with you about vacation, the cruise, Mexico, San Diego, family, Thanksgiving, etc, etc. But I'm still in the time-sucking process of catching up on things undone while we were away. You'll have to wait just a little while longer. However, yesterday I made a wreath inspired by a favorite crafty blogger, Just A Girl,  and I wanted to share a picture. It isn't a great picture because I took it this morning with my cell phone. I'll try to get the real camera out tonight for a better shot. But for now, I love it. I hope you do, too.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Trick, Treat, or Bust

Well, despite our enormous candy stash and the fun of dressing up to hand it out, we had very few (less than 10, total) trick or treaters this year. However, while hanging out on the front porch we had the opportunity to get to know our new neighbors. They are lovely.

I'll leave you with a few shots of the decorations and candy.

A Halloween Office Party for the Record Books

I don't know what got into me, but I was excited about Halloween this year. Don't get me wrong, I love Halloween every year, but this time I was into it. I wanted to make things, decorate, and celebrate! But since it is just me and my partner at home (and now my sister, temporarily), all of the energy I spend decorating for holidays seems lost, 'cause my dear partner just doesn't have any enthusiasm about it. In fact, she hates the time spent putting up and taking down decorations. So, this year, instead of going all out at home, I decided to bring my creativity to the office. I should also add that my department at work isn't into the whole food day/organized celebration thing. So this was going to be a first for my co-workers.

My friend Tori inspired me to make a sherbet face punch. My dear partner went to Hobby Lobby to get the mask to make this delightful concoction. First, I lined the mask with plastic wrap. Then I smooshed sherbet as tighly as possible into the mask, and wrapped the back of the mask with the excess plastic wrap.

I learned a few things. First, try to find a mask that isn't too flexible. The sherbet slid around a bit as I pressed, distorting the nose, eyes, and mouth. Also, maybe let the sherbet soften a while before scooping it into the mask. My sherbet was pretty solid and hard to work with.

The end result was pretty great. I used Sprite Zero and Cherry Juicy Juice. The punch was delicious, if ghastly.

As I was preparing to make the punch, I ran across an idea to make a cheese ball using the same mask technique. Another terrific, horrific opportunity to be creative! I purchased proscuitto from the deli sliced as thin as they could slice it. I made my usual green onion and dried beef cream cheese ball, adding some proscuitto. Then, I lined the mask with plastic wrap and a layer of small pieces of proscuitto before pressing the cream cheese mixture into the mask. I wrapped the back with excess plastic wrap.

I had the same problems with the mask on this adventure as I did with the sherbet, though this time my dear partner was wise, suggesting that I let the cream cheese sit out to soften before I made the face. Sweet girl! One other thing, I didn't like the taste of the proscuitto with the cheese ball mixture. The tang of the vinegar or brine didn't go with the other tastes. I'd appreciate any ideas or suggestions.

The visual result was incredible. My co-workers oohed and aahhed and generally refused to eat it because it was so disgusting looking!

Others from the office contributed to the festivities, and a great time was had by all. I was proud of my little department.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Gearing up for Halloween

It's finally here! As you read this I am working on a list of items I'll be bringing into the office for a spooky treat day and taking photos of the candy and decorations at home to share with you. For now, I will leave you with a photo of the precious pumpkin cake my dear partner made for her Halloween food day at work. Happy Thursday!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Pints for Penguins

What better way to spend your Wednesday evening than eating Spin! Pizza and sampling 5 varieties of Boulevard beer all while mingling with other zoo lovers? The Kansas City Zoo has long been an organization that my dear partner and I support. We are members, enter the zoo anytime for free, and receive invitations to special events throughout the year that we enjoy immensely. My favorite event is the Christmas pizza party with crafts, pictures with Santa, warm drinks, and luminaries along the paths. However, the price tag for their annual fundraiser, Jazzoo, was too steep. We talked about going many time, but in the end, we just couldn't justify the expense. It seems that Randy and his team have finally realized that everyday folk want to help out, too. And how ingenious to lure us out with pizza and beer?!

I understand the event was sold out. I'm glad to hear it, because it was a great time. Guests were led into the lobby of the IMAX theater where tables and seating were plentiful. Zoo keepers brought at least a dozen creatures to entertain the guests. A DJ played a very fun mix of tunes to keep everyone lively. The pizza was great, the beer was great. It never felt over-crowded or too loud. The mixture of people was diverse, from zoo staff to the genteel. The otters came out to play, something I have only witnessed once before.

Great work, Kansas City Zoo! I won't be around to enjoy the next installment, Corks for Conservation on Wednesday, November 11, but for those of you interested, tickets go on sale today!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mom and Dad

I don't communicate willingly with my parents. It's a long, pathetic story, but it is what it is. I haven't seen my father in about 2 years. I can't even remember the last time I laid eyes on my mother. So, as you might imagine, I was caught off guard when a picture of my father appeared on my Facebook page in the "People You Might Know" column.

Then, my sister mentioned that my mother is also on Myspace. It never, ever occured to me to look for her until Laura told me that. And, yup, here she is:

A picture with a stufffed animal? Really?

Ok, that is just weird.

My trip to Lebanon and Springfield (oh, and my sister moved in)

Just some thoughts...

First of all, after much scrambling to pull it all together, my dear partner and I did make it down to my best friend's son's first birthday party on Saturday in Lebanon, Missouri. I finished a hat and scarf for him the night before - phew!

The drive to Lebanon and later, Springfield, was odd because my dear partner and I drove both of our vehicles to pick up my sister and her belongings. So, I was alone in the car for hours. I found that, except on I-44 (oh, how I hate that stretch of highway) I enjoyed the drive, especially because I could put my iPod on shuffle and harmonize to IG, the Dixie Chicks, and whatever else came on all at the top of my lungs without getting into trouble. It was GREAT!

On my last trip to Springfield for what may be a very long time, I had to eat at Fuji. As always, it was so wonderful. I have yet to locate an affordable, delicious Japanese steakhouse in Kansas City.

The move was successful, though moving mattresses in a truck at speeds above 60 mph requires a bit more thought than any of us had really given the situation beforehand. On the other hand, when would I have had another opportunity to get to know Bolivar or make a purchase at their fine Wal-mart? Oh, and the lesson on using racheting straps was one I will always treasure, especially since the strap I bought had to be cut off once I arrived home.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Don't Forget! It's Food for Fines Week at the Kansas City Public Library

Food for Fines Week | Kansas City Public Library

Shared via AddThis

When you find yourself asking, "Why?"

O ME! O life!... of the questions of these recurring;
Of the endless trains of the faithless—of cities fill’d with the foolish;
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light—of the objects mean—of the struggle ever renew’d;
Of the poor results of all—of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me; 5
Of the empty and useless years of the rest—with the rest me intertwined;
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?

That you are here—that life exists, and identity;
That the powerful play goes on, and you will contribute a verse.

Walt Whitman - Leaves of Grass (1900)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Meet Harper-licious. She's not vicious.

Meet Harper.

It was Saturday, February 21, 2009. We came across Harper, known then as Lizzy, late one Saturday afternoon while shopping at Petco on North Oak. We had no intention of adopting a dog when we went into the store, but her sad eyes and involuntary flinching created a fire in us both to see that this beautiful, gentle soul found a soft place to land in this world. We snagged the essentials (collar, lead, food, and crate) and arrived home to an evening of coaxing her up on the couch to watch TV with us.

The folks at FOPAS, from whom we adopted Harper, didn't know much about her background. She was about 1.5 years old, they guessed.  It was clear from her body language that she had suffered at the hands of her previous owner. She had been found by the Platte County sheriff's department wandering around a back road. Her ribs were prominent in her frail body. At first, she couldn't be coaxed into rooms with linoleum or tile floors or through  a door where someone stood, as though she feared she might be kicked. She wouldn't even look at us directly, turning her head as if anticipating a blow to the face or head. Her movements were a giant flinch waiting to happen. It was heart breaking.

A family tragedy struck that week, forcing my partner to make an unexpected trip to St. Louis on Harper's first full weekend with us. We had talked about taking Harper to a local off-leash park to get some much needed exercise and socialization. My partner feared how she might react. I was anxious, as well, but I had to try it at least once. I decided to go when I thought no one else would be there.

Harper and I at the park about 7:00 am. She carefully inspected the perimeter while avoiding the lone man walking with his italian greyhounds, the only other park patrons. I sat at the picnic table under a distant tree. Harper wandered close by me, also avoiding contact with the crowd slowly forming at the center of the park. A man with two dogs came and sat with me, coaxing me into the main group. I was surprised that Harper followed, still uneasy, but cautiously interacting with the other dogs. I met several people that morning and the following days who, over the course of many months, have been interested in Harper's progress - kind, supportive, and encouraging of her as she has emerged from her shell of mistrust and fear.  Every Saturday and Sunday morning and many random weekday afternoons, my partner and I make our way to the park - coffee cups, tennis ball flingers, frisbee, and gallon jug of water in hand. I have even designated one of my beloved sling bags as my "dog park bag" stocked with doggie wipes, hand sanitizer, sun screen, and bug spray. On days when our usual park is unavailable, we make the long drive to another area dog park. Harper loves romping through the fields and forest, and will even venture into the water sometimes. The rule is now that Harper may not be in the house for more than 24 hours without a trip to the park or a full day at a local daycare. She is one very social animal, 8 months later.

Harper remains cautious about new people, often swerving to avoid the outstretched hands of those with whom she is unfamiliar at the park. Those she does know are more and more often favoured with the opportuinty to pet her. Unfortunately, once in a while she will bark at someone she doesn't know when they arrive at the park. Of course I am always right there, ordering her away and apologizing for her rude behavior. So, why am I telling you all of this? Because this past Saturday, an incident occured that left me reeling.

We had been at the park for over an hour when a man arrived and Harper began barking at him. I ran over to get her, apologized, and was stunned to hear him say, "You better get that dog away from me, because I'll kick it." I remarked that his threat seemed harsh, extreme, and wholly inappropriate. He repeated his threat again, telling me that my dog did not belong in the park, was not socialized, and again assured me that my dog was about to receive the force of his foot if she came any closer. Disgusted, I threw up my hands and walked away after explaining that if he kicked my dog, I would call the police. He yelled after me to argue that he would be jusitifed kicking Harper if she bit him. I agreed that if she bit him, kicking the dog may be justifiable, but that was not what he had threatened Harper with the first 3 times. He told me to shut up and get my dog out of the park, repeating that she was not suited to be there. I asked for his name but he refused to tell me. With an attitude like his, it's no suprise that Harper or any dog would bark at him.

I was able to get his license plate number and the make and model of his car. I'll edit the post to include that later. Anyway, I was disgusted and trembling in fury. Luckily, two of my long-time dog park friends showed up as I was leaving, so I felt comfortable returning to the park with Harper. She did not bark at the man, and he did not approach me to continue the argument. I wonder though, what would you have done?

Tempting Fate, and the Seasonal Flu

I totally chickened out of getting a seasonal flu shot today. Weeks ago my employer announced that the company would be offering free flu shots to anyone interested. I dutifully signed up and put the appointment in my Outlook calendar. But this morning, when the reminder popped up I was suddenly gripped with anxiety about the needle, the possibility of pain at the site of injection, migraines, headache, fever, and muscle pain. I just couldn't bring myself to walk down to the room where shots were being given. After all, I haven't had the flu in years. *knock on wood*

Friday, October 2, 2009

Follow me to Sunset!

I did it! I found my colorway using a palatte generator from Adobe, called Kuler. As with most Adobe applications, I am not able to embed the product in my blog directly, but if you're interested, click this link: Colorway - Sunset and tell me what you think!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Making my Own Colorway

Much of my free time has recently been spent pouring over the blog at PolkaDotCottage. It all started this spring when I began searching for a round loom knitting pattern for fingerless gloves. I stumbled upon Lisa Clarke's pattern at PolkaDotCottage.com, and I was hooked. The pattern itself had seen numerous updates with tips and observations about Lisa's trials and errors in a friendly and down-to-earth tone that feels very approachable. Soon I was reading her archives and falling deeply in love with Lisa's sense of color and willingness to share her process. If you take the time to look into her projects, I highly suggest looking for the beautiful beach quilt and the fingerless gloves. One of the projects that Lisa blogged that has influenced me most is what she calls Evolution of a Color Scheme. I spent much time oohing and ahhing over the beautiful mosaics she created when trying to establish a new colorway with no real thought of trying the proces myself. But last night, coming home from some household shopping, the colors of sunset knocked me down in awe. I felt the need to perfectly memorize the blue of the sky around me for my next project. I decided to try Lisa's process to capture just the right colors.

1. IMG_1784 - Dustday laundry ripple window (23 September, 2009), 2. Retrato en Azul, 3. Endless walk..., 4. hommage to Van Gogh, 5. Choose your blue..., 6. Yellow Ochre, 7. Beyond - Halloween handspun yarn, 8. Dune detail #23, 9. Great Sand Dunes National Park, 10. blue_boats, 11. Stairs in Sheraton Miramar Resort El Gouna, Egypt, 12. Yes it is colorful !, 13. Beautifully bare, 14. Bale Of Straw during sunset, 15. Blue Mosque [Istambul], 16. Endless walk...

"What now?" you're probably asking. The long answer is to use a color palatte generator to determine my 3 main colors plus a lightening color like white or cream and then head out in search of my yarn. But the real answer, for now at least, is that I am going to sit back and admire this beautiful mosaic while patting myself on the back for learning how to use Flickr favorites and Big Huge Labs in the process of creating the very mosaics I have been long admiring. Oh, and I'm going to pay more attention to the color palletes that (ahem, this sounds so corny) the Earth presents me with everyday.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Adventures in Craig's Listing: featuring Johnson County's finest

So, in an effort to get rid of accumulated clutter, I listed a bunch of items on Craig's List a few days ago. I received an inquiry about my leather desk chair. You can find the post here: http://kansascity.craigslist.org/for/1389508835.html

The email exchange with this guy was ridiculous, right down to his final "retort." I guess if you have no idea that Northeast is a neighborhood in downtown Kansas City or if you're an internet predator, my location was vague. But who gives out their address until they're certain someone is coming to pick up an item? I love that he slipped in a signature at the end to let me know he is a deputy sheriff. I'm tempted to send this exchange to the county manager's office to show him/her know what this employee uses his county email account for.

From: HIM
To: ME

is the chair still available? where are you located?

From: ME

Good morning.
The chair is still available. I live in downtown Kansas City, in the old Northeast area.


From: HIM
To: ME

how is the condition of the chair, and would you be willing to meet me somewhere with it? I live in Olathe

From: ME

It is is very good condition. I can bring it to Midtown during the week.

From: HIM
To: ME

Midtown where?? Just let me know asap because I have my eye on another chair as well. I'm just trying to see which one is more convienant for me to pick up

From: ME

The Starbuck's parking lot on Main would work.

From: HIM
To: ME

Ok, can I meet you tomorrow afternoon at this location? I'm off TUE/WED. What was your asking price again?? If it's in good condition I'll take it tomorrow, at the Starbucks on Main

From: HIM

I also really couldnt tell in the photo, but does the chair show a lot of wear on the seat & arms??

From: ME

As I said, it is in very good condition. It shows no wear whatsoever. As my description said, I am asking $15. However, I have invested way over $15 worth of time with you already and I am now unwilling to haul the chair into Midtown for you. If you want it, you can come to my house and pick it up. As I said before, I live in Northeast. Let me know if you're still interested, and I'll send you my address.

From: HIM

No longer interested. I had a lot of questions because your decription was vague, as well as your location. Not to mention the worst photos I have ever seen. Didn't want to drive 40 miles for something I didnt want. I purchased one last night from someone else. Sorry you wasted so much of your time Heather.

Eric Walker
Deputy Sheriff 815/1369
Johnson County Sheriff's Department
Cell: 913-269-4586