Wednesday, June 25, 2014

What I'm reading Wednesday...

The Sky Buries All Sorrow by Roger DeBlanck

I just finished this last night.  It was quite possibly the worst book I have ever read.  It was advertised as a riveting family drama spanning WWII to 9/11.  Riveting?  No.  The writing was very amateurish, the editing was sadly wanting.  Too many details are thrown in that lead nowhere.  Phrasing that is out of time context.  Dialog that is racially insulting.  And then the ending...ugh.  Maybe I should have set it aside...but by the time I was halfway through, it got to be a joke.  I can't tell you how many times I laughed out loud (not in a good way) at the ludicrous and often repetitive phrasing.  

The author's bio reads suspiciously like the grandson in the book.  It seems like he wrote a family memoir...but a riveting novel it is not.

I don't mean to pick on this author, because I think there is so much of this these days.  The self-publishing trend is making it easier for anyone to get a book out there...when maybe they shouldn' least not without better...professional...non-sentimental editing.

Monday, June 23, 2014

7th blog anniversary giveaway...

Finally I reveal what the actual giveaway item is!  It is a handmade bead crochet bracelet with copper and faux pearl accents.  It is about eight inches in circumference.  There is no clasp, it slides over the hand as a bangle.

It is hot off the crochet hook.  I finished it last night, but needed to wait for daylight to photograph it.  I think it turned out beautifully (if I do say so myself).  The somewhat rustic copper end caps lend it a Celtic look.  I love it so much that I ordered another kit to make one for myself.

If you haven't left a comment to enter the giveaway, you have one more week.  Entries will close next Monday, June 30 at midnight my time (Central Daylight Savings Time).  I will draw a winner and announce who that might be on Tuesday, July 1.  All entries welcome, whether a long-time reader or a first-time visitor.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Crocheting with beads...

This is my current project.  These days it is called ‘tubular crochet beading.’  Who knew?  When my sweet Aunt Martha got my mother hooked (pardon the pun) on it back in the day, they just called it crocheted pearls (because they used seed pearls instead of beads).

That was WAY before Michael's, Hobby Lobby, Etsy, and online bead suppliers.  Back then you had to put some leg work into your art.  Aunt Martha got bored with the very limited colors available to her.  I believe the choices were your basic white and maybe two or three pale pastels. 

One day she came across a manufactured item with vibrant-colored pearls...pearls not marketed through any crafting company.  Visiting with her next-door neighbor later, the subject of her new hobby came up, and she began bemoaning the fact that she was limited as to color when she knew more was possible, since she had an example of colors that were unavailable for home crafters.  

Serendipitously this neighbor happened to be a chemist.  He asked her for a sample of the kind of colored pearls she wanted.  She quickly handed over what she had, and within a few days he had analyzed the coating, and told her exactly what she would need to do to dye her own pearls.  If hog heaven exists, she was in it.

She began experimentation with colors following Neighbor Chemist's directions, which involved pots of boiling water on the stove, Ritz dye, and a little bit of dishwashing liquid.  I think I still have a copy of the 'secret formula' around here somewhere in my mother's handwriting.

Pretty soon my aunt and my mother were mail-ordering strung seed pearls in bulk.  They submerged large bundles of the strung pearls into the dye, letting them steep until they reached the optimal shade, and were rewarded with rainbows of vivid-colored pearls hanging up to dry all over the house.  They even achieved a dark vibrant red and a deep navy, so they could make patriotic red, white, and blue crocheted ‘ropes.’

It was about this time that I got in on the mother discovered that four hands were better than two on such a time-consuming craft.  I think I was twelve or so.  She started me out stringing the dyed pearls onto dental floss in whatever sequence was needed for her pattern.  When I was outpacing her, she taught me how to crochet the rope.

When I saw a kit for a bracelet using this method a few months ago, I was overcome by nostalgia.  I quickly ordered it and set it aside.  When I pulled it out a week or so ago, I had to relearn the technique.  I wish I could say it is like riding a bicycle.  This has been giving me more than a few frustrating moments.

But it has also brought me happy memories of my mother and aunt…two crazy dedicated crafters who made me what I am today.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

What I'm reading Wednesday...

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue

I picked this up at the library the other day.  I'm slow getting into it, as I have a project going at the moment which hasn't left much reading time.


Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Midnight confession...

It is almost midnight.  I am wide awake.  And I am hungry!  I've never been one for late-night snacking, so this is kind of weird.  I want some Cheez-Its!  Not just any Cheez-Its, but the sharp cheddar and parmesan Duoz.  I got addicted to them while in Kentucky.  I don't think I've had any since I've gotten home, but right now I WANT some!  Of course, there are none in the pantry, so that is probably a good thing.  But still...


What's the last thing you really had a craving for?

Monday, June 16, 2014

Making it Monday...

I  pulled out some beads and wire with no firm plan in mind...just playing.  Or, rather, I did have an experimental plan in mind...but it didn't really work out.  So plan 'B' is a long loopy necklace that can be worn different lengths and a memory wire bracelet.  

I really just needed to get the creative juices flowing.  Not really excited with the results, but it did get the tools out, and now that the tools are out...

If you haven't yet, be sure to leave a comment to enter the giveaway at the end of the month celebrating my 7th blog anniversary.  The above is not the giveaway prize.  I will be showing the prize here as soon as it is finished.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Another salad dinner winner...

Pasta salad is a favorite of my son's.  I was excited when I came across this recipe from Cooking Classy on Pinterest.  It just looked like a great combination to me.  And when I made it, it received three thumbs up.  Son even went back for seconds...almost unheard of.

I'll definitely be making it again.  I made slight changes from the original leaving the grapes whole instead of halving them (which I did so the leftovers wouldn't get soggy) and adding cooked chicken breast to make it a meal in itself.  I also made the dressing with what I had on hand, rather than the original recipe's lower-fat version.  And I never measure anything...I always just put things in till the bowl is full, so the measurements I have below are approximate.

Broccoli, Grape, and Pasta Salad

In a large salad bowl, place:
8 oz bowtie pasta, cooked al dente
brocolli florets, raw (2 heads of broccoli)
red seedless grapes, about two cups
1/4 to 1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced
bacon, crisply cooked and crumbled, about 8 slices
3 cooked chicken breast, thinly sliced

1 c mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon sugar

Whisk together the dressing ingredients.  Pour them over the salad ingredients and toss well.

Add pecans to individual servings if desired.  We love pecans, but I didn't want to put them in the salad itself, because I didn't want them to soak up dressing and make for soggy leftovers.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Blog anniversary giveaway...

I mentioned the other day that this month marks my seventh year of blogging.  Wow, I never would have dreamed seven years ago that I would still be at this...especially since I kind of had to be nudged...pushed...begged...strongly encouraged to start by someone who was going to start a blog, but then immediately walked away from it.  (You know who you are.)  And if truth be told, she never even read my blog until about a year ago when I logged into her Google account and signed her up to receive the posts by email.  :)  (Hey, you should have changed your password.)

Anyway, here we are seven years in, and to celebrate I thought I would do a giveaway of some kind.  Hmmm.  What kind you say?  Well, I couldn't decide.  So today I Googled '7th anniversary gifts' and found that the traditional gift for a seventh anniversary is either wool or copper.  Yes, those are wedding anniversary not blog anniversary suggestions, but I was happy and thankful for the inspiration.  Since wool makes my fingers itch in the summertime, I'm not going to knit anything.  So the giveaway item will be something made from copper.  Could be a lucky penny, could be jewelry, could be a piece of pipe...could be a combination of all!  

Anyone who leaves a comment on ANY post from now until the end of June will be entered for this mystery giveaway item.  I hope you will enter whether you are an old friend or a first-time visitor.  If you want to mention it on your blog, I would be happy for your readers to pop over and enter too.  Mailing internationally is not a problem, so don't let location stop you from entering.  Just leave a comment with your name and blog address or email so that I can contact you for mailing instructions if you win.

And thanks for reading and sharing my blog journey!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What I am reading Wednesday...

Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

This one has been on my Kindle for awhile; purchased after catching the last half of the movie on the television.  I plan on watching the movie again after I finish the book.

I am really enjoying the writing and story.  It's very spare.  Based on the painting by the same name by Johannes Vermeer.  

Monday, June 9, 2014


My little Caitie-bug is growing up so fast.  We spent the day together yesterday.  

She was so proud of the 'curl' in her hair from sleeping in braids.  Bless her heart.  I remember vividly being her age and braiding my damp hair before bed so that I would wake up with waves...about as close as those of us with board-straight hair get to a curl.  That gene passed from me to her mother to her.  I hope she grows to appreciate it as much as I have.

We went shopping and out to lunch.  We had a sleepover and read out loud to each other and played a game.  This morning she made a card for, and wrote to, her great-grandmother.  Then we picked up her sister for a trip to the library and another lunch out.

I returned them home, and then came home and promptly took a nap.  Little girls can wear me out!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Seven random thoughts on the 7th...

1.  Today is my little Catie-bug's 9th birthday.  NINE!  Oh my goodness.  I took her present over earlier.  
They were going to go to the movies this afternoon to see Maleficent and then dinner out.  She asked if she could skip the movie to spend the day with me.  Awwww.  I put her off till tomorrow...I didn't want to throw a monkey wrench into their plans, and I knew she would regret not seeing the movie with everybody else.  And we can spend tomorrow together doing whatever she wants.

2.  I am starving.  My stomach is growling.  The blessing and curse of using the slow cooker is that it smells SO good all day long.  I'm trying a new recipe for beef & broccoli today.  I got a late start on putting it in, so I took the short cut of browning the meat being able to do that all in one pot.
Which reminds me to say that this is not in any way a paid endorsement...I just adore my Ninja slow cooker.  I love its non-stick liner.  I love that in addition to the low and high slow-cooking settings, it has low, medium, and high stove-top settings, and can be set to any oven degree setting needed if you want to use it as an alternative to your oven.  I cooked a meatloaf and baked potatoes in it that way just last week.

I don't think the high stove-top setting is high enough, but that's my only complaint.  It spent the winter with me in Kentucky, and I was so happy to have it there.

3.  I just finished reading another book from my goals list.  
 The Call of the Wild
I really enjoyed it.  Of course I've been binge watching Life Below Zero lately, so it has put me in the right mood.

4.  We are still enjoying the muffins I baked last week, and they are so yummy...warmed up or just straight out of the fridge.

5.  My sleep patterns are completely turned around.  I am awake till 4am and then sleep till noon.  Kind of cuts down on productivity.

6.  The extent of my creativity lately is tiny...literally.  It started with a drawing I saw of a little knitting gnome (see below)...then I saw a little cork gnome on Pinterest...and I came up with this...
Just a prototype.  I'm still in the experimental phase.  I need to find some wooden toothpicks and beads to make his little knitting needles instead of the straight pins.

7.  This month marks the 7th bloggisversary of Four Miles North of Nowhere.  I'll be announcing a giveaway in a couple of days.  Be sure to watch and enter.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What I am (and am not) reading Wednesday...

Catch 22 by Joseph Heller

I haven't done much reading for the past week or two.  Why?  Because this book has been sitting on a chair mocking me.  I just didn't want to pick it up, and so I wouldn't allow myself to read anything else.  Yesterday I read two chapters, and then could not make myself go any further.  

So I have given myself permission to move on.

Tamarack County by William Kent Krueger

Aah...much better.  I read another book by this author last year and really liked it.  This one is very different...a mystery in frozen Minnesota on and around a Native American reservation.  I'm about halfway through it after starting it earlier today.
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