The G Man – An Update

Yes, yes, I’m still here.  Just incredibly busy; it’s summer at the Sushi Bar which means lots of fresh produce from the garden which needs to be eaten or cooked or preserved – as of today, we’ve had zucchini and summer squash approximately 27 times in the last week.  Which is quite a feat, considering we were in Cincinnati last Wednesday and Thursday to visit this guy:

The G Man at Benihana

Remember that little guy with the dimples and the big blue eyes?  He is now a month away from his 8th birthday – EIGHTH! BIRTHDAY! – and attempting to stab Meema’s out eyes using a set of chopsticks with corn kernels stuck on the tips.

Oh, I kid.

He was just trying to shove them up my nose – Benihana seems to have that affect on 8-year-old boys.*

Anyhoo, we were thrilled to see him; two years ago he moved to Michigan with his Mom, then last year they moved back to Texas.  We’ve been down there several times to see him (among other people), but it has been about six months since the last time, so we were anxious to visit while he was in Ohio for summer vacation with his dad.

In the fall he’ll be starting the 3rd grade – THIRD! GRADE! – where he is in the Talented and Gifted program in math and science, and little girls precede him everywhere, throwing rose petals in his path.

Well, they OUGHT to.

Stick around and in a few days I’ll introduce you to yet another heart breaker.

*(Actually, he loves his Meema because she is one of the few people over the age of 10 who can, and willingly does, intelligently discuss the merits of his video game du jour.  And she does a mean cannonball into the hotel swimming pool.  Not to toot my own horn or anything.)

Rescuing Dottie

Four years ago this August, I sent my sweet Scooter across the Rainbow Bridge; it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.

It took me a long time to decide I wanted another dog, but last year I started yearning for another, so Beloved bowed to the inevitable and put out feelers on Facebook for another dachshund or dachshund mix.

We were very specific about what we wanted – an adult dog that was house-trained, past the puppy “chewing” stage, and that would at least be tolerant of our new grandson (more on that later this week).  Most of the dogs we found that were up for adoption were snatched up before we could do much more than inquire about them, so in July when we found a solid black female dachshund mix for adoption in Birmingham, Alabama I didn’t ask about her because I figured she’d be gone just as quickly as the others.

Lo and behold, nearly a month later, the person who’d located her for us asked, again, if we were interested.  I contacted the foster there who, in retrospect, seemed a little too eager to adopt Dottie out.  (I discovered later that while the foster was disingenuous, if not quite dishonest, about some of the dog’s less-than-desirable qualities, solid black dogs are notoriously difficult to find homes for, and I’m still not sure why.)  We began the paperwork to adopt her, paid the appropriate fees, and found ourselves – quickly, under questionable circumstances that I won’t go into here – driving ten hours to Birmingham to get her.

Maybe not the smartest move in the world, adopting a dog sight unseen, but we were sad about her plight – we’d been told she was a puppy mill mom, which should have been suspicious right off the bat since she was only two years old and not a purebred.  (When I finally received her paperwork from the shelter from which she’d been rescued, she was listed as a stray – she was too healthy and too friendly to have been abused, and my theory is she was just the result of some very irresponsible owners who never had her spayed or registered and let her run loose, and she was picked up by the local dog catcher.)  We’d also been told she’d been scheduled to be euthanized while at the shelter and rescued by the foster, and that much is true.

We both fell in love with her the minute we saw her, and although she growled at me initially, the feeling was mutual as far as Beloved was concerned and she’s been his abject slave ever since, albeit an occasionally recalcitrant one, at least in the beginning.

We’d been told she was energetic, but that is something of an understatement – This. Dog. Never. Stops.  And she was definitely NOT past the puppy chewing phase, as my kitchen cupboards and dinette set will attest to; she is, in fact, what’s known as an “aggressive chewer” – there are chew toys, antlers and the sad remains of squeaky toys all over the house (but she’s no longer eating the furniture). She’s the first dog I’ve ever kenneled, because she’s the first dog I ever had to kennel; in truth, it turned out to be a wise decision, because she’s so curious and exuberant, if left to her own devices she will get into all SORTS of trouble (one day I’ll have to post the photos of the living room after she yarn-bombed it with $60 worth of Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash Bulky).

Dottie also loves to run – boy, does she love to run – and is an accomplished escape artist; our yard simply cannot contain her (although that is getting better).  She also has a talent, as I mentioned earlier, for getting into trouble; in the first three months we had her, she was attacked by ground wasps – she ran through their nest in the back yard – and grazed by a car (see the “escape artist” comment above), fracturing her tailbone.  In the beginning, we questioned our sanity, bringing what we now affectionately refer to as “The Hell Hound” into our home.

But if Beloved and I share any two qualities, it’s our stubbornness and sense of responsibility – we’d adopted her and we were going to keep her and make it work, by golly.  We began by enrolling her in two obedience courses at the local Pet Smart (where she frequently had her trainer in stitches) and she did well.  We have worked tirelessly with her and she’s come such a long way in the last year – she’s still energetic and exuberant, but she’s no longer destructive and when she does escape the yard, we rarely have to hunt her down; she’s close by and comes when we call (and, boy howdy, wasn’t THAT an accomplishment).  In fact, these days we can take her into the front yard without her leash and she stays on our property, even if there are children out – she loves, loves, loves to play and be petted.

At any rate, that’s the story of how we rescued Dottie.  We love her to pieces, and although Beloved will deny that – it’s some kind of guy thing, I guess – she adores him beyond all measure.  And she’s pretty fond of me, too.

I’m sure you’ll be hearing a lot more about her in the future.

The Ninja Turtle Scarf

I was gone again all last week – sorry about that.  I’ve just been incredibly busy at work, and will continue to be so until Thanksgiving has passed.  Not a bad thing, for sure, since it keeps me out of trouble.  I’ve also been busy at home, and may even have a recipe for you this week.

Since finishing the cat and steak cakes, I’ve been able to pick up my crochet hooks again – I have, in fact, bought a set of Clover hooks, aluminum with padded handles, and I just could not be more pleased with them.  They slide through yarn like a knife through warm butter and are light and easy on my poor old, arthritic hands.  I also have signed up for a yarn subscription service, but more about that later.

At any rate, I’m now in “Christmas present” mode – literally everyone is going to be getting handmade gifts this year.   I’ve found the cutest patterns for pot holders and tea towel toppers and coasters and bookmarks, all which can be made quickly.  I’m making more stuffed toys and am learning how to make hats, because I need one to go with all the winter scarfs I’m churning out.

Like this one, for The G Man:

The Ninja Turtle Scarf

Yes, it’s a scarf made out of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle heads.

The interesting thing about this scarf, besides the fact that it’s at least twice as long as The G Man is tall (oops), was the process of making it.  You see, I started it back at the beginning of summer and had to put it aside because we had G so much, especially over the latter half of the season.  Then I go caught up making other things (to say nothing of the constant weekend canning and preserving), that the few little heads I’d made stayed in their bag with the skeins of yarn, until I finally picked it up again a few days ago.

I was astounded, once I’d begun to work on it again, at how much I’ve improved over just a few months.  My stitches are so much neater and tighter then they were when I first began this scarf that I had to use my largest hook just to keep the gauge the same.  It gives me hope that when I finally do begin to make actual clothes – I have some lovely patterns for stuff that is going to look wonderful on Darling Daughter and Jolly, plus a couple of cardigans earmarked for my own personal use – that I’m actually going to make something that’s, well, wearable.

You can find the free pattern for the scarf here.  I used I Love This Yarn solids in red, navy, orange, grape and jelly bean, joined with burnt pumpkin, and a size J/6.0 mm/4 hook.

Yesterday, Oldest Son asked for a Jayne hat.  Guess I’ll be learning to knit…

The Cat Cake – and a Steak, Too

Hello, hello, hello.

I was gone all last week, and this is why:

Cat Cake

Presenting The Cat Cake, jewel-tone cascading blossoms and all.

It’s 6″, 7″ and 8″ round tiers on top of a 10″ square tier of French vanilla cake with white chocolate ganache, covered in fondant.  The blossoms are made of gum paste.

Here’s a better look at the topper:

Cat Topper

The cats are modeled after the happy couple’s own pets, and I’m not at all displeased with how they came out.  They are made from Wilton Shape ‘N’ Amaze edible modeling dough.  It was my first time working with it, and it held up much better than fondant but I think I’m going to try my hand at modeling chocolate for sculpting 3D figures in the future.

There was also a groom’s cake (which used to be a uniquely Southern tradition):

Steak Cake

The groom is not only the son of our beef farmer, he also works for our butchers.  He asked if I could make a cake that looked like a big steak – if only all requests were that easy. This cake was red velvet, filled with a cream cheese buttercream and covered with a dark chocolate ganache and then with fondant.

The thing I liked most about making this cake was the opportunity to hand paint the top of the steak (like the cats, the cutting board is air brushed).  I’ll tell you, it gives me a huge appreciation for people who do this and do it well – it’s not the easiest medium, but I am fascinated with the process now.

A word about fondant: I’ve used Wilton products in the past.  Their traditional fondant is more or less easy to work with, but tastes like plastic.  Their new stuff tastes much better, but is a nightmare to work with.  I’ve worked a little with homemade marshmallow fondant, and while it tastes great, it tends to dry out very quickly; if you’re not very experienced working with fondant it will start to develop what they call “elephant skin” before you’ve got your cakes covered.  This time I ordered this fondant, and all I can say is “SCORE!”  SO easy to work with – while it sets up beautifully, it stays nice and pliable for quite some time so you can take your time.  It also tastes every bit as good as the homemade marshmallow fondant and is reasonably priced.

As with every cake I do, I look back and think of a million things I could have done to make them better, but the bride and groom were pleased so that’s about all I can ask for.  I learn something every time I work with these new mediums and techniques and I’m just loving it, even if my hands ached and ached all day yesterday.

I’d also like to take this time to say “Thank you” to Beloved, who not only made sure I had the time to do all this by taking over dinner and other chores, but also cut the dowels to the correct size to stabilize the tiers and constructed the boxes that allowed us to transport the cakes practically worry-free.  Thank you so much dear, not only for the loving help during this process, but everything you do for me every day.  I don’t express that nearly often enough.

Sheldon

Suzanne over at 24 At Heart is getting a Newfoundland puppy in a few weeks, and is asking for name suggestions.  If you think of a name for what will eventually be a huge, furry, black dog, please go drop her a line.

I, unfortunately, couldn’t give her any ideas, because I absolutely SUCK at naming things.  Darling Daughter, on the other hand, is wonderful at it.  When stuck for a name for our latest side of grass-fed beef, it was DD who promptly came up with “Wellington.”

Think about it for a minute.

At any rate, when I decided to try my hand at amigurumi – the Japanese art of knitting or crocheting small stuffed animals and anthropomorphic creatures – I started with a turtle, mainly so I could eventually make a quartet and turn them into Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for a certain young man.

Besides, the pattern was unbearably adorable, and I’m a sucker for unbearably adorable.

When I began The Turtle, that was pretty much how I referred to it.  Eventually, though, Beloved asked me what I was going to name it.

“I dunno….George?”

Darling Daughter looked at me with some akin to mild disgust.  “No – SHELDON.”

And Sheldon he became, and because she named him, he now belongs to DD.

Sheldon the Amigurumi Turtle

For those of you who are interested, you can purchase the pattern here.  I used an F/5/3.75mm hook and Bernat Cotton Handicrafter Yarn in Olive for his head, body and limbs, Bernat Cotton Handicrafter Yarn in Cloves for the back of his shell, and Bernat Cotton Sugar ‘n’ Cream Yarn in Ecru for the front of his shell.

Now, if you look at the example that accompanies the actual pattern, you’ll see that Sheldon is not nearly as well-proportioned as the little guy in the picture, but I’m not terribly upset by that.  Sheldon turned out pretty well for a first attempt, especially when you realize I’d never crocheted anything in the round before – all of my previous projects have been limited to afghans and scarves (in other words, squares and rectangles).

I do know one thing, though – I will get better, because I am, pardon the expression, hooked on crocheting unbearably adorable stuffed animals.

Heaven help us when I graduate to clothing…