Friday, January 21, 2011

A Weekend Visit

One of the best parts of living in Ohio is that we live relatively close to our families. We live close enough that they were able to help us pack up our moving truck (and oh shucks, I had to go to a bridal shower while that was going on) and Dan's parents were gracious enough to drive out to help us unload all of our possessions. My dad and mom have visited once, and then my mom and sister came out for cookie weekend in early December. Last weekend we were graced with a visit from the Aiken family, who win the award for our closest relatives, at 3 hours away.

A few years ago, right after we were married, we lived in rural Western New York. The Aikens came and visited us there, too, and while I was organizing pictures for this blog, I stumbled upon a few pictures from that visit. The big activity from that trip was a visit to Houghton College's climbing wall. My, how they have grown since these pictures were taken!

Living in Dayton has afforded plenty of activities for us all to enjoy, and we took the Aikens ice skating on the outdoor rink in Riverscape MetroPark and to the US Air Force Museum. The boys loved the big airplanes at the Museum, and we all enjoyed ice skating. The boys were fairly new to ice skating, so there was, alternately, a lot of hand holding and falling, but we made it through without any tears and celebrated with lots of hot chocolate at home.

Thanks, Aikens, for coming to visit us! We loved having you!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Baked Oatmeal

I like warm food. It's so much more comforting to have a bowl of warm soup than a cold sandwich. Or melted cheese on crackers, instead of just cheese with crackers. A tuna melt instead of a tuna and cheese sandwich. Toast instead of cereal, and so on and so forth.*

But in the morning, in the rush to get out of the door for school, I don't have time to make eggs + toast unless I plan it out ahead of time (which would mean exchanging hair-time for cooking-time). In general, I stick to quickly made foods. Unfortunately, that means I sacrifice my warm food for a bowl of cold cereal quite frequently. Unless, of course, I make baked oatmeal in the evening and then heat it up in the microwave as I'm tossing my lunch in my lunch box.

I read somewhere that the longer oatmeal takes to cook, the better it is for you. Hence, steel cut oats are the best for you. If you haven't ever seen them, they look like little pellets of oatmeal, but they take forever to cook -- an hour, according to the outside of the can. Then there are rolled oats (old fashioned) and instant oats, whose cooking time decreases in that order. I don't mind the kind of instant oatmeal that you buy in packets and put in the microwave, but I so often get little crunches of yucky sugar/salt/flavoring that grosses me out. In any case, there is quite a lot of sugar and salt in those little packets!

So in the interest of my warm breakfasts and healthy start to the day, here's my very favorite oatmeal recipe. A note: If you like your oatmeal the consistency of snot, this isn't for you -- it's a very solid oatmeal. But that's what Dan and I like about it. It also keeps me full until lunch. Thank goodness!

Baked Oatmeal, recipe courtesy of Aunt Amy
Bake for 40 minutes at 400 degrees; Serves 6

2 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
1/4 cup oat bran
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1/4 cup steel cut oats
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 cups milk
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup veggie oil
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 cups fruit (1 15.5 oz can of peaches, drained and cut into small pieces; blueberries; some combination of the two, or anything else your heart desires)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together rolled oats, oat bran, flaxseed meal, steel-cut oats, baking powder, salt and cinnamon. In a medium bowl, stir together milk, egg, applesauce, oil and sugars. Add to oat mixture and stir. Turn into a lightly greased 2 qt. casserole dish. Bake, covered, 20 minutes. Stir in fruit. Bake 20 minutes more, uncovered, or until lightly browned. Spoon into bowls. Top with yogurt, milk or cream, or eat it as is.

*This does not apply, of course, to my all time favorite food: ice cream.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hat Family Christmas!

Sometime this fall, I got the bright idea to knit each of my family members a hat for Christmas. Not only would this include my family, but Dan's entire family: his siblings, their spouses, their kids, and his 'rents. You see, I was unemployed at the time, and the idea of knitting 19 hats sounded like fun. I visited to find my pattern inspiration and began with the stash of yarn I've accumulated since I started knitting. Now, I don't have a stash like some people, but I had enough to make about 5 hats without breaking a sweat. For the rest, I ordered yarn from Knit Picks and began knitting until my fingers were sore.

Here's Dan's family, modeling their hats for us!

I started with this owl pattern for the 3 little boys, each knit in their own color.

Then for K, I made a headband based on this pattern and embellished it with a few leather flowers.

For Miss E, I made a flapper-inspired hat embellished with a purple flower, but alas, I need to a.) block it and b.) knit earflaps so that her cute little ears stay warm! This was my only project that seriously needed to be fixed so it was useful. (And that's my project for my snow day -- today.)

For all of the adult males, I used Jared Flood's Turn A Square pattern, which I was 100% satisfied with. I loved the decreases and once I decreased my needle size by one, it was the perfect hat for guys. They each got their own colors -- for Tyler, a Brown's inspired palate; for Mike, cool colors; and for my father-in-law, a little bit of everything.

The women got individual chosen hats, based on their preferences! For my mother-in-law, I used a pattern that was similar to a scarf I had knit her last year and used the same color yarn. For Kristy, a simple hat knit in a bulky yarn which ended up being one of my overall favorites. And for Colleen, who was super supportive and excited about the entire project, I made a black beret embellished with tea roses in shades of cream.

For my side of the family, I knit all of the women the same pattern: a cute, loose hat embellished with a button. They had all liked my own hat in this pattern, so I thought that I'd stick to simple and do the same for all 3! For my brother, I knit the same hat as for all the guys in Dan's family. I also knit his soon-to-be-born son a simple, rolled-brim baby hat in a beautiful gray-blue alpaca. Matching hats for the boys! And for my Dad? Well, he rarely wears hats, but I think he was a little disappointed that he didn't get one. So maybe I'll knit him one for his upcoming birthday. It didn't occur to me to take a picture of the in their hats, so perhaps when we visit after Baby Ben is born, I'll get a few pictures.

Last but not least, I just had to knit a hat for Dan. His was the last completed, but at the same time, was the most important that I finish. He opened it on Christmas Eve and loved it. (I'm showing off the huge candy bar that was my Christmas Eve gift.)

So what's next? First, fixing E's hat and mailing it off to Pennsylvania so she can actually use it. Then something for my friend Natalie who just gave birth to a baby boy yesterday, a hat for my friend Ashley, and something for myself. A scarf? My own hat? Learning how to crochet adorable flowers?

Only time will tell. :)