Zee polar vortex is coming!

Twenty-five years ago this week I moved to Austin. It snowed the day I arrived and everything was frozen. Since then, it seems like a cold snap happens almost every year around the middle of February, even if we’d enjoyed spring-like weather before then.

Well, it’s happening again this year. The polar vortex that brought deeply sub-zero temps to the northern United States is on its way south.

It’s sleeting out right now, and the trees and power lines are heavy with ice. It will only get worse in the next 4 days. And the forecast on Monday is currently for 4+ inches of snow, and a low of 7 degrees Fahrenheit!

It’s about to get real. More later. 🙂

Nice rack.

🙂

My latest build request to Monte was a thread-spool rack for my work closet. My projects continue to expand, and my thread inventory has become an unmanageable pile of spools. I also want to be able to store each bobbin with its corresponding spool of thread, since it’s hard to tell the difference between V-69 and V-92 thread sizes; and navy blue, black and dark green start to look the same to my old eyes. So, the top of each dowel is tapered so bobbins can be stored with each spool. I can also use it to store my growing collection of binding tape, basting tape, cord, and webbing. Voila!

It’s perfect.

Big day.

Today was the day to re-raise the mast on Julie & Ryan’s boat. New windex, new lights, new halyards, new topping lift, new flag halyard, new sheaves, new wiring, new switches, refurbished outboard motor, replaced bulkhead mid-ships in the salon, chain plates reinforced, and some much-mended sails and boat canvas. I can’t wait to get out on the lake with these sailors. Next up: installing the boom, mainsail, and jib. Then we’ll take her for a sail!

Does this bag make my boat look big?

🙂

I have entered the “bag” phase of my maker existence. I decided to try to make a bag styled like the classic LL Bean Boat and Tote. We were gifted a pair of them as a wedding gift, and have been using them hard and constantly for almost 2 decades. And they still have much life left in them.

The LL Bean totes are made with 24 oz cotton duck. I already had some 15 oz, so I used that for my first bag prototype. I also used some 8.8 oz navy cotton duck for the bottom and straps. Duck cloth is supposed to shrink anywhere from 5-10%. So, I’ll have to see how my design holds up over time.

The finished dimensions of this bag are 17″ W x 14.5″ H x 7″ D, which is pretty close to the Large-sized LL Bean Boat and Tote. The ones we already own are the Medium and X-Large sizes, so this will be a nice addition.

If you’re interested in trying to make one yourself, here are my notes:

I used V-92 polyester thread, and a #18 needle. My Sailrite LSZ-1 cuts through all those layers like butter.

I may try making one with Sunbrella material for the bottom and handles, instead of the 8.8 oz duck cloth, as I see that marine Sunbrella is 9 oz, so fairly close. Though Sunbrella is much more pricey than duckcloth…

Next challenge: making bags out of a used mainsail that friends gifted me. Stay tuned.

What the dukkah?!

Colleen turned me on to a new taste treat, an Egyptian-heritage nut and spice blend. Apparently Trader Joe’s sells some. Instead of running out to the store, I asked Google for help finding a recipe and picked this one because I had all the ingredients for it. I just made some and I like it. You can serve it in another dipping dish alongside bread and olive oil, pita and hummus, or veggies and hummus, or whatever else floats your boat.

Click through here to see the recipe as I found it. I used almonds instead of hazelnuts.

Biscotti on my mind.

I will do a bit more baking before the temps start hitting the triple digits again in Austin, at which point I am loathe to turn on the oven. I still have a couple of months.

I made almond biscotti yesterday (that recipe was posted in an old Sheila365 post here). Today I made a batch of chocolate biscotti. I love to dip one of these in my coffee in the morning.

Chocolate Biscotti Recipe (Preheat oven to350 degree F, makes about 2 dozen)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon


2 tsp water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 large egg white

Combine first 8 (dry) ingredients in large bowl.

Mix next 4 (wet) ingredients in small bowl with a fork.

Add wet to dry ingredients and stir until all is crumbly but moist. Then use your sparkling clean hands to massage and knead the mixture in the large bowl until it holds together in one moist loaf.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray and place the dough on the baking sheet. Shape with your hands into a flat loaf, about 3/4″ high and 4-5″ wide. I like to square the ends so each piece is approximately the same size.

Place in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 mins. Then remove loaf and place on cooling rack for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temp to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. After cooling, slice the loaf into individual biscotti pieces about 1/2″ wide. Place each biscotti on its side on the baking sheet.

Bake in 325 oven for 10 minutes, then turn each biscotti piece and repeat for another 10 minutes.

Cool on rack, and enjoy!

If you care to count your calories, you may like to use a recipe calculator to estimate the calories per serving for your favoite recipes. I use the one at VeryWellFit.com. I plugged in the details for this recipe (assumes 24 pieces) and it says one biscotti is about 100 calories.

Enjoy!

On top of the world.

Most days, Keeto likes to leave his cage and fly around the house. I think he enjoys the exercise and the freedom. He has a couple of favorite perch locations that he flits between. Sometimes he likes to play hide and seek with us, though, and will land somewhere different and sit still as we look around for him. This morning I spied him sitting on a globe that I have placed atop an armoire in a far corner of the gameroom. I had to sneak a photo with my telephoto lens from across the house. 🙂 You’re IT, Keeto.

Snow day.

We got a full day of big wet snowflakes falling in our part of Austin on Sunday. A nice change. And it took my mind off of the Seahawks’ round 1 playoff loss the night before. The snow was still on the ground all day Monday.

And a snow day means it’s time for cocoa in the snowball mugs!

Cheers to a new year.

I met up with some friends in Laura’s backyard today to cheer in the new year and to wish Doray a happy birthday.

Let’s hope 2021 is amazing. But I’ll take at least better than last year.

Cheers!

Clearing the decks.

I have been keeping my year-old Sailrite sewing machine busy with boat canvas and sail projects, to make way for the next ones on my list.

Finished projects:

  • mainsail repairs for Julie & Ryan’s yet-to-be-named Catalina 25
  • new LifeSling 2 cover for Nirvana to match all the other sunbrella on-board
  • instrument panel cover v3.0 for Trident (this one can be tied to the boat so it won’t blow away in 50+ knot winds)
  • sailcover repairs for Cupholder
  • new mainsail luff-tape cover for Nirvana‘s furling boom
  • tool roll-ups for Monte, one for his metric wrenches, and one for his SAE wrenches

Next projects:

  • custom mattress covers & sheet sets for Nirvana‘s fore and aft cabins
  • sailcover repairs for Catalina 25
  • tiller cover for Catalina 25
  • design and make custom bags from an old Hunter mainsail that marina-friends Thomas and Monique gifted me
  • new stern-rail seat cushions for Nirvana
  • repairs to Nirvana‘s salon cushions
  • shade cloth rollups for Nirvana‘s bimini

Bring it on!

Old times.

Google tells me that the 18th century Scots phrase “auld lang syne” translates literally to “old long since,” or roughly to “old times” or “old times past” in English. As I was looking back through photos from 2020, I found one from New Year’s Day 2020 that perfectly depicts the old times, in stark contrast to the times we live in now, post-COVID.

This was taken a year ago at Ann’s New Year’s Day party; a very casual, annual, bring-whatever-leftovers-you-have, game-day get together with friends. I look forward to it every year. But not this year, sadly. This picture really reminds me how long it’s been since I hung out with a bunch of people, in close quarters, heads together, laughing and hugging, with no masks, or worries (other than, perhaps, a lingering hangover). I do hope we get back to this, eventually. Soon. We simply must.

Happy New Year to you and yours!

Hindsight.

Most years I post a summary of the previous 12 months here on Sheila365 – summarizing moments from fun trips, visits from friends and family, and other adventures and highlights from the year (like these summary posts from 2019 and 2018). Unfortunately, on this last day of 2020, there isn’t much to report, as COVID has curtailed most highlight-worthy moments.

Instead, today I went back and looked at my first post from the beginning of 2020. In that post, I included a picture of a beautiful sunrise that I took the previous year – as we were at the dawn of a new decade. I had to chuckle and shake my head reading this statement a year after I wrote it: “I’m not sure what the next ten years will bring, but I’m ready.” Well, I can now say that I was in NO WAY ready for what 2020 would bring.

BUT, I am still here, as are my loved ones, thank God. So, I am grateful, and I am simply trying to roll with it.

To end the year, I will just leave you with this, a picture of a beautiful post-sunset scene that I took at anchor in the Ashepoo River in South Carolina. Tomorrow is a new day.

Full enough.

I grilled pork tenderloin for dinner tonight. Over charcoal. Marinated in Allegro. Indirect. 21 mins, ~7 mins per side. Measure with meat thermometer to 145 degrees F. AMAZING.

As I waited for the meat to grill, I snapped this photo of the not-quite-full moon over our winter foliage.