A Decent Proposal

As the title of this post suggests, The Keeper proposed to me recently. And he did a damn good job, too. So, I’ve decided to set him forth as an example for anyone out there who is trying to figure out how to go about this, apparently, daunting task.

First, here’s how it all went down:

We were on vacation in the Outer Banks. The Keeper and I had talked before the trip about having a picnic on the beach one of the nights of our vacation. So earlier in the day we bought a picnic basket/cooler and some wine. Then in the evening we grabbed a couple Subway sandwiches, packed them into the cooler with the wine and a couple of plastic mason jar cups with twisty straws, and hauled everything out onto the beach.

 

We tried to pick a place that the was both less populated and close to where we’d crossed the dunes. We ended up close to where we’d entered the beach, but overrun by small children hunting for ghost crabs shortly after we’d spread our blanket out and sat down. We ate our sandwiches and drank our wine and muttered about how it would be nice to have an unobstructed view of the ocean instead of a wall of small children. Eventually the adults that were with the children either decided it was getting too late or realized they were bothering us and they shepherded the kids down the beach some.

We finished our wine, watched the ocean until it got dark enough to see stars, and then laid out on our blanket looking up at the sky. We both exclaimed about how bright the stars were with no city lights to compete with, and then The Keeper said, “Man, this would’ve been a really good time to propose.” And I sort of chuckled and replied, “Oh you just thought of that?” And he said, “Nope”, and pulled out the ring box.

 

And that was pretty much it. He asked the question, I answered, we chatted a bit. Then we went back to the house we had rented.

Now, here are the lessons you should be taking away from this story if you’re trying to figure out how to propose:

1- Unless your partner has specifically said that they want to be put on the spot in front of a huge crowd of people, don’t. An informal poll of all of our female friends, both married and unmarried, suggests that the way The Keeper went about things was perfect. Most people don’t want their answer to such a huge question to be waited upon and scrutinized by a huge group of strangers. Or a huge group of family and friends for that matter. So either find somewhere secluded to pop the question, or if you have to do it in the middle of a crowd somewhere do it in a way that won’t draw the attention of the people around you. That means that if you’re in a restaurant, don’t do that one knee bullshit.

2- Choose a special place. It can be somewhere you go together often and both really like, or somewhere that’s special because it’s new and you’re both excited to be there experiencing it for the first time together. Just try to pick a place that will be worthy of the memory later on. I’m not generally super mushy or sentimental, but I do want to be able to tell people about this event and if the setting had been something boring he would have had to work way harder on the delivery for it to be a good story.

3- Do what feels right for you and your relationship. If it feels right to write out and rehearse a speech beforehand, do that. If it feels better to just wing it when it comes to the words, that’s fine. If you want to go down on one knee, great. If not, that’s ok too. Just take the other two points into account. If the location you’ve chosen means that getting down on one knee will draw a bunch of attention and you don’t know if your partner is ok with that, then either pick a new location or don’t do the knee thing.

That’s it. It’s that easy to get it right. Unless you’re with one of those weirdos who want some outlandish, grand, attention seeking gesture. I don’t know what to tell you about those people.

Chicken Pot Pie

Chicken Pot Pie

I don’t really like to cook chicken. It seems like no matter what I do to it, it’s just not very good. I season, I marinade, I bread, but unless I’m making some sort of casserole with it my chicken just never seems to be all that great. In casserole dishes, the chicken doesn’t have to be impressive. It just has to be cooked. Which is one reason that I love chicken pot pie. I also love it because it’s easy to make. And, most importantly, it’s delicious. Here’s how I make my chicken pot pie:

2 boneless chicken breast halves
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup frozen corn
~ 3 or 4 medium size red potatoes
1 can cream of chicken soup
2 pie crusts

Boil the chicken and potatoes for about 15-20 minutes. While waiting for chicken and potatoes to cook, prepare 2 pie crusts. Once chicken is cooked through, remove pot from heat. Shred chicken and chop potatoes into cubes. Combine chicken, peas, corn, potatoes and cream of chicken soup in large bowl and toss/stir until meat and veg are coated in the soup. Pour chicken goop into pie shell, cover with second crust , perforate and bake at 375F for 45 minutes or until crust is golden.

This recipe allows for a lot of playing with the ingredients. Really, the measurements are kind of arbitrary, I just estimated them. What you basically want to do is make sure you have enough to fill your pie pan, and you can do that with these ingredients or anything you like. Carrots, onion, or celery could easily be added or substituted for other ingredients. If you want more gravy in your pie, you could use more than one can of the cream of chicken soup. And if you want a different meat or a vegetarian pie, just take out the chicken and add whatever you’d like.

Pancakes, Or, The Laziest Hot Breakfast In The US Besides Instant Oatmeal

IMG_0117

I don’t think I have a favorite breakfast (unless you count “anything with bacon”), but I like pancakes quite a bit. Recently, I ran out of the boxed mix I had been using for pancakes and decided to try a recipe for them that I’d seen on the recipe app on my phone. This led me to discover two things. First, forgetting the baking powder makes for very, very dense not-fluffy-at-all pancakes. And second, making pancakes without a boxed mix is ridiculously easy. Seriously, I cannot fathom now why my mother, or I, ever spent any money on boxed pancake mix when this is all you need for making pancakes:

1 cup flour
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup milk
2 teaspoons melted butter

Combine the eggs, milk and butter, then add the dry ingredients and whisk until the dry ingredients are no longer dry. Spoon or pour into pan, flip when tops start to bubble, remove from pan when both sides are browned.

It. Is. That. Easy.

I also recently discovered Almond Meal and I’ve been substituting it for 1/3-1/2 of the flour in this recipe, which has been delicious.

How To Design Celtic Knotwork By Hand

A couple years ago I decided to try designing my own Celtic knotwork. After some internet searching I found a website that explained with step by step instructions how one can design knotwork by hand as well as how to use knotwork fonts to create different designs. At the time I didn’t have the money to buy a knotwork font, plus I didn’t want my knotwork to look as perfect as it would using a computer program to produce it. My intent was to transfer my designs onto wood and then paint them, and I wanted it to really look hand crafted. So I chose the hard way and learned to design knotwork by hand.

A while back I went searching for the website where I’d learned this new skill and was unable to find it. That got me thinking- what if someone else wants to learn to do this and the other "how to" sites out there don’t work for them like they didn’t work for me? So, I’ve decided to put up a "how to" of my own, including some of the shortcuts I’ve found and examples of ways you can play with the basics to make more than just square and rectangular knots.

But we’ll start with the basics. You will need graph paper, a pencil, and tracing paper. Once you have these things, here’s what you do:

First you take graph paper and lightly draw diamonds inside the squares that are already on the paper. You can draw them each inside individual squares if you want a small, tight design or you can draw diagonal lines in four separate squares to make larger diamonds which will produce larger, looser knots.

IMG_0002 

IMG_0001

This is pretty easy to do for smaller designs, but can be a pain in the ass for bigger knots. Which is why I’ve used Microsoft Paint to make my own graph paper with the diamonds already printed in.

IMG_0003

Creating the Paint file is also a pain in the ass, but you only have to do it once (or, until you get it right anyway) and then you can print as many pages as you want.

After you’ve got your diamonds, either drawn by hand or with the help of a computer, connect the points of the diamonds along the outside of the area of your knot.

IMG_0005
IMG_0004

Now comes the design part. You choose places inside the pattern of diamonds for there to be breaks. Breaks are added either vertically or horizontally between diamonds. The breaks ARE the knotwork. They’re the spots where the lines bend and loop, and if you choose bad breakpoints you’ll get a crappy knot. But it’s not hard to figure out through a little trial and error what will work and what won’t.

At this point, for the sake of showing variety, I’m going to add different breaks to each of the designs. By the end, the small design should look obviously different from the bigger design.

IMG_0007
IMG_0006

When your breaks have been added, take a pen or a marker or just bear down harder on your pencil and trace around all the lines of the diamonds, curving away from the breaks and picking the pattern back up at the next straight diagonal.

IMG_0009
IMG_0008

Once you have your design outlined, you need to flesh it out. In the instructions I used originally, this involved a bunch of erasing of the earlier, underlying lines. That didn’t work well for me though, so I incorporated tracing paper. Lay the tracing paper over your outline. It can be helpful to tape the tracing paper in place, but not always necessary. Then draw an outline of the design, following the lines along the outside of the design area. Do the same for the inside of each internal shape.

IMG_0010
IMG_0011 

When you’re finished, you should have the fully formed shape of the design.

IMG_0013
IMG_0012

Now all you have to do is add the over/under markings. Choose a place to start on your design and connect a "string". Then follow that string throughout the design, alternately connecting the string you’re following and then connecting the next cross string so that it looks as though the string you’re following is weaving over and under the other strings.

IMG_0014 

IMG_0016 

When you’ve connected all the strings in their over/under pattern, your knotwork is done.

IMG_0015
IMG_0018

After you’ve got the basics down, you can experiment with different shapes.

IMG_0020
IMG_0022