Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Spinning a Yarn

Geronimo, hard at work.

Today, I'm going to start the actual writing part of my murder mystery. If I don't stop myself, I'll keep outlining forever. Maps of the town the story is set in, lists of characters with their family trees...it's just too much fun. I had worried briefly about being sued for libel ("any resemblance to any person, living or dead, is purely coincidental" aside), but I'm not anymore. Yes, there are people whose character traits inspired characters in the book. Yes, some of the dialogue is inspired by actual conversations. Yes, some events and circumstances are similar to those in my old job. But, I was delighted to realize, it really, really is FICTION. Which means it will be much better than a thinly veiled portrayal of people, places, and things exactly as they were.

Knitting: Still plugging along on the christening shawl. It's coming along nicely, and should be easily finished before the Knitting Olympics. I should also be able to finish Belle Epoque before then. What next? Well, last year, I started my Christmas presents in March, and mostly made gifts all year. This is the Year of Knitted Stuff for Me. There will still be Christmas presents, but not nearly as many. What's on the list? Tempting II, French Market Bag, Silk Ribbed Lace Corset (Annie Modesitt), Snegurochka's Party Hat and Vintage Beaded Gloves from Handknit Holidays, a vest of some kind, a lace scarf, a hat, and a Farmer's Market Bag.

Cooking has been uninspired due to cold-related soup, tea, and toast limitations.

Reading: Sigh. The same. I have to finish Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell if for no other reason than to be able to post it here.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Undone by math...

Doesn't he look happy sunning himself in the pappasan chair? He obviously didn't run out of yarn..

Belle Epoque is now on temporary hiatus while I wait for the one ball of yarn I had to order to finish the second sleeve. It should be here this week. Here's the math:

For the second size, the pattern calls for 8 balls at 167 yards each. 167 x 8 = 1336. My yarn comes in 137-yard balls, and I have 10. 137 x 10 = 1370. Now, I realize it looks like I was cutting it pretty fine to begin with, but I assumed (remembering what my grandfather always said about ASSUME) that the pattern had built in a bit of yarn leeway, which I'm sure it did. My gauge was spot-on, so I thought I was fine. Until I started the second sleeve with only one (full) ball of yarn. Now I'm about a third of the way through the second sleeve on half a skein. So, either some of my yarn disappeared into the ether, or I misread the gauge. Or measured a little generously and made things a smidge longer than they needed to be. Well, thank you yarnmarket.com for expedited shipping!

Actually, it's not a bad time to take a break from Belle Epoque, even though I got *so* close to finishing, and I love moving a finished object out of the knitting bag, stashing remaining yarn, putting away the needles, and loading up the knitting bag with a new project. For one thing, the Knitting Olympics start on the 10th, and I must finish the christening shawl before then. I'm a little over halfway on the body right now. I'm not terribly excited about making the edging separately and then sewing it on, but I think I'm too lazy to figure out how I could pick up and knit the edging on. We'll see...I might surprise myself.

I had a cold all weekend, so there was a lot of napping, a little knitting, and very little of anything else.

Friday, January 27, 2006

One thing after another

I can already tell that coming up with a title every day is going to be a problem...

Above is the completed Opera Scarf. It was a quick knit in a simple drop stitch pattern. The yarn is lovely to work with. The backdrop is our pappasan chair, tilted toward the sun. There aren't that many options for photo shoots in our apartment, but this seems okay for small projects.

Above is the body of Belle Epoque. The yarn for this sweater was a Christmas gift, and it's very soft with excellent tension. I've sewn the shoulder seams and attached the collar extension to the back. (I dislike finishing, so it helps me to do any finishing I can early, rather than do it all at once after the knitting's all done.) Obviously, it hasn't been blocked yet. I'm struck by how much it looks like a shapeless sack. After the three weeks I spent on this (alternating with a christening shawl), I REALLY hope it looks more flattering once the ribbon band is attached to form an empire waist. The good news is that the body fits me very well. You'll notice this is from the knitty.com archives...I never seem to knit current projects. But one of my upcoming projects is Tempting II. We'll see if I start it before the new issue comes out!

I've decided to join in on the Knitting Olympics fun. My project is Marie Louise's Lace Sweater from Knitter's Stash, in Southwest Trading Company Bamboo yarn. This was another gift of yarn from Christmas, and I've never knitted with bamboo before, so I'm looking forward to it. I've gotten faster at knitting, but 16 days for a sweater is a stretch for me. An additional challenge is finishing the christening shawl before the Knitting Olympics start!

Writing: The murder mystery continues. This is my first attempt at genre writing, so I'm doing a lot of outlining first. I'm hammering out the primary and secondary characters at the moment, which is great fun, especially giving them all motives and creating relationships between them.

Reading: The same, except I'm now halfway through Murder Runs in the Family by Anne George, the next in the series.

Cooking: I came up with a lovely tofu-green pea soup last night that I might submit to Cooking Light, the only cooking magazine I get. I have an enchilada recipe I came up with on Wednesday that I might submit as well. I also have a supply of Callebaut bittersweet chocolate chips, so I want to play with some of my truffle recipes soon.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Getting The Ball Rolling

Who doesn't love pictures of cats? They're so distracting from a lack of initial content. The entire staff at my work was recently laid off, so now I have the time to start a blog. Incidentally, I'm working on a murder mystery set at my former workplace...

What I'm up to (besides job hunting):

Reading: White Teeth, by Zadie Smith (for book club), Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, Portrait in Sepia (Isabel Allende), Murder on a Bad Hair Day (Anne George).

Knitting: Heirloom Silk Shawl (from Knitting for Two) for a friend's baby (in RYC Yarns Cashsoft 4-Ply in Cream), Belle Epoque (from knitty.com) for me (in RYC Yarns SoftLux in Ciel), Heavenly Stole (from Exquisite Little Knits) for someone to be determined (in KidSilk Haze in Heavenly). I will add knitting photos as I finish things, and figure out how to add a sidebar list of projects OTN. I finished an amazing list of Christmas presents last year (39 items from slippers to sweaters), but didn't have the foresight to photograph everything before giving them away. D'oh! I mostly regret not having photographed the four scarves I made for my aunts and cousin in different lace patterns. More on this when I have a slow day. I also recently finished the Opera Scarf from Exquisite Little Knits (love that book!) in wonderful purples. Completely impractical, but a nice gift for myself for having Christmas stuff done on deadline. I also have to re-knit the collar of the sweater I made my husband for Christmas (Leo from knitty.com in Blue Sky Alpaca Silk in Mocha), because it's too tight. It's fine once it's on, but it's a bit painful for him to pull the sweater over his ears. This has happened to me before when picking up and knitting a collar in the round. I picked up the right number of stitches, but I must do it too tightly, because this has happened to me before. I'll re-do the collar on a larger needle, and maybe pick up a few extra stitches.

Writing: The aforementioned murder mystery, a ghost story for children

Cooking: Making vegetable broth to freeze today (the first batch I made in the fall just ran out). I make gallons of it, then freeze it in those 3-cup Ziploc containers so I can make soup all winter.

Vegetable Stock

3 parsnips, peeled if waxed, cut into large chunks
1 pound carrots, scrubbed, cut into large chunks
1 bunch celery, washed, cut into large chunks
5 small onions, peeled and quartered
3 large leeks, washed and cut into large chunks
1/2 head garlic, cloves peeled
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, wiped and quartered
8 oz. white mushrooms, wiped and quartered
1 bunch parsley
3 tsp black peppercorns
2 pinches thyme
4 bay leaves

I make this recipe divided between my two stockpots (8 quart and 6 quart). Divide all ingredients proportionally between pots. Cover with water. Bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes. Strain through a colander or pentola insert, reserving liquid. Discard vegetables. If clearer broth is desired, strain through cheesecloth. Ladle into 3-cup, freezer-safe containers. Cool, then cover and freeze. Substitute vegetables or add additional seasonings or salt if desired.