Friday, March 31, 2006

It's all about the timing.

My friend Amy had her baby yesterday, so welcome to the world, Isabella! Yesterday, the Rowan Wool Cotton Amy had ordered me to make the Lacy Bonnet from Knitting for Two came in, and I made it while watching Wallace and Gromit in Curse of the Were-Rabbit (including special features). It's a very fun bonnet to make, and I *love* this yarn. Mirando and Geronimo both declined to model, so here it is on Bitsy, the butternut squash, whose head was about the right size.

The only odd thing about the pattern is it seems designed to sell extra yarn. The pattern called for two balls of Wool Cotton, and I didn't even come close to using one whole ball. The design at the back ends up looking quite impressive, I think, but is easy to do.

Other knitting: A bit more on Picovoli.

Reading: Still on Bloodsucking Fiends.

Writing: I worked a bit on the Novel, and I'm back to Chapter Four today.

Note: Thanks to MOYA, who apparently wants us all to go to Costa Rica (which is awesome; I went there for my honeymoon), I now have comments moderation turned on.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Keep On Keepin' On

I'm almost through the waist decreases on Picovoli. I'm still loving the pattern. I thought I'd put up a progress photo at this point. The strange thing is, since the Knitting Olympics, I've been knitting mostly one pattern at a time, which is weird for me. I'm usually a 5- or 6-things-on-the-needles person. Besides my scarf, which really, I'll finish sometime, I've been starting and finishing one sweater, and then starting a new one. I may break this streak by casting on for the Farmer's Market Bag from Weekend Knitting. Though I do have the SKC knitalong starting Saturday, with two tops to make by mid-May. Hmmm.

Reading: Bloodsucking Fiends by Christopher Moore. This is his vampire one. Who doesn't need a little Moore in their world? Try him, you'll like him.

Writing: Soldiering on with chapter 4.

Cooking: Nothing new and exciting.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More of the same

What's that, you say? There weren't enough kitty pictures yesterday, and you need more? Here you go...

Geronimo looking a little scary outside:

Mirando taking a little break:

Their cousin (?) Hektor. Hektor tries to tackle Mirando sometimes, but he's too small to take Mirando down. Mirando gets annoyed by this, but they don't actually fight.

Their cousin Cassie, who may be the crankiest cat ever.

The boys rest on the porch. All that fresh air is exhausting.

Knitting: I finished the short row section on Picovoli. I short-rowed until I had 12 stitches wrapped on each side. I think that should be good. I started the short rows halfway through the bust section (after 18 of the 36 rows). I'm on ball of Shine #3. Maybe a progress photo tomorrow. I think I'll also try it on after I finish the bust section. Still mulling over the shawl. I want to make something worthy of the yarn, but not overcrowded. I love the shawls with tons of lace patterns, but those are better for solid colors, I think.

Reading: I finished Death on Demand. It was a perfectly serviceable mystery, but I knew who the killer was very early on. I prefer to keep guessing through a lot of the book. I'm not sure what next. I was looking through my piles of books trying to decide. Maybe Ella Minnow Pea. We'll see.

Writing: Over 16,500 words! I finished the torturous scene with the flirting. Better to torture the author than the reader, I guess. On to the rest of Chapter 4 (and on to 20,000 words!).

Cooking: Mushroom-Goat Cheese thing was very good. Let's see if I remember how I made it. And this is just the way I made it because of what I had in the fridge and pantry. If I'd had fresh basil, I would have used that. If I'd had plain crushed tomatoes, I would have used those and my own seasoning to taste instead (I still don't know why I had flavored crushed tomaroes in the pantry--accidentally grabbed them in that aisle in the store? had a recipe I thought I'd make and changed my mind?) I might try a different mix of mushrooms, as well. The sauce is also very saucy, which I like, but you could grate in a carrot or chuck in some breadcrumbs to make it thicker.

Pasta With Mushrooms and Goat Cheese

1 pound pasta (I used angel hair), cooked according to package directions, drained
1 TBL olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 pound white mushrooms, sliced
6 oz. portabella mushroom caps, diced
1/3 cup red wine
1 28-oz can garlic and herb crushed tomatoes
1/8 tsp black pepper
4 oz goat cheese
1/2 cup greek olives, sliced

Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic and mushrooms. Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring frequently until mushrooms begin to give up liquid. Add wine; bring to a boil. Simmer, partially covered, until wine has reduced by about half. Add tomatoes and pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over pasta with goat cheese and olives. Serves 4 to 6.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Just one more thing...

Thank you to everyone who said nice things about Tempting II. I think I'll wait and see if it grows on me (but Lee, I'll call you if I change my mind!). I think the whole experience of knitting it was so tedious that I wanted something really awesome at the end. But we'll see what happens. Here is a picture of the button. It came in my cup of buttons I got for $5 from Joann's. Since I don't sew, I didn't have a store of buttons, and I was tired of getting buttons every time I made a sweater. This was pretty cool--a pound of buttons, several with 2-5 of the same button. The best part are the brightly colored Osh Kosh B'Gosh buttons that are perfect for kids stuff. There was only one of these guys in there.

As promised, here are more kitty pictures than you can handle! (You're just lucky Blogger stops me at 5 pictures.) These are the boys on a safari in their grandparents' backyard.
Here, Geronimo stalks birds from the cover of a tree (we always scare off anything he gets too close to).

Mirando contemplates the Horking Grass (erbus horkus). We spend half his trips outside keeping him from eating the Horking Grass to avoid the dire aftereffects.

This may look like a German Shepherd, but it's actually Arwen, the Cat Shepherd. Arwen and Maia belong to my in-laws and have adopted our cats as part of the family. Arwen helps us keep the cats in line when we're outside. She can sense that I get nervous when the cats get too close to the fence, so she gently herds them away. The cats *love* this!

Maia is probably just saying "hi" to Geronimo as Arwen herds him away from the hedge. Maia (a Husky-Shepherd mix) doesn't have Arwen's sense of order and responsibility.

Knitting: About an inch into the bust section on Picovoli. This is such a fun, quick knit. I love Knitpicks Shine, and I love the pattern. At the end I'll post how I did the short-row shaping, which I'll probably start tonight.

Writing: Nothing new to report. I *will* have something new to report tomorrow, I promise!

Reading: Same.

Cooking: Tonight I'll probably make pasta with portabella mushrooms and goat cheese. Maybe rosemary? Recipe tomorrow if it's good.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Moving on...

So, that's Tempting II. Impressed? Yeah, me neither. To end the suspense, I still had 35 live stitches when I ran out of yarn. I have no idea why it took so much yarn. But on a whim (and based on a weird feeling that caused me to check the pattern every few rounds, muttering, "no decreases on the yoke? Really?), I tried it on. Biggest. Sweater. Ever. I would have needed the shoulders of a linebacker (sorry, not a football person--are those the ones with the big shoulders?) to hold this sweater up. Darn it for ignoring intuition. So, I ripped out the band and the [k2tog,k1] row below the band. I re-knit the last row as k2tog all around and changed the band to a 9-stitch instead of an 11-stitch to conserve yarn. And, voila, I finished. I found a button that is either cute or ugly (jury's still out) and took my FO picture. Running out of yarn was not my fault--I had gauge, and I was making the smaller of two sizes that called for 5 balls of yarn. Here's what was my fault: 1. I made the wrong size. I should have made a medium, and I made a large. 2. I should have listened to the nagging voice in my head that kept asking how this top was going to stay on my shoulders with no decreases in the yoke. (Is that a load-bearing buckle? Because I had thought it was decorative, and now I think it's holding up the top.) 3. I did not LOOK AT THE PATTERN PHOTO closely. If you look, you can see the top barely hanging on to the model's shoulders. If I had noticed that, I would have either done a couple of yoke decreases or skipped this one. 4. I underestimated the tedium of miles and miles of 1x1 rib. I prefer my mindless knitting in stickinette, which is faster. Good things: I *love* the knitted-on band detail. It makes for a cute, neat finish, and I'll be incorporating it in other places. I love Rowan Calmer, which is soft with a bit of flexibility. I actually mostly like the sweater, too...just not the off-the-shoulder look. So...what now? I may rip back half the yoke and work in a couple of decrease rows. I may rip out the whole thing and make something else. I think the pattern and I need a cooling-off period.

I did get a start on Picovoli. That's Knitpicks Shine in Sky, and I'm doing the picot trim and adding short rows.

This was a birthday present! It's 2 666-yard skeins of Cherry Tree Hill Cascade Fingering Silk in Indian Summer. I've decided it wants to a shawl, and I'm going to swatch a few lace patterns and design it myself.

Reading: Same. My next book club book is The Love Wife by Gish Jen, which I should start before too long.

Writing: Same. Marie asked if I would be sharing drafts of the murder mystery. I hadn't thought about that. I think probably not. I have a few readers in the draft process, but I want to have it polished before I share with a general audience.

Cooking: Lee has tagged me with a cookbook-related meme. So, here we go:

How many cookbooks do you own? The counting would be scary. 20? I'm willing to hazard that as a guess. To give you an idea, I have a spreadsheet of recipes in books I want to try or will make again, that I can sort by category and subcategory, title, source, calories per serving, and main ingredients. I also have a loose-leaf binder with my own recipes and recipes I've collected from the internet.

Which cookbook did you buy most recently? Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2006

Which is the cookbook that you read most recently? The Provence Cookbook by Patricia Wells

Name 5 cookbooks that mean a lot to you.

Cooking Light: I subscribe, I use their web page, I get the Annual Recipes collections every year. Note: The annual recipe collections are indexed hardbound books with every recipe from the previous year's issues. These are not to be confused with their themed cookbooks, which I've found lacking. Nutritional info on every recipe, creative substitutions, lightening without taking out all the flavor. And even if the cover story is something completely unrelated to my cooking, like "Pork Recipes Galore", I know there will be *something* in there for me. And the learning! Last year, one of the issues featured a whole section on homemade ricotta cheese, which I made a ton of and used in three of the recipes.

The New Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen: The first curry I ever made was the eggplant version in this book, and I first made samosas from here as well. Yes, the format's quirky, but several of the recipes have stayed on my "favorites" list, and I enjoy her writing style. And it was my first vegetarian cookbook, so I thought it was great that I didn't have to skip whole sections.

Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East: This is the book that got me started on Mediterranean food--my first hummus was from this book. It also got me started on Indian food, which is a delightful challenge, and led me to Indian Vegetarian Cooking at Your House. Sadly, it has not improved my Chinese cooking, which is confined to basic stir-fry.

The Professional Chef, Seventh Edition and The Professional Pastry Chef, Fourth Edition: Both are amazing references and learning tools for when I want a new challenge. And PPC has a killer recipe for strawberry-lime sauce that is a *perfect* match for my Margarita Angel Food Cake in the summer. Yum. Plus, each is so heavy, you feel like a serious chef just carrying it into the kitchen.

Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook: I'm not generally a huge Martha fan, but this book is great for two reasons. First, it tells you how to make fiddly-looking hors d'oeuvres in mere hours. Turning out dozens of cute little one-bite tartlets is a special kind of fun. Second, it helps me with my greatest cooking weakness...presentation. My food generally tastes good, but I'm not great at decorating or arranging. This leads to culinary creations like Elephant Poop Cake, an amazing-tasting chocolate mousse-filled layer cake that looks like its namesake. And if anyone is a master of image, it's Martha.

If you read my blog and you cook, consider yourself tagged!

Tomorrow: More kitty pictures than you can handle. Stay tuned.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

So I was knitting along on the yoke, la la la, and all of a sudden it was long enough! So it's all over but the shouting. Or in this case, the edging. The edging is going well, but I'm a little worried about running out of yarn. This size (large) that I'm making calls for 5 balls of Calmer, and since the next size up also calls for 5 balls, I figured I'd be fine. I just don't have a clear picture of how much yarn the 11-stitch band is taking up. The color I'm using is also discontinued, so getting another ball is pretty much out. If I do run out, I could undo the whole band and redo it with a narrower, 7 or 9- stitch band. Except, I would probably never do that, and the sweater will live in nearly-finished limbo in the closet. Well, we'll see.

Reading: I've decided on Death on Demand, the first in Carolyn Hart's mystery series set in a mystery bookshop on an island. It's cute, and will probably take another hour to read.

Writing: I'm almost done with the coffeeshop scene, which will probably be half of chapter 4. It's nearly at 16,000 words. I like the way the mystery is evolving; there are a lot of suspects at this point. I think I want to try to reveal one interesting secret about one of the suspects in the second scene of this chapter.

Cooking: Not a thing since tamales. And it'll be a few days, as we're spending the weekend at my in-laws' house.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Black Hole Continues...

Are you tired of pictures of unfinished Temping II? Yeah, me too. Thanks to everyone who offered sympathy and encouraging words. I do think it looks closer to done in this photo than in the last, and last night I had to attach the last ball of yarn, so I must be making progress. I'll just keep going, and eventually it'll be done. I have been thinking about how to finish the collar, since I'm not using the buckle. I could eliminate the overlap part entirely and just pick a spot for the seam, but I think I will just shorten it and use two buttons. I have to dig through the button stash and see what I have. Oh, and I responded to String Bean, but this might be of general interest: I knit English.

Reading: After The Year of Magical Thinking, it's time for another fluffy book. Perhaps the first Mrs. Pollifax...

Writing: I'm rescuing my protagonist from her mocha in the coffee shop, where the Love Interest is being introduced. Fun stuff! No significant word count changes, though chapter 3 changes are mostly done.

Cooking: Tamales went very well last night. Yum. They are time-consuming, but I enjoy the process (not as an everyday thing, but on occasion). My tamales are non-authentic, lacking in both pork and lard. Here's the recipe:

Roasted Chile-Jack Cheese Tamales

5 Poblano or other mild chiles, cut in half lengthwise, stems and seeds removed
4 cups shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1 cup chopped cilantro

1 1/3 cups corn, fresh or frozen (thawed)
5 cups masa harina
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups broth, divided
6 TBL vegetable shortening

36 large cornhusks

Place cornhusks in 9x13 pans and cover with hot water. Let soak one hour. Drain and pat dry. Tear 4 cornhusks lengthwise into 32 strips.

To prepare filling, line a baking sheet with foil and arrange chiles cut sides down. Broil for 12-15 minutes under a preheated broiler, under skins are charred. Place in a zip-top baggie and let steam for 10 minutes. Peel under cool running water. Pat dry, dice, and place in a medium bowl. Toss with cheese and cilantro.

To prepare dough, place corn in a food processor and process until smooth. Combine masa harina, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Add four cups broth and stir until smooth. Place shortening in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat at medium speed 1 minute or until fluffy. Add corn and 1/2 cup broth; beat at medium speed until blended. Add masa mixture; beat until smooth dough forms.

Assembly: Using one corn husk at a time, place 1/4 cup dough in the center and spread into a rectangle. Place about 2 TBL filling down the center. Roll up husk, making sure that dough seals around filling. Fold tapered end of husk up; secure by tying with one of the corn husk strips. Repeat to make 32 tamales.

Steam: Stand tamales upright in a vegetable steamer in a large stockpot (I use my large stockpot with the pasta insert. Add one inch of water to the bottom of the pan, so the water isn't touching the tamales. Cover and steam 90 minutes, or until husks pull away cleanly. Add additional water as needed. Let stand 5 minutes. Serve in corn husks so everyone unwraps their own. Serve with tomatillo salsa.

Tomatillo Salsa

2 pounds tomatillos, husks removed
2 garlic clove, peeled
1/2 jalepeno pepper, seeded
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 TBL lime juice
1/2 tsp salt

Place tomatillos, garlic, and pepper in a large pot; cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 7 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Combine with remaining ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Neverending Sweater

Originally uploaded by allisonmariecat.

Yes, we have no Tempting II pictures again today. Somehow, the laws of space and time have shifted, and the last three inches of the yoke are going to take the rest of my life. I think I'm making progress, but it's hard to tell.

Reading: I finished The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. It was a lovely little gem of a book. It's a memoir about the year following her husband's death, but not in an Oprah-book kind of tearjerking way. She has particular phrases and images that echo throughout the book, keeping it grounded and from becoming self-indulgent. It's detached but also passionately told. I didn't like her writing style at first, and I'm not sure I'll hurry to read her other books, but I thought this one was amazing.

Writing: Same place. See, it's those laws of space and time again! No, it's more that other things have been taking a lot of time. I'm also going back to tinker with some Chapter 3 stuff, so that's slowed progress. I've had my protagonist stalled at a table in a coffee shop with the same cafe mocha for three days now. I hope she's okay.

Cooking: I like to prepare for dinner party type things in stages. Yesterday, I went shopping and made the cake and the espresso cream for the Espresso Cream Cake with Chocolate Chile-Sauce, roasted poblano chiles for the tamale filling, and made tomatillo salsa. Right before people get here, I'll make the Spicy Pinto Beans and the Chocolate-Chile Sauce. Which leaves finishing the tamale filling, making the dough, and assembling the tamales for today. Speaking of which, the corn husks need to get soaking.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Faraway, So Close

I really thought I'd have a picture of finished Tempting II up today, but not quite. I'm halfway through the yoke. The length to the underarm soon-to-be seam is 16". Then the yoke is 6" before doing the collar band. It's about as long as I usually go for short sleeved tops. Something I noticed about this sweater, with the Child's Placket-Neck Pullover fresh in mind, is that there's more yarn breaking in the row where you're joining the sleeves. In the CPNP, you work seam# of stitches past the seam, place the seam# of stitches you already worked on a stitch holder, then keep going. For Tempting II, you work up to the seam# of stitches, break the yarn, and put seam# on a holder, rejoin the yarn and keep going. Does anyone know what the point of this is? I can't imagine it would matter, but I decided to just go with the pattern as written. It's just more ends to weave in, and maybe other people don't avoid weaving in ends like the plague the way I do.

Other knitting: The friend I just taught to knit has finished a baby hat already! I'm going to help her seam it, and she still has i-cord ties to do. She's already started on booties, as well.

Reading: Halfway through The Year of Magical Thinking. You know, when you think "memoir of grief", you don't think "quick read", but this book is going fast. Part of it might be that I started out skimming because her writing style bugged me, so I'm reading fast, but it's very compelling at the same time. I really love the phrases she echoes throughout the book.

Writing: Just about 15,500 words, a couple pages into chapter 4.

Cooking: I finally picked a menu for my book club tomorrow, so it's off to the grocery store today. I'm making Roasted Chile-Corn Tamales with Tomatillo Sauce, Spicy Pinto Beans, and Espresso Cream Cake with Chile-Chocolate Sauce. And guacamole. I sort of guard my guacamole recipe, and the pinto beans are ridiculously easy, but I'll post the tamale recipe after I make them. The dessert is from Cooking Light.

Monday, March 20, 2006

One-Armed Bandit

Originally uploaded by allisonmariecat.

One arm down, one to go on Tempting II, so I thought it was time for a progress photo. This is my first short-sleeved top, and I *love* short sleeves. They take no time at all to knit! Finished photos soon, I hope. Next in the spring lineup: Picovoli in Knitpicks Shine in Sky. Then the Somewhat Cowl in Elsebeth Lavold Silky Wool in Moss and Orangina, NOT in orange, but in Rowan 4 Ply Cotton in Bloom, a deep rose color. You will notice that the last two are NOT blue of any kind. I'm trying to break out of my blue phase.

Cats: Thanks, Tim. I forgot to bring up Mirando's name, which does in fact mean 'watching' in Spanish. We think that's pretty funny--he does 'watch' in his own way--he's very observant. He was named Miranda by the people who previously had the boys, due to a misunderstanding :) We decided to keep the name as close as possible and just replace the feminine -a ending with the masculine -o. I suppose we could have left it Miranda ala "A Boy Named Sue".

Writing: Still just over 15,000 words, working on chapter 4. But I think I've decided for sure who did it! I don't like working from an outline; I'd rather see what the characters are going to do and how the relationships develop than to force something. So if I come up with something in Chapter 3 that's inconsistent, I go back and fix earlier stuff. I'm deciding between having the next murder attempt in chapter 4 or 5.

Reading: Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. At first, I was very put off by her writing style, to the extent that 30 pages in, I thought I might give up. But it's a strangely compelling book, and I got hooked after about 50 pages. Considering it's only 220 pages or so, that's a long time to be ambivalent about it. I'm not sure if the material is transcending her style, or if I just got used to it, but I had trouble putting it down to go to sleep.

Cooking: Book club is getting Mexican food! But I don't think I have the time to make tamales, so I may do enchiladas instead. But I *love* making tamales, and I do it so rarely...sigh. Tough decision. I completely forgot to post my pesto-y pasta recipe last week.

Penne With Pesto, Mushrooms, and Roasted Red Peppers

2 red bell peppers, cut in half, stems and seeds removed
1 pound penne pasta
1 TBL olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
6 oz. prepared pesto (in summer, I'd make my own from the basil that grows on the porch)
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
Parmagiana-Reggiana, grated (for garnish)

1. Roast the peppers. Preheat the broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil and place peppers, cut side down, on the foil. Broil about 12-15 minutes, or until skin is charred. Carefully place in a large zip-top plastic baggie and seal. Leave 10 minutes. Carefully open the baggie and remove peppers. Remove skin under cool running water. Pat dry with paper towels and cut into strips. Have I used the word "careful" enough?

2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and mushrooms; reduce heat to medium. Cook until the mushrooms begin to give up liquid. Stir in pesto and ricotta until smooth. Add pasta, red peppers, and olives; toss well.

Serve hot, topped with cheese. Serves 6-8.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Stare-Down

Originally uploaded by allisonmariecat.

Mirando and Geronimo "stare" each other down before a good fight.

The flailing paws

Originally uploaded by allisonmariecat.

Lazy Sunday

Originally uploaded by allisonmariecat.

For the humans, anyway. This is the last moderately unfuzzy photo I have of the boys fighting. I want to stress that this is just play for them. Unlike yowling catfights, theirs are almost silent. I'd never seen anything like it before.

String Bean, I can't believe I haven't mentioned it here before, but you're right--Mirando was born completely blind. His right eye didn't form at all, and his left eye formed very small, just enough so we can tell he would have had blue eyes. He has our apartment memorized and has no problem when we move things around. He also has my husband's parents' house memorized (including the huge backyard, where we take him on supervised "safaris"). The boys are pretty evenly matched in fights, and Mirando enjoys hiding around the corner and pouncing on Geronimo as he comes out of the litterbox. Geronimo is actually our more timid cat, and Mirando is the adventurous one.

Knitting: A bit further on Tempting II.

Reading: Starting The Year of Magical Thinking today.

Writing: no new progress.

Cooking: I think I've settled on Mexican food for my book club.

Edited to add: I only have the one birthday! The 18th. The "Birthday" trip to the DMV was Friday :)

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Too much excitement

Originally uploaded by allisonmariecat.

All this birthday stuff is too much for Geronimo.
Today, I'm 29...for the first time! My husband took me out to our favorite brunch spot this morning. I don't really have too much to report today.

Thank you for the birthday wishes! String Bean - the Tempting II color is a greeny blue, maybe more green than blue. It was discontinued, and thus on sale :)

Pasta with Pesto recipe tomorrow.


Originally uploaded by allisonmariecat.

Mirando shows his opinion...

Friday, March 17, 2006

Luck of the...Welsh?

Like a lot of Americans, I'm my own melting pot. My dad is mostly Bohemian, Slavic, and maybe German and my mom has Basque, Irish, and the smidge of Cherokee (my 5-greats grandmother). So I always thought I had some entitlement to St. Patrick's Day because of my "heritage" (and also because I missed being born on St. Patrick's Day by two hours and nine minutes). A few years ago, a distant relative put together a detailed family tree of my mom's mom's side (where the Irish is), and it turns out...we're Welsh, not Irish, going back to the Ootens of Wales in the 1640s. Did my ancestors think being Irish was cooler than being Welsh?

But Happy St. Patrick's Day, anyway! If I were done with Tempting II, and it were 30 degrees warmer, I could avoid being pinched wearing it:

I'm about half done with the body (9 out of 16 inches). I have to say, I'm not a huge fan of the 1x1 rib. Moving back and forth between knit and purl is not the fastest way I knit. But it's nice mindless knitting right now, and I'm excited to wear the top. Someday. When the snow is melted. But I'm not putting on a buckle--I just don't think I'm trendy enough to pull that off, so I'm going to add a couple of buttonholes and use buttons instead.

Writing: Chapter three is finished! I'm onto Chapter Four. I have over 15,000 words, and I am on page 50, a page count that is starting to make me feel like I really, really am writing a book.

Reading: Same.

Cooking: I'm still waffling over book club menu. Mexican is fun, but it's more fun when it's warm and we can have the porch door open and drink margaritas. I always enjoy cooking Italian, or Mediterranean.

In a "Happy Birthday from the Wisconsin DMV" I have to go get my license renewed IN PERSON before tomorrow or I have to pay them a $5 late fee. Since I object to the $24 the renewal is already I go! I may still be in line tomorrow, so if I don't post, that's why.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

One step forward...

Just when I thought I might never finish the Heavenly Stole (from Exquisite Little Knits), I've made some progress on it. It's starting to look like something that will be wearable and less like a square. That's snow in the background, by the way. I'm almost done with the first ball of Kidsilk Haze (the pattern takes about two or "until desired length"). I know people love this yarn, but it's not all that and a bag of chips for me. It is soft, but sometimes it starts to be a little scratchy over my fingers when I've been knitting a while, and it's fiddlier than I usually like my yarn--so thin that I have to watch my knitting more than usual. I'm reserving judgment till I have the completed piece, though. For reference, this is a simple 2-row pattern repeat on size 8 needles. Maybe it's nicer with smaller needles? Or a different lace pattern?

Reading: same. I have to start The Year of Magical Thinking for book club, though. I keep thinking the meeting is WAY in the future, but it's next Wednesday. Yeesh.

Writing: Argh. I am having so much difficulty finishing this chapter. Good thing I'm snowed in today.

Cooking: See above re: book club panic. Need a menu, need to go shopping. Ack!

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Joy of Progress

First, here's Tubey, all finished:

I used 4 skeins of Cascade 220 in grey, 2 balls of Debbie Bliss Merino Aran in Charcoal, and 1 ball of Debbie Bliss Merino Aran in Lavender, to make a size medium. I picked up the prescribed number of stitches, but I shortened the length by two inches.

This project made me think about designing, which is something I've been wanting to start (but there are too many great patterns out there that I want to try first!). What is an original design? Copyright law in the U.S. prevents "copying"--really, could they make that more vague? An original design doesn't infringe on copyright law when it's not "substantially similar" to an earlier design (and that 30% rule you've heard is made up). I've changed the yarn, the colors, the stripe pattern, the length, and the location of the stripes on my Tubey, but I don't consider it an original design, because I think it's substantially similar to the original Tubey pattern. But the main reason I think that is the unique construction, which is a process, and therefore not protected by copyright law. You can't copyright the idea of making a sweater out of two tubes. So it's possible that my Tubey (and many others out there who have taken the pattern as only a suggestion, especially the short-sleeved version I've seen) is original enough to qualify as an original design. That makes sense when you think about the purpose of copyright law, which is to promote creation. It both gives the original designer exclusive rights to her design, which encourages design in the first place, and it isn't restrictive enough to prevent other designers from drawing inspiration from that design and improving it. I still wouldn't market my Tubey as my own design--when I start designing, I want it to be very clear that my designs are original.

Writing: Over 14,000 words! Nearly at the end of chapter 3.

Reading: Still on Killing Cassidy. It's the "message from the murdered man whose death didn't look like a murder" plot device, which I think would be a lot of fun to write. Your sleuth is the only one who thinks the death is a murder, because she's gotten a letter from beyond the grave saying "If you are reading this, it means the person who is trying to kill me has finally succeeded!" No one else thinks it's a murder, because the victim died in a car accident or of food poisoning or something equally banal. The sleuth has to run around trying to investigate (naturally, the police aren't interested), and finds nothing at first. Was the victim just paranoid? And then, BAM! A couple of things that just don't add up, and your sleuth has helped the victim solve *his own murder*. Good stuff.

Cooking: Hmmm. Ask again after we've gone to the grocery store.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Don't judge a book...

Today, the sun is shining, and it looks like a gorgeous spring day, a perfect day to throw open the windows, and maybe go for a walk. But according to the weather channel, it's 28 degrees, with a windchill of 18. It's a good thing I have tons of writing to do, and need to stay inside today.

Geronimo warms his shaggy tummy in the sunshine:

Mirando, with the UNFROZEN lake in the background! Woo, the lake is unfrozen!!!

I wanted to address comments on knitted Christmas gifts. The big question is "are they appreciated?" That's a good question. The short answer is, mostly. I am lucky to have family members who are extremely appreciative of knitted gifts--they either wear them frequently or just make an effort to wear them when I'm around. I hope it's the former :) They relay nice comments they hear from strangers on their knitted items, and tell me how useful they are. I haven't had any polite hints of "Boy, I sure do have a lot of scarves and hats. I don't think another would fit in my closet!" or anything. Last year, when I made the outrageous number of gifts, I saved larger gifts for family members I knew would appreciate them, and made smaller gifts for my aunts, uncles, and cousins. I made each of my aunts a scarf in a different lace pattern, booga bags for my girl cousins, fuzzyfeet for my uncles and guy cousin, and placket-neck pullovers with really fun buttons for my little second cousins (or first cousins once removed, I can never remember what my cousin's kids are called). The choices turned out to be good, which I think is the key to knitted gifts. The little sweaters were in climate-appropriate cotton blends in fun variegated colors(this is for my family, in California), and the boys loved the car and dalmation buttons. Booga bags are simple, cute, and useful. And who doesn't love fuzzyfeet? (I made them in dark blues and greys to be extra "manly.") And my aunts gushed over the lace patterns in their scarves. I made sure that I was knitting them for me, as well. I got to try out five different lace patterns, I *really* mastered felting (at least what it takes in my washer), and I learned some basic sock techniques with the fuzzyfeet.

Five Rules for Knitting Gifts:

1. Choose with the recipient in mind. I worked very hard last year to choose appropriate patterns, yarn, and colors. If someone is in a warm climate and not the type who always has a sweater in their office to combat air conditioning, a bulky wool sweater will not be used. If the recipient dresses very conservatively in muted colors, something crazy and multi-colored is probably not a good idea. My brother-in-law does not wear sweaters. Ever. So, it would be pretty clueless of me to expect him to love one just because I made it. So I made him a hat and scarf set instead, which I knew he would use.

2. Knit for yourself. Choose patterns that challenge your knitting, or that allow you to practice a technique you want to master. Or choose new yarns you haven't tried before. That way, even if your gifts are unappreciated, you've at least gotten something out of the process. (Obviously, this is a delicate balance between #1 and #2.)

3. Don't build up your expectations. I try to expect a thank you on the same lines as I would receive if I had given a store-bought sweater, slippers, bag, whatever. Unless you're giving to another knitter, THEY HAVE NO IDEA what you put into your gift. They do not know that you frogged the lace pattern four times before getting it right, or how awful p3tog is, or how much time it took to perfectly seam their sweater.

4. Some people are not good candidates for knitted gifts. If your sister only wears major designers and thinks "handmade" is tacky, don't expect her to gush over the scarf you knitted her--go buy her one at Nordstrom instead. If Aunt Mabel is chronically disappointed with every gift she ever opens, save your energy. Get her a gift card for Borders. If you feel compelled to make knitted gifts for absolutely everyone on your list, consider going smaller--like a little knitted gift bag to hold a Starbucks card. Or a little Christmas tree ornament instead of a bow.

5. Be compulsively organized. I had a spreadsheet with columns for recipient, pattern, yarn, deadlines, and status. And I started in March. I had my yarn organized so I knew what was for which gift. I had all my needles...well, in the same general area of the apartment, at least. I kept a lace project, a mindless project, and parts of a large project in my bag all the time.

Other Knitting: Finished Tubey photos tomorrow! I have about an hour of knitting left, but I was too tired to finish last night. After measuring some of my other sweaters, I felt like the 18.5 inches called for on the medium was too long, so I've shortened it by two inches. I really hope I don't regret that later. I also started teaching another friend to knit. She is picking it up so quickly, it's amazing.

Writing: 12,600 words. Yes, 100 words is not that exciting, but today is an "all writing, all the time" day. I have also realized that I have to re-work the opening. It's just not compelling enough. It won't make a literary agent say "I *must* represent this!" I'm saving that for the Great Revision when the whole thing is done. I still can't believe I've written 43 pages.

Reading: I decided on one more fluffy book before I tackle The Year of Magical Thinking. I'm reading Killing Cassidy by Jeanne Dams. Her Dorothy Martin series is cute. It follows Dorothy, an American living in England, as she solves a bunch of murders. I somehow missed this one--I've read the rest of the series. This one takes place in the U.S., and I miss her neighbors and the more English flavor of the other books.

Cooking: I can't really remember what all I put in my hummus, so I won't post a guess. Next time I make it, I'll pay more attention.

Monday, March 13, 2006

It's beginning to look a lot like...

...not Christmas, but time to think about Christmas knitting. This time last year, I started my Christmas gifts. I made 3 shawls, 7 adult sweaters, 6 baby sweaters, 4 felted bags, 5 pairs slippers, 11 scarves, 2 hats, and a partridge in a pear tree. This year, I have lots more knitting for me planned in, so Christmas will be less...insane. Last year, the only things I made for myself were Pin-Up Queen and Furry Foot Warmers from Stitch 'n' Bitch. The 9 months of deadline knitting really did speed up my knitting, though, I mastered several new techniques, and I felt pretty accomplished when I packed up two duffle bags full of knitting to take to various friends and relatives.

This year, I'm not starting my Christmas knitting until October, and I'm going to be less comprehensive. If I run across a pattern that's just perfect for someone, I'll plan it in, babies *always* get stuff from me, and there are adorable small projects out there that I think I’ll make for extended family, but I'm not going nuts on gifts this year. I need a break :)

Knitting: Getting close to the end of Tubey!

Reading: Still stalled.

Writing: Still at 12,500. Must make more progress today.

Cooking: We desperately need to go to the grocery store, so nothing new.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sunday morning coffee

I've got my morning latte, and blogger let me upload a photo of Tubey, after I threatened to use instead:

Tubey doesn't photograph that well in progress, unless the photographer is energetic enough to move it to scrap yarn and try it on, and well, my latte would get cold. I have a couple of inches done on the body. I managed to pick up the right number of stitches, which was really tedious and horrible, but now it's done, the ribbing is going quickly. That's about it for knitting news. Oh, except that I reorganized my stash yesterday, and I now have a bag of "yarn scraps" isolated from the rest of the yarn that's in neat balls. I have a "feltable" bag and a "kids" bag, and I know where everything is now!

Reading: I still haven't picked a book to read next. I might go ahead and start The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion (my book club book).

Writing: Still at 12,500. I had to revise my chapter three goal to next Wednesday.

Cooking: Nothing too exciting. I might put up my hummus recipe if I can remember the amounts I used. StringBean, keep me posted on how Pasta Sam is going :)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Spring has sprung!

No, not really. It's going to get cold again, but the first sign that spring is coming: The windows are open. The windows have not been open since, I don't know, October. The high today is near 60, and I can't remember what to wear when it's this warm. Do I need a jacket? A sweater?

Here's a rare action shot of Mirando and Geronimo fighting. It's difficult to get a non-blurred photo of them. I'm thinking of sending it to National Geographic.

And here's Mirando, ferociously defending Fort Desk Chair:

Knitting: There are kitty pictures today because the knitting isn't exciting enough to be photographed. I finished the shrug part of Tubey, and I'm happy with the fit. I'm starting the body today. A bit further on Tempting II.

Reading: Finished the fluffy book. It was cute, and helped reinforce the outline for my own murder mystery. I was starting to worry that my body count might be too low, but I don't think so. I'm deciding whether I want to stick with fluffy books until I read The Year of Magical Thinking (an extremely non-fluffy book) for book club, so I haven't picked my next book yet.

Writing: Well, I had something else to do all day yesterday, so chapter three is going to take a bit longer. Every time I write the obligatory meeting-the-potential-love-interest scene, it's all dorky and cheesy. But then, when I read them in cozy mysteries, I always think they're dorky and cheesy. So maybe they have to be that way. Or maybe I'll put it off till chapter four. I also have a couple of characters I feel I'm neglecting. If they're going to be legitimate suspects, I need to make sure they have a stronger presence.

Cooking: Nothing of note since Pasta Geronimo. If anyone decides to make it, let me know what you think and if you made any note-worthy adjustments.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Stripes, Redux

Thank you so much to everyone who responded here and at to my striping dilemma on Tubey. Opinions were very widely varied, which is nice, because it means I wasn't completely off the rocker in my original color scheme. I thought it was interesting the way one person's "the blue is too bright next to the burgundy" is another person's "the blue really pops next to the burgundy". I had several great suggestions to consider, and very welcome support to boot. After *lots* of swatching, here is what I settled on, only at the bottoms of the sleeves and body:

I realized that, while I love everyone's finished Tubeys, I am not much of a horizontal stripes person in garments I wear. And I really like the mottled grey of the Cascade 220, and I'm happy to have that make up most of the sweater. I really liked the charcoal next to the lavender, and I like the positioning at the bottom of the garment. We'll see how it looks when it's finished!

Reading: Same.

Writing: I did more reworking yesterday than production in terms of word count. Still at about 12,500.

Cooking: Nothing fun. I'm making hummus to bring to a friend's house today, though.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

To Stripe or Not To Stripe...

I will spare you the whole mock-soliloquy on striping. But last night I got to the elbow stripes on the first sleeve, and all the indecision about striping I had had during yarn selection came back. (In the first stage, holding several balls of yarn, I interrupted my husband playing FIFA Soccer 2006 to ask desperately, "Do these go together? What about these? The light blue or the darker greeny blue?") It started when I used my originally determined sequence, with light blue as the first stripe next to the light grey. I just didn't like those two colors next to each other. So I switched the light blue and the charcoal. But then, did I hate the burgundy next to the light blue? I just couldn't tell any more. Are the stripes ugly? Will they look funny in the combination over the body? Do I want just a couple of stripes on the body? Or wider stripes, as in the original pattern? Would those make me look huge? If so, near the top, or near the bottom? I even want stripes at all? Maybe I just want a grey sweater. Maybe I want a grey sweater with a little lavender or charcoal trim at the ends of the sleeves and the bottom. So, I've set Tubey aside until I can resolve some of these issues. Any thoughts on the stripes, or on the color selection (all my available yarn balls in this weight are in the second picture; I only have enough of the lavender or burgundy to do a couple of narrow stripes? I have lots of the charcoal, blue green, and light blue.

Reading: Same.

Writing: 12,500 words! Halfway through Chapter 3!

Cooking: So, Tuesday night, I decide to roast a bunch of veggies for a pasta dish I'd been contemplating. I had the veggies roasting and the pasta on the stove. And a small container with some leftover pesto in it that I thought would go well. The container was open, on the counter next to the refrigerator. There was a moth that had been driving the cats nuts. Geronimo followed it up onto the counter, then up to the refrigerator, stepping in the pesto on the way up and knocking the container to the floor. Urgh. After cleaning pesto off of EVERYTHING in the kitchen (Geronimo spent the next three hours grooming the pestoed paw on and off.) I regrouped. I had pasta and roasted veggies ready to be tossed and served, and no pesto, which had sort of been a major flavoring component. So I tossed everything with olive oil, basil, and oregano, and served with mozzarella cheese. It was so good, we were almost glad Geronimo had trashed the pesto idea.

Pasta Geronimo

2 TBL olive oil, divided
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 large eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 plum tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled
2 tsp salt, divided
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 pound short pasta (penne, rotini, etc.)
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup Parmagiano-Reggiano, grated
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, return to pan.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss vegetables in a roasting pan with 1 TBL olive oil. Sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking. Combine with pasta, 1 TBL olive oil, 1 tsp salt, and dried herbs. Toss well. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Divide among 6 bowls. Sprinkle with cheeses, basil, and pine nuts. Serve hot.

Note: Next time, I plan to try this with diced fresh mozzarella.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Personal Information for $500, Alex!

My friend Holly has tagged me with the following quiz. Come back tomorrow for the recipe for Pasta Geronimo and the really funny story behind it.

Four jobs you have had in your life:

1. Communications Director for Children's Theatre of Madison
2. Summer Law Clerk
3. Summer intern/Jack-of-all-trades for Lightspeed Software
4. T.A. for Intro Astronomy lab at Emory University
...and as a bonus, my first job at 15: Snow Cone Production/Sales at a Sno-Shak

Four movies you would watch over and over:

1. Magnolia
2. Sirens
3. Gosford Park
4. Kissing Jessica Stein and High Fidelity (tie)

I'm not great with rules, so...
The Next Four: Chocolat, Lost in Translation, Ocean's Eleven, Pirates of the Caribbean, Four Weddings and a Funeral. Oops, that's five. Oh, well.

Four places you have lived:

1. Madison, Wisconsin
2. Chicago
3. Atlanta
4. Bakersfield, California

TV shows you love to watch:

1. Scrubs
2. Gilmore Girls
3. Supernatural
4. The Simpsons
(As a bonus, no-longer-on-TV shows I love to watch on DVD: BBC's Pride and Prejudice mini-series, Buffy, Angel, X-Files, Roswell, Friends, Frasier, Coupling (British version), Magnum, P.I. Stop laughing.)

Four places you have been on vacation:

1. Prague
2. Costa Rica
3. Italy
4. France

Four websites I visit daily:

4. (Try it! Make your own country and be a dictator!)

Four of my favorite foods:

1. Bittersweet chocolate
2. Artichokes
3. Goat cheese
4. Greek olives

Four places I would rather be right now:

1. Cayucos, California (lovely central coast beach town)
2. The resort at Playa Conchal we stayed at on our honeymoon (two words: swim-up bar)
3. In a big, industrial kitchen with lots of assistants where I could cook without running out of counter space (this will be funnier tomorrow)
4. Somewhere in Maine, preferably with a lighthouse in view (no idea why)

Four friends who I have tagged that I think will respond:

If you read my blog, consider yourself tagged!


Hmm. Nothing now.
1. I dimly remember being called 'Fluffy' early in high school, a result of my 1989-1991 spiral-perm phase. All photographic evidence has been destroyed, so don't look for any.
2. I was sometimes called 'Allie' in ballet class.
3. My aunt always called me 'Munchkin'.
4. Oh, geez. I just remembered this one. In elementary school, people would call me Allison Wonderland. And the memories just keep flooding back--Allison Ketchup (my maiden name is Ketchell).

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Double espresso, please!

Not for the boys, though. It's time for their mid-morning nap.

I kept waking up last night with bits of the Novel in my head, so I finally got up and wrote for a while. Even though I'm tired, I'm very happy about this. While I've been wading through lots of research for the Novel, it's nice to be able to write some of the present-day scenes, and nice that my brain is working on the Novel when I'm not. Although, the Novel seems to want to be set in present tense, and I never write in present tense if I can help it. It's too hard to do well. But I suppose I have to give it my best shot.

In other writing news, I'm plugging away at chapter three of the murder mystery. The body has been found! The police are on their way! Thanks to google, I've been able to find a fair amount of police procedure from various departments across the country online. I'm also revising my town a bit. I think it's going to need to be a bit bigger than I'd originally planned, to allow for sequels without running into what my husband calls "Cabot Cove Syndrome", in which I kill off practically everyone in the town and eventually have to move the main character. Or send her on trips to solve murders while visiting obscure relatives never before mentioned in the narrative.

Knitting: I made the Angora Baby Booties from Last Minute Knitted Gifts last night. These were fun and quick. They took just about two Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes to make (on DVD, without commercials, so about 45 minutes each). The double knitting on the toe is like magic. Here they are. Aren't they too cute?

I knit a few rows on Tubey last night as well. I'll wait to post photos until there are stripes. A grey rectangle? Not that exciting. I keep changing the striping pattern, too, so we'll have to see where that is when I start the stripes.

Reading: Still on How to Murder a Millionaire.

Cooking: Yeah, I didn't cook anything of note last night. Roasted vegetable thingy tonight.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Snowy Monday

It's March, and all over the world (well, this hemisphere, anyway), flowers are blooming and the days are getting warmer. But not here. Here it's snowing. This is about the time of year when I really, really miss southern California. I love the snow, but in March? That's just ridiculous.

Here's the Child's Placket Neck Pullover:

It took just about two skeins of Knitpicks Shine Twist in Romance. Even the next size up would have needed a third skein. I like this pattern a lot (not the first time, before I knew about the rampant errors). I'm working on a pair of Angora Baby Booties, also from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, in a white-pink variegated ball of Valeria di Roma Angora. Yes, it's a lot of pink. But the mom these three things are for both likes pink and is having a daughter, and how often does that happen?

Reading: How to Murder a Millionaire by Nancy Martin. Cute, quick read.

Writing: I retooled some of chapter 2 over the weekend, and this week, I'm writing all of chapter 3. Starting now!

Cooking: Tonight I'm making a pasta dish with roasted eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes. If it turns out edible, I might post the recipe.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

I'm back, and I have the combination!

For no apparent reason, blogger has decided I may post photos again. So here is the Pinwheel Baby Blanket:

Geronimo has agreed to endorse the Pinwheel Blanket: "Geronimo says--it's good for laying on!"

Notes: I used 4 balls of Filatura di Crosa Baby Zarella in Pink (480 yards), and 2 balls of Knitpicks Wool of the Andes in Mulled Wine (220 yards) on size 7 needles. I ended with 550 stitches on the last round and used the i-cord cast off. It helps stabilize the stockinette curling. I-cord cast-off for 550 stitches really did take half a skein--I was glad I decided not to try for another row or two. The blanket is 32" in diameter, almost exactly what I was going for. I used one full skein of WotA for the center section.

More knitting:

I cast on for the Child's Placket Pullover from Last Minute Knitted Gifts in Knitpicks Shine Twist in Romance (for the same baby who will receive the blanket). I like the colors, and I'm enjoying the yarn. I love this pattern (and the book), but if you would like to make this sweater, be sure to check the publisher's web page for errata. This is the fifth of this pattern I've made, and it's quick and simple with a very nice result. I took a picture of Tubey, but since it's a grey rectangle about 8" long, it's pretty boring. I'll post when I get to an elbow stripe. I'm still working out the stripe pattern. I found great inspiration at Lickety Knit, where Rachel has posted photos of her Tubey, which is the most amazing one I've run across. My colors are completely different, but I'm working from the stripe pattern she created--once I saw it, I couldn't imagine my Tubey any other way. Here's hoping Rachel thinks that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Reading; I finished The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. The short review is that I liked it. It's not as wildly complex as the Thursday Next series, but it was a fun meta-detective story with some surprising twists. There were unexpected bonuses like the entirely enjoyable character of Prometheus, and it addresses issues with gravity and thoughtfulness. I will definitely read the next one (I believe it comes out in July). Next up: a quick fluffy read, the first Blackbird Sisters Mystery by Nancy Martin, How to Murder a Millionaire. I haven't decided on my next substantial reading. I have The Year of Magical Thinking coming up for my book club, so I might need some fluff until then.

Writing: Still on Chapter 3 of the murder mystery.

Cooking: Nothing of note. Working on menus for dinner party and book club.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Trying Out Flickr

Originally uploaded by allisonmariecat.
This is the photo of all my blue sweaters/works in progress/yarn that I've been trying to post for three days. Just seeing how I like

%#$*! Blogger!

No photos again today. Blogger *says* it's uploading my images, but then I get a blank screen instead of the blue button you click when you're done. StringBean suggested spyware, but I have a Mac, which makes this unlikely. It was worth a try, though, so I got a spyware program and my laptop's clean. Anyone else have ideas?

Knitting: I cast on for Tubey last night. It's going to be heathered grey with charcoal, teal, powder blue, and lavender stripes. I'm still finalizing the stripe pattern, since I'm not crazy about it as written. But I'm just about 1/3 of the way through the upper back, so I have lots of time.

Reading: The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. I'm still bothered occasionally by the connection to Thursday Next's world. There are references to the nursery characters not knowing they're characters, which wasn't the cast in Well of Lost Plots, and I'm not sure if it takes place in the book world or an alternative real world. I'm trying to ignore it, and the detective story is good enough to take my mind off it most of the time. I'm almost done, so I may have a review up tomorrow.

Writing: Still on chapter 3 of the murder mystery.

Cooking: Nothing interesting to report. Oh, except I had pesto leftover from making pizza last night, so I stirred a tablespoon of it into my vegetable soup yesterday, which is very, very good.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Use your imagination!

Blogger still doesn't feel I need photos up. So you'll have to imagine that it's snowing outside, Geronimo is curled up on the blue blanket on the guest bed with one paw over his eyes, and Mirando is curled up in a little ball in the pappasan chair.

Knitting: You'll have to imagine that I'm about 6 inches into the body of Tempting II. And that I'm halfway through my third ball of yarn on the Pinwheel Blanket. The Pinwheel Blanket now has 350 stitches on the needles. I'm still unclear on when I should stop, but I imagine it'll come to me. I think I've decided to use all four balls of the light pink, then switch to the mulled wine, cast off, and do a crocheted border. Why not? I also think I have to cast on for Tubey. I have my yarns all assembled, and I have my stripe pattern planned, and I'll be able to wear it way before Tempting II (this is *not* one of the places in the country where it's spring, or even close). It'll only be my fourth project on the needles.

Reading: The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde

Writing: Chapters one and two revised. Started chapter 3, but I'm only a couple of paragraphs in.

Cooking: Last night was all about the leftovers. Enchiladas, pizza, the fridge is full. I have two upcoming cooking events, a dinner party and a book club that I'm hosting. I think I'm going to do Mexican for the book club, probably tamales. And probably Italian for the dinner party. We'll see.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I've got the blues...

Blogger won't let me post the photo right now, but the blues I have are sweaters. I noticed when I was putting Marie Louise away in the drawer with my other handknit sweaters that I have a blue "problem" when it comes to yarn. I make things for other people in all sorts of colors, but when I make a sweater for myself, it's blue. If I ever get the photo up here, here's what you'll see-- three finished blue sweaters: Pinup Queen from Stitch n' Bitch - Cascade 220 in blue-green, Belle Epoque - Rowan Soft Lux in Ciel, Marie Louise - Southwest Trading Company Bamboo in cobalt, along with Tempting II (on the needles) - Rowan Calmer in Peacock (more of a green-blue, but still), and the yarn for my Picovoli - Knitpicks Shine in Sky. And my Tubey yarn is Cascade 220 in light grey, green-blue (leftover from Pinup Queen), and powder blue and Debbie Bliss Merino Aran in charcoal and lavender (I'm making this sweater as a stash-buster, and at least it's not all blue). I also have Hopeful planned in Rowan Wool Cotton I already have in...three shades of blue.

I do have 1620 yards of Rowanspun 4-Ply in red that I think I can double and make into a RED sweater for myself, perhaps Something Red. I'll have to swatch and see how I like it. I also have 1200 yards of Jaeger Luxury Tweed in Imperial, a purple-black color that I'm not sure I'll like, possibly for Somewhat Cowl. That, or the Somewhat Cowl will be in Jo Sharp DK in seashell, which is also not blue.

Just looking at this sampling of projects I have planned, I don't think I'll need to buy yarn for a very long time. Especially not blue yarn.

Reading: The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. It's growing on me, but I have to consciously not compare it to the Thursday Next books.

Writing: Not much new here. Starting chapter three today.

Cooking: I made pizza yesterday, which was lovely. I love my bread machine. You just chuck all the ingredients in and set it to the dough program. An hour and a half later, you have dough. Sometimes I like making bread the old-fashioned way, kneading and rising and resting, but sometimes it's all about the end result. As promised, enchilada recipes today.

Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas

1 tsp canola oil
1 small onion, diced
2 small zucchini, diced
2 tsp jalapeno, diced (or adjust to your heat preference)
2 15-oz. cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
12 corn tortillas
2 cups shredded cheese (I use Kraft 2% Mexican blend)
Cooking spray
2 cans enchilada sauce (less according to your preference)
1 small can sliced olives

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add onion jalapeno, and zucchini, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent. Add beans and corn; remove from heat. Stir in cilantro.

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Evenly coat with half a can of enchilada sauce.

Warm corn tortillas according to package directions. Fill with 1/4 cup black bean mixture, roll, and place seam side down in the pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Cover with remaining enchilada sauce, cheese, and olives. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until sauce bubbles and cheese is melted.

If there is extra black bean mixture, serve left over on top of salad greens with a zippy dressing. Yum.

Black Bean and Corn Enchiladas (creamy version)

1 can black beans, rinsed and drained.
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
2 cups shredded cheese (I used Kraft 2% Mexican blend)
3 oz. reduced-fat cream cheese, cut into small pieces
12 corn tortillas
Cooking spray
2 cans enchilada sauce
1 can sliced olives

In a medium saucepan, place black beans, corn, 1 cup shredded cheese, half a can of enchilada sauce, and 3 oz. cream cheese. Heat on medium, stirring frequently, until cheeses are melted. Remove from heat.

Spray a 9x13 pan with cooking spray. Coat with half a can of enchilada sauce.

Warm tortillas according to package directions. Fill with 1/4 cup cheese mixture, roll up, and place seam side down in pan. Repeat with remaining tortillas. Top with remaining enchilada sauce, cheese, and olives.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until sauce bubbles and cheese is melted.