Thursday, May 25, 2006

Cheap knockoff?

I realized I haven't posted a photo of my baby blanket project yet, and it's far enough along to show off a bit, I think. If it looks familiar, it's because it's Orangina:Baby Blanket Edition. You may recall that I abandoned Orangina (really Natural Cherry Soda, given the color I picked) due to concerns about the fit, body type, etc. After a lot of pattern-seeking and more swatching than I think I usually do in a year, I decided on a baby blanket, figuring that 4 Ply Cotton = absorbent + machine washable. I liked the Orangina lace pattern so much that I thought of making a baby blanket shaped-version, just a big square in the lace pattern. But then I thought of doing a baby blanket in squares, with each square a different texture. After doing half a 7" square in seed stitch (on size 3 needles), I decided that wasn't quite right either. So I went back to the Orangina idea, starting with one square, turning 90 degrees, and picking up and knitting for a second square. Then turned that one 90 degrees, and picked up and knit for a third. After the third, the squares will turn in a rectangle with twice the length of the width. Anyway, it'll end up with 16 squares sort of spiralling out. Except some of the squares will be rectangles. Mmmmhmmm. I have six balls of the yarn, and it took less than one ball to make three squares, so I should have plenty of yarn. I'll add a border if I have enough left.

Here's where I am:

I'm pretty happy with it, though my method of securing the fourth square to the first square is a little gappy. Instead of sewing it all together at the end, I thought I could ssk, p2tog with the cast on stitches on the first square as I went along. It's maybe too half-assed an attempt, and maybe I need to just suck it up and plan on a LOT of sewing at the end. We'll see.

Reading: I forget to mention a mystery novel I finished in about two hours the other day, This Pen For Hire by Laura Levine. It was short and breezy, and I've forgotten almost all about it. The amateur sleuth is a writer for hire, who writes a love letter for this shy, awkward guy who ends up accused of murdering the woman the letter was for. It was on the fluffy end of the cozy mystery spectrum, and was fine and kind of cute, but nothing special. I was going to make a snarky comment about the sleuth being a writer for hire, and geez, is there a mystery series for everything nowadays?, but then I remembered I'm writing a murder mystery set at a theater company, so I decided not to say anything. I finished Death in Lacquer Red, and it was pretty good. I usually read contemporary mysteries, so the historical element was a little different, but Jeanne Dams makes the world she writes about very rich and believable. The melting pot she has going is interesting--the heroine is Swedish, her sort-of boyfriend is Irish, one of the neighbor maids is snobby because she's a "real American" not a foreigner. The police suspect a Chinese immigrant, and Hilda, an immigrant herself, feels bound to try to help him.

Writing: Still stalled on 25,000 words. I'm trying to write the funeral scene, and it's harder than the flirting scenes. Yeesh.

Cooking: Still no calzone recipe. What on earth did I write that down on the back of? I made very disappointing pasta soup last night. Too much pasta, the wrong seasonings. Eh, you win some, you lose some.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

In the lion's den

So, we have a leather couch with recliners on either end (awesome), and it's right by a pair of sliding glass doors and isn't supposed to be in direct sunlight, so during the day we cover it with a blanket. The cats *love* this. Geronimo loves to nap under the blanket, either on the couch (less common) or on the carpet just in front of the couch. This is one of his dens. We call him "The Big Lump" when he does this, or when he crawls under the covers on the guest bed for a nap. Most of Mirando's napping is out in the open, although sometimes he lays down on my pillow and if it's cold, we tuck him in. We're really not supposed to disturb Geronimo when he's in his den, but I risked my own safety to bring you an exclusive wildlife photo (okay, I just turned the flash on and stuck the camera under the blanket and only took one picture).
The outside of the blanket. Geronimo's under there:

Under the blanket:

Mirando on top of the couch:

And, because I know you were hoping, here's Mirando after we've tucked him in:

Knitting: I'm making progress on the 4 Ply Cotton baby blanket. It's sort of made up of squares, kind of, and I've finished three using less than one ball of yarn, so I shouldn't run out (there are 16 "squares" and I have 6 balls of yarn). I might do a border at the end if I have enough yarn. I like it so far, but I'm not at the tricky bit yet, either. I hope it comes together well. I've already ripped out a few false starts before I really got my vision for the blanket down.

Writing: I'm in a very low productivity phase. I've managed some revising, but I'm still at 25,000 words, 5 chapters. I'm having difficulty starting Chapter 6, so I think it's time for a deadline: Chapter 6 is due Friday, June 2.

Reading: I'm reading Death in Lacquer Red by Jeanne Dams (who wrote the Dorothy Martin series. It's the first in her Hilda Johanssen series that takes place in turn-of-the-century (19th, that is) South Bend, Indiana. Hilda is a maid in a wealthy household. In the foreward, Dams says that much of it is based on historical South Bend, and so far it's interesting. Hilda has found a body in the hedges, and now the police are interviewing everyone because it turned out to be Somebody Important. The hierarchy among the servants is well-done, and the animosity between the rich family and the police. Sort of an American Gosford Park.

I've been a little annoyed about this New York Times Book Review "Best Novel of the Last 25 Years" thing. I'll spare you my whole rant on the subject, but if you want to read it, it's here. I just don't see how you can boil 25 years of fiction down to a single novel. Grrr.

Cooking: Nothing of note. Oh, we did make calzoni with Pillsbury pizza dough the other day (we had it left over from camping--I normally make my own dough, I promise!). They were really good, but I'm not sure where I wrote the recipe. If it turns up, I'll post it. It was ricotta, mozzarella, mushrooms, and spinach for me/pepperoni for Matt.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Works in Theory

Here's the finished Snow Queen Hat:
The pattern is here!

I finished it on the way to Wyalusing State Park, which I think could be renamed Why,TheMosquitoesAreLoose-ing State Park. (FYI: This is a really long story. If you scroll down to the next paragraph, I'll talk about knitting and stuff, I promise.) Actually, I didn't technically finish it *on the way*, but rather on an unscheduled jaunt across the Illinois border. Those of you familiar with the area are wondering, "Wouldn't the best way to get from Madison to Wyalusing be pretty much due west, and not involve Illinois at all?", and you are correct. We managed to miss the sign for the highway that goes to Wyalusing, so we took the scenic route. And actually, it *was* scenic. I love the big red barns, meadows full of cows, and adorable Main Streets of eensy towns that characterize the rural Midwest. Before moving here, I had thought that those were things confined to Norman Rockwell paintings. So, we eventually made it to Wyalusing, checked in, and set up camp. This was our first camping trip with just us. I used to go camping with my family all the time, and my husband has gone camping with high school friends. We were rather proud of our quick pitching of the tent. The fire was another story. We did get one going, but it was not the big, warm fire that the people in the next campsite had (the ones with the children who entertained themselves by ringing a bicycle bell from 7pm until 11). We were able to cook dinner, but it was cold, and dark, and there were the mosquitoes, who seemed to thrive on citronella. Our site didn't have any grass, so sleeping was pretty uncomfortable. The next morning, we went hiking. The first two hours were lovely. The park is really beautiful. But then, I said, looking at the trail map, "Look, we can take this loop back. It's only 2.6 miles, and it'll be prettier than just catching the road." It might have been prettier. I have no idea. Because it was all uphill and completely mosquito-infested. So we were schlepping uphill pretty quickly because of the bugs, waving our arms in front of our faces, all breathing-heavy and red-faced. For 2.6 miles. Then we get to this meadow, where there's a fork in the path. And we take the wrong fork. Instead of the fork that takes you to the road in less than a mile, we take the 3.4 mile fork. At least there weren't any bugs. But there was no shade, so we got sunburned. When we finally made it back to the campsite, we collapsed in our chairs. After the hike from hell, exhausted, sunburned, and covered in mosquito bites, we really just wanted to go home, have a shower, and sleep in a real bed. So we gave up and came home a day early. We're still recovering.

Knitting: Okay, that's it for the really long story. About the Snow Queen Hat. I'm really pleased with how it turned out. It fits very well, and I love the colors and textures. It is insanely soft. And I think it's stretchy enough that fit won't be a problem for most women. I like it best with the angora part folded up, but I can see myself wearing it down to cover my ears when it's cold. I'll post the pattern for it in a few minutes. I also brought my Orangina yarn, and started noodling around with a baby blanket. It's early to tell, but I like it. I'm not positive I'll have enough yarn for what I'm planning to do, though. I might pull out some Shine in a cream color to augment. If it turns out well, I'll post that pattern, too. This is also not on my knitting list, but at least it's stash yarn.

Reading: I finished Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn yesterday. I *loved* this book. It was absolutely delightful to read. (By the way, Cindi--I love Jasper Fforde!) I did a synopsis in the last post, so I won't repeat the premise here. But a book built on a gimmick can be a tricky thing, and often the gimmick obscures the elements that make a book really enjoyable--endearing characters, suspense, creative plot. Not in this case. I loved the characters, and even though I kind of knew what would happen in the end, there was still good suspense. It's a short book, about 200 pages, and a quick read. I definitely recommend it. Dunn has a couple of other novels; Ibid, which purports to be the footnotes of a lost biography, and Welcome to Higby, which I believe is a more traditional novel. I'm definitely interested in reading more of him.

Writing: Getting going on chapter 6 today.

Cooking: Well, even though our camping trip was cut short, we had a very nice dinner Friday night. We used the pie irons to make veggie burgers (Morningstar Farms Spicy Black Bean Burgers), and I made this great potato-onion thing. These are the pie irons we have, but I think they come in different sizes, too.

Camping Potatoes

Cooking Spray
6 yellow potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/4" slices
1 sweet onion, thinly sliced
1 TBL olive oil
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp coarse salt
1/8 tsp black pepper

Optional liquid-reducing step: Place the potato slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Add 1 tsp each of salt and sugar; stir to dissolve. Let stand 15 minutes. Drain and pat dry. (I do this step when I'm making French "fries" in the oven, or hash browns. It draws out some of the starch and liquid and makes for crispier potatoes. I'm not sure that the salt and sugar are actually necessary to this process, but I haven't been motivated to experiment.)

In a large Ziploc baggie, combine all ingredients at home and bring to the campsite. Spray each side of the pie irons with cooking spray. Fill with potato/onion mixture and place in fire. Check and turn frequently. I think it took about 10 minutes a side. Potatoes are done when pierced easily with a fork (but you'll notice the slight charring on the outside first!) This made about 4 pie irons filled with potatoes for us.

For lunches, I made food ahead and packed it in the ice chest.


32 ounces plain lowfat yogurt
1/2 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
1/8 tsp black pepper
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp paprika

Place a colander in the sink with a double thickness of cheesecloth. Pour in yogurt; sprinkle with salt. Draw up the edges of cheesecloth and tie together. Leave overnight. The next morning, place drained yogurt in bowl. Taste and add salt if needed. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Serve on crackers or with pita bread.

I believe in the Middle East, it's commonly eaten at breakfast, but in U.S. Middle Eastern restaurants, it's usually an appetizer. Labneh is also wonderful with any number of flavorings. Chopped fresh mint is amazing (omit pepper, oil, and paprika), especially with golden raisins (soaked for 30 minutes and patted dry) and toasted pine nuts. Thyme and chopped Greek olives. Assorted fresh herbs. It's a nice tangy alternative to cream cheese on bagels, and a great sandwich filling with roasted or cold vegetables. For *really* good labneh, use whole milk yogurt, Greek-style if you can find it. For *amazing* labneh, make your own yogurt. A lot of American recipes have you suspend the cheesecloth bundle over a bowl and place in the refrigerator overnight, and I used to do this, paranoid about dairy left out for so long (8-12 hours). But Middle Eastern recipes never did this. My method involved laying a wooden spoon across the top of the bowl and securing the cheesecloth bundle to the spoon with rubber bands. Fun! But I got over my aversion to dairy at room temp and (knock on wood) we've never gotten sick from it.


6 cups cooked chickpeas (canned is fine, but rinse well)
4 TBL lemon juice
4 TBL tahini
1 tsp salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Cold water (1/2 cup, more or less)

Place all ingredients except water in a food processor. With the motor running, slowly pour in cold water. You want to add just enough water for smooth hummus. Place hummus in a serving dish and drizzle with 1 TBL olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp paprika, if desired. Serve with pita chips, pita bread, crackers, or raw veggies.

Roasted Red Pepper Baba Ghanosh

2 medium eggplants
1 red bell pepper
2 TBL lemon juice
2 TBL tahini
1 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, crushed

Preheat broiler. Cut pepper in half; remove seeds and membranes. Place cut side down on a baking sheet lined with foil. Broil 15 minutes, or until skin is blackened. Carefully place in a plastic baggie; seal and let steam for 10 minutes. Under cold running water, peel the blackened skin. Pat dry and place in bowl of food processor. Place eggplants (whole) on baking sheet lined with foil. Broil 10 minutes. Turn 90 degrees. Repeat until eggplant is soft to the touch and all sides are charred. Let cool. Trim ends and peel off charred skin. Place pulp in food processor and add remaining ingredients. Puree until smooth. For classic baba ghanosh, omit red pepper. Serve with pita or raw veggies.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Free Pattern - Snow Queen Hat

Fits 20” circumference, but fairly stretchy
Photos here!

A: Valeria di Roma Angora in Peach (100% angora), one 10g ball (55 yds)

B: Rowan Cashsoft DK in Cream (57% extra fine merino, 33% microfibre, 10% cashmere), one 50g ball (130m/142 yards)


Size 6 16” circular needle
Size 6 double-point needles
Tapestry needle for weaving in ends

Gauge: 6 stitches/inch (either yarn), 8 rows/inch

With circular needle and A, cast on 102 stitches. Place marker and join, being careful not to twist. (k1, p1) around for 16 rows (about 1 3/4 inches). Switch to B. Knit 4 rows in stockinette stitch.

Snowflake pattern:
Row 1: k1, *yo, k2tog, k4 to last 6 stitches; end yo, k2tog, k3
Row 2: knit
Row 3: *yo, k2tog, yo, k2tog, k2 around
Row 4: knit
Row 5: Repeat row 1.

Knit in stockinette until hat measures 7” from cast-on edge. Begin decreases, switching to double-pointed needles when there are too few stitches.

Row 1: k4, k2tog around
Rows 2-4: knit
Row 5: k3, k2tog around
Rows 6-7: knit
Row 8: k2, k2tog around
Rows 9-10: knit
Row 11: k1, k2tog around
Row 12: knit
Row 13: k2tog around
Row 14: knit

Cut yarn, leaving a long tail. With tapestry needle, draw yarn through remaining stitches twice. Pull snug. Weave in ends. Wear with brim down to cover ears or turn up on warmer days.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mellow Friday

Mirando helps me blog:

Geronimo, cleaning a ridiculously large paw:

Knitting: One thing I want to stress is that no one should be overly impressed by the organization evidenced in my last post. This is how it works: I get excited about getting everything organized. I think how wonderful it will be to have my next 27 knitting projects scheduled, and to know exactly where the yarn for each is located. I make spreadsheets (I heart spreadsheets), and sometimes buy organizing equipment at Target. Within a month (sometimes longer), I have yarn scattered all over the apartment, I can't decide on a knitting project, and I have no idea where the pattern for that thing I was going to make is. I get frustrated, and repeat the cycle. Yet, I am unrealistically optimistic! Every single time I go through this organizing ritual, I firmly believe that *this time*, it will all stay organized. And it's already happening! Here's the evidence:

That doesn't look like anything on my to-knit list, does it? Nope! That is a new hat for winter (I lost not one, but TWO, hats last winter). Ever since I made the Angora Baby Booties, I've been fixated on making a hat with angora trim. Suddenly inspired, I cast on for it last night. I'm calling it the Snow Queen Hat, and I'll put up the pattern next week. At least it's a quick diversion :) Last night I asked my husband, "Does this little motif look ANYTHING like snowflakes?" and he joked, "Tell me about your knitting", a reference to a big sister/babysitter trick I taught him. When a small child whose artistic skill has not caught up with her imagination presents a beautiful, but incomprehensible, work of art, I came up with saying "Tell me about your picture" when faced with an unidentifiable piece of art. Some children don't mind being asked "What's that?" but some burst into tears when you don't recognize their masterpieces (ask me how I know!). Most enjoy telling you all about their picture when prompted, though. I've decided it's okay that my "snowflake" motif is abstract. Hey, it's hard to make a snowflake with yarnovers!

Marie, this is the Indian Summer Shawl. I'm designing it myself from Cherry Tree Hill Fingering Silk in Indian Summer. I'll put up the pattern when it's done. The Thistle Leaves Scarf (and Chasing Butterflies Scarf) are from Blackberry Ridge, a neat pattern collection of seven scarves plus a sampler scarf called A Week in the Life of a Knitter's Cat. I couldn't resist the name!

Writing: Not a thing. I'm tentatively planning to have Chapter Six done next Friday.

Reading: I started Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn last night. This book is like nothing else I've ever read. Once you see the subtitle, A Progressively Lipogrammatic Epistolary Fable, you know you're in for something different. Mr. Dunn helpfully includes at the front definitions for Epistolary (a novel in letters), and Lipogram (writing that avoids the use of one or more letters of the alphabet). Ella and her relatives live on an island off the US coast that declared independence some time ago. Their claim to fame is as the birthplace and home of Nollop, the man who invented the pangram (using all the letters of the alphabet) "The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog." There is a huge statue on the island of Nollop with each of the 34 letters of his pangram inscribed on a different tile. One day, the "Z" falls down, and the elders determine that this reflects Nollop's will that the islanders stop using that letter entirely. But that's not the only letter to fall... Since the book is in letters written by islanders, the novel stops using the letter Z, and so on. It's almost too clever, but as an English nerd, I've been sucked in. I love it so far. Some might find his vocabulary show-offy and contrived, but in the context of this island nation that prizes words above all else, it rings true for me. Dunn clearly loves language and is having a blast with his wordplay, and it's infectious! I'm just at the point of Z's elimination, so it's early yet, but I can't wait to see how he deals with the loss of more letters.

Cooking: Nothing of note. I will definitely post camping recipes next week, KnitPastis! I'm pre-chopping everything this morning to get ready. Oh, and String Bean, definitely try the leek soup cold :) It might need a bit more salt.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

State of the Yarn

I did finally cast on for the Indian Summer Shawl last night, but intrigued by Rachel's On Deck and To Knit Someday suggestions for planning, I went through the spreadsheet of yarn stash and projects, and came up with this list:

Patterns with yarn:

Indian Summer Shawl
Kitty Pi
Coffee Cozy (to fit over French press)
Felted Bracelet Bag in black
Broadripple Socks (Strawberry Banana)

Something Red (have to wind Rowanspun 4-Ply & swatch doubled)
Vintage Beaded Gloves from Handknit Holidays
Beaded Hat from Handknit Holidays
Gryffindor Socks
Tiger Socks
Hopeful (Rowan Wool-Cotton)
Thistle Leaves Scarf (Blackberry Ridge)
Chasing Butterflies Scarf (Blackberry Ridge)
Snowdrop Shawl (Zephyr Wool-Silk)
V-Neck Vest (Jaeger Luxury Tweed in Imperial - warm yarn)
Silk Ribbed Lace Corset (Peruvian Collection Baby Silk)
Angora Baby Booties
Ribbon-Tied Bonnet
Reid (I knew I kept that Patons Grace in the stash for a reason!)

Patterns with no yarn:

Bella Paquita (worsted - 800 yds)
Heavenly Stole & Scarf from Knitter’s Stash (fingering - 1200 yds)
Bristow (DK/light worsted - 1400 yds)
Essential Stripe (worsted - 1200 yds or sport - 1320 yds)
Lacy Little Top (fingering - 1000 yds)
Festive (light worsted - 780 yds)
Blaze (fingering - 1020 yds)

Yarn with no pattern:

Rowan 4-Ply Cotton in Bloom (fingering - 1020 yards)
Rowanspun DK in Mist (DK - 1320 yards)
Rowanspun DK Wool in Eau de mil (DK - 2180 yards)
Jo Sharp DK Wool in Seashell (DK - 2140 yards)
Rowanspun 4-Ply in Turkish (fingering - 972 yards)
Rowanspun 4-Ply in Lunar (fingering - 2916 yards)
Knitpicks Shimmer in Morning Mist (lace - 1320 yards)
Pakucho Organic Cotton in Chocolate and Avocado (worsted - 400 yards each)
Cascade 220 in Blue-Green and Light Grey (worsted - 880 yards each)
Tencel/Wool mystery blend in Black (worsted - about 1200 yards)
Cone of mystery green yarn that I think is DK
Southwest Trading Company Bamboo (DK - 250 yards)
Oy, with the sparkly ladder yarn already (can’t handle adding up yardage)

Baby stuff yarn:

Knitpicks Crayon in Purple (DK - 412 yards)
Jaeger Baby Merino DK in Royal (390 yards)
Jaeger Baby Merino DK in Indigo (520 yards)
Berocco Lullaby in light blue (worsted - 252 yards)
Knitpicks Shine in Sky (sport - 600 yards)
Snowflake Sirdar in four colors (bulky - 274 yards each)

This is already helpful because I can match up yarn without patterns and patterns without yarn. For instance, I thought, "Hey, I can do a Bella Paquita in Cascade 220!" Of course, I pulled out the yarn and went to cast on and realized I had no idea how many stitches to cast on. I downloaded the chart things, but I wasn't in the mood to decode everything I needed to. Has anyone made this? Any tips? If anyone has any suggested yarn/pattern pairings, I would love to hear them. I'd like to do something with the Pakucho Cotton...something cool, but I have no idea with the amount I have. Maybe baby clothes?

Reading: Still on a fluffy book.

Writing: Still in the early stages of Chapter 6.

Cooking: Still eating leftovers. We're going camping this weekend, and we have lots of supplies for our pie iron thingys. Apple Pie, Pizza, Burritos,, you can make anything in those things. Keep your fingers crossed we can get a fire lit :) If anything turns out fabulous, I'll post Camping Recipes next week. KnitPastis, I'm excited the bay leaf suggestion helped! Especially when I'm using water instead of broth in soup, a bay leaf can make a huge difference.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Better write me a ticket...

...because I'm Jaywalking! (Man, I crack myself up...) Here they are (pick your favorite view):

I finished them up last night during Return of the Jedi :) Details:

Pattern: Jaywalkers by Grumperina.
Yarn: Lorna's Laces in Tahoe, two skeins. I made the larger size Jaywalker (after frogging the smaller size), and had a total of one ounce of yarn left.
Tools: Clover Bamboo DPNs; size 1, 7"
Comments: I loved the needles--nice and flexible, but strong. I love, love, love this yarn. The colors didn't work out to be exactly the same on each sock, but I think that's part of the charm of variegated yarn. Did I like the pattern? Well, it's enjoyable to knit. Now that I have the socks on my feet, they are extremely comfortable. How's that for a vague answer? Let's try a couple of more specific questions. Would I make them again? No. I have one pair now, and I think that's plenty. I think there are enough sock patterns out there that aren't so inflexible that getting them on your feet qualifies as aerobic activity. I would never make these as a gift, unless I knew someone's feet so well I was certain they would fit AND I knew the person really enjoyed struggling to get socks on her feet. They're lovely, but wildly impractical. Would I recommend the pattern to someone else? Sure. Just don't make the small size unless you have freakishly small feet, and know in advance that getting them on and off is a pain. This was my first pair of socks (FuzzyFeet aside), and I enjoyed the knitting experience. I'm not averse to knitting more socks. I haven't taken the socks off my feet yet--what a nice little luxury handknit socks are. And the colors--I would never wear something this variegated anywhere but my feet!

Other knitting: I'd like to start my Indian Summer Shawl next. I know I'm at the point where I just need to start, and if it's not working out, I can rip back and change the pattern. I still have my T-Twist to re-do from the yoke up (although now that I'm going to ripping back, I'm tempted to add a couple of inches to the length, too). I have Kitty Pi sitting on the needles. I might start another pair of socks. I scored some Gryffindor striping sock yarn from Sunshine Yarns for my husband for Christmas (and I just got a second skein for me!), and I have some Opal Rainforest in Tiger for my husband as well. And then, I have my Strawberry Banana from Sunshine Yarns for me. I have a vest I want to make in Jaeger Luxury Tweed. Something Red in Rowanspun. And I haven't really been thinking about Christmas gifts at all. Yikes. Maybe I need a serious "state of the knitting" determination to prioritize projects. And another organizing trip through the stash.

Writing: Just noodling around with Chapter 6. The victim's funeral is in this chapter.

Reading: Not really into The History of Love yet, but I have a while till my next book club meeting, so I'm on fluffy reading again.

Cooking; Yesterday, I made a "use up the veggies" soup that turned out quite well. You have to like leeks and cauliflower, though, since it's very lightly seasoned.

Cauliflower-Leek Soup

2 tsp olive oil
1 bay leaf
3 large leeks, halved and sliced (white and light green parts only
1 cauliflower, separated into florets
1 medium baking potato, cubed
6 cups water
salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add bay leaf and leeks; cook for 5-8 minutes, until leek is fragrant. Add cauliflower and potato; cover with water (about 6 cups). Add salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Adjust seasonings as needed. Makes about 12 cups.

Monday, May 15, 2006

As the Heel Turns

I think every knitter has to title a post that way at some point :)

Mirando was kind enough to pose with Finished Sock and OTN sock. I turned the heel last night while watching Star Wars Episode 3. My husband and I watched 1&2 Saturday night, 3&4 last night, and we'll watch 5&6 tonight. We are aware that we are big nerds, so no need to mention it.

Other knitting: Still working on the Indian Summer Shawl design. I'm thinking about a rectangle with a center panel in a different stitch pattern now. Hmmm. I have a couple of weeks before posting my first Amazing Lace challenge, but I should get started on it.

Reading: Just started History of Love. No opinion yet, just a few pages in.

Writing: Starting Chapter 6 today. This is exciting because the end of Chapter 6 is the middle of the book!

Cooking: With pasta and enchilada leftovers, not a thing. I do think I'll make leek soup for lunch today.

Wow, I really don't have that much interesting to say today. More tomorrow :)

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Halfway to a pair

Geronimo in the sun:

Mirando on the sheets just out of the dryer:

Knitting: I finished my first Jaywalker, and I've done a couple of inches on the second. The first one fits, once I've struggled to get it on. I'm not sure if sock knitting is for me. It's an awful long time to work and end up with...socks. I'll have to walk around in them once the pair is finished and see if I fall in love with them.

Writing: Almost 25,000 words--chapter 5 is done. Woo!

Reading: Same fluffy book.

Cooking: Yarnthrower, sure I'll entertain cooking questions! Roasting actually just refers to cooking in a dry heat, like an oven. I usually roast vegetables between 400 and 500 degrees, after tossing with a bit of olive oil.

Last night I made on-the-fly pasta with asparagus:

Capellini With Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Lemon

1 TBL olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into long strips
1/2 cup white wine
grated zest of one lemon
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tsp cornstarch
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pound asparagus, tough ends removed, and snapped in thirds
1 pound capellini, cooked according to package directions
Parmagiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add garlic and mushrooms; cook until mushrooms begin to give up liquid. Add yellow pepper, asparagus, white wine, and lemon zest. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Combine cream and cornstarch and stir in. Add salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until sauce is slightly thickened. Toss well with capellini; serve topped with cheese. Serves 6.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Almost a Sock

Blogger feels that photos are unnecessary in today's post.

Knitting: I'm almost done with the first sock, just the toe decreases left. I'm definitely casting on for the next one as soon as I bind off the first. Rachel, thank you for your nice comments on T-Twist! It helps to think of it as part of the learning process. It also helps to know I'll have a wearable top once I actually re-knit :) I'm plagued with indecision on the Indian Summer Shawl. I keep swatching designs...I hope I come up with the perfect one soon, as I really want to start it.

If you read The Panopticon, you're familiar with Franklin's drawings, but I keep finding myself scrolling back to his post last Friday, because I just love this one. It cracks me up every time.

Reading: Still on the fluffy book. In addition to The History of Love for my book club, I also have On Beauty by Zadie Smith in my queue.

Writing: 23,500 words! Chapter 5 has an end in sight. I just had to go back through all 80 pages to figure out what day it is in the book at this point. D'oh! Should have been writing that in my notes all along :)

Cooking: I made the black bean and corn enchiladas last night. Yum. I need to make banana bread soon, as our entire apartment now smells like overripe banana. Cooking Light had a great section on banana breads a couple years ago, and they have several recipes all together. The version made with coconut, then glazed with lime, is really nice, as is the cardamon-pistachio one. I'm supposed to bring something to a potluck tonight, too. Maybe brownies.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Hard Way

I can't believe it's been so long since I posted. Warning: Skip down a ways for actual knitting content. I had a spring cleaning injury, and then blogger wouldn't let me post yesterday. If anyone's wondering, they are NOT kidding about that "lift with your knees, not with your back" thing. So the desk in the bedroom is only half cleared off (I actually use it more as a bookholder than a desk, and have decided to get rid of it). When two packrats get married, the effect of each person's packrat tendencies is more than's squared, because each person encourages the other:

Packrat 1: "Honey, are we ever going to use (random item that's never been used)?"
Packrat 2: "Well, it's perfectly good, and you never know. (Insert hypothetical situation in which said item would come in handy)"
Packrat 1: "Okay, I'll just cram it in the closet with the other potentially useful things."

This applies to everything from the chess set under the bed (neither of us plays chess, but we do think it would be a neat thing to do someday) to books we might re-read to sample-sized toiletries (I have enough exfoliating products to open a spa) to the gift wrap shelf in the closet. We have stuff *everywhere*, and purging it has become my mission. The problem is that the chaos is not contained in discrete's all interconnected. So when I want to get rid of the desk, I have to find somewhere to put all the books it was holding. To do that, I have to clear some space in another bookshelf. Then I have to make room in the closet for a box of books. So I'm sticking to one small area at a time, or trying to. Maybe I'll be done by next spring. I did unearth a lot of clothes I'd forgotten I had when I cleaned out my dresser. It was like shopping, but for free.

Knitting: Nearing the end of my first Jaywalker, part 2. I haven't ripped back T-Twist yet. Maybe after I finish one sock and haven't yet come to grips with the fact that I need to knit another of the exact same thing. Elizabeth, I envy your seamstress's knowledge. My first contact with garment construction came with my knitting--I've never sewn anything but a fallen-off button. I'm learning, but I still trust, to a great extent, that the designer made the pattern with appropriate garment construction. After Tempting II and now this, I know I can't always do that. String Bean, the decrease is every other row. What ReluctantMANGO noticed right off the bat with the pattern is that it needs to be two single decreases, not a double decrease. I wish I'd realized that, too, but I suppose eventually I'll become more intuitive with things like this. Now that I'm looking more closely at the photos in the pattern, I'm noticing the poof a bit. The good thing is that the more I have the finished top lying around, the more I love my accidental color pattern. So I know I'll love it when the poof is gone.

Reading: I finished the Agatha Raisin, and really enjoyed it. Fun mystery, not horribly obvious solution, but not out of left field either, excellent characters, and quaint village charm. It's the first in this MC Beaton series, and I will be looking for more. Knit Pastis, I'm glad you enjoy my book commentary :) I'm reading another fluffy book, Full Scoop by Janet Evanovich and Charlotte Hughes. It's kind of like an action movie with a lot of humor and some romance. There are a few in this series, and they're cute. Nice for summer reading.

Writing: So, I officially missed my deadline for Chapter 5. At least there's no one to fire me over it. Circumstances just conspired against me, so I've decided I have until this Friday. But then I need to bust out Chapter 6 quickly after that. Maybe a weekend "retreat".

Cooking: We made Pasta Geronimo last night. It was lovely. We made it with fresh mozzarella balls this time, instead of shredded mozzarella. My husband didn't think it made much of a difference, and I think I agree. It's good either way, if I do say so myself. We have morels and asparagus from the farmer's market, which I think I'll make tonight. I like to roast asparagus, tossed with a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, at 400 degrees for (I think) about 8 minutes, or until tender. I had never had morels before moving to Wisconsin, and asked at the farmer's market how to prepare them the first time. The universal answer was "dredge in flour, fry in butter." Mmm...healthy. But we only do this once a year, and they are so good.

This isn't directly a cooking comment, but our cats like some people food. And they are incorrigible beggars, because, well, we usually give them stuff. It's entirely our fault. Geronimo has been known to steal pizza crust and run off with it. He's all about the carbs. And salt. Once, frustrated with his begging, I held out a cookie and said, "Look, you don't even like oatmeal cookie!" Wrong. He's also enjoyed Ritz and Triscuits. Mirando is our dairy cat. I know many adult cats are lactose intolerant, but he definitely is not. He knows the sound of me making cereal in the morning, and comes in for a small saucer of milk. He knows the sound of the toaster, and comes in for a bit of cream cheese from my husband's bagel (Geronimo likes the cream cheese, too). When Matt's making a ham or turkey sandwich, they can always be found in the kitchen. The other day, I discovered that Mirando likes Laughing Cow (processed cheese spread stuff). A lot. And yesterday, I ran out of regular flavor and had garlic and herb on bread for breakfast. Yes, Mirando likes garlic and herb flavored Laughing Cow. Hysterical. And before people express concern for the health of the boys, we're not bad kitty parents! They only get small tastes of things, and only occasionally.

After someone searched for "how to make a yarn ball" to end up on my blog, I decided to document my next skein-into-a-ball. I'm sure there are better methods out there, but I'll add mine to the world. I don't have room for a ball winder and swift, and I don't know any different, so winding balls is not a big deal to me. It's just part of knitting Rowan, Lorna's Laces, and handpainted yarn. It takes a lot of time, so put in a good movie if you have several balls to wind. I drape the hank around my knees to do this. If you sit up very straight and contract your ab muscles, you can get a nice little toning workout as you move slightly from side to side, unwinding the yarn from the hank around your knees.

First, I drape the yarn over my hand with a nice long tail hanging down my palm. This is your center-pull strand, and I usually make it 8-12 inches long. You're going to be making a figure eight (around your thumb and index finger) with the yarn. This picture shows the first half (I know you love the random blurry apartment shots in the background):

Now I'm completing the figure eight. The center pull strand is still hanging down.

Keep wrapping in this same way until it starts to get bulky:

Now pull the figure eight carefully off your finger and thumb. Fold it in half, with the center pull strand at the bottom.

Keeping your thumb over your center pull strand, begin wrapping the yarn around your folded-over figure eight. Your thumb is still over the center pull strand.

Turn the ball 90 degrees and begin wrapping.

Continue turning the ball slightly and winding the yarn around. Try to keep it in a reasonable ball shape by turning and wrapping as needed. I usually wind several times, rotate the ball slightly, and repeat. When you're nearly out of yarn, tuck in the end of the yarn.

Congratulations! You now have a slightly wonky, yet functional, center-pull ball. Give the center pull strand a tug. Go on, you know you want to. Now, back to knitting.

Friday, May 05, 2006

By Popular Demand

Okay, I still don't have modeled photos of T-Twist (the Photographer is out of town today), but after questions about the double-decrease "poof", I thought I could show it pretty well with the top on a hanger:

It's pretty pronounced, almost like (if you'll excuse the comparison) a third breast. I think I will be ripping back to change to two separate decreases, because the poof really bothers me.

Other knitting: A couple of inches on Jaywalker II: Revenge of the Double Decrease (man, what is it with double decreases??). I'm playing with the Indian Summer Shawl more. The yarn (Cherry Tree Hill Fingering Silk) is stunning, and I want to show it off. I definitely think a rectangle is called for. I have 1300 yards, though, which seems like a BIG rectangle.

Sometimes I check my sitemeter to see how people are getting to my blog. Some of the google/yahoo/msn searches are a little funny, though most are knitting-related. Yesterday, someone searched for "how to roll a ball of yarn," and I thought, since I have to wind the other Cherry Tree Hill hank, anyway, maybe I'll do a pictorial of the process.

Reading: Still on Agatha Raisin and the Quiche of Death. I think I want to be Agatha Raisin when I grow up. She moves to a village in the Cotswolds, and as an "incomer", she's mostly ignored, even if people are polite. So she signs up for the village quiche contest to boost her popularity, and buys her entry at a London shop since she doesn't cook. Then she steals the housecleaner of a bitchy neighbor by offering her a higher wage. Awesome.

Writing: 22,500! Ah, yes, progress. I may have to give myself a Chapter 5 extension until Monday, though. I'm trying to finish by this afternoon, but the virus thing really threw off my week. I think at the halfway point (end of Chapter 6), I'll do some extensive revising since I have a growing list of character development that needs to happen, added scenes, information that has to be revealed early, etc.

Cooking: I did a kind of weird soba noodle-bean sprout-tofu soup today. Not sure I'd recommend it.

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone! Check the recipe archive for enchiladas and tamales :)

Thursday, May 04, 2006


And now, for my next trick, I will demonstrate how you can turn sticks and string into a sweater! Here's T-Twist, and a couple of detail shots (the center decreases and the raglan seam). I really enjoyed this pattern, but I'm going back and forth on how it works on me. The center decreases do indeed form a poof that is not terribly flattering to my body type. I think I'll wash and block it, then try it again in a week. Sometimes new clothes need to grow on me.

The info: The pattern is T-Twist from The yarn is Brooks Farm Yarn Four Play in Poppies 2. The colors were not what I was expected at all. I looked back at the Brooks Farm website, and the colors look very rich and deep, like a field of poppies. The actual yarn is more like Neapolitan ice cream. The pinks are very pink. I like the colors I got; just keep this in mind if you order from them. Online swatches are usually pretty true on my monitor, and this was way off. The pooling was also not what I was expecting, but again, I like it. The yarn is very nice to work with, soft with a touch of give. I loved the pattern--it was a fun knit (and very quick on Size 8 needles). I would recommend seriously considering the modification to the center decrease line that Reluctant Mango came up with; it will reduce the center poofing. I knit the medium, and used two hanks of the Brooks Farm, at 270 yards each (8 oz.). I had 1.4 ounces left, so there would have been plenty of yarn to lengthen sleeves or the garment.

Other knitting: I did it. I frogged Jaywalker. I am now back to having an inch of ribbing. Yesterday, I had almost a whole sock; today I have almost no sock. I'm re-knitting in the larger size. I think the pattern is very nice-looking, but I'm not sure I'd consider an inflexible sock pattern like this again. What if I were trying to knit them for someone else? There's just no give to account for the funny variance in people's feet, even in the same size. Knobby ankles, high arch, narrow heel but fat ankle--there are just so many differences. I think that after these I will stick to socks with some stretch. I also cast on for a Kitty Pi in assorted feltable yarn.

Overall, my knitting has been sort of directionless lately. I finish one project and then cast about for my next one. Nothing on my to-knit list sounds exactly right. And my to-knit list is looooong. After I finished T-Twist yesterday, I was sort of lost. I looked through my list, and thought about Something Red, but I'd have to wind the yarn into balls since it's Rowanspun. I'm still undecided about continuing Orangina or not. I'm not done designing my Indian Summer Shawl. It's too warm to knit the vest I have planned in Jaeger Luxury Tweed. I wasn't in the mood for a lace scarf. I even dug through the stash and flipped through my patterns to see if anything jumped out at me. Anyone else have this problem sometimes?

Reading: Still on the Beaton. It's fun.

Writing: I did a bit of reworking yesterday. Today, I'm feeling better. Thanks, you guys :) The mystery virus seems on its way out. I hope I get more done today.

Cooking: String Bean, roux is awesome! I have a nice summer corn chowder that starts with a roux. Today, I'm making egg rolls. They're baked, which disappointed my husband. "Ooh, egg rolls? Really? Are you gonna fry them?" "No, honey, they're baked." "Oh."

Note: Geronimo is doing nothing more threatening than yawning in yesterday's photo! I've never caught him in a non-blurry yarn before.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On the home stretch

I've been posting actual knitting pictures on my knitting blog (go figure), so there haven't been cat pictures recently. Since T-Twist is almost done, I'll wait to post another photo of it until tomorrow.
Geronimo, looking normal, and then scary. Check out the fangs. And our vet wants us to brush his teeth now!

Mirando, just hanging out on the back of the futon, then looking goofy with his ears back.

Knitting: Almost finished with T-Twist. I have seven yoke decreases left. I added an extra 6 rows to the sleeves, so we'll see how that turns out. The pooling has resulted in vague stripes that narrow as they go up the garment. Not the effect I planned on, but really pretty cool. I'm starting to think I have to rip out my Jaywalker and knit the bigger size after reading a thread over on the Knittyboard about how these are too tight on practically everyone. Now, will I actually do that, or will I completely abandon the entire Jaywalker project? Only time will tell. I do love the yarn, so that's in its favor.

String Bean, I'm glad you came out from under the table. Here's your vodka with lime :)
KnitPastis, I love that my knitting post made you head out to DQ! Obviously, I have to steer clear of food-resembling yarns in the future.
YarnThrower and Jenifer, of course you can carry the yarn up a couple of rows when alternating between two balls. I, uh, totally knew that. Ahem. But thank you for mentioning it. You know, in case someone else doesn't know. (*feels like a moron*)
Thank you to everyone who commented on T-Twist! I'm looking forward to posting finished photos tomorrow. Even modeled ones, if my husband has time. This is a fun knit, and the size 8 needles are heaven after the sock knitting. The 540 yards seems to be plenty for the medium size. I probably could have made the sleeves even longer.

Reading: MC Beaton's first Agatha Raisin novel. I was reading a fluffy book, but it was so bad, I actually stopped in the middle. I didn't like any of the characters, I didn't care how the thin thread of a plot resolved, and the writing style was making me nuts. I *never* stop in the middle of reading or watching anything. I might start skimming a book, but my dedication is such that I kept watching The X-Files for the last two David Duchovny-light seasons, with all the random super-soldier nonsense. I go with an author/director to the bitter end. I did flip to the end of this book to check how this one thing had been resolved, but it wasn't! Instead, there was a preview for the next in the series. Yeah, like I'll be reading that.

Writing: I didn't get much done at all yesterday. Mostly napping and drinking lots of fluids.

Cooking: Soup. Lots of soup. My super-easy Tofu-Pea Soup, and Paraguayan Zucchini Soup, which I modify in the following ways: 1. Since I'm usually making it for the main course and not a starter, I use 1/2 cup of rice, 2. I use brown rice, and cook 20 minutes for the initial simmering, 3. I use 1/4 cup egg substitute, 4. I usually chuck in 8 or so ounces of frozen spinach, 5. I have been known to use the Kraft "parmesan" in the green can instead of fresh, and 6. If I'm sick, I use a lot of pepper.

Super-Easy Tofu-Pea Soup

1 bunch scallions, sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 packet firm tofu
1 cup green peas
1-2 TBL soy sauce
1 tsp dark sesame oil
3 cups vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients. Bring to a boil; simmer 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Twist and Shout

Okay, I figured out the scalloped edge on T-Twist. Not all by myself, though. The lovely Jenifer, brilliant designer of this pattern, was kind enough to e-mail me back with another way to look at the instructions. All I can say is, d'oh! It was really simple, but my brain wasn't able to process it. I blame the fever.

Here it is so far:

I'm getting some really interesting pooling, which I wasn't expecting. I was expecting something more like Reluctant Mango's, which used the same yarn (different color). Am I nuts, though, or is it kind of cool? I suppose I could do that "knit a few rows from alternating hanks" thing, but that sounds like so much work. All those ends to weave in. So I think I'll keep going and see if I like the result. The colors make me a little hungry, since they look like chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry ice cream.

Edited to add: Knitpastis, I thought *I* was the only one without ball winder and swift! It's nice to know I'm not alone :)

In case anyone else has my particular brain problem, check out how easy the scalloped edge is. You're really just twisting the fabric between the needles (which I think is word-for-word what the instructions said, but I got hung up on the "away from you, under the edge of the fabric" bit):

And you get this:

Voila! Keep going, and you have a nice scalloped edge.

The edge is curling a bit, but I think blocking should take care of that. I kind of thought the scalloped edge would be heavy enough to pull it down. Maybe it will be after washing.

Other knitting: I keep saying I'm not really a joiner, then I join things. First, the Knitting Olympics, now The Amazing Lace, co-hosted by Rachel, whose blog is fun and highly addictive. I'll be knitting the Indian Summer Shawl, which means I'd better finish designing it. I keep getting carried away with incorporating several lace patterns...I really need to narrow it down. I have decided it will be a rectangle. I think. Almost for sure. Who can resist a knitting group with such a pun-erific name? And spoofing reality TV? Awesome.

Reading: Still in a fluffy book rut.

Writing: Going back and fixing a timeline issue. That's one disadvantage of not outlining ahead of time; I'm still developing alibis for people.

Cooking: Soup, soup, and more soup. And toast, tea, and 7UP Plus.

Monday, May 01, 2006

What do May showers bring?

So, I've made some progress on Jaywalker #1:

The heel turn went quite well, and I actually like my 7" bamboo needles better. The length isn't a problem, and the bamboo is much more flexible and smooth than the birch, anyway. I did, after much tugging and cursing, manage to get the darn thing on my foot. The pattern is insanely inflexible, which I had read from other Jaywalker-knitters and responded "Yeah, yeah, whatever." I'm wondering if I should have made the bigger size. I don't think I have massive feet, and I thought I measured my foot correctly and determined the 8" was for me. But maybe not. The irritating thing about socks (well, one of them) is that once you finish one and weave in the ends, you're only HALF DONE! On the other hand, I love how pretty it is in the Lorna's Laces.

I didn't feel like working on Orangina (which I'm kind of re-thinking anyway. I'm just not sure it'll be a good look for me, so maybe the cotton 4-ply needs to be something else), and I needed a break from the eensy eensy needles, so I cast on for T-Twist. I wasn't really that into the spring issue of Knitty, but Reluctant Mango (great name!) made a T-Twist in Brooks Farm Four Play yarn, and it looks fabulous, and I had to have one RIGHT NOW. I appear to be impaired in some way, though, since I cannot for the life of me figure out what I'm supposed to be doing for the twist. So I'm stuck at this point:

Here's hoping the awesome folks at the Knitty Coffeeshop can help me wrap my brain around this. That's Brooks Farm Four Play yarn in Poppies, which I wasn't sure about, but the colors have grown on me. I'm making a medium, which calls for 5 balls of 98-yard/ball yarn. I have 540 yards of the Brooks Farm, so here's hoping my past problems with running out don't resurface. I would really like to lengthen the sleeves a bit, but I'm concerned about running out of yarn. I like this yarn, though it was a pain to wind. I don't have a ball winder or swift, so please excuse my wonky ball there.

Writing: 21,000 words. Still in the same spot. I had a cold all weekend. But cold, or no cold, I'm finished chapter 5 by Friday!!!

Reading: Still fluffy.

Cooking: Nothing very exciting. Curry Couscous tonight.

General Housekeeping: I faux-indexed my recipes and finished knitting projects in posts, so there's a new link on the sidebar for each, rather than a complete list. They were both just getting too long. I also moved the archives and recent posts back up. It's a low-tech solution, but I like it. I may add a "Just Finished" knitting project list to the sidebar of the last couple of projects, but it's not that hard to click on the finished project link, I guess.