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.
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.