Thursday, October 26, 2006

Intarsia? I hardly know ya!

The details:
Pattern - Argyle Cardigan from Debbie Bliss Special Knits for Babies
Yarn - Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in peach with red apple and fresh cream (who comes up with these names?)
Needles - Size 3, with size 2 for sleeve cuffs and knitted-on details
Notes - I really liked this pattern. My only gripe is that the photos in the book are pretty worthless. The only image of the sweater is out of focus, and you can only really see the intarsia portion. I would have liked a clear picture of the whole thing, or at least a second out of focus picture where you could see the collar. Come on, people, this is a knitting pattern book, not a fashion magazine. We want to see the garment construction, not your artsy photography. But that's my gripe with most knitting books. I think I did okay on the intarsia part. I haven't done much of it before, and I'm not positive I'm twisting the yarn in the back quite right. Weaving in the ends was no picnic, but at least it's a small project. I like this yarn a lot as well. Overall, a cute pattern that's a fun, fairly quick knit. Those familiar with Debbie Bliss patterns will know that you have lots of ends to weave in, and after you're done knitting, you always have sleeves to seam up and set in, a knitted-on collar, and with a cardigan, the knitted-on button bands, but her patterns always turn out looking very cute, even if they're not as low-maintenance as a raglan knit in the round. I even managed to find six matching buttons in my newly organized button stash.

A note on color selection - this was tricky. It's always helpful to hear what you lot think, especially when it's not unanimous (makes me think I wasn't completely insane to consider the options I did) and I ended up going with the majority on this one. The red is a nice warm red, and not too bright, or I think I would have gone with the rose. But in the end, I felt the rose would have too muted an effect with the peach in this particular pattern. I'm saving the rose for another sweater, maybe a placket-neck pullover.

Other knitting: The last of the gift scarves is on the needles:

Knitty folk will recognize this as a Branching Out. I chose Rowan Cashcotton 4-Ply from the ol' stash, and I like the way it hangs. It'll also be nice and soft. This is my second Branching Out. The first one was a very early lace project for me, and I'm finding it much easier this time around. I can read the lace much better, and I've done a foot or so without having to tink back at all (knock on wood).

StringBean, I'm not going to turn down that offer! Knit away! You get pictures of Butterbean in anything you knit :) I think it's perfectly understandable that your wip diminishing plan is not working out. I sometimes make those plans and they last a while before fizzling. There are just so many yarns and so many patterns. And just so much attention span. My de-stashing is complete (thank you, eBay), and I now have only yarns that are useful 'staples' (good for emergency gift scarves, or good for baby patterns) or that I have a pattern in mind for. I feel so much better now. Once I finish the last gift scarf, I can get going clearing my wips off the needles.

Reading: I finished Owl's Well That Ends Well. It was cute, although I agree with Stefaneener that there are tedious bits, but I mostly skim right those :) The mystery is almost secondary to the crazy family antics, which is fine because those are fun. I tried to start The Alchemist around 5:00 am during pregnancy-related insomnia, but could not focus on it at all. Instead, I'm starting the first Stephanie Barron Jane Austen mystery, which concerns the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor.

Writing: Not a thing to report. My dad was in town from California, so we've been pretty busy. The temperature was about double there what it is here (84 versus 42), which I'm sure wasn't a fun change for my dad, but we had a nice time. And how classically 'Dad' is this? He was here about an hour before he whipped out some pliers and fixed our sink that's been wonky for over a year :)

Cooking: Not much (see above). I did make the fantastic French toast for us on Saturday morning. I roasted some beets, but I like them so much plain with a little salt and pepper and sometimes blue cheese dressing that I didn't do anything interesting with them. My dad brought me some gorgeous artichokes, which are probably my favorite food, so I've been steaming those. Yum. I could eat an artichoke every day, like Catherine di Medici, who supposedly at them until she burst (not sure how much credit to give that story, but she did bring them with her to France when she was married off to Louis). I do want to bake something today, as our stash of baked goods has finally diminished to a manageable amount. Possibly cinnamon buns, cookies, and/or Grand Marnier Cranberry Muffins (best muffins ever). Knitpastis, just for you, I'm going to try some food photography this time when I bake :)

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Me, me, me!

The lovely String Bean has tagged me with a meme, and since she also named me most likely to respond, I think I will!

And tomorrow, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

48 Things You Could Care Less About
1. FIRST NAME? Allison
2. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE? Yes, my grandmother, Alice.
3. WHEN DID YOU LAST CRY? I don't remember.
4. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING? Yes, I've always liked my handwriting. When you grow up with a teacher mom, you have very good handwriting.
5. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCHMEAT? Since I'm vegetarian, I'll answer with avocado. Or possibly provolone cheese.
7. DO YOU HAVE A JOURNAL? My blog is the first time I've ever consistently kept a journal. I had lots of diaries in childhood that trailed off in January.
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP? Probably not. Although, I did do the swinging-through-the-canopy-thing and scuba diving on my honeymoon, so I might surprise myself.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL? Homemade granola. I'm also partial to raisin bran and shredded wheat.
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG? I've been called freakishly strong when reconfiguring an office.
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM FLAVOR? Cookies and cream. Except when it's mint chip.
14. SHOE SIZE? 8
5. RED OR PINK? Depends entirely on the day. Currently, pink in honor of Butterbean.
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF? Huh. Not sure. I can be overly timid, which drives me nuts sometimes.
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST? My parents and brother are 2000 miles away.
19. WHAT COLOR PANTS, SHIRT AND SHOES ARE YOU WEARING? Tan pants, burgundy shirt, pink fuzzy socks.
20. LAST THING YOU ATE? An avocado and jack cheese sandwich on sourdough.
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Traffic sounds and the cats playing.
23. FAVORITE SMELL? Bread baking.
26. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON you stole THIS from? Yes!
27. FAVORITE DRINK? Wow, it so depends. Coffee in the morning. Tea or cocoa in the afternoon. Tanqueray Ten martini, dry with olives, when I'm not pregnant. Wheat beer in the summer.
28. FAVORITE SPORT? Knitting's a sport, right? I like watching baseball and soccer.
29. EYE COLOR? Green.
30. HAT SIZE? Whatever. As long as it's reasonably stretchy. Okay, you caught me, I'm too lazy to measure my head.
31. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS? Yes, I am blind as a bat. Blinder, actually, since I don't have sonar.
32. FAVORITE FOOD? Artichokes.
33. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS? Happy endings. I hate being scared.
35. SUMMER OR WINTER? Summer. (Now if it were any of the seasons, I'd pick fall.)
36. HUGS OR KISSES? How well do I know you?
37. FAVORITE DESSERT? Something super-chocolatey. Surprise me.
38. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? I think I can bug Tim till he does it.
39. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? It's hard to tell. A lot of my fellow bloggers just never do memes.
40. WHAT BOOKS ARE YOU READING? Harry Potter with Butterbean. Owl's Well That Ends Well. The Nursing Mother's Companion, Hypnobirthing, and Super Baby Food.
41. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE Pad? No mouse pad...laptop.
42. WHAT DID YOU WATCH LAST NIGHT ON TV? No TV at all, due to childbirth class. My class did watch a video on the stages of labor, if that counts.
46. WHAT'S YOUR SPECIAL TALENT? I can find patterns in seemingly unrelated things.
47. WHERE WERE YOU BORN? Bakersfield, California
48. WHO SENT THIS TO YOU? String Bean
I'm tagging Tim and KnitPastis, and anyone who reads my blog.

While we're at it, one of the food blogs I read had an intriguing game of picking your ten "desert island" ingredients and I thought I'd give it a shot. The rules are pretty simple. The only ingredients that exist on your island are the ten you choose. The island also has fresh water. This is harder than it sounds! You want ingredients with versatility and indispensability in your kitchen (the island has magically acceptable cooking facilities.

1. Fresh milk (can churn butter, make cheese, etc.)
2. Lemons
3. Olives (it's not cheating if I say I can make olive oil from them, too, right?)
4. Flour
5. Salt
6. Bittersweet chocolate
7. Chickpeas
8. Spinach
9. Almonds
10. Apples (can make pectin, and therefore marmalade with the lemons)

The lack of herbs/spices makes me sad. I would especially like to have room for cinnamon, basil, and parsley. And I like a lot more fruits and vegetables than are represented.

I guess this isn't a real meme, but I'm curious what Lee would say, so I'm hoping she'll do this, too.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Flora (Without the Flora)

Wow! I just posted a finished scarf, and here's another:

Pattern - Flora from Knitty
Yarn - Rowanspun 4-Ply in Siren (four strands held together), 2 skeins
Needles - Size 9
Notes - I had just enough yarn for the scarf, and didn't add the flower. For this recipient, at least, I was ambivalent about the flower anyway, and wouldn't have even considered it if it weren't removeable. This is a perfect last-minute gift, with or without the flower. Very quick to make, and lovely and elegant. The yarn possibilities are endless. I like the pattern yarns used, as well, which make for a blend of colors. I might make one for myself. I found a nice red button to use as the closure for a simple look. This was gift scarf #5. I still haven't decided whether to use the Vintage Beaded Gloves as my 6th gift, or to make another scarf. I'm leaning toward the scarf at the moment, but haven't settled on yarn/pattern ideas.

Thank you, everyone, for your very nice comments about my scarves! Stefaneener, the first time I successfully grafted something, I almost fell over in shock, and it still gives me a nice warm feeling of accomplishment. I think I'm in a heavy "nesting" phase right now, with all the knitting/baking/cleaning I've been doing.

I also cast on for the Argyle Sweater from Debbie Bliss Special Knits for Butterbean. I picked the 0-3 month size, because every Debbie Bliss baby pattern I've ever knitted has been huge. I'm using a nice warm peach color as the main color, and a white and a red for the argyle part, which is (yippee) done in intarsia. It's just 11 rows of intarsia, at least. I've been waffling a bit on whether to use the red or a warm rose color. Or maybe to use those two and ditch the white.
Here's the pattern photo:

And here's the start of the sweater, with all three balls of potential contrast yarn:

Any thoughts are welcome. I think as of now, I'm leaning toward the rose and the white, but I could be persuaded otherwise pretty easily.

Reading: Owl's Well That Ends Well.

Writing: Ha! I hadn't noticed that, Tim. Obviously, this is a fun part of the book for me :)

Cooking: Nothing new to report. Knitpastis, I should start working on a bit of food photography. Maybe on our dining room table. I usually don't bother because our kitchen is lit by fluorescent, which tends to make everything look rather yellow and unappetizing. But I think I'll start playing with it a bit.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Gift-scarf-apalooza, winding down

The Sister Scarf finally finished! I really did think it would never get any longer, that I would just knit and knit forever, but all of a sudden, it was a nice length and I was nearly out of yarn. Here it is:

Pattern - Sister Scarves (I made the smaller)
Yarn - Knitpicks Shine in Sky, almost exactly two balls
Needles - Size 6
Notes - I did a few more repeats of the second lace pattern to make it long enough since I was using much smaller needles. I might have added more of the first lace pattern as well if I had thought it through ahead of time. Nevertheless, I'm happy with the pattern. This was the first scarf I've ever grafted in the middle, and it went fine. I liked the narrow width I got by using the smaller needles, but I'm a narrow scarf person.

So that was gift scarf #4 of 5, or possibly #4 of 6. I haven't decided what to make my mother-in-law yet. I might try to finish the Vintage Beaded Gloves, but I may save those for Christmas and do a scarf as a shower thank-you instead. I'm sort of leaning that way. At any rate, here is Gift Scarf #5, whether ultimate or penultimate:

That's the beginning of Flora from knitty. I'm using Rowanspun 4Ply in Siren, a really nice red, four strands held together (which I guess makes it 16-ply). I'm waffling on whether I'll make the removeable flower or not. I'm not sure the recipient is a flowery person, but it is cute. It might depend on how much yarn I have left at the end, since I doubt I'll wind more yarn just for that. I'm almost always knitting from the knitty archives instead of the current issue. I am SO not trendy.

Reading: Well, I finished An Assembly Such As This by Pamela Aiden. It was...above-average Jane Austen fanfiction. Not that there's anything wrong with fanfiction, but one usually finds it on a list-serv (or, these days, I suppose, on a blog). This doesn't mean it wasn't fun and enjoyable. It might be premature to judge, since it was the first in a trilogy. The writing was not the best (in fact, the best parts were scenes lifted straight from P&P), and I just wasn't as engaged in Mr. Darcy's story as I thought I would be. And there's this whole goofy part about how his valet ties his cravat and some other gentleman getting all cranky because Mr. Darcy's cravat is tied in this new way that's better than his, and I just couldn't see people getting that worked up over a stupid cravat. But maybe they did...I wasn't there. But it went on and on and on and wouldn't go away. I'm not sure whether to recommend the book or not. Maybe if you read/watch P&P and desperately need more, it would hit the spot. I'm curious enough to want to read the rest of the trilogy, so there must be *something* there. I'm now on Owl's Well That Ends Well by Donna Andrews (her titles just crack me up). I've just read a couple of chapters, but it's cute as usual. Marie, I didn't know about the Stephanie Barrons, but I will have to look into those! They sound fun.

Writing: Urgh. Chapter 7.

Cooking; Well, to make up for missing World Bread Day, I made Cinnamon Raisin Bread in the bread machine the next day. I also made Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins and Irish Soda Bread. My husband has politely requested that I not bake anything else until we've eaten/given away the giant load of Cinnamon-Raisin Bread, the two loaves of Irish Soda Bread, and the dozen muffins. That seems reasonable enough. The muffins are wonderful; I had worried that there were too many cranberries and they would be too tart, but not at all. Very moist and pumpkin-y. The Irish soda bread is not for people who only like squishy white bread; it's very dense. Instead of the four free-form loaves the recipe uses, I divided the dough in half and used loaf pans. It's lovely in thin slices with jam and butter.

Yarnthrower, I'd love to join a CSA. We haven't because we haven't known how long we'll be living here. I think that'd be a lot of fun. I'm glad you like my food section :) Stefaneener, I think you may have hit on something with the perishable/storeable food division. I think that's why I didn't feel motivated to do the Eat Local Challenge, but did feel compelled to buy as little out-of-area produce as possible. I went to the market again yesterday. I think we're nearly at the end of the season for the Wednesday market, which is smaller than the Saturday. But yesterday, many of the spots were empty--I think there's only one more left. I've been spoiled with my twice-a-week routine!

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Just a bit further...

Knitting: Well, I'm still on the Knitpicks scarf. I think it's getting longer, but it's hard to tell. I need to figure out the minimum length for a scarf. Anyone know? I suppose at some point I'll run out of yarn and I can stop. I actually got rid of some yarn on eBay! But not all my auctions sold, so I've relisted with some new and exciting features like international shipping and accepting money orders. My auctions are here if you would like some lovely yarn that needs a good home with someone who has time to knit it instead of keeping it in a storage bin.

Reading: An Assembly Such As This. It's still okay. I think Ms. Aiden is trying to make Mr. Darcy more sympathetic by having him talk to his dog, and I'm not sure that's working for me.

Writing: Chapter 7. Ugh.

Cooking: I missed World Bread Day! Everyone in the world made bread yesterday except me. So, I threw the ingredients for Cinnamon Raisin Bread into the bread machine this morning to try to make up for it. I think I will make some kind of pumpkin muffin as well, since it's the season when I buy at least one can of pumpkin every time I go to the store, and it's starting to pile up. Pumpkin cranberry? Pumpkin chocolate chip? Yum!

Oh, I decided not to do the Eat Local Challenge over the summer, as I had morning sickness and needed to eat whatever I could actually keep down. I'm also not sure about how stringent I'm willing to be. Coffee, tea, cocoa--what hot drink would I switch to, exactly? Sugar--sure, local honey and maple syrup are already staples in our apartment, but they don't work for everything. Flour, legumes, tofu--there's some local flour available, but it's very expensive and limited. In addition, while I appreciate the reasons for eating local, we do live in a global economy where lots of foods are available, and I'm not sure there's anything wrong with that. Lots of food bloggers participated, and it was interesting to read the exceptions they made and the challenges they experienced. A few made no exceptions to the Eat Local rule (the definition of local varied among participants, but a common rule was food grown within 100 miles of your house), but that seemed a little silly to me--not a long term solution, surely. You're really NEVER going to have another banana? And I'm from California and unwilling to give up foods I grew up eating and adore, like avocados, artichokes, citrus, almonds, pistachios (loads of nuts, really). But I decided to start buying as much of my produce as possible from my farmer's market, in a sort of free-form mini-challenge. We went to the grocery store yesterday and bought hardly anything from the produce section! I'm getting much better at this. I've discovered the wonders of local apples in season (I'm not sure I'd be able to go back to grocery store apples again), and I get really excited when something's available at the market for the first time this season. It'll be harder during the winter, I think, but we still have a weekly market all winter (during summer, it's twice a week), so I'll see how I do. If we had a bigger kitchen, I think I'd be all about the freezing (and I REALLY want to get into canning/preserving, but I just don't have room here to store stuff). At any rate, I'll post occasional updates on this whole eating local thing, even though I'm really not participating.

Monday, October 16, 2006

You know the drill...scarves again!

Yes, it's Scarf Sweatshop 24/7 here! I ripped out the Sister Scarf and started over. The Shine on Size 10 needles was just too floppy, so I sucked it up and restarted on 6s:

The good thing is that I'm quite happy with the fabric. As an added bonus, I was able to have the narrow width I was going for without altering the pattern at all. The bad thing is that scarves grow MUCH faster on size 10 needles than on size 6. The length is really inching along (hahaha! "Length" is "inching"! Oh, never mind). I have 15" done on each side and I'm nearly done with the prescribed number of repeats. I'm trying to determine the minimum length for a scarf. At any rate, I think I have a bit to go. If I hold the to-be-grafted ends together, I can manage to make it go around my neck, but I'm thinking at least 3" for it to be remotely useful. I like this pattern quite a lot, though. Why Scarf Fest 2006? Well, a friend had a birthday, another friend did a very nice thing for us, and my husband's aunt and my mother-in-law (along with two of her friends) are throwing me a baby shower. I like a nice scarf as a thank-you gift. I got a fair amount done on the road yesterday--Matt and I went hiking, which was lovely. It's past peak for fall foliage around here, but it was still very nice, and the weather was uncharacteristically cooperative.

Other knitting: What, all these scarves aren't enough for you? I still have the gloves on the needles and the baby blanket, but they're on hold at the moment. I have a sweater (Argyle Cardigan from Debbie Bliss Special Knits) for Butterbean to start. And I've pretty much decided to do Lace Photo Mats from Holiday Knitting and Soap Holder Thingys for Christmas. I have also been de-stashing a bit. What? Getting rid of yarn??? I know all the knitters are baffled by this. But Butterbean is starting to acquire possessions at an alarming rate (not really's so exciting when the UPS man comes!) and though she will be tiny when she arrives, she has a lot of stuff that needs a place to go. So I dug through the yarn stash and pulled out anything I didn't have a pattern planned for/couldn't imagine what I would do with. I now have a rather sizeable, completely empty Rubbermaid container that can hold other stuff we don't have room for! And I tossed it all up on eBay, which is a wonderful, wonderful place. I should have done a shameless plug when I first listed stuff, but I didn't even think of it. At any rate, you can see my yarn-for-sale here. The last of my auctions end tonight.

Reading: An Assembly Such As Is by Pamela Aiden, the first in the Mr. Darcy trilogy. I'm 1/3 of the way through or so. I'm not sure what I think of it yet. I'm rather disappointed, but it's fun anyway. Ms. Aiden is not the writer Jane Austen was, certainly. And I'm trying to figure out why Jane Austen could tell this story in one book, but Mr. Darcy's version requires three. It's a bit slow, and not in that great Jane Austen way. And I thought I would get a kick out of seeing some of the scenes from P&P in a new context, but it's distracting and highlights the...differences in writing talent. And it's not all that illuminating about the Mr. Darcy you don't see in P&P. You get a little insight, but you know, I would have thought there would be so much to bring out since you don't really see Mr. Darcy's internal struggles in P&P. But I realized that Austen shows everything you need to know about Darcy's character and situtation, so masterfully you don't even realize she's doing it! So the belaboring of things like his preference for Town society over country isn't as "Oh, wow, that's why he says that!" as I thought it would be. And yet, it's still fun.

Writing: Chapter 7. I've missed deadlines left and right for this part (which is the middle chapter and therefore just a bear to write), but I'm giving myself another one anyway: this Friday.

Cooking: Not actually all that much. Oh, I made pasta the other night, with kalamata olives and artichoke hearts. It was very nice. Stefaneener, I didn't even think of bowls for rising the boules. I will have to try that next time. The raising baskets are on my "when we move to a place with a bigger kitchen" list, for sure! I pre-peel my butternut squash. It's true, it's a pain. I did finally get one of those ergonomic peelers instead of the narrow metal one that killed my hands, and that helps. I think my book club was probably my last dinner party till, oh, Butterbean is 18 or so, so I really went all out :)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

I'm just a scarf machine!

So many scarves, so little time. This is Gift Scarf #3 (of 4):

Actually, that's half of what I've done. It's made by knitting two halves and grafting them together, so as I do with sleeves, I'm knitting both halves at once. I hate finishing something and then having to do to exact same thing again, so even though it takes the same amount of time overall, I'm much happier doing it this way. The pattern is Sister Scarves for Breast Cancer Awareness, appropriate for this month, though I really should have made it pink. I'm using KnitPicks Shine in Sky. I made the scarf narrower as well. For some reason, I like my lace scarves fairly narrow, and even the narrower of the two Sister Scarves seemed wide when I had about an inch. I'm happy with the pattern, and I think the Shine has nice drape. It's not all that warm, but it's sort of a fashion accessory type scarf, I thought.

Between Rachel's Soap-Holder Washcloth Type Thingy, the Lace Photo Mats in Handknit Holidays, and Coffee Cozies, I may do some Christmas knitting after all. Once I have the gift scarves and Vintage Beaded Gloves done, I may want instant-gratification projects to supplement my Butterbean knitting. I've decided not to make a Grand Plan, like last Christmas's spreadsheet with recipients matched to patterns and yarn, and if I don't get enough gifts done, I can just save them for next year.

Reading: Just finished Ten Big Ones. I actually don't have books 11 and 12 in print, just on my iPod, so I'll listen to those while knitting, and I think I'll start the Mr. Darcy book. My book club picked The Alchemist for next time, and there's a nonfiction book on the flu epidemic of 1918 that was recommended to me, so I may actually read stuff that's new to me and not a baby book. I know you're excited :)

Writing: Trying to get going on Chapter 7.

Cooking: Hosting book club went very well. I did not find any food hidden in napkins or anything, so I think people enjoyed it. I baked my sourdough yesterday morning, and it was fantastic again. I used the same recipe as last time, but I shaped it into wonky-looking batard type things instead of the boules. I love the look of the boules, but I don't have rising baskets to make them taller, so they are kind of flat, and the variation in slice size is inconvenient. The batards looked a little weird, but better than my usual dough shaping attempts. Here was my menu (theme of Fall):

Appetizer - Creamy Mushroom Phyllo Triangles (Cooking Light)
Breads - French Country Sourdough and Pumpkin-Walnut Focaccia With Gruyere (Cooking Light)
Soup - Tuscan Chickpea Soup (Cooking Light)
Main Dishes - Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Tart and Leek and Potato Tart (Cooking Light)
Dessert - Caramel Apple Cake

The phyllo triangles were really good. I hadn't made them before. The Pumpkin and Gorgonzola Tart (for which I subbed butternut squash) was super-easy and fantastic. Even our six-month-old guest enjoyed it, since the mashed butternut squash was something she's used to :) The cake part of the dessert was lovely, and could probably be made into muffins for an ostensibly healthy breakfast (though next time I make it, I'm cutting back on the oil). I didn't cook the caramel long enough, though, and I skipped the white chocolate that makes it so pretty. All in all, lots of cooking. I do enjoy a dinner party.

A note on recipes - I'm always a bit annoyed when I read a food blog and there aren't recipes provided, so I thought I'd explain why I don't always include them. I put in a link when it's available freely on the internet, but if it's in a book or magazine, or otherwise copyrighted, I'm not comfortable typing it up for the blog. Same with knitting patterns. I just don't feel it's fair to the author. Since I make a lot of recipes from Cooking Light, it means there are a lot of things I cook that I don't provide recipes for. But your library might carry the magazine, or you can always peek in a copy at the grocery store to get the month's password for access to Cooking Light's web page, which has all their recipes. If you are really intrigued by a particular recipe, email me or leave a comment and I will send it to you. I feel like that's okay, since I could share my copy of the magazine or book with a friend. Just no widespread re-publishing.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Like Wearing...Nothing At All

I'm relieved that my knitting pace has picked up a bit, and I can post this finished object, posed artfully in the window to show it's "airiness":

This was one of four gift scarves with deadlines this month. Two down, two to go! The details:

Pattern: Airy Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts
Yarn: Lorna's Laces Heaven in Watercolors
Needles: Size 10

This was a breeze to make. The pattern calls for Kid Silk Haze, but I've had the Heaven in my stash for ages (left from a Meadow Flowers Shawl from Knitter's Stash). The color changes made it nice and interesting, as did the eyelet rows. It's a short scarf, meant to be tied at the neck as a neckwarmer type thing, about three feet long. The large-ish needles mean it goes pretty fast. It's definitely "airy" and very, very light. I was using a Clover Bamboo circ, and would have been happier with Addi Naturas on this one (more pointy). I'm happy with the final product, and I would definitely make this again.

I have two more gift scarves to make in the next three weeks, plus a baby shower gift (can anyone say Placket Neck Pullover?), plus finishing the Vintage Beaded Gloves (which, after my last beading attempt, may be bead-free). I still have Butterbean's garter stitch blanket on the needles, and it's nearly half done.

You have one week left to submit ideas for naming Lee's new business selling preserves, pickles, and chutneys. If you have a great idea, submit it, and if she picks yours, you get complimentary preserves! Having just had some of her fantastic Meyer Lemon Marmalade on toast yesterday, it's a great prize, and you creative people must have some ideas!

Reading: Ten Big Ones.

Writing: Chapter 7. Sort of on hold since I'm prepping for hosting my book club Tuesday.

Cooking; Friday night I made Curry Couscous. I made it the way my husband likes it best, with real cream. Usually, I try to fudge it with lowfat yogurt, but he's always a bit disappointed when it tastes healthy. You saute a clove of garlic (crushed) and 2 tsp curry powder in 3 TBL of butter, add 1 cup of liquid (half broth, half cream is what I usually do), and bring to a boil. Add 2 cups vegetables (cauliflower, potato, and frozen peas this time) and simmer until the veggies are tender. Along with the veggies, I like to add nuts and fruit, especially cashews and raisins. This time, I also tossed in some walnuts, coconut, and banana. Salt to taste. Serve over couscous, topped with toasted nuts and cilantro. This is from Allison's Vaguely Ethnic Recipe Collection :) I do cook more authentic Indian food sometimes, too.

Last night, I made Curried Butternut Squash Soup and Pumpkin Walnut Focaccia with Gruyere from Cooking Light. The soup is a fall favorite of ours, and I had just gone to the farmer's market and picked up a lovely squash. The focaccia probably isn't technically a focaccia, since it rises quite a bit, but it's fantastic. It's slightly sweet flavor is a nice contrast to the strong cheese. It's not a combination of flavors I would have thought of, but we love it.

This morning, I made brunch. Sweet Potato and Canadian Bacon Hash (with Canadian bacon made separately for Matt) and Cheddar Grits Cakes. Both recipes are from Cooking Light, and are yummy. I'm not normally one for grits, but the grits cakes are really good. They were actually a side dish recipe, but happened to be just a couple of pages from the hash recipe, and I just put them together (without the pepper topping for the cakes). This is one of the few savory breakfasts we make--usually we do waffles, pancakes, or French toast.

I have a lot of cooking to do over the next couple of days, as I'm hosting my book club Tuesday. There's quite a bit of prep I can do ahead of time that makes the event day much nicer. I'm doing fall food, with soup, squash, wild mushrooms, and Caramel Apple Cake for dessert. Best of all, Steph and Lula are ready to make bread, which means I have time to make sourdough before book club! (Thank you, though, for the biga offer, Stefaneener!). As a general rule, I go for non-healthy cookies, so Stefaneener and String Bean, bring on the recipes! Yum.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Better(?) Living Through Chemistry

Well, chemistry has failed me twice in the last two days. The first mishap was an attempt to make Pecan Pralines from this recipe (click on it--the title alone is hilarious). I boiled the stuff for the requisite 5 minutes and (rare for me) actually followed the recipe exactly, but I ended up with very flat, slightly gritty "pralines", actually a few very large ones that had to be broken into pieces, as the too-liquid mixture did not lend itself to the neat little candies pictured there. I think it needed to be boiled longer, which is why I prefer my candy recipes to tell me what temperature the stuff should be brought to (or at least a vague guideline like "soft ball stage"). The resulting...stuff...actually tasted very, very good, and there were even unsubstantiated reports of someone licking praline bits from the waxed paper after the stuff had been transferred to tupperware (vicious rumors!), it just wasn't exactly praline-like in appearance and texture. I think I'd try it again, but boil a minute or two longer.

The second problem is not so much a chemistry problem as a "living in an apartment with appliances selected by people who knew they'd never have to use them" problem. Our refrigerator is...well, this is a family blog, and I can't think of an appropriate term for mixed company. It has cold pockets in which things freeze, but if we turn up the thermostat, things spoil. It's a delicate balance that I've never really mastered, as the cold spots MOVE AROUND, so that a formerly safe spot to keep, say your *sourdough starters that took A WEEK to make,* turns into the arctic tundra. It is with great sadness that I must announce the unfortunate demise of Bert and Ernie. Yesterday, I mixed new starters, which I have named Steph and Lula since I am reading Janet Evanovich at the moment. I had planned to make sourdough bread for my book club, which I'm hosting Tuesday, but I'm not sure it'll be ready in time. I may have to do French bread or ciabatta or something instead.

Knitting: Here is Gift Scarf #1:

Pattern: The Lacy V Scarf
Needles: Size 8 (dictated by yarn, and I wanted a narrower scarf anyway)
Yarn: Berroco Softwist in Burgundy, two skeins

I like this pattern a lot. It's a 14-row repeat that's quickly memorized. Simple, but elegant. I wasn't that crazy about knitting with the Softwist, as it was rather splitty, but I like the finished scarf quite a bit. It's nice and soft, and the drape is lovely.

Here is Gift Scarf #2, just started. It's the Airy Scarf from Last Minute Knitted Gifts. The yarn is Lorna's Laces Heaven in Watercolors.

Reading: To The Nines.

Writing: Chapter 7.

Cooking: Besides the fiascos described above, not much. It was too warm the last couple of days, but now our warm spell has ended (Stefaneener, I hope I sent it your direction...). Ha! Martha Stewart is the one who makes me long for better decorating abilities, too. Her darn royal icing in perfect colors. I try to remind myself that I don't have an army of minions to actually do all my work for me, but I'm still disappointed when my sugar cookies look like they were frosted by a five-year-old.

Yarnthrower, your challenge has intrigued me! Healthier cookies out of a cookie A google search for "low fat" and "cookie press" yielded...nothing at all. Yikes. Low-fat baking isn't all that difficult, but it's harder with cookies because of their texture. In fact, searching Cooking Light for cookie recipes brings up almost nothing. They have low-fat bars and biscotti, but they steer clear of cookies, for the most part. I did find this recipe for Hazelnut Cookies in a press that contains only egg whites, ground hazelnuts, and powdered sugar that fits the bill. It's not going to taste like a traditional butter cookie, but well, there's a reason they're called butter cookies :) I think besides the nut version, your best bet is going to be to select a recipe with strong flavors that can mask substitutions. I'm thinking pumpkin as a substitute, maybe in this cinnamon recipe or this gingerbread one. You'll need to leave about 2 TBL of butter in the recipe or they'll turn out funny, but substitute the rest of the butter with an equal amount of pumpkin (or drained applesauce). Eggs can be replaced with egg whites or egg substitute. They won't be delicate butter cookies, but I think they could still be good, especially frosted to look like pumpkins. I also think there might be some potential in using reduced-fat cream cheese as a partial butter replacement. It would still have some fat, which should help with the texture. If I start playing with these in the press, I will post updates!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Outdoor Blogging-October Edition

My freezer is filled with broth, I have squash to roast, and it's...a high of 80 degrees today. But after our cool September, a few warm days are welcome, and the cats and I are soaking up some sunshine out on the porch. Some of the trees are starting to turn colors.

I recently acquired a pregnancy pillow (these have great names like Snoogle and Boppy, and even though mine is Boppy brand, we call it a Snoogle, because, well, it's a fun name), and discovered that the cats love it as a napping spot when I leave it under the covers during the day. (This prompts entertaining comments like, "Mirando's snuggling with the Snoogle!") Sometimes, there will be one cat on each side of the Snoogle. There haven't been kitty pictures in a while, so here you go. Kitties snoogling.

Knitting: I should finish the Softwist scarf today. Michelle, Softwist is 5 stitches to the inch. I also have another gift scarf figured out, using Lorna's Laces Heaven in Watercolors, which I think will be very pretty. I've added another two scarves to my "gift" list. I have also decided I'm ditching Christmas knitting this year, and I'm so much happier. I just don't have time, and I want to use my knitting time mostly on Butterbean projects. This means I may actually have to go (gasp) shopping this year, or maybe people will get Christmas cookies/candy. Hmmm...there's an idea....

Reading: Hard Eight by Janet Evanovich. This is not my favorite Plum book, but it's totally justified by the hilarious attack-goose scene, which makes me laugh so hard my husband thinks I'm choking. I've also been reading Harry Potter book 1 out loud to Butterbean. It's hard to say if she likes it or not. I wait until she's awake and then read for a while, and she usually moves around the whole time.

Writing: Chapter 7...non-boring edition...starting today.

Cooking: We had kind of a lot of food in the apartment over the weekend, so I didn't really cook anything interesting. Plus, it's too warm for my soups, stews, and curries I'd had planned. And Matt requested that I not bake anything else until we'd eaten at least some of the scones, biscotti, monkey bars, and bread I've made. He has a point :) I may do some practice Christmas cookies/candy before too long. I have been looking around for recipes, especially cookie recipes I can use in the cookie press I got for Christmas last year. I've talked before about my lack of decorating ability, and it'd be kind of nice to make non-ugly cookies.