Thursday, November 16, 2006

Making it to the top...

So, I mentioned that I'd dismantled the desk in our bedroom to make room for Butterbean. I kept a couple of parts--a bookshelf, and then the top shelving part. We put the top shelving part on top of a dresser. Geronimo immediately started hopping up there. Mirando was interested, but it took him a bit longer to decide it wasn't too high up for him. He discovered it this morning while his brother was up on the topmost shelf.

Aren't they cute? Note the still-unread copy of The Alchemist on the dresser. Mirando made it to the top on his own. He looks like Sir Edmund Hillary or something. He's always very proud of himself when he gets somewhere tricky on his own.

The less adventurous Geronimo, curled up on his favorite afghan. (We had to wash it yesterday, actually, and Geronimo hates when we do that. Takes all the kitty smell out.)

Stefaneener, if you find that co-op, let me know :)

Knitting: Finished the back on the Ruffle-Edged Cardigan. Getting closer on the garter stitch blanket. Now, I'm actually contemplating picking up and knitting a border with an eyelet row that I could thread a satin ribbon through instead of the edging. I did this with a christening shawl I made, and thought it was nice.

Reading: Jane and the Man of the Cloth. Very much enjoying it.

Writing: Still just over 40,000. Hopefully getting going on Chapter 9 today.

Cooking: We've had leftovers, so nothing interesting to report. I'm thinking about making this no-knead bread, though, since every other food blogger in the universe seems to be doing it.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Do the Mashed Potato

For me, mashed potatoes are a cold-weather thing, so I hadn't made them in a long time until two nights ago. I don't take my mashed potatoes as seriously as some in my family. At Thanksgiving, my grandfather used to keep an eye on the mashed potato bowl and make helpful suggestions to people that they reduce their serving size. As the first grandchild, I could have all the potatoes I wanted, but my grandfather liked to hoard them to form into patties and fry for the next morning's breakfast, so he was concerned about making sure there were enough left. People who like peeled, whipped potatoes would hate my version. I hardly ever peel fruits and vegetables if not necessary for digestability, and I smash potatoes, which means many lumps. I like to serve them with sauteed vegetables on top (mushrooms, zucchini, and spinach are all favorites), but Matt had his serving on the side of pot pie. (I once went to a place in Chicago called the Mashed Potato Club, known for its mashed potatoes, martinis, and drag queens. You could order them with dozens of toppings--the potatoes, not the drag queens--and they were the most expensive potatoes I've ever eaten. Lots of fun, though. I wonder if it's still around or if it succumbed to the Atkins craze.) At any rate, I'll post my mashed potato recipe down a bit further.

Marie, that people born in the 80s are old enough for grad school does make me feel old :) No offense, Tim. My little brother was born in 1984, and he has the power to make me feel about 102. Although I did laugh when he was in high school and very into music, listening to the bands his favorite currents groups cited as their influences, and he said to me, "Hey, Allison, I'm listening to this band, The Clash, they're from your time. Have you heard of them?" Yes, yes, I have. It was less funny when he came in and said, "Hey, my friend said you can get tapes and make a copy of a tape if you have two decks. And, you know, my CD player has those things! Can you show me how they work?" It reminded me of the time I found my dad's eight-tracks in the garage and asked him how they fit in the tape deck in the car. I think I'm getting a cold, and it's clearly making me ramble incoherently. On to other things...

Knitting: I don't think I've done a progress shot of the ruffle-edged cardigan (I think that's what it's called, but I can't be bothered to look it up):

I like this color a lot, and I think it will be cute. Like the satin edging on the blanket, though, I'm not sure about the ribbon edging on this. It might happen, it might not. I'm also on the last ball for the blanket.

Reading: I finished Pride and Prescience. It was a quick, breezy read, not particularly trying for a period feel. I thought it was decent until I got to the last few chapters, which had maybe the lamest solution to a mystery ever. That might be overstating it a bit, but it was completely inexplicable to me and didn't really fit in with the Darcys/Jane Austen (in my opinion). I might try reading the next one to see if it's any better, but for now, I'm happily reading Jane and the Man of the Cloth and really enjoying it.

Writing: 40,355 words. Chapter 8 is done! Word count is 2/3 of the way done! I figured out what this "dark secret" I'd been alluding to for several chapters was, and it wasn't what I expected at all. I like it, though. Now, I just have to decide whodunit.

Cooking: In addition to my mashed potatoes which inspired such going-on, last night I made a pasta dish with some butternut squash tortellini we had in the freezer. The sauce is based on a recipe for a side dish from my Italian professor in college. It turned out very nicely. Matt gave it the thumbs-up. I might try shallots instead of onion next time, and I think playing with a combination of mushrooms might be fun. I have all the stuff to make vegetable stock again. I can tell it's been a cold fall when I've already used up my stash of stock. This'll be a big batch, as I'm hoping it'll last until Butterbean is a few weeks old.

Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch dice
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 TBL butter
4 oz. light cream cheese, cubed
1/4-1/3 cup lowfat buttermilk (more if needed for texture)
salt and pepper to taste

Cover potatoes and garlic with water in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Drain well. Add butter and cream cheese; mash potatoes and garlic. Add buttermilk to reach desired texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serves a whole bunch. You can also add freshly grated parmagiano-reggiano for a cheesier flavor, maybe 1/2 cup. But this is not the time for the powdered stuff in the green can, people.

Butternut Squash Tortellini with Mushrooms and Pine Nuts

1 pound butternut squash tortellini, cooked according to package directions
2 TBL butter
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 pound mushrooms, wiped clean with a damp cloth and sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste

Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, onion, and garlic; cook until mushrooms begin to give up liquid and onion is transparent, 5-8 minutes. Reduce heat and add pine nuts. Simmer gently 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with tortellini and serve with grated Parmagiano-Reggiano. Serves 4 as main course, or 6 as a first course.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A little of this, a little of that

I'm not sure I have all that much of interest to say today, so feel free to skim this entry :) First, it is finally the time of year to switch over to flannel sheets. Almost every year, we jump the gun and change as soon as it gets cold, and then we have to change back for a few days of Indian summer. But I think this year, we timed it well. I'm pretty sure last week was the last time we'll see temperatures in the 60s for months. And months. Wow, winter's long here. Second, I actually finally took apart the desk in our bedroom, and now we have room for Butterbean to sleep! I should add that when Matt and I consolidated our one-bedroom apartments into our two-bedroom one, we really had too much furniture. We gave away a few things, such as one set of coffee tables (and, I'm still annoyed about this, Matt gave away my full-length mirror so to try and judge whether shoes go with a pair of pants, for example, I have to stand on the toilet and sort of lean over to the bathroom mirror), but we have his couch and my futon in the living room, which is nice for having company over. And we had my desk in our bedroom, even though the bedroom window looks out over the dumpsters and there isn't enough room to work there anyway, so it just held stuff we didn't have room for anywhere else. So I dissected it, keeping a bookshelf component (since I hoard books like people in hurricane country hoard bottled water). And now I can set up the Pack N Play, which is where Butterbean will sleep for the first few months. I feel quite accomplished. Now I just have to attack the other 27 tons of junk that we've been hanging onto because we're both incurable packrats. I'm trying to do a little at a time, though my usual cleaning style is to completely wear myself out with hours-long cleaning sessions.

Oh, and since I always make Tim do my memes, it's only fair that I have to do his.

List five songs that you currently love. It doesn't matter what genre they are from, whether they have words, or even if they're any good, but they must be songs you're really enjoying right now. Post these instructions, the artists, and the songs in your blog. Then tag five other friends to see what they're listening to.

I have to put a disclaimer that this is for RIGHT NOW and some choices may make it seem like I have the most appalling taste in music. I do like actual good music, too, you know.

1. Vivaldi's Four Seasons (I know this is not just *a* song, but whatever). I've been all over this one lately, when I listen to classical music and write. I think it's a fall thing, with the transition between seasons.

2. I absolutely love Billy Idol's cover of Don't You (Forget About Me) right now. You know, that song from that Molly Ringwald movie. I see no reason to justify this.

3. One by Aimee Mann from the Magnolia soundtrack.

4. Almost by Bowling for Soup. This is from my "Teeny Bopper Music" playlist because Matt always teases me about the stuff I like that's aimed at a demographic younger than me. I used to call Emo "teeny bopper punk without the edge" before I asked my little brother what it was really called. Man, I'm getting old.

5. Okay, this is cheating a little on the last one. It's my own little version of Right Said Fred's I'm Too Sexy. We were flipping through channels and happened to watch VH1 Classic briefly (I'm totally lying. We watched it for a while, in horror at an entire show devoted to 1992. We had barely made peace with the 80s being classic, and now the 90s!? Ack!) and this video came on (it's still pretty funny, by the way). And later on, I had the song stuck in my head. And it occurred to me that "catwalk" and "cat-box" sound really similar. So I started making up a version of the song with cats instead of models. You know, "I'm a kitty, you know what I mean, and I shake my little tush in the cat-box."

If you feel like responding to this on your blog, then consider yourself tagged!

Knitting: More on the cardigan, more on the garter stitch blanket. I think I might send the finished blanket to my grandmother and ask her to sew on a satin edging. I really want it to have one, but there's no way my sewing skills are up to the task. Hand-stitching a 30" square would take forever, and my stitches are just not that neat. I'm definitely doing i-cord ties on the bonnet. You can totally tell this is my first baby, because I was thinking, "Will i-cord look nice on the bonnet?" instead of "When the baby chews on the cord, will i-cord or ribbon hold up better?" Ha! Thank you for the reality check, everyone :)

Reading: I finished Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor by Stephanie Barron. I loved it! I thought it was lots of fun, quite well-written, and an enjoyable mystery. The period feel makes it heavier than the usual cozy mystery, but in a good way. I have a longer review over at On My Bookshelf (link on the sidebar) if you're interested. I made a big dent in Pride and Prescience by Carrie Bebris as well. It's significantly more fluffy and doesn't attempt authenticity of period at all, so it's going quickly. This is the first Mr. and Mrs. Darcy mystery.

Writing: 38,600. Nearly done with Chapter 8.

Cooking: I made chili and cornbread last night. The cornbread is a recipe from the Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook. I don't use this much, but it has some good light versions of basic recipes, and the cornbread is very nice. The chili was Black Bean Chili from the December 2005 Cooking Light. I was out of chipotle sauce and the store didn't have it this time, so I tossed a can of chipotles in adobo into the Cuisinart. It was a good thing I tasted it before adding, because that's a LOT hotter than the chipotle sauce. I cut back from 1/4 cup chipotle sauce to 1 TBL chipotle puree, and it still had quite a kick to it. Good stuff, though. I'm about ready to make something with pumpkin again, maybe pumpkin-chocolate chip muffins. And I still haven't made my cinnamon buns.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Winter??? Already???

Yesterday, I had the windows open. It was a balmy 60 degrees out. Today, the high is 39, and we're getting snow tonight. Not melts-as-it-hits-the-ground snow, but up to 4 inches (or 1-2, according to Weather Channel). Wow.

A bit of housekeeping: My comments moderation failed me a couple days ago. Last week, I got two comments in my e-mail that blogger wouldn't let me publish. Then the other day, I had a comment that never even made it into my e-mail or my comment queue. I only have comments moderation on because I had started to get comment spam some time ago. My policy with comments is to automatically hit 'publish' as long as it's not spam. So, apparently blogger is doing something odd with comments. If you ever notice that your comment hasn't shown up in a day or so, definitely try re-submitting, because I don't censor comments, and blogger probably just ate it. Well, it's hard to complain too much about a free service, but there are definitely quirks.

Knitting: Thank you for all the nice comments on the Picot Dress! I'm not sure I have enough navy Wool Cotton to make a Miss Dashwood, especially given the gauge difference from the Cashmerino Aran, so I'm holding off on that for now. But I did knock off another Lacy Bonnet from Knitting for Two:

If it looks familiar, check this out. I used the same yarn as before, Rowan Wool Cotton in pale pink. It's a pretty easy, but cute pattern. The only hitch is that I'm not crazy about the ribbon-rosette method of tying it under the chin. Mostly because I don't think I can pull off a ribbon rosette. But I'm having trouble deciding whether to make i-cord ties, or use ribbon like I did last time. I also cast on for the ribbon-edged cardigan from Debbie Bliss Special Knits in the rose color of Cashmerino Baby that I decided not to use for the Argyle Cardigan. I know you're all thinking, "Geez, how many cardigans does this kid need?" But they're just so cute. I need to start some matching bottoms, soon, but I have to find patterns I like.

Reading: Getting near the end of Jane and the Unpleasantness...

Writing: Chapter 8 is well underway. Word count - 38,257.

Cooking: Still a lot of leftover baked goods. I have some stale Pomegranate Pound Cake that I think I will turn into really decadent French toast this weekend, topped with leftover roasted apples and pomegranate caramel. In honor of the cold weather, I did make a nice, very easy cabbage soup. It's based on a recipe I found ages ago on the internet and hand-copied. It was called Swiss Cabbage Soup. I couldn't find it again by searching, but I've made changes to it, anyway, so here's the recipe:

Cabbage-Leek Soup

2 TBL butter
About 1 pound cabbage, chopped
1 large or 2 small leeks, chopped
1/2 cup uncooked rice
6 cups vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste
Grated cheese, for serving

Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Saute cabbage and leeks until wilted. Add rice and stock; bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until rice is tender, 20-30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with a handful of grated cheese. Serves 6.

Notes: Fontina pairs really well with cabbage. The original recipe called for Gruyere, which certainly makes it more Swiss. I think that would be very nice, too. I also served this with asiago, which was nice. When salting, don't make the soup too salty if you're using a salty cheese.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Hey, Rachel, ready for another direct hit to the uterus? (Hee hee!) Here it is:

The details:
Pattern - Picot Dress (without pocket or matching purse) from Debbie Bliss Special Knits
Yarn - Rowan Wool Cotton in navy, 3 balls
Needles - Size 5 (Size 4 for details)
Notes - The pattern called for Cashmerino Baby on size 2 and 3 needles, but I got gauge on the 5s with the Wool Cotton. Not sure how that's mathematically possible, but whatever, it worked. I like this yarn--it's durable but soft. The pattern called for 4 balls of Cashmerino Baby (which has more yardage than the Wool Cotton), but I got the whole dress and one bootie out of 3 balls. I worked in the round until dividing for the armholes, and it was a much more pleasant experience that way. The picot bind-off gives it a nice finished look, and I like the seed stitch bodice with stockinette skirt. I found this an enjoyable pattern to knit, and I think the finished product is just darling. Stefaneener, I love the idea of diaper cover/bloomers to go under! I might make those in a lighter blue I have.

I made these to match:

Pattern - Dainty Bootees from Knitting for Two
Yarn - Rowan Wool Cotton in navy (not much yardage at all)
Needles - Size 5
Notes- Cute, fun, quick, clever construction. Awesome. I love booties. I can make them while watching a single movie.

Oh, Stefaneener, the other thing I forgot to mention is that you have four Things to look after, and I only have one who isn't very time-consuming right now :) I think that helps my productivity!

Other knitting: I think I will do a Miss Dashwood. I'll probably make a bigger size so I can use the Wool Cotton instead of the heavier yarn called for in the pattern. I have Gryffindor socks to make for Matt for Christmas. (By the way, anyone have a favorite basic men's sock pattern for self-striping yarn?) Still working on the garter stitch blanket.

Reading: Jane and the Unpleasantness... If this is taking longer than usual, it's not that the book is boring. I love the book. I think I'm just more tired at night and not reading for as long.

Writing: Chapter 8! Goodbye, Chapter 7! Word count: 35,518. Not much progress in actual words yesterday, more brainstorming and futzing around. That's my pattern.

Cooking: We did make pizza, but nothing exciting. Pepperoni for Matt, Mushroom, Olive, and Garlic for me. A little crust for Geronimo, our carb-crazy cat. I plan to make chili soon, but we're having a warm spell and it doesn't seem appropriate for the weather. KnitPastis, let me know how it goes with the baking!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote Early and Often!

It's Election Day in the U.S., which is very exciting because I'm so tired of the political ads and people calling to tell us for whom to vote (though it is a little funny to check your voicemail and hear Bill Clinton or whomever). Oh, and because I'm exercising my rights in a democracy, obviously. Tomorrow, that will all be over, and Bill won't call again for two years. We will surely miss him. So before I head to the polls, I thought I would post, since I missed yesterday again...too much writing.

Stefaneener, I collapse BEFORE the end of the day :) I was energetic my second trimester, but now I'm back to a daily nap. Reading I do mostly at night before going to bed, as an unwinding thing. I do read faster than normal, so it might seem like I read a lot. Cooking is mostly relaxing, too, although extended cooking is starting to be hard on my back. But that I can do while doing other things, especially if I'm baking--chuck something in the oven, go do something else while it bakes. Writing, when it's going well, is not tiring at all. I can only sustain it for a limited time (I think the most I can manage in a day is 3-5,000 words, and that would be a GOOD day and not typical). I also go through periods where I'm not very productive in writing, either because I'm going back and revising or I have writer's block. And knitting is just relaxing. That's my end of the day/weekend thing, and I don't usually knit things that are grueling. I actually have trouble just sitting and watching tv since I've started knitting--I prefer to be knitting at the same time. My blog also doesn't mention things like how our apartment is still SO not ready for the baby because I have been inching along on my cleaning and organizing :)

Speaking of...

Knitting: Almost done with the Picot Dress. One more stupid sleeve trim to go (Yippee, pick up 66 stitches, wrestle with them on a circular needle that's really too long for the job, do an interminable picot bind off) and I'm set. It's a cute little dress. In grand Debbie Bliss fashion, the pattern calls for way more yarn than was needed, so I'll have an entire ball of Wool Cotton left (which, I think I said was DB Wool Cotton, but I noticed yesterday it's actually Rowan...sorry) to make matching booties and a hat, and maybe a little jacket. Ooh, the Miss Dashwood would match, but it's in an aran weight yarn, so I'd have to fiddle with it to make it work on this yarn. I was staring at the HUGE skirt on the Picot Dress, until it dawned on me...duh, she'll be wearing a diaper on it, so the skirt better be big. I have socks I really need to start for Matt for Christmas, and I will probably cast on for those next, along with something else for Butterbean.

Reading: Jane and the Unpleasantness... Marie, I'm glad to hear the second book is even better! It's always so disappointing when I read the first book in a series and love it, but then the rest of the series is blah.

Writing: Yesterday was another fantastic writing day, and word count is now 35,195. I've gone back a couple of times to add in small hints and developments, but that's mostly forward progress. Chapter 7 is basically done! Take that, chapter 7! On to chapter 8. No doubt I'll be going back to add things I completely forgot to chapter 7, but as a first attempt (well, third or fourth really, but first draft of THIS attempt) I'm pleased with it. Mostly I'm happy to be making progress after such a long period of struggling with it.

**Edited because I noticed I said the *page* count was 35,195. Now, that would make me one of those kind of scary people who never leaves the house and has stacks of finished sci fi novels stashed in drawers, none of which is fewer than 500 pages, and complains constantly about being unappreciated by mainstream publishers.

Cooking: Hmmm. Nothing new to report. Knitpastis, scones are all about being plain. The key is clotted cream and jam served with them :) Otherwise, they are pretty boring. Cooking Light doesn't usually do a lot of desserts with whole wheat flour, so I'll just sub it for regular flour (usually starting with 1/3 to half of the total flour in the recipe). It's true...they're not always big with the simple recipes. They do have a neat section in the magazine called Recipe Renovation (I think) where people send in a horrible, fatty recipe and they explain step-by-step how they made it healthier. It's not always desserts, but it's a good place to get a feel for how to translate any recipe into a healthier one. Oh, I also forgot one recipe subsitution in desserts--1/3 less fat cream cheese can also stand in for part of the fat and makes for a nice moist product. I often just make splurgy desserts, but I'll take a look at healthier recipes and send a couple your way :)

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Snuggling Season

When it gets cold, Mirando and Geronimo take more naps snuggled up together, which we think is just adorable. Here, Mirando uses Geronimo's tummy as a pillow:

Well, I broke my November blogging streak, and so early! But I had a lot to do yesterday, between going to the last outdoor farmer's market of the year for fingerling potatoes and beets and trying to be a good member of the democracy by figuring out what's on the ballot Tuesday so I don't just vote for people based on how much I like their names (I find political ads really irritating, so I've spent most of the month ignoring them, only to regret it at the last minute when I have to look up who's running). I also did a fair amount of cooking.

Blogger did something weird (I know, big surprise), and I got two comments in my e-mail that it won't let me approve, and they don't show up in my comments to moderate list. Here they are:

Stefaneener: Oooh, just sub whole wheat pastry flour for white, works a charm.

Erm, Allison, sorry, back to your post. I think you made the right call on that dress. Definitely a better use of your time.

The boys look lovely. Gah, I miss having a cat.

Tim: *ahem* (reader)

Sure, Tim, like you could get out of being a reader :)

Knitting: Further on the Picot Dress. I'm finished with the skirt decreases, so I don't think it'll be all that long now.

Reading: Still on Jane and the Unpleasantness... I really like Barron's writing a lot. She manages to make it plausible that it's really Austen writing, which I think is darn impressive.

Writing: I'm working more on Chapter 7 today.

Cooking: Well, I made chocolate chip cookies with String Bean's recipe. Yum. I switched to Ghirardelli 60% Bittersweet Chocolate Chips years ago (they used to be called Double Chocolate Chips) and I just can't go back to semisweet chips, which taste insanely sweet in cookies to me. I made toffee from this recipe and it turned out very well. If you've never made toffee before, this recipe is nearly foolproof I think, as long as you remember to grease the pan and you have a candy thermometer (check its accuracy in a pot of boiling water). The flavor and crunch of the toffee are fantastic. The recipe has you pour chocolate chips and nuts in the bottom of a 9x13 pan, then pour the toffee over. The chocolate chips do melt from the heat of the toffee, but they keep their shape, so for aesthetics, I think I'll drizzle melted chocolate over instead next time. I also like a lot of nuts in my toffee, so I might either up the amount and stir it into the toffee, or use ground nuts sprinkled on top of the chocolate. I'll also use a jelly roll pan, since the 9x13 makes really thick toffee slabs. Then yesterday I made Pomegranate Pound Cake and Warm Roasted Apples With Pomegranate Caramel, both from Cooking Light. The pound cake, which uses seeds from a pomegranate, is one of our standard recipes this time of year, and the apples were a new recipe. The apples were fantastic, and the pomegranate caramel was very nice, but didn't really thicken properly. I think I'll cook it for longer next time. But the apples did something really weird to my pan. The recipe had me line a jelly roll pan with foil, then spray the foil with cooking spray. And now the foil is GLUED to my pan. I think the apple juice and sugar ran under the foil and caramelized into a cement-like substance. I'm going to try some extensive soaking to see if I can salvage the pan. Ugh.

Knitpastis, I second Stefaneener's suggestion for whole wheat pastry flour, and add another plug for my new favorite product, King Arthur White Whole Wheat Flour, which can sub for all purpose in all but the lightest recipes (like angel food cake). Cooking Light is one of my favorite sources for healthier desserts, and if you subscribe, you get access to all their past recipes on their website, which is nice. They do a lot of fruit desserts and souffle-type things, and reduced-fat cakes and pies. I find you can usually adapt unhealthy dessert recipes to be better for you with wheat flour, reducing the amount of butter and replacing with yogurt, fruit puree, or buttermilk, depending on the flavors in the recipe, using egg substitute instead of whole eggs, and if you're an artificial sweetener person, replacing part (but not all) of the sugar with Splenda. I find the sweetener adds a chemical taste, but a lot of people I know swear by it. I usually just go the sugar route and remember that it's dessert, not health food. The trick to adapting recipes is not to remove all the fat, which not only gives flavor, but improves the texture and structure. Leave some butter in (or go with canola oil) and people usually can't tell it's lower-fat. I also like fruit sauces or compotes over low-fat ice cream (homemade is much better than light ice creams from the store) made in my little ice cream maker with 2% milk.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Seeing Double

You know what we haven't had in a while? Kitty pictures! The guys have been enjoying today's sunshine:

Check it out, Day 3 of daily blogging!

Knitting: This might look familiar, but it's not quite what I showed you yesterday:

I did decide to rip out and start over in the round. If it were a sweater, I don't think I would bother, but as a dress, it would have meant more than nine inches of back and forth stockinette...twice, so I decided it was worth it. I prefer seamed adult garments, but for infant clothes, seams don't seem necessary, and it's so much easier this way. It's the 3-6 month size, so I don't expect Butterbean will be out dancing or anything in it :) I'm already nearly to the point I was before in length (though of course it's really double that, since I'm now working the back and front at the same time). I think I'll take your advice and stick to one color in the dress. I really love being able to post wonderings about things like that, and having your helpful opinions!

Reading: Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor. This is a fun book. I really am enjoying it. Barron's a lovely writer, and the story is very engaging.

Writing: I've added a couple of scenes, plus gotten work done on Chapter 7. Word count - 32,139. Yes, that's 2000 words since yesterday's post. It's going suddenly well, though I don't want to jinx it :) I think the NaNoWriMo might have been the spur I needed to break through the foggy preggo brain. Anyone who wants to be a reader once the first draft is complete, just let me know!

Cooking: Well, nothing really. We've had lots of leftovers, but I do have some nice things planned for the weekend. And I have GOT to make my Orange Cinnamon Rolls. And cookies! It's been ages since I've made cookies. And I need to make sourdough bread again! And we still have Pain Automnal a la Courge to eat up, so Matt's going to roll his eyes at the huge quantities of baked goods again... Although he loves having cookies in the apartment, so he might ignore the excess of baking.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Hey, look at the progress!

Well, I've been more productive than usual, which I hope persists. Especially since I still have tons of baby-related organizing to do (piles of shower gifts that need a permanent home).

I thumbed through my knitting books to see what project I wanted to start next. I like to have the garter stitch blanket as my mindless project for when I'm tired or watching something that needs my full attention, but I like to have something more demanding on the needles, too. I have Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino, Knitpicks Shine, Knitpicks Crayon, and Debbie Bliss Wool Cotton all waiting to be baby things. I cast on for this:

Doesn't look like much now, but it will be:

Yes, that's another pattern from Debbie Bliss Special Knits, the Picot Dress. I'm using the Wool Cotton in navy. I'm debating a bit over whether or not to make the bodice part in another color. I'm thinking the texture change (from stockinette to seed stitch) might be enough. I do have a white, a light blue, or a pink that I could use for the top if I decided to go that way. Thoughts? I just can't picture what it would look like in a two-tone. I'm kicking myself for not adapting this for knitting in the round, since I'd be able to just knit every row instead of alternating knit and purl rows. I guess I haven't knit that far, so I could rip it out and start over. I may do that, since it'd make it much easier. Anyone know a reason *not* to do that? I could split in for front and back before the armholes and knit separately from there. The pattern called for Cashmerino Baby on size 3 needles, and I'm getting gauge with the Wool Cotton on size 5. I like the fabric so far, but my Addi Natura broke! The needle snapped right by the join. Fortunately, I had a Clover circular in size 5 that I moved to, though it's shorter and if I want to do it in the round, I might have to get a longer one.

Other knitting: Thank you for the condolences on my Vintage Beaded Glove. It's tough to have that happen. Stefaneener, I think the "vintage" glove style is part of the problem, but also measuring the space between the base of my thumb and the base of my forefinger, the glove's measurements are off, and there's not enough "hand" knit between the thumb and forefinger, if that makes sense. I may have just read the pattern wrong, but it's very odd. Plugging along on the garter stitch blanket. It's on size 8 needles in Cashmerino Aran, and it's very nice and mindless to knit. I'm actually enjoying it, and once it's done, I may do another garter stitch blanket as my easy project.

Reading: Jane and the Unpleasantness at Scargrave Manor. I'm still really enjoying it.

Writing: Ha! You thought I wouldn't have anything to report, didn't you? It's true, it's been a rough few weeks for writing. A lot to do, and a pregnancy-related short attention span. But I went back today and added a couple of scenes, and I'm very pleased with making progress. In fact, I'll report a word count: 30,132. Remember, we're aiming for 60,000, so I have a long way to go. It is National Novel Writing Month and if a bunch of people can do a whole novel in a month, I can finish this one! After all, I only have half to do in the same amount of time. This is totally against the rules of NaNoWriMo, but I really don't care. Think good writing thoughts for me, as I REALLY want to get this done before Butterbean arrives and I barely have time to shower, much less work on a novel.

Blogging: There's also a blogging event in November in which you're supposed to post every single day. I guess that so far I'm doing that (wow, 2 days down, 28 to go), but I have no idea what will happen around Thanksgiving time, or if I'll make it that far into the month without missing a day.

Cooking: Mostly leftovers around here (lots of soup, pot pie, and such), but I did roast our pumpkin seeds using the Sweet and Spicy recipe here. Yum, although mine took much longer to roast.

I also got slightly less blurry photos of our pumpkins. I'm just too proud of them not to share. There's one of both pumpkins in more light (please disregard the messy kitchen in the background...) and one of each in the dark. The darker, the blurrier, even on the low-light setting, but you can still see the effect. I'm not sure if you can see the fangs on my Cat O'Lantern, but I was pretty proud of them, as I generally have no artistic ability whatsoever, and I designed it from scratch!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


I was out of town over the weekend, and I always say to myself, "Hey, I can blog from out of town" and then I never do. And then I was nearly finished with a Vintage Beaded Glove (pre-beading) and wanted to have a photo to post, so that's why I've been missing nearly a week. That, and blogger was a pain about uploading photos (even with the no-formatting trick) and I couldn't figure out how to get more than one photo in a Flickr blog post. And then there were activities like pumpkin-carving and going for another ultrasound. I would have pumpkin photos up (if I do say so myself, our pumpkins are COOL), but the low-light setting on our camera is tricky, and all the pictures are pretty blurry.

The ultrasound was just fine. Naturally, she was moving around like crazy right before and then went to sleep as soon as the tech got out the gel.

Knitting: Hmph. Well, I finished the Branching Out in Cashcotton 4Ply, and it was lovely. You'll have to take my word for it, though, because I didn't take a photo before gifting it. Sunday was my baby shower, and the four scarves were gifts for the women hosting it. I think they were all well-received. Two out of four actually matched what the recipient was wearing, so they wore them during the shower. I do have photos from the shower in which my mother-in-law is wearing the Branching Out, but my husband was in charge of shower photography and managed to get 28 photos of me smiling at presents, with my mother-in-law seated next to me, obscured by a floral centerpiece.

I've been working on the garter stitch baby blanket, though I haven't talked about it much. It's a garter stitch square, so constant updates aren't really all that exciting. I did join Ball 4 of the yarn (out of 6), so I'm more than halfway there. The pattern calls for a satin edging, but unless I find someone with a sewing machine who knows how to use it, I won't be able to do one. Maybe a knitted-on border in another color?

And now, what you've all been waiting for, the Vintage (un)Beaded Glove. Here it is, looking all normal.

And then on my hand. It's a bit small for me, but it was a gift, and I think the length of the fingers would be fine for the recipient.

Here it is thumb up. The astute among you will notice that something seems amiss, perhaps in the thumb area.

Ah, there it is. This glove was clearly made for someone with mutant thumbs. Or I have mutant thumbs. At any rate, mutant thumbs are definitely involved here.

I re-measured, and the measurements match up with the pattern, at least as far as I can see. But the thumb is entirely in the wrong spot. I don't think any human thumb is in the position indicated by this glove, but maybe it's just me. Would a thumb gusset make a difference? Naturally, the photo in the book doesn't really show the fit at all, but I can't imagine the thumb is supposed to be there. So much for the Vintage Beaded Gloves from Handknit Holidays. The other problem with this pattern is the yarn. Don't get me wrong, I *love* Blue Sky Alpaca Silk, but I think gloves really need something with at least a little stretch, so maybe a sock yarn with nylon would make more sense. Even if these actually fit, they'd be a bit impractical for tugging on and off without yarn that has a bit of give, and I imagine without a thumb gusset they'd be hard to do normal activities in. So, I'm a little ticked off at this pattern right now. I also couldn't find anyone who'd actually finished the gloves, just people saying they'd bought the yarn or started them. It took a while to make this stupid glove, and now I have to come up with a new Christmas gift to replace these. Grrr. I'll probably reclaim the yarn for a scarf or something.

Reading: I read a fun children's book, Molly Moon's Hypnotic Time Travel Adventure, the third in a series. These are really cute and fun. If you're in Harry Potter withdrawal, they might be a nice diversion. The first in the series is Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism. I keep trying The Alchemist, but haven't been able to get into it yet. I'm reading the first Jane Austen mystery by Stephanie Barron and enjoying it. The premise is that Barron is actually editing journals and letters written by Austen and found in somebody's attic, which is not my favorite literary conceit, but it's not overly intrusive. There are a few "editor's notes" in footnote form that pull you out of the story, but they're okay. The writing is quite good, and Jane is just as witty as you'd expect. Anyway, so far, so fun.

Writing: See above re: busy.

Cooking: Ooh, lots of cooking. I made the Grand Marnier Cranberry Muffins from one of Diane Mott Davidson's catering mysteries. One of my favorite muffins...yum, despite my baking powder, which I learned needed to be replaced, given the short stature of the muffins. I also made hummus from my Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Cookbook (my standard recipe), and was able to confirm something that I've long suspected. Dried chickpeas make hummus 1,000 times better than canned. I used to lament that my hummus was good, but not as good as at a Middle Eastern restaurant, and I have to say I came close using the dried chickpeas. HUGE difference. It is more time-consuming, but not much active work. I just covered the chickpeas with water in a large bowl and left them overnight, then simmered them for an hour the next morning. I rinsed and drained and left them in the colander for a bit to cool while I did other things. Last night, I made Yellow Pepper and Pumpkin Soup from the latest Cooking Light, a mushroom pot pie, and Pain Automnal a la Courge, which sounds really impressive, but means Fall Squash Bread, more or less. I actually came up with the pot pie recipe on the fly, and Matt and I both loved it, so I'll post the recipe at the end of the post. The Yellow Pepper and Pumpkin Soup was fantastic, even though I couldn't find Spanish Smoked Paprika and just used regular paprika. It's a nice light fall recipe, much less hearty than the usual fall soups, which made it a great intro to a heavy pot pie. The Pain Automnal is delicious. Is it worth roasting and pureeing the squash instead of just using canned pumpkin? Hmmm. I'm not positive. I can taste the fresh roasted squash flavor in the bread, but I think canned pumpkin would still taste very good. I wish I had just slightly chopped the pecans and walnuts instead of throwing all the nuts and seeds into the food processor. More crunch would be nice. But excellent flavor. Next time, I'll reduce the amount of oil.

On to the pot pie...I don't usually use ingredients like condensed cream of whatever soup, Velveeta, Cool Whip, and other convenience foods that tend to show up in American casserole-type food. In fact, I don't generally like casseroles and other American potluck dishes. (Seriously, potato chips in real food? Fruit salad with marshmallows? I don't think so.) But since I was making a soup and the Pain Automnal last night, I decided to cut some corners with the pot pie, using cream of potato soup, cream of mushroom soup, and prepared puff pastry to make it quicker. I'd be interested to try a roux-based sauce from scratch sometime, but this turned out very well indeed. It did make a lot of pot pie. I filled up a 2.5 liter Corningware dish pretty completely with pot pie. Matt and I polished off nearly half of the amount, but were so full that I didn't make the roasted apples with pomegranate caramel I'd planned for dessert, so I'd guess it's 6-8 servings depending on what else you have on the table. Certainly substitute your favorite vegetables for the ones I happened to have on hand, and experimenting with different mushroom varieties or cream soups might be fun.

Mushroom Pot Pie
(Serves 6-8)

2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced (I used Yukon gold)
2 cups mixed frozen vegetables (I used a corn/peas/carrots/green beans mix)
3 TBL unsalted butter
1 small onion, diced
2 celery ribs with leaves, sliced
1 leek, cut in half lengthwise, washed, and sliced
8 oz. sliced white mushrooms
6 oz. portabella mushrooms, diced
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream of potato soup
1/4 tsp black pepper (or to taste)
1 tsp thyme
1.1 lb package of puff pastry (2 sheets)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a pot of boiling water, blanch the frozen vegetables and potatoes 5 minutes. Drain.
In a large saucepan or skillet (I used my trusty 4-qt chef's pan), melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, leek, potatoes, frozen vegetables, and mushrooms. Cook until vegetables are soft and mushrooms have given up their liquid, about 10-15 minutes. Add soups, pepper, and thyme; simmer until warmed through. Spray a large casserole dish with cooking spray; line with one of the puff pastry sheets. Fill with vegetable mixture. Top with remaining puff pastry sheet. Spray with cooking spray and cut four small vents in the top. Bake at 400 for 30 minutes, or until puff pastry is golden brown. Serve hot.