Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Everyone's Napping But Me!

Doesn't Geronimo look like a small lion?

Not to be outdone, Mirando hangs out like a snow leopard:

Knitting: More on the Pinwheel Baby Blanket, more on Tempting II. Speaking of tempting, I'm trying to resist the urge to cast on for Picovoli with some Knitpicks Shine in Sky (that I got with a baby blanket in mind, but the color is completely different from their website, so I saved it). I have three projects going as it is, the baby blanket with a deadline of March 11 (the day of the baby shower), and I also want to make a hat and booties and maybe one of those cute little baby sweaters. Okay, so I'll wait on Picovoli.

Reading: The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. I'm about a quarter of the way in, and I like it so far, but I keep thinking about how things are related to the Thursday Next series. Several of the characters and the setting come from a book Thursday visits in The Well of Lost Plots. Is it a spin-off, or just "inspired by"? It also takes place about 20 years after the Thursday Next books, so I'm not sure what that means.

Writing: None in the last couple of days, due to lack of sleep and sick kitty. Mirando's all better now, so it's back to quick revisions of chapters 1 & 2 of the murder mystery, then it's time to start chapter 3. Still researching Victorian architecture and northern California history for the Novel.

Cooking: I've decided to post two versions of the black bean and corn enchiladas, so I'm still setting those down.

Blogging: It's been over a month now, which is weird, because I used to get diaries for Christmas as a child, and I never wrote in them more than three days in a row before abandoning the whole journaling idea. I'm not sure what makes this different. Maybe that I can add pictures of the cats. Or that people visit (over 1000, apparently), even if they end up here by accident.

Monday, February 27, 2006

After the Olympics

Well, I really didn't think I would finish my Olympics project in time. I was okay with that (unlike the real Olympics, I would still get a sweater at the end, even if it were late). But somehow, I got into the finishing groove, and even the crocheted neckline (which I've never done before) went smoothly and quickly.

I'll get back to Tempting II and Heavenly Stole after I finish the Pinwheel Baby Blanket:

I cast on last night. It's for a friend whose daughter is due in April. The yarn is Knitpicks Wool of the Andes in Mulled Wine, and Filatura di Crosa Zarella Baby in Pink. This pattern is nice and easy after the lace sweater. It's hard to photograph when it's still on the needles, and I'm wondering how I'll be able to tell when it's the diameter I want. I have quite a bit done because I was up till 4:00 this morning with a sick kitty. Mirando's not feeling well, and we're taking him to the vet this afternoon. Geronimo is such a good brother--he keeps checking on Mirando. It's very sweet.

Writing: Revising chapters one and two of the murder mystery.

Reading: The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. I'm not very far yet, due to the finishing marathon yesterday.

Cooking: My husband cooked dinner last night! Penne Arrabbiata with Roasted Peppers. Yum! I'll have the enchilada recipe up tomorrow.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Olympic Victory!

Special bonus posting:

I finished my Olympics project, Marie Louise's Lace Sweater from Knitter's Stash in Southwest Trading Company Bamboo in Cobalt:

Happy, happy, joy, joy!

Putting the Pieces Together

The knitting of Marie Louise is all done! I doubt I'll have her put together by the time the closing ceremonies are done, but that's okay. I wasn't even sure I would have the knitting finished. I'm very slow at seaming, but I'll work on it today and see how far I get. Photos of the finished sweater in the next couple of days. Even better, I have a full skein of yarn left! It might become a Branching Out or a Bamboozelle. This project made me think about sleeves, and how the human arm is just too long. And does it have to get bigger as you go up the wrist? The sleeves really felt like they took forever. It makes me glad that my next sweater project is Tempting II, a *short*-sleeved sweater knit in the round. No interminable sleeves, minimal finishing. I think after that, a Picovoli is in order. Actually, my real next project (along with Temping II) is a Pinwheel Baby Blanket for a friend who's daughter is due in April. I'm making it from Knitpicks Shine Twist in pinks and purples and Zarella Baby in pink. As soon as Marie Louise is finished, I'll cast on for that.

Writing: Draft one of chapter two is finished! At the end of chapter three, SOMEONE DIES! Actually, the poor guy is already dead, but they find the body in chapter three.

Reading: Working on The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde. I like it fairly well, but I'm not that far into it yet.

Cooking: I made black bean and corn enchiladas last night. I'll tinker with the recipe, and then possibly post it.

Back to seaming!

Friday, February 24, 2006

Pithy title goes here

Photo posting issues today...

Knitting: About 25% through the sleeves on Marie Louise. I cast on for both sleeves at once. This is partly because I hate finishing one sleeve and having to do the exact same thing again, and partly so the increases match. It's definitely going to be more of a sprint than a long-distance event (like the one where they're cross country skiing...and skiing...and skiing).

Writing: I should be able to finish chapter two of the murder mystery today!

Reading: I finished The Iowa Baseball Confederacy last night, and I really liked this book. Even if baseball isn't your religion (as it seems to be for Kinsella), it's an engrossing read with well-drawn, complex characters and incredible storytelling. I'm starting The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde next. I've been putting it off, though I love Jasper Fforde, because what I really want is a fifth Thursday Next novel, and it's not going to be.

Cooking: I have done practically no interesting cooking lately. I'll have to start again after the Olympics.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Kitty Yoga

Geronnimo in Sphinx Pose:

Mirando in Pass the Beer and the Remote Pose:

Knitting: Well, I noticed a dropped stitch in Marie Louise's front yesterday, about 8 rows back, so I sucked it up and ripped back. I'm back almost to the neck shaping, but I should have finished the front. Argh. I guess I got cocky, like the American snowboarder who showed off and lost the gold. Anyway, I should have the front finished tonight, and I hope to have a start on the sleeves as well.

Reading: Nearly finished with The Iowa Baseball Confederacy. The story has some surprises--you get so much background in the first third that you think you know exactly where it's going, but it surprised me.

Writing: Up to page 23 on the Murder Mystery, 7000 words. I have one more scene before the first draft of chapter two is finished.

Cooking: Nothing new to report.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

No Birds Were Harmed in the Making of This Post

We have bird feeders on our porch, which is separated by a sliding glass door. Geronimo loves to hang out behind the TV and make odd chirping noises as he stalks the birds. Mirando also enjoys this in warmer weather when we have the sliding door cracked open and he can hear them.

Mirando enjoying a new box, courtesy of amazon.com. He's like Ralphie from The Simpsons, and would love the box factory. "Yay, boxes!"

Knitting: Well, after I didn't have much time for knitting over the weekend, I was starting to think that the Olympics finish line was just not going to happen. But yesterday, I got quite a bit done on the front:

If I can get the sleeves done by Friday and devote the weekend to finishing (which is going to be substantial), I should make it!

Reading: Still reading The Iowa Baseball Confederacy and enjoying it. I noticed that it took approximately one-third of the page total for Kinsella to get to the "main event" of his novel, but I'm not bothered by that. He's definitely a storyteller, and not rushing toward the finish line. I'm enjoying the meandering journey toward the resolution, and I don't think it's a flaw--it's the kind of book he's writing.

Writing: This is ridiculous, I know, but I found the idea for my second Novel. Ack. I'm just jotting things down so I won't forget them. I hope to have Chapter Two of the Murder Mystery finished by the end of the week, and I'm still doing research for the Novel.

Cooking: I made more broth, but I haven't done anything too exciting with it; just the same vegetable soups I've been making.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Monday morning

We took the cats to their grandparents' house this weekend. We were in town for the baptism of my husband's goddaughter (remember the christening shawl?), which was lovely. Here, Mirando kicks back on the porch. He and Geronimo both love this chair, especially when there's a fire going.

Mirando is much more adventurous than Geronimo. Here, Geronimo scratches his special-order scratching post to let us know he's happy to be home.

Knitting: Still working on Marie Louise. I didn't get much done over the weekend, so I need to pick up the pace a bit. I'll put up another picture once the front is done.

Reading: I just finished reading Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore. It's his first novel, and it's not quite as tight as Island of the Sequined Love Nun. It was still very enjoyable. Moore is wickedly funny, with sometimes excessively complicated plots. But if the plot was occasionally clunky or contrived, it doesn't affect the humor, oddball characters, and chaotic conclusions. I'll certainly be reading more of his books. I've started The Iowa Baseball Conferacy by W.P. Kinsella, who also wrote Shoeless Joe, upon which the film Field of Dreams was based. I'm a sucker for magical realism, so I'm enjoying it so far.

Writing: I hope to have draft one of chapter two of the murder mystery done this week. I'm almost through with the revisions of chapter one. Still researching on the Novel.

Cooking: My soup kick over the last few weeks has depleted my broth supply, so I'll be making more today.

Friday, February 17, 2006

After the Blizzard

Geronimo and Mirando snuggle in during the snowstorm yesterday:

Here, Mirando has Geronimo in a head-lock and is grooming the top of his head. Sometimes they get into these really entertaining grooming-fights, which my husband and I like to narrate with "You must die! You must be clean! You must die!" You get the idea.

Knitting: I've done four pattern repeats on Marie Louise's front. Sixteen pattern repeats make up the bottom half, so I'm about 1/8 of the way done. But we have a weekend starting soon, so I'll have more time.

Reading: Still on Practical Demonkeeping.

Writing: Still about the same place on everything, because I spent yesterday afternoon making these:

Pretty. The white chocolate covered are cherry, and the dark chocolate covered are peach-hazelnut. Yum. Not just those four, by the way. 54 of the dark chocolate, 64 of the white. Whew.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Olympics - Lap One

That's the completed back of Marie Louise. Isn't she pretty?

Writing: Still researching for the Novel. 18 pages into the murder mystery.

Reading: Practical Demonkeeping by Christopher Moore

Cooking: I made ganache for the truffles last night, and I'm taking a break now from rolling the truffles. I have a nifty mini ice cream scoop that makes this SO much easier.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cats in strange places

Stock photos from the Cat Archives:

Mirando loves to nap in the sink (or on top of the toilet tank) in the summer. Nice, cool spots. Also above, Geronimo enjoys the just-emptied paper recycling bin. Check out the giant paws.

Knitting: Well, I didn't knit at all yesterday. Valentine's Day, and all that. But Blogger decided it was okay to post the lace pattern close-up:

Reading: I finished White Teeth. This was an amazing novel, and I can't recommend it enough. It's about immigration and assimilation, being haunted by family history, and living in a melting pot. Among other things. I'm starting Christopher Moore's Practical Demonkeeping next. I discovered him when I bought Island of the Sequined Love Nun solely because of the title (well, it had good reviews, too).

Writing: I started my literary novel yesterday. It's going to require a fair amount of research. I plan to alternate between this project and my murder mystery. Working today on researching Victorian architecture and revising chapter one of the murder mystery.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

They're twitterpated!

Today we celebrate the life and death of St. Valentine. Actually, three St. Valentines, all of whom were martyred. What are the odds? One was a Roman priest who performed marriages in defiance of Claudius II's decree that all soldiers must be single (or possibly, helped Christians escape torture). Naturally, he was killed for one of these reasons, though accounts vary as to 'beaten with clubs then beheaded' versus the more prosaic 'illness in prison'. At any rate, catholic.org says that he is the patron saint of " affianced couples, bee keepers, engaged couples, epilepsy, fainting, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, plague, travellers, young people." February 14 is associated with love (rather than torture and murder) because in the Middle Ages, it was believed to be the date that the birds began to pair. So, enjoy the day, fainting beekeepers.

Let's see the Christening Shawl, all finished. If I made this again, I think I would make the eyelets for the ribbon further apart. Otherwise, I'm quite happy with it. It makes its public appearance this weekend.

Belle Epoque is blocking (takes two days for things to dry in winter here), so I'll get my husband to take better pictures tomorrow.

Writing: Draft one of chapter one of the Magical Mystery Tour is done. It needs some work, which I'll probably do in a few hours this week, then go on to finish draft one of chapter two.

I keep a notebook (and pen, which the cats usually knock onto the floor) by my bed. I used to wake up all the time with bits of poems or fiction that I'd need to write down. It's happened only very rarely for a while, I suppose because of soul-sucking (I mean, law) school, then my weight-of-the-world day job. But last night, I woke up to write from midnight to one some bits of the literary novel I've been dreaming about. It was fantabulous. Unfortunately, I now have to learn kind of a lot about 1880s architecture, building renovation, and the stock market crash of 1929 to write it, but it's all just part of the process.

Reading: Nothing new. Still on White Teeth.

Cooking: I'm making truffles on Thursday. I'll put up pictures. I may have to make broth tomorrow. I've been eating soup at a frightening rate, and my supply is never going to last until spring.

Monday, February 13, 2006

The Last Stand at Fort Kitty Bed

Our cats get along extremely well. They were brought into the Humane Society together, and we adopted them as a pair. They have great "fights" that are completely silent--no hissing or yowls, just good fun. Mirando particularly likes to hide around the corner and pounce on Geronimo as he emerges from the litter box. Here, Mirando defends Fort Kitty Bed. It's very difficult to get action shots of their wrestling matches--they all turn out pretty blurry.

Here's the Olympic sweater:

Blogger did not feel inclined to upload the close-up of the lace pattern, but you can take my word for it that it's pretty. I love this pattern, I love this yarn. I had thought that I had checked for errata on this sweater, but apparently I hadn't. I thought I was going nuts when I noticed that I decrease from 131 stitches for the back to 101 by binding off 10, binding off 6, then decreasing 10. Um...10+6+10=30???? So I looked it up and sure enough, there is exactly one error in this pattern, and only for the size I'm making (of course!), and all I have to do is bind off 2 twice, and I'm all set. I'm just glad I caught it early. The other thing about this pattern is that I didn't read it that carefully before starting, and I have to learn how to do crochet edging to finish it. But the back is about 2/3 done, and unusually for me, I haven't flubbed the lace pattern yet. Something seems to have clicked with this pattern, and I'm reading the lace very well.

Writing: Sorry, Tim, but I need to make a change to a character, so I need to add a scene to chapter one. This week, I promise!

Reading: White Teeth. I need to just take a couple hours and finish it.

Cooking: Nothing exciting, but I think I'm going to make truffles this week in honor of Valentine's Day. I don't think I'm sharing my truffle recipes, but I might post a picture.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

This is your brain on 'nip...

The boys get an occasional treat of catnip. Mirando quietly eats his catnip and mellows out.

Geronimo rolls around on the flat kitty scratcher. We think he's trying to get inside the catnip.

And I'm having a cafe latte, but there's no picture of that.

Knitting: Marie Louise's Lace Sweater is going. I've done four pattern repeats on the front side.

Reading: Still on Zadie Smith's White Teeth. I'll probably listen to The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde while knitting today.
Writing: I think chapter one is really done, at least as a draft. I'm moving on to chapter two. Really.

Cooking: Yesterday I made bean and barley soup. Yum.

Bean and Barley Soup

1/4 cup dried navy beans
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 carrot, scrubbed and diced
1 bay leaf
3 cups vegetable stock
1 pinch thyme
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup medium barley (not quick-cooking)

Place the beans in a medium bowl and add water to cover over one inch. Let soak overnight. Drain and rinse well. Transfer to a saucepan and cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 45 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot, and bay leaf. Cook until onion is translucent. Add vegetable stock, thyme, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Add navy beans and barley. Lower heat and simmer 40 minutes or until barley is tender. Makes two bowls or four cups.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Winter Wonderland

Here's something we haven't seen around here in a while:

Winter has been pretty lame this year. There was that good blizzard in January, and December was quite cold, but overall, it's been a wam, non-snowy winter. I grew up in southern California, and in third grade, our teacher took us all outside because it was technically snowing (melting the second it hit the ground) and most of us had never seen snow actually falling from the sky. So snow is still a novelty for me. Everything is so grey and brown in winter here, and the snow makes everything look clean and beautiful. Until it's been around for a while and gets dirty, or starts melting and turns into slush. I really enjoy an occasional 3-4" accumulation of snow throughout the winter, which I know is weird. But just in time for the Winter Olympics, it decided to look like winter today. They don't show the opening ceremonies here until 7:00 pm.

Knitting: Tempting II is a bit longer, Heavenly Stole is a bit longer. Nothing new to report, really, until I get Marie Louise's Lace Sweater on the needles.

Writing: I keep thinking of changes to the characters and/or plot, so chapter one is still evolving a bit. I've decided the go with the "wait and see" approach with the murder mystery. This means that all the suspects are established, but I haven't actually decided who the murderer is. Alas, the poor victim has already been chosen, but the role of murderer is up for grabs. Writing loses something for me if I try to map out too much ahead of time. I like to let the characters drive the story a bit. This can be frustrating with uncooperative characters who need more structure and discipline, but for the most part ends in a story that's better than something I could develop on my own, without their input. I also have a literary novel in the brainstorming stages. I had planned to finish the mystery before starting anything else, but I've been dreaming bits of a literary novel, so it's almost time to start that. I also have three (3!) children's books in various stages of development, two with some actual writing done. You can see from my list of writing projects and knitting projects that I'm a "many balls in the air" kind of person. I have to carefully balance my need for variety with my need to actually finish something, which is a challenge for me. It's hard to tell sometimes when I need to just suck it up and push through to the end of a project and when I'm being productive enough working on several different things.

Reading: About halfway through White Teeth. This book is amazing. I can't wait for the resolution, but at the same time, I don't want the book to end. That does not happen very often for me. Unless the second half isn't as good, I think this is going to end up on the shelf next to Kate Atkinson, one of my very favorite authors. Fortunately, Zadie Smith has two other novels!

Cooking: I have navy beans on the stove right now so I can experiment with Bean and Barley Soup. I haven't decided what else goes in it. Carrots, celery, and onion, maybe. I might puree half to make it thicker. Dried beans are definitely not a convenience food, but sometimes they're worth it. This is one of those times. I chucked the beans in a bowl of water last night, rinsed and drained them, and added fresh water, and now they're simmering on the stove for 90 minutes or so. They're time-consuming, but not labor-intensive. I haven't decided yet if I'm pre-cooking the barley. I made banana bread yesterday, and I may tweak the recipe I'm starting to develop before posting. I haven't been in a truffle-making place yet, but I've been thinking about flavor combinations I want to try (partly inspired by fancy liqueur Christmas gifts!).

I promise more kitty pictures over the weekend!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Warming Up

...but not literally. It's still winter. But I swatched for the Knitting Olympics, sort of. Here's the thing, I'm not a big swatcher. I swatched for Leo because it was on small needles with a big number of cast-on stitches. The whole 4 x4 square, washed and blocked thing. But I can't even think of another time I've done a full swatch. Sometimes if I'm really not sure about the gauge, I'll cast on a few stitches and knit a couple of rows to make sure I'm in the ballpark. Yes, I know this is terrible and someday I'll end up with a sweater that doesn't fit. So, below is my "swatch" for Marie Louise's Lace Sweater. I did cast on the number of stitches just over 4" and swatched in the lace pattern, but I only made it a couple of inches. But the gauge looks fine, so there you go. In other training, I put the lace pattern (actually, a 6-row repeat with all the wrong side rows all purl stitches) on notecards. All ready to go for tomorrow night.

And the Heavenly Stole works for audiobooks, but not for television, so I cast on for Tempting II last night:

Writing: I was done with the first chapter until I decided to add a scene yesterday. Now I'm done with the first chapter!

Reading: Still on White Teeth. Good book.

Cooking: I've been on a soup kick lately. Here's yesterday's:

Alphabet Soup

1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups vegetable stock
1 medium zucchini, diced
3/4 cup frozen spinach
1 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup alphabet or other tiny pasta

Heat the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is translucent, about 7 minutes. Add vegetable stock, zucchini, spinach, salt, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Add pasta. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings as needed.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

No Reason at All

It's cloudy today, but the last couple of days have seen more sun that we usually do in winter. Mirando likes the pappasan chair in the sun. Geronimo either likes to lay in the sun under a blanket or in the kitty bed below. That's actually a kitty bed for a much smaller cat, turned on its back. The cats rarely used it in its designed manner, so on a whim, we knocked it over and it's a Big 'N' Tall kitty bed for Geronimo. In normal-sized cat beds, he can't curl up all the way as he is below.

Above is the Heavenly Stole. It had languished in my knitting bag for ages, but I needed something to knit between finishing the shawl, Belle Epoque, and Leo, so I'm back to it. The shot in the pappasan chair shows the color best, but you can see the stitches better on the dining room table. I like the pattern and the yarn, but I've started thinking...what's the purpose of a stole, anyway? It lacks the warming size of a shawl, and it's really too wide for a scarf. But it's pretty and soft, so I'll figure out something to do with it.

Writing: I think I'm ready to go on to chapter two today. I'm about 5% through in terms of word count (3500 out of about 60,000). I might have to make a progress meter to post on the sidebar.

Reading: White Teeth continues to be a wonderful book.

Cooking: I didn't really cook last night, but yesterday I made a really good, really easy potato-leek soup.

Quick and Easy Potato-Leek Soup

1 tsp olive oil

2 medium leeks (about 1 1/3 cups), sliced lengthwise, cleaned, and chopped

3 cups vegetable stock

2 medium yellow potatoes, scrubbed and diced (about 10 oz.)

1 tsp salt

1/8 tsp black pepper

Heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add leeks, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes. Add vegetable stock, potatoes, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, or until potatoes are soft. Puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return to heat, adjust seasonings, and bring to a boil. Servings: 2 bowls or 4 cups.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More finished objects!

But first, Mirando and Geronimo demonstrate the versatility of a pappasan chair.

Next, here is Belle Epoque! Please excuse the bathroom shot--after I've blocked, I'll ask my husband to take a better picture. Belle Epoque is done, done, done. I cut a ribbon band, but I'm not crazy about it. I actually like it without. I haven't decided if I'm going to do the gathered back yet or not. You'll notice the lace is curling at the sleeves and bottom of the sweater. I'm hoping blocking will fix this. This was a fun knit. I used 11 balls of RYC Soft Lux to make the medium size. I managed to use a 16" circular on the sleeves instead of the DPNs--I really don't like DPNs very much, and I couldn't imagine doing two adult sleeves on them. I especially like the collar extension detail on this pattern. And it's done with time to spare for the Knitting Olympics!

And I've fixed the collar on Leo for my husband. I just bound off too tightly. I un-did the bound off edge, did one row on a size 8 circ, then bound off. It fits well, as he models it below. This was a pretty tough knit, on size 4 needles; an easy rib pattern, but very time consuming. You definitely have to love someone to make him this sweater! It took 1750 yards of Blue Sky Alpaca Silk in Mocha.

Writing: Revising chapter one (3500 words). I find revising a challenge, so I usually write a full draft first, but in this case, you meet almost all the suspects in that first chapter, and there are several important things that I have to convey (some of which I decided after I'd started writing), so this one gets revised before I go on. The rest of the book will probably be a full draft before I start revising.

Reading: I finally started Zadie Smith's White Teeth for my book club. I have trouble putting it down. I read three chapters last night, and I hope the rest of the book is this good. This is her debut novel, and it is amazing. Elegant, precise language, gripping story.

Cooking: Still too many leftovers in the fridge. I may play with an enchilada recipe tonight.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Finished Object!

Here's the christening shawl, finished! I just need to thread ribbon through the yarnovers in the border. I'm very happy with it. The border took me most of yesterday to sew on, but it was worth it. Next, I'll re-do the collar of Leo for my husband and then finish Belle Epoque.

Writing: This week, I'm revising chapter one. I've introduced almost all my suspects, and I have some characters who are just fun to work with.

Reading: While attaching the shawl border, I listened to the second Jasper Fforde book, Lost in a Good Book, which was very enjoyable.

Cooking: Nothing new, as we have tons of leftovers. But if you want to know why I didn't post yesterday, here's my husband's recipe for a Chocolate Covered Cherry Martini: 3 oz. vodka, 1 oz. Godiva Chocolate Cream Liqueur, 1 oz. Cherry Marnier. Pour over ice, shake, and strain into a martini glass. Sprinkle with chocolate shavings.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Cats CAN do tricks!

...just not on command. Below, the bookends I ordered : )

I finished one section of the border on the christening shawl yesterday, and got halfway through the second. It's much quicker than I thought it would be. Partly, this is because I wasn't paying attention when doing math. The body of the shawl is 28" square. The finished object is 34" square. That means the border must be 6", which is true, but I had 6" on each border stuck in my head, when of course, it's 3". I hope to finish the shawl this weekend. I washed and blocked the main section yesterday, and the wadded-up looking shawl that came off the needles is now a lovely 28" square, pressed and with a visible lace pattern.

Writing: Draft one of chapter one is finished. I think I'll do a bit of revision before going on to chapter two.

Reading: Yesterday, while knitting, I listened to one of my favorite books, The Eyre Affair. The audiobook is fantastic. You miss some of the visual gags Fforde does, like when the bookworms make people speak all capitalized and hyphenated, but since I've read the series three times before, I remember them. I have to decide between going on to the next book in the series, or starting the Harry Potter audiobooks I got for Christmas...

Cooking: Currying was nice. Here's what I did:

Curry Couscous (Version 17 of 23):

1 TBL canola oil

1-2 TBL curry powder (your own or commercial)

1 clove garlic, crushed

3 cups vegetable broth

1 tsp salt

1 head cauliflower, separated into florets and steamed 10 minutes

1 cup frozen peas, defrosted

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

1 box couscous (10 oz.)

1 cup whole milk plain yogurt

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add curry powder and cook 30 seconds, stirring well. Add garlic, cook 2 minutes. Add broth and salt and bring to a boil. Add vegetables, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in couscous. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Stir in yogurt. Sprinkle with cilantro, if desired.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Picot Edging Is NOT a Toy!

The body of the christening shawl is finished! Last night I started on the border, which is actually my first attempt at picot edging. You can see the nifty edge above. As I was taking pictures, Mirando hopped on the table to investigate. He usually just sniffs at my knitting and loses interest, but apparently, picot edging is like catnip. First he sniffed at it, then he picked it up, hopped off the table, and started running with it in his mouth, ball of yarn trailing behind. I managed to extract my knitting from his claws and assess the damage. None! The border is just fine. I'm about halfway through the first side (of four), so I'm feeling good about finishing before the Knitting Olympics. I'm still hoping to finish Belle Epoque by then.

Writing: The murder mystery is up to 11 pages.

Cooking: Currying tonight. Always fun, always different. Recipe tomorrow.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

A recipe for...

Above, Geronimo and Mirando snuggled together with my husband in the background. The afghan stays on our futon, in the middle, unless we have company. It was a gift made by my grandmother, who crochets. The boys *love* the afghan.

Yesterday was more of an "unpleasant errand day" than a "let me tell you about my great day". I still managed to write one page, and I hope to finish chapter one today.

Knitting: Almost finished with the body of the christening shawl! Two inches to go.

Cooking: Still working on the tofu soup. I think I added one too many vegetables to it last night. Instead of peas, I used broccoli, water chestnuts, celery, bamboo shoots, and baby corn. Too busy. I think I was closer with just peas. And it's still missing...something. Maybe ginger. And not exactly cooking related, but food related...A friend told me that Dave Barry has a blog, which happens to be very entertaining. But I clicked on a link to a news story he'd featured, and...ew. Here's the news story. Apparently, some common food products, instead of being colored with the Red No. 40 we all know and love (remember when they pulled red M & Ms off the market?), are colored with beetle-derived dye, and some groups want the company to have to note that on the ingredient list. Now, boysenberries aren't an appealing enough color in their natural state, and need some beetle juice added? Ew. So, here's the yogurt recipe I've been making for a while: Take one cup of plain nonfat or lowfat yogurt, add a half teaspoon of vanilla extract, add one cup frozen berries (defrosted), and sweeten to taste with honey, sugar, or brown sugar (I usually use 2 teaspoons). Serves one or two. Add beetle extract, if desired...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

One good yarn deserves another

If there are photos above, it means that the batteries for the digital camera were the problem. I turned the camera on this morning and it made a promising beep-beep sound and the green light came on. Then went back off. Then nothing. I changed the batteries. Same thing. Knowing us, all the batteries need charging, so I'm not worried. Yet. Wasn't that a good story? You can see why I want to be a writer.

If there are photos above, the first is of the Belle Epoque sleeves, waiting for the UPS man to bring the ball of yarn that will make them a perfect pair. The second is a close-up of the pattern for the christening shawl. I like this pattern a lot, and it's a four-row repeat (both wrong side rows are actually the same, so it's three rows to memorize). We'll see how I feel about it when I get to the edging. And then sew on the edging. Around the entire shawl. I've mentioned how I feel about finishing, right? In other knitting news, I was watching a Friends re-run yesterday, and really liked a top that Phoebe was wearing. It wasn't a knit piece, but I've decided to try my hand at designing something along the same lines. Except for small projects like scarves, I mostly follow patterns, although I almost always substitute yarn. I did actually tweak a sweater pattern. I made Pin-Up Queen from Stitch 'n' Bitch for myself, and I wasn't crazy about the sleeves, so I designed a stockinette bell sleeve with garter stitch edging, loosely based on another sweater in the book, and it worked out fine. And I love that sweater. I don't know why I'm so afraid that designing a whole sweater will result in a three-armed belly shirt. More on this after the Knitting Olympics.

If there aren't photos above, well, I'll need you to use your imaginations today.

Writing: I wrote 8 pages yesterday. It might not seem like much, since it's 8 out of...probably 250-300, but it's quite an accomplishment for me. I can read 8 pages in about 8 minutes, but it takes me 4 hours to write 8 pages. I'm happy with it. My characters are taking on lives of their own, and the dialogue has been a snap to write. And Tim, I appreciate your suggestions! I don't write action sequences very well, and this could be just the thing : ) You're definitely on my list of first-draft readers.

Cooking: Last night, I made a standard recipe from my repertoire, Penne with Zucchini and Ricotta from Cooking Light, but was inspired to tweak it by the mushrooms in the fridge left over from my broth-making. They needed to be sauteed. Right now. So, while the pasta cooked, I worked on the mushrooms (half a pound each of cremini and white). The pasta recipe called for 2 TBL olive oil to be stirred in at the end. Instead, I heated it in my Calphalon chef's pan (thank you, wedding registry!) on medium high and added the mushrooms (wiped with a damp paper towel, stems sliced even with the caps, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces) and stirred to coat. After two minutes on medium-high, I lowered the heat to medium-low and covered them. I stirred every couple of minutes until the mushrooms started to give up liquid, then added them to the pasta mixture. Yum. At the point at which they start to give up liquid, you can add 1/2 cup white wine, bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, until the liquid is reduced by about half. Add salt, pepper, and thyme for a nice white wine-mushroom sauce. Or...add 1 cup light cream, simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, stir in 1/2 cup of freshly grated parmagiano-reggiano, and cook over low heat until slightly thick for an amazing mushroom-cream sauce that would never meet Cooking Light's requirements.

Blogging: My sincere thanks to everyone who has been kind enough to read and post comments!