Friday, September 29, 2006

It's all coming together...

And now! A knitting blog with actual knitting content! What a concept. I finally figured out my two gift scarves. Here's the first one.

It's a free pattern called Lacy V Scarf and is a simple, 14-row repeat that I think looks nice in the Berroco Softwist. I'm using size 8 needles, but not adjusting the pattern, as I wanted a narrower scarf anyway. The drape is nice. The Softwist is...okay. It's splitty, but it is nice and soft. The edges are curling, but I'm hoping a stern blocking will fix this. Anyone have great tips for blocking acrylic blends?

Reading: The eighth Stephanie Plum.

Writing: Starting over with chapter 7. Urgh.

Cooking: I had three rather iffy bananas crying out to be used, and I decided to go with scones and biscotti instead of my usuals, banana bread or monkey bars. The biscotti recipe is from Cooking Light and is pretty good. It's lightly sweet, and very low-cal/low-fat for a cookie. But I'm not convinced banana belongs in biscotti. Maybe drizzled with chocolate, or the cinnamon glaze for the scones. Or maybe with candied ginger and macadamia nuts for a more "tropical" flavor. I might try the recipe again with drained applesauce instead of banana. I also made banana scones. I adapted a recipe from one of the food blogs I read, quadrupling the quantities, subbing cinnamon for ginger, and adding pecans. I also had to sub out some of the all purpose flour with my new favorite ingredient, white whole wheat flour, but you could use all all-purpose flour. I also whipped up a cinnamon glaze. My husband pronounced these "cafe quality" and I agree. They are yummy!

Banana-Pecan Scones with Cinnamon Glaze
adapted from Bakingsheet
Makes 16

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white whole wheat flour
1/4 cup plus 2 TBL dark brown sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cold
1 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 ripe bananas, diced (about 1 1/3 cups)
2/3 cup chopped pecans

Preheat the oven to 400. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray or line with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flours, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Dice butter and work it into flour mixture with two knives or your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal.

Add milk and vanilla and stir until a soft dough forms. Add additional milk if needed. Stir in banana and pecans. Divide dough into fourths. Form each part into a disk about one inch thick. Cut into fourths and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake at 400 for 17-20 minutes, or until golden. Remove immediately to wire racks.

Cinnamon Glaze:
If you're thinking, "Wow, 2 tsp cinnamon is kind of a lot!" well, it is. But the intensely cinnamon glaze is perfect with the lightly sweetened scones.

1 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1-2 TBL milk

Combine sugar and cinnamon. Add 1 TBL of milk and stir well. Add additional milk as needed for a good drizzling consistency. Drizzle over scones.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Back to indecision

Well, I like my purple scarf, but I think I want to go back to my first inclination, which was to use nice yarn and an elegant pattern...nothing sparkly, with oversized needles, etc. I think I may use the Cashcotton. I also have another gift scarf I need to make, so I need to get started!

By the way, Stefaneener, you crack me up!

Other knitting: More on the garter stitch blanket.

Reading: The seventh Stephanie Plum. I was given An Assembly Such as This, by Pamela Aiden. This is the first of a trilogy that tells Pride and Prejudice from Darcy's point of view. They're supposed to be quite good, so I think I'll be starting this soon. Butterbean and I are reading Harry Potter book 1 out loud as well.

Writing: Well, Tim's going to fire me for missing my deadline, but I had to delete a whole lot. The funeral just wasn't working, so I need to re-write it. Ugh.

Cooking: Here's where the good stuff is today! I think I will keep the blog as it is, with one vote for, and none against :) Last night, I threw together enchiladas and chile rice. There's a similar enchilada recipe in my recipe section on the sidebar. I used pinto beans, corn, and cilantro for the filling, green enchilada sauce, and crumbled queso fresco on top. For the rice, I just used white rice cooked in a bit of the enchilada sauce plus vegetable broth, and seasoned with cayenne. I completely forgot that I'd bought a couple of poblano chiles to roast and go into enchiladas, so I'll have to make something with them later, maybe chiles rellenos.

Sourdough Madness Report: I made Rosemary and Almond Sourdough Gems yesterday, and they turned out very well. I was completely surprised when they rose as they were supposed to, since I was using my sourdough starter. My husband's assessment was that they were pretty good, but tasted very healthy. This was true. I would double (at least) the rosemary, and the almonds were completely lost in the nutty whole wheat flour, so I would either give up and omit them or toast them first to enhance the flavor. I baked my French Country Sourdough today! I was trying to truncate the process down from three days, so I actually got up at two in the morning to move the rising boules to the fridge. I realize this makes me completely insane, but I had started the next rising before realizing that the instructions weren't to rise 4 hours then refrigerate, but to rise 4 hours, then rise boules 3 hours, then refrigerate. Oops. The bread was amazing. Great crusty sourdough. My husband used some to make a ham and cheese panini today, and gave it an excellent review. And again, I'm completely shocked that it rose as expected. Thank you, Bert and Ernie! I'm planning my next breads as we speak. I'm also trying to figure out what to do with the three bananas I have slowly softening in the fruit basket. NOT banana bread, as I've made too many banana bread-ish things recently. Perhaps biscotti, or scones? Bananas aren't traditional in either, but maybe they'll be okay.

For lunch, I made this Austrian Garlic Soup and it was lovely. Very creamy and garlicky (obviously), and the parsley really adds to the flavor. I ordinarily think of parsley as optional, or just garnish, but when all the flavor is coming from garlic, the parsley adds another dimension. I used toasted cubes of my sourdough bread!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

'Round the Bend

This is where my husband thinks I've gone :) Yes, Sourdough Madness has taken hold. "Do you know how long this bread takes to make?" I ask my husband in what I admit may have been a scarily chipper voice. Matt: "Um, no." Me: "It has to rest between steps overnight TWICE! It's three-day bread! And that's after the starter is ready!" Matt: "Okay." Then I may have gone on a bit about how the people on the Oregon Trail made bread this way, since they only had sourdough starter, which was when he started inching out of the kitchen. "I'll just leave these dishes on the counter. I'll, uh, clean them later." I think baking bread has a lot in common with knitting. It's doing things the hard way, and ending up with exactly the product you hoped for. As with knitting, I'm both a process and product baker. And I think it's cool that I'm making bread (and a baby blanket) the same way people did a couple hundred years ago. But probably I could express that in a less scary enthusiastic way...

Knitting: A bit more on the scarf and the blanket. I also finished the ring finger of the Vintage Beaded Glove. I'm a bit concerned that these are going to be too small, which will break my heart and probably result in a permanent UFO. I chose the medium size and my gauge is right on, but when I tried them on they seemed really snug. It's hard to tell if the fingers are long enough when they're half-finished, but I suspect they might not be. Argh. I'm thinking I may just knock off the last two fingers plus thumb and try them on again. I wear a size medium in gloves, and I measured my hand to make sure of the size, so I dunno. I think my mother-in-law's hands are a bit smaller than mine, so I may be okay anyway. Perhaps I'll swipe one of her gloves next time we visit and I can compare.

Annie, I really couldn't knit through morning sickness. When I tried, it was on that blanket, and I would get really sick. But I felt really sick anyway, so it took me a bit before I realized knitting was making it worse. Then I just stopped for a month or so. Oh, I love Knitting for Two! I haven't seen the Louisa Harding, though--I will have to look for that. Thank you for the frogging support, everyone! It's hard to do, but sometimes you just have to just admit something's not working and move on. Anyone want some 4-Ply Cotton, gently used? :)

Reading: The seventh Stephanie Plum. So much fun.

Writing: Chapter Seven. I hear you, Tim :)

Cooking: I am making this recipe for Rosemary Almond Sourdough Gems, because I am impatient to use some of my sourdough starter to produce something NOW. I noticed that the recipe does not specify how many gems it makes, so that will be a nice surprise. It also says only to use one cup of sourdough starter, but since I assume that must mean proofed starter, I am proofing Ernie right now. I have also set into motion the three-day bread recipe, based on Bert. You may be reading all about my crushing defeat in sourdough attempts very soon. Bert proofed nicely overnight, and has a lovely yeasty smell, like a brewery (and I live in Wisconsin, so I know whereof I speak). Ernie smells a bit like very old cheese. Or possibly feet. I have read that smells can vary pretty widely (one blogger compared hers to the smell of vomit and her bread turned out fine), and there's no mold or other disturbing sign that it's gone off, so we'll see how the proofing goes.

Stefaneener, I have not come across the Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book desem recipe, but after some googling, I'm intrigued (and want to buy the book, actually). The other nifty bread technique I might try next (assuming I don't fail miserably with sourdough and give up baking altogether) is bread made from fermented fruit. I found this recipe/technique for bread leavened with fermented apples, which I think would be very interesting.

General notes: I've made some changes to my links section. I decided to add a list of food blogs/recipe sites that I visit. I'm mostly a knitting blog, but I do talk about cooking enough that I thought I'd share these. Food blogs are loads of fun. I've thought about starting one of my own, but I really just sort of dabble, so I'm not sure it'd be all that interesting. (Although, then the knitters wouldn't have to read about my bread baking attempts and such.) I'd also have to get much better at food photography. The main draw would be participating in food blog events like Sugar High Friday. I do sort of like just having my one journal for all my activities, though. So, basically, this discussion had no point whatsoever :)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Aha! (I think)

After much more digging through the stash, I came up with this version of the Swing Scarf from Exquisite Little Knits as my quick gift project. It's one strand each of a dark purple and light purple version of Elann's Peruvian Baby Silk. And I think...I like it. Even though I went down a few needle sizes (from 15 to 11), it might still be a bit loose-looking, but I like the light and dark colors together. The scarf is basically garter stitch, but pointed at either end and tasseled. It's not shiny or sparkly, as I had originally planned, but I think it's an elegant combination, and the yarn is heavenly.

Of course, this means I still have all that stupid KFI Dazzle in the stash. Hrm.

Other knitting: I'm sorry to say that I have removed the Coming Soon for the Orangina Baby Blanket pattern. I wasn't all that enamored of the yarn, plus it was my morning-sickness knitting, so I still feel queasy when I look at it. Plus, who wants to knit a baby blanket on size 3 needles? Not me. I feel great relief at having removed it from the sidebar, and I will be even happier once I can bring myself to touch the yarn to frog it. I hate having UFOs hanging over my head. Once I finish the gift scarf, it's back to the garter stitch baby blanket and the Vintage Beaded Gloves.

Reading: Still on Hot Six. Fun, funny stuff.

Writing: Still on chapter 7 and shooting for chapter completion Wednesday.

Cooking; We're going out of town tomorrow, so we really needed to deal with all the leftovers in the fridge, so nothing new. Next week should be more interesting. I'm also hosting my book club in a couple of weeks, so I have a menu to plan. Fun! I love doing that.

I've added some cooking sites to the sidebar as well, including the sourdough links I've used.

It's Day 5 of Sourdough Madness! And...I think we might be about done. Bert and Ernie might not need to travel with me this weekend. They're nice and bubbly throughout, and Ernie has been rising quite a bit in the morning. I think Bert might be a bit behind, as I'm not seeing any rising, just the foamy bubbly layer. So next week you can look forward to sourdough bread baking adventures.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Knitter's block?

Today's photo is brought to you by YarnThrower:

Thank you so much! The no formatting option worked like a charm!

So, in knitting news...I spent quite a while yesterday knitting and unknitting scarves. Not whole scarves, just enough to realize that that wasn't what I wanted to be knitting. I mentioned that I was making a gift scarf, but I may not have mentioned that it needs to be a bit quick because I need to gift it early next week. I had vague thoughts of an Opera Scarf-like thing, only with different yarn because I'm out of Trendsetter Sunshine. And I'd like it to have one "real" yarn knit together with something sparkly to make it a bit more substantial. Sort of like the Swing Scarf from Exquisite Little Knits. How hard can that be? Urgh. You're going to be sorry you asked :) After digging through my (newly organized! so pretty! actually searchable!) stash and holding up several pairs of yarn balls to my poor husband and asking, "This one or this one?", "Do these go together?" and other questions of that ilk, I settled on Rowan Cashcotton 4-Ply in Seafoam, doubled and held together with Trendsetter Flora in complementary colors. They looked nice together, the Cashcotton is heavenly, and the Flora was perky, yet non-obnoxious. So I cast on and started knitting a scarf. After about four inches, I realized that while it was actually quite nice-looking, it was not what I had pictured. I wanted something brighter for the recipient. So I unknit that and went back to the stash. This time I picked Berocco Softwist in a dark red/burgundy kind of color and KFI Dazzle (this is basically Plymouth Eros, I believe). But the Softwist has some shine to it and it seemed a bit much with the Dazzle. So then it hit me...beads! I got beads to go with the Softwist for something I'm NEVER going to make, so I could knit with beads. How hard could that be? After 45 minutes of TRYING TO THREAD THE BEADING NEEDLE, I gave up on that. But I could thread the beads onto matching thread and knit that together with the Softwist! But that was going to take forever, since I've never knit with beads before, so I ripped that back. I still have no idea what I'm going to use. It seems like such a simple idea: Take one foofy yarn and one "real" yarn and MAKE A SCARF!!! Why can I not manage to commit to yarn choices? I may decide to just use my one ball of Southwest Trading Company Bamboo and do a Branching Out, though I'm not sure how fast I can do that.

Reading: Still on the 6th Stephanie Plum.

Writing: Still on Chapter 7.

Cooking: We had too many leftovers, so no cooking last night. Tonight is samosas, curry, and naan. Ooh, I did have one of my Honeycrisp apples. And I will not be cooking with them. I'm sure they'd make fantastic cobbler, but they are JUST SO GOOD on their own. If you live in a part of the country with Honeycrisps (and I believe they're only in the US...sorry, UKers), which I believe is north of the Mason-Dixon line, go to your farmer's market and get some while you can. Yum.

Day 4 of Sourdough Madness! I think I might pour off the liquid for Ernie next time, as it's much thinner than Bert. Unless that's just a whole-wheat thing. I dunno. They are starting to smell a bit odd, which for sourdough is a good sign, I think. If we were leaving the cats here for the weekend, YarnThrower, we'd have a cat-sitter, so I'd just ask her to feed my starters, but I think they'll just have to travel with us. Hee hee.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

I know it's almost fall when...

...I come back from the Farmer's Market with butternut squash, honeycrisp apples, and cider.
...we finally have the windows closed so the apartment doesn't get too cold for my sourdough starters.
...I've filled the freezer with vegetable stock.
...I've made the first cobbler of the year.
...I've baked bread for the first time in months.
...all I want to eat is soup.
...I need a sweater in the morning.
...the cats take advantage of every sunbeam. (I have a really cute picture of this last one, but blogger is GRRRR not letting me upload photos today.)

I grew up in a part of California that just didn't have fall, and it's my absolute favorite season. Last September was quite warm, but this one is definitely transitioning to fall. Very nice.

Knitting: A bit more on the garter stitch baby blanket. I hope to have Vintage Glove #1 finished by the end of this weekend. I'm going to start a quick-ish project...yet another sparkly scarf! It's a gift, and the recipient visits here, so no pictures till it's gifted.

Reading: On the 6th Janet Evanovich book, re-reading. These are fun and breezy. Six was the first one I read. Someone had given it to my mom, and she kept laughing out loud while she was reading, and said "You have GOT to read this" once she finished.

Writing: Chapter 7 continues...

Cooking: I did end up making cobbler last night, a peach nectarine cobbler from Cooking Light. Yum. The split pea soup and focaccia were fantastic, as well. Probably no cooking tonight, but tomorrow night I think I'll make samosas, curry, and naan. Butternut squash soup is coming up, and I can't decide whether to just eat the Honeycrisp apples or to bake with them.

It's Day 3 of Sourdough Madness! The starters are making bubbles and weird-smelling liquid, which they're supposed to. I've only been feeding and watering every 24 hours. I wonder if I should kick that up or not. From the reading I've been doing about sourdough, It seems that although this technique is based on science, there's a fair amount of art involved, as well. So, in the issue of what to do with the liquid produced, most sites say to pour it off if your starter is "plenty wet" or to stir it back in if it's "rather dry." Except I've never done this before, so I have no idea if it's wet or dry compared to normal. It reminds me of family recipes my college Italian professor would share. Half the amounts are given as "basta", which means "enough." So, you put in enough olive oil, then add some tomatoes, etc. Bert seems a bit less liquidy than Ernie, so maybe I should pour off the liquid next time for Ernie. I've also read in a few places that you shouldn't make your own starter because you never know what kind of yeast you'll be culturing, but all those sites were selling sourdough starter, so I think I can ignore them. We were supposed to be in town this weekend, but now we may be headed away, so I'm a bit worried about my starters. Maybe they need to come with me.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A Little Help From My Friends

My friend Lee, who is also a knitter, is a fantastic cook/baker who is starting her own business selling preserves, but she's having trouble coming up with a name she likes for this new venture. Since you all are a creative lot, I thought I'd post about her business-naming contest. I keep coming up with either lame generic names like "Season's Best Preserves" and terrible, cheesy phrases like "berry-rific" and "jam-tastic", so I'm sure you can do much better.

Here are the rules, paraphrased from her site:

1) It can't have my name in it.
2) It needs to be relatively short and end in preserves- i.e. "Naked Berry Preserves"
3) I do jams, jellies, pickles, chutneys and syrups using fruit and vegetables so it should be inclusive. Naked Berry is actually my favorite so far but I have nixed it for this reason.
4) You don't need a blog to win, though. If I choose a winner from comments left on the blog, the winner will get a six-pack of my favorite preserves from this season. Apricot vanilla butter, yum!

To enter, visit the contest entry here and leave a comment. Get your entries in by October 15! You will soon be able to buy her preserves online, and I can tell you they are wonderful. Thanks for helping out!

Here are the boys visiting my husband's parents' house last weekend. We are not the only ones in the family to pamper our cats! Their "cousins", Cassie and Hektor, each have a chair on the porch with a big cushion on it. Our boys like these, too. Mirando has a bath while Geronimo just hangs out.

Knitting: I didn't knit last night at all, so everything's still in the same spot. I did edit my last entry to add a second picture of my finished scarf, though. Blogger was feeling more cooperative today. I love the Cashmerino Aran! It's lovely to knit with, and machine washable, so I'm not surprised I'm not the only fan. It's just a garter stitch square, but the yarn is very soft, and what I remember most about my childhood blanky (actually a pillow creatively named Pillow which lost its stuffing at one point) is the texture, and I was thinking that garter stitch would be a nice texture for Butterbean, without holes to poke little fingers through. I am starting to think that the Vintage Beaded Gloves might be my first Christmas present, actually. I'm not sure how many I'll get through this year. I've left it so late that big knit gifts are pretty much out. I may have to figure something else out for this year. I'm starting to plan my Christmas baking a bit, too...I love Christmas baking.

Reading: Hmmmm. Constantly posting that I'm reading nothing of substance is making me feel bad. I think I'll have to poke through and find something.

Writing: Chapter 7. The funeral chapter! Will the killer show up at the funeral? Will there be an exciting confrontation? Well, duh!

Cooking; Last night I made Mediterranean Vegetable Stew Over Soft Polenta from Cooking Light and it was lovely, as always. It's a 20-minute recipe, but tastes like much more work than that. I have Red Onion Focaccia, also from Cooking Light, rising at the moment, and last night I soaked split peas for Alpine Split Pea Soup from Paola Gavin's Italian Vegetarian Cooking, a lovely and decidedly un-light cookbook (though the soup isn't that bad for you). These two dishes will be dinner tonight, in honor of the first really autumnal day of the year (very cloudy and high of 49). If I have time, I may put together cobbler from some peaches and nectarines we have.

It's Day 2 of Sourdough Madness! I just poured off a cup of the starter from each and "fed" them with fresh flour and water. I made two starters, one with bread flour and one with whole wheat flour. One site recommended naming them so as to create a bond that prevents me from just tossing them down the disposal. One food blogger named hers Mulder and Scully, which I thought was excellent, but I didn't want to be a lame copycat, so I'm going with Ernie and Bert. Bert is the whole wheat, because well, I'm sure Bert prefers the healthy, high-fiber breads. I'm referring to a few different baking blogs, as well as this very clear tutorial, but as with anything, there are variations. Some people recommend feeding the starter every 12 hours, some every 24. I hit it somewhere in between today, and I haven't exactly settled on which I'll do.

Anything else of note? Well, I'm going to paint my toenails tonight, while I can still see/reach my toes!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Back to posting

I ended up unexpectedly out of town for over a week, so I've missed out on several days posting. But I have lots of fun stuff to talk about.

I finished the gift scarf that was to be a narrow version of the Trellis Stole in Exquisite Little Knits. I decided I didn't care for the Athena as a substitute for the Flora in that pattern, so I ripped it out and did the Opera Scarf from the same book. I used only the Trendsetter Sunshine for the yarn-over rows, because I didn't like the way the Athena looked carried with it -- too busy. I also skipped the Athena in the fringe. I'm pleased with how it turned out; I think it's perfect for the recipient.

(I had a second photo showing the fringe, but blogger doesn't care to post it. Eh, you know what fringe looks like!)

Edited to add second photo when Blogger was more cooperative:

Pattern - Opera Scarf from Exquisite Little Knits
Yarn - Trendsetter Sunshine in Blues/Black/Purple and KFI Athena in multicolor
Needles - Size 13

I have finished two fingers on the first Vintage Beaded Glove, but I decided I want to have one glove finished before I post another photo. This is my first attempt at gloves, and I thought they'd be a pain, but they're sort of nice to knit. I've already forgotten what a pain the cable rib section was. I snapped a second Brittany Birch DPN (the first was taken down by a Jaywalker), and I'm not sure if I got a weak set or if these just shouldn't be made in sizes that small. Or maybe I'm too hard on them. My Clovers are all intact, at least, though they're longer (hence trying the Brittanys for the fingers).

I started a baby blanket pattern from Debbie Bliss Special Knits (if you can call instructions for making a garter stitch square a pattern) in Cashmerino Aran in a buttery pale yellow. The size 8 needles are lovely after the size 1s for the gloves. The pattern calls for a satin ribbon border, so I'm on the lookout for a pretty one.

Reading: I have been very lame in the reading arena of late. Lots of childbirth-related reading, but not much of substance. I'm afraid I've been re-reading the Stephanie Plum books :) I did collect a number of children's books from my in-laws' house over the past week, though, for reading to Butterbean. Some are older, like the Bunnicula books, but there are several younger ones as well. It was fun going through my husband's (and his brothers') childhood books.

Writing: A rough draft of Chapter 7 is due a week from Wednesday. My out-of-town-ness sort of derailed my plans to have it done by now.

Cooking: I made this peach coffee cake, but I substituted almonds for the pecans and used 3 cups peaches and 1 cup raspberries. It was fantastic. There's a nip in the air, which means I bought the ingredients for vegetable stock! Soon the freezer will be filled with it. I've also gotten a little obsessed with bread recipes. I love baking bread when the weather turns cooler; baguettes, focaccia, ciabatta. Yum. And cinnamon raisin bread, apple bread, cornmeal herb bread. I ventured into the food blogging universe (I always read Lee's food blog, and I often search the internet for recipes, but now I'm starting to bookmark more food blogs). I spent a bit of time on Saturday going through loads of them, finding wonderful bread recipes. I've decided to delve into the world of sourdough a bit. I've made bread from an overnight sponge, but nothing more complicated. Sourdough requires a starter, which has to be tended to daily until it's ready, and I've always been too chicken to try it. But some wonderful bloggers have posted tips and recipes that make me think I can do this. I'll post links once I see the sourdough has worked out :) It will be a while before the starter is ready, so I'll probably give a poolish-based bread a try in the meantime, and probably make red onion-rosemary focaccia. If you've never baked bread, it's a lovely, relaxing experience, and I recommend giving it a try. Sometimes I use the dough hook on my KitchenAid mixer or the bread machine, when I'm more interested in the final product, but all the resting, rising, kneading can be very enjoyable.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Works in Progress

I have yet to cast on for a single Christmas gift and it's September! So, what do I have on the needles? Christmas presents? No...

This, which is a gift, just not for Christmas:

That's Trendsetter Sunshine (smooth yarn) and KFI Athena (ladder yarn) being made into a scarf based on the Trellis Stole from Exquisite Little Knits. I've gone back and forth on whether the Athena has too many colors to go with the Sunshine, and I'm still not sure. I have a similar yarn in just blues and blacks that would maybe work better. Thoughts?

And, in a totally unnecessary knitting project:

This is the cuff of a Vintage Beaded Glove from Handknit Holidays. I love looking through that book, but honestly don't see myself knitting much from it. I really liked the look of these gloves (I don't like wearing bulky gloves/mittens) and I love the Blue Sky Alpaca Silk. The cable rib was a nightmare, though. Those 16 rows took me over two hours, I think. Maybe even longer. And the size 1 needles are fiddly after the size 13 I'm using on the shawl. My hands kinda hurt today. I like the look of the cable rib, but the execution was awful. I actually do have the beads for these as well, but we'll have to see whether or not I actually sew them on.

Reading: I think I'm giving up on Persuasion for the moment, but I'm not sure what to read next.

Writing: Meandering along on Chapter 7.

Cooking: Nothing really of note. I think I'll make a peach-raspberry coffee cake tomorrow, though.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Look how cute!

Sure, Sirdar Snowflake is unpleasant to knit, seam, weave ends in, but....look how cute!

(A special thanks to Walter Bear for modeling!) The details:

Pattern: All in One/Sleeping Bag Pattern, Sirdar # 3928
Yarn: Sirdar Snowflake, Tutti Frutti and White Shimmer (alternating every two rows)
Needles: Size 9
Notes: With alternating the two colors (out of necessity, but I like the effect), there were about a million ends to weave in. It would be nice to modify it to be at least partly in the round, but I wasn't motivated to do that. Picking up and knitting is tricky with this yarn, as is seaming, but the good news is that mistakes don't show at all. Overall, it was a pretty easy, quick pattern, and just so cute I've already forgotten what a pain the Snowflake was.

Another little project I undertook was to organize my bag o' buttons into color-grouped ziploc baggies. This really helped, because I found four matching pink plastic buttons that were perfect for this!

Reading: I finished listening to Sour Puss. It was okay. I'm tempted to get a hard copy to see if I like it any better in print.

Writing: On Chapter 7.

Cooking: Hey, I posted two recipes yesterday. I took the night off :)

Monday, September 04, 2006

Something's cooking

Around this time of year, I start to have Cooking Light issues strewn about the apartment. I decided to stack them up in one place, and found that I'm not the only one who likes the magazine:

Thank you for your kind thoughts about Butterbean! We really didn't have a preference, but it's awfully nice to know. Turtlegirl, all name suggestions are welcome :) I know the old wives tales are pretty hit-and-miss, but it's fun that they were all right!

Knitting: I should have finished photos of the bunting tomorrow. It's a cute little thing, very snuggly. Snowflake is rather hard to seam (no stitch definition at all), but it's so soft. I just have the hood to put on today. Then I'll cast on for my gift scarf.

Reading: I've been listening to Sour Puss by Rita Mae Brown while working on the bunting, and it's...okay. I've enjoyed her past ones more, I think, though I'm not sure if it's the story or that this is the first I've listened to on audiobook. I'm not sure if she has all these random rants in all her books, and I normally just skim past them. What brand of work boots used to be really good but isn't made well anymore, a long discussion about the best way to irrigate, what kind of car/truck a character should buy. There are a million of them, and they make the story kind of drag.

Writing: Back to writing work tomorrow. I hope to bust out Chapter 7 next week.

Cooking: Lots and lots! It's finally cool enough to want to cook all the time. This morning, I made waffles with a banana-pecan-brown sugar caramelly topping. Yum. We had some rice leftover from eating out at an Indian restaurant, so I made a quick curry, in the genre of "Vaguely Ethnic Food"--not necessarily authentic, but good. And last night, we had a pizza night, and it was the BEST pizza we have ever made. And I did decide to make Cookies and Cream ice milk :)

Quick Chickpea-Spinach Curry

2 tsp vegetable oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tsp curry powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
1 14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 cup cooked chickpeas (canned is fine, rinse well)
2 cups frozen spinach (no need to thaw)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 cup cream

Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic; saute one minute. Add curry powder, saute one minute. Stir in all remaining ingredients except cream. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in cream; simmer 5 minutes more. Serve over basmati rice.

Mushroom Lovers Pizza (makes 2)

My new thing is white whole wheat flour, which is much lighter than regular whole wheat flour and can usually be substituted for all-purpose flour, except in very light pastries (I haven't tested this much, but that's what "they" say). My husband was unable to tell there was anything whole wheat in the crust at all, and he can usually detect when I'm trying to make something healthier. Our homemade pizza is always a bit soggy in the middle, which I had previously assumed was just a side effect of using a 400 degree oven instead of an 800 degree one, but this time I tried blind baking the crust before adding toppings, and it was fantastic! The first time, I forgot to poke holes in the crust, and it created a really interesting hilly landscape, so we had to poke holes in the hills and squish the air out. The second time went much better :) If you don't slice the mushrooms very thinly, they will need to be pre-cooked.

1 cup water, warm
3/4 cup milk, warm
2 TBL olive oil
2 TBL sugar
1 tsp salt
3 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
2 tsp active dry yeast

I put all ingredients in the bread machine on the dough setting. Brush or spray with olive oil. Pierce the crust with a fork several times. Bake at 400 degrees on a preheated pizza stone for 6 minutes, or until golden brown.

8 oz. white mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 14.5 oz. can pizza sauce (or about 2 cups homemade)
5 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
6 oz. portabella mushroom caps, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 can black olives, halved
2/3 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tsp dried thyme

Spread pizza sauce evenly over both crusts. Arrange white mushrooms over sauce. Cover with mozzarella. Arrange portabellas and black olives over cheese. Sprinkle with Parmesan and thyme. Bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes, or until cheese bubbles.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Extra Special Bonus Post

We had our ultrasound this morning, and saw our healthy baby girl!

*off to knit cute little pink dresses*

No Muppets were harmed in the making of this post!

If you know me, you may be thinking, "But you're a vegetarian! How can you post a photo of a Muppet pelt?" But not to worry, this is 100% synthetic. The Muppets are safe from me. This is the back of this pattern for a bunting/all-in-one made from (yarn snobs turn away) Sirdar Snowflake. I myself am something of a yarn snob, and I rarely knit with anything this blatantly unnatural. It's the darn WEBS clearance sales! Some time ago, I bought two balls in each of four colors (baby blue, sparkly white, white with mottled pastel bits, and a color Sirdar calls "peach" that should have been called "My eyes! My eyes! It's just TOO orange!" but perhaps that wouldn't fit on the label). This is the same time that I acquired my stash of KFI Dazzle and Athena (and any ideas about what the heck to do with that would be welcome), but that's a different story. So I thought I'd finally use some of the Snowflake to make a little something for Butterbean. Googling led me to that pattern, and maybe it's the pregnancy hormones, but I couldn't stand how cute it was! It takes four balls, so I'm alternating every couple of rows between the sparkly white and the white with pastel bits. I have convinced myself that it's unnoticeable, and there will be no need to disillusion me :) I'm making the version with legs so it'll fit in a carseat. Snowflake is not all that fun to knit with, and if you drop a stitch, you're never going to find it again. But on the plus side, I accidentally knit half a row instead of purling, and you completely can't tell. So after this, I just have to find a use for the "peach" and the blue. The construction of this pattern is kind of interesting. You knit one leg, move it to a holder, knit the other and then across the first leg stitches, keep going for the back, then cast on the sleeve stitches. Pretty easy. Of course, the ears may be more difficult. We'll have to see.

I'm also getting ready to cast on for a scarf that's a thank-you gift, using Trendsetter Sunshine (again with the polyester!) and possibly carrying along some Dazzle in complementary colors, more or less based on a pattern from Exquisite Little Knits.

Rachel, I had no idea I was only letting blogger people comment! I think I've fixed that now, but let me know if it's still not working right.

My husband says thank you to everyone for your congratulations. He was a bit taken aback (and very pleased) that people who don't even know him are happy about it! We are pretty darn excited, that's for sure.

Reading: Everyone, thank you for children's book suggestions! I actually love children's books, and I'm delighted to have a real excuse to buy a bunch :)

Writing: I've been having an attention span problem this week. I'm hoping it's due to the end of summer (Labor Day Weekend in the US), and that next week will be all Chapter 7 all the time.

Cooking: Besides the monkey shortbread cookies (which everyone loved--primatologists go nuts over that stuff. In fact, people were debating over which species it represented), I made chocolate shortbread wedges and Monkey Bars, a Cooking Light recipe for "snack cake" featuring rum-soaked raisins, walnuts, and bananas. The shortbread recipes were from a Martha Stewart special issue called Holiday Cookies that has 100 recipes in it. I don't normally go for her magazines (though I love her hors d'oeuvres cookbook), but the cover photo on this one was just too good to resist, and it was at Barnes & Noble at just about the same time I'd decided to bake Christmas cookies that year. I've made several recipes from this, some simple like the shortbread, and some insanely complicated, and they've all been wonderful. I'm not sure if you can still find this issue anywhere--it's from 2001, but I would imagine she has the recipes in some book or other by now.

I'm going to make what may be the last ice cream of the season. I'm debating between cookies and cream and something fancier like turtle.