Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Crock Pot Chronicles

Haha! Not really. But you may recall that I bought a Crock Pot and used it to augment my vegetable broth making capacity. And I have done NOTHING with it since. I didn't have time to assemble recipes in the morning, and a helpful commenter suggested assembling the night before and plugging it in in the morning. Brilliant! I used it to make Black Bean Chili, a Cooking Light archive staple in our house. And it was BETTER than on the stove top. The onions got much softer and the liquid absorbed better, making it thicker and yummier. So I decided to try it for a lunchtime soup for me. Scroll down for the recipe and comments on my Split Pea Soup.

Knitting: The beginning of my gift Branching Out:

Yeah, that's it for knitting news.

Reading: Re-reading Suzann Ledbetter's Hannah Garvey mysteries. I'm on the fourth, West of Bliss. These are really fun.

Writing: I picked out a desk that will fit in the tiny space I have available (the dormer in the guest room). I am very excited about it. Here it is if you're interested. I just need to find a good chair to replace my boring rolling office chair that's not all that comfy.

Cooking: Yesterday was a rough day. With my parents coming in the following evening, the house was still a disaster. Lilah declined to take her afternoon nap, which plays havoc with my sanity, and prevents me from getting anything done. I realized that I had to have rice pudding. Right now. This hardly ever happens--generally, chocolate is my stress-reducing food (Matt starts to worry about me when he notices I'm stockpiling chocolate in the pantry). And so I couldn't find my recipe. Searching CookingLight.com just made me mad (which is strange; I usually find something there that will work or can be adapted). So I broadened to a Google search. After looking at one recipe, I whined, "But I don't WANT to bake it! I want to make it on the stove!" At another, "I don't WANNA cook the rice first!" And another, "I don't WANT eggs in it!" Seriously, I was whiny yesterday. I knew I wanted cardamom. I knew I wanted it on the stove. I knew I wanted no eggs, and no pre-cooking the rice. I wanted almonds and I wanted raisins. So here's what I made. And it was AWESOME. Exactly what I needed!

Rice Pudding My Way

4 cups vanilla soy milk
1 cup basmati rice
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom
1/2 cup blanched slivered almonds
1/4 cup golden raisins

Combine soy milk, rice, and salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer, then reduce heat to low. Cook until thickened (about 20-30 minutes), then add remaining ingredients. Cook until desired consistency is reached. Remove from heat and let stand 10 minutes. Serve hot.

Crock Pot Split Pea Soup

This is based on assorted vegetables I had in the fridge and needed to use up. If I'd had any that weren't well past their prime, I would have used leeks, celery, spinach, and potatoes and left out the green beans. And dialed down the turnip a bit. And I'm not sure I'd use parsnip. But I'm glad I didn't have those things, because this was fantastic as written. Even my husband, who secretly wishes I'd throw in a ham hock, loved this soup. Very, very thick, and it filled my big Crock Pot to capacity. The flavor was earthy and subtle, and it was just excellent.

2 cups chopped parsnip
3 cups chopped turnip
3 cups chopped carrot
3 cups chopped onion
2 cups frozen green beans
1 lb yellow split peas
2 TBL chopped rosemary
2 tsp dried thyme
2 bay leaves
4 cups vegetable broth
4 cups water
2 TBL olive oil
2 tsp sea salt

Combine in Crock Pot and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours+. Puree using an immersion blender.* Adjust salt and add black pepper.
* I love my immersion blender. I think mine cost $10 in 1999 and is still kicking. It has a little attachment for whipped cream, too.
+ I put this in the fridge overnight and plugged it in at 8:00 am. At noon, it was nowhere near done, and I think using hot broth and water would have made it do-able for lunch, but starting from cold, it took 8 hours on high. I did add between 1-2 cups of boiling water in the morning because the split peas had absorbed so much liquid overnight that the liquid wasn't covering.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Happy Feet!



I have made many pairs of Fuzzy Feet, and I finally have a pair of my own! One Christmas, I knit gifts for everyone (everyone!) and the only thing I could come up with for my uncles and male cousins was Fuzzy Feet. I had my husband sort of block them for me after felting (my feet were too small), and he loved them so much, I made him a pair. He wore those out, so I made him another. This all started two years ago, and I have just now made my own. They are fantastic! So comfy and warm.

The details:
Pattern: Fuzzy Feet from Knitty
Yarn: Cascade 220 in a light grey
Needles: Size 10.5 circs and dpns (for guys, I went up to a size 11 and knit the foot longer and that worked perfectly)

I love, love, love this pattern. It is quick, easy, and fun. And the end result is wonderful. Everyone loves these. Now I just have to make a third pair for my husband, who has worn through his pair from last winter.

And a happy story! Our next-door neighbor had asked us early last week if we had seen her cat, who hadn't come home the night before. She's an outdoor cat who comes inside every night. (This is why we're indoor cat people. But lots of people around here have roaming cats.) It's a credit to Matt's love for animals that he was really worried because Natasha is sort of his nemesis because she prefers our landscaping as her litterbox. We were thinking the worst for over a week, when my neighbor came knocking on our door and said, "I think Natasha's stuck in your shed!" I found the key and opened the door and we waited, and waited, and waited (for about 20 minutes) and Natasha came tearing out of the shed and ran to her front door. Our neighbor told us she ate and drank quite a bit and then wanted back out, but she's an indoor kitty for now. What's weird is she went missing on a Tuesday, but my husband was in the shed getting gardening gloves to carry in the Christmas tree on Sunday and she didn't come out. She is really skittish, though, since even with her mom calling her she waited and waited before bolting out. It was Friday when we found her in the shed. So, yay! Kitty's back home where she belongs.

Other knitting: I am making a Branching Out for my brother's girlfriend as a last-minute Christmas present. This is another Knitty classic that I make over and over. These make excellent gift scarves and are fun to knit. For this one, I'm using RYC Cashcotton 4Ply in Pretty, which is a pale blue that will be perfect for the recipient, who is elegant and blonde and now lives in San Francisco where it can get chilly enough for a scarf. I've done a smidge more on my cardigan, but when it got cold here, the Fuzzy Feet took top priority and now I want to get the scarf done before my brother's Christmas visit so he can bring it to his girlfriend.

Reading: I have been in another re-reading rut. I suspect the reason for this is twofold. First, I finished a pretty huge literary novel and I usually need some downtime. Second, re-reading is a de-stresser for me, like a bubble bath or chocolate. It's very comforting to re-read my favorites. It's been mysteries recently, the Donna Andrews series about Meg Langslow, the Dorothy Cannells, and now Suzann Ledbetter's Hannah Garvey series (starts with East of Peculiar), which I've recommended recently to friends and realized I'd like to read again. Hannah is the manager of a retirement community and gets mixed up with an elderly Mod Squad. Delbert and the other senior detectives are a hoot and these are very fun, good-natured mysteries. There's a newish one out, Halfway to Half Way, but the older four are out of print. Easy to find used and cheap on amazon and bn, though. I really want to re-read the Harry Potter series again and also the Thursday Next series.

Writing: No time :( So many ideas that my "Mystery Novel Notes" file is getting LONG. But I think I have a lot of good stuff when I get the time to re-write. You know, when Lilah's 18 or something.

Cooking; I mentioned the bake sale for my Playground Revival Committee over Labor Day weekend. It was a huge hit, so we decided to offer some of our high-volume sellers for pre-order so people could have them last weekend as holiday gifts or just to enjoy around the holidays. It went quite well and I had six pans of gingerbread and four loaves of rosemary focaccia to make. Wow. So dinner for us lately has been, "Honey, what do you want from the Chinese place?" and "How about veggie burgers again?". I did healthy up a banana bread recipe from Cooking Light (the Molasses Oat Banana Bread) for my neighbor with chemical sensitivities (she looked after our guys over Thanksgiving, and she actually comes over and spends time with them, which is wonderful). Basically, the less processed, the better, for her (and she can't have dairy either). So I used raw honey instead of sugar, white whole wheat flour, canola oil instead of butter, organic bananas, and such. It came out really welll. (For those who want to try it, subbing honey for sugar has some tricks--lower the oven temp by 25 degrees, use 3/4 cup honey per 1 cup of sugar in the recipe and reduce other liquid ingredients by 2 TBL).

Molasses Oat Banana Bread (Chemically Sensitive Version)
Adapted from Cooking Light

Ingredients
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2/3 cup regular oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
2 TBL canola oil
1/3 cup dark molasses
2 large eggs
1 cup mashed ripe banana (about 2 bananas)
1/4 cup vanilla soy milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Cooking spray

Preheat oven to 350°.
Combine flours, oats, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, stirring with a whisk.

Place honey, oil, and molasses in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, soy milk, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Spoon batter into an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan lightly coated with canola oil. Bake at 325° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean (check starting at 45 minutes). Cool 10 minutes in pan on a wire rack; remove from pan. Cool completely on wire rack.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Post-Thanksgiving Knitting Extravaganza!

Edited to add this super-cute modeled picture:

Or what passes for extravaganza around here these days :) I suddenly realized that Lilah has only one hat, and it got cold here! She has no mittens whatsoever. Ack! And with a mother who knits. So I picked out a number of patterns and yarns to knock off a few of each. Here's the beginning:

Pattern Details:
Earflap Hat from Knitting for Baby by Melanie Falick and Kristin Nicholas
Yarn: Brooks Farm Four Play in Poppies (rescued from the ill-fated T-Twist)
Needles: Size 9 dpns and circular
Notes: This hat ended up huge, even on Lilah's big melon. I made the large (12-24 months), and skipped the earflaps since the hat itself covers Lilah's ears. I used i-cord instead of the three-row garter stitch thing in the pattern, because I think it looks neater. I like the way it turned out. I got it on her head once, but didn't have the camera. I will post a photo when I can. I love these colors (which are more Neapolitan Ice Cream than Poppies) for baby stuff. I have enough to do a baby sweater, so I'll have to find a pattern in a worsted weight. I'll need to make her hats on smaller needles, as this won't be super warm, but it's cute and it'll work here most of the season.


Pattern Details:
Toddler Mittens from Knitting for Baby
Yarn: Brooks Farm Four Play in Poppies
Needles: Size 5 and 8 dpns
Notes: This was a cute, quick, easy pattern, and as above, I love the yarn. I like this book, which has several lovely patterns, but the organization is a bit odd. It's organized by knitting technique (garter, circular, cable, and my favorite, the lovely vague "exploring the possibilities," where I found this pattern). There's an index, though, which has patterns organized into hats, etc.

Comments from last time: I love you guys! I love that I can point out what, to me, are perfectly visible errors or wonkiness, and you guys swear it's fine. Thank you! Tim, still working on the mystery revision--I've got a boatload of notes, which will hopefully make revision go faster. Maybe I'll give up sleeping. Marie, yes it's Rowanspun 4-ply, with which I have a love-hate relationship. But knitting this sweater is making me lean toward the "love" end of the spectrum. Thank you for recommending Three Bags Full! Sounds great! Knitpastis, I know there are some people who just will never like tofu, and you might be one. That's cool. But I converted Matt to tofu--he'd never had it prepared properly. What you have to remember is that it has little flavor of it's own, but marinate it in something yummy and grill or stir-fry it, and it's nice. Matt had only ever had it fried to death, which makes it spongy and unappealing. If you ever come here, I'll make you some :)

Reading: I read Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, the third installment in the Peter Pan prequel trilogy by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. I loved it! I really enjoyed the whole series. They make no attempt to mimic Barrie's style--it's written in contemporary language. This is perfectly fine. Start with the first, Peter and the Starcatchers. The adventures of Peter, Molly, and the others are a rollicking, fun adventure in their own right, and that they explain occurrences in the novel Peter Pan is a bonus. I am now reading Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and loving it. I really want people to just leave me alone so I can finish it, and I'm usually pretty resigned to the stop-start reading I do nowadays by necessity.

Writing: See above.

Cooking: We were traveling, but last night I made a pasta sauce chock full of mushrooms. Matt liked it, but (diplomatically) said he prefers my usual Pasta Della Casa (a bright, tomato-based sauce with various herbs and veggies, depending on my mood). He compared it to Bolognese sauce, and I think that's probably accurate. I enjoyed it quite a bit with its depth of flavor and mushrooms galore, but don't try it if you only tolerate mushrooms.

Pasta Con Pomodori e Funghi

1 pound penne pasta, cooked according to package directions and drained
1 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 oz. sundried tomatoes
2 cups boiling water
1 TBL olive oil
1 TBL minced garlic
8 oz. white mushrooms, rinsed, trimmed, and sliced
8 oz. cremini (baby bella) mushrooms, rinsed, trimmed, and sliced
1/3 cup red wine
1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 tsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed chiles
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Soak porcini and sundried tomatoes in water for 20 minutes. Drain (reserve liquid for another use--it's a flavorful broth) and chop. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and mushrooms and saute until mushrooms begin to give up liquid. Add wine, bring to a boil, and reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cooking until wine is visibly reduced. Add remaining ingredients (including soaked tomatoes and mushrooms) and simmer over low to moderate heat (as needed to maintain a light simmer), uncovered for 30 minutes or more. Taste and adjust seasonings. Remove bay leaf. Serve over penne, topped with freshly grated pecorino cheese. Serves 4-6.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

I've been knitting! Really!

Lilah and I had a little trip to California to visit my parents, and I got a little knitting done. Not as much as B.C. (Before Children) trips, when I would knit in the car, on the plane, while we sat and watched movies or talked, but some! I finished the waist decreases on my No-Tuss, No-Muss Tussie Mussie. Here she is:



Even though I'm knitting back and forth, you can see I've still managed to leave a bit of a ladder at the sides. I don't suppose it will show that much, and I hope blocking will decrease the effect a bit. I wasn't really pulling the stitch after the markers very snug. It's curling wickedly right now, but again, I have high hopes for blocking. I have three boring inches, then the waist increases. But it's getting closer to sweater-ness. I think the sleeves on this are going to feel endless to me because I'll be impatient to get the sweater done. We'll see!

Reading: I am now on LibraryThing! My library is right here. My friend Holly talked me into it, and it is great fun. She and I post to On My Bookshelf, book news, reviews of what we've read. You might notice I just copy and paste my book reviews between here and there.

As you know, I read a lot of mystery series. I have my favorites, but I always hope for a new series that I'll love. I've tried several lately, with mixed results. I finally have a new favorite, the Cece Caruso series by Susan Kandel. They are smart, funny, well-written, and well-plotted. The West Hollywood setting is fun and well-realized, and Cece's career (biographer of mystery authors) adds a fun, fresh element to this series. I read Not A Girl Detective first (about Carolyn Keene, the pseudonymous author of the Nancy Drew books) because I loved Nancy Drew, though it's the second in the series. It was great fun, and I zipped through the first, I Dreamed I Married Perry Mason, as well, and though I'm less of a Perry Mason fan than a Nancy Drew fan, I still loved it. I'm nearly finished with Shamus in the Green Room, the third (which, interestingly enough, is called Sam Spade in the Green Room in the preview printed at the end of Not A Girl Detective--this makes more sense, as I have no idea who Shamus is and I only have about 60 pages left). Christietown is the fourth, and then I'll be going into withdrawal.

Suzanne Brockmann writes suspense novels that are also romance novels (I phrase it this way because I think the suspense is more central than in most romantic suspense novels). All Through the Night, the 12th in her Troubleshooters series, is a short holiday novel about a wedding. Here's the biggie: Jules and Robin, two guys, are getting married. Brockmann includes a letter at the end of the book explaining that her son is gay, and the thought of his not being permitted to marry really upsets her. She's donating all proceeds from this book to Mass Equality. The book isn't perfect. Brockmann sort of drops at least one outside subplot, and every two pages, the guys are looking at each other and either thinking or saying how much they want to have sex. The straight couples do this a bit, but not to the sex-crazed extent to which Jules and Robin do. This seemed a slightly overcompensatory way of not shying away from gay sex, but it plays on the perception many people have that gay relationships are only about sex (which, in turn, leads to stereotypes like all gay men are promiscuous). Brockmann is careful to state over and over that Robin and Jules love each other and want to be together, and she shows this admirably, but it's a bit obscured by all the sex, sex, sex that gets a smidge tiresome (and I believe I would have felt that way if it had been a hetero couple as well). But I just skimmed past those bits when they got annoying, and I still recommend this book for two reasons: 1. It may be the first gay romance novel written by a mainstream author and 2. Brockmann does suspense very well, and I stayed up WAY too late reading this one, even though I was jet lagged and exhausted. You don't have to have read the previous books in the Troubleshooters series to follow this one.

Writing: I went to a fantastic creative writing class at Emory before we left for California, led by Jim Grimsley. I think he had just started at Emory when I was there, so I didn't have any classes with him then. He's a fantastic writer and a really, really good creative writing teacher (these do NOT always go together). The class was on revision, and I have a clear idea of how to restructure my murder mystery now. Sadly, I do not really have the time. I may send Lilah and Matt to the zoo or something this weekend and try to get a jump on that. It's hard to get excited about revising when I don't have the time to do it.

Cooking: We were traveling, but we grilled a couple of times, so I do have recipes. My little brother has a Carne Asada recipe that he loves, so we made that, with Tofu Asada for me. Sounds weird, tastes good. The amounts may be a little off, since he made a huge amount of marinade for lots of beef and I just used a little, so I'm estimating. Taste it on a chip and see how you like it--it should make a nice salsa if the proportions are good. After we skewered the tofu, we popped portabella mushrooms in the marinade and grilled those, too. Yum. On the Grilled Tofu Veggie Skewers, we made veggie skewers for the non-vegetarians, too, so there may be extra veggies. I can't think of that as a bad thing!

Tofu Asada

1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 12 rectangles
6 small portabella mushrooms, rinsed
2 TBL fresh lime juice
2 TBL chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 serrano chile, minced, seeds removed (or leave in for extra heat)
2 TBL chopped cilantro

Combine tofu, lime juice, onion, garlic, chile, and cilantro in a baggie. Marinate at least 20 minutes, turning as needed to cover all tofu. Remove tofu and place on skewers so that long sides of rectangles will touch grill. Place portabellas in bag and marinate 20 minutes. Grill on grill sprayed with nonstick spray, turning once, until tofu and portabellas are browned (tofu will take several minutes longer). Serve with black beans, corn tortillas, avocado, and any other accompaniments you'd like.

Grilled Tofu and Veggies

2 zucchini, cut into 1-inch slices
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
8 oz. white mushrooms, rinsed and stems removed
1 pound extra firm tofu, cut into 1.5 inch pieces (12 chunks)
1/4 cup light soy sauce
1/4 cup seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 tsp dark sesame oil

Marinate tofu in soy sauce, vinegar, and oil for at least 20 minutes, turning as needed. Arrange with veggies on skewers. Spray with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill until tofu and veggies are browned, turning once.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bonus Post for the Day: Tagged!

String Bean has tagged me with a sock meme, and though you guys know I am a pretty lame sock knitter, I shall try to play!

1. What's your favorite sock yarn? (please note that the word 'yarn' is singular. Just pick one. I know it's hard.)

I guess I'll go with Lorna's Laces. They're just so soft and a little sproingy. My experience here is limited, understand.

2. What's your favorite type and brand of sock needle?

Clover bamboo dpns. I am afraid of knitting socks on either one or two circs, and I hate metal needles. Someday, I will conquer the fear of circs for socks, but metal needles hurt my hands.

3. Do you knit your socks toe up, cuff down, or sideways?

I've only done cuff down, but want to try toe up next time, whenever "next time" shall be.

4. Do you knit both socks at once or just one at a time?

One at a time.

5. What's your favorite toe and why?

There's more than one kind of toe? Hee hee. Nah, I know there's more than one, but I just do the sort of basic one. Now that I read there's a short-row toe, I have to try that!

6. Favorite heel?

I've only ever done heel flap, but I want to try short row "next time" (see #3).

7. Do you prefer plain or patterned socks?

I've only done a couple of pairs. I loved the patterned socks with Lorna's Laces, but I love the plain socks I made with Sunshine Yarns Gryffindor stripe yarn. So, to make a long story less long, it depends.

8. Who do you knit the most socks for?

It's 50-50 right now, between me and my husband, but my next pair will be for me.

9. Do you darn your socks? If not, what do you do with them?

I darn them (or worse!) when I drop a stitch or break a needle. Oh wait, I see what you mean! I haven't had to yet. Probably will when I need to.

10. Do you only wear handknit socks?

No, I have my one handknit pair, and everything else is from the store. Obviously, I need to knit more socks! I don't even have handknit slippers right now (I covet my husband's Fuzzy Feet).

Bonus question: What pattern, if any, is your basic "I-just-need-a-pair-of-socks" sock pattern based on? Do you keep it written down or memorized?

I guess the Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns socks. That's what I used to make the Gryffindor socks (more or less) and I am not a good enough sock knitter to have it memorized!

I tag Tim and KnitPastis. Haha, just kidding Tim!

By the way, since I forgot in my last post, Happy Halloween and/or Samhain to everyone!

'Tis The Season

(By the way, scroll down for ACTUAL KNITTING CONTENT. No, I'm not kidding. Close your mouth or you'll catch flies.)

Snuggle season, that is! Geronimo and Mirando are snuggling at almost every nap now:

When we first moved in, the guys mostly stayed near us in the house, but they now feel at home and have established their favorite spots in the house. One of them is on the blue blanket on the guest bed. And it's cold enough that they're napping together. So cute. They tend to sleep at night on the bed with us, which is very sweet.

Yarnthrower, I tend to call anyone older than me Mr. or Ms. at first. My parents had drilled that into me, and it's stuck. Usually the person quickly tells me to call them by a first name, but it's a nice courtesy, even if it's old-fashioned. It sounds like a good idea to model that for your kids! And thank you for the compliment :)

Thank you for Crock Pot suggestions! Beth, it didn't even occur to me to assemble the night before. Duh. I shall try that soon. Rachel, doesn't HP7 make so much more sense now? I love that JKR didn't make it really obvious, but knowing it really enhances the book, in my opinion.

Knitting: I have been knitting! Not a ton, but see for yourself:

It's Tussie Mussie! I decided to go with single strand on size 5 needles, and I like it so far. I thought, what the hey, I'll do the cute nosegay pattern until I saw "make bobble" in the chart. Ugh. Scratch that. So I'm knitting it without the pattern and also knitting it in stockinette instead of reverse stockinette. I'm calling it the "No Tuss, No Muss" Tussie Mussie. Tee hee hee. (You have to imagine that as one of the chuckles Marge Simpson does when she's laughing at one of her own bad puns.) I'm excited about a new sweater for myself. And excited to post knitting content, too. I'm hoping it becomes a habit, but you never know.

Reading: Just mystery re-reading. Gearing up for Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which I expect to either love or hate, as with most post-modern novels.

Writing: I have a writing workshop at Emory this Saturday on rewriting, so I'm really excited about that.

Cooking: I made Pasta with Lemon, Beans, and Greens again. It is so good. I also made Pasta Geronimo (recipe at left). I'm making Tuscan Chickpea Soup (another Cooking Light recipe) tonight--a late start means I'll do this in the stock pot-- and possibly Rosemary Focaccia (surprisingly enough, this was a huge seller at our bake sale, so I didn't get to eat any of the 8 loaves I made last weekend). Also on the agenda are Pinto Bean Burgers, a Cooking Light recipe, which sound good, though I NEVER make my own veggie burgers, so I hope they're worth the effort.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Rain, Rain, Don't Go Away!

We've had three days of rain, which, given our drought, is fantastic news. It was gloomy, and we got rained on making our trek to the store, but we were happy about it. And what better way to enjoy the rain than with a cup of tea and some cookies:

String Bean very kindly returned the tupperware I had sent, with the improvement of stuffing them full of delicious apple cookies. Yum. You can't eat just one of these, seriously. Thank you! Thank you! (If you're curious about the china, it's a traditional Czech pattern. My mother-in-law brought these tea things back for me from a trip to Prague. They make tea taste much better.)

Wow! The response about Miss Allison was really interesting to read! Yarnthrower, I didn't mean people who have their kids call adults Miss FirstName were scary! The title referred to my being on a committee, having a crock pot, etc., and the name discussion was just a very long tangent. I had never come across that naming convention for kids before (except, as others noted, in the context of preschool teachers or dance instructors), and it was really cool to read everyone's reactions. I totally see the reasoning (easier pronunciation than last names, add a level of respect for adults)...I think I just will hate being called Miss Allison (though I was, when teaching "ballet" to 4-year-olds ages ago). Rachel, isn't it funny that I had enough imagination to HAVE an imaginary friend, but not enough to come up with a fun name for her? I also had a beloved pillow named--wait for it--Pillow, and a cherished bear named Brown Bear. Guess what color he was? Well, I shall be Miss Allison and my husband Mr. Matt (or, I suppose, Dr. Matt, which would be hilarious).

Knitting: StringBean, I am a gauge spaz, so I double-checked, and I did the average over four inches, and got 5.5. It might be the way I'm stretching stuff in the photo. Also, while I was trying to take the pictures, Lilah was climbing up my leg, which was distracting. I have decided to use the lighter fabric and use this as a layering piece. If it's doubled, I think it'll be too warm for all but a couple weeks out of the year here! I had to miss my alumni knitting group :( so I haven't found much knitting time, but my cheery red yarn is right on the coffee table where I can see it!

Reading: Just re-reading beloved mystery novels. I will be traveling soon, and I think I'll re-read the whole Harry Potter series again, both to reflect back after reading The End, and in light of the news about Dumbledore.

Writing: I occasionally jot down an idea, but I have some major reconstruction to do, which is going to take time that I just don't have. I am taking a creative writing workshop for alumni at Emory on rewriting, which I'm excited about.

Cooking: I made Black Bean Chili and Jalepeno Cornbread from past Cooking Light recipes, both lovely. It's finally getting cold, so it was perfect. I am having some trouble with Crock Potting, as by the time I get Lilah down for a nap, it's usually cutting it too close to have the Crock Pot finish cooking dinner by 6 or 7. If I want to cook anything on Low, I have to get all the ingredients prepped and in there by 8:00 am, which, hahahah!, will totally not happen. Even on High, it has to get in there by noon. Maybe I need to chop stuff the night before and have it ready to chuck in while I'm making breakfast or something. What else? I did make Red Beans and Rice, and wasn't that thrilled, mostly with the sausage-like vegetarian product I used. It was okay, but not great. I'm not really a "fake meat" kind of vegetarian, so I would have been happier leaving it out and letting Matt brown some real sausage to put in his serving.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Now, THAT'S scary!

Halloween is coming, and we have our very own, all-natural decoration up at our house. I'm not talking about the pumpkins and gourds and Indian corn we put up every year, but a big spider who created a masterpiece of a web on our front porch. It's amazing.

Things that are really scary, though:
1. I am on a committee.
2. I am in charge of a bake sale for that committee.
3. I bought a Crock Pot.

Hahaha! Not that I have ever been cool (my junior high was exactly like the film Mean Girls, and I was NOT on the popular team), but this soccer mom type stuff is kind of scary. Oh, I learned something interesting at my last committee meeting (at least it's not the most organized committee, and our meetings are pretty fun). I forget that we're in the South most of the time. A few of our neighbors have actual Southern accents, but it's not that common, and Atlanta in general has a lot of transplants from other states and other countries. But I learned from another Yankee parent that we're expected to teach our kids to call our friends Miss FirstName (so I'd be Miss Allison). That's the polite thing to do. Which is really bizarre. And I forgot to ask this, but my guess is that in the relatively chauvinistic South, the same probably doesn't go for men. I'll have to confirm this, but I can't imagine a Southern child calling my husband Mr. Matt. Not that I can imagine this Miss Allison nonsense, either. I was raised to call adults Mr. or Ms. LastName, and if they wanted to be called something else, to go with that, so the Miss FirstName thing is just strange. Plus, Miss Allison was the name of my imaginary friend as a small child. Weird. TurtleGirl, are you a native Southerner? I was wondering if the same was true where you grew up.

The Crock Pot is kind of funny, since I don't cook meat. But I figure I can chuck soup or stew ingredients in there in the morning and have it be ready for dinner. It also made excellent vegetable broth.

Thank you so much for your kind comments on my little diary. It was nice to do a bit of writing, even if it was short and not my usual thing. It's also nice to hear from other non-domestic goddesses :) I can keep the place clean enough that the Health Department *probably* won't show up, but I have no idea what those people with neat-as-a-pin houses do to keep them that way. My hope is that they hire someone.

Knitting: I finished "swatching" for Tussie Mussie. I put that in quotation marks because I can never stand to do the whole 4x4 square thing. It takes too long. So I did swatchlets, where I cast on about enough for 4 inches and knit until I couldn't stand it anymore (1-2 inches). And I only did that because I was nowhere near gauge on the recommended needles (strange for me), and I wanted to make sure I liked the fabric I could get with gauge. I went ahead and washed the swatchlets and let them dry overnight, because I couldn't remember how the Rowanspun acted after washing. The size 6 needles ended up a little off, but the size 5 are spot on. Oddly, the size 6 with the yarn doubled are as well. Weird. How does that make mathematical sense? Anyway, I just have to decide whether I want the bulkier fabric, or a very light one. Take a look at the size 5 needles, single strand (also held up to the window so you can see the density):




And the bulkier fabric:



I'm afraid the bulkier will be too warm here. In Wisconsin, probably it'd be perfect, but I think I'll get more use out of a light sweater here. But I'm also a little afraid the light fabric will be too floppy and therefore unattractive. Thoughts?

Reading: I've been re-reading favorite mysteries lately. I haven't felt like being challenged, and I can pretend it's research for my own murder mystery. But really, it's like the mac 'n' cheese of literature for me.

Writing: I actually thought of a perfect plot twist for the murder mystery while baking for the upcoming bake sale. I jotted it down, but unsurprisingly, have not had time to go back and write it in.

Cooking: For the bake sale, I'm making sourdough loaves (or trying to--my first attempt did not rise at all, though it tasted like sourdough, which is weird because that means the bacteria the yeast produce were there, but the yeast were having a vacation day or something), baklava (recipe in sidebar link), brownies (recipe also there), and chocolate chip pumpkin muffins (recipe also there). I made Chickpea Gumbo by The Fat Free Vegan. I know the blog name doesn't sound like the most appetizing food blog, but she has great recipes. I must admit that I added a bit of fat back into the gumbo, in the form of 2 TBL of olive oil instead of 2 tsp. I'm making her Red Beans and Rice tonight. Oh! I forgot to mention I made my veggie broth last weekend. I was able to make an extra three quarts from what I usually make by employing the Crock Pot in addition to my two stock pots. I was very pleased with the results. The freezer is stocked! Just in time for it to get warm and humid here again. Sigh.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Perfectionism Squared

I keep wanting to post about my Yarn Challenge, but I wanted to have swatch photos to show, and I wanted the lucky winner to have her yarn and other treats already. But at this point, I just have to announce the winner since Little Miss Lilah has not felt that I need to finish my swatching :)

The Winner Is...

String Bean for Tussie Mussie!

I was having trouble getting gauge with the 4Ply, which is a very skinny yarn (a technical term I learned from Knit the Knits (whom I hope will someday publish a glossary of technical knitting terms). On the recommended size 4, I was getting 26 stitches to 4 inches instead of 22. That's just as well, really, as I would have had to buy a couple more size 4 circs to do the sweater. So I'm trying size 5 needles, and my backup plan is to double the yarn and try size 5 or 6. I dimly recall some formula where if you double the yarn, you don't need double the yardage, just 1.3 or 1.4 or 1.7 of it? At 1.7, I would be really pushing the limits of the amount of 4Ply I have, but if it's less, I think I can do it. This yarn is always on eBay, anyway. I haven't decided about the nosegay pattern. I think it's cute, but my sanity may demand an unembellished sweater.

String Bean will receive some lovely yarn and something from my oven, hopefully by tomorrow, unless the Postal Service decides to lose it or something. I don't want to post exactly what, so it will be a surprise for her.

Thank you so much to everyone for your suggestions! And, thank you, Tim! Tim was the recipient of one of my Manly Hats (pattern at left) when he moved to the Arctic tundra. I mean, Canada.

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Days of Our Lives

(The following is fictionalized autobiography. No Cheerios were harmed in the writing of this piece. If the style seems weird, go read Bridget Jones' Diary.)

Sunday: V. unhappy. House is disaster area. Need a better schedule to resolve chaos. Imagine! No more Cheerios underfoot. No more piles of whatever on the dining room table. No more wincing at the state of the bathroom mirrors. House will resemble Martha Stewart magazine spread.

Monday: laundry
Tuesday: bathrooms
Wednesday: dusting and sweeping
Thursday: vacuuming and mopping
Friday: general decluttering
Saturday: make up day
Sunday: off

There! Will have plenty of time for all housework. Am v. pleased with organizational skills.

Monday: Cheerios on floor: 11.5 (v. bad) Laundry complete! V. pleased. Am domestic goddess. Dreamily picture sparkling, gorgeous home, free from chaos, Cheerios, and clutter. Will plan dinner party to show off stunning home and goddessness.

Tuesday: Cheerios on floor: 18 (v. v. bad) Bathrooms cleaned: 1 (v. bad) Had to abandon master bathroom midway, shutting door to keep baby and cats from hazardous chemicals left on all surfaces until baby napped, whereupon wiped everything clean quickly without inhaling.. V. disappointed, but remain hopeful. Remember Sunday is available as make-up day. Am still domestic goddess, but must remember Martha Stewart has legions of servants to keep things sparkly. Must not be discouraged by more real-world situation. Realize have not plucked eyebrows in recent memory. Do so to avoid frighteniing dinner guests and overshadowing gorgeousness of house, Must add weekly beauty masque and home pedicure to schedule.

Wednesday: Cheerios on floor: 22 (v. bad, but improvement) Grocery shopping done! V. pleased, except forgot several things and will have to return tomorrow. Realize forgot to put grocery shopping on schedule. Must not be discouraged by minor setback. Will be amazing domestic goddess by next week, with exfoliated feet and clean floors.

Thursday: Cheerios on floor: 32 (v. horrifying) Grocery shopping done again! Total bathrooms cleaned: 2 (improvement) V. pleased. Making up for early week problems already. Rather discouraged that large tasks for Wed. and Thurs. not completed. Must stay focused and positive and remember the weekend is coming. Remember that becoming domestic goddess not easy. V. disturbed to find Cheerio in living room. Perhaps they are breeding? Resolve to look into Cheerio reproduction or migration.

Friday: Cheerios on floor: 22 (v. good) Total bathrooms cleaned: 2.5 (excellent) V. concerned has taken most of week to accomplish Tuesday task. Wikipedia and Martha Stewart website unhelpful on Cheerio breeding issue. Accused (unjustly) of mumbling, "Bleeping Martha Stewart."

Saturday: Cheerios on floor: 12 (v. encouraging) Dusting finished (not counting books in bookshelves)! Will clean floors after errand to mall to find pajamas that fit. V. pleased to have lost weight, but pajamas now resemble circus tent. Spend two hours installing larger carseat as baby has discovered how to extract and eat stuffing of small carseat. V. concerned about polyester consumption. Locate lovely, fitting pajamas in fourth store, only to realize have forgotten special credit card with bonuses. Return with no pajamas (v. bad, so disorganized) but with baby ingesting no polyester (v. good).

Sunday: Cheerios on floor: 0 (v. exciting! success!) While on floor during Cheerio eradication, notice oatmeal spot on curtain. Follow logical trajectory from high chair to find oatneal crusted on wall. Am not domestic goddess, but unpaid CSI technician. Perhaps can feed baby out on porch in future, then use garden hose for cleanup? Return to purchase non-tent-like pajamas with bonus credit card. V. pleased. Place baby in high chair and sweep floor while performing riveting singing/dancing act, to great applause. Am clearly v. talented. Perhaps will perform at dinner party. Go to Target to purchase plastic dropcloth to place under high chair. Wonderful, beloved, amazing husband has vacuumed during outing. Manage to finish floor cleaning before collapsing in exhaustion. Am domestic goddess at last! Not excited about starting over tomorrow, however...

Knitting: I will announce the winner of the contest as soon as I have swatch pictures to put up, later in the week. You guys are awesome! Fantastic ideas all around!

Reading: Wow, this is going to be a long one. It looks impressive, but most of these are below my grade level. I read the four Peggy Parish books in a couple of hours.

Mr. Darcy's Diary by Amanda Grange: This was surprisingly enjoyable. Quite fluffy, but fun. It's really superfluous, since you can tell in Pride and Prejudice what Darcy was thinking most of the time, but if you're a P&P fan, this might be worth picking up. I zipped through it pretty quickly, and really liked it. There are some conversations with Bingley and comments on Caroline that are entertaining, and we see a bit more of his relationship with Georgiana. And of course, we find out what happened when Darcy went after the eloping couple. Grange has also written Mr. Knightley's Diary, which I will have to pick up!

Molly Moon, Micky Minus, and the Mind Machine by Georgia Byng: This is the fourth in the series about a plucky heroine who discovers she has amazing powers. These are very cute, over-the-top adventures, beginning with Molly Moon's Incredible Book of Hypnotism.

Key to the Treasure, Pirate Island Adventure, Clues in the Woods, and The Haunted House by Peggy Parish: Four of the six Liza, Bill & Jed mysteries. I've gotten nostalgic about childhood books, and sometimes I have only a dim memory of a book I loved as a kid, without remembering the author, the plot, or the character names. This makes it hard to search for a book! For this one, all I remembered was that there was a "treasure key" or "key to treasure" or something in the title and it had codes in it. Pretty quickly found Key to the Treasure, and I had completely forgotten it was the first in a series. These are good natured adventure-mysteries that are neither too adventurous nor very mysterious. These are really cute, wholesome mysteries. There are no video games or television shows, and the kids play outside and volunteer to do the dinner dishes without being asked, but they're not disgustingly sweet. They carp at each other like real siblings. I wasn't sure if they would still appeal to kids, or if they would be too dated, but they were recently re-released, maybe because people like me who loved them as kids are now having children themselves.

Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg by Gail Carson Levine: This was a fun fairy tale set in Never Land. Prilla, a new fairy, hasn't yet found her talent. Meanwhile, trouble is brewing for the Never fairies. There's not much suspense that Prilla's yet-unknown talent will play a key role in solving the trouble in Never Land, but the story is cute and the illustrations lovely.

Writing: None at all. Sigh. For Christmas, I want time to write. And a desk. That's all.

Cooking: I don't think I mentioned that I made sourdough starters, which is just as well really. I missed a day of feeding and the whole wheat one came over all moldy and the bread flour one smelled like one of Lilah's more horrifying diapers. I wasn't that committed, I guess, as I hadn't named them. I found a different technique I may try. It may have been the awful humidity around here lately, or it might be entirely my fault. At any rate, I was bummed, as I was looking forward to some sourdough bread.

I made Pad Thai. Sort of. Let's call it, Not Very Authentic But Fairly Tasty Pad Thai from Allison's House of Vaguely Ethnic Cuisine. I started out with the intention of making authentic Pad Thai by the delightful Pim, and shopping, equipment, and time issues foiled my plan. I have no doubt whatsoever that Pim's method is better than the makeshift method and ingredients I used. But I had already had two bean sprout purchases go bad while I tried to find the time and energy to make Pad Thai, and I decided to just do what I could and see how it turned out. The changes I ended up making were legion: 1. I couldn't find Light Soy Sauce (not low-sodium, but "thin" soy sauce" so I used 1/3 cup of regular. 2. I actually found tamarind, but when I opened the box, instead of a nice, soakable block, I found a bunch of pod things. When I broke them open, there was sticky stuff that I had no idea what to do with, so I gave up on that and used 1/2 cup lime juice. 3. I used 1/3 cup turbinado sugar instead of palm sugar. 4. I couldn't find garlic chives and got regular. 5. I didn't have a wok, so I used my chef's pan. 6. I needed to cook it all at once, so I stir-fried tofu and garlic, removed it to a bowl, cooked eggs and added them to the tofu, then stir-fried 14 oz. of dried rice noodle (soaked in boiling water), added sauce and beansprouts, stirred in tofu and egg, then added chives. Matt and I agreed it wasn't restaurant quality, but it was actually pretty good. Someday, I'll find an Asian market and try Pim's method.

I made extremely healthy muffins for a neighbor who can't have dairy and is chemically sensitive. She looked after our cats while we were in Michigan, and it seemed like a good thank you idea. I actually liked them quite a bit. They do taste 'healthy' and Matt didn't even want to try them (he said diplomatically that he wouldn't appreciate them the way I would) as he's not fond of whole wheat baked goods (except bread). In case you feel you're not getting enough fiber in your diet, here's the recipe for a dozen muffins. They freeze well, then you can defrost one in the morning for breakfast.

Apple muffins (chemically sensitive version)
12 muffins
Note: Next time, I will nix the topping, add two teaspoons of cinnamon to the batter, and sprinkle the tops with turbinado sugar. I haven't tested it this way yet, though.

1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup applesauce
3/4 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup flaxseed meal
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour
2 cups apples, peeled and chopped
1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Combine all dry ingredients and set aside. In a large bowl, mix oil, applesauce, and honey. Blend in vanilla and egg. Gradually mix in dry ingredients until well-blended. Stir in nuts and apples. Pour into 12 muffin cups sprayed with canola oil. Spread topping over batter. Bake at 325 for approximately 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Topping:

2 Tbl canola oil
2 Tbl whole wheat flour
2 Tbl turbinado (raw) sugar
1 Tbl cinnamon

Mix all topping ingredients.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Post #200! Fun Challenges! Exciting Prizes!

This is my 200th post, if Blogger's calculations are correct. Which...it's Blogger, after all, so who knows? And I am a desperate knitter in need of a project I actually have the time to do, and in possession of more yarn than I have time to knit with, and with no time to look for the perfect project. And I'm still on the ravelry wait list. That's where you come in! I am going to list some yarns in my stash, and if someone comes up with a project that tickles my fancy, that person will win a lovely prize from my stash! Am I keeping the prize secret to increase suspense, or because I have not had time to dig through the stash to decide what I want to send? Who knows? More than one project=more than one winner! There might even be baked goods in your prize package. Pass this on to anyone you know who could use a little yarn and has great ideas. The rules (which I'm making up as I go along):

The Great 200th Post Yarn Competition

1. It needs to be a more do-able project than my Irish Diamond Shawl, which should be just about any project out there.
2. No cables. I don't have time to learn them.
3. No cat sweaters. I don't have the body armor I'd need to put them on the cats.
4. Patterns from my books or patterns I list, free internet patterns, or low-cost downloadable internet patterns are okay. I can't have to buy a new book. Unless it's a REALLY good book I should have anyway. And probably the library has it. So, no restrictions there, I guess. What a waste of a rule! I won't bother listing my patterns and books, then.
5. No outside yarn, but combining yarns I already have is fair, and doubling is fine.
6. No limit on the number of entries!

General guidelines: I'd sort of like to make something for myself or Lilah. It can be a sweater, a felted bag, a pillow or blanket, a tea cozy, whatever. I'd like it to be a medium project (not something tiny like a washcloth). Or a bunch of small projects I can give away at Christmas. What I really would like to do is a sweater for me, but I can't see that I have a yarn that works with a pattern I know about. Maybe the 4-ply doubled? Obviously, anything goes here, just about.

Okay, here are the yarns:
1. Blue Skies Alpaca Silk (sport weight, 292 yards, color blush)
2. Cascade 220 (worsted, 880 yards, color blue-green)
3. Cascade 220 (worsted, 880 yards, color light grey)
4. Euroflax Linen (fingering, 270 yards, color light green)
5. Rowanspun 4-ply (fingering, 972 yards, color Turkish (purply-blue))
6. Rowanspun 4-ply (fingering, 1320 yards, color Siren (red))
7. Pakucho Organic Cotton (worsted, 400 yards, color Chocolate)
8. Knitpicks Shine (sport, 440 yards, color Sky)
9. Knitpicks Shine (sport, 160 yards, color Cream)
10. Rowanspun DK (DK, 876 yards, color Mist (mottled blue-grey))
11. Peruvian Collection Baby Silk (fingering, 700 yards, color lavender)
12. Peruvian Collection Baby Silk (fingering, 1800 yards, color purple)
13. Blackwater Abbey (worsted wool, 440 yards, color Haw (red))
14. Brooks Farm Four Play (worsted silk/wool, 540 yards, color Poppies (like neopolitan ice cream))
15. I have assorted scraps of feltable stuff in a bag under the bed.

Submit your entries before the deadline of "whenever I feel I have enough and decide to choose a project"! Good luck!

Edited to add: When you comment with an entry, mention your favorite kinds of yarn (color, weight, fiber content) just in case. Don't worry...I won't send anyone Fun Fur!

Phew!

We had ANOTHER trip out of town, this one to Michigan. I missed a week posting because these days, it takes us a week to gear up for a trip and another to recover! This was a trip well worth preparing for, though, as my brother-in-law got married! Lilah obviously wanted to see them get married, as she was quiet but alert throughout the ceremony, then fell asleep almost immediately afterwards. It was lovely, and so nice to see so much of Matt's family.

Regarding my last post: those of you on the edge of your seats will be happy to hear that Geronimo has been forgiven and that all laundry came clean. Rachel, you are SO right. I am very lucky that he missed the suitcase itself. He only hit machine-washable clothes. Tim, since I was laughing two minutes later, you are not a jerk at all :) It was pretty funny, actually. I loved everyone's cat pee stories. Nice to know I'm not the only one. As my little brother once told my mom, after being chastised for regaling us with several stories, "But Mom, pee stories are always crowd-pleasers!" Indeed.

Rachel also gets a "heh heh" for her comments on Jack :)

Knitting: Not much. Travel used to mean lots of knitting on planes and in cars, but these days, I'm rarely optimistic enough to bring it along. See more on this in my next post.

Writing: Not at all. A bit of frenzied note-taking on changes I want to make to the plot.

Reading: I finished Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson, and quite enjoyed it. Fun cozy mysteries. I also read The Tale of Holly How, #2 in Susan Wittig Albert's Beatrix Potter mysteries, and Death at Bishop's Keep, the first in the Robin Paige series (Robin Paige is really Susan Wittig Albert and her husband). Bother series are charming and engaging, and I will be reading more. I am currently reading The Boggart by Susan Cooper while I wait for more Robin Paige books to arrive from bn.com.

Cooking: Not a whole lot. I made Pasta With White Beans, Greens, and Lemon from September's Cooking Light. It was delicious. Matt loved it, too. The "greens" are really arugula or spinach, nothing off-putting as the title suggests. (Matt is never enthused when I make something with "greens" or "root vegetables" and such.) I have plans to make Pad See Ew and Pad Thai in the near future. Matt's less excited about the Pad See Ew since it has broccoli as a main ingredient. Actually, Chinese broccoli, which Dekalb County Farmers Market has, but it's way expensive, so I'm making do with regular broccoli. Dekalb County Farmers Market is a fantastic place, but it's really the opposite of a farmer's market. It's a big giant store with produce from all over the world (this is where you find the weird vegetables called for in your Indian cookbook, for example), dry goods, dairy, deli, everything really. Maybe it started out as a farmer's market and just changed over time. Anyway, it has great produce and all the Thai, Indian, etc. ingredients I can't find elsewhere (tamarind, anyone?). They also have the good vanilla extract, the one Williams-Sonoma sells for $19, for $10. I would have photos up, but one of the many rules posted at the door is NO PHOTOGRAPHY. They're a little weird with all the rules, like you can't bring your own little basket to shop with, and you have to check all bags. I hope I don't get blacklisted just by writing about it.

I also made my own interpretation of Pina Colada Muffins from Sweet Revenge. They were excellent. Really different, refreshing, and yummy. I adapted them to be non-dairy and also added some juice for extra flavor. In future, I will try either soaking the coconut in rum as well or adding 1/3 cup rum to replace part of the soy milk to make them a bit less dry (though they weren't horribly dry, just could have been more moist.) Here's my version:

Pina Colada Muffins
Adapted from Sweet Revenge by Diane Mott Davidson

About 13 ounces dried pineapple
1 1/2 cups dark rum
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups canola oil
1 1/2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
juice of one orange, plus enough soy milk to make 2 cups liquid
2 tsp vanilla extract
zest of one orange
1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut

Place pineapple in a small saucepan and cover with rum. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and cool about 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the yummy pineapple flavored rum for later. Pat pineapple dry. Reserve 24 nice-looking chunks, then roughly chop the rest. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350. Coat 24 muffin cups with cooking spray (and hit the tops of the pans, too). Line with paper liners if you like that sort of thing. Stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together canola oil, sugar, eggs, juice, soy milk, vanilla, and zest until well combined. Slowly add flour mixture, coconut, and pineapple. Divide among 24 muffin cups (about 1/2 cup each). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Wanted

For Inappropriate Urination and Destruction of Private Property.
Wanted: Only Alive (Pending Results of Laundry)


What Matt heard this morning as I got dressed in the other room: "What the---? Oh my god! OH MY GOD! How could you--? What the--? WHERE ARE YOU, YOU BIG ORANGE FREAK????"

Geronimo is on my List. And I don't mean my Happy Sunshine List. I hadn't finished unpacking all the way from our California trip. I know that's lame. But there's been a lot to do and I've just been pulling clothes out of my suitcase, left open in our bedroom, figuring I'd eventually get it so close to empty that it would be quick to finish. Well. Early this morning, Geronimo was being noisy while we were trying to get Lilah back to sleep, so we shut him in the bedroom. We're talking 20 minutes, here, not extended inhumane incarceration. And he apparently felt this was a pee-able offense. So now I have a load of my clothes in the laundry. Thank goodness he picked that side instead of the side where my Irish Diamond Shawl was. Actually, I've already forgiven him. He has a history of inappropriate peeing (we had this box lined with a towel that the guys loved to nap in until one day....well, you know where this story is going) and I should have unpacked. The open suitcase with clothes in it is just too much like his idea of a litterbox to leave out like that.

So that's the fun stuff going on around here...

Lilah is crawling really, really well now. She crawls best when there's a cat to crawl toward. Here she is in California, meeting my brother's cat, Jack. Check out his laser beam eyes. Every picture of him seems to have those. He must have superpowers or something.


Between Lilah's crawling and numerous house projects, BUSY is the four-letter word of choice around here, so I have to apologize AGAIN for falling behind on my blog-reading. I'm looking forward to getting caught up soon. I'm so busy that I missed the Emory Alumnae knitting circle last night, which I had really been looking forward to. I'll have to make it next time.

Knitting: Not a stitch since I finished the bolero. Can you believe that? Knitting is usually something I do while watching tv, and I have watched almost none at all in a week. Too much else going on. I have Irish Diamond out so I can do a row here and there, but I need to go through the stash and pick another quick project. I've been thinking of starting something for Lilah for when she's bigger, like a sweater in size 4 or so, so there's no pressure to finish.

Reading: The Penguin Who Knew Too Much (or is it Too Little? I don't have the book with me) by Donna Andrews: This is the latest Meg Langslow mystery, and I thought it was fun, fun, fun. I love these. They're such a pleasure to read. The first is Murder With Peacocks if you're interested. Meg's kooky family ends up embroiled in another murder (you couldn't pay me enough to visit them, since someone always ends up dead) and Andrews's writing is enjoyable and the characters are like old friends by now.

I'm working on Diane Mott Davidson's Sweet Revenge, and enjoying it with reservations. I like Goldy, but there are things that are irritating, both in the series as a whole, and in this book in particular. I think her husband is sometimes condescending, and Goldy, despite her protestations to the contrary, is seriously nosy, often for no good reason I can see. Her son is less annoying in this one, at least so far. But the characters are fun, the cooking is fun, and while the mystery seems a bit obvious, I could be completely wrong about the solution. The first in the series is Catering to Nobody.

Writing: Not at all.

Cooking; I made hummus, baba ghanosh, and (for the first time) foul moudammas! I made two kinds, actually. This recipe right here and this one and both were lovely. The second is my favorite, as it is closest to the one served at a Madison restaurant we loved. (If you still live there, it's King of Falafel, yum.) I also made Pear Ginger Muffins, based on a recipe in, of all things, Starbucks Passion for Coffee cookbook. I made a bunch of changes, and next time, I think I'll try it with fresh ginger.

Pear-Ginger Muffins

12 oz. crystallized ginger, finely chopped*
2 pounds pears, peeled, cored, and roughly chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cardamon
4 eggs
1 1/3 cup sugar
1 cup milk (I used soy milk)
2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 400 and spray 24 muffin cups with cooking spray.
2. Mix together dry ingredients.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine wet ingredients. Slowly add dry ingredients, including ginger. Stir in pears.
4. Divide batter among 24 muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes. Cool slightly in the tins, then transfer to wire racks.

*I decided to finely chop my crystallized ginger in the Cuisinart. This was stupid, but ended up working. First, crystallized ginger is like gummi bears, so it turns into a big, sticky mass in the Cuisinart. Uh oh. I salvaged it by adding 1/2 cup of the flour from the recipe and pulsing until it looked finely chopped and the flour had made the ginger separate.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I finished something!

I had been posting every Wednesday, just by coincidence, but I missed last week because Lilah and I were in California visiting my parents. We had a wonderful time. It turns out that Lilah loves the swimming pool, and we did lots of family visiting. She's now a handful on the plane, though, really squirmy, easily bored, and often cranky. The guy next to us had two cocktails and it was an 11:00 a.m. flight.

Knitting: Frustrated by my lack of obvious progress on Irish Diamond Shawl, I decided on a quick project I found on Frog in Knots, thinking a shrug would be a nice, quick knit in a worsted weight cotton. I happened to have some worsted weight cotton and a need for a quick project, but shrugs are not flattering for my particular frame. String Bean popped into my head, since she had recently made Lilah a darling hat. And I had myself a project! Modeled pictures are right here.

Here's a detail shot:



Details:

Pattern - Ribbed Lace Bolero (Hey, it's a bolero, not a shrug like I've been saying for weeks. Can someone tell me the difference?)
Needles - Size 8 for ribbing, Size 10.5 for lace
Yarn - Pakucho Organic Cotton in Avocado, just over three skeins

Good things:

1. I love, love, love the Russian Join. It's easier than I thought it would be, and it looks very neat. Beats the heck out of the alternatives (except for the spit splice for wool).

2. This was a fun knit. The lace pattern was simple but fun, shaping nonexistent, finishing easy peasy.

3. I re-mastered the long-tail cast on, which I never use, and I learned the sewn bind-off, which is nice and flexible looking.

4. I love Pakucho Organic Cotton.

5. I've never cabled before, and I quickly learned cabling without a cable needle, which is used on the row before the ribbing starts again to make it look symmetrical. I think I did okay.

Things I would do differently next time:

1. I always agonize over when precisely I've reached the required length. I had a scant three inches of ribbing, and I should have gone on a bit more. I think even 3 1/2 inches would make a nice collar. I tend to obsess that I might be knitting too long, when I almost always short it instead.

2. I don't think my mattress stitch is that neat. I think I was doing it right but I think it's a bit wonky. I might just need practice, and maybe I need to check my knitting books to make sure I'm not missing something.


3. I sent it off, all excited, right after blocking, forgetting to sew down the collar! D'oh! Sorry, String Bean!

Reading: Vacation means lots of reading!

The Science of Harry Potter: If you're a big nerd like me, this is a fun read. The title is a little misleading. It's more like A Survey of Modern Science Using Harry Potter as a Springboard.

Inkspell by Cornelia Funke: I have a big complaint about this, the second Inkworld book by Cornelia Funke: I have to wait a year for the third! This book was excellent, but not a quick read. Apparently, it wasn't a planned sequel, which makes sense. Inkheart had kind of wrapped everything up, but there was plenty left to explore and Inkspell explores it well, and ends on a huge cliffhanger. If you enjoyed the first (which I certainly recommend reading if you haven't), you'll probably enjoy this one as well. But wait until next summer or so to read it, because Inkdeath comes out in September 2008. I believe these are being made into films. I sort of wonder if that's what made her decide to write sequels. The love of books, the sense of adventure, and the well-imagined world that made the first book so enjoyable are all present here.

Knit One. Kill Two by Maggie Sefton:The editing is atrocious (numerous typos include "doe" instead of "does"), and the author is fond of more exciting dialogue tags (people are always "declaring," "enthusing," and (I have no idea what this even means) "tweaking" their lines, which is really annoying, and worse, often used incorrectly. The same weird tag is often used multiple times, including "tweaked" twice within a page.) The heroine takes an instant and somewhat bizarre dislike to a guy in the story, telegraphing that he's destined to be a love interest in future books, and the reasoning is thin (he has the same height and hair color as her ex-boyfriend). All that said, there was something likeable about the heroine and the book in general. Kelly learns to knit as she and the knitting circle work through the clues to the real killer, and that's sort of fun (although who on earth ties knots in their knitting? Deliberately?). There's a recipe for cinnamon rolls at the end, but I already have two excellent ones and I'm not sure I buy lemon cream cheese frosting on cinnamon rolls. The two knitting patterns are on huge needles, as befits Kelly's extreme beginner status (although, I never liked those and started on 8s), so I won't be doing those any time soon. Does anyone look good in a tank top knit on size 15 needles? Maybe a total twig who needs to look a little more plump. Despite the annoying things about this book, I sort of liked the town and the knitting shop, and I think I might pick up the next one to see if the series gets better.

In Deep Voodoo by Stephanie Bond: This is mystery/romance and a fun, quick summer read. The heroine is really dumb. I don't think she's meant to be portrayed that way, but I found myself muttering, "What are you thinking, Penny?" about 97 times during the book. Penny's ex-husband, who lives in her painstakingly restored Victorian house with his new bimbo (who paints Penny's pride and joy pink, of all things), dies, stabbed through the heart, shortly after Penny stabs a voodoo doll at her divorce party. Penny's stupidity is annoying, and her love interest implausible, but something about this book was fun, so I'll probably pick up the next one. I think the fun is in the town of Mojo, Louisiana and its colorful inhabitants.

I have a ton of books to read right now. I have new mysteries from Rita Mae Brown, Diane Mott Davidson, and Donna Andrews. I want to read the Dark Is Rising sequence by Susan Cooper again before they ruin it with the movie. On the juvenile fiction front, I also have several Eva Ibbotsen books (I've loved all of hers I've read), Dragonrider by Cornelia Funke, and a few Harry Potter knockoffs I thought I'd try.

Writing: Not a thing.

Cooking: Traveling. I did consult with my dad on grilling tofu. It was excellent. KnitPastis, I'd love to come over and cook! You just have to hold the baby :)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Everyday Adventures!

Every day, something new comes up around here. Sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Like The Bug That Must Not Be Named that freaked me out after midnight last night. I got up to read in the living room and I noticed Geronimo behaving strangely. He was staring at something in the corner, and I thought, "Oh please no." And there it was, freakishly long antennae waving, stupid long legs looking yucky, shudder, shudder, shudder. Ew. I actually said, "Come on, Geronimo, you're a big guy. You can take it." He looked up at me dubiously, as if to say, "I know it moves, but I can't tell if it's prey or not. And it doesn't look tasty. And how do you kill it, anyway?" and continued to watch it in a vaguely perplexed manner. So I did what any modern woman would do. I went and woke up my husband. I know, feminists everywhere are cringing, but I just can't stand the things. I get the heebie-jeebies just typing the name. (Like the arachnophobic Joey said on Friends, regarding a caged tarantula, "Is it on me? I feel like it's on me.") I trap and release spiders with no problem at all, but these things. Ugh. Welcome to the South. We've already had to deal with fire ant eradication in our yard, mosquitoes in our neighborhood carry West Nile, and now this! Excuse me while I go call the exterminator, or possibly a contractor to construct a protective bubble around the house.

On a happier note, here are the guys, enjoying the stairs. Geronimo is laying on a large catnip-stuffed rat.


Lilah loves the stairs, too. There's nothing funnier than being at one end of the stairs with someone else at the other!

The home decorating continues. We hated our first living room window attempt, then we got a new valance, new rod, and Matt came up with the idea of gathering the curtain in the middle instead of pulling it back on the sides. Isn't it neat?


Knitting: Still working on the shrug. I can't resist showing my first attempt at a Russian Join. I think it worked well. It's on the edge, in any case, and not that visible, I don't think. I found a lovely tutorial right here that helped me out (this is the technique blog attached to The Boy Who Knits).

It's kind of blurry. My camera did not want to do this close-up at all. I'm darn close to halfway done with the shrug! Woo!

Reading: I'm nearly done with The Science of Harry Potter. It's a lot of fun. If you're not interested in science, though, it's probably too dry for you. It's more a survey of natural and social sciences in the context of Harry Potter than an explanation of magic.

I thought I'd mention some of our favorite books for Lilah, since I mostly talk about *my* reading. Unless otherwise noted, they're all board books. Obviously, we're big book people, as the list below just addresses some of her (and our) favorites. I've recently been doing what Matt calls "a dramatic reading" of Going On A Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury that, despite the story's length, keeps Lilah riveted. It takes a lot of energy, though.

Charles Fuge - Sometimes I Like To Curl Up In A Ball introduces Little Wombat and his animal friends. Charming rhymes, gorgeous pictures of animals. Unfortunately, the follow-up Little Wombat books just aren't as good. The illustrations are still wonderful, but the stories are less compelling. I Know A Rhino is absolutely darling. It's imaginative, beautifully drawn, and nicely rhymed. It's about a little girl who makes up stories about her stuffed animals. My Dad is a rarity--a book about a dad instead of a mom. I got this for Matt for his first Father's Day. It's fairly simple, a story about a bear bragging about his dad, but it's sweet and his drawings can't be beat.

Annie Kubler - Her illustrated versions of songs are just adorable, and some of Lilah's favorites are Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star (which uses animals and people from all the continents and can prompt fun discussions about cultures and where different animals live with older toddlers), The Wheels on the Bus (the bus takes children, a magician, a clown, and others to a birthday party in the illustrations for an extra dimension), and Row, Row, Row Your Boat (which adds a couple of really cute verses to round out the short song and features babies in the illustrations, which Lilah loves).

Eric Hill - Lilah loves the lift-the-flap spot books, Spot Goes To The Farm, Where's Spot?, Spot Bakes a Cake. These are classics for a reason.

Barney Saltzberg - Peekaboo Kisses and Noisy Kisses are lots of fun for Lilah. She loves lift-the-flaps and feeling the different textures.

Karen Katz - Peek-a-Baby, Where Is Baby's Belly Button?, What Does Baby Say - more lift-the-flaps. Lilah likes the baby faces and she loves peek-a-boo.

Jane Yolen and Mark Teague - How Do Dinosaurs...? books. We discovered these through Kohl's Cares for Kids, the charitable organization of the department store. They periodically offer very inexpensive hardback books with accompanying stuffed animals, with proceeds going to health and education programs for kids. My mom (an elementary school principal) knew about these and ordered them for us. There are several board books available, too. Dinosaurs are much more pleasant and well-mannered than you probably thought! Cute rhymes, amazing dinosaur drawings that include the names of each type of dinosaur, and positive messages make these really fun. We have the three hardbacks, How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight?, How Do Dinosaurs Get Well Soon, and How Do Dinosaurs Eat Their Food? We also have two of the board books, How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors and How Do Dinosaurs Play With Their Friends? We like them all, and plan to get the others.

Sandra Boynton - We have pretty much all the Boynton books. They are fantastic. Cute rhymes, wonderful animal drawings, plus many with accompanying songs. A cost-effective way to get several is with two Boyton's Greatest Hits boxed sets through amazon (new for $15 for 4 books, and another (Big Box of Boynton) with 3 books for $13. Lilah loves music, so these are a big hit. Boynton has three musicals with books, and a fourth musical, Blue Moo, coming out this fall. We got them from my mom through Kohl's Cares for Kids. Rhinoceros Tap is the first. The songs with board books available are Horns To Toes and Barnyard Dance. We have lots of giggly fun with Tickle Time. All the songs are performed by the very talented Adam Bryant, so this one lacks the "Wow, that's Meryl Streep!" sort of fun on the later, star-studded musicals, but the songs are all enjoyable, and it doesn't really matter. Then comes Philadelphia Chickens. Songs with available board books are Snuggle Puppy, Pajama Time, and Belly Button (Round). Other highlights are Scott Bakula singing Pig Island and Laura Linney's very funny Please Can I Keep It?, but the whole CD is fun. The most recent is Dog Train. Our favorite songs on this one are the Kate Winslet-Weird Al Yankovic duet I Need A Nap, Penguin Lament sung by Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik (even my cool, 23-year-old brother brother loved these two), and Billy J. Kramer's three-episode Cow Planet saga, but again, we like the whole CD. Very non-annoying kids music. We put these on when Lilah's fussy and dance with her, or sing along with her board books. She loves music (as soon as we start playing music, she starts bopping in time with the beat, very cute), so it usually stops her fussing and often puts her to sleep if she's tired. Lilah's favorite Boynton board books are Your Personal Penguin (with a free download of the song performed by Davy Jones of the Monkees), Belly Button Book (a sister song is on Philadelphia Chickens), Pajama Time (song on Philadelphia Chickens), The Going To Bed Book, and Snuggle Puppy (song on Philadelphia Chickens). We were excited to see that Boynton has a bath book coming out soon.

Wow, that's a long list. I hope someone finds it interesting!

Writing - I've at least been jotting down ideas. I've hated my beginning for a while, and I may have figured out how to do it in a less lame way. The problem is finding time for a rewrite, which may be solved since we're visiting my parents for a week and a half, which means I have a lot more personal time.

Cooking - Nothing that exciting. Matt commutes almost an hour (sometimes more), so by the time he gets home from work, we throw something together or go out. I've been cooking like a madwoman on the weekends to create leftovers to eat during the week, and that's helping. We've moved our going-out-for-dinner from weekends to weekdays when we have less time for cooking.

Happy Anniversary to you, too, Yarnthrower!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Since I have no knitting progress photos to post, and I don't think I've posted pictures of our house, I thought I'd do that today. We're mostly unpacked, and slowly furnishing and decorating. It seems to take a really long time, maybe because of having a baby, maybe because we are not very good at making decisions.

The cats love our stairs:


Behind Geronimo, you can see the main color of our house paint. This is not a color we would have chosen. I'm not sure how well it shows up, but it's sort of a pale lemon-lime. Like a margarita, but not as fluorescent and a little more yellow. It's not hideous, but if it weren't for the two-story foyer (really just a yard by a yard spot between the front door and the stairs), we would have painted already. That's what happens when you buy a pre-owned home :) And it could be A LOT worse. This is just "not our color" instead of "so hideous we can't live with it." There are other weird things, too, like the IKEA lighting fixtures, which just aren't our style, but we've (and by "we", I mean "my dad when he visited") replaced three of these with ceiling fans, because there was only one ceiling fan in the house when we moved in, and this is Atlanta! It's hot! I have no idea how they lived without them, but it's much better now.

The guest bedroom and Lilah's room have long dormers, about 10 feet, which is like a hallway to the window. They really don't have a function, but I love them. My writing desk will go in the dormer in the guest room, and in Lilah's, we're going to get a toy chest and cushion for a window seat. Lilah's walls were already a nice butter yellow, go perfectly with the Pooh accessories we picked out, and don't need to be painted:


We're pretty darn happy with our bedroom. We got a bedroom set (our first real grown-up room furnishing), picked out curtains, and found linens. We love it. The wall color isn't really what we would have picked, but I think we've made it work well. Here's a corner that doesn't show the boxes that still need to be unpacked into drawers:

I have three boxes labeled Winter Clothes. Hahaha! Probably, I can just leave them in boxes in storage. They were necessary in Wisconsin, but not so much here.

ETA: (Boy, I had to edit a lot this time. I couldn't seem to remember everything I meant to post.) Happy anniversary to us. Matt and I celebrated 5 years of marriage on the 10th.

Knitting: The shrug is going really well! I love the Pakucho Organic Cotton and I have about 5 inches done (out of 19), so I have real progress. I am about to the point where I have to decide how to join the yarn. I was thinking the Russian Join might be too bulky in worsted weight in a lace pattern. I might have to actually swatch a couple of joins to see what's less obtrusive. Funny story: I had to relearn the long-tail cast-on for this project. I learned it once when I first started knitting, then I learned the cable cast-on and never did it again. You should have seen me. First, I ran out of yarn 2/3 of the way through, then I wound up with two feet of tail.

Reading: I re-read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, and now it's Matt's turn. I'm reading The Science of Harry Potter (good eye, Rachel!). It's really interesting so far. I've read about different ways we might be able to make a broomstick fly, and I'm looking forward to the chapter on invisibility cloaks. It's written by a scientist who asked other scientists to sum up scientific principles on the theory that "magic" is just really, really advanced technology. Like how gravity used to be considered magic. It's very tongue-in-cheek, but does a great job of explaining things like the physics of flight and wormholes. So far, he hasn't come to the conclusion that we're capable of reproducing the magic of Harry's world, but he touches on the principles that might allow us to someday.

ETA: I finished Putting on the Dog by Cynthia Baxter. It really wasn't that good, and I don't feel I'm overly picky when it comes to cozy mysteries. The sleuth was nosy and wishy-washy. Her annoying boyfriend whined through the whole book. Jessica kept saying how great he was, but I never saw it. Although, she was really no prize either, insisting that she wanted to make it work with the boyfriend in one paragraph, and getting drunk and slow-dancing with a movie star alone in his mansion in the next. Then she'd get mad that the boyfriend was jealous. The solution was really telegraphed quite a bit, too, and I didn't care that much by the end. If I weren't so compulsive, I would have stopped halfway through.

I also read Halfway to Half Way by Suzann Ledbetter. The first in this series (mystery/romance) is South of Sanity, and these are cute. Hannah works at a retirement community that serves as home to some elderly busybodies who love to solve crimes. She's kind of their den mother. They're good-natured, funny, light reading, and I enjoyed this newest installment.

Writing: Not a thing.

Cooking: I made hummus, yum! And I've stir-fried and made pasta, but nothing too exciting.

StringBean, once I got the hat on Lilah, I started trying to turn it around, but she was having none of it! So there it is, backwards. And heh heh to "the thing that happened" etc. ETA: a non-backwards hat pic:

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Fun for the whole family

Lilah and I finished grocery shopping and hit the post office on our way home, where we had a package! (Okay, that's atrocious grammar. You can't even tell whether the package was at home or at the post office. It was the latter.) It was from the lovely, wonderful String Bean and contained these goodies:

A hat and kitty doll for Lilah, toys for the guys, an awesome-sounding Harry Potter related book for me, and (not pictured, as they're cooling in the fridge) chocolate chip cookies and fudge. Wow! Thank you, String Bean. You made our day. I was too excited and didn't take pictures before unwrapping, which is a shame, because she did the cutest wrapping job. I tried to get a picture of Lilah wearing the hat. She was a moving target and not very cooperative, so I couldn't get it on right. This is actually the best one, if you can believe it, and it does not do justice to the cute hat.

Is Lilah thinking:
a) Hey, crazy lady, it's 96 degrees outside!
b) I'm in my high chair, now give me lunch.
c) Could you have put me in an outfit that goes LESS well with the hat?
I think all three, but it's hard to tell.

Knitting: I'm working on a shrug in Pakucho Organic Cotton. It's actually for String Bean, and I already told her that much because, well, I stink at keeping secrets. The worsted cotton is just the thing. I am making visible progress, it feels great, and I love the pattern so far. It's a perfect break from Irish Diamond. Just so I don't completely spoil any vestiges of surprise left, I'll wait to post progress shots until I've actually sent it.

Reading: I re-read Harry Potter and still loved it. Sure, there were things that bugged me, but overall, I was happy. Even better, Matt has decided to read it, so I won't have to ask him every day, "Are you REALLY not going to read it?" and lament that I can't say anything about the book (see above re: poor secret-keeping skills). He had said after finishing 6 that he was so mad about something that happened in the book (if you've read it, you know what it was) that he wouldn't read 7. He decided to reconsider, and I'm waiting for him to finish so I can talk about it. Incidentally, Rachel of Lickety Knit posted a link to her husband's blog. They did chapter-by-chapter commenting that was awesome. Plus, she has the US and UK versions of the books, so I'm not the only total dork who does (apologies, Rachel--you are clearly not a dork!). I am now reading a fluffy murder mystery to recover from all the Harry Potter. It's Putting on the Dog by I don't have the book with me so I've forgotten the author's name. It's not bad so far. The sleuth is a vet, and my main nitpick, besides that her boyfriend's a big whiner, is that she keeps leaving her dogs in her van and it's summer. And she always mentions that she's cracking the windows and leaving water, and she doesn't seem to be gone that long, but it still bugs me. DON'T LEAVE PETS OR CHILDREN IN THE CAR ON A HOT DAY, PEOPLE! Ahem.

Writing: Ha. I wish.

Cooking: Not at all, really. Too hot!

ETA: Lilah started stirring, so I hit publish quickly, and forgot a few things:

Stefaneener, I think the cooking spray method would be great for spanokopita. Yum, spanokopita. Do you have a good recipe for it?

Oh, and you guys all crack me up. Seriously.