Friday, February 23, 2007

Long time, no blog

Oops, I took a bit of time off unintentionally. We've been having some issues with our schedule, and I've had very limited time to do anything non-baby-related. I think we're doing better now, so hopefully I'll get back to my once or twice a week schedule. I'm working on catching up with my blog-reading, too, so if I haven't commented on your last five posts, it's nothing personal and I'll be back soon! Hmmm...what's been going on around here?

Knitting: I finished the Ribbon-Edged Cardigan from Debbie Bliss Special Knits. Sort of.

It's not just the lack of buttons that makes it incomplete. Look closer:

See the distance between the top and second button? And the length of the right side versus the left side? What the heck happened there? I went back and did the math, and I think it's the pattern. I thought at the time the right side seemed to be going a bit long before doing neck decreases, but this project has been so spread out over time (I started it before Lilah was born, and she's now 8 weeks old!) that I ignored it. Maybe I read it wrong. Anyway, bleh. A baby sweater on size 3 needles with mismatched button bands. Fabulous. And since I started it before she was born, I was making the 0-3 month size, which won't fit much longer, so I'm not inclined to take it apart and fix that side and put it all back together again. I think this one is headed to the frog pond. Urgh! Urgh, I tell you! My husband has requested a new pair of Fuzzyfeet to replace the ones I made a couple of Christmases ago, which now sport holes in the soles. Those are quick and easy, so I'm picking a color, probably navy again, and will start those soon. I still have the placket sweater half finished. I may decide to start a pair of socks for myself. If you would be so kind as to post your favorite sock pattern on size 1 needles, that would be great! I can't seem to pick one. I'd like a short-row heel, but I'm not good enough with socks yet to modify a pattern to include one. Lace or an interesting stitch pattern would be nice. The yarn is Sunshine Yarns in Strawberry Banana, which is pink and yellow variegated. I think I need a fun pattern to make for me to cheer me up after the sweater fiasco.

Reading: Ooh, lots to report here. I finished One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson, and it was excellent. I could go on and on about how amazing Kate Atkinson is, but I'll spare you :) She may be my favorite living writer. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year, and is fantastic. Her first three novels all deal with family dysfunction in various ways, but Atkinson is a masterful storyteller with a gift for creating believable, rich characters, so these are not insubstantial, derivative Oprah books. Atkinson is also wickedly funny. Her short story collection, Not the End of the World, is disturbing and gripping, and despite the title, is about the end of the world. Her fourth novel, Case Histories, introduced private investigator and ex-cop Jackson Brodie, who is involved in three separate cases that aren't exactly connected, but touch each other. This was her first "hit" novel, and I wasn't sure how I felt about my favorite literary novelist turning to the detective genre. However, this isn't your grandmother's detective novel. Atkinson takes her keen insight into the human condition and applies it to the genre, rather than allowing the genre to constrict her storytelling. The relationships between the characters are satisfying and well-developed. Her latest novel, One Good Turn, brings Jackson back as one of several witnesses to a road rage incident. Atkinson takes the events of a few days and shows them from the points of view of the different characters, who are all connected in some way. I had trouble putting it down. You don't need to have read Case Histories to enjoy One Good Turn, but I highly recommend both.

I also finished Jane and the Stillroom Maid by Stephanie Barron, the fifth Jane Austen mystery. It was lovely and fun, as usual. I'm now reading The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, which has really grabbed me after only one chapter. It's billed as a political/social satire, and is set in England in the '80s (Thatcherite London, as the back of the book says, which struck me as funny somehow). Nick, the main character, has really pulled me in. I know basically nothing about English politics (well, outside of Jane Austen's time), so this is pretty interesting to me.

Writing: Sadly, nothing new to report. I usually manage one productive non-baby thing a day, and I've had other things lately that have needed to be done. Hopefully, will get going on this soon.

Cooking: Nothing exciting. I've made enchiladas, hummus, baba ghanosh, vegetable fried rice, and some other basic stuff. I'm making broth today after my nap (I feel silly needing a nap, but Lilah thinks bedtime is midnight!).

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Keeping Warm

Our high temperature on Sunday was 0. That's 0 degrees fahrenheit! The guys are taking advantage of every sunshiney day (as are Lilah and I):

And Geronimo, looking like he's on a throne:

Knitting: I'm nearly done with the Ribbon-Edged Cardigan (ribbon-free edition) from Debbie Bliss Special Knits for Lilah. It's in a lovely rose color. I started the 0-3 months size ages ago, and I'd better hurry and finish it because she is growing fast! With the cold lately, layers are essential, so it'll get much use. After that, I need to finish the Placket-Neck Pullover. Then I think I'll rip out T-Twist and reclaim the yarn for a baby blanket or something. I have to take a look at my patterns and yarn and come up with a to-do list again. I have some Sunshine Yarns sock yarn in Strawberry Banana to make myself socks. I have the Blue Sky Alpaca Silk in blush from the failed attempt at Vintage Beaded Gloves from Handknit Holidays that I can make into a scarf or something. And, believe it or not, I still haven't looked at the Winter edition of Knitty! I was really pregnant and uncomfortable, and then I've been busy with Lilah.

Reading: I finished The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. This is part coming-of-age story, part mystery, part magical realism. It starts with Daniel, age 10, who discovers the book The Shadow of the Wind by a mysterious author, Julian Carax. When he looks for other Carax books, he learns that someone has been collecting all the copies and burning them. He becomes obsessed with finding out everything about Carax. The story is as much about Carax as Daniel, and the characters are well-drawn and the suspense masterful. This is a flawed but beautiful book. I'm not sure how much is the author and how much is the translator, but you could easily remove a third of the similes and a quarter of the adjectives with no ill effect, and probably shorten the book by 100 pages. There's also a part near the end of the book that changes points of view for nearly 100 pages, which is jarring. Those pages are compelling, to be sure, and I'm certain that's why the author couldn't part with them, but they took me out of the story that was already in process. That said, I truly enjoyed this book. The mystery was satisfying and involving and the characters intriguing. It managed to be funny and bitterly sad. Lovely book.

I'm now reading One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson. I love Kate Atkinson. The first book of hers that I read was Human Croquet, which I picked up on a whim at the bargain table at Barnes & Noble. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year prize, and is fantastic. Her most recent novel, Case Histories, was a departure for her--a detective novel. But not your grandmother's detective novel--the main criticism that I have heard is that it's too open-ended and focuses too much on character. If you read her earlier books, these are probably the things you love about it. One Good Turn is a follow-up to Case Histories, sort of the second in a series. So far I like it, though I'm still not sure how I feel about one of my favorite literary authors writing a detective series. I think I've adjusted okay, as the books still use her brilliant character development and intricate plotting.

Lilah and I are reading the first Harry Potter aloud when she's sleepily nursing (when she's awake, we read books with pictures).

Writing: Still slowly revising. I a children's book I've been thinking about for the last couple of years. The first lines just came to me yesterday (as I was feeding the cats), so I've been jotting things down. My main project is still finishing the murder mystery, though.

Cooking: I made the Black Bean Chili from the December 2005 issue of Cooking Light. I also made a sourdough starter, though I haven't named it yet. I also made bread, this Italian Bread, which says it's New York style. I have no idea what that means, never having been to New York, but it is GOOD. Squishy, yummy white bread with a slightly crisp crust. Mmmmmm. I used the bread machine on the dough cycle, then formed into baguettes. I also made a cracked wheat bread based on this recipe. I doubled the recipe, used honey instead of sugar and upped the amount to 1 TBL, and used 2 cups bread flour, 4 cups whole wheat flour. Partly this was to make it healthier since I was already making squishy, worthless bread, but partly due to an excess of whole wheat flour hanging around. I used the Kitchenaid to do the kneading for me. This one turned out well, but I made too much, forgetting that my husband isn't a huge fan of "healthy" bread. And this tastes healthy. It's dense and slightly nutty, and I like it a lot, but it needs to be eaten in thin slices, because it's the bread that eats like a meal. It went very nicely with the artichoke dip I made for Super Bowl purposes. I use reduced-fat versions of mayo, sour cream, and cream cheese, and it's one of my standard bring-to-a-party dishes because it's easy and everyone loves it. I still have pumpkin and cranberries I need to do stuff with, so maybe I'll make muffins or a quick bread this week.