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.