A big thank you to all of you for your encouragement and suggestions for quick February knits I could knock off! The suggestion of The Last-Minute Purled Beret really grabbed me. Thank you, Emily of MLE Knits for the great suggestion. I hope you enjoy your treats! When Lilah goes down for a nap, I'll raid the stash and we'll head to the post office this afternoon.
Here it is, modeled by one of Lilah's penguins:
Pattern: The Last-Minute Purled Beret by Knit and Tonic
Yarn: Noro Silk Garden in Color #205 (less than one skein)
Needles: Size 7 dpns
Notes: This is sized for an adult, and for heavy worsted yarn. Instead of bogging myself down in math and actually thinking through re-sizing, I just winged it, which worked surprisingly well in the end. I used size 7 needles instead of 9 after swatching with several sizes. I cast of 64 stitches instead of 72, and only knit the brim to 3 1/2 inches instead of 4 1/2. I skipped the first decrease row and went straight to the k2, k2tog decrease row. I cast on too tightly, so when I put the hat on Lilah's head, it took a lot of tugging to get it on. I unpicked the cast-on edge (with mohair! fun!) and bound off loosely, and it was even tighter. I think with the smaller needles, I needed to cast on 72 stitches. I would say this is sized 6-12 months, too small for Lilah's big melon. But! I think it works out great, because Lilah actually hates hats, and I was a little delusional to think she would wear one. She has a little cousin who would love this, and we have friends expecting a girl in June, so I think I'll gift it. Either that, or I'll frog and knit a little bag for Lilah out of it, as she loves purses. But I'm calling it Mission: Accomplished for now. This is such a fun, easy, cute, cute pattern. But I forgot to make it "purled" and automatically wove in my ends on the purl side. Whatever. It doesn't even matter. It's cute regardless. Thank you, Emily!
You know what we haven't had in ages? Pictures just for fun! So here are a couple of Lilah and kitty pictures. Lilah absolutely loves the cats. Mirando isn't that thrilled with her, but Geronimo is such a sweet, tolerant guy. He lets her pet him (and due to constant "Pet the kitty nicely", Lilah isn't too grabby or smacky with the guys), and even put up with a hug and kiss (on his back). So cute. The cats make her so happy. Speaking of which, she's added the word "duck" to her repertoire. And if I ask her what the sheep says, she points to the nearest sheep and says "Baaa!" However, I have yet to persuade her that cows say "Moo" rather than "Baa." "Where's the sheep?" I ask when she's in the bath (she has a bunch of animal bath toys). She grabs the sheep and says "Baaa!" "Where's the cow?" I ask. She grabs the cow and says "Baaa!" "Cows say Mooooooo," I say. She glares at me and yells "Baaaaa!" Um, okay.
Other knitting: I've been working on the SKB a bit. I really need to cast on again for Matt's birthday socks, but I'm hoping to have SKB as my March FO.
Reading: I read Bubbles All The Way by Sarah Strohmeyer, then immediately went to the author's website to see if she has another Bubbles book coming out. Her answer is "We'll see." Hmmmm. She ended Bubbles All The Way with a doozy of a plot twist, and I really think another book is in order, just because I want to see the fallout from the revelation at the very end. Many amazon reviewers gave the book one star because of the last few pages. Here's the thing. It's not like there was no foreshadowing at all about this book. I had the feeling the entire book that something big was going on, and waiting for the other shoe to drop. So I thought Strohmeyer earned the ending. However, it was really abrupt. I still enjoyed this book, but a more drawn-out denouement would have been nice. I suspect she just wanted to drop the bomb at the end for maximum impact, and in that sense, it worked! I enjoy Bubbles books, as I've said before. Bubbles is immensely likeable, and her adventures are lots of fun to read about.
I also read The Purrfect Murder by Rita Mae Brown. I don't usually buy these in hardback, but I had a good coupon at Borders. The first in this series (co-written by Brown's cat, Sneaky Pie Brown, too cute!) is Wish You Were Here. This is something like #16 in this cozy series about Crozet, Virginia animals and their humans. To be honest, the earlier books are better mysteries, but I always enjoy visiting Crozet and seeing what everyone's up to. Later mysteries see less and less editing, and Brown does tend to put whatever she's researching or has a bee in her bonnet about in her books. Sometimes this leads to interesting information about say, growing grapes, and sometimes it leads to mind-numbing two-page discussions about what kind of truck is best to have on a farm. This one, dealing with the murder of a Planned Parenthood doctor, brings in a few political rants about abortion, but I just skimmed those. I just skip the boring passages and focus on the good stuff. I like the characters, both human and non-human, and these are really fun cozies. I wouldn't start with a recent one, though. Pick up a used copy of Wish You Were Here and see how you like it. I really got sucked into this series years ago, and I still re-read them occasionally.
I also blasted through Nip, Tuck, Dead and Dead on Arrival by Lori Avocato, the two most recent (I think) Pauline Sokol books. Both were cute and fun, as expected. We learn a bit about the mysterious Jagger in Nip, Tuck, Dead, and Pauline mentions it in the next book, but the implications are really being drawn out. This is a problem similar to Janet Evanovich's problem with Ranger. If you have a character whose big thing is being mysterious, character development is hard, but you can't just have a character stay exactly the same over half a dozen books. This is, as I've said before, a fun series.
Right now I'm reading Grime and Punishment by Jill Churchill, the first in the Jane Jeffries mysteries. I read this years ago, and I'm enjoying it again. I honestly couldn't remember who the killer was.
Writing: Futzing around with Chapter One rewrites. I thought I knew how I wanted to start this book, but I went to a creative writing workshop at Emory a few months ago with an emphasis on framing, and I realized my kicky and interesting start puts the entire novel in flashback, which is rarely good. And certainly not in a genre novel, in my opinion. So I have to find a good, grabby point in the story to start and figure out what backstory to reveal and when. I've collected quite a bit of backstory on my main characters that I've jotted down, and I need to let it trickle through. Anyway, my first three attempts at Chapter One have really been placeholders. Not the kind of first chapters that make you desperate to keep reading. You don't have to be a writer to know that's not a good thing!
Cooking: Let's see. I made hummus (recipe at left), baba ghanosh (I think I have a recipe at left, too lazy to check), and ful medammes with pita chips. I made two recipes from this month's Cooking Light. The vegetarian section this month was Malaysian cuisine, and I made Rice Noodles With Egg and Green Onions. Those of you who are always impressed by my cooking will really enjoy this story. The recipe uses fresh rice stick noodles, which I was able to find. The directions call for boiling the noodles for 2 seconds before stir frying them. I assumed 2 seconds was a misprint and boiled them for two minutes, drained, then stir-fried them. You can see where this is going if you have more common sense than I do (which should be EVERYONE out there). The boiling broke down the starches in the very-starchy noodles, and they turned into clumps of rice noodle starchy bits. Really, it looked appalling. I will try this again without any noodle boiling. I can't imagine they really need to be boiled before stir-frying. Anyway, the flavor of this dish was divine and it was very simple to prepare. I am looking forward to trying it with actual NOODLES next time :) Even Matt liked this one, and he's not much of a stir-fry fan. I also made Fettucine With Creamy Mushroom Sauce. Yum! I added fresh mushrooms sauteed in a bit of butter to the recipe, which used dried porcini mushrooms with their soaking liquid, and used fresh tagliatelle from the market.
Armed with a Borders Rewards coupon, I headed out with Lilah and picked up Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson. I've cut way back on my blog reading, given my Lilah duties. I've pared down my knitting blogs on my regular reading list, and I've reduced my previously huge food blog reading down to just one, Heidi's fabulous site. I've been wanting her cookbook for ages, and finally caved because I've managed pretty consistently to cook at least a couple of recipes from each new month of Cooking Light. I felt I could justify a cookbook purchase since I've actually been cooking. This book is awesome. If you're interested in trying more cooking with fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and natural sweeteners, this book will help you through the process. I admit, while I'm not afraid to try cooking with "weird" ingredients like unusual flours, exotic seasonings, and unfamiliar produce, I have been lazy recently, falling back on regular (though at least Barilla Plus) pasta, white or brown rice, and unbleached all-purpose flour. This book is just what I need to kick-start my healthier (and fun and experimental) cooking. Take a look at the many, many recipes she has on her site. If any appeal to you, you'll probably enjoy her cookbook. If you've ever looked at interesting things at the grocery store and wished you knew how to cook with that, this is the book for you. Honestly, it's fun just to read and look at the gorgeous pictures, but I have a list of a dozen or so recipes I want to go shopping for right now. Heidi has a conversational, approachable style that is really appealing, and each recipe includes a sidebar that includes further information on ingredients, substitutions (including ways to speed up prep time), and variations. One soup recipe includes two variations that are so different it's really three recipes in one. She's so good at explaining the use of uncommon ingredients that you'll feel confident to experiment and substitute them in your own repertoire (for example, the sidebar for Acai Power Popsicles notes that you can make them with any frozen berry, which makes me think, hmmmm, I could try acai in a recipe I have that uses frozen blueberries...). She's also not preachy (rare in the health food/vegetarian cooking venue), mentioning that she hopes when you run out of your current cooking oil or flour or whatever, you'll consider replacing it with a healthier alternative. This is in high contrast to health food cookbooks written with a snotty attitude that basically say you're killing yourself and your family with the junk you're cooking with now and you'd better throw it all out and start over. Hands down, my favorite vegetarian cookbook I've seen in a long time.