Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Little Progress

I grew peppers!

A lot of peppers! What on earth will I do with this many peppers? I have six jalepeno plants (you could only by them in six-packs at Pike's, and I figured out of six, I could probably keep one going). They are all bearing fruit. I think it's almost "pick a peck of pickled peppers time." I was really unsure of my gardening, and I've kept these guys in pots, unwilling to commit to actually planting them in the ground. My mint and basil are also doing beautifully, though my cilantro has had a lot of trouble. If peppers are this easy, I'm definitely adding tomatoes next year.

Knitting: I am loving the baby blanket! The Cotton Fleece is lovely to knit with, the bright color is cheery, and the pattern easy enough that I don't have to pay that much attention, yet interesting enough to keep me going. I chose this Alpaca Baby Shawl that I can't make in hand-wash alpaca for a non-knitter. I just can't. The Cotton Fleece looks lovely in the pattern. The two photos are kind of redundant, but whatever. The color is close in the photos, I think. It's maybe a bit pinker than magenta.

Reading: Oh, wow. I cannot believe how much I've read since my last update.

The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley

The Penderwicks and The Penderwicks on Gardam Street by Jeanne Birdsall

The Sisters Grimm: The Fairy Tale Detectives, The Sisters Grimm: Unusual Suspects, The Sisters Grimm: The Problem Child, and The Sisters Grimm: Once Upon A Crime by Michael Buckley

Fablehaven: Grip of the Shadow Plague by Brandon Mull

Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie's Song

The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz
Fearless Fourteen by Janet Evanovich

The Carrot Cake Murder by Joanne Fluke
Goodbye, Ms. Chips by Dorothy Cannell
Berried Alive and Paint by Murder by Kate Kingsbury

Writing: Trying to get the children's book down on paper before I forget it.

Cooking: I made two recipes from 101 Cookbooks and both were amazing. I'm going to use a four-letter word here, so brace yourself: tofu. Now, I like tofu stir-fry and tofu on the grill, but I am generally skeptical of tofu in strange situations. No tofu in dessert or baked goods or to lighten a dish that will supposedly taste the same. But I decided to stretch myself a bit (because, frankly, if it worked, it opens up a whole new world of lower-fat cooking), and since I trust Heidi's recipes, I decided to go for it. I made Chocolate Mousse and Artichoke Dip. And they were fantastic. The mousse is a little thicker than traditional mousse, but you can't taste the tofu at all. I "unveganified" it by using Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate, vanilla soymilk with 2 TBL Godiva cocoa instead of the chocolate soy milk, and topping it with freshly whipped cream (with a touch of powdered sugar). I used Frangelico instead of Amaretto because hazelnut and chocolate = yum, plus I had hazelnuts to chop for garnish. This was delicious. Even my tofu-wary husband liked it. The artichoke dip was also a huge success. Here's my usual artichoke dip recipe. I usually make it with reduced-fat sour cream, mayo, and 1/3 less fat cream cheese. It's delish. But even reduced-fat is sort of a lot of fat. I found Heidi's recipe to be even more artichokey, with less fat obscuring the vegetable. Everyone loved it. I doubled the recipe (but not the garlic) and baked it in my big casserole dish. I did notice that some liquid separated when it was about half gone, but a quick stir fixed that cosmetic problem. Consider my tofu-related horizons broadened. Note: silken tofu is used in these recipes for its smooth texture and complete lack of its own flavor. This is not the stir-frying tofu I buy water-packed in the refrigerator section, but vacuum-packed tofu on a shelf in the health food section. Mori-Nu is the brand I most commonly find, and I used Firm with excellent results.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We have a winner!

After the first few comments from new people, I googled myself (heh heh) and found my little contest had been put up on a free yarn contest site. I'd had no idea one of those existed, but what a lot of great ideas I got out of it! I loved the idea of an etsy request (which I hadn't known about), I'm intrigued by the dyeing possibilities, and I really wish I could be less snobby about acrylic, I really do (interesting note about yarn snobbery: my grandmother crochets, and she's made us a couple of afghans, and a baby blanket for Lilah, and she uses acrylic, and I LOVE them. I wouldn't trade them for anything. But I get to knit so little these days, that I want it to be yarn I enjoy working with).

Anyway, the winner is...drum roll...Annie! I ordered Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in Cherry Moon from Little Knits, which even had it on sale. I have to dig out the baby blanket pattern I printed out ages ago, because I actually don't remember what I was planning to do. I was convinced by Annie's experience machine washing (on delicate) items made of this yarn. I also don't see myself finding time to learn how to dye the yarn and then dye it, wind it into balls, AND knit it into a blanket for a baby who will literally be born ANY DAY NOW. I also like the idea of cotton knitting for a summer baby, while the wool will help with the problems typical of cotton (unforgiving, stretching out, heavy). Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions!

Edited to add: I know the draw of free yarn is strong, but I really appreciated all the feedback I received. I've e-mailed everyone who sent in suggestions where I could locate an e-mail address. So if I haven't e-mailed to thank you, THANK YOU!

Friday, June 13, 2008

To Dye or Not To Dye...Another Contest!

My knitting just isn't doing it for me lately. My Tiger Sock, while awesome in theory, is just not attracting my attention. It's not going to fit Matt for birthday socks, it's too warm for socks for months to come, the pattern is boring, and though I love the tiger stripey-ness, Opal is not my favorite yarn to knit with. So, I've mostly been choosing to read when I have free time. I do have friends who are expecting a daughter literally any day now, and I have a bag of lovely alpaca yarn, but it's handwash only and they are not knitters. I feel it's mean to make them a baby blanket and expect them to handwash it. I was looking around for machine-washable yarns, and haven't some trouble. I like Knitpicks, but their pink machine-washable options aren't really calling to me. I really don't like knitting with Crayon all that much (and the pattern I was thinking of won't show up anyway). I like Shine, but I'll have to do like 7 Russian joins. I guess I'll have to do that anyway, if I'm talking superwash wool. I love my spit-splicing! I've found some glorious hand-dyes on etsy, but they're 1. usually not in a quantity for a baby blanket and 2. a little pricier than I was hoping for. Anyone have a favorite machine-washable yarn that's soft enough for babies and comes in a non-boring pink? There might be a stash prize in it for the best one :)

I was kicking around the idea of getting some Knitpicks Bare and dyeing it, but I've never dyed yarn before, and I'm not sure I'm up for the ordeal. Although it would make it more special and I could get the variation I was hoping for (dark and light pinks and maybe a bit of purple). Maybe, if I do it right, and it doesn't look like I just dragged it through the mud or something. I also wasn't sure about 100% wool for a summer-born baby. Maybe Wool Cotton would be better? It's not all that soft, though it's sturdy. I'll have to look at TurtleGirl's Bloggy Thing for tips since she's practically a professional dyer. Then, I thought, natural dyes would be neat, like lavender and beetroot and stuff. But I have to look up how to do all that and then actually do it, two kind of big obstacles.

Okay, enough rambling. Send me your favorite pink, machine washable yarn ideas or how to make a memorable pink yarn with dyeing. If I get an awesome suggestion, I will gift you something lovely from my stash!

To make this post less boring, here are random pictures of the kids, in no particular order:

Knitting: A few rows on Tiger Sock #2. Not to the heel yet.

Reading: Ah, here's where my time has gone...

Bobbie Faye's (kinda, sorta, not exactly) Family Jewels by Toni McGee Causey
Murder at the Murder at the Mimosa Inn and Dear Miss Demeanor by Joan Hess and Dig Deep for Murder by Kate Kingsbury

I signed up as an early reviewer at Library Thing and got a book from the May batch, The Master Bedroom by Tessa Hadley. I'm almost done with it. Oddly, this book is already out, and I just got it from UPS two days ago. But I'll do a review anyway.

Writing: Haven't gotten my groove back yet :( I did actually get up in the middle of the night because I DREAMED a children's book idea. I wrote it down, figuring it would seem awful in the morning, but it's actually kind of interesting. I'm jotting things down about that so I don't forget. My mom is visiting for a week and a half (she gets in tomorrow), so maybe I can establish a nice routine for writing while she's here.

Cooking: The Malaysian rice noodles with egg from Cooking Light, and the Pasta with Lemon, Beans, and Greens again. I know! Boring. I'm making pesto to go over gnocchi tonight, and this chocolate mousse recipe only with Frangelico instead of Amaretto, and my Ghirardelli chocolate chips instead of vegan. And maybe a couple other changes. I hope it's okay. I've meant to try chocolate mousse with tofu for ages, but I've always chickened out.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tag, you're it!

Annie Knits tagged me with this little meme:

1) What was I doing 10 years ago?

In June 1998, I was home from my junior year in college, working at The Best Summer Job Ever, a fun, laid-back software company, as a sort of intern, floating as needed.

2) What are 5 things on my to-do list for today (not in any particular order):

1. Pay car insurance (this involves going to our State Farm office, with really, really nice staff who will drive me nuts trying to sell us even more insurance for various purposes)
2. Wait for our handywoman to come clean and repair our gutters
3. Water poor plants, which are wilting in the extreme heat we've been having (my cilantro looks unbelievably sad)
4. Get the mail
5. Feed Lilah and the cats. Oh, and me.

3) Snacks I enjoy:

Pistachios (I was eating them way before South Beach Diet came along), Triscuits and Laughing Cow, edamame. And chips, which I try not to keep in the house.

4)Things I would do if I were a billionaire:

Pay off school loans and house, treat family to whatever they need. Open a cafe/bakery. Hire Mary Poppins so I can have time to write. Start a foundation, because who wants to spend all their time deciding how to spend their money?

5) Places I have lived:

Bakersfield (CA), Atlanta, Chicago, Madison (WI), Atlanta again

I'm not sure who's done this and who hasn't, so I'll say if you read this, consider yourself tagged!

Knitting: A finished object picture would be nice, huh? Geez. I can't believe I forgot to do that.

Anyway, Yarnthrower, I wore the headband ALL DAY and it didn't budge. My concern is with the cotton stretching out so it'll eventually be too big for my head. Cotton might not have been a smart choice, but I can always try washing in a bit of hot water to get it back to size. When you decide when to bind off, make sure you stretch the headband slightly so the diameter ends up being a smidge smaller than your head. That'll help it stay in place.

The Details:
Pattern: Arrowhead Lace Headband by Persnickety Knitter
Yarn: Pakucho Organic Cotton in Chocolate (much less than one skein)
Needles: Size 7
Notes: This was a nice, quick pattern, but this skein of Pakucho was really splitty, so every ssk and psso was a nightmare. It took much longer than it should have. I only had Clover circulars in that size, and the tips are very blunt, which didn't help. Bad needle/yarn/pattern matchup. But I like the finished piece, and I've already worn it. The pattern is simple without being boring, and was really the best headband pattern I found.

Fablehaven by Brandon Mull
Fablehaven: Rise of the Evening Star
Leven Thumps and the Gateway to Foo

I loved Fablehaven and the sequel, and I'll have to pick up book three. But I was really disappointed by Leven Thumps, which I expected to really like. After my juvenile fantasy kick, I'm reading Murder at the Murder at the Mimosa Inn, the second Claire Malloy mystery by Joan Hess. These are fun. I have a lot of books in my piles (someday, I'll frighten you all with a full list), but mainly I'm reading the Joan Hess books, Kate Kingsbury's two series, and I have the Tiffany Aching books by Terry Pratchett to read.

Writing: Lilah's done a bit better sleeping lately, so I've had more energy, but a lot going on. I've also been easily distracted lately.

Cooking: Not really anything interesting. I threw together a stirfry that was okay, but not really worthy of posting a recipe. I made lasagne for friends expecting a baby soon. They can keep it in the freezer and have food ready for when the baby's born. I'm making them enchiladas as well, then I will have exhausted my casserole repertoire.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Special Happy Fun Bonus Post

String Bean posted this fun little flickr game that caught my attention.

The concept:
a. Type your answer to each of the questions below into Flickr Search.
b. Using only the first page, pick an image.
c. Copy and paste each of the URLs for the images into fd's mosaic maker.
The Questions:
1. What is your first name?
2. What is your favorite food?
3. What high school did you go to?
4. What is your favorite color?
5. Who is your celebrity crush?
6. Favorite drink?
7. Dream vacation?
8. Favorite dessert?
9. What you want to be when you grow up?
10. What do you love most in life?
11. One Word to describe you.
12. Your flickr name

Head to Mosaic Maker to make your own!