Monday, June 30, 2008

I <3 My Friends

Lookit what my quilting friend gave me - isn't this amazing? I am blessed with the most wonderful friends ever. Talented, funny, smart-as-heck women who are fun as can be whether we're just hanging out or working on a project together.

I just love the colors in this quilt. They remind me of the sea, all the purples and blues and greens. I have it resting over the crossbar on my bedframe so there won't be even the remotest chance that Snoopy will get one hair on it.

This week I meant to post a ton...I had food that I cooked (inluding many loaves of bread as I seek the best home-made rustic recipe - and by that I mean the one that tastes the best while simultaneously presenting the least challenge in terms of execution or cleanup) and knitting...but I was also busy busy so I just had to live life and skip the blogging for a while. As you can see, I finished my Dark Victory and just have a little blocking and weaving to call it a FO.

The twisted stitches were kind of a pain. All that yarn twisting up on itself, threatening to felt. But I do like the end result. I've also been working on my rainbow-sleeved sweater, which I hope to finish knitting in the next couple of days. I'm working on the right front panel of the cardigan, and I've already done the left front, the back, one entire sleeve and one sleeve up to the cap. I'm going to edge the front opening and neck with i-cord and install a zipper, I think. We'll see when I get it seamed.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

20, 18, 2

Okay - no makeup, and no retouching. Pretty damn good, I say!

Wednesday was my 20th anniversary. Yes, 20th. I know, I don't look like I could possible be that old, or that I could, as of today, have an ADULT CHILD. That's right, Fiona turns 18 today, making me the parent of AN ADULT. I just want to know if that means I have to figure out what I'm going to be when I grow up, because I don't think I'm ready to make that decision quite yet.

Anyway, John and I went out to dinner on Wednesday by ourselves and had a lovely time, and then on Thursday night we had a party at our house to celebrate our anniversary, Fiona's family birthday party, and my little nephew Charlie's family birthday. Fiona and Charlie share a birthday - isn't that cute? He's two years old today.

We ordered the same cake from the French Gourmet that was served at our wedding and let the kids blow out some candles, and then John and I had a wedding flashback, cutting the cake and taking a nibble. I'll just say that 20 years later I'm still happy to be married to John - he's the best - and 20 years ago he could've been feeding me sawdust because I believe I spent my entire wedding day having an out-of-body experience.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Pizza, Pavlova, and Purling

Yes, we're going back to the kitchen. Gas is depressing, sleeves are progressing, and unless you want to look over my shoulder and see what I'm working on at my computer (hint: it's this time of year again), the kitchen is our blog fodder.

So first, above you see what I did with the egg whites left over from the brick of bread pudding. It's a Pavlova. Did you know this recipe is from Australia (or possibly New Zealand)? It's like lemon meringue pie, except without the lemon, the pie crust, or the consistency. It's kind of hard and crackly on the top and gooey on the inside, and we served it with fresh raspberries and unsweetened whipped cream. The tart berries and bland whipped cream are a nice backdrop for the sweet meringue. Everyone loved it, and it was pretty to look at.

On Thursday I got a wild hair to make my own pizza after seeing this recipe. I'm not sure the dough was particularly successful...I think the yeast might've been older than Mary. You can see for yourself that my pizza doesn't look anything like the one at Smitten Kitchen, but again, the Windansea 5 thought it was delicious and I'm inspired and determined to try again.

Here's something interesting: I went over to look at the "dealbreaker" recipe poll over here. Yeast is one of the things that usually makes me stay away from a recipe. Also dissolving gelatin, deep frying, recipes that call for making yet another recipe within them, and anything that says "hard ball stage". But you know, I do have a mixer with a dough hook, and then I read about how bread shouldn't intimidate you because people have been making bread without any equipment other than their hands and a fire for millennia.

And see, I have these fantasies sometimes about time travel (Yes, that's an innermost thought there, and now you all think I'm crazy, but if you know me in person, I'm pretty sure you'll still tolerate me, and if you don't know me in person, well, then I guess I just became another nut on teh internets.) I imagine that I'm somehow transported back several centuries - how would I survive? What do I know how to do that isn't dependent on technology? Will knitting be enough to ensure my survival, given that I don't know how to spin? Or will I be burned as a witch the minute I say, "Let's google it!"?

Anyway, getting back to dealbreakers...I was thinking about techniques in knitting that will make me walk away from a pattern. Like, say, giant expanses of stockinette on tiny needles. So far, steeking. Cables with vast fields of purling in between. In some cases, if I really love the pattern, I'll bite the bullet. But in most cases, it just isn't worth the effort to me; there are plenty of great patterns and designs that are fun to knit and don't involve swaths of timesucking stitchery. What is it for you? Hemming? I-cord borders? K3tog?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Friday the 13th

Scary enough for you? That was my total at the pump this a.m. Gas at the closest station to my house is:

And as if that wasn't painful enough, sleevies and I had to go kill the rest of the morning at the DMV.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nobody Likes Bread Pudding

My sleeves, they progress. Not much to see there, except they are indeed getting longer.

However, I do have exciting knitting news. My LYS, the very fabulous Knitting in La Jolla, is stocking Malabrigo! Suzanne ordered merino worsted, lace, and silky wool - so now I can pretty much live my entire life within a two-mile radius, thus saving gas and, hence, the planet. Yay! I was going to hold off on posting this until after I had time to buy everything I needed and let the rest of you local gals pick over my leavings, but hey. I'm a generous soul. Make sure you leave me some of that silky wool.

In the meantime, the kitchen continues to beckon. I had some leftover croissants from a breakfast meeting and remembered that I had seen Ina Garten make this croissant bread pudding that looked pretty good. I love bread pudding and I had the ubiquitous dairy products and eggs on hand, so I whipped a batch up, leaving out the raisins of death (John has a bunch of food allergies, and raisins and other dried fruits are out - it's the sulphites or something. If I dried grapes myself he could probably eat them, but that's a marital issue that's probably pretty low on his list of priorities.).

The finished bread pudding looked so good - and then I dished a serving out, which is when everyone let me know that apparently I am the only bread-pudding lover in my family. Did I mention that I try to avoid carbs unless they are fantastic, superlative carbs involving anything bruleed, coffee ice cream, or a great deal of chocolate, in which case, life is short?

And truth be told, it was a little bland. If I ever make it again, I'll add some grated orange or lemon rind and more cinnamon and nutmeg, and maybe some granulated sugar on top to make a crust...or maybe I just won't ever make it again.

This morning, determined not to throw out the whole 10-pound brick of bread pudding that nobody would eat, I had a brilliant idea. Bread pudding is a little like French toast, no? So I heated up some butter in a medium-hot skillet, spooned a serving into the pan and smashed it flat with a spatula. Then I sprinkled a little sugar and cinnamon onto it, waited till it was sizzling on the bottom, flipped it, sizzled, flipped it again, and put it on a plate. The sugar and cinnamon made a nice crackly crust, and then with a little maple syrup drizzled onto it, divinity. And success. The girls thought it was fantastic.

And I did take pictures of what I did with all those leftover eggwhites - but that's a story for another day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Two Sleeves, Two Needles

Sometimes my laziness causes me to work much harder finding a work-around solution than I would've worked if I had just bitten the bullet. I kept reading the directions for Dark Victory over and over again, trying to figure out why I'd have to knit the sleeves flat. After all, the body is knitted in the round, and then there's a raglan yoke at the top - why would I want to seam sleeves when the whole shebang is going onto the same needle as soon as they're done?

But knitting the sleeves in the round presented another set of problems: I have to warn you, if you decide to knit Dark Victory - read the errata carefully, and trust yourself. Don't trust the math in the pattern - it doesn't always add up. So in converting the pattern to knit in the round, I knew that the increases (which have to be done while maintaining the rib pattern) were going to be wonky, and no amount of note-taking was going to ensure ending up with identical sleeves.

My solution? Learn that whole two-socks-on-two-circulars technique and do the dadgum sleeves in the same way. I read the tutorials, I watched a couple of shaky Quicktime videos, and cast on. After the initial craziness (At one point John asked if Snoopy had "helped" with my knitting!) I got it sorted out and now I'm whipping out both sleeves at once pretty well. I'd tried to understand this technique some time ago but this time it clicked - once I finally figured out that you're always knitting with both points of the SAME needle at any given time. That's key.

You can see above that I'm winging the increases. Every fourth row, I'm adding two stitches by either KFB or PFB, depending on where the increase is landing. When I've added four stitches, I start a new rib. It's not as elegant as I'd like, but it's going on the inside of a sleeve destined to be stored on the floor of a dorm room, so big deal.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Cooking Somethin' Up

Stock, Step 1: Two leftover chicken carcasses in a big pot

Ravelry has changed not only the way I knit, but also the way I cook. I love cookbooks and cooking shows, cooking gadgets, cooking stores, you name it. I love good markets, nice cookware, and sharp knives. I joined a group on Ravelry, I think it's Knit. Hook. Cook. or something like that, and while I don't really read a lot of the threads or contribute much, I did like the thread about cooking blogs.

As a result, I've subscribed to a bunch of new blogs (you can see which ones over on the right where it says " 'cuz I roll like that" that have inspired me to try a few things. I like seeing pictures of people's kitchens with ingredients all around, and pretty photos of the final product.

Stock, Step 2: Onion, Celery, Carrot, Herbs: whatever you've got (this is fresh thyme, but you can use whatever you like - tarragon, bay, rosemary, whatever), thrown into the pot, not even chopped, and salt (how much depends on how salty the cooked chicken was - up to a tablespoon or so. Here it's just about a teaspoon cuz I can always add more later.) & pepper

From over at Pioneer Woman, I tried the recipe for the mystery rolls - they're good. So good I promptly wrapped them up after trying one and took them to somebody else's house for safekeeping. I don't know about you, but for me, blue cheese + butter + biscuits = something I can't eat just one of. I also tried the homemade ranch dressing yesterday, which was delish; I used fresh organic dill and homegrown chives and used it on a plain salad of romaine lettuce. Everyone loved it, especially John, who until yesterday was pretty convinced humans had lost the ability to make ranch dressing and only ranch-dressing robot manufacturers could do it.

Stock, Step 3: Add water to cover - I use bottled because Windanseaville water tastes like salty rocks of chlorine and probably grows scales on the insides of the unsuspecting public.

Along with the salad, I served up some roast chicken courtesy of Whole Foods - I love their roast chicken, which tastes more like the chicken I make myself than most. Store-bought cooked chicken tastes like brine to me and summons the mental image of somebody whose sole job it is to inject saltwater into chickens, but the Whole Foods kind just tastes like good chicken roasted at home. I usually buy two, carve them up at the same time, use one for dinner the day I buy it and use the rest as another ingredient later in the week. After dinner, I use both carcasses for stock - fast, homemade stock, easiest thing in the world.

Stock, Step 4 & 5: Bring it all to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover it and let it go for an hour or so. Longer is okay if you forget and will even make heartier, more authentic stock, but I'm lazy and impatient and it all works fine for me after an hour. Let it cool a little, strain it into a container and refrigerate. You can skim the fat off later if you want. Or, if it's now 10 pm and you want to go to bed, put the whole shmear in the fridge and strain it manana, or in two days, before you use it. Whatever - you get points for making your own and I for one wouldn't do it at all if it got too difficult.

I also made some blueberry buckle from this recipe because I was afraid Anna wouldn't be able to eat dinner (Poor Anna had to get a second course of braces on her teeth yesterday and now she can't eat anything harder than a milkshake.) and I wanted something yummy and tender. This was so delicious! The kids ate two servings, they loved it so - even Fiona, who isn't into dessert much. But a little ice cream on warm berry buckle - what could be better?

Buckle up!

Today I'm home alone because my family went to Disneyland without me (my choice). My in-laws are into antique cars, and they're riding one of the cars down Main Street in a parade with the kids as passengers (Yes, I passed that up. Crowds, heat, lines, yechhh.) In my fridge, I have the usual plethora of milk. In my alternate reality, the life I imagine, my children drink milk and floss and never throw their clothes on the floor, but in real life, I always have too much milk and you're free to form your own conclusions about the flossing and the clothes. I have a milkman, which is one of the coolest things about living in Windanseaville, and every Monday at about 8:15 he rings the doorbell and leaves me two half-gallons of organic milk, a dozen eggs, and two pints of half-and-half (aka "elixir of life"). We really only need about one half-gallon of milk, but I worry that the milkman won't be able to pay for gas if I cut back on my order, so it's like a subsidy.

Anyway, I used a portion of the plethora to make fresh ricotta cheese today. Did you even know you could do this? I'm sure Italian readers across the globe are shaking their heads at my ignorance, but I had no idea. I took a gallon of milk, heated it to about 200F in a big pot on the stove (I even used my candy thermometer!) and then added 1/4 cup of lemon juice. Voila - ricotta cheese. Really. You do have to strain it, but now I have this much ricotta cheese:

It's not a lot, but it's delicious and has a faint lemony fragrance. After making it, I read up on ricotta cheese. You can also make it with a gallon of milk and a quart of buttermilk (which I now have since I needed it for the ranch dressing). I may try that tomorrow.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Victoire sur la Nuit

Here's a little progress on my newest knit: Dark Victory from Annie Modesitt's Romantic Hand Knits. The main color is Malabrigo merino worsted in Parisian Nights (hence the name Victoire sur la Nuit - that's Dark Victory in French; I had to google it but now I know and so do you, just in case you're ever walking down a street in, say, Cannes, and somone challenges you to a Bette Davis trivia contest - Voila! You know something.) and the slipstitch contrast color is the Zitron Unikat left over from Mary's Tomten.

I'm sort of following the pattern, at least in principal, and changing stuff when I feel like it. We'll just see how that works. I am very happy with how quickly it's going, though - I cast on on Sunday afternoon and here it is Thursday, almost done with the body. I love love love the Malabrigo, so it's hard to put down, plus I had a little cold this week and it drizzled a bit yesterday, making for the best knitting day I've had in a long time. I watched The Great Debaters and Notes on a Scandal, both of which were good (especially Notes - remind me never to cross Judy Dench, who's scary as heck in this movie) and a couple of other movies I can't even remember the names of, so I guess I can't recommend them!

Monday, June 02, 2008

No Love for the Glove

Dear readers, the progress shots of my apple-pie gloves in today's post are a blatant lie and a sad disappointment.  Gauge bit me again. I know, I know, I never learn. But honestly, for something so small, doesn't it seem like by the time you knit a swatch, it would be half a glove anyway? Isn't it better just to plunge right in while you're enthusiastic about the new project?

Take a good look, because now it's a pile of kinky little Koigu.

So anyway, the glove above was knit to the point where you put the thumb gusset on spare thread, at which point I put it on my hand and discovered it might fit John, like if he gained ten pounds just in the hands. I frogged the whole misbegotten thing and started over, got back to the mid-thumb and then cast on for something else. The glove is now my porta-project, awaiting trips to the orthodontist and what-have-you.