Saturday, December 31, 2005
That's Pepper's way of saying "Happy New Year". My friends have heard me talk about my brother's family dog, Pepper. I think she's the cutest dog in the world, although my friend Bob's dog Arneaux (sorry if I misspelled that, Bob) also has my heart in a big way. If you know me, you can imagine what my reaction was when my nephew called me to tell me they got a Chihuahua. I was kind of dreading the next time I came to see them. But there was Pepper, the least Chihuahua-like Chihuahua I'd ever seen. No poppy pop-eyes. No yappy yapping. Just a sweet little puppy who loves to cuddle. Six years later and the house runs around her. And we wouldn't have it any other way.
I feel like I should be doing some kind of deep, meaningful post for the end of the year. But I don't really have anything that deep to say. The past year was one of the most eventful--mostly in the least pleasantly possible ways--for the world in general and for me and my friends in particular.
But now 2005 is almost over! And 2006 is right around the corner. May it bring all the health, happiness, and fulfillment I know we all deserve.
It's movie night at my brother's house, so we'll be welcoming in the new year with a little light entertainment. We might even all make it to midnight. However you celebrate the New Year, I hope you're safe, happy, loved and warm.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
I was pretty eager to see it; my brother turned me on to the series when I was twelve and I devoured them, and then read them a couple of times more over the years. I had stayed away from earlier versions, figuring there was no way they could live up to my expectations. But with current CGI capabilities I figured, as with LoTR, the technology had finally caught up with the way the story should be told.
But I was disappointed. The first part of the movie was fine, if a bit slow-moving. There were several scenes that were expanded from the book that added very little to the story, and not enough attention was given to character development, which to a certain extent is what the book is about. The young lady who plays Lucy did an excellent job, as did the actors who played Peter and Edmund. But I was underwhelmed with the performance of the actor who played Susan. Granted, it's the toughest of the four roles--it would be hard to get that proper mix of adolescent awkwardness with downright unpleasantness, but too much of the time (at least for me) unpleasantness won out. But I think that's more the fault of the director than of the actor.
The lead-in to the battle was also too long, and there were too many unnecessary moments with the animated characters. It was like they were so impressed with what they could do that they wanted to show it all off, rather than using what would move the story forward.
And that's the impression I had of the whole film. While I had some problems with LoTR, especially the end, it was clear within the film itself that Jackson was passionately committed to staying true to the story. With LW&W, I had the feeling that the director was more in love with the movie he was making than in the story he was supposed to be telling.
With all of that said, I'm glad I saw it, and I would probably recommend it. It definitely had its moments and it's visually stunning. But I would give lots of qualifications to my recommendation.
And if you haven't read the series, you should try to read at least LW&W before you see the movie. The main thing I brought away from the movie was a desire to re-read the series.
On the way home from the movie we started talking about Turkish Delight. Ever since I read the book I've wondered what it was, and if it wasn't chocolate (which it didn't seem to be), how good could it be that it would cause Edmund to betray his siblings? Pete mentioned that the Phoenicia Bakery here in Austin sells it. So on the way home from Soccer Tuesday afternoon, he stopped and bought some:
No at all what I imagined. And definitely not chocolate:
The inside is really sticky--it stuck to the knife so much I thought I wasn't ever going to get it off. And it has the consistency somewhere between jujubees and jellybeans. That's powdered sugar on the outside.
All in all, not something I'd go out of my way for, let alone give up my sibs to the Winter Witch.
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
I can show you what I've been up to, though. As for knitting, these are the socks I started at Midway waiting for the plane.
This is how much I had done by the time I got to Austin. I've worked on them a little since (although most of my knitting time has been taken up with knitting hats for my niece and nephew. My niece's is done and it's really cute. My nephew's is almost done and it's pretty cute. I'll show pictures later.
As for otherwise, I have this crazy friend in Chicago who seems to think she'll feel better about how cold it is up there if I show you all what it's like down here. So please don't think I'm trying to make you feel bad by showing you how absolutely GORGEOUS it's been down here, okay? And when I tell you that it's been averaging high 70s in the middle of the day and then cooling off to the mid 50s at night, please remember that I have been asked to rub your noses in this splendiferous weather and would otherwise have kept quiet about it.
If you're weather sensitive, you might want to stop reading (and looking) now.
The day after I got to Austin (Friday the 23rd), it was so nice and warm we decided it was a good day to take a walk around the lake (Town Lake, which is the divide between North and South Austin). Here's a view of the lake:
And here's a closer look:
If that doesn't give you a good enough idea of how warm it is here, take a look at these here cacti:
And if that still doesn't give you an idea, I guess I have to pull out all the stops:
Yep, that's me enjoying all this warm sunshine, standing under those green oak trees. Where's my hat? Where's my scarf? Where are my mittens? I don't need them!!!!!!!!!
But I'm not the ultimate sun worshipper, not by a long shot. This here's the quintessential Austinite on a December afternoon:
But before you loop that noose and string it around your neck, let me tell you Austin's not all that perfect. There is one problem they have that just might be worse than in Chicago.
Saturday, December 24, 2005
Well, I've been here in Austin for a couple of days now. The weather's great (more on that later) and I've been getting some knitting done (more on that later, too).
Right now we're off for our traditional Christmas Eve movie--this year it's The Lion, the Witch and theWardrobe. I'll let you know what I think.
In the meantime I'm leaving you with a picture of the cute little snow globe snowman Mary sent me. Isn't he a cute little guy?
Have a Merry Christmas, a Happy Chanukah, or fabulous whatever you celebrate. Wouldn't it be nice if it lasted all year long.
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I've been giving thought to what projects I'll be taking with me. I think I'm going to try the Koigu shawl again--I'll be there long enough this time that there will be times when I can really concentrate on it. I'm also going to bring the sweater I started while I was down there for Thanksgiving. I haven't worked on it here at all--I was saving it for my return trip because it's such a simple pattern.
Of course I'll be taking some sock yarn. I always start socks when I'm there, and this last time I even finished them within a week, which is outrageously fast for me and socks.
And speaking of socks, I've been holding out on you. There's a fair-isle sock I started years ago that has spent the time since then languishing in a drawer, all but forgotten. But then someone else at the shop decided she was going to make them (and Mary made them years ago), so I decided to take them out and brush them off. And brush them off I did--all the way off the needles. I was new to fair-isle at the time and it didn't look so good to my more experienced eyes, and it had been sitting so long on the needles that there was a definite ridge where I started knitting again. So I started them over. Here they are:
It's the Ilga's Socks pattern from the Spring 2001 Interweave Knits. I sent away for the kit, but Jamieson's will work just beautifully. I'm still not thrilled with the fair isle, but I'll keep going on them. I'm still trying to decide whether to take these with me or not. Once I finish the fair isle, it's just a basic sock. And I don't want this to sit around for another few years.
You can see all the ends I'm going to have to weave in. (I can hear Mary out there chanting "Weave as you go . . . weave as you go . . ." I wish I listened more.)
And speaking of Mary, she sent off for a bohus sweater pattern that has to be seen to be believed. Go take a look at what she's been up to
I'm going to be posting from Austin so I won't say goodbye, or happy holidays, just yet . . .
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
So flash forward a couple of weeks. I'm having dinner with a couple of friends. In one of those not-directly-related-to-the-conversation serendiptious ways, one of them casually mentions something about programming her VCR through the cable box and I stop her and say what are you talking about? And she explains to me how, with RCN (my crappy cable company that keeps taking away all the good channels), you have to program to record through the cable box *and* your VCR.
So I'm all excited because I've finally found out how to set my VCR. So I go home and try it. I'm able to get the cable box to program, and I had already (finally) figured out how to program the VCR, so I set up a test. And sure enough, when the time comes, the TV switches to the proper channel. Success!
But not quite. When I look down at the VCR, it's doing nothing. Nada. Not even acknowledging that it's supposed to be doing something. My spirits sink.
So the next time I talked with my friend I told her about my failed experiment. "Did you have your VCR turned off?" she asked me. "Mine won't work unless the VCR is off." Now that just sounds dumb to me, but what the heck. I set up the cable timer, programmed the VCR, and then turned it off.
And whaddayaknow, it worked. I can now record programs when I'm not home. I'm no longer a slave on Monday nights, chained to my TV so I won't miss a second of "24."
Because that's what this has all been about. I gave up "The West Wing" and all of the "Law and Order" franchises when I started teaching knitting classes in the evenings. But the thought of missing just one episode of "24" was more than I could bear.
And now I don't have to miss anything. And I'm sure the list will grow; I'm already thinking I'll record "Project Runway" so I can watch that on Wednesday nights when I get home.
Now all I have to do is figure out how to hook up the DVD so I can use that too.
Sunday, December 18, 2005
But as delicious as they are, there's another citrus that stands out miles above the rest. It's the Texas Ruby Red grapefruit, and no other grapefruit can compare. The flesh is a deep red and it's naturally sweet and juicy. I don't even waste time with other kinds--it's Texas Ruby Red or nothing.
Accept no substitutes. Lately, I've been noticing that there are grapefruits showing up that are calling themselves Ruby, but they're grown in Florida. Florida, for pete's sake! While they can grow a mean tangerine in Florida, their grapefruit's a fraud.
I just had one (that one right there in the picture). Yum!
Did I mention there wasn't going to be much knitting going on here for a while? I'm still working on a couple of things and I've started finishing a sweater or two, but nothing new.
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Yum. Chocolate, and chocolate. Don't know if you can tell the difference, but those are regular brownies and graham cracker brownies on that plate there. The graham cracker brownies recipe is the one I got from my friend Gina in sixth grade (and no, I won't say how long ago that was).
And more yum. These are the Mexican Wine Cookies that almost gave my Dad a heart attack when we made them the first time. They may not look like much but they have a subtly sweet taste that becomes a little addictive. These are what I'm taking to the cookie exchange Saturday night.
They're molded with these cute little clay molds my sister gave me some twenty odd years ago:
Can you match the cookie with the mold?
It feels good to be baking again. Happy Holidays!
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
We met a couple of years ago when I found a recipe for Lentil Soup with Spicy Mustard Greens and I really liked what they added to the pot That was a delicious soup; I should make it again.
For my recipe of the week this week I decided to try Curried Red Lentil Soup. This recipe also called for these black mustard seeds and I was happy because I already had them from the other recipe. I wasn't sure they were still good, but apparently they last quite a while.
To prepare them, you heat them in oil and they pop like popcorn, and then you add them to the dish at the end. They add a slightly charred (I suppose roasted would make it sound better, but it really is charred) flavor that enhances the overall effect.
This recipe gets a thumb waaaay up from me. It's from the same book as the Faki (Greek Lentil Soup) recipe; so far that book's batting a thousand.
This soup is really good by itself, but it's excellent with brown rice:
Those aren't black spots on the film--those are black mustard seeds after they've been popped!
I only made a few changes to this recipe:
1. By the time I got ready to make it my fresh jalapenos had gone bad (I guess they weren't so fresh after all) so I used the pickled jalapenos that I always have on hand. Those are usually spicier than fresh so I only used one instead of the two the recipe calls for.
2. I used vegetable oil instead of ghee.
3. I only used 2 tsps. of the curry powder instead of 2 Tbsp, and I'll stick to that. I think too many vegetarian type recipes try too hard to compensate for the lack of meat by piling on the spices. But that's for another post.
4. I used 2 quarts of vegetable stock and 1 quart water.
5. I did not use the yogurt garnish (but I bet it would taste good and would use it if I had it.)
Here's the recipe:
Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Soups and Stews
Curried Red Lentil Soup
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. black mustard seeds
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 c. chopped ginger
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
2 jalapenos, chopped
1/4 c. ghee
2 Tbsp. curry powder
1 lb. (2 c.) red lentils
3 qts. vegetable stock
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
1 c. plain yogurt
from Beans: More Than 200 Delicious, Wholesome Recipes from around the World, by Aliza Green (Running Press, 2004)
In a small saucepan with a lid, heat vegetable oil with the mustard seeds. Cover pot; cook for app. 4 mins., or until popping sound stops.
In large soup pot, cook onion, ginger, garlic and jalapeno in ghee. Add curry powder and cook 2 more mins. Stir in lentils, stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until soft, app. 1 hr., stirring occasionally. Using potato masher, partially mash the lentils to thicken the soup.
Just before serving, stir in the mustard seeds with their cooking oil, the lime juice, and the cilantro. Garnish each serving with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle with more cilantro.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
. . . I caved. I couldn't help it. I was flipping through channels last night to see what was on since there were no Law and Order episodes playing anywhere (anywhere! How wrong is that?!) and woe is me--I lingered too long on Bravo--long enough to discover they were about to show the outcome of the "make an outfit from what you're wearing to this here party" assignment on Project Runway.
Now I ask you, how could I resist? It's all I've been hearing about for the past week. So I saw the leather jacket that got cut up, and I saw the beautiful turquoise and black dress that won, and I saw the dress that wasn't long enough in the back (what the ?????).
And now I have to face the ugly fact that I'll be back to see what happens next. Thanks to all my friends, I'm stuck.
But I refuse to remember any of their names.
Monday, December 12, 2005
It's hard to believe Christmas is less than two weeks away. It's going to be a very low-key one in my family. I didn't knit anything for anyone, although I do have a request from my 4-1/2 year old niece for a "rainbow hat with pink hearts." I've already got the yarn picked out. I'll be able to work something up by Christmas. I'm thinking I'll felt up some pink wool and cut hearts out of it, then sew them on.
I haven't been doing too much knitting. I'm trying to finish projects rather than starting anything new. The way I'm fixing the sleeve on the baby sweater is that I'm re-knitting it. It didn't fit into the armhole, but its mate did. Looking closely at it, I was able to determine that I had knit it on the smaller size needles I had in the bag (why, I don't know). I could have re-blocked it and stretched it out, but it's a gift and that didn't seem right to me. So I pulled it out and I'm about halfway done with it. After it's done, though, I only have to sew it in, then sew the side seams and it's done and I can send it and get it off my plate.
I probably won't be knitting a lot until I leave for Austin for the holidays. I do, however, plan to do some baking. I've been invited to a cookie exchange party. I'm kind of excited about that--I've never been to one and I've always wanted to see how it works.
I haven't really had the time to bake for Christmas since I moved to Chicago. I used to do it every year. I'm really looking forward to it. I know one of the things I'm making. It's an old recipe my dad found that we decided to make when I was in high school in Dallas--Mexican Wine Cookies. They failed miserably in the cookie press the recipe called for. They were way too hard to push out. I thought my Dad was going to have a heart attack as I watched him struggle with it. It's one of my happier memories of him--we couldn't keep from laughing as he struggled with the press, wondering what the hell was wrong with the recipe. But they were delicious, and they work really well when I roll them into balls and press them with a cookie mold. They're made with sherry and have a subtle, buttery taste.
And then there's the graham cracker brownie recipe I got from my friend Gina when I was in sixth grade. They're easy to make. But they look disgusting while you're mixing them up. They taste really good. I'll probably make those as well.
And then I want to make one more thing. I think I'm going to try to find something new.
Friday, December 09, 2005
Here's a shot of a car, to give you an idea of how much snow has fallen:
I didn't use the flash so it's a little dark, but you get the idea.
This afternoon I went down to UIC to meet Lynda for lunch at the new sushi restaurant that just opened on Maxwell Street, called Kohan. They gave us these goodies in honor of their opening.
It attaches to your cell phone, and the back is a glass cleaner. Cool, huh?
The sushi lunch special was reasonable, and good. The fish was fresh and the presentation was beautiful. From what other diners were having, it looks like their noodles, tempura, and beef are also good. I'll definitely go back.
It was good to see Lynda, and I got to say hey to Larry, too (an ex co-worker who's still a good friend). I hung around for a little while and then went to the knit shop to hang out. I didn't get much knitting done--I was sewing together the baby sweater when I realized one of the sleeves was smaller than the other. It's fixable but I had to stop working on it. I decided to work on the Kid-soft cabled scarf instead. Remember that? I started it in black, wasn't happy with it, switched to raspberry sorbet, which I liked better, but the scarf just wasn't doing it for me. So I'm in the middle of undoing it (and believe me, mohair is not easy to undo).
I think it will make a lovely ribbed scarf. No cable.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
There are other movies that do that to me. Lynda says she doesn't know any women who don't fall apart at the mere mention of The Joy Luck Club (and she's even more cynical than I am), and that's certainly true for me as well. Ordinary People just devastates me. And for some reason I just sat and cried all the way through the first time I saw Avalon. But just the first time I saw it, for some reason. I'm fine with it now.
And then there's that one scene in Local Hero, one of my favorite movies. But it's not the story that makes me cry, it's the music. At the ceilidh, Urquhart plays a song with the band that never fails to move me to tears, which adds a beautiful bittersweet twist to my enjoyment of that movie.
There are more movies that make me cry, of course. I'm sure some of them are more interesting than the ones I've mentioned. But it got me wondering--What movies make you cry just at the mere mention/thought of them?
No pictures today, although I am making progress. I'm two-thirds of the way done with the second of the Regia socks, I've started sewing together the baby sweater for the baby that was born in September, and I'm blocking a Cash-Iroha sweater. I also did all the finishing for the store.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
In my college days I would play with pinto beans every once in a while, and then black beans became the rage and I played with those, too. But I never really mastered the art of cooking beans, relying mostly on canned organic.
But now that I'm eating a lot more beans (and am on much tighter of a budget), I've started playing with dried beans. I can do pinto, black and garbanzo pretty well, but I'm having some trouble with navy beans. The last two times I've made them (Turkish White Bean Stew and this), they haven't cooked all the way. This time I cooked them much longer than the recipe called for, but they're still not quite done. They aren't bad, they just aren't melt-in-your-mouth tender.
There are some interesting things going on in this dish. I used a sweet smoked Spanish paprika I got from The Spice House that permeated the whole dish with a sweet smoky flavor. The mint was refreshing, but there wasn't enough of it. The rings of pepper and tomato looked pretty spread out over the top, but the flour never made it into the mix so it didn't thicken properly, and the pepper and tomato flavors also didn't make into the mix.
I would make this again, with the following changes:
1. I would make sure the beans were even more cooked before I transferred them to the casserole dish (this should become my mantra, I think).
2. I would use more mint, both in the dish and for garnish.
3. I would chop the peppers instead of placing rounds over the top. I might still layer the tomatoes over the top--they break down more easily so they would probably cook into the dish.
4. I would sprinkle the flour over the dish before I put any layers on top of it.
5. It needs to cook longer than an hour at 325 degrees.
And here's the recipe:
Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Beans and Vegetables
Baked Beans with Mint and Paprika
1 lb. white beans
1 bay leaf
1 hot red chili pepper
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 med. onions, chopped
1 tsp. paprika
2-3 large cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped
2-3 tomatoes, cut in rounds
2 red peppers, seeded and cut into strips or rounds
1 tsp. flour
Chopped fresh parsley or mint
from The Best Vebetarian Recipes, byMartha Rose Shulman (Wm. Morrow, 2001)
Soak beans 6 hours or overnight. Drain and combine with 4 c. water, bay leaf and chili pepper in large dutch oven. Bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 45-60 mins., until beans are tender but intact. Discard pepper.
Transfer to an ovenproof casserole dish. Preheat oven to 325 deg.
Heat 1 Tbsp. of oil in nonstick skillet over med. heat. Add onion. Stir together, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 mins. or until soft. Uncover and continue to cook, stirring, until lightly browned, about 5 mins.
Remove from heat and stir in paprika, garlic, salt, pepper and mint. Stir in app. 1/4 c. hot water. Add to beans and blend thoroughly. Arrange tomatoes and peppers over top of mixture. Sprinkle on the flour and remaining Tbsp. of oil. Bake uncovered 1 hr. or until beans are very tender. Add water if necessary. Sprinkle parlsey or mint on top and serve hot.
Monday, December 05, 2005
I've already mentioned that I finished the first of the Lorna's Laces socks. It only took three tries (yes, I took it down to the heel once again when I tried to reconstruct how many stitches I'd picked up so I could do the second one the same and realized I'd screwed it up and wouldn't be happy with it). Here it is:
And here's a closeup of the lace pattern:
And now for the Koigu shawl. As I said, I also took the Koigu shawl I started a while ago. It's a complicated lace pattern that changes often enough that I really have to pay attention to it. But I thought it would be good to have something a little more complex to work on while I was there.
I was wrong. I kept screwing up the pattern and ended up spending as much time unknitting as I did knitting. I did make some progress, though:
It's going to be beautiful when it's done. Everyone was admiring it.
Recipe next. Consider yourself warned.
Sunday, December 04, 2005
"No one ever came to office hours except Rob Tway, who had always read something life altering and wanted to discuss its narrative arc and authorial stance and other issues of craft which I managed to avoid because I didn't really understand what craft was, frankly, and because I no longer read anything written after the Civil War. I endured these onslaughts only by reminding myself that someday Rob Tway would commit suicide."
--from the story "Appropriate Sex," in the book The Evil B.B. Chow and Other Stories, by Steve Almond (Algonquin, 2005)
Saturday, December 03, 2005
My foot. Modeling the fastest sock I've ever knit. Of course, now I have to make the second one. I'm going to cast it on tonight so I can have another pair of wool socks to help me keep warm in this cold cold winter we're having. Whatever happened to fall and spring? I wanted the heat to go away, but I was hoping for a little more fall before we went into the deep freeze.
I have to tell you, I love using the circular needle "Magic Loop" method. There's virtually no ladder up the sides and I don't keep dropping those pesky little stitches.
And now for the haul. While I was in Austin my sister took me to a knitting store on the Northwest side of the city--a place called European Knits. The shop is in the owner's living room and is quite small. She carries quite a bit of Anny Blatt, some Regia, Noro, Takhi, Stacy Charles, and some other brands I wasn't familiar with. That's where I got the sock yarn you were admiring up there.
But this was the real treasure she carried:
Old editions of Rowan Magazine and a German magazine called Sandra. I'd seen a copy of Sandra a friend picked up somewhere here in Chicago, but this woman had lots of issues. I had to control myself to just pick four, to which my sister graciously treated me. The Rowan are Issues 7, 9, 11, and The Rowan Liberty Book and there are some fabulous patterns in all of them. Sandra is like Rebecca, except that the patterns are a little more classic--not quite as trendy as the Rebecca. I can't wait to start matching up yarn with patterns!
And finally, for the next installment of HISMTH (How I Spent My Thanksgiving Holiday), here's the sweater I started:
It's Jammie from Rowan No. 28 in Magpie Aran. The yarn has been discontinued but I was lucky to find enough still in stock at the shop.
It's two-color reverse stockinette. It seemed like a good project to start in Austin because it requires very little concentration--there's no shaping so it's straight up 'til the armholes. As a matter of fact, it was a little too easy; I got bored with it pretty quickly. Which led to the Koigu (again, more later).
That picture is a little dark. I hope you can see the colors better on this edge shot:
This might get put on hold again until I go back to Austin in three weeks.
In the meantime I have sweaters to finish, both for me and for the shop, so I'd better get busy!
Thursday, December 01, 2005
I had knit about five rows past the bottom border when I stopped. So when I looked at it when I was packing I thought, "Here's something I can just knit straight without having to think or count." So I threw it in my bag.
We left at 4:30 in the morning, so I slept while it was dark. Around 8:00 I woke up to light enough to knit by. So I pulled out the bag and knit until we pulled into my brother's driveway in Austin at 11:30 that night. Here it is:
The flash shows the pictures in the Kureyon better but kind of washes out the Lamb's Pride. The bottom has much more blue in it.
I still have to do the handle and the sewing. I planned to finish it while I was there but started working on my other projects instead.
Now I just wonder how long it will hang around waiting for me to do the finishing.
More later--time to make lunch.
(The time is now correct at the bottom of the post. I looked all over Blogger help and couldn't figure out what was wrong so I contacted them for help. I got an automated reply immediately, and then a personal reply the next day after I replied that I'd already tried the options they suggested. So now I say you GOTTA love Blogger.)
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
For those of you who don't live around here, one of the El trains is decorated for Christmas, with one of the cars being a flatbed that carries Santa and his sleigh. The link provides a schedule; I thought you just had to be lucky to see it.
It's taking me longer to settle in than I thought so my show-and-tell show will have to wait another day or so.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Here's what I knit today on the drive to San Antonio then the plane to Chicago:
Bonne Marie and Theresa have infected me with the urge to make socks. I finally finished the first Lorna's Laces sock (pictures later) and decided to cast this on instead of fighting with the lace pattern of the second sock on the plane.
It's been a crazy couple of weeks. I'm scrounging up some dinner now and then I have to get ready for my rough work week--three classes and I'm working Saturday at the shop.
I hope to get back to regular posting tomorrow.
(I don't see the option that lets me change the time to the correct time. I'm posting this at 7:13 P.M. Chicago time on Tuesday, Nov. 29. I'm curious to see what time Blogger says I'm posting. Gotta love that Blogger.)
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
It's chocolate bread and it's delicious. The bread itself is dense, with just a hint of chocolate, but there are chunks of chocolate scattered throughout.
We just had it plain but it would be fantastic with some kind of nut butter, or Nutella, or just plain butter.
Go ahead. Have a slice:
Lynda turned me onto this. Thanks, Lynda!
Today we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo and I saw two things I've never seen before. A few moments after we entered the Lion's house the lion came in from outside, walked up to the bars of the inside cage, and gave a series of roars that would have made the MGM lion proud. It was awe inspiring.
And up to the moment the lion roared and I heard it up close and personal, if you'd asked me if I'd ever heard a lion roar I would have said yes, thinking I had. But once you hear it for real there's no mistaking it. You feel it in your bones. There's a reason they call the lion the King of the Jungle.
Then, in the gorilla house, I saw a mother gorilla cradling her baby. The baby was born in July, and the mother still won't let go of it and just sat there guarding it while the other gorillas wandered around. It was her fifth baby and the father's fist. She's 27 and he's 16. I like how things work in the gorilla world.
There were signs all over the place to explain anything that might be considered unusual in all of the habitats. I guess they want to be extra sure everyone is aware that they're taking good care of the animals after the recent deaths. While some of the animals seemed to be staying indoors and out of sight, we got to see quite a few.
In a couple of hours we're going to start the long drive down to Austin. I may not have the chance to post while I'm there, so I hope everyone has a safe, happy Thanksgiving and gets to eat lots of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and, best of all, lots and lots of turkey sandwiches!
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Then early early Tuesday morning we leave for Austin. My main dilemma now is . . .
What knitting projects do I take with me? What a dilemma, huh?
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
My brother and nephew are about two hours away and I've done just about all the cleaning I'm gonna do so I have time to post today. I'm really excited to see them. It finally got cold too, so they'll get some real Chicago weather to enjoy. I'm loving these grey fall days. Don't get me wrong, I do love my clear blue (if it's cool enough) skies, but there's nothing like a grey autumn day in Chi-town.
I've been trying to think of things we can do while they're here. Friends have given me some good suggestions. The only thing is, we're not really a touristy kind of family. Our idea of a good time is eating at the diner down the street and taking a walk around the neighborhood. I'm sure we'll have a good time either way.
And now a report on my night at Opera. It's a beautiful restaurant. You walk through red velvet curtains into a large room with tables spread pretty far apart. Everything is unique--the brick walls have a flower-motif painted on them, the windows have red velvet curtains, the lighting is perfect, and the ambiance is a good blend--it's quiet, but there's a hum of activity just below the radar that tells you everyone is being taken care of.
The waitstaff were all nice and friendly. Everyone ends up waiting on you at one point or another. The service was a little slow, but you shouldn't eat there if you're in a hurry.
I started off the evening with a Madame Butterfly--a watermelon cosmo with citrus Absolut and a twist. It was just slightly frozen and it was perfect. Lynda had a drink with cucumber and sake (I can't remember the name) that was also really good. But I have a sweeter tooth, so was happy with mine.
Everyone's food was excellent. For appetizers, Lynda's lamb ribs were barbecued to perfection; Larry's scallops were to die for, and Bob and I had the richest, spiciest hot and sour soup I've ever had. They bring vinegar and pepper on the side so you can adjust it to your taste, which I thought was a nice touch. It was so rich I couldn't finish it (and if you know me you know how rare that is). Terry had some Maine lobster spring rolls that were exquisite (I'm running out of adjectives here and I haven't even gotten to the entrees).
Lynda had the Singapore Noodles for her entree; they looked delicious and she said they were. Bob had Beef Kung Pao that had the most tender beef I've ever tasted in a Chinese dish and it was seasoned to perfection. Larry's shrimp looked and smelled divine (alas, I'm allergic to shrimp and so must rely on his report rather than first-hand experience) and he attested that they were, indeed, scrumptious. Terry had the Hunan pork (a chop and a loin) served with vegetables and mashed potatoes. He said it might just be the best he's ever had. And I had prime roast that came with vegetables and the most delicous little squash and potato fritters I've ever had. The steak was slow-roasted and had the most delicate barbecue taste. It was delicious.
Larry ordered the tasting menu and it came with dessert. The cake was good, but there was a scoop of curry ice cream and a scoop of anise ice cream that were incredible.
But the standout of the evening were the mirrors. They were so clean and crisp that it seemed like you were looking through a window into another room.
All in all one of the most pleasant dining experiences I've had. Great atmosphere, great food, and most important of all, great company. The only problem was that I woke up with a bit of a hangover. One drink, slipped slowly through the course of the whole meal, and still I get a hangover. Sheesh!
I can't wait to see where we go next month (and we are going next month, right?) . . .
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
I don't think I knit a single stitch yesterday, other than fixing some student problems. I did sew about 3/4's of one sleeve of Mavis. I met some friends for a light dinner in the late afternoon so we could see each other before Thanksgiving. That's right--Thanksgiving. It's now less than two weeks away.
This afternoon I'm going to meet Mary and give her my scarves for her craft show at work. I'm not expecting anything; that way I won't be disappointed. I don't know if any scarves sold over the weekend at the Austin fair. I'm a little afraid to find out--I don't think any sold.
I don't expect to do much knitting this week, and I'm not sure how much blogging I'll be able to do. In the meantime, I did find the lentil soup recipe in which I used the Trader Joe's black lentils. I made it again:
It's Greek Lentil Soup (Faki) and it's delicious. I'm sure it's good with regular lentils, too, but I really like the texture of the black lentils in this. I'll have to get my friend to take me back to Trader Joe's so I can get some more. It's especially good with brown rice. I got some Basmati Brown rice, also at Trader Joe's, and it cooked up beautifully. Brown rice can be pretty tricky but when I followed the directions on the package it came out just right.
And now I've got to get busy. I just got a five-box shipment of stuff from my old office that I have to unpack and deal with before my brother and nephew get here tomorrow night. Talk about timing.
But tonight's a treat. Tonight some friends are taking me to Opera for dinner. I can't wait!
Here's the lentil soup recipe:
Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Soups and Stews
Greek Lentil Soup (Faki)
From Beans: More than 200 Delicious, Wholesome Recipes from around the World, by Aliza Green (Running Press, 2004).
1 lb. (2 c.) dried brown lentils
4 qts vegetable broth
2 c. chopped onion
1 c. diced carrots
1 c sliced celery
1 Tbsp. chopped garlic
1/2 c. tomato sauce
1/2 c. olive oil
1 Tbsp. crumbled dried oregano
salt and pepper
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice (from 1-2 lemons) or red wine vinegar
Place lentils in large soup pot with broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 1 hour, or until tender. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, tomato sauce, olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 30 mins longer, or until soup is slightly thickened.
Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice or vinegar.
Monday, November 14, 2005
I was feeling kind of low-volume today and unmotivated, so I decided to set a goal for the day. Nothing major, just something I was pretty sure I could accomplish by the end of the day. So I decided I was going to finish the second sleeve of Anya. And I did.
Now I just need to block it and start sewing.
Saturday, November 12, 2005
And you know you're right where you belong when you're laughing at yourself five seconds later.
Perhaps I was just feeling overly frustrated by the ribbed cable scarf. I can report some progress, though:I've done three cables and it's starting to look like the scarf I thought it was going to be. I've had to redo each cable (I still can't get used to cabling the whole row), but it is getting easier each time. That third cable looks shorter than the other two, but I counted and it's right. I keep telling myself how much I'm going to enjoy wearing it when it's done. Just ten more cable repeats to go.
It feels soft and luscious. Yum.
Friday, November 11, 2005
It was good to see my friend--we've been talking regularly on the phone but I hadn't seen him in a couple of months so it was good to have the chance to really catch up on everything that's going on in our lives. And as a bonus, I was able to knit while we talked, so in the two-plus hours that we spent together, I crossed the hump on the sleeve I was working on.
You know what hump I'm talking about. You finish the front and the back and you're all excited because all you have left is the sleeves. Yay! Then you cast on that first sleeve and get going. You rip through the rib in no time flat, then you change needles and start the increases. And then you remember just how many increases you have to do before you get to the sleeve cap. And the rows between the increases just take longer and longer and it seems like you'll never get to that cap.
And then all of a sudden you're there, and you can start your decreasing and the rows get smaller and smaller and move faster and faster until you're casting off and you're done. And the second sleeve won't seem so bad, because you're no longer under that "just-finished-the-front-and-now-all-I-have-to-do-is-the-sleeves" spell.
So what you're looking at up there is the first sleeve of Anya. It desperately needs blocking, but it's done done done! And the second sleeve won't take nearly as long. And then I can put it together.
And then I can start something new.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Which is a much more Herculean task than you might think. Thirteen years of 70+ hours a week working (and other factors I won't bother to go into here) have made my apartment a pretty messy place, especially considering that I never fully moved in when I came to Chicago fifteen years ago. Most of my friends have never seen my apartment; the ones who have seen it haven't been here in over five years.
Not that it's gross, or anything (well, not too gross). It's just that when you've worked in the book business for thirteen years, and you've been knitting for over five years, you tend to accumulate massive quantities of books and yarn, and it gets hard to find places to put things.
But I'm making progress.
My brother and nephew are going to stay for a few days, then we're going to drive down to Austin for Thanksgiving. This will be the second year in a row I get to go home for Thanksgiving, which is my favorite holiday. It's all about the food!
And speaking of food (see how neatly I worked that into this post?), here's a lovely picture of something I cooked up with one of my favorite recent discoveries: instant polenta:
I love polenta but I hate making it. I like it firm enough to cut into squares so I have to stir it constantly for half an hour, which is a real bitch, and leaves an ungodly mess to clean up in the pot. Then one day in the grocery store I was browsing the import shelf in the Italian section (doesn't everybody?) when I noticed this:
It's just cornmeal, nothing added, but it's pre-cooked, then dried, so you only have to cook it five minutes! And there's just a moderately ungodly mess in the pan to clean up. I put a tsp. of basil in addition to the salt when I make it, then I stir in about 2Tbsp. olive oil right before I spread it out and it's mighty tasty.
The sauce is about as basic as a sauce can be. I slice up 6-7 cloves of garlic and saute them in a large skillet, then add a large can of stewed tomatoes (whole, diced or crushed), some thyme, basil, and salt, and let it simmer between 30 mins. to an hour, until it thickens up. Towards the end I throw in whatever vegetable I have on hand (it's especially good with eggplant, which is what's in the picture. I cut it in half, put it in the microwave for 5-7 minutes (or roast it in the oven for about 45 mins. in the winter), then let it stand until it's mushy, scrape the flesh out of the skin and add it to the sauce). The sauce is good with pasta too.
I'll probably be able to work on Mavis's collar tonight before the project class I'm teaching. And I'd like to finish Anya. It feels like all of my projects are dragging on and I'm never going to finish anything.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
When it was finally finished, I ladeled out a serving and sat down to taste it. I was a little disappointed; it tasted ok, but nothing special. And considering it made a TON, I was thinking how hard I was going to have to work to finish it all.
And then I had my second bowl yesterday, at lunch. As with most stews, it tasted much better after the flavors had time to blend together. I could really taste the vegetables, and the lemon added it's own fresh zing in addition to enhancing the overall flavor. I used about 6 cloves of garlic (I always use lots more garlic in a recipe unless it's raw) and that added a lovely roasted undertone to the dish.
I got sidetracked just as I was getting ready to put it into containers (half to freeze, half to eat), so I forgot to put the parsley in at the end. Instead I chopped it up and I just add a little before each serving. To tell the truth, though, I can't tell that much difference with or without it.
I also used a whole 6-oz. can of tomato paste instead of the 6 Tbsps. I hate having those odd amounts of leftovers, so I decided to put it all into the soup instead of ending up throwing the rest away in a couple of days.
I think it's also misleading to call this a stew. It's definitely more of a soup.
Now if it would just get a little chillier so it would feel more like soup weather. It's over 60 degrees today, for criminy's sake.
Ah, well. Here's the recipe (Still haven't figured out how to hide the darned thing):
Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Soups and Stews
Turkish White Bean Stew
1 lb. dried white navy beans, soaked overnight
10 c. water
1/2 c. olive oil
4 med. onions, chopped
4 ribs celery, chopped
2 large carrots, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
6 Tbsp. tomato paste
1/4 c. freshly-squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. cayenne
2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chopped parsley
--from The Bean Book, by Roy F. Guste, Jr. (W. W. Norton, 2001)
In Dutch oven, combine beans with water. Bring to a boil, lower, simmer, cover, and cook one hour.
In saute pan, heat olive oil and saute onions, celery, and carrots until they begin to color. Add to beans, along with garlic, tomato paste, lemon juice, sugar, and cayenne. Season to taste with salt.
Continue simmering for another hour, covered, until very tender.
Just before serving, stir in the chopped parsley. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Text altered; content's the same.
Monday, November 07, 2005
These are some of the scarves I'm going to sell at a craft fair. I told Mary I'd post them so she can grab them for a flier. I hope this works.
I'm also sending some to a friend in Austin who's going to sell them at a craft fair where she'll be selling her jewelry. I sent lighter ones there--I hope they sell.
I mostly worked on the scarves over the weekend, so I don't have much to show on WIPs. I should be able to work on Mavis's collar tonight--I'm about halfway through the ten inches.
Sunday, November 06, 2005
Friday morning while I was hanging out at the knitting store (yep, that's the kind of free time I have these days) Jessica was pulling out all kinds of lovely new colors of the Soft-Kid. There was a beautiful blue, a gorgeous green and the prettiest pink-purple I've ever seen. It's not quite as dark as in the picture--it really does look just like a fresh tasty bowl of raspberry sorbet.
How could I resist that gorgeous color for my ribbed-cable scarf? Especially since I was having so much trouble with the black? So off with the black, on with the raspberry sorbet!
And you know what? The yarn actually seems different. It's fluffier, and lighter, and you can really see the rib and the stitches. Even on the skein, the black looks tighter and smaller. You can see the difference when you compare the skeins:See how much fluffier the raspberry is? See how tight and anal the black is? I know it's harder to see a pattern with black yarn, but this was like the black hole of black yarns. I'm so much happier now. My friends around the knitting table at the Knitting Workshop will be much happier, too, without having to listen to my constant complaining.
And then I opened the book, started reading it, and fell into a story so compelling and amazingly written that I couldn't put it down. It's one of those why did I wait so long to read this? books. The first True Crime story is still hands down the best (not that I've read that many, but I've read enough). If you haven't read it yet, go pick it up now.
And then go see Capote. It's the story of Capote's writing of the book, and the effect the process had on him. Philip Seymour Hoffman nails Capote, and Clifton Collins, Jr. is equally powerful as Perry Smith, one of the killers. Catherine Keener is also good as Harper Lee, whose To Kill a Mockingbird was published during the time Capote was researching the story. It's truly riveting.
Friday, November 04, 2005
I started it while I was teaching a project class and I got a little sidetracked so I reversed the rib about halfway up so I had to rip it down and redo it. Once I got into the rhythm of it, though, it got better. It's kind of hard to see in black, isn't it?
Here it is with the first cable done:
The cable was tricky--I've never done a cable where the whole row was twisted. It was awkward on each side, and then for the next couple of rows it looked like I had done it wrong because there were just these little flaps on either side of the scarf. Then the little lightbulb went off in my head and I twisted it around and voila! There it was!
The second cable was a little less tricky, but it's hard to get the thing to lay properly, or to see how it's going to look. I was working on it last night at Knit Night at the shop and everyone got tired of my bitching and moaning as I was working on it. I expect it will get better . . . or I'll stop working on it.
I don't have pictures to show, but I picked up the collar stitches for Mavis. I'm about halfway done--it's ten inches. Then I just need to sew the sleeve and side seams and it's done.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
I picked this recipe because I found some beautiful green and yellow split peas at Trader Joe's, and I wanted a break from traditional Split Pea soup. The barley seemed like it would be an interesting addition, and I thought the spices would go well together. I got it from the book Soup of the Day, by Lydie Marshall. There are several recipes I want to try from this book.
As usual, I made the recipe pretty much as it was written. The results were good, but not excellent. One of the problems was with the split peas themselves, which never got soft. I'm a little surprised because I've always found Trader Joe's products to be really good. I've used their black lentils before (in an excellent lentil soup recipe that I hope I remember where I found) and they were fine, so I figured the green and yellow split peas would be ok, too.
Since they weren't, I had to cook the soup longer than I should have and the barley got a little too soft. And the peas never did get soft enough to disappear into the liquid like they should have, so there were little pieces of pea I kept running into. The recipe calls for fresh herbs and I used dried; I think the equivalents given were a little too much. There was a slightly bitter aftertaste due to the heavy spiceage (have I just created a new word?).
Will I make this again? You bet. I think it has the makings of an excellent soup. Here's what I'll do differently next time:
1. Make sure the split peas are fresh (sounds like a duh, but . . .)
2. Reduce the amounts of thyme and basil, probably by about half each and I'll do it more by taste.
3. Instead of the 8 cups of vegetable broth, I'll probably use 4 cups broth and 2 cups water. The liquid/peas ratio seemed a bit high on the liquid side and the vegetable broth kind of overpowered the split peas a little.
4. Wait to add the barley until I'm sure the peas are going to turn out ok.
I've been playing with how to show/hide text but it's trickier than it looked like it was going to be at first, so I'll just post the whole recipe here:
Home Cookin 4.9 Chapter: Soups and Stews
Zen Split Pea and Barley Soup
--from Soup of the Day, by Lydie Marshall (HarperCollins, 2003)
1 c. split peas
1 med. onion, chopped
2 tsp. celery seed
1/2 Tbsp. basil (or 1/2 c. fresh, loosely packed)
1 Tbsp. thyme (or several sprigs fresh)
10 sprigs parsley, chopped
2 tsp. salt, or more to taste
freshly ground black pepper
8 c. vegetable broth
1/3 c. pearled barley
In a 6-qt heavy-bottomed pot, combine split peas, onion and herbs; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour.
Add barley and simmer for another 30 mins., or until barley and split peas are soft.
Taste and correct seasonings before serving. Serve very hot, with a Tbsp. of butter swirled into each bowl if desired.
Text slightly altered; content's the same.
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Even though I'm knitting lots of frou-frou scarves to sell, every once in a while I like to make a real scarf for myself. This one will be from the Vogue on the Go Scarves Two, one of the books I got from my generous friend. It's a cable scarf. What makes it unique is that it's a 32-stitch cable--the whole scarf cables every 30 rows.
I can't wait to cast it on.
Here's the pattern:
And since it's a scarf, it doesn't count as a new project! (See how that works?)