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?)
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
A friend of mine from the bookstore has started a website called Consumatron. In it, he reviews each and every purchase he makes, each and every day. Check it out--it's fascinating. There's also a link to book and music reviews called Mediatron.
I've already started thinking about everything I bought today . . .
It's the sleeves! Now all I have to do is sew it together and knit a 10-inch collar and she's done! Here's a closeup of the sleeve bottom. It's an easy pattern and I think it looks pretty good:
Now I want to finish Anya. I really want to start something new, but I'm going to try to wait until I have a couple more projects finished. I still have some scarves to finish by the end of the week so I'll be concentrating on those. I'll be glad when that rush is over and I can go back to just working on them a little here and there.
This weekend I saw Good Night, and Good Luck, and I thought it was excellent. David Straitharn is one of my favorite actors and he did an incredible job as Edward R. Murrow. The rest of the cast was just as good. The movie was subtle in the way it presented the issues it was addressing, especially the way women were treated in the workplace in those days. Of course there were the obvious political issues of McCarthysim, freedom of speech, the interaction between politics and television, and the impact of commercialism and entertainment on broadcast journalism, but I also liked the way Clooney presented the women in the movie. I don't know if it was intentional or not ( I hope it was) but the women were presented as realistically as I've ever seen in a period where they were mostly invisible. I highly recommend it.