Monday, October 30, 2006

Intentional cooking

Carolyn started a topic of "cooking on purpose", having gotten in a rut with family meals. My rut is a trifle less narrow than hers by description, but according to my family, not much less. I have certain easy favorites* that can be fixed quickly for those hectic evenings when 4 people are going in 5 different directions and as things get more hectic during the school year, we wind up eating these favorites more and more frequently. As complaints occur (as complaints will) that we have had something too often, I eliminate it from rotation for a while, but without replacing it with something else. This narrows the rut even more, to yet further complaints. Last year I instituted a rule that he who complained about a meal would cook the next one. This not only slowed the complaints down but improved the variation, so it wasn't all bad.

Last week I went to the farmer's market and bought a variety of things. One was a bunch of cranberry beans. I shelled them and then looked for something to do with them. Enduring Harvest had a recipe calling for cranberry beans specifically, but also 33 other ingredients which I didn't have on hand. Pffft. Maybe next time.

When K was toying with being a vegetarian this past summer, my mother sent her Vegetable Heaven. There's a recipe in there for Roasted Beans with Garlic and Olives. It calls for lima beans (which J won't eat), but says fresh fava beans can be substituted with good effect. I decided to try cranberry beans.

Roasted Beans with Garlic and Olives
3 cups cranberry beans, shelled, fresh (perhaps parboiled?)
3 T olive oil
1 heaping cup sliced green olives (I used italian giant unstuffed olives)
6 cloves garlic, slivered
2 tsp dried thyme

Put 2 T olive oil in the bottom of a 9 inch pan. Add beans, olives, garlic, thyme and remaining oil to pan; stir. Cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated 375 F oven for 50 minutes. Serve hot (or cold).

I wasn't entirely happy with the way the beans turned out which is why I may try parboiling them next time. The flavors were wonderful, but some of the beans were hard and crunchy. This may be because I shelled the beans a day before using them and they dried out a bit. Looking over some of the other bean recipes available, cooking briefly in water before adding to some other recipe seems to be a recommended procedure.

The total meal was:
Grilled chicken in Lemon Garlicious marinade (a marinade seemingly local to NY, think lemon and garlic in an oil base)
Roasted beans with garlic and olives
George Lang's Potato Bread with Caroway seeds from Beard on Bread, made with Yukon Gold potatoes, baked in a cast iron skillet.

I like to add just one new dish to a meal, so the chicken and potato bread are old favorites but ones we haven't had in quite a while.

* Favorites is defined by "my family will eat them and I can cook them without thinking about it, in 40 minutes or less"

Friday, October 27, 2006

Reading, reading

An Incomplete Education: 3,684 things you should have learned but probably didn't by Judy Jones and William Wilson. Wow. It took me two passes to finish this one off (I started it last spring) but it really isn't the sort of book you read cover to cover. Full of all sorts of trivia (my favorite kind of non-fiction book) about things that have danced on the periphery of my awareness for many years but on which I have never previously focussed my attention. Lots of fun, and somewhat educational. Although, except for those bits of trivia that really sunk in, it really only gives me a place to go find a piece of information again.

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Scary Stories 3, by Alvin Schwartz. Part of my new decision to read more of the "challenged books". When I looked over the list, I realized that 1. I've only read 21 of the books on the list* 2. I've only given my children 11 of the books on the list and 3. many of the books on the list are children's books written more recently that I have been reading children's books for myself**. The Scary Stories books are compilations of folk stories, urban legends and campfire tales. Some of the stories are ones I remember being told in camp before the counselors banned ghost stories as leading to inability to sleep and nightmares. The biggest objection on a personal level was to the illustrations - I can take a verbal description much better than the pictoral. It's not a book I would have enjoyed as a child, but some people like being scared. Not a book I would discourage my own child from reading unless it did give them nightmares.

Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite. A picture book. An obvious magnet for those who would sweep people with differences under the rug. I suppose it has its place in some people's lives, but it struck me as being too much like early feminist fiction for girls: no particular point to the story except the point being hammered in. In Mr. Willhoite's defense I will say that it is difficult within the scope of a picture book to get much subtlety involved. Only the very best author/artist combinations seem to manage it well.

The Chocolate War by Richard Cormier. A "did not finish". A type of fiction I just can't deal with. I read the first two chapters and the last one. I don't like mean sadistic people and rarely manage to read books about them all the way through. Unfortunately, a lot of YA fiction seems to be based around this. I didn't like it as a "young adult" and don't care for it now.

The Will of the Empress by Tamora Pierce. An excellent addition to the Circle of Magic books. Probably destined to hit the "challenged books" list, but, too late, I've already handed it to my son to read.

Young Warriors: Stories of Strength, ed. by Tamora Pierce and Josepha Sherman. Short stories by some favorite authors and some new ones. Some were ok, some were good and a couple were great. My opinion about which were which would probably be different from anyone else's. Another book to hand to the offspring.

'Ware Hawk, by Andre Norton. How did I manage to overlook this one? Addition to the Witch World books. Not my favorite but fun.

The Mirror of Helen, by Richard Purtill. I had read the first two books of what are now labelled "The Kaphtu Trilogy" but not this one. Very enjoyable rendition of the story of Helen. I'll have to look into the "Lost Tales of Kaphtu" that seem to be new books by the same author.

*It's actually more than 21, but the list condenses series' by a single author into one entry; e.g. All the Harry Potter books are one entry.

** I have been reading children's books, but very selectively, mostly by particular authors; this is in contrast to my younger days where I pored over the entire children's shelf and was at least aware of most things even if not interested.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Comments on Rhinebeck

It's still a long drive over there. J's brother lives on the other side of the Hudson and down a ways. Their winery is looking better than ever. The small tasting room is open and we had fun admiring everything. We then scooted out of their way and headed over to Rhinebeck. I saw a few people I knew while I was there, but not many. It was a total zoo.

These pictures actually make it look like there was space between the people but that's only because I'm claustrophobic enough that I can't think about taking pictures in the middle of a mob; I'm too busy trying to breathe. Some of the trees had glorious color to them.

We admired alpacas and llamas.

We bought some soap, and a sheepskin ear muff for K. I admired some handpainted cashmere and silk but resisted. I just have too much stuff at the moment to add any more.

I did get a bunch of knitting done on the way and on the way back. Icarus has progressed through the second chart:

Yeah, I know. It's lace and you can't really see anything until it's blocked.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Good news and bad news

The good news is the two mince pies and 10 pounds of potatoes (mashed) are ready to go to the Harvest Festival dinner tomorrow. The bad news is we won't get to help eat them.

The bad news is I can't count and the good news is that I have discovered this before I went overboard with going to far on Icarus. Some two or three weeks ago I got it into my head (about the time that I had too many stitches to want to keep counting them over and over) that Icarus had a 10 stitch repeat in the top pattern. Well, it doesn't. It's a 12 stitch repeat. Which makes the picture just fine, all repeats present and accounted for. And I fortunately figured this out when I had only two extra rows, not rows and rows of extra rows which would have made me very sad. On the other hand, I now have the question of whether I would want it bigger or not. But given that (as already demonstrated) I can't count, particularly with a two week headache, I'm not messing with it. On to the border.

And on to Rhinebeck. I'm not a square because I didn't think we were going to get there and if we did get there I thought it would be on Sunday, but if we get there, and we probably will now, it will be on Saturday. Sometime. We're also going to visit the new winery that my husband's brother and wife just had their grand opening for. I've seen it in various stages of incompleteness, but they're open and we get to see it in all its glory. Stoutridge Winery in the Hudson Valley.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The cat had a good time.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

This weekend's weather was different: Rain. Clouds. Rain with snow. Blue sky with puffy clouds. Rain out of a blue sky. Clouds. More rain with snow. The weather changed on average every half hour. Not wonderful for S who spent the weekend camping in tents, but he only came home tired, cold and muddy, not discouraged or upset.
The weather this week appears to be about the same (maybe 15 degrees warmer) but spread out more. Yesterday was sunny, blue sky with puffy clouds. Today is flat grey light, a sky with no hint of blue, and a drizzly sort of rain that promises to last all day. The camera is not at all happy with the lighting, and even with its flash is giving me dull out of focus pictures.

This blob is Icarus. Moving into the homestretch of the plainish knitting, the rows are getting longer and longer. Only 300 stitches or so, but it's noticeable that I'm only getting a few rows in at a time. I was trying to cheat get a ballpark figure of how many repeats were needed before the border started. I counted repeats in the picture, counted my repeats and had to recount each several times. I finally came to the conclusion that the model was shorted by several repeats from the instructions; each repeat takes 10 stitches, there are apparently only 28 repeats shown on the model and the instructions call for 375 stitches before moving into the border. No big deal except that the finished shawl will be bigger than the model which is a good thing in my opinion. And yes, all of this fussing and calculating did take a good deal longer than just looking up the stitch count in the first place. You be hush.
I'm still making progress on the silk on the wheel, but it looks just like the silk on the wheel from earlier. This is silk/merino (50/50) which my sister gave me for Christmas last year. This is the first bit off the spindle and is going to a. take forever and b. be gorgeous. With shifting into winter mode, the spinning can go a little faster since the silk isn't sticking to my hands with humidity.

Friday, October 13, 2006


This is the rework of the previously mentioned Dale-in-progress. I ripped back to the top of the ribbing, added the row of 3x1 ribbing to encourage the transition to be a little more smooth and then proceeded onwards. I've given no hint of scale, but the ribbing was about 3 inches deep. I had about 2 or 3 more inches of knitting done originally, and as usual, the sight of knitting going in reverse is deeply painful to J. I assured him that I don't think this bit will be done in reverse again.

I am, however, procrastinating on recalculating the raglan seam lines. I realized when I was looking at the schematic that while the overall measurements of this sweater as designed are the same as the sweater I'm supposed to be replacing, the underarm cuts 3 inches higher. Somehow I don't think that this is going to be acceptable. He likes the way the old sweater fits and I am pledged to try to reproduce it. (In new warmer yarn and with a different but equally subdued pattern across the chest, of course. And the addition of a short zipper at the neck, which he thought was a cool idea but not cool enough to go to a drop shoulder model. ) This means I'm going to have to recalculate the raglan seam decreases. Well, maybe not today. After all I don't need those calculations until the acres of stockinette on the body (and the bottom part of the patterned bit on the body) and two sleeves are done. Why I've got loads of time.

And in the meantime, we can admire what's left of the bit of snow that dropped last night. The lone remaining sunflower looks sort of ok from a distance, but it has that fragile ragged look about it that I think means "frost damage". I haven't dared to look at the mums and the zinnias in the front yard since the sun hit them this morning.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Opinions wanted...

I started a sweater last year from the Dale Heilo (100% wool) and only got about 5 inches done (ribbing up in the round) before the heat and humidity forced it to be set down. I was not very consistent in my knitting, apparently, and was having gauge worries before I put it down. (6 stitches to the inch gauge for the pattern, and I was getting 5.75 to 6.5, depending on where I measured). Having picked it up again, I'm now getting spot on gauge but the difference in the past two inches vs. the previous 5 was quite evident and annoying.
So, what was I to do? Rip, of course. The yarn I took out from the past two days knitting was not particularly kinked, but the yarn that's been sitting for six months was. I put it in warm water for 10 minutes and then hung it to dry and the kinks are mostly gone.
The question: Should I skein and do the rest of the yarn so it's all been equally rinsed hung and dried?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Red Scarf Project is a subject dear to my heart, for no particular reason except that I was a very late bloomer when it came to wanting to leave the nest. Had I been in a position of having no back up, I'm sure I would never have made it. So, with that in mind, my first red scarf: Stats: Cascade 220 (superwash), 6 inches wide, 64 inches long, made up the pattern as I went along with help from BW Treasury 3.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Neighbors and Beginner Triangle

The neighbors are planning their lovely Christmas party again. It was a very nice party with the minor problem of The Gift Exchange. (Just for The Girls. I think I ranted enough about "The Girls" as a title last time.) Everybody has to bring a gift (Under $10) to exchange. They all (The Girls) whined about not being able to actually See the gift before they agreed to take it. All the gifts (mostly) were $30 to $40 which they had thriftily made Under $10 by buying them off the discount and closeout counters. Mostly at Walmart I think. I wasn't enthused.
I'm going to have to consider seriously what to take or if I'm going to bother. I was lucky and wound up with one of the few things I would have given house room to - a "purse" which makes a nice knitting bag. Most of them I would have had to ashcan - heavily scented stuff, guaranteed to give me a headache in 5 minutes or less.

The Triangle is finished

I started with two kinds of top. The multicolored is BFL that someone in the guild dyed. That was one ply, obviously variegated. The other ply was the cherry that I dyed, Rosemary top from the Falklands. The cherry colored solid is the same shade as the darkest red in the BFL.

I started knitting in late July, just before going on vacation. I ripped back quite a bit because I felt I wasn't going to have enough yarn and shortened the whole thing by one set of diamonds down the middle. Done side to side, the center set of diamonds I worked to, and which I removed, represented 3000 stitches. A wise decision, as the bit you see here is all that's left now that I'm done.

The Beginner's Triangle from Gathering of Lace is a very nice shawl, with an easy lace pattern which lends itself to mindless knitting. All but one of the return rows in the pattern are pure garter stitch. The pattern, once established, is easy to see and memorize. All in all, a good beginner pattern.
The only tricky bit was deciding where the middle was and starting my decreases, which were dictated not by the size of the shawl, but by the amount of yarn I had on hand. This is quite large enough. It relaxed quite a bit after washing, giving me another 4 or 5 inches of width and another 2 of depth. This is irrelevant in this shawl, but would be a matter of serious concern in a sweater from a similar yarn. Done vertically as most sweaters are, another 4 or 5 inches of length would be quite noticeable.
I finished the shawl on Saturday, washed and patted into shape to dry, and then wore it on Sunday. Several people at church had seen it in progress and were interested in seeing the final product.

I ran into my neighbor after church. "Why Elizabeth, that's just lovely. You should make another one and put it in the Gift Exchange at the party."