Friday, December 30, 2005

A couple of quick pictures

Here we go. Pictures of the beginnings of the So-Called Scarf from the last post.

And now I'm going to go sit in my bathtub until I'm pruny, and then go get a growler of my very favorite beer (here's hoping they aren't out of it yet).

A stash usage breakthrough!

If you're a knitter and you have a variegated yarn that you're having trouble finding a pattern for, I highly recommend trying My So-Called Scarf. I have this Caron Simply Soft (Country Blue ombre... white, light blue, navy blue) that I bought without really thinking, so it's been in my stash for months. I've tried to start a couple of different projects with it, and I've ended up frogging them before too long because I didn't like the way the yarn was knitting up. I like pooling, but the color distribution in this stuff just drove me nuts.

Last night I started playing around with the Simply Soft again, and got out the pattern for My So-Called Scarf on a whim. And what do you know, it totally works with this yarn. There's also the added bonus of a stitch pattern that takes no effort to remember. Anyway, variegated yarn that you love in a ball/hank/skein, but aren't in love with when it's knitted? Try this pattern. It works with any even number of stitches (also quite nice), so if one has a thinner yarn than Manos wool, one can just cast on a few extra stitches to make sure the scarf will be wide enough. I may try to grab an in-progress picture tomorrow.

Monday, December 26, 2005

It's not Christmas until Chase loses a hand

Oh, A&E... showing a traditional 24 marathon... I guess 24 can never have a Christmas episode, because then the whole season would have to be Christmas. I'm quite sick of seeing ads for Rollergirls, though. What an irritating-looking show.

So, Christmas. I got my brother a pair of elaborate noise-blocking headphones for when he's listening to music on the subway (off-topic, he apparently walked to work one day last week during the transit strike... 130 blocks or so). I got seasons 5 and 6 of Seinfeld for my dad (and I think season 4 will be his birthday present, so he'll be all caught up). My mom got the knitted presents (Branching Out and a matching hat), along with a magnetic notepad and a package of fizzy bath things. Let's see... she didn't realize that the knitted things were handknit until I pointed out that I had included washing instructions. I'm pretty sure she loved them--she asked me after dinner if I had ever considered selling any of my finished items, so she thinks they're nice enough that people would want to pay money for them. :)

What did I get? My brother gave me American Gods and Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman... I told him a while ago that I had liked Good Omens, so I don't know if he remembered that, or if this was a lucky guess... regardless, good call; they were both on my ever-growing list of things to read.

From my parents (and yes, I'm aware of how obnoxious this list is):
  • A couple of shirts/sweaters
  • A wool/angora cardigan (I've been wearing it pretty much since I opened it, even though it's causing me some minor itchiness... and how much of a knitting geek am I: first, I admired the general pattern, and then I checked the fiber content)
  • A bottle of champagne and a wine-carrying bag.
  • A 6-pack of these ridiculously adorable Snapple lip balms... they're shaped like little Snapple bottles.
  • Bath stuff from Jaqua... Pumpkin Papaya Puree enzyme face mask, Buttercream Frosting body butter, and Orange Vanilla scrub. The stuff smells fantastic.
  • A big red faux leather bag that I feel has "knitting bag" written all over it. Seriously, it's huge. And has lots of pockets. And it's bright red.
  • An iPod nano! It's so TINY and absolutely adorable. I have to start working out now, so I can be one of those people who listen to their iPods while they work out. I'll have to take some quality time and load music on to it tomorrow... I'm so prepared to love this thing.
Anyway, Friday night, my parents and I watched The Day After Tomorrow. Kind of silly, and fairly implausible... but if you're a knitter, it's worth it for the sweater porn. EVERYBODY in this movie wears big knitted sweaters and scarves and hats. I love stupid disaster movies anyway, regardless of the presence or absence of knitted garments.

On Christmas Eve, we watched the beginning of the Christmas Story marathon on TBS, and then we watched Bad Santa, which my parents discovered last year on their flight back from London. This is why the Brits rule; there's no way in heck they'd show that on a US airline, but Virgin Atlantic had it available and basically said, "You might not want to let your kids watch it."

Christmas, aside from the giftage... Dinner was very good (and my mom was fairly unstressed about the cooking this year). After dinner, my dad and I took my grandmother back to her place, which included our annual trip past the big Christmas tree at the Commerce Bank office on Route 70. It's at least 50 feet tall, and is pretty darn impressive. Dad and I got back, and we all watched a couple of Seinfeld episodes, and then I introduced my parents to Office Space. They laughed through the entire thing.

Drove back today... hit a little traffic on the Del Mem, but that's normal for a big travel day (and I've seen it much worse than today). And I saw a pretty ugly accident in Cecil County... it seemed to be mostly police and fire vehicles, and not so much ambulances, so hopefully everyone was ok.

Here's wishing everyone peace, love, and happiness.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Alumni magazine

No, I haven't touched any knitting since I finished the Branching Out. Maybe I'll work on something over the weekend. It's weird; actually finishing something made me LESS inspired to work on my unfinished stuff, when you'd think it would have been the opposite.

I got my alumni magazine today. From what I've seen all alumni magazines are exactly the same: a handful of propaganda articles to remind you how fabulous the school is (the better to solicit alumni donations with), and the section with actual updates about the alumni.

I found out that one of the guys I was in orchestra with was killed earlier this year in a plane crash. The fairly small group of us in orchestra who were music students (as opposed to non-music students who happened to play an instrument, or the community folks) suffered through countless rehearsals where we'd all want to tear our hair out afterwards. That group of us would sit there putting our instruments away, giving each other *the look*. It basically said, "We just wasted another 2.5 hours, and once again, nothing is any better. We should mutiny." It was a nice camaraderie, built on mutual frustration and disgruntlement. Obviously I wasn't especially close friends with John, or I wouldn't have just found out about his death via the alumni magazine. Regardless, he was a great guy, and he'll be missed.

And I just saw that John Spencer has died. I don't think I've ever NOT loved him in something.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Tonight's baking experiment: the Prosciutto Ring from The Bread Bible (but made with bacon instead of prosciutto). It's a bread ring with little pieces of prosciutto in it -- yum. I felt like I needed something fatty and quite bad for me to counteract my recent weight loss. I was 90 pounds to begin with; I don't need any more of it to disappear, but I haven't had much of an appetite lately. That by itself wasn't problematic for a while, but now I'm losing weight, and that's not good.

Anyway, Bacon Ring. Definitely something I'll need to try again. First, I like my bacon crispy to the point of almost being burned. In the bread, the bacon has no way to get crispy, so next time I'll cook the bacon ahead of time. The other irritating thing is that it stuck to the baking sheet, despite an awful lot of bacon fat that should have kept it from sticking. Couldn't use parchment because the oven temp was too high, and I don't have a silpat. And because of the fact that it stuck like crazy, it ended up not being at all photogenic. Thus, no picture. It was pretty... until I forceably wrestled it off the baking sheet.

Other than that... it's bread with bacon in it: two of my great food loves in one wonderful recipe. Next time, I might also add some cheese to complete the trifecta. With crispy bacon and minimal/no sticking, it'll be a winner. I have to say, my apartment smells kind of awesome right now: bacon and fresh-baked bread at the same time.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005


No, this isn't about knitting. This is about baking. They're both domestic activities, right?

One of my favorite websites is 101 Cookbooks. She tends toward vegetarian and organic foods, which normally isn't something that would grab me, but her photography is absolutely gorgeous. Anyway, I love that site, and it's inspired me to try to detail some of my baking experiments here... on my knitting blog. Sorry.

Mediterranean Matzoh
Rose Levy Beranbaum
The Bread Bible, page 228

I've made this recipe once before, and was very pleased with how it came out. Last night, around 8 pm, I was feeling atypically munchy. This matzo recipe takes less than an hour from start to finish, so I decided to make up a half-batch for myself.

Even though my family is comprised of non-practicing Catholics, we always had an affinity for Manischewitz Passover matzo. I loved that stuff. I never put anything on it, because the cardboard-like quality of the flavor is endearing to me. We got the unsalted variety for a reason. I don't want to mess with that. Now they have garlic matzo, and apple cinnamon matzo... somehow, that just feels wrong.

Your typical store-bought matzo has an ingredient list that looks like the following: Flour, water, (maybe salt and some preservatives). The Bread Bible recipe has both AP flour and whole wheat flour, salt, water, olive oil, and rosemary. Actually, I should clarify that. Rosemary is in the ingredient list, but the recipe doesn't ever say to add it. Does it go in the dough? Do you just sprinkle it on top before baking? It's a mystery. And it's a mystery that i probably won't ever deal with, because I almost never have rosemary on hand. Leaving it out entirely seems to work well.

Anyway, a few minutes of mixing and kneading, 30 minutes of dough resting, followed by rolling out and baking gave me this stack o' matzo:

It takes 6 minutes to bake them, and with a couple of baking sheets going at once, that time goes very quickly. They're very freeform, and definitely not "traditional"... you can definitely taste the olive oil in the finished product, and there's very little resemblance to the cardboard-y matzo that I was used to. I can see this turning into something that I make on a weekly basis... easy to make, tasty, and keeps nicely for a few days (not that it stays around all that long).

Let's all take a moment and cross our fingers for my sourdough starter, which I might be testing out soon.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Look, I finished something

So, here I am, awake at 3 AM yet again, and I figured that perhaps I'd work with my insomnia and post something. I actually have a couple of completed knitted things that are done.

First, I finished my Branching Out last night:

And then, as I was sitting there last night looking at the scarf, I started to wonder how hard it would be to make a matching hat.

I'll get the pattern written down at some point so I can post it here... it took me no time to finish (I cast on last night around 1:30 AM, and finished it tonight around 11), and I'm far from the world's fastest knitter.