Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Starting to Count the Days

I'm not counting the days just yet, but I'm becoming more aware that my days of leisure are numbered. Maybe that's why I've been getting quite a bit done latley. I wrote a post last year about our peach tree that hardy ever bore fruit and how I told it last year that it was on borrowed time. Russ was about ready to chop it down and then it had a bumper crop. This year, it must have still been nervous because it had hundreds of peaches. I'm very possessive of these peaches because they are incredibly good. I don't mind the birds sharing our apricots, plums, or figs, but I'll stand outside with the water hose to guard those peaches. The best method we've found though for keeping the birds away is to trick them by setting out plastic crow decoys from Cabella's.They work great for quite a while. By the end of the season, the birds have started to get wise, but we've had more luck with them than with anything else. We love to share our peaches with other humans and have given away several bags to neighbors, and a couple of night ago I made peach hand pies that my family agreed were about the best peach dessert they'd ever tasted. The recipe was easy, which made it even better.

Peach Hand Pies

2 tablespoon butter
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2/3 cup sugar, plus
sugar for dusting pies
4 lbs peaches, pitted, peeled and diced
2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 tsp. vanilla
2 (15 ounce) packages refrigerated pie crusts (4 crusts if homemade)
1 egg, beaten
Melt butter in sauceapn over medium heat. Combine cornstarch with 2/3 cup sugar; add to saucepan.
Stir in peaches, cinnamon, and salt. Cook until mixture thickens and simmers, about 25 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice and vanilla. Cool completely; set aside.
Cut crusts into quarters; spoon 2 tablespoons filling into the center of each quarter, leaving 3/4-inch dough uncovered on each side.
Fold dough over filling; press edges together to seal. Transfer pies to 2 ungreased baking sheets. Brush tops of pies with egg; sprinkle with remaining sugar. Prick the tops of each pie.
Bake at 425 degrees for 18 to 20 minutes until golden, rotating baking sheets between upper and lower racks halfway through baking. Remove to wire racks to cool.

I found a good-sounding recipe at Reciezaar and altered it somewhat. I didn't have any lemons, so I added lime instead. And Paige suggested adding the vanilla.

They were delicious. Kai ate three of them! And yes, he is about to use his index finger as a scoop.

I'm almost finished with my socks. They look a little goofy, but I'm still happy with them. I didn't try to match the stripes because it was so long between repeats.

I've been working on my Bear Claw Pillow too. I am in LOVE with the Jaeger Extra Fine Merino, I'm using for it. It's so soft. It reminds me of Aurora 8 yarn. The greedy part of me is considering calling Wildfiber to see if they'll semd me some more, not only because they have it on sale, but also because I've discovered that it's discontinued. I've been wanting to knit the Rowan Audrey sweater ever since I saw it on the Audrey Knitalong website. This yarn would be perfect for it!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Illusions of Progress

Before beginning my post, I have to say what a nice birthday I had. I woke up and Russ had coffee ready for me and my favorite Mornigstar Farms Vegetarian Sausage Links. Actually, he does that for me most mornings, but sometimes I have to put the sausages in the microwave myself! He had also changed our computer's background to a Grommit knitting picture that Cheryl at A Simple Yarn sent me a while back . The rest of the day was just perfect, nothing that exceptional, just relaxing and nice. Kai gave me a cute little inspirational book with beagles in it, and Russ fixed a nice dinner. The biggest surprise was Paige's present. In the evening, she put together a spa treament for me in the bathroom, complete with candles, bubble bath, a facial mask, classical music and a Skor candy bar. She had bought everything on her own, and I felt a little bad because she had told us she was driving over to a friend's house to pick something up. She was gone quite a while, and just as she walked in the door, Russ was saying to me that maybe I should go check to see that she was actually where she said she was. She heard him and was a bit miffed. She wasn't where she said that she'd be; she was at Rite Aid getting her mom a present! All of those nice birthday wishes from my blogger friends added to the day too.

I've decided that often I buy yarn just to make it seem like I'm moving forward with my knitting. If I need more yarn, I must have achieved something, right?. The fact is I haven't finished a knitting project in ages. Case in point, I bought this self-striping yarn at The Yarn Shop in Lincoln this summer. I had lots of free time when we were there, so I should have been able to finish several socks during our visit. I got half-way though with a basic sock and then decided that it was way too big, something that happens to me 80% of the time. I don't have a small foot at all, but most socks I knit are huge, even when I go down a needle size or two. I tried various patterns after that but was never satisfied. I do this all of the time. I'm like the frogging queen. Finally I decided to go back to the Citrine Sock pattern from Interweave Knit Holiday Gifts 2007 that I knit earlier this year. I had some trouble with it the first time I tried it but ultimately was very happy with the finished product. I've had trouble with it once again. I really think I have attention deficit issues. I'd get sidetracked while I was working on the heal and I'd have to rip it out. We're not talking a couple of times here. I bet I re-knit this sock at least ten times. I finally finished one sock this morning. This one sock is all I have to show for the month of June and July knitting-wise. I have, of course, continued to buy yarn, just a little less than normal.

I'm also not always so good about finishing books, but I still buy lots of them. if I like a book though, I'll finish it in a couple of days. I bought Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber at the airport this summer, and loved it. The main setting is an Iraqi Cafe in Los Angeles. Even if I hadn't enjoyed the story, I would have read it for the food imagery. Abu-Jaber included a couple of recipes at the end of the book. I made her Tabbouleh Salad, which I wanted to love but only kind of liked; and then I tried her hummus recipe. If was fine too, but not fantastic. I make a lot of hummus. My family loves it, but I wanted to perfect my recipe, so I started looking around. There are only a few ingredients, so most recipes taste about the same. I finally found what I consider the perfect recipe. My family agrees that it fab, and it makes me so happy to have my kids get in the fridge so they can get some carrots and hummus to eat as a snack.


2 cans garbanzo beans, drained
1/2 cup tahini
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. parsley, minced

Pulse garbanzos, garlic, and tahini in a food processor. Add salt, pepper, cumin, and lemon juice, and pulse several times. Add olive oil and pulse until smooth. Sprinkle parley on top.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Happy Birthday to Me

I turned forty-six today. It wasn't at all traumatic to me because I've been saying that I was forty-six most of this year. One day, one of Paige's friends said, "I thought you were the same age as my mom." Then it hit me that I was jumping the gun. I don't know what made me skip forty-five. Anyway, I'm fine with it, and I've already celebrated a little. Russ and I had planned to go pick up Paige and her friends from volleyball camp at Pepperdine University in Malibu yesterday. We had forgotten that Kai had an orthodontist appointment though. Rather than have his appointment postponed an entire month, we decided that Russ would take him and I would pick up the girls. I may not have mentioned it before, but I HATE driving in L.A., absolutely hate it. Then I got the idea to ask a knitting friend of mine to go with me and stop at Wildfiber in Santa Monica before we picked up the girls. We had no trouble finding it, and after driving around for five or ten minutes trying to find parking, we were in heaven. It was the best yarn store I've ever been to, and they were having a huge sale. My parents and my mother-in-law had just sent me money for my birthday, so I filled my new Wildfiber bag with six skeins of Jaeger Extra Fine Merino yarn on sale for 40% off. I'm planning to knit a pillow out of them, using Veronik Avery's Blear Claw Blanket pattern. It was originally published in Spring 2005 issue of IK, but I must have given that issue away because I couldn't find it anywhere. I also bought some Manos de Uruguay to make a felted bowl with. We really had a good time. I've read about yarn stores with "snooty" owners, etc., but Wildfiber has a really comfortable atmosphere, and they didn't even get irriated with my friend, Janet, and me when we had to touch some of the $45 a skein cashmere to our faces.

Pepperdine University is only about twenty minutes from Santa Monica, or it should be, traffic is always such an issue in Southern California. Paige and I read The Keeper of the Bees by Gene Stratton Porter a couple of years ago. Its setting was Santa Monica, just after World War I. It was a sweet book, and I especially loved the descriptions of the countryside. You can see why people were drawn to it, but there are so many people now, it's hard to enjoy the natural beauty there with building upon building everywhere. Of course, sometimes, it's the people that make it interesting too. We ate at Paradice Beach Cafe on the way home and had fun looking at the pictures of all of the movie stars from the forties through now who had eaten there.

I do love some of the Southern Californian beaches, but I'm happiest when we're places where the pace is slower, as it is still along much of the Central Coast. And I still think our vacations in Nebraska are perfect. My sister-in-law usually plans (with everyone's final approval) a great little "mini-vacation" in the middle of our visits to the Midwest. This year, we went to Mahoney State Park and Platte River State Park and stayed in cabins near the Plattie River. It was hot and muggy, but beatiful; and we had a great time.

The cabin at Mahoney had an increidble view of the Platte River nearby. .
The first morning, we woke up and saw wild turkeys just outside our window with a bunch of chicks. The kids weren't that impressed, but the adults were. We tried to go outside to get some pictures, but they disappeared into the brush.
Even though it was so hot, the kids went on paddle boats one afternoon too. It wasn't white water river rafting, but they seened to enjoy it for a while.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I DIDN'T Knit at the Olympic Swim Trials

Our whole family loves swimming, so when some friends from Omaha told us that the Olympic Swim Trials were going to be held during the first week that we would be in Nebraska, we hurriedly tried to order tickets. You may well ask why we didn't already know that the trials were being held in Omaha, but I have no explanaiton other than we've been busy. Since it was at the last minute, we knew we'd have to pay for our obliviousness, but we were willing, within reason. We found some tickets online for fifty dollars apiece, counting the handling fees, but it was too late to have them delivered to us in California. So, to make a long story short, my wonderful sister-in-law, who lives in Lincoln, took care of it for us, bought the tickets and had them delivered to her house. Two days before we were supposed to go, she got an email saying they didn't have four tickets available after all. By the time, she called us to tell us the sad news, she'd already fixed it for us. She found us some tickets for $20 apiece, which we figured would be better than nothing. We were a little disappointed but happy to get to go still. They ended up being fabulous tickets. They weren't quite as close as our original ones, but they actually gave us a better view than the other seats. What a great experience!

The night before we arrived in Omaha, a storm blew offf a portion of the Quest Center where the trials were being held. You can see the damage in the upper right side of the picture.That must have been some kind of storm.

Paige, along with half the sixteen-to-eighteen-year-old girls in America, loves Michael Phelps. He was in the very last race of the day, swimming the I.M. It wasn't the finals where he and Ryan Lochte broke the world record, but it was still exciting to see both of them swim.

Paige spent most of the time texting friends and "taunting" them as each familiar swimmer came up to the blocks; Natalie Coughlin, Brendon Hansen, Katie Hoff, and Dara Torres, plus others that she seemed to know about, but I hadn't heard of.
Kai was impressed some of the time, but he decided to catch some zzzzz's after a while. I thought maybe he'd get interested in swimming again after this, but he says he's doing track in the spring. Oh well, that's fun too.

I have one more Olympic note. One of my former students is going to the Olympics in the 3,000 m. steeple chase. He was a wonderful, well-grounded kid in high school, and it's been fun to see him continue with his success as a college runner in Colorado.

Maybe I can write a knitting post later this week...maybe.