Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays

I knit these little bunnies last year, but they're so cheerful on our mantel that I thought they deserved another chance to wish everyone Merry Christmas.
I don't have much knitting to show off since I've been cooking since last Wednesday, although I did knit my friend Julie a little mitten as part of a swap we did, but I forgot to take a pic of it before I sent it. I also knit a little sweater ornament for a non-knitting friend, using a pattern From the Wool Room. It's knit from the top down, and I think it may be my favorite "tiny sweater" pattern. I've tried a lot of them.

Russ and went to Solvang last Monday to buy some medisterpølse (Danish sausage) at Nielsen's Market for our Christmas Eve dinner. We also made a little stop at Olsen's Danish Bakery for some Kringle. Russ isn't too enthused about going to the touristy shops, but I did get a chance to buy a few little Danish paper ornaments.

I can understand why Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson would have wanted to live around Solvang. The view from the mission is so beautiful. We always take the backroads home just to enjoy the beautiful landscape.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Catastrophic Crab Dip

I have quite a few Christmas cookbooks, but my favorite is the Mystic Seaport Christmas Memories Cookbook. Last night I decided to make a crab dip recipe from it for a potluck at school. This doesn't sound like it should have been a dangerous endeavor. It was, however, the indirect reason that I ended up in the emergency room in Bakersfield forty miles away. As I was reaching for the crab in our refrigerator, I somehow snagged my wrist on the lid of an olive can and trying to catch the can, I ended up with a deep, two-inch gash on my wrist. It didn't bleed or hurt that badly, but it was scary looking. I remember looking up at the clock as I realized that I was going to need stitches; it was nine o'clock, the time that our small town's urgent care center closes. So, Russ, who had already gone to bed, and I headed to Bakersfield where we sat endlessly in the waiting room. I think my big mistake was telling the triage nurse that my pain level was a three on a ten-point scale. I should have said "eleven!" Finally, after five hours of waiting, and having answered "no" to four different nurses and/or doctors who questioned whether my slit wrist was self-inflicted, we headed home through the foggy night. When we got home at 2:30 a.m., there was the crab dip in the fridge. Paige had gone ahead and made it for me. She had gone to bed, but Kai was sleeping on the couch waiting for us to get home. What a nice ending to an unpleasant evening.

Crab Dip

3 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 cup mayonnaise
2 cups cheddar cheese
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 -2 tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
4 hardcooked eggs, finely chopped
12 - 16 oz shredded crabmeat

1. Process cream cheese, mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, lemon juice, and Worcestershire Sauce in food processor until smooth.

2. Fold in crabmeat and chopped egg. Pour in oven-proof casserole and refrigerate until ready to serve.

I served my cold, but you may also heat in a 350 degree oven until hot and bubbly. You may serve with sourdough bread or crackers.

Hopefully, you will have an injury-free experience preparing this wonderful dip.

I had plans for spending my evening knitting yesterday. Typically, because I have had so much work to do, I feel like knitting all the more. I'm almost finished with the "cableyoke jacket" sweater from Debbie Bliss's Simply Baby. I just need to buy a zipper. I really like this pattern. It was really easy, but the cables kept it from being boring. I'm proud to brag that I used stashed yarn to knit it. It's wool, but that's about all I know. I've had it forever. I think I bought it to knit a Christmas sweater from McCall's Knitting Magazine back when it was one of the only knitting magazines around.
This is turning into kind of a random posting, but I had to show off my mailbox cover. I think it's the perfect design for someone who loves knitting. I'm hooked on the mailbox covers from House to Home Ideas. Russ asked me today if I was part of a club with them where I get a new one every month...mmmmm. that sounds like a great idea.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Knit Cupcakes

I love Vegan Yum Yum's Knit Cupcakes. I've tried to make them a couple of times, and I've been only moderately successful; they're not easy. One thing I've learned is that Albertson's must not sell marizpan too often because both times I've bought it, it was hard as a rock. World Market, on the other hand, has nice, soft marzipan. I "knit" my cupcakes for a little knitting get-together with some people from work. I'm pretty happy with them, but I think I still need more practice. Luckily, I bought several packages of marzipan!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Loving Thanksgiving

I noticed that many people were on the ball and wished their fellow bloggers a Happy Thanksgiving on the actual day, but I was too busy cooking and then eating to think about that. Our family usually celebrates a small (people-wise) Thanksgiving since traveling during Thanksgiving seems pretty much like torture. The fact that we don't spend Thanksgiving with our extended family used to bother me a little when the kids were young because I wanted them to experience the excitement that my husband and I had when we were young, with lots of relatives and the perfunctory "kids'" table where we were free to eat black olives from all ten fingers. Both of my kids love our Thanksgivings though and the traditions we've developed for ourselves. As I said, we don't let the fact that there are only four of us interfere with going all out on everything. I can hardly bear to think about all of the calories we've consumed in the past few days. Paige insists, with little argument from me, that I prepare Nantucket Cranberry Pie each year, which is easy but wonderful. I don't remember where I got the recipe, but it was probably Bon Appetit. Kai had a slice for breakfast yesterday morning and that was the end of it.

Nantucket Cranberry Pie
2 cups cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup sugar

2 eggs
3/4 cup butter, melted and cooled
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. almond extract

Place cranberries, walnuts, and 1/2 cup sugar in food processor and process until roughly chopped. Put in 10-inch pie plate or springform pan.

Mix eggs, butter, 1 cup sugar, flour, salt, and almond extract until smooth and pour over cranberry mixture.

Bake 40 min. at 350 degrees.

Another dessert tradition that my kids insist upon is what we call "Carolyn" Dessert" because our friend Carolyn gave it to me. Actually, I think it's often called "Better than Sex Pie," but I didn't think that was such a good name when the kids were little or more so now that they're teenagers. (ha, ha) It's kind of a funny dessert for us to love because we think of ourselves as foodies, and Cool Whip doesn't usually fit with sophisticated culinary experiences. But, Thanksgiving isn't about sophistication, and good is good.

Carolyn Dessert

1 cup pecans
1 cup flour
1/2 cup butter
Mix together and press in bottom of a 9 by 9 inch pan. Bake 20 min.

8 oz. pkg. cream cheese.
1 cup sugar
3/4 of a 13 oz. tub of cool whip
Mix together and put layer on top of crust

1 small pkg. chocolate instant pudding
1 small pkg. vanilla instant pudding
Prepare pudding and mix together and use for next layer

Finish with remaining cool whip. Shred Hershey bar on top.

The nice thing about being stuffed is that you can still knit. We've had beautiful weather, but I've still spent a lot of time on the couch since Thursday just knitting. I finished another Thorpe hat from Through the Loops. This one is for my three-year old niece. I love this pattern although I was relieved once I got out of the complex pattern part. I really had to concentrate, which isn't something I like to do for very long when I'm knitting. I never stress myself about knitting gifts. I just enjoy finishing what I can finish. one year, I sent my sister's family their gifts in February. I'm feeling a little pressure this year though because Paige recently informed me that she' like some gloves. My kids have no interest in knitting other to make fun of me about it where appropriate, so I get so excited if either of them shows any interest at it. I want to hurry and get started with those gloves before Paige goes to Hollister and buys some polyester ones!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Lambs are Back

Every year, around Thanksgiving time sheep start showing up in the fields near where we live near Bakersfield. These aren't beautiful Shetland sheep, but I still love having them around, especially when they start having lambs. Russ pulled off the highway yesterday, so I could get a closer look at a flock. There were tons of lambs, not newborns, but still very young and cute. It seemed like there were a lot of twins, and the shepherd had tied their legs together. It didn't seem to bother them, but I wonder what the deal was.

Our mission yesterday wasn't just to enjoy lambs. We also had a visit to the library on our exciting agenda. I love browsing, looking for a book that attracts me simply because I like the cover. I hit the jackpot with mostly "foody" books:A Cook's Tour by Anthony Bourdain, Passion on the Vine by Sergio Espinoza (a book about wine and food in Italy; and An Irish Country Doctor by Patrick Taylor. Of course, I still have The Wee Mad Road, which Madame Purl had mentioned on her blog, on my nightstand and am enjoying it. It's not about food or knitting, but it's set in Scotland, which is almost as good! Oh! and this week's New Yorker is their food edition, so I'm set. I just wish I could read and knit at the same time, but I can't. I've tried.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thorpe Hat

I love the idea of winter: bundling up in warm sweaters, wool socks, cozy stocking caps and mittens. In actuality, I didn't really like the excessive cold when I lived in Nebraska during college and a few years after. I prefer our Central California winters where it's often around thirty degrees in the morning but hits fifty or more by noon. I may begin my day with a warm coat, but hats, scarves, and gloves seem superfluous most of the time. But, I love small knitting projects like hats, scarves, and gloves, so my "lucky" nieces and nephews get to be the recipients of most of my winter-type knitting projects. This weekend I knit the Thorpe hat from Through the Loops. It was an easy pattern although I did have to pay close attention to the intarsia part. The pattern also calls for a double-half crochet on the edge of the finished hat, which intimidated me a little, even though she told me not to be. Youtube is so great for things like that. I found an excellent tutorial that explained it perfectly. I've been meaning to knit a Thorpe hat for a long time, and I had several left over skeins of yarn in colors I wasn't crazy about, but I knew that my six year old nephew would love, so after a long Sunday afternoon of knitting, I had a hat. I still need to add the ties, but that won't take long. You just braid them.

I'm teaching Frankenstein for the first time next semester, so I double-dipped by listening to Heather Oardover on Craft Lit talk about knitting and Frankenstein. She uses the Librivox recordings, but I like how she interjects her "English teacher" thoughts about each book beforehand.
I also worked some more on my nephew's orange socks that I started on our little trip to the alpaca farm. I'm not using a pattern, and there's a chance that they won't fit him. Fortunately, my sister has several other little candidates running around her house. I'm kind of proud about how well they've turned out. I cast on 48 stitches and used 24 stitches for the heel. They're nothing great, but they look good, and they're a fun mindless project.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Alpaca Field Trip

My Xtreme Knitters Club went on a fun little trip on Veteran's Day. We visited the Silver Suns Alpaca Farm, near the Danish village of Solvang, one of my favorite little towns, even if it is a major tourist trap.

I've seen a lot of llamas, but aplacas are smaller, and they seem more friendly, like not as likely to spit. The owner was really nice, and took us into the pen with some of the alpacas. They were really curious and particularly interested in getting to nibble on our sweaters. After our little tour, she took us into her shop where she had a nice variety of beautiful alpaca yarn. Most of it was from her alpacas. She also had lots of roving and gave my friends a little spinning lesson with a drop spindle. I've tried before, and I just can't get it, so I didn't even attempt to "play." I did, however, have to buy a little yarn. She had given us that free tour, after all.I don't really know what I'll knit with these two yummy skeins, but I'll enjoyed just squeezing them until I figure something out.

If you're like me and admire people who whittle down their stash, but can't seem to do yourself, you should visit Rani's blog rght away. She's giving away some nice skeins of yarn. Hands off the pink! I have dibbs on it!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

No Time Spent Knitting is Wasted

I'm rarely tickled with my finished knitting projects although I'm often satisfied with them. I think that is because I often enjoy the process so much that finishing is almost anti-climactic. That may also be why I don't mind quitting halfway through a project. I had fun along the way. This week I unraveled a sweater I had started for my nephew, which I had spent at least ten hours on. I finally realized that I just plain didn't like where it was heading. Then I started the Every Way Wrap from the fall issue of Interweave Knits. After working for quite a few hours on it this weekend, I accepted that my cables looked nothing like the pictures in the magazine. I don't know what I did wrong, but I was way off. Good thing that unraveling is so much fun. On the more successful note, I did finish one of my calendula socks. It fits perfectly.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Busy Halloween

I knit half of a sock yesterday while driving to the coast and back, which is nearly four hours of driving altogether. The pattern is called Calendula. I saw it on Misandventures in Knitting, and decided that for once I would actually complete one of her projects instead of just ogling it. I'm on the heel right now and having a little trouble because the directions have some German terms, but I'll get it!I used to have a New Yorker cartoon on my fridge that had a woman and her husband talking to friends. The woman says, "...And we raise our own children." It was probably really making fun of people like me, but I loved it and felt like Russ and I could say that too. We could count the number of nights either one of us have spent away from our kids, not counting the innumerable nights they've spent the night at friends' houses. My point is that since we didn't have a support system other than ourselves as we were raising our kids, we have always spent a lot of time together, which was fun although exhausting too. As they've gotten older, it's been more out of habit than necessity that we do a lot together. It has also been more of a challenge to go on day trips that make everyone happy, but we've still managed usually. So, it was a big deal yesterday when we decided not to cajole our teenage children to go to the beach with us for the day. They were both invited,.. with the disclosure that our day plan included buying apples, going to the natural food store in San Luis Obispo, and finding a challenging hike that we'd never done before. Both offspring opted out: I think it was the hike that did it.Stop number one, Gopher Glen Apple Farm.I'm cheating with this picture, since Paige didn't go along on this trip, but it's a picture of Gopher Glen our favorite place to get apples. We've been going to get apples there for at least twenty years,an were there in early October but needed to replenish our supply. Thirty pounds seemed reasonable! Next, we stopped at Kelsey Winery. A friend at work had told me that we should try their apple wines. We did a little wine tasting and decided that my friend was right; all of the wines were delicious. That's big coming from me because I'm not that big of a wine fan. We bought an apple chard and an apple merlot.
We did some other fun stuff, but the "highlight" of the day was to attempt to hike to the top of Bishop's Peak. I gave up when the trail became just rocks, not because I couldn't go on, but because I thought that if I were a rattlesnake, that's just where I'd like to sun myself! It was intense and a little hairy going down, but mostly because I didn't have good tread on my shoes. Great day overall.We ended the day with a little coffee and after buying some incredible looking caramel apples, headed home to a night of little goblins knocking at our door asking for treats.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Cooking School

I live less than two hours from Los Angeles, but I only go there a couple of times a year. Today I had one of those days that makes me glad I live so close. I went with some friends down to Culver City to The New School of Cooking to take a class in fresh Thai cooking. I like Thai food a lot, but now I feel like I understand it better. The girl who taught the class just happened to be Thai; she taught a souffle class the last time I went. We did all of the cooking ourselves, but she gave us a cultural/culinary introduction beforehand. Her description of the peppers that are traditionally used in Thai cooking was a little daunting. She said that we might want to kick it down a step with habaneros if the Thai chilies were too hot. Habaneros are milder??? Yikes!
We worked with partners. I cooked with one of my ex-students who I now teach with, and is now one of my best friends. We prepared "Dry Style Panang Curry," which was exceptionally good, without being too hot or strange....except that it has pork belly in it...which was strange to me. I really don't think we should eat pigs, but they are so darn tasty, even their bellies!

Our "Dry Style Panang Curry" is in the small bowl on the far left. The cream-colored dish was called "Seasonal Thai Vegetable Curry, and it was also delicious, as was the clam dish right next to it.

Dry Style Panang Curry

2 Tbsp. oil
1 lb pork belly, sliced into thin tiles
1/2 yellow onion (thinly sliced)
1 cup coconut
2 -4 Tbsp. Panang Curry Paste
2-3 Kaffir Lime Leaves, julliened
1/2 cup Thai Sweet Basil (Whole with stems)
2 tsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. Tamarind Paste
1/4 red bell pepper, julliened

Heat oil on high in a skillet and add pork belly. Brown the pork stirring occasionally for about five minutes. Drain excess oil.

Stir in 3 Tbsp. of thick coconut milk, curry paste, onion, and lime leaves. Stir-fry for about 30 seconds until paste starts to brown.

Stir in remaining coconut milk into curry paste. Increase heat to high until boiling. Allow to boil for about 5 min. or until reduced by half.

Add basil leaves, fish sauce, Tamarind paste, and sugar. Adjust flavors if necessary and serve garnished with bell peppers.

Red Curry Paste

15-20 red chile (Serrano or Thai) Dry if fresh is unavailable
2 stalks lemongrass, chopped
5 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1'' section Galanga (Try finding that in Kansas, ha,ha)
2 - 4 Tbsp cilantro roots or stems
1/2 tsp. coriander, ground
1/2 tsp. caraway seeds
1/2-1Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. shrimp paste
2 Tbsp. oil (if needed)

Seed and soak the chiles in hot water until tender if using dried.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth.

Store in an air-tight container in the fridge until ready to use.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another Hat!

I'm not that excited about actual Halloween night, seeing that our neighborhood has seemingly been deemed by our town to be the neighborhood least likely to give out poisoned candy so that we often go through between 400 to 600 mini-candy bars between 6:00 and 9:00 P.M. On the other hand, I like the build-up to it. I knit a second little Halloween hat for one of my sister's kids last night while we watched Shawn of the Dead. I hate horror films...except for this one. For some reason I'm not disturbed by the zombies getting skewered or the whole "removing the brain" advice from the newscaster. Maybe because it's British. Whatever the reason, we had a pleasant evening eating a "Wildcat Special" pizza with Paige and her friend Veronica and watching zombies get blown away. I just make the pattern up, and I'm not overly happy with it, but it was fun along the way.
I have the temporarily on display on my mantel until I mail it on Monday. The cute little woodblocks, however, get to stay. I already had the little Arbor Lodge, which is located in Nebraska City, Nebraska, built by the founder of Arbor Day. The trees are new. They have lots of apple trees in Nebraska City, so I ordered an apple tree and another "falling-looking" trees from Cat's Meow in honor of the falls I would like to experience again sometime.It seems pretty obvious that I like to show off my kds, but usually I do have their pics have some connection to knitting. So, here's my connection. I have only one show on T.V. that I regularly watch. It's The Office. Jim and Pam got married last week, and Paige baked a cake to eat as we watched. What could be better than eating cake and watching a show you love? --Knitting once you finish your slice of cake!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Routine Smoutine

It seems to have happened again that I've disappeared from blogdom wholehog. When I'm disconnected, I'm really disconnected. I can't fully blame it on my busy daily routine although I am really busy, I think it's mostly that the endless September heat depresses me and for some reason discourages me from holding warm wool in my hands in the evening.

I don't really care for knitting "philosophy" books. I mean the ones that elevate knitting to a religion, basically. On the other hand, I do consider knitting to be far more than a hobby for me. The amount and type of knitting I'm doing usually reflects in some way on my life, at least indirectly. I'm always busy at the beginning of the school year and don't have much free time. Plus, I've been distracted by my poor mom's health problems in the past couple months. She's had cataract surgery, congestive heart failure, and lost a crown all within a month and a half...oh, and her cat died. I think that's why I chose to start the "seaside throw" from Debbie Bliss's Home. It's nice not to have to think too much sometimes, and this pattern doesn't take much thinking. I love it because it's easy to memorize, and I can just sit down and knit it anytime. It's comforting when lots of other things in my life seem hectic and out of control to have that throw waiting there to be knit whenever I have a little extra time. I used 15 skeins of Debbie Bliss Cathay in fuchsia that I bought for only $3.50 from Little Knits a while ago. It was a little "splitty," but overall, I love it and am looking forward to snuggling with my throw as the weather gets cooler.I have gotten in a few other mindless knitting projects lately too. I like knitting little pumpkins and found a new pattern on ravelry that I like called Autumn Pumpkins. I like the little attached leaf. I've only knit one, but I'll crank out more before Halloween.I also knit a little pumpkin hat for my nephew. It was easy too, but a little different from the rest.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

A pretty regular compliment I receive from kids in my high school English class is "You're the most normal English teacher I've ever had." I have heard "You've inspired me to major in English,"...about four times in...twenty plus years, so it makes sense that I've decided to embrace the first complement. I don't like labels and "normal" is in the eye of the beholder, but I think what they're really saying is that I make them comfortable, which is partially because I'm a part of many of their lives outside of school since we live in the town where I teach.

Even though it's often incredibly frustrating to live in a small, conservative narrow-minded town, I love many aspects of it too. That's probably why I love the play Our Town, except for the end which I think is kind of freaky because I really don't get the sitting in chairs things after you die. (OK, I kind of do; I just don't like it.) You could argue that Thorton Wilder's theme about the "universality of the human experience" isn't so "universal" anymore, but much of it is still my "normal." There are tons of lines that I love from Our Town, but one of my favorite ones is spoken by Mr. Webb, the Grover Corner's newspaper editor. He says, "...there isn't much culture [in Grover's Corner]; but maybe this is the place to tell you that we've got a lot of pleasures of a kind here: we like the sun comin' up over the mountain in the morning, and we all notice a good deal about the birds...and we watch the change of seasons." Living in Central California, you have to watch really closely to see the seasons change a lot of years, but I appreciate the point of this quote. It's why I love gardening, and it's why when I was browsing through an online seed catalog that I had to buy some heliotrope seeds. I remembered a line where Mrs. Gibbs tells her husband, "Come out and smell my heliotrope in the moonlight." I love that idea of just enjoying simple things. Well, I've gone out in the moonlight all summer long waiting for a lovely scent to waft through the air from my heliotrope. It hasn't happened. They're not that pretty either. (They're the purple ones) Maybe I'll go back to trying recipes from food in books I love because the gardening part hasn't worked out too well.

In fact, I really do need to do some experimental cooking because I've spend a lot of money on food-related books this summer. My favorite by far is Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life I knew about her blog Orangette, and I have enjoyed reading it periodically, but the book is wonderful. What could be better than good stories and great recipes? I read it in a couple of sittings. Yes, I am showing off my bookcase again in the first shot and the nice chair rail and dual-tone wall that Russ painted this summer.

Monday, August 10, 2009

No Fair!

My parents moved to Humboldt County in Northern California over twenty years ago, and it's become kind of a second home to my family. We visit every summer and spend our time hiking, searching for shells and rocks on the beach, eating great food, and just enjoying ourselves whenever we're there. We also almost always, go to the Humboldt County Fair in Ferndale. This year was the third time we've ever missed the fair. It doesn't begin until August 13, which just happens to be my first day back at work. How sad!
The only thing I don't like about Humboldt County is that along with great organic produce, liberal political leanings, and, of course, a sizable number of yarn shops, is that it has a disproportionate number of scary-looking homeless people. I'm not talking about hippies...I mean SCARY people. Paige and I always laugh at this sign near downtown Arcata. I'm sure it's a joke. ..otherwise no one would come through the front door because Arcata has to be the hippy capitol of the world!There's a really nice fabric shop in Arcata called Fabric Temptations. They also have a fairly extensive range of yarn choices, so I was more than a little embarrassed to walk in there and buy...two skeins of red, white, and blue stripe Sugar and Cream yarn. I don't have anything against Sugar and Cream. It's perfect for knitting dish clothes, and I wanted to knit a flower dish cloth for our dog sitter to line a basket of Northern California goodies I planned to give her. I still had the urge to say, "I'm really one of you. I knit with Manos de Uruguay, Lorna's Laces, and Debbie Bliss. I usually waste hundreds of dollars on quality yarn! I'm not usually so....practical"

Humboldt County beaches aren't the type of beach that you go to if you want to tan, but that also means they aren't usually crowded either. We usually go up to Trinidad for a day and hike around.

We made our perfunctory stop at Schat's Bakery in Ukiah. Kai got a cherry pie.

An additional tradition that we've seemed to be developing is to go to the Ukiah Farmer's Market. They had a wonderful yarn booth there, but I'm way overloaded with unfinished projects, so I refrained from any purchases. I'll plan better next summer.

Paige got a henna tatoo, which was supposed to last three weeks but is pretty much gone now, but it was pretty while it lasted.