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.