Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's All About the Salt

My family has spent a lot of time on the Central Coast of California,  and I thought I knew Cayucos, the little town where we stayed this weekend pretty well, but it's changed a lot in the last few years, for the better, I think. It's still a tiny place with none of that Southern California congestion and rush, but it's been spruced up. Of course, that also means that we could never afford a home there as people from my town used to be able to do, but oh well.
 Paige and her "Auntie Ann" both love the beach. It was almost too hot for sweatshirts as we walked out on the pier.

 One new addition to Cayucos (Well, they've been there for four years, but we hadn't noticed them before.) is the Brown Butter Cookie Company. We were looking for coffee the first late afternoon that we pulled into town, and it was about the only place open. They did have coffee, one of my favorites, SLO Coffee, but more enticing were their shelves of cookies. Their signature cookie is, of course, their brown butter sea salt cookie. They're way too expensive, a dollar apiece for a little cookie, but they're sooooo good. I made it my quest this week to copy their recipe, and I think I came pretty close. It's al about the salt. I improvised a recipe I found from Food Channel, but this morning, I found an even better one on Maple sugar Lyrics' blog. Hers sounds more like mine.

Brown Butter Sea Salt Cookies


1 cup brown butter
1 cup light brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
sea salt

To make brown butter, melt butter over medium heat until browned. It will foam up a little just before it gets brown. Stir in brown sugar and vanilla and remove from heat, let cool.

In a mixing bowl add flour and baking soda  Stir in sugar mixture and let sit for half an hour or so.

Roll 1 inch balls of dough and dip in sea salt.  Bake for 12 - 15 minutes in a 325 degree oven.

So, it takes my sister-in-law coming to visit us for me to be introduced to "salt." How could I know that it was all the rage? Being trapped in a classroom with teenagers for weeks on end, I'm really out of the loop.  I don't know if my cookies would have tasted just as good with two dollar Trader Joe's sea salt, but I got mine at World Market as part of a set. Now, I can experiment with salt endlessly. Hypertension, here I come!  Oh...and I do remember that this is a knitting blog, but one has to have knitting accomplishments to blog about knitting accomplishments!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

California Weekend

My sister-in-law, Ann and nephew, Sam came from Nebraska for a fun-filled, long weekend last week, which is part of the reason that I haven't gotten any farther on my L'Amour socks than I was a week ago, not that I didn't try. We had a wonderful, leisurely time, and I had lots of opportunities to knit, but it seems that every time I ended a knitting session, I discovered that I had miscounted stitches. I happily unraveled my errors, and then proceeded to make the same mistakes again while busily chatting away. I still say that it's all about the process, but I was getting ridiculous. The socks are for Ann, and I wanted to finish them while they were here, but that was a little ambitious.

There's nothing like out of state guests to remind you of what a great place you live, especially when the weather is perfect and everything is still so green. When we weren't socializing away, we did a few things, like:

eating lunch at Moo Creamery in Bakersfield, highlighted by basil lemonade and incredible raspberry jalapeno ice cream.

going to Brad's in Pismo Beach for fish tacos and walking off a few of the calories with a stroll on the wharf.

stopping at Kelsey See Canyon Vineyards to pick up a bottle of Golden Delicious Apple Chard and admire the peacocks.

enjoying beautiful views of Morro Bay from our rented beach house in Cayucos, and ending the day, listening to the waves while eating some doctored up Ragu spaghetti and Apple Chard for the grown ups out on the deck.

visiting Heast Castle for probably my twentieth time, Russ's ten or twelfth, Paige and Kai's six or seventh, and Ann and Sam's very first. I'd say we were all equally happy about it. Hearst Castle never gets old. It's always unbelievable. Although the price has really gone up --$25 a ticket. Guess I've gotten spoiled not having to pay when I take kids there on field trips every year.

We went on Tour 1, which is the best tour for anyone going for the first time. We were on the veranda at noon and got to hear the bells from the bell tower, something they've recently started doing. Way cool! And that was only half of our four days together.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

I've been trying to enjoy every minute of spring out in my garden. Last week, I wrote a Facebook posting that said, "I just picked a worm up off of my patio and threw it back in the garden. It's official...I'm my mother." Several of my friends thought that was pretty funny, especially since I'm an English teacher, and I inadvertently spelled "threw" as "through." There was further evidence that I'm developing some of my mother's habits this morning when I went outside to check on my flowers and discovered slugs on my gerber daisies. I found myself a little rock and started squashing them. That'll teach 'em.

Between pulling weeds and ruining my manicure this weekend, I did manage to do a little knitting too. I love these L'amour socks from Spilly Jane's blog, and they were so reasonable too. The pattern called for gloss socks yarn, which is a merino and silk mix. It's not the nicest sock yarn, I've ever knit with, but it's the cheapest nice yarn I've ever used. I'm definitely going to use gloss again. Knit Picks is the best!

My sister-in-law from Nebraska, who is coming to visit this week, has hinted a couple of times that she'd like some wool socks (Actually, she said, "Let's go yarn shopping when I'm there, so you can knit me some socks!") I was so excited that she was interested in hand knit socks that I didn't wait for her to come to get them started. I'm not positive that she's going to like these. They are a little on the quirky side, but that's what makes them fun, and if she doesn't like them, I'll keep them and wear January. On the other hand, before I start bragging too much about them, maybe I should finish the second one since my sister-in-law is a bi-ped, after all.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Being of Danish and German descent, our family doesn't do anything for St. Patrick's Day other than try to remember to wear a little green. On the other hand, I'm always interested in having great food experiences. I waited until the last minute to try to figure out what to cook today. I discovered this interesting recipe for corned beef and cabbage pizza  though. Unfortunately, I discovered that you can't just buy pre-cooked corned beef, so I hadn't allowed myself enough time to prepare the pizza according to the recipe.

My solution was to replace the corned beef with Canadian bacon. I also used a layer of provolone instead of the Monterey Jack that they called for. I have to say that it was really good.

Paige is a vegetarian, so she didn't try any, but Kai did and seemed to enjoy it, which is saying something considering that it had a ton of cabbage in it.
Trader Joe's was selling Smithwick's beer last weekend, so Russ and I shared a bottle of it tonight, not because we are
 abstemious but because Russ failed to listen when I told him that I wanted to save it until St. Patrick's Day. Somehow by today, there was only one bottle left. Oh well, I'm not of a beer drinker anyway.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

More Sheep

So, the morning began at 5:30 for Russ and Kai since Kai had to leave for a swim meet at 6:00. I was helpful enough to wake up and tell them to hurry, but then promptly went back to sleep. Paige didn't go either since she's battling a cold. We eventually headed to the swim meet at 11:00 ourselves but had to make a perfunctory stop along the side of the road so that I could admire the sheep, which actually look a bit bedraggled considering all of the rain we had last night.

I didn't take this picture. Russ took it of a Great Pyrenees who was a little concerned about the woman who got out of the car to go get a closer look at the babies.

He wasn't aggressive but was pretty adamant that we needed to move along. He was wagging his tail, but he made it clear that he could take care of businesses if he needed to. I told him not to worry and got in the car to take this shot.
Got home in time for Russ and me to take a little nap on the couch. Gidget thought she'd join us even though she almost assuredly spend the entire day napping. I did accomplish a little knitting on our trip today, but I'll post about that later. I have lots of grading to do tomorrow, but for now I'm looking forward to a nice evening of watching Michael Palin's New Europe from Netflix, and knitting, of course.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Awaiting Spring

I have lived in Central California for most of my life, and the summer weather here is almost without exception very harsh. Somehow though, every spring I pretend that the flowers that I plant will make my yard look beautiful for months and months. There is a chance that they will make it until July though, and I enjoy them for the brief time I have them. I used to buy Shepherd Garden Seeds because I loved the pictures on the seed packets. Shepherd Garden Seeds has closed, but Renee Shepherd still sells seeds at Renee's Garden. I ordered a nice selection of them and started planting today. Zinnias and cosmos are hardy and come in pastel colors--the perfect combination for my tate.
As usual, I've had a pretty busy week, but I have also gotten some knitting in too. I bought this alpaca yarn on my  alpaca field trip last fall, and found a scarf pattern in Knitted Gifted that was simple and showed off the yarn well.
I'm glad that I have knitting so that I don't need to spend my evening worrying about how I'm going to confiscate cell phones from high school students all day long. Our dean (probably directed by those above her) has decided to wage war on them since there has supposedly been a rash of cheating and fight syncing (planning fight location via phones) among students. If kids even have a phone out during lunch or if they have one visible in their pocket, it's a criminal offense practically.  This is what I love about education. Let's make sure that teachers are focusing on the important things: taking role and trying to hold back the wave of the 21st Century. Poor Kai, he had his phone taken away today in class. I had a hair appointment, and my hair dresser called his phone to cancel. He had forgotten to turn it off since his friends don't call; they text. I can see that it was reasonable to take it away, but he forgot to go pick it up after school. It better be waiting for him tomorrow. I will not be happy if it is "misplaced."

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Lovin' Thorpe Hats

I really do love Kristen Kapur's Thorpe hat pattern. I can knit one in a day if I'm so inclined, which I was on Sunday.  I actually was knitting this hat for a boy on my kids' swim team who kept teasing me last week at a swim meet that he hoped I was knitting a hat for him.  I thought I would just go ahead and knit him one since I have a gazillion skeins of yarn just waiting to be knit into hats, and he did really seem interested in my knitting. Then my son Kai told me that that that boy had cancer, so I was even more inclined to knit him a hat. Well, Paige fell in love with this particular hat when I was finished with it, and commandeered it for herself. When I protested that it was for the boy on her swim team who had cancer, she said that he'd just found out that he didn't have it after all, and she didn't want some goofy underclassman wearing hats like she wears. Mmmmm, well, I was flattered that she liked the hat even if she does sound a tad insensitive. She has lots of other good qualities really....I guess I'll just knit that boy another hat.

I got Kai to model it  because he didn't go to swim practice today. He didn't go to swim practice today because he is the biggest procrastinator in the world and has two big assignments due tomorrow before the quarter ends. He thought he would just sit down and drink an Amp and eat a bag of chips before he got to work, so I caught him and made him be a model. He may not be the most focused student there is, but he sure is cute, and about as nice a person as you could ever meet. He would have given the boy who ended up not having cancer that hat!

On the other hand, Paige really does wear her Thorpe hats all of the time, as evidenced by a picture that she took of herself in the car today on our way to school.