Wednesday, January 27, 2010

O, Sweet Mistress

Each month in which there is a colleague's birthday, we have a birthday breakfast at work. This morning we celebrated for January.

I ate my sesame seed bagel and fruit. I went back to work.

The doughnut called to me.

I heeded its sweet siren song, and OH MY. I had forgotten how very good doughnuts are.

There is a reason why I am overweight, and it has a little something to do with how food tastes. Whatever I want to say about FiberOne blueberry muffins, they are not doughnuts. They're tasty, they're more filling, they're certainly much healthier, but they are not covered in sugary chocolate glaze.

It is a dangerous revelation to have right before vacation.

On February 9, I'm back on the wagon. Until then, I'm going to enjoy the dusty roads. May there be doughnut stands along the way.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

National Knit Mittens Month 2010 Project done!

I was showing my friend Brandy the progress on the mittens last week. She said she hated them. I thought a) this is a pretty strong response to a pair of obviously stunning mittens, and b) I was going to have to kick her ass.

I asked her how she could hate the mittens when they were so beautiful. She said, "If a supermodel threw acid in your face, she might be beautiful but I would still hate her."


Mock me if you like, but I love them even if they do belong on Next Top Model.

Since communing with the Buddha in the snow for a little bit, they have apologized for their ways and promise to strive to balance their karma. I expect good things from them.

And they are beautiful.

Friday, January 22, 2010


The mittens and I have made serious progress. I'm going to have to rip out the thumb and try that again, and I am afraid they're too long and that will be a horrific frogging session and possibly screw up the swirlies, but I refuse to accept defeat. Progress.

I am trying not to think about the fact that I have to do this entire process again for the left mitten.

In the meantime, I'm getting ready for vacation! Yes, there are the clothes and the travel arrangements and the reservations to be considered, but the real question is,

What will I knit?*

The project has to be small.
The pattern has to be easily memorized but not boring.
It has to be able to be put down and picked up and put down and picked up many times without fear of losing my place.

I've found four sock patterns I'm going to bring: Froot Loop, Hedgerow Socks, Bellatrix (ravelry link), and Circle Socks. Sometime within the next few days I'll pick out sock yarn from the stash, perhaps finally put the socks-in-progress on stitchholders so I can use those needles, and then I'll be good to go.

Vacation in 6 days and counting. Bring it.

*This question is followed immediately by, "Where is a yarn shop located at my vacation destination so souvenir yarn may be purchased?"

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Swirly &#*%)( Mittens

As promised, the story of the mittens to this point:

The blog where I found the mittens I really like had an interesting cuff. It's knit double. First, you knit the lighter color for a couple inches, then do a couple border rows, then knit the darker color for a couple inches. Then you fold the lighter color inside the darker color and knit them together, creating a fabric of double thickness.

Warm wrists? Sign me up.

First, I had a problem. The pattern called for size 2.25 mm needles. Those needles were currently residing in a sock-in-progress. Well, good grief. The next size up is a 2.5 mm, for heaven's sake. It's one-quart of a millimeter. No big deal.

This, of course, was stupid and a lie and would lead to weeping.

I also had decided that I really, desperately needed a braid. I had read about them in a book about Estonian Knitting, and I needed my mittens to have one--no, TWO. Yes, two braids. See the braid at the bottom of this mitten--the pretty blue and white? That's what I needed.

So, I bravely knit a couple inches of light silver, then started a braid that would actually form the edge of the cuff.

I don't know how many of you knit, so I don't know how technical you want me to be.

Twisty. Fiddly. Fascinating. Tangled. Slow.

And it was beautiful. Thrilled, I continued with the couple of inches of dark gray. I then did a second braid (see above for adjectives). Thrilled with my hours and hours of knitting and tiny little mitten cuff, I folded the light silver inside the dark gray, admired the cuff and its little braids, and slid the whole thing over my wrist.

I don't even need to tell you that the thing was too fucking big.

There was some unreasonable shock, some pinching of fabric, some pleading with Andrew to tell me that it really wasn't that big, some denial, and then finally--acceptance.

I ripped the whole damn thing out and started again. Now, as I have noted above, the needles I needed are in a sock. Instead of putting this sock on a holder or waste yarn, I decided to knit with the size smaller. You know, 'cause my hands are so small.

I know this is stupid, and I know there's a really, really good chance it will bite me on the ass. I am also more in denial right now than you would think possible for an otherwise intelligent human being.

So, where was I? Ah, yes. Frog #1.

I reknit. I rebraided. I reknit. I rebraided. I started the pattern.

After some time, I realized the palm side of the mitten only seemed to have the bottom half of a braid. That's weird, I thought, did it pull out? Stupid braids.

It wasn't for a few more rows that I decided that it could, possibly be my fault. If the braid didn't "pull out" of the back of the hand, why would it have pulled out of the palm side? That just didn't make sense.

I had to accept that I had just forgotten to knit the second half of the braid.

Frog #2.

I ripped out down to the braid, and reknit. This time, unsurprisingly, it didn't "pull out." It stayed just where it was supposed to. Huh.

Now, I'm not a visual person. I like words. Ikea instruction books are my own personal Kryptonite. This pattern is not really a pattern; it's a chart for the back of the mitten and a tiny, partial chart for the palm.

It's not a partial chart. It's more like a hint. A "take these few blackened squares and see where they may take you" kind of thing.

Frog #3.

At this point, I have begun seriously to ponder the future of these mittens.

The trouble I had with the palm "chart" is too lengthy to explain. The amount of times I ripped it out--well, it still stings. I kept trying to talk to Andrew about it as if he understood what I was talking about. "You see? There's only 16 stitches! But two of them have to be border stitches, and that means there must be two on the other side, and if I just knit to the end of the chart and then start knitting back to the front of the chart, I'll have this wonky spot in the middle, and, hey! Are you listening to me?"

I pressed on, and I finally felt like I had made peace with the palm. I didn't know if I was knitting it the way the "chart" author had intended, but it was pretty and would work.

At this point, I was smug. I had struggled for days with this mitten. However, I had prevailed. I was going to have beautiful mittens. I had learned how to make braids. I was knitting with two colors of yarn at once on tiny needles, and I was impressive.

The chart for the back of the hand is white with black spots.

I had carefully knit the chart with the wrong colors. I had used the dark gray for the black spots and the light silver for the white background, which meant I was going to have silver mittens instead of dark gray ones. I had already decided the pattern would show up more dramatically if the swirls were done in the lighter color, as in the picture on the magic blog.

Frog #4.

I don't need to tell you that I pondered the mitten for awhile at this point.

Perhaps it wasn't meant to be. Perhaps the universe trying to tell me not to knit these mittens. Perhaps I should move somewhere warmer.

I spent the next day at lunch researching mitten thumbs. The chart has a tiny black square that indicates where the thumb gusset starts. That's it. There's no instructions for how one actually makes a thumb gusset, just the spot marked for where you should do it. I settled on a properly Estonian course of action and made some notes. See that strange line of color on the back of the mitten in the picture above? That's where the thumb will eventually be.

The next evening I started again.

This time, it worked.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


I just had a brilliant idea. If I owned a store specializing in products for other weird, OCD types such as myself, I would make a bowl that had two distinct halves--probably in a yin/yang shape because, well, that makes sense to me.

What would this bowl be for?

Wait for it...

You could put hot apple crisp in one side and ice cream in the other. That way you could get the perfect spoonful of cold ice cream and hot apple crisp for the entire bowl instead of the current situation of ONE perfect bite and then lukewarm apple crisp swimming in a pool of melted ice cream for the rest of your dessert.*

The truly great thing about this idea is that when people look at you like you're a whackadoo, you can look shocked and indignant, point to the bowl, and say incredulously, "But that's what it's MADE for."

Someone should pay me for this idea.**

* Yes, apple crisp is in the oven. Why do you ask?

** Andrew swears there was a marketing campaign by Gargantuan Restaurant That Shall Not Be Named And Whose Symbol Is a Double Yellow Arch about a container that did this very thing. "The hot stays hot and the cold stays cold." I am disappointed and trying to decide if I should pretend he didn't say anything.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Catsup. Ketchup. Catch Up.

Last Thursday and Friday I had the flu. It was horrible, but I've had worse. I was still randomly dizzy Saturday and Sunday, but I felt fine yesterday and have deemed myself completely recovered. This particular strain has a ridiculously long incubation period, so Andrew is not out of the woods yet. Cross your fingers that particular virus parade has passed him by.

So, obviously no cooking as I existed on toast and Diet Sprite spiked with orange juice for days. Also no family party that was planned for this weekend.

There also wasn't a ton of knitting. I didn't feel like doing anything, including knitting, until Saturday.

However, before I got sick, I finished the baby blanket for the new niece.

I'm a whore for cables. LOVE THEM. I think they're stunning.

And yet again:

Pretty, right?

I'm a smidgen worried about the color. I did get approval from the father-to-be before I bought it, but I became awfully weary of the orange by the time the blanket was finished. I hope it isn't looked back upon with the same distaste I feel toward my mom's old brown oven.

I like to cross things off lists. This happens with my knitting as well. I have the tendency, not uncommon among crafty types the world over, to make things for others before I make things for myself. It's not because I don't think I deserve knitwear; it's because I like to cross projects off. Projects for others are always lurking in the back of my mind, and it's easier for me to put off my own stuff rather than stuff for others.

After finishing all the Christmas gifts and the baby shower gifts for the new niece, I decided to buckle down and work on some things I had been putting off for myself: namely, sock club socks and mittens.

The sock-in-progress has been put on hold while I work on the mittens. There are two reasons for this.

1. It's January in the Midwest. I have socks. I need an awesome pair of mittens. Andrew has told me that knit hats are warmer than fleece hats. I have a pair of fleece mittens and am anxious to test this for myself.

2. Apparently, January has been designated National Knit Mittens Month*. You may not believe me, so here's a link to prove it. Ha! It's on a blog on the Internet; it must be true!

I already had my design picked out. Aren't they pretty? Not only are they pretty, but the source is in another language! And there's not a complete pattern! Why make things easy?

Just for fun, I also decided that I wanted to add fancy-pants braids. Y'know, inspired by the Estonians.**

Unbecoming language and frogging*** began Saturday and has yet to cease. I will discuss tomorrow, when the pain is not quite so fresh. Unless, of course, knitting today also goes badly, at which point we may play a game entitled "What Can I Do With Mitten Yarn Besides Make Mittens?"

* I like this idea of designating months for specific things and calling it National Whatever. I hereby designate February as National Give Peaceable Liberal Presents Month. Celebrate accordingly.

**You know what I mean, right? No? It occurs to me that there is no target audience for this blog. Nobody could possibly care about all the weird stuff I talk about. Just me. I might as well start each entry with, "Dear Diary."

*** "Frogging" is ripping out completed knitted rows. Frog is used when there's a lot of ripping as frogs say "rip-it, rip-it" rather than "ribbit, ribbit" as commonly assumed. When you frog something, you just yank out the needles, curse loudly, and start pulling out the stitches. "Tink," by contrast, is when you use your knitting needles to carefully knit back one stitch at a time. See how "tink" is "knit" backwards? See also what I mean about no target audience?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Recipe #2: Success

I made this resolution to try 25 new recipes this year. The first one was baked apples and pretty lousy.

The second one, however, was yummy. I made butternut squash soup from the Weight Watchers site.

We get a produce bin delivered every other week, and we have two giant butternut squashes from our last delivery. I have learned that butternut squash is, like many other squashes, a pain in the ass to cut.

I finally got it whacked into chunks through a combination of two normal knives, an electric knife, the microwave, cursing, and brute strength. Next time, I shall know: peel it, put it in the microwave for a long time--maybe 7 minutes or so-- then try to cut it with a serrated knife. If it doesn't cut easily, put it back into the microwave. Let the magnetron tube do the work.

Anyway, the soup is just butternut squash, an onion, an apple, some vegetable broth, salt, pepper, and nutmeg. It's easy (not counting the squash cutting), it's really good for me, it's fairly quick, and it's tasty.

Oh, and it's a zero point soup. Granted, it wasn't zero points considering the amount of it I ate, but it was still under 2. I'll give those of you familiar with WW a moment to sit in awe.

After the squash, onion, and apple have gotten soft in the veg. broth (they say 10 minutes, but I think it's longer), I used my brand-new immersion blender in it.

It. Was. A. Whack. Of. Fun.

I love the immersion blender. It's fast! It's shiny! It made chunks of squash into creamy goodness! It goes in the dishwasher!

I am now seriously considering only making things on which I can use the immersion blender. It was that much fun.

Granted, it may become tiresome to only eat things that could be consumed with a straw, but think what an edge we'll have if either of us loses our teeth!

The immersion blender I have also comes with a chopper and a whisk. I cannot imagine using a motorized whisk without ending up with a kitchen that looks like it came out of that Facts of Life episode where Jo tries to open a pizza shop. However, I'm excited about the chopping. I may acquiesce to occasionally preparing food that has to be chopped instead of blended.


I figure I'm batting .500 right now, and that's pretty darn good.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Take a Load Off

First, my disclaimer: I love my church. It's liberal. It's honest. It's loving. It is open and affirming (read: loves the gays).

I love that there's room for me in this denomination--me, a left-wing, vegetarian, unitarian (in the old, literal sense of the word, although I love me some UUs as well) Christian who has somewhat stronger feelings about the Buddha than about Jesus.

Despite my deep love for the denomination in general and my congregation in particular, I am so excited to have just finished the year-end contribution statements for the church. I have been the Financial Secretary for the past three years. That's the person who makes the deposits and tracks all the income. It's been a concrete way for me to serve the church, I'm good at it,

and I'm ready for a break.

I met with the person who's going to take over last night and we did some training. I gave her the instruction manual I'd put together, and we talked about who would do what this next week or two or three as she gets oriented.

I'm going to drop off the year-end statements and some other stuff at the church today at lunch, and then there's one or two loose ends that I'll tidy up over the next few days.

And that's it.

I've told them I'm willing to do it again in the future, and I am. But for now, I revel in the idea that I won't be making trips to the bank every week, won't have to attend meetings, won't have to try to divine who has contributed stock*, etc. etc.

I've contacted our public radio station about volunteering for their reading program but haven't heard anything back. The lack of volunteering feels decadent and awesome. I'm not a power volunteer by any means--I don't do anything except this church gig. I do want to put something in its place, and hopefully the public radio thing will work out.

In the meantime, I'm going to watch TV and read Agatha Christie.

*Please, please, please, if you transfer stock as a donation, let the organization know it's coming. Those shares just get stuck into the account, and there is no way to track the donor. If you don't tell, we don't know.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Snow (Hey Oh)

Our electricity went out last night immediately after I got home from work. I put down my bag, put Dexter on his leash, took him outside, and when I returned a millisecond later, the power had gone out. We are in the path of a winter storm, but it hadn't gotten here yet. There seemed to be no logical explanation....

I briefly considered that 2010 had taken my last post to heart and was retaliating.

I then realized that was something a crazy person would think and that, perhaps, I was being a teeny bit of a wackadoo.

Luckily, my hobby doesn't require electricity:

It's for our new niece who should arrive sometime in March. Andrew dubbed it Red Hot Chili Pepper 'cause he's a genius.

In Which I Try Not To Be Discouraged

2010 is off to a rocky start. Perhaps it doesn't realize that I can trade it in at any time. Hear that, 2010?! You don't straighten up and I'll trade you in a heartbeat. 2008 never gave me this crap.

I made new recipe #1 last night. It was a new baked apple recipe, and I don't like it. It has nutmeg, cinnamon, milk, flour, sliced almonds, Splenda, raisins, and apples. I used Splenda and sliced almonds instead of sugar and pecans, left out cloves, and used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose. None of those changes should have been a problem. The recipe just wasn't good. I'm guessing there was too much nutmeg perhaps. I have a very tenuous relationship with nutmeg.

I was disappointed, didn't eat more than a couple bites, and have no idea what to do with a 2 qt. casserole dish full of these. It's not that they were bad; they just weren't good.

While new recipe #1 was baking, I got on the elliptical machine. Please note that it has been over three weeks since I worked out. Immediately my legs hurt. It was so immediate that I'm convinced it couldn't actually have been muscular pain. I think my body just realized that I was going to exercise and was trying to stop me. I did half an hour, which is two measley miles and earned me only 2 WW points, and I thought I was going to die.

After dinner, I decided I needed to reseason my cast iron dutch oven, which I love dearly... even though our soup tasted like metal last night. (Another kick in the head.) I carefully read and followed the directions in one of my new cookbooks. Now my entire house smells like smoky oil. Perhaps it worked; I have no idea, but I do know that my house stinks.

This brings me to my point: If you do something good and positive, then only goodness and positive consequences should result. You should feel great after exercising. Your cast iron pots should gleam in the kitchen light without making your house smell. Your new recipes should taste delicious because you made the effort to create them. It's difficult enough to do the things you're supposed to do without having the universe crap on you.

I do attempt to come up with something positive to say, and I've been working on it.

Reseasoning the pot is a good idea, and now it's done.
I did well with my eating plan yesterday.
Working out is good for me, and I am successfully back after my break.
The apples... aren't bad.
I know that I'm cranky and blowing things out of proportion because I'm getting a cold, and since colds are a temporary affliction, I just have to ride it out.

Being positive isn't working very well. Mamma said there'd be days like this.

As a gesture of appreciation for reading my cranky post, here is a picture from when Andrew and I went to a state park last January.

There is beauty in winter. There is beauty in winter. There is beauty in winter.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Plan

I don't faithfully set New Year's Resolutions, but I have this year.

1. Continue with Weight Watchers.

I have gotten off track, unsurprisingly, during the holidays and am now back on the wagon. I need to start exercising again, too, as I haven't done anything at all since the 5K. I keep reminding myself that this isn't really new; it's just continuing something I did last year after a short holiday break. No problem.

I am going to take a minute and plug Weight Watchers. I have only been on it since July, so I can't say that this is the plan that will enable me to both meet my weight loss goal and keep it off permanently, but I think there's a pretty good chance that it is. There's nothing magical about it, and it's not easy. I can't eat as much as I'd like, period. However, there's a Plan and Rules, and I love both those things very, very much. If I follow the Plan and the Rules, then I lose weight. So far, and this could change, there seems to be a very clear cause and effect in play. I know that people have a more difficult time as they get nearer to their healthy weight, but I am optimistic. It helps me, honestly, that it's NOT easy. It's hard work, and my hope is that if I'm willing to do the hard work, then I will succeed. Perhaps it's unduly optimistic, but there are worse things to be. At any rate, I've lost over 30 pounds and have less than 15 to go, so something is working.

2. Cook 25 new recipes.

This doesn't sound like a lot, but I really don't cook much and I become overwhelmed easily. This sounds like a doable goal, and if I meet it and want to do more, then so be it. I was given three awesome vegetarian cookbooks for Christmas--Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, Weight Watchers Versatile Vegetarian, and Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook.

I started reading the Bittman book, and after a short period of being completely overwhelmed and going through my cabinets with a yardstick trying to figure out what pots I owned, I skipped ahead to the soup section. I may start in that book with their vegetable stock recipe. It makes 3 qt., so I can use it for a bunch of other stuff, and making good vegetable stock seems like a useful skill to have. There are three different vegetable stock recipes in there (not including mushroom stock, etc.), and I've decided to do the one that takes the most amount of time. It uses roasted vegetables, and I do love a roasted vegetable.

That may not be my first recipe, but it will definitely be in the first few. Right now I'm trying to find an interesting way to use a ton of apples. We bought a bunch of fruit from a cousin for a fundraiser, and we need to be purposeful about using them. I already make good baked apples, so I'm in the market for something that uses a lot of apples, has low WW points, and is tasty.

I'll let you know. I am sure you await with bated breath.

Here's to 2010. It's going to be a good year.