Friday, February 26, 2010

People Who Should Be Rich

This is just one in a long list of things that will be different when I rule the world. Sadly, I have just received my order of hamantaschen, so world domination will have to wait until I finish my cookies.

There are lots of people who should be rich and aren't, and lots of people who shouldn't be rich but are.

Let me note that I realize that, for the most part, if you live in the U.S. or Canada or Western Europe, you're obscenely wealthy by world standards. That, however, is a post for another day. What I'm talking about here are the people in the developed (whatever that means) world that do amazing things and yet struggle to make ends meet.

Here's my list. It's obviously biased based on my own interests. Feel free to comment on whom you think should be added:

knitwear designers - There are people stunningly famous in the knitting world who create gorgeous, ingenius patterns and yet still have problems paying their bills. I assume this is true for other fields as well.

teachers - I know they have lots of days off, but they also spend most of their spare time during the school year grading and planning. And they put up with children and teenagers ALL THE TIME. It boggles the mind.

childcare workers - Apparently my new niece had her first blow out--all over the couch and even, because she's an overachiever, on their living room wall. My sister-in-law said it looked like silly string. People who deal with this as part of their career deserve to have enough money to hire a personal chef. And cleaner.

authors - Did you know that most authors don't get rich for writing bestselling novels? How is this possible? Whom can I blame?

President Obama - I'm not saying he's poor. I'm saying he should be wealthier.

bloggers who are read and enjoyed by a gajillion people - Yarn Harlot and Crazy Aunt Purl, I'm looking at you.

people who do all the real work in a job (as opposed to those who are clueless about what actually is done but yet get paid an obscene amount of money because of their title)

I'm confident there are many, many more, but I have sufficiently vented my grumpiness. Now, I'm going to go eat hamantaschen.

Have a nice weekend, everyone!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Big Yarn on Big Needles

I adore knitting. However, I understand that many people equate it with a) rocking chairs, and/or b) horrifying sweaters sporting giant wildlife in silhouette. As for the first concern, I am not too bothered. The people who think my knitting hobby is geriatric are probably the same people who think reading is for losers. I pay no attention to them.

As for the second, well... I know. I have a little saying I like to tote out while looking through knitting magazines: "Just because you can, doesn't mean you should." There are a lot of ugly knitting patterns out there.

However, there are also some gorgeous ones. My next project is the Helleborus Yoke sweater. It's going to be gray. Or grey. I haven't decided. I've swatched, ripped out the swatch, changed needles, swatched again, puzzled over swatch, started sweater and now need to rip out the bit I've knitted 'cause I made a mistake on the first row.

Basically, it's going as expected.

I'm excited about it. It's strange to knit chunky yarn on big needles after doing so many socks. It feels like the project just flies. Of course, the project would fly more if I didn't have to rip out everything I knit, but I can't have everything.

When there's actually yarn in rows on needles, I'll insert a picture. For now, look at the yarn and the sweater photo and imagine how awesome it's going to be.

Nice, right?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Recipes #5 - #7

Yesterday was an ambitious Tuesday. We get a produce bin delivered every other week, and it is my goal to use up all the produce in the bin. This usually doesn't work--a bunch of parsley is A BUNCH of parsley, but I continue to try.

For Recipe #5, I had everything except for the pumpkin seeds. (As an aside, I stopped at a grocery I don't usually frequent on the way home from work. I couldn't find the pumpkin seeds. Turns out, they're with the beer. Huh.)

This is Sweet Potato Salad with Apple and Avocado from Vegetarian Times. We ate it over salad greens.

A word about sweet potatoes--actually, the same word I use for butternut squash: HARD. After two knives, much pain, and a pretty childish flipping off of the sweet potatoes, Andrew took over with knife #3 and whacked them into chunks for me. I later found that I had actually cut the heel of my hand on the back of the knife from pressing so hard. I didn't even know that was possible. It still hurts this morning. I am a delicate flower. I am also in need of a) knife skills and b) better knives. Or a personal chef. That would work just as well.

Besides cutting the sweet potatoes, everything else went well. This recipe is sweet potato, apple, onion (which I omitted), cilantro, lime juice, olive oil, corn, pumpkin seeds, and black pepper. If I could find the sweet potato already cut and in the freezer section, I would seriously consider making this again. As it is, I enjoyed it last night and will enjoy leftovers.

Recipe #6 was Mexican-Flavored Edamame, and it was really, really good. Boil edamame, drain, mix with red cayenne pepper, cumin, and chili powder. Eat. Weight Watchers also has Japanese and Indian versions, so I can eat edamame all the time. Since it's a good source of protein, I probably will.

I stuck some multigrain bread under the broiler to round out the dinner. Here's how pretty everything looked on the plate. The cilantro is on the side since the friend who came for dinner (and to help prepare) doesn't like it.

For dessert, I made Recipe #7, also a Weight Watchers one: Twice Baked Apples with Cinnamon-Yogurt Vanilla Sauce. As far as I can tell, there's no "twice baked" about it, but it does make it sound fancier. It's done in the microwave and uses applesauce to keep the apples very moist. Andrew thought they could be sweeter, but I liked it as is. I'm thinking he can sprinkle more Splenda brown sugar on his next time.

This is a pretty easy way to use apples, and spooning some yogurt over the top and sprinkling it with cinnamon takes no time but makes it feel very elegant. I'm a fan.
I'm going to call all of those successes. Seven down, eighteen to go.*
*I called my mom last night, and she said, "I thought you were making one new recipe a week!" Um, no. Twenty-five in 2010 is a good goal for me, thankyouverymuch.

Introversion, or Why I'm Not Crazy

Lynn sent me this link, which talks about introversion. The site is to help counselors understand introverts and the different approaches they might use with introverts as compared to extroverts.

I was surprised to see that only 25-30% of the population are introverted. One out of four? How is that possible? I realize introverts tend to either a) stay at home or b) befriend likeminded introverts. It's reasonable that I think there are a lot more of us than there really are because almost all of my friends are introverted. Extroverts take too much energy.

I was thinking about introversion this past weekend while we were spending a lot of time with Andrew's brother and sister-in-law and our new niece. Andrew and I kept telling the new parents that they should feel free to tell everyone to go home if that's what they wanted. It occurred to me that perhaps they don't feel exhausted by having people around. I've heard, although I've never understood it, that some people gain energy by being around others. According to that website, apparently three-fourths of the population does this.

Huh. I wonder what that would be like.

On a slightly related note, I wonder what percentage of bloggers are introverts. I'm guessing that the percentage is much higher than 25-30%. Here we can think and think and think and write and edit and rewrite and edit again before we release our thoughts into the world. It's so much easier than talking. Sadly, you don't get an edit button for talking.

So, if there are any extroverts who happen upon this blog (although from the website's definition of an extrovert's understanding of the Internet that isn't very likely), here are some things to know:
  • Just because you make us tired doesn't mean we don't love you. We may love you very much.
  • That doesn't mean we want to spend all our time with you.
  • Not having something to say every moment we are together is not a crisis. I know that's hard to believe, but it's not. There is such a thing as a peaceful silence. Or, there would be if you'd stop freaking out that we're not talking.
  • We have many interests and hobbies. We are not all crazy cat ladies... although some of us are.
  • "Introverted" does not equal "shy." An introvert replenishes her emotional energy by being alone or with a very few, close friends. An extrovert replenishes her emotional energy by being with lots of people. Basically, extroverts are vampiric whereas introverts get what they need from themselves. I'm just sayin'.
  • It may take us awhile to get what we're thinking out of our mouths, but HOO BOY it will be worth it when we do.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Knitting Olympic Gold!

Tonight I earned Knitting Olympic gold.

Leyburn Pattern, Rockin' Sock Club July 2009 yarn - Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks That Rock Lightweight in Garden Daze colorway

I'm not sure what's more impressive: these socks or the aerial skiing in the background.

Okay, maybe the skiing. Still, I love these socks!

Potholes at Dinner

Last night Andrew and I tried to go to the new Mexican place very near our house. The old Mexican place very near our house was terrible. Our hope is that the new place will be great and we can walk to and from dinner to burn off some of the chips and queso.

The restaurant was closed, and there were no hours posted. There was a menu, and it had breakfast items, so perhaps it's a breakfast and lunch place.

Undaunted, we went to a big chain Mexican place. There were two vegetarian options. The author of the book that turned me vegetarian said that there will always be one vegetarian option on a restaurant's menu. Don't think too much about it; just order it. That's become my motto.

I ordered the spinach quesadilla, which came with beans and rice. The server asked me if I was vegetarian, and then said, "The beans have pork in them and the rice is cooked in chicken stock."

I'm afraid my mouth stayed open for awhile. She kindly told me the only two sides not cooked in meat, and that's what I had.

I had to talk myself down from a full-blown freakout though. I eat at Mexican restaurants a lot. I've never asked about their rice and beans because, well.... they're RICE and BEANS. I cook my rice and beans with water.

Now I'm wondering if I need to announce to every server at every restaurant that I'm vegetarian and specifically ask if the things I'm ordering have somehow been coupled with animal.

It's frustrating. I don't like drawing attention to myself.

That's all I have to say about that.

Friday, February 19, 2010

New Additions

I'm halfway to my Knitting Olympic goal!

I love these socks. (Okay, technically, it's just one sock. I love this sock.) I love the yarn. I love the pattern. I love the pattern with the yarn. I have a feeling there will be more Leyburns in my future.

Do you know what, besides sitting on the couch watching the Olympics, gives you lots of time to knit?

Waiting for this:

Our new niece, Ruth Allison, was born yesterday afternoon at 1:05 p.m. Everyone is doing well.

Welcome to the family!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Knitting Olympics

Some random things to get out of the way:

1. Recipe #4 was very good. I had a bowl of soup with some lime hot sauce and sour cream last night. I also put some multigrain bread under the broiler for a few minutes. It was astounding how good it was. I'm not sure why I don't do that more often. Now I will. There's a very good chance I will eat the same thing tonight for supper... and maybe the night after that.

2. Remember how I spent all that time picking patterns and yarn and planning for vacation knitting? Turns out I did a lot more reading than knitting, so the only socks I finished were Cat Bordhi's Knetted, which were the September, 2009 Rockin' Sock Club socks.

I love them. I would note that regardless of how good a knitter you are, I would not recommend knitting a toe in a dark minivan on the road. The first one, surprisingly, went well, and so I got cocky on the second. I also spent the next day ripping it out and reknitting.

3. I just had my first hamantaschen of the season. See also: Reasons Why I Struggle With My Weight

Now, to the main point of this post. As you know, the Olympic Winter Games are in progress. As you may or may not know, this means that the Knitting Olympics are also in progress. The short version of this is that you pick your own knitting project, cast on not before the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Games, and finish by the end of the Closing Ceremonies. That means you have seventeen days to complete a project. One group of participating knitters and their intentions can be found here. There's also a giant Olympic knitting celebration on Ravelry, so I've listed my intent both places.

My goal is to finish the 2009 sock club. For me, this means that I needed to complete the November pair and knit something with the July yarn. The November socks don't technically count as an Olympic entry because they were started before Opening Ceremonies, but I have finished them and they are stellar.

I'd like to give you a better picture, but they're hard to photograph since the yarn is so dark. Really, really pretty though. I'm currently wearing them, and I'd be happy to show them to you if you come to my work. My colleagues are used to weird stuff like that.

Now that they're finished, I've moved on to my official Knitting Olympics project--using the July yarn Garden Daze. I'm using the Leyburn pattern because it's supposed to work well with multicolored yarn. I'm smitten.

Super, super pretty, and it works very nice with this yarn. I've checked out pictures of other patterns people have used with this yarn, and there's a lot of pooling going on--there's even pooling happening in the little bit of ribbing at the cuff. I think this pattern will effectively avoid that.

Now, I love me some Internet. I love that the online knitting community is such that I was able to send a message to the designer yesterday asking her opinion about a modification I was making to the sock. (It's designed toe-up, which I find much more fiddly than cuff-down, so I'm knitting it cuff-down.) I was worried about the number of stitches I was using on the leg of the sock and whether it would be too big. Knitting Olympics! Time constraints! Must not have to frog!

Her prompt response:

My response:I would like to take this opportunity to thank the designer for her kindness. She could easily have ignored me or said something like, "Oh, I don't know, why don't you KNIT A SWATCH like every pattern in the history of patterns tells you to do?!"

I love knitters.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Recipe #4: Black Bean Soup

Yesterday we got off work a bit early because of the weather. I went to the bookstore and bought knitting magazines and the pet store and bought pet things. Then I went home and started Recipe #4.

Pretend that I intended for the pictures to be all steamy. I call them "action shots."

I've never been a huge bean fan, but I've been learning to like them over the past year. I'm working on consciously trying new foods. I never really liked nuts, but now I do. I never really liked beans, but now I do.* I'm not sure if this is because I need to like them for my health or because I actually do like them, but I'm pragmatic enough not to care.

Panera has really good black bean soup, and it's low in Weight Watcher points. Emily showed me this recipe and made her version, which she insists is better than Panera's. I decided to try it as well.

It took a very long time to make. We ate stir fry because the soup took three and a half hours to make and I would have wilted away by then. Most of that is unattended, but still. That's a long time.

It's basically black beans, bell pepper, onion, lots of spices, veg. broth, cooking wine, and water. I might be tempted to just soak the beans overnight next time instead of bringing them to a boil for an hour, having them sit for half an hour, simmering them for another hour, etc...

The bites I had from the pot were quite good. I'm looking forward to having some tonight with some multigrain bread popped under the broiler**.

I wish I could be more effusive about it. I know it's a mistake to blog about it before really eating a bowl of it, but I'm so pleased to have another new recipe attempt made that I couldn't wait. I'll let you know the full verdict tomorrow.

*I never really liked grapefruit, but now I like grapefruit Jelly Bellies. See how I'm growing?

**and Bean-O

Recipe #3: Vegetable Stock

My primary New Year's resolution this year was to make 25 new recipes during 2010. I don't cook much, and I'd like to end the year with at least ten or fifteen new things I can make. Since I'm a fairly new vegetarian and Weight Watchers girl, I want to learn to make some healthy, veggie-heavy dishes that I really like.

The first recipe didn't turn out well. The second was delicious. Yesterday I set about the third.

I began with my new vegetarian cookbook Mom bought me for Christmas and the new cookbook holder Andrew bought me for my birthday. I had a picture of this, but the blog has deleted it. Please use your pretend eyes. It's very pretty.

Then I cut up a bunch of vegetables, mixed them with olive oil and minced garlic, and roasted them for 45 minutes.


Then I cooked the vegetables with a bunch of stuff--white wine, soy sauce, fresh parsley and thyme, lots of water, black peppercorns, etc.--for another 45 minutes or so. I was supposed to cook them until the vegetables were very soft.

Then I strained it, squishing the vegetables to get all the juice out I could. The resulting broth is something entirely different from what I usually use out of the rectangular cardboard carton.

I didn't add any salt and used low sodium soy sauce, and I'm glad on both counts. It's extremely flavorful. It was supposed to make three quarts, but only made two. (Did I simmer it too long? I'm sure I measured the water correctly.) My plan is to freeze it in one cup chunks and then use a cup of vegetable broth and one cup of water in soup recipes.

I'm pleased with it. I'll know more, of course, once I use it in a recipe. I'm thinking I need to make the bell pepper soup that I make fairly regularly since it will be easy to tell how the broth affected it.

I'm wondering, and someone who actually cooks and knows about these things needs to chime in with her/his opinion, if I could cut the vegetables into smaller chunks initially, do everything I did above, and then after the straining step put the vegetables back into the cast iron dutch oven with water, more spices, tomato juice, and chopped tomatoes and make a vegetable soup. It seemed like a terrible shame to just throw away all those lovely vegetables, but the recipes had said to not even bother peeling the onions. I think with a little bit more prep work I could end up with vegetable broth AND vegetable soup.

Another thing I wondered is if I could lighten it up by not using all the extra virgin olive oil the recipe calls for. He indicated I should use 1/3 cup olive oil on the veggies. I wonder if I could use my olive oil spritzer and really cut down the fat.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Vacation, Part II

On Sunday, we boarded the Norwegian Spirit in New Orleans. This picture is not taken in New Orleans, as evidenced by the warm weather attire, but you should feel free to use your imagination.

Monday was an At Sea day, which Andrew and I thoroughly enjoyed. We spent some time in the bar at the front of the ship reading and some time on the deck. Sadly, Brandy, Kyle, and Rachel were all suffering from seasickness. This journey was quite a bit rougher than the first cruise we took. We don't know if that was because of the time of year, difference between ships, different area of the ocean, or some combination. Andrew and I could definitely tell there was a lot of movement, but thankfully it didn't make us sick.

Tuesday was Costa Maya, Mexico. It's a port city--it only exists because of the cruise ship. We took a bus to the Chacchoben Mayan ruins. I didn't feel well there. I got pale and sweaty and nauseous. I called it the Curse of the Mayas, but I think it more likely was the drastic change in weather. Apparently I am allergic to beautiful weather in February. A very nice woman gave me a package of peanut butter crackers and told me that maybe I needed the salt. I did feel better, so perhaps she was right.

Something to note about our trip: I would say that our ship was 80% retirees. This, for us, is AWESOME. I did feel badly at Chacchoben that the retirees were doing fine while I was thinking I was going to vomit, but I was extremely grateful for the mature woman who provided me with crackers. Very kind.

After that we did a bit of touristy shopping at the port.

Wednesday was Santo Tomas de Castillo, Guatemala, and it was my favorite excursion. Guatemala, or the tiny bit I saw of it, IS BEAUTIFUL. Astonishing and shockingly beautiful.

Rachel and Brandy took a tour of San Felipe Fortress. Kyle took a trolley tour with a depressed and unfulfilled tour guide. Andrew and I went to Las Escobas Waterfall. It's located in a nature preserve, and I have no words for how gorgeous it was.

We got to swim at the base of one of the waterfalls. I'd put a picture in here, but swimming almost always equals bathing suits, and there's no need for pictures of me in a bathing suit on the blog.

Thursday was Belize City, Belize. Kyle and Rachel went ziplining and cave tubing while Brandy, Andrew, and I went to Altun Ha Mayan ruins. Our guide was excellent. They haven't excavated everything, and that which they have excavated is fantastic. We were able to climb the Temple of the Sun God. This picture doesn't show how high up it was, but it was high. Sixty feet, I believe, and the Mayans liked to make their steps steep because they felt it looked more impressive.

Here's a mask from the front of the temple:

I need to tell you what we found on top of the Temple of the Sun God.
There was a young man with a small alligator on top of the temple. We could have our picture taken of it if we wanted.

Now, I have what some would consider an irrational fear of alligators, crocodiles and the like. I say that my fear is NOT irrational as these horrible reptiles from hell could kill me. I read somewhere that they were one of the few natural predators of humans, and that was it for me.

I'm a Religious Studies girl. I feel a little uncomfortable climbing to the top of someone's temple and taking pictures of myself to put on a blog. (I did it, but I did have some unease.) This was a TEMPLE. It should be treated with respect. Instead, thousands of tourists with cameras and fake smiles trot up it and complain about the stairs. It seems only right that there would be an alligator when you get to the top. We were all lucky not to be killed.

Friday we went to Cozumel, and Andrew and I did a three reef snorkel. The water was really choppy and the current was pretty strong--there was a storm coming in--but I love to snorkel regardless. I've been trying to put it into words and can't, so I'll stop trying.

Saturday was another At Sea day, and it brought its own adventures. Perhaps another day for that story.
Hooray for vacation!

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Calories

Dear Cafe du Monde,

I miss you so much. Today I found this picture and began to tear up. Please think of me fondly... and open a second location in Indianapolis.


Dear Cafe du Monde,

Please don't take this the wrong way, but you cannot open a location anywhere in the Midwest.

Bonnie's Ass

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Vacation, Part I

I'm back from vacation. I've been trying to figure out how to blog about it, but there's too much.
So here's part one:


The five of us drove down to New Orleans on Thursday. Fourteen hours or so in the car. 'Nuff said.

We stayed in the French Quarter at a lovely hotel. It was within walking distance of nearly everything we did, and it had a great balcony. It also had a preponderance of mirrored walls, which confused and sometimes startled me.

We visited St. Louis' Cathedral, admired the art at Jackson Square, bought cheesy souvenirs, and ate.

Mary and Jesus have excellent bling, no?

Andrew and I went to City Park to visit the Botanical Garden and its amazing outdoor Train Garden.

There is also a children's playground of epic proportions there, which provided some lovely photo opportunities.

Dear Sheep, Your wool isn't very soft. Love, Bonnie

The Botanical Garden was three feet under water after Katrina, but they've done a great job bringing it back. The day we went was quite cold, and apparently a botanical garden isn't a popular destination in January, so the only people we saw were employees. One passed us pushing a wheelbarrow and said, "It's not much to look at now, but we're working on it." I wanted to give him a hug and tell him how important his job was.

Besides actually seeing a few blooms on real, live outdoor plants in January (the mind just reels), there were birdhouses hanging that represented the different areas of the city.

Despite the optimistic things I had read about eating as a vegetarian in New Orleans, I found it to be difficult. A pescatarian wouldn't have had any problem, but it didn't go terribly well for me. We all actually found the food pretty hit-or-miss, which surprised us immensely. Because my friends love me even though my being a vegetarian can be a giant pain in the ass, they asked around about good vegetarian spots. Someone accosted them in an attempt to collect money to buy vegetarian meals for the homeless--promisepromisepromise I'm not making that up--and they asked him where he liked to eat. That's how we ended up at Mona's Cafe, which was delicious.

Besides Mona's, do you know what IS vegetarian and available in the French Quarter? Beignets and cafe au lait. We ate at Cafe du Monde five times in two and a half days. We began and ended each day there. I wouldn't have been opposed to eating there in the middle of the day as well, although I probably would have ended up in a hyperglycemic coma. When Andrew and I went through the French Market, we found a print of a drawing of a typical table at Cafe du Monde. We bought it, and now we can't hang it up for fear it will make us sad every time we eat anything at all that isn't a beignet.*

We also took a cemetery tour. It was fascinating, and I left there more committed than ever to being cremated when I kick off.

The tour happened rain or shine. Can you guess which one we had?

I visited two yarn shops and bought souvenir yarn. I shall someday have socks that remind me of New Orleans. I'll have to search for the proper patterns.

While two friends were visiting with Dixie, a mule who gave carriage rides, they learned that Dixie was going to be in a Mardi Gras parade** on January 30. It was just a couple blocks from the hotel, so we went. Although I had tried to plan this trip so we would be well ahead of any Mardi Gras festivities, I am really glad we went. Yes, I have beads. No, nothing was bared to get them.

Sunday we boarded the ship! More about that to come.

*A beignet is a square donut covered in powdered sugar. They're served warm and taste like heaven. Despite how much you hunch over the table while eating, you will not be able to leave without being covered in powdered sugar yourself. Surprisingly, this isn't such a bad thing.

**Careful with the clicking. The pictures are not for the Puritan at heart.