Wednesday, August 25, 2010

New Socks

I finished the second pair of July sock club socks, this one with the yarn that came with the kit:
My Heart "Beets" for You pattern in Socks that Rock Lightweight yarn, Firecracker colorway

If you look closely and use your pretend eyes, can you see the beet on the heel?  The designer wanted to give the impression of beet greens down the leg and then the beet itself on the heel.

Like many patterns, I wonder if the pattern would be more visible if the yarn were semisolid, but I do like these.  I'm pleased to have both July socks done well before I'll receive the next shipment around the end of September.

What am I working on now, you ask?  I'll give you a hint.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


My favorite Buddhist is Geri Larkin.  I was given her latest book, Plant Seed, Pull Weed this winter.  I have no idea at all why I haven't read it yet.  The only thing I can figure is that the universe knew I'd need to be reading it now rather than six months ago.

And I do.

The book, not surprisingly given the title, uses gardening as a metaphor for Buddhist practice.  The author was working as a gardener at the time the book was written.  I came home from work and went out to my own garden, somewhat neglected throughout the horrible heat we've had the past couple of weeks.  Our grass is nearly all brown, except for some lovely green weeds.  I'm too stubborn to water grass.  I think it's a ridiculous plant that society has decided we should use for a yard.  

I spent most of my time attempting to corral the squash.  I pulled off some of the dead leaves and tried to encourage the squash to either grow up or outside of the garden walls.  

The strand to the left is acorn squash.  The middle strand (that looks sickly) and the strand growing up the metal post (that looks great) is delicata.  The mound on the right is spaghetti, the plant that's been producing the spacorns.  If the gardening trellis had worked, it's possible I could have grown the delicata and acorn in this space, but the spaghetti needs its own bed.  Lesson learned.  Next year I'll need to find another spot in our very small yard for a squash patch.  Since our yard is equal parts clay, rocks, and roots, I'll be interested to see how the squash does.  This year it's being babied in the square foot garden's specially-prepared soil.

This is a sweet banana pepper plant that, despite its oddly growing main stem, seems to be doing well.

I've never grown okra and don't know much about it.  Now I know that it really needs more space than I'm giving it.  I also finally read up in my giant gardening book about when to harvest the pods and realized I'd already missed the window for three pods.  I've vowed to pay more attention.

Okra is pretty.  I really had no idea.  I think it deserves an enthusiastic round of applause as it has rebounded from being stripped of leaves during the Soy Sad Episode.

This is a bell pepper plant.  I'm pretty startled that it's doing so well.  I have a notoriously difficult time growing bell peppers.  Banana peppers?  Great.  Serranos?  Terrific.  Chiles?  Beautiful.  Plain old bell peppers?  Nothing doing.  I'm looking at these plants out of the corner of my eye.  I'm pretty sure a perception filter is involved.

See that very small plant the above picture?  You know, the one between two rabbit-eaten marigolds?  That looks suspiciously like a tomato.  I can't understand it.  If it is a tomato, it's one of the seedlings I planted.  I'd like everyone to pause for a moment and look at a calendar.

August 18.  I planted the seeds back in February or March.  You want to tell me there's no temporal wormhole in my garden?

I trimmed the tomato plants.  I tried to force a couple of plants back inside their cages, only to break the stem.  It was a good reminder that gardens need more attention.  If I had made a thirty-second check of the garden each day, I would have easily trained the tomatoes to grow inside the cages instead of discovering their errant ways after it was too late.  The tomato pictured is the first full-sized tomato turning red.  I possibly will get a veggie sandwich before the summer is over... unless a rabbit gets to it first.

I have had about six cherry tomatoes from this plant.  I appreciate its enthusiasm.  I'm usually a grape tomato fan rather than cherry tomatoes, but these have been very sweet.

Gardening is teaching me things:
  • Enthusiasm at the onset of a project isn't enough.  I have to follow through.
  • Not all plants can fit inside a small garden, regardless of what I read.
  • If I let a tomato grow outside of its cage, I have to accept that.  I can't force it back without breaking it.  
  • Rabbits eat everything, even marigolds.
  • If I insist on trying to grow herbs over and over and over again, I need to accept that they most likely will die.  Not everyone is cut out to grow them, regardless of how easy it's supposed to be.
  • There is a temporal wormhole in my backyard.  Tread carefully.
  • Even when I do most everything right, I can't control what's going to happen in the garden.  Rabbits treat it like their personal salad bar.  Tomato worms take up residence.  Garden trellis rots when it shouldn't.  Squash take over.  Temporal wormholes keep seedlings from growing.  It's not all my fault.  
Let's see if I remember all this next season, shall we?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mom's Apple Pie (Literally)

My Dad was a diabetic, and that not only played a big role in the way I ate as a kid--I never had normal Kool-Aid, for example-- but also has affected the way I eat as an adult.  I've got bad genes; it's as simple as that.  

For as long as I remember, Mom made apple pie.*  It was diabetic-friendly, and I love it.  I may have mentioned that this is a difficult time of year at work, and perhaps as a result of that I have been craving this pie, the ultimate comfort food from my childhood, for a few weeks.  I refused to ask Mom to make me one since she was getting ready to go back to school to teach the houligans, so I decided I needed to bite the bullet and learn to make it myself.

People who eat normal pie might not like this--there's no added sugar, there's no sugary crumble on top.  But for me, this is what pie is supposed to taste like.  

We ate half the pie yesterday.  I could have eaten the rest.  According to Weight Watchers, a piece of pie is 7 points.  That's not great, but it's not horrible either.  I'd like to find a way to make a crust that was lower in points, but I admit that I'm not willing to put a lot of effort into it.  We bought fat free vanilla frozen yogurt that we ate with this, and it's actually pretty good.  I wouldn't mind another round right now, actually.

4 - 6 c. peeled, sliced apples (I used closer to 6 cups--it just needs to be mounded up in the bottom pie crust while still able to fit the second crust on top)
2 t. cinnamon (I used lots more--I love me some cinnamon)
12 oz. unsweeted frozen apple juice concentrate
4 T. cornstarch
2 pie crusts

Toss apple slices with cinnamon. 

Place apple juice in saucepan and begin to heat.  When the apple juice is just melted but still cold, add the cornstarch.  Squish out lumps and cook, stirring often, until mixture is slightly clear and thickened.

Place apple slices into a pie crust.  

Pour hot juice/cornstarch mixture over the apples.  

Top with second pie crust.  Crimp edges to seal.  Cut a few slices in the top for steam to escape.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes, then 350 for 35 minutes.

Attempt to wait until pie is completely cooled before cutting.  Fail miserably, and scoop warm pie into bowl and top with vanilla frozen yogurt.  Thank God for mom and apple pie.  


*I know it's cliche.  It's also tasty.  There is a reason that certain cliches exist.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Dusty Corners Indeed

First: Caitlin asked me to link to the sweet Thai chili sauce with which I've become obsessed.  Here it is!

In May, I wasn't in love with the yarn color or the patterns that came with my sock club.  But July.  Oh, sweet July.

Both patterns were lovely.  Since there are two patterns and one skein of yarn, I picked another yarn from my stash for one of the patterns.

Dusty Corners pattern, KPPPM yarn in some colorway written sloppily so I can't read it

I bought KPPPM yarn at the Quarter Stitch yarn shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans while we were on vacation.  Using this yarn brought back lovely memories of that trip.  I now crave beignets something fierce.

It's a particularly difficult time at my work (expected, but difficult), and I find that I simply can't bear to do anything that requires much thought when not at work.  I haven't yet succumbed to a garter stitch washcloth, but I'm rapidly headed that way.  That being said, I am so pleased with the July shipment that I've already cast on for the second pair of socks.  Lovely.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Recipe #29: Fried Rice

I read Cathy Erway's blog, and her entry on fried rice made me want to try it.

I perhaps went a little too far with the "throw whatever you have into the skillet" theme.

I used leftover squacorn, which also had some spicy diced tomatoes mixed in, three peppers and a scallion from the produce bin, some chopped-up kale, some portobellos, and leftover brown jasmine rice that had some black beans mixed in.  I followed her suggestion to scramble four eggs first and then add that back into the vegetables later.

I especially liked it after I put sweet Thai chili sauce on it.  I love that stuff.  Andrew thinks the texture is a bit weird, which it is, but I'm willing to overlook it since it's so delicious (and the gelatinous-ness isn't from gelatin--I checked).  We ate this for dinner a few nights ago, and I ate the leftovers for dinner last night.

This deserves more testing, I think.  It was fine, but I think it could be fantastic.  Carry on.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Drop Stitch Scarf

Remember that yarn that wasn't sure what it wanted to be?  It decided on this:
Drop Stitch Scarf pattern, Yarntopia Treasures handpainted rayon yarn

This scarf is super easy, and it flew off the needles.  I think it was a combination of metal needles and slippery yarn.  I've also found that I do so many pairs of socks that I am amazed at how quickly projects appear when I knit on larger needles.

The pattern means that the scarf tends to stretch vertically, so it's a pretty long scarf.  I used nearly one skein of yarn, and I have one more of this same colorway left.

This yarn wants to go live with Rachel, and who am I to argue?   I've warned her that all her birthday presents may be knitwear.  

Monday, August 9, 2010

Recipe #28: In Which I Learn That Wonton Wrappers Are Awesome

Sunday afternoon I played with wonton wrappers for the first time, and now I want everything to be in a wonton wrapper.  I'm currently thinking about portobello mushrooms, but it's possible I'll end up putting breakfast cereal in there.  I'm that smitten.

I started with this recipe and changed it a bunch.

Mix these together:
1 diced avocado
1 diced Roma tomato
1 diced mystery pepper from the produce bin (flavored and colored like a bell pepper but shaped more like a poblano)
1/2 package reduced-fat cream cheese
handful of diced garlic chives
juice from one lime
1 t. or so sweet Thai chili sauce

Place a small spoonful of the above mixture on a wonton wrapper.  Add some alfalfa sprouts.  Add another wonton wrapper on top.  Moisten finger and run around edge of bottom wrapper; squish/fold together.  Hope for the best.

Spray skillet with Pam.  Cook on medium-high for just a couple of minutes on each side.

Serve with more sweet Thai chili sauce for dipping. 

They were really, really good.

I feel I must put a disclaimer on here.  I don't cook.  It feels disingenuous to post a recipe.  I started trying to document my attempts at cooking in order to hold myself accountable.  I am trying to be a healthy vegetarian, and I feel I need more recipes that I can cook in order to do that.  Cooking doesn't come naturally to me at all, and I'm not particularly comfortable doing it.  

The irony, of course, is that by posting my attempts my blog has started to look like a cooking blog.  I find this troubling.  

That is all.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I wound some yarn earlier this week and then couldn't get it out of my head.  I have two other projects going, and doing more than one at a time is very unusual for me, but I kept thinking about this yarn.

I couldn't figure out what it wanted to be.  I didn't know what size needles it wanted, what pattern it wanted, what it was destined to become.  So, I did something I do only in times of desperation: I started swatching.

I started with the one row lace scarf pattern on big needles for awhile, then decided I didn't like it.

Then I did garter stitch for awhile and didn't like that either.

Stockinette stitch -- nope.

Change needles to tiny sock needles (because by this time a day has passed and I was at lunch with limited options) and do a bit in stockinette.  Prettier, but too stiff.

Try a modified version of the one row lace pattern.  Meh.

Now I'm back at home and able to switch to a medium-sized needle for a bit in stockinette.  Better.

Did the one row lace pattern--still not loving the garter-y stitch parts.

At this point, I've decided it's time to rip.  However,when I take the swatch off the needles, I can't help but notice something...

I've made a dress for a paper doll.  Who says swatching is a waste of time?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

That Class For Five-Year-Olds

I'm importing records and setting up segments with our e-mail blast company so that e-mails can be sent to the early childhood families.*

It brought back a very old memory.  When I "graduated" kindergarten, I received an medal button that had been customized with the school name, the year, and the word...


I spell things in my head.  I usually don't use words if I can't spell them because it stumps my brain.  My mother tells me this is not the way most people see the world, but it comes in handy in spelling bees.

As a five-year-old, I didn't know how to spell kindergarten.  But once I saw the button, I did!  Hooray!

Except it was wrong, of course.  And it was a very long time before I saw it spelled correctly, compared it to the button in my head and said, "Ruh row."  Every time I spell kindergarten, even 27 years later, I remember the button and make a decision to spell it with a "t" rather than a "d."

I asked my mom about it, and she said that a parent had lovingly made the buttons to hand out to every child at the end of the year.  My teacher had been horrified by the misspelling but couldn't figure out a way of telling the parent, who had obviously put so much effort into the buttons.

It would be unreasonable for me to say that an entire group of kids learned to spell kindergarten incorrectly because of this.... but I certainly did.  No lasting harm, of course, but it's interesting to me.

It seems to me that my teacher had an obligation to his students to tell the parent that he appreciated the effort but couldn't give out the buttons because of the misspelling.  At what point is it more important to choose kindness over education?

*Yes, it is as uninteresting as it sounds, although I did get to stump the salesperson with my weird problem, which I always enjoy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Spacorn Revealed

In an attempt to understand the spaghetti/acorn squash hybrid that has thus far been the only real produce from the garden, I did a bit of research.  Perhaps this was really just a spaghetti squash that had different coloring than I expected. 

See figure 2 on this site.  That's the variety I planted.  That definitely isn't what I pulled from the garden.  I was born and raised in Indiana; I have been thoroughly indoctrinated that if Purdue says it is so, it must be so.

When I cut into it last night, I was surprised how little pain I experienced.  Usually, cutting a raw squash involves a multiple knives and cursing.  This sliced easily with an ordinary, poor quality steak knife.  This is what it looked like inside:

White flesh. Huh. 

Not really sure what to do with it, I baked it upside-down in a pan with an inch or so of water in it for half an hour.  I now remember that you're supposed to scoop out the seeds before you bake it, but I didn't remember that until it was already out of the oven.

The resulting product was only slightly strand-like.  The skin was soft enough to eat, another unusual thing, and I ended up cubing the squash and eating it with some spicy diced tomatoes and a bit of shredded cheese.

It wasn't fantastic, but it wasn't bad either.  I have one more of these.  Anyone have any suggestions for how to eat it?

Monday, August 2, 2010

Recipe #27: Stuffed Zucchini

A friend at work gave me a gigantic zucchini.  Another friend from work gave sent me a recipe for stuffed summer squash.  Summer squash, zucchini, no huge difference, right?  Right.

I put fake sausage with the zucchini innards, and that provided most of the flavor.  I really loved this.  We ate it with tomatoes from my mom's garden (god knows I don't have any #$&*%_ tomatoes in mine) marinated in fat-free Italian dressing and sourdough bread that I stuck under the broiler.  For dessert, we had chocolate pudding with instant coffee and cinnamon thrown in with the pudding mix and fresh strawberries.  

I hesitate to even say this for fear of jinxing it, but I have three zucchinis that have begun to grow in the garden.  Perhaps someday I will not have to beg zucchini off others.  I know that zucchini is supposed to be one of those vegetables that produces so prolifically that the gardener is forced to leave zucchinis on the doorsteps of their neighbors in the dead of night, but right now that sounds like a wonderful problem to have.

Did I mention that I'm taking a Master Gardening course this fall?  I shall overcome.