Monday, May 31, 2010

Lace Ribbon Scarf and Matching Knucks

I had a great holiday weekend. Among other merriments, I finished these:

Knucks pattern, Knitpicks Imagination yarn, Mermaid Lagoon colorway

I also completed the matching scarf:

Lace Ribbon pattern

These are for Brandy's birthday. I love the way this scarf blocks. It's pretty before it's blocked, but afterward? Beautiful. It's a pretty simple pattern, and I can knit it without looking at the pattern, which makes for easier knitting. I'm pleased with both and have now cast on for a pair of socks!

I hope you all had lovely Memorial Day weekends as well.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Recipes #18 and #19: Veggie Lasagna and Fruit Kabobs

Emily and Dan came over for dinner, and we ate recipes #18 and #19 with salad and grilled multigrain bread.

Recipe #18 is noodle-free vegetable lasagna. It has eggplant, zucchini, and portobello mushrooms layered with a spinach/egg/ricotta cheese mixture. In the middle is fake sausage crumbles, and there's tomato sauce on the bottom and top of the whole thing. Once assembled, it's covered with mozzarella cheese and baked.

I put it together the night before and then baked it for 30 minutes when I got home from work.

I'm not gonna lie; it was delicious. DELICIOUS. Plus, a serving is one-fourth of a 8" square pan, which I love. We've decided that next time I can roast all the vegetables at one time instead of messing with cooking small batches in a skillet.

Dessert was a Weight Watchers recipe, strawberries and bananas grilled for a few minutes and then drizzled with chocolate sauce.

Fruit kabobs (chocolate sauce not pictured)

The fruit was yummy. I can add these two as grillable fruit along with pineapple and pears. The chocolate sauce tasted very good, but it was runny. Perhaps next time I'll refrigerate it a bit before serving. I loved the taste of chocolate, coffee, and cinnamon.

Actually, I've just named four of my favorite things: strawberries, chocolate, coffee and cinnamon. Brilliant foods.

I added the remainder of the pudding powder and some additional milk and plan to eat it as pudding for leftovers. I have a sneaking suspicion that my chocolate pudding will always have instant coffee and cinnamon thrown in from now on.

I'm super pleased with both these recipes. It feels good to have a couple more wins.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Life Continues Apace

Here's a quick update:

1. The next recipe is in the fridge and will be baked tonight. I also have plans to make a new dessert tonight. Perhaps tomorrow there will be photos. Perhaps there will not and we will pretend I never said anything.

2. I'm working on a scarf that is long and knit on small needles with fingering weight yarn. I've made it through two skeins and have now switched to the matching fingerless gloves so I can be sure I'll have enough yarn for both. Progress is being made, but it's slow. That's the way knitting is.

3. We took Grandfather his upside-down tomato plant on Tuesday night. Now that the hook it was occupying is free, there's no excuse not to plant the impatiens. I planted the ball of impatiens last night. I watered it again this morning and have the watering can beside the front door in a (probably futile) attempt to remember to water it every day. I'm trying not to resent the fact that watering it requires me to get the stepladder out of the utility room. Transporting the stepladder is a small price to pay for flowers' lives, right? Right.

4. Changes are afoot in the garden. The squash seeds are beginning to pop up. The tomato seedlings still look terrible, and I fear I transplanted them before they were big enough to handle the scary move. I am trying not to be sad about this. I'm going to give them some more time, and if they die I will go to the garden center, buy some tomato plants, and vow to try the seeds again next year. The pepper seedlings look pretty strong, albeit tiny.

5. The modified VT challenge is going well. I have been able to do the exercise and meditation piece every day thus far, and the only lunch hiccup could be counted as screwing up the challenge or not, so I choose not. Today I walked before work, and even the leisurely 30-minute walk made me so hungry I wanted to eat my desk by 10:00. I was glad I had the challenge to keep me from going out to eat because Panera's mac & cheese sounded very tempting.

I believe this is just a period during which life continues apace. Knitting and cooking and gardening and rubbing my dog's tummy and watching baseball and working continue. I feel busy and lucky and grateful.

Just not particularly interesting. Sorry.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Information Glut

Last night I was searching through recipes for a knockoff of Outback's steak seasoning that we've made to send to my sister. I remember the seasoning involved a mortar and pestle and a ridiculous amount of spices being measured out in 1/4 teaspoon increments, which seemed and still seems ridiculously small. I also remember Andrew getting attacked by it and spending a considerable amount of time in the kitchen sneezing. He did love the seasoning though.

I've already wandered off point. Let me turn the car around.

As I was searching through the stack of 8.5" x 11" sheets we keep on the recipe bookshelf, I realized some things:

a) I print a lot of recipes
b) I rarely actually MAKE these recipes
c) Bloody hell, these recipes need to be organized and put into a binder

I spend a significant portion of my life in close proximity to high-speed internet. I'm constantly trying to convince myself that I like cooking. These are two very combustible truths, which have apparently led to a fireball of papers on my kitchen bookshelf.

I love to organize. I could be a professional organizational expert if I didn't have to deal with people in order to do it. However, when I have tried to organize these recipes, I become overwhelmed.*

So, I'm going to try to organize these recipes. I'm going to try not to print more recipes--

Wait, that's just setting myself up for failure.

I'm going to try not to print very many more recipes until I've gone through what I have. Once they are organized it will be easier to look through them. Theoretically, that could lead to me using them more. Even if it doesn't, I'll be able to look at that bookshelf without thinking, "Good lord, I need to organize that."
Bring on the binders and plastic sleeves, and ward off the cooking websites.

*I do not have the same experience when I organize my knitting patterns. There seems to be no logic for this except that I like knitting way more than I like cooking.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Happy Birthday, Buddha

In all east Asian countries except Japan, the Buddha's birthday is celebrated on the 8th day of the 4th month in the Chinese lunar calendar. That date is May 21 in 2010.

Happy birthday, big guy.

Buddhism has Four Noble Truths:

1. Life is characterized by suffering.
2. Our suffering is a result of craving and desiring.
3. If we can stop our craving and desiring, we can stop our suffering.
4. The way to do this is the Eightfold Path: right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right awareness, right concentration, right thought, and right understanding.

The Eightfold Path is like spokes on a wheel. It doesn't matter which spoke you focus on because it all leads to the same center. The center is enlightenment. So, don't get freaked out by all the parts of the Eightfold Path. Just pick one and focus on that. That will make it easier for the others to fall into place.

Buddhism says that bad stuff happens. We can control how the bad stuff impacts us personally. Buddhism doesn't say that we'll never get crapped on if we meditate every day. Crap still happens. We're just better able to handle it. We see it for what it is, and then we let it go.

I'm not very good with letting go. I'm not very good with seeing things for what they are and not making them bigger. But I want to be.

There's nothing about Buddhism that precludes you from being a Christian or a Jew or a Hindu. Buddhism is a path, a way of seeing the world; it's not a religion with a God to worship. The Buddha isn't God, and he never claimed to be.

I come to Buddhism as a liberal Protestant who majored in Religious Studies and interned at both an Islamic Center and a synagogue, who went to seminary and specialized in interfaith dialogue, who wrote her master's thesis on the subject of women in Buddhism, who used to work in a UU church and now works in a synagogue.

I go to church. I wear a Buddha necklace. There is no conflict there. God is bigger than the boxes we hold up to the sky.*

I believe that I will be a better person if I can learn to sit, to breathe, to fight my tendencies to intellectualize everything, to open myself up to whatever is there besides the squirrel-like chattering in my head. I have much work to do before I can sit for five minutes without looking at my watch, but Judaism helps me here: "You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it." (Pirke Avot)

Happy birthday, Buddha. Thanks for showing me a way to be. I'll keep working on it.

*God is also bigger than the bogeyman. I learned that from the VeggieTales.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Happy May 19!

Today has been on my calendar for weeks as Garden Day. In my part of the country, opinions differ as to the proper planting date for those plants that have to be planted after the last frost. Some say it's Mother's Day; other say it's May 15.

I had today off from work, so I decided May 19 would be the perfect day.

I took a picture of the garden when I was finished, but it looks suspiciously like this picture from when we got the new square foot garden placed in the yard. (The peas are bigger; that's about it.) Seeds and seedlings are not for those who need instant gratification.

Here is a picture of one of my seedlings, carefully tended inside for weeks and transplanted this afternoon:

I covered the space with netting that is supposed to keep birds away. I do not wish to grieve for my seedlings after they become bird food. I'm not convinced the netting will work, but I've tried my best to protect them.

I have a couple seedlings to give my cousin in exchange for a bell pepper seedling and some garlic chives she's growing for me. I have one empty square for the bell pepper, and the garlic chives will go in a pot since I have been warned that they will take over the world if not contained. I also have some seedlings I'm giving to a friend at work for her garden.

I planted a tomato plant in one of those upside-down hanging planters for Grandfather. Grandfather has expressed the opinion that there haven't been any good tomatoes since they started selling hybrids. I don't agree with him, but I bought him an heirloom tomato plant anyway. The planter is currently lying on the front porch as I try to figure out somewhere sturdy enough to hang it until I can get it delivered.
I bought some impatiens today to plant in a spherical hanging contraption. I haven't planted them yet because I think the tomato might end up on that hook. I play the impatien game every year. I plant them in a sphere in hopes they will become a Ball of Blooms as my container gardening book promises. Then I don't water it enough and they die. The next spring I vow to do better, buy the impatiens and begin again.
Everyone has her spring rituals.
There's something about planting for me. On one hand, I am filled with anxiety as I worry about these plants being left in the harsh outside world where I cannot protect them. On the other hand, carefully placing a seedling in the freshly-turned dirt and gently placing the soil around it to support it feels like... well, like praying.
Happy spring, everybody. If you need more gardening, go listen to this.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Challenge Update

I thought I'd give you an update about my slightly-altered Vegetarian Times challenge:

Challenges are much more fun in the beginning than they are several days in.

Last Friday was my only slip, and I count it as a sort of slip. I volunteered at an event at which the Dalai Lama was speaking. We met at work at 6:30 in the morning. I didn't bring lunch because I wasn't going inside the building and couldn't figure out what would survive in my car for hours. When we got back a little after noon, I didn't bother eating lunch because it seemed too hard and I didn't want to blow my challenge five days in.

I met Lynn after work--I get off at 3:00 on Fridays--and I went through a terrible drive-through on my way to meet her. I suppose that could count as lunch, but it wasn't until 3:30 and it wasn't at work.

I'm just going to say that I did my best and move on.

Today promises to be another tricky one to maneuver. It's Andrew's birthday, and we have plans for this evening. I had planned to walk for 30 minutes at lunch, but it's pouring. I can't honestly imagine myself walking for 30 minutes around and around the inside of the building, so I'm not sure what I'll do.

It's possible that I'm just going to have to be more flexible than I had originally anticipated. I still plan on trying as hard as I can to meet my goals, but I think there's an important lesson to be learned: I can continue to work toward something even after I am unable to complete it with a perfect record.

This has always been a tricky one for me--When I was in first grade, I cried and cried when I missed one word on a spelling test. That one word meant I couldn't get an A+ on my report card for spelling. My poor first-grade teacher had no idea what to do with this crazy, type A child. She eventually sent me to see my mother, who taught in the same school. If I remember correctly, Mom wasn't quite sure what to do with this crazy, type A child either.

So, maybe it's a blessing if I am unable to walk today.

Of course, it's now stopped raining...

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Go Visit Rob!

Rob and I went to college together. He's funny, kind, and has a great blog in which he records ridiculous and amusing things he finds.

He's made me famous here. Go visit! Thanks!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Recipe #17: Whole Wheat Pasta with Portobellos and Peppers

This, I think, is what people mean when they say they "cook" after work: seeing what's in the fridge, throwing it together, and hoping for the best.

I boiled some whole wheat penne. In a skillet, I sauteed garlic, bell peppers, and portobello mushrooms. When they were mostly cooked, I threw in some grape tomatoes I halved along and some fresh basil and oregano and cooked a bit longer. I put the veggies on top of pasta, added some shredded cheese, and voila! Dinner.

I think it could have used more flavor, and I wonder if adding some tomato paste would have made a difference. Also, I didn't add any oil because I always try to cut out fat if possible, and that was probably a mistake. I did add water partway through the cooking because things seemed to be sticking. I'm guessing that means that my vegetables finished cooking in a steamy way as opposed to a crispy way. They still tasted good.

I'm not terribly excited about this dish, but it was tasty and easy to do and able to be done quickly and with stuff I already had. I'm going to count it as a success and try to ramp up the flavor next time. Any opinions on how I could do that would be appreciated.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Report from Day 1 of VT Challenge

Monday was the first day of my slightly-altered challenge based on the one put forth by Vegetarian Times. I packed my lunch and jogged with Emily after work, so lunch and exercise were handled. The third piece is meditation.

Before I ate lunch, I walked toward the chapel for my meditation break. The kindergarten class were dressed in their graduation robes and were singing a song about being all they could be. I walked past the chapel and toward the sanctuary, noting how lucky I was to work at a place with both a chapel and a sanctuary. Seriously, who has that luxury?

I picked a seat in the sanctuary, set my watch for five minutes, closed my eyes and breathed.

The sunlight through the window is bright. Isn't that weird? My eyes are closed, but the light is really bright.


Remember the first time you saw the Torah scroll in the stained glass? It's like one of those 3-D pictures.


Lynn suggested inhaling while counting to seven, holding for three, exhaling for seven, holding for three. I'll try that.


Good lord! That's not nearly enough oxygen! Didn't she say people with high blood pressure shouldn't do that? Do I have high blood pressure? I don't have high blood pressure. Wait. I'm supposed to be breathing.


Does the sanctuary smell funny? I think it smells a little funny. Wonder what that is.


I wonder how I'll write about this.


I wonder why I'm thinking about writing about an experience rather than allowing myself to experience the experience. That's messed up.


I wonder how long it's been? [Open eyes, glance at watch] ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Three minutes?!


I'm not happy with my time spent at work. This computer crap is hard, and there's no one to help me. That makes me want to avoid studying. I don't feel like I'm putting in an honest day's work. Now I'm sad.


I wonder how my friend who had surgery today is doing.


Does sending positive energy toward someone count as meditation? No. They're both good, but they're not the same. I should make time for both.


I wonder why I always think of God as male when I'm here. Do I feel this way in all sanctuaries, or just this one?


Maybe I should think about Queen Titania* beside me. I bet she'd be an awesome meditator.


Then again, God doesn't need to meditate, so that kind of breaks down.


You know, even if Titania was beside me, I bet I'd be focused on her and not on meditating. I suck at this.


I look at my watch. 4:57, 4:58, 4:59, 5:00.

Sigh. I'll try again today.

*Queen Titania is a character from James Christensen's Voyage of the Bassett, and she's the image I use to counterbalance the male image I have of God. It's not important that you understand this.

Or You Could Just Use Glue

Back in December, I made a goofy little felt thing to hold my needles. I remain very proud of its functionality coupled with kitschiness.

This morning, I found this.

Items this project requires that I don't own:
  • water-erasable pen
  • knowledge of what the words "fussy cut" mean
  • snaps or velcro
  • adorable coordinating fabrics
  • sewing machine
Items this project requries that I DO own:
  • iron
  • thread
I think I shall mentally congratulate them on their project and stick with my felt kitsch. Sometimes it's worth the trouble, and sometimes it isn't.

Friday, May 7, 2010

21-Day Challenge (Slightly Altered)

Vegetarian Times is hosting a 21-day lunch challenge. They're challenging everyone to prepare their own lunch, walk 30 minutes, and take 5-10 minute meditation break daily for three weeks.

Vegetarian Times 21-day lunch challenge logo

I think this is brilliant. I'm also pretty sure I would fail. Enter slightly altered challenge:

Beginning Monday and continuing for eighteen workdays, I challenge myself to bring my lunch to work, to work out or walk 30 minutes (even if it's just a 30 minute stroll around the grounds at lunch*), and to meditate 5-10 minutes. I'm giving myself May 19 and May 31 off because I won't be working those days, so my challenge will end on Friday, June 4.

I will not attempt to do this on days I'm not working. I will count working out as a replacement for the 30-minute walk; I figure the important thing is that I'm doing something physical, not that I'm specifically walking. I also won't insist that my lunches are homemade. I usually eat a healthy frozen meal, a piece of fruit, and yogurt for lunch. I think that's fine. If I get ambitious and want to make my lunch instead of bringing a Lean Cuisine, that's also fine. It's just not required to meet my challenge.

The big changes for me in this challenge are a) not going out to eat for lunch, which I typically do around once a week, b) doing some sort of exercise five times instead of three times a week, and c) taking a meditation break.

I'm kind of excited about this. Well, excited and scared.

*This is going to cut down my knitting time, which is a bummer.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Look quickly! I'm caught up!

I finished the March sock club socks.

Slip Jig pattern (ravelry link) in My Wild Irishgirlie colorway

These socks were so. much. easier. than the January ones. It was a delight to have something that seemed to fall off the needles after struggling to do a k3tog through back loop coupled with a cable in the January ones. It's impossible to do, just so you know.

While I'm waiting for the May sock club shipment to arrive, I need a new project. I tried to start this for Brandy (don't click if you want it to be a surprise, Brandy!) but I don't have the correct needles. This is always a shock to me. How is it possible that I don't own every single knitting needle I need? Do you know how many needles I own? Crazy.

Anyway, that's on hold, so I started this for Brandy instead. I've already knit one for Rachel (ravelry link), and it is gorgeous. I plan to knit one for myself as well.

This is the birthday season, so time is limited. In the span of less than three weeks, we have 5 birthdays in our immediate family plus Mother's Day. This year we also have a baby dedication for our new niece. I haven't cooked all week--there's been lots of pizza and accompanied weight gain--but I believe my next attempt will be no-knead bread. Cathy Erway talks a lot about that bread in her book, and I do love bread.... Stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Memo To Me

May 5, 2010

To: Me

From: Me

Re: Stuff You Really Ought To Remember

Pizza and Dairy Queen don't make you feel better. They make you feel sluggish and cranky.

Buying a medium Blizzard because it's only $0.30 more than a small one is not smart. See "sluggish and cranky" above.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Art of Eating In

I just finished reading Cathy Erway's book The Art of Eating In. It's about two years of her life in which she made a conscious decision not to eat in restaurants and not to order take-out.

The book brought up a bunch of stuff for me, which I will randomly spout here:

  • Reading about how she prepared meat is disgusting. I am a snobby vegetarian. One year without meat compared to thirty-one years with meat, and I'm already Snobby McSnobberpants. I must continue to refrain from trying to convert omnivores. Nobody likes a pushy vegetarian.*
  • She bought a TROTTER (pig leg.... complete with hoof) to put in soup with TRIPE. And she ate it while suffering from a HANGOVER.
  • She went roughly two years without eating out in a city that is all about the eating out. This had lots of positive ramifications. a) She saved a ton of money. b) She learned a lot more about cooking than she already knew, and she already knew quite a bit. c) She participated in events such as cook-offs and underground supper clubs, which she probably wouldn't have found without this challenge. d) The experiment allowed her to put eating out into perspective.

That last one is the kicker for me, although saving a ton of money also sounds very good. By abstaining for such a long period of time, eating in restaurants became a special occasion instead of just a way to get a meal.

It seems related to something a biology professor I had in college said: We wouldn't have the obesity epidemic we have if people realized that sometimes food is just food and there's no reason for a feast.

Oh. Right.

I know that I'm guilty of treating food like a cure-all. I get bored at work, and I get a chocolate-covered espresso bean (or several) out of my desk drawer. I'm feeling tired after a long day, and I want something gooey and delicious for supper. I treat food as a pick-me-up instead of just food.

Sometimes food is a pick-me-up, but most of the time it should just be nourishment. That means that when I do fix something very special or we go out to eat, it becomes more of an occasion.

Now, while I believe all that I've written to be true, I also believe that part of my problem is that I'm not able to view everything I eat as being something special. (See how I'm contradicting myself? Don't try this at home.) It seems that if I really had a healthy relationship with food, I would focus on whatever it was that I was eating and would see it for the miracle that it is. If I'm eating a simple meal of brown rice and black beans, I'm not just getting nourishment. I'm getting the gift of the people who harvested that rice and grew those beans and packaged them in a safe manner so I could buy them at the store. The number of plants and people and processes involved so I could eat that simple meal is staggering.

I should be grateful for that. I should be amazed by that. I should be so damn staggered that I sit in awe of my rice and beans.

And if that's how I feel about rice and beans, you can imagine how I would feel about going to a restaurant.

*I think I need that on a t-shirt.

Vegiversary Extravaganza!

Saturday night we celebrated my one-year Vegiversary. My friends know how to eat. One of our past get-togethers involved t-shirts celebrating the plethora of casseroles present. Our Christmas celebration involves three meals (and constant snacking) carefully spaced amongst present opening. We take it all very seriously.

We had burgers (cow and vegetarian) and vegetarian sausages on the grill, mac & cheese, my leftover recipe #16, sweet potato fries, salad, and fruit pizza.

They even made me a cake!
Someone asked me if this was what I had in mind for my vegiversary. Honestly, I had hoped that I would have an arsenal of delicious vegetarian recipes at my command. I imagined myself putting together a vegetarian feast that would knock everyone's socks off. There are problems with this:
  1. The New Year's resolution, while enjoying some success, hasn't given me a ton of new recipes I love.
  2. I don't want to spend all weekend in the kitchen preparing food, and my friends wouldn't want to hang out with me if I did that anyway.
  3. One of us is lactose intolerant.
  4. Two have limited ability to handle spicy food.
  5. Another of us, while being a vegetarian, doesn't like mushrooms or tomatoes.
  6. Let's review: no mushrooms, tomatoes, cheese, or serious spice. That's 70% of my diet. The other 30% is chocolate and coffee.
The pitch-in went much better than a dinner entirely prepared by me, and I'm very grateful I have friends who will enthusiastically celebrate my milestone regardless of whether they share my beliefs about food.

May this be the first of many celebrations.

To become vegetarian is to step into the stream of Nirvana.