Monday, November 2, 2009

Current Bread

I have taken up bread baking lately, and the current bread is currant bread. It is a little bit different from the other breads I've made lately in that it has buttermilk in it, and, yes, currants! Other than those two ingredients, it's bread - yeast, flour, water, salt and time. It actually came out quite tasty, especially toasted with Tallegio cheese spread on it. Tallegio cheese is a semi-soft (or maybe soft) cheese sort of like Brie without the mold on the rind. At room temperature it's soft enough that spreading it on warm bread (or toast) makes it just melt into the bread - Yum! Currant bread toast with Tallegio cheese for breakfast - hooray!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Progress - or not

I've been working on a sweater for myself for some time now. It's the lovely "February Lady" sweater, and I'm sure you can find the pattern and the author by looking for it on the web. (I don't have the pattern in front of me, so I can't give her her much deserved credit.) The yarn I'm using is beautiful, I love the pattern and I really want to wear it - so why isn't it done yet?

It's not done yet because progress has been hard to come by. First, the sweater is knit all in one piece (except for the arms), so the rows are rather long. Second, it's for an adult woman and the yarn is maybe worsted weight, so you've got to knit a lot of those long rows. And third, it went into time-out at one point because I thought there was a dye-lot issue with the yarn. All of those things have been conquered, so you could say I've made progress.

Progress of a sort. I am finally working on the arms - you pick up stitches for those at about the shoulders and work them down to the bind-off. I thought, yesterday, that I had knit enough pattern rows and started on the garter edging. I knit all twelve rows of edging and then tried the sweater on before I did the bind-off (yes, I can do things in the right order now and then). The sleeve was not the right length. (Bet you saw that one coming a mile away.) These are supposed to be 3/4-length sleeves, but I want them longer than the "just past my elbow" that the one was. Rats! I can't even blame it on a gauge problem or anything - I just wanted, so much, to be done with the sleeve that I called it good too soon. Oh well, today after work, I ran a lifeline through the first row of garter stitch, pulled the needles and frogged the edging. I'm tinking the first garter row, and then I'll knit another inch or two of pattern rows, and then I'll put on the edging.

Stay tuned for more progress reports! (Or not-progress reports, as the case may be.)

Domestic Tranquility

does not make for many blog posts. Things have been rather tranquil in our home lately, so no interesting (or dramatic) posts. There are people who can make even the most mundane things fascinating (or humorous), but I'm not one of them - at least not yet.

Let's see - I finished the socks I was knitting that got interrupted by the "incredible hairball", I'm working on some Christmas knitting, a sweater for myself, a scarf for a friend, and EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! OK, that last is not something I'm knitting, but my husband is sitting beside my as I'm typing this, and he gets an enormous amount of glee out of the fact that I'm ticklish. Yes, this is all part of the domestic tranquility - I never said I was tranquil, just that things were tranquil.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Tonight, my dog and I had another therapy session. No, we're not in therapy, we provide the therapy. We belong to a pet therapy group - group members visit hospitals, nursing homes, care centers, etc. with our pets. My dog and I visit a county health center (it combines the functions of a nursing home, some hospital functions and a long-term care center) once a month. We've been doing this for long enough that a number of the residents remember us and look forward to our visits. I had been feeling a bit "growly" when I got home from work today - nothing special, just that it was gloomy and chilly all day, the days are getting shorter, etc. Anyway, I had to prod myself to change into the "uniform" for visiting - a sweatshirt with the group's logo on it - and get ready to go. Strange as it may sound, I always enjoy our visits to this place. The people who are there are some of the neediest people you can meet, and a lot of them don't remember us from one month to the next. It's not comparing my state to theirs that makes me feel good, though. It's having to interact with other people, and to at least be polite to them. In other words, I'm forced out of myself - and in getting out of myself, I improve my state of mind. It also improves my mental state to realize that I've made someone else's day by showing up with my fuzzy, black dog and letting them pet her. That was absolutely the case today. One of the residents, an older man, was sitting in his usual place, but looking rather dour. I walked over to him and asked if he'd like to pat my dog. He shook his head, no. I said "Are you sure? She's wagging her tail pretty good." He looked at my dog, standing there, wagging her tail at him, and he got a little bit of a smile on his face, like he was cheering up, but didn't want anyone to know. He still didn't want to pat her, though. So I backed Sheba up to him and waved her tail over his hand - that did it! He chuckled and smiled, and I knew that, at least for a few moments, he felt better. And that's what it's all about, Charlie Brown.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

I Love a Puzzle

And a good thing it is, too. I was working on a pair of socks last night, peacefully sitting on the couch and knitting, when, all of a sudden, the yarn goddesses delivered a huge punch!

I think I'd better set this up a little more. I had purchased a skein of lovely wool/alpaca/nylon (for long wearing-ness) sock yarn last week. I had not wound it into a ball at the yarn store. In fact, I had not even thought about winding it at the store. This was mostly because it was closing time when I purchased the yarn, though I'm sure the staff would have had no problem with my staying to wind the yarn - they probably would have offered to wind it for me, but I just didn't think to do it. Anyway, a good friend offered to let me wind the yarn on her ball-winder, and I took her up on the offer. I could have wound it by hand, but it's 450 yards of fingering-weight yarn - it's a lot faster to wind that much on a ball-winder than to do it by hand.

OK, so I was innocently sitting and knitting on these socks when I gave a tug on the working thread. Then I pulled harder. And harder. Here we go, I thought, I'm going to end up pulling a chunk of yarn out of the middle of the ball. I had hoped to avoid that by winding the skein on a ball-winder, but you can't win them all. Oh well, I thought, it's not too bad, I'll just have to wind a little yarn around the ball. I wound up the extra that I pulled out and went back to knitting. I knit up the extra and then gave a tug on the working thread. Then I pulled harder. And harder. Oh no, not again! Oh well, it won't be that bad. Wrong! This time, instead of pulling a walnut-sized chunk of yarn out of the middle of the ball, I ended up (though I tried not to) pulling something like 80% of the ball out of the middle! What was left couldn't really be called a ball at all - more like a shell.

So, now I'm sitting on the couch with this incredible hairball of yarn in my lap, and no way to proceed with my knitting except to unwind it and wrap it around the remains of the ball. That wouldn't be too bad, except for the little phrase "unwind the hairball" there. You'd think that, since the ball was wound on a ball-winder, it would be easy, but no, remember it's the yarn goddesses delivering a smackdown, and you don't get off easy with them. That yarn was thoroughly tangled, and, for a while, trying to untangle it just made it worse! It took me at least an hour and a half to undo the hairball and get it wound up. All because I tried to avoid winding a skein by hand. OK, yarn goddesses, I hear you, I will not defy your edicts again. Next time, I'll use the ball-winder at the store :-)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Weekend

It was a good weekend, though not a particularly noteworthy one. Saturday started out a bit earlier than either "J" or I wanted it to. We usually like to take out time getting up and going on Saturday morning, but this time, before we were quite ready to face the world, the telephone rang. It was "J"'s brother "B", calling to report that their mother was having some problems. The dear lady is 80 years and is not in the best of shape, so a call like that in the morning is not a good thing. So, "J" went out to visit his mother and I putzed around the house most of the morning. As it turned out, his mother was not in danger, it was (this time, at least) not as big an emergency as it seemed.

After getting ourselves squared away somewhere about noon (or a bit later), we got on our bikes and went for a nice, long ride. It was pretty much perfect weather for bicycle riding - not too hot and no wind to speak of. We rode beyond our usual turn-around place and then stopped there on the way back - for a "small smackerel". All told, the trip was 20 miles long, and took a good couple of hours - of course that's counting the time we stopped, too.

Today (Sunday) has been pretty mundane. I sing in my church choir, so that consumed a great part of the morning. Early on in the afternoon "J"'s friend "B" came over to get some help with his computer. My dear husband is a PC technician, and is glad to provide some help to his friends. That job was accomplished, and there was much rejoicing - "B" got his data off of a computer whose power supply had died - Yay! We celebrated by going out and purchasing a couple of items we had been pondering over, probably for too long - a printer and (drum roll, please) a clock radio! The printer is one that can print photos, so we'll finally be able to tackle the job of printing our wedding photos! Hooray!!! The clock radio is to replace the one I've had for more years than I care to try to figure out.

I know, this is all probably too much to take in in one post, but I couldn't think of a way to divide up the post. You'll just have to read it in small pieces and try to contain your excitement. (OK, I'll turn the sarcasm off now.)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Dinner, in a Nutshell

For some definition of "nutshell". Actually, it was a squash shell, though the squash was Acorn squash, so it sortof is a "nutshell" - haha! The recipe was one I found at (the entry for September 11, 2009) - Sausage and Spinach stuffed Acorn squash. I won't go into all the details here, but it is a wonderful dish! I made it pretty much according to the recipe, and both "J" and I could barely contain ourselves! The recipe says that one serving (as a main dish) is two halves, but neither of us could eat more than one. So, if you like winter squash, or would like to try to add more of this yummy vegetable to your diet, go try this recipe!

Monday, September 21, 2009

What a ride!

OK, I've been trying to exercise a bit more this summer. One of the things I enjoy doing, that also counts as exercise, is riding a bicycle. So, my intrepid husband "J" and I went bike riding on Sunday. Our destination being a Culver's location about nine miles south on the Keystone Trail. Normally this would be a good ride, but nothing too horribly strenuous. However, yesterday it turned into an exercise in willpower (at least for me). The wind was coming out of the South at probably about 15 miles per hour. Do you know what it's like to ride right into a wind of that speed? My darling husband scored a whole lot of "gallant husband" points when he volunteered to ride in front and "break the wind" for me. We did get to the Culver's, got something to drink and, not so incidentally, refilled our water bottles. Then, the reward for our efforts - the return trip! We had been working *hard* to maintain a speed of 10 mph on the way south. On the way home, it took a lot less effort to maintain about 15 mph. What a difference a tail wind makes! My legs didn't particularly like me when we got home, but it was a fun ride!

I Love A Parade

On Saturday we (that's me, my wonderful husband "J", his best friend "D", and his wife "D") went to Nebraska City for the AppleJack festival. Now, if you live anywhere in the Midwest, you know that late summer/early fall is the time for small-town festivals. Any weekend you choose, you can find a festival celebrating one thing or another. This particular festival celebrates apples, there being several apple orchards in the vicinity, and right now being about the time of the apple harvest.

One of the features of every festival - not just small-town festivals - is a parade. I love these parades, and I've seen quite a few of them. In a lot of the towns, the parades consist of farm equipment, the local high school marching band, local people dressed for the day, somebody's dog all decked out, maybe a few neat cars and that's about it. I still like them - the people who've dressed up (or dressed up their dog) are having fun, and it shows. However, the NC parade was quite a bit different - it started off with what seemed to be every piece of equipment from the local volunteer fire department. Several fire engines, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles, all with their lights flashing and sirens going. Quite a sight and sound!

Then they started in with the bands! Remember what I said above about a lot of small-town festivals? The (as in only one) local high-school marching band? Well, there must have been at least twenty (yes, 20) marching bands in this parade! They came from middle schools and high schools throughout the area. Every single band was decked out in their uniforms, and were playing their hearts out. Great Fun!

We went to some of the other events of the festival, too. We saw a fantastic quilt show, saw some crafts at a craft show, and went to the fine arts show at Arbor Lodge. These were all interesting and fun things, but the most fun was the parade. To me, that's what a festival is all about.

Monday, September 14, 2009

We now interrupt this knitting for some other knitting

I have been working on my "February Lady" sweater, and making pretty good progress. I'm into the into the first sleeve now. I've heard they can turn into a slog, if only because you're so close to the end you can practically taste it, but you've still got all this knitting to do! Well, I may have to interrupt that knitting to do some other knitting. I have a niece that is expecting a baby in February or March and I want to make something for the little one. I've ordered the "Baby Surprise Jacket" pattern, and I'm working on getting some yarn for the project. I know, I know, the pattern really works to use up stray skeins in your stash, but I don't have much in the way of yarn, in the right weight, and washable, to use for this. I promise you, I'm not going to *buy* yarn for the project - I have two friends that each have yarn they would be willing to give me - one of them in trade for knitting something up for her, the other in trade for something as yet unnamed. Fortunately, the one who will trade yarn for knitting something up doesn't have a deadline for the project. So, I should be able to get busy on the BSJ soon.

If I don't have to interrupt the FL for the BSJ, I'll probably end up interrupting it for Christmas knitting. I've got one thing planned, and probably several other things will come up. Several people in my family are quite happy if I give them hand-knit socks for Christmas, so we'll see. I do enjoy giving kntted Christmas gifts - I get the fun of making them, they're pretty much unique, and I don't have to fight crowds for parking or shopping! Of course, that only applies if I actually *do* the knitting. If I don't, I have to go out and do a bunch of last-minute shopping, which is worse than not-last-minute shopping. Well, with some planning, I should be able to knit some of my Christmas gifts this year. We'll see how it comes out - I don't want to say more than that - it would be tempting the knitting goddesses, and they love nothing more than giving an arrogant knitter a good smackdown!

War on the Weeds - Part 2

So today was a bit frustrating at work, as in, I spent *way* more time than I wanted to just getting back to where I was at the end of the day Friday - Argh! I did, eventually, get my stuff working, fixed the bug I needed to fix, and went on. But it left me wanting to destroy something! I got home, decided I really couldn't stand the way part of the yard looked, and took my frustrations out on the chlorophyll. I filled three garbage cans with an assortment of weeds, bush trimmings, and the current "dirty rat bastards" - the pseudo-sumac trees that are called "Tree of Heaven". Where they got that name I'll never know. They are invasive, brittle, easily broken, and they *stink* when you cut them. It felt pretty good to get rid of all those weeds and things, and the particular part of the front yard that was annoying me looks a lot better. I think I'm going to have to "express my Kali nature" (as my wonderful husband "J" puts it), more often.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Labor Day

I had thought to call this post "The Labors of Miriam", but then realized that would be pushing it - I did work hard at some things over the weekend, but the work was most definitely not Herculean.

What did I do, you ask? Mostly, I baked.

Saturday, I made a batch of molasses cookies and took most of them to church on Sunday morning for a reception after a concert in the evening. I didn't go to the concert, but I'm on the sponsoring board, so I made cookies.

For a lot of the rest of Saturday, I knit. Between the knitting on Saturday and what I did on Sunday between taking care of the bread, I finished a lace stole for a friend. She had bought the yarn and given it to me to "knit something" for her, in the spring. It had languished a bit over the summer, but I got it done and blocked over the weekend. I've since picked up my "February Lady" sweater and am making progress on it, now.

Wait a minute, you're saying, what was that about bread up there? Sunday evening I started a sponge, or poolish, for some bread. I let it ferment all night on Sunday and then on Monday (the holiday) I used it. It was a really good, wheat bread. The recipe came from a book I picked up at a really wonderful used book store in Minneapolis we visited - Magers & Quinn. Side note here - I don't usually shop at used book stores - I have found them to be unorganized and musty smelling. Magers & Quinn was extremely well organized and not musty *at all*. I would love to have access to a used book store that good here in Omaha. Alright now, back to the bread! It used wheat in four (or five, depending on how you want to count it) forms - all-purpose flour, whole wheat flour, wheat bran, cracked wheat and bulgar. It came out nice and crusty on the outside, and with a tender but chewy interior - yum! I may try to make a weekly habit of bread baking.

The thing is, I got the bread mixed and on its first rise, and then mixed up some lemon-ricotta pancakes. We'd had these at a place called "Hell's Kitchen" in Minneapolis, they were soooooo good that we decided we had to try making them at home. The internet to the rescue! Unfortunately, I made a few mistakes. The first one was not believing the recipe when it said it made 4-6 pancakes and would serve two people. I doubled the recipe, and it was way more than enough! We had leftovers for breakfast on Tuesday. The second mistake was heating the skillet and then turning the heat down too much. This made for a hot center and cool sides, which is a very bad thing. We eventually got things straightened out, and the pancakes all tasted good, even if they didn't look very good. I'll try the recipe again, but I won't double it, and I'll take more care with heating the skillet.

So these were not Herculean labors, but it was more time than I'd spent in the kitchen for a while. It was time well-spent, too, as we both get to enjoy the bread and the cookies I kept back. We both also enjoy the knitting, though in different ways. I enjoy the process and the results, while my husband likes seeing me so engrossed in something, and he likes seeing the results, too.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

OK, I say in the title that these are thoughts of an "untamed knitter". I suppose I'd better put some substance behind the "knitter" part. I just finished (literally, it's blocking right now) a stole for a good friend. It's a scaled-down version of the stole I knit for my wedding (10 months ago tomorrow). The pattern is the "Alpine Lace Stole" from Victorian Lace today. It's a lot of fun to knit, since there're decreases and yarnovers on both the right and wrong sides. The pattern isn't too hard to memorize, but I had to be careful, when I tried to "fly without a net" and knit without using the charts, I tended to make mistakes, and then I'd have to tink back to correct it, which kind of defeated the purpose of going a little faster and smoother because I wasn't using the charts! Anyway, I finished the stole, and when I can figure out how to upload pictures I'll post one here.

As for other stuff I've got going, well, there's the pair of socks I've started for my husband, "J". They're knit from some really nice soft wool whose name I can't think of right now. It's in his favorite colors of intense, dark blue, some purple and maybe something else, too.

I've also pulled a project out of "time-out". It's the really nice "February Lady" sweater. I started knitting it something over a year ago, in the luscious "River" yarn from Fleece Artist (or maybe Hand Maiden) yarns in Canada. I put it in time-out because I had noticed a huge difference between the colors in the different skeins. I was several inches along on the body, and, since the sweater is knit from the top down, this is quite a ways along. I came up with a way to interleave skeins and not carry yarn only on one side, but it meant knitting from three different skeins at once, and that was just too much to think about. I finally pulled it out again earlier this year, looked at it again, and Surprise! the difference in colors wasn't nearly as big as I had thought it was. So, it's come out of time-out. Maybe I can have it done to wear this fall.

I have a bunch of other stuff going, too - socks for myself, another top in time-out, a square lace shawl, a scarf, and I'm not really certain what all else. That doesn't even count the projects I'm planning to knit - that means I have the yarn and pattern, I just haven't done anything that could be construed as starting, yet. Nor does it count the yarn I've bought "just because". I will not reveal the full extent of my stash, here. We don't know each other well enough, yet :-)

So, yes, I really am a knitter. It's not the only thing I do, but it is one of my favorite things to do. As others have pointed out, it's a great way to use time that would otherwise be spent tapping my toes or twiddling my thumbs. I've also used it, with some small success, to try to calm my nerves when I go for a routine doctor visit. I'm happy to talk about it with anyone who asks me, and I'll be glad to try to teach someone to knit, just don't let me try to mix baking and knitting - it gets really messy really fast :-)

Friday, September 4, 2009


I made pie tonight for dinner. My dear husband, "J", has been cooking a lot lately, but I got a wild hare today at work, and decided that I wanted to make a savory pie for dinner. I got home early, so I went to the store and got the rest of the ingredients I thought I needed for this pie - sweet potatoes, yellow onions and apples.

First, I made a basic pie crust and wrapped it up and put it in the refrigerator. Next, I got out my mandoline - one of the most fun tools in the entire kitchen, it slices things nice and thin with next to no effort, uses no electricity and makes no noise, which means that my dog isn't disturbed by it. Anyway, I got out this most fun toy, and sliced up a sweet potato with it, and then sliced up a couple of smallish yellow onions with it and tossed them with flour. I cut up a pork loin into bite-sized pieces and tossed them with flour I'd seasoned with poultry seasoning.

Next step was to roll out the bottom crust for the pie and put it in a pottery pie dish. I put the sweet potatoes in the bottom, or half of them, anyway. I then put about half of the onions on top of the sweet potatoes and put the pork loin on top of them. Then I peeled, cored and sliced (thin, very thin) a Fuji apple and a Granny Smith apple, tossed them with flour and put them on top of the pork. I mean, you've got to have apples with pork, right? I added generous grinds of black pepper, some more poultry seasoning and some Kosher salt. Then I rolled out the top crust, put it on top of the pie, cut vents, and brushed it with an egg wash. I baked it for about an hour (I maybe could have taken it out earlier, but I was being sure) at 375 degrees, and voila! pie!

Both "J" and I agreed that the pie was very good and we'd be the envy of our co-workers when we brought in pieces for lunch. That is, if we don't finish it over the weekend. This is one to make again. I may tweak things a bit, like maybe not toss everything with flour - so there is some "juice" in the pie, but, on the whole, this is one to keep and do again.

The Never-Ending Battle

Since we got quite a bit of rain yesterday, I decided to pull some weeds after work. This is the never-ending battle of the title. You have to understand that I (and my wonderful husband "J") live on a corner lot, in an older neighborhood of Omaha. Older, as in, the house was built in 1924. There is a small strip of "yard" on one side of the house that has a sort-of flowerbed on it. I've planted three rose bushes in it and there are lily-of-the-valley growing there too. The trouble is that the weeds really like the flower bed, too. I decided that I should "strike while the iron was hot", or pull weeds when the ground was soft. It made the job easier both that the ground was nice and wet, and that I came to think of the weeds as "dirty rat bastards". Somehow, it just made it easier to keep going. Anyway, I pulled two garbage cans full of weeds from the side yard and the back yard. The weeds from the back yard came out of the retaining wall that I'd planted thyme and savory in, in the Spring. I am delighted that the thyme and savory are doing quite well, as are a lot of the weeds. So, it's a never-ending battle between the weeds and me. I think I'm making a little progress, but, as Mad-Eye Moody would say, it takes "CONSTANT VIGILANCE!"

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

And there was music

My church choir started practices tonight, so my lungs got their first structured workout in a while. I say "structured" workout because, though I have been doing some exercising, the exercises aren't aimed at your lungs. When you practice singing, you have to think about breathing - when you breathe, how big a breath to take, how to make it not sound like Darth Vader, etc. That's what I mean by a structured workout for the lungs.

Choir practice is also a good emotional tonic. It's one of those things that I know will be good for me when I least feel like going. I don't mean that in an "Eeyore" kind of way - the "I'll go because it's good for me." way. I mean I know I'll feel better after I've been to choir practice - being around a bunch of friends, and just the physical aspects of singing (the controlled breathing) make me feel a lot better after a rehearsal. It's also a nice break from the kind of things I think about all day at work. We're starting out with fairly easy numbers, but I'm sure we'll build up to some complicated or difficult things as we get further into the season. I look forward to those pieces - I enjoy the challenge!

Enough for now, I'm going to post this and then reward myself with a glass of wine.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting Started

First post. After seeing the entries on a niece's blog, I decided I could start one of my own. I don't know exactly what I'm going to be posting about, so I tried to stay away from titles that were too specific. I like to knit (well, that's an understatement - my yarn stash is threatening to take over the basement. If the heat goes out, all we have to do is break out the wool, and we're set for the winter.) and my husband says I've never been tamed (I've heard the word "domesticated" used instead of "tamed", and the clutter in the house can attest to it), thus the sub-title. Enough of this for now, I'll try to post more later.