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.