Saturday, November 28, 2009

Recent Knitting, A Recipe, and A Promise of More to Come

I've decided that random blogging is the only way to go here. The level of commitment required to maintain a blog at the pace of an entry a week or an entry a day or whatever is just too much for me. So, this time it's ten days? Eleven? But that's ok, I hope. It has to be really. Things have been flying by so that when I have "down time" I spend it doing something very mindless. Blogging, sorry guys, requires organization of thought and of image that I just don't have the energy for. I think the Lyme thing taught me, if nothing else, that "No" is an ok word to say. So I am here, sporadic, distracted. But that's just who I am and how I roll. No apologies. (Ignore me. I am so, so sorry that I am such a blogger slacker. SO sorry. But I am making my peace with it).
I have been knitting. I made a Brambling for April.The sleeve caps as written needed a bit of tweaking - a warning to those who might want to knit this adorable little cardigan - whether this is a result of my yarn choice, row gauge differences, or just a little boo-boo in the matters not. I "did the math" based on my row gauge and re-wrote the sleeve cap. If you're knitting this for your beloved girl-child, be sure to check your row gauge and be aware that changes may need to be made.
I started a Raven for Aidan, and it is adorable already.I modified it so that I could work the body in the round; more mods will be forthcoming I am sure. Both of these patterns are from Rowan's Story Book of Little Knits. In both instances the yarn is Berroco Comfort, subbed for the intended yarn.
I finished my swatches for Knitter's Review Retreat class, and then arrived in Williamstown just before dinnertime without them.They were exactly where I'd left them when I'd wandered around the house saying "I know I am forgetting something. What am I forgetting?". My options were to drive the 3 hours home and back again to get the swatches thereby missing dinner, or eviscerate the finished sample bag project and use those swatches for demonstration. I chose the latter, and stayed for dinner. More about KRR later, and how much you wish you were there, and how much I hope I can go back again.
I started a sweater out of Lorna's Laces Swirl DK (currently at Webs as a close out, get it while you can, it's really perfect for what it ended up becoming!) - this was not close to what I intended to do with this yarn.(Still unblocked, because some changes need to be made) In fact even as I cast on I was not sure where I was going with it, but then I found myself making a top-down raglan baby-sized sweater, and then a shawl collar appeared. Then I found, yesterday while shopping with Kristen, the perfect buttons. So now I HAVE to take out the sleeves and make them wider. if the buttons were less adorable, the too-skinny sleeve would not bother me as much. But now, well, proportionally they have to be changed! This is the hazard of patternless knitting I think. I don't even really have measurements, it's al by eye and proportion and what I remember of round soft small bodies. Not a note taken, not a baby measured. But it looks like it'll fit one anyway, maybe in the 6 month range of things. Since there's no intended recipient, who knows?
I made two monkeys, we little funky ones although a bit sullen from a lack of face, from the leftovers from two pair of socks.The yarn is Blue Moon Fiber Arts STR heavyweight in Blue Brick Wall and....I Dunno. It was a mill-end. We have the kit which I bought for Girl at Sock Summit. I fell for the idea of wee monkeys and if she does not hurry up and get to work on the big one, I may have to make it myself as they are ADORABLE. I assume they will grace the tops of Christmas gifts for two certain small people this year. Well, once they have faces. Right now they just looked peeved.
I made a pair of Distraction Mittens out of the leftovers from the KRR swatches. I don't have a pattern for this either, I just cast on and started knitting and when the cuffs were a certain size I put them on my wrists and said "Huh. Mittens" and it went from there. Eventually, there were mittens that fit, oddly enough, me. I cal them distraction mittens because I needed one at the moment I cast them on, and they did their job admirably. The yarn is Valley Yarns Northampton, the color is Bright Pink, and the pattern could, I supposed, be written up is you're interested. It could also be sized to fit more than just me. But I'd need a sample knitter for that.
I started a pair of socks in Valley Yarns Franklin on Clover needles - more about this later.The pattern is simple and lacy and leafy which is a perfect compliment to the colorway. I love Gail's colors. You can get them at Webs, or you can find colors Webs doesn't have at Etsy. You just can't go wrong.
Every year Mr. Wonderful's employer gives out turkeys on the Thursday before Thanksgiving. We had no room in the freezer so he popped it into the fridge. I came home from Knitter's Review Retreat to find a thawed bird waiting for me. It was a commercial bird and had one of those pop-up "thermometer" things. I never use them, but for some reason this time I did this time. I put him (or her) into my big roaster, stuffed the thing with aromatics (onion, leek, carrot, parsley), wrapped tinfoil tightly over the top, and walked away from the slow (300 degree) oven. This is not how I generally cook a turkey. I most often brine them for 24 hours and pay attention to the cooking process, handy probe thermometer at the ready, everyone aware that dinner will be "when it's done" and a clock will not be watched. I had no attachment to this bird, however, so low and slow worked for me. I assumed that the little poppy thing would let me know when it was done. The smell of roasting turkey filled the house, and all was well. For a very long time. Hours and hours. More hours than seemed right, really. It looked very done to me, and yet the poppy thing did not pop. I was being horribly negligent. I got sick of checking. I walked away. At about 6pm I opened the oven and discovered that not only had the poppy thing finally popped, but the bird was so done as to be falling apart before my eyes. Every single joint disintegrated when I poked at it with a table fork. And it was swimming in what appeared to be a half gallon or so of liquid. This, I think, is the disclaimer on the package that says "some water added"? Regardless, he tasted pretty good. For days. Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Two people+one good-sized turkey=piles of leftovers. I made stock to freeze. I bagged meat for the freezer. And still it lingered, the plastic storage box stuffed with sliced turkey. It felt endless, that pile of meat. At long last we managed to empty the thing, with the last 1/2 cup of shreds going to Boo (old and blind has it's privileges). And then we went to my mother in law's for dinner Thursday and had...more turkey. Yesterday I went to the freezer and grabbed the first thing that came to hand - anything but turkey - I pulled out a whole chicken. And sighed. More poultry? But then I did this:

MMO's Slow Cooker Tired of Turkey Thai Chicken

3 qt crock pot
7-8 hours on low (reduce cooking time to 4-5 hours if using a thawed bird)

Into the pot place:
Small whole roasting chicken (I used one of my own, about 3 lbs he was, and still frozen when he went in)
1 leek, white and some green, chopped
3/4 cup of chopped carrots, unpeeled (if organic). Don't waste the micro nutrients! if they're conventional, peel them. Who knows what's on them.

In a medium sized mixing bowl combine the following:
1/2 cup Peanut Butter & Co. The Heat is On peanut butter
1/4 cup soy sauce
2T ketchup
2T Sriracha sauce (optional. The fam felt that this could have been left out, but then they are wimps. I like it hot.)
2T red current jelly
2 tsp Thai fish sauce

Mix well. Add 1 1/2 cup of water and stir until blended. Pour over chicken and vegetables in the crock pot. Cover and cook on low until the meat falls from the bone. Serve over brown rice. Yum.

If you try it, let me know how it worked for you. Curious am I about these things - will they work for other people? Ketchup and current jelly? What was I thinking? Or WAS I thinking? Most recipes I make are out of my head. Sometimes they get repeated, sometimes I forget to write them down, sometimes I don't measure a thing and have no clue. A lot like my knitting, really...

Knitter: "Oh...that's cute! Where can I get the pattern?"
Me: "Uhhh. Ummmm. Uh. Mmm. Uh...."

The barn grows, sometimes exponentially, at other times so slowly I want to kick and scream.There is a loft. No kidding, a LOFT. For storing brooder lamps and hay and shavings and waterers and feeders not currently in use. Now my thoughts run to ducks and heritage turkeys. I think there's room, if I do it right. A small spot for ducks, a bigger one for turkeys. Everyone on range during the day, locked in at night. An avian dream come true. I used to have a cockatoo and a small parrot. I love birds. Having birds that don't just fly around the house and poop on the carpet and chew the window trim and scream at 2am* (Goffin's, yes, really they do. I think they're the only psittacine known for screaming in the dark) has been a blessing, and I don't use that word lightly. They fill multiple purposes here. They feed me, entertain me, make me get up in the morning - the dogs do that, too. Having had some kind of fowl present for more than ten years, I just can't imagine life any other way.
I mean really. How could you resist this?Checking out the new digs. Their endless curiosity, so charming to me, is not endearing them to the contractor however, and they've been pretty much banned from the barn during construction. Soon they can move in, bags and baggage and maybe an egg or two.
Now the promise, I put it down here in the hopes that no one will see it so if I fail it'll be all good...I am going to try to blog about Knitter's Review Retreat and a few other FO's and such, and I will if anyone's interested, size and write up the mittens and share them (for a nominal fee, maybe $3?). I promise. Honest. Really, I do.

*I adored my 'Too and was heartbroken when she died. She was charming, companionable, adorable, gregarious and at times downright cuddly - and we have the pictures to prove it. She was free-flying in our house, so wandered from room to room with us, ate meals with us and was always a part of our flock. I don't, as a rule, approve of parrots as pets. I think they belong in the wild whenever possible. This bird was a rescue. She'd been wild-caught, probably illegally imported, then failed to breed when mated by her human captors to another Goffin's 'Too. As neither of the "pair" was ever DNA sexed, it's possible that they were same-gender and incapable of producing anything but clear eggs. Her "failure" to produce meant that the people who imported her had no further use for her and she was pawned off on the first available home and ultimately she ended up with me. I had her twice. First, prior to my divorce when her "mate" and she still shared a cage and before I'd read about parrots and behavior - she eventually killed her "mate", a total fail on my part, two cages would have saved "him" - and the second time after I had gotten back on my feet and she was able to return to me. At that point I did a lot of research. She had a giant Macaw-sized cage (which I still have), tons of stimulus, a play gym made from pvc pipe that rolled from room to room, lots of attention and love and an educated handler. I swear she remembered me. There was crying on my end and snuggling on hers, with her head in my neck and her wings spread out across me in some kind of hug. I miss her and the birds in my yard soften that a little. And yes she screamed in the middle of the night, and after some reading of Goffin's specific literature I found out that some can have night terrors. She was more or less quiet during the day; a little loud if she felt ignored, or playfully vocal in the early morning or evening which is normal for birds, or if we were dancing. If you've never danced with a cockatoo, I highly recommend it. But sometimes in the dead of night and for no apparent reason she would scream like a house afire, covered or uncovered, loved or not. Just something anyone considering parrot-as-pet should be aware of, along with "needs LOTS of stimulation, LOTS of destructable toys, a safe space for sleeping, and LOTS of good food, supplements, water, attention, affection, love, and time". And if you leave out ANYTHING on that list I guarantee you'll get more screaming, biting, feather-plucking and misery than you thought possible from a silly old bird, and it will be entirely of your own doing and you will have no one to blame but yourself.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Distracted Much?

That's me all over. Focus, focus, focus...DISTRACTED! Focus, focus, focus...DISTRACTED! Have you see Up? (If you haven't, you should) If you have, you remember the dogs? "SQUIRREL!"? That's me. Little known fact. Or maybe a well known one. Regardless, I can lose focus or flip and switch focus faster than anyone I know.

What was I saying?

Yes, distracted I have been. So much so that I lost touch with you blog readers for a very long time again - weeks even! And I had so much to say about so many things. Like Webs new interchangable bamboo needles. I love them. You should have some. We should ALL have some. What I love: size range, quality, adorable silk case, add-ons now available including more sizes! I've been through a few sets of interchangables; most ended up on eBay, and my kid got my Denise needles. These are keepers.

I wanted to talk about Kristin Nicholas' book Colorful Stitchery that I got in my swag bag from Twist Fair this weekend. It makes me want to pull out my embroidery needles and spend some time playing and creating and having fun making cards or pillows or stuffed animals.

I also want to talk about Potter Craft's 400 Knitting Stitches that I received as a review copy (so, dear stinking government entity that has nothing better to do than chase bloggers around, a book the publisher provided to me gratis, but am going to say nice things about anyway because I LIKE it, not because it was free, so there.). I'm a big fan of stitch dictionaries, and have a collection of the same. I have a particular fondness for the old Mon Tricot ones that I find on eBay or in the discard piles of deceased relatives. This book, an import is well done; all of the swatches are presented in a natural color so the stitches patterns are easily visible; there's no attempt to liven things up with multiple yarns and colors which is the smartest thing anyone doing one of these stitch dictionaries can, in my opinion, do. Uniformity of yarn for swatches may seem "boring" to publishers, but the ones knitters love the best are those that are uniform in their presentation; where someone's realized that less is more, that a single solid color that photographs well allows the knitter to really see what the pattern is supposed to be doing. If you're dipping your toe into the world of stitch dictionaries, this is a good jumping off point. It won't be all you ever need, but it'll make you pretty happy and keep you occupied for quite a good while.

I also want to DO things I've been meaning to do, some for years, that I just never get around to. I want to finish my husband's Dale pullover that I started in 2006. I want to knit BW's Learn to Knit Afghan, not because I want to learn to knit but because I think I need to do this. Also EZ's Almanac, which I start and stop and dip in and out of from time to time. I've probably done four or five months. And all these projects, these endless projects I've got here. On and on, piles and piles, and stacks and stacks. UFO's, things not even on needles yet.

And I want to spin, and finish this hooked rug I bought this weekend already on a frame and nearly complete and just in need of love since it's former owner apparently shuffled of this mortal coil, leaving the poor thing hanging in midair (literally), and I want to weave some dishtowels for myself because Mr. Wonderful is dawdling on them. I want to...

I want to learn to weld, and take a photography class and some fine art classes. I want to get a degree in everything or nothing at all. I want to learn how to ballroom dance, and take a country line dancing class. I want to learn to speak three languages (German, Spanish and Italian). I want to have solar panels enough to keep my lights burning all year round, and I want to replace my flush toilets with composting ones. I want to gather enough poultry processing equipment to not have to hire someone to process my birds, and I want to raise a lamb for market. I want to go back to the gun club and learn to shoot better, and I want to take up archery, too.

There's a man in my life who in 42 years never once made me feel like I couldn't do all of the above, and more. When I got into scrapes and people said I should know better his response was often "Well, no one told her she couldn't." I should have that made into a t-shirt, or maybe a tattoo. No one told me I couldn't. No one's telling me I can't. So, on we grow.