Friday, November 30, 2007

A quick recipe run-down

Work has been crazy busy this week, so I haven't had a chance to queue up any pictures for proper knit blogging. A preliminary injunction hearing ate up two days of the week, so I've been scrambling to catch up since then.

Since I have nothing to blog about, I'm linking to recipes. The current free recipe available on Cook's Illustrated website is Beef Stroganoff. I highly recommend grabbing this recipe while it's available. I've made it multiple times and it's delicious, especially if you're willing to shell out a little extra for some good meat. I often double the recipe now so the leftovers last a little longer! (By way of forewarning, I salt and pepper the recipe a LOT more than CI suggests. I think CI recipes deliberately have a light hand with spices to let the cook decide how to season the dish. I think this particular recipe benefits from a lot more S&P than the recipe calls for.)

I also highly recommend this chocolate chip cookie recipe, which I've now made twice in the past two weeks when I needed to make a quick, fast dessert. A few years ago I went on a quest to find The Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe. After a number of batches, my tasters decided that this one was the best, and now it's my go-to recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Other recipes I've tried since finding this one just haven't measured up.

I use cold butter straight from the refrigerator (instead of softening it beforehand, I cut the butter into chunks and mix it with the sugar until it's properly creamed), and I try to underbake the cookies just a tad. I pull them out of the oven when they're puffy-looking, golden around the edges but still relatively pale on top. Since they're just a hair underbaked, I cool them on the baking sheet for a while (probably 5 minutes) because they're really soft coming out of the oven. Then I put them on wire racks to cool the rest of the way.

These cookies will last for at least two days without getting the stale taste and texture that a lot of homemade cookies do. I don't know if they last longer than that because they're usually all gone by then!

Have a good weekend!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Truckin' along

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! I had a nice holiday filled with lots of knitting and absolutely NO thoughts of work. Although I didn't get as much knitting done as I had hoped (when do I ever?), I'm truckin' along on my holiday gifts and am pretty satisfied with my progress to date. I finished two hats over the holiday and queued up yarn for some felted oven mitts. Unfortunately, the weather was terrible this weekend--rainy, cloudy, clammy, and cold--so pictures of those will have to come later when the sun comes out again.

But I do have a few pictures queued up of a couple things I finished a while ago. I'm almost done with gifts for GPG's family. GPMom is getting a Silk Garden scarf, inspired by Brooklyn Tweed:

If she doesn't like the colors, she can trade her scarf for GPSister's. I was completely out of ideas (and time) to make anything more elaborate for them this year. Luckily, Noro yarn makes even the simplest patterns stunningly beautiful.

GPBrother-in-law is also getting a Noro scarf. It's another shameless rip-off from Brooklyn Tweed:

Instead of Silk Garden for GPBiL, I used two skeins of Noro Iro and size US13 needles. I had never knit with Iro before and I like it a lot--it's nice and thick and squooshy.

The scarf is a little lumpy because I forced myself to knit it Continental-style. I'm an English-style thrower because that's the way I learned, but I want to start doing more colorwork and I know that knitting Continental-style helps a lot for that. I figured a garter-knit scarf would be a good way to practice Continental knitting.

It probably was good practice, but my stitches weren't terribly even and it was a relief to go back to throwing my yarn for the next project. (In the interest of speed, I allowed myself to go back to English-style knitting for the rest of the holiday gifts.) I don't have time these days to do any colorwork, anyway, so Continental knitting and colorwork will have to wait until next year.

Anyway, the scarves are all nice and long and warm, so hopefully they'll be put to good use. I'm still deluding myself into thinking that I can finish GPDad's present--socks--in the near future. We'll see if that actually comes to pass.

Hope everyone has a good week!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kid 'n' Ewe

Thanks for all the well wishes about the bar, everyone! I was so relieved to find out that I passed. I wasn't terribly nervous before I checked the results, but afterwards my legs were ridiculously trembly for maybe an hour. Whew!

To celebrate, GPG took me out to a great dinner on Saturday, and yesterday my judge brought a bottle of champagne to work (my co-clerk passed the NY bar, so we had two bar exams to celebrate). It's definitely been a good week!

Kid 'n' Ewe now seems like a long time ago, but I wanted to share a couple pictures from our trip to Boerne. GPG took all of them (I didn't even bring my camera!), so there were hardly any yarn pictures to choose from. But I think he probably captured most of the interesting non-yarn things at the festival.

When we first arrived, we ran into a woman selling angora rabbits. They were very cute and incredibly soft. I think the one below is an English rabbit. If I recall correctly, the French ones have furry ears. (I think the French ones are cuter, but GPG didn't get a photo of those.)

The woman told us that when it's hot, the rabbits will sometimes get "summer ears"--the tips of their ears will droop, like you see in so many cartoon renderings of the Easter Bunny and other rabbits. The ears won't necessarily perk up again once it gets cold--they may be permanently droopy! I thought that was interesting.

There were also alpacas out back:

These were a lot of fun. They were small--shorter than I am--but their fleece was beautiful. Your hand sunk deep into the fleece when you petted them; I was surprised how thick and lofty their wool was. And the owner of this alpaca transported it in his minivan! When he has to take one or two of them somewhere, he just takes out the seats in the back and lays down some tarp, and in go the alpacas.

And here is a photo of some of the beautiful Brooks Farm yarn. They had a huge display of all their yarns, in a myriad of colors. It was total sensory overload to wander through the hanks and feel the yarns and look at the colors. They make some gorgeous stuff!

Some day I'll make something out of Brooks Farm yarn . . . just not now. GPG and our small apartment thank me for not adding to the size of the stash.

There were lots of classes and demonstrations going on at the festival--lots of spinners and knitters all over the place--but the most interesting demonstration we saw was a woman making lace. I had never seen this kind of fiber art before, and it was astounding. The woman had a cushion on a little table set before her, and on the cushion was a strip of paper (or some thin synthetic material) that had the pattern printed on it. She had probably twenty bobbins or so of thin, thin thread, and was weaving the thread into lace by overlapping bobbins and twisting the thread according to the pattern.

The multitude of pins you see stuck into the cushion helped secure the threads, and every now and then she'd take a pin from the "back" of the lace--the finished part--and move it to the "front" to help mark out the pattern for the part she was currently weaving. It was amazing.

The lace maker told us that this particular lace would make up a wedding garter for a relative. She said that it takes her an HOUR to make one inch of lace--and I have the feeling that she's as close as you can get to an expert. She was really flipping those bobbins around like it was nothing. And I thought knitting was time-consuming! I can only imagine how long it would take a beginner to make something like this.

I have no desire to learn something as intricate as this fiber art, but . . . at least the lace stash wouldn't take up much space, you know? (Hee.) And there's no denying that anything you made would really be an heirloom piece, something the recipient would keep with his or her most precious treasures.

Anyway, that was our trip to Kid 'n' Ewe 2007. It was a lot of fun! We definitely saw lots of interesting things.

I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving!!!

Sunday, November 18, 2007


The California Bar Exam, that is. YAAAAAAAAAAAAAY!!!!!!!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Making progress

Slowly but surely, my spinning is getting better. Here's the last little skeinlet I spun out of my "Phlox" fiber from The Fiber Denn. I was so psyched when I put the yarn into a skein and found out that it's completely balanced:

Look, Ma! No twisting! Yay for balanced yarn!

I already started spinning up the next batch of fiber, which is some Corriedale in the "Coleus" colorway, again from The Fiber Denn. It's amazingly soft. In fact, it was surprising to pull off a bit of it and start separating it into strips to predraft--the fiber is so fine that it almost falls apart into strips by itself. It's spinning up much more finely than the Phlox fiber, which I think was Shetland wool.

Aren't those colors beautiful?

This spinning thing is totally addictive. I've finally moved beyond the park-and-draft method into real drop-spindling, and I've been spinning this Coleus every evening this week, to the detriment of my holiday knitting! On Monday I spun up a little skeinlet of this Coleus fiber and, for the first time, washed the yarn to set the spin. (I didn't bother with the beginning skeinlets because they were so uneven, although maybe I'll go back now and do them all.) The first Coleus skeinlet seemed pretty reasonable off the spindle, so I thought I'd see what happens when you wash the yarn.

Wow! A dunk in some water really helps even out the spin! I was so encouraged by that first skeinlet that I decided to try try spinning the Coleus for yardage instead of making more little skeinlets to measure my progress. So far I've spun almost half of it. It's not perfectly consistent, but it's a lot better than my first few attempts, and it's also much more finely spun. I'm going to try to finish spinning it up this week so I can get some photos on the weekend.

I'm justifying all the spinning this week to myself by telling myself that I can knit a holiday gift out of the spun yarn once I'm done. There should be enough for at least a hat or some wristwarmers/fingerless gloves. Of course, now I want to make handspun, handknit gifts for everyone! Sigh . . . I'm never going to finish my holiday gifts this year!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Loot

Happy Veteran's Day! Since I'm currently a federal employee, I should theoretically have the day off. In practice, though, I'm here in the office, starting a regular work day. Why not start it with a post about all my loot from Kid 'n' Ewe?

Kid 'n' Ewe was a lot of fun. As I said before, it's no Rhinebeck or Maryland Sheep & Wool, but I think it was a good first fiber festival. (I think I would have sensory overload if I went to Rhinebeck or MS&W right out of the gate. And I would also end up in the poorhouse.) There were some angora bunnies (so cute!) and alpacas (so fleecy and soft!) to pet, and there was also a cashmere goat competition while we were there. GPG took some pictures of the animals, so I'll try to post some of those later this week.

There was also a ton of fiber and yarn, plus lots of spinning wheels and spindles. I didn't actually find a niddy-noddy I wanted; I found some smaller ones, but nothing reasonably sized. So instead I bought some fiber and yarn.

I actually can't remember the farm this red fiber is from, but it's four ounces of beautiful, soft merino. The red is shot through with blues and purples. I've been gravitating towards reds and bolder colors in all my yarn purchases lately, and this weekend was no exception!

I also bought two rovings from Lynn's Texas Fibers. Lynn is actually based in Pearland, a city/suburb on the outskirts of Houston, which is dangerous information for me to know. She had a lot of beautiful things for sale, including some gorgeous wool/tussah silk blends, but I stuck with wool since I was afraid anything with silk would be a little too challenging for a newbie spinner.

She had two cheerful multi-color rovings that I snatched up because they were the only ones left of their kind. Four ounces of Corriedale (I think):

And 3.5 ounces of some more rainbow Corriedale goodness:

Lynn also had some beautiful golden yellow wool/silk rovings that I really coveted. But I will have to get those the next time, when I'm a better spinner.

As you can gather, for some reason I was really drawn to the rainbow-dyed things over the weekend. My yarn purchases were no different. See, e.g., 800 yards of single-ply yarn in the "Magenta Variegated" colorway from Plain & Fancy Wools:

And 400 yards of the "Primary" colorway:

I intend to make a Clapotis out of the magenta stuff, and I've already started on the Primary to make an unbloggable Christmas gift. It's beautiful stuff. Plain & Fancy is a terrific mom & pop shop based in Henderson, Texas. Knitters Review mentioned them in a write-up of the Taos Wool Festival here. Ken and Grayce, the owners, were really nice--I'll have to write them and find out if they have color cards, because their yarn is something else! They have some beautiful semi-solid yarn that would make great sweaters . . .

All in all, I think I made some reasonable purchases. The rovings were all much cheaper than any of the other things I've bought on-line, and I tried to be disciplined about buying yarn. Brooks Farm had a beautiful, beautiful array of all their yarns, dyed in amazing colors and all deliciously soft. But I couldn't think of a good project I wanted to make from any particular yarn, so I exercised some restraint and didn't buy anything from them.

Anyway, we had a good time at the festival; the time just flew by. I was worried that GPG might be bored out of his mind, but he seemed to have enjoyed himself, too. We had a great weekend. Hope you did, too!

Friday, November 09, 2007


Yay! I got an invitation to Ravelry yesterday! I'm now registered as seedlessgrape and I expect that I won't get nearly as much work done today as I would like to. I was clicking around just before bed last night and there are so many amazing projects on there!

I'm going to my first fiber festival tomorrow: the Kid 'n' Ewe festival in Boerne, Texas! I'm very excited. It's certainly no Rhinebeck, but Theresa says it's a nice festival with a little bit of everything--some fiber animals, yarn, spinning fiber, and spinning tools. I might even get to try a wheel, which would be exciting! I think it will be a good introduction to the world of fiber festivals.

I just bought some more fiber from Amy's grand opening sale-abration for Spunky Eclectic, so I'm going to try to exercise some restraint while I'm in Boerne. I mostly want to get a niddy-noddy so I can stop winding my little skeins on the back of a kitchen chair. And if some Jojoland yarn happens to make it home with me for a Clapotis or two . . . well, that will just be a bonus. GPG is coming along to make sure I don't break the bank while I'm there.

(On a legal note, because I can't resist . . . yes, this is the Boerne of City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997). My religious liberties professor from UT, Doug Laycock, argued before the United States Supreme Court on behalf of Flores, the Archbishop of San Antonio, and the Saint Peter Catholic Church in Boerne. I just might be enough of a legal dork to try looking for this church while I'm in town. I studied this case a fair amount in law school!)

Anyway, I hope to see some of you on Ravelry! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Coq au Vin

Short story: Cook's Illustrated is offering their recipe for "Modern Coq au Vin" (as part of a menu for a full meal with salad and dessert) for free on their website now. This is a great, fairly easy recipe to make--go check it out if you like to cook!

Long story: I don't get to cook as much as I used to when I was a student; I just don't get home early enough any more to cook dinner. But I try to cook once a week, on Sunday evening, when I cook something big enough to generate lots of leftovers for me and GPG to take for our lunches during the week. For one thing, I think homecooked food just tastes better than most things you can buy at a restaurant/deli. For another, I like having something nice and hot to warm up for lunch at work, instead of going out to grab an overpriced cold-cuts sandwich.

This week I made "Modern Coq au Vin" from, as always, Cook's Illustrated. I got the idea after reading a post about it on Two Sheep. June of Two Sheep is also a Cook's Illustrated fan, and she had good things to say about the recipe, so I decided to try it out this week.

GPG loved it. He said it was "great" when he usually says things I make are "good" or "really good." (It's not that GPG doesn't like my food; he's just not effusive about it. At least, I think.) It was also fairly easy to make, and I don't think my substitutions made a big difference for the taste, while they made my life easier: I used dried thyme instead of fresh (and strained the wine/broth mixture) and a whole onion, chopped, instead of pearl onions. The recipe calls for a whole bottle of wine, but I bought the Three Thieves' Bandit Cabernet Sauvignon for about $9 and it worked perfectly.

(If you can find Bandit in your grocery/liquor store, it's worth checking out--the Three Thieves' shtick is that they sell their "Bandit" wine in a tetra-pak box to lower the price. The box is admittedly not the classiest way to buy your wine, but you get a full liter of wine (equivalent to 1 1/3 bottles) and it's quite drinkable, to boot. I'd buy it again just to drink, but it also works well for a high-wine-content recipe like Coq au Vin.)

Anyway, Cook's Illustrated's website regularly offers a few free recipes that change every couple of days. They're offering "Modern Coq au Vin" as one of their free recipes at the moment, so I wanted to post a link to it so that non-subscribers can snag a copy of the recipe while it's available. I made up some mashed potatoes to go with it and the full recipe generated at least 9 meals for me and GPG. It's a great cold weather dish to make and will give you lots of leftovers (or serve lots of people), if that's your thing!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

My first EZ!

I expect I'm fairly late hopping on the Elizabeth Zimmermann bandwagon, but after reading through most of EZ's books and knitting up a famous EZ pattern, my first thought is, "Better late than never!"

GPG has some old friends from high school who just had a baby. These friends have always been very kind and generous to me, so a baby gift was in order. I had some DK Fleece Artist merino in the "Jester" colorway and a recently acquired copy of EZ's Knitters Almanac. What better baby project could there by than the February baby sweater?

I was quite pleased with the knit. Fast, easy, and I'm can definitely get on board with EZ's no-seam philosophy. I was also very happy with the yarn. I was concerned with how the rainbow bits would knit up, but I like the finished product. It's a colorful sweater without being overly bright and cutesy.

Pattern: February baby sweater from EZ's Knitters Almanac
Yarn: DK Fleece Artist merino, "Jester" colorway, from the Knitty Noddy (gorgeous yarn; terrific service)
Needles: INOX US 6 circulars
Recipient: Baby Irma!