Wednesday, December 28, 2011

vacationing and knitting and flowers galore

I am on a writing roll, and am waiting for my salted caramel sauce to heat up for tonight's decadent dessert (ie, poured over vanilla ice cream) and uploading pictures from my camera; surely the slowest process in my life these days. Creep, creep, anticipation...just came back from knit night at Starbuck's, where I worked on the latest of my smalls - a pair of Elizabeth Zimmerman's Mitered Mittens.
Look, Ma! No thumbs! EZ suggests we knit these without thumbs, and then add an afterthought thumb by locating the location and snipping a stitch and unravelling a thumb-sized number of stitches and picking up and knitting on. I am trying to cultivate fearlessness and faith, in equal measures, so I am going for it. But not without a stiff drink in hand as I snip.
Isn't this Kureyon pretty?

We are enjoying the quiet aftermath of the holiday, with the tree still up for a couple days more and nice things being eaten, like salted caramel sauce, and bison flank steak, and a truly lovely Amador County Barbera to drink. Knitting and dog frisbee and the reading of Olive Kitteridge at a leisurely pace.

There were plenty o' flowers for the holiday, both the show-stopping amaryllis,
and the more subtle beauty of the white tulips contributed by my sister:
It's been so warm outside this fall that the paperwhite narcissus that I planted out in the backyard are starting to bloom, about 2 months early. Grrrr, what to do? Enjoy them, I suppose, as Winter is finally here, and our morning temperatures are in the 30's now, with frost on the ground. Brave narcissus.

My sis and I cast on for our long-planned knitalong of Aidez, which is the French word for "help" I think, which means we'll be helping each other along. It's a fun aran cardigan, knit up in plump Cascade Ecological Wool - mine in brown, my sis' in grey. I was quite stressed in the beginning of this project, as I ripped and re-knit the beginning cast on and the set up rows a couple of times before I got it right. I think I angst too much over cables, and how they play out in a left-handed knitting scenario. In the end, I decided not to reverse my cables, but to knit the whole thing as written, and just let it twist and fall where it may. I did drop a needle size, based just on "feel", as I cannot see this thing being knit on US 10 1/2, even though Brenda's looks great and plushy. We shall see how it comes out. Here is a bit of detail. Apologies for the washed out picture. The brown is a much richer, sable-y color. I think it's called Java, but I'm calling it Walnut.
I think this is product knitting, as opposed to process knitting, as I want this cozy cardigan very badly.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

a little bit of history

A funny thought...many long years ago, I was sitting up in my office, on a snowy December evening. We had just moved to Virginia that summer, and I was surfing the web on my spiffy new laptop - a little blue clamshell iBook. I did not have a blog, though I had kept a paper journal since high school. The year was 2000.

I was trying to figure out how to force an amaryllis bulb to bloom indoors, and I came upon this site Waking the Amaryllis, which was essentially, a page out of someone's blog. It was the first daily life online journal I'd ever seen, and I was dazzled and inspired. I raced over to a free journaling site, the now-defunct-but-then-all-the-rage Diary-X and started The Secret Beaver World, which became my online journal for 6 years, til D-x crashed and ceased to be. The rest is history, as they say, but the Waking the Amaryllis page is still up there, and I am growing an amaryllis under my skylight now.

The holidays have floated by in a happy cloud of ham, visiting relatives, cold rain, gifts and friends. I am ready for the comparative austerity of the new year and a return to the good habits of more sleep, longer walks, doing some work and new knitting projects, which will be documented here tomorrow. Along with the amaryllis.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

full moon fever, not so much. I am completely lacking in firepower, due to a Flexeril I took last night to combat a tension headache, aching shoulders and back. I always gloss over how badly this drug and I get along, even though I am loose and relaxed today, with the headache banished. I'm just not very animated. Damn the halflife of chemicals in my system! I'm feeling a nap right now, and it's taking everything I have to do a blog entry instead, but I've got things to say, so sleep, especially unnecessary, chemically-induced sleep, will have to wait. Besides, it's the full moon, and I heard owls in the woods tonight, so that's reason enough to stay awake.

It's all good, though. My district is hiring me back as a substitute teacher, so there's a possibility of money on the horizon. This means I have to go to a most-of-the-day training next week, in order to hear the lectures on dress code, professional conduct, ethical behavior, etc. that this employer likes to lecture on. I have heard it all before, twice before from these very people, in fact, so I may bring along some knitting to do surreptitiously whilst it's going on. Subbing means that I'll have to do some pavement pounding in order to drum up my own work, so I'm getting psyched up to go out and sell myself at my neighborhood schools. I'm grateful for the upcoming possibility of working, though, particularly at a job that leaves me some flexibility.

This past summer, I knitted Ysolda's Rose Red beret in some Madelinetosh vintage. I was so ambivalent about the FO that I didn't wear it for awhile, and threatened to frog it - it just seemed waaay too big for my already-big head. I felt like I needed some dreadlocks to tuck into it to justify All That Hat. But I blocked it out instead, and decided, once it got cold, to give it another chance. After all, I don't like frogging things, and repurposing yarn is something I just never quite get around to taking care of. Blocking made Ms Rose look a lot nicer, and I think I might just let her hang around.
Apologies for the no-makeup look. I was playing around, and then realized that I liked the way the hat looked in the pic - rather Green Beret-ish, no? But seriously, I could have used some lipstick! The pattern is very well-written. I knitted the size medium, but think it produced a gi-normous hat. Might have been the superwash nature of the yarn that contributed to that; all I can say is that it is generously proportioned. But the yarn was lovely, and the Tart colorway is just gorgeous.

Now that the weather has turned, I've been all caught up in cooking "cozier" foods. I roasted a chicken last weekend, with the intent of making several meals from my effort. I've been really trying to eat cleaner meat, so this was a Springer Mountain bird, bought on sale, and roasted over a bed of root veggies: potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips and rutabagas. Rubbed with a mix of olive oil, garlic, chopped rosemary and thyme and roasted at 400 for 1.5 hours.
Amazingly delicious. I read somewhere about letting the bird sit out for several hours before roasting, so that the skin dries out a little, and so that everything comes to room temperature, and I did this. It ended up being the crispiest bird I've ever made, and yet the meat was actually quite moist.

From the leftover chicken and veggies (after a dinner, some meat nibbling and broth making) I made a chicken pot pie, using Chelsea's biscuit recipe (with some modifications) for crust. I used some of the broth to make a gravy to mix with the meat and veg and covered it all with rolled-out biscuit dough. A serious dish o' comfort food, and one that will be revisited around here throughout the winter. Super easy, once you have the meat, veggies and broth available to assemble the whole thing, too. I roasted the chicken with that plan in mind, and I think that's the way to go; I couldn't see myself as being organized enough in the kitchen to just whip one of these puppies out with stuff laying around.

Remember when I was going on and on about this being a mast year for acorns? Well, here are some new ones I came across yesterday, on a walk with Cricket. They are about an inch in diameter, with a rather rough, prickly cap. The acorns seem smaller and very tightly embedded in the cap. I'm fascinated by the variety of oak trees in our area. I suppose this will all mean a huge spike in squirrel population around here next year.

Blogging, and hearing the owls have given me a little bit of energy, so I'm going to go make some tea and watch my new Netflix dvd: Pedro Almodovar's "All About My Mother."

Sunday, December 04, 2011

November into December

November roared by; a beautifully warm, acorn-and-leaf-filled haze. Before I knew it, it was Thanksgiving, and I loaded up the dogs in the CRV and drove up to VA, to hang out with my family, and meet up with P for Thanksgiving.

My mom and I went out for lunch at a rural German restaurant. Fantastic sauerbraten and wonderful dark beer, in this cozy place on a cool foggy day.
I loved the fog. Everything was so hushed, in this blanket of mist.
Our family went out to Thanksgiving dinner at the Hotel Roanoke; yummy buffet, too much food. Our family is very small on my dad's side; neither my sis nor I have kids, and my one cousin on this side of the family is single, too, so it was me, P, my mom, my 80 year old auntie Lucille, my sis, and cousin Chuck. Nice to do things with these folk, and I feel we need to be together more frequently, which should happen after I move back to VA next summer.

My trip to VA also included getting together with a high school friend, hiking with Mr. Cricket on a rails-to-trails trail in Rockbridge County, where he saw his first cows - something he did NOT like in the least. Lots of outdoor time, lots of knitting, and coziness over the week. My sis and I fit in an all-night Lord of the Rings movie marathon, and we went out to hear David Wilcox in a small club in Roanoke. It was nice to hang out with my husband for a few days, too. I am suffering from not living under the same roof with him, this fall. This house seems too quiet, too overwhelming at times.

Last monday, I drove from VA back to GA. An 8 hour drive, 6 hours of which were made in a hard rain. Not fun. I left late, and arrived home late, and just released the dogs from their car prison (or so that's how they described it to me) and came upstairs and fell into bed. Nice to be back, even if it is in a too-cold, too-quiet house.

Some frosty leaves in the front yard yesterday.
The oaks are nearly bare, now, and it seems winter is upon us! I have managed to do a little Christmas shopping at craft fairs, thrift stores and such, and am knitting along on gifts for P and my mom.
This little village, being set up at the German restaurant, added to the wintry coziness.