Saturday, February 23, 2008


What do you think?

I don't like it.

I am going back Wednesday night to get it fixed. I'm torn, because fixing = going shorter, which is what I really wanted in the first place (I let myself be led astray with this half-way shorter version), and if I don't like that, then it's that much longer until it grows out. Maybe I should just leave it alone and go back to longer? I just don't feel cute the way it is now, and it's important to at least feel cute.

I don't blame Mary. She's fabulous. It was a communication issue. Plus, we were only our 2nd date, how could I expect her to know what I wanted? I miss Liz.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Movie: Batman Begins

It occurs to me that some people might be wondering to themselves, Why is this woman posting about movies that are so old and out of date? Good question. This section of the blog posts grew out of the profile I had on the alumnae forum for my alma mater, where it asks you to describe books and movies that you like, in order for others to judge whether they might form an affinity with you, I suppose. I consume too many books and movies to keep a little profile thingy like that up to date in any meaningful way, so I started using the journal function of that profile to track movies and books, and when I started the blog I moved that over here. I also figure that I'm not the only one who doesn't get to the theaters to see every new movie and is often casting about for what to bring home from the library/video store. So, for anyone scratching their heads over this mystery, there you go.

Saturday night I had tried to gather some people together to try out contra dancing (I have an acquaintance who goes and it sounds like fun), but alas, I was unsuccessful. I must confess that I didn't try that hard, just sent a mass email the day before. Next time I'll have to get on the horn and do a better job selling the idea. The one taker wound up with a headache, so we just gave it a miss, stayed home, ate delicious homemade bread with delicious homemade soup and watched a video. The Professor is finally making an effort to check out shows from the library that he is interested in watching (having had it up to here with British murder mysteries, no doubt), hence Batman Begins. I was prepared to mock it and really just focus on getting some knitting done while hanging out with The Professor, but I really enjoyed it. I loved some of Morgan Freeman's lines, and the way they wove in all the gizmos Batman has and why he has them. Katie Holmes I could have done without. Sorry, but her character was just a little too reminiscent of her Dawson's Creek character. I thought she was decent in Thank You for Smoking, but if she just dropped out of movie-making, I would feel no great loss. Anyhow, Batman Begins was a fun movie. Made me wish we had some other Batman movies on hand to do a little marathon.

And good news, I did get a bunch of knitting done. Finished the first sleeve for my Fair Isle Yoke sweater, which is possibly morphing into a cardigan instead of a pullover. On Sunday I got the second sleeve going, and I made bread again and got some more spinning done while The Professor practiced piano (finally! I love when he plays, and I'm hoping he'll do it more often). The whole wheat version of the bread was even more delicious, and as I am writing this right now more bread, a double batch of the whole wheat variation, is rising in the oven. Man, I feel so cool. I am making bread. I didn't think I had it in me. I need to go do some more spinning to make my morning of homemaking activities really feel complete.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


For weeks now The Professor and I have been wanting to make our own bread. We have two perfectly serviceable bakeries quite close, but The Professor's mom makes her own bread, and it's heavenly. Also, it's expensive at the bakery, and we seem to be going through it at an alarming rate. I suggested we each make a loaf, sort of a Bread-Off, because it would be more fun to be in the kitchen together and feel more like play than work if we were each making bread. The usual trash talk ensued about whose bread would be better. I decided to go with a trusted volume from my mom's cookbook library that I inherited.

The corner was folded down on this recipe. I took it as a sign.

I also used mom's KitchenAid that I inherited. If James Beard tells me I can use a KitchenAid mixer, I believe him. Here's the dough after it's initial kneading in the mixer.

Next I let it rise (forgot to take a photo), then punched it down and put it in the loaf pan for its second rising. This is how it looked at the end of that (and after I'd sliced the top open per the instructions to ready it for baking.

And a mere 33 minutes later, I took this out of the oven.

Looks pretty good to me! The proof will come when we cut it open, but the instructions say to wait 2-3 hours before doing so. It's been half an hour so far. Luckily The Professor is taking a nap so that should help me restrain myself. I want him to see it unsliced.

Alas, his loaf has not fared so well. He used the Joy of Cooking, and he used some wheat flour and some bread flour that might be past its prime (but does flour go bad? I didn't think it did). His dough didn't rise properly and so he worked some more gluten into it, and it seems to have risen a little more, but I just don't know. I'm still hoping it can somehow be salvaged.

UPDATE: The bread was delicious. It's 3/4s eaten already. Andy's never rose. We're going to do some more experimenting with it today, but it might just be compost. Live and learn.

Audiobook, A War of Gifts: An Ender Story

by Orson Scott Card

Read by Stefan Rudnicki and Scott Brick

Loved this story. I love all the Bean and Ender books that I've read (ie, listened to, because I just love Scott Brick and Stefan Rudnicki, although I can do without Gabrielle de Cuir). This one is a short novella, although I realize now that I must have been listening to an abridged version, because it was only two CDs, and there is an unabridged four-CD version, so I'll have to go back to the library for that one.

It's set at Battle School at Christmas in the time after Ender arrives but before Bean. I love how science fiction is such a fantastic vehicle for social commentary. I thought of Rachel the entire time I was listening to this story and her efforts to reclaim Christmas this past year. I think listening to this book might become one of my Christmas rituals, right up there with watching Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas. I recommend this book, but of course to get the full enjoyment out of it, I recommend the entire Ender series and the entire Bean/Shadow series be read first. They really are fantastic books. If you commute by car or are going on a long driving trip, take some of these audiobooks along. You won't regret it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fiber fun updates

Here's the progress so far (end of yesterday, aka Day 6) on my sweater:

This photo taken at the end of Day 2 shows the color a little better (even though it also highlights my less than incredible ribbing):

I love the subtle changes in the hand dyed yarn. It's from Shelridge Farms, their Soft Touch DK. Yum. I'm using a size US#3 needle, and I'm surprised how fast it's going. It is just a stockinette tube for the moment, so I shouldn't be too shocked, but I still am a little.

Here are the promised shots of the Two-Tone Shrug:

And a shot of my addition to the pattern, an armpit gusset to make it a little less fitted (this shot does the best job of showing the true colors out of any of these photos):

I have also been using this baby:

to produce this:

which is my 4th go at the wheel. A definite improvement over my first few tries as you can see.

#1 on a drop spindle, at which point I decided not to pursue spinning at all:

#2 on a very nice two-treadle wheel sort of like this one, I think.

And my 2nd go at a wheel, first time on the one-treadle Ashford pictured above:

The disastrous results of my 3rd attempt at the wheel are fortunately hidden by the stuff I spun on the 4th try.

Phew, that's a lot of pictures! Thank you to my awesome friend Geno for the Flickr photo uploading tips.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Oh, crap

My friend Mary Ann just introduced me to Scrabulous. I just passed 5 times in a row so I could play E-P-I-T-O-M-E on a triple word score, but it was worth it. I am already ahead again (for the moment, Mary Ann is a worthy opponent). Here's our game so far:

I foresee many hours wasted playing Scrabble online (unless a copyright infringement lawsuit brings it down). If you want to play a game, just let me know. I'm Darxyanne on there, too. It's a little harder to bring my A-game online, and I miss the shakey-shake of the tile bag, the nice feel of wood in your fingers when you lay down a word, but there are so many people I can't play because they live too far away. Scrabulous to the rescue! I've already challenged my favorite Scrabble buddy, my dear Aunt Marsha. Let's see if she will play...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

She is wafting on the odor

Just a little PSA to tell people about a very delicious smell of which I have recently become enamored. Lilith's Apothecary was the source. I'm sure you've all heard of Etsy, but if you haven't (I actually encountered two people in the past week who hadn't, shocking), it's a great source of handmade items. Anyhoo, the Orange Rosewood facial cream is sooooo yummy-smelling. I want to keep putting it on so I can keep smelling it. It's really yummy. If you see me on the street, be sure to ask to smell my face, because it smells good. It is also nice to have face cream again. I went for a couple months without any, and my face was feelin' mighty dry.

I know probably only Jonestah will get the title reference (hmm, it looks like I remembered it wrong, but I like my memory of it better), but I had to use it anyhow. So for the rest of y'all, you can educate yourself by checking out some new Lynda Barry (I loved "Before You Write," "Summer Love Showdown," and "Please Mr. Postman," all reminiscient of the good old days, when Thursday meant the City Paper's latest issue and a new Ernie Pook's Comeek; The Professor will no doubt enjoy "50 Teeth and 13 Nipples."). And check it out! The strip to which the title of this post refers can be found here. Scroll down to page 4, Cooking with Freddie. Classic.

Edited to add photos and linkage to Mirandala, my favorite source of news on the internet.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Book: Made from Scratch

Subtitle: Reclaiming the Pleasures of the American Hearth

by: Jean Zimmerman

It took me a couple weeks to get through this one, only because life was getting in the way, and I couldn't just stay home and read all day. I actually finished it a couple weeks ago and had dreamed of writing a little more intelligent, in-depth review of it, but guess what? That's not happening. Suffice it to say, I quite enjoyed this book. I got it out of the library because it was on the shelf next to something else I was seeking, but I haven't read that one yet (a rather heavy-looking tome on the history of housework).

The book was well written, and I enjoyed the content as well as the style. My only beef with the book is the false advertising of the subtitle. Because the reclaiming part? The how the heck do we get back to being connected to our homes and the other people in them in a real way, through the making and sharing of homemade food, by cleaning up after ourselves for goodness sake, and maybe creating something handmade? Yeah, that was like 3 pages at the very end. It did not suffice.

A bunch of people floated to mind while reading this book. Kelly, Anne, Claudia: y'all would dig this book, I think. I would recommend it to anyone but y'all especially.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Falling off the wagon

Today I made my first purchase this year of a new item that wasn't food or hygiene related. I bought yarn. I took a pledge (to myself and to a friend) not to buy any new yarn in 2008 even before we officially decided to do the Compact, so it feels doubly lousy. The circumstances are extenuating. I have three pairs of socks on the needles for which I am going to run out of each color before I finish the second sock, and in all three cases, the first sock is completely done, with ends woven in and everything, making creative color mixing to stretch the yarn I have an unappealing option. The socks were all started in September. I knew I needed the yarn since October, just never got around to buying it.

But I went a little further and got some other colors of yarn to use as accents for some fair isle sweaters I have planned. I have the base yarn for four different fair isle sweaters, but not enough accent yarn for even one of them as it stands now. I could just make solid sweaters, but I wanted them to be fair isle when I bought the base yarn, I just didn't buy the accent yarn at the time because I didn't have the color card. I tried to buy accent yarn at last year's Stitches Midwest, and I did get some, but they didn't have all of the colors I wanted.

I am usually so excited when buying yarn, but the (completely self-induced) guilt is ruining my usual high. I think the only cure is to go start one of the sweaters for which the accent yarn will soon be winging its way to me, but I want to finish at least one of the BSJs this weekend. Both of them have been sitting there for weeks now with their ends dangling, their shoulder seams unsewn and the buttons languishing in a coaster on the end table. I did finish my shrug finally, and it looks great. Photos to come post-blocking.

I am hoping this will be my only departure from my non-yarn-buying path this year. And I'm saying this with a trip to Scotland planned in the coming months. Home of many sheep and much delicious yarn. If I feel this cruddy getting stuff I need to finish using stuff that's already in my stash, how am I going to feel if I just haul off and buy completely new stuff? I can't even think about it.

Movie: Clerks II

Thursday night I indulged myself in a second viewing of this movie, and I loved it all over again. I think the highlight for me is Randall's face during his conversation with Elias about why Elias and his girlfriend Mira haven't sealed the deal, as it were. Classic. Anything with Elias is one of my favorite parts of the movie, but every part of it is so wonderful that I can't really have a favorite. And what am I saying? What about Jay?! Ah, Jason Mewes, I adore him. I want to knit him a nice hat; that's how much I love Jason Mewes. I wonder what kind of hat he would like? Grey? Black? Plain? With a design on it? I can't let him keep wearing this sort of store-bought crap, can I? Hmmm, better get hats made for me and The Professor first. Yes, it's true. I'm a knitter without a hat. And a knitter with a sweetie without a hat. I made him one but it came out so ugly (I haven't even photographed it-- it's that bad) that it's an outside work hat, right out of the gate.

Anyhow, if you haven't yet seen Clerks II, give it a try. It's pure gold. All hail Kevin Smith.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Very big news

Well, something momentous has occurred. I have changed my mind about a long-held prejudice.

Yes, it's true. I have decided that.... (drumroll please)

I will eat brussels sprouts.

For a long time, brussels sprouts shared the dubious honor of being listed as one of the three things I would not eat, the other two being liver and goat cheese. No plans to sample either of those any time soon, in case you're wondering.

It has happened twice now. The Professor has brought them home from the farmer's market still attached to their funky little stalk, and he has sauteed them (not the overboiling that I remember from my youth), once in bacon grease, once in olive oil with garlic. Both times, they were totally good. I do prefer the bacon grease method, of course, but it's a complete surprise to me that I will eat them at all. I used to say that I gave them up for lent. In 1983.

I am happy to report this new expansion of my vegetable horizons. Oh, and I should also add that a splash of vinegar was a nice addition to the sprouts. I tried both apple cider and balsamic. Both worked equally well.

In slightly less positive culinary news, yesterday I found some completely inexplicable glass in a bowl of very delicious squash soup. We can't figure out from whence it came. Luckily I caught it before chomping down and slicing up the inside of my mouth. Subsequent enjoyment of the soup is dampened somewhat by the mysterious origins of the glass, because I have no idea if there's more in there. Maybe I'll run the rest of it through a strainer today, but it's pretty thick.

And an empty breakfast bowl from yesterday left for ~10 minutes on a table near a plant was found to contain... an ant! It's February, for crying out loud! Are they living in the pot? The plant was donated to us by The Professor's mom, who does move her plants outside during the summer, so who knows. I was completely grossed out. I liberated the ant into the backyard. Good luck, little fella! Don't come back!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Book: A Three Dog Life, a memoir

By: Abigail Thomas

Heart-rending but short. I read it in about 2 hours, part while eating breakfast, the rest on the couch with the cat in my lap. It's written by a woman whose husband suffered traumatic brain injury. The writing is beautiful, but the story is sad. I recommend it, but line up something happy for when you finish it is my advice.

The part that stuck out to me most was how, in the wake of this tragedy, she has put together a life for herself that she can like and that she can enjoy at times, and how it used to be hard to live with the knowledge that she wouldn't have the life she does if her husband hadn't been hurt. I feel like that a lot. So many things in my life would be different if my mom hadn't died and even died when she did. I wouldn't have met The Professor, at least not in the same way. I wouldn't have my cat. I wouldn't have this house, or her car, or the ability to take this time to find work I love. I doubt I'd even be in Ohio. It's a very strange thing to realize how much one thing changes your life, and how it causes this weird schism when you don't like the thing that happened, but you do like your life. Here's what she writes:

So now today I look up acceptance and the definition is "to receive gladly" and that doesn't sound right. I flip to the back, and look up its earliest root, "to grasp," and discover this comes from the old English for "a thread used in weaving," and bingo, that's it. You can't keep pulling out the thread. You have to weave it in and then you have to go on weaving.
That pretty much sums it up.

And what am I doing reading this tragedy anyhow? Someone told me it was good, and even though I knew it would be sad, I'm still a sucker for memoirs. The writer is also a knitter. No good reason, but at least it was a quick read.