"Whatever shall we do in that remote spot? Well, we'll write our memoirs. Work is the scythe of time." --Napoleon Bonaparte, on his way into exile.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

What's For Dinner: French Stew

I make this every week, and now that Bob has challenged his readers to find this recipe on my site, it's high time I posted it. So Bob, this one's for you. Sorry it took me so long to check out your site! Bob's been very supportive about NaNoWriMo and he's made me look forward to starting on Monday...eep! November's almost here!!

1.5 pounds stewing beef
1 onion, sliced thin
8 oz. mushrooms, sliced
2 T tapioca (you can use instant but I prefer the pudding kind...makes a thicker gravy)
2 C beef broth (or, one can plus some water to make 2 C)

Layer all and cook at 300 degrees (yes, that low!) for 3-4 hours. I use a covered casserole to keep everything from drying out. Leave the house and come back when it's almost done, otherwise the smell will tempt you to eat it too soon.

Serve with rice -- serves 4.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Poncho FINITO!

Posted by Hello

I was trying to get Tess into the picture; I don't normally hunch my shoulders like that and GOD FORBID E should take more than one picture. I called my Mom last night as I was binding off, just to say "I'm binding off!" She's so proud; she really helped me with the concept of increasing this time around. I just sent her the picture and I know she'd be happier if Tess were in it with me. Oh well.

At the end, I had too many increases (291 instead of 272, and yes, an odd number was wrong, too), but instead of tearing back 10 rounds to get to the right numbers (it's also 4 inches too long, but I'm tall so I can carry it off), I only tore back to a non-increase round and finished up from there, knitting 2 together at one point to even things up. See? I AM a "Knitting Adventurer." Purists beware.

The varigated yarn hides the pretty increase in front and back, but "in person" you can see it and it turned out well. Varigated yarn hides a lot, but that's not necessarily a bad thing with this (first-time big) project.

I believe I'll always wear this with my star-studded pajama pants, non? Tres stylish, I think.

Oh, and in other news (see yesterday's entry), I took a pregnancy test AGAIN and it is still saying NO. Go figure. So I called my nurse at my OB/GYN's office; she is so helpful and friendly and she really put me at ease. I'm either pregnant and got a bum set of tests, or my hormones are wonky (not unheard of at age 38) and, since I had such a rough time last month with migraines and flow and all that, it might just be a "blip" on my hormonal radar.

So, I'm to take another test in a few days (read: 3 or 4, NOT 1 or 2) and see what's up. After that, numerous options, but hopefully I won't need them.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

City Knits

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Tess was supposed to be gone all weekend and I was to pick her up at my folks yesterday. But she had a pretty solid fever on Friday, so my folks (who had come down to visit) left without her. I had plans with Ella to hang out with her Friday night and all day Saturday, which turned into plans to hang with her all day Saturday.

It was good to go into Detroit, since my NaNo novel will be taking place there. Ella and Dane are renting a house in Highland Park so we hung out in the city all day. First we went to the book sale at the Detroit Public Library's main branch, where I used to hang out on long afternoon breaks between classes at Wayne State. It was great to see it packed on a Saturday, and looks like they are completely up to speed on new technology (although the old library map that lights up by subject area is still my favorite).

I picked up a ton of cookbooks for $1, a couple of simple James Beard books and one on Viennese cooking (Ella thought I said "Vietnamese cooking," which would have been cool to find, too). All that cookbook hunting made me hungry, so we ate at another old stomping ground, Traffic Jam and Snug. Not quite the same experience as when Kris worked there and comped everything but our beverages, but still a good meal. And some really fine Pinot Noir.

Then we headed down (FINALLY) to City Knits, the store I've been hearing so much about. Right off the bat I found the Burly Spun I've been looking for, in black, so the store immediately endeared itself to me. Despite the influence of wine, I managed to only purchase $24 worth of stuff (I was close to $60 at one point, but sobered up in time to check out). I will share the 2-day scarf I made over the weekend in another entry. Suffice to say, the Italians have been subdued.

Then we headed up to Oakland University and picked up a friend of Ella's, stopped back at her house (about an hour, round-trip) and went on to United Methodist Church for a concert Ella had invited me to, Sweet Honey in the Rock. An inspiring ending to my "day off." I got home about 1a Sunday morning.

Now, in other news, I'm about 7-9 days late (yeah, TMI), so I hope to have some news about our "growing" family soon. I took a test last week (when I was only a day or two late) and it came up negative, so who knows what's going on. I'm suspicious because I've not had touch one of the intense nausea I experienced with my first pregnancy, so, keep your fingers crossed.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Dear Italy

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It's not bad enough that you create beautiful women for the rest of us to be compared to unfavorably, noooo. Nor that you give us gorgeous hand-crafted high-heeled shoes to pain our feet. Oh, no. No, much worse -- you create yarn that I lust after, yarn I couldn't possibly afford to use for a sweater (and I don't want another scarf, so there)! You make this yarn in a rainbow of colors and your blue catches my eye, a fine, bright blue, 3-stranded merino yarn wrapped with black nylon thread that knits up 3.5 stitches to the inch, which would help me finish a sweater in record time, but noooo, cruel CRUEL Italy, you have foiled me again.

At $9 a skein, you have chosen to put only 55 yards on a skein. Grrr.

Posted by Hello

The project above the cursed Italian yarn is E's Christmas hat, which needed part of another skein of (yet more) 12 year-old Rowan yarn, still to be wound. And since I can't have E help me wind it (that would give away the whole surprise of the gift), I had to get creative. Tess is a little young yet to help me wind.

I'm sure someone else has thought of this...

Sunday, October 17, 2004

What kind of knitter am I?

Knitting Adventurer
You appear to be a Knitting Adventurer.
You are through those knitting growing pains and
feeling more adventurous. You can follow a
standard pattern if it's not too complicated
and know where to go to get help. Maybe you've
started to experiment with different fibers and
you might be eyeing a book with a cool
technique you've never tried. Perhaps you
prefer to stick to other people's patterns but
you are trying to challenge yourself more.
Regardless of your preference, you are
continually trying to grow as a knitter, and as
well you should since your non-knitting friends
are probably dropping some serious hints, these
What Kind of Knitter Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Hmm...pretty much fits me. I have at least one friend asking me to make her a poncho. I probably should have answered "natural fibers only" to one of the questions, but I'm allergic to mohair (and itch like crazy with wool, although it eventually settles down once I've had the garment on a while) so I do occasionally go for the glitz.

We watched the live-action Peter Pan movie last night (most of it). I spotted the same actor playing Mr. Darling and Captain Hook right away (that beautiful-but-creepy villian with the bright blue eyes from The Patriot) E thought that was "very Freudian." Well, duh, the whole concept of Peter Pan is pretty Freudian.

Why do I always get weepy when Tinkerbell dies? Big softy, that's me.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

New life for old yarn

"How old?" you ask...well, I bought the original 14 balls of Rowan cotton about 12 years ago (how I afforded it all, I can't remember...Rowan yarn is ex-PAHN-seev, as Ella would say). At the time it was posh to use teeny tiny needles and, for the pattern I chose as my first-ever sweater, seed stitch (an annoying knit 1-purl 1 repeat that makes me dizzy). So, the bottom project pictured below took me over a month to complete and was the straw that broke my knitting back all those years ago. Yes, I still have it on the teeny tiny #3 needle. Tenacious, that's me.

Posted by Hello

Since then, I have found a pattern I love and a yarn to mix the old with, one that helps me reach my gauge of 4 stitches to the inch for this sweater (as opposed to oh, say, 7?). What's funny to perhaps only me is that the bottom edge and a bit of the sides on the new sweater feature -- you guessed it -- seed stitch. Oh, the irony.

I'm very close to the end of my poncho but after going to Drop-In Knitting last night and wandering the yarn aisle and touching and feeling new stuff, I just wanted to get started on something new. The top project in the photo above is my latest, with the old yarn, mixed with the new, and on a fat, juicy #9 needle.

We were chatting last night in the knit shop and I've been reading knitting blogs online enough to know that my desire to have only a couple of projects going at a time (preferrably just one) is a bit unusual. Then again the only small projects I've learned are hats and scarves -- no mittens or (what I hear are highly addictive) socks yet -- so my range is limited.

Actually, my budget is extremely limited since I'm not working and I feel guilty spending. Especially $50-$100 on a sweater project. Nothing like stretching that out over 12 years to make it work. Seriously, the yarn I'm adding to this new sweater is going to end up costing me $60, and the 12 year-old yarn probably cost me $130 (gulp) back then, so this will end up being a very pricey sweater. I won't be able to do a lot of those, so I'd better learn mittens and socks.

I finished all that on the top project in just two nights of relaxing knitting. I read about a woman recently who gives herself an hour of prayer and meditation in the morning, only meditation was boring for her, so she knits. As meditation. Which explains why I knit, since I can't sit still long enough to meditate. Now I'm just waiting to sleep a little better after all that relaxation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004


I signed up yesterday for NaNoWriMo, but realized I'm not a fotki "premium" member, so I can't link their graphic here. So many people plead not to hotlink graphics and I respect that, but I don't have the $30 to upgrade and I'm not sure how to upload the icon through hello, since they don't recognize it as a graphic (even though it's a jpeg). Not sure what's going on and I have 20 minutes to write an entry (Dora's on, yay!) so I'll leave it as is for now. If anyone wants to take a second and explain it to me, feel free to use the comments section. My swiss cheese brain only allows 2 topics at a time, and right now it's this entry and Dora in the background.

I poked around the NaNoWriMo forums last night and found a link to a very helpful article, since I'm itching to get going but know I can't write anything YET. I posted that I would be working on a 12 year-old story, one I've completed two chapters for in my 2002 online writing class at UCLA, but immediately tempered that with, "but I won't be using those because that's not allowed." And I mean it. Just going through the article exercise helped me see new ways to start the novel. Only this time I'm going to go through and keep writing, not stop at chapter 2 because the class is over.

My only other annoyance with myself is the repeated feeling that I need to research my novel before I start. It was Diane who put me on the right path and got me into that UCLA class. "Write first, research it later," she said, and I recognized that that's what's kept my idea on the shelf for 12 years (at the time, 10): "I'm researching it," became my mantra, instead of, "I'm writing it." The only thing that's gotten in my way since 2002 was raising a baby, but I'm over the hump as far as Tess is concerned, so I'm ready to begin. Again. Finally.

70 rounds down, 21 to go, and bottom ribbing... Posted by Hello

I can't believe how far I've come on my poncho (for a comparison, see this entry). It's getting a bit cumbersome to carry around, so I'm back to working on E's Christmas hat, but I'm so ready to wear this that I work on it in the evenings after Tess has gone to bed. The end ribbing instructions are a bit confusing for me, but I'll head to Drop in Knitting at Knit Around next week and have them help me sort it out. If I'm not ready by next Monday, I'll have a Meetup with Ann Arbor knitters on Wednesday, and someone there can help me, I'm sure.

Oh, hey, thanks to everyone who posted a pin on my guestmap (see button in my profile/sidebar). How fun!

Friday, October 08, 2004

Things that make me happy

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Can't top a cute kid getting out the pots & pans and surrounding herself with them for a smile.

My MIL has been giving me peppers every time she sees me (she's a big fan of fresh fruit markets; no surprise given in Russia everything comes in a can, and you're lucky to get that). She often shares the bounty with me like this:

Posted by Hello

The purple peppers turned green when I cooked them into Moosewood's Mexican Pepper Casserole (mmm...I think I'll go snack on some cold casserole rightnow). Today I'm making banana bread, which I made every Sunday when I was pregnant, so Tess should be an immediate fan:

Banana Bread

Sift together: 1 3/4 C flour, 2t baking powder, 1/2t baking soda
Mash: 2-3 ripe bananas
Cream together: 1/3 C butter* (softened), 2/3 C sugar, 2 eggs (add mashed bananas)

Add dry ingredients to wet, mix briefly with dough hook, pour into greased and floured bread pan, bake at 350 for 50 minutes.

You can add 1/2-1 C chopped nuts, but increase cooking time to 60 minutes.
*my original recipe calls for shortening (ugh), so you can use that if you like.
You can also add chocolate chips, if you are really feeling decadent.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

The Mom Show

Morning peace: Tess is watching Barney and I'm listening to the Mom Show, which allows me to wander the internet and find more fun projects. Glittens! That's what I call them. Only I'll have to deal with fingers. And I haven't even come to grips with socks, yet alone mittens.

So much to learn.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

More knitting projects...

As if I didn't have enough to knit already, I found this book with these gorgeous sweaters, that I'm not quite ready to work up YET. That magic 3-letter word, YET.

What's funny is that Elsebeth Lavold's new designer yarn (Silky Wool) is what I've chosen to mix with my 12 year-old stash of Rowan wool/cotton to get a chunkier knit for my very next project. Even though I bought the Holiday 2004 Family Circle Easy Knitting and have picked a project out of there, too.
(or maybe 3...)

What's for dinner: Crockpot Corn Chowder

I've discovered I don't have to recreate each recipe in the Joy of Cooking every night; I just need to have a few "old reliables" on standby each week. And just two, maybe three, is enough for our small family.

This is a favorite whose leftovers don't last very long. Especially if you have someone in the house who STILL needs to eat soft foods. Sigh.

Crockpot Corn Chowder
3/4 C chopped onion (I use a small onion or half of a large one)
2T butter or (ugh) margarine
1 C frozen hash brown potatoes (I use enough to cover the bottom of my crockpot)
1 C cooked, diced ham (can omit if you're a vegetarian)
1 10-oz pkg frozen corn
1 C (or small can) cream-style corn
1 10 3/4-oz cream of mushroom soup, undiluted (cream of potato or cream of celery works too)
2 1/2 C milk

Layer in this order: potatoes, onion, butter, ham, frozen corn, creamed corn, soup, and milk. Cook on High 4-5 hours (if you can stand the smell to wait that long...mmm...nothing like it on a cold autumn or winter day). Salt and pepper to taste. Also calls for parsley flakes, if desired.

I've added the fringe to my scarf and worn it twice. It looks a bit silly under light fall jackets because I have to wind it around my neck so many times, and I'm getting a stiff neck from having to hold my head justso, but it sure is warm and pretty. I'm not quite up to Kate's description of the French women's standard: "Je suis belle et ça ne demande aucun effort" (I’m beautiful and I don’t even try), but I feel pretty damn proud that I finished something and I'm WEARING it.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004


Posted by Hello

World's Ugliest Scarf. I still need to get the fringe on it. It is ridiculously long -- I had a shot of it hanging around my feet (I took the picture standing up) but realized I still have my pajamas on at 1:30 in the afternoon. Well, Tess has a cold, so I have an excuse. She's actually napping -- a Pedicare-induced nap, but she needs it. As do I.

Now that I look at it, after a few months of knitting, I realize my scarf isn't that bad. I actually like the look of crochet, especially for afghans (must be my 70s roots showing), I just can't understand the directions. Plus, I made the mistake of teaching myself to crochet left-handed, but ran into problems moving on to granny squares (again, the 70s popped up their gas-shortage Watergate granny-squared heads). I found a woman to teach me granny square technique (a friend of my aunt's), and she only made me realize I taught myself completely wrong. Not just that I crochet left handed, but I work the hook like a pencil when you really need to work it like a sewing machine needle. A very fast, giant, stabbing needle. I may try again after I've knitted myself a couple of successful garments. I need to get my bad crocheting style out of my head first.

Crochet close-up Posted by Hello

I found someone else who dislikes novelty yarns, only for some reason she got in trouble for saying so. Sigh. Can't even knitters get along? Oh, and she's part of a group blog of knitters living in France. Talk about living vicariously. Although the only word I could understand of those who write in French was "d'automne." I need to work on that, too.

I had "work" to do this morning while Tess was playing quietly (as she usually does for an hour or so in the a.m. while I clean house or shower). One of my authors from my old job contacted me via email to look over her latest manuscript -- "just a little input," she asked, but I was unbelievably tickled that she thought to send it my way in the first place. God, I miss editing sometimes. Not the whole going-into-work, dealing-with-office-politics crap, just the pure editing groove.

Now it' time to take a shower while Peanut's sleeping and get into some real clothes. Pajamas at 1:30p. Sheesh.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

What's the spread, Bob?

 Posted by Hello

Yesterday was Family Fun Day at the Big House (University of Michigan's stadium). E was almost feeling good enough to go -- he came with us as far as Wagner Road before we had to turn around and drop him back off at home. Too bad; it was his idea in the first place.

The morning started out crappy -- cold and rainy -- but once Tess & I were in the stadium, the skies magically cleared and she had a ball running around the field and up the bleacher steps. The shot above was taken from the press room.

I'm drained from a week of patient care; E's been in a lot of pain from his tonsillectomy. I finally got out today to crop for a few hours. Finished all the Saugatuck layouts and worked backwards to start a layout from our trip to the zoo back at the beginning of September. I have to look at my annual album to see what other "holes" I have for the year. I'm always proud to finish an annual book just after the year is over.