Monday, November 28, 2005

Happy birthday to me

Thirty seven years on the planet and still learning. Today I plan on all the usual things: taking the boys to and from school, making phone calls, doing errands, washing dishes and chasing small children and cats. I also plan on knitting curled up on the couch while watching something without any redeeming qualities, doing an hour and a half of yoga, and eating something chocolate simply because it's there. Later we're all going to dinner with a gift card given to us after I stuffed my dad's friends full of good Indian food. The boys will chase each other with Legos. Stories will be read and cheeks kissed goodnight. And as I go to sleep, I'll hold Dan close and feel profound gratitude that I am here, that I am still learning more every day.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The day after

Well, technically it's the day after the day after, but it still feels post-Thankgiving to me.

The dinner went really well. We tossed a tablecloth on the expanding coffee table, gave the littler ones plastic wine glasses full of sparkling cider, then poured the real stuff for the grown ups to enjoy. The salad was perfect: the contrast between the crunchy, salty pecans and the crumbly feta against slightly bitter greens and sweet, soft caramelized apples was something I'll be making again many times. I'm finally happy with my stuffing after many years of tinkering and playing with things. The turkey still has a way to go, though it was moist and quite tasty. The Dobos Torte proved tricky. I didn't time the caramel quite right and didn't get it poured onto the top layer quickly enough so there isn't anything covering the sides of that layer. I had the cake out for a little while before we had dessert and learned the hard way that buttercream doesn't do well with heat. The rosettes of ganache that I so carefully placed under the caramel wedges to prop them at an angle melted by the time we ate everything. Ah, well. Lesson learned. It was still delicious.

We've all been nibbling on leftovers for the past two days, picking at stuffing and mashed potatoes and polishing off those rolls. I made shepherd's pie out of some of the turkey and mashed potatoes yesterday (it came out really, really well - saving that recipe, too), and made gumbo from the rest of the meat and some frozen sauage tonight. There's almost nothing left, after sending everyone off with leftovers and our two day's worth of picking.

There's something rich and deep about Thanksgiving for me. The time spent with family, the preparations and cooking of such a bounty of food, the realization that we have so very much to indeed be thankful for. It ushers in the holiday season in such a warm and gentle way to me that I want to make that feeling last for a little while before moving on. Christmas decorations can wait. Let me savor the feeling of thankfulness for just a little bit longer.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Almost Thanksgiving and still cooking

Yesterday I deboned the turkey, made stock, baked all the cake layers for the torte, made chocolate buttercream (mmmm....chocolate....), made more rolls, started the dark meat marinading and the white meat brining. Lots of cleaning going on around here as well. Today I'll braise the dark meat, prepare the mashed potatoes up to adding butter, blanch the green beans, make the stuffing, and get all the odds and ends together. Also trimming a tree skirt for a friend of my sister, so there will be a bit of sewing as well. All in the holiday spirit (of insanity, that is).

Here's the recipe I use for cranberry jezebel sauce. I think it came out of Food & Wine magazine years ago, though I can't remember exactly. It's wonderful with pork and beef, but equally delicious with turkey, especially as a dipping sauce the next day. I like to give mine a whir with the immersion blender and strain, but it's good chunky as well.

Thought I'd share my roll recipe as well. These are rich, buttery, and perfect for just about any holiday meal. My family used to beg my Grandma to make these for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, any chance we could get our hands on them. Now she isn't able to cook any longer due to a series of strokes, so the recipe has been passed down and it's my turn. Thanks, Grandma, for the recipe and for inspiring me to be even half the cook you were.

Grandma's Rolls

Makes 36 rolls, enough for ~ 12 people

3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup warm water
1 Tb. yeast (a bit less than 2 packages of yeast)
2 eggs
5-6 cups flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease baking sheets.

Scald the milk (heat over medium flame until small bubbles appear around the edges); stir in sugar, salt and butter; cool to lukewarm. Measure the warm water into a large bowl. Sprinkle the in the yeast; stir until dissolved. Stir in the milk mixture, eggs and 3 cups flour; beat until smooth. Stir in additional flour to make a soft dough.

Turn dough out onto a floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a bowl and cover. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about 30 minutes. Punch the dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured board.
Split dough into 3 pieces. Roll each piece into a 12 inch circle. Brush with melted butter, then cut into 12 wedges. Roll each wedge from the wide end to form a crescent, then place on baking sheet with the pointed end underneath. Squeeze sides together to form a "C" shape (the funky looking one was rolled out by one of the boys)
Bake at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes, or until lightly golden. Brush with more melted butter and cool on racks.
These rolls freeze beautifully, which is a good thing - there are never enough!

Monday, November 21, 2005

Very little knitting, much cooking

My hands have been very tingly and stiff lately (weather change, I think - I have a bit of arthritis), so there hasn't been a lot of knitting going on here. I started on a scarf that will end up as a gift for my SIL, but haven't gotten half as much done as I'd like.

What I have been doing is a lot of preparation for Thanksgiving. This is one of my favorite holidays, both for the abundance of delicious food and because I get to cook my little heart out and go a little crazy. I was also born on a Thanksgiving day, so every seven or so years (it depends due to leap years) my birthday falls on turkey day as well. This gives me just enough holiday+birthday to make it special and a chance to cook like a mad fiend on my birthday and make exactly what I want. Nope, no control issues here at all, I tell ya!

I've made Thanksgiving dinner regularly over the years and tend to play around, adding new dishes and changing things to make it a bit different each year. This year we happen to have very few guests - just two other adults besides me and Dan and little girl to add to the children's camp. My mother in law is coming over later, but she works at an assisted living center and can't take the day off if she wants to get Christmas. So four adults, three small children.

With such a small group, I'm taking it easy on dishes this year and sticking to basics. The menu will be:

Crudites with a cilantro-walnut dip
Lemoncello (looks like it should be ready by then) and Prosecco with these

Arugula, caramelized apples, pecans, and feta with a honey and Dijon dressing
Roast turkey breast
Dark meat braised in port and red wine
Wine reduction sauce
Herbed dressing
Mashed potatoes
Cranberry Jezebel sauce
Buttered green beans with nutmeg
Grandma's rolls (these are rich, a little sweet, and out of this world)
Pinot Noir and Gewurstraminer to go with above

Dobos Torte for dessert

I just finished up the first batch of rolls and the Jezebel sauce and am starting on the turkey prep. The bread for the stuffing has been dried and cubed. I'll boil potatoes and whip them with half and half later today, then set them aside to finish with butter on Thursday. Not a bad start!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Have you been touched by His Noodly Appendage?

Of course you have. And I know you have often wondered, just as I have: "how can I knit a likeness of the Flying Spaghetti Monster for myself?"

Worry not. For here you will find a pattern. Now go forth and knit.

Monday, November 14, 2005

One glove down, one to go

Look ma, a glove! OK, so there are ends to weave in. That part's easy as pie and will be done as I watch random television tonight. The true wonder of this glove is the following mystery: why don't I mind the pooling? I have gone into pure conniption fits in the past when confronted with colors that ebb and flow against my every attempt to control them, so why am I so happy with it this time? And why do I suddenly adore something that has pink in it? The world may well be coming to an end. Or perhaps the glove just looks damn cool.

(The bored looking cat is Lewis, named after Lewis and Clark since she was the first in the litter to leave the box and explore. I helped with the birth since her mama cat was very young and tiny (and I was a veterinary technician at the time) and she was the first one out. Her head got stuck and she wasn't moving or breathing once she came free. I cleared out her airway, rubbed her all over to get her circulation going, and she pinked up and mewed right away. She's a little, well, off , most likely due to a wee bit of damage. But she loves everyone and is more than content if there's a motionless lap available, and Dan still thanks me for helping her into life. She came over to grab some scritches since there was a hand available.)

This is a sampler I made up to test out some rib stitches for upcoming Christmas presents. Not sure what the yarn is - some sort of wool blend in a worsted weight, I think. From top to bottom:
cartridge belt rib1: (mult. of 4 sts +3) *k3, sl1 with yarn in front; repeat from * to end
broken rib: (mult. of 4 sts +1) Row 1 - *k2, p2; repeat from * to end
Row 2 - k1, *p2, k2; repeat from * to end
cartridge belt rib2: (mult. of 4 +3) Row 1 - k3, *sl 1 with yarn in front, k3; repeat from * to end
Row 2 - p1,
*sl 1 with yarn in front, p3; repeat from * to end
wavy rib: (mult. of 6 sts +2) Row 1 - p2, *k4, p2; repeat from * to end
Row 2-4 k the knit sts and p the purl sts
Row 5 - k3, p2, *k4, p2; repeat from * to end
rows 6-8 - k the knit sts and p the purl sts
faux brioche rib: (mult. of 4 sts +1) Row 1 - p1, *k3, p1; repeat from * to end
Row 2 - k2, p1, *k3, p1; repeat from * to end
eyelet lace rib: (mult. of 8 sts +5) Row 1 and 3 - k2, *p3, k2, p1, k2; repeat from * to end
Row 2 - p2, k1, p2, *k1, yo, ssk, p2, k1, p2; repeat from * to end
Row 4 - p2, k1, p2, *k2tog, yo, k1, p2, k1, p2; repeat from * to end

Note that broken rib and faux brioce rib look practically identical. They do differ slightly: faux brioche has more of a garter stitch look to it. Cartridge belt rib was odd to track down. The first one I knitted up was the third section from the top, which I really like. It's tightly woven and has a subtle pattern to it, though it is in no way reversible. After hearing that this was the perfect scarf pattern and that it was the same on both sides, I did more hunting and found the pattern that I knit up last. Incredibly simple. It, too, looks a lot like the broken rib stitch, but it lies much flatter and the vertical lines of slipped stitches give it extra visual interest. Wavy rib is really just a basket weave pattern turned around, though I like the look. Eyelet lace rib would be nice on a finer guage yarn.

Nice to have an idea of what the stitches all look like and get a feel for the ease of the patterns as well. I could use some honest to goodness easy knitting since I'll be burning the midnight oil making up holiday gifts this year.

1 - this is a version I found somewhere on the web, and it actually looked like the pictures I've found of cartridge belt rib.
2 - this is the "corrected" version ot the pattern from Weekend Knitting.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Palm looking more peaceful already

Yep, I'm finally working on my very first pair of gloves thanks to Nona and her Peaceful Palms knitalong. I'm using the Hooray for Me pattern since I like the idea of fingerless gloves - I'm all about being able to use those fingers and nails whenever the mood strikes. Using KnitPicks Sock Garden in Geranium, one of my few impulse, ever. Something about the vivid reds and greens with hot pink peeking through here and there just called to me but I hadn't figured out exactly what to do with it. The answer is now quite clear: make rockin' fingerless gloves, of course! Starting the fingers tonight. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Leaf hunting with the boys

Today there was only a paltry amount of homework. More importantly, there are leaves falling all around our townhouse complex...leaves that must be sorted, exclaimed over, and collected. Or "hunted", as my youngest likes to call it. So off we went, the three of us equipped with baskets, to see what we could find. Out in my neck of Southern California there aren't a lot of trees that actually turn color in the Fall, but as luck would have it there are several within walking distance. Each leaf was held up and displayed by the boys, each waiting for a thumbs up that this leaf was a good one. Cries of "look! I found one with lots of colors!" were heard over and over. I was humbled at the look of awe on each of the boys faces as they looked at the next leaf.

I was able to get a quick picture of both of them together. Hard to get them to stop moving long enough to snap a picture, especially when they wanted to move. This one really shows both their personalities well, and also shows how close they are in size despite being two years apart. Amazing, both of them. I'm so glad I got a chance to go leaf hunting with them today.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Shawl, gifts, and a new project

Blogger wasn't playing nicely the last few days, so I'm finally sharing pictures. Here's the Shaeffer Anne shawl with yours truly as a size indicator. Not bad at all, especially considering I used just a little over 320 yards. Can't believe there was so much left after such a lovely pair of socks! Thanks again to Julie, my incredibly considerate sockapal2za pal who sent the extra yarn along, just in case I could use it.

One more peek - the colors are more accurate on this one. It's so soft and light, with a bit of warmth that's comforting. I'm sending this off to someone in a very bad patch at the moment, and comfort is exactly what she needs. Julie, this yarn is getting a really good home :-)

Look what I got in the mail on Friday! A card and beautiful stitch markers from Danielle over at aswim in knits. Looks like I was one of the prize winners out of everyone who donated at Give a Little put together by Margene of zeneedle fame. I actually won something! And such a lovely something - I love the colors and the sheer number of these. Have to be making something lacey and intricate soon, I think. The green and mauve ones are my favorites and are sitting on my knitting needles right now. Thank you, Danielle, and many thanks to Margene for putting all of this together. So happy to be able to help in any small way.

Last, I decided to start something simple as a rest from lots and lots of lace and tiny needles. This is what I came up with as "easy". Actually, it's pretty simple and I'm loving how it's coming out so far. It's Classic Aran out of The Children's Collection with Alice and Jade Starmore, though I'm using the pattern more as a guide and changing things as I go. For instance, I'm using Cotton-Ease, which is a slightly larger guage but CHEAP. My youngest (he's four and a half) picked the pattern out with a wide grin and a "can you make me a sweater, mommy?" - how could I say no? The only glitch is that I only have 3 skeins of Cotton-Ease. Looks like I'll get a front and a back out of that, but the kid needs something to cover up those arms, I'm thinking. Anyone happen to have 2 or 3 skeins of Cotton-Ease in Blueberry? I'll send money, handmade soap, baked goods.... Never mind that last bit - Norma has 3 skeins that will soon become the rest of the sweater. Thank you, Norma! Isn't the Internet grand?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Shaeffer Anne shawl, almost finished

Here's what it looked like after binding off. I was left with eight inches remaining, so my guestimate worked pretty well. I love the way the colors ended up here.
The whole thing takes a dip in warm water with a tiny bit of Dr. Bronner's soap. It bled more than I would have thought, but given that shawls don't tend to get washed much if at all I think that's fine.
Pinned to my portable pattern board and drying in the shade. It ended up fourty-five inches on the long side after much gentle tugging and pinning. The whole thing is much larger than I would have thought, a decent size to drape over shoulders and make the wearer feel extra special.

Finished pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Played hookey today

Dan stayed home from work and my MIL picked up the boys from school and took them for the afternoon. We had incredible dumplings at Din Tai Fung Dumpling House, then zipped off to watch Serenity in one of the few places where it's still showing. Found out tickets are only $5 all day on Wednesday and had a completely empty theater all to ourselves to boot. Felt like having our own private viewing room to cozy up together in. Great movie, by the way. Then we walked through the mall and window shopped for a bit, holding hands and laughing at displays together.

Sometimes all I need in the world is a few hours with my best friend. I love playing hookey.