Monday, July 28, 2008

Gardening With Deer

Mom's always been a gardener. Strawberries, asparagus, lettuce, tomatoes, peas, and potatoes are usually the standard run during the summer season, and this year she's added pumpkins and several other things to the raised beds and various other planters scattered around the property. There's been plenty of rain, so you'd think things would be doing really well.
Are they? No! Why? Because the local deer population have been sending each other text messages or other mysterious communiques indicating that our yard is the place to hang out this summer and, by the way, there's an all-you-can-eat salad bar. They missed the asparagus, but decided to use the peas as a place to nap. The tomato plants are having their tops nibbled away, and the pumpkins' blossoms are being decimated.
When I was in high school, I was in concert band with several of my classmates. After a concert, one of my friends later told me, she and her parents were just about to turn into their driveway when Margaret chanced to espy a deer among her runner beans.
"John!" she is said to have exclaimed. "Kill it!"
Whereupon her husband undertook to chase the deer with the car and pursued it into the field across the road.
I have yet to catch any deer in the garden, but they certainly do exhibit a marked lack of interest by ambling up and down the driveway and bouncing through the yard. Last week there was even one standing in the middle of a patch of peonies. She stared, I stared; she then turned and walked away without giving any indication she was the least bit concerned that she'd been seen casing the garden.
I now know exactly why Mrs. D--- wishes the deer would jump out of their skins and into her freezer.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Triple Threat

Triple Threat Cheesecake:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 stick of unsalted butter
1/4 tsp salt

24 oz cream cheese
1 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 oz Kahlua or other coffee liqueur

1/4 cup heavy cream, plus 1 tablespoon
1 1/2 cups dark chocolate chips
1 tbsp Kahlua

For the crust: Combine dry ingredients with melted butter and mix until combined. Press into the bottom of a buttered springform pan and bake on the middle oven rack for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Remove from oven and move on to Step 2.

Step 2: Lower the oven temp to 325 degrees. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the cream until it's steaming; add chocolate chips and stir until smooth. Remove from heat and move on to making the filling.

For the filling: Combine sugar and cream cheese and mix until creamy. Add the melted chocolate and keep mixing; add the eggs and mix some more until everything is combined and smooth. Next, add the cocoa and Kahlua; mix at a slightly higher speed to get the lumps out. Pour filling into the springform pan and bake on the middle oven rack at 325 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Poke it with a skewer or toothpick to see if it comes out mostly clean. Remove from the oven and let it rest during Step 3.

Step 3: In the same small saucepan, over medium-low heat, combine 1/4 cup heavy cream and the Kahlua and heat until warm. Add the chocolate chips and stir until melted. Add remaining tbsp of cream and continue stirring until smooth. Let cool until it's body temp, then pour over the cheesecake and spread it out. Let the cake cool until it's room temp, then refrigerate overnight. :)

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Congratulations and warm wishes to Ellen who was written up in today's edition of the Washington Post as part of a series entitled "Making It". The article can be found here. :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Dog Update

She's home now, and it took her almost an hour before she felt able to lie down at all. Until she did lie down, she stumbled around and stood on very wobbly, trembly legs, and panted. I told her she should lie down before her legs gave way, but she didn't listen... of course. We hoped she'd choose to lie on something soft like the oriental rug in the living room. Dog's important, after all, and stuff like oriental rugs matter little when the dog's comfort is at issue. She chose, however, to lie down on the bamboo mat in the foyer. I would have thought a soft surface might be more comfortable, but I guess she disagrees.
She still hasn't drunk any water, even though I chased her around with the water bowl and pleaded with her to drink; she hasn't eaten anything yet, either. I can only assume that she'll go to her bowl when she's good and ready; now that she's actually lying down, she may be disinclined to get back up and tug at her wounds.
I know she's pretty exhausted, exhausted by fear at unfamiliar surroundings and people poking and prodding her, and exhausted by the trauma of being drugged, operated on, and then put in another unfamiliar place to wait for the effects of the anesthesia to wear off. When I went to fetch her, she had a little difficulty getting into the car because she was still a little groggy; I hope she doesn't decide to attempt the stairs, which could well prove dangerous in her wobbly state.
I'm upstairs now, and she's still down in the foyer. I think it's better to just let her rest undisturbed for a little while, though I told her the phone is in the pantry and she's welcome to send for pizza if she feels it's needed. I also asked her if she wanted a special pillow for her tummy, but she declined.

Another Quiz

Your Dosha is Pitta

You have a quick mind, a gift for persuasion, and a sharp sense of humor.
You have both the drive and people skills to be a very successful leader.
Argumentative and a bit stubborn, you have been known to be a little too set in your ways.
But while you may be biased toward your own point of view, you are always honest, fair, and ethical.
With friends: You are outgoing and open to anyone who might want to talk to you
In love: You are picky but passionate
To achieve more balance: Be less judgmental of those around you, and take cool walks in the moonlight.

Dog's in surgery. I wish I could say she's performing it, smart critter that she is, but I'm afraid that's not the case. She's old, and the appearance of a tumor in her mammary tissue is the first potentially major health problem she's ever had. The vet said she's in really good shape for a dog her age (she turns nine in August, which is pretty elderly for a Great Dane), and he asked if we'd consider having her spayed as a preventative measure, just in case there's potential for any new tumors to be encouraged by the continued presence of her uterus. I wish we'd done it sooner! Poor Dog. She's going to be such an unhappy girl when she gets home. I'm trying not to worry too much. The vets at the clinic have a good reputation, so I'm sure they'll take good care of her.

I finished the purple-toed tabi this morning, so now I have an added excuse to take another stab at Laminaria. Hopefully I'll get it right this time and remember to count the stitches and make sure there are the right numbers in the right places. I do not want to have to frog this a second time.

The quiz is truly scary. Strange how coincidences work, because that's really, really me. Except for the bit about people skills.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Defeat and Pizza

When the pattern says you're supposed to have a certain number of stitches, unless you're a really experienced knitter, it definitely helps to pay attention. I hit a major snag with the Laminaria tonight and frogged about a week's worth of work. I intend to start from scratch and be more attentive to details, and hopefully succeed by using what I learned from the first attempt. I'm sad, though, because while I was frogging, I ended up with an enormous tangle and had to trash some of my lovely yarn. Sad, sad, sad!
The upshot of the day, though, was that I watched cooking shows on PBS--it happens to be a week between rounds of pledge drives--and I have to say that Chris Kimball rocks my culinary world. He and the guys at the test kitchen are totally awesome and I worship the ground they walk on and hang on every word out of their mouths... and today's episode shows why.
In a word: Pizza. Not just any pizza, but the mother of all home-made pizza. Deep dish pan pizza. I've made pizza before, the dough for which usually ends up rising in the bread machine; the pizza resulting from this dough almost always gets a tough, crunchy crust. Edible? Yes. Enjoyable? Not really. I won't post the recipe here since it's on the ATK website, but I'll post pictures of pizza to titillate the people who recently suffered a truly awful day and needed pizza. Granted, pixilated pizza isn't the right thing when you've had a crappy day, but everyone needs pizza porn once in a while.

Friday, July 11, 2008


I've always liked challenges, whether they were academic or artistic. I'm strong-willed and stubborn, but not to the point of being nutty about it; it helps being strong-willed, or I'd lose heart and give up halfway through whatever project I might be working on. I'm old enough now to be less likely to abandon a challenge... I think. Doesn't mean I don't get defeated by things, 'cause there are quite a few that leave me grinding my teeth and fuming with the desire to pitch them out the nearest window in a fit of pique.
Most of my recent tests have been self-inflicted. Yes, self-inflicted is the right word, especially because I've turned into a perfectionist. People keep telling me I'm too hard on myself and should save my energy for the important things, which apparently don't include whether or not the cheesecake cracked across the center because the oven was too hot, or whether or not the bumps show after I've woven in the ends on a piece of knitting. My answer, spoken and silent, is that if I see the mistakes, someone else is bound to, so it's better to make sure there aren't any. Not that it really matters with a cheesecake, because I doubt even Wolfgang Puck got it right the first time; I'm guessing the Yarn Harlot also has to frog things once in a great while. I'm not perfect and I don't aspire to be. If I did, I'd be a size 2, a marathon runner, and somewhere on the Forbes list, among other things. Um.. no, thanks.
So. Challenges, challenges. I wouldn't say I've mastered the tabi socks, though I can say that I've become familiar enough with the pattern to be able to not need the pieces of paper except for a the very beginning. Since I've got it mostly under control, I decided to give lace knitting a try. Lace knitting, according to some, is pretty easy because in its simplest form it's just a series of increases and decreases like yarn-overs and k2togs. At it's most complicated, there are patterns like the Laminaria, which knitty rates as "piquant", i.e. complicated yet not exhausting.
Well, instead of toeing the water and trying something easier first, I cast on for Laminaria. And then started scratching my head over the things like 1-into-3 star stitch and 3-into-3. The pattern comes with detailed explanations of what these things mean, but I still wasn't sure what I was doing was right, especially since there didn't seem to be any sideways growth. I posted a question on the associated KAL on Ravelry and was surprised to learn that, instead of moving the stitches from left to right, you're supposed to leave them on the left needle and then do the yarn-overs so that you end up with three stitches and no increase. This seriously didn't occur to me when I tried it the first time, but since several people were kind enough to point this out, I've gotten through the first two charts and am halfway through the third. No, I'm not gloating. Really!
The third chart goes by the mysterious-sounding name of "Transition Chart", and the idea, I think, is that the star stitches slowly fade into the blossoms, until this chart ends and the next one begins. Okay. Pretty simple. Right? Wrong! There's yet a third star stitch, and a fourth: the intimidating-bordering-on-scary 3-into-2 star stitch followed by the 9-into-3. Yikes. I've only recently recovered from the struggle of mastering the 1-into-3 and 3-into-3! And then there are these creepy black squares indicating skipped stitches. Skipped? Or is it slipped? Looks like another look at the KAL board is necessary. See? This is what I get for starting out with a cheesecake instead of something easier.
I got a nifty little package in the mail today: my new fountain pen. I might just divorce my three others (one leaks and is scratchy, one is scratchy and cranky, and the third takes an awful lot of encouragement, even after a thorough cleaning) because this one is so nice. It writes like butter, it's so smooth. Absolutely. No. Scratchiness. And the ink flows beautifully. Of course, having good ink cartridges--I bought a converter, too, so I can use bottled ink when the urge siezes me--makes a big difference. I wonder if there's any way I might convince J. Herbin to start making cartridges to fit Lamy pens... bribery, maybe? As I said to someone else earlier tonight: It would be in the company's best interest to make cartridges for popular pens like Lamy for two reasons. 1. They enable pen junkies to indulge their cravings for gorgeous colors and wonderful ink. 2. They increase their profit margin by enabling pen junkies to indulge their cravings for gorgeous colors and wonderful ink.
Seems pretty logical to me!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Foxy, foxy

I think we have either a family of foxes or a lonely fox looking for love living in the woods nearby. Last night, around midnight, I heard something that sounded like a pug with a chest cold, so I went out to investigate. About a month ago, I saw a reddish flash disappear into our neighbor's yard, and this, coupled with the sounds described above, lead me to believe that yes, we do have foxes living in the neighborhood.
I'm not really bothered by this, mostly because they're not likely to be too pesky. We have an enormous dog who makes a lot of noise, so they probably won't come too close to the house; our indoor/outdoor cat, on the other hand, needs to start staying closer to home, just in case someone's desperate for a meal.
I'm considering calling the local DNR guys again, because someone told me red foxes are endangered in the US. Wikipedia says they're listed as "least concern", so maybe I'll eschew calling DNR, particualrly since I'm not sure that the local guy will react with any more enthusiasm than he did when I asked about turtle conservation. Some conservation officer you are, mister! Maybe he should consider going into a different field. Humph.
Still, I take the appearance of foxes to be a good omen.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Stormy Weather

Today was one of those days where I just wanted to stay home and hide under a pillow. The weather is about to change, so I have headaches which make me lethargic and grouchy; whenever there are changes in air pressure either before or after storms, I get headaches. It's sort of like having your own built-in barrometer, but the downside is that headaches are a b!tch even with painkillers. No, I am not about to have a psychic episode. Promise. Ahem.
Anyway, I've been sitting on Season 2 of Supernatural and sort of nibbling away at it very slowly. Just today, after a long interval, I watched Disc 3. And was surprised. The loose end from Disc 1 does indeed pop up again, but not at all in the way I thought might happen. Gordon is a naughty, naughty boy....! I had to laugh over the way the Brothers Winchester handled him, though. No.. don't tell me. I'm sure he'll reappear eventually and have an even bigger ax to grind.
I've never been fond of dolls. Not even when I was a little girl was I fond of dolls. So "Playthings" totally creeped me out for that very reason. Not that the dolls actually did anything but sit there and stare, but that was quite enough for me, thank you. There's just something about those staring eyes and the placid appearance, especially in dolls from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, that makes me uncomfortable. Ick.
Still plenty more to get through, though, and I plan to take my time.
The new issue of Knitters magazine was in the mail today. As a general rule I don't usually pay much attention to Spring and Summer issues of knitting magazines. After all, why in the world would I want to knit tanktops or skirts? Those just aren't... me. When I took the magazine out of the plastic wrap, I was completely prepared to be unimpressed, particularly because most of the projects contained therein were exactly what I expected: tanktops, skirts, and a revolting plaid cardigan. Plaid...? Ick. Fine for kilts and boxers, but NOT, in my opinion, for a summer cardigan. The issue redeemed itself in three ways, however, by containing an article on the architecture of socks. Yes. ARCHITECTURE. Written by Cat Bordhi. The article was followed by a sock pattern using some techniques I'm not well versed in, like knitting on two circular needles. I'm a DPN devotee, but I like challenges, which makes it likely this will end up on my list of "Things I Want To Try".
There was also a feature on lace shawls and how they're born. This contained several schematic diagrams and patterns done in diagram format. If I can read cross-stitch patterns, I should be able to read these, especially since the author was kind enough to include a key. We'll see. These are mostly trapezoidal shawls, which adds another dimension to the learning process. I haven't done any lace stuff yet, so this will definitely go on my list, especially since I have a bunch of Mmmmmmmmalabrigo laceweight yarn to fool with. On the other hand, I don't know that I want to make horrible mistakes and end up ruining my lovely Malabrigo...
The final redeeming feature was a rather nice pattern for a cardigan, and no, it wasn't plaid. It was purple. A lovely, dark, almost eggplant purple with long sleeves, and a little bit of lacework around the hem and sleeves. AND, better still, the yarn suggested was worsted weight, which will make it fairly quick to knit... unlike the fingering weight Evil Ambition with which I am still struggling. I refuse to start any new projects until I finish the Johnny Jump-Up socks and the Evil Ambition. At this rate, it might well be next year by the time that happens...
Hmmm.. by the time next year rolls around, I'll probably have more episodes of Supernatural to catch up with. Nice how these things work themselves out, isn't it?

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


A friend of mom's suggested that we give Vincenzo some outdoor time so he can enjoy the grass and sunshine, so this evening I took him outside for a little while. He waited until he was certain there were no threats and then started bumping through the grass and onto the gravel walk. I really, really wish I'd had the camera handy to get photographic evidence, but I didn't.
Vincenzo.... walked!
He still prefers to drag himself with his hind legs tucked into his shell, but he did indeed manage about three steps with the assistance of one hind leg or the other, but not both at the same time. It's so exciting! Like I said, I wish I had pictures. Squeeee!
I'll have to work on details for the turtle sweater contest now, won't I? :P