Sunday, August 30, 2009

Advancing On Adventurous

I know Janel Laidman's new book just came out and, as usual, I'm running behind. I'm two seasons behind on Supernatural, I'm two books behind on the Sano Ichiro series, and now one book behind with Janel's creations. Gah.
Last year, before her first book came out, I found--and I don't remember how--the pattern for Nordic Lights on the Spindlicity website. My attempt at knitting the socks wasn't a complete disaster, but it probably would have been better if I'd gone up a full needle size instead of just half. That wasn't the author's fault at all, but it was certainly mine since I didn't--as usual--do a gauge swatch or periodic checks to see if the sock would fit. I liked the pattern so much, I asked for a copy of the finished book for Christmas, and I'm just now getting around to tackling one of the patterns from it. The rest of the patterns in the book are amazing. There's colorwork, there's lace, there are cables, cuff down, toe up, sideways... something for everyone, really. I have plans to knit a certain pair of socks for a certain scientifically-inclined friend if I can track down some yarn worthy of the task. Ms. Laidman's thorough descriptions of the necessary techniques are covered in the index... with pictures, no less!
The subtitle "Socks For Adventurous Knitters" definitely fits. I don't really consider myself an expert knitter, but neither am I a novice, so when I read through the instructions for the Rivendell socks, I thought I'd be fine as long as I stuck to the directions and remembered to go up a full needle size. I'm still progressing through the leg of the first sock and it's taken me three days, two different types of yarn, and three frogs to figure it out. Even with pictures, I had some difficulty with the concept of wrapped, clustered stitches, and it took the assistance of several people on Ravelry to get it sorted out--thank you ElvaUndine, Greenethumb, et al. Once I succeeded, however, I felt quite sheepish because it's really not as difficult or confusing as it seems at first glance.
Rivendell's complexities are best served by yarn with subtle shading or a solid color and not, as I found out, the wildly shifting colors of something like Kauni or Patons Kroy Sox FX. Thank the Mother of All for the two balls of Dalegarn Daletta hiding in my stash, though I find myself fantasizing over knitting another pair in something like this...

Saturday, August 29, 2009


12 o’clock high: Noise from the university football game and tailgate party, but muffled by the box fan and air conditioner.
3:30 PM: It’s absolutely quiet. Even the cicadas seemed to be snoozing, perhaps anticipating the impending flood of unnatural noise.
4:30 PM: Noise from the park is audible over the box fan, air conditioner, and Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. It appears I crowed prematurely. If it continues to increase in volume, I shall unearth headphones and continue to listen to Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar while knitting.
7:56 PM: Now clearly audible over air conditioner, box fan, and Johnny Dollar. Mom and I have to shout at each other to be heard from five feet away. Forget the headphones, I want earplugs.
8:48 PM: A brief lull, followed by throbbing bass and someone who clearly can't sing wailing into a microphone. Supposedly only another twelve minutes of this nonsense.

In an attempt to do something constructive during today's... lovely activities, I cast on for a pair of Rivendell socks and was promptly stymied by the third row of the pattern. I understand how to do the clustered stitches, but I'm not quite sure what to do at the end of Row 3. Theoretically, you can divide the cuff of the sock into three needles of 21 stitches, and after knitting two rows of the ribbing, you start working Chart A (or Chart 1, if you prefer). Row 3 goes something like this: Cluster four stitches, follow the pattern for the next 14 stitches, cluster seven stitches, work 14 stitches, cluster another seven stitches, and so on until you get to the end of the row. But what happens next? Is it cluster three stitches or is it cluster seven by picking up the first four stitches of the following row? I'm so confused! I'll refrain from speculating on whether or not the volume of the Awful Din has affected the way my synapses work....

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What do you say to a cup of tea?

If this were an episode of Father Ted, the response would likely be something rude. Since, however, this isn't an episode of Father Ted, the response would be some expression of gratitude. I was astonished to find a message from a fellow blogger/knitter/Raveler (the almighty Teabird, whose sagacious blog entries always makes you stop and think) saying she was picking me for an award. I'm not exactly sure what all this means in the grand scheme of existence, but it was a touching gesture and I really appreciate the thought.
The blurb on her blog explains the award thusly:

Do you reach for a cup of cocoa or tea when you're relaxing, seeking comfort, sharing a plate of cookies with family and friends? You know that feeling you get when you drink a yummy cup of cocoa, tea or a hot toddy? That is what the Heartfelt award is all about: feeling warm inside!

Put the logo on your blog/post. Nominate up to 9 blogs which make you feel comfy or warm inside. Be sure to link to your nominees within the post. Let them know about the award by commenting on their blog. Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award.

My nominations are:
Christybelle of Confessions Of A Misplaced Southern Belle
Rachael of Modo Vernant Omnia
Clara of Purly Everlasting
And everyone else whose blogs I read faithfully.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Un-Joy of Cooking

I respect The Joy of Cooking. I really do. I'm sure updated versions published after 1975 are an absolute delight, but alas, the version lying in the kitchen is from the days before digital thermometers. You'd think that TJOC is like Julia Child: much about technique and practically infallible. It's not. Even Julia Child burnt things on The French Chef (see the potato episode from the first season if you don't believe me).
I've made several recipes from our copy of the book and every single one of them had to be tweaked one way or another to account for either modern equipment or modern ingredients--like 1975 is somehow medieval and cooking is really alchemy. Such examples include the muffins. Muffins? I like my muffins a little to the cakey side, not as bread dough cleverly shaped to resemble a slightly pyramidal muffin. Waffles? I like my waffle batter to be a little stiffer than runny yogurt, which is exactly the consistency I got when I followed the recipe to the letter. Shortbread? The jury's still out because the dough is stashed in the fridge to chill, but the recipe did require quite a lot of tweaking to get a consistency more like the results I got last time I made shortbread.
The untweaked recipe calls for a cup of butter, a cup of sugar, two eggs, two and a half cups of flour, sour cream, and a teaspoon of baking powder. I took one look at the glop in the mixing bowl and shook my head. And this is somehow supposed to be rollable-outable? I don't think anything short of a stint in the freezer would have made such a thing possible, and even then it would probably have been like the Blob oozing around on the marble slab.

The tweaked recipe is below:

Almond Coconut Shortbread
1 c unsalted butter
1 c granulated sugar
2 eggs
3 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
shredded coconut (enough to make things interesting but not enough to end up with macaroons)
4 oz slivered almonds (toasted, if you want a more intense almond flavor)
1 tsp vanilla

Cream butter, sugar, and vanilla, salt, and eggs until smooth, and add flour gradually. Add almonds and shredded coconut and mix until thoroughly incorporated. Divid dough in half and roll into a cylinder using waxed paper; chill for a couple of hours or until firm. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Unwrap dough and cut into 1/4 inch slices; put on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes or until just beginning to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on baking sheet before moving them too a cutting board or cooling rack.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Quiet, please!

It's no secret that I like a relatively quiet environment. I read, knit, listen to my vintage radio shows, cook, and do various other things, and no one's ever complained about the volume at which I do them. The neighbors haven't come to bang on the door in protest or called the police because I've been knitting at 2 AM. The animals haven't been driven away by the thumping bass of my spinning wheel, the birds haven't dropped from the sky because I'm reading too loudly, and the plants haven't withered because I'm cooking at too loud a volume.
There's a rock concert planned for the little park in our neighborhood. Forget planned! They've been actively promoting it. From what I've been told, the town sprang for electrical hookups in the park and this will allow any and all to use amplifiers for their music.
To say I hate music is absolutely incorrect. Once upon a time, there was a man who went up to the park to play his bagpipes. As it turned out, he was preparing to perform at a wedding. Then there was the elderly man who took his fiddle to the park one spring afternoon. There was also a classmate of mine who went up there to play his banjo, and I suppose there have been other people who have gone to take advantage of the quiet to practice penny whistles. None of them used amplifiers and none of the residents were bothered. So it's really not the music that bothers me, but the fact that if it's amplified, it's impossible to escape without actually fleeing town and/or buying earplugs.
I question the wisdom of the coordinators' choice of venue. A 1.5 acre park at the end of a dead-end street is hardly the right place to have a charity event for a number of reasons--parking, inability of emergency services to get through if needed, impact on residents who may not necessarily want to hear a garage band blasting at top volume, impact on the wildlife who may be terrified, not only of the noise, but also of the people tromping all over their habitat without any thought for what might be living there. The promoters had a number of other options: the university football stadium, the university concert hall, the university's new theatre building, the big park outside of town. All of those have electricity ample parking which would not only allow the tourists to fall out of their cars and into the venue without having to walk two or three blocks through August heat while perspiring and carrying picnic baskets, toddlers, and whatever impedimenta required to enjoy a concert. And yet, the promoters chose the park here. The only reason I can think of is that the venue, if you can call it that, is a mere stone's throw from the commercial district.
For about twenty years, dad's said that the town government's main aim is to further the interests of the two-block commercial district. None of the merchants will benefit from the concert because they're all closing in protest--which I say with heavy irony. Nor are they the ones who are affected by the problem since--surprise--most of them don't live locally, let alone in our neighborhood. Of course, if asked, most of them would probably say it's a wonderful idea to have a steady stream of people listening to a steady stream of amplified noise because it's for a good cause. I think there's a flaw there somewhere. Ahem.
The whole thing reminds me of a scene in As Time Goes By. Lionel has gone to Norwich to plug his book and is unaware that the publisher has presented it as a gritty, nonfiction adventure in which a coffee planter hacks his way through the Kenyan wilderness while slaughtering elephants. In response to the publicity, a number of students attend the lecture in the hope of protesting the apparent atrocities committed against the elephants of Kenya by Lionel-the-elephant-killer. One of the students stands up and says, "Because of you, my children may never see a wild elephant!"
There may not be any wild elephants here, but thanks to the thoughtful people downtown, there are generations yet unborn who might never see an oriole or a bluebird in an urban setting, or hear the foxes barking or the woodpecker knocking. Dramatic? Maybe, but definitely apropos.

Edit: 12:30 August 13- Found this article. Am in total sympathy with the citizens of Prague but doubt that Madonna will cancel her concert just because three thousand people are against it. I wish them luck in their attempt, though!