Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What I've Been Up To, Pt. I

So, here we are backtracking all the way to March. At the end of March, we went to Houston for my littlest sister's wedding. the day before all the madness started, we went down to Hermann Park for a little sightseeing. Bf and I are Travel Nerds. It doesn't matter where we go, or why we go there,- we'll always manage to find something educational to do and see. This time we went to the butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural Science. So awesome.

In the butterfly exhibit, you sweat your butt off while wandering around in a rainforest-like enclosure. All the butterflies just flutter around you, and you have to resist the urge to swat at them as they fly by (or land on you!) It's pretty awesome.

I love this blue one. I think it's one of the Morphos.

Camouflage butterfly says that he is an owl, not a butterfly. No clue how this pic came out so perfectly in focus, but I just love it.
Fuzzy pic of the butterfly nursery. The orange and black striped one is emerging from his (or her) cocoon! I could have watched that for hours. First a little twitch...then a wiggle...then some more wiggling...then a bit of a wing...then more wing...then a butterfly! So exciting.

Posting two days in a row, look at me go. Hey, that rhymes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Uh, hello.

Hello, everyone (especially Kerry).

So sad that it's taken me this long to get myself back to this space. It's a tricky thing, blogging. First there are stretches of days where everything is so regular, mundane, and ordinary that it hardly seems worth mentioning. And as we all know, I am not a person who slows down and remembers to breathe, or sees the beauty in a glass of water and a peice of toast or something. I mean yeah, those are good things. But they aren't MY things. It's all tomfoolery, all the time around these parts. But then there are occasions and things worth mentioning, finds worth sharing, and thoughts worth saving for later, and I don't do very well at that either. Time slips by at a rate of speed greater than my internet connection, and then it seems less than relevant. But it's all worth keeping, you just have to get around to it.


Although I want to start way back in March, I would like to mention something first. This is the week of two very big anniversaries. First, it was two years ago that I brought home a terrified little hound named Sticks who was not house trained, got car sick, and would not walk on a leash. Now Maya keeps amazing us every day with the things she is willing to take in stride, and how very much she likes to snuggle. And bite your butt if she wants attention. And how loudly she barks. And how much she likes to go for walks. And car rides. And how she went to the Farmer's Market and walked through downtown traffic and into throngs of people and had only one freakout when the Kettle Corn man fired up his big kettle. She's a good girl. Perhaps on our three year anniversary, I will write about how she doesn't rip up potted plants. That would be nice.

The other anniversary is the one that marks the passing of our first year as a family, me and BF and Lilly and Maya and Charlie. A year ago, he arrived after a 10 hour drive in a car full of clothes, cds, and a big dumb dog. Now, I can hardly remember a time when I didn't wake up next to him (or Lilly, depending on if she got cold and snuck up into the bed between us). It's so easy to bicker about money, dishwasher loading principles, dinner, and TV viewing that I forget how really lonely I would be without them. It's been a most educational year, one where I learned a lot about compromise and team work and the awesome power of just being nice.

I've got lots more to catch up on here, and I promise to do just that. But this is getting awfully long, and that's no good. And since pictureless posts are no fun, here's a sunset for you.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Let Us Speak of Pickled Things

Here lately, what with the interest in canning, I have given a lot of thought to pickled things. I love them. I love pickles in many forms, and I know that it's a typical food in the south, but I am not sure about other places. Anyway, we had a dinner party last weekend, and I put together a few of my favorite pickled things of late and called it an appetizer. They were hits, so I thought I would share these with you.

These pickled cucumbers are struggling to find a name with me. They need a special name because they aren't even pickles really- more like brined cucumbers. And they are also very Asian-flavored- lots of ginger and fish sauce. But they are crisp and crunchy and have about a thousand different uses- they are great on top of a peice of grilled tuna, great in sandwiches, on crackers, or just crammed into your mouth while you hang out on your deck, all bundled up and pretending it's spring. I adapted this recipe from a marinade I found in one of our cookbooks on modern asian and thai cooking.

Asian Briney Cucumber Thingys

3in peice of fresh ginger, grated
2 garlic cloves
just a bit of thai chili paste or maybe a dash of Sriracha
5T sugar
5T fish sauce
juice of 2 limes
1/3 c of water
2 cucumbers, seeded and sliced sort of thin

mix it all up and toss in the cucumbers. at first the cukes will not be very well covered by the marinade, but within about 20 minutes they will give up some of their juice and kind of settle in. Let sit overnight. This will keep for about 10 days in a sealed container.

I feel like people should make the most of what's available locally. This is double true when you are lucky enough to live in a fishing town, where local shrimp can be bought pretty much fresh off the boat. If you can't go down to the docks for your shrimp, find the best ones you can get. As with all things, that is the difference between goodness and greatness.

Pickled Shrimp
Adapted from This Recipe

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
large onion, sliced thin
green pepper, rough chopped
1C vegetable oil
1 1/2 C ketchup
2C Apple Cider Vinegar
1T yellow mustard
3T worstershire
1t Old Bay
a few shakes of salt, pepper, and hot sauce

mix up everything but the shrimp in a giant bowl. drop the shrimp in boiling water for just a short short time- like one minute. Seriously. It won't look to be fully cooked, but the vinegar will continue that process. If you fully cook them when you boil the shrimp you will end up with some very tough shrimp, and we all know that's not fun. Serve with crackers.

Have a great weekend! There are buds on the trees here, and the dogwoods are in full bloom. I will be popping Claritins, enjoying the view, and wishing for more pickled things.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Knitting on St. Pats

It's St. Patrick's Day, so it is not only awesome that i have completed, photographed knitting to show you (and knitting in progress for that matter, now that I think of it- I have sucked on that front too.), but that knitting is also green in color. Fancy that.

My Wicked Sweater. Eh.
I am very proud that I knit an item of clothing, and it hasn't fallen to shreds or burst into flames. And short sleeved sweaters are actually feasible for me to own, what with us having like two weeks of winter. But I tell you what, right up there with No Wire Hangers, EVER is no worsted weight sweaters. Ever. It's a bad look for me. That, along with me knitting this probably a size or so too big means that there's a boxiness to the middle that honestly I have worked way to hard at the gym to get rid of. Oh well, win some, lose some. Here is the Rav page, and the yarn is Cascade 220 in Irelande. Hmm. How appropriate.

The Textured Shawl, for more worsted weight fun:
(and the shawl is sitting with my Oxalis and actually looks kind of nice with that purple. Maybe I will knit the plant a shawl as well.) I shopped at home for this- there are three balls of this stuff that have been hanging around for ever. I think it's so funny that I am knitting a shawl. At first i thought that maybe it was like my transformation into someone's grandma or something was becoming more complete. But no, it turns out they are kind of trendy and fancy right now. you don't wear them with the point in the back, you wear them in the front sort of like the stars of Young Guns II or an old timey bankrobber or what not. It's The Cool Thing To Do, and this is the first time in a while that I have been aware of what the cool thing is, I am running with it.

In neon green.

I hope your St. Pat's is loads of fun, and reeks of cabbage. We are cabbage-less, but BF informs me that he will be staying in and having a one man party of sorts. Goober Go Bragh!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Playing Hooky

Younges Island, SC

It's rainy, I'm tired, and I should be in spinning class right now. I should also be sharing a thought provoking post on pickles, or perhaps modeling a new green sweater for you, but all that will just have to wait. Sometimes not doing what you should be doing is the best thing to do.


Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Jelly Jar Is Half Full

I tried.

I failed.

Sort of.

this is yet another foray into yet more uncharted territory. Up above in those sunny pictures, you see some Three Citrus Marmalade, from Well Preserved. This book was a Christmas gift, and I fell in love with the idea of preserving small batches of things at the height of their awesomeness (really, in December, who doesn't dream of a time when zucchini is in season?) and having them to enjoy later. Each recipe for preserving something is followed by a handful of recipes that use that item as a key ingredient, and I must say, those recipes are sexy.

Yeah, I called them sexy.

So, for the first time ever I made marmalade. I got to use my candy thermometer, I carefully processed all the jars like i should have, and all of them sealed. I understand the process and no longer have a fear that during water bath processing, all the jars will explode and glass shards will go in my eyes. Vivid imagination + generalized fear of the unfamiliar = eternally living in a B horror movie, if only in my own mind. So that's the good thing.

The bad thing is that i HATE the resulting marmalade. HAAAAAAAAAATE. And you know who is to blame for this? Me. That's who. I mean in retrospect, I should have known that while i like oranges quite a lot, I don't like grapefruit at all. Lemon- eh. So why I thought that a great thing to make would be Three Citrus Marmalade with grapefruit and lemon- well, I'm just not sure.

Now back to the good thing. It's actually a Great Thing. While stirring and canning and timing, I got that smug feeling that I thrive on. And since my shady little yard that is patrolled by mongrel dogs isn't conducive to growing things, the next best thing is buying stuff that other people have grown, and putting it in little jars to store away for another time. The bonus is that BF REALLY enjoyed the process. Surprisingly so. It involves science, precision, gadgets, and squirreling away food- not sure why I didn't realize sooner that this could be his life's work. I figure since I am In Charge when it comes to the kitchen, he will be a great little minion, and lord knows I do love to Supervise. But yay! Another thing we like to do together, and another thing that has me looking forward to a good Southern Summer- long growing season, lots of time for trial and error.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Another Outing

Spring is most certainly arriving here, and that means that it is the season for outings. We are playing Tourist in our own town a lot lately. It's great for a transplant like the BF and for a jaded local like me to be able to go enjoy these things together.

This week we visited the Angel Oak. It's the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi. It's 65 feet tall, at least 1500 years old, and just awe inspiring. We arrived bright and early on Sunday, and were able to catch the most beautiful light...through the fence because the park didn't open till 1 on Sundays. Doh!

By the time we went back, it was close to the end of the day, and the clouds had moved in. Stunning still, but there was something about that light.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Dresser Update

so I have this old dresser, a freebie from my college roommate. It was a freebie to her. Back then I got it and it was a wacky green with wooden handles. Very farmhouse.

I got the bright idea to paint it a crazy purple (i still love that color, i think it's very dramatic.), take off the hardware nothing else with it for like 5 years. Here it sits, housing lots of sewing doo dads.

And here it is now, still housing sewing doo dads, but in a much more stylish way.

With minimal begging, BF installed some knobs and a fun little handle. Although I am sort of over decals, i still have an inner squeal every time I see this one.

Now here's where we talk a bit about a shift that I am seeing in many of my creative endeavors. You see, those handles are ever so slightly not perfectly aligned. And ya know what? That's okay. Because I have realized that the vision of perfection I have in my mind is the greatest reason why it takes me, oh, EONS to finish things. I am really finding it easy to accept Good Enough these days. Because Good Enough is better in about a thousand different ways than Half Finished.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

On Napping

[Taken on Sunday]








Monday, March 1, 2010

Ravelympics Redux

Yay! Another knitted thing! Two, actually!

These are socks that I made during the Ravelympics, a super cute little knitting Olympics hosted by the knitting Cyber-Leviathan, Ravelry. (I really just wanted to use the word Leviathan. I heard it last night during a show about dinosaurs and have been itching to use it since. It's a great word, leviathan.)

I want to interrupt this post to say that the slow photo uploading times of Blogger, combined with the generally terrible upload speeds of Knology mean that I have been sitting here watching those gray dashes whirl around that yellow triangle for some time now. That's annoying.

so, here are my socks! Let me just say once again, in case I have never said it on this blog before: handknit socks are one of life's greatest pleasures. If you ever by chance happen to save a knitter's life and they want to know how to repay you, you should ask for handknit socks. Everyone that knows good things should have at least one pair. But don't ask me for them; they are a pain in the ass. I am a slow knitter, and although i had lots of Real Life type things slowing me down, I persevered. Yay! Be all that you can be! Wait no, that's the Army.

Top photo is wildly inaccurate in regards to color, but that's ok. Bottom photo is probably closest, although they are a bit greener than that. Lovely all the same. Sigh.

One thing I have been trying to do lately is take part in all manner of challenges and what not. Meeting my goals makes me feel like I am actually accomplishing something. That has really become important to me. I did the Ravelympics and am currently taking part in two challenges at the gym. Being competitive and really wanting to feel obligated in some way to anything Outside the Home is helping to define my days a bit. And that's nice.

what about you? Did you knit? Did you crochet? Did you finish?

As a side note, I would like to say that I really enjoyed the Real Olympics this year. I watched a LOT of them, and I like how there are sports that are fun for People Who Don't Like Sports. Like biathlon is my new fave. Curling is up there too. LOVE skeleton, if for no other reason than to giggle at the terrible angle at which athletes are shot at the start. Spandex, running, full-on butt shot...not so cute. And also if you are a weepy sap like me, you get a kick out of seeing people achieve their dreams, try their hardest, and put on display all the good things that there are in the spirit of competing. What? No, I wasn't crying when the whole arena gave the Georgians a standing ovation. i just had something in my eye.

Oh! Knitting details:

Pattern: Embossed Leaves (found in the Best of Interweave Socks or some such thing)
Yarn: Classic Elite Alpaca Sox
Needles: US2's for the ribbing, 1's for the socks

Monday, February 8, 2010

On Screenprinting and Paying Attention

It's been a while since we spoke of failure around here.

I got Lena Corwin's Printing By Hand for Christmas. I had been itching to learn screen printing, and printing in general, and this book finally made me feel like the info was accessible. I have another book about it, but all it really did was confuse me. Not Lena! I got so excited about it that I made up a stencil, devised my first project, got all the materials out, and got started. I was bound for success.

And because I know myself, i read the instructions twice. Before even starting. I re-read each step as I worked it, and this is what happened:

A lovely, clear stencil all ready to go. BUT- I read the instructions, but not the bottles. I used screen filler instead of drawing fluid, and thusly ruined my screen. The project never got off the ground. Well it did get off the ground, but then crashed and burned.

But now we get the the annoying part of the post where I tell you the bright side: I ordered plenty more screen fabric and some more inks for cheap on Dick Blick. I got over the crushing fear of failure (again, it's a recurring theme here for some reason. This blog should be called Fear of Failure is the New Awesome. Only it's not the New Awesome, it's the Goofy Stumbling Block Which Exists Only In My Mind. But that's a terrible name for a blog, so we will keep things as they are. Anyway.). Also, the most fun thing about this is that BF came home, and was quite excited to see that there are screen printing supplies and instructions laying about the house. Turns out he is actually interested in this! This is- wait for it- a Crafty Activity We Can Do Together! This is pee your pants worthy excitement here. He never wants to do creative things with me, and for my part- i shoo him away from all my art supplies because he is like a toddler in that he picks things up, clings to them for about 6 seconds and then throws them down where ever he is at that second. So, I am thinking that this could be the beginning of Something Fun.

By the way, the intended project was to screen print some paw prints onto some fleece remnants I bought at the fabric store and turned into doggie blankets. We keep our house really cold to save on power (although the rates are so high here, I shudder to think of what our bill would be if we let it get over 63 in our house EVER) so the dogs get cold. And for about $3, two fleece blanket-like remnants with the opportunity for customizing- it was just too appealing.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Worth Mentioning

Like so many others in the blogosphere (I find it so strange that "blogosphere" is like a Real Word now. Huh.), I have been in hibernation mode. And again, like so many others, I am full of things to say, and they are all random and not totally coherent. It's funny- is this proof that things will find a universal rhythm if you let them- like that time i worked with 13 other women in a law office and within three months if you weren't on some sort of hormonal birth control you wound up on the Universal Monthly Cycle? Or is it simply that i have had too much coffee this morning? Anyway:

I found these two sitting this way yesterday totally of their own volition. I love their friendship, and the way that they stick together. These two teach me a lot sometimes. I only wish I could return the favor, but they don't seem interested in learning.

We have been in the most unfortunate position of discovering fleas. We caught it early, the vet has been most helpful, and we procured lots of very expensive sprays and medications and have been removing them from the house. Ever the optimist, I see that although I am SICK of laundry, the Spring Cleaning type phenomena around here is nice. I love nice tidy baseboards, organized closets, and switching furniture around. Although this does nothing for ridding the house of pests, it seems to have shaken my hibernation.

With the hibernation shaken, I made the Apple Cobbler with Cheddar Cheese biscuits this weekend out of Rustic Fruit Desserts. It was stellar, and I had it for dinner last night. And again for breakfast this morning. The cheddar gives just enough of a bite to the cobbler so that it's not sickeningly sweet. I declared the book a Keeper; BF remains skeptical. He says that it must contain two knockout recipes to be declared a success; I say he's inexplicably jaded with regard to homemade desserts. Bah.

Comic Relief is a great thing to have in your home. Even if it has fleas. She was restrained for the photo, but this was her idea. Honest:
If I had one wish, it would be for a space heater, so that I could warm up the sunroom enough to make use of it this morning.

I am finding the job search tough. There are no prospects, and because we have all we need in so many ways, I am surprised to find myself in an identity crisis of sorts. It's not sitting well with me, this trying to fill up my days and feeling like my sole worth is wrapped up in doing the laundry. However, I am pleased to say that taking my vitamins and doing as much exercise as possible, particularly yoga, is really helping. When I think about taking charge of my well-being, I feel better.

Lost returns this week. This is so exciting to me.

Bacon, basil, fresh mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar sandwiches are the best thing ever.

I've been knitting.

Hooray for February!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Can't Win Them All

Well, that didn't go very well.

I was feeling sort of badly about the fact that we use these disposable swiffer pads. In the past year we have all but eliminated paper towels from our home, we use reusable shopping bags all. the. time (seriously, i have gotten worlds better at remembering to bring them). But damn if we can find a way to make my best buddy the swiffer a little more kind to the environment.

Well guess what.

I thought i found it. I looked at a few tutorials, tried a few, winged it myself, and still- the right thing eludes me. It sucks, and i think it may also be because our floors desperately need to be refinished. Nonetheless, the only thing that makes mopping less fun is these towel swiffer pads. .

Fail, Fail, Fail, and more fail.

Have you made anything terrible and fail lately?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Good Things In Yellow

Today is a gross day. It's gray, it's cold, and it hasn't stopped raining all day. The dogs have gotten out of bed once today, and I am fighting so hard not to join them. When dumping my pics onto my hard drive today, i was happy to see lots of yellow around here- it cheers me up considerably.

Let's talk first about the second attempt at ravioli. MUCH better looking, no? It was butternut squash filling of my own devising, and i must say- delicious. Served with a pesto sauce, and it also froze beautifully. I am so so so pleased with this.

The flowers that the BF bought me are finally opening. And aren't they pretty! I am sort of not allowing much in the way of spending on stuff like this right now, but they were the last ones left, with no blooms open, and you could almost tell they would be yellow. So he was sweet and spent the $2 it required to get me these pretty flowers. I am so glad he did. He's good that way.
And finally, a pictorial that is proof, i think, of becoming an adult: a snack in my house. Yep, that's butternut squash and brussels sprouts. We are working hard at eating well, and it's starting to show around here. It would also seem that my dorkiness is starting to show (starting?!?!?) because i thought the color combo of the veggies in the blue bowl was so pretty I had to take a pic.
I hope your day is bright and shiny, and that you don't have to try as hard as I do to keep the gray away.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In The Strangest of Places If You Look At It Right

this was just too amazing and awesome not to share. Below are pics of the back of a shopping center in town. The front is average looking, even a bit depressing. But this is the back, done all in spray paint, by the one man who has been given permission to use this space. I wish I knew his name, because I would fully credit him here, but I don't. Click to enlarge the pics- and you will want to, because they are spectacular. Sorry for all the shadows from trees; it was just that time of day.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Well Spent

Yesterday a big time was had by all at our house. BF came up with a fantastic idea: picnic at the beach! We are having strangely warm weather- mid-sixties- and chose to make the most of it. Such a fun day. After all the heavy heartedness of the last week, it was nice to be in the sunshine, laughing and running and stuffing our faces. Winter at the beach is the best time to be there, if you ask me.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Zen of Pasta

See that pic up there? since you can't tell just what it is I'm sure, I will tell you. It's ravioli. Portobello ravioli to be exact, and made by my own two little hands. Well, my two hands and a pasta machine that I got for Christmas.

It is really ugly looking, but I learned a lot about making pasta, one thing being that you really ought to roll it out much thinner than you think you should. i did not do this, and it was so thick that it sort of cooked up into a very bland, crumbly bread with yummy stuff in the middle. So here's a rundown on what I learned- possibly more for my benefit than yours.

:: ricotta is the glue that holds a good filling together.
:: roll the dough out much thinner than you think you need to
:: experimenting on loved ones is a good thing
:: the best way to go about the sealing and cutting is probably an egg wash, then a pizza cutter, then a fork. I will do this next time and likely save myself a lot of heartache.
:: pasta making is a great meditative process.

Loss touched our home this weekend, and I find the reactions to that sort of thing interesting. The way we cope, the way we process things. I tend to cook my feelings, like so many others. My heart was heavy and my brain was all over the place, and it felt good to put my hands to work. Over and over I cranked that dough through the machine, and kneaded, mixed, folded, cut, and it was good. My mind got to be elsewhere for a while, and think of good times, and ponder questions that have no answers. And then at the end of it all, it was good to sit down over a bowl of homemade pasta and talk about what we were feeling. BF said it was comforting. I thought it was grody, but the act itself was of greater comfort to me.

That is sort of what cooking is becoming to me. On a day to day basis, it's how we sustain ourselves, but special dishes, or taking the long way to get to a finished dish- we sustain ourselves differently with them. We eat them, but it's our souls that get fed. That's giving and comfort at their best, and I love being able to do that for the ones I love.

that's the sort of thing that I thought about yesterday while I worked on The World's Ugliest Ravioli. But i know that next time it will be better, and the time after that better still. That sort of knowledge is so comforting when things seem sort of dark.

and before I veer off totally into a strange new and very serious direction, let's have a look at two doggies from over the weekend who desperately wanted a crack at some ravioli. I like how Lilly's face looks so sinister when her eyes arent visible and all you see are her brown eyebrows. As for the little dog, would you be able to resist that face? It gets harder and harder.

Friday, January 8, 2010

I Wish I Knew How To Quit You


I was wrong. I got angry and hurt and I said something I shouldn't have said. I was wrong, and I'm sorry. Take me back, baby. Please. I love you.

Had I only known that sitting down with an episode (or two) of a trashy reality show ( I like to watch them while doing complicated knitting because my brain is still working through the charts, but the part of my brain that controls Disdain turns it towards the idiots on Jersey Shore rather than on the knitting. Smart, no?) and next thing you know- you have a lovely cuff for a lovely mitt. the cabled bits are a bit wonky, but they should straighten out with blocking.

I have yet to forget the pain that is realizing that you have spent hours doing something totally wrong with no one to blame but yourself. But, i have realized that this is actually a pretty fun pattern, and hey- I've Got The Time.

speaking of- I've Got The Time has sort of become my motto this week. Now that Holiday Mania is over, I wake up when BF wakes for work, and I face a day that seems to stretch on forever. But just like that, it's over and I feel great about what I have done. I got another timer, one that works this time, and I allot little chunks of my day to this and that, and it is really sort of rewarding in it's own way. I have worked outside the home continuously since I was 15 years old, and this new rhythm that I have found is so natural for right now. It's gray and cold outside, and inside I am watching movies, reading books, knitting, sewing, re-organizing, cleaning, cooking (last night I made a lamb curry TO DIE FOR), exercising, and scheming on the Next Big Thing. I am at home in my current life, my circumstance, and that is a feeling I haven't felt in a while.

I have to say, I have a few prospects that make me think that this wonderful little slowing down will be somewhat sort-lived, so I am just trying to embrace it, and enjoy it for what it is- all while being grateful that this time can be pleasant, and not coated in a Paralyzing Fear like layoffs have been for so many others. I have been giving some thought to a Word for the Year like so many others in blog land, but I can't seem to come up with just one. The best I have been able to do is identify a Concept that I want to strive for, and that's Acceptance. I need to take things, people (including myself), situations, and accept them. I always felt like to accept things was to be apathetic, compliant, boring, inert- but the truth is that struggling against the current is tiring. And realizing that the only reason I know what day it is comes from keeping up with the Group Fitness schedule at the gym makes me smile a little, every so secretly.

Wait, wasn't this supposed to be about knitting? Yes, yes- the mitts are going just fine.