Monday, August 11, 2014

Outlander Excitement

Did you watch the Outlander premier on Saturday?
I did! It was actually my second time watching the episode as I'd cracked and watched it on-demand earlier in the week.

My mother-in-law introduced the books to be back in 2002 or so. She told me it was about time travel, but that first one is a bodice ripper in my opinion. The "romance novel" aspects do get toned down in the later books.

My mother-in-law is amazed at how excited people are about the TV series. She says she's been telling people about the books for years. That fits in with what I've been reading about them. They built a following through word of mouth.

Having allowed myself to get sucked into the hype on social media and the Starz website, I decide it would be a good idea to try a couple recipes from the Outlander Kitchen blog to get into the spirit of things.

I tried the Claire's Spoon Bread recipe (above) and the Scotch Eggs recipe (below)
Neither recipe was very difficult, but I don't know that I'd bother making either again.

Now, in the case of the Spoon Bread, I might have messed it up. The recipe calls for putting the batter in a 9" pie plate or ramekins. As you see, I used my 8" square stoneware pan that I bought at the King Arthur Flour store.

Maybe the size and shape of my pan messed it up, but it came out awfully thin.
Another issue is the taste. Mine tastes a little fizzy and metallic. I think it has to to with the leavening agent is baking soda and lemon juice. Maybe I measured incorrectly or my baking soda is old, but it's just weird.
As for the Scotch Eggs, which I've always viewed suspiciously (if I'm being honest). The first one I ate on Sunday was very tasty, although I thought it could use some gravy. Actually, I only ate half of one, which might have been a good idea.
I tried another one today and it was just too strong a flavor. I don't know if it's cured in the fridge, or because I tried to reheat it in a frying pan, but I'm eying the remaining two with a little bit of reluctance.

Oh well, my recipe experiments weren't as transcendent as I'd hoped. But the night wasn't a total loss!

Show producer Ronald D Moore was live tweeting during the first showing of the premier episode!
Since I'd already watched, I was able to follow the conversation on Twitter.
I noticed he was also responding to questions....so I sent him one. And he responded!
I feel so special!
Looking back, my question might have been a little dumb, but then I guess maybe not since he answered. A lot of people favorited and retweeted his answer to me, so maybe I'm not the only one who wondered about it.
Someone else responded to me that it had to have been choreographed because it looked so effortless. That, of course, makes total sense.

Between Wendy Knits following my work Instagram account and Ronald D Moore responding to me on Twitter, I had a pretty rocking social media weekend!




Friday, August 8, 2014

Shawl Struggles


Back in January I bought the pattern for the Carradal Shawl on Ravelry.
It is designed by Lucy Hauge and is part of her Celtic Cable Shawls eBook.
Carradal is the first one that really caught my eye. All the ones after seem more beautiful than the next. This probably means I should buy the eBook, but I figured I should knit this shawl first!

I like the combination of the stripes at the top and the beautiful cable at the bottom. The size is appealing as well. It looks like a shawl you can wrap up in.
I'm kinda of tired of all these shawlets that are really glorified scarves! If I'm going to knit a shawl I want it to be usable. 

I was sure that I was going to use this soft yellow Ella Rae Lace Merino yarn with the lavender as the contrasting color. Some days the dark purple seemed better, but usually it was the lavender.

All these months I keep saying Carradal would be my next project. Finally, I decided it would be my now project!

Swatching commenced, and that's when the trouble began.

Neither the lavender or the dark purple was making my heart leap. I proceeded to wind and add in several other colors of Lace Merino in an attempt to find a good contrast.
I settled on the fuchsia, which was the last color I tried.

Then things went from bad to worse. I couldn't get a combination of the proper gauge and a pleasing fabric.
To get even close to the gauge in the pattern I had to go up to a US10 needle! That made a very floppy and open fabric. I can't believe it is what the designer had in mind.

Using a needle that would give me a nice fabric, even if it wasn't the proper gauge, is in theory, an option. However, I'm not sure about the math that would be involved in keeping the shawl the proper size. I don't want to spend all that time knitting only to end up with a shawl that is too small to use.

Sadly, I realized I wouldn't be able to use the Lace Merino for this pattern. My mind was a little boggled that I didn't have the proper weight yarn in enough quantity to make the larger size.

Finally, I hit on some alpaca that I bought at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival this year. The gauge is much closer than I got with the Lace Merino, and the fabric is pleasing.
It is a single, massive, hank of silver yarn, so my shawl will be one color, but that should work out fine.

My only concern now is that the alpaca will fuzz up and obscure the cable. I guess only time will tell.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Wish Me Luck

The State Fair starts tomorrow.
In a moment of insanity, I submitted two items for the needlework competition.
For the knitting category I submitted my Miss Kitty Top from the Louisa Harding Jesse book.
It's a real show-stopper and I'll be surprised if I don't get at least an honorable mention.
I finished knitting it in the spring and have enjoyed wearing it this summer.
When I first finished it the fit was a little snug, but the yarn has really softened up with washing and the fit is great now.

For the weaving category I submitted the scarf I wove during my first class using Noro Silk Garden Sock yarn.
It looks pretty good for a second weaving project, which the judges won't know. Really, the yarn is the selling point for this scarf.

I'm not sure why I decided to be brave and submit items to the fair. I've never done it, or thought about doing it, in the past.
Maybe it's because the fairgrounds are right here in town. I don't think I've ever lived so close to one before.
Another factor was the fiber people I know down here talking about it and encouraging everyone to submit stuff. They want to show off the "vibrant fiber arts community" in the area.
What the heck! Right?

Monday was the day to drop off items for the Needlework category. It was a foggy morning. The rides looked strange in the fog, but it was exciting to see the fair taking shape.
I received one free admission ticket because I'm an "exhibitor." I've told hubby we'll have to go on one if his days off.
When I was driving by the fairgrounds earlier this week (it is located near the grocery store) I saw a trailer that implied there would be pig races.
I want to see the "Fastest Swine Off the Line"!
We'll also need to eat fried food and vote for my items for the Fan Favorite.

The Fair ends Aug 16. I suppose that's when winners will be announced.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bubbles!

If I'm going to start blogging again, it might as well be with a bang.

Or at least the pop of a sparkling wine bottle blowing its cork.

Maybe I should back up.

Wine!

It's been so long since I posted that you might not remember hubby made a career change last year. He left teaching to purse his love of wine by becoming a sommelier.

As part of this career change he has been taking classes through WSET to increase his knowledge and gain certifications that will help in his career.

The current section he's working on, for which he will test next week, is sparkling wine.

How it's made. Where it's made. The differences in taste. Etc etc.


Part of the test includes a blind tasting of at least two, if not three, wines. So he has to be familiar with them in order to identify them later.

Dangerous Bubbles

The thing about sparkling wine? It's got bubbles. Natural carbonation.

Back in the day (i.e., when it was first discovered) those bubbles used to make the bottles explode. Modern glass and wine making methods have reduced that risk.

But if you've ever enjoyed a glass of champagne on New Year's Eve (and, by the way, it can only be called champagne if it's from the Champagne region of France), you know it's hard to maintain those bubbles long term.

He's trying to taste through them quickly, but in the mean time we're using corks from standard bottles to plug them back up.

Well, it hasn't been working so well today!

This morning I got out his first round of blind tastings. Those fat-ass bottles got stuck in the wee wine fridge and got jostled around a bit as I was trying to get them out.

When I put the bottles on the counter the cork blew right out of that Aria cava on the left! It gave me a start and the cork ended up on the other side of the kitchen.

"You'll shoot and eye out, kid!"

No harm done. He tasted his wines and I got out three more, including opening a new bottle of a Pinot Noir Cava.

This evening I'm sitting in the living room and Baru and I hear a tap in the kitchen.

Of course, he starts barking his little head off (Samson wasn't interested), but we didn't see anything when we went to check.

A little while later I go back out to the kitchen to feed them and as I'm picking up their bowls I notice a puddle behind the wine fridge.

That pink tinge is a puddle of Pinot Noir Cava. There is some Dry Sec mixed in for good measure.

Two wines(!) blew their corks and spewed all over the fridge.

Even if I'd realized what it was, I don't think it would have helped. I imagine the wine shot out with some force and I couldn't have stopped it.

Much sponging and mopping later and it's all cleaned up. I put those bottles (along with the Cava from this morning) into the regular fridge hoping they'll be more stable.

Reasons to Mop

It's the second time this week I've had a horrific reason to mop.

Earlier in the week I pulled the garbage bag out and it started to leak.

This was a particularly rank bag, full of raw chicken bones and water from rinsing the coffee grounds out of the French Press every morning.

It was so foul I actually threw up into the bag a little.

I managed to get it outside by putting it on an empty kibble bag, but there was a nasty puddle on the floor.

Yeah, that was fun to clean up. Much mopping ensued.

Hmm, smell-wise I think I'd rather mop up spilled wine!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Patterns of Behavior Sweater

At the beginning of the year I was on a kick to knit with the various beautiful yarns I've been acquiring over the years.

What was the point in having them tucked away in the dining room credenza if I wasn't going to actively enjoy them?

This plan was working well until two things happened.

First, I find it hard to juggle my personal knitting with my work knitting. There are only so many hours in the day, after all.

Second, in April I started the Patterns of Behavior Sweater.

Patterns of behavior sweater

The name will become obvious in a moment.

The original use-the-nice-yarn plan was to just knit the stuff. Keep it simple so projects would be completed and I could get on to wearing them.

That, obviously, didn't last long.

As I contemplated the Spring Pansies yarn I bought from Ellen's Half-Pint Farm during the 2011 New Hampshire Sheep and Wool Festival the idea of knitting another Schleppy Sweater of ribbing and stockinette didn't appeal.

No, instead it should have a big cowl neck.

And if I was going to work a cowl neck it should have an interesting stitch pattern.

And if I was going to do the neck in an interesting stitch pattern I should do the hem and cuffs in the same pattern to tie it all together.

Patterns of behavior sleeve

Suddenly, instead of just knitting the yarn already I had fallen back into the old habits, ahem--Patterns of Behavior, of making complicated projects.

In this case, a sweater with Feather & Fan hem, cuffs, and cowl collar.

Despite all that I'd been zipping along, until it was time to start the sleeves.

Figuring out the stitch count for the cuff tripped me up. And then we moved. And then I had work knitting. And, well, you know how it goes.

I picked the sweater back up a week or two ago. Rhinebeck pressure, you know.

The sleeves flew along once I started knitting them. I decided to work them one at a time, in the round, on double points.

The yoke, which always seems to take forever when I'm working a sweater in the round, has moved along briskly as well.

Patterns of behavior sweater

I was working on the sweater last week during Adirondack Yarns' open knitting session and had a really constructive conversation about the collar with one of the other knitters.

We decided I should work the first part of the collar in stockinette stitch so I can easily work the increases to get to cowl size, then switch to the Feather & Fan pattern.

I'll have to remember to reverse it when the time comes since it's going to fold over and I don't want the wrong/back side of the knitting showing.

I'm getting really close to having the yoke done. Unfortunately, my left wrist is cranky so I think it's best to take a knitting break for a day or two.

At little rest now prevents a long rest later!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Boo!

I may have mentioned that the house we're renting was built in the mid-1800s.

Although I try not to think about it, I'm sure many people were born and died here since that is what you did back then.

Hubby and I were standing in the upstairs hallway as he got ready for work.

The door to the spare room was mostly closed. This is usual since I'm trying to keep the unused areas shut off to save on our heating bills.

But then the door rattled and closed the rest of the way.

We both stopped and looked at it.

In my head I told myself it was the wind, even though there aren't any open windows and the door at the other end of the room leading to the back steps is closed as well.

Hubby said, a little too causally, "Weell, I'm going to go ahead to work now. Try not to think about today being Halloween."

Rising to the challenge, I decided to open the door so we could battle whatever monster was lurking within together.

I almost pissed myself when I saw movement in the room as the door swung open.

Why the heck was something moving in an empty room?!

As the door swung fully open Samson came bursting out.

Much to our relief and laughter.

I had actually been wondering where he was for at least an hour, but had assumed he was napping under our bed.

He likes to lay on the floor in the spare room as it gives him a good view of the hallway and down the staircase.

Our theory is the door was only half open when he went in and he knocked it shut the rest of the way.

What we don't understand is why he didn't bark when he wanted to come out.