Sunday, November 29, 2009

Save Me

Rather than needing a tourniquet, as the song goes, I think I need a stomach pump. I swear that if my grandmother wasn't still alive I'd be channeling her when I cook Thanksgiving dinner. Yesterday was great, but I'm still recovering. I took a picture of the table set, and promptly forgot to take a picture of the turkey or anything else, other than Kristie and the kiddo.

You'd think an army was coming instead of me and 7 guests and a toddler who doesn't eat much anyway. I cooked a 15 pound turkey, my grandmother's meat stuffing, turnips, mashed potatoes, butternut squash, boiled onions, gravy, salad, wheat rolls, regular cranberry sauce, diabetic cranberry sauce, a diabetic key lime pie, and we had a veggie tray. My mother helped for quite a bit of it, which I'm sure she was thrilled about, and Shawn's mom brought a cheese dip and crackers and an appetizer with shrimp and pastry cups. Then just in case the key lime pie was awful (I had serious doubts, but it was actually awesome) Mom and I picked up a pecan pie, a sugar free angel food cake and some fruit salad to go with it. Not to mention a coffee cake. And Chris and Kristie brought some wonderful cannoli and some sugar free pastries for Shawn and a lovely bottle of wine. So it was completely nuts. Needless to say, it's a really good thing I bought that stand alone freezer last year.

Diabetic Key Lime Pie:

This Recipe was from Fix-It and Enjoy-It Diabetic Cookbook, which I slightly modified as will be explained below.

1 1/2 cups of graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup firmly packed Splenda brown sugar blend
1 tbsp butter melted
3 tbsp canola oil
14 oz can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup key lime juice (because I'm an idiot I bought key west lemon juice by accident. So I mixed it half and half with real lime juice.)
2 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp sugar

1. Combine first 4 ingredients. Press into 10" pie pan
2. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool.
3. In a mixing bowl, stir condensed milk and lime juice until blended. Pour into crust.
4. In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites with cream of tartar at high speed until foamy.
5. Gradually beat egg whites until the sugar dissolves and soft peaks are formed, about 2-4 minutes.
6. Spread egg-white meringue over filling. Bake at 325 degrees for 25-28 minutes.
7. Chill 8 hours or overnight.

It was really, really good. You wouldn't have known that it was a diabetic recipe. For those needing nutritional info, the pie is to be divided into 10 slices, and one serving is 3 Carbs and 1 fat in the diabetic exchanges and it had 250 calories a slice with 42 grams of carbs, no fiber and 7 grams of fat.

The cranberry sauce recipe we found on the net was a 12 oz bag of cranberries, 1 cup of water and 8 teaspoons of Splenda (but we had to add 2-3 more teaspoons to get it sweet enough to not pucker your face tasting it). You take the water and the cranberries and bring them to a slow boil in a sauce pan until the cranberries pop and soften. Then you stir in the sweetener and let it sit overnight in the fridge. I didn't like it much. I thought there was a chemical after taste I wasn't fond of.

The remainder of this week I spent getting ready for the new job, and prepping the Thanksgiving day feast (which we had on Saturday). I did do some spinning on Wednesday while doing the eight loads of laundry to wash all the new stuff. I had some Corriedale blended batts in the stash from DyakCraft (formerly Grafton Fibers) that I started spinning up. I have 8 oz and I've only done half, so no plying yet. I'm working on trying to spin up my fiber stash. It takes up less room when it's yarn.

I'm a little nervous about tomorrow, which is my first day at my new job, but I'm sure it will be fine. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Long Day is Over

You might have noticed that I skipped the blog this past weekend. I normally post once a week, but it's been a bit nuts here. This past Friday was my last day at Jetboil and I was busy training my replacement, who was miraculously great. I was very lucky to get two going away cakes, one on Thursday with everyone and a very nice card. I also got a very nice Christmas cactus that I hope I will be able to keep alive for just a little bit. The second is pictured here. Notice it's purple. Very purple. How awesome is that? Thanks Lisa!! I also received a case of 230 gram fuel which I was psyched about. Sometimes people get a PCS or a Flash when they leave, but I already have 2 PCS, a Flash and a Helios, so I asked for fuel. Perry also very nicely took me to CR Sparks for lunch on my last day and it was really good.

The very next day I hosted my writing group at my house. I made chocolate fondue in the Helios and we had a very productive meeting I thought. I really value the conversations and the thoughts everyone shares about the writing, even if it's not mine. I think that I learn something from every meeting. I'm very happy about the tenor of the meetings so far.

Chocolate Fondue Recipe:

16 ounces dark, sweet or semi-sweet chocolate
1 1/2 cups light cream
1 tsp. Vanilla extract

Using a Helios Guide, take cozy off 2L pot and put 1-2 cups of water in 3L pot. Place 2L pot in 3l pot to act as double boiler (or use double boiler.)

1. Break chocolate squares into smaller pieces and drop them into the pot.

2. Add cream (which will prevent the chocolate from going lumpy) and stir gently but constantly until the chocolate is melted and smooth.

3. Add vanilla extract, and stir it in.

4. Use a fondue fork to spear the fruit, then dip it in the chocolate. Enjoy!

It's really, really good. But bad for you.

On Sunday, since I'd been having such awful luck in NH trying to find corporate wear for the new gig, I headed down to Boston and picked up Laura V and we went to the Natick Mall. Can I just say, I hate NH store selection? In less than 2 hours, I had bought six suits, a jacket and 4 shirts. I shopped in NH for six hours and managed to buy 1 suit and 2 pairs of shoes. The first four suits we bought in the first half hour. I mean, I'm sorry, but apparently the temper tantrum I had at the Macy's in the Rockingham Mall last Monday (which did involve me asking to see the manager and telling the manager exactly what I thought about them not carrying plus sizes) was entirely justified. It was perhaps obnoxious, but justified. Laura and I had lunch at the Cheesecake Factory, where we ordered way too much food again, and the drinks were somewhat potent.

After the Natick Mall, we went back to Allston, where we decided we needed to go to the asian market. I bought more skewers for fondue (yum, fondue) and some pickled ginger and baby bok choy for Shawn.

On Monday Shawn and I took Kiwi to the vet for her wellness exam. She's fine, but my checkbook took a hit. I had some other appointments, but I also managed to find two more shirts and three skirts.

We also visited the new fish market in Manchester on Second Street. Can I just tell you, I almost cried I was so happy! It's called Free Range Fish & Lobster and it's an offshoot of a Portland, Maine company. I bought some scallops and some Maine shrimp. I was almost jumping up and down. Shawn thought I was nuts, but being from Maine, I am a (to put it in Maine dialect) right wicked snob about seafood. They bring the fish down from Maine. I can't tell you what it means to me to be able to get good seafood here finally, and not that crap at the supermarket. Seriously, it's bringing tears to my eyes again. Shawn and I baked the scallops in a little butter with a parmesan/bread crumb crust and stir fried the baby bok choy to go with it. It was wonderful. Go to this market!! I need them to stay in business please!!

Today I managed to score another jacket and three shirts. So I think I'm just about done, except I do probably need two more pairs of shoes. I'll try to hit Off-Broadway Shoes tomorrow. I also did eight loads of laundry washing all the new stuff that needed to be washed.

Last night Shawn and I made final decisions on the menu for Thanksgiving. And for those of you keeping track on facebook, I did decide to brine the turkey although I do think it's a royal pain. We found a recipe for cranberry sauce using splenda instead of sugar, and a diabetic key lime pie recipe. I picked up the groceries today around 2:00 pm ish, and I couldn't believe what a freaking zoo it was. Aren't most people supposed to be working at that time of day?

In fiber news, I have barely knit this week. I have spun though. I had two rainbow batts from Grafton Fibers (which is now called DyakCraft) I got several years ago at a NH Sheep and Wool.

This the batt and the batt spread out. The colors range from black to a deep orange/red.

I spun the singles keeping the colors together the same order as the batt. The color progression is interesting to see on the bobbins as I spun the batt into singles.

After spinning the singles, I've managed to navaho ply one of the bobbins, as I wanted to keep the color changes together.

I still have to navaho ply the second bobbin, but here's what the first skein looked like. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with it, but it would have to be something that takes advantage of the long color changes.
Well, this sort of catches us up. Stay tuned for Thanksgiving updates.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Times They Are A Changin'

You know, the fact that I spend ten minutes going through my I-Tunes list for the right song to title the blog is ridiculous but it amuses me.

The title is apropos this week, as some of you know, as I'm moving on to a new job. I'm very excited about it and I think it's a good new challenge and I will get to work with a former co-worker and friend again. I've been very busy training my replacement at Jetboil, and my last day there is this coming Friday.

The only downside to the new job is that I will once again have to dress up. And since most of my stuff was really worn when I left Bianco, I got rid of it. So I've gone through my closet, and figured out what I still had (including the interview suit I had bought to interview for this job) which consists of 2 days of outfits. And 2 pair of shoes, one of which really don't match any of the aforementioned outfits. I did manage to find one suit yesterday, which gets me to 3 days, but this means that serious shopping is to come in the next two weeks as I start on November 30th. I do not relish clothes shopping. Book shopping, yarn shopping, yes, but clothes shopping, not at all. Honestly, I'd rather clean the bathroom. With a toothbrush. But I do think the job will be worth it.

In other news, I've done very little writing lately. There's been so much other commotion that I just have not wanted to do it. So I've been spinning instead. However I did manage to crank out a couple of more pages the other night, and I'll be revising them this morning to submit for my writing group's critique as it's my turn this month.

I did manage to finish one of the socks and knit the cuff of the second.

I also picked some fiber from my stash to spin. I had purchased a 2.25 oz Rainbow Ribbon Batt from Foxfire Fiber by Barbara Parry at one of the NH Sheep and Wool events. I love, love their stuff. This batt is Blue Faced Leicester sheep wool, Angelina (sparkly stuff), cashmere and silk. They also have a lot of Cormo wool, which I love. I have a ton of their stuff in the stash, so I'm sure it'll pop up in the blog one way or the other.

I spun this in a fine single as I was thinking that I wanted fingering weight yarn. I think the yarn wants to be a little decorative scarf or maybe fingerless mitts.

This is a picture of the singles on the bobbin and a picture of me holding the yarn being made to show the size of the singles.

I made a center pull ball with the singles with my ball winder and plied the center end with the outside of the ball end to make a two ply yarn. You can see the size of the two ply yarn as I'm holding it and as I'm winding it on to the bobbin.

What's disappointing about the pictures is you really can't see the Angelina. The sparkle is subtle but there in real life, but it isn't really translating in the pictures.

To all my friends who are knitting and partying in Vermont this weekend, hope you're having a great time, and try to not get arrested!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tangled Up in Blue (Well, Teal, Magenta and Grey really)

I did find and buy and receive a replacement left footman connector for the Lendrum, which is shown below newly installed. I was able to order them from The Woolery. And may I just say what a pain that was. The screws that have to be removed have a little square in them instead of a flat head, philips or a hex or allen wrench. I was able to force them with a philips head, but I don't want to do that again. I also got a right side just in case but that side has 3 screws. Guess I'll be making a trip to Lowe's at some point to look for a screw driver that works with a square. Never seen one of those before.

Since the wheel was newly fixed, I decided to spin up the roving I got from Brian on Saturday.

I undid the braid. The roving was a little stuck together from the dying process, but it wasn't bad.

To make things flow easier, I predrafted the fiber, which just looks gorgeous here.

I spun the fiber into singles, shown in two pictures here.

Because the colors were so lovely, I decided to navaho ply them to keep them separate from each other rather than having a barber pole effect. You can see a video of navaho plying here.

And here's the finished yarn wound off onto a niddy noddy and then twisted into a skein.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Closer to Fine

Today Kiwi decided that the camera was not the Antichrist that she had previously believed, so she consented for a picture to be taken close up without me using the digital zoom.

Then when I walked into the living room two of the hermit crabs were hanging off the thermometer which is stuck to the side of the aquarium. I have no idea how they even get onto it, but they occasionally hang out there. I've never seen two of them do it at the same time though, so since I had the camera in my hand, voila!

The reason that I had the camera in my hand is that today Brian and Gerry who have previously taken some advanced knitting classes with me, had asked me about zippers. Given that the zipper in the last sweater I knit for Shawn took me six (yes, damn it, SIX) hours to hand sew into the sweater, I was interested in finding a better way to do this as well. So we decided to all research, make some swatches and all get together to see what we could do. Of course I needed the camera to document for the blog :)

This event had been planned for well over a month, because October's weekends had been so scheduled, I couldn't manage it before this. So of course, I wait until this week to do the research. I wanted to find a good way to sew zippers in with a sewing machine, because you know, I can spend six hours knitting or spinning, not hand sewing a freaking zipper into a sweater and ripping my fingers to shreds. Those of you who know me, or have seen the list of my knitting library on Ravelry know that I have a few knitting books. When we moved last, I think it was only six to eight boxes of them. Not one of my reference books had a description of using a machine. I did find two blogs that had directions one is here but that's it.

I made two sets of swatches. The first set was two swatches that were ribbed but had a slipped stitch selvage which was similar in pattern to the last sweater I made for Shawn, which is the Manzetter by Kelly Bridges at the Elegant Ewe. The second set was one that was a zipped neckline, but I used a slipped stitch selvage and two seed stitches on either side as described in the blog I found. I wanted to see if there was a difference in visibility in the machine stitch between the two.

Initially I tried to pin the zippers to the swatches. It was not happening. Brian's research had suggested basting, so I basted the zippers to the swatches with long running stitches with sewing thread in a contrasting color. I used the zipper foot on the sewing machine, and sewed down the center of the selvage stitch. Because I am paranoid about my knitting getting caught on the feed dogs of the machine, I borrowed a technique from my steeking bag of tricks and used paper underneath. You end up sewing the swatch to the paper, but it rips off easily and it feeds better. This was the result.
It's not bad. I used grey thread because (a) it was already on the sewing machine and (b) I wanted a different color so I could see what it was doing. I probably would like it better if the thread matched.
(Pictures enlarge if you click on them.)

The second swatches I did pretty much the same thing, except this is the one with the seed stitch, and I sewed just outside the selvage edge in the seed. There's a world of difference in visibility. You really can't see the thread except at the top. I think it would still work even if there was only one seed stitch instead of two. And it took no time at all, which is key.

Since Shawn has lost 60 pounds since the diabetes diagnosis, the two sweaters I knit for him are now somewhat voluminous. I wasn't looking forward to doing another one after the last zipper experience, but now I think I could do it without pain.

Brian found a technique to hand sew his zippers in using a crocheted edge, from a now out of print Barbara Abbey book that he was happy with. Gerry also used the machine, but steeked his swatch, so he was attaching the zippers to a steeked edge, which was cool to see. It was a good morning!

Brian and Gerry were very kind and gave me a gift card to the Elegant Ewe for hosting, as well as some of Gerry's homemade bread, which was so good, and some of Brian's hand dyed corriedale roving, which is just my color :)

I couldn't wait and dragged Shawn up to the Ewe as we had to go to Concord anyway. I got some Crystal Palace Mini Mochi, which I've wanted to try. and the Interweave Knits Accessories Special Issue, and Classic Elites Curvy Knits, which has sweaters sized more generously for the more ample among us.

I've been doing six loads of laundry as I've been writing this, but over all, it's been a really fabulous day. Stay tuned for further broadcasts.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Spinning Wheel

Yes, this is still a song title, just a particularly appropriate one. Today I decided to spin. I haven't in months, but I was in the mood today. It's amazing how much it's like riding a bike. My fingers still remembered what to do, and I was still able to spin as if I had not taken a break. (With the exception that my fingers are tired and will likely be tomorrow as well.)

I choose a merino hand blended batt that I bought from Sugar Bee Studios on Etsy. It was a four oz batt called "Politically Incorrect One Night Stand Fiber Batts" in color way Valentino. It was a nice easy spin and and it was a nice choice to start back into spinning, as there was only enough for one skein. I did a light worsted weight yarn. I'm thinking about making fingerless mitts out of it.

The first picture is the batt before I started spinning. The next pictures are the bobbin as I filled them up with single ply yarn

The last pictures are: the skein after I've plied it together (twisting two singles together to make a 2 ply yarn) having wound it off onto a niddy noddy; the skein after being taken off the niddy noddy; and the skein twisted into a hank.

The one bad thing is that the connector to one of my treadles broke. I was able to fix it, but I'm going to need to research getting a repair kit for the Lendrum.

During guild today, I managed to get to the toe on the sock I'm working on. I'm going to have to think about my next big project. I'm still close enough to the end of the shawl that I don't want something too crazily masochistic, but I do want a bigger project that uses a lot of stash yarn.

Yesterday was our second writing group meeting. I thought it went very well, and I am very much enjoying it. The women in the group are so interesting and talented. It's been very interesting to discuss our writing processes with each other.

Helene made a comment on my last blog about how I was pacing myself with the writing. Because I have so many things I want to do or that I have to do, it really hasn't been an issue yet. I don't have hours and hours to get carried away in. So mostly what I've been doing is scheduling a two hour block here, a half an hour there, or so on. The most I've actually written at one time was four hours, but that's because I was "making up" a two hour block I skipped. And even though it's fun, there's a lot of thinking involved, and I seem to need breaks to process. I've been having flashes about the story and plot at odd times like in the shower in the morning. I make a note and then I think about it some more to decide if that's really where I want to go. Or I'm trying out scenes in my head driving in or home from work. But I don't seem to have any problem getting up to go do something else when my scheduled time is up.

And speaking of which, I'm out of time on this blog post broadcast. Join us next time at our regularly scheduled time.