Sunday, May 23, 2010

Secrets (by Count Basie and the Kansas City Seven, since there a lot of songs with this title)

Well, the secret project details are finally out. Yesterday we had meeting of the Misplaced Modifiers (my writing group) scheduled and it was my turn to host. Since Sally is due soon and has an induction scheduled, we decided it was best to ambush her at this meeting, since we weren't sure how we would get to her at any other time.

This is what has been referred to as the Secret Group Project on Facebook and Ravelry (although I've already edited the project details on Rav). Each of us did either one or two squares (thanks to Alison M., Angie F., Donna D., Linda D., Mary Kate R., Mary S., Mary T., Nancy B., Paula M., Sarah A., and Tracy B.). I also did a square and put it together, and did the cable edging.

This picture shows my square and the edging, as I forgot to take a picture until the blanket was already assembled.

I also did an individual project for Sally, which has been referred to as the individual secret project on Facebook, and Secret Project III on Ravelry (although project details have already been updated.) I did a baby blanket I've had my eye on for a while, because hey, purple T-Rex's, who can resist that? I had also intended to do a

stuffed T-Rex toy that goes with it, but there just wasn't anyway I could get it done, with Secret Project II in the wings for Chris and Kristie, Secret Project IV starting for Sarah A., and a lace wedding purse and two helmet liners that have to be completed by the end of June. I do have a vast propensity to over commit myself and choose ridiculously complicated projects. I have been referred to as a knitting masochist. The lace purse for Kat D. is almost done though, I just have to block and sew in the liner that will match her wedding dress. Pictures will be posted later.

The shower went very well. The presents and treats were wonderful. I made chocolate fondue with almond milk instead of heavy cream (which is okay, but let's face it, doesn't work the same and doesn't thicken up real well), and a milk free chocolate lava cake. Sarah A. brought wonderful cupcakes, Linda D. brought this incredibly huge strawberries for the fondue, Ellen R. brought deviled eggs, Mary Kate R. brought hummus with pita bread and carrots, Alison M., brought chips and salsa, and Mary S. brought a wonderful chocolate mousse cake torte thing from Bread and Chocolate.

It was really yummy, but way too much food, for the number of people we had there.
After the food, we had the blanket and other presents presentation. Sally seemed very surprised and very pleased with everything.
Lastly were the hand knitted gifts. Mary S. did a wonderful intarsia lion sweater for Sally as well as the aforementioned blanket projects.

This week was really busy getting ready for the shower, plus I had a Pampered Chef show on Tuesday in between. Which was useful in that Shawn and I had to really clean last weekend to get ready for it, and we didn't really mess the place up that much in between Tuesday and Saturday, so there was less to do Friday night. I learned how to make the chocolate lava cake at the show, which is really good, and takes no time, so that's really bad actually.
Today I'm making dinner for a friend with some health issues and trying to use up some of the things we still have in the freezer with milk. I'm happy that I can help her because she's just a really good person and not waste this food at the same time. We've been giving away products with milk in them that Shawn won't use on his own. Unhappy milk discoveries this week: Penzey's Original Taco Seasoning has lactose in it. Imitation crab (seafood salad stuff) has whey in it. The Puritan in Manchester puts non fat dairy powder in their breading/batter for seafood, so no seafood for me there. It's been really ridiculous what has whey, casein, or lactose in it. Happy non-milk discoveries this week: Duncan Hines Moist Deluxe Dark Chocolate Fudge cake mix and Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Frosting, neither of which has milk and which can be used to make the aforementioned chocolate lava cake. I'm considering buying a bread machine, because finding a loaf of bread without milk it in was a real freaking challenge.
I also tried a soy version of whipped cream this week. It was okay. I'm really coming to the conclusion that I really just don't like soy milk replacement products. I tried Blue Diamond Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, which is much closer to a real milk taste than the sweetened. Also I tried a cheese free mac and cheese mix from the grocery store. It was okay, but bland. Not close enough for me to actually eat again.
In other news, I don't really have any. I've been either cleaning like a demon, knitting up a storm, and trying to do enough laundry to have clothes for the next day. Speaking of which, I have go do at least a load or two of work clothes. Looking forward to things slowing down a bit.
Stay tuned for further updates as we receive them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Come Away with Me (to Webs)

Today Linda D and Stephanie S and I all went to Webs for the annual tent sale. I don't know how to describe how crazy it was this year. Hopefully the pictures speak for themselves, but there were more people there than I have ever seen. Poor Stephanie was in line for a hour and half to pay. There were a lot of people from New Hampshire there too. We ran into Gina H, Kerrie Ann C, Judy, Karen, Gigi, Caroline C, Mary R, and Meg. I was relatively restrained, but I did buy some cashmere that was beaucoup bucks and I'm probably going to hell for it.

This is the main area of the store, where they have the normally priced yarns.

The warehouse shown below is where you get the killer deals on closeouts and mill ends.

Here's Linda and Stephanie looking at yarn in the warehouse. This was their first time at Webs which can be really overwhelming until you get used to sensory overload.

This is a picture of the line inside and one of the lines outside with Linda D waiting for Stephanie who's stuck in a huge line inside. There were four lines today. It was absolutely crazy. Next year I think I'm going on a Sunday.

On the left we have Gina H and Kerrie Ann C. On the right we have Mary R, Caroline C and Gigi, rounding out the New Hampshire contingent.
What I bought:

Stay tuned for further updates.

Scarborough Fair (well, really NH Sheep & Wool)

Since I never got around to blogging this last weekend, here goes. NH Sheep & Wool Festival is Mother's Day Weekend every year, and every year I meet up with my friend Katie K and sometimes Candy W who was able to come this year. We get a chance to visit and to look at the great hand spun and hand dyed yarns and beautiful fleeces, batts and rovings. And invariably, whichever day I choose to go, it rains. Which is did this year. It rained like hell. Luckily I had a couple of purple umbrellas I had bought at Ocean State Job lots a couple weeks before, or I would have been soaked through. Note to self: You've been telling yourself to buy a windbreaker or rain coat since last October. Do it already.

Anyway, this year, Heather S, of Sereknity, who is one of the Manchvegas group, had a booth for her gorgeous hand dyed yarns and rovings. I love her stuff.

I don't know it was the rain or that some of the festivals were very close together this year, but some of the vendors I look for every year weren't there. And some of the vendors that I look for every year had very little in the way of fibers to sell. The rain was just a killer this year. Some of the vendors who were in tents on the fairground rather than in the buildings were having to dig little canals to channel the water around them. We mostly stuck to the buildings this year. It was really cold too.
I was fairly good, meaning I really didn't buy much, because it was too wet, I was too busy visiting with Katie K and Candy W, and I knew I was going to Webs the following weekend for the tent sale.

Here's Candy W looking resplendent in her beret and red coat. Candy is quite possibly one of the nicest women that it's ever been my luck to meet.

Here's Katie K talking to Robin Russo, of the Spinning Studio in Bradford, Vermont, who was giving a demo on how to reel silk from the cocoons of silk worms.

I also got to see Marci and Hal of the Elegant Ewe. Marci, if you enlarge the picture and look where the purple arrow is pointing is attempting to hide. Hal didn't hide but just threatened me with legal action for taking his picture afterwards.
This picture shows the yarns from Ellen's Half Pint Farm, which I lust after every year. Some day I'll be able to justfy a purchase to myself.
The 4 oz bit of batt shown is my sole purchase of the day. It was from a booth called Spin-A-Bit, and I liked the shiny fiber in the batt.
Around noontime we decided to call it good and go to lunch, which was great. It was really too bad that the weather was not more cooperative.
On Mother's Day, we decided to get up early and go grocery shopping before we needed to go to Shawn's parents. It's a good thing we left so early. Reading the labels for the whole milk thing took two and half hours. I expect it will get easier, just as reading the labels for Shawn's diabetes did, but geez. I can barely make myself grocery shop normally and this is not going to encourage me. I was able to find a pancake mix and a brownie mix without milk or milk derivatives in it, so that was good. Did you know that most bouillion has whey in it? Which means I can't use it. I was not a happy camper, but I did finally find something I can use. You wouldn't believe how much stuff we had to get rid of.
The visit with Shawn's parents went well and I think she really enjoyed her gift which was good. It was nice to see some of Shawn's family that we hadn't seen in a while too.
Stay tuned for news on the Webs trip.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Yep, still a song title. Substitute by the Who. Which is kind of appropriate actually. Shawn and I got some dairy replacement products to test out, since I am going dairy free, since my body does not want to cooperate with me eating what I want to eat. I'm not sure who my body thinks it is, but I'm not appreciative of the insurrection. But since it is what it is, I have to look into alternatives.

The first product we tested was Silk Soy Milk Vanilla Flavor.
Shawn: Tasted like a really bad vanilla milkshake.

Denise: Reminds me of really repellent Shaklee protein drinks from my youth. I could use it to bake with maybe, but not as a milk replacement.

The next product was Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk Vanilla Flavor.

Shawn: You can really taste the almond. Tastes better than the soy, but doesn't really taste like milk.

Denise: It was very sweet, but tasted better than the soy, and it was less chalky than the soy.

The next product was So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer tested with Starbucks House Blend coffee.

Shawn: It's okay, but has a bit of an after taste.

Denise: It's okay, but it's like non-dairy creamer is to me. I'd rather drink diet pepsi for my caffeine acquisition than drink coffee with this in it. (I have a very specific stubborn palate when it comes to coffee - it's half and half or not at all.)

Silk Soy Creamer Original tested with Starbucks House Blend Coffee.

Shawn: NO!

Denise: Yuck! Bitter after taste.

Just for the heck of it we attemped the Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Almond Milk Vanilla Flavor in the Starbucks House Blend Coffee.

Shawn: Not quite there.

Denise: Not rich enough, but tastes better.

For a further experiment, we tried the Starbucks House Blend coffee, with both the So Delicious French Vanilla Coconut Milk Creamer AND the Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Vanilla Flavor.

Shawn: The mix of the two creamers is as close as you're going to get to real half and half.

Denise: So much better than either alone, it's close enough that I might (still a might though) be able to drink coffee with this in it rather than choose diet pepsi as my caffeine delivery device instead.

For ice cream, we tried So Delicious Neapolitan Ice Cream made from soy.

Shawn: Decent alternative.

Denise: The strawberry wasn't tart or bright enough for me, but the chocolate and vanilla was okay. There is a waxy texture and a bit of an after taste, but it's not a deal breaker.

Whole Soy & Co Soy Yogurt Cherry Flavor (shown on right)

Shawn: Decent

Denise: Almost normal, but not a lot of cherry flavor.

So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk (yogurt substitute) Raspberry Flavor (shown on left above)

Shawn: Didn't like the aftertaste. Liked the soy version better. You could definitely tell it was made from coconut milk.

Denise: Better fruit flavor than the soy, but the after taste was much worse.
Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese tested just by tasting a bit on a spoon.

Shawn: No way! Didn't like the first taste, let alone the after taste.

Denise: It's okay, didn't really seem any worse than low fat or fat free cream cheese.

Vegan Gourmet Cheese Alternative Mozzarella, tested by tasting a piece cut off directly out of the package.

Shawn: Lacks taste. Doesn't taste bad, just doesn't taste like anything.

Denise: I found it to have a moldy taste with a nutty tasting after taste. Not worth the money out of the package, but will try it melted before final judgement.

We also bought some nutritional yeast flakes and I'm going to try to make a mac and cheese sauce from the Uncheese cookbook mentioned in my last blog post, just to see.

Stay tuned for futher developments as they arise.