Monday, February 28, 2011

February Book List

I read 14 books in January. Looking over the list several of them were "junk romances," something I enjoy for the pure fun and escape aspect. There were two books that were especially noteworthy, however.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, David Sedaris was a deceptively easy read. At first glance the book seems like a simple children's storybook. But the insight to human behavior can't help but slap you in the face. I read several of the short tales out loud to my student, and then we discussed each one. (Okay, I discussed, he listened - but the fact that he listened was a huge thing) . This is a book that I think warrants more than one reading.

The other book that I was really struck by was another surprise. I bought it off the "last chance" sale rack for just a couple of dollars at Barnes & Noble, just on an impulse. I wasn't expecting much more than a junk romance. But The Sugar Queen, by Sarah Addison Allen, captured my imagination. I love the idea that a person could redeem themselves by living in a closet, doling out advice. (There's more to that, but I don't want to give away the ending of the story.) I also dream of living in a world where books just appear when you need them, and even follow you around until you notice them.

Books Read in February

15 - 01 Back to theBedroom, by Janet Evanovich (2/2)
16 - 02 Home is Where the Bark Is, by Kandy Shepherd (2/3)
17 - 03 Spackeled and Spooked, by Jennie Bentley (2/5)
18 - 04 Blind-Date Bride, by Jillian Hart (2/5)
19 - 05 House Rules, by Jodi Picoult (2/6)
20 - 06 Vanish, by Tess Gerritsen (2/8)
21 - 07 Fragile Things, by Neil Gaiman (2/11)
22 - 08 The Apprentice, by Tess Gerritsen (2/12)
23 - 09 Phoenix and Ashes, by Mercedes Lackey (2/13)
24 - 10 My Lady Midnight, by Laurie Grant (2/17)
25 - 11 Knock Me For A Loop, by Heidi Betts (2/18)
26 - 12 Shameless, by Karen Robards (2/19)
27 - 13 Rogue In My Arms, by Celeste Bradley (2/20)
28 - 14 The Wizard of London, by Mercedes Lackey (2/22)
29 - 15 The Gates of Sleep, by Mercedes Lackey (2/24)
30 - 16 Reserved for the Cat, by Mercedes Lackey (2/26)

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Never let the demands of tomorrow interfere with the pleasures and excitement of today. (Meredith Willson)

This has been quite a wonderful fiber weekend. Yesterday was Knit in the Park, and today we Spun at the St. Lucy County Fair.

I wasn't sure what to expect. The St. Lucy County Fair is so much smaller than the Palm Beach County Fair. In my opinion, that's probably a good thing. The only downside is that we didn't have a lot of people come to see us spinning. On the plus side, we were able to really talk with the people who did come.

I think there were eight of us spinning. Four of us (Lisa, Peggy, Kathleen, and myself) were on wheels. The others (Charlie, Carrie, and I confess I don't remember the other names) had drop spindles. So there was a nice representation of spinning. We ended up forming a group, the Sunshine Spinners, and we plan on getting together again.


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Don't put off for tomorrow what you can do today, because if you enjoy it today, you can do it again tomorrow. (James A. Michener)


The Third Annual Knit in the Park was a success. It was mostly the regular Wednesday night gang and the Chix with Styx group. Carmen and her daughter, Jennifer, did drove up from Coconut Creek to join us. It's a shame that we didn't have more knitters, because the day was gorgeous. We sat in the shade of the pavilion, knitting and laughing as we enjoyed a slight breeze.


Let me tell you, knitters can cook! We had a really wonderful array of dishes to share for our potluck lunch. Mary brought pickle sandwiches, which I haven't had since I was a kid. (It sounds weird, but they are delicious.) I won't mention all the dishes, mostly because I don't want to leave anyone out by accident, but everything was great. And the margarita cupcakes were a favorite of everyone.


Adding the gift bags to the day's festivities was a great idea. It's always so nice to get a present. (We had everyone bring a gift bag, and they left with someone's else's offering.) This is definitely going to be a part of next year's Knit in the Park. We also had a give-away table and a Sale Your de-Stash.

Between the friendship, the knitting, the food, and the yarn enhancers - it was a really great day!



Friday, February 25, 2011

I generally avoid temptation unless I can't resist it. (Mae West)

Tomorrow is Knit in the Park, which is a perfect opportunity to make cupcakes. After a lot of debating back and forth between chocolate cupcakes and margarita cupcakes, including a online vote in the knitting group's forum, I finally decided on making the margarita ones. I think I made a good decision.

I ended up combining two recipes. The cupcakes were made using the recipe on Annie's Eats. This was the first time I've ever actually zested anything. It's a lot of fun. I might have gotten a little carried away, but I think the result is yummy.

After the cupcakes were baked and cooled, I dipped the tops in tequila. This was a suggestion in the comments on Annie's Eats, and it made sense to me.

I tried the frosting recipe on Annie's Eats but trust us when she says that you need a stand mixer, you really do need a stand mixer. After I worked on the frosting for almost two hours of using the hand mixer, my son took it out of my hands and said, "enough." After crying (I was very tired and frustrated at that point) and whining for a little while, I went back online and found a tequila buttercream recipe on Love Big, Bake Often. I honestly think that the buttercream was a much better choice, with or without a stand mixer.

The complete recipe I used can be found on my Family Cooking blog (www.neucooks.blogspot.com) if you would like to try making these yourself. I have a feeling that I will be making them again!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all. (Harriet van Horne)

Maybe I do tend to get obsessive with my interests and hobbies. But how was I supposed to resist the beautiful cupcake papers from Bake it Pretty? I think I did pretty good in limiting myself to just the two styles. And the icing kit was almost a necessity.

This package came just in time. I'm going to make cupcakes for Saturday's Knit in the Park, so I'll get to use the pretty papers and the new frosting tips. Yeah!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Knitting is a boon for those of us who are easily bored.

I take my knitting everywhere to take the edge off of moments that would otherwise drive me stark raving mad. (Stephanie Pearl-McPhee)


I don't have a lot to report for Wednesday WIPs and FOs. I've been trying to be monogamous with my knitting, so the only project (other than the eternal sock blanket) has been the yoga socks I cast on at last week's Knit Night. I finished the first sock by Saturday, and I'm almost done with the second one. It's amazing how quickly a pair of socks can be knit if you leave out the heel and toe.

This pattern (from Patons) is a really easy pattern stitch (a textured broken rib) that looks really nice with the self-striping yarn. I like using the self-striping sock yarn, but normally I settle for a "plain vanilla" sock in order to show off the yarn's pattern. I think I might substitute this stitch pattern for the stockinette in my next pair of plain socks.

I have to confess, though, that as much as I like the way the yoga socks are turning out, the person who commissioned them wasn't as impressed. So I think I'm going to cast on a pair of Yoga Monkeys once I finish this pair and see if she likes them better.

I still have a chemo hat promised to be knit, and a pair of baby socks for Becka's co-worker. Plus I want to get yarn and do a baby surprise jacket since the February Zimmerman KAL was my idea. Sigh. How do people actually just knit one project at a time?


* ~ * ~ *
Blanket Update:
53 squares in 53 days
(Status: Still keeping up...)



Monday, February 21, 2011

Happiness is in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. (Franklin Roosevelt)

I helped my son cook some of the meat he brought home on his hunting trip. We made country-fried vension. It was pretty good. Personally, I would have added more pepper to the white sauce. But I like spicy foods.


For dessert, I made cupcakes. This time I did a white cupcake with pastry cream filling and chocolate buttercream frosting. We've all eaten two each so far, and I think I might need to hide the rest of them. They're really good!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

And in the act of making things, just by living their daily lives, they also make history. (Anne Barlett)


Lately I've been collecting kniterary sightings. That's what I've decided to call them, anyway. It's when knitting (or other fiber work) is matter-of-factly mentioned in a book. Gimmick stories (like Knit One, Purl Two) don't count as a kniterary siting.

The Sheldon comic is a good example. Knitting is mentioned as part of the description, but the comic isn't really about knitting.

I have another sighting. I found this in Phoenix and Ashes, by Mercedes Lackey. The story is set in an alternative England, where magic is woven into everyday life. This book takes place in 1917, during the First World War.

The last thing he anticipated was to find his mother waiting for him in the settle at the top of the family staircase.

She had an oil-lamp burning on the table beside her, and was pretending to work on some of that infernal knitting every woman seemed to be doing these days, making stockings for soldiers.
Let me know if you have any kniterary references to share.

Friday, February 18, 2011

I've already been to high school, that's the biggest freak show of all. (Angela Hill)

Taunted, teased, and bullied, Monique climbs to the top floor to escape her misery. Jumping out the window, she lands in the middle of a freak show. There's Bella, the Disfigured, who was so sure that she was ugly that she decided to peel away the layers of skin looking for "the beauty inside her." There's Lilly, the fat lady, who starved herself, and Kitty the Cat Lady, and Sissy the Snake Lady, and my favorite Damien, the Illusionist/Demon. ("Who am I? Am I who I say I am or who you see?")

I thought Freak! was a really interesting undertaking for my daughter's drama club. I was really impressed at the amount of thought the kids put into their characters and the back story to each. Best of all, despite the last minute re-staging and mad scramble, they managed to pull off one heck of great show.


The cast of Freak! The lead was played by Jessica, one of my daughter's best friends. Becka played Bella. Maniacal Max was played by Tatyana who was totally amazing in the role, and who totally stole the show. Actually, all of the kids did great. (I loved Gaelle's pure southern accent as Lilly!)

video

This isn't a good video, unfortunately. I trying to discretely tape the show using my digital camera.. This was Becka's big scene. It was much better in person, when you could actually hear what she's saying. (Apparently my camera does video, but the microphone is virtually non-existent.)


We went out for ice cream to celebrate afterwards. Becka kept her make up on. She had a lot of people staring, and we overheard one couple talking about those crazy goth kids. LOL

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Friendship makes prosperity more shining and lessens adversity by dividing and sharing it. (Cicero)

Last week, no one told me that there was a dress code. I felt left out.

This week, there was a dress code. I was told we were all going to wear red and/or pink for Valentine's Day. I was the only one who remembered.

I'm starting to suspect I'm that dorky kid the cool kids play tricks on...

I finished the scarf for Special Olympics. It's horrible, the way I just whined through the last twenty inches. I don't think I had the right attitude for knitting this project. But I do like the way it turned out.


I also finished the baby socks I've been working on. I was able to weave in the last end during Knit Night, and I handed them to Brian (one of group) as a gift for the baby he and his wife are expecting in April.

I had planned on knitting a Baby Surprise Jacket (the Elizabeth Zimmermann pattern that I like so much) for Brian's baby as my next project. But I had in my head that the baby was due in August; the baby is really due in April. I have to rethink the sweater idea, since the baby will be 7 or 8 months old before he will need a sweater here in Florida.

So I cast on a pair of Yoga socks instead, using a pattern from Patons and the Patons Kroy yarn. These are being knit for my friend's mother. I'm actually getting paid to knit these. I offered to do it if she bought the yarn, but she insisted on paying me as well. I feel like I'm the luckiest knitter!

* ~ * ~ *
Blanket Update:
45 squares in 46 days
(Status: Starting to slip behind...)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I have been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened. (Mark Twain)

I used to live in Riviera Beach. A lot of people automatically think, "Riviera Beach is a really bad place to live." But sometimes towns, just like people, get reputations they don't really deserve. For the most part, Riviera Beach is just a small town. There are a few neighborhoods that I wouldn't go exploring by myself late at night. Then again, there are very few neighborhoods anywhere that I would go exploring at night. Generally it's just a bad idea to explore anything at night by yourself.

Anyway, I'm getting side-tracked from my story. I used to live in Riviera Beach, so I'm used to driving around the town. I know the short cuts, and which ones to avoid, when I want to go somewhere. I don't worry about my daughter working in Riviera Beach, or about driving late at night to pick her up, because the main roads are perfectly safe.

This evening when I went to pick my daughter up, I took my usual exit off the interstate. There was a pickup truck already stopped at the traffic light at the bottom of the ramp, and one car in front of me on the ramp. As I was gliding to a stop behind them, the car in front of me pulled off to the side of the road and two huge guys jumped out of the car. Leaving the car door open, they started toward my car (I had just come to a stop behind the truck.) I'm watching the guys (because really, jumping out and leaving your car with the doors open is just weird), and I noticed that both of them are holding something down by their side. It's almost as if they're trying to hide whatever it is that they have. Then I see a glint, and realize that it's something metal. Keep in mind this is all happening really fast. They guys are almost to my car, and the thought races into my mind "I didn't lock the car doors!" So I start groping for the automatic button, but as usual I hit the button for the windows instead.

At this point, I have to admit that pure panic sets in. I start banging on the buttons trying to get the window up and the doors locked. Windows are going up and down all around the car, the locks are clicking down and up and down again, and the guys are coming around to my side of the car and the stupid truck in front of me doesn't realize that he needs to run the d*** red light so I can race away!

The guys get next to my door, look in through window so they know I'm in a panic (it has to be clear on my face), and they smile. Then they pass me by. I can finally see what they're carrying. They each have a spray paint can, and they're heading to the underpass bridge. It wasn't a carjacking; it was a graffiti tag. I was so relieved.

And of course now the light finally changed, so I could drive away (still shaking).

Riviera Beach is just a normal small town, despite it's reputation. As long as you stay out of certain neighborhoods, you don't have anything to fear. Except fear itself, apparently.

Monday, February 14, 2011

She wanted something to happen - something, anything; she did not know what. (Kate Chopin)


I don't have anything exciting to post about today.
Except I did get a real pretty tulip plant.
And it wasn't even from my children.

It was from my bosses.
Sigh.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Obsessions and fixations are not really my field. All I know, when the mind really grabs hold of something, look out. (M. Sage & S. Adelman)

I have become fascinated with cupcakes. I find myself searching the internet for new recipes, and adding RSS feeds of cupcake blogs to my list of daily reading. It's definitely getting out of hand.

Today I made Red Velvet Cupcakes with a Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting. I had seen the recipe for Red Velvet cupcakes on the Brown-eyed Baker blog, and thought I would try it for Valentine's Day. (My boss asked me to bring in cupcakes after having one of the cupcakes I made last week. Was I really going to tell her "no"?) But then I saw the recipe for Red Velvet Cupcakes, adding cinnamon to the cream cheese frosting over on the Bella Eats blog. Looking at the two recipes, I realized that they had both taken them from Joy the Baker.

I would have thought that with that many people blogging about the same recipe, it would have been a lot better than they turned out. Maybe I'm not a good judge since I don't really like Red Velvet Cake, but I think that the cupcakes turned out too dry. I like a moist cupcake, and these are very crumbly. Both my children liked them, but said that one was enough for dessert. I did really like the Cinnamon Cream Cheese frosting; the only problem was that even after doubling the recipe I didn't have enough to cover all 24 cupcakes.

I'm still going to take the cupcakes into work tomorrow. And then I think I'll start looking for the next recipe to try.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Relax, and have a cupcake

Some days, you just need a chocolate cupcake.

And sometimes, you need something a little more special. Like a chocolate cupcake with cream cheese filling and coconut butter cream frosting. All from scratch, of course.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Few things are impossible to diligence and skill. Great works are performed not by strenght, but perseverance. (Samuel Johnson)


The Bad News:
  • After knitting all day, I STILL have 13" left until the scarf is long enough to bind off.
The Good News:
  • I finally figured out how to use the editing tools in Audacity. So episode 2 of The Lilypad Podcast should not have any of the annoying bangs, clangs, or "umm's" that my first episode had.
The Bad News:
  • Before doing any editing, it would have been a good idea to save the episode I had just recorded. Just in case I did something dumb, like, oh I don't know, accidentally deleting "all" instead of "selection."

Saturday, February 05, 2011

I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions. (Augusten Burroughs)

Today's To Do List:
  • Submit applications
  • Laundry
  • Bake cupcakes
  • Record podcast episode
What Was Done List:
  • Ate chocolate-covered potato chips
  • Recorded first five minutes of podcast 28 times.
  • Erased first five minutes of podcast 28 times.
  • Ate more chocolate-covered potato chips.
Tomorrow's To Do List:
  • Laundry
  • Bake cupcakes
  • Record podcast
  • Exercise!

Friday, February 04, 2011

Cheerfulness, it would appear, is a matter which depends fully as much on the state of things within, as on the state of things without and around us.

(Charlotte Bronte)


I wanted to share my favorite thing this week: chocolate-covered potato chips. Although technically I'm just sharing what my favorite thing is; I'm not ready to actually share for real. I plan on eating all the chocolate-covered potato chips myself!

I bought a bag (okay, two bags -- I had to have both the dark and the milk chocolate) when I went on the tour at Angell & Phelps in Daytona Beach. I had noticed them, next to the chocolate popcorn. I'm not a big potato chip fan, so even covered in chocolate they didn't appeal to me. I was too busy battling temptation over at the fudge counter.

During the tour, however, they gave away free samples. Naturally I took a taste of one my favorite chocolates; but when they offered me another taste I decided to be adventurous and try the chocolate potato chip. YUM!

I think it's a very good thing that Angell & Phelps is more than 3 hours away.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Energy and persistence conquer all things. (Benjamin Franklin)


I finished my Pettine shawlette, and it just needs to be blocked. Although I did give in to temptation and wear it one day just the way it is, and I got a lot of compliments.

Right now I'm working on the Special Olympic Scarf. I'm late getting to it, but there are still a few states that needs scarves. I just need to knit fast. Just for the record, I hate to knit scarves because they are really, really boring. It's the same 36 stitches over and over and over again. Actually, I'm doing this scarf in a double-knit pattern so it's the same 72 stitches over and over (36 stitches for each side, done at the same time). I do like to double-knit. And it's really impressive to muggles. I had several people sit down next to me on the beach in order to ask me to show them what I was doing. I even got one lady to try a couple of rows. (I was hoping that she'd keep going and finish the scarf, but her husband got impatient.)

I did start a pair of baby socks, but I don't think they should count as a real WIP. I only cast them on because I needed a project that I could carry around in my pocketbook.

* ~ * ~ *
Blanket Update:
38 squares in 32 days
(Status: Ahead of the game!)

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Always look on the bright side of life. (Monty Python)

Last night my mom and I drove to Daytona Beach. Mom was attending a tax seminar, and didn't want to travel alone. Naturally I jumped at the chance to take a trip away somewhere, even if it was just a quick one-day event.

We left mom's house right after she got off work. (I get off work earlier than she does, so I was already waiting for her when she got home.) After 2 1/2 hours of driving, without ever running out of topics to talk about, we checked into the timeshare around 9:30 pm. We had a quick dinner, then a late night session of knitting before realizing that we needed to be up early. Oops.


We still managed to wake up in time to enjoy a cup of coffee as we watched the sunrise from our balcony.

Mom went off to her seminar, and I had the entire day in front of me. I spent the morning on the beach. I walked until I was tired, knitted until I got bored, then walked a little more.

I spent the afternoon exploring the historic Beach Street Riverfront Marketplace. Of course, I had an ulterior motive:

YARN
(She Sells Yarn)

and CHOCOLATE
(I recommend taking the factory tour and tasting the chocolate-covered potato chips!)

Mom took me out to dinner before we left for home as an apology for making me sit around bored all day, just so that I could drive her there and back. I hope I get the chance to be bored sitting on Daytona Beach again real soon!