Archive for February, 2008

Yesssss!

Handspun stash

All done. Now the knitting can start.

Handspun stash
Look at them there, just like little marching ants. Bless…

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Everybody wash your kneecaps

I can’t drive. At 24, I have never so much as sat behind the wheel of a car with intent. Nor – and you’d better lean in close for this confession – nor do I have any desire to learn. I live pretty much in the centre of the city, so I walk everywhere I go. Or cycle, for variety. But that’s it. Rarely do I need to make recourse to any other form of transport. So I have little motivation to learn to drive, and I don’t really like the idea of it. I’m sure it’s a useful skill and one I’ll probably acquire some day, but for now I’m happy with my feets.

That said, I love being driven. Especially on long journeys. I don’t know why, but it feels like being given extra time or something. Forced stillness while also moving, plenty to stare at out the windows, permission to let your mind wander and think about anything because as the passenger, you don’t even have to concentrate on where you’re going (unless you’re map-reading, which I also love). Car journeys when I was little involved all sorts of fun and games. Ice-cream stops, being operated on by my older sister in the back of the car (excellent game), but most of all, singing galore! We had a fairly hefty routine of familiar tunes that were belted out with gusto, but for some reason recently I keep thinking about the Sesame Street tape. A quality compilation as a whole, the stand-out track was, without a doubt, Ernie and Bert singing bath-time washing instructions for kids. Since it popped into my head out of nowhere a few days ago, this song has been going round and round insistently and making me extremely happy each time. And whaddya know, like everything else in life, it’s on the internets. So, for your listening pleasure, tah-dah! http://prev.mp3skyline.com/prelisten?trid=0x4d98a (Lyrics for the full version here for the curious among you). I’d like to think it was sheer artistic merit that earned this song a place in the car music rotation, but sadly my enthusiastic grubbiness as a child might have had a little to do with it.

Sunshine
More spinning, because a picture-less post is no one’s friend.

Now folks, go forth and wash your… everything!

Really, have you looked at your kneecaps lately?

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The home stretch.

Only one and a half ounces left to spin up and then the knitting can begin! So I’m thinking up scarf ideas now, and I reckon seeing as it’s going to be a not-so-streamlined mix of different colours, something simple is best for the design, and at the moment I’m leaning towards straight garter stitch all the way. Easy, quick, doesn’t interfere with my simultaneous tv-watching (crucial), and guaranteed to lead to a warm neck in no time. Can’t beat it. I could even knit it and study at the same time, thereby alleviating the guilt that plagues me (which I’m doing my level best to ignore) when I all too frequently pick up the needles instead of reading up on whatever film theory is on the cards this week.

IMG_0595

These colours together just make me happy.

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Orange Super-Split!

I think I do not overstate things when I describe myself as a confirmed, life-long, incurable, ice-cream addict. Hell, I don’t even want to be cured. Love the stuff. Love it. The introduction of Ben & Jerry’s to Ireland several years ago really helped cement the devotion, but back in the day my ice-creams of choice were simpler. There was a lot of Loop the Loop indulgence, and we were always quite a Feast family too (the mint and chocolate varieties equally – can’t lose). But when I started spinning up the orange roving from my Spunky Eclectic sampler, I couldn’t help but think of the oh-so-refreshing Super Split. The mixture of orange and white is just so… zingy! Zesty! Citrus! So now every time I look at it I am reminded of summer trips to the corner shop, clutching my 25p in my palm, weighing up which cooling tasty treat I’d leave with that day.

Orange handspun

Like the last one, this is spun from Spunky Eclectic Merino – Almost Solid Autumn Sampler, spun up to 13 wpi, 56 yds of 2-ply sport weight.

Orange handspun

I have a couple of the other colours spun up too, so only another four or so to go. I see scarves in the near future! Well scarf, singular. Hooray!

Orange handspun

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No Sugar!

So, you have a cold, your nose is running most unappealingly, you’re trying to leave your six-year-old self behind and NOT wipe your nose in your sleeve, but other options fail you… In short, you need to turn your sorrowful sniffles into a “Happy Virus!”

No Sugar!

With their enthusiastic assertions of “No sugar!”, “Break Time!” and “NEW!! Sweet Crackers!”, these tissues cunningly disguise themselves as a tasty snack, but you won’t be fooled. Any misguided attempts to open the packet and sample the promised Sweet Crackers will reveal a soft tissuey inside.

Tissues live here

“Thrilling!” you cry, “all my nose-related woes are over.” Or perhaps, you are like me. Hesitant to use such pretty tissues, they have in fact remained untouched since I was kindly given them over a year ago. BUT! Today I came up with a miraculous idea to resolve my tumultuous inner-conflict: I can use the tissues in the packet, and then replace them with new ones, carefully folded-to-fit! This revelation made me feel simultaneously smug at my smartness and sorrowful at my stupidity. The fact that I came up with such an cunning solution naturally made me feel I must be a genius of Einstein-ian proportions, but the fact that I had never thought of this before made me think that I had no business whatsoever in boasting about my smarts. It’s a fine line. Happily, I shall now have Happy Virus tissues for an indefinite period!

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The race against winter.

“The heat is on…On the street…” These are exactly the blood-pumping song lyrics I am humming to myself as I gear up, Rocky-style, to show winter up to be the slovenly creature it is and glide gracefully past it to the finish line. The heat, however, is precisely what I am trying to avoid. What??, you might exclaim, we’re sick of winter. Give us sunshine and warmer days that allow us to wear nicer and less-bulky outfits. Yes, my friends, ordinarily I would be angrily chorusing such cries along with you. But this time I have a very particular reason for wanting winter to dawdle in its departure.

On Friday night when I was coming home from a friend’s house, I left my scarf in the taxi. Leaving me scarf-less for the still fairly cold days ahead. So, as I am practicing my spinning and have a stash of small rovings in different colours from Spunky Eclectic that are each too little on their own to be used for anything much, but together seem to eagerly cry out “make us into a stripy scarf!”, I decided to do just that. The problem being, I have to spin it all up before I can knit it. And I am very much a beginner in this respect. But should I eventually complete this gargantuan task (hyperbole! I hear you cry, and you’re right, but still…), it damn well better still be cold enough that I actually need to wear the thing. And if it isn’t, Winter? We’re going to have words. Words that may lead to fisticuffs.

I started yesterday, and so far have completed one of the nine colours, which is nice and peachy:

Handspun Merino - Peach

That’s about 56 yds of 2-ply merino at 13 wpi – roughly sport weight, spindle-spun. Now to try and keep all of the batches the same weight! I foresee no calamities whatsoever! Eh… hooray!

Handspun Merino - Peach

Handspun Merino - Peach

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A meditation on cups.

Some time last year I was over in Boston to visit the Boy, and decided that in return for having me to stay so often, I should cook his housemates dinner one night. The meal plans soon gained a two-fold raison d’etre: as a thank you from me, and as an attempt to prove to one or two fairly dedicated carnivores that vegetarian food could be both tasty and filling. Much thought was given to what to make, and eventually I settled on a spinach and ricotta lasagna with pine nuts (this one). The ingredient-shopping was unexpectedly challenging, as I hadn’t really allowed for the fact that certain of the ingredients, everyday to me, were not so commonplace in American supermarkets. Eventually, home we arrived, laden down with bags of tasty food items just waiting to realise their dinner destiny. The chopping and preparing began, and all was going smoothly until I needed to measure out some flour.

“Where’s your scales?” I asked the Boy.

“Scales?” He looked at me quizzically.

Attributing this unusual response to the fact that the Boy is not well acquainted with baking, I asked two of his more frequently-baking housemates who had just walked into the kitchen. To my horror, I got the same response.

“What’s a scales?” they wanted to know.

At this point, I was starting to panic. Saucepans were bubbling over, stomachs were getting growlier, and how was I going to cook anything without being able to measure out my ingredients??

“Ooooh,” they chorused, “just use cups!”

And so measuring cups of all shapes and sizes were duly produced, and a whole new world appeared before my very eyes. Ingredients could be measured by VOLUME instead of weight!! This was truly a revelation. I returned to Ireland a week later determined to introduce this new way of cooking into my regular life. To my delight, my sister bought me a set of my very own which are not only a perfect shade of blue, but they also combine cup-style measurements with my more familiar metrics, having both marked on them.

Blue measuring cups

Yesterday I spent the afternoon baking a cake to bring to a housewarming dinner party in my friend’s house, and as the chosen recipe was an American one, I jumped at the chance to use my precious cups. I’m not sure why I find using these infinitely more fun to weighing things out on a scales, but I now view it as far superior. You can just put things in there, and however much fits is the right amount!! Amazing! However, I still think it’s peculiar for certain ingredients. Butter, for example. Are you really supposed to mush it into the cup to see how much butter fits in one cup, and then that’s what you use? Is this the crack in the system – the chink in the armour, the achilles heel of it all – or am I just insufficiently educated in the ways of baking with cups? (If you know something I don’t, speak up!)

Tragically, my delight at the wonderful simplicity of the cup-method didn’t save my cake from, er, exploding on me. The bottom of the oven is now a sticky mess, and my cake-halves? They look like this:

Cake disaster

I’m fairly sure that greaseproof paper isn’t meant to be impaling my cake…

There was obviously going to be no getting them out of the tins in whole pieces, so I gave up on the attempt and transformed my once-held dreams of an elegant, grown-up cake into what I sadly and yet slightly triumphantly termed “dessert mash”. See for yourself:

Cake disaster becomes

Accidental as the end result was, it was heartily received. I’m still not happy, but I have only myself to blame. The recipe is from Orangette if you think you can beat my attempt. And you can, I assure you, you can.

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