29 June 2008

Berry, berry good!

With our CSA (half) share, we also get 5 pounds of u-pick strawberries and today was the day we went to pick them. The weather cooperated gloriously! We all wore long pants and sleeves to try and avoid the swarms of mosquitoes that have been around lately, figuring that it was better to swelter than to be eaten alive. Fortunately, it was around 65°F and overcast while we were picking, so long pants and sleeves actually felt kind of good!

Bug and Bean were marginal help. They collected our quart baskets and dumped them in the flat for us and Bean (much to the amusements of pickers in neighboring rows) provided commentary. Beeb's primary job was trying to mooch strawberries. We tried to keep him back for the most part as we hadn't thought to bring his fruit sock and didn't want him choking. Also, he would put them in his mouth to taste and then smoosh them with his thumb. As helpful as that was, I wasn't sure we needed five pounds of mush.

Since I started in on freezer jam when we got home, it probably wouldn't have really made much difference. I made a total of three batches: two of regular strawberry and one strawberry-blueberry, using a total of 5.5 cups of mushed strawberries and one cup of chopped up blueberries. Now I just wish we had a bigger freezer!

And since I hadn't cored enough strawberries already, we had strawberry shortcake for dessert. Yummy! Since I can't share my shortcake with you, I will instead leave you with a cheezbaby:

27 June 2008

I Can Haz Cheezbabies?

As always, props to ICHC.

25 June 2008

More yarny goodness

I have just been spinning like crazy lately and finished up my 3.5 ounces of Corriedale wool. The roving was kind of rough, but, while the yarn isn't the softest I've felt by any stretch, I am pleasantly surprised how much nicer feeling the yarn is than either the roving or the singles!

The 3.5 ounces ended up as 288 yards of two ply. The consistency wasn't great, but plying covered up a lot of sins. At the beginning of the singles I was falling into the trap of getting thinner and thinner, which resulted in overspinning and snapping off the single with my heavy Ashford spindle. The spindle goes flying and I continue to teach my kids how to swear creatively. Therefore, I made a conscious effort to thicken it up a bit as I kept going. I plied the first bobbin to the last bobbin, to make it quasi-end-to-end and that averaged out most of the thickness differences.

I was absolutely taken by the color of this yarn. The individual fibers range from bright white to almost black and together make such a nice heathery gray. The singles even had a kind of barber pole striping with all the shades of colors. Plying blended it and made the gray more uniform, though there is still a lot of subtlety if you embiggen.

In other news, I am apparently a complete menace to society when I enter the kitchen. First, the good news. The toaster is once again fully functional. For future reference and other complete klutzes, I let it dry, then plugged it in to see how bad it was (pretty bad smoke and smell), unplugged it, let it cool, and then went after it with a toothbrush and a cup of water. The test fry was actually useful as it darkened up the soup spots and made them easier to find. I let it dry over night and then repeated the process for the spots I missed. KittyDaddy made toast for breakfast before I could repeat again. He reported a little smoke, but not too bad.

Anyhoo, last night made the great soup debacle seem pretty tame. Since I had a fridge full of phyllo dough getting ready to dry up and crumble on my, I decided to try my hand a baklava. I found time late afternoon prior to preparing supper to put it all together. It was a bit futzy and picky, but not as painful as I thought it would be and once I put it in the over, the most obscenely marvelous smells started coming out. It came out looking just fabulous...just like the real thing and it sizzled and bubbled and smelled even better when I poured the honey mixture over the top. I set it on a cooling rack on the stovetop to let it cool while I worked on supper, which was a puffed pancake made in the oven. When I took the preheating skillet out of the oven, I didn't get the potholder straight and managed to burn my hand on the uncovered part of the skillet handle. I put the skillet down quickly to run water on my hand and the oven door slammed the rest of the way shut. Usually not a big deal at all, but apparently someone (who shall remain nameless, but is the only other member of the household who is tall enough) had put the *full* teapot on the top edge of the stove (above where the dial thingies are). It came crashing down right on top of the baklava, dumping most of the water in. I think the kids learned some new words. Actually, I think the whole neighborhood might have. Then for the grand finale, while dishing up the dinner, I managed to burn myself yet again (apparently, the handle of a skillet that has been in a 400°F oven for a half an hour manages to warm up a bit), twice (obviously, I am not a quick study).

24 June 2008

Summer weekends

Oh man, they go fast, don't they? Actually the weekdays go pretty fast, too, this time of year! Friday was knit night and I made a fair bit of progress on Laminaria. I am still completely taken by the pattern (well, except for the occasional row that makes me swear creatively, but it looks so pretty knit up that I immediately forgive it) and the Malabrigo laceweight! I had a gift card from Mother's Day and our anniversary from Kitty Daddy and the kids that I hadn't spent yet. Previous trips, I either left it laying at home or was hopelessly indecisive. Friday night, I finally had both the card and decisiveness! Since I have been spinning like crazy lately, I got some handpainted roving and a new spindle. The roving is from Mountain Colors in "Meadow":

It's even prettier in real life! I also got a Schacht Hi-Lo spindle, a medium weight (2.2 oz). As my yarn gets finer, I have been having more problems with breakage with my Ashford, so I thought I would try a little lighter and see if that helps.

On Saturday, we went to the annual Boy Scout pancake breakfast at Eugster's Farm. Yummy pancakes, eggs with ham, and ice cream sundaes, plus we wandered around after and visited with baby animals and played. Yeah, I forgot my camera.

Sunday was a relatively quiet day, since rain and thunderstorms were in the forecast. The rain delivered, but with the warm weather we have been having, the kids didn't mind at all. They ran around the back yard in the rain. Good times!

19 June 2008

FO: Chocolate Alpaca

I finished up my chocolate alpaca yesterday! It is 60 grams (about 2 ounces) and I ended up with 188 yards...my thinnest yet! Like the white alpaca, it is a two ply. The two skeins of alpaca together will definitely be a shawl of some sort. For now, they will continue to be pets to cuddle and love.

We've been busy with summer fun. This week, we have spent an afternoon at the park playing in the sand, a trip to the local botanical garden, a quick trip to close park, and LOTS of running around in the back yard. This afternoon is farmers' market and maybe a couple other errands!

17 June 2008

I Can Haz Cheezbabies?

16 June 2008


The Radish-Top Soup I am making for supper smells absolutely heavenly! I got the recipe from out CSA newsletter and it was easy-peasy to make. Well, except for the whole blender barfing all over the kitchen. Anyone know how to get soup out of a toaster?

Flooding, KIPping and Gardening

It turned out I wasn't too far from the truth when I wondered if Iowa would become a series of islands after our trip there. Since returning from Iowa, over 400 blocks of Cedar Rapids was flooded and Iowa City has experienced worse flooding than the devastating summer of 1993. Although there is much more flooding state-wide, I have been following the Cedar Rapids and Iowa City news flooding closely. Before moving to Wisconsin, I had lived in Iowa City for about 15 years, including 1993. The flooding that summer was more water than I could have ever imagined (and I am known to have a pretty active imagination), so it just boggles the mind that they have even more water rushing through there right now. Wisconsin has been pretty wet, too, but we are high and dry, though the surrounding areas have certainly had their fair share. Lake Delton, which used to be about an hour north of here, decided to go live in the Gulf of Mexico, taking a fair share of the local landscape along for the ride.

Saturday was Worldwide Knit in Public day, so Beeb and I joined the crew at The Sow's Ear to do our part. Daddy, Bug, and Bean went west to visit with Grandpa for the day, but Beeb and I settled in to knit in the glorious weather. Considering all the gray and overcast we have been having, the sunshine and pleasant temps were most welcome. As was the pleasant company...I enjoyed chatting with Last Saturday knitters MollyBee, Dale-Harriet, and Linda, among others. Even the thunderstorm and hail that passed through late afternoon couldn't ruin the day. We just ran inside and kept knitting. Beeb found a toy house out on the lawn where we were knitting and practiced doing dishes. I'm thinking that if the Sow's Ear hired him on as a dishwasher, I might get a yarn discount. Right??? Or would that be exploitation?

Today, we took advantage of more nice weather for a little gardening. I am loosely participating in Norma's Gardenalong (if you understand "loosely participating" as not following any of the rules or suggestions, but hoping that reading her blog will remind me to water our "garden". I am very much a survival-of-the-fittest kind of gardener.) Anyhoo, today we finally repotted out *cough*extremelyrootbound*cough* apple trees and our Sun Gold tomato plant that we got with last week's CSA box.

The tomato plant has been named (by Bug) "Hin" (Full name is Hin Tin Plant) on the ride home from the farm. Since I was so excited to dig into our produce, I didn't get any pictures, but we ran into Denise picking up her box at the same farm, so if you want to see what we got, you can check out her picture. We have already eaten our swiss chard, radishes, lettuce, green onions, and half of the cucumber. The beet greens, radish greens, and some of the spinach are going into soup tonight and the rest of the spinach and onion will become spanakopita later in the week and the turnips will be the veggie with another meal. YUM, YUM, YUM. It has all been delicious so far!

12 June 2008

Going to the zoo

Mama has been painting, sanding, and priming like crazy. The bench that we brought home from KittyDaddy's mom's basement last winter is done and I will hopefully have pictures up soon! The dresser we brought back this weekend is sanded and primed, waiting for paint. We managed to sneak away yesterday to kidnap our friend Library Karen and head to the zoo for a while. Some of the more photogenic zoo denizens:

The giraffes

The rhinoceros

The red panda (not a great picture, but the best view we have gotten of him yet!)

The turtle

The rare and unusual Beebicus Cutus

Today, we are looking forward to our first trip to the farm to pick up our first CSA box! According to our newsletter, we can look forward to lettuce, swiss chard, spinach, turnips, radishes, green onions, and more!

09 June 2008

Busy, busy, busy!

At last a quick moment to sit down! Last week was rainy and overcast, so instead of a hike or other outdoor adventure, we took a trip on the city bus and went downtown to see the Wisconsin Historical Museum. It was a fairly short trip as some of the exhibits tended to be a bit dry for a three-year-old and five-year-old, but I foresee many more trips as they get bigger. I thought it was fascinating (or at least as much of it as I could read without getting TOO far behind the kids!). As a bonus, we ran into Dale-Harriet, who is a volunteer there, leading a group of school kids around. While the school kids had a few minutes of free exploration, we got to chat for a bit.

Most of Thursday and Friday (except for our requisite library trip) was spent doing laundry and packing for our trip to Iowa. If you aren't a local, or are one of the three residents of Wisconsin that Bug didn't tell about our trip plans, we went to visit Grandma and go to KittyDaddy's 20-year high school reunion. Iowa is currently giving Minnesota a run for its money on the 10,000 lakes thing, and if they get anymore rain, they may join Hawaii and become the second state comprised completely of islands! The kids had a great time with Grandma (except Beeb, who was not amused by being left behind without Mama) and we also got to see one of Mike's sisters while we were there. As for the reunion, I think KittyDaddy had a good time. As for me, let's just say I was the spouse at a high-school reunion and leave it at that.

The highlight of the trip for me was the knitting time in the car! I worked on my Laminaria and got a couple of blossom chart repeats finished and since my homemade spindle is so dinky, I even got about 10 grams of Corriedale spun. I also got the next hank of Malabrigo wound for the Laminaria. We also brought home a dresser from Grandma's basement. I am in the process of repainting a bench with storage under the seat that we brought home on our last trip, so I will have more refinishing to do when I get done with that! We'll have to wait for everything to dry out first...on Sunday as we were coming home, Madison was having record rainfall. From the NWS today: "A record rainfall of 4.11 inches was set at Madison yesterday. This breaks the old record of 1.4 set in 1874."

The other big excitement from last week was Beeb's nine-month well-baby checkup. He weighs in at 20 pounds and stands 29 inches tall! Beyond that, he was proclaimed both very healthy and adorable, neither a big surprise.

We are also looking pretty seriously at relocating in August. KittyDaddy has been commuting nearly 20 miles each way from our current location. Add to that a growing dissatisfaction with a few of our neighbors and the management (or lack thereof) of the apartment complex. We found a place just two blocks from his office. Like here, we will be within walking distance of a grocery store (if the weather is nice and the kids are feeling perky) and I think we could probably even make the library on foot (with the books in our trusty red wagon). There is even a wonderful bakery just a block or two away from the library that could be used as bribery in a pinch. As much as I dread the idea of packing up and moving again, I think it will be a good thing if everything falls into place.

04 June 2008

I Can Haz Cheezbabies?

With apologies to ICHC.

02 June 2008

FO: Baby Stuff!

I finally get to reveal the mystery knits! I made some baby stuff for the little girl that will be joining these two in about six weeks.

This is my baby brother and his lovely wife. Can you just imagine how stinkin' cute this little gal is going to be?? The knits are the Mason-Dixon one-piece baby kimono, Bunny Blanket Buddy, and my old stand-by knit from the top down hat.

Pattern: Baby Kimono from Mason-Dixon Knitting.
Yarn: Blue Sky Organic Cotton, Bernat CottonTots for Trim
Needles: KnitPicks Options, size 7
Mods: Used stockinette instead of the ubiquitous M-D garter stitch, used yo instead of m1 for increases, also added a crochet edging and made crocheted ties instead of using ribbons.

Pattern: Bunny Blanket Buddy from Lion Brand Yarn.
Yarn: Bernat CottonTots
Needles: KnitPicks Options, size 7

Pattern: Easy Knit-from-the-Top-Down Hat from Knitting for Dummies
Yarn: Blue Sky Organic Cotton, Bernat CottonTots for Trim
Needles: KnitPicks Options, size 7
Mods: Stockinette with ribbed contrast brim

It was also a busy spinning month. I have definitely found a better spinning groove! It's going faster, though there is still a bit of a trade off between speed and consistency of the single. Since things keep wanting to go thinner and thinner, my next goal is to try and work on getting thicker again, but obviously not until I get something new on the spindle!

Spin My Spindle
May 2008

Fiber: CorriedaleChocolate
Spindle: HomemadeAshford Turkish
Amount: 24 grams
39 grams
4 grams

In addition, I wound off 29 g of Corriedale and 30 g of Chocolate Alpaca on to toilet paper roll bobbins.

01 June 2008

Smooth as Buttah...

Last Thursday at Farmers' Market, we bought a pint of cream from Farmer Nick's crew. This morning we churned it into butter! Bug did most of the shaking, though Bean and I pitched in, and Daddy even took a quick turn. Bug took a couple of rounds of rinsing, but I took over before it got too messy. We got about a cup of butter from the pint of cream and some fresh buttermilk to drink.

I also tossed the mixin's for a loaf of bread in the bread machine so we would have a good use for our fresh butter. However, when I went to check it when it beeped, it was still just sitting there unmixed. First I checked that the paddle was in place (yeah, I have left it out before). Then I poked and prodded to see if anything was stuck or not seated properly. Still no dice. I looked at the pile of ingredients that I didn't want to waste and thought about it. I reasoned that basically the bread machine mixes it, lets it rise, punches it down, lets it rise, etc. As I have made yeast bread from scratch, I know the basics. However, junior high home ec was looming over my head. Basically I came out of the yeast bread unit with a belief that if one didn't mix things in the right order and follow every single step to the finest detail, the result would be disaster of moths-in-stash proportions. You know...the sky opens up and you are struck down by lightning kind of thing. Smote (Smited?).

In spite of my misgivings, I winged it and it turned out okay. I'm not sure the middle got completely baked (based on the occasionally yeasty burp...sorry, TMI?), but it made the butter all melty and tasted fine. I had planned to take pictures, but by the time there was anything worth seeing, I was up to my armpits in bread flour, trying to keep the non-churning children from covering the house with flour and/or water from the dog's dish.