Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Out of Sync

Here's a rundown of what I have accomplished so far this morning:
  • read through my regular collection of news and blogs on the Internet
  • got dinner into the crockpot
  • unloaded the dishwasher
  • walked the dog
  • started a new batch of yogurt
  • had a bath
  • hand washed some dishes
  • walked the dog again
  • gave the dog a bath
  • got the dog's blankets into the washing machine
  • hand washed and blocked my Owl Sweater
  • worked on my Rosetta Stone Chinese course
  • sorted through the library books to see which ones needed to be returned
  • made a "to do" list for my trip to town later this morning
It has been an unusually slow start to the day due to the fact I have managed to catch a cold. I am sure Friday's flight back from Chicago was responsible. Planes are an incubator for germs. Hopefully nobody was carrying Ebola or tuberculosis. 

I think this cold is circling the globe. A Scottish/Canadian friend living in Korea mentioned he is similarly afflicted. Apparently Scotch whiskey is very expensive in Korea, so he is going to make a medicinal toddy out of Soju. Soju is a traditional Korean rice liquor which, in my opinion, is only consumable when combined food. The thought of mixing it with lemon and honey sends shudders down my spine. I think I will stick to the more traditional toddy cure myself.

I forgot to mention that this morning's list of completed tasks all took place before any of the other three occupants of this house got out of bed. I even had to wake the dog up. Honestly, I just don't understand night owls. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Deep Fried Thanksgiving

I am not sure if I am brave or crazy, but the day before Thanksgiving my niece and I got on the train and headed to downtown Chicago. This might not seem like a big deal, but Danielle is only 14 and this was going to be her first time going downtown without an adult. Yes, technically I qualify as an adult, but not when it comes to navigating a new city. Her mom equipped her with an iPhone and we agreed her job was to navigate and mine was to protect the iPhone,which was our lifeline.

We had a great time! It was a beautiful late fall day with blue sky and trees that were still managing to hang onto their golden leaves.

We went to Millennium Park and viewed The Bean from every possible angle.

Then we went to the Federal Reserve. We especially loved the million dollar displays.

Thanksgiving had a new twist on the usual fare this year. Cheri decided she wanted to try deep frying the turkey. Apparently this has become quite popular in the US. I don't know if this turkey cooking method has crept up across the border to Canada. I was intrigued, and at one point thought it might be something fun to try for Christmas this year. That idea was quickly discarded when I saw the boiling vat of oil. I have several children who are firebugs, and I fear my new son-in-law might also lean in that direction.

It is too bad about the firebug thing because this was one amazing turkey! It wasn't greasy at all. The skin quickly crisps up, sealing in all the juices of the turkey. And from a cook's perspective it has more to recommend it than just the flavour. It means the oven is available to cook side dishes. The downside, apart from the threat of fire and/or third degree burns, is it took $75 worth of peanut oil to cook that bird.

It was a great trip, and I was totally spoiled by my sister-in-law who wouldn't let me lift a finger in the kitchen while I was there. Unfortunately, as I look around at the condition of my own kitchen tonight I see Those Who Were Left Behind seem not to have lifted a collective finger either. In fact, I am quite sure that is the same dish cloth at the sink that was there the day I left. Sigh...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Project Reject Giveaway

Lest you get the wrong idea about my knitting, which would be that I know what I am doing, I have another project to showcase. This one belongs in the Hall of Shame. I finished knitting this last winter, stuffed the pieces back into my knitting bag, shoved it deep into my craft closet, and promptly forgot about it. Notice I said I finished knitting it. That does not mean I finished the project.

This project is called the Pocket Scarf (Ravelry link). It seemed like a great idea at the time. The scarf has pockets at each end. These pockets are intended to hold an iPod. This seemed like the perfect thing for me. I love listening to podcasts when I walk, but worry about the extreme cold hurting my iPod. This scarf would keep both me and my Touch warm.

Never once did it cross my mind to measure the pockets. At least not until I had finished knitting both of them and the 60" long scarf. When I finally did I could not believe my stupidity. My mistakes in knitting generally happen because I have trouble consistently counting to four (in spite of having a degree in math). This error was more along the lines of a spatial reasoning problem.

Oh well. No big deal. I could just put it in sideways.

Oops. More spatial reasoning problems. I was so discouraged I didn't even bother to sew the pockets on. It probably would have sat in the back of my closet forever if it hadn't been for the fact that I wanted to reclaim the knitting bag it was in. Then I had a brainstorm - I could finish the scarf and give it away on my blog!

It should have been a simple process from there. I sewed the pockets on. Okay, easy enough even if it wasn't the best sewing job. I never claimed to be a seamstress. Then I washed it and pinned it down on the floor in the craft room to block it. I guess our cat thought it was a new toy. She managed to pull about 1/3 of the pins out. The damage was limited to one small hole which I sort of fixed. Remember, I am not a seamstress. There remained just one small finishing detail, which was sewing on the buttons. I had purchased the buttons the week before. I am sure I did. I distinctly remember driving down the hill to the fabric store. Unfortunately an hour of searching did not result in me finding the buttons I had bought, so I got to drive down the hill to the fabric store a second time.

Clearly this scarf and I were never meant to be. It needs to find a new home. It isn't fancy, but it is soft and warm, knit with Cascade 220 wool. If you would like this scarf email me at hsknitteratyahoodotca before November 30. (Of course, the "at" and the "dot" need to be symbols.) If there is more than one person interested I will throw the names in a hat and draw one out. No strings attached.

Happy American Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thoughts From 35,000 Feet

Our flight to Chicago left at 6:30 AM. I am a morning person but this was a little over the top, even for me. You see, In order to properly function I need to get up early enough to be able to have two cups of tea and collect my thoughts. (Those two acts are inseparable.) This resulted in me only getting half a night's sleep. I am only pointing this out so you won't judge me over this next bit.

We pulled onto the street, where, no surprise, we found ourselves to be the only vehicle on the road. There had been a lot of snow the day before and it was blowing up onto my windshield. I kept complaining to my mom about the lousy job the windshield wiper was doing on my side of the Subaru. It wasn't until we were out on the freeway, halfway to the airport, that I realized why it was doing such a bad job. There was no blade on the wiper arm! Unlike the street near my mom's, the freeway did have traffic on it. Traffic that was swooshing up snow and ice onto my windshield as it went by. When I got to the Park and Pay place I found the frozen wiper blade entombed in a chunk of ice at the bottom of the windshield. Hopefully the amputated car part can be reattached when we get back or it could be a sketchy drive home. Especially if it is raining.

Which brings me to the flight. I have decided that a new kind of screening needs to take place at airports around the world. There should be a scent detector that travelers are required to go through. If any obnoxious, overpowering deodorant, after shave, or perfume is detected an alarm will go off and that passenger will be required to step into the shower booth next to the screening device. This would greatly reduce acts of olfactory terrorism.

So while we were cruising at 35,000 feet I was thinking about my last blog post. About how it is easy in a small town to recognize the local "characters." They are universally known by everyone in the community. In a larger community I think the local flavour is provided more on a neighbourhood by neighbourhood basis. Which got me to thinking about my own neighbourhood, and who our local eccentric could be. It was not a good moment when I realized it was me.

We are now in Chicago, looking forward to our time with my brother and his family. It is too bad my oldest niece Corinne isn't here to share in the festivities with us though. That is the downside of choosing to attend university in Canada. However, there is always Skype, so we will at least get to let her watch us eat some turkey on Thursday. The good news about that is it won't even bother her. She's a vegetarian.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Sheriff's Log

I am currently South of 49. Tomorrow my mom and I fly to Chicago, where we will be spending American Thanksgiving with my brother and his family. I am sure we will have a great time once we get there, but I harbor no such hopes for the journey itself. We are flying on Southwest Airlines, which means we get to fly on a route resembling a pretzel before we get to our final destination. Not to mention they don't serve food. The thought of no food makes me nervous. Possibly more nervous than the thought of the flight itself.

Yesterday held its own form of travel terror which involved driving my mom to get her hair permed. I know this doesn't sound like a big deal, but trust me, it was. My mom insists on going to the "tried and true" hairdresser she has had for years. So we headed south out of Spokane, whose population of just over 200,000 apparently doesn't include a single worthy beautician, to the booming metropolis of Plummer, Idaho, population not quite 1000. If I was the sort of person who made such comments, this is where I would say something along the lines of size doesn't matter. But I am not.

Somehow, through a combination of bad luck and the fact it is almost winter, my mom managed to make this appointment on one of the worst days weather-wise of the year. It looked fine at the start of the hour long journey, but quickly disintegrated as we neared the Washington/Idaho border. By the time we got to Plummer it was a good old-fashioned blizzard, exactly the kind you see when you shake a snow globe. I think at that point mom was starting to feel a bit apprehensive because she turned to me and said in an uncharacteristically meek voice, "Maybe I should just get a haircut and skip the perm." I was aghast. I hadn't just risked my life for a measly haircut. Besides, as I looked and saw nothing but white I was holding onto the faint hope that it might let up by the time my mom was properly coifed.

Which brings me to the Sheriff's Log. (I have mentioned this on my blog once before, but still haven't figured out how to do a link using Blogsy, so can't direct you to the exact post.) The newspaper that covers Benewah County, a small county in northern Idaho that includes the town of Plummer, prints a record of the calls that have come into the Sheriff's office during the week. Here is a sampling from this past week's edition.

Wednesday November 2

2:03 A.M. A Tensed man reported that he and his wife just got into a verbal disagreement. He woke her up to tell her he needed some help around the house and that is when the argument started.

5:55 P.M. A St. Maries man reported that his neighbor is outside shooting. He said it is too late to be shooting.

Friday November 4

6:06 P.M. A Tensed woman wanted to talk to an officer about the 140 text messages she has on her phone.

9:38 P.M. A man reported he cut his hand with a knife while cutting vegetables.

Saturday November 5

12:28 A.M. A Plummer resident reported the bar was too noisy.

I have always wondered who would make such stupid calls to the Sheriff's office. It was during my mom's perm that I found the answer. It takes a long time to get a perm. This was a piece of information I didn't previously possess. I don't have the kind of hair that needs a perm. A tranquilizer maybe, but definitely not a perm. And during this lengthy, rather smelly ordeal a lot of conversation takes place, a conversation that was competing with the radio in the background playing songs from artists like Tom Jones and Dean Martin.

As the perm progressed Deb, the hairdresser, told us the story of the house that had burned down just behind the portable trailer that houses her beauty shop. The elderly lady who occupied the house is a "town character." I am sure you know the sort of person I am referring to. Every community seems to have at least one. Well, this lady managed to blow herself and her house up because she ignored the warning to not smoke while using her oxygen machine. The police managed to drag the lady out of her house, saving her life in the process. Her response was to complain because they had scraped her knees when they pulled her along the gravel. Deb went on to tell us that this same lady had phoned in a report against her because she had left a light on all night in the bathroom of the portable trailer. There was the answer. Now I knew who made such idiotic calls. The frightening thought is there are others like her.

The perm and the snowstorm ended at the same time. This didn't mean our harrowing adventure was over though. The snowplow had gone down the road but had neglected to put a single grain of sand or gravel behind it. A Zamboni out on the ice between periods couldn't have done a better job of creating the perfect skating rink. Hopefully tomorrow's journey around the U.S. in pursuit of Chicago does not offer the same level of excitement. And if anyone knows of a good hairdresser in Spokane, please leave the name and phone number in the comment box.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Green Chips

Kale is an amazing vegetable. It is easy to grow and cold hardy. I plant my kale in the middle of the summer and start harvesting it around mid-October. This plant is a survivor. We have already had temperatures of -6C and it is still going strong. In fact, it will continue to thrive until it gets down to about 15 below, which is way better than me. I tend to fade out around -10C.

Kale also happens to be considered a "super food." It is packed with nutrition and seems to be able to ward off everything from cancer to werewolves. It lowers cholesterol, protects against osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease, and is relatively cheap when purchased at your local grocery store.

There's just one small problem with this otherwise perfect vegetable. It tastes awful. I hate to say it. I plant it in my garden every year, promising myself that I will like it this time around. It reminds me of when I was a kid and told myself every year that this was the Thanksgiving I was going to like pumpkin pie. I wanted to like pumpkin pie. I tried to like pumpkin pie. But it just wasn't meant to be.

So it has been with kale. I have to force myself out the door to cut some to put into our soups and stews. If I was to state its flavour enhancing abilities in mathematical terms I would be using the word subtraction rather than addition. I have the greatest admiration for people who can eat it raw in salads. I consider it a feat of culinary heroics.

Happily all of this was changed this year when I tried something new. Kale chips. Not only do they taste great, they are easy to make.

Go out to the garden and cut some kale. As you can see from the picture the kale is still perfectly good even though it is frozen and has a light dusting of snow covering it.

I use kitchen scissors to cut pieces off from around the stem. I think it's easier than cutting it with a knife. Then I wash the kale pieces and give them a whirl in my salad spinner.

Gather up the ingredients, which shouldn't take long since it is just sea salt and olive oil. I put 3 tbsp. of oil and 3/4 tsp. of salt in the bottom of the bowl. Then I toss in the kale pieces. Now comes the fun part. You have to massage the kale into the salt/oil mix until all of the pieces are covered. You can see in the next picture the change in colour once the kale has been properly massaged. Also note how much it shrunk. Don't be afraid to start out with a heaping bowl of kale!

Put the kale onto the dehydrator trays, leaving a bit of space around the pieces. The kale is poofy, so you want to take out every other rack so there is room for it in the dehydrator. 

Turn the dehydrator to 115 and let dry for about 6 hours. 

Now the challenge is how to keep from eating it all at once!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sheep Heid

Some things are just meant to be. They are so obvious that even the most obtuse person realizes A Moment has arrived. For me that moment occurred the day after I arrived home from my trip to Scotland. One of my favourite knitwear designers, Kate Davies (yes, the same one who designed the Owl sweater I blogged about), came out with a new pattern.

If I had commissioned a piece of knitting art to commemorate my time walking the Cateran Trail this is exactly what I would have requested. The original Sheep Heid uses the nine natural colours of Jamieson & Smith's Shetland Supreme yarn. I love the subtle shades of the colours in the hat, but decided to try something a bit different. My memories of that time are of blue skies arching over green hills dotted with sheep. I went through my stash of Knit Picks Palette and realized I only needed to order a few colours to do what I wanted with this pattern. I'm rather pleased with the result.

Now I need to patiently wait for the arrival of my order of Shetland Supreme from Jamieson & Smith. This hat was just a warm-up for the real thing. My plan for Wovember is to knit a whole flock of Sheep Heids (Ravelry project link).

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lest We Forget

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day. It will also be 11/11/11. This is a date of great excitement for those of us who hold dual Canadian/American citizenship. It is the only day until December 12 of next year that we know for sure we have written the date out correctly. I am not sure why, after living North of 49 for over thirty years, I still can't keep this straight. As if to prove my point I just had to ask my husband yet again which way Canadians write the date. His response was, "Month, day, year." This was followed by a short silence, then he added, "I think that's the way we do it." Apparently even the native Canadians are confused.

This Remembrance Day I am linking to the post I wrote last year. In honour of my dad.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Dirty Books and Clean Sweaters

Fall is at its peak right now. The days are cold and crisp, the leaves that are left dangling on the trees and bushes are deep shades of red and orange, and the sky is a brilliant blue. There are two frugal luxuries that I especially love at this time of the year - flannel sheets and new hand knitted items.

There is nothing that says comfort more than crawling into soft, clean, warm flannel sheets with a good book. So imagine my surprise when, last week, I was at Starbucks having tea with a couple of friends and discovered that not everyone shared my enthusiasm. When the subject of reading in bed came up Friend #1 looked at Friend #2 and I and said, "You read in bed?"

Friend #@ and I were totally surprised and exclaimed in unison, "You don't?"

Wow. Just when you think you know someone you find out some shocking fact. I had no idea that there were people who didn't read when they went to bed. Well, not any people over the age of five. Okay, and maybe not newlyweds. But really, this was a paradigm shift for me.

Which brings me to this disturbing footnote. According to this news report from the CBC bed bugs have been found in library books in Vancouver. How gross is that? Apparently not everyone appreciates crawling into clean sheets at night with their books, and the bed bugs are making their way under the wrong covers.

Moving on to the knitting category of fall frugal luxuries I have a new sweater to wear. It is called Owl, and was designed by Scottish knitter Kate Davies. If you are a knitter and haven't visited her blog Needled, you have been missing out big time. Thanks to Alexandra, who makes a much nicer model than her mom.

My sweater will now be added to the parliament of Owls already posted on Ravelry.