Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer is here!

In two days, we have gone from early May to mid-August, from wanting a fleece on to wondering if we've somehow been transplanted to Florida in secret. (Ok, Florida is hotter than it was here. I know. But it broke into the 90's and it was humid, and what can I say? If living in Seattle for 4 years doesn't make a weather wimp out of you, I don't know what will!)

My tomatoes are ripening fast. Our first cherry tomatoes should be ready tomorrow. The peas are rocketing to the skies, and are covered in pods. I picked my first basil tonight.

The farmer's market is full of the first fruits of the season. We fell down a bit on Sunday.

Those bing cherries became a pie. See that beautifully crimped and latticed crust? Branden is so good at that part. I make the dough, but he makes it pretty. You almost don't want to cut into it.


And the strawberries became smoothies. More strawberries for breakfasts this week. One of the best things about eating foods that are in season is that we really enjoy them when they are here. The season is short, and so we feast on fruit while it lasts.

I also couldn't resist the breakfast pizza idea. A little ricotta cheese with sugar and almond extract, and some cherry jam left over from last summer atop a sweet bread crust made a lovely Sunday brunch.

Did I say feast?

Some knitting has gotten done, but not much. I am halfway through the second sleeve:

And I cast on for some lace. It is, after all, summer now. I have nothing to show there, I'm afraid...I have literally cast on, and that's it so far. But the Honeybee Stole is begun.

In other news, kittens are dirty little creatures. Or at least this bunch is. They literally dive into their wet food, and they don't clean. That means lots of spongebaths. And tonight, even a real bath in the sink. They didn't like that much, but I am so glad that they're actually clean! Oh, wait. We need to feed them again. Sigh...

Friday, June 27, 2008

I got a pizza stone!

Or rather, I discovered that I've had one for years and didn't know it. How could that be?

I have wanted a pizza stone for a long time. It's one of those things that we've never gotten around to buying; they're kinda big, and they're mostly single-purpose, and the good ones aren't cheap. So, we procrastinate. We think about it, and then never go to the store to buy one. This practice is extremely effective at keeping us from spending money on a whole host of marginally useful items. We talk, we say "we should get," and then religiously avoid the stores where the object is sold. I'm not really sure why we do this, but we do. It saves money and keeps our house free of clutter, so I think it's a useful habit in general. But it hasn't gotten me a pizza stone.

And then, yesterday I decided to catch up on blog reading (this really does follow, I promise...). Ysolda wrote about a blog that she reads that was using cast iron pans as pizza stones. Huh.

Well, it just so happens that my favorite piece of cookware is a cast iron dutch oven. You can cook a million things in there, and they all come out great. Except for tomato sauce. But that's a story for another day. How could I resist making the list of things I love to cook in cast iron a million and one long?

Tonight, we did a little experiment. We made pizza dough and toppings as usual, except that I rolled out the dough instead of stretching it in the pan, and I preheated my two cast iron pans along with the oven (both top and bottom of the dutch oven are functional's brilliant, I tell you).

When the pans were hot, we brought the pizza dough over to put into the pans. And I'd rolled it about 6" bigger than the pans. Hmm.

Never one to be deterred by details like dough not fitting in the pan, I decided to try it anyway. Branden said we could call it "deep dish" (there's a reason I married him...).

After putting in the first crust, I decided to try to make this all look like I'd planned it. We put in filling all the way up to the edges of the pan, and then folded the extra dough down over the top, leaving just a little bit of the center exposed. Voila! Stuffed crust deep dish pizza!

We now have a new favorite way to make pizza. The crust is perfectly browned, the cheese is deep in the center, which makes it feel like an extra cheese when it isn't, the crust has filling inside, and I don't need to find a place to keep a new pizza stone! And, because the pan is hot when the bread goes in, there's no oil to keep the dough from sticking, which makes it much lower fat than the usual deep dish pizza that practially swims in oil. Perfect.

I have to say that this would be a really good way to make a low(er) fat quiche...bread dough rather than pie crust. The crust reminded me just a little bit of monkey bread, too, light and fluffy and piled on top of itself. Maybe fruit pizza with cinnamon sugar for weekend breakfasts? Cheese danish? This could go all sorts of yummy places...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Sweaters make boring blogging

I like to have something to show you before I sit down to blog. Especially now that I post less regularly, I like to have something to say. But sweaters on size 4 needles make for very bad blog fodder. Spending a couple of hours a night giving 6 cats all the attention they need doesn't help, either. (They're so cute it's hard to mind, though.)

So, I need a new project. A bloggable one. One that moves faster than a sweater on size 4 needles. The Manos is very nice yarn, and once it's knit up, I love it. But I'm just not a huge fan of knitting with cotton, I think. So I need something soft. And stretchy. And maybe even on big needles. I think this might call for some stash-diving...

Monday, June 23, 2008

Blue sky and flowers

We have a pair!

And here's why they're called the Blue Sky Socks:

Unfortunately, I apparently forgot to switch back to wool knitting mode when judging the size, and they're a little loose for my taste. They fit fine, but start to stretch and get baggy when worn (which makes me crazy). I think Branden may have just lucked out, since his feet are just a bit bigger than mine...

I finished the socks Friday, but I was waiting for blue sky to take pictures.

While I was waiting, I started this:

That's the first cuff for my sister's birthday sweater. It's knit in Manos Cotton Stria, which is very soft, but also very un-stretchy. I love the look and feel of the final product, but I'm not loving the knitting as much as usual. But the colors work well together, and I really like the bead flower centers.

My first go at the Fairisle had way too much green in the center of the flowers, so I pulled back and added some more pink. Don't they look much more flower-y?

I just tried on the cuff between paragraphs. I hope there are leftovers, because they'd make a great set of summer mitts! So soft...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

No knittin'

But we have kittens! We have once again given in, and are fostering for the Seattle Animal Shelter. How's about a dose of cuteness?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blue sky socks

I never knit at meetings. I know that a lot of people do, and many even say they knit at work, but it's simply not something that you do at a meeting of scientists. Or at least I don't, and I don't know of anyone else that does in my department (and I know several knitters that would if they felt they could). It's just not something that would be favorably received, and I definitely think that it would be perceived as rude and out of place, which makes long meetings much less fun than they would otherwise be.

I've been participating in a three day faculty retreat this week with people from the undergraduate program where I'll be doing my teaching fellowship in the fall. I was looking forward to it as a way to learn more about the program and what to expect of my students, but I was not expecting it to be knitting time.

About 15 mins into the first session, I noticed that someone in the room was doing needlepoint. This was surprising, and I wondered if maybe it would be ok to knit while listening. I left the knitting in my bag. Five minutes later, there was someone crocheting. And another knitter. And someone was hemming a sewing project. By lunchtime, we had 3 knitters, 2 people doing needle work, and one person crocheting, out of about 30 people attending. Twenty percent of the people in the room just happened to have crafts waiting in their bags. I think I'm going to like this group.

Of course, three days of intermittent knitting (the meeting wasn't all talking, thankfully!) has gotten me pretty far in my latest travel knitting:

This is the yarn from the Louet home-dyeing kit that Branden bought me. I've finally gotten around to knitting with it, since I'm still between big projects and haven't felt much like planning and starting a new one. In three days, one sock is done and the other is to the heel turn. This has to be a record for my travel knitting projects, which usually take forever to complete. I'm calling them the blue sky socks. I took a couple of beautiful pictures to show you why they are the blue sky socks yesterday, but that was before I realized that the memory card wasn't in the camera. And then it was too late in the evening to take a new set of pictures. Here's one that's slightly closer-up than the first:

And this one shows the stitch pattern a bit better:

I'm a little disappointed that the stitch pattern isn't showing up more; the color repeats seem to be a little too short for showing texture well. Still, I like the mottled effect, and there definitely isn't any pooling!

It's back to lab tomorrow, so these will probably not finish as fast as they started, but it was definitely an added bonus to have the retreat count as knitting time as well as learning time!

alpaca scarf

I don't think I've showed you the progress on the alpaca scarf lately. Most of this was accomplished on the plane ride to and from TN. We've discovered that it's impossible to photograph this color, but here are the best shots we could get:

It's not quite as wide as I would have liked (ideally, I wanted a stole, but I didn't have enough yarn), but it should block a little wider. The garter stitch lace has a pretty strong bias which alternates between sections and evens out the yarn bias beautifully. I've used up about a third of my yarn, and I'm already at 4 feet, so it will be long, if not wide. And did I mention it's soft?

Sunday, June 15, 2008

not-so-little little socks

The bigger little sock was still too small. By about 2.5 inches. I couldn't believe it. This is more than inelastic yarn; this has to be big feet, too.

Fortunately, I had decided to make these my first-ever cuff down socks, so it was easy to pull back the toe and add a few inches. I also finished the second sock, so the little socks are now finished.

And they aren't so little. My feet are size 10, and you can see that the socks aren't all that much shorter than my feet. In fact, I can put them on and they're only 2 or 3 inches short of fitting me. The recipient is six. I remember that my feet started to get bigger than some adults' when I was 10 or 11, but six?

They will be tried on again tomorrow, and hopefully they'll actually fit this time! Third time's a charm, right?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Small goals

Many, many moons ago, I was a long distance runner. If there is anything that running teaches you, it's how to use your mind to push yourself beyond what you think you can do. One of the most important things is to establish small goals along the way. You might be out to run a marathon (which I've never done, but would really love to do), but you tell yourself that you just need to make it to the next street corner. When you get there, you decide that you can make it to the corner store. One small goal at a time, and then suddenly you've run the race.

Graduate school is something like a 5 year race, only there's no set finish line. You just keep running until your advisor says you've done enough. Sometimes it's not so bad; things go smoothly, you make your deadlines, you feel like you're staying on top of everything. Other times, it's a sharp uphill climb, and it just seems impossible that you'll ever keep up the pace long enough to finish. And then, you set small goals.

Today was a small goal. Things have been crazy in lab. I'm applying for postdocs, had a workshop/conference to attend last week, and my new faculty orientation for the teaching fellowship was today. Our grant renewal is due July 1st, which means that everything is on super-high priority, and classes ended this week, which meant that I had finals to grade. Oh, and my group meeting was tonight, so that I could show everyone all the things I have accomplished in lab lately (in lab? who said I've been in lab???). For about a month now, I've been working longer hours with a lot more pressure than I like to maintain, and telling myself that it will all be fine if I can just make it to the 11th. Well, it's the 11th, and I made it. Some things slipped a little bit, but I didn't completely drop the ball on anything, and a lot has gotten done. Of course, the next goal has already been set, but at least this one is met. And I'm exhausted.

Of course, all of this means that I haven't gotten much knitting done. I finished the sock that I showed you last night, and it was tried on today. I don't know how, but it's still too short. Fortunately, I had decided to make it my first ever cuff-down sock, so it will be easy to pull out the decrease section and knit in another two inches. I really don't understand how it could be too small. If I add the 2-3 inches that it needs (according to trustworthy parent measurements), I swear it will fit my foot, not the 6-year-old's. I just can't believe that it's still too small. All I can figure is that the Tofutsies yarn doesn't stretch, and that my mental map of sock sizes is counting on serious wool stretching. It's all very odd. I'm casting on the second sock tonight, and will hopefully fix the first one when it comes back tomorrow (before going to the airport to pick up a friend who's in town for a week).

As I've only just begun to cast on for sock #2, there's not much to show tonight. But I made it to today, and things should be a little less insane around here now. And really, if knitting is the only thing I haven't managed to accomplish lately, I think I'm doing ok. Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

One lonely little sock

It's amazing what happens when I knit socks in the evenings instead of on the bus. They go much faster when not in 15-minute intervals.

They also go much faster when I switch to dpns. I have been using 2 circs for quite a while now, because I like to work both socks together. I also use circs for everything else, so it seemed like it would be a good idea to use them for socks. But I think that I like sock knitting much better with dpns. They're just faster; no reorganizing every 20 or 30 stitches. I also get less laddering.

Of course, I do run the risk of having two different socks when I finish, but I have been taking careful notes and hopefully I will end up with a pair. It's probably good for me to take notes, anyway; it will be nice to have a record later (even if it's annoying to make it now). You'd think that I'd be good at record-keeping. Everything I do at work goes into a lab book, and I'm rather obsessive about making sure everything is in there. I think I must use up all of my note-taking tendencies at work. By the time I get to knitting, I have no desire to be a good knitter with a notebook to keep track of my patterns. Maybe knitting socks with dpns will help me get into the habit. Or maybe I'll get used to fraternal socks.

All this to say that the first member of the second pair of little socks is finished. Two evenings, maybe 4 hrs. Gotta love little feet!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Summer knitting = socks and lace

My computer refused to sign onto the internet at my hotel while I was gone, so I am just a wee bit behind on my blog reading (and writing!). I've been trying to catch up now that I'm back, and I'm finding it very dangerous. There are so many fun lace projects out there now that we're heading into summer. I have at least two new patterns that I'm sure I'll purchase, and several more that I'm thinking about. This, of course, does not include the two projects for which I already have yarn and a pattern. I forsee a lot of lace in my knitting future...

(This is where my practical side steps in to remind me that I'm supposed to be knitting sweaters this summer so that I'll have them in the fall. And I do love sweater knitting, but I think the practical side might just be drowned out by the siren call of lace.)

I finally finished the little socks for our friends' kids on Saturday, after neglecting them for weeks. If you're asking yourself "what little socks?" it's because they've been on the needles for forever and a day. The afterthought heels worked great, though I think I needed to do a little more increase/decrease shaping than I did. We brought them with us when we visited yesterday, and the girls were very excited. Unfortunately, I appear to be out of touch with the size of little people feet, and they didn't fit. The bigger pair fit the smaller feet (just barely), but the older sister needs a new pair. So tonight, I am casting on for another pair of little socks.

I have been a very bad blogger and neglected to take a single picture in my long blogging absence, even of the little socks with their afterthought heels. Usually I can make up for this by taking pictures when I sit down to write, but seeing how they've already been gifted, we'll have to wait for the second pair or another visit, whichever comes first (hopefully another pair!). So, sorry for no pictures, but I promise I'll have some soon!