Friday, October 17, 2008

Corona is Completed~

Hurray! I finally got a chance to finish up one of my bigger projects. I got the pattern from CanaryKnits. It's accessible by Ravelry here, as well as through her blog. It's highly recommended that you check out her work - she has a lot of adorable patterns that she very generously posts for free. I don't think I did the pattern much justice - the yarn color is a bit drab. A pastel shade would be perfect for this, except I am not confident that I have the skin type to pull pastels off successfully... As for the pattern itself, I only made slight modifications - some of it on purpose, some of it not. I casted on more than what was stated on the pattern (an error), and instead of fixing it, I just kept going. I did 2x2 ribbing for 3 inches, instead of 1x1 for 5, so that it's looser on the bottom, because my body type is tubular, rather than the enviable hourglass - any emphasis on the waist makes me look more rotund and stumpy (frown) so it is to be avoided! This was the first time I did waist shaping, so that was fun - I didn't make as many decreases at the waist for the aforementioned reasons, and I didn't make as many increases for the bust. The tricky part was the paneling - I did that part many times over, because I couldn't figure out which direction to go in, at all! I am helpless with any kind of directions, so no surprise there. Luckily, I owned a sweater that had similar paneling, and I was able to figure it out from just looking at it. The project itself didn't take too long to do, but I am procrastinator when it comes to sewing in ends and blocking. I think I may re-block it again, as my tendency to knit VERY loosely causes my sweaters to grow exponentially in size. All in all however, a happily completed project!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Functional Work Item

Another great pattern from the Purl Bee - the original pattern is called Pretty Lace Hand warmers, although I wouldn't say my hand warmers are exactly pretty - I think it was my yarn choice, but I couldn't help but think from far away, it looks like I have hairy hands! Nonetheless, they have come in handy, as our office thermostat never can accurately gauge what is a comfortable room temperature. We are now at the stage of the season where you can't predict whether your day will be cold or hot, and so the default temperature at work is infinite coldness. My work involves sitting at my desk at a computer all day, so fingerless gloves are a much needed accessory for the arctic tundra that is my work space. Next time around, I would use softer yarn and a prettier color, but practically speaking, these hand warmers are a good transitional item during a temperamental seasonal change.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Maine, Part II: Inspiration from Nature + Apple Pie Plans

Nothing says fall like mums, according to my flower-loving beau. He has been talking non-stop about the damn things, trying to get me to buy them at the farmer's market in Union Square, when in fact it is he who wants to have them! I have been somewhat wary about buying flowering plants - my past attempts to maintain an indoor hibiscus tree, begonias, and roses have all ended in dismal failure. His resolve to not buy the flowers himself dissipated in Maine however, and he ended up buying two pots when he saw a 2 for 1 special. I have to admit that the flowers are pretty, and the first thing I thought was that the color combo would look great on a pair of mittens, or incorporated into a fair isle pattern. Taking the plants home on the bus wouldn't have been so much of problem, except we also ended up buying a kalanchoe and a non-edible pepper plant at the greenhouse, plus a bag full of apples after visiting an apple farm near his parent's house. While the plants were an impulse buy faciliated through rock-bottom pricing, the apple purchase was planned, and is something that I have been anticipating for quite some time.
These greenish apples you see are Cortlands, right before I plucked them from their homes; they have snow white insides, with green and red skins. They have a very crunchy texture, with a slightly tart taste - my favorite! A lot of the other apples have been picked over by the time we got there and were only available as "drops" (apples that have fallen from the tree and someone had already picked and bag them), so we ended up with a bag of Corts and Macs. Macs aren't my favorite, so I'll probably end up making a pie using just Mac apples.
Unrelated note: Sheep and Wool is only 3 days away! More knitting posts to come.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Beautiful Leaves in Maine

Columbus Day afforded us some time away from the city; we took the infamous Fung Wah to Boston, where we were picked up and whisked away to the Vacation State by my boyfriend's parents, who very generously picked us up at 11 pm, then drove us back, arriving at 2:30 in the morning. As we crossed state lines, we noticed right away that the Republican party was campaigning very hard; it turns out that the state is among the very few that splits electoral votes. Although the party has conceded southern Maine to the Democrats, they have put their efforts toward the north, and are rallying at every town that will welcome them. This is quite a change from Brooklyn and the Bronx, which is overwhelmingly Democratic. We were pretty much in the middle to southern part of Maine, so no one bothered us for the most part, giving us more time to appreciate the beautiful fall scenery. Although some areas had lost their leaves, most of the leaf-turning was at its peak. Weather-wise, it was perfect autumn weather: sunny, but cool - the word "crisp" comes to mind. Needless to say, much of my mornings were spent on the deck that was built on the side of my boyfriend's parents' house, being a complete picture taking fool! They also have a fire pit on the deck, and it seemed like everyone from town came by to roast marshmallows with us when we started a bonfire one evening - I guess that happens when one's parents are both elementary school teachers in a small town~ And here's a random fact: I was told that red leaves are an indication that there is a lot of sugar in that tree. If those trees are maples, it means that those trees are prime candidates for quality maple syrup! Good to know.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

NYC Gift Inspiration

Who would have thought that the NYC Dept of Records could be so cool and interesting? This links you to their website, where you can directly order photo prints from the City. For former and current NYCers, you may be interested in the tax photo section, which allows you to purchase shots taken of any and all buildings that existed in the 1930s and 1940s. This includes every building in the 5 boroughs, so I think I am going to order a print of our current apartment as a Christmas gift to my boyfriend (despite the apartment giving us quite a bit of grief, with leaky bathroom ceilings, cantankerous heating systems, and the more than occasional pest)! They also sell prints of famous landmarks and streets - the first picture you see is an aerial view of central park in the the winter of 1938. The second is a shot taken in 1931, on the corner of 44th and 10th Ave - I wish we still had billboards that looked like that! Then there's Times Square in 1938, then my absolute favorite - a 1937 shot of Grand Central Station, a station I pass through everyday to go to work:

So pretty! Doesn't it inspire you to want to walk around and take black and white photos all day?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Lazy Knitting

Hurray, it's sweater season! Fall has to be one of my favorite times of year - the leaves are changing color, it's prime time for apple-picking (not to mention all of the good things that come with it: spiced cider, apple pie, apple donuts...!), and the perfect time for taking hibernating sweaters out of the cedar chest. I think I got a little too excited about this, as I have been knitting in hyper drive, more so than usual. I don't have any problems with the bottom half of the sweater usually - I can take it with me on my commute on the train, and if it's a relatively easy pattern, I don't have to think about it much. The problem I am encountering is when I get past the bottom half and have to either proceed to the sleeves, which require using DPNs or to actually start reading the pattern to make decreases for the sleeves and the neckline. That requires a little more precision and concentration than a train ride + sleepy person can usually warrant, so I end up with projects sitting sadly (sob) in my "to be finished" bag. The projects on hold are (from left): the Stardust, Corona, and the Beau. I have no excuse for putting off the last project, but when you are accustomed to making XS/S sweaters and have to transition into making an XL sweater, each round seems to take absolutely forever~ Other projects not pictured includes things I am making with my leftover yarn: the foliage hat from my leftover Rowan, and The Anthropologie Inspired Capelet from my Louisa Harding. Then there's the gansey that I started last October. Ug.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Improvised Chili

The theme of the week (or my life in general?) has been about improvisation. After entertaining various friends and relatives from out of town on consecutive weekends, the food rations were running low, since grocery shopping using public transit ends up becoming an all-day affair. This is especially true for a crazy like me - we go to the Sunrise Mart in the East Village for Japanese ingredients, Kam Man for bulk noodles, rice and tea, the ghetto C-Town near the apartment for basics, Rossman Farms for produce and fruit, and Whole Foods for anything else I missed - yes, it's obsessive, but what can ya do when you are the offspring of two chefs? If you know any chefs, you know they all have very strong opinions about food, talk about food, think about, eat and buy food all the time. Although I am not a very good cook, I certainly got the good-eater gene. But I'm digressing...

Long story short - the weather was getting colder. I was hungry. I wanted to make something quick. Problem: I only had 3 sausages and a handful of vegetables in the fridge. Whipping out my trusty Joy of Cooking cookbook, I picked a chili recipe that had sausage in it, then disregarded it because the recipe freaked me out a little, then picked it back up again. What I ended up with was a hybrid of the Joy of Cooking recipe and an old Rachel Ray recipe that I had copied down from a former roommate's book. The result was a tangy, not very spicy chili that was loaded with different textures - I was a little weary adding celery to a chili but it wasn't bad! More healthy, although not as flavorful as others I have tried and made.

Spiced Sausages (I used 3 medium links - about 1/2 lbs?) with skins taken off and the meat inside separated
28 ounce can of tomatoes
1 cup wine or beer
1 cup chicken broth, using water and a sliver of bouillon cube (sorry, I cheated)
1 medium onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced (a good excuse to use my microplane)
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp sage
Salt & Pepper
2 tbsp grade A maple syrup (bought from a wild-eyed farmer in Arcadia, ME)
1 14-16 ounce can of kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 14-16 ounce can of corn kernels, drained

I cooked the meat first, draining some of the fat out. Put meat aside, cooked the onions, garlic, and celery in my stockpot. Added everything except the beans and corn into the pot; let boil, then simmered for 30 minutes. Added beans and corn; cooked for 15 minutes more. A real chili would have taken all day, but I am a real crab cake when hungry so I devoured it soon after the beans and corn were added. As far as chilies go, it's not the best, but certainly not the worst. The best part were the leftovers - given the lack of any, much less healthy eating alternatives in the Bronx where I work, I was spared from buying yogurt cups at the grocery store and calling it a meal - yay.