Monday, December 29, 2008

Laundry Woes

City dwellers can relate to my most recent dilemma - doing laundry in the miserable depths of winter. Although laundry is not a very pleasant chore, it seems ten times harder to do in the city. Not only does our apartment building not have a laundry facility on site, but because our neighborhood is surrounded by real houses, the nearest laundromat is about a 10 minute walk away from our building. Due to the unpleasant nature of hauling mounds of clothing up long city blocks, the pile inevitably accumulates. After much trial and error we've resorted to using the "Granny Cart" in order to most efficiently carry our load. The cart served us well, but like all good things, our time with the cart came to an abrupt end one day when one of the supports holding the wheel together fell off. Much to the delight of onlookers, the cart tipped over, pulling us down with it, and our clothes were strewn about all over Brooklyn! Due to the lack of granny cart stores nearby, we had to improvise, and what I came up with was a makeshift laundry bag using what else: a boot bag! These bags are essentially over sized backpacks for your ski boots. Incidentally, one bag holds enough clothing to fill one of the small washers. I happened to have two bags on hand, so I wore one on my back and wore one in front, leaving my hands free to carry my keys, detergent, and a roll of quarters! If I were the type to care about appearances, I would probably would have been mortified, but I was too impressed with how well this worked. My boyfriend is a little more conscious of social norms and so he kept well away from me, carrying his big bulky laundry basket, cursing as he struggled to balance himself on the icy ground, haha. While I consider this an inspired moment, it is hardly glamorous - in the past when I imagined my life in NYC, carrying dirty clothes in a boot bag was not one of the things I imagined myself doing! While I love my current living situation, I can't wait for the day I get my own washer and dryer - a dishwasher would be nice, too... but I won't push it~

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Iced Pumpkin Cookies

My favorite baked goods, if not doused in chocolate, are fruit or vegetable based - apple pie, banana bread and carrot cake to name just a few. Now I can add pumpkin cookies to the list - I made the following cookies for my office holiday party using a recipe I found here, and altered it a little by using this recipe for the frosting. My favorite part about it is the unusual texture - when done right, it's very moist and chewy, resembling the taste of a muffin top - the cream cheese frosting adds a rich sweetness that complements the spices in the cookie very well:

Pumpkin Cookie Recipe Adapted from AllRecipes
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup canned pumpkin puree
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ground cloves, and salt; set aside.
In a medium bowl, cream together the 1/2 cup of butter and sugar. Add pumpkin, egg, and 1 teaspoon vanilla to butter mixture, and beat until creamy. Mix in dry ingredients. Drop on cookie sheet by tablespoonfuls; flatten slightly.
Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven.

Cream Cheese Recipe Adapted from AllRecipes
Whip the following in a bowl:
1 (8 ounce) packages cream
cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Once whipped, add to the cookies that have been allowed to cool. Because the cookies are so moist, add the frosting right before you are about to serve and/or devour on the spot. The frosting can be covered and kept in the fridge. Enjoy~

Friday, December 26, 2008

Last Minute Knitted Gift - Gull Lace Patterned Scarf

Although I didn't finish this in time for Christmas, the finished product will be promptly mailed in time for New Year's. The gift recipient is my boyfriend's nine year old cousin, who I taught how to knit over the summer while visiting his family in Maine. I agonized over the yarn choice, as I am partial to natural fibers - I ended up settling for an acrylic/wool blend in a dusty rose that I got from the new Lion Brand Yarn Studio in NYC, as I figured that acrylic is more washer-friendly and thus more kid friendly. I used two balls of wool-ease in blush heather. To save time, I double stranded the yarn, using size 9 needles. The pattern was inspired by Elizabeth Zimmerman's February baby sweater, where I used the 7 stitch pattern repeat twice, then used a plain garter stitch as a border. I started it at the JFK airport on Christmas eve, where I got a huge chunk of it done, as I was stuck there from 4pm until my delayed plane left at midnight. I didn't get home until 3 a.m... At one point, I was so bored that I started taking pictures of the ceiling, something that hadn't noticed or much appreciated before:

It has a nice 70s look to it, no?

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Making of the Beau

The "Beau" is one of many patterns from Rowan's Vintage Knits - I think what drew me to the sweater was the simple but aesthetically pleasing construction plus the hilarious poses of the model wearing the sweater in the book (see center), as it was quite obvious that he was trying very hard to look rugged and sexy~ When the weather gets slightly less freezing, the plan is to reenact some of the poses, so it should be a good time! This is my first experience knitting a man's sweater, and for someone who is used to making XS-S (30"-33") sweaters for myself, making a 42" sweater was quite daunting and at times monotonously boring~ As I was knitting it, I kept thinking that I was making it too big, and I ruined the element of surprise by having my gift recipient try on the sweater during its various stages of being. I didn't dare make any alterations to the pattern (although I have no problems making changes on something I would wear), so I pretty much followed the pattern as written, the only exception being that I knitted the body in the round up until the start of the sleeves, and I knitted the sleeves in the round up until they called for shoulder shaping. Therefore, the only sewing I had to do were the sleeves and the shoulder, which wasn't so bad. I used 11.5 balls of the charcoal heather with my usual go-to yarn: KnitPicks Wool of the Andes. Since I am a very loose knitter, my sweater stretched considerably during the blocking process, and I had to do some quick work to shorten the sleeves because they stretched out quite a bit. Other than that, I was happy with my first man-sweater - although I did lose interest in finishing it around mid-November, I am glad I stuck it out and finished it in time for the holidays. Now I can focus my attention on smaller and more immediately gratifying projects!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Beau is finally done!

Buttons are on, and blocked! More on this later~

Friday, December 12, 2008

DTW Airport

Who knew that airports can be pretty? This is the walkway connecting one concourse to the other at the airport in Detroit. This picture was my consolation prize after missing my flight out of NYC on thanksgiving - an airline that shall remain nameless (starts with a D and rhymes with bksdfjzelta) has a faulty speaker system, where the announcements are made centrally (not from the person who is processing your ticket) and is barely audible. That technological problem, coupled with my tendency to be oblivious to everything resulted in my first missed flight. What was even worse was that I was sitting right in front of the gate - I wasn't late or anything - how embarrassing! My flight back was not much better - we were delayed for four hours, then had some turbulence on our landing, causing the person two rows behind me to vomit in the aisle... they didn't have an air sickness bag apparently, and the smell caused a chain reaction among other passengers on board. I thought that it only happened in the movies. It's amazing how the passage of time makes these situations quite comical - at the time, I don't think anyone found it very funny!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Falafels

Consumerism pervades all the major holidays, but none other like Thanksgiving! I kept seeing news stories about people who braved the cold in anticipation for early bird specials, and people getting trampled to death from mobs of shoppers - scary! Since most of my gifts are handmade, I managed to avoid much of the madness - there were some items that I did order online, making my experience this season much better! I made a small dent in the laundry list of to-do items that I previously made - I ordered my cards from Snapfish, created a family calendar from Shutterfly, finished reading both Halfway House and The Unbearable Lightness of Being, made some more holiday cards with my newly acquired stamps from Yellow Owl Workshop and card stock - what has ended up on the back burner are my knitted gifts - perhaps I bit off more than I could chew in this department... eek! My days to get this done are numbered. What better way to avoid what needs to get done is to eat food - there was a sale on garbanzo beans, and I had a sudden inspiration to make falafel. Initially I used a recipe in Joy of Cooking but the results were disappointing - when I tried to fry them, they ended up being a mushy mess on the bottom of the fryer. I do like the crispy texture that comes from deep frying but since it's not so healthy, so I ended up searing them in high heat, then baking them in the oven. I adapted a recipe I found on AllRecipes:

Falafel (Adaptation from Sean's Falafel on AllRecipes)
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained
1 onion, chopped (I cooked them a bit - drizzled olive oil in a bowl with the onions and popped them in the microwave for 1.5 minutes, so the harsh onion taste doesn't overpower the falafel)
1/4 - 1/2 cup fresh parsley (or dried, if you don't have any)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoons of potato starch (I subsituted for an egg)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
salt and pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper
juice from 1 lemon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup dry bread crumbs
oil for frying

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a large bowl mash up 1/2 of the chickpeas until thick and pasty; don't use a blender, as the consistency will be too thin. In a blender, process onion, the other half of the chickpeas, parsley and garlic until smooth. Stir into hand-mashed chickpeas. In a small bowl combine egg/egg substitute, cumin, coriander, salt, pepper, cayenne, lemon juice and baking powder. Stir into chickpea mixture along with olive oil. Slowly add bread crumbs until mixture is not sticky but will hold together; add more or less bread crumbs, as needed. Form into balls and then flatten into patties. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Fry patties in hot oil until brown on both sides. Place patties into a lightly greased baking dish and bake for 20-30 minutes.
It was kind of messy and time consuming to make, but the recipe makes quite a few patties, and you have enough leftovers for a quick lunch that you can take during the week, cutting down on the number of meals you have to prepare.
Next on the agenda - homemade vanilla extract, english muffins, and pad thai! As for non-food related items, I am assembling a knit party on Wednesday to solve my procrastination problem with my knitted gifts...