Since I can’t be in my garden this weekend..

.. I might as well post about it. *smile*

I’m a few weeks behind, but I’ve spent several evenings the last couple of weeks out in the yard clearing out the deadfall from last year. The side and front garden got cleaned up first as they’re the easiest and are the only ones with perennials that are starting to come up. I bagged up I think 5 bags of yard waste from just those beds, though, since there are a few places in them that like to collect leaves. I’ve also cleaned out the deadfall from the raised beds and cleared out all the rose canes, but did that after the deadline for the County to still pick up yard waste from the curb, so I’ll have to run all that down to the green dump myself at some point.

My plans for the weekend changed at the more-or-less last minute. I had intended to sink the footings for the expansion to my (currently not really) deck with my dad, and he was going to bring the pieces of my pergola down and put it together on the back deck. Unfortunately, southeastern Minnesota is now sitting smack in the midst of a weather system that is promising thunderstorms and rain all weekend, and digging 42 inches into rain soaked ground, and then trying to fill the holes with concrete while dodging rain (and possible hail) storms didn’t seem like such a wise idea. As much as we really do need the rain – and the storms so far have been awe-inspiring – I’m a little bit bummed that we had to shuffle things around.

But, since I’m more or less homebound on a dark, grey, rainy weekend, I’ve been planning a bit for this year’s garden. I found an interesting blog post, via foodgawker a few days ago, about a victory garden; the interesting part is the “deer guard” and it has me wondering if you could use a similar technique to train vining plants up over the dome. It’d have to be small enough to fit inside the box, which might then be too small. If the plan I have for this year doesn’t work out, I may investigate further. For this year, though, dad’s built me a frame similar to (maybe made from.. can’t remember) an old window screen frame with larger-mesh screen. The intention is to prop it up at an angle so that the vines will grow up the topside, and still be able to plant shade-loving things underneath it. I have to plot out the garden boxes to figure out what’s going where still – I have most of an idea, but need to actually sit down and write it all out – but I think that this should let me grow the lettuce “underneath” the cukes or squash, at least until the vines get so large the block out all the light (which may not be an issue if I set the frame up in the right direction to still let in light through the open end).

In areas unrelated to the garden, I think I may need to give in and buy a small printer for home. I normally try not to print things as I can usually make notes on a smaller piece of paper and therefore prevent wasting several whole pieces for something like directions. But sometimes, like when I find recipes I want to try, there’s more information than I want to translate. Unfortunately, I really don’t want to add a printer to my desk space, but I may shop around and see if I can find one of the teeny tiny ones that are made for folks who travel with them so I can stash it away discretely when I’m not using it.

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Soup season.

Mmm. I love good creamy thick soups and I love autumn. I’m not sure exactly if the two are related – I also love apple pie, which is also associated with autumn for me, so there could be something about the foods of the season that influences my love for the weather, or vice versa. In any case, when the students selected “vegetarian” as the theme for our office potluck, I decided it was time to try a recipe I had for butternut squash soup.

Butternut Squash Soup (from a recipe in the Cooking Club of America magazine)

  1. Split and remove the seeds from 3 medium squash.
  2. Brush with olive oil and fill the centers with honey or maple syrup (I used honey as I’m not a huge fan of maple).
  3. Sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
  4. Roast at 350 for about an hour (I went an hour and fifteen minutes because they were still a little firmer than I wanted after an hour).
  5. Let cool and scoop out all the flesh.
  6. Blend (I used a hand blender) with 4 cups veggie broth and a can of coconut milk.
  7. Throw in some salt and simmer it for 20 minutes to blend the flavors.

It turned out really tasty. I love coconut milk and it adds a perfect note of creaminess and sweetness to the squash without being overwhelming.

I’m thinking that this weekend I will make one of my other favorite creamy soups, Chicken Veloute.

Chicken Veloute (from Soup: A Way of Life)

  1. Make a roux with 4 tablespoons of butter and 7 tablespoons of flour. Cook it for 8 or 9 minutes until it starts to thin and get shiny.
  2. Slowly pour in 5 cups chicken stock or broth, whisking constantly to avoid lumps.
  3. Slowly bring to a boil; stir frequently to keep the flour from sticking to the sides of the pan.
  4. Cook just below a boil for 30 minutes (again, keep stirring).
  5. Sprinkle in some salt (to taste – if you used salted stock or broth, you may not need to add more) and nutmeg. Don’t skip the nutmeg; it really accents the soup extraordinarily!
  6. In a separate bowl, whisk 3 egg yolks and 1/4 cup of heavy cream. Ladle in some of the hot soup to temper the egg & cream mixture; when the mixture is warm, stir into the soup.
  7. Heat another minute or so until it coats the back of a spoon.

This is very thick and extraordinarily tasty for such a simple soup. Use good stock or broth because almost all the flavor from the soup comes from the stock or broth. If you let it sit too long, it will skin over, so keep it covered and serve it while still warm. It reheats okay, but I’ve never tried freezing it.

And since I have heavy cream, I think I’ll make up some single-malt scotch truffles (recipe from a comment at Making Light), but using Chambord instead of scotch since I picked up the Chambord a few weeks ago to use in a berry sauce for cheesecake.

What a weekend!

Whew! *grin* Mom and dad were here this weekend. (All photos in this post are clickable thumbnails.)

What used to be the den is now the guest bedroom and a most lovely and delightful shade of blue.

Painting finished, but clean-up still in progress.

Furnished.

I *love* it.. it’s so immediately peaceful to walk into that room now it’s a little astonishing. The closet in that room has been cleaned out and the various and random detritus that was in it now either has homes or will shortly. The air conditioner is out of the window and stashed safely in said closet. This room still needs a chair and some stuff for the walls, but otherwise, it’s “finished”.

What used to be the guest bedroom/craft room is now just a craft room and has been sorted and organized. It still needs work to be functional, but it’s decidedly closer to it than it has been for quite some time.

This is going to be the hardest upstairs room to finish up, mostly because it’s in the worst shape – the walls were never properly primed (in the whole house), so the paint has bubbled and chipped over time; previous owners apparently decided that simply painting over the bubbles and chips were best, so there’s quite a bit of clean up.

It’s hard to see in these pictures, at least on my laptop, but it’s quite a mess.

Additionally, we suspect that at some point the roof leaked and caused a fair amount of water damage to the ceiling in that room (and also to the floor because there’s a piece of the hardwood floor that was cut out and “repaired” with a plain board). When they “repaired” the ceiling, they nailed up plasterboard, but didn’t do a good job of spackling the seams, so it’s a lumpy, ugly mess.

But, on to what we did this weekend instead of dwelling on what still needs to be done!

Last night, the wall running down the stairs looked like this..

Yes, it was a light mauve.

But it’s now a most delicious dark cranberry red. *grin*

(The mauve was the primer, which I’d actually have preferred were darker to begin with because it was far too light to really be *that* much of an improvement over the white.) I could not be happier with how it turned out, though – I’ve wanted a red wall like that in my  house for a very long time, but was worried that it would immediately shrink any room, so using it as the accent color down the stairs is perfect, especially as it complements the stair runner we put in some time ago quite well. The red was a pain – going from a white wall to red is notoriously difficult – and it *might* need a third coat, but as the second coat is still drying and I need my (taller, longer armed) father to do the top of the wall above the window, it’s good enough for now (unless, of course, you take a full flash photograph of it).

I also love that standing at the top of the stairs, the room colors flow very well – the sagey green in the bedroom to the lavender in the bathroom to the blue in the guest bedroom.

Similarly, standing at the bathroom door, the sagey green from the bedroom flows very well to the red of the stair way wall.

Hard to see the bedroom color in this picture because the door is in the way.. sorry!

And speaking of the bedroom, in clearing out the used-to-be-den to prep for painting, I put the small dresser that was in there in the bedroom underneath the prints. I’ve decided I like it so much, it’s staying there!

Sorry for the flashback on the semi-gloss paint!

My desk has moved down stairs into the living room (by rights this happened last week sometime) and the Bowflex has been disassembled and is stored in the basement until I can find someone who wants to buy it or a charity to whom it could be donated (preferably after the first of the year if the latter). The hutch that used to sit behind the television is on it’s way north with mom and dad because they have a Goodwill that will still take furniture. My desk is in the far corner where the Bowflex used to be, so that while sitting at it, I can see out the large front window and if I turn, can see out the side window into the neighbor’s backyard. The view from both is blowing snow at the moment, but I’m trying not to dwell on that. *smile*

My fridge and freezer are also now well stocked for winter. Dad brought me Firesides from Pine Tree Apple Orchard (and apple donuts, but we ate all those while they were here). Mom made cream of wild rice soup for lunch yesterday and left me with four healthy(?!) servings individually frozen. We made up the ham that was in the freezer for dinner last night, with a big batch of cheesy potatoes, so I have ham in 1-2 serving packages, some suitable for sandwiches, some thicker that are suitable for frying for breakfast, and some diced/cubed suitable for throwing in soups and stews *and* 6 or 8 individually wrapped servings of cheesy potatoes. Mom also gave me her recipe for ham and bean soup, and we started a batch this morning (well, last night really since we soaked the beans overnight) with the ham bone from dinner and another ham bone I had in the freezer. It smells delicious and once I fry up some bacon to throw into it and season it a bit, I’m sure it will be a very satisfying dinner. The leftovers – of which there will be many – will get frozen for enjoyment on some of the many truly snowy days to come.

Random Tuesday.

This time of year, I’m lucky I remember my name, much less what day it is. Or will be. Or is supposed to be random.

No pictures, but I yanked about 4 gallon buckets of Big Mama tomatoes out of the garden tonight, and I didn’t even get all the ripe ones. I got all the *really* ripe ones; the rest can wait until this weekend when I’ll have time to make pasta sauce. I didn’t quite have the energy to pull any more of the Sungolds or Yellow Pears, though there are lots of those ripe at the moment, too. Maybe tomorrow.

Speaking of which.. anyone have a *really* good recipe for pasta sauce? We have lots of fresh tomatoes, some fresh Walla Walla sweet onions (though pr’bly not really enough for a large batch of sauce since we used so many in the salsa), and some fresh jalapeños. And maybe some other peppers, but the jalapeños are the only ones that are likely big enough at the moment. Except that they’re not really.. well.. I’m not sure I want *spicy* pasta sauce. *shrug*

I’m knitting in the car most days of our commute. The first 9-to-5 sock is about to start toe-decreases and I’ve got a few inches done on the sleeves of the Easy Lace Jacket. I’ll post pictures when there’s something more exciting to see.

Across the pond..

Last week I was blessed with the bounty of many friends. I received two gifts from two friends recently returned from England, and another from a dear, dear friend as a half-birthday gift. Apparently, though, I remain so excited over the receipt of these wonderful gifts that my hands shake resulting in blurry photos.. *smile*

From the Wholly Spirits company, Carol brought me a bottle of 12-year old Speyside single malt, called Love Shovel (no I haven’t tried it yet.. I’m saving it for some as-yet-to-be-determined special occasion):

From Time Traveling Traders, Tori got me a pair of sterling silver and amber earrings – the first pair I’ve worn other than stainless steel piercing rings in over seven years:

And from her travels in Wales, Betsy brought me a enameled brooch of the Welsh Red Dragon, in honor of my many “baby dragon”* days this past spring:

I am well and truly blessed, not only by these gifts but also by the presence of these three truly wonderful women in my life. Each of them, in their own way enriches my life beyond words and I am grateful they each choose to call me a friend.

Moving on to less sentimental thoughts, I cast on a toe-up sock on Artisan’s Row with the Yarn Pirate sock I got from my Gnome Swap pal:

At the time I started it, I didn’t have a plan for the leg, but have since decided on the Sprung Socks pattern from the Keyboard Biologist. I’ve started it since this picture, but think I’ll have to rip it back out since I seem to have skipped half a pattern repeat at the very beginning. These will be my plane knitting for my upcoming trip to Long Beach, so expect a finished picture sometime in the next week or so.

Yesterday was our office’s midsummer potluck, which, at the request of one of our student workers, was centered on cheese cakes. I’ve been wanting to try a recipe posted by TwoSheep since it was posted, so this was a perfect opportunity.

It turned out well, if I do say so myself. This is the first cheesecake I’ve ever made that didn’t crack, and it was creamy and smooth without being underdone. I took a picture of it after I unmolded it from the springform, but am too lazy at the moment to go get the camera to upload it, so you’ll have to trust me that it turned out beautifully. I also made a butterscotch sauce to drizzle over it (recipe from The Joy of Cooking) and let folks add that as they wanted. And it went over very well.. even with no fewer than 8(!) cheesecakes, there wasn’t a single piece left at the end of the day!

I was hoping to get some updated pictures of the garden in here, too, but after spending the day at the Hokah Fun Run, it’s about all I have in me to put out the sprinkler to make sure the tomatoes don’t shrivel up and die. Suffice it to say for now that the garden is doing very well, there are tomatoes on the plants (still small-ish and green, but there), the onions are almost ready to harvest, and I finally got around to thinning the carrots, radishes and peppers. I might try to take some pictures tomorrow morning, but given that I have a noon flight, that might not happen. Especially if I don’t actually manage to pack tonight.

* There are times in my job where it is assumed that I have either more authority or greater sway with those who make the Big Decisions(tm) than I do, largely because I report directly to our Provost, who in turn reports directly to our Chancellor. I have repeatedly assured people that even with such a direct reporting line, my influence is small and rather limited, however this doesn’t seem to stop them from assuming otherwise. This results in me often being frustrated because I *can’t* actually effect change on the level that others assume I should, nor can I mete out retribution on any grand scale. One such day, I expressed this feeling by stating that I felt like a baby dragon, because I’m not big enough to breathe fire, so all I can do is stomp around and “rawr”. Betsy decided that was a very apt definition, and hence, “baby dragon” days were born. So it seems I now have two animal “totems”, as it were – monkeys and dragons.

Uh..hi!

So yeah.. I’ve been busy. And sick. And haven’t been doing any knitting.

But I did make Massaman curry last night to bring in for a potluck at work today (without the chicken so that it’s vegetarian; if I’d used coconut milk instead of heavy cream, it would even have been vegan!). I hope it turned out okay.. it’s not quite the color I was expecting – more yellow than I’m used to. I used to order Massaman Curry from the Snail all the time when I lived in Chicago and there’s is more brown.. maybe they add more peanuts or some satay sauce.. I’ll have to keep experimenting. I also brought in some of that microwave-in-bag rice so that I wouldn’t have to worry about how to heat up two things for a potluck.

So, yeah, no knitting means that the last intended holiday gift (Peek a boo) isn’t getting done. This is not so tragic – I was able to find a gift that I’m just as happy to give, and now I’m more than half way finished with a birthday present. And it’s been nice not to have to spend every waking minute knitting, I must admit. I’m torn on what to start next, though.. I have socks for MJ and my bucket hat pattern and socks for me and a some lovely merino fleece to spin.. decisions, decisions.

Speaking of (or at least mentioning) spinning, I’m contemplating dedicating a “day” to spinning, ala Stephanie. Mine won’t likely be Tuesdays, but instead maybe Saturdays. Jack games Saturday nights, unless we have other plans, so that might be a good time to dedicate to spinning. I’ll have to start stocking up on good movies to spin to. And at some point I would like to get somewhere that I can try some wheels so I have a better idea of what I do and don’t like, but given that I can’t afford to buy a wheel yet, that’s pr’bly not urgent.

Right then.. off to stir the curry and try to get some stuff finished for my meetings this afternoon.

Is it Sunday already?

I needed this weekend. I also, perhaps oddly, needed the conference I was at last week. While it was no where near as educational as my first AIR Forum, there were a couple of good sessions that helped me get over hurdles in my own projects. But that’s not the reason it was needed. I needed to not be on our campus, to be around other people who knew the larger, broader context of our campus, but who weren’t engrossed in it. I needed, in short, a Reality Check(tm). To have that followed immediately by a quiet weekend at home was absolutely ideal.

Yesterday I really couldn’t tell you much of what I did other than that I made the Winter Warmer kit that I had. I also made half a spaghetti squash to go with some broiled steaks for dinner. And we watched Snow Falling on Cedars which, aside from some cinematic decisions (e.g., the overlapping voice thing), we well done and timely given recent political events.

Today, we made a sort of miniature Thanksgiving dinner. This isn’t really a practice run, though we will be making a full Thanksgiving dinner for our families in a couple weeks. It’s more that we had a smallish turkey in the freezer and Jack really, really loves turkey and we had the time to make a more or less real meal so we did. We roasted the turkey, made mashed potatoes, rolls, and gravy. No veggies – there’s not really room. *smile* We have left-overs, as expected, and a carcass for stock to add to the small chicken carcass already in the freezer. We have 16 large frozen rolls left to make for Thanksgiving and half a bag of potatoes and a box of stuffing, so we’ll just need to pick up the big turkey, some corn & buttercup squash, and the makings for cinnamon rolls (refrigerator biscuits dredged in butter & rolled in cinnamon-sugar and baked in a pie plate until done), and we’ll have everything we need for dinner.

I am working away on holiday projects, but having two projects on needles, both with deadlines, is managing to mess me up. I’m a real, honest-to-goodness project knitter. I have a hard time leaving something unfinished if I’m not stuck on it. And while I need to have two projects on needles right now because the Rowan River Tape has *no* give and hurts my hands if I work with it too much, it still messes with me.

All the same, as previously mentioned, I finished the first of the Son Socks last week; I’m now almost to the heel flap on the second.

The ruler is for scale. I’ve never done little kid socks before, so these seem to be going extraordinarily fast, even on US 1 needles.

The Tied Up Tee is also coming along, but I’m a little concerned that even though I’m getting gauge spot on, it’s too small. The first picture below is the front so far more or less “as is”, without stretching it too much (it’s also more color correct on my monitor). It’s coming in at about 16 inches across the bottom, where it should be closer to 19. The second pictures is it stretched a bit, but even there it’s only coming in around 17.5 inches. I could stretch it more, but I don’t want it to have to be skin tight to fit the intended recipient.

So I’m trying to decide on whether to trust the pattern despite pretty solid reasons to believe it’s going to be too small, or to rip out what I have and start over with either a looser gauge or the next larger size (or two). It’s worse that I’m not making this for me, but for someone who is several sizes smaller than me – I’m knitting what is supposed to be the size 38, which is what I’m assuming would be roughly equivalent to a women’s small/medium shirt, whereas I’d pr’bly make this for me as at least a 48 – so it looks too small to begin with.

I also did most of the research for the Breedswap this weekend. It was due last Monday, so I’m already late, but I think it’s going to have to wait another day to get written up and finalized. I don’t think it will hurt anything. At the moment, I’m more concerned about not having heard anything from the folks at Blackberry Ridge regarding the fleeces I sent them. I’ll have to try to remember to call them tomorrow to follow up.