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We are Familia FIG. We are a bi- lingual, blended family. Belalu was diagnosed at 9 months with hypochondroplasia.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Zen and the Art of Knitting a Sweater

So, last weekend on the way back from Chicago , I finished the front of Juan's sweater.

Notice anything strange about it? Well, I didn't either until I woke up in the middle of the night a few days later with a VERY scary thought: ...Did I decrease for the armholes?... I was so sure I hadn't but didn't want to face reality that I didn't look until a week later. And as the picture shows, I did not decrease for the armholes. So, like a Zen master who creates a beautiful mandala of colored sand, only to blow or sweep it away as soon as it is done, I frogged a third of the front and started back up, this time decreasing for the armholes, which you see below.

While it can be very frustrating to undo what I worked so hard to finish, I have to admit I only have myself to blame. I get so wrapped up in knitting that I forget that there is often more to do than just knit straight along. I am getting anxious to finish this sweater, though. It is just so much bigger than my usual finished products and I want to start some new things. I only have one more sleeve and the rest of the front to do (again). See first sleeve all ready to go:

On the cooking front, I used my EI once again to cook up some great plates. I made rosemary-infused olive oil that we've been using for dipping bread, and I made the mushroom pesto to top my very own original, first-ever raviolis. The filling was butternut squash, fresh sage leaves and ricotta cheese. It was a perfect combination with the pesto and some yummy parmesan bread sticks, also from EI. There were tons of raviolis left over, so I froze them, and now we can have them whenever we want. They would go great with a spicy tomato sauce, too. Tonight I made a big pot of lentil soup- we've been heavy on the pasta lately, so I thought it was time for some legumes. I even threw a couple of leeks in there, a la Barefoot Contessa- I have to say, what was my life like without leeks??

Ok, enough of the chit-chat. I have some major studying to do. My last big written exam is coming up very soon, so I have to go hit the books.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Good cooking makes the winter less cold

I have been using my new cookbook by Giada de Laurentiis, Everyday Italian, lately without sharing the results on here. The first thing I made, a couple of weeks ago now, were the turkey meatballs with homemade tomato sauce and linguini. I couldn't even remember the last time I had eaten meatballs, since they are almost always made with beef. This was such a great winter meal- it makes you want to curl up and watch a good movie or maybe Masterpiece Theater's Bleakhouse...or maybe that's just me. (Last episode this Sunday night- I can't wait to see what happens!)

Last night I made two recipes from EI. Chicken Cacciatore and Parmesan Smashed Potatoes. The potatoes are sooooooooo good. Rather than add butter and milk, you add parmesan and a good EVOO (Extra virgen oilve oil). This makes them less heavy and more flavorful. The chicken came out way better than I thought-I was dubious that I would like the sauce, but it was really good. I think next time I will do the same recipe in the slow cooker, though. Mostly because it takes a good hour and a half total with all the simmering of the veggies and chicken and I had to listen to Juan Carlos complaining about dinner not being ready yet, and when will it be ready, and why can't we eat it yet if it smells so good. With the slow cooker, I just have to worry about him opening the lid when I'm not looking and letting all the steam out, but at least by then, it's been cooking most of the day.

Now, allow me to share some of my new-found cooking knowledge with you: the difference between braising and stewing. Stewing involves slow cooking with usually a meat and veggies in a good amount of liquid. Braising is also slow cooking, but with only an inch or two of water. It is then covered, so the liquid makes a steam that cooks the meat and veggies. In classic French cooking, you would not serve the braised veggies with the meat, but rather use them only to impart more flavor to the dish, serving some other veggie as a side.
And lastly, I present my favorite way to prepare a meal: a good glass of wine, NPR or some good dance music on the radio, and an empty kitchen (i.e. no dog underfoot or someone lifting the lids every so often to see what's going on). Maybe someday I can add the use of quality cooking utensils and cookware, but for now I have to settle for Ikea-brand pots and knives that don't cut so well anymore.

It's my own small battle with winter, keeping the cold at bay and waiting for spring to come, and in the meantime we get something good on the table, too.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Hot time in the windy city

This past weekend we decided to spend the coldest weekend of the year in the windiest city in the country. The day before we left, Winona looked like this:

On Saturday morning, walking Mobi around to do her business, the temps were 5 below, not including wind chill (!) No, we did not go to Chicago to freeze our *&#@s off; we did have a purpose to the trip. We went to Chicago to see Natasha, who I work with in the summer in Spain. These past few months, she's been working as an Infinity product specialist at car shows around the country. And here she is... the lovely, the talented, Ms. Natasha informing the public of Infinity's concept car:

And more shots from the car show:

We had a lot of fun in Chicago- it's so nice to get away to somewhere more bustling, more interesting, more diverse than our little Winona. We did a little window shopping on Magnificent Mile, ate some great food and did a little dancing as well. Dinner the first night was at Le Colonial, a French-Vietnamese restaurant beautifully decorated with potted palms, chandeliers, and wood trim. The second night we had Asian again, at Big Bowl- I had a peanut, coconut curry and Juan had a super-spicy kung pao chicken with noodles. I also tried their specialty- fresh ginger ale; I got mine with pomegranate, too. Yum, yum, yum! I looooove Vietnamese and Thai food.

The ceiling of our hotel and Magnificent Mile:

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Day off and Rowan #39

Today there are no classes at WSU, so we have a mini vacation day. To celebrate, I used my new batter bowl that my sister got me for Christmas and made pancakes for breakfast. Yesterday the spring/summer issue of Rowan came out. It has knitting patterns and some articles about yarns and designs. I wasn't overly inspired by this issue, but there were a few that I may end up making some day. If you really like a particular one and think I should make it, let me know. Because once I've finished Juan's sweater, it's new project time!
Victoria gets her influence from late 19th century fashion, but she's got a rating of three skeins- the hardest pattern to knit.
Crinkle is fun because, as you can see, it takes on different shapes according to how you tie the ribbon.
Rambling Rose is so pretty and feminine, though I would want to make the sleeves 3/4-length if I were to make it.
Antoinette is fairly basic, but would be very practical as I need more cardigans that go with lots of things. I really like her wide collar.
Glad seems to me to be a great traveling shawl/sweater. And you can wear it many ways- these here, but also as a ballet-style wrap top, too.

So, there you have them, the five patterns I really like from Rowan #39. As I said, please let me know what you think and if there's one (or two) in particular that you think I should knit.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Happy Valentine's Day!

Illustration by Mignon Khargie / Salon.com

Hope you have a Happy Valentine's Day! Juan and I will be attending the Vagina Monologues tonight here at WSU, and tomorrow there's a very special treat: a no-school day!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Pelicula of the Week and Knitting Update

Pelicula of the Week: Belle Epoque
This is a wonderful movie that is funny while also including social commentary of Spain during the 1930s. As with La Nina de tus Ojos, I think a lot of the subtle political humor would be lost on someone who didn't understand the historical context within which the movie takes place, but the characters and situations are zaney enough on their own that you can still enjoy the movie.

Juan's "fisherman's knit" sweater is coming along slowly but surely. I finished the back and have been working on the front, while traveling to LaCrosse and watching some great movies, namely Igby Goes Down and Bottle Rocket. (Both highly recommended)
The back of the sweater

Front of the sweater in progress

I have also been doing some cooking, after an almost two week hiatus. Juan had made cocido- a Spansih stew- and it was enough to feed a small army, so I've been making the opposite of heavy, meat-laden meals now that we've finally gotten through the cocido. So, as I mentioned earlier, I made a couple of Contessa recipes: Salmon with Lentils (latest fav ingredient: leeks) and even used a NEW ingredient in the Roasted Vegetable Orzo. I had never cooked with orzo before- it looks like fat rice but is actually a pasta. I will definitely be cooking with orzo again.

Pretty flowers adorning the dining room

Sunday, February 05, 2006

I got a new cookbook!!!

I do not remember the last time I bought a new cookbook. For the past year I have been taking books out of the library, but I finally decided to just go for it and start expanding my collection. I originally planned to get the Barefoot Contessa, as I love love love her recipes, and use many of them on a weekly basis (or so), such as her granola, salad dressing, hummus and iced tea, to name a few. BUT, since I have already made copies of most of the recipes I like or would be more likely to make from all four of her books, I decided to get something different.
I picked Giada's book because I have been quite adverse to cooking Italian food since I associate it with my college days that were too often filled with spaghetti and tomato sauce in a jar. This book has really easy to make recipes of fresh, tasty dishes that are nothing like the boring, uninspired meals I usually associate with Italian food made at home. I'm thinking of starting off with spaghetti and turkey meatballs, actually, (with homemade marinera sauce) just to exorcise the old aversion to basic Italian. But first, I have salmon in the fridge waiting to be cooked for dinner tomorrow (a Contessa recipe)-I'll elaborate more tomorrow.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Spain me two times, baby

So, it looks like I'm taking two trips to Spain this summer. I will be going for about 10 days at the end of May with Winona State's study abroad program, and then again in July to work with Abbey Road again. Traveling with a small group of college kids and with a large group of high schoolers are two very different experiences. I'm looking forward to the May trip because there's less supervision and more guidance- show them around, introduce them to the culture, etc., but not so much police work as is needed with the younger crowd.

PELICULA OF THE WEEK: This week we saw Nadie conoce a nadie- Nobody knows Anybody. It's an action thriller a la espanola- it centers around a deadly video game played out in the streets of Sevilla during Semana Santa (Holy Week)- the players all hold some sort of bitter grudge against the Church. This movie could not be made anywhere else, and includes some gorgeous shots of the beautiful city of Sevilla.