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

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Knitting mania

I finished my first fair-isle project last night. It came out great, and only took a week to make. I will have pictures as soon as I have time to do a photo shoot.

Having completed this project, I am on a little knitting high. I want to start 20 projects at once. To make matters even worse for my pocketbook, this evening a few of us from the Knitwits (that's what our knitting group is called) will be making the trek to Wisconsin to a legendary place called Christa's. Apparently, I am the last one to have heard about this place, so I am quite excited to go. I hear it is a bit overwhelming, but I am up for the challenge- bury me in woolly, soft, fluffy yarn: I can handle it! (tho my dear wallet might not fare so well :)

I have decided on a project for the beautiful blue yarn my secretpal8 Doris gave me: Fetching from Knitty Summer 2006. I am so freakin excited about them. I think they are absolutely gorgeous and something I will probably wear all winter. I want to start them right this minute, but I have to go to class. We are doing a jeopardy-style review game for their test tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Canoeing on the Mississippi

We managed to squeeze in two canoeing trips this past weekend. It's pretty easy since this above scene is literally five blocks from our house. The weather was overcast and threatening to rain, but didn't actually do so. Mobi took the helm and helped navigate. She's not a good swimmer yet, because she doesn't really like getting wet. So, the first trip out, when she jumps into the water chasing a bug, she disappears under the surface. I freak out, shouting "Mobi!" while she reappears paddling like mad with her round eyes even bigger than usual and practically hyperventilating. Juan grabs her by the puppy scruff on her neck and pulls her back into the canoe. She hasn't attempted to bail ship since.

The river is nice- we go into a backwater area where the water is too shallow for the motor boats to go, so it's fairly quiet (except for the occasional motor and train whistle in the distance). So far, we've seen turtles sunning themselves on rocks; two raccoons; many blue herons and white cranes; a bald eagle; some other sort of bird of prey (a hawk?); Canadian geese; and a muskrat. We bring a picnic basket with food and wine, a couple of folding chairs, and find a somewhat sunny spot to rest for awhile and read.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Weekend cooking and knitting

My fair-isle beret is coming along nicely. It is a lot of fun to knit because I keep changing colors and patterns, but it is easy enough to do while watching Pirates of the Caribbean, The Matador, and the PBS Masters series on Andy Warhol. Fair-isle is pretty easy, though I still need to work on the technique, so I can do it faster. But for this project it's not such a big deal. Notice that in this shot I am working three colors at once (!) This is giving me confidence to maybe try lace knitting again, though the concentration factor is still an issue.

It's been a cloudy weekend, so that means lots of good food in the house. I got out my frozen pizza dough (last time I made it, I did a double batch of dough and sauce and froze them for a later date) and made an absolutely delicious homemade pizza, and got rid of some leftovers, too. We had some extra taco sauce from the Mexican Lasagna earlier in the week, so I just mixed it in with the pizza sauce for a southwestern tang. I thinly sliced a couple of garlic cloves and added some mushroom slices, mozzarella cheese and leftover ground turkey meat with taco seasonings in it, and when the pizza was done, I sprinkled some green onions on it. Served with yummy margaritas and a movie, and we had ourselves a great Friday night at home. Emboldened by my finally successful pizza-making endeavor, I made up a couple more batches of dough to freeze, this time using my Kitchen Aid mixer's dough hook to do the kneading for me. This made it much less painless and messy than last time, and in no time flat, we had a couple of potential pizzas ready to pull out on a busy weeknight.

I also wanted to try my new cookie press, so I made a batch of spritz cookies. Again, we kept some out and froze the rest for later. The press came with a recipe for cheese crackers, which I will definitely have to try sometime. Juan, either out of boredom or fascination was behind me in the kitchen all day yesterday. First, he wanted to see how the dough hook would work with the dough, and ended up just taking over the whole operation. Then, when he saw me get out the cookie press and realized it was a gadget he had yet to try, took over that operation, too. The press was a little complicated at first to figure out (reading the directions thoroughly would have helped), but we finally got the hang of it, and soon had dozens of little sptriz cookies all over the place.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Knitting Projects Revealed

I FINALLY finished my mom's sweater. It is currently drying and I'm hoping it will be sent out tomorrow. Here it is, in the blocking process.
The pattern is Jane, from Rowan's A Yorkshire Fable. I switched the Aran tweed (wool) for summer tweed (silk and cotton), so it is a more year-round weight.

I've really wanted to try my hand at fair-isle knitting, and I have been trying to diminish leftovers from my stash, so the perfect solution seemed to be a fair-isle beret, Mist, also from A Yorkshire Fable. (I originally bought this book for Juan's Aran sweater last winter- never thought I would use so many patterns from it!)
It is currently on a holder, since I needed the needles to get started on my other project, Celtic, from Rowan #40. This is what it looks like so far. I am using yarn from the stash, including some Katia tweed yarn I got in Madrid this past May. It's not supposed to be on circs, those are just what I had in the needle size.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

New book for my nightstand

Even though I have yet to finish any of the other books I am reading, I picked up another one this weekend at the Barnes and Noble in LaCrosse- about half an hour from our little Winona. Every once in a while we like to spend an afternoon browsing the stacks and sipping a coffee (Juan) or a chai (me). I did resist and not get myself yet another knitting book, since I am currently working on three (!!) projects and don't need inspiration to buy more yarn. But that's for another entry.

I got Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain. He has quickly moved up my list to number one favorite travel show host, so I thought his book might be a fun read. I picked this one since it was his first non-fiction. It is an amusing account of restaurant-kitchen life, though I have had my share of food-service experience and some things sound just a little too familiar for comfort. It's just the sort of thing to read before going to bed- not too serious or intense, and a lot of fun.

I had the treat of watching No Reservations for two hours last night. After being on campus from 7 am- 5pm, then going to the gym, then having dinner and doing dishes, there was not much else I was good for by 8 o'clock. I lived vicariously through a trip to Malaysia and then Indonesia while casting on for a new project. (uh-uh, you have to wait!) It was also the only time I got to bond with Mobi, who was curled up next to me trying to chew on the blanket when I wasn't looking.

PS: Tonight I am making Rachel Ray's Mexican Lasagna. I've been dreaming of this for a week! I highly recommend- very easy, and very tasty.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Making Limoncello

I love Limoncello. So, imagine my excitement when I discover a recipe for it in my new Giada cookbook. I also came across some great bottles in Maine this summer that I knew would be perfect for just this sort of thing- all signs pointed to a need to make this lovely liquor ASAP, since summer was fading fast.
I have included a photo chronology of the steps for your viewing pleasure.

The lemons, all unawares of what is soon to befall them.
Some of the now-naked lemons with their rinds. (These babies are fated for lemonade)

In goes the vodka!
Fermenting. (I had to switch to the smaller pitcher so I could use the other for lemonade in the meantime).
Now back to the bigger pitcher with the added sugar water.
Bottled and ready to be chilled in the fridge. (Ok, ok, I used some to make a couple of drinks, that's why one bottle is half empty already)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Meet My Secret Pals

I got my last package from my secret pal yesterday. Including all the great stuff I got, she also revealed her identity. Her name is Doris, and she's an American living in Singapore for a couple of years with her husband and two adorable children. I've spent all morning reading their blog Just Regular Folks- her whole family (husband, brother, and parents) contributes to it, so it's like getting five blogs in one. It's also a great way for them to keep in touch, since they are so far away from each other.

Doris gave me two beautiful spoons- they're perfect for my glass tea cups I got in Tangier (a little mixing of cultures ;) I can use them, right, Doris? They are so beautiful I wouldn't be surprised if they are supposed to be just decorative. I also got a DVD of the best of Monty Python's Flying Circus, which Juan and I can't wait to watch. I looove Monty Python :) She also included "Wanderlust:" a pack of 30 postcards for "insatiable travelers." How did you know I like to travel, Doris? haha.. And as if that wasn't enough, I also got a skein of Rowan kidsilk haze in a GORGEOUS fushia color, and a handmade red silk purse from Tabitha-Cambodia. At least, I think it's a purse. It has an unusual design of one handle being long than the other, so I'm not sure if has a more specialized use?

I also wanted to introduce my secret pal recipient, Alejandra. She lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Her blog, Lanas y Tramas, is in Spanish, and she seems to have a new project done at least once a week. So, check out her blog, too.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Catalogs! Fall Fashion!

The onset of fall also heralds the arrival of fall catalogs- yay! My thick Pottery Barn catalog has already been inkily violated with all the items I could only dream to buy for the non-existent house I don't own. Today I went home for lunch and to let Mobi out awhile, and there were TWO waiting for me by the door. Tonight I will scour the Williams and Sonoma catalog, likewise ravaging that with my trusty red pen. I couldn't resist, however, glancing through the new Anthropologie catalog while I ate my chicken salad sandwich. (Which was delicious by the way. I used my lemon mayo, grilled chicken, fresh basil, craisins, and avocado chunks- yummmm!)

Ok, back to fashion. It's always so fun to check out Anthropologie because the clothes are not the same old boring stuff you see in store after store here in the States. It reminds me of some of my favorite Spanish stores, like Zara, Mango (featuring the fabulous Ms. Milla this fall), Massismo Dutti, and Aldolfo Domingez- more daring cuts, fabric, and styles. It sure does come with a hefy price tag, though. The good side, however, to all this more daring fashion at Anthro and in Spain is that I don't fall in love with everything I see (this is good because I could not afford to get it anyway).

Here, for fun, is my short list of v-approved trends this fall. 1)Grey! This is my favorite color of all time in terms of clothes- especially sweaters. I was so happy that they were part of my uniform in high school- I could buy all variations of grey sweaters and wear a different one each day, while staying in the rules. 2)knits. I practically wore out my knit tee-shirt dress and knit skirt this summer. Knits have come such a looooong way from the 50s- the texture is superb, the fit is flattering, and the comfort level is 100%. (Banana Republic has some great ones right now), and Ella Moss is the queen of deliciously wearable knits. 3)Skinny jeans and cigarette pants. I think I am just sick of the "flare" jean silhouette. nuf said. 4) Speaking of fab silhouettes, I love the 60s-style ones you see with the return to a more fitted bottom (ie capris, jeans, NOT leggings tho) and an A-line top (dress or jacket), usually with a wide or structured neckline/collar. 5) "puffy" sleeves- just little, girly ones. There were so many cute tops in Spain this summer with puffy sleeves I ended up converting. Ok, I get it now.

What I can't understand why it is being revived again is the 80s stuff. All of it. Ugh. Didn't we learn the first time????

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

What I am reading these days

Thanks for asking, Lomester. I am currently reading a few books, which I will mention below.

While working in Cadiz this summer, I got the urge to read a detective novel. Maybe it was all the stress of waiting for the kids to act up or end up in the hospital (or, god forbid, both); or maybe it was the warm sunny weather and gorgeous beaches. Whatever the reason, I was in the mood for a genre I used to love, but have not read in a loooong time (we're talking Nancy Drew here). So, I went to my favorite Cadiz bookstore and asked for a good detective story. He handed me a brick of a book and told me it was the best there was. I looked a bit dubiously at him, weighing it in my hands and imagining carrying it throughout Spain for another month and then back on the plane home. But I couldn't beat the value: 9,95 for something that would probably last me the rest of the summer. What I got for under 10 euros was nothing like I had imagined it, and way more than I could have hoped. Private detective Pepe Carvalho and his sidekick Biscuter are two of the most complex characters in literature today. In this book, Milenio Carvalho, (the last in a 20-title series I later discovered) they are on a round-the-world trip that turns into a constant battle to stay alive and out of trouble. But the writing style of Vazquez Montalban is so unusual- all the intrigue and mystery becomes a subplot to the trip- completely unexpected in a "detective novel." Rather, the focus is more on the psychology of the characters. Since the pace is a bit slow because of this shift in focus, I'm only a little more than half-way done. But every time I pick this book up, I don't want to put it down again. I will definitely go back and read some of the earlier Carvalho novels once I'm done.

I am also concurrently reading two books by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I am teaching Cien Años de Soledad this semester, so I am re-reading that, as well as the first part of his autobiography-trilogy: Vivir para contarla. Cien Años is one of the best novels I have ever read. The book has everything you want in a juicy family saga: love, sex, death, betrayal, incest, war, but all in a beautiful language and imagery. Don't worry if you want to read the English version- Garcia Marquez once said it was almost better than his original. And for those of you who care about these things, apparently it was one of Oprah's Book Club books.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Happy Labor Day

It's been a lovely weekend- the only thing missing has been my new husband! He is STILL in Spain, but is due back late Thursday, so if flight times and take-offs all go according to plan, (a BIG if) he'll be home soon.

I took advantage of the four-day weekend to clean and organize the house with all the new stuff we had acquired from the wedding; work on my classes; pick up knitting again; and the best part of all- cooking! One day I spent over two hours making homemade pizza, as my newest issue of Cooking Light assured me was easy to do (did not mention anything about two hours). Their picture here, by the way, not mine. This fall I am on a quest to perfect homemade pizza. Well, instead of perfection I would be satisfied with something that was better than take-home. So far, results have been less than stellar, as this time also proved to be so. I wanted a thin crust margharita pizza, but the crust was too hard and the recipe called for ricotta with mozarrella, which is a cheese I really just don't get as a main ingredient to a main course dish. I like my cheese to melt, and ricotta doesn't go there. Unless I'm just buying the wrong brand.

This weekend I started working on limoncello, an Italian liquor, and used some lemons to make a lemon mayonnaise which I will combine with some grilled chicken for a chicken salad for this week’s lunches. I also made lemonade (not too much sugar), brownies, and hot fudge to go on top of some vanilla ice cream with said brownies, and dinner tonight was a Thai chicken curry with rice that came out really well. I would say I am pretty well stocked for the week!

I am STILL working on my mom’s cardigan. I had to stop working on it several times because I had to get more yarn, and then the wedding, then traveling… anyway- she will have it before it gets cold this fall, I promise.

I just got done watching No Reservations. I take back what I said last week- he is now my favorite travel host ever. He actually reminds me a lot of my friend Chris in his travel philosophy and style. I had an embarrassing discovery while watching, though. I had no idea Bombay has been called Mumbai for over 10 years. Why was I not aware of this change? I have really wanted to go to India since I was in high school and read A Suitable Boy for the first time. It’s a really great novel that intertwines the lives of various families in post-independence India, and gives a foreigner a great glimpse into the political and social structure of the country at that time.

Ok, so enough about cooking, literature, knitting, and travel. Holiday is over- tomorrow I must teach once again. Enjoy your short week!

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Looky what I got!!!

I still have not given public props to my secret pal and it is high time I did. While I was traveling around from place to place like a crazy person this summer, she was thoughtful enough to send me two lovely packages (AND I hear I have another one on the way!) They were waiting for me in Maine when I got to my parents' house, exhausted and weary from travel and over 24 hours without sleep. It was like Christmas. First, I got a box from Barnes and Noble that had my very first Barefoot Contessa book. (Yay, yay, yay!) It is has a ton of fabulous recipes that I know I will be using again and again. I also received the book Confessions of a Knitting Heretic, which has introduced me to some interesting ideas and knitting techniques. I really like the vanguard philosophy and approach to knitting, and I hope I can be daring enough to let it shape my own knitting. (My knitting has pretty much been in the box-as opposed to out of it- up to this point) I also got a beautiful blue Jaeger Shetland Aran that will definitely be used soon- I'm thinking either fingerless gloves or a hat. I also got a Burts Bees facial kit, double-pointed needles with cute bears that hold them together, very pretty origami-style note cards and notepad, and the cutest little purse hand-made by a woman in Honduras that is very unique and will be sure to garner many a comment.