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

Monday, December 10, 2007

Tapas Party

You have to be careful about giving out oral invites to a tapas party, because people always end up hearing "topless" instead. And while I'm not one to stifle anyone's self-expression, that just doesn't seem to fit here in Lake Woebegone land. So, no, we did not have that kind of party. But we did have the most people ever over for dinner a few weeks ago. We were a total of lucky 13, and while there were lots of other people we wanted to invite, we decided to keep the numbers to what we had for plates and wine glasses. I ended up having to buy extra forks as it was. Everyone already knew each other and could entertain themselves, which was one less stress-inducement for me. We had a lot of fun and I think we used every serving-related wedding present in the house. One of our friends couldn't stop talking about all the great serving ware- his wife said he never pays attention to that sort of thing. So, thanks everyone who contributed to our evening's success! Here's the pre-party, cold tapas spread: Here it is at another angle with mood lighting:We loosened everyone up with plenty of sangría and just had a ton of food. See how many different kinds of tapas you can spot in the photos. This was right after the most stressful weeks of the semester, so it was really healthy for us to concentrate on something else for a couple of days and to see people we hadn't seen for weeks and weeks. I meant to take pictures at the party, but I was just having too much fun.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Classes are over!

The professors are having a big party tonight. No joke. Walking around town today I ran into half a dozen people asking if I was going. It's going to be quite the bash, I suspect. The poor students are busy studying and finishing up final papers and projects. whahahha....

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The Cities

That's what we call Minneapolis/St. Paul here in Minnesota. I've come a long way, considering I used to tell people: "Yeah, we're going to Minnesota for the weekend" when we were already in Winona, Minnesota. I would get some "poor dear" glances and people would smile and nod politely (they're nice here, remember). The vocab was all new, it all sounded the same... Well, anyway, back to the trip.

The Walker Arts Center is having an exhibit of Frida Kahlo through the end of January so we took advantage of a recent long weekend to go up and take a look. We also stopped at some specialty stores to get goods for our tapas party. Photos of THAT event to follow at a later date.

We finally got to see the famous cherry spoon sculpture up close and personal and hence took some touristy photos to write home about.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

My So-Called Life

I recently read an article in the New York Times about the tv series My So-Called Life coming out on DVD. I was a little taken aback by the intro of the article: "To a certain sort of woman who is somewhere between late youth and an unacknowledged middle age..."- (oh good god that is me- why does she make that sound so old?!?!).

This show came out in 1994, when I was working at the Wok Inn on Thursday nights and could therefore not watch only the most important tv show of my generation. Well, thanks to the snow storm this weekend and our pulling the tv plug this fall, I was searching the web for free tv shows online last night (yes, I know this is just what the writers are striking about... sue me, I needed knitting accompaniment and I was up to date on all my favorite podcasts). And there it was, under the "full episode" option on abc.com-- the pilot to My So-called Life!!! It resonated with me on many different levels. First, I was struck at the changes from 13 years ago: Angela and Rayanne start the show asking strangers for change to make a phone call (because teenagers didn't have cell phones back then, of course), the girls wear baggy plaid shirts (see Bellafante's quote below,) Angela's dyed hair that so scandalized would barely get a blink in today's world of tattoos and piercings (I sooo wanted hair like that!), not to mention her parents look so young to late youth/unacknowledged middle age me. It may be 13 years later, but I am glad I finally get to see this show. (Assuming ABC is planning on putting all the episodes up in the coming weeks)

Here are a couple of other good quotes from Ginia Bellafante's article that really captured certain aspects of my generation that make me glad I "came of age" when I did:

“My So-Called Life” imagined parents and teenagers operating out of separate and oppositional emotional spheres. It recognized adolescence as a psychological phase with a beginning and an end, and while that might seem a common-sense approach to the show’s subject, contemporary television rarely seems to take it."

As the touchstone examination of adolescence in the ’90s, “My So-Called Life” rejected the Clintonian ethos of ambition: striving, perhaps, wasn’t better. And at the same time it linked itself closely to the feminism of the period, one that prized interiority, self-help and revolutions from within. It was a diluted notion of female advancement, but at least it was a modestly dressed one. Angela wore late-grunge-era flannels and baggy shapes. So there is another way, finally, that “My So-Called Life” looks like no other teenage series that succeeded it: We never saw our heroine’s bellybutton."

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Chaps or Chinks?

You have to go to the Pioneer Woman's web site to find out.

And don't blame me if you get sucked in and can't stop reading all her witty, hilarious posts to the point of being fired from your job.

Thanks to Aunt Lisa for getting me hooked on Rhee's site.

Prayer Shawl and more Food

Juan's mom was recently in the hospital for brain surgery, so I wanted to make her something tangible that would let her know she was in our thoughts. I used the prayer shawl pattern from the Knitting for Peace book, though I didn't add the fringe because I thought it was a bit fussy.I love the colors-very muted browns and rose tones. And the texture is nubby and cozy. It was the perfect yarn for this.

Here's another meal from within the past few weeks.This was a pretty fast meal I whipped up one evening. I took some fish and cooked it picata-style, breaded with capers, parsley, and lemon. The potatoes are roasted with Herbes de Provence, and while they were cooking I separated the brussel sprouts so they were just the leaves and then sautéed them in olive oil and sliced garlic. Cooked this way, they keep their crunch, which is just delicious.

It's funny, because I actually did the same dish for Thanksgiving, and when I told everyone I was bringing brussel sprouts, their reaction was "Oh, good! We need more vegetables" in a polite, interested tone. When I brought them (I had separated the leaves already and just sautéed them there right before dinner), everyone was so surprised. They all said they had never had them this way and they were so good.... so, basically, they were just being nice before and were really expecting some gross over-boiled plate of green.

It really is such a misunderstood vegetable. If you don't think you're a fan, I encourage you to try them this way. They are so good for you, and while the separating process is a wee bit monotonous, I like to think of it as "meditation in motion" (thanks, Baron Baptiste).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Soup, Pizza and Knitting: It's Fall!

As I am full swing into Christmas knitting, I will have limited FOs to show until post-December. However, there are a few other non x-mas projects I've completed that I will spread out over the next few entries, interspersed with cooking shots.
Oh, here's one now! (I salivate just remembering this meal) Both are variations of recipes from the October 2007 Real Simple issue. For the potato and leek pizza, I used my usual Barefoot Contessa pizza dough recipe with the suggested toppings. Sooo good, and a nice variation from the norm. With the rest of the leeks I made soup. I used canned pumpkin with fresh squash and added a cut-up apple and some fresh grated ginger, too.

While the pizza and soup were warming me up from the inside out, my recently finished project has been keeping me warm from the outside in. Here's an in-office shot thanks to the MacBook. I really love this pattern: The Sunrise Circle Jacket by Kate Gilbert. I actually really like a lot of her patterns, and one of my Christmas patterns to someone is another of hers. You can get the pattern in .pdf format at the Interweave Knits free pattern page. The sweater is knit in three pieces, starting with the back. Then you start a sleeve and continue increasing until you get this fabulous half circle shape. Besides the ingenious construction, or maybe because of it, it fits perfectly. I did make the longest sleeve length in the pattern and for once they actually cover my wrists- mental note to do that for all upcoming sweaters of mine.
Nicole, you asked me at one point if it was felted, and no, it isn't, though it may look this way in the picture. If you want this sweater to really be a jacket, though, I would use a thicker yarn than I did. Mine was Elisabeth Lavold's Silkly Wool, which as the name implies, is made from silk and wool, so it has a little more drape than 100% wool would. This sweater went very quickly and I really enjoyed the whole process from start to finish. (Which reminds me, for you anti-finishers, there is a lot of sewing for the turn-down hems)

Friday, November 23, 2007

Well Hello There!

I apologize for keeping you waiting. I hope that you have not forgotten all about me. You see, I've had a very busy semester, and you know that's true when I can't find time to blog. Or read anyone else's blog, either. It's bad. Real bad. But, I'm back and looking at only three more weeks in the semester, including finals. The light at the end of the tunnel has appeared and is growing day by day. So, let's get started, shall we, and play a little catch up.

The Knit Wits, one of the knitting groups I belong to here in Winona, had a little field trip a couple of weeks ago to Carothers Country Farm Those are not horses you see grazing here. They're llamas. The farm processes wool and also raises and sells Argentine llamas.Being curious animals, they all came running down the hill to check us out, then promptly stood off in a group just looking lovely and waiting for the piropos to come flooding in.This little one didn't want to give me the time of day, just totally ignoring my attempts to get a good photo.Until I remembered that these are Argentine llamas. So I coaxed him over in my best porteño accent, "Che, vení, quiero sacar una foto de vos". And that worked for a second.
I forgot to get a shot of the studs in the other pen. Males and females have to be separated due to the whole induced-ovulator aspect (remember, we talked about this after my visit to Margaret's farm last spring).
How rude, we came right at dinner time.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Third and Final Canoeing Saga Installment

I tried running, but the sand was loose and made me feel like I was fighting quicksand. It truly felt like one of those nightmare experiences where you try to run, but don’t get anywhere. Eventually, however, I made it to within earshot of the man, and breathlessly called for him to wait. I explained our predicament, hoping he would have a boat to get us out to our canoe. He didn’t, but he offered his house for me to call the coast guard. Having no idea that lakes had coast guards, even one this big, I joyfully said, “Yes please!” It felt like it took forever to get back to his house, but eventually we did make the call, with him explaining to them where the canoe was and where we were in relation to it. I thanked him a million times and made my way back to where Juan was planted on the beach, never taking his eyes off the canoe. As we sat there waiting for something to happen, Juan turned to me and said, “Well, now that we have the good news, are you ready for the bad?” I nodded in apprehension just waiting for it to come. “My wallet was in my jacket…. And so were the car keys.” At this point I was so exhausted, I just stared at him. I scanned my memory, trying to think if I had left a window open a crack or forgotten to lock a door. Sometimes we leave the moon roof open a bit, but with the threat of rain, we had definitely left it sealed up tight.

As we waited for the coast guard to appear and my bare shoulders broiled under the hot sun, I envisioned the next steps to the afternoon. The coast guard would pick us up and take us back to the car, where we’d have to somehow call a locksmith to come get it open. At first, I thought I had left my keys in the car, but then remembered that I had left them at the Graham’s house that morning. So getting the car open would not even make it drivable.

Meanwhile, our impatience was turning to worry, as the horizon showed no sign of change. Juan was pacing back and forth, wondering aloud when the coast guard was going to appear, when suddenly he saw a tiny speck in the distance. The canoe was so far out at this point that he could only see it intermittently (I still couldn’t look at it, bobbing out there forlornly). The speck headed in the direction of the canoe, stopped just short of it, and then turned and went back in the direction from which it had come. For at least the fiftieth time that day, we stared at each other open-mouthed. “Where are they going? Why didn’t they get it?” We couldn’t see it at all now, so I wondered if it had been overcome by a wave and had sank to oblivion. The speck suddenly appeared again, drove around a bit, stopped for a while and then left once again. We had no idea what was going on. Had they found it? Had they taken it with them? What if it wasn’t the Coast Guard and just some other people excited to find a canoe floating alone in the lake? If it had been the Coast Guard, why hadn’t they come to get us?

We sat on the beach for a while, wondering what to do next. We had no phone, no canoe, no way to get back to our car, and even if we had gotten back there somehow, we had no way to open it. I sighed and got up to make my way back down the beach again to the nice man’s house. Luckily, he was on his way towards us and met me halfway there. “They got it, but couldn’t come over here because of the rocks. You have to go get the canoe at the station.” I explained our predicament regarding the keys, and he kindly offered to drive us to the Graham’s house to get my set. Luck was still remotely with us, as they had not locked the door so we could come and go as we pleased without having to worry about a spare key. On the way to their house, we asked him if he thought that the jacket would still be in the canoe. He said he wasn’t sure, but from his telescope it appeared that the canoe was floating upside down in the water. We speculated about how it all could have happened, but nothing was satisfactory. We had pulled it far from the water, and although the wind was blowing quite a bit, we had sat on the beach for long enough before the walk to have seen it be moved by the gusts, so we didn't think that was it.

Once back in the car and on the way to the Coast Guard station, we inventoried our potential losses. The paddles and vests were easily replaceable and I wasn’t too concerned about the cardigan. It was just Juan’s jacket with his keys and wallet that we really wanted to be there waiting for us. As we drove into the station, a group of guys were driving out with our canoe on the back of a truck. We motioned for them to stop, and pointed at the canoe. "Where were they taking it?" I wondered aloud. Thirty seconds later and it would have been on its way back to the nice man's house. We confirmed that it was our canoe, asked about the jacket, which they said didn't have, and saw that the two things we didn't care about- the paddles and the life jackets- had floated along with the canoe.

We had talked about getting an ice cream earlier, but at this point were ready for something a little stronger. Over beers at a historic hotel in town, still shell shocked but trying to find the bright side to it all (we had the canoe, a locksmith didn't need to be involved, and all were safe) we both marveled at how young, buff, and attractive the crew of coast guard men had been. And I had been too concerned about the canoe to get a picture for my blog :(

Thursday, October 25, 2007

We Interrupt the Canoeing Saga to Bring You a Knitting Update

The last and final installment of the canoeing saga will be posted tomorrow. I never realized how long it takes to tell a story in writing! For those who have read installment #2, here are some knitting pics:

I finished the other yoga sock and got some better pictures

I have yet to wear them to class yet, but I think this Sunday will be the day.

I made the Calorimetry pattern from Knitty.com for wearing on dog walks and cruising around with the Vino. I think I made it in an afternoon. Very cool pattern w/ short rows and a great left-over yarn project. The button goes underneath, and the idea is that your head is warmer than with a regular ear band, but you can wear your hair up without smooshing your style.

I am making a Clapotis for my friend Rosine because she has done a lot for me in the past year, and I wanted to say thank you. Since she is a knitter, I know she will appreciate a knitted gift. I'm not sure how I feel about the colorway. I'm hoping she will like it, which is all that counts, but I don't like giving a gift I don't LOVE myself. The yarn texture is wonderful, though. It's alpaca and tencel- soooo soft and smooth. Like buttah. Just wish the colors were as yummy.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Latest Installment in the Canoeing Saga

It was a very warm, though breezy day, and as we walked along the beach we constantly had to turn our heads against the blowing sand. Mobi frolicked along, bounding from sand to water. I carried my shoes and camera in my hand and likewise alternated my steps between the cool water and the coarse sand, though in a more subdued manner than Mobi’s reckless tearing around. We walked a good portion of the nearly deserted beach, seeing a cluster of small figures in the distance that appeared to be a couple of dogs and their human. After the cool, wet days of camping in Northern Minnesota, we were all happy to be out in the sun. It had heated up enough for us to leave my cotton cardigan and Juan’s outerwear back in the canoe, and while the wind and dark clouds in the distance heralded a change in weather soon, it seemed likely that we’d have time to get back to the car before the storm hit.

As we headed back towards the spot where we’d left the canoe, I was a little ahead of Juan at that point, and thought it would be funny to say something like “Hey, where’s the canoe?” in an alarmed voice. But turning a slight bend in the beach and upon closer inspection, I realized that I really didn’t see it there and my question turned from mirth to true concern. We looked at each other in shock, and even after it was clearly apparent that there was no red canoe to be seen, just kept walking dumbfounded to the spot where it had been. Standing on the bare beach, panic struck us both at the same time. I ran towards the water, scanning it for any sign that our canoe had somehow come to rest on the bottom. Juan, meanwhile was looking around frantically, saying “someone stole it,” “someone stole our canoe.” I dismissed the idea, considering there was no one around and why on earth would anyone do that anyway? It could have been some teenagers playing a prank, he reasoned. Needing to do something, I began to make my way towards the nearest house, whose backyard included the beach where our tragedy had struck. There were several cars in the yard, making it hard to tell if anyone was home. Walking through their yard, I felt like a trespasser, but I had to make contact with someone. I guess at this point I was going to ask if they had seen a red canoe on the beach, as if that would help. I knocked on the door several times, and although I could hear a dog barking inside, no one came out to meet me. I then started wondering- what if they had stolen our canoe and were really hiding inside waiting for me to go away?

I made my way back to the beach, thinking of how inaccessible we were from anything else. We had just been marveling at the isolation of the beach, as there was no direct access from the road. Only those who lived next to it could get here. What if Juan was right? What if someone had stolen our canoe and was watching us now? Even worse, how would we get back to the car? It was early in the afternoon in the middle of the week. I could go from house to house and find no one at home. My cell phone had been left back in the car, since I didn’t expect to need it on our excursion. As I was just reaching Juan, he exclaimed excitedly “I see it!” “I see it!” “Where??” I asked in disbelief. “Out there,” he said, as he pointed far out on the horizon to a tiny red speck that was bobbing up and down in the waves.

I literally sank to the ground in dismay. It was at least a mile out to into the lake. How were we going to get it? How could this have happened? The canoe had been a wedding present to us from my parents, and at that moment I felt totally unworthy of any gifts from anyone- we didn’t deserve to have nice things. We couldn’t even have a canoe for a full year before losing it to Lake Superior. As I tearfully despaired, Juan kept his eye on the canoe. I couldn’t even look at it, so I looked on down the beach to that cluster of figures we saw earlier. They were closer by now and clearly distinguished themselves as a man and two dogs. I jumped up and took off down the beach with Mobi tearing off in front of me.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Some FOs

Yes, I know I must complete my canoeing saga, and I promise it will be up this weekend. I'm treading water these days just to keep afloat, so bear with me as I squeeze in free time when possible.

I was updating some photos to Ravelry, and thought I would share with ya'll here.

My Sunrise Circle Jacket is almost done. Our 13-hour car ride to WV this past weekend gave me some great knitting time, and all I have to do to my Sunrise Circle Jacket is add the buttons. Here she is, just lounging on the sofa waiting for some love:

I finished this a long time ago, but never did a photo shoot for it. Because we finally only had weather for it this week: my Scholarly Scarf. Join me on my quest for the perfect scarf shot...
Am I in the Shot? shot
Yeah! Now I'm in, but the sun is washing these colors out!Much better! But, it's a scholarly scarf. Shouldn't I be pretending to read something?
Ah ha! That's it. This is the one.

This Sunday marks a big day for the Winona YMCA yogaphiles: the return of Sunday yoga with Mary!!! This is the best way to wind down the weekend- an hour and a half of intense but relaxing yoga, followed by a soak in the hot tub, then wet and dry saunas, respectively. Yum, yum, yum. My yoga friends and I have been abuzz about this for a month now, just counting down the weekends. To celebrate the day, I am hoping to have two yoga socks done by class time. Yoga socks leave the heel and the ball of your foot free, so you can still have traction on a yoga mat, while keeping the top of your foot and the ankle warm. It can get quite cold in the studio, so I think these will be a great asset.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

How I Earned My Outdoors Bead: Part I

The time has come. I am ready to talk about it now. Many of you have probably already heard the story, so you can skip on down to drool over Indian food, or keep reading and have a laugh all over again.

I believe it was day four of our FIG Road Trip 2007 MN-ME. We had been camping at Split Rock Lighthouse and already canoed in Lake Superior. We were paddling road warriors ready for more adventure, no challenge on land nor sea would be too daunting for us. After having traveled for the whole previous day, topping the night off with a sauna and delicious meal, we felt refreshed and ready to explore the gorgeous town of Marquette, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Janet and Gary Graham, our illustrious hosts, suggested a leisurely trip down the Chocolay River, which eventually opens into Lake Superior. The plan was to drift downstream until we reached the lake, have a picnic lunch, and then paddle back upstream before an impending storm reached town. It was a hot, mostly sunny day, with some brisk wind coming from the lake and dark clouds in the distance, promising to arrive by late afternoon.

We put in at the designated launch, bringing along Mobi, my camera, and a packed lunch. I was wearing a cardigan (not handmade) to protect me from the sun and for some reason, Juan was wearing some sort of outerwear that was not really appropriate for the weather. We paddled along the winding river, seeing lots of ducks and geese and marveling at the houses with such a beautiful location to call home. It was quiet and peaceful and we were really enjoying ourselves.

All too quickly, we turned a bend.In the distance, beyond the bridge, the lake appeared. Though slowly at first, as we got closer its vast expanse grew larger until it filled our horizon. Here we were, face to face with the mighty Lake Superior. So big, a drop of water remains in the lake for 191 years. So grand it manifests itself like an ocean, with tides and waves and storms so fierce they have sank 350 ships, including many carriers. This is not a body of water you want to mess with.

The strength of the river's current quickly increased as we approached its mouth. We steered the canoe towards the beach, pulling it onto a deserted stretch of sand. Marveling at the privacy afforded by no road access, we stretched out and had lunch while Mobi tore around, enjoying herself immensely. The wind was blowing quite strongly, so despite the hot sun we were comfortable.After 30 minutes or so, full and happy, we decided to take a walk along the beach before heading back. I took off my cardigan and Juan his jacket, leaving them in the canoe. At the last minute, I grabbed my camera"just in case" and pulled the canoe a little further from the water before setting off down the beach...

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Something to read while I gather myself together

I am currently working on writing up one of our interesting adventures this summer, involving a red Charles River canoe and the Marquette, MI, Coast Guard. Writing about it forces me to relive the trauma, so it may take a while to get the whole story out. In the meantime, I'll give you something else to read.

Gaby and Alejandra have both posted a game where you take the 5th paragraph of page 161 of the book you are reading. Curious, I grabbed the closest at hand to see what came up. This is from a new book of Adolfo Bioy Casares's diary entries and notes about his good friend and collaborator Jorge Luis Borges, titled, aptly, Borges. The book is over 1600 pages long, so I just try to read a few entries a day with no particular goal for finishing. The entry goes as follows:

martes, 8 de mayo [1956] "Despues del almuerzo, la madre de Borges me hace leer una pagina de Borges que se titula "Borges y yo": algo muy sencillo, escrito de una manera llana, triste, noble."

My translation:
Tuesday, May 8th "After lunch, Borges's mother had me read something of his called 'Borges and I': something very simple, written in such a plain, sad, noble way."

The text Bioy is referring to is below, in translation, copied from here. For you Spanish speakers, the original text can be read here.

To the other one, to Borges, is to whom things happen. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and I delay myself, perhaps almost mechanically, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; from Borges I find out through the mail and I see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belong[s] to no-one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, although I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things. Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being: the stone eternally wants to be stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books tha[n] in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belong[s] to oblivion, or to him.

I do not know which of us has written this page.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Indian Food at Home

I recently made two fabulous Indian dishes at home, thanks to Cook's Illustrated.
Recommended viewing accompaniment: Water: the latest film by Deepa Mehta

While I was feeling ambitious and full of culinary energy, and so decided to tackle both at once, I would recommend doing the chopping, dicing and spice measuring ahead of time, so when it comes time to cook, you just have to throw it all together.
This is Chicken Tikka Masala, a tomato-based dish.This dish is best when prepared with whole-milk yogurt, but low-fat yogurt can be substituted. For a spicier dish, do not remove the ribs and seeds from the chile. If you prefer, substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper for the garam masala. The sauce can be made ahead, refrigerated for up to 4 days in an airtight container, and gently reheated before adding the hot chicken. Serve with basmati rice.


Chicken Tikka
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon table salt
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts , trimmed of fat
1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (see note above)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

Masala Sauce
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium onion , diced fine (about 1 1/4 cups)
2 medium garlic cloves , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
1 fresh serrano chile , ribs and seeds removed, flesh minced (see note above)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon garam masala (see note above)
1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1. FOR THE CHICKEN: Combine cumin, coriander, cayenne, and salt in small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of chicken with spice mixture, pressing gently so mixture adheres. Place chicken on plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 30 to 60 minutes. In large bowl, whisk together yogurt, oil, garlic, and ginger; set aside.
2. FOR THE SAUCE: Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until light golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, chile, tomato paste, and garam masala; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in cream and return to simmer. Remove pan from heat and cover to keep warm.
3. While sauce simmers, adjust oven rack to upper-middle position (about 6 inches from heating element) and heat broiler. Using tongs, dip chicken into yogurt mixture (chicken should be coated with thick layer of yogurt) and arrange on wire rack set in foil-lined rimmed baking sheet or broiler pan. Discard excess yogurt mixture. Broil chicken until thickest parts register 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer and exterior is lightly charred in spots, 10 to 18 minutes, flipping chicken halfway through cooking.
4. Let chicken rest 5 minutes, then cut into 1-inch chunks and stir into warm sauce (do not simmer chicken in sauce). Stir in cilantro, adjust seasoning with salt, and serve.

A great vegetarian option is veggie curry, which includes cauliflower, peas, and potatoes.This curry is moderately spicy when made with one chile. For more heat, use an additional half chile. For a mild curry, remove the chile's ribs and seeds before mincing. Onions can be pulsed in a food processor. You can substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon for the garam masala. Serve with Basmati Rice Pilaf, passing yogurt and at least one type of chutney or relish at the table.

2 tablespoons curry powder (sweet or mild)
1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala (see note above)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 medium onions , chopped fine (about 2 cups)
12 ounces Red Bliss potatoes , scrubbed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
3 medium cloves garlic , minced or pressed through a garlic press (about 1 tablespoon)
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 - 1 1/2 serrano chiles , ribs, seeds, and flesh minced (see note above)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 medium head cauliflower , trimmed, cored, and cut into 1-inch florets (about 4 cups)
1 can (14 1/2 ounces) diced tomatoes , pulsed in food processor until nearly smooth with 1/4-inch pieces visible
1 1/4 cups water
1 (15 ounce) can chickpeas , drained and rinsed
Table salt
8 ounces frozen peas (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 cup heavy cream or coconut milk

1. Toast curry powder and garam masala in small skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until spices darken slightly and become fragrant, about 1 minute. Remove spices from skillet and set aside.
2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onions and potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are caramelized and potatoes are golden brown on edges, about 10 minutes. (Reduce heat to medium if onions darken too quickly.)
3. Reduce heat to medium. Clear center of pan and add remaining tablespoon oil, garlic, ginger, chile, and tomato paste; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add toasted spices and cook, stirring constantly, about 1 minute longer. Add cauliflower and cook, stirring constantly, until spices coat florets, about 2 minutes longer.
4. Add tomatoes, water, chickpeas, and 1 teaspoon salt; increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to boil, scraping bottom of pan with wooden spoon to loosen browned bits. Cover and reduce heat to medium. Simmer briskly, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Stir in peas and cream or coconut milk; continue to cook until heated through, about 2 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning with salt and serve immediately, passing condiments separately.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

What I've NOT been knitting

My knitting decreased towards the end of the summer, in spite of the fact that I was traveling quite a bit, which tends to be my most productive time. So, I will display for you my unfinished projects of Summer 2007 and you can decide if my excuses are valid enough to justify such a vacuous knitting month:

This project I WILL actually finish, but since I won't be seeing its recipient for a couple more months, I've had no motivation to get it done right now. I started knitting Julian a sweater in July or so, in his favorite color. The pattern is Sherwood from Knitty.com. I modified it by not including the cabled pattern on the sleeves, because I thought it looked cooler with ribbing only.
Just a sleeve, the collar and some loose ends to go!
More detailed shot of the "tree" cable pattern.

My next unfinished project involves, surprise surprise, that cotton yarn I can't seem to do anything with. I was going to make a really cute racer-back tunic, but the smallest size was coming out way too big, a problem I later learned most knitters had with this pattern. It's called the Prairie Tunic, and is supposed to look like this:Soooo cute, right? *sigh* After traveling to Spain and back in my suitcase without being knit once and looking a bit worse for wear, I'm thinking this is going to be frogged as soon as I can bear to do it. I was really excited about this, but I can already tell it's going to be way too big and I'll never wear it. I'm really starting to think this yarn is cursed.The other pattern I was sure I was going to love, but that soon turned my thoughts dour was to be my second pair of socks. Hundreds of knitters on Ravelry have managed to knit out a decent pair of these socks, but I am really not liking the "Magic loop" technique called for. It leaves an obvious stretched line down the side. I knew they were destined to be frogged when I was at my knitting group, and someone commented on how pretty they were. My response? "I HATE these socks!" Wow- tell us how you feel Vanessa... The worst thing about these socks is that when I finish the first one, I have to make another.

So, after all these false and/or stalled starts, I just stopped knitting for a while. Luckily, I've since regained my senses and I have started a new project- my favorite kind. A sweater for me. I love making things for other people, but there is a lot of stress about how it will come out, will they like it, will it fit/work for them, so, with me, at least I know I'll wear it. It's also been tricky to find knitting time because we no longer have tv, so there's less excuse to knit. Though we do still have Netflix. I'm currently working my way through the second season of Rome, one of the best shows ever made.This blob here is the back of my sweater. It's a raglan decrease and there is some dart shaping at the waist, I just couldn't get it to lay flat for the picture. The next shot is of the sleeve that I'm expanding to make one front half of the Sunrise Circle Cardigan, from Interweave Knits- last fall's issue, I believe. Here's what it's supposed to look like when I'm done with it:

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Beads, Badges, and Campfire fun!

The theme for series five of the cast-on podcast is Campfire fun.Now, I was a campfire girl before moving on through several levels of Girl Scouts, and many of my young weekends were spent earning badges. Ridiculous numbers of badges. I loved being faced with a variety of challenges, doing them, and then getting a really cool embroidered badge for it. (hmmm... indication of a later interest in fiber arts?) It was satisfying on numerous levels: 1) yankee mentality that sees all free time as an opportunity to be productive 2) exploring, creating, thinking, learning 3) immersing myself in a particular topic for a while and then moving on to something else 4) accumulating pretty little tokens that I could show off to others.

Fast forward oh, let's say 15 years or so, and in steps Brenda Dayne to bring it all back. On her website, you can see a list of requirements from the 1914 edition of the Campfire Manual for the HOME bead. Some of my personal favorites are the following, with my commentary, because, well, it is my blog, isn't it?

Cooking: a) Prepare a gruel, a cereal, an eggnog, and milk toast and arrange an invalid’s tray attractively. (Is this supposed to be the invalid's meal?) b) Write out a menu for three weeks suitable for a school girl who is inclined to be too stout. ("inclined to be stout"???)

Marketing: Market for one week one week on one dollar and a half per person, keeping accounts and records of menus, etc. (If only!)

Laundry: a) Do a family washing, using modern labor-saving devices if possible. (Heck, I should be getting THREE badges a week!) b) Use two agents for softening water, two soaps for different uses, two kinds of starch for different uses, two methods of bluing, and two household methods of bleaching. (you mean, I can't just divide lights and darks and be done with it?)

Housekeeping: a) Wash and wipe dishes and leave the dining room in order, after one meal a day, for two months. (Ok, make that five badges a week) b) Take care of the milk and cream from at least one cow, and see that the pails and pans are properly cleaned for two months. (um, anyone got a cow I can borrow?) c) Repack a faucet. (I'm sorry, what?) d) Install an electric bell and care for it for three months. (And again... huh?)

Baby Craft a) Know how much a baby should grow in weight each week for the first six months, in height for each month for the first year, the relation of weight to disease and vitality. (Isn't that what the Internet's for?) b) Know and describe three kinds of baby cries and what they mean. (Can I substitute Mobi sounds/behavior?)

Next up, still under the HOME bead, we have Entertainment. Because after you've planned and prepared all the household meals, cleaned the place top to bottom and cared for all the children and infirm, you are expected to provide the entertainment of the evening. This could include such fun as a) Play from memory five piano pieces of the difficulty of Schumann’s “Scenes from Childhood, or perhaps b) Commit and recite five hundred lines of standard poetry, or maybe you'd rather c) Know and tell five standard folk stories. I think I'll take d) Plan and give a pantomime entertainment