Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How Laura saved Christmas

Ever since going to Off the Waffle, I have been obsessed with the idea of making Liege waffles at home. (Mostly because driving eight hours for breakfast is ridiculous. But if you start by aiming to drive eight hours for dinner at Marché, stay the night, THEN have breakfast at Off the Waffle, it's totally reasonable.)

So. I found a recipe, I ordered the special sugar, and I had planned to make them Christmas morning. I had glanced through the recipe, and read some stuff online that said that they needed to rise for an hour. My plan was to pull my ingredients the night before, get up an hour before the rest of the family, prep the waffles, and let them rise while we open gifts.

While I was busily paving the road to Hell with all my good intentions, I printed out the recipe, and really looked at it. This recipe had better curl my toes for how much work it is. Read for yourself, I'll stay here.

1 1/2 hours to rise, do some stuff, let it rise for 4 hours, fridge for 30 mins, do some stuff, fridge it overnight,  do some stuff, let it rise 90 minutes, THEN throw it on the waffle iron.

(For those of you doing the math, that's 6 hours of waiting the day before, then - let's assume that overnight is another 8 hours, then another 1 1/2 hours. That's 15 1/2 hours of prep.)

Naturally, I was disappointed that I had RUINED CHRISTMAS by promising the family fancy Belgian waffles, and now they were going to get boring old scrambled eggs. Laura had been busily texting me while she was getting ready, making sure we had all necessary provisions in place.

When I dramatically announced that the waffles weren't happening, due a complete and utter failure to plan on my part, she directed me to a cookbook (practically to the page) so that we could still have delicious waffles, minus the 15 1/2 hours of prep. See?

That is a cow waffle. Mmm! (You can find the waffle iron here; you'll never have ho-hum waffles!)

And that is how Laura saved Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

One hour

Yesterday was a whirlwind of crazy.

I'm usually very ahead of my game when it comes to planning, but somehow I ended up at grocery stores the week of Christmas. Specifically, FOUR grocery stores, for different things. We accomplished a lot using my "surgical strike" grocery shopping technique, but thankfully, that's all over now.

We were assigned desserts for all of the gatherings we're attending, which is cool. I could have done One Dessert to Rule Them All, but where is the fun in that? (Also, we'll have some overlap in guests at a couple of these things, so I need to keep it interesting.)

At least one of the guests tonight is vegan. I had been listening to the most recent episode of The Knit Wits Podcast (which is funny even if you're not a knitter), and Carin mentioned a vegan strawberry "cheesecake". She was kind enough to share the recipe on their forum group, and so, a vegan strawberry cheesecake I made.

Mmm, vegan!

It's remarkably simple- basically throw two sets of stuff into your food processor (or in my case, Laura's food processor, which I have on loan this week), freeze, eat pie. It's pretty tasty, but you can't think "This is going to taste like cheesecake." Instead think, "This is a delicious vegan dessert," and you'll like it a lot.

After I made the vegan cheesecake, I looked at it and wondered if I should do something else. After all, the prep took about 10 minutes, and I wasn't sure how many folks would be attending. I called our hostess, and let her know that I had the ingredients for an apple pie as well, and could easily throw one together. She let me know that a homemade apple pie wouldn't go to waste, so with my handy sous chef (Mom), we threw that pie together in a half hour.

It smells SOOOOOO good!

At the same time, Andrew was prepping a cake for last night's get together. You would think this wouldn't work in our "one butt" kitchen, but Andrew and I have a natural choreography. We're like figure skaters in that tiny kitchen, but with a few less sequins, and loads of illegal lifts. (Take THAT, U.S. Figure Skating Association!)

In one hour, we had (mostly) made three desserts. The house smelled incredible, and had that special kind of warmth that only an oven can provide.

Now, the tough part is waiting for tonight's festivities before cracking into them. I think the only way to do that, is to bake cupcakes. Thank goodness we picked up that 50 lb bag of flour yesterday  .

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

We are loved

Last night, Andrew was making dinner, and the smoke alarm went off. Normally, you open some windows, fan the smoke away from the detector, problem solved.


The previous owner of our home had a home alarm installed. If the fire alarm or the home alarm was triggered, it would broadcast the alarm to the whole. Entire. Neighborhood.

Despite all of the stuff I've burned, and all the smoke I've managed to get going in the house, I have never triggered the smoke alarm. It took us a few minutes to realize that the smoke alarm wasn't just annoying us, it was alerting the whole. Entire. Neighborhood.

There was a bit of drama getting it quieted down, but the heartwarming thing is this: all of our neighbors came to make sure that we were all okay. There was three waves of concerned neighbors, which means that everyone checked for themselves, instead of assuming that "someone else" would check.

I have incredibly strong feelings about "someone else". I'm usually the person who says something, makes the call, or goes to check. I know that in the horror movie version of the world, this dooms me, but it's just who I am. I'm terrified at the thought that we'll all "someone else" and while everyone stands around with a concerned ear, passing the buck to "someone else", nobody will help.

I always think, "Well, I *am* someone else."

So, while Andrew was working on finding the code again (which he did), I got to chat with the neighbors and assure them that we were fine, and tell them about our few days in the house. (How the POLICE came to check while I was moving the first load of stuff into our new house, alone, looking punky and disreputable with my pink hair back in a bandanna.)

Our newest neighbor mentioned how glad she was to see all the turnout for our alarm, and how much better it made her feel. I'm really glad that our neighborhood is extraordinary in that it's full of "someone else"s.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Houston, we have sleeves

I don't usually knit on a deadline. I think it sucks the joy out of knitting, and I've said so. Over and over and over again, ad nauseum. 

Yesterday I decided that it was time to sit down and get some knitting done. I sat and knitted for the better part of the afternoon and evening- stopping periodically to hydrate, nourish, and stretch (of course). It. Was. Heaven.

(The only thing that could have made it better would have been if I'd had a good-looking man feeding me chocolate and massaging my feet while I did it. But he was out seeing TRON.)

This is the body of Cece, in all her Spinach-y glory

Not only did I get 1 1/2 sleeves done on my Beloved Cece, I also got halfway through Season 2 of Dr. Who (with David Tennant). In less than six hours.

I can't believe this sweater has taken me so long. I know it's because it has been neglected in favor of Meghan's Twist Cardigan, which is sitting politely in it's bag waiting for the sleeves to be set in before I can knit the collar and buttonbands. Both the Twist and Meghan are okay with the waiting, though for you naysayers (coughTikacough) I am happy to tell you that Meghan will be getting her half of the sweater swap.

The thing about Cece is that her construction is a lot like Ariann, which I finished knitting last year before Rhinebeck. (Now that I'm thinking about it, that makes my Rhinebeck 2009 sweater count to be two sweaters. Not bad!)

The major difference is that Cece is knit out of sport weight yarn and Ariann is knit out of worsted. They're both beautiful, but Cece is taking me just *this* much longer. (She's still worth it, have no doubt.) I've even picked a beautiful button to be The One:

Doesn't it look like a minimalist artichoke?

I'm powering through the sleeves to get to my favorite part - joining them and knitting the yoke all in one piece. Despite the fact that it's (approximately) one MILLION BILLION stitches per row, there's something incredibly satisfying about seeing something that looks like a finished sweater on your needles.

I think that's when I'll go to a coffee shop to work on it, with a pocket full of business cards for my favorite LYS. There's nothing like seeing a nearly finished project to inspire people to start knitting before the holidays.

Enabler, out.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Block, blocking, blocked

When I was in marching band, lo those many years ago, we had an instructor who would say, "If you can say it, you can play it." I'm of the opinion that the saying works just as well for knitting.

Say it with me: block, blocking, blocked. See? Easy.

I would by lying if I told you it was quick. It's a little tedious, but the payoff is there. See?

Meghan's Twist Cardigan, almost finished!
Here's what I did.

I wove my dressing (or blocking) wires up both outside edges, then through every single stitch on both outside edges of the cables. (Precision work like this totally tickles my OCD, for the record.) This sweater has beautiful shaping, so blocking it square would be positively criminal.

I used the same technique to block Meghan's Twist that I used for my own- to only block the edges and the cables so that the cables would pop. (This brilliant idea was shared by Kathy in San Jose.)

It's a runway of cable-y goodness.

And BOY do they!

It took three episodes of Battlestar Galactica (two hours, fifteen minutes) to get it totally blocked- from setting up the Knitter's Blocks through steaming it. I know you're thinking "Two and a half hours? That's a lot of time."

Here's the payoff: the family has been living with this sweater. They've seen it nearly every day since I started swatching for it a few months back. Every single person who passes this sweater on the table stops to admire it, and comment on the difference that blocking has made. Every. Single. Person. (This makes me think that I really should have done a "before" picture. Next time.)

I love the effect of blocking. It really elevates the level of my work, and corrects a multitude of tiny inconsistencies. It also means spending some quality time with Steamy, and you know how I look forward to our encounters.

And for those of you who use the all-too-common "It'll block out," this goes doubly for you. It can't block out if you don't do the blocking.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Yesterday, Andrew and I celebrated our sixth wedding anniversary. We have two wedding anniversaries, technically, and yesterday was the first. Since it fell on a Tuesday, it was Tuesday as usual (errands, laundry, a little knitting) until Andrew got home.

Andrew brought me my favorite flowers, which I don't know the name of, but I still love them:

Can you name these flowers? I call them "Red Lilies".
But there was more. You see, when you've been with someone for a few years, they notice things. Like your favorite chocolate:

The one on top is my favorite-favorite, and there *were* two.
But what I was the most excited about, was this:

Mmmmm! The flavor of love is "pickled".

Yes. Pickled cocktail onions. Two years ago (at a fancy dinner) I had my first martini, and while I thought the martini was merely "eh", the cocktail onions stole my heart. We stopped at a grocery store in our fancy-pants clothes so that I could get a jar. (I might have eaten two or three jars worth over a couple of weeks. Maybe.) If it's pickled, there's a good chance that I'll love it.

But that's not all.

After that, we went for something that I was having a hankerin' for. Fried pickles and garlic parmesan wings, and there's only one place around here that has them.

For the knitters: Sock is the Vanilla Sock with the Andrew variation, out of Creatively Dyed J'ouvert (Cake)
Now, before you start telling me about how Hooters objectifies women, I already know. In an attempt to support anyone *but* Hooters, I have tried the fried pickles at places like The Counter (Caution: Noisy website), which is very fancy-pantsy, and they're not half as good.

(Though, the Counter is where I go if I have a hankering for an excellent burger. And ogle the waiter who looks like John Barrowman.) In order to get good fried food in this area, you've got to go to a seedy joint like Hooters. That's a fact.

So, in short, it seems that in six years of marriage, Andrew has figured out the mystery-wrapped-in-an-enigma-sprinkled-with-intreague that is me.

And the answer, evidently, is food.

Monday, December 13, 2010

To Miss K, with love

Dear Erin;

Happy belated birthday! As your BFF, it's my responsibility to make sure that your birthday is awesome. We've both been very busy, and due to shortages in materials, your birthday gift was delayed.

Before we talk presents, let's talk about you. You're smart, gorgeous, talented, and HILARIOUS! You are always up for a crazy adventure, a creature feature, and the occasional accidental adult zombie flick. (I'm still sorry about that one.) You're always a good sport, and you make me smile even when I'm in the middle of a bad mood.

More than that, you are a good friend to me - the best! I love that you've offered to menace people at the wool auction on my behalf, and offer to shank people who make my life harder. You're the O'Brien to my Bashir. The Chakotay to my Janeway.  The Picard to my Riker. The Spock to my Kirk. You get the picture.

You'll always share a good story, chores, or a bowl of pho with me. You're willing to try my culinary experiments, and you're always very encouraging.

I know that you feel overwhelmed by your stuff right now- that's normal during and after a move. I wanted to do something for you that would be clutter-free, special, and a little decadent.

Step 1
These are made with Jackie's secret cupcake recipe

I managed to talk Jackie into giving me her ultra-secret perfect chocolate cupcake recipe. It's a totally from-scratch recipe, and in my opinion, the best cupcake ever to pass my lips. I wanted a spectacular base for the main part of your gift, the blue whipped cream roses.

Blue roses

I was going to do blue gumpaste roses, which I found a few months ago. I hunted everywhere, and there was no gumpaste to be had in all the land. I ended up at Barbara of Pauline's (in Willow Glen), and Barbara herself took me in the back and taught me how to make whipped cream roses.

(Quick segway- Barbara of Pauline's reminds me of one of those yarn shops that's been open for 40 years, where they teach you what you want to learn then and there, and they have Definite Opinions about how Things ought to be. Barbara has a wealth of knowledge that she shares; she was patient with my uncoordinated self, and was able to isolate my technical issues and explained clearly how to fix them.)

You read about how I practiced making the whipped cream roses, and that was so that yours would be beeeautimous. I used food coloring to make your roses blue (your favorite color of rose), and I also used just a tiny bit of rose water in to give them a faintly rosey smell. Mom and Laura helped with putting the green on the cupcakes, and we all ended up faintly Smurf-colored by the end of the night.

I hope this year is a great one for you with plenty of time for you to do the things that you want, lots of fiber, and projects that turn out perfectly.


Your Feffalina

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Diminished capacity

Today, I learned a new skill:

A thing of wonder and beauty

I learned how to make whipped cream roses. Since I'm a kinetic learner (meaning: I've got to do it to learn it), I bought a pint of whipped cream and practiced making roses while watching the newest episode of Glee.

The best way to learn how to make roses out of whipped cream (or anything out of whipped cream, for that matter) is to whip up a pint, sit with your family, practice the task, and then eat the results, rinse, repeat. You develop the skill, and your family consumes a ridiculous amount of whipped cream. It's a great activity for bonding the family, in my opinion.

(My favorite part was declaring the defective ones, then eating them. The good ones were admired for a moment before being consumed.)

As you can imagine, with that quantity of whipped cream Things were bound to ensue. Mom declaring that the next rose was hers (out of turn); Andrew screaming about whipped cream rose conspiracies. I might have kicked something over and declared the living room to be Sparta. (That's not an admission of guilt, it's just ... something that *could* have happened. Get my drift?)

In any case, in planning future activities, the following conversation took place between me and Laura'nge:

Laura'nge: So, I'll pick you up for yoga tomorrow?
Me: For the early class or the regular one?
Laura'nge: Wait, you're planning to go to two classes?
Me: I think I can do it, but it might be the whipped cream talking.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


When I'm running late
Every light I hit is red
I look like a jerk.
No, this isn't today. Disk Dr, Rapid City, SD 07/2004

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Santa drives a Geo Metro this year

Part of the adventuring that has kept me from blogging has been the insane amount of time I've been spending in the car.

In my opinion, gifts that take arrangement and planning are usually the best ones. This year, I got my mom the Best Gift Ever. If you listen to the podcast, you know that she has wanted a vintage treadle Singer sewing machine for YEARS. As in, ever since they left the one they had in Germany. Every time a vintage machine is mentioned, or at a yard/estate sale, we stop, and for some reason or another, the machines fail to impress.

Fast forward to Oregon Flock and Fiber 2010. I was chatting with a listener (Elaine, who is AWESOME), who collects and repairs vintage sewing machines. She mentioned that she was looking to unload a few of them (to good homes) and I may have mentioned that Mom has always wanted a vintage treadle Singer. Elaine said she had just the one, and let me know that she would get back to me with pictures.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. Elaine sent pictures, stats, and a price, and I was a little lost. It looked really, really good, but I wasn't sure if it was exactly right. So, I blew the surprise and let Mom know that I was going to make this sewing machine happen for her, if it's the right one. I just didn't know enough about a) sewing machines and b) what she was looking for, specifically, to make this decision with confidence. Mom loved it, so I set things in motion.

Here's the tough part. The machine was north of Seattle, and for those of you playing the home game, I live in Silicon Valley. 13 1/2 hours each direction, by car (according to Mapquest). You betcha that this puppy can't be shipped.

"It's ok, Mom," I said, "It's totally worth it. Merry Christmas!"

In a fit of shock, enthusiasm, and perhaps a little self-pity, I posted to Facebook that I might be taking an impromtu road trip Seattle-ward to see a lady about a vintage Singer. A friend of mine (through my BFF Miss Kalendar) generously offered to do the pickup for me. It turns out that she was *already* going to be driving up and back to Seattle, and she didn't mind being one of Santa's non-Unionized elves.

She arranged the pickup details with Elaine, and we made plans for me to pick up the machine from her place (in Santa Rosa) on Wednesday. Joined by my partner in adventuring (Laura), we ran errands all the way up to Santa Rosa and picked up this beauty from Delightful Lila:

I should have told you to brace yourself. Sorry. (Picture courtesy of Elaine, the Singer fairy)
What? You need a better look at the machine itself? I understand.

Have you ever seen anything more perfect? (Picture courtesy of Elaine, the Singer fairy)
Laura and I had a long, traffic-riddled drive home after the machine pickup, so we decided to stop for dinner. Fortunately, I had a recommendation from the incredible Rosemary Hill. Other than being a brilliant knitwear designer and creator of AMAZING jewelry, she also has phenomenal taste in food. She recommended Syrah Bistro in Santa Rosa.

I love a good Syrah, and along with having a staggeringly awesome wine selection, the food was incredible! We had the world's best waitress (sever? Is "waitress" still PC?), and enjoyed a leisurely meal while we waited out traffic. We got home just after 10 PM, and the guys cheerfully unloaded it into Mom's house.

Mom had seen the pictures, and it's even more beautiful in person. The gasp of delight as we walked through the door with the cabinet and the machine was amazing. (For the record, historically when Mom has gasped, it's Not a Good Thing.) Andrew still has to mount the machine on the cabinet, but it's on the docket for today so that Mom can start enjoying the machine now.

Thanks to Elaine the Singer Fairy and Delightful Lila, Andrew and I have managed to make this the best Christmas ever for Mom. The best gifts are the ones that require Ocean's 11 type planning and precision, don't you think?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Full of spirit

I have been swept up by the Holiday Spirit. That means something different for everyone, I know, but for me it means baking, Christmas music, and family functions. I have strict rules around the holidays, but they're mostly there so that I can really get my jolly on.

Like my main rule, no Christmas music before Thanksgiving. First Halloween, then Thanksgiving, THEN Christmas. Get it straight, retailers. I love Christmas music, just at the right time of year. I especially love *my* holiday playlist, which includes Michael Bublé (shock!), Frank Sinatra, Brian Setzer's orchestra, the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, and a few of the Carols for Cure CDs which support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

I'm most enthusiastic about the last set of CDs. It's holiday music done by Broadway actors. Aside from supporting a great cause, the music is pretty great.  Some of the songs are interpreted in the style of the show that the singers were doing (concurrent with the recording), and some are the classic arrangements performed by wicked talented singers. (I put all my holiday music into iTunes, make sure the genre is tagged with "Holiday", and play it all on shuffle.)

On a more traditional note, we went to see MiddleJ perform in The Nutcracker last night. I'm not normally a fan of ballet, but I am MiddleJ's biggest fan, and not in the creepy Kathy-Bates-in-Misery way. (By the way, thanks Steven King. Way to ruin a perfectly nice sentiment.) MiddleJ is incredibly talented, and I find more and more to enjoy about the performance every year.

This year, it was the wicked adorable little kids in the production, mostly the ones playing mice, soldiers, and the cutest of all, the lambs. Watching little kids do ballet is ADORABLE. They remind me of a herd of puppies- cute and enthusiastic, which upstages all of the fancy-pants ballet dancers. (This is scientific proof that enthusiasm trumps talent, for the record.)

In any case, at the end of the show, I took the opportunity for a knitterly photo-op:

(The photo is blurry, but my photographer is tall and handsome. You understand.)
What's that? A sock with a future afterthought heel? It's the sock of choice for all Nutcrackers; you saw it here first.