Wednesday, July 31, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Sweat. Eat. Repeat.

I had a whole other theme thought out for today's post, but I'll have to save that for another time.  So look forward to hearing about some fiber purchases I made last weekend.  But right now, I'm in recovery mode from this evening's workout, and that's all I can really think about.

I'm in the second week of Hal Higdon's Novice Supreme marathon training program, which specified a three-mile run for today.  I usually run on the treadmilll before joining my group exercise class, but I only rack a little over two miles in 30 minutes, then give myself about ten minutes to refocus on whatever torture the trainer has devised.  Could I squeeze in another mile?  And then do a whole other workout?

You know it!

Now, the question remains, can I get out of bed tomorrow morning?

I'll deal with that hurdle when the alarm goes off.  For now, I'm just digesting my delicious post-workout dinner.  Brace yourselves, because I did not have pancakes.  No, this time I went with something completely different: chana masala from Tarka Indian Kitchen, and Tutti Frutti frozen yogurt.  Aside from the proximity to frozen yogurt, I chose Tarka because I've recently found that I quite like Indian food, making my dad and I the only two who do.  So we have to take advantage of our opportunities to enjoy it, and I have to make my way through a menu full of wonderful-sounding dishes.  Chickpea curry?  Yum.  And Taro frozen yogurt for dessert?  Double yum.

I don't have an action shot of my cardigan sleeve sitting in a pile of basmati rice, you'll be happy to know.  But I am a few inches into the ribbing there, and I've added a few layers of wrapping onto my single cop.  If I can run three miles, then bust out a great group exercise class, I'm sure I can get these WIPs turned into FOs soon!

For more WIP posts, visit Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Not-so-centered thoughts

I decided to go to the gym for my run this afternoon, and thought that I might as well join the group yoga class while I was there.  I'm guessing that these are not the calming thoughts that I'm supposed to empty my mind with:

  • My feet are cold.
  • What am I going to make for dinner?
  • What's on TV tonight?
  • I should publish that article on Examiner when I get home.
  • Top Model with guys...
  • My feet are cold.
  • My calf muscles are just not long enough.
  • What should I bake for next week?
  • I should paint my nails.
  • My feet are cold.
Namaste, everybody.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Banana Velvet Loaf Cake

There are lots of ways to save people.  When you donate blood, they like to tell you that you saved two lives.  That certainly feels good, knowing that for very little effort you can play an important role in someone's physical ability to breathe in and out.

On a much smaller scale, though, feeding people baked goods does its own kind of saving.  When I brought this to our coffee klatch, one of my coworkers took two slices and exclaimed that this was just what he needed to make his day better.  That also feels good.

To make sure that my iron levels were high enough to donate, I consciously made an effort to eat foods high in iron.  Last time the blood drive came through, I missed the cut by one point.  Along with my daily multivitamin, I had shrimp for dinner a few night, and tried beet greens for the first time.  I sautéed both leaves and stems with garlic, which was actually pretty tasty.  And with the deep, vibrant colors, you just know you're getting lots of tasty vitamins.

While chocolate cake doesn't immediately appear to be similarly nutritious, when it's made with a couple of mashed bananas instead of butter or oil, it's not without redeeming factors.  Plus, there's the old standby excuse of it being food that's good for you...good for your soul.

Banana Velvet Loaf Cake
Recipe from One Good Thing: Simple Three-Ingredient Banana Bread

My notes:
  • I used Mam Papaul's Black Velvet cake mix (saving the frosting mix for another time)
  • I added Peanut M&Ms into the batter, and sprinkled some dried banana chip pieces on top
  • This makes a very moist cake.  The recipe calls it banana bread, but I think loaf cake is much more accurate.  As one person remarked, this is much more like an indulgent chocolate brownie with banana than a banana bread with cocoa.
  • I made a full-sized loaf in a 11" x 6" pan, and a little mini loaf using a 4" x 2.5" pan for one of my mom's co-workers who celebrated a birthday.  The full-sized loaf took closer to an hour to bake, while the mini loaf was closer to 20 minutes.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Royal baby shawls

Now, I'm not an avid royal-watcher.  I will admit to having a coffee cup commemorating William and Kate's wedding, but it's at least 50% ironic.  There's something nostalgic about having a little piece of memorabilia, it makes me think of lovely little old ladies in the UK with the full set sitting in their window on some faded white doilies.  And there's something kind of wicked about imagining what her face would look like if she saw me sipping instant coffee out of my delicate little mug.

So amongst the hubbub of the royal baby, I haven't been on tenterhooks, but I'm also not antagonistically cynical.  Especially when I saw one of the presents baby George will be receiving.  I don't know much about baby gifts, but I'm guessing that a lot of his are platinum and engraved.  At least one, though, is knit.

Apparently in 1982, William had a shawl specially designed, spun, and knit for him by Margaret Stove as his official gift from New Zealand.  The Summer 2013 issue of Spin Off has an article by Stove all about it.  For William's son, a shawl was again hand spun and knit, this time by Cynthia Read, but the design was one of Stove's:
Photo credit: Interweave
It's Filmy Fern, from her latest book, Wrapped in Lace.  It looks simply spectacular.  I don't know that I could ever attempt something like this, but I do love staring at it.  What does a baby do with a shawl like this?  I guess pretty much the same thing as me.

For more information about the shawl, there's a great blog post by Stove's granddaughter at Holland Road Yarn Company.  And as always, for more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

WIP Wednesday: From spinning to sprinting

If exceptions make the rule, then I'm setting myself up for a fully-regimented 30 weeks of marathon training.  Because I gave blood today, I figured I was unlikely to be able to complete the scheduled 3-mile run.  So instead, I ran it yesterday morning, making my grand total mileage 4.5 miles.  I haven't even tried counting how many miles I'll have posted in training before the marathon, I have a feeling that it might freak me out a little.  All I need to know is that I have another 1.5 miles scheduled for tomorrow after using today as a rest day.

Even though the Tour de Fleece is technically over, I haven't taken any rest days from spinning.  I'm still adding to the final cop with neatly placed wraps around the spindle:

I love the colorful geometry of it, like a purple Chrysler building.

I've also started work on that second sleeve of my cardigan.  It's not much to look at yet, but here's a look at the beads I bought over the weekend:

Don't they go perfectly?  It's giving me something to look forward to when I'm picking up all of those stitches for the ruffle.

So there are three of my works in progress: spinning, knitting, and running.  For more WIPs, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Sweet and Salty Blondies

Knowledge is a dangerous thing.  Because now that I know the only thing needed to make caramel is a microwave and a can of sweetened condensed milk, which is something I pretty much always keep in stock in my pantry in case I need to make some fudge.

I had heard that I could make dulce de leche sauce by boiling the can itself, but I also read that there might be some reasons not to, like the risk of the can exploding if the water level became too low, or that the can itself might impart some not-nice things.  So when I found some examples of people taking the condensed milk out of the can and using the microwave, that seemed the best place for me to start.  I don't know why, but I still avoid double-boiling.  I'll get there eventually.

Now that I've hooked you with the caramel, let's take a step back to the true start of this treat: chocolate-covered pretzels.  Hmm, I could probably have hooked you with those as well, couldn't I?

A package of chocolate-covered pretzel rods were the first ingredient I had decided on.  I thought about using them to create a crust, but in the end went with something simpler so that I could take time for the second ingredient I had decided I would need: that caramel.  It just seemed to be the logical next step when you already had salty and sweet.  So I found a blondie recipe with pretzels and caramel and went from there.

Another success, and just the beginning of my love affair with this cheater's version of caramel.

Sweet and Salty Blondies
Recipe from Averie Cooks: Salted Caramel Pretzel Blondies

My notes:
  • Instead of 2 cups of mini pretzels, I chopped up 8 chocolate-covered pretzel rods, along with a few Rolos and mini Heath bars.
  • I didn't have any caramel topping on hand, so instead I made my own following these instructions from The Perfect Pantry.  I had issues with the bubbling milk/caramel reaching the cling film and making a mess, so in the end I used a plastic tupperware with the lid askew on top.  Keep an eye on this, because if you take your eyes off of the microwave for more than a few seconds, you could have a very sticky mess.  Because you're going to bake this, you can under-'cook' it a little in this phase.  Also: you will have leftovers.  I'm sure you can figure out something to do with them.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Beads, berets, and Bugs Bunny froyo

I've always been a little ambivalent about Sundays.  Yes, it's still the weekend, but at least some of the luster of that is diminished by knowing that Monday is just a sleep away.  Sometimes I try to keep Sunday completely free of all reasons to leave the house and just keep it as a lazy day in preparation of the week ahead.

However, when Yogurtland has Looney Tunes-themed flavors that might be going out of rotation in the next week, I can make an exception.  And after a little Google searching, I can find a reason to head up to North Austin.  Unfortunately, the first excuse, a quilting fabric store, was closed on Sundays.  But then, Mom found Sea of Beads, and well, excuse found.

I haven't added much beading to my knitting so far, but I'm such a fan of extra color and sparkle, it was only a matter of time.  And when, amongst all of the other gorgeous beads and charms, I saw a tube of number 6 seed beads in a color that goes perfectly with my cardigan.  That's right, because when you're lamenting all of the endless finishing details of your first long-sleeved garment, what you really want to do is add another detail.  What can I say?  I need the sparkle.  Just a little, in the ruffles.  And maybe the neckline.

From one indulgence to another, it was time for froyo:

At the time, I didn't know that it would be around until August 4th.  All I knew was that a new flavor was coming in after Sunday, so I couldn't be sure that it wasn't replacing what sounded like a delicious froyo version of a Terry's Chocolate Orange.  Since I've already made fudge inspired by that flavor combo, I had to try this.  Yum.  If you have a Yogurtland near you, you should find a bead store nearby to give you a reason to try it too.  I also tried the Bugs Bunny Carrot Cake, but I'm really looking forward to swirling the Marvin the Martian Kosmic Fruit Kaboom Sorbet.  Pineapple and lime?  Sounds like one Mom will love too.

I also managed to catch Phil Mickelson winning the Open.  I don't know if there are any other knitting golf-watchers out there, but for me, aside from rooting for Phil, the main story was his daughter's super-cute knit beret, which we all saw in panorama when the whole family went in for a celebratory hug.  Great excuse for an Examiner slideshow.  Gotta make use of that agreement with Getty Images whenever possible.

So that was my Sunday.  It got me through Monday.  How about you?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: A fancy finish

The finish line is coming up fast for the Tour de Fleece, and I've come to accept that I will not be clutching skeins of finished yarn as I cross it.  It is the destiny of this yarn to miss every deadline which can be set for it.  And thankfully, that's okay.  While the Tour ends Sunday, I'm still allowed to spin come Monday, and all of the days after that.

Something else I didn't expect when I started was having more than four cops, but in fact I began a fifth this afternoon while sitting in my first spin-in at The Knitting Nest.  It's the third or fourth month that they've held this social spinners gathering, and despite intending to go all of those other months, this was the first time it worked out well for me to join in.  I'm hoping to come by more for spinning and knitting on Thursdays perhaps, because it's always fun to be around other crafty people and see what they are working on.  And sometimes it's nice to get confirmation that what you yourself are doing is coming along well.  It does continue to grow my desire for a spinning wheel, however.

Anyway, because I needed to start a new and final cop, I decided to try out a technique to make it look a little prettier while on the spindle.  When I first started spinning, wrapping neatly wasn't as important as just successfully creating the cop.  But seeing some of the gorgeously geometric-looking cops in the forums made me want to get a little fancy.

And thankfully, it only looks fancy.  Getting that look is really quite simple, though it does take a little more care than just a simple 'over 2, under 1'.  There are a number of tutorials online, but the one that lit the bulb in my brain was the post from Simply Notable.  Lots of pretty pictures with arrows.  I find that sometimes well-written instruction with pictures is more helpful than a video, where you can't always pick out the details that make it click for you.  Something for me to keep in mind during my day job of technical documentation, I guess.

Here are my results so far:

As always, Jeri Brock's spindle looks wonderful.  But I love the way this neater wrapping shows off the shifting colors.  It goes from a very dark purple into an almost pink fuschia, with everything in between, plus some near-white lilac.

So, there you have it.  Hopefully the next time you see this yarn it will actually be yarn.  Alicia hasn't posted an inspiring post yet today, but she did write about the magic of plying earlier this week.  I'll be casting that spell soon, I hope.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Arms, too many or not enough?

This week I actually made some progress on my knitting in moments when I couldn't be spinning.  I had a moment of triumph thinking, 'Woo-hoo, I'm going to finish this sleeve!'  And that moment was immediately followed by a moment of, 'Woo-hoo, I still have to make another one...'  Clearly, I have too many arms.

This thought leads me to yet another pop culture reference.  If you didn't realize it by now, my mind tends to take everything in and filter it through the database of movies, TV shows, music, books, and anything else I've absorbed throughout the years.  This time, the mere suggestion of extraneous appendages immediately brought this moment of 'Coupling' to mind:

If you haven't seen this show yet, I highly recommend checking it out on Hulu or Netflix.  Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to view any of the US attempt at capturing the glory of this show.  In fact, forget I mentioned it.  Let's all just pretend we live in a world where shows like 'Coupling' and 'Red Dwarf' were only ever made in the UK.

Anyway, when it comes to knitting a cardigan, I have too many arms, but when it comes to spinning, I usually feel like I don't have enough.  Well, actually, with spinning I think I'm finally getting a hang of it, though I tend to stick to park and draft for the most part.  Where I really find myself wishing I was a Hindu god is plying.  For my first yarn, I did a 2-ply pulling from the center and outer ends of a center-pull ball.  It was a little too much to keep track of, the twist of the plied yarn and the chaos of the ball bouncing around.

Not that I've started plying these singles yet.  I still have a few handfuls of fiber yet, and a growing suspicion that this is going to take five cops rather than four.  But I will spin on!  Tomorrow is supposed to be a 'challenge' day, I'm not sure what I'm going to attempt, but I'll try to do something worthy of the cyclists' efforts.

For more WIPs this Wednesday, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Red Velvet Cheesecake Bars

There are some common phrases heard when I bring my treats to coffee klatch each week.  Along with inquiries about this installment made in curious hunger (or is it hungry curiosity?), there is often an incredulous questioning as to how I can possibly make all of these things and stay so thin.

It's a hard question to answer.  I usually say, 'Because I have you all eat them!' which is true.  You can't  get fat on food you don't eat.  But really, I think it's just one of those serendipitous situations where everything comes together: my love of baking lots and lots of things, my inability to eat them all myself, and their desire to help me out with that.

Oftentimes, licking the bowl and sneaking a few wayward crumbs is enough to satisfy my craving for a particular treat.  Some, though, are just too good not to have one or two pieces all for myself.  This one right here, it is so one of those recipes.  In fact, one or two would be an understatement.  These are rich, creamy, and delicious.

I feel like a bit of an innovator with these cheesecake bars.  We've all seen cookie crusts made from crushed Oreos and melted butter.  But what about Pop-Tarts?  I grew up loving the Frosted Strawberry breakfast pastries. Now they come in all of these crazy flavors, the lines between breakfast and dessert are even more blurred.

Allow me to make things even fuzzier.

Red Velvet Cheesecake Bars

Adapted from My Baking Addition: Oreo Cheesecake Bars
Makes a (very full) 7" x 11" pan


For the crust:
  • 5 Red Velvet Pop-Tarts
  • 2 1/2 Tablespoons butter, melted
For the cheesecake filling:
  • 12 ounces Neufchatel cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup plain non-fat yogurt
  • 3 Red Velvet Pop-Tarts, roughly chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Reduce Pop-Tarts to crumb (using a food processor or by securing in a Ziploc bag and pounding).  Add melted butter and press evenly into prepared* pan.  Bake for 10 minutes, as you prepare the cheesecake filling.  Keep the oven on after removing the crust.
  3. Beat cream cheese until smooth, then add sugar and continue mixing until incorporated.
  4. Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla and yogurt, making sure to fully incorporate after each addition.
  5. Fold in the chopped Pop-Tarts.
  6. Pour the cheesecake mixture evenly over the baked crust.  Bake 40-50 minutes, until the edges are set.
  7. Allow the pan to cool to room temperature, then place in the fridge to cool completely before serving.  Cut into squares.
*Again, for me, prepared means fitted with parchment paper.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Froyo files: Yogurt Zone (Quarry Market)

There are still months to go until Austin takes its rightful place amongst the list of cities with a Trader Joe's.   Ultimately, in fact, it seems that we will have at least three locations in the area.  But before that joyful day, a trek to San Antonio must be made to browse their aisles for delicious lemon curd and other tasty treats.

And while we're down there, we might as well have some froyo, right?  Especially when we have a Groupon.  Yup, if there's a Groupon, we'd be crazy not to.

Yogurt Zone: 255 E Basse Rd, San Antonio, TX

When I visited: Sunday, June 30th, around 1 pm

Cost per ounce: 48 cents

Samples (new review criteria!): Cups sitting out on the counter

Nutrition information: Available online

Number of flavors: 12

Sorbet options: 2

Experience: This shop is located in one of those strip malls that forces you to slowly drive through, eyes peeled for the particular suite you are looking for that Google Maps hasn't been able to identify beyond the street address.  But once you find it (near the California Pizza Kitchen), it flows just as easily as other frozen yogurt shops.  Sample cups sit by the register, I think out of convenience for the person behind the counter as much as the customer, and you have your row of options to tempt you.

I'm going to start on the wrong end of things to make sure and mention what this place does particularly right: toppings.  They had a really nice selection of fresh fruit that wasn't squashed, soft, or frozen. There was also a good selection of various boba.  Neither my mom or I go for the chocolate chip and cookie side of the toppings bar, but they had plenty there as well.

Now, onto the yogurt.

One of the upsides of summer is that fruit flavors become seasonal, expanding beyond the usual single sorbet and plain tart that stand their ground amongst creamier fall and winter flavors.  So we got to choose from a Strawberry, Peach, Lemon, and Cherry Amaretto as well as the Kiwi Strawberry and Watermelon sorbets.  The Peach, Lemon, and Strawberry, were both yummy.  They weren't the best I had tried of those flavors, but they were fruity enough while still being creamy.  I think I liked the Cherry Amaretto as well, but the cherry wasn't quite strong enough against the amaretto.  I also liked their Tart and Cheesecake flavors, so I added mini-swirls of these to my bowls.

The Watermelon sorbet was fine, but it just didn't go with my other flavors.  Mom doesn't like Watermelon at all, but she did get the Kiwi Strawberry.  In fact, you'll notice that there are three bowls in the image above.  After swirling Lemon, Strawberry and Peach, she didn't have room for the sorbet.  Even though she ended up double-bowling, she also compared them to some of our other favorite places and rated this as just alright.

Worth a revisit? The flavors were good, and the topping selection was above average.  If you want to stay in that shopping area, it's certainly a worthy option.  Personally, my favorite froyo in San Antonio is still Chill Out.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Fiber and felines

I've been kind of a lurker this year in Tour de Fleece.  I've only posted my progress for a handful of the days, and done very little chatting in the Peloton group.  Despite this, I have been spinning for at least 15 minutes each day, which was the main idea for this year, along with hopefully finishing this current yarn and starting something new.  I'm still working on singles, but I'm hoping that plying isn't more than a week away.

The other thing I have been doing every day is watching everyone else's progress in my group and the daily threads.  Especially in those daily threads, where there is nothing to do but scroll through pictures and marvel at what others are doing on their spindles and wheels.  Along with the actual spinning, the scrolling is probably my favorite part of Tour de Fleece, just because it's such a concentrated shot of inspiration and aspiration.

In these pictures, though, you don't just see craft.  Very often, you also see cats.  Yes, there are also dogs, children, and other interlopers, but I think cats might be the most often-seen companion to the Tour de Fleecers.  There are two possibilities:

  1. There's a correlation between being a cat person and being a crafty person.
  2. Cats are just one of a zoo of animals that Ravelry users live with, and cats are just more likely to insert themselves in these photographs.
I don't know which it is, but I do know that despite a reputation for being independent, cats are always willing to lend a paw to 'help' their human counterparts when it comes to spinning and knitting.  Because anything that takes attention away from them must surely be investigated.  There's also the chance that my eyes just always catch the cats in particular.  Because they are cute and cuddly, and I have a bias towards those attributes.  Most likely, a mix of all three of these refined observations has lead me to spotlight this pairing this week.  I'm allowed to be inspired by cat pictures, right?  This is the internet, after all.

I don't want to snatch anyone's photos and post them here, because that seems to violate online image etiquette.  However, for those of you also on Ravelry, may I point you to a few great candid cats from these spinners in the first two weeks. Yarn-vs-zombies's cat likes to nap while she spins, but she stays nearby for support, and midnightblues is working so hard in the Hampshire heat that her cat can barely stand it.  Taking a more active role, camanoSpinner's work is cat-approved.  Mrsblackbeard rudely steals her cat's chair when she is spinning.  And finally, Piquita is her cat's chair while she spins.

For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions, where Alicia's got a whole different kind of cute going on.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

WIP Wednesday: Now I only rest ironically

This week brought the first day of rest in the Tour de Fleece on Monday.  It didn't really feel too restful, though as I was striding in place on my elliptical.  It's not the same as actually running on the road, but I'm not willing at this point to wake up early to get my miles in and then make myself presentable for work, so instead I come home after work and take advantage of having air conditioning and an elliptical.

To pass the time while I trained, I caught up on some of the wonderful photos people have been posting the Tour de Fleece Ravelry group.  It really is inspiring to see so many yarns being creating from little bits of colorful fluff.

My own bits of fluff are coming together, I've started on the fourth and hopefully final cop.  And while spinning is a little more difficult to travel with than knitting, I have exposed my co-workers to the wonders of the spindle in the coffee klatch for the second week now.  I think it appeals to some of them, with their engineering brains, seeing the mechanics of the spindle spinning, and imparting the twist up the fiber in a controlled way.  Either that or they were just hypnotized by the twirling squirrels that are etched into my spindle.  It could be that.

I even managed to spin while sitting at a booth at Kerbey Lane Cafe.  And you know what that means: another WIP Wednesday pancake pic:

I was very close to ordering a Tomato Pie, because it's a very seasonal, very popular menu item.  But what can I say?  I like their pancakes.

For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Pistachio Sandies

Generally, I make cookies the same way I spin yarn: by dropping.  Drop cookies are easy and don't require a lot of space or time, like my beautiful Turkish drop spindle.  But more and more I find myself drawn to recipes that 'demand' a little more, like chilling the dough and rolling it either for slicing or cutting out.  The more I bake, the less I see those extra steps as more chances to mess up.  Each recipe that doesn't end in disaster, leads me to believe that even if I do make a mistake, it can either be fixed or ignored completely because it tastes good anyway.

And in fact, I did technically make a mistake in baking these cookies.  I was reading it from another blog, which listed the sugar in a way that confused me, and instead of 3/4 cup of sugar, I only added 1/4 cup.  I realized this while the dough logs were chilling, so I just made sure to be generous when rolling and sprinkling with additional sugar.  Even so, these were not too sweet.  One person commented on that, but not in a negative way.  I think it turns out to be a really nice cookie that allows the mild flavor of the pistachios to shine through.  The kind of cookie I imagine could be served at a tea party.  Or in my case, a coffee klatch.

Pistachio Sandies

Recipe from Martha Stewart: Pistachio-Shortbread Sandwich Cookies

My notes:
  • Sugar: I used regular white sugar rather than confectioner's, and I only added 1/4 cup directly to the dough (you could always add 1/2 cup and split the difference between me and Martha).  I then rolled the log of dough in another 1/4-1/2 cup of sugar, as well as sprinkling it on top of the sliced cookies before baking.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Game, set, match, history

It took 77 years and four match points, but it happened: a Brit won Wimbledon.

I wasn't on Henman Hill, but I was cheering right along with them.  From my first time watching Wimbledon, I've been rooting for the home team.  I almost don't know what we're all going to do next year with a defending champion.  But there's a lot more tennis to be played until then.  Next stop: the US Open series on the road to New York.

I'll be thinking of them grinding it out on the hard courts as I pound the pavement myself.  I've found the plan I'm going to follow: Hal Higdon's Beginner Supreme.  I like that it's longer than most other programs, because it pairs a 12-week starter set that will get me up to snuff for the 18-week set that more experienced runners can train from.  I have my calendar marked, Week 1 starts on the 22nd.

Which also happens to be the first week of the US Open series, which starts with the BB&T Atlanta Open, which was the last title that my other Andy, Roddick, won before retiring.  Coincidence, or another sign of the aligning stars in the new world order of sports?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Even more ado

Last night I snuck a post in about going to see the new 'Much Ado About Nothing' directed by Joss Whedon, and I'm still in a Bard-ly mood.  So I took a stroll down project memory lane.

First, in my own projects.  I participated in a Shakespeare swap last year, where my spoilee's favorite play was 'Macbeth', and she particularly loved Lady Macbeth.  Well, who doesn't, really?  So I tried to pick out some of her quotes in my crafting, like this owl cowl, for 'I heard the owl scream and the crickets cry. Did not you speak?':

See the owls around the neck?  This was my first time doing beading:

I really want to do more things with that owl pattern, it is so cute.

Of course, you can't reference Lady Macbeth without the damn'd spot that won't come out.  I used Kool-Aid to dye some yarn rather than kill a king:

Okay, onto some other, less bloody, things from Stratford.  I also received a wonderful swap package myself, if you're on Ravelry you can see the post about it.  Part of my spoilage was a skein of Dream in Color Smooshy in Ruby River:

I already have a project all queued up for it, funnily enough inspired by another literary genius, Jane Austen.  I want to make the Rose Garden shawl from the Summer 2012 issue of Jane Austen Knits.

And having inspired myself to want to knit that now, I must get back to my spinning.  One week of Tour de Fleece down and I haven't crashed yet!  For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Much ado about Shakespeare

What is it about Shakespeare that makes people so cynical?  Somewhere along the way, as literature accumulates the accolades and intellectualism of being a cultural touchstone, it also becomes impossible to talk about without declaring the wrong and right ways to interact with it.  And the right way always seems to involve either a learned professor or a veteran theater actor.  There's almost, oddly enough, this sense that it cannot be enjoyed for its own sake, that if it is treated only as entertainment it will lose its lofty place and be tarnished.

But I've reached the point where I don't really care about tarnishing the genius of Shakespeare.  I like the lesser pop culture renderings of his timeless words just as much as I would jump at the chance to sit around a classroom table and discuss iambic pentameter.  And so I celebrated the 4th of July in the best way I know how: by going to see Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing'.

It may well be my favorite play, having grown up with the Emma Thompson/Kenneth Branagh adaptation and played Dogberry in a high school production.  And since Joss Whedon is one of my favorite people, casting all of his favorite people, I was positively giddy to learn that this was coming to Austin theaters.

It brought me to the Violet Crown theater for the second time, and yet again it was a great experience.  With pre-assigned seats, you don't have to get there more than five minutes ahead of showtime.  And having parking included negates any complications of its downtown location for us non-downtown dwellers.

When I booked the seats there were plenty to choose from, but the actual showing was completely full. Part of the fun of actually going to the movies is the communal aspect, though it does mean that I have to refrain from reciting the lines myself, since each one of them is held safely in my memory for life. But there's something oddly social about laughing along with a room full of strangers as Beatrice and Benedick throw themselves around in an attempt to 'hide' from their Cupid conspirators, and that makes up for it.

Another advantage to modern-day enjoyment of Shakespeare: following it up with a little frozen yogurt.  I know I've raved about it before, but really, The Yogurt Spot is among my favorite froyo places.  Top three.  Because not only do they have a great selection of fruit and tart flavors, they are always exceptionally delicious.  Each one is food to my pleasure, and none of Don John's machinations can convince me otherwise.

And so, I declare my independence from intellectual self-righteousness, and admit freely with my hand and heart my love of Joss' take on the Bard.  Because I'll be honest: if I had that house, those friends, and 12 days to do whatever I felt like, I'd probably film my own 'Much Ado' as well.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Uncle Sammy Dodgers

I'm going a little out of order here since I haven't blogged about the cookies I made last week, but since these were so timely, I wanted to make sure and show them off while they were relevant.

I'm surprised that more people don't know what Jammie Dodgers are, because they are delicious.

Two shortbread cookies with jam sandwiched between them, they are a classic British cookie.  They've even been featured in 'Doctor Who', although I'm so behind on my seasons that I haven't seen this episode yet:

Which is why I was surprised that fewer people seemed to have heard of these than knew was stollen was when I made bread pudding.  That didn't keep these from being delicious, but it did mean that I had to explain the awesomeness of my baking punnery.  I had wanted to make something for the 4th of July, so I brought in the classic red, white and blue, then made the cut-out a star rather than a heart or circle, and I called them...Uncle Sammy Dodgers!

Armed with such a pun, how could I not stage a little patriotic photo shoot?

Uncle Sammy Dodgers
Recipe from the baker upstairs: homemade jammie dodgers

My notes:
  • Made 36 sandwiches
  • To the dough, I kneaded in several drops of blue food coloring, and a tablespoon or two of Berry Blue Jell-o mix.
  • I also sprinkled Jell-o mix and sugar on the tops of the 'top' cookies.
  • The recipe says to only refrigerate the dough for about 30 minutes, but I found that my dough could have used a little more time to firm up for rolling.  I ended up dividing the dough and rolling out a little at a time while the rest stayed in the fridge.
  • For sanity's sake, I cut out bottom and top cookies about six at a time, because I wasn't sure how many total cookies I would get out of it and I didn't want to have more bottoms than tops, or vice versa.
  • I used raspberry jam, because that's what I had.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

WIP Wednesday: A smorgasbord of stats

At work we're always looking for metrics to be able to quantify the value we're bringing to the organization.  The thing is, it's hard to find metrics that mean much of anything, especially when you're working on lots of different projects, some of which intertwine.  But statistics are fun to look at when they have to do with fun stuff like my many WIPs.

Here are some vital numbers for my non-work life:

Days on the Tour de Fleece: 5
Minutes spent spinning today: 15
Rows knit on cardigan since starting TdF: 0
Cookies served: 36

Sets Andy Murray lost while I wasn't watching: 2
Sets Andy Murray won while I was watching: 3
Pages of 'Don Quixote' read (total): 123
Pages of latest notebook completed: 0

Miles run today: 2.36
Days until the marathon: 227
Hours until I plan to go see Joss Whedon's 'Much Ado About Nothing': 19
Number of fireworks I plan on setting off for the 4th of July: 0

For a little more narrative, go to Tami's Amis.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A weekend of Tuesdays, followed by another Manic Monday

Over the course of the first weekend of Tour de Fleece, a added more than 3,000 yards of yarn to my stash.  Obviously, these were not hard-earned yards of handspun.  No, no, these were cheaply-won yards of commercial yarn.

Emphasis on the cheap part, because I found these additions to my stash at Tuesday Morning.  This has happened to me before.  Every once in a while we pop into the store to see what they have in stock, and this time they had balls of Ella Rae Classic Superwash and other basic yarns in sweater quantities.  Apparently I needed some blue yarn:

I know I haven't quite finished my first cardigan yet, but I've got another one or two planned now.  My mom also added to her stash, but she stuck to mostly purples.

Speaking of purples, I did make progress on my own yarn.  I've almost finished a third cop, and the pile of fluff that is unspun fiber is starting to dwindle down.

I have semi-decided to go ahead and make the leap to try chain plying (also known at n-plying or Navajo plying).  But there's still another single cop to go until then.

Maybe I can start plying in time for the Wimbledon gentlemen's final.  Who knows who will be playing for, much less win, the Championships this year.  So far the tournament has been a little insane.  Slipping and sliding everywhere, and upsets galore.  It's always exciting to see players make it farther than anyone expected, and as long as none of the upsets include Murray, I'm okay with them.  Can you imagine the uproarious and totally unrestrained celebrations that would be sparked by that?  Pimm's for everyone! On this side of the Atlantic, though, I'm just going to enjoy some strawberries and cream.  It's going to be a little early in the morning for Pimm's after all.  And I always spin sober.

(Just a little humor to get through Monday...)