It’s cold and dark…

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“It’s cold, it’s dark, and it’s going to last the rest of your life”-  Bill Murray hit the nail on the head, man Winter just seems to go on forever for me- and I live in the “South” (Is Oklahoma part of The South to you? I would say no. Having lived in Virginia and Tennessee I see Oklahoma as a very different state of mind than The South or The Midwest. I would call it Western or Texas’s red-headed cousin).

The photo today is my Quince & Co Beatrice cardigan in Blue Sky Alpaca EXTRA. This sweater has been on the needles since November 2016 and I am on the never-ending front band.

I started working 9a-7p this past week so it is very dark by the time I get home in the evenings to read.  Like most people, in the last few years I took to the idea of Hygge- the concept of drawing inwards and focusing on cozy comforts in the winter time.  Last year in January I read The Year of Living Danishly: My Twelve Months Unearthing the Secret of the World’s Happiest Country by Helen Russell.  I like the literary structure of taking one year and focusing on a different concept every month (ala My Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes, The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and This is Where You Belong by Melody Warnick).  It makes a big concept seem less daunting and usually makes for a quick read.  The Year of Living Danishly certainly did not make me want to move to Denmark (rest easy Mom), but it did get me thinking about Hygge books- books that are comforting and cozy and I can return to again and again.

Every couple years I will reread The Inn at Lake Devine by Elinor Lipman.  This is the perfect romantic comedy to me.  Natalie Marx is a strong-minded woman who, as a teenager, was invited to tag along to the exclusive (meaning exclusively gentile) Inn at Lake Devine by a friend.  As an adult she reconnects with her WASPy childhood friend and the family that owns the Inn and a wedding, a funeral and a love story ensue.

Another book that was full of lovable, imperfect characters was Small Blessings by Martha Woodroof. It is set in Lynchburg, Va, where one of my dear friends attended college.  There is something I love about the idea of university towns- smart people tucked away in an idyllic setting.  This book is about a single bookseller who moves to town with a complicated past and falls for a professor with complications of his own.

Finally I love to escape to a fantasy world and especially the books I loved as a kid.  I still pull Ella Enchanted by Gail Levine off the shelf every couple years to revisit this plucky heroine.  I also loved the Tamora Pierce Song of the Lioness books growing up because it featured another strong female lead who was brave enough to follow her own, less traditional, path.

And of course if nothing else will do I can always go back to Harry Potter.  I love the whole series and cannot wait to get me hands on the illustrated edition of The Prisoner of Azkaban. If you have not had the chance to look at the illustrated books that have been coming out in the past few years take this opportunity to cozy up with these beautiful books.

What books make you feel warm and cozy?

Books on my shelf:

  • Almost Sisters by Joshilyn Jackson
  • It’s All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree by A.J. Jacobs
  • Faithful by Alice Hoffman- trying this one on audiobook, which I do not normally do, so we will see if I like it

 

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The Candle Shawl in Progress….

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This is Junior with a great volunteer.  It is going to be a cold morning in the barn; thank goodness for the heated arena.  It is also going to be snowing and I hope to take some really good photos today.  I’m bringing an old FILM camera today.

Why?  In the world?  Well, because my other cameras are taking lousy shots when the horses are in motion.  I’m hoping I can capture something on film that I can’t on pixels.

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Here is the Candle Flame shawl.  I’m almost through 450 yards or 2 skeins of Claudia’s Handpaint.  Still loving this pattern.  It is becoming a kind of a friend.  This is a good thing because I have another 225 yards to go.  See where it is pinched? That’s just my floss lifeline.  I tied the ends together in back.

So sorry if this knit is boring you.  This is the downside of being faithful to a project.  Thanks for putting up with it.

Saturday turned out to be a great day not to watch the news. My sister and I missed the whole Hawaii scare.  Poor Hawaii, hugs to you Hawaii.   Sometimes ignorance is truly bliss.

A QUICK thing or two…..

unnamed *I made granola yesterday. I used Pioneer Woman’s basic recipe.  I cannot eat it right now, I have to stay with SOFT foods, but Fireman loves homemade granola.  It is  one of those things that is so much cheaper made at home.  Do you make something at home that saves you a bundle?

*My sister and I decided NO NEWS coverage for 24 hours.  We think it will be good for both of us.  Do you take a news fast?

*How’s your Christmas shopping coming?  Yes, I know it is January.  There are great deals out there folks!  I have purchased 4 gifts already at greatly reduced prices.

 

*I was pretty unhappy last night when I came upon a KNOT in my yarn.  As in, they tied two broken ends together and kept going ,kind of knot.  This meant, for me, tinking back to the beginning of the row and cutting the yarn . Then I rejoined at the row edge and kept going.  I felt if I didn’t do this, the whole gorgeous shawl would unravel someday.   (Do you join your yarn on the edge of a row? )

  • Speaking of that, Some of my gum stitches fell out yesterday. The others are barely hanging on.  I guess I’m healing quickly.  I was told they may fall out; I see the oral surgeon for followup and stitch removal Friday.  Knots, when you dont’ want them they are there, when you do they fall out….

*I was able to find out that because of the donor material placed in my gum socket, I cannot give blood for a year.  I was happy to hear this  as I thought it might mean I could never give again.

*In cat tooth news, Miss Pie is letting Fireman brush her teeth every night.  She actually likes it.  I keep her poultry flavored toothpaste far away from my mint flavor.   Neither one of us would like to switch our flavors accidentally.

I’m off to the barn for class.  Winter Session is  in full force for our amazing students.  I think it is really important for everyone to get out a bit this time of year…..it is good for me, too!

 

 

Seeing the Future

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When you knit on a shawl and the rows get longer and longer, you don’t have tons of progress photos.  (but I’m loving the process anyhow)

Throwback to our old yard in Illinois.  Neighbor Mary, on the left.  Zach eating snow, Huck in the pack, and Allison enjoying …….WINTER .  If I could have seen the future, I’d not have believed it.  I prefer life with surprises, or I accept that it is a path of surprises.

Seeing Hucky was extra sweet yesterday.  It was warm enough for Fireman and I to walk a bit at the Lake.  Dare I mention that some crazies were out on the ice/near open water, fishing?  Anyhow, someone was walking their senior golden, Riley.  His sweetness overcame us.  I asked Fireman yet again, Can we get a golden? He said yet again, no. I know better than to push this issue.  In some ways, I don’t even want to. The path is full of surprises, some good, some that stretch and pull us ….like it or not.

I am so disgusted with the news.  I have always admired Dick Durbin and I knew he’d give us a truthful account of words said and sentiments felt after a White House meeting yesterday.  If I could have seen the future, I’d not have believed it.

What can I do?  I can keep volunteering to make my little world a better place, I can try to mend family fences, I can reach out to those who are hurting, and I can pray. I remind myself, the President is not God.  I can look for the light in these dark American times and I can hope that the people who feel as I do, will prevail.

 

 

 

Olympic Plans

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Hello, I’m Kathy’s stash.  To be fair I’ll  have to  include the newly acquired Anzula yarn that is shown below.  And in the spirit of fairness, There are 3 skeins of the Mares Blue (3rd row top) and 2 skeins of the candy blue below it.  There are also two skeins of the gorgeous Paint on the far right . and  I don’t count the yarn that is already on a WIP.  and I certainly don’t count leftovers from completed projects in half skein amounts.

So I consider this stash to have 16 full skeins in it.  That’s it.  I like to keep the stash at a minimum.  I am blessed to have full access to in person yarn shops, as well as my favorite on line yarn shops.

I’m not bragging.  I admire all of you with amazing stash numbers. I really do. For me, I’m an impulsive knitter and I enjoy buying the yarn and getting right to it. I cannot display my skeins because of a number of felines who would get into it in no time.

I’m SO  into the Candle Flame shawl, I’m ready to cast on another as soon as this one is finished.  See below: and note I did not spend 37 dollars on a skein of yarn.  This score came from a 40% off sale.   So I paid around 21 a skien.  This is my Olympic knitting plan.

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I’ve been meaning to tell you that Zach has some amazing photos on instagram.  If you wish to enjoy them he is : zbfotografo .  Enjoy!

Can you believe it ?  We are a few weeks away from the OLYMPICS!  Al sent me this link this morning: enjoy!!!!  Are you planning  your Olympic knitting?

Make Friends with Bread

Today’s post is for those of you who want to be bread bakers but are afraid to try to be.  Compared to a lace chart, bread is so easy.  I think there must be an underground movement to keep bread a secret so we can impress everyone else. 

I can’t bake a cookie well enough to bring them to a party, but I can bake bread. 

I’ll start with my tips and then give you the simplest recipe I have for bread. It always turns out great.  And it is relatively speaking,  a less than 2 hour event. 

The recipe I grew up baking was from our Hungarian relatives.  My father taught me how to bake it.  (on another note my father and I have made progress in our relationship recently and that is a huge gift) This is not that recipe.  That recipe takes 8 hours start to finish.  The one below takes 90 minutes start to finish and is less fussy.  Here you go:

*Kathy B’s bread tips

-Dont’ be afraid of the yeast.  The yeast and some sugar is the magic of bread.  I never  use quick rise yeast.  I use little packets of yeast granules, almost exclusively when I bake bread.  I buy them in strips of 3.  Out of habit I use:

Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast.  Revelation: I’ve never checked the use by date. For some reason I always keep it in the refrigerator.

-Yeast loves warm weather.  And a little rain.  This means, when you mix the yeast with water, which is always my first step, the water has to be very very warm but not hot.  So if you put your finger in the water after you’ve warmed it briefly, in a microwave, you should feel the heat but not have to pull your finger out of the water.  I don’t know what this translates to in degrees. Sorry.

-Once the water is warmed, sprinkle the yeast on top of it.  It doesn’t matter if you mix it first or let is sit on top of the water.  Just leave it be .  Let is sit for at least 5 minutes.   Get your other things ready while the magic happens.

-After 5 minutes the yeast will look like it does in the first photo.  Or if you’ve mixed it with the water, again, no preference by me, it will looks like slightly thickened beige brown water.

In the recipe I’m giving you, you don’t even have to do this first step.  Some say salt bothers yeast, but in the Cuban bread recipe, a whole tablespoon of salt goes in to the dough and it works every time.

Basically, in bread recipes,  you make the dough, get your hands good and floury, and you knead it for a period of time and then let it rest and rise. Once you see that lovely rise, you laugh at it and punch it down flat again.  Then let it rise again.  It likes to be knocked down.

If you have a bread dough hook on a mixer you can certainly let it do the work.  I find kneading very mediative so I usually do it with my fingers and hands.

When you are done kneading,  the batter will be dough.  It will feel soft and warm in your hands.  Don’t be afraid to stretch it and pull it.

IF you are using a recipe that needs calls for letting the dough rise more than once, you’ll know it has risen enough when you stick your finger gently on the dough, and it makes an impression and rises back up.

If for some reason, your bread is not rising, something has gone wrong.  Bread wants to rise.  When I let my bread dough to rise, I was taught to put a damp dishcloth over the bowl .  And put it in the oven.  We had a gas stove, so just the pilot light warmth is enough, you don’t turn on the oven during rising.

Okay. Heres my simplest bread recipe.  It is yeasty and forms a crunchy crust which my family loves.

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Cuban Bread

5 to 6 cups flour

(this means start with 5 and add more if you need to get the dough less sticky with your first kneading)

2 T. yeast (this is about 2 envelopes of yeast)

2T. sugar

1 T salt

2 cups hot (as above, not so hot you cant touch it, but very very warm) water

Start by mixing ALL  the dry ingredients and using 4 cups of flour.  Pour the water over the ingredients.  (again with this recipe you don’t get the yeast going separately which is the usual method wth bread)  This makes it even easier for you to feel like you can do this!

Beat for 100 strokes, but whose counting?  Add more flour until its kind of a mess.  The dough should be coming away from the edge of the bowl and coming off your hands when you pull it off.  Do this until the dough is one unified thing.

Now knead it for a full 8 minutes.
Then Leave it to rise for 15 minutes.  Put a damp towel over the bowl if you want to be like me.

Punch it down after the rise.  Don’t be gentle.  Divide the dough in half.

Shape the dough into two roundish loaves.  They will look like upside down contact lenses if the shape is correct.

Take a wet knife and cut and X on the top of the loaves.  Brush the loaves with water. You can pat them with water if you don’t have a brush.

Don’t pay too much attention to the bread.  It will get fussy if you get fussing over it.

Very important for this bread:  Place the two loaves on an upside down cookie sheet that has a very little bit of oil on it.  Like a smear of oil in the two spots you’ll place the loaves.  Just a tiny tad of oil.

Then place it in a cold oven.  Do not preheat. ( Do not pass GO.  lol)

Place a pan of hot water (from the sink type hot water) under the rack (on to the next rack down that is) where the bread will bake.  I use my corning ware casserole dish for this job.

Then place the bread on the aformentioned cookie sheet on the first rack  and close the oven door.

Turn the oven to 400 degrees and bake for 45-50 minutes.  The loaves will grow and rise as they bake.  They will be brown and lovely.  (the water in the pan below the bread creates a steam that tells that bread to rise)

I must warn you that the smell of baking bread in your house is like none other.  Get your butter ready.  Take a whole stick out and let it get soft and ready for that first slice.

When the bread is baked , remove it from the oven.  Let it sit for 10 minutes at the least, before you slice it.

Try it.  You’ll love it.  This recipe is for you.   Start to finish it takes less than 90 minutes.

Let me know how it goes.  I’ll be at 1 800 FEAR NOT if you knead me.

 

 

 

Quirky Misfits

unnamed-1Allison’s Post #2 2018

Although I was commissioned to write a reading blog post, I feel like it is appropriate to share with y’all my first finished knit of the year.  This is probably the fourth or fifth time I have made this Tincan Knits Antler Hat; this one is in Lorna’s Laces Monsters Yarn in Mouse Grey . I added a pom pom and some length to the ribbing from the original pattern.  It was very cozy ,while it was in the teens, here, this past week.

So back to why I am here:  this week I am talking about one of my favorite contemporary literary archetypes: the quirky misfit.  These characters are always socially inept but often charming as they try to fit into a world that they do not understand.  Don Tillman, the protagonist of Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project, is the first that comes to mind when I am thinking about this category of fiction.  If you have not read this charming little book I highly recommend it.  Don is a professor in Australia who has decided that he has reached the point in his life where he needs a wife.  So, as a scientist, he embarks on a project to find the “perfect” woman. Of course, he meets his opposite in bartender, Rosie, and hilarity ensues.

This past summer I read Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler, a modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. This book takes place in Baltimore and also follows an academic family and their “spinster” daughter, Kate.  Kate is a rebel who had a promising scientific career but quit school before she completed her degree and now focuses on caring for her mad scientist of a father. When he introduces her to his new lab assistant Pyoder sparks fly, but will it lead to romance? If you have seen any Shakespeare comedy you probably see where this is going.  I had a lot of fun reading it after I saw the play at Shakespeare in Park and it was fun to hear about Baltimore landmarks.  Baltimore, also known as “Charm City” is a city I have a lot of affection for despite its reputation, it may in fact be the quirky misfit of cities.

My favorite fiction book I read this past year was Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor’s solitary and routine- filled life changes one day when she and a coworker help an older man who has collapsed on the street.  It reminded me a little of  A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Bachman because it is a feel-good story but wades into darker territory as we explore Eleanor’s lonely upbringing.

If nonfiction essays are more up your alley I had so much fun reading Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson.  Jenny, aka “The Bloggess”, is hilarious as she write essays about how she has learned to live with her sometimes crippling depression.   Jenny quotes the Breakfast Club to say “we’re all pretty bizarre, some of us are just better at hiding it”. Another book of essays by an awesomely bizarre writer is We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby. Samantha has been a part-time writer, full time vet tech in Evanston, IL for almost 20 years when she published this book after meeting her wife on the internet and moving to Grand Rapids, MI.  I, again,  loved to hear about a place that I have lived and I  laughed out loud at the airport reading about Samantha’s “application” to The Bachelor.  As much as I love to watch The Bachelor, it is not a place for a quirky misfit; although, this season features a girl with a pixie cut (GASP, short hair?!) so maybe there will be space for us there one day.  Oh yes, if you haven’t figured it out I have a lot of affection for these characters because, as my mother so lovingly pointed out when I told her about this post, I too am a quirky misfit, but luckily I have always managed to find my place.

Questions:

  • Vinegar Girl and Accidental Tourist are the only books I have read by Anne Tyler. Does anyone have any other recommendations?
  • Which city is your favorite for a book setting?
  • Are these blog posts too long? Should I try to edit my thoughts for next week?

Books on my shelf:

  • Vacationland (John Hodgman)- this book made me laugh out loud reading it at the brewery the other day.
  • Lily and the Octopus (Steven Rowley)- I have probably read 10 pages since last week, this book is becoming my nemesis
  • We’re Going to Need More Wine (Gabrielle Union)