[cooking] Beans on Toast

Haven't felt much like cooking something extravagant and complicated- I'm saving that for the long vacation I'm taking over the holidays. Instead, I've been introducing Dollar to the simple pleasure of beans on toast.

I had a lot of beans on toast while I was in England. I was a poor student and this was the cheapest meal to have. I remember my initial reaction being "Baked Beans? On toast?" because I'm used to the thick, molasses, maple flavored Boston Baked Beans. But over THERE, it's just beans in a light tomato sauce.

So basically you CAN (but probably shouldn't) used Bush's canned bbq or maple baked beans. I found Heinz baked beans in the UK section of the International isle at the grocery store and these are the right ones to use.

Here's the how-to for Beans on Toast.

Learn more than you wanted to know about baked beans here.

I'm planning on taking this meal to the next level and making a Full English breakfast next week. Eggs, toast, beans, bacon and/or sausage, tomatoes, mushrooms. I'll have to get some brown sauce at the grocery store. And maybe I'll head out to a local smokehouse for some real bacon and sausage.


[knitting] Links

The new Knitty came out this week with all kinds of cold weather wear to make. I like the Corazon mittens and especially the Tiffany mittens. I have lots of different Knit Picks Palette in my stash, so I should be able to pick five different colors quite easily.

Besides those two things, I like Hexed. I've been wondering how to knit a hexagon (for a Settlers of Catan bag) and here it is.

Other pretty free patterns I've found and added to the "OOooo I wanna make that" list:

Inga Hat

Sampler Pillow: Not sure I'd make it in the colors shown but I think this would be a great way to sample some crewel (or regular) embroidery.

A new knitalong: Stranded: The Colorwork Challenge. Tons of stuff to ooo and aah over. And at the Flickr pool.

Squirrelly Swedish Mittens- so cute!

Star Wars charts

Last night a group of knitters got together and we knit our little hearts out. Two hats were finished, a good portion of a scarf was completed, a baby blanket progressed and a sock was cast on. We won't be meeting again until January 3 and by then I should have new stuff to show off. I hope. I'm taking the week between Christmas and New Year's Day off work and I want to spend most of it knitting.


[games] Game Surplus

So you've seen me recommend games and you want to buy one (hopefully) but you don't know where to shop. I'll tell you what place I love- Game Surplus. I've ordered from them several times and they've always proven themselves to be awesome.

One time, I ordered something on a Friday and I got it Monday. MONDAY. And that's with the regular UPS shipping.

Another time, I emailed them asking when they would be getting a game back in stock. They emailed me back within minutes. MINUTES.

Another time I placed an order, asked them to cancel it (they did, within minutes), placed a new order, wondered about getting charged twice, emailed them about it and they totally explained everything to me.

I've ordered games from pretty much all the major online retailers and Game Surplus is the only one I really like. They're fast and nice, we've covered that. Their shipments are well packaged and the prices are right (30% off retail; sale games are 50% off retail).

Read more about who they are. I [heart] Game Surplus.

[games] New People, New Games

This past Friday night I joined a new (to me) group of gamers in the Upper Valley. They get together once a month and play various games. I met a few of them at Carnage Con this past November. We played Carcassonne first and then Shadows Over Camelot. All the guys seem really nice but the whole time I was there I felt like I was in a parallel universe where people are just like me and the people I hang out with but there's (a) no cursing, (b) no excessive drinking, (c) no lewd jokes, (d) etc. They are all very good people to play games with and I had fun but at soon as I got home, I told Dollar how wholesome these guys were. "I feel so clean," I said, "I just wanna go kick a puppy or kill a bum or something."

Saturday night a couple people came over to game and we played Illuminati. Let's just say there was a little more tension at the table after I sucessfully stole someone's group on a sucessful dice roll of '4 or less' (I rolled a 3). It's not the first time I've been accused of witchcraft but it's the first time I've wondered whether or not it was true. After Illuminati we played Runebound but had to cut the game short because it was taking so long. I like the story behind Runebound and the concept of building up your character before you can take on the big bad dragon in the end, I just found combat a little confusing.

Christmas is coming and what better time to give games as gifts? It's so nice to see those square and rectangular boxes all wrapped up under a tree. Word on the streets is that the game every player wants but every seller is sold out of is Battlelore. Created by Richard Borg, it looks like Memoir '44 meets War of the Ring. I ordered quite a few games and I can't wait for the long holiday from Christmas to New Year's to stay inside, drink hot cocoa and play games. And kill bums. Happy Holidays!


[amy] Whipped?

SCENE: In the kitchen, AMY is cooking shrimp and broccoli in a light Korean teriyaki sauce. The rice is done in the rice cooker and the table is set with candles. ANGELA stops by for a minute to drop off AMY's sewing machine.

Knock, knock

AMY: Hello!

ANGELA: Look at you, Suzy McHome-Maker. Cute apron. What are you cooking?

AMY: I'm just stir-frying some shrimp and broccoli.

ANGELA: Aren't you a nice wife. I've gotta get me one of them.

AMY: ...

ANGELA: What's Dollar doing?

AMY: He's upstairs, I think. Watching a movie.

ANGELA: He's not helping?

AMY: He's... um... You know, I've got the whole cooking thing under control.

ANGELA: Is he at least going to do the dishes after you guys eat?

AMY: ...


AMY: No.

ANGELA: You're [bleep] whipped!

AMY: What?! I am not!

ANGELA: You're totally [bleep] whipped!

AMY: (thinking Dollar doesn't even have a [bleep]) Okay, well, I don't want to keep you.

ANGELA: Okay bye.

AMY: Bye.

DOLLAR: (coming downstairs) Was that Angela?

AMY: Whatever. (goes back into kitchen)

DOLLAR: What is it? What's wrong?

AMY: Angela says I'm [bleep] whipped!

DOLLAR: I don't have a [bleep]. You do.

AMY: Yeah, well, I know what she means! Because you're, like, upstairs watching a movie and I'm cooking.


AMY: And she was like, Is he going to at least do the dishes, and I was like, No.

DOLLAR: Sshh shh shh shhhh (wrapping arms around AMY), see this is why I don't want you talking to people. They start saying crazy stuff and putting ideas in your head...

AMY: Ha ha. Listen, I like to cook and I like to have a nice meal at the table with you. I don't mind doing the dishes because, frankly, it'll be faster if I do them. It's just, if it looks like I'm whipped to everyone else, that's not cool.

DOLLAR: Listen, you may do all the work in the kitchen but I do all the work in the bedroom.

AMY: Oh yeah. That's true.

DOLLAR: Yeah! So you can go tell Angela THAT!

AMY: ...

DOLLAR: And then you'll tell her that I told you to say that, and I'll still look like a jerk.

AMY: Yes.


[amy] Another tiring weekend

After such a nice, long Thanksgiving break last weekend, this past two-day weekend wasn't nearly long enough for me. Saturday morning I was awake early so I went to the 8:15 am AquaFit class at the gym. It's mostly senior citizens who attend and pay no attention to what the instructor is telling them to do. They pair off and kind of paddle around the pool, chatting about grandkids and neighbors. It appears that I'm the only one there who really wants to work out. While everyone is slowly moving around the pool in a giant circle, I've broken off and taken a place in the middle of the ring, obeying the instructor and furiously churning the water around me. It's a good all-over workout.

Once home, I decided to go back out to the stores to get a tree stand (and ornaments, lights, ornament hooks) in preparation for when we get a tree. Then I went to the produce store to pick up some veggies for the week. I saw some new cheese and had to pick up a block. I'm kind of cheesed out after making the uber cheesey Mac & Cheesey cheese cheese last week but I think this beer cheddar would make a nice mac & cheese. Although, I'd maybe use mini penne instead- just to mix it up. And add some broccoli. Mmmm... I'm formulating a recipe.

After all the shopping, I cleaned out the fridge of Thanksgiving leftovers. Dollar went to the dump and we played a game of Memoir '44 after he got back. Then a couple people came over to game and we all played Illuminati. By the time they left around 7 or 7:30, I was ready for bed. For real. I'm such an old lady. I got into bed, Dollar put Jacob's Ladder into the DVD player (I had never seen it before) and I made it about half-way through before I fell asleep.

Sunday I slept in until 10 am (!!!) then went out a did a little shopping with my mom. I came home and watched some of the Matrix while Dollar was gone to band practice. He came home, I cooked some supper: roasted potatoes (this time with parmesan and garlic seasoning) and sautéed green beans and asparagus (in a little white truffle oil and salt). It was a very nice meat-free dinner. Then we played some Memoir '44. I feel bad for Dollar because throughout all the time we've been playing (maybe a dozen games by now), he hasn't won once. He always wants to play, which I admire, but he gets really down from losing every single time. The thought of throwing the game has crossed my mind but I wouldn't be able to do it. I'm too competitive.

Only 3 weeks until Christmas. I've been toying with the idea of knitting SOMETHING but I just haven't felt like it recently. Pity.


[tv] Gilmore Girls

Every time I think I'm getting tired of this show, it pulls me back in. I've been working my way through Season 6 and the beginning was kind of "meh". Lorelai and Rory not speaking for half a season? I don't think so. I've tried to get Dollar to watch the show but whenever he sees it on, he starts whining, "Turn it off. Please. I hate this show." I skip to the parts that have Lane's band in it. I say, "Look, they really know how to play their instruments. See? They have a band. See? And look at THAT! Sebastian Bach. Sebastian Bach is a regular on the show!"

It's no good. When Paris was on the phone to Rory and said, "Of course you're coming back to Yale. What are you going to do without a college degree? Drive a forklift?" Dollar said, "I used to drive a forklift... I hate this show!" I tried to explain that's just who Paris is but he didn't get it.

Any-way, I saw this post about the "Knit, people, knit!" episode. An episode about a knit-a-thon. I'll have to wait until it comes out on DVD next year to see it but it's just another reason to keep watching.


Someone else posted about the episode as well. Hmm... I wonder how much network/cable t.v. PLUS Tivo would cost?


[cooking] Pork Dinner

Dollar and I had a couple people over for dinner last night. I served pork, potatoes, asparagus, corn and bread. OR, as I like to call each dish:

~ Pan-seared Pork Medallions
~ Roasted New Potatoes with Sicilian Herbs
~ Sautéed Asparagus Infused with a Garlic Essence
~ Arctic Corn Frizzled via a Technologically Advanced Contraption
~ Warmed Mini French Loaves

First I cut the new potatoes (why are the sometimes called "creamer" potatoes?) in half and tossed them with olive oil, salt and pepper. I roasted them in the oven for 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Here's my trick- after 30 minutes I sprayed a few squirts of white truffle oil across the browning beauties and sprinkled on a Sicilian blend of spices. I have a single container of four different bread dipping spices and I was getting tired of used Goya's Adobo seasoning for my roasted potatoes all the time. I thought, Hey! I'll use some of these funky spice blends instead! The first time I did it I sprinkled a flavor on the raw potatoes right when they went into the oven but the herbs and spice bits were kind of charred by the time the potatoes were done. So this time I added the good stuff half-way through and the result was crispy potato bites with great flavor.

I got strips of pork loin (or was it boneless ribs?) from the grocery store, cut them into stewing size chunks and sprinkled on a little salt and pepper. I let the meat come to room temperature and then browned them in 3 or 4 batches in a little olive oil. I put them into a serving dish in a mildly rare state and then put the dish into a warm oven to rest (after the potatoes had come out and the oven had been turned down). I wanted to make pork like this after I made the Braised Pork with Persimmon recipe last week. For that recipe I browned chunks and tasted a bite right out of the pan. Seared, juicy, hot, delicious pork nugget. I gave Dollar a bite and he nearly chewed my fingers off. It was so good I knew it would be able to stand on its own- without covering it with spices or mixing it with something else.

In my pork pan, I deglazed the bottom with about a third of a cup of vegetable stock. I would have preferred to use white wine but I didn't have any on hand and came THIS close to using sake, but I wasn't sure how that would turn out so I didn't risk it. I used a little stock, scrapped up all the brown bits, added minced garlic and the asparagus spears. They kind of cooked/steamed in the stock, and when the stock boiled off, they sautéed a little. I took them out of the pan before they could get all bendy- I like my asparagus al dente.

The corn was just frozen corn I cooked in the microwave. The rolls were warmed in the oven (alongside the resting pork), cut in half (they were slightly oversized) and nestled inside a tea towel in a bread basket. Mmmm, warm bread with butter.

Besides being inappropriately smacked on the behind by one of my dinner guests (she made up for it by doing all the dishes), the evening went very smoothly. I have a knitting get-together on Thursday night and I think I'll bring my special macaroni and cheese. I've been craving it but Dollar doesn't dig on anything wicked cheesy. So I'm going to make tons and bring it to the knitters.


[amy] Thanksgiving Holiday

What a holiday. It started with Dollar's birthday on Wednesday. I left work early, went home, wrapped his presents and then scooted up to my mom's to help out with Thanksgiving preparation (i.e. shell the shrimp and make a couple thousand mandu). I got home at the same time as Dollar and, since I didn't have a cake, stuck a lit match into a Hostess cupcake. He blew out his 'candle' and opened his presents. The sound damper pads for his drums were more for me but he loved his new boardgame, Memoir '44. He immediately started to read the rules while we waited to leave for his Birthday dinner at his mom's.

DOLLAR: [reading on couch]

AMY: [napping on couch]

DOLLAR: This is so cool. The fights are historically accurate. One side is Axis and the other side are the Allies.

AMY: Who's Axis?

DOLLAR: What? Germany is.

AMY: OOoohhhh... That explains the title of the game Axis and Allies. I didn't know what they meant by Axis.

DOLLAR: [reading] Hmmm...

AMY: So when Bush was talking about the Axis of Evil...

DOLLAR: He was comparing what he considers to be terrorist states to World War II Axis powers.

AMY: Oh...

DOLLAR: [reading]

AMY: [napping]

DOLLAR: Some of these games are stacked more toward one side or another, so they recommend each player take one side, then immediately switch and play the other side, and see who can get the most medals overall. [putting down rule book] That's cool that the rules say that, because you already know who the winner is going to be.

AMY: How do you know who the winner is going to be even before we play?

DOLLAR: Are we speaking in German?

AMY: Oh. The games are that accurate?

DOLLAR: It looks that way.

Then we went to his mom's for presents, a roast beef dinner and apple pie.

Thursday I went up to my mom's early for MORE Thanksgiving preparation. Make the cocktail sauce for the shrimp, set the table, pan fry the mandu and crab cakes. There were 12 of us this year for our annual Very Korean Thanksgiving. In addition to traditional Thanksgiving fare (turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, carrots, brussels sprouts), we have things like gimbap, japchae and the aforementioned mandu. It was followed by an incredible pear cheesecake. All of it homemade, all of it amazing.

Friday night Dollar and I went to a party. My plan was to serve all kinds of hot, alcoholic drinks but I only ended up making one and I'm pretty sure I was the only one drinking it. I vaguely remember staggering around the party with coffee breath. Dollar drove home because he's good and doesn't drink. Once home, I may have pawed at his shirt once or twice before passing out half on/half off the bed.

Saturday we didn't do much at all. Ate lots of leftovers and slept. Ate, slept. Ate, slept. We did play one game of Memoir '44. I won but I think that's because I was playing on the Allied forces side.

Sunday I managed to do some chores. Dishes, laundry, tidy the craft room, do some Christmas and grocery shopping, change the sheets and duvet cover, etc. The only thing I didn't do all weekend was knit. I'm not feeling the knitting love. I have a couple unfinished projects I should finish, a couple things I said I'd make for Dollar but never did, gloves to make for my mom... Blah, it's just too much. But I need to motivate because some local knitters are getting together this week to knit. I'm going to bring the makings for a hot drink I wasn't able to make at the party Friday night.


[amy] Happy Birthday to my Special Friend

Dollar's birthday is today! He's says I'm more excited about it then him and that's because... I am! I left a card on the table this morning for him to find after I had already left for work. It says "For my special friend" on the front and depicts a little cartoon ballerina. Inside it says, "May all your wishes come true on you birthday."

I altered the card by putting quotation marks around the word friend on the front. Like: For my special "friend". Then I drew a goatee onto the ballerina's face and gave her arms & legs more hair. Inside I wrote, "To my little princess..."

My hope is that it kind of confuses and worries him. Regular old "Happy Birthday" cards are so boring. I like giving cards that you have to THINK about. And which force you to question your own sexuality. ... AHH HAH AHh ahahHA Hhaha! HaHa ha. Hmm. Siigh.


[gym] Hurts so bad

I have not been working out. I've been going to the gym for almost two months but I haven't been "working out". I hired a personal trainer and we had our first session yesterday. THAT was working out.

My trainer is a petite brunette whom I tower over. She's barely five feet tall and I'm six feet in my sneakers. We had already met a few times to do my body composition, take measurements, and plan a routine. All the while I thought she was a cute little thing one might want to carry around in their pocket. Now I know her as someone to be feared. Her reaction to seeing me crying as I lifted weights above my head? "Great. Two more."

I could barely drive after our session; I rested my wrists on the steering wheel as I tried to take the straightest route home. I could swing my arms an inch or two up but wouldn't be able to make any 90 degree turns. At home, I waited for Dollar and then stumbled into his arms as soon as he came through the door. I tried hugging him with my shoulders (I had to explain why my arms weren't working) and asked if he had any moral objections to roughing up tiny women. He said "Yes". What a pansy. I'd do it myself but I'm a pacifist and besides that, I'm totally scared of her.

The upside to the gym time is that I have more energy. I'm able to get up at 6:30 in the morning without (too much) trouble. This past Saturday I was awake and at the gym at 8:15 for a morning aqua fitness class. The cardio isn't too boring so long as my iPod is charged and ready to play me my workout music. I'm drinking a gallon of water every day so my skin looks a lot better. And I may be having more of the "pep". Monday at work a co-worker asked me, "How's it going?" For one insane moment, I had the urge to blurt, "Super! It's Monday! Yeah! Let's get to working! Isn't it great?! Yeah!"

Blah, the only downside is that it's more time out of my day. When am I going to knit? Do the dishes? Cook supper? Wash and dry the sheets and duvet cover? Sort and organize the mail? Clean my car? Put away my laundry? Clean the shower? Tidy my craft room? I'm freaking out! I'm freaking out! At least it's Thanksgiving week and I'll have a long weekend to get a lot of stuff done. Speaking of stuff, Mmmmm, stuffing...


[cooking] Persimmons, or What the Hell am I Supposed to do with These?

My mother did one of her gift-giving drive-bys the other day (knock knock knock "Here.") and gave me a box of fuyu (aka kaki) persimmons. I had one cut into slices and thought, "Well, it's sweet. Almost syrupy. The texture is soft-solid. It's sweet but there's no distinct flavor."

I tried one recipe out: Braised Pork with Fuyu Persimmon. I was afraid Dollar wasn't going to like this dish and/or he'd pick out the persimmons but he loved it (more than me). It's spicey, but not spicey-hot. The pork was amazing (I got the bonless ribs and cut those into chunks) and this dish would be just fine without the persimmons.

I took the rest of the persimmons and pureed them. I used one cup to try to make bread and froze the rest. I say "try to make bread" because I filled the loaf pan too full and it boiled over. Sugary, sticky dough all over the racks, the bottom of the oven (burning), the door (when I pulled the rack out), my pot holders (when I picked up the loaf pan), a cookie sheet (where I set the bubbling over sticky mess). Siiiiiiiigh. I'm not too upset because with the amount I cook, odds are I have to have a disaster every now and then. I won't even go into the burnt pasta sauce incident that left circles of charred grass all over the backyard...

So this evening I will clean the oven and maybe try making the bread again this week. I'd like to bring some to Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's but I sure there will be plenty of food for everyone even if I don't.


[knitting] Dude, where's my yarn?

I placed an order with Knit Picks on November 1st and it still hasn't arrived. According to the tracking info it went to "missent" status in Maryland on November 6th. I called them and they said they would re-ship the order. I may still get the original order and if I do, I should let them know because they'll send me a pre-paid box to return the yarn from that order. So fine.

Only... All the special, limited quantity (but IN STOCK) yarn that I originally ordered is now OUT OF STOCK. I had to pick different colors that were in stock, juggle some stuff around, and get credit for what was no longer available (in any color). The new order is being sent to me via UPS (rather than USPS), so it should be here in 3-4 business days.

No big deal but I wish I was offered some kind of compensation- a gift certificate or overnight shipping of the replacement order. The package hasn't come and they're out of many of the things I ordered. The woman on the phone said "I'm sorry" and sounded like she meant it but that isn't going to bring me my Evening Sky Wakashan, is it?

# # #

braided_scarf Look at this scarf. I saw it on the Yarn Harlot's website and thought it was genius. Inspired by the scarf on the cover of Vogue Knitting (Holiday 2006), this lady opted for different colored tubes rather than all one color- I love it! Way more interesting. Looks like there's six colors. How much fun would it be to choose gradations of a single color? Here's one more post about it. Apparently Mairi saw the cover of Vogue Knitting and just went home to knit up her own version. The talent!

# # #

Tonight some local knitters are getting together at Salt Hill to drink beer and knit. I can't wait for all the drunken dropped stitches...


[games] Carnage: The Aftermath

Last week was crazy busy (dinner guest one night, book club the night after, two dinner guest another night) and the weekend was uber crazy but good. Carnage Con #9: Carnage from Outer Space. I'll briefly talk about the games I played and then give my overall impression of the convention.

Friday afternoon: Illuminati
I had an interest in this game after reading a book about secret societies for my bookclub. The premise is: You're a secret society and you try to take control of various organizations. You want either nine organizations to be your puppets or to achieve your own special goal. I was the Bavarian Illuminati so I just wanted to have lots of power. If I can remember, I had the Supreme Court, Fraternal Orders and some other groups. I was able to buy OPEC and traded them for the Democrats and Secret Service. Then I bought the CIA and won the game. I won the game! And I won a copy of the game for being the winner! That was an awesome way to start the convention. This game was fun and funny.

Pick-up game: For Sale
I was wandering around the board game room and saw a couple guys playing Commands & Colors: Ancients. I sat down at the table to watch and two other guys asked if I wanted to play a quick filler game. We played two rounds of For Sale in 20 minutes. You start with money, bid that money to buy as much real estate as you can, then sell all that real estate for money- The winner is the person with the most money in the end. It may sound boring but the property ranges from cardboard boxes and sewers to castles and space stations (the artwork on the cards is funny). I will be picking this game up.

Friday night: Battlestar Galactica Collectable Card Game
Not too fun. I love the show but the game mechanics were messed up. Turns aren't clearly defined and random events affect whether or not you win a person-to-person or ship-to-ship fight. The only thing I liked was that the corners were gone from the cards- no right angles ever!

Saturday morning: Arkham Horror
I was interested in buying this game (based around Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos) but after playing it, I don't think I want it anymore. It was way too complicated and took too long. I stopped caring about winning a couple of hours into it and just wanted to kill my character off. Lots of down time while you wait for all the other investigators to do their turns. I would be willing to play this game again, to see if it flows better but I dread the thought of sitting my friends down, spending an hour explaining the elaborate rules and then "playing" for three hours.

Saturday afternoon: Zombies of Catan
This is a variant that someone made up to incorporate the Plan 9 From Outer Space theme of the convention. Your space ships crash on an unknown planet, you need to build human and zombie settlements. The zombies eat the humans because your space ships are fueled by human souls, etc etc. The premise and rules weren't totally worked out (I don't think the game had ever been play-tested) so that was a little frustrating for me. But everyone at the table had a good sense of humor and the game was fun. 3 out of 5 stars (but could be higher once all the rules are clearly defined).

Saturday night: Rise of the Dead, Part 1: The Arrival
This was only the second role playing game I've ever played. I picked this one because it was being run by the same creator/GM as my first one (which was played at a friend's house) and he does a good job of using props, playing music/sounds and getting the mood right. I won't go into detail about the story because they may not make sense (ritualistic human sacrifices occurring all over the planet, a red meteor in orbit around the earth, dead bodies not staying dead) but I had a good time. Role playing games are kind of hard for me because (a) I don't really know what to do and the actions I want to take (e.g. cleaning) might not make sense with respect to my character, and (b) everyone else talks at once and wants to do their own plan. I felt like my actions were frowned upon by some of the other players so I just started to go along with what everyone else was doing. Granted, this time there were 7 of us and the first time I played with only 4. I think I prefer smaller numbers.

Sunday afternoon: Mystery of the Abbey
This game was so great. Like Clue, only based on Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose. Who killed Brother Adelmo? One of the Franciscan Novices? A Templar Father? Maybe a Benedictian Brother? You walk around, searching other player's cells for clues, going to the scriptorium to read helpful books, going to see who the last person in confession was, etc. Every few turns a small bell (which comes with the game- so cute!) is rung and you all have to go to mass. If someone enters a room you are in, they ask you a question but you may put your finger to your lips- signifying your vow of silence (you don't have to answer). You need to be open to a little bit of silliness with this game. For a few rounds we were forced to ask all our questions in chant, like in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when the monks are chanting, Pi-e Je-su Do-min-eeeee. Our questions were like, "Have you seeeen a fat beard-eedddd Franciscaaaaan?" Another time we had to sing "Are you sleep-ing, Are you sleep-ing, Brother John, Brother John, Morning bells are ring-ing, Morning Bells are ring-ing, Ding ding dong, Ding ding dong". All the other gamers in the room were looking at our table, like, "Yeah, that's why we DON'T play that game." Whatever, I thought it was fun. I'm definitely picking this one up.

# # #

My impression of the convention? It was awesome. So so so awesome. Everyone I talked to was awesome and I had a lot of fun. People told me that this is the best small convention they've been to because there is so much going on- board games, card games, historically accurate miniatures, war games, role playing games, live role playing games, video games, painting, vendors, movies and more. There's no way you could get bored or run out of things to do.

After my first day, I came home and told Dollar, "You have to come tomorrow. You have to. You'd have such a good time." He came and played 5-6 hours (straight) of Magic. He loved it. Later he played Pimps of Catan. He got to talk to a lot of people about strategic war games, which he wants to learn more about. The great thing is that everyone there knows so much about games and they'll talk your ear off about it. This game is better than that game for this reason but if you like this type of game you might want to try this or this...

And I had a moment of revelation there. I was chatting with one guy and we were mutually gushing about how great Carnage is. He said something along the lines of, "A lot us gamers are shy. I have a friend who stutters and you know what? It doesn't matter here. He's not reserved here like he would be around other strangers because he knows no one here will judge him." I thought that was really touching. It didn't matter what you looked like or sounded like (although, I wouldn't object to sticks of deodorant handed out to everyone upon registration)- just how you played.

I liked that I could try out all the games I had an interest in. Now I know whether I will enjoy the game I buy and whether or not I'll get a lot of replay out of it.


[amy] Dinner at THE CAVE

Besides all the yarn work, it was a busy weekend. I cleaned out the fridge (must start learning to EAT LEFTOVERS), Dollar took care of the recycling and garbage, I did some laundry, we played Magic, went out to eat at The Cave (Village Pizza) and rearranged the bedroom.

Sunday night I was so wiped from all the winding, washing and dying of yarn that I told Dollar we should go out to eat. He asked where we should go and I proceeded to name off the most twisted, f'ed-up places I could think of within driving range.

AMY: Friendly's.


AMY: It's, like, only families and senior citizens that go there. And it's kinda scummy. I can't even remember that last time I was there.

DOLLAR: Then why do you want to go?

AMY: I don't know. What do you think is the scummiest place you never go to eat?

DOLLAR: ...Denny's.

AMY: OOoo. That's a good one. But I've been there late LATE at night in the wee hours of the morning, wasted, getting something greasy to eat with a bunch of other people.

DOLLAR: Yeah, me too.

AMY: Hmmm... Oh! I've got it! The restaurant inside K-Mart! Ugh!


AMY: You know, that little... area at the end of the registers. They probably only serve rancid hot dogs and nachos with the barfy nacho cheese.

DOLLAR: I don't- [shaking head] I don't-

AMY: It's okay, we don't have to go there. I was just trying to think of the lamest place we could get supper.

DOLLAR: Why? I don't understand...

AMY: What about... um... oh- The Cave!


AMY: Really? I've never been there. Does it really look like a cave inside?

DOLLAR: Yeah. Let's go.

AMY: You really want to go?

DOLLAR: Sure. Wait- weren't we going to move around the bedroom?

AMY: We can do it when we get back.

[Later... at THE CAVE.]

AMY: Whoa, look at that sign. 'Please wait to be seated'? Is this like a sit-down place now?

DOLLAR: Yeah, you didn't know that?

AMY: No. Last time I was here, it was Village Pizza and it was more like a cafeteria. You ordered with someone, they called your number, you took your food to a table. Like a McDonald's.

DOLLAR: I think this place is pretty nice now.

AMY: Yeah it is. And it's not like a tacky cave either- it just look's like you're inside a regular old cave. [looking at menu] Whoa, look at all the stuff on the menu! It all looks good. Wow. Greek and Mediterranean stuff. Mexican stuff. Italian stuff. It's all the food of the world- inside a CAVE. I love this place!

[Amy and Dollar order Southwestern Eggrolls (filling = very good, wrap = too tough), Bread Stix with Cheese and Marinara Sauce (basically a small cheese pizza cut into strips, marinara sauce VERY good), small Blue Cheese Buffalo Pizza (Amy enjoyed very much), meatball sub (Dollar enjoyed, Amy couldn't understand why the meatballs were cut into slices. They weren't meat balls, there were small meat disks)]

[Back at home]

AMY: Blergh that was good. Me sleep now.

DOLLAR: I thought we were going to move around the bedroom.

AMY: Oh... Ha ha, YOU! [poking Dollar in the chest] You just don't forget about anything do you? Ha ha. That's great. Yeah sure, let's move a whole bunch of heavy furniture right now.

DOLLAR: I'll get the tape measure and vacuum.

AMY: Great.

[Ten minutes later]

AMY: Because that's as far as it will reach!

DOLLAR: Well then, can you plug it in somewhere closer?!

AMY: Fine!

[Ten minutes after that]


AMY: Sorry.

DOLLAR: Can you just-

[Another ten minutes]

AMY: We can move the futon over there, put the tv there, move the clothes things over there and then have enough room to bring the U.S.S. Dollar in and put it here.

DOLLAR: And I'll put this table right here.

AMY: But look... Look, now I can't open my closet door all the way.

DOLLAR: Do you need it to open all the way?

AMY: ...

DOLLAR: Okay, I guess I'll have to find somewhere else to put the table.

AMY: Oh. I'm SORRY. I'm sorry I'm asking SO MUCH by wanting my closet DOOR to be able to open up to MORE than a sixty degree ANGLE.

[After all the moving was done]

AMY: Boy, I just love moving stuff with you.


AMY: It shows how- OW! My nightstand is too close to the bed now! I just banged my elbow!


[knitting] Family Yarn

I recently acquired all of my grandmother's yarn stash. She just had a heart attack and is (thankfully) on the mend. In the meantime, she's pushing all of her belongings onto family members. Which had my sister and I running around her farmhouse, saying, "I'll take the yarn!" "I'll take these old books!" "I'll take the German beer steins!" Now Grammy knows how it feels to be robbed.

No, it wasn't like a robbery. I was given a lovely little blue kerosene lantern that my great-grandmother would light at night when Grammy was sick. And a big jewelry box. Barbara got a whole mess of knives. I got cookbooks, Barbara got a large old frame, etc etc. My favorite was all her yarn and vintage knitting patterns.

Here's what most of the yarn looked like when I dumped it out:

I'd say about 50% of the yarn was hand spun by my grandmother. My grandparents used to have sheep on their farm and this yarn is from those sheep. And you want to hear something totally weird? It turns out that my grandmother bought some of her sheep from my boyfriend's aunt. Like, years and years ago, when we were just kids. So in my mind, I see Dollar petting (or more likely chasing) one of his aunt's sheep. The sheep is bought by my grandmother and brought to the farm. Then I come up one summer to visit and chase the sheep around the pasture. Later, the sheep are sheared, Grammy spins that yarn and here I have it. It's like... I don't know. The yarn has come full circle or something.

But I digress. My whole weekend was spent winding the balls into large hanks, soaking the yarn in a gentle soapy bath and hanging them out to dry.

My umbrella swift worked hard all weekend long

Hanks resting before their gentle soapy bath

Trying to expedite the drying process outside, in the cold and rapidly dimming autumn afternoon

You can see how dirty the yarn is- lots of bits of hay and stuff

Some of the yarn is plied- very pretty!

All done- washed enough yarn for two sweaters and a shawl

I even dyed some smaller lengths of all the yarn in red/purple Kool-Aid to see how the color would take.

The dark grey yarn at the bottom is my favorite

The color ranged from dusty purple to a very deep burgundy

I'd like to use all the dyed yarn samples to make a crazy hat. All of Grammy's yarn isn't the softest in the world (not by a long shot), so I may have to line the hat with a soft alpaca. I'd like to give the hat to my cousin's son (who is the only great-grandchild in the family right now) so that he can have a hat from wool his great-grandmother spun.

There’s more yarn to wash, but for now I’ve taken care of all of the hand-made stuff Grammy made. There’s more wool that she bought (enough for a Fair Isle yoked sweater) that needs to be washed to get out the strong sheepy smell.


[knitting] Links

Julia Roberts to produce and star in a knitting movie based on a knitting book.

Here's a knitting book for men- yeah, like a title like that is going to make them want to knit.

Cool Kable Needle Case- a case for single-pointed (not cable) needles.

Neat idea: Come in From the Cold Coasters. Knit in the round, felted, then cut into individual pieces!


[amy] My cat?

I hope everyone had a spooky Halloween. I got twenty or so trick-or-treaters. And a cat. At one point a couple girls knocked on my door asking for candy. I feel weird about giving candy to high school girls who don't even try to dress up (they were wearing street clothes and a witch's hat- come on!). If a couple of guys looking like this knocked on my door, I would give them lots of candy. But these girls...

Anyway, a cat came running into my house as soon as I opened the door for them. The girls asked, "Is that your cat?" I said, "No," gave them a handful of lollypops and shut the door. The cat was walking around my living room like he owned the place, rubbing against furniture legs and meowing. I said, "Hey buddy, who are you? What are you doing here? Do you belong to someone?" He answered with enthusiastic meows but I couldn't understand what he was saying. "Are you supposed to be mine?" I asked.

See, the cat was a manx. A manx with no collar. I've always had a manx cat growing up and I love manx cats. No tail, very smart, rabbit-like, best-friend type cats. So what was I supposed to do with this cat? When more trick-or-treaters came and I opened the door, he didn't run back outside. See? He loved me!

I opened up a can of tuna fish and gave him half. He ate so fast that I thought for sure he must be a homeless cat. He meowed and meowed for more after he was done but I told him he had had enough. I went to the door to pass out more candy and when I went back into the kitchen, he was up on the counter eating the remaining tuna out of the can I had left in the sink. I yelled for him to get down (which he did) and thought, "Hmm... He must eat out of a lot of garbage cans. He must be homeless."

Eventually I told him to go back out. He sat on my stoop for a while but did end up leaving. Dollar got home a little later. More trick-or-treaters came and when I opened the door, the cat came running in. I hadn't told Dollar about him, so he stuck his foot out, trying to block the cat's way (but the wily cat dodged the boot and ran for the kitchen). "Whoa whOA WHOA!" he said, "That's not our cat!" I shut the door on the kids and turned to Dollar.

"I think he's supposed to be our cat," I said. "Look, he's here, he's a manx. Can you believe it? It's like, what I've always wanted." Dollar couldn't argue with my sad, pleading face without coming off like a totally cruel jerk of a boyfriend. So the cat stayed for a little while as I got supper ready. When I was setting the table, Dollar said the cat went outside and closed the door behind himself. Apparently the cat wanted to go outside when he was inside and come inside when he was outside. At one point the cat went outside and rubbed against the storm door, effectively closing it. So out he stayed.

I do want a cat. And if he comes back, I might just have to feed him again. But I don't want to cat-nap another person's pet. Maybe he can just be a frequent visitor.


[games] The frustrations of two-player Catan

The weather was poor all weekend so Dollar and I stayed in and played Settlers. We've been playing this variant because it allows us to include the Seafarers expansion. We tried Intimate Settlers a couple times but found that we liked the one-small-island-and-discover version better than two-home-bases one.

Most of our games ended up looking something like:

Final Score- Dollar 20, Amy 10.

Dollar won all but one of the games. I think it's because it takes FIVE MINUTES for him to complete his turn. My turn goes like: "I want to build a road, I discover a tile, it's water, of course it is, sigh, I'm all done." His turns went like, "Oh look, I rolled a seven. I'll put the robber on one of your tiles, steal a card from you, and now I want to... build... a... Hmm... ... ... ... ... Sigh... ... Do I want to build a ship or a road? Hmm... [tap tap TAPPING his foot on the floor] Hm... I- Hmm..."

AAGGHH!!! I understand he’s THINKING of what he wants to do but come on! I was able to knit a small bag, finish a washcloth and start another washcloth DURING HIS TURNS ONLY while we played. Here's one of the small bags in use:

Here are the two I made:

The one on the left used almost a whole ball of Knit Picks Ambrosia (in Lavender). It's about 5 x 7 inches and sooooo soft (and maybe a little on the "girly" side). I knit the I-cord using the Embellish-Knit machine from JoAnn. The little device has gotten some pretty crappy reviews but I think it works just fine. It could have taken me an hour to knit all that I-Cord but the crank-turning device got it done for me in three minutes. No, you can't use bulky yarn with it (or even worsted weight). Yes, the directions are a little unclear and you need to make sure the hooks are doing their hooking thing properly, but after that it is smooth sailing. I swear.

The smaller bag on the right (about 4 x 5 inches) used a negligible amount of Lion Brand Wool Ease. We've been using it for blindly picking out a numbered disk when a new land hexagon has been discovered. The next bag I knit needs to be big enough to hold all the undiscovered hex tiles. We used a hat at first (couldn't mix them up enough), then a brown paper bag (you could shake/mix them up but the bag started to look way ghetto after just a couple games), and currently a small-ish canvas tote bag. The tote bag is working out all right, but it's a little too long. Another knit bag may be in order but I've got so much Christmas knitting to do that I'm starting to freak out.

Oh, and once I figure out how to knit hexagons, I thought it would be totally cool to knit a Settlers bag (yellow for wheat, dark green for forest, etc). Anyone know where I can get a plain hexagon pattern? I know Knitting Nature is full of them but...


[games] Carnage Con

This year's theme for Carnage Con is "Carnage 9 From Outer Space".

I have a vintage Plan 9 From Outer Space poster in my living room because I'm collecting vintage movie posters. Dollar saw it and said, "You know that's supposed to be the WORST movie ever made?" So I rented it and it was SO bad that I couldn't even finish watching it. Suffice it to say:

"Plan 9? Ah, yes. Plan 9 deals with the resurrection of the dead. Long distance electrodes shot into the pineal and pituitary gland of the recently dead."

So there are several zombie themed games at Carnage. Zombie board games, zombie role-playing games, zombie card games. I'm very excited. There will be tons to see and do. I'm excited to be trying out and seeing games that I've read about but haven't ever played.

I've been in a gaming frame of mind because I recently bought Settlers and have been playing a two-player variant with Dollar.

My knitting has even taken on a gaming theme- last night I knit a small drawstring bag (from this pattern) to hold game bits and pieces. What an awesome way to use left-over yarn in my stash! I'm going to make all kinds of sizes.


[knitting] Felting with Patons SWS

I got one ball of Patons SWS (70% wool, 30% soy) in Natural Earth when I went down to Michael's. I cast on an unknown number of stitches onto #13 circular needles and knit until the ball was gone. The plan was to felt it and then sew in a zipper.

Look at all the colors. The yarn was really nice and squishy. There was also a nice sheen from the soy.

Before felting, with Altoid tin for scale.

After felting. Shit man, where'd all the yarn go?

What's with the curl? Well, I did sew in a zipper by hand. I sewed one half in, then the other. But I think one side was pulled tighter or something. Anyway, the stupid thing curled.

I re-soaked the bag in tepid water and then pressed flat. It's (mostly) okay now. The only problem is the awkward shape. What am I going to keep in here, chopsticks? The bag is too short for drum sticks. It's not big enough around for all my double-pointed or single-point needles. My plan is just to let it sit around until its usefulness is revealed to me.

WARNING: If you're going to felt with this yarn, I recommend not leaving the washing machine's side. I usually go down to the basement to throw a sample or swatch in, go back upstairs to do the dishes or cook, then go down to check on it a little later, then back upstairs, etc etc. SWS FELTS EXTREMELY FAST. I probably would have pulled this out sooner, so it didn't end up so small.

Further proof you should check the washing machine every two minutes.


[knitting] Plum Sprinkles Progress

I started the heel flap (no short-row heels this time). I messed up a little. I'm slightly discouraged.

[knitting] We Call Them (Girly) Pirates

The hat is done. I knit up a lining, tacked it down, soaked it, blocked it. While it was a fun project to work on, I had issues.

Issue 1: Tacking down the lining stitches to the inside of the hat. This was tough because it was hard for me to keep track of rows on the inside of the hat, because of all the carried yarn. Does that make sense? I had to sew down one sitich into (almost) all of the purl bumps in a row but the rows are so hard to see, that my lining is uneven. You'll see what I mean.

Issue 2: It's about half-an-inch too short.

Modifications (on this hat): I knit 5 pattern repeats (I was using #2 needles) instead of 4. I used Knit Picks Palette in white and blush- which brings the cost of this hat to LESS THAN $3.98!!

Modifications (on the next hat): START with lining, knit up and tack down during hat knitting- this will ensure that the lining is all along the same row. Also, make longer.

That means I'm currently down to two unfinished projects: Plum Sprinkles and Starsky. I think about Starsky and I do want to work on it, but I just can't seem to get up the motivation.


[knitting] Plum Sprinkles

I'm calling the socks 'Plum Sprinkles' from now on. The colored nubbley bits remind me of the sprinkles/jimmys you get on ice cream. Here's my toe-up sock so far:

I was only able to knit three rows last night because I made two (TWO!) lasagnas- one to bake, one to freeze. I used no-cook lasagna sheets to save time but it still took three hours to prepare everything, assemble, bake and wash up. I know it'll be worth it a month or two from now, when I say, "I don't feel like cooking... I know! I'll just shove the frozen lasagna into the oven!"

Anyway, the sock. It's smooth stockinette sailing until the heel. I reckon I'll try out cosmicpluto's short-row heel tutorial.

I'm using five double-pointed needles at the moment (4 on on the sock, 1 to knit with). I think I'll move down to 4 needles (3 on the sock, 1 to knit with) until the heel, to see if the knitting goes faster. Knitting off 3 needles has got to go faster than knitting on 4, right?

The yarn itself is very nice to work with. The color bits keep it interesting and it feels squishier than Gloss. Here's a comparison of the two:

Essential TweedGloss
Knit PicksKnit Picks
65% Superwash Wool, 25% Nylon, 10% Donegal 70% Merino Wool, 30% Silk
231 yards/50 gram ball 220 yards/50 gram hank
7-8 sts=1" on #1-3 needles7-8 sts=1" on #1-3 needles
Machine washHand wash

Cheaper, better yardage, machine washable AND it feels better? In the future I will choose Essential Tweed over Gloss for socks. (For socks. Gloss may be more suited toward Fair Isle mittens or a lace scarf.)


[vermont] Vt. is named smartest state

Vermont is named the smartest state- for the sekond konsekutiv year!

[knitting] Socktoberfest progress

With Socktoberfest more than half over, I thought I should post any progress I've made on my goals...

1. Knit Picks Gloss in Cocoa --> Whitby

2. Kool-Aid dye Knit Picks Bare Superwash/Nylon/Donegal
Haven't done this yet but it's no my fault! I need Orange but the grocery store hasn't re-stocked that flavor in months. I swear I look every time I'm there.

3. Knit Picks Essential Tweed in Plum --> Widdershins
I decided on a pattern and I started these yesterday. I've completed the toe and am plodding along on the foot.

4. Regia Silk in Burgundy --> ?
I'm so not going to get to this yarn this month.

5. Sock blockers? Make some out of wire hangers?
I did make a couple to go with #1 but they didn't come out looking the same. My new plan is to go to the Hartford Middle School, to the shop class, and ask them to cut me a pair. All I'll have to do is draw the silhouette on a piece of plywood, right?

6. Stockings
I don't know if this is going to happen.

7. Learn short row heels
Not there yet.

8. Learn toe-up socks
Yes. It's terribly awkward to start but the result (for me) was a nicely rounded toe. I used this method.

So my to-do list for the rest of the week is: dye the yarn, finish the plum socks, visit the middle school shop class.


[knitting] Links

Do you have an overweight, surly cat in need of humiliation? Knit him/her a muumuu.

Knit a felted pumpkin basket for your little trick-or-treater.

Lost your lace pattern in all that color variation? Re-dye the finished object.

This double-knit star scarf is really clever- the stars almost look quilted. I'd like to try it with big circles or squares.


[amy] How the haunted maze has permanently damaged me.

Friday the 13th. I wasn't planning on going anywhere after dark but I didn't feel like cooking so I decided to make a run to the pizza place. Dollar wasn't coming with me to pick it up because he got home late from work and just wanted to chill. Fine. I drove up into Hanover and saw crowds of people waiting for the bonfire to be lit. GREAT. Now there's going to be no parking. I drove down Main Street, took a left onto Lebanon Street and a right into the new-ish parking garage. I went down, down, down looking for an open spot. Finally I pulled into one of the many available Permit Only spaces because I was only going to be gone for 5 minutes. I got out of the car and shut my door, listening to the sound echo off the concrete walls.

Then nothing. There were lots of cars around but no people. This wouldn't have been so scary if NPR hadn't been discussing horror movies during the entire drive over. Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Nightmare on Elm Street, blood, gore, etc. I wanted the fastest way out of the garage so I made my way toward the stairwell. Just as the door heavily closed behind me, I thought I heard whispers. Suddenly feeling vulnerable in the stairwell (and wishing I had a can of mace), I exited at the next level. I try to find a door out of the garage spot one nearby. I push through and find myself outside but behind the garage in an alley with (easy to hind behind) dumpsters. Should I find my way to the street or go back inside? Street.

Around the corner of the building, I walk by various large construction objects (where it would be very easy to hide a body) and make it to the street, thankful to be alive. I calmly walk into the pizza shop and pay. Now how to get back to my car? The way out was convoluted and somewhat terrifying. I walk down a side street and enter the garage via an unused exit. I walk down some steps and my car should be here. ... It should be... Shouldn't it be here? No, well, maybe on the next level down. Walk walk walk. It should be... here! No. I guess it's on the next level. Walk walk walk. Is that- Is there someone behind me? Walkwalkwalkwalkwalk. Here! No. Where is it? I don't think I drive this far down. Nothing looks familiar! Someone's trying to kill me! I go running for the stairwell, ready to slice any assailant across the face with my pizza box and run up two flights of stairs.

Gasping, I throw open the door to Level Two and see my car. Getting my breath under control, I readjust the pizza box to a more horizontal level from it's vertical shield-like position, and walk towards my car. Not feeling quite safe yet, I sprint the last 10 feet, jump in, lock the doors, check the back seats and open trunk for anybody hiding. Safe. I start the car and drive home. I don't listen to NPR during the drive home.


[knitting] A pair of socks, a pair of hats

I finally took a couple pictures of Dollar's green socks:


I love seeing these on his feet. Every time I see him in these, it's like he just brought home a bouquet of flowers for me. And my involvement with these socks is over (until mending is needed)- he washes and wears them on his own. I really like that these socks can be machine washed and dried. The 2x2 rib around the leg is a little too loose, so the next pair will have a 1x1 rib. I used less that two balls of Lion Brand Wool Ease worsted weight. (The socks are on my smaller feet in the 2nd picture. It was too early in the morning for me to wake him up and say, "Hey put these on, I gotta take a picture.")

I topped the pumpkin hat with a corkscrew vine and leaf (both from Knitting on the Edge):


I wore this to the haunted maze and got a compliment on it from a high-schooler. She was part of one of those moving packs of adolescent girls. She timidly said to me, "I like your hat," and started mad giggling. Then her friends were like, "Shelly, ohmigawd, like I can't even believe you said that." More mad giggling. Then I was all like, "Thank you." And then they were all like, ignoring me all of a sudden. And I was all like, what-evers.

I'm approaching the finish line for We Call them (Girly) Pirates:

This has been my 2nd Fair Isle project. It was very difficult for me in the beginning, holding two colors of yarn at the same time. Picking with one, throwing with the other. I kept twisting my stitches the wrong way. I didn't really feel comfortable until I completed 40% of the hat. I'm working up the lining now. After I tack that down and block the whole thing, I see how it looks and decide what changes need to be made for Dollar's manly grey/black version.


[amy] Happy Birthd-AAAGGH!

It was a good birthday. Dollar and I got up late on Friday, went for breakfast at Lou's diner in Hanover and then walked up Gile Mountain:



Afterwards, we went to a bookstore in Enfield, home to chill and have some supper, then drive all the way up to Danville for the Spooky Maze.

The maze was spooky and scream inducing. But it was packed. The line was long (about an hour's wait) to get in, but the nice thing is that they only let one group in at a time (whether your group numbers eight people or just two). Lots of camoflaged ghouls and demons racing down the path at you, jumping out from the corn stalks, waving real chainsaws around in strobe lights.

The fear I felt wasn't so much "I've been kidnapped and now I'm locked in a basement- I think I'm gonna die" real fear. It was more about being startled. You're tense as you're walking, you're waiting for it, you know something must be close at- AAAGGHH! Like that.

Dollar could spot nearly all of the people hiding. He jumped twice, I think. I don't know how he could see them but he would alert me by vaguely saying, "There's one up here." I would frantically start looking around, feeling the panic rise, then jump out of my skin when they STILL scared me. At one point he said, "Here. Here's one." He pulled me to one side of the path and pointed at something down in the stalks. "Right here," he said, holding the tip of his index finger a mere three inches away from a shadowy scull face. The scull face wasn't moving, so I bent forward to get a closer look. I said, "Are you sure? It's not mov- AAGHHH!!!" That's when the person jumped at me. Hoo boy, lots of fun. My nerves were shot by the time we made it out alive.

What I found interesting was that after doing this for so many years, the people who do the scaring really know how and WHO to scare. Even if you spot them and say, "Ha ha ha, I see you," the ghoul won't say, "Aw shucks, you got me." They will stay perfectly still and wait for the right time to get you. Oh, they're good. And my method of self-defense (looking the other way in a "La la la, I can't see you" manner) didn't work. I think the fact that I smiled nervously and looked away made a more obvious target of me.

Anyway, good times. After it was over, people kind of milled around an open area in an apprehensive daze, waiting for the wagon to bring them back to the parking lot. A guy waiting right at the maze exit says, "Thank you for coming folks but there's just one thing left- Walk through there." He points at a wooden door. Yeah right, you think. He assures you that it's not scary. Pppfftt, yeah right, you think. No no, just walk through, he says. Well... all right. Once inside, you see that you're standing inside a calming, slowly spinning, vertigo inducing, star-kaleidoscope thing. Somehow is eases the residual tension away.

Highly recommended. The only downside was the long wait. Our ticket was for 9 pm and we probably didn't get in until 10 pm. Maybe the earlier ones aren't as crowded?


[knitting] Karaoke Fingerless Gloves


I made 80% of one following the pattern exactly and realized I wouldn't have enough for another. I ripped it, which wasn't nearly as tragic as I thought it would be. It's a small project.

I started over. Basically, wherever the pattern said 3 (i.e. 3 more times; for 3 twists), I changed it to 2.

The tops of my thumbs were finished with a couple rounds of moss-stitch. This is because of the odd number of stitches: 15. The pattern says "Pick up 12 stitches and 3 along the hole at the top of the thumb." So this would make 15 stitches, right? 12... plus 3... yeah, 15. So why does the pattern say to finish with 3 rounds of 1x1 rib? You need an even number for that. [sigh] Hence the moss-stitch (knit the purls, purl the knits). Which looks fine because the texture is reminiscint of the twists at the top of the glove.

It's all about being able to adapt.

Speaking of which, the increases for the thumb gussets left insightly holes, which I closed up using a whip stitch from the tail leftover from doing the thumb tops. This gives the pauper-esque gloves a Frankenstein quality.

Anyway, the gloves are a little shorter but they fit like a... They fit perfectly. They currently live in my work bag and I pull them on ever I get chilly fingers at my keyboard. Which doesn't really ease the chilly fingers because these gloves are fingerless. But they're so pretty, I guess that's what warms me up.


[knitting] Socks: The evolution

First sock (never knit it's mate- so sad): Basic pair from Socks Soar on Two Circulars

First PAIR of socks
Basic pair from Socks Soar on Two Circulars

My Second Pair
Creeping Vines from Townsend Socks Knitalong (Yahoo Group)

My third pair: Plain pair from Hand Book of Knitting Patterns
Dollar's socks. Will take a (mis-colored (DAMN THIS CAMERA) picture) soon.

Fourth pair: Whitby from On the Road
To be revealed soon. But they are done

Socktoberfest Questions

* When did you start making socks? Did you teach yourself or were you taught by a friend or relative? or in a class?
Christmas 2004. Taught myself (through much trail and error).

* What was your first pair? How have they "held up" over time?
I do wear my blue stripey and green lacey ones- whenever my feet are super chilly. They've held up fine, although I can't say I've washed them all that much (really, they're only on my feet for a few hours at a time). The nice thing about hand-knitted wool socks is that they don't stink. Ever. Really. They just smell like wool.

* What would you have done differently?
Nothing. Any errors I made I fixed. I first learned the Kitchener Stitch when grafting a toe closed. Actually, maybe I would have liked to have started out on something like "comfy house socks" or something on #5 needles. Starting on #2 was kind of tedious, after knitting everything else I made (scarves, hats) on beginner's #13 needles. You know what I mean? All knitters I know start out with #13 needles and super bulky yarn, because all the stitches are big and easy to see and projects knit up fast. There should be "beginner's socks".

* What yarns have you particularly enjoyed?
I liked the automatic thick stripes of my blue ones. Knit Picks Gloss has been nice. I haven't knit with anything too fine yet.

* Do you like to crochet your socks? or knit them on DPNs, 2 circulars, or using the Magic Loop method?
Used 2 circulars in the beginning but after recently doing two separately on douple-pointed needles, I think I prefer DPN's. It's more managable and portable. Easier to do the turning heel and gusset, too.

* Which kind of heel do you prefer? (flap? or short-row?)
Haven't tried short-row yet but I like the tailored look of the flap.

* How many pairs have you made?

[cooking] Blueberry Pie

2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup + 2 tbsp. vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice water
1 tablespoon corn starch

4 cups frozen blueberries (do not thaw)
1 cup sugar
Juice from one lemon
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Little melted butter

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a bowl mix flour and salt, cut in shortening, mix; add water a little at a time and mix until all flour is moistened. Make a ball with the dough and place on a floured board. Divide in half. Roll out to an approximately 12" circle and place into a well-greased 9" pie plate, leaving an overhang. Dust with 1 tablespoon cornstarch.

In same bowl, dust blue berries with flour. Dust with corn starch. Mix in sugar and lemon juice, turn into pastry-lined pan. Roll out remaining half of dough and place over top of apple mixture. Fold edge on top pastry under edge of lower pastry and trim. Seal with fingertips. Cut steam vents, brush with butter.

Bake for 50 minutes, turn down heat to 370, bake for another 10-15 minutes, until the top is golden. Let cool completely before cutting.


1. This pie was maybe a little too sweet. I'd recommend using only 1/2 cup of sugar but I haven't tried it yet so I can't vouch for the taste. I would have preferred this pie to be really tart. The idea of dusting the berries with crushed SweetTarts did cross my mind for one crazy second.

2. The flour dusting and extra long baking time were because I used frozen berries. The recipe would be different if you use fresh berries.

3. You've got to let the whole thing cool, for real, or else the filling will ooze out. I waited 3-4 hours and there was minimal ooze. The pie slice held it's shape and filling well. Nice "berries and cream" flavor when eaten with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.


[knitting] Stash enhancement

Saturday was a big shopping day. I drove an hour down to Keene, NH to hit all the craft and knitting stores. The first stop was Michaels.

[sigh] Michaels was awesome. So much better than Jo-Ann, although perhaps you can't compare the two because Jo-Ann is more about fabric. Michaels had so much wonderful stuff: aisles and aisles of beads, pictures, stamps, baskets, vases, yarn, etc etc. I was really only there to get Patons SWS. Everyone's been talking about it (and felting with it) and as far as I could tell, the only place to get it is at a Michaels craft store.

By the way, how do you say "Patons"? I always said "Pah-tons" (like cheerleaders twirling "bah-tons") but a woman at Michaels referred to the brand as "Pat'ns". Anyone?

When I first walked into the store, I looked for a flier to see what was on sale. I asked a clerk:

AMY: Excuse me, do you have any spare fliers I could have?

CLERK: For the coupon?

AMY: [pause] Yes.

CLERK: That's okay, I'll give you a coupon voucher at the register.

AMY: Oh thank you. [pause] And that's for...

CLERK: 40% off one regular priced item.

AMY: Okay, thank you.

Wheee, I love coupons. I ended up using it on The New Crewel by Katherine Shaughnessy. I'd like to get some plain window valences and do some crewel embroidery all along the bottom. Right now there are no, I repeat, no window decorations of any kind (other than blinds) in my home. Bo-ring.

At Michaels I got one ball of SWS in Natural Earth, one ball of Rumor in Hibiscus Heather and one ball of Lacette in Touch of Black.

SWS will probably be knit and felted down into a small cosmetics bag. It reminds me a lot of SWTC Karaoke.

Rumor is so big and soft and squishy, all I want to do is squeeze it and press it into my face. I don't think there's enough in this one ball for a hat, but I'll give it a try. If that doesn't work, I'm going to use it with like-colors to make a scarf.

Lacette is only so-so (it was an impulse purchase). It doesn't feel super great but I think I can make an elegant evening scarf with it. I'd like to knit it with beads to give it a little more weight/drape, since it's really quite light and airy.

But this was only the beginning of my stash enhancement...


[knitting] Various -Alongs and Misc Links

I've joined a few, okay four, knit-alongs.

1. Socktoberfest: over 1000 people have signed up. Huge. I've already outlined what my goals are for this.

2. Stocking-along: Two stockings. Bonus points for any ornaments or decorations. Double plus bonus points for knitting a Christmas Tree Hat for myself.

3. Fiber Flix: I reckon this will be the least stress. Knit whatever I'm knitting (socks, stockings, etc), watch a movie, discuss. Next month's selection will be noir.

4. Who wouldn't love a handknitted gift?: I've got 10 projects I want to knit for Christmas. Sound like a lot? Well, 9 of those things are Mason-Dixon washrags (to be gifted to three people in packets of three), so I'm not too intimidated/scared. My mom has requested gloves.

# # #

Some knitting links:

Branching Out, repeated three times across, turns the scarf into a stole.

Ene's Scarf and a nekkid woman.

This is why you knit stuff for kids. So... cute...

Be amazed by this Dragone Shawl.


[amy] Bad days made better

Blah, yesterday was an okay day, then a sucky day, then a better day, then a crap day, then an okay day, etc. I was being pulled in too many directions and hating on people. I thought I got my Amazon package (finally) but it wasn't at the post office (even though I got an email saying it was delivered, for sure). I kind of hassled the post guy and he was kind of hassling me back. Then I went home and saw the package was on my doorstep. Guilt feelings washed over me.

I ripped it open and carried all my books up to the bedroom. I crawled into bed to browse them and quietly lament my crappy (but improving) day. In addition to knitting and dyeing books, I got this non-stick pan because of my recent potato woes. I gently washed it and used it for supper- the potatoes came out perfect. I cut red new potatoes in half, drizzled with olive oil, tossed with Italian herbs, Goya Adobo seasoning, salt and pepper. I put them into the oven to roast at 380 F and after 30 minutes I pulled out the pan to turn them. All I had to do was shake the pan a little and they slid around like... like little greased sliding things. This brought a tear to my eye and greatly improved my day. I think I'm in love with this pan.


[cooking] Apple Pie

The apple pie came out fantastic. Beyond fantastic. I couldn't stop looking at it and remarking on how fantastic it looked. Dollar just bounced from foot to foot, repeating, "Cut it, cut it, cut it!" I have to replicate the recipe here:

# # #

Classic Apple Pie

2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup + 2 tbsp. vegetable shortening
1/4 cup ice water
corn starch

6 medium apples, peeled and sliced
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. butter, melted for brushing

In a bowl mix flour and salt, cut in shortening, mix; add water a little at a time and mix until all flour is moistened. Make a ball with the dough and place on a floured board. Divide in half. Roll out to an approximately 12" circle and place into a well-greased 9" pie plate, leaving an overhang. Dust with cornstarch.

Mix apples with lemon juice, sugar and spices; turn into pastry-lined pan. Roll out remaining half of dough and place over top of apple mixture. Fold edge on top pastry under edge of lower pastry and trim. Seal with fingertips. Cut steam vents, brush with butter. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 50 minutes, until top is nicely browned.

# # #


1. I couldn't find my pastry blender so I used an oversized fork (one of those big ones that are usually used for serving things). I used it to cut the Crisco into the flour, lightly, until the mixture was uniformly crumbly. Then I added the ice water, a little at a time, and lightly continued the same cutting motion until the dough came together.

2. I brushed the top crust with a beaten egg instead of butter and sprinkled the top with sugar. I turned the oven down to 375 after 10 minutes or so.

3. It took me just under an hour to prepare the pie (not including the 50 minute baking time). I'd like to get that time down to 30 minutes. The dough was very easy; it was peeling and slicing the apples that was the most time consuming. Time to get a corer/peeler.

4. I think this was the first pie I've made since I was 12 years old and spending my summers up on my grandparents farm. I can remember doing a lot of baking up there but I always had my grandmother or great-grandmother looking over my shoulder. I was a little intimidated to do this on my own but it was easy, it came out right and I bet the pie only cost $2 in ingredients.

5. There's nothing like warm homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream. This was a real treat.

UPDATE on 09/25

6. I've made three of these apple pies now. I made two on Saturday- one to bring to a birthday party and another to keep at home. Everyone who has had a slice has either commented on how good it is, asked for more, or asked for the recipe. Do you know why? Do you know what it is about the pie?

The nutmeg. I'm sure of it. I bought a little baggie of whole nutmeg nuts at the Asian Superstore on the Mall in Lebanon for $2.50 and I used freshly grated nutmeg in the pie recipe. Just drag the whole nutmeg along a fine grater, right into the bowl of apples, cinnamon and sugar. Have you ever seen what the inside of a nutmeg looks like? It looks like a brain. (foreshadowing)

What's so special about nutmeg? It's psychoactive. I did some reading on this and if you eat a lot of it, you feel all hot and then slip into a light coma. The whole pie only uses a small amount and then is baked, which I presume releases all the feel-good, mescaline-like properties into the pie. Which makes the eater happy (for reasons unknown to them).

7. Here's a chart on what apples to use for what. I've been using Cortlands from Poverty Lane Farms.


[amy] Misc. stuff

So much to do, so little time. I swear, Dollar and I are not idle but the "to do" list keeps growing. Last night I broke down and made a list of shows/movies we need to watch. I figure "to do" lists don't always have to be crap chores you don't want to do- they can be good lists. Here's what I have on the list (in no particular order):

- Smallville Season 5
- Mirror Mask
- Dave Chappelle's Block Party
- Lost in Translation
- LOST Season 2
- Plan 9 From Outer Space

# # #

I finished one Whitby sock and cast on for the second. I may be able to gift them to a family member sooner than I thought. I'd like to make a couple wire hanger sock blockers to go with them. I'm going to start Socktoberfest way ahead of the curve!

# # #

It's the eminent return of Magic the Gathering. I remember all to well how the last game ended. In fact, all the cards were boxed and shoved into a remote corner of the library before my face was even dry. But recently a friend dropped a whole box of cards off and now Dollar's taken to organizing them all. Thoroughly. As in:

Phase 1: Dollar takes all the cards, separates them out by edition and color, slips them into baseball card sheets and puts them into binders.

Phase 2: Amy takes all the binders and sorts within each color by type (creature, instant, sorcery, etc) and by mana cost.

Sgt. Dollar isn't ready to launch Phase 2 yet, so I sit next to him, nervously knitting until the call of duty.

# # #

I'm knitting some fingerless gloves. Or, I'm trying to. This pattern is meant to use only one ball of Karaoke (which is all I have). I knit to just past the thumb gusset on the first one and it was clear that I wasn't going to have enough yarn for another. So I ripped the whole thing. I started over last night and am making a few adjustments to shorten the gloves. I'm using the Mermaid Mix colorway and it's very pretty. The yarn isn't plied, so I kind of split it with my needle every now and then, but as long as I'm careful, the stitch definition and sheen of the yarn look fantastic.

# # #

Apples from the picking this past weekend will (I hope) be turned into a pie tonight. And I plan on seeing just how well apples and pork really go together by following a recipe called "Apple Orchard Pork Chops".


[amy] Weekend Update

No pictures from the weekend. My camera is taking mis-colored pictures and I can't figure out how to reset it to the factory settings.

Saturday morning I went apple picking with my sister at Poverty Lane. I picked too many and ended up giving a lot away to family members. Now I will start in on the apple recipes.

Then we went to the Tunbridge Fair for the afternoon. We looked at all (and I mean ALL) the horses, chickens, rabbits, goats, sheep, oxen and cows. I liked looking at all the vegetables and crafts best. Next year I'm totally entering some of my knitted stuff. I told my sister to enter her artwork (it would totally win all kinds of blue ribbons).

The bad news is that Dollar and I didn't make it to Beerstock. We both had such long days- he spent the morning giving a music lesson to his (HYPER-WOW-OHMYGOD-DRUMS!) nephews and the afternoon at band practice. Ken called Sunday night and I tried to pull the whole, "What do you mean you didn't see us? We were there." It didn't work. Apparently we missed the best party ever. I seem to remember Ken saying that once you get coupled up no one ever sees you again (e.g. "Wasn't there something we were supposed to do tonight? ... Oh well, let's just stay home and have sex.") and I didn't think it was true but...

Sunday I lounged around, did some chores, and helped a friend move a couch and dresser into my basement (until he moves into his new place). I did a lot of knitting this weekend and re-appreciated how much pleasure I get from it. Whenever Dollar asks me what I want to do, I always say, "Honestly? I want to knit." He's fine with it because then he does his own thing around the house.

[knitting] Socktoberfest

I've joined Socktoberfest and for the month of October, I will be focusing my knitting on socks. My goals are:

1. Knit Picks Gloss in Cocoa --> Whitby (nearly half-way there already!)

2. Kool-Aid dye Knit Picks Bare Superwash/Nylon/Donegal

3. Knit Picks Essential Tweed in Plum --> ?

4. Regia Silk in Burgundy --> ?

5. Sock blockers? Make some out of wire hangers? All the plastic and wooden ones I've seen online are crazy expensive.

6. Can the stockings I need to make for Stocking Along count towards the "sock" theme of Socktoberfest?

Updated to add...

7. Learn short row heels

8. Learn toe-up socks


[knitting] The Leia Hat

This Leia hat is so awesome, I'm not only going to link to the post (with pattern!), I had to show you the picture as well. Simply awesome and fun. Something about it didn't seem quite right, though, so I did some Google image searching.

It should be browner with a part in the middle. So my suggestion would be to still knit it in the round, but put a purl (or two) into the front middle and back middle, running the whole way up.

The only problem left is that you won't be able to hear all the compliments on how frigging awesome your hat is.


[cooking] What is that? | Why can't I cook potatoes right?

I walked into the kitchen yesterday and saw a clear bag of something on the counter. "What is that?" I thought. "What- Are those potatoes? Chicken nuggets? What the-" Upon closer inspection, I saw that they were old fashioned donut holes. I have no idea where they came from but I could hazard a guess...

AMY: What are those?

DOLLAR: Donut holes.

AMY: Where did they come from?

DOLLAR: The middle of donuts.

AMY: Ha ha ha. Seriously, though.

DOLLAR: My sister.

AMY: She stopped by?


AMY: Hmm... It kind of freaks me out when I see something I don't recognize in my kitchen. Is that totally psycho?


* * *

In other cooking matters, I cannot seem to roast/brown potatoes without them sticking to the pan. I'll use a spatula to try to get them to come off the bottom but then they rip. Soon, I'm left with broken potato pieces in the pan and I feel like throwing the food against the wall. I like to cook and I cook a lot and I know how to cook but this is the one thing that's really bothering me right now.

Example 1: Home fries. Chop potatoes in to large chunks, melt butter in pan over medium/medium high, throw in potatoes, stir to coat, leave alone for 10 minutes, try to turn, stick, rip, bits falling apart, get extremely frustrated.

Why can't I do this?

Example 2: Oven roasted herbed new potatoes. Chop in half, toss in bowl with olive oil and herbs, throw into roasting pan, roast at 400 for 40-50 minutes, shake/turn, everything looks good, cook for another 30 minutes, everything is stuck to pan. Not burned, just stuck to pan. Try to turn/move, potatoes rip. Get extremely frustrated.

I follow recipes, I swear. Boo hoo, boo hoo hoo hoo (this is me crying) boo hoo. Does anyone have a perfectly roasted potato recipe for me to try? I'm desperate.