Monday

[amy] Gemstar / Guitar Hero II Tournament

Saturday I went to Gemstar Gemstone in Enfield. It's been there for as long as I can remember, but I've never been. It was AMAZING. Outside the store, all the geodes and wind chimes and huge chunks of unpolished minerals impressed me. Inside, there were too many beads to comprehend. I was specifically looking for something that brings financial prosperity. I wanted to buy some strings of beads and maybe even a starter set of tools so that I can start beading and create my own unique jewelry but... I think I'll stick with knitting. Then I realized I just need to find more knitting patterns with beads. I saw so many interesting beads there. It's worth checking out and not all that far away. Here's an article about Gemstar Gemstone from Upper Valley Life magazine.

Sunday Dollar and I went up to Burlington for the Guitar Hero II Tournament. The turnout was so huge that they had to cut off spectator entry. Only competitors were going to be allowed inside. I got a little anxious after the announcement because I was only there to watch and support Dollar (and drink beer). The solution was to buy a competitor's ticket and simply not play. Fine. A bunch of Dollar's friends were there, as well, so it was nice to have them to chat and compare scores with.

Round 1 was a freaking free-for-all. Four people could play at once (two people playing head-to-head, on two separate projected screens) on a Medium song. The first person I saw got a score of 240,000. Holy crap. Somehow everyone present managed to play once and then it came to the cut-off. Rumors had been circulating that the cut-off was going to be 250,000. I saw a few people get 260,000 and even 270,000 but I was suddenly worried that Dollar wouldn't make the top 32 with his score of 220,000. Here's where the wheat got separated from the chaff. Dollar didn't make it. He wasn't crushed, in fact he was ready to go. We left, with a complimentary poster.

At home, while I started supper, Dollar said he was going upstairs to play Guitar Hero. "Why?" I asked. "You went to the tournament. You don't have to play anymore." To which he replied, "I didn't even make the top 32. Clearly I need to get better." Sigh, whatever.

Wednesday

[amy] Bring the pain

So tired and sore. Monday night was a good day with the trainer- worked my back, triceps and biceps. I used to be completely spent 40 minutes into our sessions, but now I'm like, "Come on, I want my hour's worth! Let's go! What's next?!" After being given heavy (okay, only 10lbs each) dumbbells and told to do 15 bicep curls, I did them and said, "Whew, that was-" but was immediately told to sit back and do 15 hammer curls. I could only do 12 for the next set. And the last set? One... Two... Three.. Fou... Fffooou... Come on, get that hand above the elbow... FFFFOOOOOUUUU...

The trainer, exhibiting a rare moment of compassion, told me that my body was fatigued and to stop there. Then she smiled (I saw fangs! I swear!) and said "You're going to be sore tomorrow... HAHAHAHAHAH!!!!" Does she even need to remind me? I haven't stopped being sore since I started seeing her months ago.

Last night Dollar and I brought supper outside (mmm, beef tenderloin, salad with balsamic vinaigrette, sautéed snow peas) and I said, "My guns are so huge now, I accidentally ripped through the arms of one of my t-shirts today." I think one of the reasons he likes me so much is that I can make a ridiculous statements like this with a straight face. Plus, I'm insane enough to believe that events I only imagined actually happened. I continued, "Someone asked me to lift something up and I was like, 'Okay' but when I lifted it, I ripped through my shirt like The Hulk... It was very embarrassing."

Soon. Soooooon...

Monday

[amy] Perfect weekend

Friday night Dollar and I went to see Hot Fuzz at the Nugget (how nice it was, not having to drive an hour to go to the movies). It was very funny with a few eye-covering horrific deaths/injuries.

Saturday I met with my trainer at 8 am, went home and raked the lawn a bit, then crawled back to bed to snuggle with Dollar (who hadn't even gotten up yet). Then it was time for breakfast, grocery shopping, and the 5 College's Book Sale at Lebanon High School. I got a cookbook (entirely written in various styles of calligraphy) for my sister, issues 1-15 of Vietnam Journal, Cartoons from Nicaragua: the Revolutionary Humor of Roger (I'm going to need a reference book to accompany this- just so that I can understand the political humor), a couple foodie books, The Princess and the Goblin, and (daght da da daaaaa) Knitting Around by Elizabeth Zimmerman. I saw it sitting plainly on a table and thought "Is this some kind of a joke?" ... "There's no way I could be this lucky." ... "GRAB IT, YOU FOOL!" Five dollars. FIVE DOLLARS for a book Amazon won't sell for less than twenty-eight. I slowly went through the book once, enjoying the patterns as well as all the pictures and stories from EZ's past. It comes across as a really personal knitting book.

Sunday Dollar and I went for a drive. The weather was amazing- every house I saw had people sitting outside, just enjoying the weather. I'm still having nightmares about immanent blizzards (for real, I'm seeing weather men pointing at a red arrow stretching from Canada down into New England with a snowflake icon over the Upper Valley) but it's meant to get up to 85 today. We ended up driving to South Royalton, to my grandmother's farm. We walked around the property and I pointed to the pasture where the sheep used to graze, to the brook where I used to catch frogs, salamanders and minnows, to the pond where cranes swoop in and stop to rest. It was a nice, leisurely day and capped off a perfect weekend.

Thursday

[cooking] Lemongrass

Lemongrass is something I've bought, brought home, started at, and been generally confused about. How much of the outer hull should I peel? What parts should I use? How should I cut it? On and on and on...

This video answers all my questions. Plus, I love the sound of that sharp knife slicing through the lemongrass stalks.

Monday

[cooking] Recently

Maple Cheesecake: I don't have a 10" springform pan. I made the batter and poured into two store bought pie crusts. I adjusted the cooking time to 30 minutes for each. The filling didn't really set and ended up rather custardy (someone said it was like creme brulee). The taste was good but it didn't have that cheesecake texture. Dollar and I had a couple tastes, then I gave the rest away.

Teriyaki burgers: more like Teriyaki mush. I didn't broil the burgers, but rather cooked them on the stove top, in my trusty non-stick pan. They looked and smelled good but tasted... soft. Ugh. Gotta find a way to get the patties up and away from all the fat and juices that are rendered.

From King Arthur Flour's online baking classes: Bread from the Hearth. I took a stab at the baguettes. Mine turned out like super-sized breadsticks. Crispy on the outside and soft on the inside but really more trouble than they were worth. I've got to find a bread recipe that Dollar can make because he said he would become the designated bread baker.

[knitting] To joke or not to joke

Finished the cable ones:



I'm getting better at these worsted-weight socks. I can do them, from cast on to cast off, without the pattern. These cables were a bad idea, though. The socks ended up quite TIGHT. I put one on and it looks like I'm wearing a woolen cast. Dollar says he likes them a lot but has yet to put them both on. During the knitting process I had him try one on and it was like watching someone try to pull a balloon over an apple. Now I'm just waiting to hear the horrific sound of yarn snapping and breaking.

Dollar's step father has admired the socks I've knit and jokingly asked for a pair at a recent dinner. He did a woodworking favor for me a while back and I decided socks are probably in order. From what I hear the man has ridiculously small feet but I've got to go over and measure to be sure. Here's the start (back to 1x1 ribbing):



I suppose they could always be joke socks: normal leg but 3 inch feet. It would be funny but not functional. Why spend all the time knitting them if the recipient won't be able to wear them?

Friday

[vermont] The Winter of My Discontent

Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by nothing. Certainly not MORE SNOW.



Please consider what a tragedy this weather is. It weighs heavily on my mind.

"The closer a man approaches tragedy the more intense is his concentration of emotion upon the fixed point of his commitment, which is to say the closer he approaches what in life we call fanaticism." - Arthur Miller

Fanatic? Me?



Perhaps. But snow/slush/sleet/rain is all I can see. And suffer. But don't just empathize for my sake. Think of the poor birds. I heard them chirping a couple weeks ago. Where are they? Frozen? Starving? THINK OF THE BIRDS!



I don't even like birds.

"It often happens that the real tragedies of life occur in such an inartistic manner that they hurt us by their crude violence, their absolute incoherence, their absurd want of meaning, their entire lack of style." - Oscar Wilde



It could almost be a comedy if it weren't so tragic. I am laughing, albeit somewhat hysterically, at the thought that spring and summer will never come. We are now living in snowy Narnia and the White Witch (nee Mother Nature) rules with an icy fist. Yeti will come down from the mountains and play checkers with me. Snowmen are my new best friends. Ice sandwiches. Shovel slushy icicles snow bear... Meds... Kicking in... ZZzz...

Thursday

[knitting] Patterns

Elann has a new yarn: Adara. Mostly cotton with a little bit of linen, in a pretty mix of colors, at $2.48 per ball.

You've done the Irish Hiking Scarf and want something more challenging? Try Ariel or Persephone.

Bibs. The plain stockinette front is the perfect canvas for embroidery or Swiss darning (a.k.a. duplicate stitch).

Pretty blankets: cable, texture, color (although I would prefer this in earth tones for me, I think high contrast colors help babies learn to focus.)

Lots of free sock patterns.

Monday

[amy] Weekend of food and yarn

Very productive weekend. Friday night I made a maple-glazed pork roast (recipe from an old Cook's Illustrated). It came out perfect. This is why I love to cook. I also had a grand plan to make a maple cheesecake but I had guests over, so I couldn't very well ignore them while I worked alone in the kitchen. (Note: Dollar and I had pork leftovers Sunday night and the meat was still juicy and flavorful!)

Saturday I drove down to Northampton, MA with a couple knitters. We met up with some other knitters at a Korean restaurant/food store. I bought some supplies (Mirin! Now I can make proper Teriyaki sauce!) and we all stayed for lunch. Then we pushed on to Webs for some shopping. I got lots of superwash wool and the one ball of Longmeadow I need to finally finish the nightie.

Sunday I had plans for a family Easter dinner but things didn't work out. Instead, I finally did my state taxes, paid bills, cleaned, worked on one of the cable socks, and went grocery shopping. At the grocery store, as soon as I started pushing my cart down the first isle, a voice came over the intercom to say that the store is closing in 15 minutes and bring your items to the front. Vroom! Vroom! Sqquueeeeeaalll! I started running up and down the isles, taking corners on two wheels, knocking over mountains of carefully stacked coffee cans, trying to read the shopping list (laundry detergent... milk... AA batteries...) as I grabbed items off shelves and streaked by other shoppers.

This week... Let's see... more knitting, movie and TV watching, and I want to cook something interesting. I've got all this ground beef. I usually make a bolognese sauce for pasta or a meatloaf but Dollar suggested burgers. Mmmm... Teriyaki burgers?

Friday

[cooking] Potato and Leek Soup

This recipe with my own modifications.

INGREDIENTS

8 potatoes, peeled and chopped
Enough chicken stock (or water plus bouillon/paste) to cover potatoes

2 tablespoons butter
3 well-washed leeks, trimmed to mostly white, sliced
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 ham steak, sliced

1 cup heavy cream

Salt and Pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS

1. In a large saucepan or stockpot, bring potatoes and chicken broth to a boil. Cook until potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, melt butter in another pan. Saute leeks until soft. Add garlic. Add ham. Stir.

2. When the potatoes are tender, stir in the fried leeks, ham and heavy cream. Stir to blend and remove from heat. Serve hot.

NOTES

Mind the leeks, they can be dirty. I cut off the beard on the bottom and green stalks above, leaving only the white/minty-colored body. I slice each in half lengthwise, wash, then cut across the body making little C-shaped slices.

The original recipe called for bacon, which I didn't happen to have on hand. I had a ham steak and cut it into elogated slices.

I hardly ever have chicken stock in the cupboard. Instead, I have a pint of chicken paste in the fridge (MSG-free, like Redi-Base) that I add a tablespoon or two of to HOT water (wait until the potatoes are boiling) to make stock. Easy. I think bouillon cubes tend to have MSG, but I'm not certain.

This is a soupy soup, not a chowder. Mix some flour into melted butter and stir the mixture into the soup if you want to thicken it up. But why ruin this soup? The chicken-stocky-milky-buttery taste was delicious.

UPDATE
How to prep leeks. Awesome! This is how I do it except that I do completely finish the long cut.

Thursday

[knitting] Socks: Cascade 220 Superwash

Finished the Cascade 220 Superwash pair:



I don't know yet how the yarn washes and wears but the yarn is on Webs' list of anniversary sale knitting yarns, so I may have to pick up a new color (or two or three) this Saturday.

I asked Dollar if he wants to give this brand new pair to his visiting brother (Little D) instead of keeping it for his selfish self. He said sure, but the more he thought about it, the more he thinks his brother has smaller feet than him. This is only because he's having second thoughts about giving them away. We'll find out this weekend.

I cast on for a new pair:



Instead of the boring (and slow-going) 1x1 ribbing for the leg, I'm doing some cables. The knitting is much faster because the only difficult part (the actual cabling) is performed every 4 rounds. Still not sure whether I'll continue the cables along the instep.

[vermont] April snow

Jeeze, it's pretty and all but enough already with the snow!


As I came down the stairs this morning, I said, "Yaaaawn, time to make the coff- WHAT?"



Noooooooo!



Oh man, look how the branches are weighed down.



The snow was so wet and heavy that it broke a tree limb in my back yard.

Wednesday

[movies] If you want real rock & roll

In a 5-day span, Dollar and I have watched "Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny" no less than 8 times. It's being shelved along with all the other comedies we can watch over and over and over again:

Half Baked
Super Troopers
Old School
Office Space
40-Year-Old Virgin
Anchorman
Joe Dirt
Can't Hardly Wait
Clueless
Team America

Tuesday

[cooking] Mac & Cheese

Basically this recipe with my own modifications.

INGREDIENTS

* 3 slices bacon, diced
* 1 onion, diced
* 1 clove garlic, minced
* 1 head of broccoli, cut into tiny florets
* 1/3 cup white wine

* 2 cups shredded Cabot Harpoon IPA Cheddar (one block)
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 2 cups milk (close to room temperature)

* 8 ounces macaroni pasta


DIRECTIONS

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Place bacon in a large, deep pot. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Spoon bacon out onto a paper towel (catching most of the fat from the bottom of the pot)

3. In same pot, saute the diced onion, and minced garlic over medium heat. After a few minutes, deglaze the bottom of the pan with white wine, scraping up the dark bits. Wait until most of the wine has either boiled off or been absorbed by the onion. Take off heat and add bacon. Add raw broccoli, stir to combine.

4. While you're working on the bacon and onions, in a large pot with boiling salted water cook pasta until al dente. Drain. Add to onions, bacon, broccoli, stir to combine.

5. To make the sauce, in a medium saucepan melt the butter or over low heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir constantly for 2 minutes. Gradually add milk (1/4 cup at a time) and continue stirring until thickened. Stir in 2 cups (1/2 cup at a time) of the grated Cheddar cheese and stir until melted.

6. Pour cheese sauce over pasta and vegetables, mix, add salt and pepper. Pour into a 2 quart casserole dish.

7. Cover with aluminum, bake 20 minutes. Serve warm.

NOTES

My addition of white wine and the use of the Cabot Harpoon IPA cheddar makes this taste more like a mature mac & cheese. Lots of pots end up dirty but it's not too bad if you clean as-you-go. I don't have a dishwasher and I would happily go through all the dirty dishes again- this was awesome.

Monday

[amy] Busy

I'm so happy spring is here. Warm weather, longer daylight, and birds chirping outside. The only downside is all the stupid cleaning. I vacuumed the whole house, took out the garbage from all the rooms, mopped the kitchen, did laundry, dusted, tidied, washed, wiped, etc. I even cleaned my car and took it for an "ultra" car wash. Check out some of the car products I used:


Ass Wipes for your car!


And knitting! What knitting! I finishing both of Dollar's socks- I just need to kitchener the toes closed and weave in ends. I plan on starting the next pair right away (might as well while I'm on a roll) with Plymouth Yarn Encore Worsted Weight.