30 December 2011

Things I have knit recently - Christmas 2011 edition

Actually, most of these items are not holiday gifts.  But my needles and hooks have been busy since I returned from New Zealand.
First, there are all the chemo caps.  The receipient of the lacy peach one from the October batch was very grateful, so I was happy to finish this one for her:

It is a Red Heart pattern (I skipped the ribbing) using an odd skein of Deborah Norville yarn that I picked up thinking I would use it to make doll clothes for one of my nieces' American Girl dolls.  This seemed more important, and I have been told that the recipient really loves it.

Then my mother's godcousin (their parents were godparents to each other's children) had chemo and lost her hair mid-December, and my mother asked, pretty please?  So I whipped up these:

The multi one is the same spiral rib pattern that I often use, in Caron Simply Soft Paints, colour "Oceana".  I knit it over my Christmas trip, so the hat was finished for my mother to take home and deliver.  The other is a pattern I've wanted to try from New England Knits out of a ball of Red Heart Soft.  It went very fast.  I didn't use the pattern stitch on the top because after an inch, I was concerned it was rough, so I frogged and went back to 2x2 ribbing.  It looks pointy on top, but that smoothes out nicely when the hat is worn:

I had fun looking for the buttons and really like the pair I found at Joann's.

I thought I was done, but when I went to my dentist's office on Wednesday for a teeth cleaning I found out that he has been having chemo, when the hygenist mentioned that "he lost hair in this cycle."  Since I always knit in the chair (calming!) when the dentist came in to check my results he joked that I should make a hat for him.  Sure, I said, what colour?  "Surprise me."  I tried a dark red I had leftover from the Red Scarf Project, didn't like it, then remembered that I have some of the new Lion Brand Tweed Stripes that I thought would be a scarf and didn't want to cooperate.  I dug it out of the charity bin, whipped up a simple ribbed hat, same spiraled top as I used on the aqua cap above, and dropped it off the next day between meetings.  He doesn't work most Fridays so I had to do this quickly.  I was rushing so much I forgot to take a picture!

I did make a number of non-chemo items.  I always do a few for the Red Scarf Project.  This year I had time to do only two:
The one on the left is Jo-ann Sensations Rainbow Boucle, simple crochet pattern.  I have enough left for at least one scarf for next year.  The one on the right is also crocheted, of Caron Simply Soft Paints in "Sunset".

I'd been putting off the next project, which is part of a "Crafter's Pay It Forward" meme on Facebook.  Early in the year, we started posting and the first five people who responded were supposed to get something crafty from you.  I had only three people who responded on mine!  Silly people who skipped me.  I am still waiting for my friend Ches to send a tracing of her hand so that I can knit gloves for her.  The recipients are not supposed to know what they are getting, but Ches is very into gloves so that's a natural for her.  The second is my incredibly crafty friend Eina but I did finally think of something for her, I just have to see her because I didn't take it to our group's holiday party.  The gifts are supposed to be delivered before the end of the year, I'll count it.

The third is my friend Jenna, who was trying to learn to crochet so that she could make something called a "Sweet Pea Shawl" from SnB Happy Hooker.  Jenna was not enjoying it.  She asked me for help, which I gave, but for a beginner, it was frustrating.  We joked that Jenna should just have me do the shawl as her pay-it-forward, and the next thing I knew, Jenna handed me the bag of yarn (Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe in "Snapdragon") and pattern.

When I realized that her birthday was coming, I finally made the shawl:

It went fast, and was easier to follow the pattern than I thought.

I also knit a stole for my grandmother for Chanukah/Christmas, which she had requested.  Forgot to get a picture of it, I used a scarf pattern and knit in Red Heart Fiesta in "Wheat."  Usually I wrap the gift and leave it when we visit for Thanksgiving.  After the weather got cooler there, I kept hearing how my grandmother loved wearing the vests I usually give her, how they cause a stir in the building where she lives, people cannot believe I make them, etc.  So since I had some yarn waiting (I'd planned to make the usual vest until my grandmother requested the stole) I whipped up a simple vest:

My parents will deliver it when they stop to visit over New Year's weekend.  The yarn is a no-name endlot and I have enough for another vest, I think!  Pattern is just a tube to the armholes, graft the shoulders, add borders - really nothing to it.  My grandmother loves the style.

Next up for charity items will be a few scarves for the Special Olympics project, using up leftover solid red yarn that I didn't get to use for the Red Scarf project, because I ran out of time.  But first, my "week of selfish knitting" when I concentrate on making something for ME:

This is a shawl-to-be out of a hank of Brooks Farm's "Duet" yarn.  Not sure of the colourway, it may be "Bonnie", it was an odd hank I bought on sale at last year's DFW Fiber Fest.  It feels very silky.  Just shows that I can indeed make something out of other than mass-market washable acrylic yarns!  I wound the hank on Christmas Day and cast on the next morning.  That shows what it looked like on Tuesday.  I have knit on it all week (except for the dentist's chemo cap) and it's bigger although it's at the awful point when it doesn't seem to grow and the ball doesn't seem to shrink no matter how much I knit!

At least there's a long weekend ahead of me........

18 December 2011

Penguins, Santas, and Black Bun for Hogmanay

I have been traveling madly (mostly on business) so my usual holiday cooking is well behind time.  In fact, when I go to a party this Wednesday, instead of my usual baked goodies I might be taking either Penguins or Santas.  I just learned about the latter from a friend's link on Facebook, and while they are easy enough to make I'd probably use currants instead of chocolate chips for the eyes.

The Penguins became a tradition in my family many years ago when I made them as a pre-dinner snack one Thanksgiving.  Since we now go to my grandmother's for Thanksgiving, and all is catered (the best thing my grandmother learned to make for supper was reservations), we now make these at Christmas.  The recipe was in a magazine a long time ago, but of course now you can find a lot of variations on the Interwebs.  In our family, they are just olives, carrot (fresh, not pickled, as some recipes have), and cream cheese.

(Picture added - very cute, very popular, VERY yummy!)

One thing that I should have prepared before now, so it would have a nice "cure," is my fruitcake.  This is not the weird, sugary, nuts-and-candied-fruit item so prevalent now, that're more candy than cake and tends to include something I've always called "that weird pickled green thing" and have learned is either angelica or coloured pineapple.  Neither of which is quite "fruit" in my mind, and I think the things are entirely too lacking in the "cake" element as well.

Many years ago when a beloved adopted uncle and aunt held Scottish First Footing parties, and I would travel up to Milwaukee for the night (and much of the next day), I decided to take something to add to the groaning board.  I can't remember how I decided to make Black Bun except that the recipe is in one of the cookbooks I bought when living in England, and it's Scottish and for New Year's!  But I wasn't confident in my pastry-making skills at the time, and dubious about baking a cake inside a pastry case.  So I skipped that part and just made the filling and told people it was Scottish Fruit Cake.

Some avoided it on principle, but I wheedled several into trying it with promises that it really included just FRUIT and CAKE and "no weird pickled green things."  All declared it quite yummy, and I get asked for the recipe.  So here it is, approximately, since I tend to adjust the fruit to what I have on hand or can find easily, and the liquid to what I think the recipients will enjoy.

If you want to do this really traditionally, you can look up a recipe for the details.  To make the pastry case, follow a basic two-crust piecrust recipe, and add about a half-teaspoon of baking powder, to make it a little flakier.  Roll out about 2/3 of it to line a deep casserole, a loaf pan, or some other deep baking tin, and keep the rest to make the lid later.

To make mine:
About six cups of chopped (see Step 1) dark dried fruit:  raisins, currants, prunes, figs, dates, etc. 
1.5 cups flour (if you want to go gluten-free, substitute GF baking mix)
1/3 cup soft brown sugar (light or dark doesn't matter)
Spices:  allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves.  Adjust to taste, about 2 tsp total, up to 1 T.
    NOTE:  It's better to go heavier on allspice or cloves and lighter on the cinnamon and nutmeg.
One-half teaspoon bakng powder.
One tablespoon brandy or orange juice or cider.  (If you are soaking the fruit, up to a 1/4 cup.)
One large egg.

1.  Chop the largest into pieces about the size of the smallest.  So the prunes and figs and dates get cut into pieces about as big as raisins and currants.  Do not use yellow raisins (sultanas) for this.  They are very good for snacking (especially mixed with toasted, salted pecans) and wasted in this recipe.  Be sure you take out any stones/pits and hard stem bits when you chop everything.  The finished amount should be six cups, be generous rather than scanty.

1a.  If the fruit is very dry, soak it in a bit of the liquid for a few hours or overnight.

2.  Start the oven at 325F/160C/Gas Mark 3.  If you are using the pastry case, make sure it is ready.  If you aren't, as I don't, just butter (or oil, or use spray-on stuff) the pan.  Flouring on top of the buttering is optional.  You can also line the pan with paper and butter the paper.  Some people just put paper (parchment or waxed) in the bottom of the pan.  My pans seem to release easily so I don't need to do the extra steps, but do them if you do, especially as this is a sticky cake.

3.  Stir the sugar into the fruit.  Mix the flour, spices, and baking powder together (stir or sift) and add to the fruit.  Mix the egg and liquid together and add to the bowl.  If you used the liquid to soak the fruit, REMEMBER THAT and don't add more, or the cake will be soggy.

4.  Now stir together until everything is well mixed.  The batter should be very dark and lumpy.

5.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, cover with a piece of foil, and put it into the preheated oven.  If you are using the pastry case, be sure to roll out the lid and fit it on top and seal the edges of the pastry before you put it into the oven.  You can use scraps to make additional decorations if you like, and if you want to be really fancy brush with a bit of egg wash (beaten egg thinned with water) if you like.  For really, really fancy, tint some bits of the egg wash with food colouring and paint the design, or paint a picture or message on the pastry top.

6.  BAKE for 2.5-3 hours.  Something like that.  Just go away and watch a holiday movie or something, then check.  At some point you might want to remove the foil so the cake (or pastry) can brown.  Alternatively, add the foil after about 45 minutes of baking.  Because of the sugar and fat content, the cake or pastry can burn before the cake cooks all the way through, thus you need to use the foil.  Test the cake to make sure it's cooked all the way through.  Ovens and the size and shape of the cake can affect how long it will take to bake.

When the cake is baked through, take it out of the oven and put the pan on a rack to cool.  If you did not use a pastry case, unmould the cake after about ten minutes and let it cool.  If you did use a case, leave it a bit longer before you take it out to cool.  When thoroughly cold, wrap the cake tightly and tuck it away until Hogmanay.  If you did not use the pastry case, you can brush it every so often with brandy or rum or bourbon or whatever you like to make it more alcoholic.  I don't do this.

When serving, cut thin slices.  You don't need to ice this, but you can do the traditional almond paste coat and royal icing on top if you want to get fancy.  I don't bother, as I like the taste "as-is".

20 November 2011

Mittens for Akkol Campaign Contributions

I should write stories about the trip to New Zealand, or some of the other things I've been doing, but I'm still busy playing catch-up with my life.  So this will have to do for now.

After I was insulted twice in the blog for another charity, I was told about Mittens for Akkol and how they knit woolly items for children in orphanages in Kazakhstan, and for mothers and babies in "baby houses" there.  Since I have a lot of wool yarns on hand because of the previous charity's needs, I decided to switch and knit for this group.

I found out about them barely in time to contribute to the last campaign.  This time, I was almost too late even though I tried signing up immediately.  Some of those ladies are quick!  I was able to send these items:
Toddler hat at left was made from a free pattern on KnitPicks, out of leftover bits of 100% wool yarn.  The picture seems to be of the back seam, sorry!  It is very cute and very thick, will be nice and warm for a small child.  Also stretchy, thanks to the garter stitch, so not to be outgrown soon.
The yarn from the hat was originally part of the blanket below.  The other charity wants bigger ones that MfA does, so I ripped back the partly-done blanket and finished it at the required size.  It's a couple oddballs of shaded yarn done in two-row stripes, surrounded by aqua handspun and handdyed wool yarn that was a leftover in my wool basket.  I think it's pretty cute.  I folded it in half for the picture so I could get a closer shot:

They also wanted baby sweaters.  The first one is out of sock yarn, from a cute pattern and on US#2 and US#1 needles.  This is the three-month size, and I used a ball of striping yarn and a partial ball of the solid.  It was great carry-around because of its small size, but tedious:
Note that I changed the closure from loops to a proper placket.  I did something similar on this cardi, which is six months size and adapated to use some Limbo, a discontinued 100% wool yarn I had in the stash.  I just made pieces that reached the recommended measurements, sewed it together, added the borders and then added buttons from my stash.  They happen to be rose-shaped.

The socks below were knitted on two different choir tours!  One on the tour of Argentina in 2008, and
the other on our tour of New Zealand this year. I kept meaning to get the second one done..... Basic toe-up pattern, using SWS (Soy Wool Stripes) yarn in "Natural Earth" and US#4 and US#5 dpns.  They fit my foot and I do the K2P2 ribbing so they will stay up better on a leg, and stretch to fit different sizes.  I actually had a repair job to do after the second one that I will write up in another blog post.  They are fraternal because the balls started in different places in the colour sequence and to economize the yarn so the socks could be as tall as possible, I didn't get too particular.  This yarn is 70% wool and 30% soy and too warm for me to wear as socks.
Package was mailed with my usual prepaid, pre-addressed postcard for the organizer to send back so that I know it arrived safely.  She does post a list of packages as they arrive, but I got used to adding the postcard and it's a nice extra confirmation.

More photos of things I have created recently (I did a LOT of knitting and crocheting on the NZ trip) and my yarn purchases, the sock repair, yet to come.  Plus some tour reports, with lots of pictures!

07 October 2011

Chemo Hats - an easy batch

My mother mentioned that one of her good friends was undergoing chemo, and would I make a hat?  I'd done some for a cousin of ours when she'd had chemo and lost her hair, and I told my mother that if her friend went bald I'd send hats.  On a call a couple weeks ago, my mother mentioned that her friend had finally lost her hair, and I quickly whipped up these hats:
The one on the left was finished on one of my trips to Long Island, I took the picture before I left because I didn't think I would remember there.  Very simple crochet pattern.  I mailed them, Mom delivered them, and her friend raved about them.

So I made more:

Actually, only the two knitted ones on the right are for the friend.  All the knitted ones are a plain hat pattern, just cast on a multiple of four stitches, work 2x2 ribbing for a bit, and then simple stitch pattern or not.  I can whip one out in a day that has a lot of conference calls, and they are all washable.

The crocheted one is for a court administrator that Mom knows who is also losing her hair to chemo.  I entered it in a local fair, it won no ribbons, but it took only a couple hours to whip out so I didn't expect huzzahs.  I did think that the pattern was too short for a chemo cap and added a round of the lace pattern to improve it:
Washed and ready, these get delivered to my mother this weekend, and she can hand them around to the ladies next week.

It's Breast Cancer Awareness month.  One thing of which people should be aware: The disease is not limited to women.  If you have breasts, you can get it, and this includes men.  Of course, men usually can rock the bald look better than women!  I have made hats for men, to help them stay warm.

The place I get my hair cut (and dyed when I feel like it) is doing a fundraiser later this month.  I have been thinking of making some funky chemo hats to let them sell or hand out or whatever, to people who need them.

04 October 2011

A quote I like

I get the daily set of quotes from The Quotations Page, and like this one so much I want to share it.  Since it's too long for a .sig file, here it is:

The greatest mystery is not that we have been flung at random between the profusion of matter and of the stars, but that within this prison we can draw from ourselves images powerful enough to deny our nothingness.

                                Andre Malraux (1901 - 1976)

19 September 2011

Dish Rag Tag - and Out Again

I decided to join something called "Dish Rag Tag" this year.  The idea is that teams of ten compete to pass around a box containing a pattern and yarn, each one knitting the required item and sending it off to the next person with the pattern and a fresh ball of yarn.  First team to finish, wins.

Not that I needed anything else in the queue, but it sounded fun at the time.

Yesterday, when I picked up my mail, I had a box.  It had been mailed two days before, so the fact that I usually get boxes only on Saturday wasn't a problem.  In it was the following:
An emergency suppplies kit, a little package of items for the organizer and her helper-daughter, a pen, and the completed dishrag made by my predecessor.  Also, a ball of cotton yarn and the pattern and instructions, not shown in this photo.

As soon as I got home last night, I cast on:
Yes, those are Brittanys.  They were the quickest pair I could find in the correct size, and I thought it a worthy use of them.  I do love them, although mostly I knit on circulars.  I knew I'd be doing this at home and not have to worry about dropped needles.

It went very quickly, and by the time I went to bed I was about halfway done:
I finished it this morning.  I decided that a nice treat to my successor would be some soap (since these look more facecloth-sized than dishrag-sized to me, and that seems appropriate for facecloths), and quickly created some in Tropical Mango scent.  For fun, I used some almost neon-orange melt-and-pour base, and the white part reads "Go, Girl!" which seemed appropriate for cheering on a team member:
This is what went into the box that I sent; note that I added a bar of the same soap into the organizer's gift bag:

I dropped it into the mail on the way home from a movie tonight. Since it is Sunday, it wouldn't get picked up until Monday anyway, but this way it's in the 6:00am pickup and hopefully will reach Pennsylvania, which is its next stop, on Tuesday. I memorized the pattern, it's that easy, and may use it in the future for gift items. I was tempted to find a flower or frog applique and sew it to the dish rag since it looks a bit like a lily pad to me, but that might make it less useful, so the soap will have to do.

Now back to my regularly scheduled knitting, already in progress:  a chemo cap (nearly done) and the edging on a baby blanket I was commissioned to make.  Story and photos when that one is done, too.

21 August 2011

Why is it already half-way past August?

Yesterday afternoon, a friend told me that she couldn't believe how I have been surviving this summer.  In May, I was asked to take over managing the contract work for a different customer.  I've been doing it for our account with United Technologies; now they wanted me to do the same for Estee Lauder.  This came right after we finished signing a MAJOR extension of the contract with UTC, and there was a lot of work to be done on transition.  At the same time, the ELC account had signed a MAJOR extension, and there was a lot of work to be done there.  The person who had been in my role at the ELC account suddenly announced that for medical reasons she was retiring - and she went out on medical leave for the last two weeks!  Knowledge transfer?  Not so much.  Given that my predecessor at the UTC account had been gone for a year before I stepped into the role, I think they are starting a pattern of me going to accounts that are in a mess.
The ELC account is located in New York.  While the HQ is in Manhattan (and I've commuted there before, on a daily basis, for eight months, so no problem) the IT offices are on Long Island.  There is no convenient way to commute, even by ferry.  So it has involved driving there, although thankfully not on a daily basis!  I go, I stay, I come home.

However, at first they were going to have me MOVE there.  Yes, on top of all the work chaos, I was told to immediately sell my condo and move.  I pointed out that in this market, that was impossible without taking a huge loss - and what about the massive increase in living costs on Long Island?  I was told they didn't realize I wasn't just a renter.  Luckily, the person to whom I'd be reporting (UTC is Aerospace & Defense, ELC is Consumer & Manufacturing) backed me.  So did the person above him, the leadership of the account - and it turned out the person to whom I face-off at ELC not only lives in Florida, but was told that he would not be allowed to commute weekly to LI as he had done for the previous two years.  So there was no need for me to be on LI most of the time anyway.

However, there were a couple-three months of high stress while this all started to settle.  I still support both accounts, although last week they interviewed a couple people that they think can replace me on the old account.  I've given them a hard date of October 1st to do so, after which I hope to have an office either at home or some other location in the area.  I'll go to LI twice a month at most, on the weeks my counterpart is there.  And it's becoming an open secret that he and his team have been given their deadlines to wrap up things.  He already shares the role with someone in the UK, with whom I have done more of the work lately.  So I might not be interacting with anybody in LI at all, which makes going there even less of a requirement.  Many of the leadership of the account work remotely; the previous executive lives near Austin, TX, and the new one lives near Pittsburgh.  They commute into Long Island, but not every week, and on the weeks anybody comes in it's just Tuesday-Thursday.


The downside to all this is that between the extra work and the commuting, I've had less time to knit.  I also have missed a number of the boxes from my CSA and my foodwriting column is woefully behind.  My social life is much reduced, I do try to get to one or two things on weekends.  And my eating has been far too catch-as-can, I've missed going to my usual Farmer's Market on the weekend and my jamming and canning is way behind for the summer.

However, in the last few weeks things have started to turn around.  Apparently the fact that I have been successful in getting the account's contracting role into shape no matter where I'm located has been a factor.  With the adjustment to twice-a-month travel, I can plan to do things on my weeks in town.  It un-crunches my weekend because I don't have to get everything done in two days.  Yesterday I helped a friend paint her livingroom in advance of the tea party we are co-hostessing next Sunday.  I get to make some of the goodies - because I am in town!  I finally turned the last corner on the baby blanket I had just started last month, and I might work on it diligently for a while today while watching Cary Grant on TCM.  I have work to do - but there will be time for that later today.  And I need to get back to exercising so I am in shape for our trip to New Zealand at the end of October.  I joined something called Dish Rag Tag because it sounds like fun, I can use some quick-gratification portable knitting, and I hope we're done by then.

17 July 2011

Knits for Babies!

I've been meaning to post, and I've been busy, so it hasn't happened. I run the newsletter AND website AND Facebook page for the CSA to which I belong, which means a LOT of posting and writing weekly. Work is having me move to support a different customer, which means wrapping up things I have done for the current/past customer, waaaay more commuting to Long Island ('scuse me, "Lon GAISland") than I planned, and an ongoing disagreement about whether I would be moving to LI or just occasionally roost in a hotel there.

Meanwhile, I have gotten some knitting and crocheting done. The plans to keep knitting for me, or finish FOs, have gone kinda sideways because I suddenly needed to make a bunch of baby things. I did knit a shawl for myself while on the family trip out west (oh, yeah, I should blog about that, shouldn't I? GREAT photos) out of Bernat's Handicrafter Cotton in a "Summer of Love" shade that isn't on their website. It has white, orange, and purple in it, and I just made a simple shawl until the yarn ran out. Love it! I'll get a picture one of these days.

Most of what I have done is for babies. There seems to be a rash of them and I'm having fun with various patterns. First done was this one, for a young man named Nathan Josiah:
I used the pattern for Evelyn's No-Sew Blankie but in Joann's Sensations Rainbow Classic yarn instead of handspun. Because big sister Judith was getting a baby boy doll at the same time, I used some of the remaining yarn to make a similar appropriately-sized blankie for her doll:
Then I went back to finishing a crocheted blanket my mother asked me to make for a friend of hers who was going to be a grandmother again. I'd made blankets when her twin grandsons were born, and the boys LOVE the blankets. After hearing all the stories, I have no problem with making a blanket for the new baby. I had to put it aside when I found out that Nathan was due at the end of June, not the end of July as I'd mis-remembered. This blanket used two baby-coloured yarns (they aren't sure of the gender) and part of the Circles to Squares Afghan pattern:While on a trip back to Dallas to see friends, and a friend's play (which was TERRIFIC!), I whipped up a quick Father's Day gift for a friend of mine who was surprised to learn that he is committing parenthood again. I'd been wishing that someone would have a girl baby because I found two really cute patterns, one for booties made of a sparkly yarn to look like ruby slippers, and the other for a hat. Since Kari will be born in Kansas, ruby slippers seem the perfect gift!And here's the current project, using the vendor's pattern and the correct yarn, and it's coming along. Not as quickly as I would like, as I haven't as much knitting time as I would like, but it's growing steadily. My grandmother (who is one of the people who taught me to knit and now is having issues with fine needlework) asked if I would help make something special for the coming grandbaby of some dear friends of hers back in Hawai'i. I think this will do, don't you?
I have been baking my own bread, from starter that I've gently nursed. Today's loaf contains a splash of (real, of course) maple syrup as the sugar part of the recipe and while it doesn't add a noticeable taste, my starter seems to love it. The warm kitchen probably helped. I have a few veggies from the last CSA delivery that I was able to collect (my share partners get to divide mine into theirs on the weeks I am on LI) and roasted the root ones while the bread was in the oven, to avoid heating the kitchen any more than necessary.

Dessert tonight is vanilla gelato with fresh blueberries, and fresh cherries that I picked up at a local Farmer's Market last Sunday and left in the 'fridge while I was gone. I shop there because my CSA doesn't deliver fruit, and I love the peaches, cherries, and so on. Last weekend they had four types of cherries on sale - I bought three of them! Along with pickling cucumbers, tomatoes, apricots, and some yummy Italian ice that was perfect to savor while listening to the band that performed. Every week there's some new performer, and the Italian ice stand brings different flavours. See you there?

Ending Pantry for the SNAP Challenge

My week was over last weekend, but I've been busy and didn't have time to post. Here is what I was left with in the pantry:
If I were a bigger person, or bigger eater (which might make me a bigger person!), there would probably be less left. I meant to put the nine cents I had left at the end of the week in the pantry photo, but forgot. I'll post the chart of what I spent as soon as I remember to convert it to a JPEG. I was VERY lucky with sales last week, this week I could not have gotten most of the items at the price I paid, although I found a loaf of bread for 93 cents. It was "10/$10", according to a sticker on the loaf, but it was on the old-baked-goods rack at one grocery.

The pink item in front is my last egg, one of the hard-boiled ones. You can't see, the peanut butter jar is about half empty. I put the macaroni into a measuring cup so that you can see how much is left, because it didn't show in the box. I was surprised that I didn't eat all the greens, but not completely surprised I didn't eat the chickpeas. I love them, but mostly in soups (and I had a bean soup already that week) or curried, and I had no way to make a curry. Too many ingredients were not in my SNAP pantry.

In addition to my starting pantry, I was able to buy some cabbage for a St. Patrick's Day meal, and also two oranges that I found on the hurt produce rack. Such a treat! I really, really wanted some fruit by midweek. I carefully parceled those out, one each on two different days.

Here is what I made for St. Patrick's Day:
Stuffed cabbage. I chopped potatoes and the other half of my onion, and all the cabbage I wasn't using to roll, sauteed them in a bit of oil, then added half a box of kale. I also shredded in a bunch of cheddar cheese. Then I blanched the big outer leaves to soften them, and put a bit of filling on each, and rolled them. I ended up with five rolls. I pureed a can of tomatoes and that's the sauce. Not exactly traditional Irish, but with the cabbage and potatoes and lots of green, it would do.

When I went to get the cabbage (on sale, of course), none of the heads were small enough to fit into my remaining budget. Then I noticed that the bin had a lot of loose leaves. So I grabbed as much of those as I thought I would need, and weighed them. A bit under a pound. This gave me enough leftover money to buy the oranges.
The other half of the kale, and some un-chopped tomatoes, helped to make a red-green-white dish for St. Joseph's Day later that week:

Pasta, and a bit of white cheddar shredded on top.

Some of the other things I ate included the mac-n-cheese I mentioned in an earlier post, made with milk and cheese and macaroni and not much else, because that's what was in the pantry:

I forgot to take a picture before I ate some. I like it when there are crusty edges, and because this was on the thin side there was a lot of crust, not too much soft middle.

On the weekend, I treated myself to french toast. The end of the bread was getting dry, and it's a good thing to do with dry bread. I still had some of the milk, and a couple of fresh eggs, which made the dipping batter. I added a bit of cinnamon because I didn't have sugar or anything sweetening, and of course no jam or honey for on top or in the batter:

It was pretty good. I mixed the remaining milk-egg mixture with the last bits of milk and some water and a handful of rice, and turned it into rice pudding. It would have been nicer with raisins (IMHO!) but was OK.

If I were going ahead with a second week, I wouldn't need to buy a few things, which helps. But with the basic item's I'd bought now at a higher price, the pantry might have remained as scanty as it was the first week. And Congress is talking about reducing SNAP even further........

06 May 2011

Things I have knit recently

I've been doing some charity knitting, but being reasonable with myself about it.

These two scarves plus hat (the hat is one of my portable projects that I worked on at DFW Fiber Fest) went to Mittens for Akkol:
OK, I had the green scarf "in stock" having knit it for a charity that then decided they wanted washable yarns. It's knit from Brown Sheep Lamb's Pride. The brown one is leftover plotulopi from the sweater I entered in last year's Berlin Fair, and the hat is a ball of Gedifra "Ombretta" (hence the blue-and-green shading). I just doodled the patterns on the brown scarf and the hat, which has a tidy and stretchy overall cable design.

Speaking of DFW Fiber Fest, I took these to donate to their charity collection:

The darker hat (a really soft boucle in maroon with flecks of other colours) was made for someone undergoing chemo, who then didn't need it. And the others were from some fun yarn I found and wanted to make into something for a child.

If you missed it, here is the picture of my knitted and crocheted items from the Berlin Fair:Yes, everything took a ribbon, seconds and thirds. The two extra ribbons on the sweater are for my baked items. Obviously, those didn't get returned after the fair!

I made a number of scarves for Scarves from the Heart, for a special event they did at the end of April:

Various yarns, including some old ones from the stash (the springtime one at the bottom and the two on the left), Paton's Lace in "Sachet" (which I keep thinking of as "Pansies"), and two new ones in the Joann's house line "Sensations". A lot of people loved the citrus-stripes one, and I enjoyed working with it.

And if scarves look tedious (although the different yarns and patterns helped me stay interested), think about a blanket:

I used a lot of sock yarn held triple, mostly to get rid of a surprising quantity of sock yarn I found while sorting the stash. Border includes an oddball of solid wool and was crocheted because I was tired of knitting. The blanket and these vests went off to Afghans for Afghans, for their latest campaign:

The bottom one is actually orange, not pink. Two solids in Paton's Wool, doubled for the ribbing, and then single with a strand of Knitpicks' "Essentials" - again an ancient and discontinued yarn from the stash. The brown one with red accents was part of an abandoned sweater that I frogged and reworked.

And for those who think I need to be knitting for myself: Technically, it's crocheting. A small shawl for me to wear around my office. The yarn is Cherry Tree Hill's ARIEL in a colourway called "Misty Moor." The yarn is discontinued and who knows how long it's been in the stash? I do like the result. Started it at DFW Fiber Fest, finished last weekend at my grandmother's.

03 April 2011

SNAP - finishing the challenge

I wrote this post a couple weeks ago, and Blogger ate it. Haven't had time to re-do but with the wrap up session on Monday night I thought I should get it done. I took a photo of what I had left food-wise to compare to the opening pantry:

You see that I put the last macaroni into a cup, because it would not show if it was sill in the box. The peanut butter jar is about half empty. I had nine cents left and meant to put them into the picture but forgot.

Not showing are the cabbage leaves and oranges I bought midweek. I wanted to do something that was appropriate for St. Patrick's Day, but a full head of cabbage was outside my budget, even on sale. Then I noticed a lot of loose leaves in the bin, and grabbed a double handful. I microwave-softened the bigger leaves, chopped the smaller ones and sauteed them with some chopped onion, added half the box of kale and some chopped potatoes and a bit of shredded cheese. This stuffing I rolled in the leaves, and put them into a casserole with some pureed tomatoes as a sauce:

It was pretty tasty. For St. Joseph's Day, the last day of my challenge, I made a dish in the colours of the Italian flag, with diced tomatoes, the other half of the kale, and macaroni. There is a touch of white cheddar shredded on top, and it made two portions:

I've talked about the mac-&-cheese I made, and the french toast I had at the end of the week and here are pictures of them:

I did have food left at the end; if I were a bigger person I probably would have eaten everything in the pantry. Having the can of chickpeas and rice and lentils left makes a start for the next week, which would be a help because many of the things I bought on sale the first week were not on sale the second, and I would not be able to get as many items.

This is a picture of what I spent for the week:And this is one day's comparison of what I usually eat against the SNAP budget, and what a colleague who ate out for all three meals would spend. The supper was at an unusually expensive place, if supper had been at a more moderately-priced place, the differential would not be as dramatic:

If it is hard to see, on my usual day I would spend about $8.98, and my colleague spent on this day $58.23. Quite a difference from the $3.00 on SNAP! I am going to take copies of the two charts to tomorrow night's wrap-up event. It will be interesting hearing from people about their experiences.

28 March 2011

Things I did this past weekend

I have a friend who does "Movie Mondays" on her blog, and since I saw two movies (planned three, missed one because I got out of work too late) I thought about writing about it, then I realized I did some more interesting things this weekend, so here it is. A post without an agenda, for the most part. And not many pictures!

The movie I missed was "The General," which was being shown with piano accompaniment. I love classic movies, I like silent films, and it's fun to see them with live music. I've gone to "Metropolis" at Real Art Ways twice, where they have The Alloy Orchestra offering music and it's fascinating and fun.

Saturday started out semi-routine with physical therapy (usually I do yoga, but not until the knee improves) and then my Torah class, after which I went to Cinema Classics for "Strangers on a Train." I hadn't seen it before and it was typical fast-moving, tense Hitchcock. We all liked it. I couldn't go for lunch with the others afterwards because I had to get to the office and see how things were going on the deal we're trying to close - and which should at this stage be in proofreading, but of course, it's not........

Saturday night I went to SWAN DAY CT, which is a celebration of women artists. It was great, crowded, noisy, supportive.........I bought some jewelry, clothes, and artwork. I'm taking the picture to my office, it's bright and will add some colour to the dull walls. A friend was showing her photography and I told her I want to buy two prints for my office also. She didn't believe me, it's the first time she's shown her work, but I'm serious!

Sunday morning, I slept in. :) Then I worked in my stash storage, having decided it was high time to have another round of sales on eBay. Every time I mention this I get a suggestion from someone that I should use space bags and other things for added storage, but my idea is to weed out items that I am very sure I will not use, and send them to people who want to use them.

Another movie followed: "Jews and Baseball." OK, I am a baseball nut. I freely admit it! I played as a kid (who didn't?) and follow my beloved Cubbies through everything. They had two cinemas showing the movie (it's part of a film festival) and both were PACKED. Fun!

Afterwards, home, and back on the computer for work. Watched some of my usual Sunday night TV shows - "Chopped All-Stars" especially. Was very happy that the hot Aarón Sánchez won his round. But I am torn between him and Nate Appleman for the ultimate winner. I'll have to tune in next week - hopefully I'll be back in time from the foodie adventure my friend Judy has scheduled.

27 March 2011

A Day with Tibetan Monks

About a month ago, a local church hosted a group of monks from the Drepung Gomang Monastery in India. The monks, exiled from Tibet, are on a tour to help raise funds for the monastery by sharing information about their faith and Tibetan culture and traditions. I visited when a friend's art gallery hosted the monks in the past, where they created one of their spectacular mandalas. On this tour, the monks did that at some locations, but at the church they answered questions and held workshops where we could make prayer flags, create our own mandala designs, and otherwise gain a deeper understanding of their faith. The afternoon began with a soup lunch that was very good. The same dough was used to make dumplings in the soup and rolls on the side. The monks cooked it for us as part of their ministry. Then we had opening ceremony and Q&A, while the main room was set up for projects. When we went back, we could learn how to use the tools to make sand mandalas: You scoop sand into the metal cones and rub one against another to control the flow. While some of the designs we tried were traditional, we mostly went free-form. This is the part of a mandala that I made, with people working on their designs in other areas:

These mandalas are on very non-traditional brown paper, so to make the cleanup easier when it is time to return the sand to the earth. Usually they put it into a moving body of water, but there was no stream or river near enough to the church. You'll see the ceremony further down.

We also made prayer flags that were strung around the room. The monks would help us with designs and names if we asked, but most people did free-form ones.

The lady in white was one of the organizers of the event. These are mine:

You could buy a string of preprinted prayer flags and many other items, such as bags (of course I did!) and prayer beads. If you bought beads, the head monk would bless them and you:

At the end of the afternoon, we danced (something a local group does, begun in the 1960's, and not a Tibetan Buddism activity, but the monks were very nice about participating) and then the monks conducted a thank-you ceremony and the closing prayers:

They swept up the sand and we followed them outside where they prayed that the energy in the sand would help to heal the world:

I found a couple other writeups of the day, including one that has me in the background of one of his photos.