Sunday, November 30, 2008

And straight on to Christmas

The (downward? depends on how you see it) slide is beginning. Thanksgiving over and past, it's straight on to Christmas, express, with a brief stop at the solstice to wish I had time to throw a solstice party with carols and warm food. (No time, plus others have claim to the pre-Christmas weekends.)
We spent Thanksgiving with my grad school friend, cooking a huge dinner and eating too much. Wonderful.

Janice with bacon wrapped dates. mmmmm....

Last minute food prep

Then the Fool and Jamie and I packed and headed for Breaking Up Thanksgiving, the annual contra dance weekend, in the wilds of northwest Illinois. It was Jamie's first dance weekend. He visited with many of his Chicago friends, laughed for Big Bill, made some new friends and hung out in his sling while we danced and played tunes.

The Fool explains to Jamie, "See, you push this with your finger and it makes a sound." He was pleased to notice his kid does not bang with fists, but instead uses his index finger. I said, "wait until he's a toddler."

The dance floor on Saturday night.

We discovered something about him that thrills the Fool to no end. Saturday night, Jamie didn't want to settle down after dinner. He didn't want to nurse, he didn't want to sleep - although he probably needed to do both. We went back to our cabin, thinking maybe the quiet would calm him down enough to nurse and nap before the dance. No luck. Finally, the Fool said Jamie could fuss just as well in the dance hall if he was going to fuss, and at least we'd get some dancing in. He plopped Jamie in the sling and set off for the hall. They walked across a field together, Jamie complaining and fussing all the way, and as soon as the Fool opened the hall door and Jamie heard the music, he quieted down. As soon as the Fool started dancing, Jamie fell asleep and the Fool is delighted that he has a tiny little tune hound for a son.

Sleeping baby, dancing Fool

The Fool and I ate potluck food, played for dances, visited with people and otherwise goofed off. We got to jam with Matt T., a fiddler from downstate Illinois, who is such huge, huge fun to play tunes with, I can't stand it. Our friend Walter sat in on piano, too, and we delivered a loud, raucous set of tunes for a square dance and then a contra. We started the contra set with Waterbound, and then changed to Grub Springs, and by the time we finished, Chirps Smith, fiddler extraordinaire, had sat down to finish the tune with us. The dancers hit the balances all at the same time; they made the floor shake, and we grinned and grinned.

Chirps in full flight - I experiment with camera settings. Artsy, no? I should read the manual sometime.

I knitted some things for the silent auction. They did pretty well. So well, in fact, that someone asked me to knit them another pair of fingerless gloves in exchange for a donation to the Chicago Barn Dance Company. I said yes, especially because their company will match the donation.

Dashing - Cascade 220

Two Anna Zilboorg hats. I think I'm over stranded knitting for the short term. Give me a week.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Eve

Jamie is rolling around on the floor under the supervision of the Fool, and I've been given the day to mess in the kitchen and generally cook and get ready for Thanksgiving and Breaking Up Thanksgiving, two major cooking holidays.
I've got two batches of bread dough rising, some pineapple roasting for a cranberry salsa, and I think I'll bake cookies next.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Thanks, Lanea!

We got a nice surprise in the mail from Crazy Lanea today.

Jamie says, "See, it's easier to hold up my head when I have a cool blanket to do it on!"

Top view. Poor kid is losing his baby hair in such a manner as to be sporting a faux-hawk.
Yes, I made it stand on end after his bath a couple nights ago.
Yes, I'll be showing those photos to his prom date.

We also got his Social Security card in the mail, so maybe he can go out and get a job - grin. It would be nice to have more time to knit.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Thanksgiving hats

I've been working on some hats for the silent auction at Breaking Up Thanksgiving, our contra dance community's annual big dance weekend. There's dancing until the wee hours to pickup bands, workshops, a great potluck, lots of jamming and hanging out - very fun.
This is Hat 1. It's from Anna Zilboorg's "45 Fine and Fanciful Hats to Knit," which I bought when I was a very new knitter and didn't know anything other than that those hats were beyond me and knitting books tended to go out of print and skyrocket in price. It was an aspirational purchase.
It's a beret, and it's larger than Jamie's head, but Angus wouldn't hold still. I feel like it's a little shallow, but my niece, (a self-described pinhead) who visited over the weekend, tried it on and said the hat fits fine - it's my head that's funny-sized. I'm still debating whether to pick up stitches from the bottom and whomp a few rows of ribbing on. I don't quite believe her.
Poor kid. Wait until he finds out his mom used him as an Internet hat stand.

Here's the back of the beret (and the front of the Fool, who was making silly faces to get Jamie to smile.)

Anna Zilboorg's hats were a challenge to me at first - she writes about a half page of general instructions for each type of hat, and then makes charts for the rest without too much explanation. They're not so great if you want a mindless knit. I've got another of her hats on the needles, so I'll put up pictures of that one when it's finished, which should be only a dozen rounds more. I might knit a third, they're so entertaining, now that I've figured her patterns out.

The other fun knitting-related event was last Friday, when I put Jamie in his "Future Knitter" onesie and headed downtown to meet the Fool for dinner at Wishbone, (restaurant I didn't realize how much I missed until I lived far away from it) and then Franklin's booksigning at Loopy Yarns. Franklin's book is funny and a skein of some Malabrigo silk/ wool deliciousness followed me home, which makes it a prime Friday night in my universe.

The autumn leaves sweater is progressing, although slowly. I finished one sleeve with the I-cord bindoff, and I'm afraid it's too short. I'm going to block it and then decide whether I need to take the I-cord off and put on a regular cuff. I'm leaning that way anyway. The next step is to but the other armhole steek, but Jamie hit a growth spurt and has been nursing a lot at night and I haven't been sleeping so much and I think steeking on no sleep is probably a dumb idea and picking up stitches fails to amuse me even at the best of times. It's just as well I have these smaller projects to entertain me.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A Baker's Contrasts

Years ago, I got into making bread with sourdough starter in a big way. I had initially tried to make starter from just flour and water, and when that failed, Meg bought me a starter kit from King Arthur. That starter worked great for about 6 months, then I accidentally let it get moldy in the fridge. That was the end of round one of sourdough breadmaking.

Round two started a few weeks ago. For some reason I stumbled across Sourdough Home which renewed my interest, so I got a new starter going from scratch. This time, it worked beautifully. I turned out some of the best sourdough bread of my life on Sunday morning. (I wish I had pictures. When I reheat loaf #2 I will take a picture and put it here.)

Filled with baking confidence, I decided that our chicken stew dinner should be supplemented with flaky biscuits. The original recipe called for 16 biscuits, so I decided to halve the recipe. It all started out fine, except that I forgot to halve the baking powder. Fishing around in the flour / baking powder mixture with my fingers, I removed what I considered to be a good approximation of half of the baking powder. (Crude and against all of my meticulous instincts, but I really didn't want 16 biscuits on hand.)

Things were going along swimmingly, then I added what I thought was 3/8 cup of milk. For some reason in my head I calculated this to be "1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons," which is actually 5/8 cup. When the dough looked more like waffle batter than dough, I realized my fatal error. Meg calmly suggested that I could now just go ahead and double the recipe, except that this proved to be a challenge I had already cut in all of the fat and mixed up the dry ingredients. I then performed a random assortment of enhancements to the dough to try to "double" what I had. I started mashing the missing butter in with a fork, I rolled the goop around in some extra flour, and then finished it off by sprinkling a couple of handfuls of salt and baking powder.

While the texture ended up being good (surprisingly), the biscuits were completely flavorless. We left the remainder out for the squirrels, and even they won't go near it. (Actually, the raccoons won't, either, which is really saying something.)

Civics 101

This morning, I said to Jamie, who was wide awake and smiling (a nice contrast from last night, when he alternated mostly between sleeping and yelling), "Happy Election Day, kid. Today we're putting Barack Obama in the White House."
The Fool chimed in, sleepily.
"Actually, we're nominating him....electoral...mrrf."
I gave Jamie a brief overview of the Electoral College and how it worked, and concluded with, "But as you're only three months and two days old, I think we'll stick with, 'today we're electing a president.' I'll explain the rest of it next time."
This morning, Jamie and I are going to go vote. Well, I'm going to vote. Jamie's going to be hand luggage, as usual. He seems happy with our agenda.

(Darnit. Forgot to adjust red-eye. Can we just pretend I don't have a wee fiendish baby?)

I asked the cats about their Election Day plans, and Spoot said they had all agreed to vote Fibertarian. (Who knew my cats were a voting bloc?)
"We considered Obama," she said, "and McCain, but in the end, four-legs have to stick together, y'know?"
Mab emerged from under the bed and said she liked McCain's black and white cat, "Oreo," but she wasn't so sure about his domestic financial policies, and as her investments had already taken a hit this year, didn't want to take chances. I tried to explain to her that Oreo wasn't responsible for policy decisions, but she went back under the bed to watch CNN. I also tried to explain to her that I didn't think Dolores was any kind of expert on any kind of domestic policy at all, but she just turned the volume up and asked me to bring her a fresh bowl of crunchies.
And Angus said that when he heard Obama had no pets at all, he emailed him a biting. I expect to hear from the Secret Service any day now.

The sweater moves along. There are nine leaves per sleeve, and I have completed eight leaves on the first sleeve. I feel like I'm knitting more slowly than I used to. No idea why.

Go vote, everyone.