4

What’s Up 2016?

Monkeys & Legos

Ah, hello Day 2 of the New Year! Or are you no longer new now that you are 2 days old? No matter.  I am still feeling the brand new optimism that comes from the arrival of a new year.

Lists and plans are still a thing of the future today.  I’ve got time and I will get down to business when I’m good and ready.  Today I am working on my first project of the new year and cooking my Mom a batch of my Dad’s spaghetti sauce.  It feels auspicious that I am doing both these things on the second day of the year.

The holidays always remind me of my Dad.  We would wait for all our favorite Christmas specials to come on TV after dinner. Hurry! Charlie Brown Christmas is starting! Now it’s all on demand, but back then we had to make sure we were planted in front of the TV on the proper channel or we’d miss out.  There was something special about not being able to pause or rewind our favorite specials.  You had to be present both physically and emotionally.  I kind of miss those days.  But mostly, I miss my Dad.  He passed away in 2009 and sometimes I almost forget he won’t answer the phone when I call or give me a whiskery kiss and tell me not to take any “wooden nickels.” But I keep him alive making his spaghetti sauce.  He taught me his “recipe” many years ago and I almost never cook it, choosing the speedy cheater method I’ve developed over years of college and young professional life rather than the low and slow day long approach his recipe requires.  A couple years ago I didn’t know what to give my Mom for Mother’s Day, so I decided to dig out my handwritten recipe from the cooking lesson Dad gave me so many years ago, and I made her a batch.  My Mom, notoriously hard to please with gifts, practically shed a tear.  You’d think I’d delivered the moon and stars. Today, I’m giving that gift again.  But really, it’s a gift for both of us. We both get to start the year with my Dad.

As for the socks, they’re auspicious too. I knit a pair of Cookie A’s Monkey socks a couple years ago and really enjoyed both the process and the result.  My plan (as yet fully unrevealed) for 2016 is to knit a lot of socks.  That’s all I’m really committing to you see: a lot. No specific number, no limiting myself to only socks this year….. why stress? But more on that later.  Anyway, back to the Monkey thing.  The pattern I cast on for is a version of the Monkey socks, but toe-up and purl-less.  It’s called Los Monos Locos and has been in my queue since April 2011 (!). Though I loved the Monkey pattern and really want a pair for myself, I thought it would be more fun to work on my queue at the same time I work on my sock problem er, goals.  So I cast on and guess what I discovered while surreptitiously slurping photos for my Ravelry project page?  The Chinese Astrology Year of the Monkey begins in February.

How’s that for auspicious?

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1

In The Land of Autumn-Fall

Outside it is the Land of Autumn-Fall. Inside, it is just the beginning of Maketober.

I spent all Saturday canning. Let me tell you, canning is not for everyone. You stand on your feet for hours, lift heavy things, do a bunch of mindless repetitive stuff, sweat a lot and – if you’re like me – burn yourself a few times. There should be a way to count this as some kind of workout, right?

It was a beautiful autumn day on Saturday. October is truly one of the more spectacular months here in the Pacific Northwest and it almost angers me to have to spend a day inside canning. But when you have apples sitting in your garage for two weeks waiting to be processed, you do what you have to do. Don’t get me wrong. I like canning. I like feeling that connection to women in my past. My Mom and second Mom Vicki (whom I miss dearly) canned during my childhood and I have warm memories of the smells in the kitchen, their chatter, and the wonderful things we consumed all winter long from those colorful jars they so reverently stored away for the time of need. I remember helping them from time to time, but then drifting off out the screen door to some more enticing childhood adventure. I vaguely understood, but did not appreciate, all the time and love they put into the food we ate.

For many years I did not think about canning. I went to college, then grad school, but didn’t feel the desire to make a home anywhere. Shortly after my husband and I were married, Vicki passed away from cancer. I’m ashamed to say I was an awful “daughter” and lived in denial for a good portion of her sickness; until it was too late to sit with her and get to know her, provide her some comfort. I was so selfish. It is one of the biggest regrets of my life. But I found a way to make peace with this broken bit of my heart. I honor Vicki’s memory every time I can something in my kitchen.

It started with Pickled Beets. These were my favorite things from Vicki’s kitchen (my Dad’s was her blackberry jam). She would give us crates of canned goods at Christmas time. Foods she had cultivated from seed to jar. Always a labor of love: grown with love, made with love, given with love, and received with love. I craved those beets, those gifts of love, when she was no longer with us. To feed my hunger and honor her memory, I decided to make pickled beets using her recipe. I’d like to say that I had a transcendental moment the first time I made these, but I’d be lying. It was messy, hot, frustrating, and yet ultimately rewarding. And every autumn when I make pickled beets, I get one step closer to forgiving myself, because I know that I honor Vicki every time I do. Somewhere she is watching over me and loving me despite the way I failed her so abysmally when she needed me most.

The beets will be coming in tomorrow and I expect to spend the upcoming days pickling. Saturday was Caramel Apple Butter, a first time recipe for me. Like Vicki, I make these with love. And every Christmas, with that same love, I gift them in baskets to everyone in our family. Thank you Vicki, for leaving me with this lasting legacy. It is truly priceless.

7

484 Days

That’s 1 year 3 months and 29 days to be exact.  That’s also how long I’ve been “working” on my Day Zero Project (101 things in 1001 days).  I say working with those little quotey bits around it because being a new mom means that you are never really doing anything for yourself anymore.  Not that I’m complaining, just sayin’ ;)  But since I am almost to the halfway point on my list of stuff to accomplish, I figure it’s about time I do a little inventory of my progress and see what I can start working towards next.  Besides, I’m feeling really lame about the fact that I used to post 2-3 times a week and I’m lucky if I can write 2-3 times a month now.  So, I’m squeezing this one in to fill my quota.
 
One of my goals was to try to cook 10 new things during my 1001 days of self-improvement.  I haven’t been very good about keeping track of my progress in this arena so I know that I’ve cooked more than I’m accounting for, but for all intensive purposes, I’m over halfway to my goal with 6 new recipes under my apron.  Maybe I’m just subconsciously refusing to acknowledge some of the utter atrocities against gastronomy that have come out of my kitchen in the last couple months and that’s why I didn’t account for them.  When a magazine comments that “this is best skillet lasagna we’ve ever tasted” you kinda tend to believe them.  But I can tell you, it’s not.  Don’t cook it.  Don’t believe the hype.  I’m a Virgo and I have never had a single difficulty following a recipe to the letter.  But I was really beginning to wonder what the crap was going on.  Did I lose my cooking skillz?  ‘Cause that’s the one Domestic Diva thing (besides laundry) that I really can do. If I don’t have that, then sheesh, I got nothin’.
 
I finally had success last weekend with the Baked Shrimp Curry shown below which scored a solid 8.5 from R. Darling.  I think I mentioned before that 9 is the highest something can rate unless it’s served naked ;)  He ranked it a half point below perfect only because he thought it could be tweaked a little.  I agreed.  But an 8.5 was a welcome relief after the resounding 4’s I’d been getting up to that point.  Maybe it’s just the push I need to keep trying.
 

Baked Shrimp Curry


 
Things completed to date:

  1. February 2, 2010 – Grew a munchkin :)
  2. March 9, 2010 – Finally replaced the crappy paper shade over our “bonus” window in our bedroom with beautiful wood blinds.
  3. November 24, 2010 – Knit Mom her Pirate Fake-Isle Earflap Hat (finally!)
  4. January 22, 2011 – Renewed my Library Card

 
Wow. That’s kind of depressing that I’ve only finished 4 things on my list!  But here’s the list of stuff I’m currently working on:

  1. Put $50 or more each month into our savings account.  I started this in January 2010 and was doing pretty well until Knittymunchkin showed up so early.  Since then I’ve been able to do it most months, but there were a few months that were pretty tight with the fundage, so I had to skip a couple.  But we had a great tax refund this year and I’m hoping to get back on track with this soon.
  2. Organize our closet.  I recently spent over $100 at The Container Store on stuff to help get our closet more organized.  This is definitely a work in progress since we really need to put some effort into decluttering first, but I’m working on all of that all over the house.  Kinda crazy how I have to spend money to get myself more organized though.  Don’t know how much I like that idea, but if it works, I’m all for it.  I’m sick and tired of my mess.
  3. Buy an advent calendar with drawers or cubbies for the baby (future holiday traditions).  I’m sort of changing this one a little and have decided to knit him Smitten as an alternative.  I’ve made maybe 3 mittens so far and I really need to get my butt in gear if I’m going to finish this for him in time for this Christmas.  I was thinking 2 mini-mittens each month would be no big deal and would get me to my goal on time, but now I’m realizing I am totally not sticking to that timeline so I’d better get on it.
  4. Finally put all our photos in a photo album where they belong.  Weeeeellll, I was working on this really heavily before Knittymunchkin (are you sensing a theme here?) but haven’t done any work since.  And I’ve got a lot to do since I have to go as far back as our honeymoon (in 2004!) to get things in order, nevermind all the baby photos I have not even glanced at, much less printed out.  Le sigh.
  5. Try 10 new recipes.  As you saw above, I’m getting there!  6 down, 4 to go.
  6. Knit 5 things from IK (or Knitscene).  I’ve knit 2 things: Chameleon Scarf and Oscilloscope Shawl.  So, we’re getting there.  The good thing is, I love most of the stuff from IK and Knitscene so it shouldn’t be too much trouble to complete this eventually.
  7. Knit a Baby Surprise Jacket.  I’m such a finishing slacker.  This is totally done.  It just needs buttons!  And I’m pretty sure it won’t fit him anymore.  Bad Mommy :(
  8. Whittle my UFO’s down to zero, or 3 minimum.  I’ve finished 3 of the original 10.  We’ll get there.  I think the next UFO I’ll tackle after I finish Momo and the Subway Hat, is my secrety squirrel test knit socks that really aren’t secrety anymore.  Now that I’ll be attending Sock Summit, I’ve got me a fever!  And the only prescription is more socks!
  9. Whittle my stash down to half.  O.k.  So I’m totally slacking on this one too, but I am getting better at not buying so much yarn (at least until Sock Summit, ha ha) and I’m working as much as I can from stash.  It’s a great feeling to know I didn’t have to buy yarn to complete something.  Though I’ll probably never make this goal, the fact is, I get satisfaction just from making the effort and sometimes that’s just as important as actually meeting the goal.
  10. Knit a sweater in pieces.  I actually started a project in pieces quite a while ago for an SKC KAL, but never finished knitting the pieces.  I took a seaming class recently (March 25, 2011) at my LYS to gain a little confidence with the technique and seamed a little bit of my sweater.  It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought (I pretty much knew the basics, but didn’t realize I did) and now I feel a bit better about the whole thing.  I hope to finish this sweater before too long and once it’s done, hopefully I’ll have the confidence to try another and with each one, get a little less intimidated with seamed construction.

 
And that’s a snapshot of the last 484 days.  Man, do I have some work to do!

11

Never Enough

  • Never enough time to knit, never enough time to read, never enough time to blog, just never enough time, period.
  • Never enough clothes that fit.  I’m too small for maternity clothes, too big for pre-preg clothes, and too cheap to buy stuff that will fit me right now, hoping as I am that I will lose the last 9 lbs. shortly.  Of course if I don’t stop eating crap that’s bad for me, I might get there sooner.
  • Speaking of which, there is absolutely NO time to workout, though we do take a spin around the neighborhood nearly every day, and carrying around an almost-6-month-old all day has just got to burn some calories.  It has to count for something or I might cry.
  • There’s never enough clean cloth diapers.  I do laundry nearly every day.
  • There is, most definitely, NEVER enough sleep.  Never enough naps, never uninterrupted snoozing.
  • Never enough money.  How is it that we still have to live paycheck to paycheck even with R. Darling’s good job and the fact that I never go anywhere anymore or spend money on myself (at all, ever)?
  • There are never enough photos of Knittymunchkin.  I take as many as I can, but I know that someday I will still regret not taking more.  Especially pictures of us with him.  We have maybe 2 of those each :(
  • There are never enough opportunities to hear my little boy laugh each day.  My face hurts sometimes from giggling along with his latest game.
  • Never enough time for the garden.  It looks dried out and awful and it makes me sad how the weeds are taking over.
  • There are never enough people in my world for whom to knit. I love to knit for other people but no one in my family appreciates hand knits (except for R. Darling, but seriously, how many hats and scarves can he really wear?). Do any of you know someone who would like a handknit? There’s only certain kinds of things I can knit for charity, and so many unsuitable patterns I’d love to try. But what to do with the finished item? I can’t wear it all!
  • Never enough ways to keep my little one occupied during the day! He’s like a sponge, greedy for more stuff to soak up, and gets bored of the “usual” games so readily these days.

 
I did find time last weekend to try one new recipe though, part of my Day Zero goals.
 

I loves me some rhubarb!


 
I was excited to try this one as it is one of R. Darling’s Grandma’s recipes, and rhubarb (incredibly plentiful in my garden, despite neglect) is one of my all time favorite dessert components.  Unfortunately, the recipe didn’t live up to the hype (sorry Grandma!).  R. Darling gave it a 6, saying it needed more rhubarb, and I gave it a 6 too because the raspberry jello made it taste too much like raspberry and not enough like rhubarb.  Meh.  I won’t be making this again.  But at least I satisfied my curiosity and I am 3 recipes down out of my goal of 10.
 
R. Darling starts 2 weeks of vacation beginning tomorrow (though we have tons of scheduled appointments and he’s got 3 overtime shifts during his “vacation”).  I am so excited to maybe get  a little extra time for some knitting and maybe a little work in the garden.  I’d like to finish my book too.  Just the psychological value of having an extra pair of hands during the day taking care of Knittymunchkin will be priceless for me.
 
Hope you are all enjoying your summer vacation too!

14

Learning Curve

We’ve been having a time of it here at Chez Funkytown.  Knittymunchkin has been going through an extremely exhausting fussy stage, complete with wailing, waking up several times a night (from dead sleep to frantic crying in 1.5 seconds flat), not napping, and crying & pulling while nursing.  The only thing that keeps him mildly content is for me to carry him around all day long.  Needless to say, my back hurts.  Though he’s taken quite nicely to the Baby Bjorn that he used to hate.  Bonus!
 

When he was born, we found out he had acid reflux, which can be really common for preemies.  We have been giving him medicine for it for a few months and he’s been doing so well (not spitting up & not grunting with discomfort while laying down) that we thought we’d try discontinuing the medicine.  He seemed to be doing really well for a day or two, other than the increase in fussing & the waking up at night. Silly me, I didn’t put two and two together until he started spitting up again the past couple days.  D’oh!  Maybe it’s because he still needs his medicine, dummy!  So we’ve started that again and I’m keeping my fingers crossed it will bring him, and us, some relief.  Because this waking up every two hours all night long has got to stop.  I feel like spawn of the dead, all groggy and stuff all day long.  And knitting?  There’s been zip.zero.nada.
 

Sometimes this works too.....


 

I started doing some more extensive reading when he began having so much additional trouble sleeping recently.  It could also be a growth spurt or teething, but I don’t see any evidence of new tooth sprouts, so I don’t know about that.  I really think it’s the reflux coming back.  But I also found out that, apparently, I am a prime candidate for the SMITU award (Shittiest Mother In The Universe – smite you! – I just made that up), for even considering the notion of letting my child “cry it out” like I mentioned the other day.  Dr. Sears says so, so I guess it must be true.  I was just going by the books I’ve read up to this point which tell you you need to “train” your child to fall asleep on their own, otherwise they’ll never learn how.  But surprise surprise, Dr. Sears says you’ll just cause your child to cry more because you aren’t meeting their needs and when you do this you are cheaping out on creating a wonderful relationship with your baby.  Wow.  I really have a lot to learn.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’ll probably never be a militant full-on attachment parenting advocate (people should do what’s right for them, without judgment), but I do think we’ve  benefited from a kinder, gentler, approach towards bedtime. Yes, he does still need to be rocked to sleep for the most part, but he falls asleep faster than he used to and cries less.  Plus, I think we’re bonding more.  I guess it really is a win-win.
 

Meats & Veg In One Big Pot!


 

Despite all this crazy mama drama, I have still managed to find time to try one new recipe (part of my Day Zero Project goals).  I apologize to all you vegetarians out there who will be offended by my pot roast photo up there.  I’m sorry, but I still do eat meat.  I’ve never been very good at cooking it because, frankly, when I lived alone I mostly ate chicken, veg, & pasta.  But I now live with a bona fide carnivore and meat is what’s for dinner.  It’s been dang hot here so I was looking for something to cook in the crock pot that wouldn’t heat up the house.  A friend of ours came over to meet Knittymunchkin for the first time and was talking about going home to cook a pot roast.  He made it sound so easy I thought, why not?  I hopped on the inrawebz and found a likely recipe here.  Following some of the advice of the reviewers I changed it up a little and settled in for a 10 hour wait.  It smelled great and looked good when we dished up.  The flavor however, was missing something.  It’s not like it was bad, it just wasn’t amazing.  R. Darling gave it an 8 and I gave it a 7 for the meat and an 8 for the veg.  As in, I would cook it again, but it sorely needs something.  Any of you lovely readers have a secrety squirrel ingredient you’d be willing to share for fantastic pot roast?  I thought the balsamic vinegar I added would do the trick but sadly, no.  Maybe I didn’t add enough.
 

Well, it’s all part of my learning curve. I’m still on the upward climb, but I will get there someday. I have to!

10

Hey Homeskillet

Well my list of 101 things in 1001 days that I mentioned the other day is up and ready (check the tab up top for a static link).  I decided I’d make my start date January 1, 2010 just for convenience, though I’m not officially posting it until today.  Though not particularly self-edifying or inspiring (no summiting of Everest, or winning an Oscar, on the list here), my list does encompass quite a lot of things I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time.  There’s a mix of things easily accomplished and things somewhat more difficult to achieve.  And though you’ll notice “Grow a munchkin” is on there and I quite technically started that process last year, I don’t count that one as fully completed until Knittymunchkin is here safe and sound :)  Have fun looking it over and laughing (yes, some of it will likely strike you as goofy) and rest assured I’ll be reporting to you on my progress as I work my way towards completing everything.
 
First stop – “Try 10 new recipes”.  I should probably have made it more challenging and said 100 recipes or something, but we’ll shoot for 10 and see what happens.  I mean, pretty soon I’ll be feeding a baby every 2 hours and cooking will seem like a distant memory. Hear that honey?
 

Frango no leite


 
There’s a lovely little restaurant in Victoria, B.C. that we discovered purely by accident on our first visit to the city.  Hungry and on foot, we stumbled across Santiago’s as we walked from our hotel across the street toward the waterfront.  Boasting a South American menu, brilliantly colored surroundings, and strings of twinkling white lights inside, we could almost envision ourselves sitting in an outdoor cafe in Brazil with city life and scrumptious smells swirling around us.  That first time we ate there twice in 2 days, and every time we go back we make sure to stop in for at least one meal.  On our last visit (for our 5th anniversary this past September) we spotted a cookbook as we were walking in and asked the waitress about it.  It was a bit pricey, but the food was just so amazing that we had to have the recipes to make it for ourselves when we returned home.  I believe I mentioned that was in September?
 
Fast forward to Sunday night (January 17).  What better way to kick off my 101 things in 1001 days journey than with a new recipe from one of our favorite places?  I chose the Frango No Leite (this is most definitely not Spanish that I recognize; perhaps Portuguese?) because that’s the dish I usually order when we dine there, and then made Santiago’s Rice to go with it.  The rice is made with coconut milk and it was definitely interesting to go back to the old school way of making it in a saucepan rather than a rice cooker.  I had visions of burnt caked on rice having to be scrubbed off the bottom of the saucepan afterwards, but no such thing.  It came out perfect and the house smelled divine (who doesn’t love the smell of coconut?).  For the Frango No Leite, as the recipe is Canadian (and therefore metric), I had to do some mini-calculations.  As well, the spicing combination is made for a huge batch of chicken, while the cooking portion of the recipe is made for a one-dish preparation.  So there were some conversions to be worked out there too.  Overall though, I think it came out nearly exactly like the dish at the restaurant if only a tad spicy (too much cayenne pepper; next time I’ll half it).  A perfect blend of lemon, cream, tomato & chicken.  Yum!  Not bad for coming from the homeskillet ;) And the best part? R. Darling gave it a 10 before he remembered that nothing in our house gets a 10 unless it’s served sans clothing. So I guess this one’s a winner!
 
And now we’re officially on our way!

3

Pie & Socks. Socks & Pie.

So Saturday I conjured up a little kitchen magic…..

          rhubarb061807           pie061607a          pie061607b
                     Fresh!                                 Sugar & spiced…..                      All tucked in…..

 

pie061607c
Fresh baked!

A little of that magic must have spilled out of the kitchen too, because I finished my first sock!

toeupsock061607a

Why is it that it’s nearly impossible to take a flattering picture of yourself wearing your handknit socks? You could have calves like Gisele and they’d still look chunky and gross when photographed in a handknit sock……. 
Note to self:  Must analyze knitting mags for the perfect handknit sock pose that does not make calves look like ass.

Now to try and duplicate the double-dreaded Eastern Cast-on for sock #2.  A little pixie dust over here please…..