Vegetables, yarn, and yarns: all of my passions all in one place.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


The new edits are in on the novel, ladies and gents, and no, I'm officially not done with it yet. Which I'm coming to terms with. There's a fine line between revision and over-revision and I'm hoping I see that line before it's crossed.

So one more revision. And while I revise, I need to be thinking whole-heartedly about my theme, which I have given a lot of thought already, so... yeah. I'm discovering, as I go through this process of trying to get a first novel published, is that about 60% of the process is about facing disappointment. It is definitely not for the meek. I figure sharing this process with you can only help to prepare you, because this part is not what I expected it to be. I thought it would be mostly waiting on editors to respond, but I'm not even there yet.

Be warned. The process of getting a novel published (to my knowledge so far) is this:
1. You write a novel.
2. You revise the heck out of that novel until you feel like it's ready to be published.
3. You submit to agents.
4. You wait.
5. You hear back and hopefully, they like it and want to help get it published.
6. You get edits back from your chosen agent.
7. You re-revise based on those edits.
8. Repeat 6 and 7 repeatedly.
9. I'm not sure what 9 is yet but I'm hoping it's that the book gets shopped to editors.

This process is long and it's tedious, but I'm hanging in there. Time to give this one more go.

While I'm doing that, on this nice New Year's Eve, note that, starting now,  January 2014, my story "the Godmother" will be available for purchase in the 12th issue of Midwestern Gothic. Go buy yourself a copy, either in a print or ebook version.

And speaking of theme, my son's big Christmas present this year was a steampunk-themed bedroom (or the start of one anyway), with bright orange paint, black curtains, furniture re-painted in a paint color called "Tuxedo Tie," maps, brass, copper, cast iron, cogs, a green steamer trunk, and what will become a model airship once we get it put together.

Revision comes in many forms.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Year-Long Blanket Slog, C'est Fini

It took months of planning, math skills I had forgotten about entirely, two excel spreadsheets, over 2 pounds of yarn, and a year of knitting, but it's finally done. May I present to you, the Maize and Blue Stained Glass Blanket:

It's 74 inches long, 53 inches wide, and very very warm. I developed the pattern using the long cabin knitting technique popularized by the Mason Dixon Knitting duo Kay Gardiner and Anne Shayne. If you too would like to knit one of your very own, I'm hoping to have a functioning pattern up for sale on Ravelry in the near future.

Last Christmas, my little brother got a bag of yarn and a promise, and this year, after buying yet more yarn because that bag was just not enough, I came through on that promise. The sketch I showed him last year has become a blanket. A big blanket, every stitch infused with team spirit.

Since finishing this giant time-suck of a blanket, I have already finished three hats (one for my husband, one for my son, and one for my brother-in-law) and am in mid-completion of a fourth (requested by my boss). Think of how many hats I could have if I had made hats instead of a blanket. It boggles the mind, really.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ramen Reimagined

The holidays are upon us and while I struggle to get All The Things done in time for the big event, there just isn't room for a whole lot of anything else. I am working on a lot, but as they are Christmas presents, I can't talk about any of them until after December 25th. Rest assured, there are interesting blogs ahead. This just isn't one of them.
In the meantime, due to a month-long cold epidemic in my household, I have been in a ramen noodles kind of mood. As a veggie, the only kind I can consume is the Asian flavor. The other night, I made ramen for supper for myself, while the boys both enjoyed their leftover ham dinners. Of course, ramen is somewhat lacking in nutritional value, so to make it a little more health-conscious, I added some peas and carrots from a frozen veggies mix into the boiling water with the noodles. Then, after adding the little packet of MSG.... I mean, flavoring... I emptied the contents of the pan into a bowl and then fried an egg to plop in for some protein. The end result looked (and tasted) a lot better than just-plain-old ramen.
I'm sure poor dorm-bound college students learned this particular lesson long before I stumbled across it, but as I was never lived in a dorm, I take delight in the discovery now that I'm six months away from 30.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Here's how it goes...

Here's how it goes: you write like mad. You write because you can't seem to stop yourself from writing and really, you have so much to say. People notice. Someone recommends you go to grad school. You start filling out applications, but picking literature apart doesn't hold the same value for you. You keep writing, writing for class and then writing what you need to write. You graduate and apply for an MFA.

Stuff happens and life feels hard for a while, but you keep writing through it and for once, what you're writing is the same as what you have to get done for class. You write your way through that MFA with a novel at the end. You submit it to an agent, get accepted, find gainful employment writing, and somewhere along the line, you stop writing in the same way. Writing becomes a forced thing, a job. You second guess yourself. You struggle. The agent comes back with edits, then more edits, so you edit. You stop writing. You forget how to create a new character. You forget how to write that first sentence on a blank page. Sometimes you write a poem and this makes you feel like maybe you aren't quite a fraud.

One year passes this way, then another six months. You edit old stories. You edit your novel once, twice, three times. You re-alphabetize your book collection. Then, you decide: enough. You submit to journals and accumulate rejections. You start a writing group. Then, one day, one of your stories gets accepted. You know that if one story can get an audience, another one can too. You stare at that blank page and you stare it down. You start writing. Six pages later, you look up. It's not the best thing and it's rough, but it's yours and it's new. You know now that you can start again.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tofu Noodles

The husband bought Shirataki Tofu spaghetti noodles on sale. Just to try.

They were delicious with a spaghetti noodle shape and a consistency that reminded me of lo mein. What's more, they are low-calorie, vegan, and gluten-free. One package seemed to come out to about half a box of normal pasta, so obviously, even on sale, they are a bit more money. Then again, they count as protein, not carbs, so they might be on the less-pricey side, all things considered. How much is chicken breast these days? I know tofu isn't cheap.

All and all, you get tofu without having to fix tofu. It's the ease of a pasta dinner with the health benefits of a vegetarian stir-fry. I, for one, am sold.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Canary Knits: the Hinderland collection

As a blogger, I have developed into quite a blog enthusiast. One of my favorites is Canary Knits, the blog of knitwear designer Teresa Gregorio. I discovered Canary Knits when I found a copy of a then new-release, Brave New Knits. In it, Teresa's Milk Maiden top made my fingers itch to knit it. Sadly, then as now, I was already working on a project, and being a gift knitter, another project followed that. And another followed that, but I still want to make this adorable sweater. Someday I will.

Teresa has a knack for creating interesting designs that are also utterly wearable. As a bonus, I have won a little something thanks to her giveaways on more than one occasion, including a pattern for an ornate but very stylish bonnet and some Be Sweet yarn.

Recently, Canary Knits has been working on a seasonal series of designs called "Hinterland" that are based on the wilds and wildlife of the Carolinian forest zone (spanning most of the Midwest), the newest of which, "Hinterland: Autumn," was released about two weeks ago. Sadly, given the current incomplete status of my latest year-long knitting project (as well as our current household budget), I can't justify buying yet another book of patterns I won't be able to cast on yet, but I when I finally bind off on my gargantuan blanket, you can bet this little book will be my reward. What I do have now is the first book in the series, "Hinterland: Summer."

"Hinterland: Summer" includes three patterns. The handy ebook form means that you can see it in all its full-color graphic glory on your computer screen but you can also print out simple black and white copies of the pages for any patterns you might be currently working on and you can write all over them without guilt that you are marking up real book pages.

The first pattern is an ingenious blanket/shawl/pillow combination pattern called Raccoon's Home Range. It uses 11 hanks of Knit Picks Billow and looks equally fetching in each of its three incarnations. Moreover, I love the idea of a knit that I could wear to a picnic, use as the picnic blanket, and then roll up to slumber upon in the car on the ride home from the picnic.

The second pattern is a cozy little tank called Ontario Skies. This knit has over-the-shoulder straps that culminate in a behind-the-neck halter tie, making them completely adjustable, and a pleat in the back combined with short-row shaping for a feminine fit that should hug where it needs to and not where you really would rather it didn't.

The third pattern (my favorite!) is a short-sleeved cardigan/summer cover-up called Killdeer. It has a front tie closure and little pockets on each front side with barely-there front coverage that keeps your shoulders modest without hiding the rest of your ensemble, perfect for those hot summer days when a tank top is a must but work dress-code insists no shoulder be exposed.

(My print out of the Killdeer pattern- Love this picture.)

In addition, the book has some breathtaking cover art, numerous pictures of each pattern on a model (Teresa herself) so the knitter can see what their FO should look like, clear schematics of each pattern, an annotated bibliography of references about the Hinterland, and small explanatory essays explaining the Hinterland itself, stewardship, raccoons, and killdeer (a bird and not a directive).

Likewise "Hinterland: Autumn" features three patterns: a cardigan hoodie called Paridae, a sweet little bonnet called Soft Rime, and a unique convertible mitt set called Rustling Ruffles. Of course, I'm sure this book will also include the inspiration, research, and meditation on place that "Autumn" has, so do yourself a favor and go score a copy. While you're at it, buy "Summer" too.

And in the spirit of the season (and things that are Midwestern), you could also mosey over to Midwestern Gothic, were my first short story publication "The Godmother" will be included in their 12th issue, on sale starting January 1, 2014 in print or ebook versions. The story does include knitting, allowing you to satiate your literary and fiber-related fix all at the same time.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Cleveland's Finest, my source for books

The area I have migrated to out here in the Midwest has a lot of things going for it that I love, like its support of the arts, for example. Of all these things--the radio stations, the public transit system, the local restaurants--what I love most about this area are the libraries. The fact that I'm an English major should make this confession of no real surprise to anyone.

That Ohio's citizen's visit their libraries more than citizens of any other state is the stuff of internet article fact (for what that's worth). In Northeast Ohio, it's easy to see why. Cleveland has an excellent library system. In fact, Clevnet is less like a library system and more like a network. It has participating library branches as far west as Sandusky and as for east as Trumbull county, as far north as Ashtabula and as far south as Wayne county. A patron belonging to Clevnet can request items from any of the 44 currently participating libraries. What's more, the main branch in downtown Cleveland is gorgeous, a grand old building with sweeping ceilings, architectural intrigue, and a convenient drive-thru. The literary magazine section, which I visited once, may house more magazines that the AWP book fair (and that's saying something).

I admit, though, that didn't really appreciate what I had stumbled upon until I momentarily lost it. When we moved this past Easter to our new house, the local library was not a participating clevnet library. For several months we tried to make do, but the fiction section had only the most current books in any given series and there was no way to request the earlier books from other branches. There were no other branches. The knitting section looked plucked right out of the mid-80s, with none of the newer works that the knitting renaissance has inspired. The new books section was composed mostly of cheesy genre fiction (and not the good kind either). I was unaware that many romances set in Amish country even existed. What's more, there was never an available copy of Downton Abbey.

Fortunately, a few months post-move, I found out that the next town over is part of Clevnet. Moreover, it's closest branch is housed in a window-laden two-story building nestled between an I-hop, a Texas Roundhouse (LOVE their loaded sweet potatoes that they top with mini marshmallows), a Target, and the future location of the local Jo-Ann Fabrics. Their children's section has a pet turtle and once, a visiting tarantula bigger than my hand. While the immediate magazine selection and knitting section are slim pickings, they offer everything I need by way of Clevnet. Just request the item in question and an email arrives in my inbox the day it comes in.

I cannot leave a Clevnet library without a giant stack of books.

Sure, we have a river that once caught fire and a grifter population so insistent that it puts NYC to shame, but this library thing? We've got that perfected.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Chocolate Mousse Cake and Trifle

 It's no secret by now that the other members of my household and I love chocolate, so I wasn't surprised when my son requested chocolate mousse cake for his birthday. He had a slice of chocolate layer cake with mouse filling at our favorite local eatery, Blue Sky, and just absolutely loved it. Now, no other kind of cake will do.

Of course, his party was celebrated the weekend before the date of his actual birthday at my parent's house in Michigan with my siblings, niece, and nephew. Transporting a six-layer cake over two hours? Not bloody likely. Thus, we compromised, the boy would accept a chocolate trifle substitute
for the party with a mousse cake to follow closer to his birthday.

I whipped up the chocolate trifle at my mom's the morning of the party. It's super simple and the most time-consuming part of it is waiting for pudding to set.

Chocolate Trifle
What you need:

1 box chocolate cake mix, your preference and necessary ingredients
1 large box of chocolate pudding mix and necessary ingredients.
1 tub of whipped topping

1. Bake the cake according to package instructions, cool, and cut into small squares.
2. Make the pudding according to package instructions and allow to set.
3. In a large, even-diameter bowl, layer half of the cake squares, then half the pudding, then half the whipped topping. The repeat, so that there are two layers of each ingredient.
4. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

This is a holiday stand-by dessert in our family. The kids love it and it's quick and easy to make. Because it was the first time I've been in charge of making it though, it ended up a little sloppy-looking. Usually, Mom makes it. It was hard to get the candles upright, but otherwise, it worked out just fine.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the mousse cake didn't end up made until the week after the boy's birthday. The husband made the cake and the mousse, I, as usual, made the frosting.


Chocolate Layer Cake with Mousse Filling and Chocolate Frosting
For full instructions: click here.
Our cake turned out not quite as pretty as the one in the blog from which we found the recipe, but no worries. A slightly lopsided cake is just as tasty as a perfectly cylindrical one with fancy frosted details.

This cake was super moist and super rich. In a word, it was just criminally decadent. The cake was light and fluffy for a from-scratch recipe, which I usually find a bit on the heavy side. The mousse was creamy and chocolate-y and added a much-needed lightness to the rich chocolate flavors. The frosting was almost too sweet, but not quite and very very, intensely chocolate-flavored. If I could do it over again, I probably would have cut the sweetness with a pinch or too of flour, like I do with my vanilla frosting. There was not a dissatisfied customer at the table after this one.

Of course, the cake is featured on top of our new dining room table, which looks a little something like this:

Friday, November 8, 2013

Garter Stitch

I am a bind off away from finishing the penultimate section of the Maize and Blue Stained Glass Blanket. This section is a rectangle, roughly 42 inches wide and 9 inches tall, done in off-white Red Heart Super Saver in a colorway called "Aran." The beauty of this section that makes it such a sigh of relief: it's comprised entirely of garter stitch.

If you are new to the lingo of the knitting world, garter stitch is one of the two workhorse stitch patterns that make up most knitted fabrics. The other is stockinette stitch.

For flat knitting, garter stitch is what happens when you knit every stitch of every row, resulting in V-shaped knit stitches for every other row, with the bump-shaped purl stitch for the rows in between. This happens because knitting creates knit stitches and when knitting back and forth on a flat piece of fabric, the knit stitch is created on opposite sides of the fabric for every row. The purl stitch is really just the backside of a knit stitch, so on one side of the fabric, the first row will be knits and the second will appear as purls and the other side will have a first row of purls and a second row of knits. Garter stitch is reversible, looking fairly identical no matter which side of the fabric faces front.

To create stockinette stitch when knitting flat, you have to learn how to purl. Purling creates purl stitches. Thus, stockinette stitch, which involves knitting for a row and then purling for a row, results in all the knits being on one side of the fabric and all the purls being on the other.


When the main side of the garment is the purl bump side, this is called reverse stockinette stitch.

For circular knitting, because you knit every row from the same direction, the reverse is true: knitting every row creates stockinette stitch and garter stitch requires purling every other row.

I love really complex stitch patterns and unique constructions on small projects. It makes them take a little more time, but that's okay, because they really don't take too much time in the first place. A 70-inch by 50-inch flat-knit blanket, however, is just huge, so for something this time-consuming, I'd rather it not take any more time than necessary. Most of the sections, though, required lace patterning or color work, each of which takes a long time to do compared to the ever-efficient garter stitch (not to mention a significant amount of concentration and the added time required to figure out the charting). Hence the year it's taken to get this far.

I'm so into this nice, easy, meditative garter stitch. Just one knit after the other until this blanket is done.

...Well... almost done. There will need to be a crocheted edging. And possibly a fabric backing. But the blanket will be totally done knit-wise. Of course, first I have to buy another skein of the Caron worsted weight in Cape Cod. I've run out of blue yarn, and this last section, all blue.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Writing Post-Novel and some HP Cosplay Mayhem

As hard as people say writing after finishing an MFA is, I find writing again after finishing a novel to be infinitely more difficult. It's not just that I can't seem to find the right material for a second book-length project. I'm finding it hard even to muster up words for a poem.

To make up for this, I've been reading a lot, several books at once at times, in the hope that something will spark my next writing endeavor, though this is starting to abate a bit. I hope that means I'm about to find words again. As of two days ago, I finally settled on a possible book idea. The two previous ideas I had, one a young-reader friendly ghost story and the other a more adult-themed book, both dimmed in the time since dreaming them up and finishing the previous novel. I'm hoping this new idea sticks around long enough for me to find the words to write it down.

Currently, I'm reading the new Jhumpa Lahiri, entitled The Lowland. Unlike most of what I've been reading lately, it has retained a "currently reading" status on my Goodreads account longer than a few days, a sign that the reading frenzy is starting to let up. If you haven't read it, I recommend you do. It's beautifully written, real, and heartbreaking and combines political unrest and private family life in a way that only Lahiri can. Her characters are always complex and even the worst of them have plights with which I can't help but empathize.

This oddly connects to something I found out this week. Apparently, the more you read, the more empathy you have for other people. This makes a lot of sense to me, considering how much I read and how much my brother doesn't read and the differing amounts of empathy we seem to exhibit.

So if I'm not yet writing the great American novel, at least I'm gaining a better ability to understand people.

Happy Halloween 2013. I'm currently dressed as Moaning Myrtle. In fact, I won the costume contest at work today, thanks in part to my knit-on-the-bias Ravenclaw hip scarf, which I used as the required uniform tie.

And yes, that's the face I have when I think about the fact that I will have to take my son out trick or treating in the rain. Tally ho.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Beet Burgers

When I was planning out my garden this past spring, there were very few things that my husband really had an opinion on. Beets was one of them. Apparently, we really needed to plant some beets, so plant beets we did. By the end of July, they were ripe. This coincided nicely with our clearance purchase of a brand new grill, clearance at Target.

So what did we make with the beets? One of the best veggie burgers I've ever had featured beets, so the answer seemed obvious to me: burgers.

I'm not sure what recipe my husband made or I could tell you what recipe not to make. The burgers weren't bad but they weren't the spectacular burgers I'd had before either. It was too beet-y. So what I can say is this:

Make beet burgers, but make sure the recipe isn't too beet heavy.

I would wager that adding something else with a strong flavor, like black beans, would greatly improve the taste of the burger, so look for a recipe that does so. The burgers disappointed a little, but the grill? The grill was fantastic.

Monday, October 14, 2013

A Review of Sewing Books, or how too much lace makes Kate a dull girl

It has arrived: my normal fall dose of startitis, that illness that sends countless knitters into fits of casting on countless projects the minute the temperature drops into the 50s in the daytime (that's in Fahrenheit by the way). However,  due to the excessive knitting required for the year-long Michigan blanket slog, startitis is not arriving in a form I was expecting. Yes, dear readers, my fingers have been itching to sew.

Or rather, "learn to sew" would probably be more accurate, as I currently own a sewing machine but lack the ability to sew a straight line with it. On the plus side, my mother tells me that part of my problem may be that, in the past, I have not chalked the straight line onto the fabric before sewing it. This finally gave me insight into why I needed to purchase fabric chalk, which I did years ago and for which I never found a use.

I have refrained from trying anything as of yet, because I'm still knitting away at that blanket. What have I done? Requested every how-to-sew book I could find from my local library. As they continue to come pouring in, I'm going through each one to decide which one will likely teach me anything in a useful, understandable way.

What I've found so far:
  • I wasn't a big fan of the projects in  Sew Liberated, Sweet & Simple Handmade, or 1, 2, 3 Sew, though of the three only 1, 2, 3 Sew is a beginner book. I liked Growing Up So Liberated but was let down by the fact that the children's projects included were mostly, in fact, for infants and toddlers (which sort of skips the child demographic I was after entirely).
  • I found both Sew U and Sew Everything Workshop helpful. Sew U  had better instruction and detailed ideas for how to personalize patterns after learning to sew them by rote. However, it has a limited list of projects available in it, restricted to three patterns, a skirt, pants, and a collared dress shirt. Sew Everything Workshop did not have instructions quite as detailed but had a wide variety of patterns at various experience levels. However, they are not listed by experience level, which can be confusing.
  • Likewise, I loved the patterns in Sew Serendipity but the explanations in The Collette Sewing Handbook. I will probably buy Sew Serendipity eventually, but I decided it is not a beginner book. The patterns and fabrics, though, are inspiring, as is the can-do attitude of the author. The Collette Sewing Handbook, however, has lack-luster projects that don't look very attractive on their respective models but very detailed instructions with play-by-play pictures. It would be a real contender for me if the projects wowed me at all.
  • I probably want to buy a copy of Simplicity's How to Use Your Sewing Machine. It doesn't include patterns or instructions for how to read them. It restricts its reach to making the reader more familiar with the parts and workings of a sewing machine, which I desperately need.
  • The best of the books I have gone through so far is Stitch by Stitch. This book starts out with simple projects that don't really make anything useful but teaches a necessary skill. Each succeeding project builds on the skills in the projects that come before it. A little over halfway through the book, re-useable patterns start to make an appearance. By the end, it takes a glance at advanced techniques. Best of all, it has large color pictures to show a step-by-step process that goes along with the written instructions. I got done skimming through this book and felt like I might actually be able to do this whole sewing thing, and that's saying something.
Will this amount to anything? We'll just have to wait and see. In the meantime, I have some more lace to knit.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Drying the herbs (Drying the heeerrrbs.) La la la lalala lalala la.

I planted an herb garden in the spring. What that means now: I need to dry herbs for the winter. While I'm excited by the prospect of having a better quality of seasonings on my spice rack, I also just don't have a lot of extra time to deal with herb drying at the moment.

However, I will make time to make sure I save all of the chamomile.

Because fresh chamomile makes some potent tea. One mug of this and I'm ready for bedtime no matter how high-strung I felt before drinking it. I have, in fact, developed my own favorite home-brewed tea blend. I put about 3-5 flower heads in my trusty tea ball along with a stem-full of chocolate mint leaves.
 Tasty and medicinal.

I'm drying the chamomile on the hooks normally reserved for my car keys. Meanwhile, the rest of the herbs, which are a larger size, I started drying by draping them over the handles of my oven doors. This worked, but left much to be desired in the oven-functionality department.

Then, I noticed the hooks in the ceiling of the kitchen. Now, I have no idea what the previous owners put them there for, but my repurpose of them might be a possibility. Now my herbs are out-of-the-way and drying nicely.

Once dry, the smaller herbs are going in these little glass spice jars I bought years ago, except the thyme, which I'm putting in an empty jar that once held store-purchased thyme. The longer herbs, like basil, parsley, and mint, will go in mason jars I got last Christmas from my parents. I've got a nice bit done of it already.

And really, it didn't take much time at all.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Chance Ate Sassy

Emily Matchar's new book Homeward Bound has a lot more going for it than just the fact that it shares a name with one of my favorite childhood movies (I heart Chance). Homeward Bound is an honest look at the return to domestic art hobbies that women (and some men) have taken back up since the start of the new millennium, what Matchar refers to as the "New Domesticity."

The New Domesticity is about returning to our roots after the consumer craziness that was the 1990s, Matchar says, and a way for third wave feminists to reclaim the traditionally feminine roles and assert the worth of these downcast occupations. Moreover, the new domesticity is being embraced as a revolutionary way to stop relying on the system for food, protection, and income. It's a return to self-reliance, a la Thoreau, Also, knitting is right fun, yo.

However, there is a negative side to the New Domesticity: women are leaving the workplace in droves, convinced that the 1950s-housewife role is hip and feminist, now that the patriarchy is supposedly dead. The only problem: it's not dead, not even close. Women still don't earn as much as men and are forced out of the workplace if they decide to have families. Maternity leave, standard in all other developed countries, is pretty well nonexistent here (not to mention the recent political references to "binders full of women" and "illegitimate rape"). Still more troubling is the fact that all these women rushing back into the home are giving up the ability to earn an income, relying instead on their lifepartners, which is all well and good unless that lifepartner either a. leaves or b. becomes unemployed.

I'm a sucker for the New Domesticity, but there has always been a few things about it that leave me cold, like how going DIY is still pigeon-holed as women's work. It's all well and good to reclaim women's work and call it worthwhile, but when men still look down on it, the whole operation becomes a giant step backwards. Then, there's attachment parenting, which I've never thought was a good idea. (Be there for and give in to your kid every second? Yes, that will definitely help them learn independence and realize that sometimes they just can't get their way.)

I love so much about the New Domesticity (Hello, cooking and knitting blog...), but I love that Matchar was willing and able to shine the light on it's drawbacks. Chapter after chapter revealed women giving up their independence to become happy homemakers while their husbands paid the bills. I want to learn to can jam as much as the next person, but I am not willing to give up my status as a wage-earner to do it. I worked too hard to get here.

Everyone should grab a copy of this book. It's a fresh perspective on modern culture, politics, and feminism. When it comes to the career world, men are still eating us alive, ladies, even as so many women are proclaiming that feminism succeeded and can take a back seat. It's eye-opening and highly interesting. It says what needs to be said, and let me tell you, as a female breadwinner (who also knits) with a stay-at-home husband, I felt like a real hardcore feminist after reading this book.

Solidarity, my sisters. Let's march.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The blanket. Again.

There I was, knitting up a storm on row 120 of the Maize and Blue stained glass blanket M square when it happened. I ran out of yellow yarn. Fortunately, I'm knitting this blanket, as it is going a brother deficient in laundry prowess (as they all seem to be), in Red Heart Super Saver, so I just hopped on down to my local Jo-Ann's and picked up another ball of the gold colorway. The beauty of RHSS yarns, if you are not aware, is that they do not have a colorway. All of them are exactly the same color. This means I can start mid-top left-hand corner of the M and no one will know that there's a new ball of yarn there, unless I really fudge up the finishing. Either way, the cat seems to like it, so there's that.

I know. I know. There are those among you readers (if you are of the yarn-loving persuasion) who are cringing in their super-fine, lace-knit, mohair-blend gradient shawls that I just enthusiastically admitted that I sometimes (and by sometimes, I mean for the past year almost exclusively) knit with, not just acrylic (low as that is) but RH acrylic. And to you I say: get over it. I love and prefer natural fiber as much as the next knitter, but I'm not uber-wealthy, nor am I wasting wool on a project that may end up shredded by the still-existing claws of my brother's found-in-the-wild but "domesticated" cat. Why I'm wasting a year of knitting time on a blanket that may well suffer this fate is a subject best left for my psychoanalyst, should I ever get a psychoanalyst.

Seriously, though, I am definitely not a yarn snob. I have a few clearance-purchased (or gifted) rare skeins of the good stuff, but usually, I'm just happy if I can manage to afford a wool-blend. I have never owned a skein of madeline tosh, nor have I ever seen a skein of Wollmeise in person. Really, when it come down to it, this blanket looks awesome no matter what it's made of.

No more yarn-related incidents occurred and I finished the M square on Monday night, weaved in ends on Tuesday, and then put the whole thing in a no-spin rinse cycle and delicate dry cycle. After all, it's too cumbersome to bother blocking and I did make it out of washing-machine-friendly yarn.

This blanket is now officially as tall as I am. Four squares down, three to go.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Blue Skies and an Abundance of Cake

Blue Sky is a quiet little diner located in the busy urban corner of Amherst, OH, 40 minutes away from the center of downtown Cleveland. The walls house murals of agricultural and natural landscape. The booths are well-maintained, the atmosphere is friendly, and the menu, expansive. Moreover, in the angled walk in front of the kitchen, there is a gigantic display case full of cake. This is my new local eatery and I'm in love with it, as are my offspring and husband and my parents.

Part of the reason for this is that it's a small local place that serves simple food, mostly from scratch. The other part is that they serve this food in copious amounts. First, there's the soup and sald course. I can't eat their soups, as all of them (even the clam chowder) contain chicken stock. The salad's fresh and that's enough for me.

However, all the soups are made that day onsite and everyone I've eaten with there who has had the soup tells me, regardless of what soup it happens to be that day, that it's delicious. You can also opt for other options instead of the salad, like coleslaw and applesauce. The soup and rolls are complimentary and so, don't allow for substititions, so I just go without soup. There's plenty of food to go around.

Then, the meal comes. Often, this includes a smattering of either white, brown, or sausage gravy, though you can opt out of the gravy if you so choose. My husband nor my son ever chooses this. Apparently, the gravy is also quite delightful. The sausage gravy is so good that my son insists on this particular meal every time we go:

It's called "The Bomb" and involves a full order of biscuits and gravy on top of eggs (cooked any way) and home fries. It's under six dollars. For my part, if my appetite is small, I get the brocolli quiche, a wide slice of egg pie with brocolli and cheese cooked in a flakey, homemade crust, also under six dollars. Otherwise, I get the eggplant parmesan, which is under ten dollars.

Finally, there is the real reason to come to Blue Sky, though sadly often after the meal there isn't room for it: the dessert. These guys have a wide assortment of handmade, fresh baked cakes and pies, and I do mean wide:

That crust of the quiche? It's just a good on the dessert pies, though my personal favorite is a two-tiered shortcake with strawberries in the center and on top with whipped cream instead of frosting. While I thought the chccolate cakes were a bit dry, my son swears he's never had better. And the hot chocolate may actually be athentically made, though I cannot confirm this for sure.

Local food, laid-back people, simple atmosphere. Give Blue Sky a try and if you do, save room for dessert.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Garden of my very Own: Flowering Fauna (part 4 in a series)

As I opened up my blogger this morning (in which google reader is still fully functional. go figure.), I happened to notice that I am nearing 200 posts. In celebration, let us look at pretty pictures of flowers from my yard.

Here is the ginormous lily that was by my front door in August:

There was a red one in the front yard, but sadly, I failed to capture it before it wilted away for the season. Lilies don't seem to last very long. With the lily came the peak of the brown-eyed susan season and the earlier of the hosta flowers.

Once the purple hosta flowers left, the white ones came up right behind them, with the brown-eyed susans still hanging on into September.

Then, just this past weekend, I noticed that some of the rose bushes are having a second bloom.

And beside the chocolate mint plant, a columbine I transplanted from the back yard in the early spring has decided to flower out-of-season, hiding its half-purple/half-yellow underneath the mint's wild tangle.

Meanwhile, the hydrangeas are on their last legs and the kouza fruit from the late-blooming dogwood seems ripe. Whether or not I pick it this year will depend on if I can get a ladder out there to stand sturdy enough for me to not kill myself in the process. Time shall tell.

The perfect sky

Life seems to be coming together. Just this past month or so, I've started feeling the level of steady I've-reached-the-place-I-want-to-be that I thought I would feel back near Easter, when I first moved into our house. I'm happy, motivated, and seeing the beauty in everyday things.

The house is, well, under construction for the next 10 years, but I knew that would happen when I bought it. My dad spent my entire childhood renovating houses, so I know the drill. Even so, with the floor pulled up in the library, I'm starting to see progress in a real way and look ahead to the not-so-distant future, in which the rest other two downstairs rooms have the carpet torn up, subfloor down, and furniture situated so that I can finally get all my stuff out of their boxes and live in an organized way. More than that, dad came down for an over-nighter on friday, and he and my husband put the boiler pipes back together. We will have heat on both sides of the house and one fully-functioning boiler to do the job.

The novel: My agent has given it the go-ahead. Five (or was it six?) revisions later, it's now a full-on, completed book, rather than a novel-in-stories. One more round of editing minor issues should see it off to editors to sample and see if they want to buy it. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the mothering department: My son has found a 4H group that he fits in with, he starts fifth-grade band this week, go to fifth-grade camp next week (probably), and start sunday school at our new church the weekend after next. He will meet his new, hopefully organized and responsible cub scout troop (the last two we tried were not so) at the end of this month, meaning he might actually be able to get that Webelos badge he's pretty much done all the work to attain. We went to the new church this weekend and the people are kind and welcoming (though I do miss the old church, which I attended with my late friend Veronica, so it's filled with memories of her and the people I would never have known if not for her).

Edit: I apparently have some issues to work through with the school, but my son is still happier here than he ever was at his old school, and soon, he will be learning a higher-level of material that will help engage him back into a love of learning he has lost from route, unchallenging schoolwork.

In addition, by the end of this late summer/early fall, the last two of my close, saw-everyday pre-school companions will have tied the knot, the first, Stephanie, two weeks ago and the second, my first best friend and closest-in-age-boy-cousin Jesse (who is marrying Jessie, no joke), this Saturday. I couldn't be happier for them.

The sky even complied for Stephanie's wedding, stretching itself into the perfect, puffy Toy-Story-Wallpaper clouds that just don't seem to exist in Cleveland. This is the second weekend where we traveled to Michigan to find the skies this way, and since I live near Cleveland now and don't see skies like that all the time, I find myself awed by them.

I hope life finds you as blessed as I feel this week.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

113 Rows In

The never-ending Maize and Blue Michigan blanket is my entire knitting life at the moment. This may be the reason I have not been doing as much knitting lately. I just finished row 113 of the M square. At row 112, the M split at the top and it was time to add two more balls of yarn to the intarsia pattern, for 5 total. I still have at least a quarter of the square left to go and this blanket is already taller than my nine-year-old.

To make things interesting in this sea of stockinette, I have decided to learn how to knit backwards. Knitting backwards replaces purling, which I'm not that fond of doing. It involves, get this, knitting in the opposite direction than you knit when knitting the normal way. When knitting, I move from right to left and the yarn wraps around the right needle, which is placed behind of left needle, like this:

When knitting backwards, I move from left to right and the yarn wraps around the left needle, which is placed behind of right needle, like this:

I'm still new at it, so it's slow-going. I figure if I spend the rest of this blanket knitting backwards instead of purling, I'll get pretty fast at it when I'm done. There's still a long way to go, but the intarsia is almost behind me, and that, that is cause for celebration.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Yellow Transparent Apples

The deer crisis in my backyard has already been recorded on this blog. As it stands, the tomato plants are nibbled to almost nothing (two tiny green tomatoes cling yet to life and my hope is that they grow large enough for at least one batch of baked fried green tomatoes this summer). The apple tree, though it fruited, awoke one morning naked, all her apples born away in the night.

The tree was a gift from my mother-in-law, because transparent yellow apples just happen to be my husbands favorite. They also just so happen to be a fairly hard apple to come across. They also get snatched up rather quickly in locales in which they exist, not including being purloined by deer in the night.

He was so excited at the prospect of turning his very own apples into pie, but it was not meant to be this year. To buck himself up, while last in Michigan, he stopped at the orchard near his Mom's place and bought a peck of his very favorite apples.

Last week, we turned those whole apples into pie-sized slices with the help of an apple-coring kitchen gadget I bought with a Williams Sonoma gift card I got at my wedding shower. If you do not own said kitchen gadget, you should probably run out and grab one. It does in seconds what takes me minutes to accomplish.

The husband and I approached the apple slicing as an assembly line. He did the peeling and I did the slice/coring. Due to the one-side-fits-all nature of the corer, though, some flesh often got left behind on the core, so I started cutting it off for the husband and I to sample while we worked.

All I have to say is: wow. I may have a new favorite apple. Yellow Transparents are a hint sweet with an overlay of tart for a not-sour-in-a-Grannysmith way sour that just tastes delicious. It's supposed to be the ideal baking apple, and I'm here to tell you, it's a pretty darn good apple to eat raw too.

After all the apples were cored and sliced, we put them in freezer bags in 2-and-a-half cup increments. Then, in the freezer they went, and there they will stay until we decide to make pie. We then spent an hour deciding which pie recipe to use, his mom's or my mom's, both of us siding with our own maternal creator. This is not a debate that will ever end fruitfully, so to speak. He'll probably win out, though, mostly because he'll probably be the one who bakes the pie.

And as we all know: the one who bakes the pie, selects the recipe.