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

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.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Home Revision

My new house isn't exactly new. In fact, it's the opposite of new, having been built in the late 1800s, and this doesn't bother me.

I love old houses. I inherited from my father (by either nature or nurture) an ability to see what an old, well-used (and maybe abused) house could be with a little elbow grease. Really, home renovation, like a lot of things in life, isn't so much different from my job as a writer, to make a gem out of something rough. As long as the bare bones are there and solid, even revision will reveal the quality that was buried there all along, under all that grime and rubble.
We are only just beginning to uncover the secrets of this place. Tearing through the wall between the main house half and the apartment half, we found the old doorway that used to be there before the wall went up to partition the two sides. The door frame is signed and dated in 1960 by the homeowners and the contractor.
The next project is fixing up the main house living room, what will be our library. We painted it a deep peacock blue before pulling up the old, soiled carpet. Then, yesterday we shoved all the furniture against the far wall and began tearing out first the carpet, then the padding, on that half of the room. Underneath that was a layer of something painted a metallic silver color. Before my husband could start shifting the furniture to the carpetless side of the room to get at the other side, I took a crowbar and hammer to a section of the silver stuff, which ended up being some sort of MDF. Low and behold, below that was wood.

Carpet forgotten, we both took to the silver stuff, ripping it up in chunks and prying up nails as we went, so as not to step on their heads poking out a half inch above the floor. When it was time to call it quits for the day and collect my son in Sandusky, half the original floor was uncovered.
Of course, it's not a hard wood (looks like pine). It's too warped to refinish even if it was, but it's still a lot better than it was and will serve as a temporary usable floor until we level it with subfloor and put a hardwood on top of it (or maybe a bamboo pergo? Decisions...). By the looks of it, either the previous owners painted a faux wall-to-wall rug on the wood or they painted a yellowish tan color around a real rug, replaced that rug with a bigger rug later, and repainted the remaining visible wood a new color (a muddy rust color). Your guess is as good as mine. I'm all ears.

Meanwhile, on this same day in the other living room, there was a moth. Upon seeing it , I went into what could potentially be described as a deranged fit while my husband accomplished an insect seek and destroy mission. My natural fiber yarn is in a cedar trunk in that very room. It being cedar, the odds of a moth infestation are (thankfully) slim. Why do I get an intense urge to search through my stash for damage whenever I see a moth?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Intarsia Purgatory

I have officially failed to finish my brother's U of M blanket in time for his late July birthday. I was already resigned to it. I pretty well knew it wasn't going to happen and I have revised the deadline for its completion to "before Christmas," which I'm confident I can manage, especially since this new rectangle I'm working on will be the last of the intarsia.

I've never been a fan of intarsia. It's cumbersome and tedious. Still, I have to admit that this blanket will look really good once it's finally finished, due in no small part to the intarsia. I'm sick of it though, the long droll length of stockinette when I really don't enjoy purling nearly as much as knitting, the seven odd balls of yarn all trailing off the work and tangling together. It's doom.

I'm on the rectangle that contains the big yellow "M" that is the U of M mainstay, reconfigured but based on the same chart I used for the Go Blue Bro Beanie. It started at the bottom and I'm slowly working my way to the two top points. The original seven odd balls have dropped down to three (two blue and one yellow) for a lengthy segment that will be the middle body part of the M. Near the end, I'll need to add another yellow and a blue (for a total of 5 balls), before it tapers off to one ball of blue and ends.

Then there will be just three rectangles to go, two in garter stitch (I can't wait!) and one in a cornstalk-inspired lace pattern. After that, there will likely have to be some sort of border. When this blanket is done, I will do a mighty jig. And I will never make another one as long as I live, so don't ask.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Novel Deadlines, Family Reunions, and Berry Chocolate Chip Oat Scones

My apologies for my recent blog neglect. It is all for a good cause, I assure you (or rather, a combination of several good causes).

Firstly, I am in the midst of yet another (but hopefully the last) novel revision. As you may recall, the last revision transformed the novel from a novel-in-stories into a novel told in chronological order from many narrative viewpoints. This seemed to go over rather well and this current round of revision is further refining that transformation and adding a few extra chapters, mostly for character development and resolution (I seem to rather enjoy ending things a bit too in medias res). So as not to drag revisions on too much longer, however, I have saddled myself with a fairly rigorous but entirely self-imposed deadline. Should I succeed in following this deadline to the letter, I will finish all current novel revisions in time to send the book back to my agent by the morning of August 12th. Whether or not this actually happens is yet to be determined, but I am over 2/3rds of the way through the book now and have met every daily deadline I set thus far (Knock on wood).

Secondly, this past weekend led to my attendance of not one but two family reunions, my mother's side and my husband's father's side. My mother's side is very large and boistorous and we all get on rather well for family, especially at parties (We all rather enjoy parties). Not only do we have a full day of reunion, but after dark, there is usually a bonfire after party at which my cousin's husband, my dad, and myself play guitar together and lead the family in much golden oldie singing and merriment. It pretty much kills the weekend of all other possible goings-on and that's just the way I like it. Yeah, my family rocks and I'm not too modest to admit it.

Thirdly, I had not been able to practice the guitar since well before the move into the new house, meaning I had a lot of practicing to do to make sure I remembered any of my usual playlist for the bonfire. I also first had to even find my capo, which ended up being in the first box I looked in, except that I didn't see it until the fourth time I looked in that particular box. Over five hours of practice was squeezed into one week's time and in that same week, I was also struggling to meet novel revision deadlines. It's a wonder I got out alive and playing the entirety of my playlist, plus "The Song of the Lonely Mountain" from the Hobbit, which I learned because I could not get it out of my head.

All of that being said, I hope you can excuse me.

Fourthly, for both reunions, you are supposed to bring a dish to pass. My husband made banana cake for his (at my suggestion because banana cake makes me happy). For my reunion, I made a scone recipe I originally found for the latest office potluck, which was ancestry themed. I'm a big mutt, but my last name is Scottish. Thus, I made oat scones. For the potluck, they had raspberries and semi-sweet chocolate chips in them, and I really thought after making them that they would have tasted better with white chocolate chips instead. For the union, I did that with half raspberries and half blueberries. The second batch ended up having a bit too much oat, but I love these scones and their little triangle shape, which I sadly forgot to photograph in my eagerness to eat them. Both times.

Berry Chocolate Chip Oat Scones

what you need:
1 1/2 cups white wheat flour
2 cups rolled or steel-cut oats
1/4 c sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup berries (any variety). frozen beforehand at least overnight
1 egg, beaten
1 stick butter, melted
1/3 c milk
half a bag of chocolate chips (any variety)

1. Mix flour through berries in a large bowl. Then, make a well in the center and add egg through milk (mixed together in a small bowl) to the well. Mix until dough forms. Add chocolate chips. Mix again. I recommend white chocolate chips and 1/2 c raspberries and 1/2 c blueberries.

2. At this point, you can either make full size or bite size scones. For full size, separate the dough into two equal balls and flat them both onto a greased baking sheet until each is about 1/2 an inch thick, give or take. For bite size (which works well for a party), separate the dough into four equal balls instead and flatten to same thickness.

3. Use a knife to cut each circle of dough into eight equally sized wedges (cut into fourths and then cut each fourth in half), as in the image below:

4. Bake inan oven preheated to 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Scones are done when they have risen slightly and are lightly browned on top.

5. After the scones have cooled, cut then apart at the same lines you created before you baked them and either serve immediately or refrigerate.

They remind me of the raspberry scones I used to buy at my favorite coffee shop (which has since gone out of business) near John Carroll University. Tasty and healthy, full of fiber and fruit. What more could you want?