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

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.