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

Friday, August 29, 2014

Preparing for the Baby

Here in the rural-end of Cleveland suburbia, we are in full preparation mode. This baby is coming in a month and a half and nothing seems ready, including the house. Demolition of the living/dining room and the second story above it commenced at the start of summer. However, due to the fact that the ten-year-old was home with the husband and needed chauffeured from swim practice to band to summer rec and then still required large amounts of "pay attention to me" time, not a lot of progress happened until recently, with back to school in the air (the school year here starts in the middle of August).

The house demo has resulted in numerous unexpected surprises, as is the case with old houses and this house in general. For one, the wall between the future dining room and living room, the one we are taking out to make one large great room? The husband sledgehammered through drywall to find a second wall beneath made of plaster and lathe and in that wall:

A large opening. The rooms used to be connected. This has happened twice before to us and has led me to the conclusion that we are not renovating the house. We are merely returning it to its original state.

In the upstairs, the husband found the original means of heating the second story in the form of a poorly plugged whole in the chimney, sealed behind layers of drywall and plaster and lathe. It was a bit of a sooty mess and plans are underway as to how to properly seal that hole. Also discovered: there is no insulation. Zero. We had planned to have insulation blown into the house after the polar vortexness of last winter, but the budget just wasn't there for it. In lieu of that, we (and by we I mean my husband) are in the midst of ripping out that whole part of the upstairs down to the studs, Then, it's insulate, redistribute wall and closet locations, fix the radiators, dry wall, and paint. Can it happen in a month and a half? Probably not. Hopefully enough of it so that the radiators function by winter. The baby will be in a bassinet in our room for the first few weeks or so anyway, right?

Because of house is a mess and I'm in serious nesting mode, I got out all the baby clothes and washed all the blankets, socks, hats, and clothes sized 0 up to 9 months. There's a little dresser now set up in our dining room to house the clothes and a garage-sale purchased changing table in the current living room. I also hosed down the car seats, port-a-crib, bassinet, and stroller and washed all the cloth parts separately. The bassinet went in our bedroom, the port-a-crib is back in its box for storage, and the rest is in the garage.

It made me feel a tiny bit better.

On the knitting front, it's pretty much all baby all the time. After much procrastination, I finally did the last of the finishing for the striped boatneck sweater, started so long ago I didn't know the gender of the baby yet and now done in two lovely shades of Cascade 220:

The Daphne baby cape I started and ran out of yarn for, requiring a hurried yarn purchase from a nice lady in Australia, that's done too. All it lacks is the buttons, which I'm waiting on because I'm still hoping to find the perfect buttons. I have some. They just aren't perfect.

Also finished: the baby's first Halloween costume (assuming it fits). The dress is the Mummy's Little Dalek pattern and the hat I created the pattern for myself because I just couldn't find one I liked in the right size. I'll have more on this in a later post.

And these mini baby motif mittens, done using the Totoro chart. The entire family loves Studio Ghibli and Totoro in particular so it only made sense to introduce it early.

I took the photo before blocking so the colorwork doesn't look as smooth in the photo as it actually is. The mitts are my first real attempt at stranded knitting and I found the whole experience thrilling. I know want to rush out and knit a complicated fair isle that requires steeking. I won't. But I want to.

Nothing feels ready but at least this baby will be awash in handknits. That's what really counts, isn't it?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Pumpkin and Cinnamon Fun, or Alice's Tea Cup the Sequel

We loved the Alice's Teacup cookbook recipe for my lemon blueberry birthday cake so much that I just new I needed to make a few other recipes.

First up, Pumpkin scones! One of my bosses decided to go back to teaching and for his last usual friday meeting, we surprised him with breakfast. I made these:

They were good, don't get me wrong, but after the awesomeness of that first cake, I was expecting a bit more. They were overly bland for my taste and the caramel glaze that they recommend for the drizzle didn't really pair well with the pumpkin, in my opinion. They were much improved by a quick batch of homemade frosting, which I spread on right over the caramel glaze.

Not the best. And for all the work and special ingredients required, I wouldn't bother with this one.

Instead of a second batch of pumpkin scones, due to this dilemma, I made a nice batch of pumpkin cookies, my favorite cookie recipe by far. And because of the pumpkin, they are almost like eating your vegetables at dessert.

In a classic move of redemption through, Alice's Teacup redeemed themselves with their Cinnascone recipe, which I made because once you have buttermilk and heavy cream in the house from making bland pumpkin scones, you might as well try to make these. They were time consuming to make, but oh so good and fun. You mix all the ingredients and form a dough, which you then roll out. Then, you make the cinnamony center and slather it on the rolled out dough before rolling it up lengthwise (think hotdog rather than hamburger bun) and cutting the result up into the scones and baking them.

What really makes these shine is the almond extract. If there's anything better than a cinnamon pastry, it's a cinnamon pastry that also tastes like an almond cookie. I've since made them a second time and learned a secret trick to make them turn out better (I had some trouble with the cinnamon paste running out of the dough while I was trying to roll the scones up. Slather the paste on the dough and then let it sit a few minutes, preferably with a ceiling fan running overhead, to let the paste solidify a bit better rolling. It worked like a charm.

And nothing does monday right like sitting at my work cubicle desk with a mug of hot chocolate coffee (decaf, no worries) and a nice almondy cinnascone.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Waiting for Vegetables

Here in my third trimester of pregnancy and deadline crutch time at work preparing for maternity leave, I've gotten a bit behind the ball again as far as the blog is concerned. This does not mean I've had no content. A lot has happened. Many things have been growing, baking, cooking, and knitted. In addition, there has been home demolition and much washing of hand-me-down baby clothes in preparation for newborn, who needs both things to wear and a room in which to put them.

So, at the time that these photos were taken, these beautiful lilies were growing right beside my front door, looking ever-so-much like cartoon flowers and not really like real flowers at all:

And by now, due to drought and changes in weather from cool to hot to cool again, the petals have all fallen and the lilies are just weird stems with nothing attached to them, just standing there awkwardly to greet any visitors that happen by.

Likewise, the zucchini, which at the time this was taken had yet to sprout a stinking thing, have exploded in vegetable goodness.

We have no less than seven zukes in the crisper drawer of our fridge now, some of them too large to do anything with but spread and bake. Then, there is the lettuce, which we just planted too much of in our excitement to have a legit garden. I have gifted empty ice cream tubs full of the stuff to various loved ones and still, it grows. Which I'm not really complaining about. At least something is growing back there.

Because that sums up everything the garden has to offer right now, here in mid-August, with autumn nipping at our exposed arms in their short sleeves. There is proof that action is happening, but little fruits from our labor to show. The daikon radishes sprout these lovely flowers but are not fully grown yet.

The kohlrabi is nearing picked size but not quite there yet.

And the tomatoes, despite three tiny red ones, are just a see of green that won't ripen no matter what.

The eggplants and peppers have flowers but no fruit. The broccoli and okra are large but no veggies. Then there are the tomatillos. They have all these little husks, but when I fondle them, alas there's nothing yet growing inside.

This waiting game is has gone all summer long and I'm ready for produce.