Point Me

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Man's Cap for a Manly Man

I finished up the cap for husband today. It's made out of a super-soft wool that Paul picked out himself. So, it's not exactly in season for the impending summer, but I hope he'll get to wear it lots in the fall and winter.

Look how cute he is, doing his best brooding model face. I based the hat off of this "Man's Cap" pattern from 1936. I did the same type of stitch, but used a larger sized needle (to accommodate his big ol' noggin). I also made the cap length shorter, so it would fit like a beanie, rather than folding over at the brim.

As you can see, my seaming up the back isn't exactly flawless yet, but I think I'm getting closer to a nice neat one. Practice makes perfect I suppose. I'm also in the works creating similar chapeau for my brother. His is going to be blue.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Caturday V

Me and this kitten are kindred spirits...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Leaf Headband

I was so sure that the next knitting project I'd be posting about here would be the wool cap I'm making Paul. I made a lot of progress on it over the cool rainy weekend in Wells. However, Lilly, the inlaws kitty stayed true to the form of her kind, and could not resist getting into the yarn and chewing it up.
So, so true...

I was forced to start hiding the half-done hat in a cupboard, so she couldn't get her fix. Subsequently, I forgot about the hat, and left it up there. Luckily, Paul's mom found it before they left for MA, so I'll get it back sooner than I thought I would.

I couldn't let my hands stay idle though, so I took on another quickie project. I finished this in about 3 days. I liked the idea of making like a 1920's hair piece, with an ornate lace stitch and an eye-catching bauble of some sort on it.

I got the instructions for the leaf stitch here. I made this without a pattern (first time ever), and I think I did a pretty good job eyeballing it. I started by casting on 5 stitches, gradually increasing the body to 17 stitches, at which point I started the fancy stitch. I repeated that until it was the circumference of my head, and then I decreased the stitched back to 5 to cast off. I also did a 6 stitch wide button hole on the end.

I might remove the button and re-attach it farther back, as it is a little loose on me. I'm really excited to try some more fancy stitches like this one. It was easier than I expected it to be. The open work comes from wrapping the yarn around the needle without stitching it, so on the next row, it kind of unfurls into a decorative gap. I think this stitch was really ideal for somebody trying lace for the first time, as it didn't utilize any terribly difficult techniques.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Wednesday Dinner #6 - Creamy Zucchini Tarts

Mmmm...This dinner was really easy to make and exceeded my expectations. It's super delicious and a great way to disguise vegetables as a treat. Paul doesn't really like zucchini, and he declared this "delicious".

This dinner also introduced me to the delight that is frozen puff pastry. It's amazing! It's delicious, easy, and makes things seem fancy. I've been won over.

The tart filling is from 101 great vegetarian recipes. The original instructions had you put the mixture into a pie crust, and make it like a quiche. I think this could be equally delicious, and great to bring as an appetizer to a party. I decided to make it in puff pastry instead because the only ready-made pie crusts they had at Big Y were Oreo and Graham cracker flavored, and I somehow felt that that wouldn't taste as good...

This makes 4 large tarts.

1 lb zucchini
1/2 cup soft herb and garlic cheese (I used goat cheese)
1 egg
salt and pepper
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry

I used these frozen sheets from Pepperidge Farms. Take them out of the freezer and let one sheet defrost for 40 minutes. This is enough time for it to become pliable, but not too sticky. Once, soft, cut into 4 squares.

Preheat the oven to 400 degree. Lightly grease a baking sheet.

Now, grate your zuchinni into a large bowl. I was suprised how easy it is to grate zuchinni.

Next take your cheese and beat a little,until it crumbles. Add the beaten egg, a little at a time, mixing well between each addition. It should be a smooth, creamy mixture when you're done.

Mix the cheese mixture and the zuchinni together, until well combined. Season with salt and pepper.

Next, take your four pastry squares and lay them on a baking sheet. Spoon out the filling evenly between the 4 tarts. You should leave about a 1 inch border around the filling, so the pastry will fluff up into a nice crust.

Bake for 15-20 minutes.

I still have another puff pastry sheet leftover, and I'm really excited about the cooking possibilities. Since we're out of snacks officially, maybe I'll make these . They look wicked good.

A squirrel came over for breakfast today.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Making Toys Better

While we were in Maine this weekend, we hit up a big Goodwill store in Portland. I got this jenga, or rather, "jumbling tower" game for a dollar.

We decided to make it better.

Behold, Drinking Jenga! A number on each piece indicates the number of sips you have to take, ranging from 0 to 4. If you knock the tower over, you must drink 3x the amount written on the block you were trying to extract. If you lose track of your piece, it's an automatic 4 drink penalty.

We played with the excellent Mead that Tim brewed for our wedding. It has definitely continued fermenting, as this bottle tasted much boozier than the previous we had. Hooray!

After 2 solid rounds, Here is the score. Paul is on the left, I'm on the right. I'm not exactly sure who is the winner and who is the loser here.

After mastering the regular game, we moved on to the more challenging "robot man" formation.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Jon and Kate plus backlash

Back when I lived at 480 with the girls, watching Jon and Kate plus 8 every week was an exciting house ritual. As a bunch of cute baby loving ladies, we could all get together and enjoy bonding over these adorable little toddlers. The parenting advice that Kate would dole out seemed practical and pretty cool, and the relationship dynamic between husband and wife was strained at times, but the stress was always treated in a light-hearted manner in retrospect. It seemed like a nice show about a nice family with nice little kids.

Recently though, there's been a huge backlash against the Goesslin family. Magazine covers, accusations of cheating flying on both sides, and scores of people demonizing the anal-retentive tv mom. I don't have television, so I haven't really been able to keep up with watching the show. So I found this recent episode on YouTube, and decided to see for myself if the allegations of the show "changing" rang true.

I'm kind of sad to say it, but the show is different, and kind of painful to watch. Here's what I noticed:

- Jon is hardly says 5 words the interview portion, and instead sits dumbly staring at the camera, looking exhausted and sad. Maybe he learned his lesson after this incident? Other than that, the only other time we see him in the episode is when he's bent over his computer, schilling for an insurance company, stopping only briefly to go to the top of the stairs and shout at his children. charming.

-Instead of being framed around the daily activities of the home, the show is now framed around a series of progressively grander vacations and events. In this episode, the children get to tape a segment for Oprah, and then spend the night back stage with the Harlem Globe Trotters. This shows no sign of changing, as the next two episode feature Emeril Lagasse and the dude from Ace of Cakes (PS: note how these promos are ALL focused on Kate). This really supports the argument that these kids are child actors, and should be allowed to fall under the child labor laws as such...

Plastic Surgery Much?

-The charm of this show used to partially lie in the stuff they would do to make ends meet. Like that episode where they bought the whole cow wholesale to save money. It's fairly clear now that money is no longer an issue. They live in a gigantic mansion, j and k both have gotten cosmetic surgery and day-glo tans, and half the episode was centered around kate going to an upscale store to buy clothing for the kids and herself.

-Gone are the days that Aunt Jodi came over to help out the kids. Now they have a "helper" *coughnannycough* that comes in. There's an interesting blog post from Jodi's sister on the motivation behind this here.

-Kate spends so much time talking about how "annoying" her kids are 1. for not wanting to wear the matching outfits that she picks out for them and 2. "being in her face all the time". She then proceeds to talk about how they should do an episode about her style choices through the years. Sounds like somebody wishes the show was called "kate".

-The show has totally succumbed to the fate of most reality television shows, and has become a place where scripted situations are simply acted out. By that same token, the kids have become "characters" and deviating from their set archetypes is highly frowned upon. Getting haircuts, Leah is the one with short hair, Alexis has medium hair, and Hannah has long hair, and that's just the way it is. Cara is the sporty one who gets to go on court during the basketball show, Mady is the bratty one who has to stay in her seat and pout at the attention her sister gets. Anything else wouldn't make sense, right?

I don't plan on getting TV in the future, and even if I did I wouldn't start watching this show again. It's gotten a little too "Truman Show" for me. I guess I feel like these poor kids are going to be screwed up by being celebrities before they even understood the ramifications of it. How much longer will this go on? Will we get to watch Cara and Mady go to college? Will we be peeking over the back seat during Joel's first date? It just seems so weird and self-serving. Jon and Kate clearly no longer need this show to pay the bills. They get $75,000 per episode, plus the residuals from re-runs. I hope all of that is going right into trust funds for the little people who earned it with their cuteness and potty training exploits. But I doubt it, especially after getting a glimpse at Jon's new ride.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Wednesday Dinner #5- Vegetarian Chilli

This week is so crazy busy. Monday Paul had an after work party with his bosses. Yesterday, we went house hunting after work, and then I drove to CT to watch the lost finale with Mike (btw, wow!). Tonight we're driving to Springfield to see Steve, and this weekend we're driving up to Maine for the first weekend in Wells of the summer. I'm excited about Maine. There's apparently going to be a big town-wide yard sale of Saturday, so I'm hoping to pick up some goodies.

The busy-ness of life this week does lend itself to a Wednesday dinner that cooks itself. This chilli is made in a crock pot, so you can throw it together at lunch time and have it ready when you walk in the door at the end of the day.

This dish also planted the seed of wanting to try a more meatless life in my head. It's hearty and delicious, and kind of demonstrates that sustaining food can exist without meat in it.

This recipe is from the joy of cooking, though I tweaked it a little to my tastes.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chilli

1 Onion
2 Jalepenos, seeded
1 Tomato
2 Medium carrots
3 Celery Ribs
1 Red Pepper
1 Green Pepper
2 Garlic cloves
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Bag of Dried Kidney Beans
2 cups Frozen Corn Kernals
6 Cups Water
1 can of Tomato paste
Chilli Powder and Salt to taste

Life has been so hectic, that I forgot to soak the dry beans overnight! Luckily, there's another way to soften dry beans that's only slightly more labor intensive. Simply boil the beans for 1 to 1.5 hours.
I find that this method isn't as consistent as the overnight soak is, and that some of the beans still have a gritty consistency. But it's good in a pinch when you forget. Once your beans are soft, you can drain them and add them to the crock pot.

Next, take all your raw vegetables (plus the garlic cloves) and give them a good thorough chopping.

Heat the Olive oil in your biggest sauce pan. Add the garlic first, then all the other vegetables. Coat the veggies with chilli powder and cook until soft. Put them into the crock pot with the beaners.

Now, boil 2 cups of water, and add the can of tomato paste. Once the paste is dissolved, add the mixture to your crock pot. This is the base of the tomato broth. Add four more cups of water to the pot. Stir well.

Cover, and cook on low for 6 hours. Add salt and Chilli powder to taste. Half an hour before serving, add the corn.

This is really good with grated cheddar cheese. It probably serves about 10, so you'll have leftovers to heat up after all your daily mayhem.

PS: Check out this cute rabbit that's been hanging around our house! Yesterday, I opened the door and he was practically sitting right on the front step. I tried to give him a carrot the other day, but he was not having it.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Prehistoric Predilection

I've been a dinosaur fan since I was little kid. I wasn't allowed to watch Jurassic Park (like some people), but that didn't stop me from becoming a total dino expert. My mom really likes to tell the story of when I was in some gift shop, and the cashier saw me playing with these little dino figurines. I was like, 4 or 5 I guess. The cashier asks me if I liked the t-rex, and I apparently heaved a huge sigh and said "That's just a Brachyceratops."

Though my ability to identify every species of dino ever is long gone, the vestiges of my childhood obsession are still really visible around the the house. I have a lot of dinosaur stuff!

Dinosaur Pencil kit and rubber stamp set. A believe this was a birthday gift from Meredith.

"Dinosaur Plots". I picked up this book at the LWV book sale this year. Someday I'll get around to reading up on the intrigues of Natural History. Someday...

Kitchen Helper Dinosaur (pictured helping with last week's minestrone). I bought this guy at that stationary store in downtown Amherst, sophomore or freshman year. I was shopping there with Mike and Pete, and Pete said if I didn't buy this awesome guy, he would. He's been sitting next to the spice rack, gaurding the coffee maker every since we moved to the Manor.

Dinosaur postcard book. Paul bought this for me at Acme Surplus. There are lots of neat pictures in here, but I don't think I'll ever mail them to anyone. Many of them depict extinction, and I feel like that might be a downer to open your mailbox and see.

Fire breathing Dinosaur. This guy winds up and shoots sparks out of his mouth, which is like a bad ass super power. I think I got this as a present for Paul when we were dating.

Pink Dinosaur. I've had him since my childhood days of studying his kind. He's made out of a really hard plastic that you don't really see kid's toys made out of anymore. He has a really good judemental facial expression.

Stuffed Dinosaur. I got this guy at Christmas tree shops for $1! He had a tag on him that said "Eyes light up and Makes sounds!" I tried pressing the hard plastic box in his leg, but nothing happened. His eyes are also embroidered on, so there's no way they could light up.
One time though, I was going to wash him. I grabbed him by the leg to throw into the basket, and he let out a mighty roar! I squeezed him again, and he made another roaring sound. He convinced me not to put him in the washer, which was specifically against his care instructions on the tag. I've tried on many occasions to try and get him to make sound again, but he only vocalizes when he feels he is in danger, I think.
He gets the award for "most likely to need braces". Dental Hygeine is not a dinosaurs top priority...

Monday, May 11, 2009

What I did Friday Night

So first and foremost, I saw Star Trek on Saturday with Husband, Addison, Mike, Pete and Cait. I LOVED it, but I guess that's really no big shock. I was kind of planning on loving it from the get go. It was really entertaining and well done. Also, the casting was really spot on and "women friendly". Easy on the eyes, as it were.

There was only one thing that bothered me about the movie. There were so many shots where they was this bright glare on the screen, like they were shooting light directly into the audience's eyes. It was a good sort of mood setting effect at first, but they used it often enough that it became distracting to me. Not so easy on the eyes, as it were. You can kind of see examples of what I mean in the trailer at 1:13 and 1:25

Other than that, I really had no complaints. It was fantastic to see Leonard Nimoy doing his thang, too.

After the film, we had a Soul Caliber II tourney at our house. We bought it used at game stop for like $5 the day before. It was fun to share. Turns out Sayid Jarrah is a character in the game!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Caturday IV

Even though it's Caturday, some cats still gotta go to work. Ya know, bring home the tuna to the wife and kittens. This kitteh has the high pressure job of Station Master at the Kishi Station in Kinokawa Japan.

Tama the cat is in charge of greeting passangers as they arrive at the station, and gets a salary paid in cat food. Since her appointment to the position in 2007, train ridership has increased by 17%. She's quite the local celeb. Tama is also the only female in a managerial postion at the train company.

My favorite part of this video is the poor guy who has to report to Tama. Imagine busting your ass all day at the train station, while your boss, a cat, gets to take a nap in the ticket booth.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Days in the Sunshine State

Over the winter, I went on a trip to Florida with my mom, dad and brother. Poor Paul had to stay home and be a responsible working man. We did one of those time share promo deals, where we get to stay at the hotel on the cheap if my parents listened to a sales pitch. It was a really fun time, and it was great to get some warm weather in the middle of winter. It was the first time in a while that I got to spend significant time hanging out with my brother, which was something I had missed. I only took 2 pictures the entire week we were there, for whatever reason.

We went to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. I had been there before, with the high school band/chorus, but the rest of my family hadn't. It was fun to share a new experience with them.

It's really interesting to compare the Universal Parks with Orlando's other titan, Disney World. They have such startlingly different "feels". Disney is all about creating an alternate reality, which is park of the reason I love it so much. It's this crazy, hyper-managed space, where everything is magically clean and friendly. They go through these secretive, pain staking efforts for you to feel like you're in another world, where characters from your favorite movies live.

The Universal parks, on the other hand, don't care if you feel absorbed into an alternate reality. They're not about the worlds that exists inside of their films, they're about the production and promotion of the films themselves. The place is designed to make you feel like you're on a set, like you're on the back lot. They also make no secret that they're trying to sell things to you. All over Universal, there are ads for other companies and brands and movies, emblazoned everywhere, and every ride dumps out into a massive gift shop. At Disney, you would never see ads like that in the middle of the park, and gift shops are designed to look like quaint little store fronts in Agrabah. They don't want to sell you their products, they're in the market of "experiences".

I guess my other gripe/ point of comparison is that at Universal, almost every ride is a motion simulator, which tend to make me nauseous. I think they don't have enough space to build rides that actually move around.

I also wish that we were taking this trip next year instead. They were building this while I was there, and I dearly wish that I could have enjoyed it. It looks like its going to be pretty cool. By the way, the poll question on the site this week sucks! Who wouldn't pick a personalized Olivander wand that chooses you? It seems a little obvious that that would be the most popular...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Commercials make me angry.

I take commercials very very seriously.

When I watch a commercial, I'm hyper aware of what message is trying to be put across. What psychological buttons are being pushed, and what sort of magic the products are promising. I'm so cynical, I'm like an ad firms worst nightmare. You cannot make me want a product. I guess all my communications classes really got in my head.

I've been like this since I was little though too. I would always refuse to wear clothes with logos on them because "why should I be a walking billboard?". This also had a side effect of making me wicked uncool. But whatever!

The ad that's bugging me today is the Alli commercial that was on the ABC episode player last night. We were watching lost (natch), we're like half way through the 2nd season now.

Alli is a weight loss drug. It inhibits the amount of fat your body takes in during digestion. It has similar side-effects to our good old friend Olestra, the fat substitute, in that it makes you poop yourself. Hooray!

Anyways, the commercial features a testimony from a woman named Cheryl, who has lost 30 pounds with Alli. The line that killed me was:

"When I look at pictures of myself from before?" As she covers her face in shame, "It's disgusting."

Yeah, thanks Cheryl. While I can understand feeling proud of your new body and ashamed of how you let yourself go, you don't need to broadcast these feelings of self-degradation out to the whole world.
By presenting your body with shame, you are proclaiming that all women that looked like you deserve to feel disgusted by their bodies, and creating a platform for so many other people to take on these feelings of disgust for themselves. You're creating a conduit for low self-esteem for everyone.

I totally get why the drug peddlers put this line in. It's to get into the heads of people who already feel this way, harness their shame, and make them feel like buying Alli is the answer. It has the sick side effect though of making people who are perfectly normal reassess themselves, and make them wonder if they need the magic loose stool pill. They want to make people think "Do people look at pictures of me and think I'm disgusting?" "Do I need to cover my face in shame?" "Maybe I need to go buy some pills."

(Just a sidenote, the PAL perscription advocacy group gave the makers of this drug an AMAZING award : "The with Allies like this, who needs enemas?" trophy.lolz)

Maybe I'm overreacting. But I do feel when people refer to their bodies as "disgusting" on tv, shit like this happens to little girls.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday Dinner #4- Chicken Minestrone Soup

This is another one from "100 Great Vegetarian Recipes". Although I de-vegetarianized it by making it with chicken.

Yesterday, I was at Big Y grabbing the ingredients for this soup before picking up Paul at work. I was super hungry, and didn't feel like cooking anything when we got home. I succumbed to the ready-made meal counter, and ended up buying a whole rotisserie chicken, or as Big Y calls it, "the super bird". It smelled really good, and I could see the real flames shooting up under the spit in the cooking machine.

Buying the whole chicken turned out to be a pretty sweet deal. It was $12, with a silver coin. The meat was really juicy and delicious, and satisfied my body's lust for complete proteins. Mmm...so many amino acids. It gave us enough meat for probably 2-3 dinner-type meals. Plus, the carcass made for about 8 cups of homemade chicken broth. I don't really feel bad about eating chicken. I'm not too strict about my vegetarian observance, which, i guess, shows that the animal treatment angle doesn't play too heavily into my eating decisions. People do ask me sometimes why I wanted to go veggish. I think it was mostly just wanting to eat a healthier diet, and wanting to save money on grocery bills.

Mah Broth Recipe
1 Whole Chicken, with the meat carved off
1 Onion, chopped
2 Celery, chopped
1 Tbsp Rosemary
1 Tbsp Thyme
Salt and Pepper

Place the chicken bonez in a big pot. Cover them with cold water. Add everything else, seasoning to taste. Bring to a Boil.
Once boiling, reduce to low heat. Simmer for 4 hours, stirring occasionally and skimming excess froth off the top.

Drain the broth into a bowl. You can save some of the meat that got boiled off of the bone, and add it to your soup. There are two big benefits of making broth like this. One, homemade broth is delicious. Two, it makes it easy to find the wishbone!

I haven't done the wishbone since I was really little. It's currently drying out on the windowsill. That was always the hard part as a kid, waiting for the bone to dry to play the game. I'll let you know who gets a wish once Paul and I match our thumbs in battle!

Now, on to the soup. This Minestrone is a great soup for summer, because it has all these awesome seasonal vegetables. It's loaded with so many delicious goodies; veggies, taters, noodles, beans...and it's actually healthy for you too. It serves 4.

4 ripe tomatoes, diced
3 Tbsp Olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
3 stalks of celery, chopped
1 zucchini
1 can of canelli beans
4 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup pasta

Heat the olive oil in a large pan. I used the awesome wok that Meredith and Matt gave us as a wedding present. It's the perfect size for this.

Add the onions, and cook until they are transparent. Add the carrot and potatoes next. Stir them often for about 4 minutes. Then add the celery and zucchini, and cook for about 3 minutes more.

Finally, add the beans and the tomatoes. Stir well. Add this final mixture to your chicken stock and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce the heat again, and simmer for 40 minutes. Add the pasta (uncooked) and heat for 10 more minutes.

This soup is extra tasty with fresh grated parmesan cheese on top.

Not to toot my own horn or anything, but this soup came out amazing. It was so so good, Paul and I both had seconds. I think a big part of the extra deliciousness was the homemade broth, it made a difference. It was fun cooking something completely from scratch too, it made me feel very domestic.
The best news of all is that there are leftovers!

Also, I finished reading Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternack today. I give it a 5.5/10. I'm thinking I might of enjoyed it more if the translation was a little better. It had some awesome scenes, some good plot twists, and interesting characters. But so much of it was heavy handed and ponderous. and sad. Too sad for the first days of spring. I do feel like I know more about the revolutions in Russia now, and that's a plus.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Blue Yarn Shoes

I am victorious! I finished the booties that were giving me so much grief. The gift for Amy and Peem's baby is now complete. Our good friend Mr. Bear models the whole set below.

After working on that scarf with the button holes, this pattern was actually a breeze. That side project taught me about working in smaller row within the larger series of stitches. With that under my belt, I was able to make each of these little socks in about 2.5 hours each.

I'm quite pleased with how they came out, other than the seams. I still haven't quite figured out how to make them look all invisible and professional-like. I think I might have done it inside out, because the inside parts look a lot neater.

I still have a ton of this yarn left over, as you can see. I'm trying to decide what to do with it, and have been scoping out the interwebs for a fun pattern. I'd actually really like to try to do this guy, but I'm worried that it might be a little out my league right now, skill wise.

Other Projects I'm hoping to take on soon:
1. A hat for husband
2. A Present for my friend James, who is moving soon to Boston. Perhaps a scarf?
3. Something for my brother, who is turning 17 in July. (wow!)
4. Husband has also said he would like a stuffed cthulhu. There are lots of patterns for this out there, like this one, this one , and this one (my personal favorite), but they're all crocheted, not knit. I did find one knitting pattern for it, but I don't really like it as much as the others. Maybe it's just the yarn color the person chose, I dunno. I may have to learn a new yarn slinging technique to satisfy this wish.