Saturday, July 20, 2013

What's For Dinner - Cucumber Soup

It has been crazy hot here and I just can't bring myself to turn on the oven. My George Foreman Grill has come in handy on several occasions when I've made the kids' favorite chicken without making the entire house heat up unbearably. But even Chicken on the Foreman isn't good all the time. I used to make cucumber soup a lot in the summertime so I decided to give it a try again. I have a ton of cookbooks, but really all you need is Google. It's faster then looking through all those books and when you've ended up in the supermarket having forgotten to find a recipe in the cookbook collection, and are shopping blind as it were, Google and a smart phone are invaluable. Here's what I found. It's from Ina Garten (love her) by way of Sparrows and Spatulas and it's Ina's Chilled Cucumber Soup.  I'm leaving out the shrimp as well.

Chilled Cucumber Soup  
(Courtesy of Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics) Serves 6
  • 3 (7 ounce) containers Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup half-and-half (I went with between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cup)
  • 2 hothouse cucumbers, unpeeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion (I may go with 1/4 cup next time)
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons kosher salt (start with 3)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (4 lemons)
  • Thin slices of lemon, halved, for garnish
  • Fresh dill, for garnish
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the yogurt, half-and-half, cucumbers, red onion, scallions, salt, and pepper. Transfer the mixture in batches to the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until the cucumbers are coarsely pureed and then pour into another bowl. Continue processing the soup until all of it is pureed. Fold in the dill, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, until very cold.
Just before serving, stir in the lemon juice. Serve chilled, garnished with lemon, and fresh dill.
In the original recipe, Ina adds 3/4 cup of cooked, halved shrimp. I left it out. 

 I ended up making these other changes:
- 1/2 cup of half-and-half
- 4 regular cucumbers (I wasn't sure what hot house cukes were, but I figured they were the big ones so I went with 4 regular. It's cucumber soup, what could be bad about a little extra cucumber?)
- 1 tbl salt (equivalent of 3 tsp)
- I put in a ton of dill. I love dill. I didn't measure, I just kept chopping.

This cucumber soup was really, really good.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Let the Tour Begin!

I started the Tour de Sock today! Here's my project page. It took a while to hit my stride with this pattern, but considering that I worked on it while sitting in a waiting room and then between tasks around the house and while there was precious little opportunity to concentrate I feel I did pretty well. There's a lot of pattern. I must say, so it's definitely not something I can knit on autopilot. The pattern is The Secret Fan by Adrienne Fong. It calls for the German Twisted Cast On to be used and according to the rules of the Tour we are not allowed to modify the cast on. I actually had fun learning a new cast on process. After looking at this video, I realized that it is very much like the Long Tail cast on that I usually use. My brain was happy for the exercise.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Knitting Brings Out My Competitive Side

For most of my life I would not have referred to myself as competitive. I always thought of competitive people in terms of sports or business, being competitive with other people.  What I realized a while ago is that I am competitive, just with myself. I'm also a joiner, well, at least from the comfort of my couch. Put these two things together and what do you get? Well, I get a very busy June.

June 1 begins 4 knitting related activities. As usual I have a new month of classes as part of the summer term of the Harry Potter Knit and Crochet House Cup Challenge. I still have my ongoing projects, the Puffin Sweater that I'm making for Fiona for my OWL and my other long term project for the Order of the Phoenix, Gail (aka Nightsongs) to work on. My goal is to have the sweater at least 50% finished by the end of the month. I have to see when my Gail shawl needs to be completed.

I've decided to give the Tour de Sock a go. Everything else I've tried to do to get me to finish a pair of socks has failed so maybe a speed competition will be the thing to get me through 2 matching socks. I like the idea that I've got a fun and supportive team that's easy going and we are all making the same sock so if I hit any snags, I'll have a team of people to ask for help. So far all I know is that I need yarn that is 400 yards in 100g that I knit at 8.5 stitches per inch, and 50 8/0 beads that the designer suggests should match the yarn. Of course, I didn't really spend enough time checking out all the information threads in the Tour de Sock group so I didn't see this information until today. Once again, my tendency to stock up on craft supplies that I don't end up using has paid off. I have the right weight yarn, Juniper Moon Yarns sock yarn, and the perfect size bead in the perfect color. I'll take pictures tomorrow. The pattern wont be released until the morning so when I'm done here, I'm going to go swatch so that I can be prepared.

The second new to me challenge is Nerd Wars and my team is Nature Nerds. All of our projects have to tie into nature, but not the science of nature. I've started taking pictures for inspiration, and noticing yarn in my stash that is reminiscent of the outdoors or colors in my garden, which at this point is purple. I noticed last year that most of the plants that I've put in the garden are purple. Later ones that come out are yellow. It's funny how that worked out. Anyway, as I've never participated in Nerd Wars before, I'm excited to see what sorts of challenges they come up with.

And finally there's Camp Loopy which is hosted by The Loopy Ewe. Every month there's a different challenge that has to be completed with yarn from the Loopy Ewe for the knitter to be eligible for prizes. I bought a ball of Schoppel Zauberball in earth tones, so it actually may work for Nerd Wars as well.

So, that's the plan for June. Wizards, socks, and nature in addition to "real life" and I definitely will be loopy!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Skirt, Finally!

Here it is! The first piece of clothing that I've sewn in about ... no I'm not going to say but believe me it's been a long time. The pattern is Hip Skirts by Favorite Things which is a company that I was told designs sewing patterns with quilters in mind so they are easy and work really well with cotton fabric that quilters have or are familiar with. Lizzie House fans will recognize the fabric I chose.

I wont let on that I bought the fabric for this skirt over a year ago (oops). I definitely wont let on that I didn't take my measurements properly so that I made the wrong size the first time (oops). I will absolutely not let on that after taking it apart to re-cut the pieces I let the whole pile sit until just the other day (oh for crying out loud).

Well, I have to say that even though this skirt took me an age to finish, I am very happy with it now that it's done. I haven't done much sewing and I definitely have picked up a few things in the process, and over the year from when I first started.

I had wanted to trace the pattern so that I didn't have to cut the actual pattern, but not having suitable tracing paper I took the plunge and cut the pattern. Really, I was just impatient to get started and didn't want to wait to get big enough tracing paper. I didn't think that I'd be making multiple sizes of the skirt so I didn't think that this would be a problem. It has, however, proved a bit problematic. At some point I made some bad cuts so that the waistband, which is used in all 3 versions of the skirt so it's an important piece for the pattern to have and now isn't really the absolute right shape anymore.  Also, I somehow melted part of the pattern paper with my iron so it's gone wonky on one side. Yeah, I have absolutely no idea.

Recently when I decided that I'd be starting to sew more, I invested in a roll of tracing paper from Amazon and I am so glad I did. It's wide enough to cover all my pattern pieces and I can cut a piece any length I want. I really hated having to tape sheets of tracing paper together to be able to trace a pattern. I hadn't thought of using freezer paper until I read this post. I have rolls and rolls of it from when I used it for quilting. I just realized that a nice thing about freezer paper patterns is that with the shiny side down, you can iron it to the fabric (if the fabric can take the heat) so you don't need pins! Once you're done the paper peels right off.*  Between my freezer paper stash and the tracing paper roll I now have, I'm definitely set for a while!

In my impatience I also didn't take my measurements all that carefully so once I finished the skirt except for the hem, I put it on and realized that it was really big. If you are going to make something the wrong size bigger is definitely better. The pattern is very basic, made up of two pattern pieces, which made taking it apart so I would be able to trim the pieces to the next smaller size really easy.

The fabric for the waistband got mangled in the deconstruction, but I figured I'd just make another one. All of this sewing and taking apart happened relatively quickly and early on. As I mentioned, it took a year for me to pull out the pieces again, get the pattern, and then try to find the fabric for the new waistband. The fabric from the main part of the skirt was nowhere to be found and I didn't have anything in my fabric stash that looked good. I ended up driving 40 minutes to the closest non-Joann's fabric store and got a really nice, subtle, polka dotted fabric for the waistband.

I took over the dining room table with my sewing machine and cutting mat so the trimming of the pieces and sewing together of the skirt could take place. It took several days to finish everything up, but not a whole lot of actual work time. I'm so pleased with my Hedgehog Hip Skirt I can't wait to make it again in two Liberty of London fabrics I bought just over a year ago, right around the time I took apart this skirt  and put it on the shelf. Now that it's getting warmer and will most likely stay that way for a while, a few new skirts will be just the thing!

I thought I'd throw in a random cute cat photo. Tara wanted to make sure that the fabric was pressed properly and that it contained an appropriate amount of cat fur!

*This I know from doing English Paper Piecing with freezer paper.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Coming Off the Crazy and Finding Fun Stuff on Etsy

I have been crazy busy getting my house ready to be put on the market. The major work is done, and now it's just the totally manageable jobs of maintaining the tidy and the not so slow but steady work of clearing out the basement. As a treat to myself I decided to have some guilt free time on the computer today. What did I hit first? Ravelry of course. The new term just started in the HPKCHC. I took last term off but I'm back and I am, not surprisingly, in Hufflepuff again. I also plan to check in at a couple of other groups I've been absent from for a while.

My second stop was Etsy. I had gotten an email that I had a new follower. I'm not crazy about how random people, in this case a shop that sells buttons, can follow me on Etsy. I did buy some buttons recently, but frankly my Etsy life is really not so interesting that I'd think anyone would want to follow me. However, it is what it is. Anyway, I figured I'd go see who this follower was and I ended up checking out some other random lovely stuff.

I am now determined to use string lights as an interior decorating accessory. How cool are these and so easy to change around as my mood varies!

And so many look like yarn! YARN! Who'd have thought? Well, obviously someone.
I'm also determined to grow my nails long enough to wear polish so I can buy some of these.


I also love the things that this shop has made from vintage books. I love decorating in the fall. I can't get enough pumpkin and turkey decorations. I even have two cute pilgrims who live on my table around Thanksgiving. This year will be a tough choice between a book pumpkin or a book turkey.

And while I'm whiling away my time indoors, or back on public transportation with a good book, check out these amazing bookmarks - gotta love the fandoms!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Happy World Penguin Day!

I just found out that today is World Penguin Day! Check it out here.

Random penguin pictures:

Little Blue Penguins

 You can't tell me that this penguin doesn't feel like he can fly!

 Best penguin gang ever.

 Penguin Follow the Leader.

 I love the little guy's expression.

 Penguin gang in training.

 A penguin sporting Hufflepuff colors. Gotta love the style!


 Couldn't leave out the penguins in sweaters.

 "I can't believe he took the dare!"

These penguins mean business!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Carpe Diem Gin and Tonic

I've been wanting to visit Tuthilltown Spirits for some time, and last weekend I decided to seize the day, so off I went to visit the only distillery in New York State since prohibition. I do enjoy a G&T now and again, and I had recently seen on Tuthilltown Spirits' Facebook page that they had recently restocked their shelves with a delicious sounding gin, Half Moon Orchard Gin. I didn't get there in time for a tour, that will be another visit, but I did get there in time for the last tasting of the day. I arrived as a large tour was ending so I wandered around the tasting room a little.

I was excited when the tasting started. I've never been to a tasting and I was interested in trying something new. We were given 3 samples as part of the tasting and my first choice was, you guessed it, Half Moon Orchard Gin. I have to say that I was not expecting to be so enthusiastic about straight gin, but this was delicious. I added a few drops of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Small Batch Tonic, from South Carolina, which I have to say will make a tremendous G&T once I get some plain soda water. I came home with a bottle each of the gin and the tonic so I can put my cocktail shaker to work.

My next choice was the Heart of the Hudson Vodka. It was smooth with a nice flavor. And then, I tried the Baby Bourbon. What I first knew of bourbon is that it used to be my mother's drink of choice in her 20's and what she drank every now and then at a party. I always thought it smelled awful. The next thing I knew of bourbon was that it is really good in pecan pie. The first sip I took was alright. Then with a few drops of water added, which apparently releases the flavor or something, I could see how people could drink it and not just use it in baking lovely pies.

I also had a tiny sip of Cassis which I was expecting to taste like syrup, but it was actually lighter than I expected.

I definitely want to take another visit, making sure I have time for a tour with my camera, not just my phone for pictures. I would love to see the distillery and all the workings. I was happily surprised with the products of this local distillery that takes advantage of the bounty of the area to create a high quality product that is very enjoyable, even to someone who is not really used to spirits. I'm also excited to try out some of their cocktail recipes!

Barrels for the aging of the spirits.

 One of the awards that Tuthilltown Spirits has won.

 Oil lamps for sale in the shop. One may end up making it's home with my in NYC.

 Adorable bottles of spirits and medals.

 Our lovely hostess for our tasting.

 The variety of botanicals that goes into Half Moon Gin.