Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Knitting: Making it Work

I've always told myself that I would never knit for money. Knitting is my fun, relaxing hobby, and any time I have tried to take one of my hobbies and make money with it (with the exception of dyeing wool) instead of making it a fun and enjoyable career, it sucks all enjoyment out of my hobby. It turns it into work.

Then, my goofy husband accepted an order from one of his co-workers without asking me. An order for something knitted. Le Sigh.

So far, the project has not been going badly; I'm still enjoying my knitting time. However, had I been IN ON THE DECISION, I would have A) Charged way more money and B) Insisted on selecting my own color scheme rather than a stitch-by-stitch copy of what I made for my husband. I had appropriate yarn on hand, but it could have been made much more cheaply (and sooner) had I been able to make substitutions. I would have been knitting from stash and leftovers, so it would have been pure profit instead of having to order the yarn.

Plus, there was a problem with my yarn supplier's credit card processing system that day, so I had to make TWO phone calls and it took four extra days before everything was straightened out. GAH!

Also, this is putting me behind schedual for my own personal knitting. I had planned to be done with at least ONE of my blankets by now, so I could start my special Wicked Witch Halloween socks. It's just going to be a basic pair of socks, done in orange and black stripes (much like Dorothy's witch had red and white) but I was going to start at the toes and not stop until I ran out of yarn. And believe me, I always over-buy my yarn. Now I fear I may not have time.

I had also been planning to knit the sweater coat on the cover of the Fall 2009 Interweave Knits before the mornings at the bus stop got too much colder, but I either have to save $100 up to buy Noro Kureyon, $100 to buy the suggested yarn, or spin my damn own yarn, which frankly would save me money, but certainly not time. And then I'd still have to knit the damn thing.

So all in all, I guess the moral of this story is to educate your husband to just have him give the guy your email address and have him ask you himself. :P

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gaming: Another MMO

I really didn't go looking for another MMO. I was already having a Love/Hate relationship with "Lord of the Rings: Online" (hereafter known as Lotro) and really didn't want to add to my gaming experience in that fashion until Star Trek Online releases next spring. But then Cryptic offered Beta access to STO for anyone who bought a 6-month or lifetime subscription to Champions Online...

I didn't take advantage of that offer, but it was enough to intrigue me.

Those of you reading this blog through its hook into my Facebook page already know I've been playing... the game has a built-in sharing feature that puts noteworthy events as updates to your Facebook status. I suppose it would be interesting if all your friends played, but unfortunately while the game shares an event (Ice Princess has reached level 20!) it doesn't really explain where the heck this info came from. Shouldn't there be a big LINK added to it, extolling the virtues of the game and asking that you join up and add PlayerX as your buddy?? Well, I'm glad it doesn't, but now people think I'm weird.

All in all, it's a fun MMO with a Superhero flavor, much like City of Heroes/Villains, but I'm really digging the mission system a lot more. All I remember about COH was that A) I got stuck doing a mission in the park that was too advanced for me, and it was the only one I could take, and I kept dying before I could even get to the entrance, and B) After being inactive for 6 months, they *release your character names* This means that my strategic swooping-up of Jayne Cobb (Firefly character... it's a thing) got taken away from me, forcing me to rename my character. I was not well pleased.

Champions Online instead ties all character names to @accountusername. So there can be 5000 Wolverines, each one with a different @ tag at the end. Someone demonstrated this quite effectively on launch day, by creating a guild swarm consisting of the exact same wolf-shaped character, all named LOBO. It was sad, but I think it got the point across.

In other gaming news, I am still looking forward to my possible participation in the Star Trek Online beta. The game is really looking good, and so far Cryptic's Champions Online lets me know that their methodology for running an MMO is acceptable. There will always be complainers, but so far I have none.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Food: Time and Money Saver #1

One thing I always find handy to have in the freezer is pre-cooked meatballs and ground beef. If you have a microwave, they are quick to thaw and use. If you do not, they are pre-cooked and it's perfectly safe to let them thaw in a sauce as they're cooking. Otherwise (if you remember!) you can pull a bag from the freezer and put it in the fridge overnight.

What I do is watch for ground beef to go on sale. I watch for the 80/20 (meat/fat ratio) rather than 70/30... who wants to pay even sale prices for a wad of fat? Yuck. Then, I get at LEAST 10 pounds... 20 if I can swing it.

If you're going to follow my plan, you're also going to need a box of quart-size zipper FREEZER bags (not the storage type... they will give your meat freezer burn), a box of Gallon-size zipper freezer bags, a large stock-pot or dutch oven, and the ingredients which will follow. A tablespoon-size cookie scoop (looks like a miniature ice cream scoop) is VERY handy, but not 100% necessary.

For Freezer Meatballs:

3 beaten eggs
3/4 cup milk
3 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup onions, minced
2 teaspoons salt
3 pounds ground beef

In a large bowl combine eggs, milk, bread crumbs, onion, and salt. Add meat and mix well. Shape into 72 1-inch balls, using the cookie scoop if you have one. Place half of the meatballs on a cookie sheet lined with foil, and bake at 375° F. for 25-30 minutes. Remove from pan and cool; repeat with remaining meatballs.

Place cooled meatballs on a cookie sheet and freeze until firm. Package 24 frozen meatballs per quart freezer bag, seal, label, and freeze.

You can double or triple this recipe as necessary. These can be used in a variety of dishes, and since they are home made, they are much healthier than the store-bought frozen variety. I will often save the heels of my multi-grain breads in the freezer till I have a bunch, then make my own bread crumbs in the blender or food processor.

For a ten pound chub of ground beef, I'll double my meatball recipe, then boil the remainder of the ground beef to make a pre-cooked loose meat, suitable for adding to spaghetti sauce, hamburger helpers, or other recipes calling for browned ground beef.

Some things to consider before boiling your hamburger:

I always start with my stockpot full of COLD water, then break apart the meat in the water before applying heat. A great deal of the fat will come off on my hands, which I consider better than skimming it off later, or worse, eating it with the meat. Breaking it apart in the water helps get a very fine consistency to the finished meat. I use my dutch oven for this, so I only do about three pounds at a time. Any more than that could be a fire hazard if greasy water overflows and hits the burner. ALWAYS watch the pot.

If it tastes too bland to you, I often drain the meat into a colander, then put it back in the pot for a little browning. I would not add salt, however, since you don't know what kind of recipe it will be used for yet. I have been known to stretch my ground beef by adding things to the meat as it's cooking, such as grated onion, grated carrot, or grated potato. It sneaks some veggies in for the kids, and helps stretch the meat out farther.

When it's done, and cooled a little bit after draining, measure into quart bags, two cups at a time. Cool in the fridge for a bit, then freeze flat. You can rearrange them after they're solid. Each quart bag with two cups of cooked meat is equal to ONE pound of uncooked hamburger. Use accordingly.

In subsequent weeks I'll suggest some recipes to use these items in, or meanwhile you can use your imagination! Spaghetti and meatballs, Salsbury Meatballs, Cheeseburger Macaroni, etc. are just a few off the top of my head.

Most of all, have fun with the time/money you save!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Blogs and Me

I've decided that since I like to blog about so many different things, I was going to set up a schedule, with a different topic for every day of the week. What this resulted in was a month of procrastination. Go figure.

So, starting next Monday will be the new deal. If I don't have anything to say on a particular day's topic, I simply won't post. I refuse to get mired down in the whole perfectionism-makes-me-put-things-off quagmire.

On the bright side, I may be posting more. Not sure yet, but here's hoping. :D