Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Knitting: Rock-em Sock-em

Well, I'm back on a kick of wanting to knit socks.  I guess a week of 40° temperatures and cold feet will do that to a person.  So now not only am I working on a Bridgewater shawl (collectively decided by knitters on Ravelry to be one of the more difficult Jared Flood patterns) I have decided to try and create my own toe-up version of the Spot Check Socks.  They are colorwork, so they are very toasty with the double strands running behind every row.

This is KnitPick's Stroll yarn (of which I have an entire tub FULL of just that... sock yarn) in Canopy (green) and Cartoons.  When the Cartoons strand hits a green section, it gets a little difficult to tell which strand is which.  There is also more tonal variations in the canopy than I'd like.  The line of the single main (toe and heel) color that's supposed to run up the sides?  You can barely tell it's there because the "solid" green is a different shade every single round.  But they are turning out rather striking despite all that, and it makes it more fun to work on to see that they really will be attractive in the end, despite all the frustrating bits.  I started these on Saturday, and I'm already close to starting the heel.  For being a colorwork item, these socks really zoom along.

In fact I haven't touched the Bridgewater since starting these socks, and didn't think to take a picture of it while I had my camera out, so you can tell I'm enthused.  :D

Monday, November 21, 2011

Food and Cooking: The Plan

It's the week of Thanksgiving!  If you're cooking this year's feast, then I know you're already planning.  The bird takes three days to thaw in the refrigerator.  Making the sides, getting out the good china, heck... par-baking the dinner rolls... all takes a few days of prep.  You're probably knee-deep in it and don't even have time to read this!

Relax.  No, I don't have some solution for you that will magically let you eat bon-bons for the rest of the week.  Relaxing is just a good idea in general.   I'll tell you about it on Friday when I review a documentary on Stress: Portrait of a Killer.  If I don't post about it on Friday, it's because I'm exhausted.

Meanwhile, we have to get through this week without pulling our hair out, yes?

My husband's pay schedule is annoying during the holidays.  He gets paid every other Friday without fail... except during the holidays.  Then it's hit-or-miss.  We may get his paycheck direct-deposited this Wednesday, or it may not show up until Saturday, it's anyone's guess.  If he's getting a bonus, that might show up on Wednesday as well, or it could be there right now.

This is my long-winded way of saying that I started planning three weeks ago.

Timing is everything, too, because the really good sales on hams and turkeys don't really start until a week before the big day.  So here's what we did.  Setting a little money aside, we went and got a turkey breast on Sunday, along with a dozen eggs and celery.  I already have a dozen eggs, why am I getting more?  Because older eggs, kept in the fridge, are easier to peel for deviled eggs than really fresh ones.  The older eggs are going for that purpose, whereas the new eggs are going into the Wild Rice and Onion dressing, pies, and various other items.  Not to mention they will make fantastic omelettes and frittatas later in the week when we're sick of turkey.  I still have two bags of fresh cranberries, but I would have bought those as well.  At this point it should be all about the cooking... the shopping should be done.

Today I plan on par-baking two pie shells made from scratch.  I will also make the dough for dinner rolls, shape and place them in their pan, and then freeze them.  They'll go into a low oven after I've pulled the turkey out to rest about a half an hour before dinner.  They should be done in twenty minutes.  From a thawed or refrigerated state they take fifteen minutes, but honestly I won't have room in the fridge.  I may get crazy and chop the onions and celery for the dressing, but it's a little early for that.

Tomorrow I shall bake the pies.   More room in the fridge lost.

Wednesday night I will cook the wild rice, boil the eggs, and that would be the best time to chop all the onions, celery, etc.  I may assemble the dressing, but I hate to do something overnight with raw eggs in it, so I'll probably just get the components ready and assemble Thursday morning.  I'll boil the cranberries for the jelly.  I may leave the skins in half of it, or I may strain the whole thing.  (Cranberries are an excellent vegan source of calcium, I recently discovered.  Go nuts!) 

Thursday's plan will depend on when you want to serve.  We aim for noon or one pm.  Everybody gets to see the parade (or listen to it while they're in the kitchen) and then we can eat while the dog show is on afterward.  This is the time when you thank your lucky stars that there's a dishwasher on the premises.

The planning doesn't stop there.  There's food safety issues to deal with.  No food should be in the temperature "danger zone"  (above 40°F and below 140°F) for more than four hours TOTAL over its lifespan.  Don't leave the bird sitting for six hours while people pick at the carcass.  Pack it away immediately.  Same goes for the sides.  I planned ahead a month ago and got some very nice professional-grade food storage totes.  These will easily fit a fully-carved large turkey, or the remains of a small turkey and a ham.  They're also low-profile enough that they will fit in your fridge, and leave room for several small containers on top, providing a level base.

Have a safe, happy, and flavorful holiday everyone!  And remember, if you didn't cook, then you should offer to help with the dishes.  I'm just saying...

Friday, November 18, 2011

Knitting: A Little Late

Well I'm a few days late for my normal Wednesday knitting post, but I think you'll agree it's a neat edition.

The Lusekofte sweater is finally done.  The instructions on KnitPick's pattern for the collar and facing were a little unclear... what I had following their instructions looked nothing like the pictures.  No, correct that... the collar was fine, it was the steeked neck slash above the placket with the initials.  Basically I took it upon myself to pick up and knit the whole thing, doing the main part before putting on the collar, then going back and picking up stitches from the wrong side (creating a "turning" row without the purling) and knitting the facing.  Worked out great, and will make a stable foundation for the three clasp closures I've had since I started this project last year.

Also, I'm very glad that I used the last row of the cuff bands to pick up and knit on the cuff facing, as I think I ended up with a much neater result than sewing it down later with a mattress stitch.  I still think the pattern should have been written more traditionally, with the occasional white dots in the body of the sweater, as the feel of the fabric between the cuffs, shoulders, and body of the sweater is quite different, and expect my midriff will be cold by comparison with the colorwork sections.  Oh well, at least it fits well, and looks very professional.  Finally, one of the few sweaters I put a ton of work into that I actually think I can bear to wear.

I would like to see a wedgewood blue version of this.  If I'm ever in the mood for something intricate and complex again (figure the odds!) I might have to make one.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

ABF: The Story of Us

This week in honor of Veteran's Day I have been watching "America: The Story of Us" on Netflix's watch it now service.  It is narrated by Liev Schreiber, an actor I love, though his voice is hard to recognize in this work... I think they did something to the pitch and timbre of his voice electronically.  It doesn't have the richness in the deep notes like his voice does in, say, "Kate and Leopold" or "Xmen Origins: Wolverine".

This twelve-episode mini-series is a look at America from its first days.  I have so far gotten halfway through, from the landing of the first settlers, to American cities like New York in the early 1900's.  It tends to skim or gloss over some areas, such as the witch trials in Salem, but some condensing of the information is to be expected... otherwise this would be a never-ending saga.  Other areas, I was pleasantly surprised to learn new things, such as the story of Prussian general von Steuben.  Had never heard of him.  Looked up from my knitting and went "Huh?  Who's that guy?" when he was mentioned.

Friedrich von Steuben was a former Prussian military man who was brought to General Washington's attention by Benjamin Franklin.  He trained the men at Valley Forge during the day, drilling them in maneuvers, and at night he wrote military training manuals, some parts of which are still in use in the American military today.  His changes in uniform cleanliness saved the lives of our soldiers who were dying of diseases running rampant through the camp.  His improvements to marching and discipline made our men more imposing and effective on the battlefield.  He pretty much saved our forces at Valley Forge.  Why had I never read about him in my high school text books?  Oh... rumors of him being gay forced him to resign from the Prussian army.  So my Puritan high school text books wrote him out completely?  Crap.  (If any of my fellow C-I HS survivors remembers reading about him, let me know... I'd be interested.)

Most of the things that have surprised me so far have been the inventions and circumstances that had a huge impact on the character of the people that make up America.  Like the fact that the only reason the Statue of Liberty is in New York instead of some other city is due to thousands of New Yorkers donating money in pennies and nickels to build the structure she stands on.  That a fire in a New York sewing factory is responsible for the work safety measures still in use today.  That Sears and Roebuck got its start from a railroad telegraph operator who needed a watch to coordinate with other stations on his railroad line.  That barbed wire was invented by a farmer who wanted the Texas cowboys moving their cattle north to keep the trampling mass out of their crops.

It's a fascinating look at what makes us Americans what we are.  I look forward to the second half as we move into the early 20th century and get into the world wars, the nuclear bomb scare, and the turn of the millenium.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Knitting: Glutton for punishment

I finally finished CC's Tempest sweater, except for putting on the buttons, as I still haven't found any that I like.

Instead of diving into a new project, I decided to go back to one of my hibernating projects.  It's been getting chilly enough that the red Lusekoft I started last year around this time would be a great addition to my wardrobe.  I'm just glad I put my initials in the customizable placket section instead of the year as is sometimes traditional, as I'm pretty sure I won't finish it before it turns to 2012.

I'm a lot farther than this now... That row of motifs you see above?  I have three of them now.  I've just started binding off and decreasing for the neck opening and the shoulders.  I wonder if it would be silly to try and work a hood onto this thing.  :D

Thursday, November 3, 2011

ABF: Food Matters

When I was in High School, one of my best friends, Kim, had a mom who was a nurse.  She was also a holistic medicine practitioner.  At the time, I was pretty self-absorbed like a lot of teens, and didn't take the time to learn what it was all about.

So earlier this week when I was watching "Food Matters" I thought of Kim's mom, and wondered what she might think of the movie's assertions.  The "experts" were very confident of what they were saying... but was it accurate?  Is basic nutrition as a preventative measure in illness being ignored by the western medical  community?  Can a lot of common (and not so common) illnesses be alleviated by an improved diet?

We already know from history that a lack of fresh food containing vitamin C can cause scurvy.  I seem to remember something in the Little House on the Prairie books saying something about boiling pine needles to make a tea to ward off scurvy during the winter.  It was a common ship-board ailment for sailors.  We also know that a lack of calcium intake can lead to brittle bones and teeth.

What would a lack of other vitamins do during any stage of development in a child?  What would this lack do to an otherwise healthy adult?

The documentary asserts that cooked food is treated by the body the same way as an infection... with a reaction of the white blood cells.  This is based on a study by Dr. Paul Kouchakoff done in 1930.  What they never tell you is why this is a bad thing.  Or even if it is a bad thing.

My friends and long-time followers of my blog know that I am an advocate of eating foods that are industrially processed as little as possible.  I would rather make a scratch pizza than buy a frozen one, if I can get my picky eater to eat it.  I'd rather grill a chicken breast and put it on a bun than have one of those chopped meat patties they call chicken.

However, I never claimed that my method of cooking and eating was a cure-all for disease.

"Food Matters" asserts that a raw-foods diet has cured cancer.  That it has pushed leukemia into remission.  They show dramatic before and after photos (some of which are quite gross, but they do warn you ahead of time) that "prove" this to be the case.  They claim that following a proper raw foods diet supplies vitamins and natural enzymes that are missing or destroyed in cooked food.  And that this is the cause of all our ills.

Certainly there are vital nutrients that are diminished or destroyed by cooking.  There are, however, also nutrients that can only be "unlocked" for the body through the process.

At least they advocate only a 51% raw foods diet (or most of the experts in this film do).  I have no problem with that, in general, because I think that the fiber and nutrients of such a change would be beneficial.  I *don't* think it's going to cure my uncle's diabetes.  I don't think it's going to cure someone's dystonia, or heart disease.

But hey, as long as you're not pregnant or immunity compromised, it certainly can't hurt, so long as you're watching that all the nutrients make it through your food rotation.  Bananas all day every day isn't going to cut it.  You have to mix it up a little.

I also believe that one of the few pills you should take is a good vitamin supplement.

"Food Matters" brings up Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, and claim that at one time he wanted to add nutrition and vitamin supplements into the program.  Niacin, also known as B3, they claimed helped alcoholics with their depression.  The film also claims that mega-doses of niacin, taken daily, helped cure and maintain against the chronic severe depression of an elderly woman.  They also claim that HUGE amounts of vitamin C are completely harmless.

I am skeptical of these claims.   But I see no harm in taking vitamin supplements as directed.  A good "once a day" type should suffice.

The best thing I can say about this film is that it made me think and do some digging.  I don't think it should be taken as gospel.  I do like their attitude that watching your nutrition is better than throwing pills and medications at diseases.  I do like their ideas on farmers growing some of the "superfood" crops, such as Acai berries, that are rich in many nutrients, not just a few.  Can such crops be sustained in this climate?  

I don't know, I may have to do some research.

Some websites:

Alternative Brain Food: New Segment

It seems as though no-one has time or the inclination to read.  I know for myself I start to feel restless and un-productive if I'm just sitting with a book while at home.  Stuck at the dentist's waiting room or waiting for a band concert to start is a different story.

So lately at home I've been watching a lot of TED videos and insightful documentaries.  Of all the "reality programming" out there, it's the type that is the most thought-provoking and informative.  As I watched each one, I realized that there were people in my life I wished were watching it with me. I realized that I wanted to share the experience and the information they contained, even the ones I thought were full of it or biased.

So I decided to start a new topic segment for my blog called "Alternative Brain Food", hereafter abbreviated as ABF.  I'll name a video or documentary I've watched, and my thoughts on it.  Most of them are going to be available for free on the internet, or through Netflix's "Watch it Now" service.  Occasionally I might watch one through Amazon Prime.

The first post in this segment will be up some time later today.  Even if you don't agree with the thoughts in the videos, or my thoughts after viewing them, I hope at least that it will make you think about the topic, and perhaps go learn more on your own.