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Monday, December 31, 2007

Recipe Review and Year End Summary!

And so it comes to pass, another year has come and gone. Where oh where do the days go? Looking back, this was a particularly momentous year for me: I took my first trip to Vegas with my youngest sister; my folks moved "up north" and for the first time in a very long time they live 15 miles from me; I changed positions in my department; and the Husband came home from a two year tour in Iraq. I think that's enough change for one year.

What didn't change was my continued exploration of new recipes. But before I give the final recipe tally for the year, I have the last reviews for 2007. Oh my goodness! I just realized I forgot to take any pictures! Drat and bother...I will have to work on that in the new year.

Classic Waffles (Ckng Lght BB/ 6
These were good. They were a rather sweet waffle that baked up nice and golden. The recipe also made about 14 waffles for me - about 7" circular size. So a nice amount was frozen for later breakfasts. I would make this recipe again.

Roasted Pumpkin and Winter Squash Soup (Ckng Lght Nov 07, pg 258) 6
This used up the last of my 2005 pureed pumpkin, although I did need to modify the recipe just a tiny bit to do so. The recipe calls for roasting cubed pumpkin and butternut squash, then adding to the onion and chicken broth before pureeing the whole batch. I just roasted the butternut squash and combined the pureed pumpkin to heat. Love that immersion blender!

Frosted Sugar Cookies (c/o Karen Z, co-worker) 8
My intent was to make cut out cookies, but time was running out and the dough was ultra sticky and I said screw it and just rolled the dough into balls and squished flat before baking. What I like about these cookies is the almond extract rather than vanilla extract. It gives them just a little extra pop! These baked up into nice soft cookies. I also omitted the frosting and just sprinkled them with colored sprinkles.

Turkey Alfredo Pizza (Ckng Lght Dec 07 ) 8
This was so easy to make - shredded turkey or chicken, drained spinach, Alfredo sauce, fontina cheese and a Biboli crust. That was the base of the pizza. I added artichoke hearts because it just sort of seemed to call for it. Mix the shredded poultry with the spinach and spread on the crust. Add the artichoke hearts and top with about 1/2 cup of the Alfredo sauce. Sprinkle cheese over all - but not to much! Bake and eat. The flavors were good, but as a whole it was bit bland for us. We found ourselves sprinkling ground sea-salt on top. I will be making this again - probably tomorrow night in fact - and I will be adding some procuitto for a bit of seasoning. Mmmm....

Barbecue Spareribs (Cooks Illustrated, Jan/Feb 06, pg 11) 8
Oh, my oh, my! Absolutely incredible. And so easy! A seasoning past is made out of mustard, chili powder, Cayenne pepper, and a couple of other things which I am not recalling. This is wrapped in plastic and put back in the fridge for several hours. It was supposed to be for 8-24 hours, but I managed 2 (didn't read the directions far enough in advance). Place aluminum foil in the bottom of a large sheet pan and put a baking rack on top of that. Sprinkle finely ground loose leaf tea on the bottom and put the ribs on the rack. Yes, that's right. Loose leaf tea. Now cover everything super snug and put on a preheated baking stone in a 500* oven for 30 minutes. At 30 minutes, reduce the temperature to 250* and carefully pour 1/2 cup of apple juice in the bottom of the pan and close the foil back up again. Bake for another hour or so.
Remove the foil and broil each side for 7-10 minutes.

It seems like a lot, but I was surprised at how easy and smooth everything went. And the taste? It was honestly, melting off the bone tender with a nice spicy zing to it. I only bought one rack of St. Louis baby back ribs (about 2 lbs) and I wish I had bought another one for more leftovers. So we had enough for 1 dinner (feeds 2) and 1 leftover lunch for the Husband.

Barbecue Beans (recipe from the Husbands Sister, source ??) mixed review
I had some leftover pinto beans in the freezer from a chili I made several weeks ago and this seemed an opportune time to try this recipe out. It was pretty simple - pre-made bbq sauce (or homemade works too, but I had a little jar I needed to use up), ketchup, mustard, molasses, maple syrup, and brown sugar and mix with the beans and cook. Now the sauce was fantastic - sauce-y, tangy and spicy. The beans...well, if there were some way to scrape the sauce off the beans and pitch the beans I would have. Somehow, between making the beans, freezing the beans, thawing the beans and reheating the beans they became even more crunchy and starchy than before. I really wish I had used bottled water when making them.... oh well. I'll try this recipe again with better beans.

Sourdough starter (The Bread Bible by Beth Henspberger)
A while back, in one of his homebrew magazines, the Husband found a recipe for making sourdough starter from the dregs of the homebrewing process. Unfortunately, he hasn't been able to find the article since then. But after pointing out several of my baking books, he found an acceptable substitute and last week he started the starter. It is a combination of organic rye flour, AP flour, plain natural yogurt, the dregs from 3 bottles of homebrew topped off with warm water and sugar. This has been carefully tended and stirred and sniffed. Yes, each morning we anxiously sniff the starter trying to determine if it smells "citrus-y", "tangy", and well, "right". Yesterday he fed the starter for the first time and whoo! by mid-morning it was happily percolating away. Folks, I think we have a success! We'll be making a batch of Sourdough Rye Bread on New Years Day.

And to end the year, I have started a batch of Homemade Vanilla. I don't have a specific recipe, but pulled from several sources. Basically, a bottle of vodka and 5 sliced vanilla beans. Let sit 3 months or longer. Shake every couple of days or so.

And (drum roll please.....) the recipe tally for 2007 is:


My goal was 120 so I am satisfied with where I hit. Next year I am aiming for 134.

Here is a comparison of past years:
2006 - 103
2005 - 137
2004 - 143
2003 -154
2002 - 129

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Epiphany! or "How I Learned to Clean my House" Part II

Other than buying a copy of the book I mentioned in the previous post, I have obtained all my environmentally friendly cleaning supplies! It wasn't as much as I thought it would be to get the essential oils, some vegetable glycerin and some liquid castile soap, though it did take some searching while at the co-op and my co-op is just not that big. I'm also fairly certain I could get these products for a lot less off the internet, but I wanted instant gratification. Tsk!

I bought a small bottle of Lavender essential oil and Tea Tree essential oil as these two came up most in Better Basics for the Home of the essential oils. This is probably due to the natural detoxifying properties of these two and that is what I wanted.

Here's a rough breakdown of what it has cost me so far to go "green":
$2.77 - 2 spray bottles for tea tree mixture and lavender mixture
$1.49 - 1 med spray bottle for vinegar mixture
$2.99 - 2 new sponges (gotta start with new sponges!)
$5.59 - 1 sm bottle of Dr. Bonner's castile liquid soap (recommended brand)
$4.75 - 1 sm bottle of vegetable glycerin
$9.59 - essential oil of lavender
$7.59 - essential oil of tea tree
$5.00 - 1 gal of vinegar (??)
$4.00 - 1 sm box of baking soda (??)
$0.00 - 2 med spray bottles already on hand
$43.77 Total

Now that might seem like a lot, but all of this should last me a goodly long time (I figure several months at a minimum. What I'll need to resupply more frequently will be the baking soda and vinegar, but those don't cost much in the grand scheme of things and I can use them for baking and cooking as well. Gotta like that! Multipurpose.

Anyhoo, after I got home last night and started supper (the Husband wasn't home yet) I mixed up my two spritzers and tested them out. The book warned about the tea tree being strong for a couple of days, but I didn't find the scent that offensive. So either I didn't mix the right amount - it's hard to measure drops into teaspoons and I didn't want to get essential oil all over my kitchen implements - or it wasn't that strong to me. The other items are a mix as needed so I set them aside.

With the husband forewarned, I shall go forth and clean! I hope my septic system thanks me for this...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Epiphany! Or, "How I Learned to Clean my House"

I have had a revelation this weekend that I must post about! For those of you who know me, I am a bit of a greenie-yuppie geek and I am afraid I am about to fully confirm my greenie-yuppieness.

A co-worker friend loaned me this book, Better Basics for the Home by Annie Berthold-Bond, after I expressed interest in cleaning with white distilled vinegar. I have been reading about the virtues of cleaning with this product for a while now and after a several of my standard commercial cleaning supplies ran out I decided it was time to give vinegar a whirl.

This book is really neat! The “recipes” she provides use basic cleaning products that you can find in just about any grocery store. The book is broken into sections so it is easy to refer to just the area you want. For example: housekeeping, skin care, whole body care, garden/pets/pest control. Under housekeeping (the chapter I was enthralled with) she covers everything: bathroom, dusting, carpet cleaning, floors, kitchen, drains, disinfectants, laundry, mold and mildew, all purpose cleaners, to name just a few.

I thought this was going to be complicated, that I would need a lot of additional “stuff”, but the author keeps it pretty basic. I focused on those recipes that used either on its own or in combination with: vinegar, baking soda, water, liquid detergent and/or essential oil of lavender or tea tree. The essential oils are generally optional, but I know I can find them down at my local co-op and they bring an added level of natural detoxifying, plus I know they smell nice.

I don’t have the essential oils yet – my plan is to swing by the co-op on my way home from work – but I had everything else, even a couple of empty or mostly empty spray bottles.

My first concoction to try was the Acid Cleaner. It sounds horrible, but this recipe is good for homes with hard water, pets and sick people. I have two of the three and we are entering cold and flu season!

¼ cup white distilled vinegar
¼ tsp liquid detergent (laundry detergent)
¾ cup water.
Combine in a spray bottle and go clean!

It smells a bit of vinegar, but it’s not bad at all and quickly fades, especially when compared to the fumes I get when using soft scrub or Clorox scrub.

In the tub and sink I just sprinkled some baking soda and took my sponge and scrub brush to it. After rinsing, I followed with the vinegar spray and wiped everything down. Shiny!

Now I especially like things that react, so I just had to try out this toilet bowl cleaner (I can’t believe I’m talking about cleaning my porcelain throne…) ¼ cup baking soda, ¼ cup vinegar. Dump in the toilet; let fizz (yes! It fizzes like Alka Seltzer!), scrub and flush. That was cool.

Okay, now we had to try the drain cleaner combo: 1 cup baking soda, 3 cups boiling water. Dump baking soda down drain. Pour on boiling water. Watch it fizzle and pop and sizzle. Follow with 1 cup vinegar for additional cleaning (and fizzling and popping and sizzling.) I used this on my bathtub drain as it clogs up pretty easily.

And there was a suggestion for adding ¼ cup vinegar to your laundry during the rinse cycle. So I did. I just put it in the 'liquid fabric softener' slot. I know it’s supposed to help keep blue jeans blue, prevent lint from sticking to everything, and help rinse out the soap. Since I have hard water, it can only help.

I am still short a couple-three spray bottles for everything that I want to mix together and have on hand. I do want to have a cleansing spray of either lavender or tea tree for between the big cleanings or right after a big cleaning. And it’s a bit awkward lugging around a gallon of vinegar between the three floors.

So, that was part of my most excellent adventure this weekend. I highly recommend Berthold-Bond’s book.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Dark Light by Ken MaCleod

I picked this one up at the library sale this spring. I understand now why it was on the sale pile. This was a slow slog through political commentary on a socialist system in the Universe. Russian politics can be tedious at best, but transfer them to space and a new planet and the story suddenly takes on the form of an afternoon nap.

To summerize greatly, Volkov and Matt are from a different time...old Earth. Somehow, in the distant past, they were granted longevity by the gods and now they will live forever. They have suddenly popped up on the planet Croatan with the ship Bright Star with a personal agenda - to start a revolution. They want answers, and they want answers from the gods. With the help of Salasso, the saur who pilots the ship (only saurs and krackens are allowed to be pilots) they have come to Croatan and the city of Rawliston to find help to make spacesuits to accomplish this quest.

They find the natives have the knowledge and capabilities to make very rudimentary spacesuits, they stir up a revolution in the name of progress. After a brief interlude to talk to the gods, in which they find out the gods are preparing various species for a future war, Matt eventually decides this is not in the natives best interest for a revolution and starts to work against Volkov. Yes. It is like that.

This story was fragmented, read a bit like a political history book, was reminiscent of Le Miserables only shorter (not that Le Miserables is a bad book), and really had very little appeal in the character department. I just never quite figured out who I should be rooting for - Matt? For standing up to the socialist revolutionary? Salasso? For standing up to the rest of the saurs and helping the humans obtain the freedom of space? For Lydia? The trader who loved Volkov and went against her clan’s wishes to help Matt and Volkov? For Gail and Stone? Two natives who got caught up in interstellar intrigue? Who? Who do I root for?

Bah. There are better things to read.

Recipe Review 12/17/07

Here we are, 2007 is winding down, Christmas and New Year’s Eve is almost upon us, and I’m frantically trying to make 120 new recipes this year. It’s going to be close, real close! I need to do some baking to help bump up those numbers, perhaps some cookies, or holiday bread, maybe some muffins...mmmm, all of those sound good.

In the meantime, I have a couple of main dishes for review:

Green Chili-Chicken Enchiladas (Ckng Lght, Dec 2007, pg 126) 7
These go with the Green Chili Sauce I review next. Pretty simple to make, especially once I made a couple of modifications. The recipe calls to boil 4 - 6oz chicken breasts in chicken broth, with diced onion and garlic. I personally thought it would be a heck of a lot easier and more flavorful to just buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it ahead of time. So I did. And yes, it did make assembly easier. The chicken is then mixed with sour cream and chopped onion and rolled into the corn tortilla’s and topped with the green chili sauce and cheese. Overall, this was tasty, but I still thought the chicken/sour cream mixture could have been a bit more flavorful with the addition of red or green peppers and maybe something else.

Green Chili Sauce (Ckng Lght, Dec 2007, pg 128) 7
This was simple to make and nicely tangy. Six Anaheim peppers are blackened under the broiler and steamed in a zippy bag to allow the skins to slip right off. Onions are sauteed on the stove, to which broth, the peppers and seasonings are added. Once everything has softened, it’s blended together to make the sauce. The recipe calls for using the blender, but if you have a handy-dandy immersion blender (my favorite!) it simplifies things greatly. If it wasn’t for this sauce, the enchilada’s would have been really bland.

Moroccan Chickpea Stew (Ckng Lght, Nov 2007, pg 228) 7
This is my lunch today, and, well, for the next week. I love these flavorful soup/stews because not only are they easy to assemble, but they make the perfect amount for the week for lunches. Onion, carrots, garlic and jalapeno are sauteed until soft. Add chicken broth, diced tomatoes, butternut squash (my substitute for forgetting to buy potato's), chickpeas and spices. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. I went 30 because my squash was still a bit crunchy. Recipe recommends serving with couscous or brown rice, but I didn’t have time to make either last night. I will do so later this week.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Knitting projects #6 & 7 revisited; New Store!

Well, Thursday came and went and I didn't do a post! I remember checking my line-up as I like to have a couple posts on deck for those weeks that are a bit slow or I'm between books and projects. Much to my surprise, I had absolutely no drafts ready and by the time I got home and remembered my conundrum, it was too late to do anything about it other than mull over some potential topics. It was as I was finished a beanie hat that I realized I had neglected to revisit Little B's hats and post his pics his Mom provided me.

Here's Little B in the Elfin Hat:

And here is a picture of his Squash Hat:

Isn't he such a handsome tyke!

And since we're on the topic of knitting, I have "discovered" a new yarn store in the Twin Ports! Fabric Works is located over in Superior and is a combination fabric and yarn store. It was a couple weekends ago I found myself on a mission for more yarn: I needed some Regia self-striping yarn for several London Beanie hats I promised family members, and my youngest sister requested another hat and scarf for a new coat she had recently purchased.

So after my morning yoga class I made my way over to Superior, hoping to get all my errands done and meet my friend Tess for lunch before the Big Snow hit. Alas, the Big Snow came as I was driving over the High Bridge, but being a staunch Minnesotan, I went forth. There was knitting to be done!

I bought 3 skeins of the Regia, and 4 skeins of Cascade 220 in a lovely shade of pink. I don't have the lot # otherwise I would have you take a look. I also purchased a "How To" book as it had a great illustrated example on how to do a cable cast on and I bought a hat and mitten pattern. I'm finding, much like recipes, once I've done a pattern I want to do something different. After lunch with Tess, we wandered into the Yarn Harbor where I bought another hat pattern that I liked a bit better for the sister.

Stay tuned for lots of knitting projects in the coming year!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Recipe Review 12/10/07

So Sunday rolled around and I was on a mission! Suppers! Lunches! Munchies! I was chopping and mixing and stirring and baking...and doing a little knitting in between while watching the Packer game. It was chilly out so it was nice to warm up the house and infuse it with all sorts of good smells.

I also made some good progress on the pantry reduction project/challenge. Here’s what got used up:
1 bag (2 ½ lbs) frozen apples from 2004
1 bag cranberries from 2004
partial bag of frozen corn
bag of pinto beans from 2006
tube of ground turkey from the MIL’s

In order it was made:
Chunky Spiced Applesauce (CL Oct 07, pg 140) 7
It was my original intent to use up the frozen apples in apple butter, but I forgot. So when this recipe showed up I was like...hmm, I can also use the frozen cranberries! Since I had frozen apples I needed to modify the recipe just a tich and skip the first step of dousing in lemon juice. The cranberries were mixed with sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon and brought to a boil until they popped (that is so cool!) and then the apples are added and everything simmered till nice and mooshy. A slight application of a potato masher and ta da! Cranberry applesauce! I thought the sweetness was nicely balanced by the tart berries, and my only complaint was the little residual cranberry skins are a bit unpleasant in the mouth.

Harvest Creamy Corn "Choup" (Every Day with RR, Sept 07 pg 101)
What I like about RR’s recipes, or at least the ones I pick, is they are simple to assemble yet abundant in the flavor dept. This one was also easy to pull together. I had one modification right away - after frying the bacon, I removed them bits and drained some of the bacon grease off. I don’t like soggy bacon and I didn’t need nor want 1/8 cup of bacon grease for flavor.
Otherwise it was a pretty straight forward soup/chowder (ie "choup"). Saute onion, red pepper, zucchini and potato in bacon grease, add seasonings and flour, add chicken broth and bring to a boil and simmer. Add a cup each of cream and milk. This ended up being way to much liquid, so I cut back the milk to ½ cup. I should have also cut back the cream as I would have preferred it more chowder-y than soup. Still, I love these vegetable soups.

Pecan Topped Pumpkin Bread (CL Nov 07, pg 214)
I have not yet tasted this bread as it is nicely wrapped up and frozen for later this week. I thought I was going to miss the annual office party, but circumstances dictated otherwise. So, I planned ahead and made a couple loaves of pumpkin bread. Super easy recipe: mix wet ingredients, mix dry ingredients, combine and bake for an hour. Where I modified was I used 2 eggs for the ½ cup egg substitute. Smelled great, looked nice, and I over baked the loaves by about 5 minutes. Oh well! When all sliced up nobody will notice...

Pumpkin-Cranberry Muffins (CL Nov 07, pg 218) 8
Now I couldn’t very well make a pumpkin treat and not have *something* for the house! These muffins were the perfect thing and also super easy - wet ingredients meet dry ingredients add in cranberries and bake. What I like about both of these recipes was the minimal oil used. So often zucchini muffins, pumpkin breads, etc all use upwards of a full cup of oil and the end result is a greasy muffin. The pumpkin bread used 1/4 cup per loaf and the muffins were 1/4 cup for the whole recipe. These were moist, flavorful, and delicious (especially while still warm from the oven). I’ll be making these again.

Beef and Beer Chili (CL Sept 07, pg 216) 6*
I will be the first to admit, I do not care for chili with ground beef in it. And I will also say, I do not care to eat anything that has come out of the MIL’s apartment. So thus it was the Hubby brought home a tube of ground turkey from the MIL’s and we now needed a way to use it up. I came across this recipe and thought perfect! HE can eat the chili for lunch! It was also my intent to make Green Chili Enchilada’s for dinner on Sunday but an emergency run to the Vet ended my cooking for the day. And so I found myself eating chili with ground stuff from the Mother in Laws.

The assembly was quick, I’ll give the recipe that. Saute the ground beef (turkey in this case) with onions and bell pepper. Add chili powder, cumin, cinnamon (my addition) and salt. Add beef broth and a bottle of beer and pinto beans. Bring to a simmer for 15 minutes then add corn meal for another 5. Serve.

A quick note about the pinto beans - I had a bag of dried beans in the cupboard and decided to use them up (I now have 2 tubs of cooked beans in the freezer waiting for a home). I soaked the beans overnight, then drained and tossed them into the slow cooker with ½ an onion, bay leaves and a clove of crushed garlic to cook on low for 6 hours. The last time I did this it worked great. HOWEVER, I forgot to get a gallon of bottled water this time and my beans ended up a bit firm. Using bottled water makes a huge difference for us, as our well water adversely affects the soaking and cooking.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Recipe Review 12/7/07

Two book reviews in a row! Time for a recipe review and a pantry reduction update. My oh my, December is zipping by quickly. I don’t know that I am going to meet my goal of 120 new recipes for 2007 this year! It’s going to be close, that’s for sure.

Here’s what got made this week:

Chunky Two Bean and Beef Chili (Ckng Lght Sept 07, pg 140) 7
I haven’t had chili in a while, and the Hubby wanted to make some. So we collectively picked out this recipe and made a few modifications. I don’t care for stew meat, so we used a sirloin steak instead. Neither one of us cares for kidney beans (I’ve tried...just can’t get past their pasty texture) so I subbed black beans. The spice mixture in this recipe was really good - cumin, chili powder, red chili powder, cinnamon, and oregano. I think this combination really made the dish.

We realized later, while reading Cooks Illustrated, that we screwed up the browning of the meat. We (*ahem*, me) put too much meat into the pot which caused it to steam rather than brown. Then we dumped the remainder of the chili ingredients in and I think the meat was a tich overcooked. Learning experience, but the chili still turned out very good.

Greek Style Gyro’s with Tadziki Sauce (Cooks Illustrated, July/Aug 07, pg 13) 7
The Hubby found this recipe while trying to find a stuffed pork chop recipe. The subsequent recipe was fairly quick to assemble, tasted darn good and made a nice amount that could be eaten in a reasonable amount of time by two people - ie two meals. Garlic, onion, a partial slice of pita bread and seasonings are combined in a food processor, then gently mixed with ground chuck and shaped into patties. This is then fried on the stove top to create the nice crust that tastes so good. The meat patties, tadziki sauce, lettuce, tomato and feta cheese all get wrapped in a pita fold, and if one wishes to get fancy, you can wrap them in aluminum foil just like they do in a restaurant.

The tadziki sauce is whole milk yogurt that has been strained for 30 minutes, then combined with cucumbers, lemon juice, garlic and dill. I have not had whole milk yogurt before and was a little apprehensive to have to buy a whole quart tub for a mere 1 cup. But, much to my delight, I actually liked the taste of whole milk yogurt as much as my usual 2% homemade variety or the low-fat that I occasionally buy. I strongly recommend the Stonyfield Farms brand - 6 active cultures, no strange chemicals or HFCS.

Cranberry Pancakes (Eating Well, Nov/Dec 07, pg 30) 6
I had errands to run Thursday with the Hubby, so as a morning treat I dug out this recipe (literally, I couldn’t remember where the recipe was so I had my piles of recent magazines stacked up on the table!). This is from Eating Well’s "Cooking for Two" section, which I didn’t realized until after I made a batch, but please note, this can easily be doubled or tripled.

½ cup of cranberries is tossed in boiling water for two minutes, drained, and set aside. AP Flour, WW Flour, cornmeal, sugar, salt and baking powder are mixed together. Milk, egg, vanilla and oil are whisked separately. Chop the cooled cranberries, add to liquid, add to dry ingredients. That’s it!

The cranberry flavor was more subtle than I thought it would be, and this made exactly 5 pancakes. I decided this wouldn’t be enough for the Hubby so I quick did small bowls of yogurt, granola and banana. This was a nice change from our usual variations on steel cut oats or old fashioned oats. I would make the pancakes again, but double the recipe.

And what, pray tell, you ask, was the pantry reduction for this week? You are going to like this one: Raspberry Pie! I made a raspberry pie this summer and set it aside for later, and later was this week. My only regret was it turned out really, really runny. I had added extra flour to the berries, but I think I should have added some arrowroot as well. Oh well, it still tasted really good.

Here's a peek at what's coming up next week, I started menu planning last night:
Pumpkin bread
Pumpkin and cranberry muffins
Beef and beer chili
maybe veggie enchiladas
"Choup" (a vegetable chowder soup from Every Day with RR)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper

This was November’s book group selection.

Yes...I just finished it....Not because it was bad, or slow, but because I was slow. Too much going on.

Little Fuzzy is set on the planet Zarathura. Jack Holloway, a sunstone prospector, comes home one evening and finds a small, cute, fuzzy, little critter-person in his house. He has never seen anything of it’s like in all the years he’s been living and working on the planet and after a few apprehensive moments, the two get along just dandy. In the coming days, Little Fuzzy, as Jack names him, brings the rest of his family to live with Jack. In the coming days, Jack begins to realize these little creatures are much, much smarter than he initally realized.

Jack contacts some scientific type people he knows and suddenly the ramifications are rippling through the planets controlling force, the Company. If these are sapient creatures then the Company must forgoit’s right to the planet and the planets classification changes. This is bad news for the Company.

The remainder of the book involves the Company trying to deny the Fuzzy’s (fuzzy fuzzy holloway Zarathura) are sapient while Jack and his gang try and prove they are. The outcome of this little trial will change the current definition of "sapient" from talks-and-builds-a-fire to something much more far reaching. The plot concludes in a courtroom drama reminiscent of any of the court shows on TV today.

The book was published in 1962 and had some interesting quirks. For example, everyone smokes. Seriously. Everyone was pulling out a pipe, cigar or a cigarette and smoking. But then they would "phone call" by view screen and "shake hands" in the Chinese fashion. And this one always gets me, they would travel by hover car, but still used revolvers and shotguns.
Still, I would recommend this one, just because it was an enjoyable read and I always like these older sf stories.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Forty Thousand in Gahenna by C J Cherryh

Quite some time ago, I read and reviewed Cyteen (a 1989 Hugo winner) and told the book group about it. Chris proceeded to recommend 40,0000 in Gahenna, and after hunting down a used copy at Uncle Hugo’s - it’s out of print - I finally got around to reading it.

The story begins with a select group of humans and 40,000 azi being secretly loaded onto military transports to quietly colonize the planet Gahenna. Scientific survey reports from the planet indicate it is habitable, with the only life forms being the large lizards, dubbed calibans and their smaller counterparts, the aerials. Those who volunteered were briefed about the time schedule for back up supplies and that their mission is to establish a base on the river the scientific team dubbed Styx.

It comes as no surprise to the reader that there is no second supply ship coming, and for all practical purposes, they (and several other similar missions) have been purposely abandoned. In the coming pages, Cherryh divides the book up into generations, so the reader is not following one character, but several characters offspring. What follows is...not what one would expect. The large lizards known as calibans (divided into the browns and the greys) and the smaller aerials play a huge part in the lives of the what become the native Gahennen’s and as the colony is "rediscovered" and observed, they witness things that can’t be explained in any regular scientific book.

I enjoyed this book. It wasn’t as gripping or compelling as Cyteen was, it wasn’t as tedious to read as Downbelow Station, and it was better than the whole Han and Kif books. If you liked Cherryh's works, you'll like this one.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Recipe Review and Pantry Challange!

I trust everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving. For the first time in five years, I did not host the Big Meal. The honors when to the Mother this year as they recently moved into my neighborhood and it made sense to have the Big Meal there. For one, they have the room and the big table, and two, no hounds for my allergy prone sister to deal with.

But that is not to say I haven’t made any new dishes! No! Indeed not! In fact, the Pantry Challenge tied in quite nicely with the many meals made this past weekend.

Pantry Reduction for 11/19/07:
Cranberries from 2004
Pumpkin from 2005 (went in pumpkin pie - already reviewed recipe here)
Goat cheese (expiration date of Nov)
Butternut Squash from the garden (‘07)
(Confession - I did throw away the frozen watermelon cubes and the smelt from 2001. Ew.)

Let’s start with dessert:

Apple-Cranberry Pie (CI Nov/Dec 07, pg 24) 7
I knew I had two packages of vacuum sealed cranberries frozen in the freezer. What I didn’t realize was how old they were! The date (yes, I date things!) was...2004. Ooo...much embarrassment. This pie would be perfect to use up one bag: the cranberries are combined with oj, sugar and spices and brought to a boil and then simmered on the stove until they reach a jelly-like consistency. As they are cooled, peeled apples are combined with arrowroot (my substitution for cornstarch because I was out) and spices and then simmered on the stove till sticky-glazed. Now this was a major departure from the recipe. The recipe had one doing the apples in the microwave, but I don’t own a microwave and had to modify greatly. Later I read the article that accompanied the recipe and they didn’t recommend simmering the apples because it made them mushy. My apples were mushy to begin with, so eh, do what works.

Other than I think I need to start pre-baking my bottom crusts, reports were very favorable toward this pie. The cranberries added a nice sweet-tart counter point to the apples. I would make this again. Very festive.

Glazed Brussel Sprouts (Duluth News Trib, Wed, Nov 14, Taste Section) 5
This sounded really good, but I confess I managed to screw this recipe up. First, I cut the butter in half, but forgot to cut the brown sugar in half as well. Glaze ended up very runny. Then I over cooked the sprouts. I think this would have been really good if I had paid more attention to my cooking and less to cleaning up dishes.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Shallots (Fine Cooking, Nov 07) 8
I’ve made similar squash dishes and they don’t get much easier than this. Peel and cube a butternut squash. Peel and quarter four shallots. Toss with extra-virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and crushed fresh rosemary. Bake. Eat. Yum!

However, the best dish of the weekend wasn’t even a turkey dish! This dish was fantastic and has now become my favorite BBQ Beef recipe:

Barbeque Beef Subs (Everyday with Rachel Ray, Dec/Jan, pg 60) 9
First, I did greatly modify the recipe to make it in the crockpot rather than on the stove top. As the recipe directed, I did cube the beef into 2" chunks and browned them on the stove before putting them in the crock pot. I deglazed the pan with some beer (water or beef stock would also work) and added the liquid to the beef. Cover and cook for 8 hours on low.

Meanwhile, combine ketchup, cider vinegar, brown mustard and brown sugar, and warm to blend the flavors. Refrigerate till later. When the beef is done, drain and shred. Add pre-prepared sauce and re-heat. Now here is what really made these stand out (beside the sauce), slice and warm a french baguette, add bbq and serve. Oh. My. Goodness. Fantastic.

I served these with broccoli slaw (broccoli slaw, mayo, sour cream, white wine vinegar and crushed red pepper). When I ran out of baguette, I tried some ciabiatta take-and-bake rolls and those were just as yummy. Leftovers were delicious.

One other note - the recipe as written had some quantity issues. It called for 6 lb beef brisket (!) - I bought 3.5 and that was enough for about 4 meals (with two sandwiches apiece). And even though I halved the beef quantity, there wasn’t enough sauce so I had to double the sauce.

And last, but not least:
Squash, Black Bean and Ricotta Tamales (Eating Well, Dec 2007, pg 89) 7
Ole! A bit of prep on the front end, but a very tasty meal on the back end. This was also venturing into new territory for me - tamales - all the corn stalks and wrapping and what not. But with all said and done, I would do it again.

The dough - masa flour, ricotta, corn grits, oil, baking powder and water are mixed together and set aside.

The filling - pureed squash, black beans, canned diced green chilies, and goat cheese.

Corn stalks are soaked until pliable (note - it takes more than 30 minutes as the recipe states). Dough is smeared down, a dollup of filling placed on top and everything carefully rolled and tied into a nice little bundle. Steam for an hour and eat.

I thought they turned out a tich on the dry side, but I am informed that tamales are like that. I served with some steamed asparagus and a nice meal was had by all.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Knitting Project #7 - Elfin Hat

This fall I decided to make the little tykes in my world some knitted hats, so I found myself a book with some hat patterns, obtained the necessary materials and picked a pattern. Then I got sidetracked by all the little pumpkin and squash hats as posted here, so it took me a while to get this one done.

This was a somewhat challenging pattern in that I could not for the life of me figure out how to do a cable-cast on. I still haven’t figured it out, but after ripping the project apart no less than three times (it could have been four) I decided to go with whatever happened. The other thing I decided I wasn’t real wild about, and this comes from my inexperience as a knitter, was the yarn and gauge were waaayyyy to small. The pattern called for 100g of yarn and I know I only used about 25g of it on #3 needles. So this hat isn’t real thick or hefty, but it should be a nice weight to wear under a hood for running to the mall or grocery store.

I don’t think I am going to make anymore of this style - the other tyke’s head has gotten too big and the pattern just didn’t enthuse me enough to want to do it again. I've also been promised some better pictures, so check back later to see the awesome little guy who received this hat!

Yarn: Wisdom Yarns "Chicago" 75% wool/25% nylon; 100g
Gauge: #3
Purchased at: Playing with Yarn
Pattern: Not Just Socks for Kids by Sandi Rosner "Elfin Hat"

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Boy Who Would Live Forever by Frederick Pohl

This book follows many years after Gateway, which I also read many years ago...well, July of 2006 actually. I read Gateway for book group, and we appreciated and enjoyed the concepts and ideas Pohl presented. About the same time (2006 that is) at either Minicon or Worldcon The Boy Who Would Live Forever was brought up at several panels as a "must read" recommendation. I dutifully wrote it down where it remained on paper. It was a recent trip to Uncle Hugo’s where I found a used copy and snatched it off the shelf.

The premise of The Boy brings us back to the Gateway universe. Young Stan talks a cousin into going to Gateway to try their hand at striking it rich. Instead, after returning from their first voyage, they find that the mystery if the "Heechee" has been solved and in fact, they have been discovered. All further trips are henceforth cancelled. Stan’s cousin returns to Istanbul with Stan’s and his meager earnings, while Stan remains on hoping for a slot on an exploratory ship.
It is with no small amount of luck that Stan is awarded a slot on a two person ship to the Core (the center of the black hole where the Heechee live) with Estella. Their initial welcome was less than warm, but soon they are set up in a house of their own and meeting people. Estalla becomes pregnant - which does play a role toward the end of the book. I’m still not certain that guys should be writing about pregnancy, but I’ll give Pohl credit, he did a good job of portraying it from both sides.

Meanwhile, the reader meets Marc Antony. Computer AI extraordinare. His main programing is as a chef for real people, uploaded people and the Heechee. Oh, and when he’s not cooking, he’s saving the universe. I really liked him - he was probably the most interesting character presented.

By and by, Marc Antony meet Stan and Estalla, Stan and Estella find themselves in a bit of a spot and the three of them (with the help of a few other characters) save the Core from certain demolition by a lunatic.

I’m greatly simplifying here, there were so many little sub-plots that wove in and out of the main plot that I really can’t do them justice in one small blog. However, I did enjoy this book. It had a lot going on, it moved around a bit, it had interesting interactions between the AI’s, Heechee and people. Even the science was plausible (Pohl discusses that briefly at the end) to a great extent. And certainly it had it’s drawbacks - it bounced around a lot which made following some of the plots a bit distracting; new sub-sub characters would be introduced 2/3 of the way through which often left the reader wondering if one was ever going to get to the end of the book (one of my trepidations, finding out a book doesn’t really end in 800 pages).

Worth reading? Definitely, especially if you enjoyed Gateway.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Recipe Review and Pantry Challange!

Date: 11-12-07

Mission: Recipe Review and Pantry Reduction
To find that forgotten, misplaced, buried, long ago forgoten pantry item and find a recipe to use it up!

This weeks items:
Pumpkin (frozen 10/05)
Squash (1 of 29 harvested from this year’s garden. I’ve given away about 10, time to start using the rest)
Lentil and Swiss Chard Soup

The Recipes:
Pumpkin Pecan Pie (Penzey’s Spices Catalog, Holiday 07) 8
Okay, maybe this was cheating a bit starting with frozen pumpkin, but it’s Fall and nothing goes with a Fall Sunday dinner better than a fresh baked pumpkin pie. And this was a really good one. Super simple to assemble - mix pumpkin, sugars, spices, egg and put into a pie crust. Bake. Meanwhile, mix brown sugar, pecans and chilled butter until crumbly. Add to pie and bake 25 more minutes.

This turned out really good. The streusel topping was one of the better toppings I’ve had, though the Hubby felt there was a bit too much. A bit of fresh whipped cream would have tempered the sweetness a bit, but as it was, delicious!

Mashed Potatoes and Root Vegetables (Cooks Illustrated, Nov/Dec 07, pg 9) 8
Can’t have a Fall Sunday dinner with out some kind of mashed potatoes. I had some parsnips and carrots in the crisper so I just needed a few potatoes. This was another easy and great dish (thinking Thanksgiving worthy here!). In a large saute pan, melt butter until foamy, add diced parsnips and carrot and saute until browned. Add a bit of chicken broth and potatoes and steam (yes! steam!) until done (about 25 minutes). Mash with warmed ½ n ½. Serve. The only way I deviated from this recipe was I didn’t peel the potatoes. This makes a lovely, slightly chunky mashed potato that’s just a tich bit different. Yum!

Pinner’s Pork Roast (Penzey’s One, Vol 1, Issue 5) 8
And of course, the meat! A 3.5lb roast is seasoned with olive oil and a dry rub mixture consisting of Penzey’s Northwoods Seasoning, thyme, cracked rosemary, garlic powder, and onion powder. I let this sit for about an hour, then baked at 325*/350* for two hours with a splash of chicken broth in the bottom of the pan to help keep it moist. Not only was it nice and moist, but I had enough drippings to make a pork gravy (I am gravy impaired and this actually turned out!). Lot’s of yummy leftovers for the week.

Butternut Squashed - Baked.
Peel and cube 1 butternut squash. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake 45 min at 350*. Eat! This has become one of my favorite ways to prepare squash. It bakes up so nice and you can season it anyway you like. Super simple and super tasty.

Sesame-Whole Wheat Bread (The Bread Bible by Beth Henspergers, pg 82) 6
I needed some bread for the week and the Hubby requested something whole wheat. Often I find, when picking a bread recipe, so much depends on what I have available in the cupboard - it seems like I am always missing one little ingredient or another. The first recipe I picked out I didn’t have any sunflower seeds. For this one I had everything necessary. A pretty basic recipe that had three different rises: one for the slurry, and two for the dough. There was an error in the recipe where I had to wing it a bit, when making the ww slurry, it called for milk in the instructions, but gave no amount in the ingredients. I estimated one cup and it worked okay, I made note that if I make this again to perhaps do ½ -2/3 cups. What was unique about this bread was the cornmeal and sesame seeds called for.

Overall, this made a decent loaf, a bit on the dry side but that could have been due to milk quandary (and perhaps a bit over baked).

Swiss Chard and Lentil Soup (reviewed previously on my old Yahoo site) I pulled this out to have with grilled cheese. Quick, simple, warm. Also happens to be my lunch today.

Next weeks mission: goat cheese and dried pinto beans!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The End of the Matter by Alan Dean Foster

Book #4 in the Pip and Flinx series.

After a years absence, Flinx returns to Moth and a very brief visit with Mother Mastiff. He has decided to pick up looking for his father and after talking to Mother Mastiff he learns she wasn’t the only bidder all those years ago when he was sold. His travels take him into the bowls of Moths other bureaucracy, the auction houses, where a kindly gentleman recalls a giant of a man with white hair and a gold earring - and a minidrag like Pip.

Shortly after receiving this information, Flinx obtains the alien Abalamahalamatanra - Ab for short - and heads out for the planet Alaspin. Alaspin is the homeworld of the minidragons and Flinx is looking forward to finding his father and seeing his pets homeworld. But things don’t go quite according to plan.

This was a pretty decent sequel. It moved right along, it had an interesting alien, and it brought back a couple of likable characters that were introduced in a previous book. What I didn’t care for was the plot seemed to really ping about. The book opened with a looming "big catastrophe" that was threatening three highly populated planets. Then we picked up with Flinx and his quest. At the end, well, the two plots came together and "big imminent catastrophe" well, was easily and somewhat accidentally solved.

Okay, I’m going to ruin the story line a bit here...they stopped a rouge black hole from eating the three planets by finding a mythical ultra-weapon left by a long since deceased race (which they just happened to leave behind) and the protagonists managed to set off at the right time to crate a white hole which sucked the matter out of the black hole and created a new galaxy.

Still, I enjoyed the book and will be reading the next one.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Knitting Project #6: The Pumpkin Hat

A while back (August? September?) my sister put in a request for a pumpkin hat for her little boy. She had seen some on her travels to Door County, WI, and decided the little tyke needed one. Being a novice knitter, I had no idea where to even find a pattern, so I put in a request for help on the Ckng Lght BB and several people graciously offered links to several patterns.

I picked this one, as it seemed to match my skills and could be readily done in a short period of time. Not only was this a simple pattern, it was a lot of fun. I ended up making two pumpkin hats (one for the nephew and niece), but two "acorn" hats as well. One acorn hat went to the nephew and one to a friends little guy. All these tykes are about the same age, give or take a couple of months.

The Nephew (16 mo)

The Niece (13 mo)

Pattern: Pumpkin Hat Knitting Pattern
Yarn: Lamb’s Pride, 85% Wool/15% Mohair (4 oz)
Autumn Harvest and Turkish Olive
Gauge: #9 circular and dpn’s

Monday, October 29, 2007

Recipe Review 10/29/07 and Pantry Challange!

After much waiting, the recipe reviews have started again! Now, I must apologize in advance, as next week already there won’t be very much (deer hunting trip to western MN kinda got in the way), but I have made myself and my readers the promise that I will get back on the "chuck wagon" and review some food!

I have found a new way of attacking the pantry reduction and I’m going to invite you to play along! I know you all have those items in the cupboard and pantry and freezer that you are going to get to "some day" or that you bought for one meal and didn’t use the rest of, or you bought then never got around to useing (I know you have them....). Well! It’s time to move them along!

The challenge is simply this - find one item, say...that bag of pinto beans. Now! Find a recipe to use them up! Such as...BBQ baked beans. And then come back and tell us about it.

In the mean time, before you scurry off to find that lost, forgotten, pantry item, I have these reviews to offer:

(Banana) Chocolate Chip Waffles (Ckng Lght Annual 04, pg 20) 6
I was in need of a fairly quick meal and the thought of a fried egg over a waffle sounded very appealing. A quick search through my cookbooks and I dug this recipe up. It was pretty basic, flour, sugar, baking powder, egg, milk, chocolate chips - I added the banana. What was different was in the egg. You beat the egg white into stiff peaks and fold into the batter. The end result was okay - I had trouble with the batter sticking to the iron and the banana flavor wasn’t real pronounced. Still, it made a nice batch and I had plenty to freeze for later.

Chicken and Root Vegetable Potpie (Ckng Lght, Sept 07, pg 172) 6
I am always on the lookout for a good potpie recipe and this one grabbed my attention (it helped that it was on the cover of the Sept issue). It also used a nice amount of veggies: a potato, sweet potato, celery root (new veggie for me!), and frozen veggies (it called for peas, I used what I had in the freezer). The root vegetables were boiled in chicken stock and removed, and the stock then thickened into the nice thick gravy that we associate with a good pot pie. I had pre-cooked chicken ready to go, so that didn’t need much but re-heating. Then everything was seasoned and combined into a 9x13 pan and topped with a puff pastry. Here I made a tiny mistake: I forgot to vent my puff pastry so it didn’t puff very well. This made a lot (9x13), but it’s been decent for leftovers so far.

Two notable items, 1) the chicken could easily be left out and the veggies increased, 2) if one didn’t want to buy a frozen puff pastry, a pre-made/bought pie crust such as Pillsbury can be baked ahead of time and put on top just before eating. I’ve done that for a different recipe with very satisfying results.

Multi-grain Breakfast Porridge (Ckng Lght, Oct 07, pg 131) 9
Yum yum YUM! Wheat berries are boiled till plump and tender, then rolled oats are added, and grits (I used polenta). Maple syrup and milk are stirred in (this is also where I added dried cranberries and cinnamon). This nice and warm concoction is topped with toasted chopped walnuts, and in my case, a little extra half and half. It was so tasty I had two bowls! The rest I set aside for the coming week. I’ll be making this again!

Susan Brackett’s First Prize Apple Pie (Ckng Lght, Oct 07, pg 143) 5
This was just...okay. It baked up just lovely with a beautiful crumb topping, but as the day went on, the apples really condensed and the crumb topping got very soggy. Even more disappointing was how gummy the bottom crust was. Perhaps I should have baked it right on my baking stone, or pre-baked the crust slightly, but I haven’t had that problem before. I would consider making this again, but doing something different for the bottom crust and adding pecans to the topping (and doubling the crumb mixture).

*Please note that the Ckng Lght recipes can be found at or

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Murder with Puffins by Donna Andrews

Some of my gentle readers have been lamenting my lack of recipe reviews. Believe me, I have been discouraged by my lack of new recipes as well. But! Do not despair! Next week I will get back on the foodie bandwagon (or should that be the chuck wagon?) and pick up with some new tasty morsels.

In the meantime, I offer you a mystery review:

This is a Meg Langslow mystery, set in Maine. Murder with Puffins picks up after Murder with Peacocks where Meg and her new beau Michael (who, according to her description, looks like his namesake angel with ravishing blue eyes and dark hair and could be a model for a romance get the idea...) decide they need a quiet get away from her nutsy family and plan a weekend getaway to Monhegan Island and the family cottage. Except when they arrive they find the entire family there. Oh, and there is a hurricane blowing in.

The island is awash in birders, hoping to catch a glimpse of this rare bird or that particular bird (with a hurricane coming in). The native islanders are tolerant of these seasonal intruders, except for Victor Resnick, a local artist who hates everyone and has built a huge house of glass in prime puffin habitat. He shoots at birds because they poop on his glass house and he shoots at birders because they trespass on the path that follows the shoreline. The birders are in huff, Meg and Michael are dismayed, and her family is all bonkers. In an attempt to escape the family for a while, Meg and Michael head out for a hike around the island (with a hurricane blowing in) only to discover Victor floating face down in a tidal pool (with the tide coming in).

Who did it? Suspicion is cast on Meg’s Dad, who was missing when the hurricane hit because he stayed out overnight on the far side of the island to watch it come in. In addition, Victor and Meg’s Mom had a two year "fling" when she was 14 (over 20 years ago now) and everyone figures Meg’s Dad is highly jealous of Victor. Meanwhile, Meg is dragging Michael all over the island (in a hurricane) as she plays amateur detective.

Complete and total brain candy. The situation was so totally implausible as to be completely ridiculous. The islanders are boarding up the houses, yet everyone is out running around in a hurricane looking for birds and or murderers. I have been in a hurricane (Hugo - Sept, 1989, New Jersey) and while it was more of a tropical depression by the time it hit, I certainly didn’t want to be out in it anymore than I was ordered to. Sheets of rain, wind, generally unpleasant.

I wonder what would happen if Meg Langslow met Theodosia Browning...? How many bodies would turn up then? Would Michael get along with Perry and Drayton? Would Meg find Haley a threat as Haley seduces Michael with crabcake puffs, peach scones with clotted cream and homemade truffles? Hmmm.... stay tuned for the next episode of New Englander meets Southern Belle!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Weekend Get-Away - Mpls/St. Paul

Currently the Hubby's in the Twin Cities training for three weeks (one week down, two to go) and he discovered he had a free weekend. A phone call later, I found myself leaving work early on Friday, dropping the Hounds off at Pookie Prison (in their minds) and heading south for a weekend getaway.

Because of the time I rolled in, we stayed close to the hotel for dinner, frequenting an old favorite - Davanni's - for dinner. Whole wheat garlic cheese bread and a traditional crusted pizza topped with pepperoni, green pepper, mushrooms and pineapple. Nothing too notable there.

For the first time in what seemed like a month, Saturday was clear, sunny, and without rain. We took advantage of this beautiful fall day and started out on Grand Ave in St. Paul. We scored a free parking spot at Victoria Crossing and walked down to Penzey's where I picked up a package of Cassia Cinnamon, Ground Allspice, and Sweet Curry Powder. Lunch was at the Wild Onion - pulled pork sandwich with fries for me, southwestern chicken sandwich with fruit for him. Afterward we made our way to Northern Brewer where he picked up some homebrew supplies.

Como Conservatory was on our loose agenda, but first we stopped at Izzy's on Marshall. The Hubby's seen the Bobby Flay episode of Throwdown at Izzy's (Izzy's won), but he's never been there. We shared a a scoop of cranberry cheesecake in a waffle cone with a chocolate almond soy "Izzy" on top. Yum!

Our timing was off to tour the somewhat recently renovated (in the last 4 years) conservatory, as they were closing at 3:00p for Zoo Boo. We were there at 2:50p. Disappointing, but we took advantage of the day and walked around Como Lake instead. Afterwards, feeling a bit tired, we found refreshment at a neat little coffee shop right off of Como called the Java Train.

We aren't fancy drink people - I had an ice tea and he had a root beer and we shared a apple scone. Afterwards, we took a drive along the Mississippi from Marshall St up to the U of MN, and back down on the Mpls side. Beautiful drive. Since we were in the my sister's neighborhood, we popped in to say hi and to see how big the nephew has gotten since I saw him in Sept.

The Hubby picked out a local brewpub for dinner: Herkimer Pub and Brewery, Lyndale Ave, Mpls. We shared a "Sky Pilot Kellerbier" and a sampler platter: crabcakes, sweet potato fries, chicken quesadillas, and buffalo wings. The beer and food were good, the ambiance amiable (modern meets working class), the waitress...umm...well, I've had warmer receptions from a vending machine. Barely perfunctory.

We concluded our evening somewhere on Bryant between 35th and 36th street at Gigi's, where we shared a very bright key lime torte and a couple of fresh fruit, hand made, spritzers. This was a neat little restaurant/cafe, made all the more delightful by being able to sit outside after a absolutely fantastic fall day.

Sunday found us with a little bit of time before I needed to depart so we popped up to Minnehaha Parkway (not the falls) and took a walk along an absolutely love stretch of the creek. Huge cottonwoods, silver maples and oaks lined the creek, all decked out in their fall colors, with the gorgeous large homes as a backdrop. Sadly, by mid afternoon I was on my way North again to retrieve the pups from their "vacation" and to run a few mundane errands before the new week started.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dragonwell Dead by Laura Childs (Tea Shop #8)

Once again we return to the world of Theodosia Browning and her Indigo Tea Shop, located in the historic district in Charleston, SC. Theo and her merry band of friends: Drayton, master tea mixer extraordinaire; Hayley, tea shop chef and business student; Delaine Dish, social lite and others are the beverage caterers at a Historic Society function at one of the old plantations in the area, when a friend suddenly falls dead of a heart attack. Theo, never one to let dead people lie, asks some discrete questions of the investigating authorities and find out her friend was poisoned by a "nonspecific toxin".

This time Theodosia doesn't purposely embroil herself in the mystery, in fact, compared to past books, she pretty much stays out of it. However, her curious mind doesn't rest and she picks up on odd little clues that come to her over the course of the story and she does unwittingly land herself in a heap of trouble.

The Tea Shop books are just fun, brain candy stories, totally implausible (really, how many people can fall dead around one person?), but enjoyable nonetheless. Child's fills the books with scrumptious sounding food, interesting tea combinations and little tidbits about S. Carolina. This was book 8 in the series, but they could easily be read out of order.
(My apologies with the odd photo - I took the picture of just the dust jacket and well, it didn't photograph very well!)

Monday, October 15, 2007

Recipe Review 10/15/07

Last week was a good new recipe week. This week isn't going to see so many again - I found I needed to do a bit more in the freezer reduction department plus I have a couple of social engagements that are going to take me out of the kitchen.

Salsa de Jitomate Del Norte - Northern Tomato Sauce (The Cuisines of Mexico, pg 301) 7
We borrowed this cookbook from a co-worker who spoke very highly of the recipes therein. The Hubby picked out a salsa recipe for our Sunday Football Feed (homemade nacho’s and buffalo wings) and it was up to him to make it.

This was amazingly similar to the salsa we have at a local Mexican restaurant. It is more saucy and not chunky thick like say a Pace or Old Dutch brand. I really liked the flavors and we both agreed it could have been a tich thicker. He was hesitant to add any tomato paste as it might impart an off taste. So we left it and enjoyed it!

Arroz a la Mexicana - Mexican Rice (The Cuisines of Mexico, pg 288) 6
I was planning on making the black bean burritos below, and decided I wanted to have some Mexican rice to go along with it. That same co-worker talked about this recipe (plus it was book marked) and what better way to try out a potential cookbook than to make something! This was a neat recipe - rice is soaked and drained, then sauteed in oil for about 10 minutes to make it a lovely golden brown (except mine didn’t turn golden brown). Chicken broth, peas and carrots are added and let it simmer again. When it starts to shoot steam through little vents, cover with a paper towel and a cover and set aside. Wah-la! Mexican rice!

Tomato Soup (Classic Vegetable Ckbk, pg 315) 6
This was another Hubby pick. He’s had this vegetable cookbook for years and we often refer to it when looking for something different to do with veggies. He picked a homemade tomato soup and had it assembled in probably 45 minutes - most of that cooking time. Here again, pretty basic - saute tomatoes, add some garlic, simmer with vegetable broth, puree. Wah-la! Soup! He thought with the initial tastings it was a bit bland, but I thought it tasted pretty good and the flavors would develop in the next day or so - as we were making this ahead anyway. I made up some homemade bread to make grilled cheese. Yum! Yum!

Spicy Black Bean and Cheese Burritos (Every Day with RR) 5
This is the recipe I made the rice to accompany. Saute garlic in some oil (I use regular olive oil, not "EVOO"), and add a can of black beans and a can of diced chilies. Moosh and saute. Add a can of corn and a can of diced tomatoes. Saute. Wrap in a burrito and serve. I think the concept behind this was good, however, a regular diced tomato would have worked fine, as would have frozen corn. Still, for ease of prep, the canned was okay. Recipe said this serves 4 and that is indeed what we got. The Hubby liked this mixture, I wasn't all that wild about it. I have fixin's to make this again, but it would be for the Hubby for lunches.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cesar’s Way by Cesar Millan

A while back, I happened to watch a couple episodes of the Dog Whisperer for the first time. I have to admit, I was fascinated - Cesar would enter the realm of the "troubled dog(s)" and if one was watching the dog, you could see the dog knew Cesar was in charge. Cesar wouldn’t speak to the dog, look at the dog, touch the dog, he wouldn’t acknowledge the dog in anyway until he was ready to do so. And the dog knew what Cesar was doing. There was no if, ands, or buts about it. This happened in every scenario (of which there was about 4 or 5 if I remember correctly).

But Cesar’s shows weren’t about training the dog, so much as training people. He readily admits this. Now I have two furry 4-legged children myself, so I was much intrigued by his "training" methods and set about to find one of his books. Cesar’s Way is currently on the bestseller list and just came out in paperback so I ordered one off of Amazon.

It was...okay. It covered his background, how he came to the States and became a nationally known dog psychologist. Note: not a dog trainer, a dog psychologist. He explains his theory on dog behavior and what we as humans can do to improve our relationship with our canine companions. He strongly believes in pack dynamics, and what people need to do to make their hound a happy member of the family "pack", but not the dominant member.

I liked what he had to say, but I found the book a bit simplistic for my needs. He gave so many examples of poorly behaved dogs and what their owners did to create the little monsters, and then he would reiterate that the humans need to be pack leader. Perhaps this was supposed to be more of an introduction to "Cesar’s Way" and less of a "how-to".

In a nutshell, what I came away with was: dogs require exercise, discipline, and affection, in that order. Cesar is a big proponent on well exercised dogs and giving them upwards of two hours daily. He also expounds on the human being calm-assertive, that a persons hound will respond better knowing you are always in charge. Dogs need structure, boundaries and focus in their lives.

What I would have liked more of was how-to achieve some of this structure and disciplinary techniques and when to do it. But perhaps he discusses this more in another book. I also don’t think that hunting breeds were quite taken into account as he works predominantly with rottweilers, pit bulls, German shepherds and other large or "aggressive" breeds. So all in all, I think this book is best suited to someone who is thinking about getting a dog for the first time or a family who might be thinking about bringing a pet into the house. Or if you want a autobiography of Cesar’s philosophy.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Recipe Review 10/8/07

Last week was an okay week recipe wise. The cooking menu morphed a bit due to this and that: the parents invited us for dinner one night and we were in town late another so we ate out (Indian! my favorite!). Unfortunately, this means my chicken pot pie recipe keeps getting pushed back. I think I’ve had it on the menu for about three weeks now and it’s not going to happen this week either! Oh well, I’ll get to it eventually - I’ve got all the ingredients and I just need the time.

Paddy Burks Pepper Soup (Irish Pub Ckbk, pg 51) 7
This was another Hubby recipe. Two yellow bell peppers, an orange bell pepper and a red bell pepper are combined with some vegetable broth and seasonings (onion and garlic) and simmered till nice and soft. I believe a bit of half and half is added and then everything pureed (he LOVES the immersion blender too!). This turned out really good. The recipe calls for the addition of fresh creme fraiche and this simple "soured cream" really made the soup. It was sweet and tangy all at once. Perfect with some cheese and crackers on these cool rainy days!

Baked Ziti Casserole (Ckng Lght, Oct 07, pg 170) 7
This was a winner! So incredibly simple and not a ton of leftovers. I did make two significant substitutions: I subbed 6oz baby ‘bella’s for the 6oz ground turkey and I used jarred marinara. Boil 6oz tubular pasta (ziti, penne, etc) according to directions. Meanwhile, fry meat or saute mushrooms in a bit of butter. Here I added 2 cups sauce to the mushrooms and let it warm up. Drain pasta, add to sauce, add ½ cup mozzarella and 1/4 grated asiago (or Parmesan) and stir. Put in an 8x8 baking dish coated with cooking spray. Top with ½ cup mozzarella and some grated Parmesan. Bake for 30 minutes or until cheese is bubbly. Serves 2-4. (4 people if you’re having salad and garlic bread). I think this dish has a lot of potential because you can really change it around to suite your tastes.

Pumpkin Waffles (Culinary in the Desert c/o Ckng Lght) 6
I had some leftover pumpkin in the freezer from a previous recipe and saw a pumpkin waffle recipe in Ckng Lght. Unfortunately, I've lost the recipe since then, but Joe over on Culinary posted the recipe after he made them.

These were just...okay. They seemed to go from underdone to over-cooked in my waffle maker in the blink of an eye. Still, they did bake to a very nice dark brown (a bit disconcerting when used to lighter waffles) and the pumpkin flavor was more of a background element than up front on the taste buds. We tried them with pure maple syrup, homemade raspberry sauce and apple butter. I was partial to the maple syrup myself. I would probably make these again, because it was a nice way to use up that odd bit of leftover pumpkin and I can freeze leftovers for later.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Recipe Review 10/1/07

I thought I had this all typed out and ready to go for Monday, but lo! when I fired up blogger and my posts, there was. no. recipe review. Friday was super hectic and I think what happened was I typed it up in word perfect but never cut and pasted it over into Blogger. How disappointing to have to type it all out again.

On the upside, we are doing great in the new recipe count. Last week the Hubby and I made 5 new recipes. Which brings September’s count to about 12. I am hoping to make at least 120 new recipes total for 2007 so I really need to start baking! Plus fall is here and it is time to start indulging in some fresh baked bread.

For last week:
Cavatappi with Prosciuto and Parmesan (Ckng Lght Sept 07, pg 177) 8
This was very good: while the pasta boils, Prosciuto is thinly sliced, garlic minced and Parmesan grated. A bit of pasta water is reserved, and while the pasta drains, the garlic is sauteed in olive oil. Then the water and pasta is returned to the pan and everything melds for a couple of minutes. The Prosciuto and Parmesan are added last, to allow the Prosciuto to gently cook from the residual heat of the pasta. I liked this ease of this dish so much I made it twice, and I plan on making it again alternating ingredients.

Apple Butter (Ckng Lght Annual 04, pg 417/Duluth News Tribune, Taste, ‘05) 7
I added the recipe title here as a reference, but the final product was really a mish-mash of two recipes. To the Ckng Lght recipe I: doubled the recipe from 4 lbs apples to 8 lbs; added 2 tbsp cinnamon, 1 tbsp cloves and 2/3 cup cider vinegar. I also boiled it for closer to 3 hours rather than the 1 called for. I liked how this came out, but would have preferred it to be a bit thicker. This made about 10 pints for the freezer.

Autumn Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette (Ckng Lght Oct, pg 134) 8
My new favorite salad! This was very fresh and tasty: red wine, olive oil, paprika, chili powder and a bit of garlic make the dressing. Fresh greens (I used a baby green mix), red onion, Asian pear and apple, and chevere are tossed together. I loved this and have made it several time since.

Moroccan Chickpea Chili (Ckng Lght Sept 07, pg 218) 8
Fresh and delicious dishes really don’t get much simpler than this. Saute onion, carrots, celery and garlic till soft. Add seasonings and toast. Add veggie broth (my addition, recipe called for water), diced tomatoes, chickpeas and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and simmer. That’s it. I think what I liked about this one was the depth of flavoring: cumin, chili powder, cinnamon. It was the cinnamon that really made this dish I think. Not spicy, just very flavorful.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Knitting Project #5 - The London Beanie

I’m bouncing a bit between my topics recently, trying to balance the fun little knitting projects with the recipe reviews and the books that I’ve been reading. This week is another knitting project that I actually finished about two months ago, took the picture, then completely forgot to post about it!

This is the Regia London Beanie, as modeled by the Hubby and gifted to the Dad. Regia is a self striping yarn, and this hat was super simple and fun to do. I have promised the Mother and the Hubby their own hats, so now I must go back and purchase more yarn. Oh darn!

Yarn: Regia, self striping, 50 gr
Store: Playing with Yarn, Knife River, MN
Size: #6 circular

Friday, September 28, 2007

AAallll Aboard!

A fine opportunity came to pass last weekend: #2719, a working steam engine, was offering rides on our local North Shore Scenic Railroad. The Hubby and I invited the parents for a ride on this relic from days gone by.

Here's a bit about the engine as printed on this website:

Steam locomotive #2719 has returned to Duluth/Superior, an area she served well during her working career on the Soo Line Railroad. The high stepping Pacific 4-6-2 pulled passenger and freight trains from the Twin Ports to depots and yards throughout the Midwest. Built in 1923, the engine carried troops to WW II and the Korean War and ran until 1959, growing old as the last working steam engine in Wisconsin.

It was with some apprehension weather wise we approached last Saturday; the week previous had been a series of deluges, windy and cold. However, the day dawned sunny with a few wispy clouds way up high. We couldn't have asked for better temperatures!

The train left the station at 10:30, and we settled into the 4th passenger car. As it rumbled up the tracks we watched Duluth go by, Lakeside and eventually moved up onto the North Shore. We pulled into Two Harbors right at lunch time and had two hours in which to find some lunch. We quickly walked 7 blocks up to the Vanilla Bean Cafe, had a short wait (was a popular spot for the train-goers) and enjoyed BLT's, homemade Chicken Wild Rice soup, meatball sandwiches and french dips. Everything was very tasty. We stepped next door to the bakery and bought some small delectables (turnovers, scones and a pumpkin cookies) for the ride back.

The train left the station at 2:30...sort had a bit of difficulty navigating the incline to switch tracks and had to back up into the station several times before making a run at it. Soon enough we were on the right track and headed back to Duluth. We sat on the upper level of the passenger car on the way back and observed to the Mother that the ideal view was actually the "land side" of the car, not the "lake side". The "lake side was mostly blocked by trees and offered very little in the way of any "lake view". With the "land side" we were able to observe a great variety of things.

We arrived back at the station at 5:00 and not wishing to let such a beautiful day go, we concluded with some shopping at Figters, a lake walk and pizza at Bulldog Pizza. A delightful day!

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is the book groups selection for October, a bit of a departure for us since we tend to lean heavily toward the science fiction and not so much in the way of fantasy. I think we've read less than 5 fantasy's since the groups inception in 1999:

  • A Game of Thrones by George RR Martin
  • War for the Oaks by Emma Bull
  • Olympic Games by Karen What
  • The Simarillion by JRR Tolkien
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

So it looks like this would make our 6th fantasy in 8 years. Buy why did we select this one? Well, simply put, we like Neil Gaiman. We have previously read American Gods and Neverwhere and enjoyed both of them. Gaiman has some very interesting concepts and his writing style is amniable with the groups personality.
So it was thus that Stardust made it through our convoluted voting process. This was a very quick read, but a really good one. For me, this was a classically written fairy tale, with a bit of modernism thrown in. What it wasn't was the wishfull thinking of some modern day character who was thrust into a fairy world. No, hardly that.
The story revolves around young Thomas, who has lived his 18 years in the town of Wall. The town is thus named for a very large, stone wall of unknown origins separating the town from the other side. Every nine years the people of Wall may pass freely through the one and only gate and partake in the fair. Thomas was not allowed to do so upon his ninth birthday, and was in fact sent far away until the fair had come and gone. Young Thomas loves Victoria Forester, and one night, feeling emboldened, asks for her hand in marraige. She laughs at him, and says he may have whatever he desires if he goes to fetch the falling star. Not one to be easily daugnted, he does, but his journey takes him far, far beyond the walls solid borders and he learns much in the months that he is gone.

Gaiman has such a beautiful writing style; it's simplicity is it's strongest asset. Unlike many, many authors of today, he didn't go on and on ad nauseum describing something, but kept it short and very sweet. The refreshing dialog only enhanced his prose and the overall story was wonderful for it.
Will I see the movie? I don't know. I do know that there are significant devations between the book and the movie, which were done with intent. I may, just to see how the screen writer Gaiman worked with interpreted his tale, and I may not, because I did so enjoy the story.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Recipe Review 9/25/07

To partially quote a friend, Woot! We're cooking now! Thanks to the Hubby, our new recipe sampling has begun to increase. And it is wonderful that the weather is cooling off and we can use the oven again to bake a few tasty treats.

New recipes from the past week:

Apple and Parsnip Soup (Irish Pub Ckbk, pg ) 6
This turned out very good, but it would have been even better with the spices toned down. Alas, the Hubby did not realize that the Penzey's Hot Curry needs to be cut in half for recipes because it is indeed, a bit on the spicy side. Now I thought the dish still turned out very good, and topped it with sour cream and with toasted pepitas. The recipe is pretty simple: parsnips, apples, potato, curry powder, onion, and broth. Cook and blend together (LOVE that immersion blender!). I brought it for lunches for a couple days and we had it for dinner for I think 2 meals.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies (Every Day with RR, Sept 07) 6
I wanted to bring something fallish for our 8th anniversary for book group, and I know the group likes pumpkin. I've made chocolate whoopie pies and it was past time to try the pumpkin variety. Very simple to whip up and baking time was only 10 minutes. I had everything washed up and drying as they came out of the oven. They are delightfully pumpkin-y, and the cream cheese frosting center was a nice counter point to the pumpkin spices. The only complaint I heard (and I shared it) was they were on the heavy side. Still, I would make these again, perhaps making the little cakes smaller, as they are a fun treat for fall.

Snickerdoodles (Ckng Lght Sept 07) 6
For me, snickerdoodles are the quintessential fall cookies. Next to a nice soft ginger cookie that is. These also were a snap to make, and I had everything washed as well by the time I baked both sheets. The recipe neglected to advise the cook to squish the little balls, but fortunately I realized I needed to do so. I did bake these about a minute too long, so they were a bit more crispy than the Hubby or I care for (or for that matter the book group because they went after the pumpkin whoopie pies and chocolate chip cookies first). Still, these are a great size and I would make them again. In fact, with the frozen leftover's I'm contemplating making ice cream sandwiches out of them with the caramel ice cream I need to use up. Mmmm...

Friday, September 21, 2007

Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews

This was just a quick fun murder mystery. Meg goes home for the summer to organize three weddings she’s participating in: her Mother’s, her brother Ron’s and her best friend Eileen’s. All three brides are totally nutsy: Meg and her sister don’t understand why their mother is getting re-married (they still don’t understand why she divorced their Dad), Eileen cannot commit to a theme (she eventually does Renaissance) and nobody likes Ron’s future wife Samantha.

Then the unfortunate happens - a murder right off the back doorstep of Meg’s mothers house. Meg’s Dad (a physician by trade, retired,) sets off to convince the local sheriff that this was indeed a homicide. As the days tick by, bridal parties are poisoned, brakes are tampered with, lives are threatened, peacocks have taken up residence in the neighborhood and Meg is falling in love with the towns most un-eligible bachelor, Michael, who happens to be gay.

While the final "who done it" was a bit rushed and implausible, the rest of the quirkiness of the characters makes up for it. Fun to read and I'll be looking to borrow the others in the series.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Recipe Review 9/17/07

When I started blogging over a year ago, I didn’t think I really had that much to say. But as the weeks churn by, I find myself looking forward to my next posting whether it’s a recipe review, a knitting update or a book summary. And just as eagerly I peruse other bloggers posts, enjoying being invited into their lives to admire projects, drool over recipes, and oooh and ahhh over pictures of different places. I also love figuring out what I’m going to post next, trying to keep topics separated and diverse, which is easier said than done!

So, it is with much excitement that I am finally able to post a new recipe review after nearly a month of no new recipes. I had some help with these, the Hubby put in a request to make dinner once a week - how can I refuse a great offer like that? Hopefully now that all the summer excitement in my world has calmed down to just manic, I can settle back into making new dishes. Sorry about the lack of pictures - hopefully soon I'll get back into photographing our creations.

Enchilada’s (Every Day with RR, Aug 07, pg 62) 7
These were pretty good and fairly simple to make. What I liked in particular was how thick the sauce came out. I bought a rotisserie chicken ahead of time and had the Hubby shred and split the meat for another dish. The chicken was re-heated after sauteing some onion and spices, then mixed with tomato sauce and three chipolte peppers. I had some concerns about adding three, and I should have listened to my inner voice because the sauce was a bit on the spicy side when all was said and cooked. But, a generous dollup of sour cream tamed the flame. I would make these again with modifications.

Bacon, Blue Cheese and Courgette Soup (Irish Pub Cookbook, pg 58) 8
This is the first dish the Hubby selected and it was delicious! Bacon is fried in some olive oil to flavor the oil and then half of it was removed for garnish later. Onion and zucchini are nicely browned and softened to which is added 2 med baking potatoes and chicken stock. Everything is brought to a vigorous simmer till the potatoes are done. Bring out the immersion blender! This was the Hubbies first time with this must have gadget - the contents of the pot are blended till smooth, to which half and half and blue cheese crumbles are added and brought to temp. This soup was even better in the following days as the flavors really melded. He wants to make this one again.

Mac’s Pub Brown Soda Bread (Irish Pub Cookbook, pg 95) 5
This bread has potential, but it needs some tweaking first. The Hubbie's first comment was to add all the liquid ingredients at once, rather than parceling it out piecemeal as directed. He/we also had problems getting it to cook all the way through - it didn’t help that we are still getting used to the nuances of our gas stove. The final bread baked up very nicely, but it tasted rather flour-y. I’m not certain if this was just how it tastes or if the ingredients need some tweaking. But since we are moving into fall, it will be easier to experiment with some additional baking sessions.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Knitting Project #4 Dishcloths!

While at Minicon in April, I noticed my friend was busily knitting away at a couple of small-ish projects. Intrigued (I was plugging away at a scarf and a hat), I watched for a while then curiosity got the better of me (it's like reading the paper with someone else...the section they are reading is always more interesting than your own) so I had to inquire.

She was working on a couple of dishcloths. I fell in love with the little projects, the way the colors and patterns slowly reveled themselves into these delightful dishcloths. She gave me one pattern, a neat mock basket weave, with instructions on what kind of yarn to buy and where I could get it. Dishcloths are made from 100% cotton, usually a "Sugar-n-Cream" brand or a "Peaches-n-Cream" brand. I found "Sugar-n-Cream at my local Michaels for something like $1.49 for a 2oz skein.

I'm hooked! Here's a sample of what I've made:

Alex’s Cloth

#7 needles
Sugar-n-Cream yarn in Daisy Ombre and Potpourri Ombre
1 skein
8.5" x 8.5"

I really liked this pattern. Super simple and it looks really nice.

#7 needles
Sugar-n-Cream yarn in Faded Demin
1 skein

This is where I learned that I really need to loosen up my knitting. I knit tight, incredibly tight, and I have to say the cool thing about working with this cotton yarn was I was forced to learn how to loosen my stitches.

(hmm...the light color is supposed to be yellow)
# 7 needles
Sugar-n-Cream yarn in Lt Blue and Yellow
1 skein = 2 cloths @ 8.5" x 8.5"

This is the one Gail was puttering on at Minicon that grabbed my attention. This was a devious little cloth. The first time I made it I ripped it apart no less than three times and there was no way I was going to let such a small project get the better of me. Now I’ve made four of this pattern and it takes me about 3 hours per cloth.

Depending on the pattern, one dishcloth takes very little time at all - something like 3 or 4 hours or a day depending on how many distractions you have. I'm thinking these will make some great "Special Occasion" gifts, wrapped up neatly with some taffeta and a bar of homemade kitchen soap on top (no, no, I'm not making my own soap!). Or with a bottle of wine or kitchen gadget. I've found a slew of patterns on the internet and on the little skeins of yarn so I will have lots of variety to play around with. So now rather than just doing patterns and colors all random, I need to start focusing on complimentary combinations and the intended recipients kitchen colors.

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