Saturday, December 29, 2012

Blankets, Blankets, Blankets

First of all, it looks like we're getting a blanket of snow outside my house.


And yes, this is a color photograph...it's very gray outside, and the snowflakes are quite puffy and large.

Current Knitting
On the heels of finishing my niece's Unbiased Blanket this week, I picked up and finished the final stripe on the Milano Blanket yesterday.


You'll note that there are a number of ends to weave in, but fortunately, they are only on one side of the blanket and I've already made a little headway in weaving them in.


Here are a couple of close up shots so you can see the knitting stitch and fabric a bit closer.



 I tried doing an i-cord edging (and weaving in the ends as I did so) and I didn't like it at all.  Then I tried doing a single crochet edging (again, trying to weave in the edges along the way) and it didn't look very good.  So, I'm not sure what kind of edging I'll do on this blanket, but I definitely won't settle for something that doesn't make the blanket look as good or better than it currently does.

Flea Market Purchases
Did I ever mention that Thaddeus makes some of the best Southern fried chicken that I've ever had?  Yes...believe it or not, one of his co-workers at a previous job taught him how a number of years ago, and with the Polish frying gene (all people of Polish descent have it), he was able to make amazing fried chicken.

At the flea market today, he found the ideal pan for making his chicken.


Perhaps this snowy day will be a perfect time for him to make some!

Friday, December 28, 2012

That Apocalypse Thing Was Kind of a Bust

So I guess I have to continue blogging.


Last-Minute Xmas Gift
Two separate situations occurred last Tuesday that made me put aside the Milano Blanket and start an ambitious project.

First, my niece Kelly mentioned on Facebook that she'd like a new blankie (her word, not mine) and that she really likes green...


How could I deny those duck lips?

Second, someone in some forum somewhere (Facebook maybe?) mentioned that they really liked a yarn they found at JoAnn's...IKR?!?!...and it was made by Caron fergodsakes.  But I valued this person's opinion, even if I can't remember who it was, so I went out and bought some of this yarn.




And then, starting on Thursday night, December 20th, I decided to see if I could get a blanket finished for my niece by Christmas day.

I had a lot of knitting time, including about 8 hours in the car to my sister-out-of-laws in Massachusetts, and I picked a simple garter stitch pattern (diagonal biased knitting) and I ALMOST finished.

I ended up giving my niece the blanket on Christmas day with about one more day of work needed on it, and then took it back to finish it.  Here's the result of my one-week blanket.








They yarn is Sheep(ish) by Caron, which is a wool/acrylic blend that goes for about $4 for 167 yard.  It's considered a worsted weight and is very lofty and soft and machine washable.

I used less than 14 balls of yarn for the blanket (I probably could have gotten away with 12 balls, if it was all in one color).

This blanket was knit on US10.5 needles (6.5mm).  I started with 2 sts, increasing on each side of the third and every other row of knitting until I had 176 sts on the needle.  Then I continued to increase on the right side of every other row, and decrease on the left side of the same row until the blanket was about as long as I wanted it to be, and then I decreased on both side on every other row until I was back down to two sts.  I put on a simple garter stitch edging.  If you care, I knit 16 rows of gray, 10 rows of green, 10 rows of purple and 6 rows of highlighter yellow as my striping pattern.

The blanket is very soft and plush and warm, and obviously a quick knit.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Seanna Lea writes, "The blanket looks pretty amazing. Given that you've been calling it the coffin cover, it seems like you shouldn't be as far along as you are!"

Actually, the Milano Blanket was never called a coffin cover...the coffin cover is still far from complete, so I have at least a little while longer to live.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Last QueerJoe Blog Post Ever!

I figure I better get one last blog post in before the World ends.

Preparing For The End
I hated the idea of missing one last Xmas, so last night a good friend and I celebrated the season by going out for a lavish meal at one of the better restaurants in the Capital District area.




 Indonesian food is amazing!

Early Xmas Gift
I also got a chance to open my first gift of the season...


This book is an absolute delight, but I have to admit, the thing that made me laugh the most was the advertisement at the bottom of the cover of the book (if you can't read it, it says "From the New York Times Best-Selling Author of 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth...ROFL).

And I want you to know that Nico would NEVER plot kill me...he LOVES me!


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Happy Holidays...It's Almost Xmas

I've always loved this time of year...anticipation can be so exciting, and that's what this season always makes me feel.


Holiday Treats From My Favorite Kiwi
A Christmas card and gift package came from James in New Zealand this past week.  Beautiful card, beautiful note, beautiful handiwork on the stockings and CHOCOLATE inside.

Gotta love that man!  Thank you James.  By the way, there's a pattern for those lovely little stocking ornaments on his website for anyone interested.

Current Knitting
So close!  I've only got 6 more rows (3,000 stitches) left to do on the Milano Blanket and then it's a mere matter of knitting or crocheting an edging and weaving in a few hundred loose ends and then washing and blocking this baby.  Okay, "so close" might have been an exaggeration.






Sorry for the crappy photos...lighting hasn't been the best for photography lately...even in the middle of the day, it's rather dark and gray out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Building Bridges



No...I really mean building bridges...it's kind of an amazing thing.

Recent Road Construction in Albany
Like most commuters, construction traffic can be a pain in the neck.  But a recent construction project in Albany went extremely smoothly and quickly and caused very few delays or annoyances.  And the results are quite astounding.

Perhaps if you work in road construction, the conversion of an intersection to an overpass is no big deal, even if it's required that the entire project be built with few or no road closings.

And this includes exit ramps, signage, road painting as well as temporary roads, detour signs (that make sense) and keeping all the construction workers and drivers safe, even during crappy weather (and dozens of other things I wouldn't even consider as a laymen).

Here was the basic project...turn this intersection:



...into this overpass...



I stay on Washington Avenue in Albany when I'm working up there, and I have to get on a local highway.  It used to be that I would approach the intersection from the East (the right side of the photos above) and make a right at the light onto Fuller Road.  It was a complex light with multiple left-hand turn lights and lots of lanes going every which way.  Now I just take an easy exit before the new bridge to access the same on-ramp.

But the thing that amazes me is the artistry of this kind of construction.  Elevations, traffic flow design, mechanical engineering, paving, signage...I can't even imagine all that goes into such a complex feat as this.  And it all seems to have come off without a hitch from this commuters perspective.

Here's a brief video of some of the artistry (and I thought designing and knitting a sweater required skills!).




Current Knitting
I've completed a total of 62 of the 66 color stripes on the Milano Blanket...only FOUR more to go!!


Looks like I will get a chance to use the blanket this Winter (in ways other than draping it on my lap whilst knitting).  After the last four stripes, all I have is a small border (long, but just a narrow border).

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

The Sex Talk

Do parents actually have the sex talk with their children, or is it just some big myth that parents talk about but never actually do?

My Sex Talk
My mom had just seated us all at the dinner table (7 kids, aging from around 9 to 19).  My dad wasn't home from work yet...he was probably on a train from New York at the time this discussion took place.

My mom quieted us, as if we were going to say grace or something (which we didn't do except at big meals, like Thanksgiving), and she started with, "So, does anyone have any questions about sex?"

Even if we took the question seriously, we were either, too ignorant to even know what to ask, too embarrassed to ask things we really wanted to know about or we already knew (or thought we already knew) all about sex.  I was definitely in the first two categories.

Suffice it to say, no questions were asked at the dinner table about sex that night, and I never had the one-on-one conversation with either parent that is rumored to happen in sane households.

Current Knitting
Only eight more stripes...this blanket is nearing completion!




I can't tell you how satisfying it will be to have this project in the "Completed" column.

Readers' Comments/Questions
Deb F. writes, "Delicious-- both the yarn and the food! But your description of the chicken fricassée has me most interested. Would Thaddeus be willing to share that recipe as well?"

I'm sure he would be happy to, but he doesn't really know.  He basically went out to the web and looked at a few recipes for it, and followed instructions from a television show for braised chicken.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Good Cooking



Every once in a while, it's clear that mixing flavors is a lot like mixing colors in a sweater design.  You either have an aptitude for it, or you need to follow specific rules.

Intuitive Cooking
I've never had a very strong aptitude for combining colors in a knitted garment, nor for mixing different flavors into a dish  So, to compensate, I've practiced both color-combining and cooking, and created a number of successful rules about how to do both, that usually work when I follow them.

Thaddeus, on the other hand, has a great sense about mixing flavors, so it's a joy to get home to a weekend of his cooking.

This past weekend, he started with his version of chcken fricassee (he calls it simple braised chicken with gravy).  Then on Saturday, he made his incredible creamy, chipotle chicken.



Then, Sunday, he made a meatball/potato soup that his dad used to make, and it's like nothing I've ever eaten before...and incredibly good.



The basic recipes for the creamy chipotle chicken and the meatball/potato soup are below (although I have only gotten them by hearsay...Thaddeus may make changes while he's cooking that he doesn't think are important enough to tell me about).

Current Knitting
Just so that this doesn't turn into a food blog, I did get a couple more stripes of knitting done on the Milano Blanket.  I'll post a photo next time.

I also started getting regularly scheduled deliveries of Madeline Tosh yarns, and my first installment of a sweater's-worth of yarn arrived this past week.





This is her DK weight yarn, in colorway, Bitterroot (deep brownish reds and tints of greens and oranges).

Chipotle Chicken

Ingredients

  Directions

Sprinkle chicken thighs liberally with Adobo seasoning and cook them either on a barbecue grill or under your broiler for about 12-15 minutes on each side.
While chicken is cooking, put about 4 oz.of chipotle peppers,  and 8 oz. of sour cream in a food processor and blend on high, adding chicken stock as needed to create a creamy sauce.
In a large skillet or sauce pan, heat vegetable oil on medium-high and add bell pepper.  Sautee for about 2 minutes and then add the chicken thighs.  Pour cream sauce over chicken and peppers and heat for about 10 minutes, reducing heat if the sauce starts to boil.

Serve over rice, with flour tortillas.

Meatball Potato Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 lb of ground meatloaf mix (1/3rd ground beef, pork and veal)
  • 16 oz. plain bread crumbs
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 large, grated onion
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 Tbls vegetable oil
  • 64 oz chicken stock
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped celery
  • 1 pound small potatoes (fingerling or cut-up larger potatoes will work)
  • 8 oz. sour cream

  Directions

Boil the potatoes until they are still firm and set aside.
In s large pan, bring the chicken stock and celery to a boil, while you prepare the meatballs.
Combine meatloaf mix, bread crumbs, eggs, onion and salt and pepper in a bowl and knead together all ingredients until blended.  Form into small meat balls (smaller than golf balls...and they can be irregular in shape - makes about 24 meatballs).
In a skillet, heat the vegetable oil on medium-high heat and brown the meatballs on at least two sides, cooking them for about 10 minutes each side.


Mix about a cup of the hot chicken stock into the sour cream (to avoid having it separate when you add it to the hot stock), and then add the tempered sour cream, the meatballs and the potatoes into the stock.  The soup should be milky, not creamy or thick.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Latest Pet-Peeve

New York and the Northeast go at a bit more of a brisk pace than the rest of the country, in my experience.

It's E-Z Pass - Let's Make it E-Z, Shall We?
They talk faster, the walk faster and they definitely drive faster.

So why is it that the entire upstate NY population feels they must stop at E-Z Pass tolls?!?! (for those outside of the NY/NJ/PA area, E-Z Pass is the brand name for the little transponder you keep in your car to pass through toll booths paying automatically).

"E-Z" is the clever little way of telling you that passing through tolls should be EASY...not painfully, fucking SLOW!

With New Yorkers in the Albany area, it's always one of three things:

  1. They keep the transponder device in their glove compartment, and wait until they're at the toll booth to get it out...argh!
  2. They think they have to stop to have their toll registered...ARGH!
  3. They've run out of money on their account and it won't let them through, so they wait for a person to come take their cash toll...ARGH!
Please people...take a course...you KNOW I don't have much patience when I'm behind the wheel.

Current Knitting
Since I was working from home last week and off for Thursday and Friday of the Thanksgiving holiday, I got a lot of knitting done on the Milano Blanket, and I'm actually seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.



I've completed a total of 56 stripes (the blanket is displayed on a full-size hotel bed) and I have 10 more 8-row stripes to complete before I do the edging.

One obstacle I have with knitting this blanket at home is that Nico has decided it's enough like his mother, that he might be able to knead it long enough so that it expresses kitty-milk (it hasn't yet), so he pushes/kneads/claws into the blanket for about 10 minutes every time he sits in my lap.


Nico, thinking this time he might be able to express some milk from the Milano Blanket


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving


It seems odd to add a wish onto the gerund form of the verb to give thanks...but that's the name of the holiday, so I wish you the best one yet.

Happy To Give Thanks
Yeah, it seems just as odd adding it to the infinitive of the verb.

Many of my Facebook friends and I have been noting each day on our Facebook status, something about which we are grateful.  I am fortunate to have family that will gladly tell me when something I'm doing is annoying the hell out of them, and some of my latest gratitude items are doing exactly that (or so I've been told).  They're sick of me using the format of gratitude to write about how amazing I am in different ways each day.

I'll try and make sure the gratitude is more about them from now on...or at least less about me.

Current Knitting/Spinning
Well, I've postponed a photo of the Milano Blanket for two blog posts now, so I guess it's time for a photo (or two).



I've completed either 50 or 51 rows of the total 66 rows that I need to knit to finish this blanket, so I am making steady progress.

I was also able to finish spinning the singles of the Cottswold fiber I got at the last Men's Spring Knitting Retreat.


The middle bobbin is just the Cottswold roving spun into a fine single and the bottom bobbin is the thick thin roving with the dyed locks spun into it.

And here's the resulting yarn plied up.



Suffice it to say, I love how this yarn turned out, and I have a use for it in mind already.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Being Creative vs. Buying Creativity


Many people tell me how creative I am when they see my knitting, but honestly, I'm not overly creative.

Relying On The Kindness Of Indies
I've always thought I had a good eye for all that is aesthetically pleasing, and so when I see a gorgeous sweater design, or a stitch pattern that worked out particularly well, I can mimic that, and in so doing, mimic creativity.  And just by virtue of the fact that I've been so prolific in my knitting, some of my work has got to be "creative" even if that was pure happenstance.  I look at some of my most successful knitting projects, and each one has components of it that were stolen from those much more creative than I am.

While the shaping and some of the graphics is mine, much is taken from "Knitting Out of Africa" by Marianne Isager

This sweater uses a stitch pattern I took from Kristin Spurkland's "The Knitting Man(ual)" - which is only $6.94 on Amazon right now...an incredibly good deal.

And there are also a number of projects that clearly indicate not all my work is successful.

Fortunately, in the fiber-arts community, there are lots of incredibly creative and talented individuals who I can rely on to borrow from their abilities.  People that know how to put together colors, or how to dye a specific fiber so it comes out just perfectly.

Current Knitting/Spinning
I have done virtually no additional knitting on the Milano Blanket, so I'm deferring a photo again, but I did start a new spinning project (including a new spinning technique).

Using the roving and the dyed locks I got at the Cottswold farm we visit at the retreat back in May...

...I have started spinning the locks and roving...


...you can see I'm not so good at melding the locks into my spinning quite perfectly yet, but it's getting more and more natural.  And in addition to LOVING the color of this fiber, I am also loving the thick and thin nature of my spinning on this project.