Thursday, October 30, 2008

books and soup

Recent Reads
recent reads
What Was Lost, by Catherine O'Flynn
This is a first novel, and it was long-listed for the Booker prize, which is a pretty major accomplishment. It has a very fresh and thoughtful narrative voice. A lonely girl's disappearance has repercussions that affect a number of intertwined lives. At first the structure is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, as it's initially told from the girl's point of view, but I think it's a much more interesting book. Highly recommended.

Atonement, by Ian McEwan
Once again, a book where a decision made by one character affects an entire family. What interested me is how McEwan is able to present how young people form judgments based on their limited information and life experience. The book is set up in a way that's perhaps a bit too clever/precious for my taste, but a good read nonetheless. I haven't seen the movie version -- is it worth watching?

Pomegranate Soup
, by Marsha Mehran (a gift from Mia!)
This charming book is set in small-town Ireland in the 1980s. It centers around a trio of sisters who have made their way from Iran after the revolution. They're haunted by their pasts, but they're also blazing a trail for a new, more cosmopolitan Ireland as they open a restaurant and broaden the horizons of the townspeople. It's reminiscent of Maeve Binchy, but with a more exotic flair (complete with recipes).

Confusion (Vol. 3 of the Cazalet Chronicle), by Elizabeth Jane Howard
The Cazalets carry on during WWII, through the war effort, marriages, pregnancies, and affairs. Howard draws upon her own experiences in these books. Seeing the changes wrought by the war in society is fascinating. WWII seems to have marked a sexual revolution in a way.I definitely came to these books with an idealized picture of England during WWII based on books from my childhood -- precocious children sent to the countryside (discovering portals to other worlds), secret gardens with sick boys hidden away, victory gardens, etc.

This article about Howard is interesting -- I had no idea she had been married to Kingsley Amis (whose Lucky Jim I'm reading right now). If you like the Cazalet Chronicle (or are even interested), you'd most likely enjoy The Chamomile Lawn miniseries (initially recommended to me by Hilary).

In the kitchen
Curry pumpkin soup with a mug of hot apple cider makes a perfect autumn lunch.
the perfect fall lunch
Curry Pumpkin Soup
(adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, Nov. 2008)

2 T. butter
2 medium onions, chopped (1 cup)
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 tsp. curry powder (add more if you like curry flavor)
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 15-oz cans pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
4 C. chicken broth (could sub veggie)
2/3 C. water
1 C. half-and-half or light cream (could sub low-fat plain or Greek yogurt)
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
salt, to taste

In a soup pot melt butter over medium heat. Add onions and carrots. Cook, 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Add curry powder and pumpkin pie spice. Cook and stir 1 minute. Add pumpkin, broth, and water. Increase heat to medium-high; bring to boiling. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly.

Option 1: Run an immersion blender through the soup until it's almost smooth but still has a few small chunks in it.
Option 2: In food processor or blender, add one-third of the pumpkin mixture at a time, cover, and process or blend until smooth. Return all pumpkin mixture to soup pot.

Stir in half-and-half, salt (if desired), and pepper into pumpkin mixture; heat through.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

bring on the holidays...

I'll be ready! I saw the first snowflake of the season on Sunday night. OK, it was more like the dreaded "wintry mix" (talk about a euphemism) than snow, but I'm still glad I got a head start on my holiday knitting a couple months ago.

Since I apparently can't bear not having Malabrigo on the needles, I cast on for another cabled scarf right away:
inner truth + shamrocks
It's the "Inner Truth Cashmere Scarf" from the old Magknits. I managed to find the pattern via the Wayback Machine here. The pattern's fun to knit -- row 5 is a tiny bit counterintuitive, but you get used to it after 2 repeats or so. Malabrigo's as thin as I would want to go on the yarn -- otherwise the scarf would be too narrow for my taste.
inner truth malabrigo scarf
On Sunday I headed over to Arcadia for Franklin's book release party! It was great -- he even read a couple passages from the book. BTW, It Itches is downright hilarious, and would make a great holiday gift. Doesn't Franklin have lovely penmanship?
It Itches
I also managed to meet up with Bobbi (AKA Krafty 1), who was friendly, chatty, and wonderful.

Speaking of books with marvelous illustrations...
Long-time readers of Caffeinated Yarn are aware of my Edward Gorey fixation by now, I'm sure. I picked up Amphigorey Too at a charming and well-stocked used bookshop (Bookworks) right near my apt. Paul and I were on the way home from drinks, and I saw it in the window and just had to stop.

I ordered Lucky Jim through Paperback Swap, and I didn't even really look at the cover when it arrived. Paul, on the other hand, immediately noticed and asked if it had an Edward Gorey cover. Yes, indeed! What a treasure.

Today it's Capricha who's trying to keep me from getting work done. Case in point:
Capricha, as per usual
Oh well, at least she seems to like the hat.

Pattern: Unoriginal Hat, by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Leticia --
unmarked colorway (sugarplums maybe?)
Needles: Clover US 10.5 bamboo DPNs

Notes: This yarn is super bulky! It seems more like pin-drafted roving (not sure if that's the right term) rather than "yarn." It's super soft and nice to work with. This produced a much larger hat than my first version. In fact, following the Yarn Harlot's decrease instructions resulted in a hat fit for a Conehead. I ripped back a few rows (to the end of the repeated section), k2tog-ed all the way around, and ran the yarn through. It looks just fine on.

Next time I'd cut a row or two out of the repeat section so that I could do the pretty decreases as written.
Unoriginal Hat

Thursday, October 23, 2008


Apparently I'm not the only one who looks back fondly on those 1980s John Hughes movies... Judging from your comments, Andrew McCarthy had quite the following. Pretty in Pink's one of my favorites, too, but I always wanted Andy to end up with Duckie.

Pretty in Pink + Xs and Os = besotted
Pattern: Besotted, by Adrian Bizilia
Yarn: Malabrigo Merino Worsted, Amoroso, 2 skeins
Needles: Clover US 8 bamboo straights

Well, if I can't get Paul into a sweater vest, I can at least finish up my second go at my owl vaby vest pattern. Just needs ribbed edging around the V-neck and arm holes.
An amazing bounty arrived on my doorstep recently. The ever generous knitter, quilter, and photographer extraordinaire, Mia, sent me all this gorgeous yarn:
Holy cow, I was blown away. This is enough yarn for not just one, but two sweaters for me! The ruby red yarn is Kimmett Croft (mmm... angora/merino), and the lovely lavender on the right is Manos. This is one of the best gifts I've ever received. :-) I'm thinking about using the Manos for a Button Me Up raglan , and maybe an EZ percentage sweater with the luxurious Fairy Hare. Thanks again, Mia!

Speaking of how nice knitters are, Rachael over at Cattywampus gave me this blue ribbon:

Aw, thanks! I'm passing the blue ribbon along to some of my favorite blogs:
- Knit & Play with Fire
- Indigo Mouse
- The A.D.D. Knitter
- Cocoknits
- In Stitches
It's awfully difficult to pick just 4 -- so I picked 5! So many knit bloggers are just amazing.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

real men wear sweater vests

and here's the proof:
Jake Ryan? He doesn't even know you exist.

I don't think I can talk Paul into it. I'll be back tomorrow with photos, hopefully an FO, and some WIPs. In the meantime, enjoy this homage to one of the best movies ever. Period.

BTW, who was your 80s crush? It's pretty obvious who mine was.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

home again, home again, jiggety jig

Home again, after a long weekend in Williamsburg, Virginia. Williamsburg was very pretty, although the fall colors weren't really out on display yet. The downtown has a very "Disney" feel -- extremely clean. If you had to form judgments based upon the current incarnation of colonial Williamsburg, you might surmise that the colonists had obsessive-compulsive disorder (esp. re: germs and disorder) as well as plenty of money to spend on trinkets, seafood dinners, and decadent "Death by Chocolate" desserts.

The motivation for the trip was a friend's wedding. My bridesmaid dress was too large for me, and my hairdresser gave me big (southern belle?) hair. Despite my personal appearance trauma, the wedding went well and had its intended effect (*marriage*). The highlight was visiting a beautiful winery, sipping wine on the veranda, and petting the vineyard cats. No photos of that, I'm afraid.
The only knitting accomplished over the weekend was the start of a Besotted scarf (pattern by the oh-so-talented Adrian), in Malabrigo merino worsted in "amoroso":
Great pattern , lovely soft yarn... a match made in heaven. I have, however, miscrossed a cable for the first time. One of my X's is wonky. I contemplated ripping back or performing surgery, going so far as to check out the Yarn Harlot's words of wisdom as well a tutorial at I Need Orange. You know what? I'm going to leave it. For me, knitting isn't about perfection. In almost every other area of my life I aim for perfection -- and it's a necessity when it comes to correct citations, clear examples, all that good stuff. In my knitting there's room for a mistake or two.
Poor Kylie Cat must have missed us over the weekend. She has been my little shadow for most of today! P.S. See how big her ID tag is? I think she looks like Flava Flav. That's one of the perils of ordering ID tags off the internet sight unseen.

Monday, October 06, 2008

weekend update

I've been pleasantly surprised that SNL has actually been funny lately! It had been years since I had watched the show, and now Tina Fey's Sarah Palin has me rolling in the aisles, as did Anne Hathaway's Mary Poppins! Who knew that supercalifragilisticexpialidocious was actually a sexually-transmitted liver disease? What a bummer for poor Burt... I've always had a soft spot for Dick Van Dyke.
So... the weekend was nice. Busy, but nice. YarnCon was a fairly small but pleasant event. Leah and I had a yummy breakfast at Milk & Honey first. The highlight was meeting Franklin Habit from the Panopticon, chatting about the joys of Latin, and picking up some of his knitting gift cards. Alas, Dolores was nowhere in sight. I had hoped to meet up with Karen, too, but never wound up finding her. A pity...

My only other purchase was a skein of wonderfully pettable angora/merino from animals raised right here in Illinois via the Green Pastures Fiber Co-op and Esther's Place.
Sunday involved an excursion outside the city. We loaded up into a friend's minivan and headed out for a breakfast of Swedish pancakes and lingonberry smoothies and a trip to Edwards Apple Orchard. Rain came in patches, heavy at times, so no orchard photos. We brought home a bounty of apples, feasted on cider and apple donuts, and fell asleep in the minivan on the way home. Yes, it made me feel as if I were 5 again.

While I'm dying to try this decadent apple-almond braid recipe, I managed to resist this afternoon and instead whipped up some easy applesauce. No Foley food mill, blender, or food processor needed. While I'm not a big fan of kitchen gizmos (in a move that would shock many Kitchen-Aidophiles, I often just use a wooden spoon to mix up a batch of cookies), I was disappointed that I couldn't find my nifty apple corer and slicer. That actually does make this recipe even easier. I like to use a mixture of apple varieties for this recipe -- this time the mix includes Jonathan, Jonagold, Golden Delicious, and Autumn Beauty.
Easy Applesauce

10 medium cooking apples, peeled, cored, and quartered
1 C. water
1/8 C. brown sugar (if you really like it sweet, you could go up to 1/4 C.)
1/8 C. sugar
(if you really like it sweet, you could go up to 1/4 C.)
1/2 - 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. cardamom
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Throw all ingredients into a big pot and stir. Bring it to a boil, then cover, turn it down to a simmer, and ignore it for about 25 minutes. Check to see if the apples are tender and falling apart. If not, stir it and give it a bit more time (covered). When everything's very tender, stir to break up the apples. You can use a potato masher to break up any larger chunks. That's it! It may seem a bit watery at first, but as it cools it solidifies to a good texture.

My minivan knitting included lots of garter stitch: the beginning of an EZ Tomten Jacket in wonderfully soft handspun wool. This is my first time knitting with handspun, and I love it. Now I just need to find a good source for handspun (or learn how to spin, but I don't see that happening right now).

Friday, October 03, 2008

caught in the act

wearing handknit wool socks for the first time this fall
enjoying clean, warm laundry

finishing up my Toasty mitts rather than editing a manuscript

Pattern: Toasty, by Leslie at a friend to knit with
Yarn: Frog Tree Merino Worsted, #405, just over 1 skein
Needles: US 6 Brittany Birch DPNs

Notes: A quick, easy knit. Next time I would cast on at least a couple more stitches for the thumb, and do some k2togs after a couple rounds. Warm, cozy, and perfect for fall. Thanks for the great pattern, Leslie!