Thursday, January 24, 2008

Time is short

Yesterday I left home at 6 am, got to school at 6:35 am, left at 5:30 pm. Still had work to do when I got home, did not finish it all.

Today - went out to my yard at 6 am (in the freezing darkness) to collect twigs (their lab today was learning how to identify trees from their twigs) for my students. Left home at 6:50 am. Got to school and collected more twigs for class (it was light, but felt much, much colder than at my house). I am hoping to leave in the next few minutes - after I get my stuff gathered up.

Sigh - I have managed to get a few rounds knit on my latest hat. I have not had a chance to photograph my progress. Maybe this weekend - it is supposed to be in the mid-50's. This morning the temperature was -2 F.

The news this morning had a poll - which would you prefer, a 100 degree day or a 0 degree day? I would most definitely take the 100 degree day. How about you?

And since I have not had any pictures lately, a reminder of warmer days.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Jan. 22nd - Hibernation

Hibernation describes my weekend (perhaps psuedohibernation would be a better). It was cold. I did not leave the house. The weekend was filled with quiet relaxation - reading books, watching movies, knitting, cooking.

I finished another hat - but no pictures at this time. I am in a period of hat-mania right now. There are a lot of different types of hat I want to knit. Berets, watch caps, onion domes, star shaped hats, pillbox hats, stocking caps, with stripes, cables, colorwork, lace. Since hats knit up so quickly, it does seem like I can easily flit from one to another and yet finish a project. I am trying to refrain myself from casting on for 10 different hats at once. I still have my gloves to finish, and I wish I had them today - it was 8 degrees this morning when I left for work.

Movies - We checked out from the library a 4 movies set of Boris Karloff movies (Boris Karloff was the original movie Frankenstein's Monster and also narrated the cartoon version of the "The Grinch who stole Christmas").
The movies - in order of most to least favorite
1) The Boogie Man Will Get You - A comedy also starring Peter Loree. One of the best comedies I have seen in a while.
2) The Black Room - A dual role for Boris - He plays an Evil Baron and his twin brother, who are under a curse that the younger brother will kill the older (the older is the Evil Baron).
3) The Man they could not Hang
4) Before I Hang
3 and 4 were almost the same movie - a brilliant doctor has either found a way to bring people back from the dead (3) or to create everlasting youth (4). Each is found guilty of murder that is sort of in the gray area of murder (for different reasons) and in the end, their discoveries drive them to be true murders.

Overall, I really enjoyed these movies and would recommend them, especially if you like older movies. We also watched "Rear Window" which was excellent.

Well - I need to get back to work. I need to finish prepping for my classes tomorrow.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Jan 18th - AM

This last few days have been full of much preparation for class, and a bit of knitting. Also, preparations (mostly mental) for the arctic blast that is to hit us today. The coldest days of the season so far with temperatures below zero (F). I imagine my friends in Iowa and Chicago have already felt the blast.

Wed night - I took the evening off from working, instead watching movies and knitting. Yesterday, we pretty much held with our no TV night, we watched Wheel of Fortune while eating dinner (onion pie and salad - mmmmmmm). I spent the rest of the evening preparing for classes today.

This weekend - probably more cooking, watching movies, knitting, and preparing for classes. I plan to be a real homebody (I am a big wimp when it comes to cold temperatures, especially this cold). I also hope to have some updated pictures of my knitting,.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Jan 15th - The ways of cats

We have a cat, Lily, who has lived with us for about 10 years now. She has never liked being covered up by blankets. If you covered her up with one, she would soon move out from under it. Even if she was in a deep sleep, she would wake up and get on top of the blankets.

That is until last week. She has started wanting to get under the blankets, to sleep in a little cave of covers. Much to our surprise, she has even taken to sleeping under the covers between me and my husband.

The ways of cats are mysterious.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jan. 14th - Knitting update and Garden Plans

This week marks the first full week of teaching in the spring semester. I should get a better sense of how busy I will be.

Since finishing my Christmas knitting, I have been working on new projects, I just have not shared them here.

Bugged Out Onion Dome
My in-laws gave me a gift certificate to a yarn shop in Springfield, MO. I did not have a specific idea of what I wanted to buy, but I knew that I wanted to try a new yarn. When browsing the store, I kept coming back to this brilliant blue yarn (Nashua Creative Focus Handknit Worsted). So I decided it must come home with me. I have been wanting to knit some hats and have very little worsted weight yarn right now. In the end I paired it up with Natural and a deep chocolate brown called Espresso. I have also been itching to do some color-work. The pattern is from Anna Zilboorg's hat book (the name escapes me right now) which I borrowed from the library. I made "Onion Dome" #2.
In progress

After a Saturday morning filled with knitting, a finished hat.
The photo is not all that great, there are only three colors. This photos makes it look like there is a light blue as well. My gauge was a bit off - more stitches per inch than called for, so I don't have the nice onion dome shape as in the book. But it fits my head and I really love it. My husband thinks the motifs look like insects - thus the name.

I am currently knitting a second hat from the same book with the same yarn - one of the toques. This time at the correct gauge.

Autumn Froth Ripple Weave
I also started a new pair of socks - Ripple Weave Socks by Charlene Schurch from the Fall 06 issue of Vogue Knitting. So far, this pattern has taken a lot of attention and I have not gotten to the point where I can not look at the chart. But I am pleased with how it is going.

Winter Mist Gloves
I also started a pair of gloves - from A Gathering of Lace. I am really excited to have a new pair of gloves, I am less excited by knitting the fingers.

Boy my thumb looks wrinkly.

I do think it is cool how the fingers become part of the whole. And I enjoy looking at the palm side as much as the back side of these gloves. I still need to work on picking up the finger stitches and creating a tighter join.

Finally - a list of plants I would like to grow in my garden this summer

tomatoes (small yellow pear shaped, cherry, and a good sandwich tomato)
sweet peppers
banana peppers
eggplant (the purple stripey variety)
fingerling potatoes


fennel (the bulb-eating variety)
parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme

Am I being overly ambitious?

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Jan. 13, 2008 - Thoughts and Christmas Knitting

As I have mentioned before, I am having a hard time keeping up with the blog - everyday I think about the things I could write in my blog, everyday I feel a twinge of guilt thinking about writing on my blog, instead of writing to my friends directly. On top of this dilemma, making time to do either is difficult. But writing in this blog is important to m - e - I have never kept a journal for more than a handful of days. And I have kept up with (to varying degrees) this blog for a year. I like being able to look back over the past year and see the things I made, the thoughts I had, the events, the challenges, the changes.

So - what to do.
First. - spend about 20 minutes at the end of each day writing on the blog. This does not seem like too big of a time commitment, but enough time to write. Second - on Tuesday and Saturday, allow myself to write a longer post if I want. Third - do not feel guilty about not meeting one and 2.

Update on Eating Resolutions:
We made it one week without eating out. Due to spending a bit too much at Christmas, we have severely curtailed our food budget for the rest of January. Thus, we are eating through the food we have in the pantry. I am hoping that by the end of the month most of the highly processed foods we do have will be gone. And in Feb. will be the big push to replace those items with "whole" foods, organic foods, local foods etc.

Another development - we got a new stove/oven this week. When we returned from New Year's at my in-laws, our oven was not working. The landlord replaced it (one of the great benefits of renting). It is just a basic stove/oven unit - but it is clean and it works. So I may do some baking this week. But I discovered I need to by both baking soda and powder.

Food Plans:
Honey and Feta Flat Bread
Soak and Cook Black beans in the slow-cooker. This is in an effort to reduced the amount of canned beans we eat (which are really high in sodium). I have been cooking more beans in the crockpot.
Balsamic Lentils and Potatoes

We currently have a lot of pasta in the pantry, but my husband does not like tomato based sauces, neither of us are fond of mushrooms, and I just cannot bring myself to buy basil in the store to make pesto. Any suggestions for other pasta sauces? We did make home-made macaroni and cheese on Friday.

I am also in the planning stages of our garden for the summer. Since we are renting, I am questioning how much effort I want to put into making garden beds vs. planting vegetables and herbs in containers. Next time, I will share my list of plants I want to grow so far.

Finally, today, I want to share the rest of my Christmas knitting.
A hat for my aunt.

Socks for my mom and sister.
Tidepool revisited - for my other sister.
Hat for my stepdad.
Scarf for my stepmom.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Post 155, Jan. 5th - In which explanation of resolutions are given

I am finding it difficult to separate out the motivations for my three categories of New Year's Resolutions. They are closely intertwined. All have been ideas roaming around in my brain for years. So why now, why 2008?

Because of a class I am preparing to teach starting next week - "The Ecology of Food". We will be exploring the ecological, cultural, societal, and health implications of the current American agricultural practices. In preparation for this class I have been doing A LOT of reading, including:
"Omnivore's Dilemma" by Michael Pollan
"Fat Land" by Greg Critser
"Fast Food Nation" by Eric Schlosser
"Eat Here" by Brian Halweil
"Guns, Germs, and Steel" by Jared Diamond
"Against the Grain" by Richard Manning

All of this reading has helped solidify ideals that I have long held and motivated me realize those ideals in my daily life.

One of my main goals I have this year is to get off the "agrobusiness grid". That is - to buy foods that have not been processed by one of the major food processing companies in the world - ConAgra, ADM, etc. Most of the food in our supermarkets are funneled through the processing plants of these companies - and we are not talking about grinding wheat to make flour. Rather, the plants do things like - break corn down into its chemical constituents - sugar, oil, etc, which are reformulated to make thinks like "fruit snacks".*

This won't be an easy goal to make - it will require more time, energy, and money spent by me to get my food. But in the end - both me and the planet will be a bit healthier. And the money I do spend will be to support local farmers, not agrobusiness giants.

The specific steps to meet this goal:

1.) Plant a garden: We have the space and permission from our landlord to put a garden in. I want a garden with a lot of variety, that contains fruits, vegetables, and herbs. Jan. and Feb. will be spent researching and planning out the garden.

2.) Buy foods that are less processed. My first step is to reduce the number of items I purchase that contain "corn syrup" or "high fructose corn syrup". This includes my favorite bread, many cereals, soda, and many processed foods. There are other ingredients that are also processed from corn and soybeans, but corn syrup is one of the most ubiquitous. It will also have a big health impact on me.

3.) Buy fruits and vegetables from local farmers - a frustrating goal to set in Jan. but when the farmer's markets start popping up - I am buying all of my produce (which does not come from by garden) from local sources.

4.) Find a source of grass-feed meat - Two big reasons for this. 1.) Beef that is grass-fed has not been shipped to a confined feeding lot. If you have been within 5 miles of a big confined feeding operation, you have a glimpse (or should I say whiff) of the environmental damage created by such operations. Not to mention how poorly the animals in such operations are treated. 2.) It turns out, that what our meat eats has health implications for us. Grain-fed beef has more of the "bad" fats (Omega-6 I believe, but I am not certain if I am remembering correctly) compared to the "good" fats (Omega-3?). Grass fed-beef has a higher ratio of the "good" fats. Plus, most grass-fed cows do not require high inputs of antibiotics.

5.) Reduce the amount I eat out - and when I do eat out, try to eat at local restaurants, and not the big corporate chains. Also - trade quantity for quality - eat out less often, but at nicer places.

Meeting this goals will help me 1) be healthier, 2) feel like I am living a fuller life (Gardening and cooking will reduce the amount of time I watch TV, which I feel I do to much. When I binge on TV watching, I often feel like I have missed out on the real life), and 3) spend less of my money at corporate chains.

* Fruit snacks are on my mind - our 6 year old niece made my husband and I "lunchboxes" from wrapping paper for Christmas, each containing Care Bears Fruit Flavored Snacks. She can be a sweet girl. After eating mine, and realizing they did not really taste like food, I looked at the label. These snacks containg: Fruit juice from concentrates, corn syrup, sugar, modified corn starch, pectin, dextrose, citric acid, Vitamin C (abscorbic acid), sodium citrate, malic acid, potassium citrate, mineral oil, color, natural and artificial flavor, carnauba wax, sulfitting agents, and beeswax.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Jan. 2nd - In which resolutions are made and knitting is shared

In the past I have not been big on making New Year's Resolutions. This year is different. I want to change certain aspects of my life and I feel like I am in position to do so. I have been a bit intimidated by writing out all of my New Year's Resolution here, because they are many and I want to explain (at least to myself) in writing my motivations, plans, and thoughts about them. A long post, needless to say (it is the potential length of the post, not the content that has been the roadblock). So today - I am listing the three main areas that my resolutions fall into, exploration of motives and specific plans will come later.

1.) Be healthier. Not original I know, but both my husband and I want to eat better and get more exercise. This a joint resolution and I feel that we are both pretty committed to it.

2.) Live life fuller. This will entail two types of changes in my life. First, reduce the amount of time watching TV. Second, consciously decide what I want to do and frankly, just do it. I spend to much time worried about how I should spend my time, and the net result is a lot of time is wasted.

3.) I am not sure the best way to word my third major resolution. The idea is to live my life less under the influence of corporate America.

All three ideas are actually interconnected, but that explanation will have to wait until another post. I need to get off to work, and I do want to share at least one of my Christmas knitting projects.

The swimming pool socks which were knit for my mother-in-law. Last Christmas I gave her a pair of handknit purple socks (purple being her favorite color). She told my husband that she would really like a pair of blue socks. The yarn is Claudia HandPaint, Electric Blue if I remember correctly. The pattern in from Nancy Bush's Knitting Vintage Socks - Child's Sock in Diaper and Citrion Knitting (or something like that). The socks turned out nice, and my MIL really loved them. I did not enjoy knitting the pattern, though maybe it was because I had to knit it three time.