August 31, 2009

Ja, but she never tells you how much she spent!

My Grandma Ditsch was one of the most straight-talking people you'd ever meet. Whenever she'd try to mince words, it was a disaster, so it was for the best that it didn't often occur to her to try. At the same time, she could take a hint like no one I've ever known. I take that back; my mother (her daughter) was a champ at taking a hint.

I figured out this useful bit of information about Grandma when I was in college in Minnesota. Since Grandma also lived in Minnesota, I would often spend long-weekends on the farm with her. On one such weekend, she and I were visiting after a breakfast of grapefruit, Sanka and toast with cottage cheese (her) and Cheerios (me), when I mentioned that I hadn't had her spare ribs and sauerkraut in a long time. Flash forward three hours and a half hours and what are we having for dinner (the noon-time meal; supper was served in the evening) just as Y&R was ending and the WCCO newscast was beginning? You guessed it: spareribs and sauerkraut, with mashed potatoes on the side. Oh, I was so happy!

I tested my powers of suggestion again that summer while reminiscing with her one day: "I remember watching you peel peaches for canning when I was little. And the peach pie you would make? With the custard? I'd never had anything like it before! So delicious." BAM! We had peach pie that day for dinner. And again, I was so happy.

But this is supposed to be about her straight talking, so . . . Katie was Grandma's younger sister and one of her best friends. Never married, Katie was the kind of woman who, when asked "How ya doin'?", would respond "Oh, I'm fat and sassy!" And she was. Katie liked her beer, and the Waconia American Legion was her favorite watering hole. It being a small town, Katie knew everyone in the Legion, and so there she spent many an evening with her pal Verna, shooting the shit and playing the pull tabs. She liked winning, and would always tell Grandma how much she won. "Ja, but she never tells you how much she spent," Grandma would say to me, meaning Katie was telling only of her wins, and not her losses (also, Grandma didn't think much of gambling, and truth be told, neither do I).

I think a lot of us are like Katie, happy to share our successes, but considerably less eager to share our failures with others, myself included. you see, not everything that I make turns out as I'd hoped. My first batch of blackberry jam was a $20, 2 hour fiasco. I couldn't get it to the "sheeting" stage, and so cooked and cooked and cooked it. Cooked it right into hard candy, is what I did. I was so sad and disappointed. Then there's this:

Pattern: Sedum, by Jane Richmond
Yarn: Noro Kochoron
Needles: US11s/8 mm
Started: July 29
Finished: August 13
I didn't know it when I started, but this project was doomed from the beginning. The pattern has instructions for only one size, S/M. As I am an M/L, I tried to modify and wound up making it way too big. Add to that the fact that seed stitch really grows when blocked (I wet block everything) and you end up with one ginormous and ill-fitting sweater. Since I love both the yarn and the pattern, there's nothing to do but rip it out and start again. This time, I'll follow the pattern more closely.
So there you have it: the knitting equivalent of how much I spent in all of its embarrassing glory.

August 22, 2009

Beware the Chinese Food

Usually I try to focus on the positive and expect good outcomes. My generally sunny and hopeful outlook aside, sometimes it pays to be prepared for the negative or uncomfortable. To wit: the break-up. Relationships begin, everything's rosey and exciting, then sometimes, as we get in more deeply, we realize it's not a good fit, that we're not entirely happy. Now, what to do? It's a drag.

Last week, a friend found himself needing to end a new romantic entanglement. They had already made plans for a date when he realized he needed bring things to an end. Neither wanting to cancel the date and break-up via telephone (so unkind) nor sit through a long meal knowing that an awkward conversation was imminent, he decided: Chinese food. Its delicious, usually fairly casual and, most importantly FAST. The entire meal lasted about 40 minutes and by the end, the conversation had been had. Clean, civil, and fast. Later, in recounting the event to me, he realized that this was the third break-up that he'd had over Chinese food.

Who wants to think about how to break up with someone? Not I. However, we sometimes find ourselves in these, and other, uncomfortable situations, and it's good to know what to do. To be all Pollyana for a sec, it's kind of like making lemonade out of lemons. However, if that's not your style, you can follow the advice of Bill MacNeil (poor video quality for which I apologize):

I really miss Phil Hartman.

August 10, 2009

You are an obsession, You're my obsession*

When I get into something, I really get into it. I know in my heart of hearts that it's a good idea, a good plan, a worthwhile use of my time. I want to know it, understand it, really experience it. The obsession may not last forever, but while it does, it is glorious. It's how I was with knitting, how I was with cake baking and how I've become with canning. Witness:

The product of my first week of putting up food. So far I've canned cherries and plums, made dill pickles, dilly beans, apricot jam, bourbon cherries and sour cherry preserves, and enjoyed every sweaty (it is August, after all) minute of it. I have to say that this has made me feel incredibly productive. What I mean is that I'm not a lazy person, but the projects I usually work on are small and discrete: knitting a child's sweater, sewing a set of napkins, crocheting a lapghan, baking scones. With canning, the volume of the end product seems so much more significant and takes so much less time to produce, that it's rather gratifying. I'm a little late to the game this season, so I may be doing more pickling than fruit canning this year, but I'm excited about it nonetheless. The Ball Blue Book has lots of intriguing recipes that will keep me busy for the next few weeks at least.

Last week I did manage to do a bit more than simply go to work and preserve foods. I also watched Season 5 of Entourage in it's entirety, met up with the Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill Kitting & Crocheting peeps for some crafting and bingo:

and went to the Flea with Alex and Matt.

Fun! They just moved to Brooklyn from the UWS and have done a commendable job of integrating themselves into the 'hood.

That's the lobster roll they bought for me. It was delicious! Not too much mayo, toasted bread and some green onions, rather than the celery more typically found in a lobster roll. I could not have asked for a better summer lunch.

Pattern: Springtime Bandit, by Kate Gagnon Osborn, from Kelbourn Woolens
Yarn: Elsebeth Lavold Silky Tweed
Needles: US7s/4.5mm
Started: July 6
Finished: July 16

It's a gift, but for a non-blog reader, so I think it's safe to show. I started this on the plane to Stockholm and had grand plans of finishing it on my return flight. Those plans were disrupted by my viewing of 17 Again, Duplicity and something else the title of which escapes my just now. This yarn is incredibly soft and cozy, requisite qualities for something that's to be scrunched up against one's neck. I've wet blocked it once, and it did open up quite a bit, but not quite enough for my liking. I'm considering another go-around, as I'd like the pattern to be a bit more visible.

Overall, I'm quite happy with this project, and look forward to presenting it to it's future owner.

*Don't tell me you've forgotten about Animotion!