Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Ten on Tuesday: 10 reasons to use the public library

Well, I use our public library a lot (at least three of the librarians know me by name) but always for the same reason: books. I'll try to spread this out over ten semi-distinct concepts.

1) Books! Not even close to everything I want to read, but a nice selection.
2) It's free. Well, my tax dollars go to support it, but on a daily basis it doesn't cost me any money to use it.
3) I discover books I might not spot at the bookstore.
4) Audio books! I'm still getting into the habit of using these, but I really like the concept.
5) YA is a section I don't shop in but still love to read, and the library lets me feed that habit.
6) The children's librarians are awesome.
7) While I don't need to use the computers there, I recognize how valuable they are as a community resource.
8) DVDs! Although I rarely tap this resource, it did keep me sane the last time I was trapped at home with vomiting children. Their selection of children's videos is amazing.
9) There's a nice film series in our library's basement on Thursday evenings.
10) They run a small used-book section and are always happen to take my donations.

Monday, March 28, 2011

forgot Earth Hour

Yikes! I just realized I was driving home during Earth Hour on Saturday night, and totally forgot to observe it.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

A dinner to remember

Just got back from a delicious four-course dinner cooked by my FIL. I know I want to remember this one, so I'm trying to recreate the menu...

Pasta with Cantaloup (this recipe looks pretty close to it)

Fresh Bread with pork meatballs in tomato sauce (or the vegetarian equivalent in tomato sauce)
Lightly sauteed bok choi with grated parmesan

A salad of baby greens, fresh herbs, and papaya

Meyer lemon meringue pie

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The book I forgot

The Lady Most Likely by Julia Quinn, Eloisa James, and Connie Brockway: a light, fluffy, happy romance set at a house party in Regency England. I thought the collaboration was particularly well done in this novel. Although I'm a big enough fan of Quinn that I thought I could mostly tell which parts she had written, the transition among authors wasn't jarring.

Recent Reading

Spring Break is always good for shrinking the "To Read" pile.

Tithe by Holly Black: having just seen Ms. Black at Vericon, I was inspired to try her books again. I really enjoyed this one; the teenaged narrator sounded just right and the plot went in unusual directions. This isn't what I was expecting from the author of "Spiderwick" and I mean that as a compliment.

Elantris by Brandon Sanderson: this is his first published novel. As such, it's amazingly assured. The plot hangs together nicely, the characters are well-developed, and a large number of people die. (Note: I don't demand that my favorite authors kill off their characters, but if a plague decimates the city, I expect something like 10% of the named characters to suffer also.)

The Voyage of the Sable Keech by Neal Asher (technically, a re-read): another bloody, lengthy, twisty adventure from Mr. Asher. Explains a good bit more about the Prador and why the Second Kingdom became the Third Kingdom.

The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett: it's not quite England, it's not quite Pride and Prejudice, and almost nobody really believes in magic... I found this book utterly charming, but most of my friends thought it was too derivative and dragged in the early sections.

Plenty by Yottam Ottolenghi: I managed to score a properly British edition (not the one in the link) which uses Gas Marks, Celsius, and British terms for vegetables. I had to ask DH to translate a lot of it for me! Still, the recipes look fabulous and reading this just before bedtime gave me lovely dreams for a week.

fresh coriander = cilantro
courgettes = zucchini
aubergine = eggplant
rocket = some wild green akin to arugula
samphire = another wild green
mange toute = peas that can be eaten with their pod on
haricots = very thin green beans

I feel fairly confident that I'm forgetting at least one novel, but I'll just cover it on the next report!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

FO: Tropical Striped Scarf

I must disavow all association with the colors... they were Sarah's choice!

Used Cascade 220 Superwash in Lime green and Tropical Paints.
Size 8 needle, wooden, from KnitPicks.
About 5.5 feet long and 6 inches wide.

Started over a year ago, finished today!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Nothing much

I ate too much pizza and now I feel like an unmotivated blob.

Must finish WIP.

Must clean the house.

Must survive the inch+ of snow that we are supposed to get tonight...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

10 on Tuesday: ten reasons to be glad it's spring

Well, it was snowing here yesterday, so it's kind of hard to believe that it is spring... but I'll try!

1) Watching the birds nest
2) Baseball season begins!
3) Starting the garden
4) Warmer weather... no need for heavy coats.
5) Sweaters are still appropriate.
6) The Farmers' Market opens in the middle of April
7) The days get longer
8) The flowers start blooming
9) Knowing I don't have to shovel the driveway for another 8 or 9 months
10) Knowing summer vacation is just around the corner

Monday, March 21, 2011

Vericon Part Three

Wrapping things up...

I bought three mounted posters by Sarah Clemens (you have to scroll down a bit to see the actual pictures.) All three are in the "Magnus and Loki" series and are beautifully painted in addition to being adorably cute.

We went to a concert by Sassafras. They weren't very polished, and they were sometimes horribly out of tune, but they also had some wonderful moments of power and humor. I bought both of their CDs as a gesture of support. I really want them to finish up the Baldur Song Cycle and get it published.

I hit the Harvard Book Store just before it closed on Saturday night and bought four books. I'll talk more about them as I finish reading them.

Brandon Sanderson gave a really thoughtful keynote speech and was remarkably patient with his fans. I've heard that some really popular writers can be jerks - he definitely wasn't one of them.

We saw The Summer Wars which did not quite live up to its billing ("Spirited Away meets Ghost in the Shell!") but we did both enjoy it. I tend to find anime depictions of small children incredibly irritating, and this movie may have set a new level for that.

We talked ourselves out of buying Tales of Earthsea because the DVD set didn't include BlueRay.

We had a delicious quick lunch at The Sabra Grill and got wonderful bubble tea at The Boston Tea Stop.

On the drive home, we stopped at Minado for an amazing sushi buffet. I had to force myself to stop eating after two giant plates of food. It's quite expensive but if you love sushi and go hungry, it's absolutely worth the money.

safely home!

I am safely home from Vericon XI, and I will post more about it later.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Vericon Part Two

Had another great day at Vericon. Went to three interesting talks and bid on some artwork.

Had a lovely breakfast at Au Bon Pain, but next time I will get my lox sandwich made without wasabi sauce: it was just too strong for that early in the morning. Had a great lunch at Tanjore - their buffet is varied and plentiful and we also were able to try a new form of chaat: Dahi Batata Poori. It's these little puffs that have been broken open on top and filled up with cooked potato, lentils, tomato, yogurt, and tamarind sauce. I would absolutely order these again.

Went to see "Battle:LA" which was surprising well-done. I appreciated the director's decision to make the battle scenes comprehensible: at all times I pretty much understood where the major players were with respect to each other. That said, this movie is all about the adrenaline; character development is minimal.

Then had a great, late dinner at 9 Tastes Thai. They had a fabulous array of vegan options and we left stuffed but not overstuffed, if you know what I mean.

The only lousy part of the day was the bubble tea I got from Dado Tea. It was almost tasteless and the tapioca balls were clumped together, making them impossible to slurp up the straw.

All told, I'd give today about a 9.5 out of 10.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Vericon Part One

I'm at Vericon.

Thus far I have bought artwork, ogled hand-spun yarn (but not actually purchased any), and heard a lively panel discussion by Catherine Asaro, Brandon Sanderson, Holly Black, and Sarah Smith. I also ate really great sushi at Takemura Japanese Restaurant which, unfortunately, doesn't seem to have a resident website.

Tomorrow I hope to watch anime, attend more panels, and eat Vietnamese food.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

FO: Mittens for Matt

I finally gritted my teeth and finished the second thumb.

This is based loosely on Pattern #11 from Mostly Mittens by Charlene Schurch. I had to rewrite the pattern because my yarn was much thicker than the one called for in the pattern. (I will not do this again. What a pain in the #$%)

Yarn: Cascade 220
Needles: Size 3 wooden (I used the "two circulars" technique)
Time to complete: almost nine months. I got most of the way through one mitten in July 2010, then decided I didn't like the top section, and put it away. I then ripped it out, redid it, and then finished the second mitten all in the past month.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Just missing one thumb

About nine months after I started them, the Mittens for Matt are finally nearly completion!

As you can see, I just have to knit the second thumb and block them.

Details when I actually have a FO.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

10 on Tuesday: ten favorite kinds of pie

Oh, I love this topic! My FIL makes great pies and I've slowly been learning the tricks of the trade.

1) Apple pie: the classic, warm with cinnamon and nutmeg and maybe a little sharp cheddar on the side...

2) Peach-blueberry pie: a FIL favorite. Actually better cold than warm.

3) Cherry pie: another FIL favorite. He used to leave the pits in the cherries but since I joined the family I've made it my job to pit the cherries for him.

4) Amandelspijs Banketstaaf: Dutch almond pie, which was a staple of my childhood but I'd forgotten about since we moved away from NY. (There was a Dutch bakery two towns over from us... also a terrific Italian bakery three towns the other way.) This is what I made yesterday for Pi Day.

5) Lemon Meringue Pie: I never get my meringue right so I depend upon FIL to make this for us.

6) Key Lime Pie: never make it myself, but FIL knocks this one out of the park.

7) Cranberry Pecan Pie: my colleague AJ introduced me to this concept and I've never gone back to pure pecan. That cup of chopped (fresh) cranberries adds tartness, depth, and interest to the pie. This pie, sometimes in bar form, is my go-to baked good for Winter Solstice celebrations.

8) Boston Cream Pie: I've never made it myself, but this was one of the few desserts that my Grandmother (may she rest in piece) could reliably produce. Thinking of it still brings back fond memories of her.

9) Pumpkin Pie: I can't believe I almost forgot to put this in my list! I only make it once a year, for Thanksgiving, but I treasure every slice of it. A little fresh whipped cream and freshly grated nutmeg make all the difference here.

10) Mock-Chicken Pot Pie: well, I also love the real thing, but I'm flexitarian so I'll go for the meat-free version in my official list.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Happy Pi Day!

In honor of Pi Day, I baked a pie:

This is an almond pastry which the author says is called "banket" but a more knowledgeable source says is properly termed "Amandelspijs Banketstaaf."

Next time, I should not put the pastry on the top shelf of the oven - as you can clearly see, I burned the sugar topping.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Saw Rango last night, which is part of why I forgot to post.

Pretty much loved it, although the first ten minutes didn't entrance my kids.

Yikes! Forgot to post!

I had a whole post in my head about how lovely it will be to have daylight at the end each day, rather than at the beginning when I'm still trying to sleep... and I was so worried about losing the hour in the morning that I went to bed without posting it.

Damn. Foiled on day #71.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Books of February (and early March)

Prador Moon by Neal Asher: another in his series about The Polity, this one is set well before any of his other novels. It's really a long novella and therefore comes across as a bit choppy, but since Mr. Asher usually tends to be overly prolix, I found it refreshing. (U-cap... stands for Up Close and Personal) As with all Neal Asher novels, this is only recommended to those who like their SF brisk and bloody.

Trylle Trilogy by Amanda Hocking: I can fall for a marketing ploy just as quickly as the next book-obsessed person armed with an E-reader. Truthfully, I'm glad I didn't pay $7.99 per book for each of the trilogy; I think I shelled out a total of $8.50 and that felt about right. The series could have used a more vigilant editor, but Ms. Hocking is a great story-teller. I definitely plan to try her vampire and zombie series the next time I need some light reading.

A Sleeping Life by Ruth Rendell: a gentle mystery with confusions, misdirections, and many meditations upon a woman's place in the world. I guessed the ending pretty early on, but my mind was already trending in that direction for other reasons, so I think this was still a good novel.

Harbinger of the Storm by Aliette de Bodard: sequel to Servant of the Underworld, and not quite as good. The focus moves off the main character's family and into the political arena; while it's still well-told and nicely paced, I just wasn't as concerned with the fate of the Mexica Empire as I had been with the fate of the man's brother and sister.

Of Beetles and Angels by Mawi Asgedom: I read this book as a favor to a friend, who is friends with the author. I thought the book was moving and captivating, but I really wish it had been longer. It's a memoir of a young boy who goes from illiterate Ethiopian refugee to Harvard graduate.

Dark Mirrors by Jo Putney: a very nice YA fantasy, half of it set in 1803 and the other half in 1940. I know two sequels are in the works and I plan to read both of them as they arrive.

And that's my round-up for the recent past! I'm currently half-way through another Neal Asher book and I have a pile of other fantasies waiting to be read.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Another cold... bleah...

Well, yesterday I thought it was horrible hay fever, but I now know better.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

FO: Bella's mittens with many modifications

Details: Berkshire Bulky in color Dusty Rose
size 8 DPNs

Modifications: started on row 16 of the pattern. Added 4 more stitches (that's two ribs) in circumference, because the recipient's hand is wider than mine.

Verdict: well, the weather warmed up just in time to render these mostly useless, but her birthday is over the weekend so I think she'll still appreciate them.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

10 on Tuesday: ten favorite smells

1) vanilla
2) cardamom
3) cinnamon
4) orange
5) lime
6) freshly cooked white rice
7) freshly baked bread
8) warm honey on freshly baked bread (they really are different smells!)
9) happy, fairly clean dog (NOT freshly washed dog - bleah! - but just a dog that hasn't sat or rolled in anything awful.)
10) chocolate

Monday, March 7, 2011


Look what I made!

Marmalade! (with two Meyer lemons, a gigantic orange, and a lime.)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Green Smoothies

I was very inspired to Lolly's post about green smoothies, and while I feared my old Black-n-Decker blender might not be able to handle the load, I went ahead tried all three of her recipes.

What I've learned: I cannot eat raw kale.

No matter how it was disguised by the other ingredients, I couldn't force myself to drink more than a single swallow. The texture was a turnoff, but even worse was the smell!

I'll cook the remaining kale for dinner tonight. We do fine together after it's been stir-fried with some garlic and ginger.

I went ahead and tried the recipes with spinach as the main green. First two? No luck... my poor DH was stuck drinking both of them after I couldn't handle it.

But I finally got some sprouts at the market and tried her Sweet Sprouts recipe (subbing spinach for the kale, and frozen pineapple for the frozen peaches) and... it's not bad. Now, mind you, I'm not promising that I'll make it ever again. But at least I'm drinking my 1/2 of it this time.

Next question on my mind: how long will I stay full?

Friday, March 4, 2011

How I'm spending March

After much internal debating, I decided that March will be my month in which I try various elimination diets to see if I can do something about my near-constant state of sinus pressure and lethargy. I've spent the first week eliminating corn, which seems to have helped my digestive system to a rather remarkable degree. Starting Sunday, I'll also be eliminating dairy. I have to eat up the leftover raviolis and pizza and drink the last bit of lactaid milk before then...

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Pimms #1

is delicious. If you ever see some in the store, buy it! Serve over ice with seltzer and lemonade.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Potholders? Do I dare?

A few days ago Grumperina posted about the annual crocheted cotton potholder swap, and I'm so tempted... you see, crochet was my original fiber-art, long before I fell for knitting. I never got much past the point of making afghans and scarves in crochet, but I can read basic directions and make a motif come out more-or-less-square.

The problem is that I don't think I own ANY cotton yarn, and so this would require some hasty yarn shopping. (Actually that's not a problem!) The true problem is that I still have almost a year's backlog of knitting projects that I owe various people:

Mittens for my cousin-in-law (90% done)
Mittens for MH (70% done)
Socks for my mother (30% done)
Mittens for CL
Mittens for PC
Socks for SS
Mittens for JN
Baby sweater for HE (good lord, she's almost three already!)
Baby sweater for DS (he's only 13 months.)
Vest for my older son, who's always cold
and I feel like I'm forgetting another sweater somewhere in that list.

So here's the question: how much time will crocheting five potholders take away from my knitting?

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

10 on Tuesday: ten things to like about the month of March

Unlike Carole, I happen to LOVE March... but I have job-specific reasons for saying so, as I will detail below.

Background information: I work at a fairly posh boarding school in New England. Much of what I'm about to describe is unique to this subculture.

1) March means I'm done with my coaching duties! (volleyball in the fall, squash or snowboarding in the winter.) This means I have afternoons and Saturdays free to be with my family. I can't tell whether they or I am more excited by this prospect.

2) March means the snow is melting.

3) March means it's almost baseball season. (In fact, the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues games have already started, and I can catch clips of them.)

4) March means that I have my Spring Break. You may all feel free to hate me: I get three weeks free...

5) so I have time to knit (and possibly crochet some potholders)

6) and I have time to shop for spring clothes

7) and I have time to clean up the house

8) and I have time to read

9) and I have time to cook

10) and finally, March means it's my own personal NaNoWriMo. And seeing as how it's almost noon and I haven't started yet, I'd better get to it.