More Thinky Thoughts

“There is much I don’t understand . . . Much the world does not understand. But we should not be afraid.  How else will we discover the answers?”

An uplifting quote from a graphic novel I’m reading*.  Thinky thoughts with lovely artwork = Win/win.

I went to rehab Monday (treadmill 30 min, recumbent bike 20 min), stopped briefly at my mom’s house to lend moral support for the plumbing disaster that thankfully didn’t materialize, shopped all over Wal-Mart, shopped all over Market Street to get the things Wal-Mart didn’t have, schlepped it all home and put 95% of it away.  I managed to muster the energy to eat something, crawled into bed about 9 p.m., crashed, burned, and slept through most of Tuesday.

Baked three small potatoes the other night.  Wash the potato with a brush, dry it with a cloth, smear the skin liberally with olive oil and bake at 360º for 1 hour.  When you bake them in the oven with the olive oil, the skins become so soft you can eat the whole tater.  I bake them three at a time because energy efficiency. The oil baked into the skins seals in the goodness and allows them to be refrigerated for up to a week without losing their moist, flaky texture.  I like to slice them open and lay them out in a soup bowl, throw all kinds of toppings (finely chopped meat, drained vegetables, butter, maybe a little Ranch dressing, or whatever else is handy) on them, top with sprinkle cheese and nuke in the microwave.  I just finished hoovering one up moments ago, in fact.  Serious noms.

Monday the 21st is my last session of cardiac rehab before Xmas, with two more sessions left in this annus horribilis.  I’ve got three more Julekuler to knit before Monday (little tokens of appreciation for the cardiac rehab therapists).  Won’t be hard.  Snuggle into my knitting knook, deploy a lap robe, conjure up a little music, a little yarn, a little time . . .  A pleasant interlude to stoke up on some serious Christmas spirit.

Next week, I get to mom-clean** the house and orchestrate a Christmas dinner for two.  As I have mentioned on several occasions previously, my threshold for critical mess*** is a good deal higher than that of other members of my immediate family, and roundtoits have been a little thin on the ground of late.  But now I have Bluetooth earbuds, and there is with 24/7 psytrance music.  Yowsa.  I find I can get busy better when there is appropriate music to get out and push. . .

Next week (Tuesday, in fact), I also get the long awaited crown seated which marks the final installment of the dental implant process that has been a work in progress for lo, these many moons.  I’ll have seven molars again, just in time for Christmas Dinner!  Oh, frabjous day.

I really, really need to haul the fold-up banquet table out from under my bed, get out my blocking squares and T-pins, the steam iron, an extension cord, a couple bath towels, a tea towel, and my spray bottle and block some shawls.   These two are among the three made from acrylic yarn that I need to kill.  Whether I will or not remains to be seen.  As I mentioned, roundtoits have been rather thin on the ground of late.

Got my name in print.  Thursday, I received my hardback copy of Trader’s Leap by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee, in which my name appears in the forward as one of the Mighty Tyop Hunters, as I helped proofread the E-ARC**** for oopsies, fingerfumbles, and say, what?’s — which I would have done anyway for no other reason than to express my gratitude for the many years of Liaden Universe reading pleasure I’ve gotten from the books of this literary dynamic duo. They are among the few authors whose books I keep in dead tree editions for post-apocalyptic rereading because, unlike ebooks, they require neither electricity nor technology to operate.   Space opera at its finest.

Two weeks left in 2020.  Thirty two days left before we get that dumpster fire out of the Oval Office.  There is a vaccine!  The VA will be getting and giving the Moderna flavor of it.  I may have to drive to Amarillo to get it, but I will be able to get it.  I continue to hope against Hope that the light we are glimpsing faintly at the end of this long, dark tunnel is not another train.

*Caveat: The one this quote came from is for the open-minded reader.

**Clean enough for you is not necessarily clean enough for your mom.  Still, a house ought to be mom-cleaned at least once a year. The only clean cleaner than mom-clean is feng shui clean, which happens in the week before Chinese New Year.

*** critical mess -- the point at which your inability to stand the mess any longer sets off a chain-reaction of house cleaning. 

****E-ARC - Advanced Reader's Copies are nowadays sent out as ebooks.

Thinky Thoughts and Bowls

“The great secret that all old people share,” wrote Doris Lessing, “is that you really don’t change in seventy or eighty years. Your body changes, but you don’t change at all. And that, of course, causes great confusion.”

I love that quote.  It’s spot on.

I paired the Bluetooth earbuds with my iPhone and I’ve been listening to the Suburbs of Goa channel of the SomaFM internet radio station all evening.  (SomaFM has so much music in one place! I love it so much!)  Energized by the music, I folded unmentionables and other assorted laundry, put the dressing in the oven to cook, read blogs at the computer, worked a puzzle at Jigsaw Planet, all with my iPhone on charge in the bedroom and me wandering all over the house with music in my ears.  No dangling earbud wires to catch on stuff, no need to make sure I have a pocket or pouch to carry my phone.  Joy electric.  I have a set of cordless infrared headphones for the TV, but infrared is line of sight only, and the moment you get out of sight, you get an earful of white noise.   As inexpensive as these Bluetooth earbuds are, maybe Santa will bring me a pair for the TV for Crimmers.

Sunday night’s supper was the end of the chili casserole.  Good to the last elbow.  Monday, I went to the cabinet to get a bowl for some cereal and guess what.  The cupboard was bare.  Fortunately, the dishwasher wasn’t, and had finished its cycle some hours ago.






Now I’ve started in on the cornbread dressing, chicken breast meat, and cranberry sauce that are standing in for the “leftovers” I didn’t get to have because we ate Thanksgiving dinner at friends’.  I’m having them now.   So good.

Speaking of bowls, I have bowls of knitting scattered all over the house . . . Guess that means I have my knitting mojo back.

Two bowls by the computer.

A second iPouch with earbud pocket in progress and a bowl of yarn for Christmas balls (Julekuler).

The large rectangular shawl in the big basket with the reader’s shrug stalled at the start of the lower sleeve decreases.

On the Edge

There was this shawl on Ravelry, really nice, but if you notice, it’s got four panels.  I count myself with the Chinese and the Atevi in really not liking the number four.  Three or five, but not four.  So I reworked the pattern and came up with a five-panel shawl in stockinette. 

Allow me to digress:  When you work a knit stitch, you pull the stitch loops toward you.  When you work a purl stitch, you pull the stitch loop away from you. Using various combinations of those stitches is how you get pattern and texture in your knitted fabric.

Stockinette is a stitch where all the loops of all the rows are pulled toward the “right” side of the work, the side that will be facing outward.  (Most machine knitted garments are knitted in stockinette because it’s smooth and pretty)  In order to get all the loops to go in the same direction on a flat piece of knitting, you have to purl the “wrong” side rows, which is every other row.   Stockinette is a piece of cake to work in the round because you’re knitting in a spiral, and the right side of the work is always facing toward you,  so you never purl.  But when you’re working a big flat shawl that will eventually have 480 stitches in a row, that’s a heck of a lot of purling!

It doesn’t matter which nationality your knitting is — English, American, Continental, Norwegian, Russian, Peruvian, whatever.  Purling is harder than knitting, both mechanically and in terms of time spent and muscle energy expended.  I had knitted about four skeins into the piece and I stalled out.  I tried combination knitting, but that didn’t help.  The piece sat in time out for almost a year.  Then, the other day, I said, that’s it.  I frogged that sucker, sat down at the ‘puter and reworked the pattern for garter stitch.

Garter stitch is knit every row, so the loops on each row go in the opposite direction to the loops on the previous row.  It makes a thicker, warmer fabric, which is ideal for something like a winter shawl.  Garter stitch is also a knubbly pattern with a lot of texture.

In the original pattern, the body was worked in Stockinette and the top border was worked in Garter stitch because, in addition to being a PITA because of all the purling, Stockinette curls.  It’s just the nature of the beast.  When I revised the pattern so that the body was worked in Garter, I also revised the 3-stitch border worked in Garter to 5 stitches worked in k1, p1 ribbing.  This gives the piece an interesting textural dimension because k1, p1 ribbing is horizontally elastic and draws back up when you release the tension on it.  That’s why this ribbing is popular for cuffs, necks and the brow bands of hats.  But here, only one edge is attached to anything, so the ribbing doesn’t get stretched.  It also doesn’t curl, either horizontally or vertically and makes the border thicker than the body, which also lends an interesting texture.

The rays are a single stitch of stockinette.  Every fourth row, you increase 10 stitches by working a yarn over at the beginning and end of each section.  This is what it looks like wrong side up.  I started it on the 60-inch circular needle I’ll eventually need to finish it, which is kinda overkill at this point, but that’s OK.

Once you get going on it, it kinda looks like a PacMan, but I think that will give it a more cape-like drape.  It moves along right smartly and the repeats are very easy to memorize.  I wrote the pattern for both the Stockinette and the Garter stitch version.  I haven’t posted it on my knitting blog, but if anybody is interested in it, shoot me an email, and I’ll send you the pattern in PDF format.  This goes for any of my patterns that have been featured in this blog.

Comfort Food

There’s a chili casserole I make with Wolf Brand Chili with Beans (2 cans), pasta (typically either elbow macaroni or spaghetti), half a white onion chopped, a small can of sliced black olives and a small can of Del Monte mixed vegetables.  When I eat a bowl of it, I sprinkle Sargento Mexican 4 Cheeses on top and zot it in the microwave.

I mention it because, as you may have guessed, I just made one. The hardest part of making it is boiling the pasta.  The rest is mostly just opening cans — and chopping up half a white onion.  It’s kinda like Frito Pie only with pasta.  I mention it also because its a tasty, hearty, fast (and cheap) one-dish meal.  You can put this casserole together in about 20 minutes and feed six off it if some of them are children and/or you practice portion control.  You don’t have to bake it; everything in it is already as cooked as it needs to be.  Just sprinkle cheese on it and heat it up in the microwave.

I cooked a whole package of elbow macaroni but only used about half of it in the casserole.  (I’ll eat the remaining pasta with some undiluted Progresso Beef Pot Roast  soup on top — I can get two meals out of one can of soup that way.)  If you use spaghetti, you need to break the sticks of spaghetti into thirds before you boil it.

This is what I call a “template dish” — you don’t have to use the exact ingredients I use.  Just whatever brand of canned chili is available (with or without beans), and cheese of choice.  You can make it with or without the vegetables.  You could use lasagna noodles and layer it like lasagna with mozzarelli, or make it with bow tie pasta or rotini.  You could throw in chopped bell peppers or jalapeños, use green onions as well as or instead of white onions, or use pearl onions.  You could top it with Asiago cheese, or sharp cheddar.  Instead of putting the cheese on top, you could dice some Velveta cheese and mix it in.

If you’re a single person or there’s just the two of you, that’s why some lunch meat comes in plastic containers that are too good to throw away.  It’s also why God gave us freezers.  Moi?  I am my father’s daughter.  I’ll eat it for lunch and supper until it’s gone, and relish every bowl of it.