Monday, December 31, 2007

New Year's Eve (Christmas Eve)

I am not having any angst; I have a head cold, which reduces my brain activity to a tape loop (am I hungry? am I thirsty? can I go back to sleep yet?). I was away from home from about noon on Christmas Eve until yesterday about 6 pm. It was good.

Christmas Eve, I needed to meet Sarah before I went down Boston-ward, as she had left her cell phone here. This was a very good thing, as it got me moving. I made a plum pudding, as I have every year since my father was diagnosed as celiac. I have made some weird ones, particularly the one with a base of grated carrot and potato. Actually, with enough bourbon, sugar, and butter you could probably use shredded newspaper. I have never had one of the ones you make a year in advance, but I usually try to have a bit longer lead time. I looked at the usual recipes and growled. The time I made a recipe that produced about ten pounds of pudding, haunting my fridge until March... No. And nothing with suet.

I realized it was not rocket science; it was indeed, very like a fruit cake, except it was to be steamed, not baked. I took a bowl that was roughly the size I thought the pudding ought to be (I think it was about two and a half quarts), and put raisins, figs (you HAVE to have figs, or the song won't come true), currants, a few dates, some dried apricots, and half a can of chunk pineapple (drained), enough to mostly fill the bowl. I poured bourbon over them, about half a cup, and a little water, and I microwaved it for five minutes to plump the fruit.

I took two cups of gluten free flour (I used 1/2 cornstarch, 3/8 tapioca flour, and 1/8 part fava bean flour), a half- t of salt, 2 t of baking powder, about 2/3 T cinnamon, some grated ginger until I ran out, 2 ground cloves... I had used up all the cardamom already and I forgot all about buying allspice) and ran it in the food processor with the steel blade, adding nearly 2 sticks of butter gradually.

Then I poured the fruit mixture into the dry ingredients, buttered the bowl I wanted to cook the pudding in (one of those medium blue Pyrex jobs), and stirred madly. The baking powder would begin to lose CO2 as soon as the liquid hit it, so the faster I could get it blended I hoped the lighter the result.

I poured it into the blue bowl, covered it with well-crimped tin foil, and set it on a dishtowel into a pressure cooker half-full of water. The dishtowel acted as a trivet, so the rolling bubbles wouldn't knock the bowl over and make noise. With the ends of the towel lapped over the tinfoil I had handles, so that I could gingerly pick the bowl out of the pressure cooker when it was done.

Brought it to a boil, put the lightest weight on the stem, and pressure-cooked it for 20 minutes. I would have preferred longer (30?) but I had to get to Concord to meet Sarah, who called and reminded me to bring her cell phone... And I washed the dishes and packed my bag for 5 days and put the presents in the car, and zoomed off for Concord, returning after a mile or so to pick the pudding up and put in the back of the car.

I reached Boston about four. Both my kids, my daughter's boyfriend, and my ex and I had Christmas Eve at my parents' (with my parents). I spent some time in the bedroom wrapping frantically. We met my son's OTHER girlfriend (he has one his own species, the estimable Kimberly), which I had thought was funny thing to call his iPhone, only apparently Kimberley thought it was his other girlfriend too. I knew it was a meaningful relationship and Lord, what a cute gadget.

My father makes a bean thing involving sausage (except for the vegetarian's portion) and gluten-free bread crumbs. It is delicious, and he has made it enough years now that the smell of cassoulet and salad dressing mean Christmas Eve to me. I ate too much and then we had Marron glacee puree in chocolate shells. I ate too much and then we opened some presents, because my father's father was a newspaperman who had to work on Christmas, and in his house people opened their gifts the night before so he could be with them.

My father had ordered an iPod Nano for my mother from my son, who is an Apple maniac and salesman. Sam had had it engraved for her (ask YOUR Apple retailer...) and the present I had for her was a little speaker from It is amazingly good for its size (a golf-ball). My mother's requested gift from her grandson was that he teach her how to use it. He was momentarily flustered to hear she had no music on her computer, but recovered from the shock quickly. It was fun watching them figure it all out. We were all pleased with our gifts, although Ellie decided that it would be the better part of valor not to put the Colosseufrom m that her boyfriend gave her together just yet. She did assemble a troop of Roman soldiers, who spent Christmas dinner attacking the roast beast.

Then Ellie and I went to her father's and my son went back to his and Kimberly's digs and my parents tried to get their apartment back together.

And my wishes for all of you to have a happy, interesting, secure, healthy, solvent,amusing New Year.

More tomorrow, when maybe I'll be able to breathe.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Not too bad really

Here are this year's knitting project, according to this blog:

My father's socks (April to Dec)

toe of Trekking socks.

Latvian mitten (in progress, honest) Frog Tree Alpaca

Ellie's sweater (needs fulling) Noro Silver Thaw)

Ellie's Twizzle glittens (nearly done)

Mountain Goat socks for me in honor of Jessica (2 weeks maybe from cast-on to on-foot)

My mother's socks, from May to October, Lorna's Laces

Kimono sweater (in progress, really), multi-multi-color Noro

felted, needlefelted, embroidered tea cozy (roughly November through November)

magenta grayish socks for me, Mountain Goat (really lovely. One is missing).

about five duckies (the most fun ever)

soft baby-colored wristlets for Ellie, and most of a second pair for me, finished and worn and the second set found in debris in living room, Angora Seacoast Hand-dyed.

Cascade vest with Valley yarn stripes, finished, needs armscyes redone

pair of Road to China wristlets for my mom, finished, appreciated

one very large baby bootie (lost interest)

false entrelac alpaca scarf for Doug (Dec.- Jan) Rittrata

The glittens I am making for Ellie? I decided to do the mittenish overbit in twined knitting. Feels wonderful, fun to do, takes forever. Could be worse.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

well past Late Advent

Doug has gone to be with New Girlfriend (I really like her, she seems fond of him and of me and my cats and not to be appalled by the fact that my house looks like something you might call DYS about, except there are no children trying to live here. As far as I know). I got Doug a decent Christmas present.

Ellie was here for some days and left this morning to be with her boyfriend's family for awhile. She wrapped many of the presents that I have not bought enough of, even though I am on speaking terms (so far as I know) with everyone in my family, which is not something to take for granted. I have made MUCH fruitcake and yes, you can use masa harina, just use less than 2 cups, as it soaks up too much of the sweetness. Fruitcake with peanut butter is so tasty. I am not sure if I have got her a decent Christmas present.

Lisa is here. She is the DVM/ThD hard-drinking, hard-rockin' friend from div school who comes for Christmas, thank God, and we all like her. (She drinks like an archaeologist, which explains why I looked tired so much of last week). Lisa is selfishly leaving to visit her grandmother. I got her a decent Christmas present.

I will see all of them again in the coming week. Tonight, though, to prevent me from having alcohol-and-humans withdrawal, Sarah is coming over to encourage me to wrap presents or put away laundry. I suspect knitting or spinning will take place instead. I already gave her a decent Christmas present. She also gave me one, a really nice bowl she made in ceramics that enhances any eating experience with which it is involved.

I need to go to Concord and see if I can get my father a decent Christmas present. I really like him, but he is difficult to buy for. He is getting Socks, thank the warm footed-knitting Goddess, as is my mother. My mother, whom I also really like, is easier to buy for and is getting a decent present, but not as exciting as I would like. I also like my aunt, who is not getting much in the way of decent Christmas presents. My son and his girlfriend are getting all right Christmas presents but I don't know if they will like them.

I am very fortunate in having this many people I like and getting to see several of them fairly often.

There are a couple of people in the world whom I would like to give indecent Christmas presents, but their wives would object. Neither they nor I can have everything.

Is it me or has it not snowed this many times before Christmas in about 30 years?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

so very fine

Go look at these weavers! Really, not just the textile freaks, all of you:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Fruitcake weather

Of course, some places it's ALWAYS fruitcake weather. And none the worse for it. I stayed in my warm bed watching it snow a LOT (say 18"?) all day and finishing, God help us, my shopping, except for last minute guilt and ideas and oh yeah, I was going to make some silver things...

Sarah came on Saturday and we did not make fruitcake or decorate the tree.
I did finish my father's socks!!!!! We also took the sweetly non-materialist, Wal-Mart-rejecting Sarah to The Shopping Center ten days or so before Christmas. I had suggested she might find it a Bit Much but she had not thought what I might mean.

We went to Target and bought MORE plastic boxes to organize the loom room (which is getting so I am more familiar with my stash and less ashamed, even if it is an awful lot), and she got a fluffy blanket because the peer pressure was so intense. Only hers is brown. Mine is red. I got it because Heather (none of you know Heather, she is at Beloit and one of the best-loved people in New England archaeology) waxed so poetic about hers I could hardly help myself. Viral blanket memes. Willow says I must take her picture on it soon, perhaps after her belly fur grows back after the spay.

Sarah had a touch of the vapours from the crowds and sheer pressure of plastic and Chinese imports, but we made our escape. I still love Target's lack of Muzak, and they had plenty of cashiers.

Then we went to the supermarket, the beadstore for findings for Doug, the Co-op, and finally the Elegant Ewe, where I bought Sarah and me some Noro sock yarn because it is so exciting that it exists. Only I think it may be splitty. And I had vowed that I would do more more Size One needles knitting. Well, except for what's in my stash. And what I can't resist.

Last week (exactly, on Saturday, when Doug was letting his pack sniff approvingly at his new girlfriend, confusingly named Sarah C) Sarah (D) washed up here without a project and I offered her yarn. She looked at what I was willing to offer her and asked why one EARTH I had chosen this color, or THIS. At first the colors horrified her. Then she decided to make me socks and became quite reconciled to the colors as she realized they matched our drink of choice. She is really fast; here they are (there may be one more, or not):
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket. They are pleasantly warm and I think they look like Christmas house-elf socks.

Today,as I said, I stayed in bed for long time, fiddling with my computer and stimulating the economy. Doug brought me slices of warm quiche and disappeared to shovel. I spent money I do not have and hope I have fun in New York (I need to get out of town. New York is out of town, all right. Three nights in Manhattan is not cheap).

Eventually I hauled my lazy carcass out of the Amazon website and made fruitcake, which I will need to do again tomorrow, particularly if I eat all of them tonight.

Gluten-free, sugar free Delicious Fruitcake. Makes ten little foil loaf pans.

Set oven to 300.
Chop up 8 oz of apricots, 4 oz of dates, add a pound of raisins
and another 4 oz of whatever fruit – dried cherries are good, or dried pineapple, possibly crystallized ginger, or more raisins, or dried currants.

Grate as much fresh ginger as you like, if you haven’t used it as fruit (probably you should stop at a T, and use less if you’re using dried powdered), 1 T ground cinnamon, maybe some ground cloves (go lightly here) and nutmeg, maybe some cardamom.

Microwave these all in LARGE bowl for 5 minutes with the contents of one can of concentrated apple juice, reconstituted to 4 ½ cups. Or more juice and less water if you like. Maybe use some bourbon. One of the reasons one uses alcohol in things like this is that it frees up the volatile oils in the spices. Another is to share in the bootlegger mystique of Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory.

Some might say you should let this sit overnight. Probably not necessary. Allow to cool a little before you add four eggs (beaten, ideally) and ¾ c of vegetable oil (I wouldn’t recommend olive).

Food-process 8 oz of almonds until very fine (builder’s sand or better). This will make about 3 c of almond meal.

Take 2 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour (say 1 ½ c of corn starch and ½ c of tapioca and maybe some bean, or GF mix, or if gluten is not a concern you could use whole wheat. One of these days I will use masa harina.

Add a T of baking powder to the dry ingredients and stir them well. Combine with the wet ingredients.

Stir in 2 cups of walnuts and one of pecans, according to taste. For it is written ‘nutty as a fruitcake,’ and who are we to gainsay it?

Stir dry ingredients into wet. It will be gooey. Add more liquid if it is not. Try to distribute the nuts/fruits and the relatively liquid batter evenly among your pans. You can also make cupcakes or proper loaves, but you will have to adjust the cooking time accordingly.

Top each cake with a perfect pecan or walnut or candied cherry, and bake for 20 minutes and then look at them. Maybe another 20 minutes; they will shrink from the sides and bounce slightly back in the center if you touch them. You might add a t of bourbon or whiskey on each when they are hot out of the oven.

Friday, December 14, 2007

White, quite white

If you drive on an unplowed road behind someone who may be running out of gas, have ice on the wipers, be very scared (charitable thoughts supplied by my mother) and is taking caution beyond practicality (20 is not too fast, and many would consider even 25 quite responsible, so 10? TEN?) and it is dark and the flakes are flying hard
you eventually start wondering is you aren't supposed to be driving THAT way and feel vertiginously as though you are falling into the sky.

Or it may just remind you of an occasion when the Millennium Falcon succeeded in jumping light-speed (oooh this one is even better, though not like snow very much).

Subarus RULE. New Hampshire State Bird. No problems with my driveway.

While worrying about Terry Pratchett, I found my way to Neil Gaiman's blog, and somewhere he found out about reviews for some of the more obscure Amazon offerings. We all knew people had too much time on their hands, but actually I would rather they wrote reviews than bought the inflatable sheep.

I am having Stockholm syndrome with my father's socks. The mini cables (2 per sock) have four untwisted knit stitches and they are the BEST. I daydream about 4wpi stockinette and the k2b, p1 ribbing of the maybe 18 wpi very beautiful and no, I can't find the yarn on the WEBS website, grows slowly. Someday I may finish these.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Terry Pratchett seems to have a rare form of early onset Alzheimer's.

Since I have been rereading all of his books as a way to cope with life in Novemeber and December of 2007, I'm not happy at having the prospect of somethign else to be philosophical about. And I can't imagine how I would take such a diagnosis; we were ruling out hang-gliding only this evening at lab.

The closest thing I had to a spiritual thought about Asterix's death was that he had no doubts about loving the world and therefore trying to do one's ecological best was something one could do for him. I think with luck and perhaps good drugs, I will have more Pratchett to use to help me cherish people with, but it would be nice to have some good news.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Catch-up Saturday?

It has been a long week. Asterix died on Tuesday.

He had been very old for quite a while: I think he quit going for walks in the woods in the fall of 2006. Being stone-deaf for probably the same length of time cannot have been much fun, and he had cataracts, too. He had an excellent Thanksgiving mugging my mother for smoked oysters, and the week after he assaulted an innocent endtable (or possibly, saved its life) extracting a shrimp-tail armed with weapons of mass destruction (he ate it for all of us). After that he lost his appetite, except for a chicken liver or so.
When he stopped wanting to eat even them, or cream, or cottage cheese, I knew the end was coming. Friday I did take him to the vet who charged me $90 for blood tests they have still not called to tell me about (they will hear about this), and he was so far out of his depth I realized again he could not last long. He had increasing trouble walking, but apart from being irritated about this he was not in distress. So we followed him around the house and stroked him, and he walked fewer places and said Yarp, and on Tuesday morning he nestled his head in my hand for a while and then I had to go to work. He was quite cold by the time Doug got home, so I think he passed very soon.

Doug and I cremated him in the firepit with more wood than you would think and a lot of olive oil. I don't recommend this for the faint-hearted (start with really a LOT more wood than you think will be needed, on all sides of your corpse). I cried a lot. My grief much better now that he has finished dying; although it reminded me of my (good) home-birth experiences, the same open-endedness was wearing. Now I just miss him.

We have lost Mena in April or May, Digger in June? and now Asterix. Compared to a woman on the Council of Churches whose house has burned down, been hospitalized for a near-by lightning strike, and just lost her brother, it's not been too bad (insert your favorite story about Iraq here).

We have three cats now, all under four. Toby just turned a year, Marten is probably now two and a half, and Willow is somewhere around two. I wish Willow would stop stalking the boys; they are terrified of her. I have acquired one of the diffusers of calming pheromones some blogger I trust and my daughter recommended, but the house is too scattered to know where I should put it. I would need about five and between Christmas and all (taxes, the 108K-mile car tune-up,spaying, $90 of USELESS BLOODWORK, taxes,and wild living) even one seemed expensive. (My bedroom just won the toss. I gave Toby and Willow crunchy treats and plugged it in next to them (maybe I should have bought the spray and just poured it over their heads in violation of the federal usage guidelines). Willow relaxed but then Marten came in and war broke out.)

The snow is beautiful and it is really cold. I could put one of the 2005 photos in for snow but it's pretty much white, with decorative edging on the trees. Sometimes the sun comes out and it is so lovely it's trite.

Do none of these women (Harlot, Juno, TooMuchWool, Julia, Norma, just look at my links in past posts, you know who they are) I admire do anything but knit? I know they don't, they travel, and cook, and go to work, and so forth. Some of them tidy their houses. I do go to work (my boss is away. I am a calmer, gentler, less productive, much happier person)but I also sometimes read and apparently fritter my life away, or I would not be worried about finishing one pair of socks (and a glitten or mlove). DOOMED.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Snowing like mad

We have about 6" on the ground and it's very pretty. Sadly, when the Concord schools close so does my place of work, so I am home enjoying the peace and quiet and working on my father's socks. If I finish them I shall be probably be as pleased as my father will be; I look at the Yarn Harlot's Christmas knitting list and am astonished and perhaps horrified. But then, she's dedicated, and perhaps she doesn't allow her friends to strong-arm her into teaching a needlefelt class like Sarah did me and Doug yesterday.

Actually, and not surprisingly, I had a great time. We had four students, who behaved well, did not stick the needles into themselves (or worse, one another), and to my surprise a four-hour workshop was pretty good. We had a lunch break and everyone had time to make something and get ideas to take home with their felt and needles and a bit of roving. Doug is much better at some practical things, like bringing scissors, and he also could be firm. I was the good cop and kept telling them not to worry. I was pleased because I managed to write a relatively informative handout and to remember to bring the silk spacedyed roving, which looks very very nice on wool.

Afterwards Sarah took us back to her home for soup. She needs an orange hat so she won't be mistaken for a deer in the woods (deer wear other colors, maybe they are Republic-of-Irish?)

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You may not be able to tell, but she is making the same hat as the one she is wearing. It will be superb. And Bright enough, I hope.

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What we made in felting class
The bluish donut-shaped thing on the left is a base for embroidery and looked exactly like the picture the student wanted to make.

The water wasn't too cold, once Sarah threw me in.