Sunday, October 26, 2008

Bread Success and Knit Knews

O happy day, calloo callay!

Got my ass out of bed at 7:30 to make my shaggy dough using bread flour, yeast, water, and salt. After two less-than-stellar efforts in breadmaking, I wasn't holding out much hope for this go-round. I let the mess rise for the requisite 4 hours, folded it, let it rest for 30 more minutes before plunking it in a hot hot hot dutch oven for 45 minutes. And what did my eyes see through that oven door? A golden-crusted beauty, rustic-y and rough-hewn, waiting to be eaten. First tastes showed a crust that exploded into shards in our mouths, but after letting the loaf think about itself for a while, the crust yielded to hard, chewy perfection. Add to the mix, I got to top it with my homemade butter, thawed from the freezer and melting into its beautiful crumb. Stupid as it sounds, for this Brooklyn girl, such an accomplishment is tantamount to starting a fire with little more than flinty rocks and kindling. Further experimentation awaits.

On the yarn front, more late-breaking news: I AM KNITTING A SCARF!

Sorry, I hope your smelling salts were nearby.

Yes, you read that correctly. Knitting. As in holy crapola.

Don't get me wrong. I still have 146 crochet projects in the works. But I have been struggling with getting to a certain comfort level with the sticks and am determined to do so. I don't think its bad to have more than one language. I don't think there's anything wrong with multiple pairs of shoes. Who doesn't like ordering off the menu once in a while? I mean, how was I supposed to resist this lovely pattern from Lion Brand, beckoning in all its elegance? It does all the lovely things that knitting does so beautifully...
I haven't even cast on all the stitches yet. And who knows when it'll be done? But consider it added to the heaving pile.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Honk if You're Horny!

So hubs and I sojourned up to Rhinebeck yesterday for the annual Sheep & Wool festivities. Traffic to and from was beyond horrible with a net result of more time spent tensed up in the car than at the festival itself. Fellow revelers can attest to the fact that it was colder than a witch's teat, too. Bitch, bitch, bitch.
All that said, the fall colors with ablaze, as my photos prove. And so were the other attendees. It was a little like an Easter Parade, really, with everyone wearing their handmade finery.

Actually, I'm presuming the sock lady above made those. If she did, she should be very proud! And there was luscious yarns a-plenty, too!
And so many ravelry folks! Because of the aforementioned traffic issues, we missed the big meet and greet, I'm sad to say. But I did get what I'd come for: a drop spindle and a bag of Blue-faced Leicester roving with which I will learn to spin my own damn yarn. My dear friend Inga at rockpoolcandy has been luring me to the dark side, as she calls it, and I have caved in with great delight.

But in my search for the perfect spindle, I saw these beauties and had to wipe up the drool:
Now I wish I'd spent more time poking around. I missed a few places this time out, dammit.

And speaking of dammit, I tried to make that same bread as last week. Different yeast, same results. It tastes good enough, but why the hell isn't it rising? Next week, I'm trying the white bread....

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bread, Butter, and Crochet

Howdy! HomesteadHooker here is filling in for SubwayHooker today. A wild hair up my butt encouraged a bit of DIY in the food department, encouraged of course by the relative ease of the tasks at hand versus the wildly superior results.

So above you see the oh-so-cute and oh-so-tasty results of my first foray into the dairy world of buttermaking, using the handy ramekins left over from some lovely St. Marcellin cheese. Three of the above are now in the freezer, one in the butter compartment of the fridge. For those of you anal enough to be keeping score, I do know the photo reveals some buttermilk which I neglected to extricate from the results. Whatever.

As I write this, I am about 1 1/2 hours into the resting phase of the whole-wheat bread, which is slumbering on my kitchen counter. Here's hoping it ends up being good enough for hubsy's and my sammiches for the week. I used demi-god Mark Bittman's recipe for Speedy Whole-Wheat Bread.
Unfortunately, I didn't understand the difference between instant and active dry yeast, so I ended up with the below:

It barely rose at all. Though it tasted good, all whole wheaty and corn mealy and rye-y, it is not the loaf of my dreams, and the sammich cannot be made from this that would satisfy the average human. Unless you were a model and were gonna purge it later anyway. In which case, I go for something far more extravagant.

I did mention crochet in the title, and I am sticking to the promise. Here is the cape now, in all its glory:
Okay, I have to interject something here. Many of you know of my hate relationship with Continental Airlines. Many's the time I've bitched about them for one thing or another. But suddenly, owing to all the travel my job's been sending me on, I am Silver Elite. This means that when I travel, I have the option of a free upgrade to First Class, space and the luck of the draw permitting. Well wouldn't you know that the very first time I clicked this option, I'd be upgraded to First Class. Yes I was! Oh, sweet mother of crap, what a way to travel! Comfortable seats, an edible meal, and all the wine you can swill! SO much nicer than cattle class!

And while I was in this oh-so-enviable position, my very nice seatmate engaged me in conversation about the above cape, which was a very nice way to spend a very comfortable flight, indeed. Said seatmate even had the presence of mind to tap my shoulder to share the extraordinary sunset visible out our window with me! Sunsets are among the Hooker's favorite things, not that this woman would have known that, so I was touched that she had the inclination to share it with me.

Change of topic before I park my ass and crochet the rest of tonight away: As you know, this is our anniversary weekend, so hubsy and I kicked up our heels with a visit yesterday to Brit artist Banky's Pet Shop and Charcoal Grill at 89 7th Avenue South. Thanks to rockpoolcandy for the heads-up on this amazing exhibit! Below, a couple of shots of the shop.
The chimp above is animatronic, and is watching a tv showing two monkeys having sex -- repeatedly. He occasionally touches himself, his eyes blink, follow the action on the screen, and his lips move. His foot is on a crushed beer can, and there is a well-thumbed copy of National Geographic nearby.
Here is Tweety Bird showing the effects of caged living:

And finally, here are two Chicken McNuggets dipping themselves in sauce:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Today is our fifth wedding anniversary. We picked the date of 10/10 because he’s a Brit and we wanted to have a date that read the same way no matter where you were from. At the time we married, we didn’t have much money. He was a recent transplant and as such, was ineligible for work. Oh, and we had a lot of debt. A lot.

While there was no money for an engagement ring, I didn’t really care. I’m not a diamond girl and certainly not much of a traditionalist about those things. If anything, I stare in wonder at some of the big-ass bling I see on the fingers of younger brides, thinking of the stupid hock they’ve entered into to impress who? Her friends? Her mom? Please.

But I digress.

We did want wedding rings, his and hers. I don’t like gold at all, so we went to a local shop in our old neighborhood and picked out a couple of plain, thin, white gold bands. I think we paid $300 for the two of them, including the engraving. Tiffany’s this was not.

We married at the Municipal Building in downtown Manhattan. Lots of friends showed up, mitigating the serious DMV vibe. We were married by a woman who I’d taken for the janitor. It took all of 60 seconds to do the deed. Afterwards, we trooped over to Joe’s Shanghai on Pell Street, where we’d reserved a huge table and shared soup dumplings, Tsingtao, and lots of laughs. My dad was there, not long after one of his surgeries. He declared it the best wedding he’d ever been to.

But back to the rings.
There have been a few times, I’ll admit, where I’d thought about how nice it would be to upgrade the wedding band. Some shop in Soho had some beauts in platinum, a metal I love. We’ve worked hard to get ourselves out of debt and are at the point where we can relax a bit about watching every bloody dime.

So I was looking at my ring the other day. It’s pretty battered, with all sorts of scratches and dings in it now. The shine has dulled a bit and it’s not as smooth as it once was. And it doesn’t help that my penchant for wearing lots of huge rings makes the thin band look even thinner, playing oddly with its proportions.

But I looked at the ring and realized what it really means to me. We were not youngsters when we got married and we’re certainly not youngsters now. The rings have aged right along with us. And when I look at what we’d sacrificed to afford even these two small rings and how far we’ve come since then, I see the rings as a reminder. They represent a promise to each other, a hope for the future, and the struggles all couples face when establishing a life together. The rings have weathered it all right along with us. Their scars are like the hard-won wrinkles and laughlines on our faces. I could no more shine up my ring than shoot botox into my face. I’ve earned my scars and am proud of them.

We live in a society that values youth – shiny, bright, captivating youth. But there is beauty in our scars and in our imperfections. I like to think that Charlie and I have learned a bit from our marriage – to be kinder, more tolerant, more trusting, more loving as the years progress. Our wedding bands are a constant reminder of not only what we’ve sacrificed, but what we’ve gained over the years.

Happy Anniversary, Charlie.

I love you.


Saturday, October 4, 2008

More on Awesome Austin

No, I'm not quite ready to shut up about Austin, so you will have to bear with me.

Although there for the music, I kept my peepers open for crochet, of course. And here was what I saw:And while this totally falls outside the realm of hooking, these are the freaking coolest shoes I've seen in ages!

I WANT them!

This is a close-up of woven baskets made of recycled paper. I saw them in a great shop featuring handmade goods from around the world. It was on South Congress, but I stupidly forgot the name:
And that red thing I was hooking in the prior post? Here it is today:

And finally, though this has less to do with Austin than anything, here is the more-or-less finished Cecilia vest from StitchDiva:More later!