Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Mostly a Pile of Yarn

I struggled with a title for this post, because sadly I've discovered that a disproportionate amount of the time I want to title my posts simply "Well, Duh!" As I can't have eleventy-two posts with all the same name, I've decided that I can't use that one at all, even though it pretty much sums things up.

Summer is definitely in full swing, and it's finally really hot here at Chez Necessity. The weather has been very kind this year, and stayed at a pretty comfortable level until now. The humidity's been pretty good too, but that all seems to be over now. In an effort to both be green and save money on the old electric bill, we freecycled our air conditioner a couple of years ago (the woman who picked it up looked at us like we were nuts, and asked "Don't you know it's going to be hot?") and have been getting by with fans and drapes to cover the blinding amounts of HOT light that come through our windows. The amount of light is something I really like about this apartment, and one of the reasons we (well I - The Professor much prefers a more cave-like home, but he kindly humors me) bought this place. Unfortunately, this same amount of lovely light can make you feel as if you are sitting on the surface of the sun, rather than your living room in the middle of the day.

So, as it is so very hot, like any rational person I decided I needed to knit some wool mittens. These are from Mostly Mittens, and I've made a couple of patterns from this book. I really like it, and the patterns are spiffy. I always enjoy colorwork, and mittens are small enough that I can satisfy my need for an interesting pattern without having to spend 6 months on a sweater.

Sadly, however, I forgot one crucial component to making any item which someone is expected to wear. Yes, you guessed it - gauge. I can only blame the heat, because I knit quite a long way on this little (I do mean little) mitten before it occurred to me that it looked a tad on the small side, and that I hadn't bothered to check the gauge. Once I discovered that it would probably fit someone as long as they only had three fingers and a freakishly skinny palm (and I don't happen to know anyone like this) the lovely, tiny mitten now looks like this:

Well, duh!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

But Don't Put Them in Your Gin and Tonic...

Summer is here, and that means that we get a farm share box every week. We joined a couple of years back, and it's been very successful. The food is organic and really fresh; we go once a week to the delivery site (it's only about 5 minutes away) and pick up our box. It's always like a little surprise to see what we get - most things are easily identifiable, but sometimes we get something that I have to look up (like garlic scapes). You take what comes in the box, which is good for me (although the children may disagree) because it gets me to try some new recipes and we get to eat something different than the same old things I tend to churn out of the kitchen.

Pretty much every week we get a handful of basil. The first year we joined the co-op, this little handful generally got shoved to the back of the refrigerator and forgotten, resulting in a little pile of black leaves in a startlingly short amount of time. Last year I decided to make pesto out of it, and it was very successful; we ate pesto all winter. Since it's generally a small amount of basil, it doesn't always make a full batch, but it doesn't matter, because I just take what I've got, freeze it in ice cube trays, and then bag the frozen cubes. Then when I need some, a cube or two comes out and gets plopped on my pasta. Voila, dinner is served!

Here's the pesto recipe I use, and it can easily be halved when one only has a little bit of basil:

2 cups packed basil (I use just the leaves - the stems are a bit fibrous for my taste)
1/2 cup olive oil
2 Tablespoons pine nuts
2 cloves garlic

Plop all these in the blender and whiz them around until you've got a paste. Then scrape it into a bowl and add:

1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup grated parmesan or romano cheese
3 Tablespoons softened butter

Mix it well, and either freeze or refrigerate. It keeps beautifully in the freezer, and lets you have a little bit of really yummy summer in the middle of winter when everything is rather gray.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

When the Kids are Away...

Mom and Dad get a quiet, quiet day. The Professor's parents kindly took the kids for the weekend, and after speaking to them on the phone tonight, it's apparent that they are having a wonderful time and doing everything possible, including swimming, a carnival, and a petting zoo. The Professor and I, on the other hand, have opted to be sloth-like.

Last night after the kids left, he was suggesting all kinds of things to do - museums in the city, hiking, etc. I, on the other hand, thought a day of a quiet house with nobody asking for a meal (or a snack, or another meal, or spilling something during a meal...) sounded pretty awesome. I had a tutoring gig this morning, and when I returned, The Professor announced that he had seen the wisdom of my suggestion, and we stayed put.

I even made some cards, and it was lovely to not have to clear the table off for the inevitable meal (or snack, or other meal); we ordered in Chinese and picnicked on the floor. It was one of my most favorite days, ever. I definitely miss them when they're gone; I've been home with them so long that I feel like my arms are missing when they're not here, but the time off is nice too.

We're picking them up tomorrow, but won't be bringing them home until all the meals (and snacks) of the day are done. Awesome.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Toasty Toes

Several months ago my mother mentioned that her local AC Moore was selling off sock yarn really cheap, and asked if I wanted any. I, of course, answered quickly in the affirmative, and soon she presented me with a large (actually, very large) bag of yarn.

I really like making socks - they're portable enough to bring in the car or just stuff in my bag at the playground, and I've learned that I only like making plain ones. I've tried several patterns with cables, lace, and other fancy stitches, but apparently my attention span is happiest when I can just knit around and around endlessly, broken up by the occasional heel flap and toe shaping.

One of the yarns she got was Red Heart sock yarn. I was so pleasantly surprised by this yarn - it's lovely and soft, and the color changes are really neat. Not only does it stripe, but it makes a changing fair isle kind of color pattern in some of the stripes. One of my favorite things - something that looks complicated when I didn't have to do any work. Win win! Thank goodness, because I have a few (ok, more than a few) balls of it left in my giant yarn bag.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

No Wrench Required

We got a new dishwasher about a year and a half ago, after our old one gave up the ghost and refused to distribute soap anymore (plus I think it was older than I am, so it had fulfilled it's useful life span long before we even got here). I love having a dishwasher. This is the first place I've lived (since leaving my parents' home) with a dishwasher, and I can't tell you the hours it has freed up in my day. It disturbs me that I have been given all these extra hours, but oddly, don't have any particular accomplishments to account for them.

I like the one we bought, and it's really efficient - it uses only about 5 gallons of water for the whole cycle. However, it has recently started grumbling at me. It started as a once in a while thing - like someone being just slightly annoyed and then leaving the room. In the last couple of days it has turned into a full-fledged angry fight about 5 minutes after it's turned on.

Hmmmm....I'm not a particularly handy person, but my dad is, so I gave him a call. He suggested taking off the sprayer arm and checking to see if anything was caught. Sounded good, so this morning I emptied it out, took out the lower basket, and realized that my spray arm is completely smooth on top. No convenient little bolt holding it into place that I could unscrew and thus remove said spray arm. I examined it a bit more, and discovered that the mechanism seemed to be threaded, and could be lifted, twisted, and then removed. I was so excited to have made this earth-shattering discovery, but was promptly disappointed to find nothing stuck in there which could account for my clearly angry dishwasher.

Off to Google (I love Google) rumbling noise in the dishwasher. It's amazing how specific you can get in your questions to find an answer. Lots of people seemed to have this problem with GE dishwashers, and the fix seemed silly. It involved only a twist-tie. It was easy. Can't possibly work.

Well, one twist-tie later, and my dishwasher is now my quiet, uncomplaining and faithful companion once again. Welcome back old friend.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Well, dinnertime came again here at Chez Necessity. It seems to have the annoying habit of doing that every day, and 'round about 6:00 everybody keeps expecting to be fed. Go figure! Now, I like to cook, but meals are an unrelenting part of being a parent. Before we had kids, The Professor and I were perfectly happy to grab a sandwich, plop ourselves down in front of the television, and call it good. And then those kids came along. Not only do they expect dinner, but breakfast and lunch too! Maddening - I've tried to actually cancel lunch a few times, but this has promptly been met with eye rolls, and the ever popular, "Oh, Mommy!"

Summertime is good, though, because our farm co-op kicks in, so rather than cooking the same 5 things every week, I'm forced to branch out a little bit and use what comes in our farm share. We are vegetarian (though we do eat fish) so I'm always on the lookout for something that not only appeals to me, but to the youngest members of this household (and the oldest - he can be unhappy with the best of them).

Thus, tonight I made tortilla and black bean pie from Everyday Food. I find most of their recipes are really great - they use what I have in the kitchen, aren't too fussy, and are usually pretty yummy. This was no exception. I did have some misgivings about the kids, however. I never know what will be a hit and what will cause them to create faces as if I just placed a severed foot on their plates. These misgivings were dispelled, however, when Big Trouble looked at his plate and happily said, "Oooh - nacho cake!"

His speech was a tad on the lispy side, as he lost his first tooth today. This tooth, mind you, has been loose for about 2 months, and as you can see in the picture the adult tooth had not only broken the surface but was about halfway in. We've been working on it all week, and today it finally dislodged itself (with a little help from The Professor and a length of cotton sock yarn. I love it when someone in the house asks me, "Do we have any string?" Ummm, yeah!).

I'm glad we were able to save him from having a double set of teeth, and hopefully the tooth fairy will get not fall prey to some of the previous difficulties she has had in this house and will visit him tonight.

One can only hope.

Friday, July 10, 2009

I'm Absolutely Positive I'm Pretty Negative

So, The Professor brought this book back from the library a couple of weeks ago, and as he was in the middle of something already, I took a crack at it. Although the title has the ring of one of those touchy-feely self-help kind of things, (something I have never seen The Professor's nose buried in, and thus was surprised when it was in his bag on return from the library), it's written by a psychologist (Dr. Barbara Fredrickson) distinguished in this field and is based on years of rigorous research. This is big with The Professor (being a professor and all), and whenever I mention a study or announce a finding someone's come up with, he always wants to know about the research it's based on. (Sadly, I am rarely able to tell him anything more conclusive then, "Well, they said...)

While it is written by a professor/researcher, it's a good read for those of us that have only the most minimal of understanding of both psychology and research methods. The crux of the book is that having positive emotions is important to flourish, not only emotionally, but physically as well. She actually has worked out through about 20 years of research that there is a ratio of positive to negative emotions that is important to reach - it's 3 to 1. She even has a test in the book (is it a bad thing that when I went to take the test, I sighed and announced that I was pretty sure it was going to go badly?) to figure out your ratio. Mine was 1.2 to 1. Hmmmm...seems I have a little bit of work to do.

She has a website where you can take the tests and even track your scores to see if you are getting more positive. It's a really interesting idea, and the book is full of useful suggestions that you can use in your everyday life. It's definitely given me some food for thought recently, even if I have staunchly refused to take the test again (I took it a second time and aced it - 3.4 to 1, but my answers may have been slightly affected by the fact that I was pretty bummed out by my first score and refused to see such numbers again...don't judge me).

It's kind of like starting a new diet - I'll start being more positive tomorrow; today I need to bask in a little negativity (or ice cream).

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Kindest Cut

Miss Serious did a wonderful thing today - she donated her hair to Pantene's Beautiful Lengths program. They make wigs for cancer patients, and this is the second time Miss Serious has sacrificed her long hair for them. We donated together about 1 1/2 years ago, but as they have a requirement that your hair be no more than 5% gray, I knew that I wouldn't be able to do it again (as it was, I was picking gray hairs out of the ponytail before I mailed it).

She now has a sporty new haircut, perfect for summer. I don't think it's been this short since she was really little, and I'm glad we're not going anywhere with a crowd in the next few days, because I know I wouldn't be able to pick her out - I keep expecting to see long, blond hair!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


And it's true - the livin' is easy! The rain finally decided to give it a rest, so we got some lovely summer weather. Spring was such a bust that I am not in summer mode yet, but I realized that I better get myself there quick, as the kids are done with school and looking for something to do. Monday we actually put on suits and went to the local beach, and today we hit the free movies. Living in an affluent area but not being possessed of an affluent income, one must hunt for cheap entertainment; luckily The Professor and I have gotten quite good at it. My favorite is free, but I'll go for cheap, also. Camp for the kids is real big around here, and we are one of the few families that forgo the whole camp thing. As we're both home, it seems a little silly to send the kids off while paying dearly for the privilege, so we get to hang out as a family, and have a good time doing it.

One of the nice things about living in such a spiffy area is that there are lots of really great things to do. There are several nature conservancies (free) within about 10 miles, there are really nice parks on every other corner (free), and the library hosts excellent summer reading programs (can you say free?). While The Professor took the kids to their program this afternoon, I made these: