Sunday, January 26, 2014

Weekend Turnaround

Last week did not go as planned.  It started on Monday, when I went to pick up my bike ahead of the snowstorm.  The bike shop told me it would be ready "by Monday."

However, they did not tell me that they're actually closed on Monday.

Then I tried to head to the pool for my swim and I'm not sure what exactly it was about Martin Luther King Day that was driving everyone to exercise, but I couldn't find a space to park.  So I had to leave.

Basically, the most I accomplished that day was getting gas in my car.  (Not really, but that's how it felt.)

And then, the snowstorm and another "arctic blast."

Don't get me wrong: I like a snow day as much as the next person.  But I've come to realize that a snow day is only a gift if you have something else you'd rather be doing.  And you aren't housebound because it's too icy to drive anywhere.  And it's not so cold outside that it hurts your eyeballs.

Classes were supposed to start last week, and I was all set.  Ready.  Good to go.  And then... zip.  Nothing.

Okay... so, time to regroup and figure out how to catch up next week.  While you sit around wondering why you had to spend so much time the previous weekend getting ready for something that Mother Nature decided not to allow.

By Thursday night, I was feeling cooped up and grumpy as all get-out.  I decided that this weekend would be the time to turn it all around.

So when I woke up on Friday morning, I reminded myself that things were looking up right off the bat: it was my first day off of antibiotics in what seemed like far too long.  Put that under the heading of Good Things About the Weekend.

On Friday, I also redid Monday's-bike-shop-and-swim-that-never-was.  This time around, both went... swimmingly.  So that was done.

Then, there was the weekend.  I decided that if Mother Nature was going to be all hells bells about the cold, I needed to fight back.  Picture me, opening and shutting drawers and closets, tossing garments hither and thither, muttering, "I know it's in here somewhere..."

And then suddenly, voila.  Bingo.  RIGHT BACK ATCHA, Mother N.

I actually have absolutely no recollection of knitting this sweater, but trust me, I did.  Knitting is kind of like giving birth at times--endorphins kick in and your memory of the actual labor gets a bit fuzzy.  I'm not sure what provoked me to knit such a bulky, warm, snuggly specimen of a sweater, but I suspect I bought the yarn during a previous "Arctic blast."  Or after reading about the Ice Age.

In either case, it did the trick.  Or at least, it was a start.

Because I'm not one to quit while I'm ahead.  Oh, no.  If I learned nothing else from the experience of this week, I learned that it was time to cook something.  So I decided to make the wonderfully garlicky chicken bouillabaise recipe that I have, and use some of those tomatoes I canned--remember when?--last summer.

Here are the tomatoes and garlic simmering in white wine, chicken broth and Pernod, with rosemary.

If you have to be housebound on a cold winter's day, this is the way to do it, trust me.

It's a multi-step recipe, so after letting the garlic simmer and soften, you pulverize all of it into a wonderful, thick sauce.  Then, you take the chicken that you've browned, load it all into a dutch oven with sliced potatoes and pour all of that lovely sauce all over the whole. damn. thing.  (Sorry, but it's a cussin' good dish.)

And then you bake it at low temperature for a good long while, so that your house smells delicious and becomes delightfully warm (although you should still light a fire in the fireplace, just because).

Here's what the bouillabaise looks like, all set to eat.
The white dollop in the center is a garlic and red-pepper mayonnaise.  You don't need to add that, but I did, because I had the fresh eggs.

And because it tastes even better that way.

I'm also pleased to announce that, after months of practice making mayonnaise by hand, I can now use my mini-cuisinart instead.

There's just a little knack to mayonnaise, and you've got to get so that you know how to gauge what it looks like and where it's headed when you're mixing it, so that you don't experience disaster.  Once you do, it's easier to use a processor--although I still wouldn't use my big processor to do it.  It's just too hard to make sure you don't add the oil too fast, when you work with it in a big... contraption.

At least, that's my take on that.

And speaking of things that require a certain knack.  Can you tell me what this is?

No, it's not an itty-bitty Native American Dreamcatcher.

It's the toe of a sock.

Yes, it is.  This is what you have to deal with when you knit socks, if you choose to knit them from the toe up, which for some reason I do.

Actually, I know why I knit them from the toe up: because, when I knit mittens, I hate that final series of decreases you have to make before they're finished--you know, as the mitt tapers to the tip of the fingers.

I spend the entire mitten-knittin' time dreading that point.  I just don't like working with very few stitches on my needles.  "It's TOO FIDDLEY!!!" is what I often find myself screeching during these Troubled Times--often while swigging a beer to calm my nerves.  (It doesn't help.)

So if I have to work with very few stitches like that, I'd rather just do it and get it over with.

Increasing stitches always bring hope.  Decreasing them can be a slow, angled slide into despair.  

Hence, my decision to knit socks from the toe upward.  You can also check and make sure the sock is fitting if you do it that way, and trust me, you want to make sure.

Socks take a bit of time and effort, and you really don't want to finish and realize the sock doesn't really fit.  Because when it fits, it's a little tube of heaven.  Case in point:

Yes, that's it.  That's the sock I knitted.  My very first.  I'm working on the second one now: I picked blue to hide any flaws, but it would have been easier if I hadn't picked a darker color.

And I added a pattern, because I didn't want it to be "dull" just knitting it straight.  (Found myself wishing I had just stuck with "dull" at several points.)

It's got some small bobbles and some tiny, tiny glitches, but not many.  And it fits and it feels oh, so fabulous!

Various knitting sites had warned me that, once you start knitting your own socks, you won't want to go back to store-bought.

And let me tell you, they ain't just whistlin' Dixie.  It's a buttload of work, truly it is, but it is, in fact worth it: they're far warmer, far more comfortable, and yes, they stay up (that was a worry of mine as well).  In fact, they fit and stay up better than any store-bought sock I've ever worn.

And they feel wonderful on your feet.  I can't even describe it, except to say that you should go out and find someone to knit you a pair, because everyone should experience such happiness at least once in their lives

So this weekend marked the beginning of a new homesteader addiction on my part: make-your-own-socks.

Thus, the weekend was officially a 180-degree Turnaround.  Here goes next week...


  1. I really like reading your blog, your weekend also seem interesting compared to mine; where I just called for a pool service in phoenix and read a book. Anyway, I look forward to reading more of your future posts. And, oh! Can you recommend a book I can read over the next weekend? I'm about to finish what I'm reading now, which is The Fault in our Stars.

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Nichole, and thank you for reading. I've been reading books by Julia Alvarez, Maxine Hong Kingston, and Margaret Atwood lately--don't know if any of those writers would interest you... Sometimes, when I'm looking for a new book, I go to Amazon and search the book I just finished reading. I then take a look at the banner of "other people who bought this book also bought" and click on the descriptions to see if any of the other suggested books sound interesting--if so, I go get one and try it out! Have fun!


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