So in the last couple of weeks, I've noticed the change in weather has brought some changes to my garden. For instance, I harvested three small eggplants to add to my pasta sauce this afternoon.
And there are more ripening.
And on the "What the heck" front -
The Black Prince tomato that never had a flower set? There are now ten baby tomatoes on the vine. I'll keep you updated because I really want to know how these taste. Boy I am glad I didn't rip them out at the beginning of the month.
I spent the last two days cutting the rest of the shirt backs, properly supervised, of course.
That's the last of them, now I need to do some more cutting, but first I need to decide exactly what and how. I'll likely do strip or string piecing, maybe in the Chinese Coin genre, simple and quick. I'm not going to do any more until this week is over though.
The ship decommissions at the end of the week. This last week has been light on actual work, with me leaving the ship by noon, which has allowed me to do all this cutting. But Thursday evening my cousin arrives, Friday is my brother and his family, and Saturday my dad. The ceremony is Saturday morning, same day as the Army-Navy game, and they're only staying until Sunday, so the week after, when I'm not overly employed, I'll do some more work. Like take out the sewing machine and figure it out all over again - it's been at least four years since I operated it last.
Yesterday when I stopped at PetSmart for cat food, I got a puppy fix, courtesy of a six week old pug - there may be no cuter creature on the face of the earth. (Will have to check against the nephew when I see him again on Friday.) I also picked up a cardboard cat scratcher, just to see if I can get the beastie to lay off the furniture. She investigated, and approved, but she just rolls around or sleeps on it, the scratching is reserved for the furniture.
I've pretty much been focused on the cutting, but in the evenings I have done some knitting. Sunday night I finished the third ball of yarn on Sally, but I haven't done any more on her since then. I know I won't get anything done on her while I have guests and I still have to wind the next hank of yarn, so I've shifted focus to my Twin Rib sock, which is moving along nicely. I should be ready to turn the heel tomorrow.
Ha Noi – 11/26/07 When I first decided to come over to Vietnam I started fantasizing about having a flowing red silk dress made while I'm here. I have my rescue team's 20th anniversary celebration on Dec. 15 and wanted something special for the occasion. It was decided that I needed to get on this project immediately upon my arrival so my friend John's girlfriend and I went silk shopping and found the most beautiful piece of soft red silk with a subtle Asian print woven in.
Loan took me into the back of the shop where they were actually weaving the silk on ancient machines. I was blown away at the process and didn't see a single sweating child there, just a few ladies and one man and still no sweat. That was good because if I had, I don't know that I would be having a flowing silk number made. Unfortunately the battery in my camera died and I didn't have my spare with me. However, no worry as Loan is going to take me back there so I can get pictures. It was amazing.
Today we will go to Loan's seamstress with the pictures I brought and a dress that she has that is very similar to what I have it mind. This fantasy of mine may yet come to pass.
We went on a little sightseeing on Monday, visiting the first university in Vietnam ,the Temple of Literature. It was built in 1076 and dedicated to the education of men in the ways of Confucius, ethics, administrative writing, literature and poetry. It has been recently restored and was beautiful. I got a few beautiful pictures and a couple of artsy ones like this one of roof tiles at the university.
Picked up a few little gift things that are exquisite. The cool thing is that I get be in some of the pictures because John, his assistant, Nguyen, and his girlfriend, Loan, are with me. They are having such fun showing me the sites, and I’m loving it.
There will be more coming. Today, Tuesday, we go to a village that is famous for ceramics. I can't wait and have two fully charged batteries for my camera.
I spent the last couple of days shifting away from cooking and knitting and into the sewing and quilting that I committed myself to doing last year, but haven't managed to make myself do yet. I promised memory quilts for my niece and nephew and potentially my step-sisters after my dad passed away, but between the sadness that comes up when I'm working on it and some familial stresses, I mostly just shoved the shirts in the linen closet and ignored them. Yesterday I decided that with four days off, I needed to get cracking. Saturday I finished cutting the shirts into component pieces:
That, of course, is still an unusable and unmanageable pile of fabric, so I hid everything but the shirt backs in the spare bedroom and concentrated on taking small chunks. I ironed all the backs and started cutting strips, 5 inches, 2.5 inches and 1.5 inches wide, depending on how much usable fabric was in each shirt. Stormy felt the need to provide quality control throughout the process. Here she is checking out the first sets of wide strips.
I managed to get through the red, yellow and green families, with the much larger black and blue families left to go.
I cut for as long as I could, which was right up until the point where
I got careless enough to reach for the rotary cutter without looking. The rotary cutter for which I had not lowered the safety protector over the blade. There
was lots of blood, but I managed to get the bleeding stopped and then
put a band aid on. Decided that dinner and knitting were in order for
the rest of the evening.
I am still enjoying leftovers - there's turkey stock in the freezer for future use and in the fridge for soup this week. I also made a cranberry almond turkey salad for lunches - was going to do apricots, but I already had dried cranberries in the pantry, so I used them instead. Quite good on fresh bread from the bakery down the street.
Mom update - got an e-mail from her this afternoon saying she'd arrived safely and been promptly worked the rest of the day, so she was exhausted. Below is a photo of her welcome party. I'll pass on more as I hear it.
In about 5.5 hours I'll be arriving at the San Francisco Airport's International terminal setting off on my next big adventure. My trip to Vietnam has begun. I'm still doing some last minute packing, and yes, list-making. The apple didn't fall far from the tree when it comes to planning and list-making does it Shanti?
I'll be arriving in Ha Noi (yes, that's how they spell it) at about 11:35 Sunday morning, their time. My friend has told me to have my walking shoes on 'cause I'm gonna be busy. I made him promise that he wouldn't let me nap before it was really time for bed that night. I don't do jet lag . . . not allowed. I try to get set up to local time as soon as I can and it usually works for me.
I have no idea when my urban search and rescue program presentation is scheduled but I think I'm going to be kept pretty busy at the dog training facility. I know I do get to go visit Ha Long Bay which is a World Heritage Site. I don't have time to put up links but you should take a look at some site if you get the chance. BEAUTIFUL! (Note added by Shanti - here's HaLongBay, and I am insanely jealous.)
My project for the trip is going to be a pair of socks from Koigu KPPPM in lovely blues and purples. That's if I get myself off the computer, finish packing and get the wool wound into balls. I'm outta here!!
I have to say, I am very happy with the way my dinner worked out last night. I only needed to make one mid-preparation run to the store, and it wasn't for food, it was for band-aids. The wimpy ones I had weren't cutting it for a cut right on the edge of my thumb and while wrapping it in Saran Wrap allowed me to finish what I was doing it, it was too uncomfortable for the long haul. The CVS, incidentally, was packed, mostly with people stopping to pick up drinks for their family meals from what I could tell.
Anyway, the meal: roasted turkey, 2 kinds of stuffing, a sweet potato and apple dish, green beans, cranberry sauce and gravy turned out well and I never felt stressed. That might be thanks to my slightly compulsive tendency to make checklists. On the large sheet of paper is The Plan. In the notebook is the list of serving dishes and cooking location for each dish. Click to embiggen for the full (and slightly embarrassing) effect. This is what 15 years in the Navy will do to you, just in case anyone you love is thinking about joining.
The only failure of the evening was that the ice cream never hardened; I suspect I didn't cook the custard long enough the day before. I'll try again another time. The marshmallows and truffles were perfect on their own, and a large box of those went home with the rest of the leftovers. (But not enough, I still have at least 60 of the freaking truffles left in the house, tempting me with their dark chocolate pumpkin-ness.) I sent so much of the leftovers back with the guys that I have already finished the stuffing and sweet potatoes I kept. I'm going to make a turkey salad this weekend, just as soon as I buy some mayo, which I never use, so don't keep in the house. That with the rest of the mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce probably won't see the beginning of next week.
Not surprisingly, after all that cooking, I spent much of today chilling out. I took a long nap in the mid-afternoon and watched TV, and that's about it. I tried to knit but most of the afternoon was spent with Stormy here
Or, when she felt the need for a change, here
No knitting is possible when I'm being used as a napping platform. I did get the chance to pull out the finally dry skein of bamboo. I have to admit, I do like the finished yarn, although it's not quite as lofty as it was when first spun. Here's the before and afters, in skein form and then in close up:
And the close-ups, before and after: I have to say, this is the first skein of yarn I have created that I would have looked at a second time in the store. I'm thinking about pairing it with some violet lace weight mohair I have to make a simple scarf for myself.
I think I'm in pretty good shape for tomorrow. The cranberry sauce was so easy to make that I'll never go back to the canned stuff again, especially with the addition of orange zest and Triple Sec. I bought two bags of fresh cranberries, so I may well make a second batch to go with the leftovers. The cinnamon ice cream custard is chilling and tastes pretty good. I didn't have the bay leaf called for in the book, having recently cleared out my ancient spice cabinet, so I used cloves instead. I think it will work out okay, but the base was a little sweeter than I'd like. Hopefully freezing will take care of that. If not, the chocolate pumpkin ganache will!
I also cut the marshmallows and dusted them with a combination of corn starch, powdered sugar and pumpkin pie spices. I tried one and it is excellent, with a subtle flavor that's not too sweet. I'll be munching on these for a while.
Tomorrow should be interesting what with my guests not coming from the US and me having never carved a turkey before. Thankfully, the New York Times came to my rescue with this article and video.
A Confession I can't believe I have to admit this, because I am militant about not doing anything Christmas-related until after Thanksgiving, but I've been listening to Christmas music this week. It wasn't really intentional, but I had the iPod on random while I was cooking and cleaning and that's where all my holiday music lives. Most of the time I'd skip past the carols, but there were some times when my hands were too full to change the song, and once when I just couldn't help but sing along. I can't help it, I'm a sucker for You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch. Phyl-Phyl does this mean I'm kicked out of SPOT?
Fiber It's been so humid down here that the bamboo yarn still hasn't dried and I'm still not sure if I like it better finished. So, photos maybe on Friday since it isn't happening tomorrow. I did some more work on Sally, but will spare you a photo of eight more rows completed. The Twin Rib sock, on the other hand, got lots of attention last night and a few hours tonight, so there's plenty to see.
Books I'm in the middle of re-reading The Secret Garden, after having picked up a copy of the "annotated" version at the bookstore a couple of weeks ago. As much as I love the story, I have to say that if you already have a copy, I wouldn't bother buying this one. The text of the book just isn't complex enough to require much in the way of educational notes and the historical/contextual annotations weren't particularly interesting. I could have picked up a biography of Frances Hodgson Burnett and learned more. On the other hand, the non-fiction book I'm reading, Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War that is Destroying America, has been quite enjoyable. If you're politically inclined but cringe at the vitriol being flung around the country, this is a good read. It doesn't even really require a tremendous amount of brain power to read, although I've been trying to read it on weekends when I am more focused.
Movies I just saw the trailer for Sweeney Todd, and I can't wait to see that in the theater! Also looking forward to The Golden Compass, which has the coolest website. It lets you see what form your daemon would take in their world...mine is a tiger. I have no idea how to embed the thing into the page, but here's a link.
Mom If you get a chance, drop my mom and note and wish her luck. She leaves for Vietnam on Friday, and she'll be gone for several weeks. She's helping the government of Vietnam establish an urban search and rescue team with dogs, and this may well become an ongoing thing as she helps them pick out dogs and start the training.
Things on the ship have slowed down to the point where I have almost nothing to do...we work out in the mornings, I do some paperwork, hold an awards ceremony or something along those lines. By the afternoon, I'm done. In fact, today I finished the absolute last bit of paperwork (that I know of...) so I was gone by noon. I came home and managed to get quite a bit done before I crashed abruptly around 4 this afternoon.
I finally got around to finishing the truffles...it's a food network recipe, found here. I used Dagoba 73% Chocodrops for the ganache and the inner coating and Green and Black's Maya Gold hot chocolate on the outside - I tried one first and found the little bit of orange flavor really brightened the pumpkin spice of the filling. Yummy!
It was a rough start, I got the chocolate too hot and nearly melted the first ganache centers. I ate so many of my errors that I won't be touching these again until Thursday. I went through several different utensils, including the candy-specific dipping items, but the thing that worked best for me was a fondue fork.
What I haven't done is cut the marshmallows, which remain in their zip baggies (which are so much better than using a baking pan and parchment paper) waiting to be dusted with potato starch, powdered sugar and pumpkin pie spice.
I also made myself some dinner and while that simmered, I wet finished the bamboo yarn. To be honest, I almost didn't do anything to it, I loved it so much. But I know it will look better after a good soak and some abuse, so in it went for about a dozen rinses, which still didn't exhaust all the dye. I finally gave up when even adding a vinegar rinse didn't work, and I'll just hope that since it didn't bleed while I was spinning, it won't bleed if I decide to knit it up. Photos of that tomorrow or whenever it's dry.
As I said, sometime in the middle of the activity up there, my energy level crashed (really need to remember to eat lunch,) and I couldn't muster the brain power to work on Sally with all the patterning and stitch crossing, so I did a stash dive and found some nearly two year old sock yarn from Spirit Trail and cast on for a pair of Twin Rib Socks. Isn't it pretty?
I had a fairly productive weekend, which will hopefully spill over into a productive week. Friday I did some of my Thanksgiving dinner shopping, but I'll still need to get some odds and ends before Thursday. I decided to go traditional with the meal - turkey, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce. But my guests aren't the type to go for traditional desserts and, to be perfectly honest, I've never much liked them myself. Instead, I made a batch of pumpkin spice truffles and marshmallows. I'll make a cinnamon ice cream on Wednesday and I'm keeping about half the chocolate pumpkin ganache out and I'll warm that and serve it as an ice cream topping. That way we get traditional flavors with a different delivery method.
I worked on Sally for a bit, she's coming along nicely, enough that I could try her on last night.
I haven't done a lot of work on her since though, because Stormy discovered her on the couch and staked a claim.
I worked on that bamboo roving I started two weeks ago instead. Finished spinning and plied immediately before I got out of the mood. I'm really happy with the results, here it is on the niddy-noddy:
Isn't that sheen amazing? Here's a closer look, just for the heck of it.
It's a lot more blue than it was in roving form, which had a lot more green and purple. I am really happy with the way it came out though. I'm going to set it with some hot water, probably tomorrow, and decide if this is the yarn's ultimate form or if it wants to be knit into something.