Monday, July 30, 2007

Move Over Ben and Jerry!

About a year ago I joined a cooking club. It's a lot of fun. If you're not familiar with the concept, basically, we rotate houses each month. The person who hosts is responsible for coming up with a theme and making the main entree. Everyone else contributes appetizers, side dishes and desserts. We have had some great themes: Greek BBQ, Farmer's Market Fresh, Cooking with Booze. Our hostess for August has come up with the theme Healthy Junk Food. We are supposed to lighten up our favorite fast food or junk food treats. People are bringing calzones, plantain and zucchini chips, pizzas. And I offered to bring dessert.

Now, sometimes I bring an old standby for these dinners. Like Cooking with Booze...I made Manhattan Mushrooms (mushrooms cooked in sweet vermouth). And sometimes I try something new. When it's new, I try it out a week before to make sure it's palatable. For our junk food fest, I decided to try my hand at a light version of my favorite vanilla ice cream with cherries and chocolate chunks.

Geek Boy agreed, it's better than the $4 pint.

Bookwoman's Cherry and Chocolate Ice Cream (approx. 9 servings)

2 1/2 cups 1% milk, divided
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup 1/3 less fat cream cheese
1 bag frozen cherries, each cherry cut in half (I was going to use fresh, but these babies are already pitted)
juice of half a lime
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 can fat-free sweetened condensed milk
1 big Hershey bar, chopped

Combine half of the milk and both egg yolks in a pan over medium heat. Heat until bubbles form around the edges, but do not boil. Stir frequently.

Remove from heat and add cream cheese, stirring until smooth.

Combine cream cheese mixture and all the remaining ingredients except the chocolate bar. Cover and chill completely.

When it's cool, dump it into the freezer can of your ice cream maker and let it rip.

The final product is a bit more purple than the original, the cherries bleed into the mixture. But it still tastes pretty darn good. Can't wait for Sunday!

Friday, July 27, 2007

Learning to Think Like a Blogger

I'm still relatively new to this blogging thing. This blog has been around for a year, but not until Summer of Socks started did I get down to really posting on a somewhat regular basis. So, I don't think in terms of an event's blogability.

For instance, Geek Boy and I like our beer places and beer events. So we were quite excited to see a Session Beer class at Tria, given by Lew Bryson. After a winter of big beers, we've been enjoying some quaffing beers, such as Booklyn Brewery's Summer Ale and Saranac's Beers of Summer. So, we were all over this class.

Tria puts on a nice class. The room is cozy, without being crowded. And the "tasty snacks," were indeed, quite tasty (can't wait to try and make my own fennel almonds). Lew Bryson was a riot. And is very devoted to session beers. The definitions offered of session beers always came down to drinking between 6 and 10 beers in an outing. I can't fathom that. But then again, I have slightly less body mass than Mr. Bryson.

Anyway, there were seven beers offered throughout the class. Some were okay. Nothing terribly exciting. Some were "old hat" to us, like Troeg's Summer Pils. Two were stand outs for me. The first was "1809." A little sour, but in the way that I really like a beer to be. Geek Boy noted that it is similar to my favorite beer, Monk's Sour Flemish Ale. The other was LindemansGueuze, an unfruited lambic, made by combining old and young lambics. Even without the fruit, it's still a rather sweet beer, but not in a cloying way.

Best of all, it was a nice evening, weather wise, so we walked from Penn's campus to the Fermentation School.

Before the class started, we were noticing all the beer geeks with their cell phones out, geeking away, including one first spotting of one in the wild. Even Geek Boy was in on it, playing his favorite cell phone game. Me? I had knitting in my bag, and worked on that while waiting for class to begin. I also happened to have Geek Boy's digital camera with me (still in my bag from Monday's outing with a friend from college and her twins, Thing One and Thing Two). Only after we left, did I think what a great location shot I could have had for Summer of Socks. Either the sock enjoying being surrounded by beers, enjoying fennel almonds, or, if I was really brave, Cable Rib Sock meets Beer Guy.

Oh, well. Maybe next time.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Knitting, Winding, Splitting and Dyeing

Progress is moving along on the cable rib socks. I think I have about one more cable repeat to go before starting the toe.

I apologize for blinding you with the whiteness of my leg. Yes, I am that pale (my personal theme song is Procol Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale). I like this pattern. It's easy to work, interesting, and the rib makes it very stretchy.

Lesson learned...if you need to hobble around the house to find your camera while wearing a sock with 4 dpns sticking out of it, and all of your floors are hard wood, walk on your tip toes, not on your heel. There's no graceful way to explain the head injury when you slip and fall in that state.

My knitting was on a bit of hiatus this weekend in order to plow through Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I was so worried about having the ending spoiled that I did almost nothing but read. I didn't watch TV, go on line or listen to the radio (except for Car Talk, which was a rerun). I did take time out for the Harry Potter party at the library. And for my friend's party celebrating the 6th anniversary of her 29th birthday.

On Sunday I did take a reading break to wind up some yarn (using the Tinkertoy swift that Geek boy hunted down for me back around Valentine's Day...some women get jewelry, some get Tinkertoys),

split it into two balls,

and make my first attempt at dyeing my own yarn.

The yarn is Knit Picks Color Your Own, half dyed with pink lemonade and half with ice blue raspberry lemonade Kool-Aid. This will become a pair of footies for my cousin who is expecting her first baby in October. She and her husband have decided not to find out whether the baby is a boy or a girl, so, for the hospital, a pink sock and a blue sock.

I bought this yarn a few years ago, but never got around to doing anything with it. And when I thought about making the socks for my cousin, I was torn, because I didn't want to go buy new yarn. Then I remembered, I had dyeable yarn in my stash. I used the tutorial on Knitty. What fun! Although it did disturb Geek Boy a bit when he came down for dinner, which was salmon coated with creole mustard, and found pink and blue bowls of yarn in front of the microwave. It was almost as disconcerting to him as when he found mohair chilling in the freezer.

As for Harry Potter (no spoilers here, I promise), I finished Monday morning. On the whole, I was impressed with how Rowling pulled everything together. I'm sad that it's over, but glad I went along for the ride. I fail to think like a Blogger until after the fact.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Weekend Fun

Lots of fun stuff this weekend.


Geek Boy and I escaped from work early with the intention of taking part in Friday the Fikenteenth at the Grey Lodge. We had gone years ago, before the Grey Lodge was so firmly established as a beer bar. It's been a really long time, apparently, because the crowd was out on the sidewalk. When we turned the corner and saw the crowd, we decided to go with Plan B. (Geek Boy and I do not do crowds.)

So, we did a weird loop and got back on 95. Luckily, shore traffic in our direction wasn't that bad. And we got off downtown and headed in the direction of our favorite Blegian bar, Eulogy. However, Triumph Brew Pub had recently opened a new location just across the street. So, we decided to head to Triumph for appetizers and sampler, and then to Eulogy for dinner.

Triumph's calamari is great. Their beer, like the beer in New Hope, is okay. We first found Triumph at a brew fest a few years ago, where they had brought their Jolie Blonde. And that was fabulous. They have never had it on tap when we've been there, and the rest of their beers just don't live up to the hype in my mind. I will say this, though. This was the first restaurant I've been to that has a unisex restroom.

Eulogy, however, never disappoints. The waiter did not laugh at me when I told him I couldn't remember the real name of the beer I wanted, but it translated to "Mad Bitch." Dulle Teve. And it was just as wonderful as I remembered. Their food is great too.


I have started a new Saturday morning routine. I sit on the front porch listen to Car Talk and knit. This is he most relaxing part of my weekend. And I've been getting lots of progress done on my Cable Ribbed Socks from Favorite Socks. This was last Saturday's sock

Fret likes to help

And here's where it is this week.

This is my second pair for the summer of socks. I'm not setting any records, but it's good progress for me. I'm just four rows away from turning the heel. Unfortunately, the color does not allow good pictures of the cables. I did start this using Grumperina's method of cabling without a needle, in keeping with my attempt to try something new with each pair of Summer of Socks socks. However, this cable is a little different, in that you don't knit the held stitches in the normal order, so the new technique did not save any time. But the next pair of cabled socks will definitely use it. It's not as scary as other techniques I've seen.

Our niece, Chickpea, turns four this week. So we had her birthday party yesterday. Her mom invested in a slip 'n' slide for the occasion. But four year olds don't really grasp the "running start to slide head first" concept. The girls very dantily walked through the spray of water. Except Chickpea. She ran, and often slipped to fall on her butt at the end. It was very fun to watch.

Meanwhile, our nephew Geek Boy, Jr. (because he looks like a little version of his uncle) just gets cuter every time we see him. His new thing is the "boy growl." Everything he does is accompanied by a gutteral roar. I nearly fell over laughing while he carried his little bike up a hill and grunted with every step.

After the party we headed to Franklin Fountain for an ice cream party with some friends. I'm not a big ice cream person, so I didn't have anything, but, oh my goodness, the concoctions are amazing. If you're in the Philadelphia area and want a good ice cream experience, head down to Market Street.

Today is the big day. We're going to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. I can't wait. It's all leading up to next Saturday.

Meanwhile, I've started listening to The Book Thief. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite books of all times. The writing is just incredible. I find myself rewinding to listen to paragraphs over and over. When he describes the foster father and "the sheer brute force of his gentleness," I fell in love. Ive only just started, and hope that the author sustains this beauty through the end. This is also one of those books that I think is enhanced by listening to it. The narrator, Allan Corduner, brings the whole thing to life.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Summer Reading

I work in a small public library. Every so often there's one book that makes the round through the staff. A group of us has very similar tastes, so one will read a particular book and come in to work one day and convince the rest of us we need to read it. I did this a few weeks back with Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck. The most recent book making the rounds is Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach. One woman came in one day raving about it. In particular, she had listened to the audio book and said that McEwan was a wonderful narrator.

I'm a big fan of Ian McEwan. I'm always amazed at how long he can build the exposition of his stories and bring the ending together so quickly, yet satisfactorily. One book in particular, Enduring Love, was a book club pick. I went into book club not having read the last 70 pages. Since my rule is, if I didn't read it, I can't ask you not to spoil it, we had an extensive discussion about the ending of the book. I couldn't believe how much I had missed. New characters, weapons, all sorts of good stuff. And yet, the ending didn't feel rushed or contrived.

Now, On Chesil Beach is a much smaller book. And since I'm a dedicated advocate of audiobooks, I checked this out on my coworker's recommendation. Wow. There's not really much more to say but, Wow. It is such a simple story, essentially taking place only over a very short period of time. It is beautifully constructed. The language is exquisite. He transitions from Edward's thoughts to Florence's seamlessly, weaving a picture of two people so constrained in their own thoughts. McEwan's narration is wonderful. And there's a very interesting interview with him at the end. I was very grateful for it, because it did address a question I had about the story. A small detail that I could have lived with my own assumptions about, but was pleased to hear that I did pick up on something intentional. If you are looking for a wonderful, quick read, I can't recommend this highly enough. (In fact, I recommended it to another coworker who has recently become hooked on audio, but she was already reading the book at the suggestion of the woman who got me listening.)

Now, to finish The Little Friend and Slammerkin before July 21st. Because then, it's all Harry all the time so that no one can ruin it for me..

Friday, July 06, 2007

Friday Eye Candy

I can't imagine anywhere but Philadelphia...

...where straight men will dress in sequined costumes and march in a parade.

If you're not from around these parts, this is a small contingent from a Mummers String Band. After New Year's Day, they make appearances at smaller venues. From what I understand, if you didn't grow up around here, it just doesn't compute.

Photos from our little borough's Fourth of July Parade.

Now for a nice relaxing evening with the Geek Boy. Season 3 of Dr. Who starts tonight. And I just got a case of Brooklyn Brewery Summer Ale. We haven't had this before, but Garrett Oliver has never let us down before.... And after a winter full of big beers, we're enjoying the lighter session beers this summer.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

One Pair Down...More to Go

So, my first Summer of Socks socks are done and have been delivered to their recipient. This is the quickest pair of socks I have knit.

Started: 6/21/07
Finished: 7/2/07
Yarn: Zen String Serendipity in colorway Ben
Pattern: Wendy's generic toe-up socks

Not only did I finish these in less than two weeks, I also knit other stuff during the same time (the Pea Pod hat for The Trendy One's new of that when the whole new baby package is finished).

And I took Bendy out on the town.

Posing with my bouquet at my sister's wedding. I did not knit during the reception, although somewhere there is a picture of me knitting while we were all getting our hair done. If you want to get strange looks from your dearest friends, pull out a sock in progress at a wedding where you're the matron of honor and pose it for a picture.

Since one of my goals for doing Summer of Socks is to try new techniques, I cast on my second pair. I used Judy's magic cast-on, and cast on two at once on one circular needle. I love the cast on. My problem when doing toe-up socks is that I always seem to lose one stitch when I take out the crochet chain. And then there's closing up the holes. This way avoids all of those issues. However, I found the two-at-once-on-one-circ method too fiddly for me. It probably didn't help that the pattern I was using had lots of M1s and SSKs, and there's a reason Grumperina uses the term "Stubbi Bluntos. "

So, tonight I ripped and rewound the yarn. I love this yarn. It's Sundara's sock yarn. And I really want this to become something. I have now cast on for Cable Rib Socks from Favorite Socks.

But before I ripped out, Santa did some posing with the ill-fated two-at-once socks.