Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Definitive Mac and Cheese

What does it say about me that one of my life goals has been to find the perfect macaroni and cheese recipe? I have already accomplished another – the perfect chili recipe. I was half-way to a successful life. And now, fait accompli – macaroni perfection. (these last four words must be said with a heavy French accent).

I discovered an excellent cooking magazine in the library the other day. It was supposed to be for my “loves to cook and bake” daughter, but she wasn’t interested. So I took a look through. You know how “Julie and Julia” made you want to go out, get Julie Child’s books, start at the beginning and recreate the movie? This magazine did that for me. (actually I did take 3 of Child’s books out – I’m not loving French cooking, but the thought was nice).

“Cook’s Country” magazine is taken from a Public Television show called “Cook’s Country from America’s Test Kitchen”. Each recipe comes with a short essay on the technique used or the history of the recipe development. It’s a mini cooking course with sidebar tidbits of food lore and diagrams. The food is more down-to-earth and eatable for my family.

I love this magazine so much I’m having to hold myself back from ordering the DVD’s of season one and two of the show.

Back to the mac’n cheese.

The recipe is actually meant as a make-ahead. Imagine that! Making ahead a pasta dish. I’ll have to try it. For this time we snarfed it up for supper and left-overs went with my son to work. The secret ingredient was the chicken broth and cayenne pepper that made it sooo flavourful. And if I had had the heavy cream that it called for instead of milk, the flavour would have been over the moon, I’m sure. I don’t have a problem with butter and cream. God made ‘em; they’re good.

Another goal accomplished yesterday – slipper socks for a former homeless man our church has befriended. He is going through cancer treatments and the weather is getting colder. His feet will appreciate some cozy socks. Cascade 220 superwash (in the best colour yet! – 863, a dark, rich burgundy)

Monday, September 28, 2009

Is fat my enemy?

Reading about nutrition and nutrition trends is a hobby of mine. It has been since I was about 13 or 14. (40 years!) Fads come and go; science learns new things; popular knowledge continues to be influenced by big business. In the area of health, it is important to keep your perspective. So many people have an agenda or a bias. Just as in everything else in life, you must consider the source; consider what they might gain by what they are putting forward. A friend asked how to judge what you are reading about, since there are so many differing opinions and theories on what constitutes good health. I told her that one thing I do is look at the footnotes and scientific studies quoted. Can they be substantiated? Does the science work? Are there conflicting messages?

A blogger that I follow posted these guidelines, which I think can keep the confusion in perspective:

This is my method: first I ask God to guide me, and then I ask myself these questions

  1. What is the most natural, traditional way…the way God originally intended?
  2. How did our ancestors eat?
  3. What makes the most sense?
  4. Whatever I’m reading at the moment, what are they selling or how do they benefit if I believe what they say?

You can’t go too wrong following these guidelines.

A recent, fascinating read was "Rethinking Thin" by Gina Kolata. She studied diets and dieting and challenged conventional wisdom regarding weight loss. Can we lose weight and keep it off? Do we need to lose weight? The answer might surprise you. The conclusion she came to (and yes, she has pages of footnotes) was that contrary to what we've been lead to believe, being overweight is not necessarily the health hazard it's made out to be. Our culture's standard of allowable fat may tell us that those rolls shouldn't be there. But health-wise, longevity-wise, maybe you can keep them and still come out ahead. Of course, bucking the image when it's in our face constantly is another story.

Saturday, September 26, 2009


I've never been a mother that could blithely go to sleep before all of her children are tucked safely in bed. The 17 and 19 year olds, maybe, but not the 14 year old. So last night, in spite of being somewhat sleep deprived since early afternoon and after a satisfying knit-night, I said no to the comfort of my covers and grabbed my husbands rental DVD to continue the knitting till said son arrived home.

My husband had had to exchange the Harrison Ford movie (which I was looking forward to) for a war movie, he told me. Ugh! But I plugged it into the computer, started the needles clicking and settled in.

Well...have you seen the movie Valkyrie yet? It is well worth watching - in fact, not to be missed. It's a true story of a German hero towards the end of WWII. And the ending... that's where IMPACT comes in. I won't give it away, but suffice to say I was stunned and there were tears.

See this movie.

So what did I knit on while watching this, you wonder? The substitute socks I started after realizing the last pair weren't going to work (see last post). The funny thing is that my friend at knit-night pointed out that the Opal yarn I was using was sport weight (I didn't even know that Opal made sport weight). Of course, I hadn't adjusted my plain jane sock pattern to allow for this. But it seems to be alright. The socks are a little heavy, but will be good for boots. A little stiff, but will hopefully soften up with washing. A little big, but she might have bigger feet and legs than me. I hope I have a little more luck with my next project. I seem to be on a roll of little miscalculations these days.

Opal ZwergerGarn Best of Opal 6 fach Colorway1711

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Chivalry is not dead

Picture a crowded medical clinic waiting room, everyone clutching their precious number in their hands. Seats are at a premium - being juggled, as one by one, numbers are called and new people enter. There is rarely a free chair.

In the door walks an elderly Chinese man and woman, clearly husband and wife. True to their time, the wife defers to her husband and he sits in the only available seat. Immediately an older gentleman jumps up and offers his place. She motions, "No, no, no", and goes into the corner to lean against the wall. He says, "Sit, sit." No, she will continue in her corner. The polite gentleman settles on his part of the wall, opens his book and begins to read. Someone else enters the clinic and takes the open seat. A number is called. A chair becomes free. The reader motions to the woman to take it. No, she'll stay where she is. This interchange goes on a few more times. Finally, the woman overcomes her natural instincts and upon a final motioning from Mr. Chivalrous, she laughingly sits down.

It turns out she is the one that needs the medical attention.

But I'm sure there was never any bitter feelings on her part. Cultures can be so different.

Which brings me to an interesting but a little weird, book I read this summer.
The Hundred Secret Senses was written by the well-known author Amy Tan. Dealing with the occult, I several times almost set the book aside. It was just strange sometimes. But the story-line did pull me in and was written well enough that I kept going. All ghost-like stuff aside, the culture and customs of China were what drew me to keep reading. The characters are well developed and complex. If you have any interest in China, you'll probably like this book.

Socks on the needle: Meilenweit Mega Boot yarn, with contrast heel and toe in Waikiwi. I was going to gift these at Christmas, but just realized today that the contrast is not a machine dryable yarn. Drat! It's back to Opal for gift socks, and these will either have to be for me or someone I know doesn't toss socks in the dryer.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Take me away from it all

Summer books I've read continue to filter through from my long term storage. "Taken" was an interesting change from more serious reading. Apparently based on a TV miniseries, but I haven't seen it. The author used a technique where a number of different people are brought in one by one and eventually you start to see the connections. (This book is not to be confused with the movie of the same name. That movie will convince you that your daughter should NEVER travel overseas without you.)

My knitting news is that I'm starting to slow down. I had a very unfortuate experience about a week ago. After knitting on a cabley piece of satisfaction for about 8 hours, I decided that it wasn't living up to my expectations. So...I pulled it off the needles. But my mojo was gone. I could not start this shawl again. In a moment of madness I yanked out my crochet hook and some gorgeous variegated yarn and went to work. A week later it was done. Today I'll show you the "unfortunate experience". When I can get a stunning model to put on the finished shawl, that picture will follow.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reading about nature

I have to admit that I am an armchair naturalist. Reading about nature; watching nature shows - that's where I'm most comfortable. I enjoy being outside, but have to push myself to get there. So I admire people who are "at home in the outside". Edith Holden was one of those people. She was an artist who regularly spent a good deal of time on walks or bike riding in the great outdoors. "The Edwardian Lady" by Ina Taylor is a biography of her life that gave a great deal of insight into life in the late 1800's and early 1900's, as well as a description of Edith's life. It was also wonderfully illustrated with photos and the artwork of Edith and her sisters . Four interesting points from this book:

1. Edith was 39 years old when she got married, but there was no indication that she was pining away all those unmarried years. She got on with her life and it was a very interesting one, indeed.

2. Most people of the day went to church, but amazingly many were also into occult activities. One wonders how they managed to reconcile that fact.

3. Edith Holden Smith died tragically about 9 years after her marriage. She was attempting to collect specimens for drawing, and fell into a creek and drowned.

4. Edith authored a well-loved book "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" (link is to several copies to be had for $0.10!) When I found this book in a used book store years ago my heart began to beat wildly and my palms broke out in sweat.

What else would I have finished knitting right now but another hat. Again in Paton's Classic Wool Merino and the Classic WWII watchcap pattern. It does have a zig zag pattern on the ribbing, but being black you can't see it very well. I loved working with this yarn and would like to make another to keep.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Ravelry is an online knitting group that has taken the (knitting) world by storm. Being a member opens the door to thousands of other crafters, vendors, patterns - just about anything having to do with yarn or fiber or the people involved with it. I could literally spend hours on there, browsing.

Anyhow...reading a post on the Prayer Shawl group right now reminded me of another book that I read this summer. The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.

From the site: If Miss Marple were fat and jolly and lived in
Botswana--and decided to go against any conventional notion of what an unmarried woman should do, spending the money she got from selling her late father's cattle to set up a Ladies' Detective Agency--then you have an idea of how Precious sets herself up as her country's first female detective. Once the clients start showing up on her doorstep, Precious enjoys a pleasingly successful series of cases.

This was a delightful and insightful book. My only question is - how does a male author know so much about women?

My Procrastination Hat came about from trying to avoid doing all the Children's Ministry and homeschooling organizing that I KNEW I needed to do. A hat for the kids to wear come winter. Marks and Kattens Eco multi ull yarn done in the standard Classic WWII watchcap.