Archive for October 2007
I just realized (stupidly) that I do not have enough yarn to finish the first pair of the Six Socks.
That ball, and a slightly smaller ball in my knitting bag, is it. Damn it.
Of course, this is hallmark me. I always manage to dip into my stash to start a project without much thought beyond “how fast can I get this baby on my needles?” and not much in the way of what you’d call foresight, or planning, or common sense.
And thinking back to the project which added this yarn to the stash, I recall that I had made a desperate lunchtime dash to the yarn store to see if they even had any left because I was short, and this yarn? This yarn that you see here? That. Was. It.
I’m weighing my options. I could make another desperate yarn store dash in hopes of finding another, hidden hank that had been previously overlooked, or I could start scrounging around online (and pay shipping, yuck), or I could improvise. Or I could just buy more yarn and actually do it right this time.
Desperate lunchtime dash it is.
Ice bat was helping with the first of the Six Socks!, because he’s good like that.
And look, even though I can’t have a lime green workspace in Maine, at least I can have a lime green needle pot.
Baby steps. Baby steps.
The Capt’n and I have a sushi joint. A place where we go at the end of a long week, a place where they know us, and within a minute of sitting down, we’re given soup, and tea and questions about the week. Seriously, it’s enough to make me wish they’d named the Capt’n “Norm,” because we’re about to that point in the diner-dinee relationship.
Anyway, the owner has a son, a sophomore in high school. Heck, I think the place might be his very own “My First Restaurant” — he kind of hangs out and makes suggestions to the chefs and says things like, “Hey, I’m bored. If I rolled you something, would you eat it?”
(I keep not telling him that if he slightly modifies that sentence, he’ll be very popular in college.)
We first befriended him when he noticed the Capt’n's D40 and started talking about his photography class. He’s a good kid. Sometimes I can even help him with his AP biology homework. I mean, it’s only been 15 years since I took that class.
Anyway, last week — when we honored the Capt’n's birthday wish to drown in sushi — he was there and kept wandering back to our table to chat, and at some point, it came out that I bake for fun.
“Really?” he asked, and his eyes were friggin’ saucers. “Hey, my mom’s opening a new café, breakfast and stuff. Like [the super trendster local chain all the hipsters love to hate], but like, ours. Do you want to bake for us? Like pies? Because I love pies. If I brought you an application, would you fill it out?”
Somewhere along the line, a simple agreement to bring the staff a pie (because again, y’know, “NORM!”) turned into a sort of trial. And while I tried to explain that I haven’t worked in the back of a kitchen since I was a bus-girl-cum-muffin-tin-filler, he wasn’t listening. Really, he’s a high school sophomore, and I’m an editor. [::cough:: Assistant Editor -- Ed.] There is no job, no career change on the line here.
But at some point during the week, I started thinking about this pie as a new gateway, an option I hadn’t considered, a new way to beat my arthritic knee into submission, an expansion of my mediocrity from the dohmestic sphere into a larger world.
I started asking myself “what would Martha do?”
That is never a good sign.
Apparently Martha would add a leaf motif to the crust of a pumpkin pie seasoned, in part, with cayenne pepper.
Yeah. I was really reaching with this pie.
I was baking like I really wanted the job.
Funny thing was, the kid wasn’t there when we made the delivery (and availed ourselves to some fine tuna, yesireebob), but the rest of the staff made the “OHEMGEE PIE!” faces and exclamations, and really that’s enough. The pastry chef dreams went out the window about the time I realized I don’t particularly like getting up at 5 a.m.
Maybe I can work something out with them in the future — I do make a killer truffle, in the name of full disclosure, and a little consignment work might be cool — but yeah, not so much for another career switch. Not today.
Spiced Out Pumpkin Pie
Basic Pastry Shell from the yellow book
2 cups cooked pumpkin
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 slightly beaten eggs
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 Tbs vanilla
2 Tbs cinnamon
1 Tbs ginger
1 Tbs cloves
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper — and in future editions of this, I might try pureeing a single habañero instead, because I am so my dad’s daughter.
Mix everything together until well blended. I did this by hand with a whisk. Taste and keep adding spices until it tastes right. Bake at 425° for fifteen minutes before lowering the temperature to 350° and baking for another 45 minutes.
Makes one 9″ pie.
I finished the last of the Capt’n's nerdtastic nerd knitting (knerd?) nerdy birthday present. And I think I’m going to wait and let him post a picture of his Megatron Socks and then swipe it, because I am just that petty, and his photos are better anyway.
But in order to finish the Megatron Socks (to partner with the Optimus Prime socks I finished a month ago), I had to swing by the yarn store, and while I was there, I picked up a skein for a hat for a friend’s child, and then I paused to consider some other yarn, because I thought it might be most excellent to knit socks for everyone for Christmas.
Except for the Capt’n. And dear Mum. Those two got socks for their birthdays, the Capt’n doubly so. They’ve been socked enough.
That still leaves two daddies and a mama-in-law. That’s six socks. At a week a sock, that gives me just enough time to finish a hat for a little girl before I launch into panic mode.
And then? I may never knit again.
The schizophrenic nature of my wants has a nasty habit of rising up and chomping hold of my posterior, which means that I’ve spent another particularly blustery Saturday surfing other domesticated/crafty blogs where the women seem blissed out, the children are adorable scamps, the crafts are pastel dreams, the houses are immaculate-yet-lived in, and everything’s shot with a 1.8 50mm lens attached to a slightly-more-awesome-than-mine camera.
And I want that.
But here’s the thing. As much as I want the lime green studio/writing room with the oversized wing chair-slash-jewel liberated for a song from a rummage sale, as much as I covet the perfectly coordinated shabby chic house, and the purple-glazed pot for my bamboo knitting needles, and the sundry brick-a-brack which constitutes the Nigella Lawson-meet-Martha Stewart crafty porn, I do usually force myself to face facts and try to get a better bead on things.
For instance — we do not live in Maine. For whatever reason, the most awesome of the crafty porn blogs seem to come out of Maine, and from what I can tell, Maine is a land of rambling old houses not constructed out of mud, deciduous trees and friendly, LL Bean-clad people, a land where the lobster is heralded with the same vigor a New Mexican has for the green chile. And while it’s true that we have said to one another, “How ’bout Bangor?” over the last several months, I would hate for you to think that my sole inspiration in moving to Maine would be to tap into the crafting vibe the way suburbanites move to Taos for the hum.
And until we decide that yes, we’re hearty enough to face the cruel winter, we will remain in Albuquerque, in a tract house situated on a postage stamp’s worth of mesa on the west side, where “character” and “charm” were replaced with strip malls and Bumper Nutz.
[Unless the price on my super secret dream home comes down another fifty grand (and I get a raise and we can sell this white elephant), and we move downtown instead. I'm voting downtown -- I don't think the Capt'n could give up the steady chile supply.]
Another thing — I am just not that single-minded. My previous job was a creative job, and one that I was good at . . . when I put the hammer down, popped on the iPod and forced myself to be the disciplined artist. Otherwise, it was a half-assed endeavor of earning a paycheck and giving it just enough effort as to not get hauled in front of the managing editor for an attitude adjustment. It takes the will of a god to keep my focus long enough to finish simple projects; there’s a reason I tend to knit socks instead of complicated cardigans. To transform the house from tract to cozy would require months of focus, and I know myself well enough to anticipate getting distracted in the middle of a painting project, leaving one wall lime green and the rest royal blue.
And then there’s the material aspect of it — finding those perfect second hand pieces to furnish a crafty porn blog requires days and weeks of sorting through jumble sales, yard sales, estate sales and thrift shops, which I can do in very small doses, but it’s time and it’s money, and the Capt’n — who jealously guards our weekends — would be a willing participant for about ten minutes before he’d get itchy, and then think to himself “Golly, I wonder how much of this stuff was owned by dead people,” which would creep him out just enough to start the “I want to go home” dance.
It mostly involves a lot of foot nudging and elbowing.
And the last thing which stands in my way of domestic nirvana is my inability to get the details right. As a modern woman, I can’t seem to pull myself together — the right clothes and shoes and jewelry and handbag and makeup and hair is impossible, for instance. If my clothes are right, my shoes are wrong. If from the neck down, I’m together, from the neck up, I’m a frizzy-haired, clown-faced wreck. Details escape me. And I’m getting the feeling that a lot of this crafty porn comes down to details — women who have the inspiration and the focus to transfer lotion from plastic containers to ribbon-wrapped crystal jars.
That’s just not me. I’m knitting a sock based off of a cartoon character, I wear tattered Chuck Taylors and I will always have frizzy hair.
That’s why it’s called “D’oh!Mestic.” I’m going to get it wrong. Really wrong. But it’s mine, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll start to get it right. Maybe someday, I’ll live in the craftsman bungalow with a writing room perfectly color-coordinated, a kitchen full of beautiful, mismatched settings, a garden, flowers in every room and a better understanding of what it takes.
But not today. And that’s okay.
So, somewhere between the really good coffee, the delicious homemade bagels and the Stephen Colbert column, the Capt’n turned to me and said, “Wow. After the dog-and-pony show for the bread, cupcakes are going to seem like a snap, aren’t they?”
I think I rolled my eyes at him and mumbled something about “done baking for the weekend.”
And then the coffee kicked in.
(Sidebar: “…and then the coffee kicked in” is totally going to be the title of my autobiography and/or memoir.)
I ended up making devil’s food cuppycakes with cream cheese frosting, both from the yellow book. I don’t know, maybe I’m a sucker, but I was feeling bad for the yellow book by the end of the weekend. It just sat there on the shelf while the new, sexier bread book got to be out on the counter, all showy and used and covered in flour.
Poor yellow book.
So cuppy cakes. They turned out kind of ugly. Fortunately, we’re silly with the Ugly Dolls.
The cakes themselves were nice and moist, though not as sweet as the Capt’n likes them. “Call me savage, call me an ugly American,” he says (on a daily basis). “But I like a sweet cupcake.”
Actually, they got sweeter as they cooled. Really, I think the Capt’n needs to stop going “nomnomnomHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOTcanttasteanythingszors!” the minute a treat comes out of the oven.
Yeah. It’s all fun and games until somebody drops one.
Oh, yeah. I had another bread project going while I was braiding up the previous loaf.
I figured I was already proofing up one project, why not two?
By the end of this morning, I had lived out a small fantasy of mine — sitting around our sun-drenched kitchen, drinking incredibly good coffee made from a french press, eating fresh bagels and reading bits of the New York Times out loud. I don’t know why my domestic fantasies are so pedestrian, but it might have something to do with my inability to process carbs.
And also, to quote the Capt’n — “You made bagels! Like in our kitchen! I didn’t know you could just do that.”
More bread in honor of the Capt’n's going and getting himself born.
I eschewed the yellow book this go around in favor of “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.” Pop loaned his copy to me after my modest success with the Irish Soda bread of last week, and I decided, after spending most of the week reading it like a novel, to try the french bread recipe.
(Along about Wednesday, the Capt’n may or may not have looked over at me and may or may not have said, “y’know, real people don’t actually talk about character arcs for cookbooks,” and I may or may not have told him to shove it.)
French bread — maybe not the most inspired, hipster-specific, aspirationally artisan bread recipe on the planet, but I have very fond memories of spending a rainy summer afternoon making a loaf of french bread with my mother, and part of the D’oh!mestic mission is to honor traditions handed down from mother to daughter.
Or to at least justify being a third wave feminist who enjoys spending time participating in traditional gender role-based hobbies.
I like baking, damnit.
Grimlock enjoys baking, too.
It took most of the day to make one loaf of bread. (“Which would go for less than three bucks at the store,” the Capt’n pointed out. “Which seems kind of off.”) Really, it was more patience than anything. Knead for ten minutes, wait two hours. Roll and braid, wait two hours. Bake and nearly burn down the house? Wait an hour.
No, I did not burn down the house.
Though there was a very important lesson to be learned: the book suggested parchment paper. Paper burns at 451°F (thanks, Ray!). The oven is preheated to 500°F, and then lowered to 450°F. And my oven sometimes runs a little warm.
The smoke detector’s very finicky.
It was worth it, though, in the end.
Okay, aside from Kate Hepburn’s crap brownies, the yellow book can do no wrong. Here, for example, is my first run at Irish Soda Bread, in honor of the Capt’n's tribute month.
Yeah, tribute month. For as long as I’ve known him, the Capt’n has demanded tribute — very similar to a Roman Emperor demanding a triumph — in honor of his birthday. I am more than happy to acquiesce; after all, if he hadn’t been born, where would I be? I’ll tell you where I’d be. I’d be in a concrete box somewhere in the scary part of town, alone and unloved, rounder than I was tall, because I’d be subsisting on a diet of Bisquick and mercury-laced tap water, and I wouldn’t think I’d deserve any better.
If the Capt’n wants bread because he was born, by golly, I’m going to make some for him.
So, getting back to the bread. This was a stupid easy recipe. Most bread is, but this was especially quick and painless — and I do mean that. A bum knee has me hobbling around on crutches, and this was my first big kitchen project in more than a week. In terms of time from mise en place to into the oven, it took from the opening strains of “Where the Streets Have No Name” to the end of “With or Without You,” because why measure time in with numbers when I have a perfectly awesome iPod and The Joshua Tree?
(I also have appalling taste in music for being an aspirational hipster, but that’s another post.)
The bread’s cooling now. The yellow book demands at least two hours, but knowing the Capt’n, the first loaf will be gone within the next twenty minutes.
Happy birthday, my fine fellow.