Friday, December 4, 2015

Oh, Gods, tonight's dinner is *spectacular*!!!

I've already told you that I had the summer and year from hell, right? I'm recovering from several months of lots of issues and stress and a nervous exhaustion that is particularly odious. I feel like I need a month or two at a warm seaside resort or something equally Victorian like that.

I decided to make myself a nice dinner, snuggle with my puppers and watch The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part I. So I considered the ingredients at home, stopped at the grocery for extras and a bottle of wine (and a small cheesecake), and went to town.

Chicken based Italian sausage (mild), baby spinach, chicken broth, and onion, and some items not pictured: some leftover potatoes from the pantry, some cheese, garlic, cream, salt and pepper. The wine is for drinking during dinner.


Bacon on top, too. I'm finishing up my second bowl.I can't wait for the cheesecake.

And you know? I do feel better.

Now, to gather Rex and head off to Panem before I make plans to see the second half of the movie this weekend. Hopefully, it'll help me recover some strength before the crazy of the next holiday.

And a nap. We have to take a nap. Naps are good for you, too.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

I got my write on!

It sucked. But it felt soooo goood.

I may even write some more of it. Or maybe something else. Who knows? But it felt good to get some quiet time in a noisy coffee shop and write some words.

If only I could get some knitting done, I'd feel a good deal less creatively constipated.

It's possible that there may be some new yarn in my future, so maybe I'll get an impetus to knit again, too. It's the dark time of the year, though, so that may be retarding my ability to feel creative in any real way. I just have to push through, I guess.

If only it weren't so hard.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

How do I always do this?!?

Solve problems way past the eleventh hour, I mean.

I have a scarf I wanted to knit for a friend, for her conjoined birth/giftmas days. So I've been trying and trying and trying different methods to get it to do what I want -- with little success. I finally put it in the naughty corner and went off to do other things.

Her holiday complex is in less than four weeks now, so it's too late to get it done -- even if I knit my fingers to the bone for it. I have no interest in knitting that hard on anything.

So she gets lamps, instead. But now that I know there is another possible solution to the problem I've been having with this project makes me feel a little better. I've been having some...issues with cognition and creativity this year. So much of my mental ability has been stifled, so to get an idea like this, for free.... yeah. That's awesome.

And of course I have to have this idea on a day when I'm beyond exhausted and overtaxed. Great. I haven't got the energy to do anything, but at least I know what I will do when I get my energy back.

Until then, I'll be hiding in this pillow pile with Rex. All snuggled up and warm and smooshy.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

I may have found the next best thing in pasta....

We went to a family style Italian restaurant for my aunt's birthday today, and due to my food allergy I had to cobble lunch together from bits and bobs. I might have found the best pasta dish ever:

1 plate of perfectly cooked spaghetti (it's wonderful if done right)
1 large platter of caprese salad (mozzarella, tomatoes, basil leaves, salt, pepper and extra virgin olive oil)
a little more salt

Cut up the salad, top it with more olive oil and some excellent balsamic vinegar, nosh. It tastes like summer and heaven and sunshine.

I had half this afternoon, half tonight (even though I wasn't even hungry -- I just needed that balsamic vinegar, tomato and cheese). I'm starting to think of other things I can add to spaghetti when there's good oil and vinegar involved. Although it would also be excellent all on its own -- oil and vinegar and pasta? Awesome.

Oh, my blob. Is this turning into an ersatz food blog?

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

I don't even know what I'm doing.

Honestly, I have no idea.

But I know that when I don't write, when I keep the words bottled up, my stomach problems get worse. I've been bottling up a lot of words. Granted, what I write here isn't all that much, but I need to get myself back in the habit.

So, here I am.

At least I can report that I've been enjoying French toast casserole all summer. It's lovely.

I haven't been knitting (although some of this is due to Rex still being a bit of a wool moth, and part cat), I haven't been writing. Working and watching old Law & Order reruns. I gave up on CSI, they got weird there at the end.

Although I have been working on some things at knit night, so at least there's that. In between trying to hold myself together with both hands and having what felt like a nervous breakdown, that is. And I've got some new projects I'd like to work on, but first I have to find time to do it.

Hopefully, starting up the blog again will hold me accountable, and I'll be able to have some kind of routine to make me feel...comfortable again.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

And we have a winner!!!

I have found my go-to French Toast casserole recipe!

Well, I've innovated it. I had to combine two different recipes to get here, but now I can sleep secure knowing that, should I ever need to serve brunch to people, I know precisely how to put the French Tioast casserole together.

I combined the most fragrant of the custards (let's be honest, with really excellent vanilla, the Pioneer Woman's Baked French Toast has a nice, basic custard base) and the best topper (the caramel on the Skier's French Toast Casserole is...mind-shatteringly fabulous) and made the French Toast Casserole la prima.

Here it is:

Surly Knitter's Super Duper French Toast Casserole

You will need: 9 x 13 baking dish, oven, and a spoon to get it from the bowl into your mouth. You will definitely want to get it there efficiently.


For the caramel:
1/2 cup butter -- one stick, for Americans playing at home
2 Tblsp corn syrup, light or dark
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed

For the custard:
8 whole eggs
2 cups whole milk (2% will suffice)
1/2 cups heavy cream (I used half and half, it works)
3/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp vanilla extract -- buy the best one you can afford; I accidentally bought a $6 bourbon vanilla that's organic and free-trade, and I'd willingly pay that again, even if I only made $6 an hour

One loaf of crusty bread, sourdough or white, dealer's choice. Cut or torn into bite size squares/cubes.

The night before, make the caramel. In a sauce pan on the stove, melt your butter on medium to medium-low heat. When the stick is melted, stir in the corn syrup and dark brown sugar. Stir occasionally and let simmer lightly until the sugar is completely melted into the butter and no crystals remain (it takes a bit, be patient).

Meanwhile, grease your pan. Use butter or spray stuff, it's up to you. When the caramel is ready, pour into the bottom of the pan. It's not going to like the spray stuff or butter that you used very much, so you may have to spread it out with your spoon. Let set aside.

Mix the custard ingredients (I prefer to whip the eggs and sugar together before adding the rest of the ingredients, but last night I put them in as I could get to them and it turned out really well). Spread the bread bits on top of the caramel in the baking dish, using them to spread the caramel a little more. Pour the custard on top of the bread, making sure to get all the top pieces wet (unless you like chewing on broken glass, which is sort of what baked stale bread feels like in the mouth).

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning, rise, shine, get a cup of joe and preheat your oven to 350 F. Pop the casserole in for 40-45 minutes (checking at the 40 minute mark for done-ness). Bake longer for a drier texture, less time for a more squishy bread pudding experience.

Remove from oven. Nosh. You don't need (nor will you want) maple syrup. Sausage is a good pairing, although bacon is always welcome in my home.

I promise you, this one is the best possible French Toast Casserole. At least, by my reckoning. Here, have some pictures:

 I wasn't home when it came out, and if you could smell it, too, you'd understand why half of it was gone before I even got here.

 Close up of the lovely, lovely custard and goo.

In my bowl, on the way to in my belleh.

You can be sure I'm already on to my second serving. This stuff is excellent.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Awesome new toys

I went to my local art museum today. They're talking about charging an entrance fee come spring, so I'm trying to get my visits in now

I'm looking to decorate my "modular work station", and it is my favorite place to find decor. So I toddled around for a little while, enjoyed my favorite pieces a bit, then hit the shop. And got myself some super awesome new toys.

The MoMA Modern Play House and MoMA Modern Play Family.

Aw, yeah, baby!

I think I'll have a hard time on Tuesday when I go back paying attention to actual work. Look at these things:

Both sets, people, I now own both sets! 

I'm going to clear my shelves, put all my pretty tchotchkes on display and hide the stuff I need for work in my closed door cabinet. It doesn't lock, anyway, so I can put my statues and stuff out and it's no safer or more endangered than it is inside the cabinet. We have a kick-ass cleaning crew, anyway. They don't take things. Heck, my boss left cash-money on top of her filing cabinet the other day, and they dusted around it. 

Those are some honest people, yo.

The best part of it all is that I used to be addicted to Colorforms, and these are basically glorified Colorforms in a swanky, modernist design structure. 

I'm going to have so. much. fun.

I can't wait to put them together and put them up on my shelf. They will go so great with my little plaster skull in a tiara (called Gertie, aka, Queen Gertrude), ceramic cat and turtles and plant. 

All that color! It will go fabulously with my various art postcards/magnets!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Well, it's pretty, that's for sure.

I took a commission from a friend a month ago, to make an infinity scarf. It is taking a blue forever, for reasons I've whined about before.

I love Rex, I really do.

Anyway, I bethought myself to finally take a picture of it. I screwed up the night-time knitting project (the one I keep in my bedroom to knit on before I go to bed) and will need the assistance of my knitting group to repair it. So this project, herewith called "Water Melons", has been promoted from knit night knitting to bed time knitting. I'll work on both of them, alternating, until one of them is finished. Or I'll go crazy and eat my own yarn, one or the other.

Here is a picture of Water Melons:

The stitch pattern is called "melons", and I found it in my favorite yarn porn book evar: Victorian Lace Today, by Jane Sowerby.

And I just about fainted when I looked up that link. The book is now under $10 cash American. I won't tell you what I paid when it was brand new, but I'll tell you what, just looking at the pictures is worth every penny.

Anyway, the yarn is Crystal Palace Yarns Panda Pearl in the color "Blue Lagoon" -- hence, Water Melons.

Hey, I've been getting more and more tired lately, all my wit and humor burned off well before I get home, and all that's left over is the burnt out husk of a woman who used to be absolutely clever on this blog. Cut me some slack on the stupid puns, ok?

I probably need more protein. And maybe some exercise. And to be not dehydrated (why oh why can I not keep myself in the habit of drinking water? Yes, I know it's bland -- I mean, duh, it's water -- but you'd think I would remember how tired and headachey and miserable I get when I don't drink it and my duty to myself, you know?)

Anyway, Rex is looking a bit sheepish. He knows I've outed him for his luxury yarn fetish.

You'd think it would be a point of common ground between us, wouldn't you? If only he'd leave my stash alone, it probably would.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

February is here! Huzzah!

I hate January. But it's over for the year, and boy, howdy, did it feel like it took forever. But now we are on to the shortest month of the year, happily it's also a winter month, because if any season of the year should be short-changed on days, it should be winter, and as a bonus it involves chocolate. What more can any growing girl want?

Anyway, on to my French Toast challenge. You may notice that I have been silent on the Taste of Home French toast. This is because my mother taught me that if I have nothing nice to say, I should say nothing at all.

And I'll be honest, at first I blamed the sharpness of the cream cheese for my intense dislike. The custard was so bland that all you got was a mouthfull of sharp, cheesy goo. Icky. But then this week, I used the Shop 'n Save Blueberry Surprise French Toast casserole recipe. It, too, has cream cheese, and I was hesitant. But I wasn't feeling the walnuts of Mr. Breakfast or the plain, sugary nature of the Skier's French Toast recipe, so I got some blueberries, bought way more cream cheese and went for it.

It crisped up nicely, although it looked nothing like the picture on the recipe website. But I figure that's because I haven't got a food stylist, and just got on with it. I tried it first without maple syrup on top, and it's alright. I mean, there's some syrup inside, so there's a hint of that flavor to begin with. But then I just went insane:
Sorry for the blur. My camera is, I believe, slowly but surely going down. It's almost 20 years old, so should anyone be surprised?

Anyway, that there is my first serving, which should tell you something, as I barely made it halfway through the Taste of Home version before chucking it and getting myself a bowl of cereal.

Anyway, the blueberries sort of cut the tang of the cream cheese (although, in the interest in honesty, I used Philadelphia's Neufschatel instead of actual full-fat cream cheese -- cream cheese was on sale 2 for $3, so they were out of the regular), and the whole blended with the sausage and maple syrup beautifully. And as a bonus, you get to say you got some vitamins. Not many, but blueberries. Don't certain overly-simplified nutrionists say that makes it health food?

I can see how this could be altered to include lots of other fruits and inclusions. You could carmelize some bananas in dark brown sugar and use that instead of both blueberries and cream cheese -- or just add it to. You could find a different berry that flipped your skirt up faster than blueberries and sub that. Go crazy.

This one is a serious contender for my Go-To Recipe.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dear Pioneer Woman,

I've thought long and hard about this, and your French toast casserole just isn't going to work out.

I mean, it turned out nice and moist and fluffy:

 And the inside was just as lovely. much as I loved the crunch on top, this casserole really needed the maple syrup. It was bland without it, and if it's a good French toast casserole, the maple syrup should be gilding the lily, you know? Particularly when it's not a listed ingredient in the recipe, it should almost be too much.

Tomorrow's recipe (I forgot to buy bread for today) has maple syrup as the sweetener. It's the Taste of Home's Maple French Toast Bake. I'm a bit hesitant to make a French toast that has cream cheese in it, but I'll try anything about once. Maybe twice, if it's decent. But I've loaded up on bread, milk and eggs, and there's sausage for sides (to be fair, they all have to have the same sausage side; that's science.) We'll see.

I have a feeling I'm going to end up using bits and bobs of several recipes to make up my own Workhorse Recipe. If the custard mix (the egg and maple syrup blend) of the new recipe works, then I may use that with the cinnamon/sugar/flour streusel of Pioneer Woman's recipe.

But that will be a decision for after the five weeks are fully up. Due diligence and all that.

In other news, I have a friend who asked me, politely, to knit her an infinity scarf. And she offered to pay for the yarn. And basely flattered me -- she's an organist. She plays an instrument that requires her to use eight fingers, two thumbs and both feet at once, and she said I had a great talent. Knitting vs. playing an organ -- to my mind, not really a comparison in terms of talent or ability. But I'm weak and easy, and easily led, so I said fine.

There was much yarn wank and pattern wank, and then I changed up the yarn I wanted to use. I went with Crystal Palace Yarns' Panda Pearl. But I had no idea which color she would like! There was a beautiful green shot through with purple called Green Glades, which I favored.
Then there was a beautiful blue and black blend that my mom preferred, called Lake Blues.
Then I got a third yarn, as a compromise, called Blue Lagoon.
Unfortunately, she chose Blue Lagoon. This left me with a quandry: Would I be emotionally strong enough to take the other two back?

No. No I'm not. They're going in the stash.


Rex laughs at me and my weak will.
Haha! Look at my little pink butt! It's pink.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

French Toast Casseroles, or My Search for the Ultimate Truth

Honestly. French toast casserole. You'd think it would be a simple thing to find a good recipe for French toast casserole, wouldn't you? But, no. No, it isn't. I've been testing various ones for the past forever it seems, but none are really satisfactory. This one has too much custard, that one is too bland. This one is too spicy, that one tastes like nuclear waste, and oh, my blob, is it still in my mouth? Spit it out, spit it out!!!

What is it going to take for a girl to find a good French toast casserole recipe!?!?

Poverty, apparently. I'm super poor at the moment, what with various family dramas going on and my decision to pay off my credit cards, so I've decided to make a different French toast casserole every Sunday until I find the best damn French toast casserole on the planet, by gum. Or at least an adequate one. Because eating in is a lot cheaper than eating out, and that was the family tradition for most Sundays. Well, poverty. So they can become rats in my little pain perdu maze. Bwahahahahaaa!

Up tomorrow: The Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Baked French Toast. I chose it for first because...well. No reason, really. But I know some people for whom the Pioneer Woman is, like, a minor goddess, so her recipe can't be all that bad, can it?

Anyway, for the purposes of this experiment, I decided I will have to use the exact same ingredients for each recipe (at least, where they overlap), otherwise it's not a good test of the recipe, is it? I have chosen for my bread a nice, heavy French loaf from my local Earth Fare. To be completely honest, that's the only item I buy there (except if I need Emmentaler cheese -- don't ask me why, but apparently the people in these parts have a thing against good Swiss cheeses), but that's not the fault of their products. It's my location. Upon a time, it was a huge Office Max, and before that a regular grocery store. Earth Fare moves in, I get all excited...and then they cut the inside down by nearly 2/3, and have a produce section approximately the size of my bedroom closet. Whaa...?

Whatever. We have a Fresh Thyme market, too, so screw you, Earth Fare, and your teensy weensy vegetable section at our location. Are we not good enough for your precious fingerling potatoes?

Ahem. Back to the French loaf. It's good eatin' bread, so if anything will make a French toast casserole good, it's this. Same brand of milk, same brand of cream, etc. All the variables must be the same if we are to figure out if there's magic in the mix. Somehow I feel like I should have a lab coat for this....

Next week, I think I may go with Maple French Toast, from Taste of Home magazine. The week after, Brown Sugar and Walnuts, from Mr. It has the walnuts, you see. Healthy. Then maybe the completely nutritionally unredeemed Skier's Baked French Toast from Miss Party. Corn syrup, people, it's got corn syrup!!! And rounding out the top five (and hopefully there's a winner in this batch) is the Blueberry Surprise French Toast, by Shop 'N Save, a chain of supermarkets here in the States. I will have to make up a score card and everything, too.

Is it weird that the thought of doing a statistical analysis of French toast casserole recipes sort of excites me?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

I am so losing my destashing game again this year....

I stopped to pick up my layaway silk yarn and this wanted to come home with me:

You can't tell from this picture, but that's some silk, merino, nylon and a silver strand all spun up together. Sparkles, my kryptonite.

I think it's going to be wanting beads, too. I'm so pathetically easy, you know?

At least Rex is keeping my chair warm:

That's some pretty yarn there. May I chew on it? No? Ok, then. Whatevs.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

To start the new year....

Have I posted at how random I find the Western New Year's Eve? Because I do. It's just past the solstice, which to my thinking would make a way more logical place to start a new year, but not quite to any change of weather or astrological season. It's...bizarre.

And pointless. Any day can be the start of a new year for you. You just have to make it so.

However our culture decreed (at some point in the dim and misty past) that this would be the start of a new year. We would measure our trip around the sun by this day.


Oh, well. I do have this to console me:

Well, I have the pink one. The green is languishing in layaway until tomorrow, when I get paid and can ransom it. But then they will be together again.

The bottom one is a bamboo-merino wool blend (superwash) and the green is a silk-merino (ALSO superwash!) I'm thinking I may need to design my Pi Shawl and work it in two colors. Or something like that -- I've got some serious yardage working between the two. The pink is 520 yards, the green over 600.

Either way, if that's what celebrating the new year gets me, pass the champagne!