Monday, August 20, 2012

Lazy Ramen

Meg shared a pin on Pinterest with me the other day that she was really excited about.  A great, but simple ramen recipe that she ended up making the next night.  We were talking about how expensive fresh noodles are and how you can just get a package of Top Ramen for 59 cents, toss the spice packet, add your own mix of sauces, veggies, meat, whatever and -  voila.  Seriously, why didn't I think of that?  Loving her idea, but not liking some of the ingredients in the recipe she pinned, I decided to make a very dumbed-down version.

Simple meal for when you're not feeling so hot on a rainy day (otherwise August is way too hot for ramen):  Heat two cups of chicken broth on medium-high in a pot.  When it starts bubbling, add one package of cheap-o ramen noodles (toss the MSG-filled spice packet).  Break up the noodles (the broth may not cover them until you do), then add frozen corn and peas (small, so they cook quickly).  Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Turn off heat, but leave pot on stovetop.  Season with a teensy bit of soy sauce and Sriracha Garlic Chili Sauce (or plain ol' Sriracha).  Sometimes I'm not into the broth part so much and just put the soy and Sriracha on the drained noodles and veggies.

My oh my, how lazy I am.  

Optional:  fresh spinach, thinly sliced scallions, diced firm tofu, very thinly sliced fresh carrots and/or mushrooms, bite-size pieces of rotisserie chicken.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Stumbling Uncraftily Along

I've heard mention of Stumble Upon for quite a while now.  It's one of those things that I kept meaning to get around to, but then I'd get distracted by, you know - a puppy or something shiny, and forget.  I finally took the time to check it out when I saw how many site views I get thanks to Stumble Upon.  The majority of my new visitors come through that way, so of course I had to go see what people are on about.

I wish I'd joined earlier.  I really like this concept.  There are so many things to read online and doing searches only gets you so far.  It's nice to select your interests, click the Stumble button and get something fun to read or interact with.  Here are some of the great sites that came up:

The 36th Avenue:  This is a great site for DIY.  Check out the 25 Handmade Gifts Under $5 - the mason jar sewing kit is fantastic and I want to make those sugar cubes for all my friends. 

Sublime Stitching:  A site for embroidery, which I'm considering trying out once I've got crochet down enough to not immediately forget how to do it if I don't practice for a day.  The How To page makes me believe I can actually do this.  Even if I suck at it, I love these ladies  for being so dang positive about beginners.  They have great starter kits on this site and one of the contributors, Jenny Hart, has written a bunch of embroidery books.

Incredibox:  I posted about this on LostGirls, but it deserves a mention on Uncrafty, as well.  This is a fun, creative way to distract yourself, pass the time, or have your kids play around with melodies and beat-box rhythms.

Everyone's Mix Tape: A great way to experience new music or just a new mix.  My favorite is their Driving mix, great for your next road trip (or commute), but you can find a bunch of options (like Heartbreak, Late Night and Make Out) on the site.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Cult of the Kitchen

Mary, on Julia:

Julia Child taught me how to cook.  Long before celebrity (and not so celebrity) chefs became popular on TV, there was Julia.  Mastering the Art of French Cooking (Vol. 1) was the first cookbook I ever bought for myself.  I spent a decade trying to master those techniques.  My original copy of that cookbook has disappeared into the void, and has now been replaced not once, but twice, but it still has pride of place among my cookbooks.  Today, all these many years later, I still rely on what I learned from her.

Jess, on Julia:

The very first cookbook my mother bought for me was Julia's Kitchen Wisdom.  A collection of "forty years of happy collaboration on cookery with colleagues and friends," this is the ultimate starter book for people who want to learn how to cook.  In fact, if I could only own two cookbooks (which would certainly help me with storage issues), this would be my first pick (the second would be Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything, also given to me by my mom).  In the last few years, I was lucky enough to acquire my mom's copy of In Julia's Kitchen with Master Chefs - thanks to her move to Italy, which required her leaving more than half of her cookbooks behind in the states.

Our affection for Julia Child is about more than just her excellent teaching methods when it comes to cookery.  Julia was an inspiration.  She wasn't glamorous, she didn't yearn for approval from her audience, she was fearless about being real and oh how she was cool.  Her friend Ariane Daguin described her as the "pioneer who elevated good food to a higher priority in this country," and said, "I think that the cult of the kitchen started with Julia.  She made people want to cook, talk about food and challenge themselves in the kitchen."  

Julia Child was a food pioneer, a fearless woman, a welcoming and joyful person, a cultural icon and an inspiration.  Here is a true celebration of Julia, on what would have been her 100th birthday, from PBS:

If you haven't had enough, hop on over to LostGirls for another Julia post.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Why Doesn't My Single Crochet Look Like Yours?

I discovered just last night that I have not been doing standard single crochet.  What I've been doing isn't technically wrong - it is single crochet and I have completed four scarves already using it.  However, I've been doing single crochet through the front loop only.

You can still make anything you like going through the front or back loop of a stitch, but it changes the texture.  And here I kept wondering why my scarves were so stripey!

Stripey and wonky!
Not stripey...but still a bit wonky.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Uncrafty Hands on The Thinnest Skin

As those of you who read Uncrafty know, I learned to crochet in July.  I am really excited about being able to make things.  In fact, I crochet any time that I can - watching TV, waiting for something to bake in the oven, while on the phone, etc.  Because I have sensitive skin, some of the yarns I've used have irritated my hands and, as all crafters know, yarn and other media will suck the moisture right out of your skin.  [read more...]

Monday, July 30, 2012

3 1/2 Scarves

I haven't continued with my Craftsy Crochet Lab class this week, but only because I have someone teaching me in person and she, unfortunately, is going back home this week.  I have to take advantage of her mad crochet skills while I still can!  I still love and recommend the Craftsy class and am planning on taking more as my skills progress.
So far I've made three scarves using single stitch crochet.  Because it's the only one I currently know.  I'm getting used to how to hold the yarn and the hook (there's no one right way, trust me), as well as figuring out which style of hook I like.  Because I hold far too much tension in my hands, I prefer hooks that have a thicker handle.  There are a variety out there, but I chose from the slim selection at my local crafts store.  My current favorite is by The Crochet Dude.  I love this hook's thick, padded handle.  At some point, I'd still like to try the Addi ones that have a wide, curved handle.  I can work with the standard skinny hooks, but I simply prefer not to.  I know that you can get rubbery grips to slip over them and I've heard there are adapters (I guess you would call them) for people who have arthritis and need a much larger, rounder handle, so I'll have to check all of that out, as well. 
I chose to try a few different yarns, as well, to see how I feel about them.  When I first started, the only one I could use was the Caron One Pound I originally bought.  The acrylic is a bit scratchy and I have no desire to wear it (super sensitive skin), but it holds its shape really well and doesn't split, making it a perfect yarn to learn with.  I made a few samples and then a long scarf the acrylic and decided that it's going to be the yarn I turn to whenever I learn anything knew in crochet.  So when I go back to my Craftsy class and do the first project, which I believe is going to be a crocheted electronics case, I'll use the acrylic to learn on.  My experience making the scarves was that after enough practice on the acrylic, I felt more comfortable using the Bamboo Ewe I'd bought, then trying out a random lone skein of Noro Cash Iroha that I found in one of my moving boxes from my mom's wealth of yarn that got left behind when she moved to Italy.  The Cash Iroha is the silkiest I've come across in the many boxes of yarn I have in my garage, but it isn't the easiest to work with.  But the Bamboo Ewe is only soft in comparison to the acrylic and some skeins of wool I found.  Another type I'm favoring for its feel alone is alpaca, but the particular skeins I have are very thin.

Here are the three scarves I completed this past week:

On the left, in pale blue, is the Caron One Pound, which is 100% acrylic.  Great for learning on, but not very soft.
     In the middle, in a silvery grey, is the Stitch Nation Bamboo Ewe, which is bamboo and wool.  Softer than the acrylic by far, a little more stretchy and plied so it's not the easiest to work with when starting out.  It is not, however, hard to work with in general.  I will definitely be getting more of this.
     The dark multicolored one on the right is the Noro Cash Iroha, which is cashmere blend, wool, cashmere and nylon.  It's luxuriously soft.  I want to make a blanket out of this stuff, but it would be a pretty dang expensive blanket.    
     I'm also making a scarf for one of my friend's kids out of the alpaca I found and will post photos once it's done.    
     I'm proud of myself for having already created a few things with the small amount of knowledge I have (huge thanks to Maria for teaching me and my mom for buying me the Craftsy Crochet Lab class), but I'm not actually finished with them.
     Aside from a variety of stitches and patterns, I need to learn how to block my projects once they're done and I need to learn more about the various yarns that are out there - don't even get me started on patterns, embellishments and using more than one skein on a project!
Right now you can take a free mini-class on Craftsy called Know Your Wool.  This seems like a pretty advanced class, but you never know what you'll glean and it's FREE.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

You CAN'T Kill Rosemary

Wanna bet?

I have discovered, aside from the fact that I can obviously kill any plant, that putting those that need a lot of water in the same planter as those that don't...yeah, it doesn't work out so well.  The basil and mint have really struggled between being kept indoors during the worst of our wind storms (they really don't love the air conditioning and I'm not willing to compromise my comfort that much) and some seriously withering heat, even though the "heat wave" has been over for a while.  I have to keep a close eye on them to make sure they're not wilting, but a little bit of wilt seems inevitable these days.  And we're not even to August yet.  Ugh.  Most of the time the rain takes care of these two (below), I just have to make sure I don't get lazy and completely forget to water them on dry days.

I was going to yank the dead rosemary plants (there are two there in the middle) out of the planter, but then I realized there is a small problem with that...

...The mint has migrated into the space underneath both rosemary plants.  Cute lil mints!

So, I simply cut the rosemary down to give the cute little mint babies room to take over.  I guess that's good news mixed in with the bad.  Other good news is that my thornless blackberry has recovered from the shock of being tossed about the back deck by last month's derecho.  I've been going out to remove the dead parts of the plant now and again (and did more after taking these pictures) and keeping an eye on it, making sure it's well watered and not falling out of the planter (it lost a lot of dirt originally).

And now it's got a nice long green, healthy tendril.  It's unlikely we'll have a single berry this summer (I'll feel lucky if the poor thing has any blooms next summer), but I'm just glad it's not dead.  Unfortunately, I will need to buy a tall trellis to weave it into (complete absence of forethought here).

This makes me really happy.