Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Knitting Up a Storm

I've done quite a bit of stash-busting knitting (plus and a few pieces with new yarn) over the last two months.  First up was a fish-shaped dishcloth I found on ravelry. I was hoping it would motivate me to do the dishes - it does not.  But it did use up the last of my lemon-lime kitchen cotton!

Then a sweet little baby sweater based on my Grandma Dot's pattern who taught it to my mom who taught it to me in turn. My mom loves making these so much that she sells them on etsy. I may put one or two up in her shop too. They are really a lot of fun to make. I'm really in love with yellow and gray as a color combo right now but yellow is not a good color on me - so I'm foisting it on babies instead!  My friend Sara loved it and cried at the fact that three generations of women in my family have knit this (Geoff points out that it is no great feat to make a pregnant woman cry).

Baby Quinn (in utero here) was born five weeks ago.
I knit up this sweet little summer weight scarf (pattern from Purl Bee) out of a free skein of yarn my mom got from Caron. It is soft, drapey (is that a word?) acrylic/wool blend that feels really luxurious - but it is a weird salmon color. I'm trying to figure out how to work it into my wardrobe, but I'm glad it is out of my stash.

Actually, it works with this outfit - so that's one.
 Next up were one year old sweaters for my cousin's baby Wyatt and my dear little friend Clara out of leftover cotton yarn.  I have a penchant for stripes so they came out in both sweaters:

For Miss Clara, the Confection Shrug

For Master Wyatt, the Candlestick Baby Sweater 
 And another baby sweater for the Christmas baby due to my friends Khytam and David.  This one had a sweet little monkey on it that matched the nursery patterns.  I love how the monkey turned out!

Khytam loved the sweater!

Close-up of the monkey.

And lastly, to keep my toes warm on our hardwood floors, some cuddly alpaca socks with turquoise toes and crochet trim.  I knit these on the way down and back to DC last week.

Our backyard is a blanket of golden leaves - so pretty!
 I was talking to my Khytam (who is a psychologist) and she asked me how I have time for knitting and I told her that I can't handle having my hands unoccupied while I watch TV or ride in the car.  She replied "You have a manic side I've never seen before, don't you?"  I suspect she may be right.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cookies, Cookies, and More Cookies

During October I made a lot of cookies for all sorts of wonderful people!  First up were some birthday cookies for two very special ladies - Veronica and Clara.  I got to use these cutters for the first time for Veronica's birthday. 

Happy 28th, V!

I had seen the teal and red color combination somewhere before and it stuck in my mind.  It seemed like a fun but grown-up combo and I like how it came out.  I used the same icing to make thank you cookies for my dissertation committee.  Simple circles with a heartfelt message (and dot edging).  I delivered them to my committee members with a card expressing how much I appreciated their help.  They all seemed touch when they received them and impressed that I had made them myself. 

A mountain of cookies!

The next weekend was Clara's first birthday party which had a butterfly theme.  I had seen lots of adorable butterfly cookies on the internet so I was excited to make some.  So excited, I may have gone overboard - there were a lot of leftovers.

Too Many Butterflies

I piped some thick lines of icing for the body and outline of the wings then filled it in and added dots and lines while the icing was still wet.  I added eddible luster dust to the wings, because - if Clara turns out to be anything like I was as a child - the pink and sparkley stuff will go out the window in a few more years.

So Cute!!
The party colors were purple, teal, and pink so I made a variety of butterflies.

Unfortunately, the first set of cookies I sent to Veronica got lost in the mail.  So I made some more cookies for her using the same batch of icing (she got sparkles too).  The sweet girly color palate that worked for Clara looked a little bit 80s on Veronica's cookies.  It reminded me of the opening credits for Saved by the Bell.  But I guess that is appropriate for a child of the 80s!

Luckily, these cookies arrived and Veronica got the chance to enjoy them!

Finally, I made some cookies as prizes for a baby shower I helped to host.  Since the shower took place on Halloween, I thought it would be nice to give the winners of the games something they could take home and share with their families.  I think the pumpkins are my favorite although the sanding sugar on the bat wings came out really well too.

Too sweet to be scary.

 I made some special ones for Geoff too.  Obviously, I had a little trouble with a ghost pun! 

I think I can declare that I have learned how to make flood cookies.  I'm addicted to making them now so they will certainly turn up around Christmas, I'm sure.  But for now, I'm crossing it off my list!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tardy Pumpkins

I meant to get a lot of things done before I left for the American Society of Human Geneticists conference in DC last week and most of them fell through the cracks – including posting pictures of the pumpkins that Geoff and I carved for Halloween. I’m quite proud of them, though, so I’m going to go ahead and post them now.

I really wanted to get a white pumpkin with orange flesh because I thought it would look really great with the witch carving I was picturing in my head. So we headed out to Tait Farms the Tuesday before Halloween and already the pickings were slim. There were many beautiful gourds left, but only two small white pumpkins.

Geoff went with the classic big orange pumpkin. Little did he know that the texture inside was like spaghetti squash which made it a real pain to clean out. But he persevered and carved this Lionel Ritchie pumpkin:

And I managed to convert come clip art I found online into a pumpkin of my own. I’m rather proud of it, it reminds me of the opening credits of Bewitched.

That is Gnome Chomsky peering over the pumpkin.
We had Kirk and Laurel over and made a whole night of it with spiked cider and apple cheddar scones. Belated Happy Halloween to you all!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Tastes of Fall

I really love fall.  And since we will be heading for warmer climates come January, I'm particularly relishing it this year.  The weather has been surprisingly cooperative (considering last October saw a substantial snow before it was half over).  The air has been crisp and cool, but warm in the sun. 

We've had friends over for a bonfire to roast marshmallows in the cold, but not yet bitter, night air.

And I've been cooking lots of fall inspired meals.  Knowing that the winter here will be long and trying to eat seasonally and locally, I hung on to the tomatoes and corn of summer for as long as I could.  The apples and pears were the first to sneak into my market bag, but eventually the squash and pumpkins appeared on the menu.
Here are a few of my favorite recipes of late:

Triple-Apple Muffins

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin Pancakes

Yes I cut my pancakes into one large square before eating it in smaller squares.  No I don't think that is weird.

Lentil Soup with Roasted Butternut Squash and an Egg on Top

Apple Cheddar Scones

Squash, Lentil and Goat Cheese Salad

White Chili

Up next, homemade apple butter on homemade bread!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Half-Way There (Running on a Prayer)

Last Sunday (the 24th) I ran my first race - 5 km (a little over 3 miles).  "Run" is probably not accurate - but I ran about half of it and I finished under my goal time.  The day was beautiful and warm.  I felt great afterwards and it really motivated me to keep running - then it got cold and the motivation went away.  But I haver been climbing the mountain we live on about once a week.  The view from the top is amazing this time of year.

I really will miss autumn in the northeast, it is breathtakingly beautiful. Here are few gratuitous leaf shots for your enjoyment.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

It's Official - We're Moving

I suspect I've already told most of you, but it is official, I'll be taking a post-doctoral position at the Southwest Foundation in San Antonio.  We'll move at the end of December!  Not a lot of time, but I'm excited!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Going Green(s)

During the month of August, Geoff and I accomplished one of the 28 goals - we spent a month being vegetarian.  We have been trying for a while to limit our meat consumption.  After a month or more of eating very poorly while I was finishing my dissertation writing, we decided August would be a great month to go for it.  The added bonus of August is that it is such a peak time for produce at the local farmers markets so it is much easier not to eat meat.  Tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and now all of these gorgeous apples:

We found that being vegetarian at home was never a problem.  There are a lot of fantastic recipes out there for delicious, satisfying vegetarian meals.  A few of our favorites recipes are linked to below:

BBQ Bean Burgers - delicious topped with avocado
Mushroom and Spinach Enchiladas - I add a LOT of serrano peppers, but that is just me
Greek Lasagna - double the eggplant
Veggie Chili - the only way I make chili now
Huevos Rancheros - I've made it a few different ways, basically just pile up tortillas, beans, over easy eggs and hot sauce and you can't go wrong in my book
Ratatouille - very easy in the crockpot, top it with feta
Zucchini Fritters Stuffed w/ Goat Cheese - recommended and zucchini supplied by Laurel, they don't need the sauce
Greens Tart with Spelt Crust - the spelt crust will blow you away

The real difficulty, we found, was in eating out.  I had never before noticed how many restaurants have six ways of preparing chicken on their menu and only one vegetarian dish.  When we ate out, it was usually Chinese because there were more options.  We've decided to wait a while before we try going fully vegan for a week - honestly, the idea sort of overwhelms me in terms of finding really great vegan meals (you'll notice that most of the above contain cheese!).

Although it is nice to be able to go out and eat meat at restaurants, we're still eating mostly vegetarian at home with a heavy influence of seafood, some chicken, and occasionally beef or pork.  Since our primary reason for this type of diet is minimizing our ecological footprint, I've been focusing on trying to buy sustainable seafood (I just downloaded the Monterrey Bay Aquariums iPhone app for checking out which seafood are sustainable while on the go).  Additionally, there are a number of local farmers who sell reasonably priced, locally pasture-raised meat so I'm trying to buy most meat there and my milk and cheese from the cows in this barn:

Well, not from the cows, from the people who milk them.

And that brings me to the final addition to my 28 goals list: buy 50% Local.  Mostly, this applies to food, but as much as possible, I would like to patronize local stores, even if it requires a few more stops.  This afternoon, Geoff and I headed to the farmer's market on the grounds of the Pennsylvania Military Museum and came back with 75% of the things on the grocery list - plus some bonus pears.

Notice the tank in between the market stalls.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

End of Summer

The end of summer has been a little unusual for me this year.  For the past 25 years, summer has ended when I either started classes or started teaching.  For the first time in my memory, neither of those things is happening this September.  Nevertheless, the nights are getting colder and fall is most decidedly around the corner.  To cap off my summer, I had an AMAZING Labor Day weekend.

On Saturday morning, I got up at 8:30 to catch a bus down to the football stadium for my first ever Penn State football game which I felt was something that I just had to experience before I left.  My awesome friend Tracy had an extra ticket and took me along to the pre-game and post-game tailgate hosted by a friend of hers.  The noon game meant that the pre-game tailgating involved cinnamon rolls baked in a propane-fueled oven on the back of a pick-up truck.  And don't think that we were the only ones tail-gating at 9am.  Penn State fans are nothing if not dedicated.  The stadium (which seats well over 100,000 individuals) was about 3/4 full for this game but that still means that 75,000 people were there!

It was chilly and windy but we had a great time watching Penn State win 44-7 over the Youngstown State Penguins.  I never did figure out where they got that mascot.  The Star Trek tribute at half time was particularly awesome.

After the game, more tailgating, this time with burgers and beers.  Then I had to head home to get ready for Laurel's birthday party and the Wilcox Hotel Reunion show!!!!  Laurel loves animals and so I made her some birthday cookies with woodland creatures cookie cutters I found at IKEA.

I took the pictures quickly on the way out the door so if you can't tell there is a moose, a squirrel, a bear, a wolf, a snail, and a porcupine.  My favorite is the porcupine because of how I was able to make the spines.  If I have more time to devote to these cookie cutters in the future, I'll definitely want to add more details, but I sort of enjoy the simplicity of just the plain icing and eyes.

 The Wilcox Hotel show was phenomenal.  So many of our friends were back in town and I think we were all purely euphoric.  The rough thing about any college town is that most people are transitory and so most of my good friends from Penn State have already moved on to other jobs all over the country.  Having so many of them back and hearing Wilcox play took me back to Spring 2008 when we were all together and going to Wilcox shows twice a week.  Is it weird to be nostalgic for two years ago?  I didn't get many good pictures, but everyone had a phenomenal time.  It sounded something like this:

I forget how spoiled I am to always have Geoff around playing music and in particular to get to go watch him play great music like this with our awesome friends who I love and miss.  We didn't get to see them for long enough as almost everyone left on Sunday, but our friend Maria is in town from Mexico for a while so we got to hang out on Monday for a relaxed evening of grilling and bocce.  A great end to a fantastic weekend.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Nookie Monster

This is me and the "Nookie Monster" who lives in the nook at the State College Spikes baseball field and comes out when we score a run.  My department went to the game last night and this was the last time we saw the Nookie Monster.  Oh Spikes - when your mascot is a juvenile deer, perhaps this is the most ferocity we can expect.

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Doctor will See You Now!

Last Wednesday I defended my dissertation. About twenty people came to see it which I really appreciated and it was great to have the support. I felt really positive about how my presentation went as I stepped out into the hall so that my committee could talk for a few minutes before I came back into the room to answer questions. Instead of asking me to come in for questions, my adviser came out into the hall, gave me a big hug, and said "Congratulations, Doctor!"

They passed me without questions! We did talk some more afterward but all the pressure was off. This picture is me popping champagne so that the cork dents the ceiling in the lab. Then I got to sign the dent"Dr. Ellen Quillen."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pretty-in-Pink Popsicles

My first real recipe on the blog!  This was inspired by a couple things.  (1) Leftover watermelon from last week’s hot dog extravaganza, (2) Summer’s memory of making watermelon-lime popsicles with her mom, and (3) Dreamsicle-inspired orange and vanilla yogurt popsicles from  Zoom Yummy

In preparation for the move, I have been trying to get rid of stuff so I was planning to make these popsicles in some Dixie cups using forks as sticks.  But then I saw these adorable popsicle molds on sale at the grocery store – how could I resist?  So I came home and made these pretty pink popsicles!  The yogurt gives them a slightly softer consistency than an all-fruit juice popsicle and when you bite into them you get large shards of ice that make me happy (although Geoff finds them weird).  Anyway, they are yummy - look:

These popsicles are probably more on the grown-up spectrum.  The favorite popsicle around our house are the Edy’s All Fruit Lime Bars which are pretty tart so these watermelon-lemon popsicles are as well.  Less lemon juice (or none at all) may make them more to your liking if you are used to a sweeter popsicle.

Pretty-in-Pink Popsicles
Makes about 18 in my molds

4 ½ c. watermelon juice
18 oz. lemon yogurt
2 lemons, juice and zest.

1.    Place chunks from about half of a seedless watermelon in the food processor and blend until smooth. 
2.    Pour into strainer and push through as much of the pulp as possible with a rubber spatula.  This left me with about 4 ½ cups of juice but if it a little more or less, don’t worry.
3.    Whisk in yogurt, lemon juice, and zest.
4.    Fill molds to fill line (don’t overfill, it will make a mess!) and freeze.
5.    If you have to freeze in multiple batches, be sure to stir the mix thoroughly before pouring as the watermelon pulp settles.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Yarn Stash

I mentioned recently that one of my goals for this year is to use up all of my yarn.  That may not sound like a big deal to most of you (although those of you who knit – or live with me – know how quickly it piles up), but it turns out I have about 15 pounds of yarn.  How do I know that?  I weighed it all during the World Cup final.

I realized that the only way I could use up the yarn was to figure out what I had.  Since the majority of my yarn is partial skeins left-over from other projects and I wanted to know how much yardage I had, I figured the best way was to weigh it.  Each skein lists both the total weight and the total yardage so it is a simple ratio to figure out how many yards I have.  I made this table of the yarn, weight, color, and yardage in Excel by the end of the first half.

During the second half, I compared my “to knit” list to the yardage I have and came up with a plan.  I love OneNote which came with my Microsoft Office package for this sort of thing.  I have a page with small pictures and links to each pattern.  Now that I have a plan, all I have to do is knit my way through each of these 20 or so projects (ha!).

So you can track my progress, I added my yarn stash to the sidebar at right.  I’ll cross off yarn as I knit it up – but don’t expect to see anything done before I defend on August 4th!

Oh, and congrats to Spain - that was a beautiful goal!  I was cheering for the Oranje, but only because I wanted tiny new Oranje fan Penny to get to see her team win when she was 10 days old.  Spain played a great game.

Monday, July 5, 2010

America's Past Time

We had a great weekend with our friends Summer and Joerg who came to visit.  We took them to super-rural PA for some local, organic food and microbrews.  We had a bunch of friends over for some grilling and made Sonoran hot dogs, Chicago-Style dogs, and Hawaiian dogs.  All yummy.  We even made it to two baseball games and saw some crazy cube-shaped fireworks:

Sadly for the players, the eyeball races are always my favorite part of the game:

I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth and enjoyed the long weekend! Back to intense dissertating tomorrow.
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