Book Review- Ratio

My only objection to the book is that the cover is yellow, but the spine is pink, so it is hard to find on the shelf. A small quibble.

I’ve mentioned this book before, and as I break it out to use to make cream puffs for my friend’s Oscar party on Sunday, I figured I’d write a full-blown review.
This isn’t like other cookbooks: it explains the why of cooking as much as the how. It does have recipes in it, but they are very simple ones, almost foundation recipes, and then you can vary them from there.

The chapter on roux has transformed (transformed, I say!) my relationship to gravy. And soup. The chapter on cakes has finally taught me the difference between sponge cake and pound cake, and the girl and I are now able to whip together a perfect little 2-layer-easy-bake-oven cake. It still takes forever to bake, because of the whole “cooking with a lightbulb” thing, but we can whip it up pretty fast.
There is a whole chapter on sausage making, which I can’t see myself ever delving into. Also, it’s fairly Eurocentric- no salsa, no rice, no stir-fries.  On the other hand, the 5 pages on making mayonaise is one of the reasons I asked for a stick blender for Christmas.

Michael Ruhlman is the author, I haven’t read his previous books, but this one is readable- he is a journalist who wanted to learn how to cook, rather than a chef who was hired to write a cookbook. One kooky detail is the blurb on the back,  by Alton Brown. It identifies him as author of “I’m Just Here for the Food.”  I didn’t realize he was an author, I thought he was a TV personality.

So, the recipes I’ll be using for Sunday are the pate a choux, which is a cream puff dough, and creme patisserie, from the chapter entitled “The Custard Continuum.” I love this book.

edited to add: the cream puffs were amazing- we brought about 30 to the Oscar party, and they disappeared instantly.


I want to live in a conservatory

I ordinarily don't like red, but this warmed my soul.

We went to the Denver Botanic Gardens last week- the kids had the day off school, so I got a sub so we could have an adventure.
DH had a conference in Denver, so we loaded up the car and went down. We were prepared for the worst,  “bring coats, wear a fleece!” I said as we left the house, but we were graced with amazing weather.

I’ve been to the gardens a couple of times, and this time I bought a membership, so I can go again. I’ll drag other people, too, so beware! Or, wait patiently for an invitation…
You would think that February is an unlikely time to tour a Botanic Garden, but I planned it knowing that the conservatory has at least an hour’s worth of hanging-around time. Everytime I go there, I wish my house was a greenhouse. Not a sunroom, or a lean-to.   I want to live in a conservatory.

Marni's Pavilion has a rotating orchid display.

 Lots of things were in bloom, it was warm and humid. Perfect for a February day, with uncertain weather predictions.We saw banana trees, and pineapples and bamboo, and a waterfall. And orchids! Love orchids.

I’ll sort through the outdoor pictures and post about them another time- it turns out we couldn’t have picked a better day- sunny with no wind. Today I want to share the flowers in the conservatory. Aah. Orchids.

There were four or five of these sprays of dangling orchids, moving in the breeze from the fans. Amazing.

Upcycled iPod Speakers Tutorial

This Christmas I requested mini speakers for my iPod touch- the kids came through with some little round ones. DH steered them toward speakers that have a battery, so they don’t drain so much power from the player.

However, what I wanted the speakers for was for playing music outside- I mostly hate earbuds- I want to be able to hear what’s going on around me. I wanted something portable, and cute.

Enter the upcycled jewelry box from the thrift store with holes cut in sides and rope lid with cool paint job and funky clasp… that’s a terrible name. Speaker Box 3000, aka SB3. iBox?

We’d better think of a cool name, because this could be the girl’s summer job-manufacturing and selling these. We’ll get all the thrift store boxes we can find.You know you want one!

Step 1 Find a box. Our local ARC has a ton of wooden boxes of all sizes and conditions. You might even have a box already, just begging to be used. I got our on orange tag day, so it was half price, only $2. The original Hobby Lobby tag was still on it- somebody paid 10 bucks for it…

Step 2 Find speakers. Like I said, these were Christmas presents, but I’ve seen similar ones at Walmart for around $5.

Step 3 Cut holes. there could be a step 2 and a half:  buy a hole saw, which is what I did. They fit onto a drill, and come in various sizes. My speakers are roughly 2 1/4 inches in diameter, so that’s the size I bought. It was about $8. I already had a drill, and since I plan on making more than one, I figured the $8 was worth it. I might go around looking for things that need holes cut…Anyway, step 3, put the box in some kind of vise, or clamp, or hold it steady some way, then cut the hole. You could also probably use a coping saw, but I decided to invest in the hole saw.

The hole saw is visible on the workbench- the boy was amazed by the tool. "How did you get them so symmetrical!?"

Step 4 paint the box. The girl helped- I picked the colors- kind of turquoise on top of vibrant green, with some sanding- a little vintage-y, as the girl said. Depending on the box you start with, you might decide not to paint. 

The original color was virulent pink, with a butterlfy decal on top. The girl was happy to paint it.

Step 5 Install the speakers with hot glue…. I have some foam, so I plan to cut out a block, then a rectangle for the iPod and battery case. I also need to add a handle and clasp.  The plan is to be able to carry the box around the garden, so I can weed the asparagus and listen to tunes… I’ll post a photo when the paint is dry.

The Logee’s Catalogue

I am on so many plant mailing lists- they know a sucker discriminating plant buyer when they see one. Got a new one the other day, and on one hand, it drives me crazy, and on the other hand, I feel very want-y about,  like, 6 different items. Logee’s specializes in tropical and subtropical plants for containers and greenhouses. I crave almost everything in this thing.

What drives me crazy is the organization. Flipping through it, there are figs and citrus on this page, then blueberries and passionflower, then…more figs and citrus…then papaya and sugar cane, then…another page with figs. Then more citrus. OOh, vanilla! But I have researched this already, and to grow vanilla you need a 2 story greenhouse. (SOMEDAY!)

What tempts me is the Meyer lemon plant, at only $11.50. In most other catalogues, Meyer lemons run about $50. I realize it will be tiny, and I will have to wait many years for the sweet little aromatic lemons to grow to maturity. At this point in my life, though, I honestly do have more time than money.

Also tempted by a tea plant- imagine, I could grow my own tea!!! And a coffee plant- I could grow my own coffee!!! And papyrus- I could grow my own…Egyptian paper!!!

Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

Norwegian Lagoon Socks

Here’s why I love Facebook: I grew up with a friend, since 4th grade, when we were in girl scouts, all through middle school and high school, then we graduated, and never saw each other again. Small towns being what they are, I heard about her. She was in a band, got married, lived in California, but not much else. Then shortly after I joined FB, I saw that she was on, and I was so excited. We friended each other, and I get to see what her life is like, and read her blog.

If I go to the reunion in 8 years, it’s only if she’s going.
Anyway, about the socks. Every Monday, on her blog, she has a Muse post- usually short, an image that inspires her, maybe a red plate on an apple green tablecloth, or just after Christmas, I think, a Norwegian lagoon, with brilliant blue sky, white iceberg, reflecting a brilliant blue sea. I happened to be knitting a pair of lace socks in shades of denim, and the stripes were stacking up like that Norwegian lagoon. I was going to comment on her blog, but I can never get through her security- my pop-up blocker blocks her comment thingy, and I lack the patience to figure it out.(yes, I recognize the irony, here- I have patience to knit socks by hand, but not to figure out a comment thingy. I’m an English teacher, I recognize irony.) I showed DH, and he said, oh, you should send a picture to Felecia.
I kept forgetting.

Meanwhile, they have become my favorite socks- I got the yarn last summer in Massachusetts, (yes, I went yarn shopping on vacation, why do you ask?) and these are the socks I pull out of the drawer whenever they are clean. So soft, and even if they don’t go with everything I wear, I make them go. Sky goes with everything, right?

Pure wool, hand dyed in the great Northwest. Love these socks.

Finished Object- baby quilt

Plum blossom in sashiko stitching.

Finished the blue and yellow quilt, and have started another in a similar style, with turquoise batik fabric for the top and flannel for the back.
I suddenly admire all the great photos I have seen on the web of quilt details, because they are hard to take. My point- and-shoot is struggling to get any detail to show up. The weather is not cooperating either- cloudy and bleak is not great for photography.

This corner is done in the mountain stitch pattern.

Finally we have gotten a string of crystalline days, and I could bring the finished quilt and the future quilt out to the patio to take some pictures.

I have just begun stitching the turquoise one, also for a baby to be named later, and have pretty much done a circle in the center, for a medallion. I am going away from traditional Japanese patterns and putting a Celtic knot in the center and a braid around the edge. This quilt also has a layer of batting in it, which makes quilting go slower.  On the blue and yellow quilt, since the baby is being born in the spring in Denver, I just wanted cotton on the front and flannel on the back- soft but not warm.  Turquoise baby lives in Alaska, so I figure he or she would appreciate the extra warmth.

Turquoise Batik, sandwiched with cotton batting and flannel.

When I claimed my identity as a quilter a few weeks ago, I may have been misleading- I actually hate the patchwork stuff- it makes my brain hurt. But sewing layers of stuff together is pretty satisfying.

The Band-aid Colored Sweater

At the halfway mark of a top down sweater...

I have been cranking along, about an inch per day on this short sleeved sweater that I started last…maybe…August? Part of the problem is that I don’t love the color- on the ball it was kind of pinkish, but knit up, it is weirdly grey. Beige. Greige… is greige a color? Because that’s what this is.

I found the yarn, a very thin bamboo, at the Habitat thrift store, for 50 cents a ball. It is super soft, and who could resist that price?

I got the pattern from Knitting in the Sun- great book, that I have used for a couple of patterns. detail I love is the waist shaping- gradual ribbing. First 1 perl stitch for every 7, then 1 in 3, then 1 perl, 1 knit, then back up again. Love it. 

Waist shaping detail

 However, the detail is really a pain in the neck to knit. I am almost through with the pain in the neck part, and then there will be about another 6 inches of length. Ugh. Then the sleeves. The goal was to finish it in the month of January, but obviously that didn’t happen.

So maybe sometime by the end of February, I’ll have a weirdly colored sweater. Maybe I’ll dye it.