Monday, August 28, 2006

A New Feature at Chez Val

As some of you may know, I'm currently on a quest to eat better and be healthier overall. I joined a gym in February (and currently exercise with Karen pretty often), and I've started doing things like bringing breakfast and lunch to work in order to eat better and more cheaply. (The $7 sandwiches were starting to get to me, too.)

So, I've decided to add a post or two a week to talk about the getting healthy process. Most of the content will be recipe reviews and interesting ideas I read about, rather than complaints about how I didn't lose any weight this week or fell off the wagon by eating a pint of Ben & Jerry's. Well, that's the plan anyway.

Today's entry is a review of Cooking Light's Herbed Cheese Pizza. I love the Cooking Light recipes I've tried. They strike the right balance between good food and healthy food. They know which ingredients are crucial to a recipe and which can be reduced or eliminated (and which can use reduced-fat or reduced-calorie versions of the same item). Plus, the website contains user reviews of most recipes.

Preparation: The pizza dough is a relatively easy one. It starts with a bread flour/sugar/water/yeast sponge, which makes rising time short at 45 minutes (plus 20 minutes resting). I ended up adding more all purpose flour than called for during kneading, because the dough was very tacky. I also parbaked the crusts for around 8 minutes, since I froze all but two pizzas. The sauce was also very simple, using canned tomatoes. I added the oregano spice mixture to the sauce, as it seemed a bit odd to me to add it as a topping. I used a kitchen scale to measure the amount of cheese for each pizza. It's a fairly generous serving of cheese--more than I'd thought.

I baked the two pizzas for Monday and Tuesday lunches last night, then bagged them up with foil to be reheated in the toaster oven at work. I ran into some problems with the toaster oven in the pantry near my office (it's apparently very prone to smoke and fire), so I'm going to bake these the night before and heat them in the toaster oven or microwave. I just can't risk catching the office on fire!

Taste: Really good. Like a more Greek/Middle Eastern version of a basic cheese pizza. The sauce is chunky, and I might go with finely diced tomatoes next time, rather than the chunky ones I used this time. With a piece of fruit, it seems pretty filling. I might change the dough next time; because of the quick-rising nature of this dough, it didn't develop a lot of flavor. I like the dough recipe in A New Way To Cook, which gives a variety of great instructions for fitting the rising schedule into your schedule.

Bottom Line: Good lunch option that can be made in advance (recipe makes 8 6" pizzas). Different than standard pizza fare. Would try a more flavorful crust recipe.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Progress! (But no photos yet)

Thank you for all the kind Blogiversary comments!

About a month ago, I posted a list of items to finish before Labor Day, and I'm nearly there! Just a few more 12-row repeats on the second linen handtowel, and I'm finished! Print o' the Wave is blocking--finally. With that and the rain that's been around all weekend, there aren't any photos yet. (Wendy yells when I post really bad photos.)

As always, I have about a million things I want to knit, but here are four upcoming projects:

1. Jack Sparrow's Favorite Socks for the husband
2. Swallowtail Shawl, by Evelyn Clark (in the current Interweave Knits)
3. Lady Eleanor (dangerously close to an unfinished object)
4. Ram's Horn Jacket from Knitting Nature--hopefully finished by Rhinebeck (and hopefully cool enough to wear a sweater this year!)

I'll have a post with photos later this week, provided the weather cooperates!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Today Is My Blogiversary?

Well, time certainly flies when you're having fun. It's been a full year since I started this blog, and I hope that my blogging and photography skills have evolved a bit. Both have a long way to go, as ever.

Thank you to everyone who reads this blog--all 10 of you! I've enjoyed sharing my knitting with you, and I hope there are bigger and better things to come! I always appreciate your advice and feedback.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Go with the Flow Tank--Finished!

I'm really pleased with this. It needs a final washing and blocking to take care of the scallops that want to flip out, but I really like it. (And now I can stop stressing that Karen will finish before me--even though Laura finished hers many moons ago.)

Pattern: Go with the Flow Tank, from Inspired Cable Knits by Fiona Ellis. The pattern was well-written, and the charts worked well. The additional lengths in the larger sizes are made by adding lace repeats to the bottom. If I was making this again, I would consider doing fewer lace repeats and adding a cable repeat. It's also interesting that the cable insert goes up the back as well as the front. It makes for less mind-numbing knitting, but I think it would look fine without it.

Size: XL, 42"

Yarn: Rowan 4-ply Cotton, shade 132, 6 balls. I enjoyed working with this yarn more than I expected, as it is 100% cotton. I encountered very little splitting as I knit it, and it looks great at this gauge. The suggested yarn in the pattern was Dale Stork, and I believe this makes a great substitute in more adult colors.

Needles: Addi Turbo 2.5mm (US 1), 40" circular

I don't have any comments on the pattern, really, other than the lace issue. I followed the pattern fairly religiously, except for the number of stitches picked up around the neck and armholes, where I winged it. This was an interesting yet fairly easy knit. My seaming has greatly improved, as reflected in the shoulder and side seams, which look really good, if I do say so myself.

Next up in the pre-Labor Day list is the Print O' The Wave Shawl. I'm somehow resisting the Handmaiden Seasilk for the moment, but I expect to begin on the Swallowtail Shawl from the latest IK over the holiday.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Let's Try This Again...

Since Blogger wasn't cooperating with the yarn photos in my previous post, here they are for your viewing pleasure!

I have had two wonderful mail days, too! On Wednesday, I received the most beautiful hank of Handmaiden Seasilk, in the color Renaissance, from Wendy--a prize for winning her Phart Yarn contest. I believe this is destined to be the Swallowtail Shawl from the latest Interweave. This yarn is just amazing and deserves a special project, so it may take some swatching and trial and error.

Yesterday, I received a surprise package from Sarah! Two ounces of Corriedale/Churro cross roving, which is softer than I would have thought, an adorable hamster card, and gorgeous handspun alpaca/silk! (You can see photos on her blog, here, since I won't be taking photos before the weekend.)

Thank you, Wendy and Sarah!

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cable and Rib Socks with a Side of Stash Enhancement

In the flurry of trying to finish some works in progress (see my previous post), I did finish a pair of socks.

These are the Rib and Cable Socks, by Nancy Bush, from the Fall 2005 Interweave Knits. I used a skein of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock Potluck, with plenty left over. I love the Potluck colors (and they're about $3 cheaper where I buy them); they tend to be more subtle than the other hand-dyed colors. I used size 1 needles, but this yarn would be just as happy (if not happier) knit at a tighter gauge. I found the socks to be tighter-fitting than I had expected, but I suspect wearing them a few times will correct this, like the Jaywalker socks.

I also did a bit of yarn shopping over the last week. First, I went to Seaport Yarns to buy two skeins of Louet Euroflax for the Mason Dixon Knitting handtowels. I also left with two skeins of Cherry Tree Hill Supersock for Christmas gifts for my father and father-in-law. (Anyone else sensing an obsession with this yarn?) The blue is a potluck color, while the other is one of their actual colorways; the name currently escapes me.

I am currently having issues uploading photos to Blogger, so the photos of the Supersock described above and the Lorna's Laces Lion & Lamb I bought at The Point's 40% off sale will have to wait.

There is progress being made on the Go With the Flow tank; I'm one cable repeat from the armhole shaping. I have to confess that I really want this to just be finished already, and it's become a little tedious. Finishing this and the other August projects will feel great, though! Then it's on to the Christmas knitting!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Nothing to See Here

With the insane temperatures in Brooklyn the last couple of days*, we've been keeping the blinds shut at all times, preventing good photo shoots. I do have a pair of socks and one in progress to photograph, but those will wait for the cooler weather that should be arriving soon. I also have a little yarn shopping to show off.

For now, I'll entertain myself (and maybe those of you who are reading this) with a couple of knitting to-do lists. I still have the same spinning projects on the wheels--Bluefaced Leicester on the Schacht (of which less than 1 pound of the 2 pounds I bought is spun) and the mohair/wool dyed blend on the Joy (spinning from the fold is extremely time-consuming). I'm still in knitting mode for the time being, perhaps because the wheels are too far from the air conditioner and my hands sweat.

Items to finish before Labor Day:

1. Socks for my mother's birthday. These are plain, cuff-down socks knit in Cherry Tree Hill Supersock, the Foxy Lady colorway. I've finished the gusset decreases on the first sock. Her birthday is technically August 16 or 17**, but I will be going home for Labor Day and will give them to her then.

2. Two linen hand towels, from Mason Dixon Knitting. I bought the yarn for these yesterday, and they will become my subway knitting as soon as the socks are finished. These are part of a wedding gift.

3. Go With the Flow tank. I'm on the front, finally finished with the lace border that seems to take ages. I plan to get a lot of knitting time on this this weekend. For now, go look at Laura's.

4. Print o' the Wave Stole. I'm on the border and can finish this before the end of the month. It's on hiatus until the tank and socks are completed.

Christmas Knitting List (so far):

I'm trying not to fall for the "every gift must be knitted" urge, but it's hard at Christmas. However, I'm trying to keep the list short and sweet with fairly simple gifts. If I don't get time for something, I have plenty of stash yarn for a last-minute hat.

1. Fair Isle Vest/Sweater for Mom. I bought the yarn for this in February--Jamieson's Shetland DK. This will be the most time-consuming project, as it may very well be self-designed.

2. and 3. Plain socks for Dad and my father-in-law. I bought two skeins of CTH Supersock last night for just this purpose.

4. French Market Bag for my mother-in-law. I made one of these for Mom, and she uses it every day.

5. Socks for my sister.

6. Pirate Socks for my husband (from Pam's wonderful pattern).

7. Something for my grandmother. Maybe Cozy, using some of the handspun merino from

There are some other potential recipients, but I'm going to start with this list and see where it takes me. Last year, I added things at the end as I had time.

* You know it's bad when entering the subway station feels like descending into the seventh level of Hell and you cease to care when sweat starts dripping down your legs.

** I don't know the exact date because my cousin was born on the other day, and my mother has spent the last 15 years telling me it's one day or the other, trying to confuse me. I now refuse to even try to find out the exact date, telling her I'll call her on one or both days.