Friday, March 22, 2013

Lasers, general anaesthetics and preparing for a long, cold winter

It's the middle of the afternoon and I am writing this from my bed, where I have been firmly installed since yesterday afternoon. I had an operation done yesterday which involved lasers, gynaecology and general anaesthetic, none of which appear on any of my lists of favourite things. Lucy loves me being in bed (in her ideal world there is never any wind or rain, the cat food bowl is always full and there's constantly one human in a stationary position who can be sat on and purred at. What a life!) but I hate the feeling of being fuzzy in the head. I'm mainlining pain pills like they're going out of fashion and planning on getting up soon - mind you, I defining "getting up" as moving from the bed to the couch (that counts, right?). I was organised enough to make sure I had lots of milk, eggs and coffee to get me through a weekend where I couldn't drive to the shop, I just wish I'd realised there was no way I'd want to prepare any food and taken out enough cash to pay for a pizza! I wonder which pizza places allow me to pay by credit card over the phone...

In Other News:

Melbourne has recently experienced a sweltering heatwave. I usually love the heat but even I started to feel a bit worn down but the relentless heat buffering me every time I stepped out the door. However I do recognise an opportunity when I see one and, since I have lived in Melbourne long enough to know that punishing heat is always followed by punishing cold (the weather gods are vengeful and cruel in this part of the world), I started my winter knitting early. These are the Amanda Hat and the ubiquitous Honey Cowl knitted in Punta Yarns Merisoft Aran, which I received as a gift a few years ago from my friend Lisa but didn't blog about because, well, I'm a sucky blogger. When the cold weather strikes and everyone else is scrambling for their winter coats and hoodies, I shall be prepared. I shall never be cold again! <insert evil laugh here>.

Hope you all are enjoying your weekends and are having a much more fun time than I am :)

Monday, March 18, 2013

River Cottage Veg Everyday, Refried beans on flatbread

About a month ago, I was having one of those days. I’d been booked for a job but my client was late delivering their material. I’d run out of coffee so I had to have tea for breakfast. Without my booked job to fill up my day I tried to do my own research but the words weren't flowing and the postmodernists were giving me the shits with their unnecessarily dense language (I do love a bit of pomo but it's so frigging hard to read sometimes). After an afternoon of unproductively staring at my computer my inner teenager emerged and I flopped on the couch, eating peanut butter from the jar and listlessly flipped through the channels, moaning at each progressively unappealing televisual choice (of course I had watched all of the DVDs I had and, although I had new ones waiting at the library to be picked up, didn't go because I was waiting for the job to arrive. Of course.) before settling the least boring of all of the boring choices, a show about cooking vegetables.

However, I was pleasantly surprised. The show was the River Cottage Veg Everyday and it featured an appealing foppish gardening nerd enthusing about vegetables and his produce and cooking in an old-fashioned stove. It was really appealing! So, after eating Chinese takeaway (which was average, of course), I ordered the book that accompanies the TV series from the library and went to bed. 
My dodgy photo non-withstanding, this book is really good! Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is not a vegetarian but thinks we eat too much meat. For him, meat should be a garnish or a side dish rather than the main event. He states:

Call me power-crazed, but I'm trying to change your life here. The object of the exercise is to persuade you to eat more vegetables. Many more vegetables. And I hope to do so not by shouting from a soapbox, but through sheer temptation.

And the recipes are tempting. There's a huge range of dishes here including salads, comfort foods, tapas dishes and storecupboard suppers. I was even inspired to buy asparagus, which is not something I would normally do. I made the veggie stock and am trying the asparagus risotto with chili oil tomorrow.

My favourite item from the book so far is this:

The topping is the refried beans, which is fine - cheap and easy and pretty tasty with the addition of fresh coriander and ground cumin. The flat breads, though, were a complete revelation. They were delicious! The dough uses this recipe but, instead of being made into a pizza, is rolled as thin as you can get it and then cooked in a very hot dry pan for about two minutes a side. Sam didn't witness me make them and thought I'd bought them, which is a huge compliment given that my bread is usually a distant second to good store-bought bread. I can see the flatbread becoming a regular part of my everyday dinner rotation.

I give this book four stars and is one of the few books that I simply must buy for myself after borrowing the library.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Hot days need warm hats: 2013 FO #2

There are not many things in life nicer than the first morning of a long weekend where the weather will be delightful, nothing is planned except fun things and there's lots of time for knitting and watching movies. Seriously, it's totally the best.

I finished this project a few weeks ago but I wasn't happy with the photos and wanted to take more photos that made me look like less of a grump! But honestly, since I am such a lazy blogger if I waited for that to happen I wouldn't be sharing the hat with you until next Finish it February, so I present you with my latest seasonally appropriate FO - my smooshy alpaca hat (nothing says warm woollens more than a record-breaking heat wave! Please note this hat was modelled while I was wearing a bikini).

As I said last post, I've had a pile-on of deadlines recently. Generally when that happens I get this unstoppable urge to START ALL THE THINGS!! It's like when my deadlines feel unmanageable, knitting provides tangible proof if you just keep working at something, progress is made. Plus, searching through boxes of yarn and browsing Ravelry for the perfect pattern are really, really good methods of procrastination.

So, a few weeks ago when the START SOMETHING NOW bug hit, I pulled out all of the boxes under the bed that contain my yarn. I grabbed some books off my shelf and started matching project to wool then I had an amazing lightbulb moment - I had a hat that I started during Cast On Mania but never moved beyond the ribbing. Why not finish that off instead of starting something new?

And so I did. It took me two days of not very fast knitting to get it done. Why do I  not make hats more often - they're so fast! 

Because I am lazy, I knitted the ribbing section in the same size needle as the rest of the hat (Elizabeth Zimmermann did it like that, and if it's good enough for her it's good enough for me). I added an extra repeat of the cable section to get a longer hat - it's more of a cap as written. I omitted the icord feature because (have I mentioned it?) I'm lazy and it's a decorative rather than functional feature that I didn't think my gorgeous fawn hat needed. 

I love the way the decreases on the crown kind of swoosh the whole pattern to a close. This is a lovely hat and one I can see myself making again - but next time, with better photos taken of it.

Happy weekend!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Happy Tuesday, lovelies :)

Happy Tuesday, everyone :)

This was actually supposed to be a Happy Monday email but my yesterday didn't go quite to plan. I am writing a thesis at the moment as well as doing my day job, which is why there's such a lot of AAHHH!!! on the blog at the moment. On Friday I had to sit for the compulsory one-year research review where a panel of academics looks at where you are and tells you if they think you're up to scratch. If you're not, you might get kicked out. This involves submitting a written report and making a presentation and is, without reservation, one of the most stressful assessments I have ever done in my life. I was so nervous walking in to give my talk that I almost vomited. Of course I needn't have worried - I did fine, passed without a problem and am now free to research and write as I like. However, because I had spent my whole week working on my stuff I then had to spend the whole weekend working on my day job to catch up, which was not what I wanted to do! (which was drink wine and hang out with my cat, clearly).

So, Monday was to be my first day off in about a month and I had all of these ambitious plans as to what I wanted to do with my glorious free time which mainly involved tackling all of the tasks I had avoided during my busy period. Take back my late books to the library! Make stock and meals to freeze for the week ahead! Do my banking and insurance paperwork! Instead, I ended up cleaning my bathroom, making a slow-cooked pasta sauce and watching the entire first season of Girls (note: I now get the Lena Durham hate - her character on the show has to be one of the most self-centred characters I've ever encountered on TV. I admit that the white wealthy privilege on the show was a bit testing for me and some of the sex scenes - awkward! But still - a show written by a female about females that doesn't involve slut-shaming and body-shaming and is funny and real (I'm thinking in particular about the relationships between Hannah and Marnie, Hannah and Adam and Marnie and Charlie) - this is a good thing that we should be supporting not hating on). All in all the day was wonderful and today I feel refreshed and revitalised. Perspective has be regained!

Because my pasta sauce was awesome*, I did this:

Now I have to deal with the fact that I am the type of person who Instagrams my food but doesn't care enough about it to clean the plate before doing so. Problematic...

Soon, a Finish-It-February round-up, a WIP Wednesday post and more knitting news. But for now, the refreshed, non-sleep-deprived me is going to enjoy the lack of intense punishing deadlines and the opportunity for more quality time with my cat :) 

* The pasta sauce is the "quickie" pasta sauce from Teresa Guidice's Skinny Italian cookbook, which I borrowed from the library for a laugh but actually contains some really great Italian recipes, including the best pizza dough I have ever made. I simmered the tomato sauce for about four hours then I sauteed some zucchini and capsicum in a separate pan, mixed them with the sauce and topped with fresh parmesan. Delicious!