Not crunchy, not gooey, just right

Cooking
A personal milestone: Yesterday, I managed to cook egg fried rice that was neither mushy nor undercooked, using Basmati rice. I have never, ever acheived this before! Brown rice and easy-cook rice are easy; they have more structural integrity and don't 'mush' as easily. As far as I know, egg fried rice should really be a way of using leftover boiled rice, so the rice is already cooked when you start to fry it (unlike risotto, when you fry the rice dry and then add the liquid), but I cooked rice especially for this dish.

Normally, I wash white rice thoroughly (but gently*) before cooking, and use slightly less than twice as much water as rice for the cooking. The water is added cold, then heated to boiling and turned down to a simmer until it is all absorbed. I did three things differently last night:

  1. I didn't bother washing the rice before cooking
  2. I poured boiling, not cold, water on the rice to cook it
  3. I rinsed the rice in more boiling water when it was cooked

I also spread the rice out on a chopping board to 'dry' and cool before frying it. I don't know which of the above made the difference, or even if it was a bit of all of them, but each grain of rice was cooked through, and there was no gloopy mess in the pan. I'll definitely do things this way again.

_________________

* Rice is washed to remove excess starch on the outside of the grains, which makes things sticky. However, if you wash it roughly, the grains will break and release more starch – and more stickiness…

Olympic plans

Knitting
OK, I'm planning to knit a hooded cardigan from Noro Iro in a dark colourway involving blue, purples, pinks and browns on a black ground. design involved a cabled border that goes round each cuff, and round the hem, centre fronts and hood edge. Also, set in sleeves. The cable is a simple 3-strand plait:
I'm wondering, mind you, if it would look better with raglan sleeves, hence the asymmetry.

So, I've knit a swatch or two – one in stockinette, and one to prove the concept of this cable turning a 90 degree corner. In that, I've been successful:

But, can you see the cable?
No?

Me neither.

Well, maybe just. But I'm wondering if this yarn is just not going to show the cable well enough to justify it. I still want to knit one of these for me, but maybe not in this yarn. So, maybe the border should be in garter stitch for this yarn?

I don't have time to swatch another yarn for this design, so it's either this yarn, this design, or this yarn, modified design.

Votes in the comments, please.

Haircut!

Me, me, me

I've had the most drastic haircut for several years today. (Not the most drastic ever; that involved shaving off my long, albeit thin, hair to a #4 grade). I've 'lost' about 5 inches, at the hairdresser's recommendation, and it's been ironed straight. It's just past shoulder-length and looks very sophisticated. It will spring back into its normal wave and curl as soon as I wash it, of course.

But it's fun whilst it lasts. 🙂

Tagged!

I've been tagged for two memes; the first (several days ago) by Mary deB, the second by the Knitorious Vicki. So, without further ado:

Four Jobs You Have Had In Your Life:
1. Saturday receptionist for a vet
2. PhD student (does that count??) and teaching biochemistry to first year med students
3. Editor for Pearsons Publishing (the small one!)
4. Software engineer

Four Movies You Could Watch Over and Over:
1. Pirates of the Caribbean (costumes!!)
2. Gosford Park (costumes!!)
3. The Village
4. Lost In Translation

Four Places You Have Lived (all these are in the UK):
1. Middlesbrough
2. Christ's College, Cambridge
3. Arbury, Cambridge (alledgedly very rough - as if!)
4. Willingham, Cambridgeshire

Four TV Shows You Love To Watch:
1. CSI (Miami or Vegas; NY hasn't grown on me yet)
2. Lost
3. Time Team
4. ... hard to say!

Four Places You Have Been On Vacation:
1. Gozo (one of the Maltese islands)
2. New Zealand (various bits - too many to list)
3. Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt
4. Lots of France, as my Mum's a Francophile, but unusually, La Touche, (my boyfriend's parents live there and own a gite)


4 Websites You Visit Daily:
1. mail.yahoo.com
2. http://www.bloglines.com/myblogs
3. http://www.weightlossresources.co.uk/member/uk/login.htm
4. http://www.knitrowan.com/

Four Of Your Favorite Foods:
1. avocadoes
2. asparagus
3. spinach
4. malty beers
5. pesto
6. pasta
7. tiramisu (preferably made by me)
8. seafood, especially mussels, fresh tuna and scallops
9. oh, sorry... you said four??

Four Places You Would Rather Be Right Now:
1. Winning the lottery
2. At the Pipasha
3. Travelling to visit friends
4. Actually, here at home is pretty darn good.

One Blogger You Are Tagging:
Ruth! Let's see your answers. :)

The next meme is a little more convoluted; here goes!!

Instructions: Remove the blog in the top spot from the following list and bump everyone up one place. Then add your blog to the bottom slot.

Emy's blah blah blah blog
Purls Beyond Price, KimberliNY
Unraveling
Knitorious
VeryOtterly

Select 5 people to tag. I agree that, "…these things are akin to chain letters and they take some time, but there's nothing like direct questions to learn more about folks."

So, here are my tags. I know not everyone likes doing this sort of thing – feel free to refuse!

Mary deB (serves you right!!)
TutleyMutley (if you want to!)
Jack
Heather
Dragon

What were you doing 10 years ago?
I was an undergraduate student at Cambridge University, reading Natural Sciences (finally settling on biochemistry), which I loved. I went on to start a PhD, at which I lasted two years. It was one of the most miserable experiences of my life, and quitting was incredibly difficult, but I don't regret it for a second. I was probably knitting; a chenille cotton jumper that I never finished, but I recycled the yarn for my clapotis when I re-started knitting last year.

What were you doing 1 year ago?
I was yet to restart my knitting, and was having a miserable time at work. I was living in a 2 bedroom flat with J, which I finally sold last week. I had passed my driving test a few months previously, but did not yet own a car. I was shortly about to be diagnosed with depression, and put on medication which I am still taking. I am now coping with work, but cannot truly say I am happy with it.

What were you doing 1 hour ago?
Knitting my TTM shawl

List five creative things you want to achieve this year:
1. Decorate my new craft room
2. Re-start doing craft fairs (not with knitting, though)
3. Get a silversmithing bench set up
4. Knit and sew regularly
5. Learn to use my knitting machine

List five snacks you enjoy:
I try not to snack other than on fruit and veg; bananas, pears, raw carrot, clementines are faves. I'm not saying I *don't* eat other snacks, but it's hard to say what I regularly snack on!

List five things you would do if money were no object:
1. Give up the day job
2. Run a self-sustaining but non-profit business with J providing ecologically friendly housing at realistic prices
3. Get a studio for my crafts …and another one for dance/fitness pursuits.
4. Support animal rescue and rehoming more intensively
5. Give my brothers and friends that need it a 'leg up'.

List five bad habits:
1. Always overcommitted
2. Reading blogs at work (this appears to be fairly widespread…).
3. I drink way too much coffee
4. I buy yarn online when bored/stressed at work. I have about enough to last me five years.
5. Wine. Beer.

List five things you like doing:
1. Knitting.
2. Sewing
3. Cooking
4. Dancing
5. Making music (i.e. playing instruments! Mind! Gutter! Out!!!).

List five favorite gadgets:
1. My laptop (tho it's a little temperamental).
2. My camera.
3. My iPod shuffle.
4. My yarn winder.
5. Do my drums count? Or my flute??

Name one thing you like about yourself
My enthusiasm. It's pretty much irrepressible

Morning frost

Beauty
One of my favourite things to look at in the world is the transformation wrought by frost – particularly hoar frost, which coats objects above ground level with a forest of spiky needles. Ivy leaves delicately outlined are a favourite, but we don't have any of those (at least, not photogenic ones) in our back garden.

What we do have, however, is a leylandii hedge and a clump of pampas grass. Today's frost showed that the hedge is covered, from about four feet above the ground, in cobwebs:


And the pampas grass shows a hoarfrost mohican, with Kita in the background:


Love having a garden.

…succumbed.

So much for sane monthly targets; I've succumbed to the Yarn Harlot's 16-day insane knitting challenge.

The idea is that you complete a knit – from cast-on to blocking – during the span of the Winter Olympics. You're supposed to pick a knit that will be challenging for yourself. You can swatch etc. beforehand (that counts as training!), but no stitches for the actual garment must be cast on or knit before 2pm (your time) that the olympics start. After an agonising 24 hours, I've given in and signed up.

As a seeming non-sequitur, I knit a very cute hooded cardigan for Baby Mumford; I loved the design and I've been intending to knit a large version for myself. There is a cable all round the hem, up the front and round the hood, and also round the cuffs. I'm not going to make it in double knitting, though; I have 12 skeins of Noro Iro labelled for it. I'll be swatching soon, and writing the pattern (as much as I can) in advance.

16 days for a cardigan… I calculate that's three days each for the front, back, each sleeve and the hood, and a day for seaming/blocking etc. Sound reasonable??

Ane Ryght Royalle Mess

Knitting
The Somerset Lace sock is progressing swiftly (guest feature of Kita's tail):


Looking good, no?


No.


See that? Somehow, somewhere, I managed to mess up the lace pattern after turning the heel. I seem to remember thinking that something had gone wrong somewhere, but it all seemed to sort out, so I kept going.

Still, I have been wondering if, actually, I prefer the stockinette under the foot:


Of course, if the whole sock is worked in stockinette, the neat, delicate striping will probably disappear and be replaced with blobby zagging and pooling. So, since this sock needs to be ripped back to at least the ankle, I think I might start the other ball in stockinette and see how it looks. Who knows, I might even take a vote.

Kita says, "Can I get back on the sofa now?"

Yarn swap!

I finally made it along to a meeting of the Cambridge knitters 'k tog' group yesterday. I've been meaning to go for ages, and was finally given the final impetus by yesterday's scheduled stash swap!

I took along two large bags of yarn, and some fabric, and brought back only one large bag of yarn. Star amongst my lost items was a truly hideous individual peplum jacket with enormous shoulder pads in a dazzling lame fabric with opalescent purple/pink/silver lizard skin dots on it. I'd originally intended to use the fabric to make the bodice of a tutu (sugarplum fairy), but since that was well over 10 years ago and I still haven't done it, I thought I'd better get rid of it. I was rather dubious about taking it at all, as I couldn't imagine who'd want it, or why they'd think I got it. Au contraire. It was very nearly the first item gleefully snatched up, by my personal star of the meet: Mary's son Arthur. I have never met such a fantastic young lad; he was knitting a scarf when I arrived, and informed me that his personal scarf-knitting record was 2 days! I was able to donate a ball of Rowan's Big Wool Tuft to the current scarf, and the aforementioned jacket. We tried to get a photo of him wearing it (which he did, continuously, from then on), but he was leaping around with delight, and you can see the clearest photo here.

I met some fantastic people, including a friend I haven't seen for ages (I didn't even know she knits!) and a new arrival to Cambridge, the Pig Wot Flies. Nice to see another animal moniker. 😉
And I was very, very restrained. Here is my haul:


One ball of yarn and two books. I'm very impressed. Neither of the books have enough great patterns in them for me to buy them, but I'm very happy to receive them in a swap! Here are my favourites from the Filatura di Crossa book:

And here is, easily, my least favourite:


What were they thinking??

Project planning (12 month version)

Knitting

Knitting is slow. I can buy yarn far faster than I can knit it. I can also end up finishing projects at (or after) the season in which I want to wear them.

In an attempt to prevent this, and also to prevent me from forgetting about exciting projects, I'm going to attempt to plan ahead for the year, at the rate of one project per month. I averaged more than this last year, after I actually restarted knitting, so it should allow for sudden flights of fancy, new must-have items and other hobbies to be pursued as well. We're halfway through January already, and I'm very excited about some of the projects in the new Rowan mag (39), which is not due to be released until next month, and I've also bought yarn for (ahem) at least four projects in about as many weeks.

Ideally, I'll be moving into each season with new clothes to wear. However, I don't want to find myself knitting swathes of heavy wool in hot weather, or spending so much time thinking about the upcoming weather that I don't enjoy what we have now. So:

January:
Already half over; may as well pick a half-finished project, then! That'll be my Triple Mohair Triangle, which needs cracking on with, and which should provide some protection against the chill weather still to come.

February:
Still likely to be v. cold, in my experience. It's probably worth finishing my Ice Maiden jumper (started as a prelude to Andy's Christmas present, and abandoned in favour of it. Andy's present was abandoned as impractical; I didn't have time to knit it, and he doesn't have time to cool handwash Rowan Polar.) One sleeve is already done, and this is a quick knit, which is just as well as the new Rowan is due out at the beginning of February!

March:
My birthday month! By this time I'll be straining to start somethign from the Rowan mag. I think it will be 'Minnie'. I think this is hands-down my favourite design that I've seen so far (in a sneaky, sneaky sneak preview). It's written for handknit DK, but I'm thinking it might knit up in some particularly indulgent silk I've ordered. Isn't it a gorgeous design?


April:
Probably about time I knit something for J. I've got some Rowan ASC in a very, very dark blue, and was planning to knit a rib cardi. I had in mind 4×1 rib, used on the 'wrong' side. Very similar to this month's free Rowan members' pattern.


May:
Starting to head towards summer now! I don't think I'll be able to resist the lure of the Ginko leaf top from Fiddlesticks that I have on order. It's in organic cotton, and will provide plenty of feminine summeriness without being too skimpy for wear in cooler weather and air conditioning.

June:
Another Rowan 39! This one is 'Frances', and reminds me of the designs from Anthropologie.

July:
Summer tank time! Maybe. I'm not sure what I want to knit in July. Maybe I'll finish my filet crochet curtain. Or a reprise of the silk lace corset that didn't fit from last year. But I'll make it fit, this time.

August:
A design that's mostly in my head at the moment. I'm thinking of a feminine cricket jumper; form fitting, white, cabled, v-neck, coloured bands at neck and waist.

September:
Jude, from Bigger Picture, in chocolate brown. Great autumn/winter wear with jeans.

October:
Cabled jumper. Design/yarn TBA – I have plenty of choices. Yarn will definitely be from stash, though.

November:
Another cabled jumper. What the hey. As I said, plenty of choices…

December:
Gina, again from Bigger Picture, but adapted to a tunic version.

Wow. That was easy. That's scary. I have too many projects to do! Socks will be squeezed in round the edges, along with other small projects, sewing and other hobbies.