Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Crimea

I read a somewhat interesting book recently: The Rose of Sebastopol by Katharine McMahon. It kept my attention but I wasn't wild about the stories or characters, as evidenced by my lackluster Goodreads review:

This is a somewhat interesting story of two women, cousins united by love and friendship. One yearns to be a nurse while the other prepares for certain marriage. The Crimean War, however, changes both of their fates and propels them into a dangerous world of war and death.

On the positive, I learned about a chapter of British and Russian history that I knew nothing about: The Crimean War. It's always good to learn new things, so my time on this book was not wasted.

I guess my primary gripe is the characters. I couldn't relate to any of them. In a way this is good - it's impossible for me to understand a nineteenth-century woman who only wants to sit around and embroider all day. But the author's job is to make me relate to her...and I don't think this was ever successfully done.

Next up on my reading list: Nefertiti by Michelle Moran.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cats, Trees, and Skirts

Did everyone have a safe and happy Thanksgiving? Mine was very good. I got to see lots of family and eat tons of great food.

Mr. Higgins and I got to decorate our house for Christmas for the first time, which was very cool. It was not without a bit of stress, however. One of our cats had never seen a Christmas tree before...and he enjoyed exploring it....on many levels. Seeing a cat's head poke out of a Christmas tree, halfway up the Christmas tree, is not nearly so cute as the pictures on the web would have you believe.

Once we got the tree skirt under the tree, Dooku, thankfully, decided he would much rather curl up under the skirt than play in the tree. Thank goodness! I'm sure the times we got on to him for being rowdy around the tree also helped. So, as of this morning, only one ornament has been knocked off by the cats...and the tree skirt is in constant disarray. But I'd rather have that than a cat climbing the tree!

So I'm sure I'll have pictures of Dooku curled up under the tree eventually. It is surely one of the cutest sights I've ever seen!

Happy decorating!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Almost turkey time!!

I can't wait for Thanksgiving - so much good food and nice family time! Then, Mr. Higgins and I are so excited to decorate for our first Christmas together. Last Christmas was a very stressful time for us so this year we want to make up for it with lots of fun and joy. It's been a challenge to not listen to Christmas music yet but I've succeeded.

Now, a half day of work and then the holiday begins!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Baby Socks

I love these adorable socks! They were so much fun to knit up - and quick! My only grief came with the Kitchener Stitch toes. The first sock went flawlessly. The second one, not so much. I re-did it three times and every time the stitch looked inside out. Finally, I frogged the sock back to the beginning of the toe decreases and started over. That Kitchener Stitch was better, though not perfect. I have no idea what I'm doing wrong.

Otherwise, these were a lot of fun. I love quick, cute projects!

Pattern: Baby Socks by Joelle Hoverson
Yarn: M & K Eco Baby Bomull (cotton!)
Needles: US 3 dpns
Made for: someone
Time to completion: 6 days

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pumpkin Recipes!

I've been a little obsessed with baking lately. Specifically, baking with pumpkin.

Over the weekend, I tried these Pumpkin Scones...and they were delicious. Very moist and just a little sweet. I even substituted some Splenda for the sugar! The powdered sugar in both the glaze and icing really put me off. After the glaze, I tried a scone and found it to be quite I left off the icing. Saving calories is always good, in my opinion.

I had pumpkin leftover after the scones....and a party at work.... So I made these Pumpkin Cookies for my co-workers to enjoy. They were pretty tasty! I left off the icing on some of the cookies and they're good, too! Actually, the icing combined with the spices in the cookies made me crave gingerbread cookies. So good!

There's sure to be more baking with the holidays coming up and I can't wait!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Pretzel Rolls

I was intrigued by this recipe for Pretzel Rolls that I found while looking at food blogs (which has become quite an obsession of mine). I mentioned them to Mr. Higgins and he immediately started talking about these pretzel rolls he had on a trip which were fantastic.

So, I read through the recipe instructions....and got nervous. So many steps! Rising dough! Poaching! Eek! But they sounded so good! I decided to try it. And, wow, was it worth it! These rolls are amazing! Just like a pretzel! Here's the batch, right out of the oven...

I can't wait to make them again. The second time will be easier, I'm sure. And my tummy is already craving them again! Ha!

Monday, November 14, 2011

Practice Baby Socks

In preparation for knitting (real adult) socks, I decided I should tackle something smaller first. The Secret Knitter had done these socks so I decided to try them myself. They ended up being a great refresher on all things socks. Plus, I finally tackled Kitchner Stitch to finish the toes. My first attempt was a disaster but the second sock was pretty good, if not a bit too loose.

So, these were great practice socks! Here are the specifics:

Pattern: Super Quick Baby Socks by Dilys Sutherland
Yarn: Patons Canadiana Worsted, color 052285 (green)
Needle: US 7 dpns
Made for: practice
Time to completion: 12 days

Friday, November 11, 2011

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

For my birthday, I received a baking stone, which was on my Amazon Wish List. I was so excited that I went online and ordered Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois. Oh, boy. I think this is going to lead to a bread addiction....

The premise of Artisan is this.... You make a big batch of dough and let it rise for two hours. Then you put it in the refrigerator. Any time you want a fresh loaf of bread over the course of two weeks, you cut off a grapefruit-sized ball of dough and let it rise at room temperature for forty minutes. Then you bake it for thirty minutes. And voila! Fresh bread!

And let me tell you, the first recipe, the basic one they recommend you begin with, is better than any bread I've ever had in the store or a bakery. In fact, I was at Panera last night....and Mr. Higgins joked that he'd have better bread at home. It was no joke.

I can't wait to try more of the recipes in this book! My only hesitation with recommending it (and I do recommend it) is that the process of baking the bread is made a lot easier with some specialized things that most people don't have in their kitchens: baking stone, pizza peel, and dough bucket. I only had the baking stone and everything worked fine...though a pizza peel is next on my list of things to buy, followed relatively soon by a dough bucket.

(A cookie sheet with no edge will work instead of a pizza peel. You just need something that you can slide sticky dough off of fairly quickly. For the dough bucket, a big plastic Rubbermaid bucket would work just as well... Wal-Mart has a set of plastic canister and the large one would be perfect.)

I'm excited. Bread that requires no kneading and that's this easy... Awesome!!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


I have two Knit Nights scheduled this week. Very exciting!!

They come at a good time since I now have a baby to knit for! No, not my own. Never my own! A friend of mine is pregnant and I can't wait to make baby socks! And, maybe, finally finish the baby cardigan I started long ago.

In celebration of this - and all my Knit Nights - I may go to my LYS for some baby sock yarn. I actually haven't been there in quite some time. To me, this is a minor victory - my stash is already overflowing - of self control. But now I need to I should go. Right? Right.

In all honesty, I don't have any yarn suitable for baby socks in my stash. At least that's what I'm telling myself!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

The other day, I finished Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. I'd rank it among my top five favorite books of all time. Yes, it's that good.

Ayaan's story is so profound but what amazes me is how determined she was to make her life better. She grew up in a strict Muslim household that moved from Somalia to Saudi Arabia to Kenya. Ayaan endured strict beatings, genital mutilation, and violent political unrest. Her father championed for a new Somalian government and that put her family in a lot of danger, forcing them to move around.

Despite her strict Muslim upbringing, Ayaan could not help but wonder why Allah - such a peaceful God - would make women subordinate to men. She tries to worship according to her religious laws but she has serious questions.

When her father forces her to marry, she flees to the Netherlands where the government gives her sanctuary. There, she asks even more questions - why doesn't Africa have clean streets, clean water, buses, roads... Ayaan hates being dependent upon the state so she begins working as a translator and puts herself through college. In her work, she champions free speech and women's rights and is eventually voted to the Dutch Parliament.

Her story is absolutely amazing. It's one that makes me ask, "what have I made of my life?" And it opens a Westerner's eyes to the state of Africa and Islam. In my opinion, this is a must-read. It will leave you captivated.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Lorna's Laces

This is why I must get more comfortable with socks: I love Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock!

Last night, I met with a woman from work to knit for a few hours! She's much more advanced than I maybe she can help me get past some mental hurdles! Yay!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

An Addiction

On our trip to Tahoe and Yosemite, we flew into Reno and rented a car. Our first stop off the plane was not at a restaurant, a national forest, or a was a yarn store. Jimmy Beans Wool!

I was there in 2008 and had to go again, mainly for sock yarn. Yes, I'm addicted. I am not, unfortunately, addicted to making socks...yet. I'm trying to remedy this situation by doing some baby socks. The Secret Knitter had done a pair of these socks so I decided to try them as well. Mr. Higgins was amazed at how fast they knitted up. I finished one sock last night and started the I should have pics of completed baby socks soon!

I have to get obsessed with knitting socks....since I'm obsessed with sock yarn. At Jimmy Beans, I bought two more skeins of Lorna's Laces sock yarn. Sigh. And then they sent me a coupon for free shipping on a future purchase. Sigh again.

But there's nothing like the feeling of accomplishment after finishing a sock...even a baby sock!! I'm totally motivated for more - and more! - knitting!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lake Tahoe, West

After Yosemite, we headed back to Tahoe, but to the west side of the lake. There, we rented a cabin for three quiet nights. We spent a lot of time on the pier above, sitting and enjoying the lake.

On my birthday, we did some hiking around Emerald Bay, pictured above.

We hiked down to Vikingsholm, a house built by a wealthy woman in the early 1900s. She wanted it to resemble a French chateau and it is adorable. Though the house was closed for the season, it was still cool to see.

From there, we hiked up to Eagle Falls - so pretty!

On our drives, we were happy to see aspens in all shades of yellow. We didn't know these trees would be around Tahoe (we'd seen them in Colorado last year) so they were a nice surprise.

That wraps up the trip! It was so nice to get away, especially for my birthday!