Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rainy Day Knitting

I've been enjoying myself today, knitting during a loud, heavy thunderstorm and reading.  Surprisingly, I can get more knitting than expected done while spending the morning reading news articles and blog updates.  Click on the link, then knit while reading.  Scroll down, knit some more. 

Today was an unexpected thunderstorm, at least for me.  During summer vacation I tend to be disconnected from the real world for days on end, so I miss out on weather forecasts.  Lately it's been hot & humid or even hotter & humid.  I was surprised enough when it started pouring to go online and look up the weather to see if it would be raining all day.  This rain might have caught the weathermen unexpected as well, because my forecast predicted 0% change of precipitation until at least 8 hours from now.  The current weather map did have a massive storm coming up to Tulsa with all sorts of pretty colors on the map.   Hmm....

Well, onto the knitting.

  (Example from woollythoughts.org)

In the above picture, the technique is to make squares consisting of two colors (picture two triangles).  And then put the squares together like a quilt in many, many, many different designs.  The one pictured above is my current inspiration.  I like how the black lines cut through the pattern.

Earlier this week I stumbled upon  http://woollythoughts.org/ and started browsing through their various examples of knitting.  If you haven't been there, I highly recommend a look, if only to see some of the intricate, creative things they've come up with.  The basic premise of the website is using Math and Knitting to create.  There is a whole Math unit that involves knitting that the kids do, and in the process, end up creating a group afghan.  Very cool.  Look at some of the different creations they came up with:


In fact, I was inspired enough to put aside the other 3 projects I'm still not finished with to start playing with this idea.  In general, this is a lot like quilting.  You can rotate the squares to put the triangles in order in different ways.  And there are a lot of quilting patterns & shapes made of triangles on the web, to give you plenty of ideas!  (google search "quilting half square triangles")

I've started making my bicolor squares in a bright green and harvest yellow.  My thoughts:  green lines on a yellow background (and without that center hourglass shape).  12 squares made so far (and 10 of them connected).  We'll keep our fingers crossed that I get a lot accomplished before this project might too fall to the wayside in the lure of a new, bright, glittering idea.

Here are some other cool creations from woollythought.  They sell patterns online in their store:

Until next time,
               Happy Knitting

Monday, June 27, 2011

How to Group People you Follow on Twitter

I'm still new to Twitter, and am still learning all the ins and outs.  To be honest, I don't do much with it, other than look at some of the fun links to articles put up by some of the science magazines and tv shows.  However new I am, there are still others that are newer than me, and earlier this week I've been giving advice, from one newbie to another, on how to set up and use Twitter. 

One feature I like about Twitter is that you have the ability to Group your contacts, so that you can just look at one area or topic at a time.  Some of my groups include:  science stuff, craft stuff, people I actually know, and humor.  When I log on to Twitter, sometimes I read the main feed, but it often has people that I don't know and haven't chosen to follow.  So, sometimes I just go straight to my group pages, and read the newest tweets from there.  I usually do not go to each group each time I log on.

On to putting people on lists -  you can do this a couple of ways.  When you first add someone (if you are on their profile page), then right under their name and basic info, there is a grey line with two buttons (above the area where the tweets start).  Oh, by the way, I'm on twitter.com on the computer, not on a phone.  It might look different on a phone.  But anyway, on this gray line - on the left is a button that allows you to choose to follow them (it says "Follow) or "Following" if you already are.  Then on that same gray line, to the right, is a button that has person's head and a down arrow on it.  Click on that, and a menu drops down - and you can add to list (maybe the third choice down).  You can click that, and then click one of your lists to add to.  Or, make a new list too, from that same place.

However, for all the places you've already followed, you have to go into them, one by one and add them to a list.  Hopefully you catch this early, and then anytime you follow someone from now on you can just add them to the list right there. 

To get to all your other places/people you follow, go to your profile.  Then click on the right hand side of the screen, where it says ## Following.  That brings you up to a tweet screen on the left with the latest tweets from those people.  But, at the top of the newest tweets are two tabs.  Choose the tab to the right "People."  That brings up a list of all your "Following" group, and you can go line by line and add them to whichever group you want. 

Happy grouping!  :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Carmelized Onions & Sauteed Squash

Cooking Week:  Day 1

So it seems that I cook a lot more on summer vacation when I'm off all day.  Who knew?  This week is shaping up to be a week with lots of cooking, so it seemed appropriate that I blog about what's going on currently in my life. 

One of the things I love about summer is fresh vegetables.  Little produce stands start popping up around town, and everything just tastes so much better.  My summer staple is to get several of my favorite summer vegetables, and stir fry them up for the week.  Then I use the vegetables as toppings, side dishes, or just by themselves as meals through out the week.  Many of my summer meals tend to be vegetarian, because the vegetables are so good.

This week, I've visited the local produce stand, Whole Foods for some organics, and the grocery store for a few others that I missed along the way.  Yesterday afternoon, before beginning this week's process, here is what I had:

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Yellow squash, Zucchini, Carrots, Green Beans, Broccoli, Corn, Onions, and Okra

Onions are always first.  I like them to be carmelized - cooked very well, and browned.  This always takes longer than the quick stir fry for the the other vegetables, so start them in their own pan first.

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8 onions.  It sounds like a lot, but they cook down, and if spread out between several people or over several meals during the week, they do tend to go fast.  And it's easy to use my handy-dandy Bullet Express (thanks Dad) to quickly chop veggies into slices or shred.

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4 onions fills up this large punch bowl, as you can see by the several chunks of onions still awaiting their turn through the food processor.  And one bowl of onions fills up a large frying pan:

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To cook this big a quantity, I cook one bowlful of onions first, and then completely remove the cooked onions before starting the second bowlful.  You could add onions as these cook down, because they shrink down quite a bit, but then I worry about trying to keep the well-done onions from becoming completely burned while the new onions are cooking. 

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Here are the onions, almost done.  You can see that they've cooked down quite a bit.

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And that entire pan of onions - doesn't even take up half of this 4" plastic.  Both pans together will fit into this container.

Onto the other veggies.  Normally I mix most of my other vegetables all in the same pan.  However, this week I'm sharing vegetables with family and friends in a birthay celebration, so I'm cooking the squash & zucchini separately from the other vegetables.  This next pan will include okra, green beans, broccoli, corn, and carrots.

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Okra - whole and then  chopped ready to stir fry. 

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And the green beans - whole and then chopped ready for stir frying.

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Here is the okra and green beans, starting to cook up in the pan.

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Yummy young carrots, washed and then shredded.

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Add the carrots to the pan.

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Add some broccoli.  At this point, it's starting to get crowded, so it's time to
divide what's in the pan between two different frying pans. 

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Fresh corn on the cob.  I love corn on the cob in the summer time.  It always tastes so good.  This corn was in water that was brought to a boil, to just get it barely cooked.  Then drained, and cut off the cob.

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Add corn to the stir fry mix, and cook it for just a few more minutes.

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Almost Done

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And there you go.  2 pans full of stif fried vegetables, nicely mixed and cooked enough to blend the flavors, but still have a bit of crunch and texture.  This large plastic container is enough to feed a family for a couple of meals, or add vegetables to many of my meals through the week.

I'm not quite finished for the night.  I really love squash and zucchinni.  From the earlier picture, you might notice I have 4-5 of each that need to be sliced and cooked.  This fun cooking project took a little over 3 hours, so squash will be a project for another day.  I decided to quickly chop and stir fry one of each for tonight's dinner.

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Well, 1 zucchini and 2 squash, if you are picky.  Sizewize, this worked out well.  Quickly - washed, sliced, and set up in pans.

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This looks like a lot, but like the onions, it will quickly cook down.

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Yum.  Now, ready for dinner.  Since I've spent all this time cooking vegetables, and used up all 4 burners on the stove at one time or another through this process, I'm a bit limited in my dinner options if I want something that won't take too much longer to make.  I decide to go for quick, and put some pierogies in the oven to bake while finishing up the last of the vegetables.  Whip up some guacamole, and then garnish with all the veggies.  This may be simple, but it's one of my favorite meals.  :)

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Thursday, June 2, 2011

What to Knit?

I'm starting to think on my knitting dilemma for next week.  I'll be taking a class, which will entail a 40 minute commute each morning and evening.  The cool part - I don't have to drive.  Kudos to carpooling.  In my mind, I'm starting to plan a little about what would be  good, easy, and portable project to work on.  So - that's about 2 hours a day times 5 days - or approximately 10 hours of knitting in a car with 3 other people.
After working with this for awhile, I actually do the math and realize that 40 + 40 = 80 minutes…or just under an hour and a half a day.  Times 5 days equals 7.5 hours.  That would be why I’m the SCIENCE teacher, and not the math teacher.  And really, in knitting, does this even matter?  Probably not.  Really my concern should be, will it be light out while we are driving – much more important to the knitting process.

Back to the potential projects.  I tend to over-estimate how quickly I knit (even with timed proof to the contrary), and so tend to add extra skeins of yarn thinking, just in case I get finished.  For a portable project, I need to keep a couple of considerations in mind.  First, I will be in the back of a car, so it will be helpful to not have a lot of tools to keep track of (scissors, crochet hook, stitch markers) and not have to change between different skeins of yarn.  On the other hand, I don’t want a project so big that it takes up too much room – as my backpack is supposed to have the notebook and other class supplies.  Sounds like something medium-sized, like a scarf or shawl, will be perfect.  And, probably, since we’ll be bouncing around on the road, something fairly simple, so I don’t have to interpret a pattern or keep count of stitches too much if we are talking in the car. 

Let’s look around, and see what kinds of yarns and projects I have planned for this summer, to see what might fit the bill.  I’m in a rainbow phase right now, and want to make one of my tube scarves in rainbow stripes.  Very fun, but will require carting around 6 skeins of yarn at a time – definitely out.

I’ve got the makings of several other projects too – crocheting fun trim on flip flops, knitting baby hats & booties, knitting head kerchiefs.  All easy and portable, but are quick projects, so will require tools to finish them off, or have several pieces to carry around.

Another project on the schedule for this summer – a medium weight blanket in very basic stitches.  That would be an easy one to work on while chatting in the back of the car, but I’m pretty fast as basic stitches, so it would probably get to be too big and bulky to fit easily into my backpack by the end of the week.

It looks like it is going to be a shawl.  Something medium-sized, with finer yarn (smaller skeins), and detailed enough that it will take longer to knit.  But, still thin enough it won’t take up too much space in the bag after a week’s worth of knitting.  And I’ve got the perfect yarn too – look at this beautiful mix of greens and brown variegated yarn.

And the pattern:  I think I’ll use LionBrand’s Splendid Triangle Shawl pattern.  I’ve made it before in this homespun spring green, and it is a simple pattern of 4 repeating rows.  It does have 2 stitch markers, but hopefully that won’t be too bad in the back of the car.  I think with this yarn, it will end up making a looser, drapier, summerier version of the shawl.  Shall we see if I can finish it during my carpool next week?

Here I was, all set and ready to pack, and what happens this morning?  I find another pattern.  I tend to have knitting ADD - I'm easily distracted and lured away from finishing a project by the idea of starting a new one.  As you can see from earlier in this post, I have several things I can't wait to start - so much so, I'm having a very hard time finishing what's currently on the needles!  But - let me show you my newest find:  Fibonacci Scarf

I've had specific interest in the Fibonacci numbers ever since it was used in a sculpture for our new Math & Science building.  I have to say, the reason I knew about the Fibonacci Sequence was from the Da Vinci Code, not from any scholastic endeavors.  I like patterns and odd math or science facts, so I cued into it in the story, and like the pattern of it.  If you don't know offhand what it is, I'm sure you've heard of it.  The pattern goes "1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34" and on and on.  The sequence adds the last two numbers to get the next number in the sequence.  This pattern has been found in many objects in nature, like a shell's spiral, a pinecone's tabs or sunflower's seeds. 

Back to knitting - this is a very cool scarf, and looks absurdly easy to knit.  The idea here is to use two colors.  Using this picture, if you start with red, you make stripes in the number sequence up towards the middle.  And contrast that with the black stripes, that count up the number sequence from the middle out.  Takes a moment to write out the numbers to intersperse them, but after that, easy enough and makes a abstract, more-complicated looking scarf.  Maybe this is what I need to take with me on my trip.
What do you think?  Maybe I should just pack them all.  How much room do I need for all those other things in the suitcase?