Monday, November 26, 2012

Comfort food

After admiring Smitten Kitchen's Mushroom Bourguignon for months and months, it suddenly hit me this afternoon that I had to make it tonight. The thought of it was making my mouth water at 3:30 this afternoon.

So, yeah. I picked up some mushrooms on the way home. I bought big cremini, but I think it would have been good with any meaty mushrooms.

Oh, and because we're not vegetarian and we had two sad week-old slices of (English) bacon in the fridge, we used bacon right at the beginning. It was AMAZING and so much quicker than the full boeuf version and I could hear Julia admonishing me NOT to crowd the mushrooms! (Darling, I didn't. I did them in 2 batches. You'd be proud of me.)

SO good that we ate it all and there were no pictures.

Oh, and we put the pearl onions and butter/flour mixture in right after adding the liquid. Other than that, unchanged. And delicious.

Veggie peeps: go make it.
Meat-eating peeps: this is almost boeuf bourguignon and it was on the table in an hour. SHUT UP and go make it.

And as the other part of my quest for comfort food, I made the pumpkin-apple muffins from the Libby's Pumpkin tin on Thursday last week (Thanksgiving, for those of you paying attention). I wanted cream cheese icing, not streusel, so that's what I did.

Libby's recipe is on the inside of the pumpkin labels, and also here. I used Martha's cream cheese frosting recipe, here. YUM.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lots of knitting

I've been knitting up a storm. Fingerless mittens for Amy, which I knit on the plane to NY while watching Brave and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I loved both movies and was surprised that the airline stewards let me knit during both take-off and landing. A seven-hour flight is the best for blasting through a pair of fingerless mittens.

I'm almost finished with these mitts for Lou. I LOVE this madeline tosh merino yarn, bought at Purl Soho. It's gorgeous to knit with and the colour and size variations make for really interesting mittens. I'm just fretting about the thumbs - you have to pick up stitches going sideways and I'm terrible at it. I think I need to just sit with some YouTube tutorials and be done with it.

I (along with rather a lot of other knitters) have just started Kate Davies' latest pattern, Snawheid. I've made several of her patterns, and I'm excited about this one. I might have to line the brim with fleece - the Jamieson & Smith yarn is beautiful but not terribly soft.

And last, I'm still plugging away at my Elizabeth Zimmerman February sweater. Must. Keep. Knitting. I'd forgotten how long sweaters take compared to mittens. Sigh.

The lace pattern is gorgeous, though!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Gone Girl

I just finished reading Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. I heard about it on Pop Culture Happy Hour (one of my favorite podcasts). 

It's labelled "thriller" at our library. And I don't want to give away any of the plot. Suffice it to say: I read it in under 24 hours (while home from work, sick). And the thing that kept coming out of my mouth while I was reading it: "Holy $h*^!"

Two complaints:
1. I've tried Kate Atkinson books and not liked them, so the blurb on the front made me a bit worried.
2. The cover of the copy I have is suede-like and NASTY to hold. I kept washing my hands after reading it. ::shudder::

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Ok, so it's not really alive. It just looks a bit strange.

My mom has this bamboo microfibre duster (it's a mitt) and Harry is a little bit obsessed with it. He "helps" by carrying it from room to room.

When it's not being carried around by His Dogness, it is a supremely excellent duster and picks up all kinds of fluff (and is machine washable). Sweet! 

On the Williams Sonoma website, I could only find it listed as part of a set. Lakeland seem to have a similar product in the UK.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Tom Holland in Cambridge

We went to Cambridge a few weeks ago (my iPhone speaker was buzzing and I wanted to get it checked out; Apple replaced the whole phone and sent me on my way!), and we wandered in to Heffers. We were walking over to check out the knitting books, followed by YA fantasy (me) and the model train books (John). I spotted an author doing a signing, and recognised one of the books as one that we have at home (Persian Fire, the blue book in the bottom right corner of the picture below).

"Hey, husband, don't you have that book?"

"Wow! It's Tom Holland!"

"You should buy his books and get them signed!"

The line was 1 person long (not really a line at all), so we stood and chatted to Mr. Holland for about 5 minutes while he signed 2 books for John. Then someone appeared in line behind us and we stopped hogging the author.

It turns out that the copy of Persian Fire we have at home is actually John's second copy; he gave the first one away to someone who he thought would enjoy it. When we mentioned that to Mr. Holland, he looked like he wanted to give John a medal.

We now have 2 new Tom Holland books, both signed. Sweet! I haven't read any of them yet but John thinks they're great.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Framed cards

I bought these cards at Whimsies in Warren, RI.

I loved them so much, I had them matted and framed (hooray for stock frames and nice framing stores that cut matting for you to measure and then help you stick the cards in the frames).

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Newport and 12-meter sailing

We went to Newport, for a sail on a 12-meter. The weather was HORRIBLE - it was gusty with rain in the morning and then the rain cleared up by the time we were due for the sail. We even called the company to make sure that we were still going to sail (since there was no way we would have taken Kanga out in that breeze).

We sailed with America's Cup Charters - it was well organised and the crew and helm were very good. Recommendation: wear the waterproof pants, even if you don't think you'll need to. I had a wet bum. John wore the pants and was warm and dry.

It was too wet/windy for me to risk the camera, so no pics. Because of the stiff breeze, the captain decided that we'd just go out under the jib (the smaller, forward sail). Ok, the jib on a 12-meter is only classed as small when being compared to a football field...

From sailing on our happy little squib, it was quite a change to be on Intrepid. Even with just one sail, we were zipping along at 9 knots (our hull speed in Kanga is about 4 knots). Woowhee!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Grace's red quilt

I had most of the fabric for Grace's quilt back in July. Actually, the Tufted Tweets have been in my stash for a while (and were in this quilt from 2011). Oh, and the red was part of Gabi's Annie Dress. Newly purchased were the monaluna chairs (LOVE), the red stripes, and the birds for the back. 

Oh, and some of the polka dots from Gabi's quilt WAY back in 2009. Anyway, I didn't have a ton of any of the fabric, so I cut squares (5", I think), and then sashed them horizontally with grey. Not quite there.

I realised that I wanted to put AsYetUnnamedBaby's name on the quilt, so I added a white panel to the front, the same size as the pieced panels. (Thank you, Hubby, for the quilt feet.)

Then, I was at Quilter's Haven in Wickham Market over the summer to pick up some fabric for Emily's wedding quilt (not done was a month ago...), and spotted these birds. Birds on the front AND on the back? With red? Sweet!

I picked a font I liked, enlarged it to crazy proportions, then printed it out. I reversed the letters, traced them, cut out the fabric, then applique'd them on to the quilt front (the quilt was in suspended animation until she was born and had a name).

I used red thread to zig-zag around the letters, then finished my quilt sandwich and quilted with a meander, avoiding the letters to make them stand out a bit.

I LOVE how it turned out.

Almost as much as I love this selvedge:

All quilted and bound and ready to go. She was born two weeks before we left for New York so there wasn't a huge amount of time!

Ahem. These chaps thought the quilt was for them and were very disappointed to find out it was not.

Thanks to Evan for the quilt feet and the Brooklyn Bridge for the backdrop.

And here it is in its new home. Grace is exceedingly cute (but was a little sleepy at this point)!

Friday, November 2, 2012

We ate Rhode Island (and a little New York)

We went to Rhode Island. And ate everything in sight. 

I had two hot apple ciders (both delicious). They DO NOT have this in England, and it's a damned shame. Brits: it's warm cloudy apple juice with cinnamon and nutmeg and other yummy spices. It's warm and fall-y and delicious. I have some cloudy apple juice from Waitrose and might try my hand at making it tomorrow afternoon...

And here, my friends, is a giant celebration cannoli, surrounded by lots and lots of smaller cannoli. Shut  up.

We went to an anniversary brunch while in NY, and John had a very entertaining cannoli experience.

A family friend's grandmother is Old School New York Italian, and we were talking about the fact that John didn't know what cannoli was and had never tasted it. Basically, fried dough with ricotta filling. YUM. But definitely not on John's list of good eats. Nonni was undeterred and proudly presented John with a plate containing two cannoli, announcing, "You gotta eat some cannoli! You'll love it!" Poor hubby looked very worried until I relieved him of his cannoli and ate them. :)

Once we got to Rhode Island (not cannoli-free, I might add), we took ourselves for dinner at DeWolf Tavern in Bristol. The food was stunning - John had lamb chops and I had steak, and both had been cooked in their tandoor and were caramelised on the outside and tender on the inside and generally amazing. My only quibble was that I had the daily special and it wasn't mentioned that the price was $10 more than the most expensive thing on the printed menu. Otherwise, outstanding.

And since we were in the US, I had to have some pizza, at Leo's (again, Bristol). This is the buffalo chicken pizza (with blue cheese, obv.). Spicy and salty and cheesy and very very tasty. The pizza base was some kind of twice-cooked foccacia. Really springy with big air bubbles and a crispy crust. We will be experimenting chez Herd.

We also managed to waddle to Federal Hill, Providence's Little Italy. We were hungry and unsure where to eat so my ever-resourceful mom spotted a man going into a bank (he looked like a local) who obviously enjoyed his food, if you catch my drift. "Excuse me, sir, we're wondering if you can recommend a place for lunch in Federal Hill?"

Didn't miss a beat. "Go to Venda Ravioli." We obeyed and were not disappointed. This was the view from our table. The pasta was incredible and super-fresh. It's a deli, a coffee shop, a restaurant, and a kitchen supply store. It does all of them well.

Our final meal in RI was a breakfast at the now relocating Sunnyside. I can't wait to see where chef Joe will end up, and try his dinner menu!

John was excited for the pancakes (leftovers pictured below) and real maple syrup. My mom, wanting to make sure he was not disappointed, stashed a bottle of real maple syrup from home in her purse, just in case Sunnyside had "breakfast syrup" or some other travesty. Thankfully, they served the real thing and mom's bottle of syrup was taken home again untouched. Phew. Cracked me up, though!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

New York, before

New York is in the midst of a tremendous cleanup and rebuilding operation in the wake of Tropical Storm Sandy. It has been bizarre to see pictures on the news of places we were 2 weeks ago, covered in water, or destroyed.

If you want to donate to the Red Cross, you can do it here.


We were in Central Park two weeks ago, where we ended up at the boating pond. John said, "Ooh, that looks like fun!"

I, as the jaded New Yorker, said "It's too expensive. I think it's a club racing."

Apparently not. We went over to see, and it's $11 for half an hour.

We were given boat 29. She had serious weather helm and didn't do all that well when on the other side of the lake from the controller, but was otherwise very entertaining.

Then on the way back through Grand Central, we stopped to check on a Martha Stewart event that I'd read about. No Martha-sightings, but we did see Emeril! One of his minders spotted me taking the picture and asked if I wanted to go on the radio and ask Emeril a question. Honestly, I've attempted to watch his show a few times and find him rather irritating. I could think of absolutely NOTHING to ask him, so I just took the picture and wandered off. I'm sure there were other Emeril fans along shortly.

Because we were on vacation, we stopped at the Michael Jordan Steakhouse bar (mostly, for the view) and had drinks before hopping on our train back to the 'burbs.

See? Isn't that a great view? I love Grand Central. (The drinks were good, too!)