29 Oct

Another way to use up extra milk: Dulce de Leche

A few weeks ago I posted about my homemade cheese experiment to use up excess milk. This week I had an unusual amount of extra milk to get rid of — a whole half gallon! Well, Halloween is coming up and so my thoughts turned to sweets… and found the perfect way to use up a lot of milk, simply. Dulce de leche is easy, if not quick, and has only four ingredients: milk, sugar, a bit of vanilla, and a bit of baking soda.

I basically used Alton Brown’s recipe, with a little inspiration from this one as well. I cooked it for about three hours and ended up with this lovely thick sauce. I had it today drizzled over bananas, and in coffee, and on oatmeal.

I think I need to give the rest away or I may regret it. I am not sure I need the sugar overload. But wow, it’s good.

25 Oct

My latest project

For the last few weeks I’ve been working pretty hard (along with Jason) on a new project, and this time it’s not knitting or anything like that. It’s the Beacon Hill Blog. If you’re at all interested in Seattle neighborhood goings-on, check it out.

And if not, here’s a knitting status photo from a few days ago:
In progress: Rogue hoodie

Perhaps I’ll finish the hoodie by November after all.

20 Oct

Homemade soap

Some of my neighbors may have wondered why we were outside on the patio last week mixing a white powder with liquid, then setting it aside with a thermometer to measure its temperature, then periodically coming back outside and saying things like “nope, it’s still 125 degrees! Not ready yet!”

Honestly, we were doing nothing nefarious. We were only making soap. And one of the basic steps involves lye. Roughly, it works like this: you mix the lye with water, then eventually, when all ingredients are the right temperature, you mix it with fats (olive oil and palm oil, with a bit of soy oil, in this case). Then after some stirring, you put it in a mold. The eventual result is what you see in this picture: soap!

The soap pictured here is the soap we made last week. Dark brown is chocolate-orange, light-brown is oatmeal cookie, pink is cherry cola, and the creamy color is unscented, to be used to make hand-milled soap later. The saponification process, when done right, eventually gets rid of the irritating lye. But it takes a while for the soap to cure to the point where it is mild enough. We still need to wait 3-4 more weeks to use this soap. You can handle it just fine at this stage, though, without needing gloves as we did the night we made it.

For the last few years (except last year) a few of us have gotten together to make batches of soap like this, both for Christmas gift giving and for personal use. It’s much nicer than grocery store soap; it’s very mild once it’s cured, and of course, you can use any scent you like. (I like food scents, myself.)

I recommend it; it’s kind of nice to make your own soap. The only thing is, lye has gotten harder to find these days. This time we got it from a soapmaking supplier. I used to buy it at the Red Apple.

15 Oct

1967 Seattle-area transit plan

1967 Seattle Transit Plan map image posted by afiler.

In 1968, Seattle had a chance to vote in a rapid transit system, as seen in the map here. The Forward Thrust package of propositions contained a variety of civic improvement initiatives, many of which passed (one brought us the late and not-so-lamented Kingdome), but the transit system got only 50.8% Yes votes–and required a supermajority of 60% to pass.

In 1970, it was put back in front of the voters, but failed amid “Boeing Bust”-era recession fears. The large amount of federal money ($881 million dollars) secured for the project went instead to Atlanta, where they used it to build the MARTA system.

In retrospect, of course, this was probably one of the stupidest voter decisions ever made in this region. Can you imagine how different Seattle would be today if the routes shown on the map pictured here existed? By now we could have been spending the money to expand it to Everett and Tacoma, and adding more in-city routes; instead, we are creating a minimal line, and the expansions being planned are nowhere near as useful as they ought to be. (No stops between Roosevelt and Northgate? Only one stop between downtown and the U-District? And the University station way down at Husky Stadium instead of near the Ave? We need to build this anyway, but it’s going to be decades before it’s a really good in-city system, at this rate. It’s frustrating.)

Now we have the chance to vote again to build and expand rapid transit here, and as in 1970, people fear a deepening recession. Will people vote yes, or will it fail and kill transit expansion for another 40 years? I may not live long enough to see a decent rail system here.

(Found via comments on Seattle Transit Blog.)

13 Oct

Desktop publishing, old-style

This morning, in London, 150 copies of a rather unusual newspaper were distributed to commuters. The Manual is “the first hand-made newspaper in the UK”–a four page paper, entirely drawn and written by hand, then silk-screened in a numbered, limited edition. The intent, say the publishers, is to “show that handmade qualities can transform newspapers from ‘junk’ to collectable,” and to demonstrate the power and value of the tactile qualities of ink and paper. They hope to find sponsorship to continue to publish, but if not, they say they’ve enjoyed it as a one-time experience. It sounds wonderful, and I wish I could see the complete paper.

(Via The Guardian.)

09 Oct

I intend to be wearing this before Thanksgiving

I haven’t posted much about knitting lately. Mostly that is because I just haven’t gotten much knitting done, what with summer and real-life things interfering with the knitting time. But I am working on a couple of things. No new patterns just yet — I have some ideas percolating, but nothing ready to talk about or even swatch up yet.

The two newest projects I’m working on are the Lace Ribbon Scarf from Knitty (maybe half done) and the Rogue Hooded Pullover from The Girl from Auntie. (Pictured here, just beginning.)

The scarf was supposed to be my airplane and train knitting for the UK trip, but I didn’t get very much done. It’s a very easy pattern, though, and very portable. I have it memorized now, so if I need to take knitting somewhere, I can just grab that.

Rogue is another story. It’s also easy (so far), but it’s a 19 page pattern, and there are charts to follow, and so this will be “at home” knitting for now. It’s going to be really cool when done. And warm too, I hope. It has Celtic cables on the sides, around the hood, and around the neckline. And I intend to finish it before Thanksgiving. Let’s see if I can manage it. It’s actually relatively quick so far.

One more knitting tidbit, and it’s sort of goofy. Jason and I went out to dinner with his parents for his birthday on Monday. On the way home, I had this sudden urge to stop at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park. It’s a bookstore, right? Why not?

So we stopped there right around 7pm. As we walked in, I saw that there was a group of people in the back around the stage, and someone was introducing an author. “Hmm,” I thought, “it would be funny if it was a knitting author.”

And then the woman introduced… Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, the Yarn Harlot! My jaw just about dropped off my face. I guess I haven’t been keeping up with things as I should, or I would have known she was going to be here!

Because I was with Jason, who really didn’t want to spend all night there, I didn’t sit down and listen to the reading, or get an autograph. I did listen to a bit from the back, though. In Stephanie’s post about the Seattle reading she has a couple of audience pics, and if the picture was larger, you would see me standing up in the back of the room.

It’s funny, because in England (and in Germany and Austria last year!) I managed to stumble on a couple of yarn stores completely accidentally (“Let’s turn down this street — I bet it will be interesting. Oh, look, another yarn store!”), and I was telling Jason that I have an inner yarn sensor. And then this Monday my sensor led me to a book reading by a knitting celeb!

06 Oct

70s kids, check this out

Photo by Waffle Whiffer.

While browsing Flickr this weekend, I stumbled on an amazing photostream with lots of great pop culture stuff, particularly packaging and advertising characters from the 1960s-1980s. If you grew up in that era as I did, you’ll see a lot of familiar stuff in Waffle Whiffer’s great photostream. Look and reminisce. The photo here is just one example of the fun stuff found there: a late 70s Kool-Aid package with the classic Kool-Aid design, before the envelopes got busy and over-designed. I didn’t even like Kool-Aid that much as a kid, and yet the envelope always made it look so good! Heyyyyyy Kool-Aid!

06 Oct

London’s electric cars

(Last month Jason and I spent two weeks in England. I’ll be posting a series of entries about the trip, with photos, over the next few weeks.)

Our UK adventure began in London, where I was attending a symposium. We stayed there for eight days, in the Fitzrovia area. Instead of a hotel, we stayed in one of the residences for University College London, Astor College. So, basically, we stayed in a dorm, which was a bit strange. We had a little fridge in our room, but had to share a bathroom. It was inexpensive by London standards, at least.

Astor College is well-located; we could easily walk to the British Library, the British Museum, and quite a few other attractions, and down Charlotte Street, just a few minutes from the residence, there were a ton of interesting restaurants. There were several Tube stations within easy walking distance as well.

One of the things I noticed quickly was that there were no SUVs in London. I think we saw one all week; it belonged to the university and was parked. I did not see a single one driving.

We did see a lot of Smart cars and various electric cars, which would be pretty useful in London traffic. (Apparently the electric cars are exempt from London’s congestion charge, too.) The cars pictured here were parked a couple of blocks away from Astor College, and there were actually 5 of them on the block at the time we took this picture — three parked, and two driving down the street! I think they are probably Reva G-Wiz cars.

Though little cars like this would be useful in London, really, cars were not too necessary. The tube lines cover most of the area, and the “black cabs” are everywhere as well. It is very easy to get around there, and I can easily imagine living there without a car. (However, there are some access problems if you are mobility impaired. It is not a very accessible city. Lots of stairs.) People seem to walk everywhere.

Something else I noticed that might be related to that: very few overweight people. There were some. Some were clearly tourists, some were not. But in general, the percentage of overweight people walking the streets of London was lower than the percentage of overweight people seen on the streets or in the malls of Seattle. I read earlier today (and now I can’t find the URL or I’d link it) that the UK has the highest national level of obesity — after America. (Where does Canada fit in, I wonder?) But even so, the population seemed noticeably more fit. Of course, we were in one of the most walkable cities in the world. The story might be different in other areas, where people need to rely more on their cars. Though we did notice that even suburbs were more dense and compact and less-strictly zoned than American suburbs, making them far more pedestrian-friendly.

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