Lani's household consists of Steve, the long-suffering coding genius and computer security guru; Jim, Lani's tall, red-headed and handsome son, currently finishing his second year of college; Hunter, Jasmine, Himari, Chenault, the miraculous Onyx and the even more miraculous Resk, undisputed feline rulers of the house; and Jesse, the man-hating green-cheeked conure.
Ann's household consists of Don, who is not just a computer genius but a pilot, a builder, and a damn good father; their son Steve, the marathon-running, college-bound, funniest teenager I know; and wonder dog Tater.
Other family members are Laurie, Lani's beautiful daughter who teaches at elementary levels; her handsome son Alex, aka Alexander the Great; Mary and Bo, a/k/a Mom and Dad, and Bud and Ann, Steve's patient and wonderful parents.
First of all just let me say that truthfully, sometimes I think that this sister-sister thing isn't just a blog. The circle cloth you made for Mom? In yellow and white? Yeah. My February cloth for her is a circle cloth, in yellow and white. I'd attach a photo, but the cats are REALLY insistent about helping with photography today so you're going to have to wait.
Next, my car! Go, Subaru of America -- I got my car back on Wednesday with a new turbo and new short block, all covered under the warranty. Given that I'm only 2,000 miles short of the end of that warranty, I'm counting my blessings that this happened now and not a few weeks from now! Essentially I now have a new engine; I went on and had them do a lot of additional service to the car including replacing the timing belt since the engine was already out of the car, so this baby should be good for a nice long time now. They made me sweat a bit about it, but honestly once I got them the last of my maintenance records they were very quick to reassure me that everything would be covered, and to get the work done for me. My faith in my Subarus is entirely intact!
And finally, some photos of what I did last weekend. I was a bit bored, what with snow and carlessness and all, so I decided to try my hand at making candy (with somewhat mixed, but overall positive, results). Here are the fruits of my labor: That plate includes divinity, caramel brittle (my first batch of caramel didn't quite turn out the way I had planned!), homemade marshmallows, homemade marshmallows wrapped in caramel (I've decided that my middle initial E stands for Excess, not Elizabeth), and ... wait for it ... tiramisu truffles. Yes, they ARE as good as they sound.
I learned a LOT while doing this, not the least of which is that because the boiling point up here near 9000 feet altitude is lower, you have to cook sugar to a lower temperature than you otherwise would. My first attempt at caramel to wrap the marshmallows resulted in caramel brittle; even my second attempt was much stiffer than I intended. This will obviously require further experimentation!
I also learned that I will never, ever buy marshmallows again, because they are dead easy to make, incredibly delicious, and they melt into the most fantastic fluff imaginable on top of hot cocoa. I learned that divinity is stupidly easy to make up here where the humidity was hovering around 20%, except that it sets up insanely fast so that next time I'll be making it in a pan instead of trying to make little swirly drops.
And finally, I learned that Steve and Jim can eat more candy than you would think possible for two relatively skinny guys, and that it makes them very happy for me to play around with candy-making. Shocking, right?
I've spent this week, and the first day of this weekend, trying very, very hard not to catch the plague that one of my coworkers brought back to the office from her vacation, which includes a high fever and a racking cough and which is decimating our office. I think maybe I've beaten it off; if that is indeed the case, tomorrow I'll be making (a) The Cake, and (b) chocolate-sauerkraut cupcakes. Yes, I did say chocolate-sauerkraut. I'm debating on peanut butter frosting or caramel frosting, although a kielbasa topping was suggested by Jim, who as you may guess is somewhat skeptical about this project. I'll keep you posted.
EDIT: Sock Summit! I had planned to go last year but the signup filled up literally in seconds, and I wasn't able to get a spot. Frustration wasn't the word. I'd LOVE to go with you though ... let's see how they handle signups this year.
I participated in a swap box that Kathy B of IrishEyes Knitting Blog started, and I was very excited to get the following from the box - a Vogue knitting book on Shawls, stitch markers, a note card for a baby sweater, 2 skeins of lovely turquoise cotton from Takhi, 2 skeins of Aura in blue/gold/purple/fuschia, and two skeins of Heirloom in a purple that matches the Aura, and a skein of Lush angora/wool in a brick color. Don't know what I'm doing with any of it but I'm sure I'll have fun figuring it all out. I was at the very end of the swap so the box is on it's way back to Kathy. I'm not telling everything I put in it, but there may be a bit of dark chocolate in with the yarn . . . .
I have finished a few things, and since I haven't posted any pictures in a while here goes.
Red lace scarf out of cashmere, I don't remember which yarn. Lovely, soft and really warm. You previously saw this modeled on my friend Sally along with the mittens below.
Optic Mittens. These are my favorite mittens, I was afraid that I made them too small but am wearing them a lot. They are definitely snug, I made them with the smaller needle size, but they are really warm and they are stretchy enough to work. I like the yarn I chose, it has a slight halo which blurs the strong graphic a bit and softens them up. Lovely, and getting a lot of use.
Stockholm Cowl and Bella's Mittens out of Cascade 200. I made the mittens with the yarn held double, and the Stockholm Cowl with the yarn single. Both are really warm and very pretty in this deep maroon. I absolutely detest the whole Twilight thing - don't get me started on lack of plot, lack of character development, and all the rest - but I saw these mittens on Ravelry modeled after ones Bella wore in the movie, and I loved them. Steve says they attract vampires and to be careful. I wanted a scarf to match, and this cowl is great. You can wear it so many different ways and it has great texture. I think that the pairing is pretty awesome (you might be getting some yarn and the patterns in a future month . . you never know . . .)
Socks out of Patons Kroy Socks FX, can't remember the color number but it has gray blue and green. These socks are very sturdy so I suspect they will wear like iron, but they manage not to be scratchy. Gratuitious shot of Tater included.I have started this shawl (it's a Ravelry link, so I don't think you'll be able to see it unless you belong to Ravelry). It is my first experience doing lace which is not relieved by purl or knit rows between the pattern, and I have ripped out twice now. I am telling myself that it will click eventually. And a new pair of socks out of Lorna's Laces, colorway is Mountain Creek. Lovely plain socks to keep me entertained while on long conference calls and longer flights
And a bunch of dishcloths that are in staging for Mom's dishcloth-of-the-month. I am having fun with these, and have found a lot of new patterns. The yellow and white one is my favorite pattern so far, it looks like honeycomb. The pattern is called Circle Cloth. Looks like she may wind up getting slightly more than one a month as I work my way through my backlog of Peaches & Creme and Sugar 'n Cream. Did you send her February one to her, or will we be doubling up in March?
This is about half of what I've finished the last few months - evidently my knitting really ramps up in the winter months! I'll post the rest when I have pictures.
Hey Lani - I keep looking at this and wondering if it is the year for us to meet there. What do you think?
P.S. I mailed your March box - it should arrive in the first week of March. Yay me!
Mom got a sour cream pound cake recipe from our cousin Leslie a long time ago. Mom, in an attempt to make Don feel welcome, would always try to cook something that he liked when he visited. Sometime along she made the pound cake recipe - and he really liked it. Really, really liked it. So it became something of a tradition, she would make it whenever he visited.
Then one visit about 7 years ago she was distracted and actually made a mistake, putting in only 2 cups of flour instead of the 3 cups the recipe called for. She was bemoaning the poor cake when we arrived, but when Don ate a piece he declared it the best pound cake EVER. It is very tender and moist, and sometimes has a streak in it that is very dense (she calls it a "sad streak"). It's so tender that it's almost impossible to get out of the pan without leaving a bit of crust behind no matter how carefully you butter and flour.
So we rocked along for years, with Mom making "mistake" pound cakes every time Don visits. She actually times it so that the cake is warm out of the oven when he arrives, and will make him as many cakes as he can eat. With Don and Steve there, they will go through almost a pound cake a day. It also became known as "The Cake". As in "is the cake coming out of the oven?". "Don't eat the last slice of the cake!" and "if I finish it today, will your Mom make the cake for me to take home?".
Then Don started telling me that I didn't love him because I wouldn't make The Cake for him, and how mistreated he is since he has to fly me to Florida to get The Cake. This has been going on for a while, and I resisted mightily. I don't need that in my house - it's evil!! This year I finally told him that I would make him The Cake if he got me something from Tiffany's for Christmas. I figured I was safe - no Tiffany's in Panama City, Florida, and he's never shopped at Tiffany's.
Well, guess what. Mom teamed up with him and gave him something from Tiffany's to give me for Christmas. Now I'm on the hook for The Cake.
So when I got home after Christmas, I made The Cake for him, making it with 2 1/2 cups of flour instead of the 2 Mom uses, hoping to make it a little easier to handle but just as moist. I did it as I was leaving town for London for 10 days, and when I got home he told me it was so bad he had to throw it away. Grrrr. Now I'm determined!
When I was with Mom and Dad end of January, I had Mom make The Cake the day I was leaving and watched her like a hawk to make sure the recipe hadn't drifted away from the original. Only one other change - use salted butter instead of unsalted, and don't add the salt. No big deal. My idea was to do a blind tasting, since I was sure he couldn't really taste the difference. I rigged a way to carry home about 6 slices of her cake, and told Steve he had to design a testing process that would be scientifically sound. I got home, Don was arriving the next day, and I made The Cake. I only used 2 cups of flour, so it was exactly the same recipe, ingredients - everything.
By the time I got The Cake out of the pan I knew it wasn't going to be the same. Hers has a lighter, thinner crust, mine has a thicker, darker crust. Hers is more tender, mine is more substantial. Grrrr. So I gave up on the blind tasting, but at least this time he did deign to eat it instead of throw it away. I keep thinking about what could make the difference - humidity of ingredients? Maybe I should add a teaspoon of water to compensate? Oven temperature difference? I'm going to turn mine down 25 degrees, and move the cake pan higher in the oven. Or maybe - just maybe - there's some magic in her kitchen. I think that may be a possibility.
I'm now totally obsessed with The Cake, and with making it exactly like Mom's version. I'm going to rule out everything but the magic through trial and error, and I'll let you know what I come up with. Here is the basic recipe to start.
Leslie's Sour Cream Pound Cake
1 cup salted butter 6 eggs 2 cups all purpose flour (3 cups in the original recipe, 2 cups for the "mistake") 1 cup sour cream 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon vanilla
Preheat oven to 325. Sift flour with baking powder. Cream butter and sugar until very creamy, if they don't want to cream add the vanilla to help it get started. Beat in eggs one at a time. Beat in flour mixture, then sour cream and vanilla.
Bake in a buttered and floured bundt pan for 90 minutes at 325 degrees on the middle shelf. Let cool for 5 minutes, then remove from pan carefully.
Now, here's a bit of family history. At some point along, Laurie copied down the recipe for me. Here's a picture of the one she wrote for me - she must have been 10? 12? You'd know better than me, Lani! Look at the printing and her initials - I love it! This one still shows the 3 cups of flour, so it dates from before the "mistake".
Our Subaru Legacy had a catastrophic turbo failure which may have also destroyed the engine, which has not made for a happy past few days. It's under the 60k engine/power train warranty mark but Subaru hasn't given me warm fuzzy feelings about whether they'll cover it; they're insinuating that maybe we haven't taken good care of the car and demanded all of our maintenance records, etc. Those were provided on Friday, so on Monday we'll have an answer both as to whether we still have an engine at all and as to whether Subaru is going to do what they ought and cover all of the repairs, or whether I'm going to have to fight for it.
Given that I've found a ton of evidence (thank you, interwebs!) that sudden oil starvation causing this type of failure has been a known problem with even perfectly maintained Legacy turbos, I have every intention of fighting if need be -- but it would sure be nice not to have to. I'm pretty much prepared for the engine to be toast as well as the turbo and that's where they may really give me issues, since if you stop driving immediately when the turbo dies you may -- MAY -- save your engine. Mine went at night though, in sub-zero weather, on the road up the mountain to the house where there is no cell coverage for miles. I didn't know what it was and I didn't pull over and stop, I limped home, and if that ruined my engine oh well, I'd do it again in the same circumstances even knowing.
It's been bitterly below-zero cold and generally nasty here for a while but not really snowy, although we finally did get a foot or so of snow this past week. We're supposed to have a beautifully warm weekend though, so maybe some of the 2" thick layer of ice on the front porch will melt! Now if the 60 mph+ winds will die down ....
Let's see, what else has been going on here with me, with Steve and with Jim. Pretty much work, work, and school in that order. Steve hasn't been traveling nearly as much in the past 3 months and it's been very nice to have him at home. Jim started back to college in mid-January carrying a full courseload and things seem to be going well with that; overall he likes his professors and that's a pretty big part of it, I think. My job has been going well and I'm still enjoying it, but it's been hectic. We lost one person in the department at the beginning of January and have just replaced him, so hopefully things will calm down a little now.
Our clutter of cats continues to do well, and isn't that an awesome word for a group of cats? Much more descriptive than clowder, I think, and when you have 6 cats it's definitely a clutter, cats everywhere you look. Resk in particular is doing well, although I wish he'd gain a bit more weight. He's playing with the other kitties now on a regular basis, he sleeps with us for at least a part of every night, and he's a total lapcat to boot. Who'd have thought that poor mangled almost-dead beastie I trapped last fall would have turned into such a great companion cat?
I promise to provide photos with my next post, and I promise my next post will be within the next week. Cross my heart! So now ... cake story, and cake recipe?
Well, since I work from home, I don't have a snow day but Steve and Don do! Look at our back porch - this is a record storm for us, we don't usually get this much snow over the entire winter, much less all at once. I have Tater in the frame for scale. We have about two feet of snow on the ground here. Don's tractor is overwhelmed, it won't handle this much, so the guys are out shoveling by hand - all the way out our long, long driveway. What a job!
Lani, I have your salsa chicken in the slow cooker, and am looking forward to a nice lunch (and dinner too, most likely).
While I was with them last week, I finished another hat for Steve - I can almost knit them as fast as he can lose them - and realized that Dad might like it. So here he is modeling a hat, and I finished another one for Steve on the way home.
And Mom in her natural element. Yes, that's a pound cake, and I have an entire story to tell about "The Cake", as we refer to it here. More later.