Bloomin’ Bean

Blooming water bean

The bean I got from JMH last year is blooming.  I have two blossoms, this one and another in the middle of the tank.

I picked up Fairy Moss and water Hyacinths today.  The upper tank’s looking pretty good.

Upper and middle tanks

This is what the upper two tanks look like right now.  The penny royal is growing, the season triangular reed is coming up.  The water hyacinth and fairy moss is spread in the middle tank.

So far, so good!

Knitting

My mother was an awesome knitter. She could also crochet like nobody’s business. There wasn’t a baby born that she knew of that wasn’t blessed with something from her hands. Growing up we all wore sweaters she knitted.  I still wear a pair of wool socks she knitted.  I’m pretty sure they weren’t knitted for me but they shrunk to where I’m the one they fit!  <grin>  I can live with that!

Patrons Stretch Sock yarn on size 1 needles.

I was searching for something . . . I can’t even remember what, and I ran across an online knitting magazine. Therein I found discussion regarding magic cast on for socks. The technique was so cool I just HAD to try it. So here is Judy’s magic cast on!

I’m halfway through the heel turn and I’m using a modified Cat’s Sweet Tomato Heel Turn.  Instead of dividing the stitches into thirds (two for the heel, one for the front) for three sets of increases I’m greatly increasing the number of heel stitches for the first and third set of short rows while decreasing (not proportionally) the center set.  This should allow the heel turn to better fit my ankle and heel.

Pattern?  Yeah, not using a pattern.  I never have.  I do the math to figure out how many stitches/rows for the needle/yarn combo and run with it.  The last knit project I made was a denim/navy heather double yarn short jacket worked on big needles.  It had pockets, a collar and a big brass zipper up the front.  I wore that jacket for a long time, passing it on when I was done wearing it.  That was a lot of years ago.

I watched another video about a technique called “magic loop” which allows socks to be knitted on a single long circular needle.  I’m not so enamored with that.  I really like using two short circular needles to knit small round stuff.

My mom’s entire stash of needles has only one size 1 16″ circular needle and it’s got a rough join where the cable fastens to the tips which makes sliding the work from one tip to the other a bit of a chore.  I could live with it but a set of newer needles would be better.  I’ve got plenty of double-ended needles but I prefer cable needles.

I tried to find new needles locally but no joy.  I bought bamboo needles at Michael’s but I knit pretty tight and the yarn doesn’t slide on the bamboo needles easily enough to suit me AND the join between the needle and the cable is not seamless.  The join uses a metal collar to connect the parts and it doesn’t look very sturdy AND looks like it would snag fine yarn.  Maybe they might work great for someone who doesn’t knit tightly, but they aren’t going to work well for me.

Terry stopped in at the local knit shop but they don’t carry aluminum circular needles.  I ordered two 16″ size 1 circular needles from a vendor on Amazon but the join where the cable meets the aluminum tip is two full sizes bigger than the needle.  Tell me where the logic is in that?  There is no way I could get my work off the tip and onto the cable.  I can’t even use them until I make a draw die and fine down that lump!  Plus the cable’s so stiff I would have to fight it constantly while I’m working.  I’m going to have to heat the cable up and cool it straight, and even then that’s not a perfect solution.

I was at Fabric Depot yesterday and they had the same needles I got on Amazon with the same two-sizes-larger lumps where the two materials join.  Been there, got those.  They also had the bamboo needles I got at the local craft store with the you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me yarn snagging pin-punched metal collar join.  <wince>  Next trip to town those are going back.  There’s nothing I can do to fix them and make them usable.

Fabric Depot also had a needle I’ve never seen before . . . squared off tips on cables, a square circular needle!  I know that sounds kind of strange, but the needles really are square and the cable is real soft and flexible.  I bought two short (16″) and 1 long (42″?) and I’ve got my sock transferred to the new 16″ needles.  The tip length fits in my hand perfectly, they don’t have that stupid bend in the aluminum right before the tip meets the cable, the cable is soft and doesn’t interfere with my knitting and I am mostly in love.  They do have one draw-back.

The butt of the tip, where the tip joins the cable, has a rounded end into which the cable merges.  This causes a small but abrupt “hip” which stops the loops of yarn from sliding smoothly back onto the tip.  With that in the way I can’t just shove the loops back onto the needle, I have to stop and coax them from the cable onto the tip.  Despite this work-slowing design flaw, the needles are an improvement over the other needles I purchased.

When I’m done with this pair of socks I’ll rework the butt join to see if I can solve this problem, either reshaping the hip to a more gradual 45° slant or developing a collar to sit against the hip to ease the transition.  It would be perfect if the manufacturer would change the design to fix this as it’s a drawback to an otherwise perfect knitting needle.  I’m having so much fun knitting socks I’m pretty sure I’m going to have to knit more than one pair and I refuse to fight every transfer of stitches from cable to needle.

One more nice thing about this needle . . . the size and length are stamped right into the tip.  I don’t have to dig out my needle gauge to make sure I’ve grabbed the right size.  Sweet!  Now, if they were just as perfect everywhere else . . .

Chicken over rice

I baked a whole chicken last week planning to make a big batch of my latest soup recipe so I could freeze some for quick meals. Yeah, that’s as far as the chicken soup idea went. I hared off in a different and equally delicious direction. 

I seasoned the unstuffed halved chicken with pepper and Bragg Organic Sprinkle and baked it skin side up for about 50 minutes. Don’t skip this step. Boiled chicken does not have the same flavor as baked or fried and that extra flavor is important. After baking, I put the whole chicken in a 5 quart pressure cooker with wine, water, pepper, onion and Bragg Organic Sprinkle. I didn’t pressure cook it, I just simmered it for a while to marry all the flavors.

After the chicken cooled I deboned and diced it and added it back to the liquid in the pan. After it cooled I divided the result into four zippered sandwich bags intending to put them in the freezer for later use.  I’d done this with turkey earlier in the year and it made a nice quick base for not nearly as delicious (trust me, it’s all in the prep and seasonings) turkey on rice.

When dinner time rolled around I put rice in the cooker and peeled and diced a carrot, a quarter of an onion, a couple parsley sprigs, a celery stalk and 1/4 cup each red and green peppers.  I sauteed a couple slices of bacon (chopped) and added the veges and a couple tablespoons of butter.

Once the veges were sufficiently tender I dumped in the sandwich bag of chicken, gave it a thorough stir and once it was heated through, covered it and set it on low to simmer while the rice finished cooking.  I served the chicken and veges over rice with a little more butter on top and it was delicious!  One cup of rice (uncooked) and one zippered sandwich bag of chicken with the veges makes 4 or 5 healthy servings.

None of the chicken made it into the freezer.  We’re eating the last of it as chicken/veges over rice today.  Mmmmm.