I made a thing

Yarning

img_1791I have a thing for fiber–and not the type that comes in salads. I love the type of fiber that grows on bunnies and sheep, alpacas and camels. The type that you wrap hands, neck, and ears in when it’s cold.

The longer I live in New England (going on two years now!), the more I find about New England to love. Like the fiber arts culture. Every respectable town, village, or suburb around here has a well-stocked yarn store–or so it seems. The Mecca of all yarn shops, Webs, is just forty-five minutes north of my home, and I make frequent pilgrimages in that direction.

Last weekend, the New England Fiber Festival drew me, though. Because I love all things soft and fuzzy, it’s more than worth the $7 admission fee and $5 parking just to pet the angora rabbits, to respectfully not pet the clearly somewhat miffed alpacas, and to feast your eyes on thousands upon thousands of skeins of handdyed, handspun loveliness.

You can’t leave without buying something. Last year, the twins were just over a month old when we went to the fiber festival for the first time, and they were wearing tiny little handknit sweaters (which received comments from practically everyone we passed). This year, the twins weren’t wearing handknits and neither was I, but one kind woman gave Micah a handknit hat for free (!), and I bought an incredibly smooshy skein of fingering-weight yarn that will make the perfect sweater to echo the blue in Davey’s eyes.

Manny and I have been talking about purchasing an angora bunny for a little over a year, so we took the opportunity to talk to the exhibitors with angoras and to find out more about their care. The whole experience has made me determined to find a hutch, create a cozy nest, and adopt an angora or two of my own. So don’t be surprised if, in one of the next posts here, you get to meet an extra fuzzy addition to the Jacoby household.

 

Divine Cheesecake


Handwritten Cheesecake Recipe
The world’s food occupies two major categories. 99% is what we eat every day. It’s (hopefully) both somewhat tasty and nutritious. Then there’s the other 1% that we dream about–the higher plane of food that demands you stop what you’re doing, close your eyes, and fully savor everything about the moment encapsulating that bite.

That’s this cheesecake. This is easily the perfect cheesecake recipe, straight from one of my Grandma ‘Cille’s 60-year-old cookbooks. It takes time to prepare, but it results in a spectacularly creamy, not too dense but not too fluffy New York style confection that hits the higher food plane every time.

This cake has been a birthday cake many times because even when I was a child, I understood that cheesecake is far superior to more traditional options. It’s my go-to when I want a dessert that makes people think I’m a better cook than I am. And it’s the natural choice when I’m walking through Costco, see a gorgeous cheesecake in the bakery, and think, “homemade would taste 10x better.” A former college roommate is visiting this week, and we both had that thought when we made the mistake of walking through Costco while hungry the other day.

So this cheesecake was made, with no occasion for it other than the fact that sometimes you just need some of that 1% food.

When my friend asked for the recipe, it occurred to me that the only copy I know how to find is the handwritten one in my cupboard. So if, heaven forbid, my house burns down, the zombie apocalypse happens, or someone breaks in and robs me of my cookbook collection, that tragedy would be compounded by the loss of this cheesecake. I can’t deal with that, so I’m immortalizing it here for future post-catastrophe use. IMG_6878

This is the 10pm, kids-are-in-bed-and-I-can’t-wait-to-have-a-slice pic, which is real life but doesn’t quite capture this cheesecake’s true glory.

Divine Cheesecake

Graham Cracker Crust

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

3 T. sugar

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

3 T. butter

  1. In a small bowel, mix graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and cinnamon.
  2. Melt butter and add to the crumb mixture.
  3. Mix butter in thoroughly with fingertips.
  4. Butter the bottom and sides of a 9″ springform pan.
  5. Put crumb mixture in pan and, with hands, press some of the mixture evenly about 2″ up sides of pan to form a thin crust. Press the remaining mixture onto the bottom of the pan.
  6. Run finger around inside edge of pan to even off the top edge of the crust.
  7. Set crust aside while preparing the filling.

Cheesecake Filling

1 large lemon

24 oz. cream cheese

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 tsp. salt

5 large eggs (NOT medium or extra large)

  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Zest the yellow part only of lemon rind and measure 2 tsp.
  3. Put the grated rind in a bowl with cream cheese and beat at medium speed until creamy.
  4. Add the sugar, salt, and eggs to the cream cheese mixture and beat at medium speed to blend ingredients, stopping to scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula several times.
  5. Beat at medium speed for 10 minutes or until mixture is completely smooth and lemon-colored.
  6. Pour filling into the crust-lined pan.
  7. Make sure your oven rack is centered in your oven and bake 45 minutes or until cake is set (this almost always takes me closer to 1 hr. 15)
  8. Remove cake from the oven and let cool 20 minutes before moving on to the sour cream layer.

Sour Cream Topping Layer

1 1/2 cups dairy sour cream

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 T. sugar

  1. Beat all ingredients for 1 minute or until the sugar is dissolved.
  2. Pour over cake and carefully smooth with a spatula. Put back in oven and bake 10 more minutes.
  3. Remove cheesecake from oven and let stand in pan on cake rack until cool, then chill in refrigerator at least 2-3 hours before removing the outer ring of the springform pan and serving.
  4. To remove from pan, first run a knife around the top of the cake, then unfasten the clamp of the springform pan.
  5. If desired, top with strawberry or cherry sauce, curls of chocolate, or toasted almonds.

 

I Calculated The Value of a (hand knit) Sock

I’m pretty sure my blog is schizophrenic. One minute it’s a parenting blog, then a diet blog, then a travel blog… I originally wanted it to be a “look at the fascinating/exciting things I’m doing and places I’m going!” blog, but I don’t do enough fascinating things for that to happen, so what you see is what you get.

Brace yourself, because I’m going full-on knitting mode.

Hand Knit Sock In Progress

I promise I’ll try to make it interesting, but if making amazing things isn’t your  jam, feel free to skip this one.

We recently took the boys to Texas. They experienced their first flight, a series of long road trips, and two weeks of visiting and sweating (June in Texas is no joke, y’all). The longest we spent in any one place during the whole trip was three days. Throw eight-month-old twins into the mix and that’s a recipe for crazy. BUT I had plenty of road trip time to knit socks.

The most knitting I get done lately is in the car, when we’re in transit. That’s the only time the boys are guaranteed to be safe (and likely asleep) that I don’t also have other pressing responsibilities. So I use that time to make things. I knit. And the very best travel knitting is sock knitting.

Hand Knit Socks Cascade Silk

I did some math. One pair of socks includes well over 20,000 individual stitches, and depending on the pattern, takes me about 10-15 hours to finish.

Which is why I laugh when occasionally (very occasionally) people ask if they can pay me to knit them socks.

The yarn for a pair of hand knit socks costs $20-$30. There’s cheaper sock yarn out there, but I won’t knit with it. If I’m going to spend 10-15 hours of my life running the stuff between my fingers, it’s going to be soft and beautiful.

Hand Knit Socks Araucania Huasco

At a modest rate of $10/hour plus yarn, a pair of handknit socks could easily cost $150 or more. But that’s assuming I would be willing to work for $10/hour. I probably wouldn’t.

This is why hand knit socks are special. You can’t buy them (unless you’ve got a pretty hefty sock budget). You can bribe a knitter, but if that knitter doesn’t already like you a lot, it’s just not going to happen. In fact, if someone gives you a pair of hand knit socks, you should reevaluate your relationship with that person and consider thanking them with coffee. Or chocolate. Or a sports car. Because they gave you a pair of priceless socks and they probably deserve it.

You can go to the store and get perfectly serviceable socks for a dollar. You can get high-end Smart Wool socks for $20, if you want to be fancy. And neither of these options requires hours of running yarn between your fingers, rubbing needles together, putting to use all the skills learned over many years of trial and error and how-to videos.

That makes it crazy to knit socks, right? I mean, who does that? Why do that? If you realize that time is the most valuable currency, why knit anything–let alone socks?

Hand Knit Socks KnitPics Stroll

For me, knitting doesn’t replace other things I should be doing (most of the time). It is my entertainment, the thing I do when I would otherwise be sitting motionlessly watching Netflix, listening to an audiobook, or riding in the car (and I’m not good at sitting motionlessly). It’s an activity I enjoy that results in actual things I can keep or give to someone I really, really like.

You can’t pay me to knit socks or much of anything else. I have no desire to open an Etsy shop to sell the things I’ve made. I can make better money taking on extra writing work.

It’s about watching that beautiful yarn run through my fingers until something priceless comes out. Watching actual things come out of those little snippets of time is fun. It’s my version of PC gaming, movie watching, music listening, time-wasting amusement. And though I’m a little biased, I consider it superior to all of those–if only because in the zombie apocalypse, I’ll be able to enjoy myself and clothe my feet.

In case you were wondering.

Twin Boys I should knit a few little baby socks, I thought. It’ll be fun, I thought.

Then I convinced myself to wait until the 20-week ultrasound, at which I would find out the genders of the papooses. After all, I have a tendency to make little-girl things, and how sad would it be to expend all that effort on little Mary Janes if I ended up with boys?

I suppose it’s a good thing I waited to pick up the needles.

After the ultrasound, at which the doctor assured us it was pretty unmistakable that there were two little men in there, I thought, I’ll just knit two pairs of little blue socks and post the picture to Facebook and that’ll answer ALL the questions. Except I underestimated my own OCD and the time it would take to knit four teensy socks. I made the mistake of posting something about the ultrasound and healthy babies to Facebook, then took four days to knit those ridiculous little blue socks and make the information public.

As soon as I indicated on Facebook that my anatomy scan had gone well, my inbox was flooded with messages. It suddenly seemed like everyone had a very driving interest in finding out the genders of my unborn children. Some resorting to guessing or guilting, reminding me they had every right to know before the Facebook world at large. Others hinted at wanting “news” in so many circles that it made my head spin.

Shameless pregnancy selfie.

Shameless pregnancy selfie.

I don’t understand this at. all. Don’t get me wrong–I don’t mind the curiosity. I’m not irritated. It’s been incredibly entertaining. But it baffles me.

Perhaps because I’ve never cared been really invested in finding out whether my friends and family were having boys or girls–particularly early in their pregnancies. I will love those kiddos to death after they’re born. But at 20 weeks, I’m not going to be knocking you over for news.

Does that make me a terrible person?

If you’re the kind of person who’s been holding his or her breath waiting for this information, here it is. If, like me, you really don’t care much, my feelings won’t be hurt. At all. I totally get it.

And if I offended you by depriving you of this news for four long days, then… I’m not sure what to say. I’m sorry? Ish?

Making autumn

Handknit pumpkinsIt’s hard to complain about Guam’s failure to be fall-like when the sunsets over the ocean are so colorfully surreal, even on the rainiest days.

This evening as the sun was setting, it was windy and relatively cool. The rain had let up, and those moisture-laden clouds created a breathtaking sunset. And I almost forgot to wish there were changing leaves.

Almost. Not completely. In the last week, I’ve been doing my best to engineer a personal autumn while still loving these balmy, thundery, rainy Guam days.

I’m knitting and crocheting pumpkins.

I’m sewing things with autumn-colored fabric (and remembering why I typically avoid sewing. So many pieces. Eesh).

I’m burning my Kitchen Spice and Crisp Apple Strudel Yankee Candles.

IMG_2110 (1)I’m baking homemade bread and slow-cooking cozy homemade soup and propping my feet up while my puppy curls up beside me.

I’m feeling my baby kick surprisingly hard and thinking that I’m becoming ridiculously lazy–and that I miss doing the kind of real work that leaves you tired, messy, sweaty, and rewarded.

I’m reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in Spanish, mostly to make sure I still can.

Maybe it feels a little more like fall now than it did last week, even though the weather hasn’t changed.

Making things–with a nod to the past and the future

Small ShoesSometimes I write compulsively. Writing is my job, but I rarely feel compelled to write about car insurance or the rising trends in online education, which is the type of stuff I get paid for. When I write compulsively, I get out my trusty old spiralbound notebook (anything fancier would set the standard too high) and document things–anything that’ll help me remember, later on, the rapidly-changing life that I lived.

Now, for instance, I can look back over some of those spiralbound journal-y things and get a (rather biased and sometimes overwhelmingly emotional) snapshot of what my life was like in 2010. Or 2006. Lots of things were once earth-shatteringly important, when I was 19. Or 15. Or 12. I’d forget them entirely if I hadn’t written something about them. No one will ever read them except me. I mean, they’re not top-secret, but they’re not all that interesting, either.

And sometimes I knit compulsively, which is harder to explain. But in some weird way almost parallel to writing, it’s another instance of making sense of life and creating something tangible to remember it by. I can knit or crochet with an eye to the future and to the past, with a nod to the person who’ll use whatever it is that I’ve made, the child I once was who learned those skills, and the person I am now who’s investing time in working yarn and needles between my fingers.

I’m guessing the sentiment is similar for anyone who creates, whether it’s sketching, sewing, creating stained glass windows, or working with wood.

It’s meditative. It forces me to pay attention, to sit still and focus on one thing (like twenty-three rows of a crazy lace pattern) while letting my mind wander, in a way that the crazy Internet-distracted tendency of modern life often obliviates. Like my writing, I don’t necessarily expect anyone to think that what I’ve made is the best thing ever. It’s enough for me to know that I challenged myself, made something work, and that every inch of yarn in a finished thingy has been touched and crafted by my hands.

Lately, I’ve been knitting compulsively. Impulsively.  Maybe one day I’ll look at the little green sweater I just made for my future child, and I’ll think of the hours sitting in my little Guam home. Puppy curled up next to me. Wondering what corner of the world I’ll be living in next year. Ripping out rows when I make a mistake, then painstakingly putting it back together again.

I don’t have a name for it, but I feel like everyone needs that sort of thing.

Why I feel robbed by Pinterest

DSC00891I don’t feel like I’m old enough to make this kind of statement, but I’m going to do it anyway.

I was an indie crafter before indie crafting was cool. Or maybe I should say, I learned to make things by hand during a time when it wasn’t cool.

Seriously, how many preteens in the ’90’s spent half their time reading and the other half knitting, crocheting, or planning out home decor options with detailed elevations and floorplans on wide-ruled paper?

I’m not delusional enough to think I’m the only one, but I was one of precious few.

I was always good at making things work–and making them work more or less attractively. Now, today I’m not the kitschy blogger who sits at home and figures out new and amazingly cutesy ways to arrange the pictures on the mantle, then posts pictures to Facebook, Twitter, and this blog.

I’d rather go on a hike.

I don’t like cutesy. I’m not cutesy. Or even artsy. But I’ve always loved taking pride in a well-done project, especially one inspired by my own creativity.

For this reason, I feel robbed by Pinterest. Douglas

Let me explain.

Example 1:

Someone walks into my home and spots a Christmas tree built entirely of books, like the one the hubster and I constructed last Christmas season. The first comment out of the esteemed guest’s mouth: 

“Oh my gosh! That looks like something right off of Pinterest!” 

Example 2:

In a moment of horror at one of my husband’s terrifically unattractive floor-lamp purchases, I attack the thing with hemp rope and a glue gun. A few hours later, we’ve got a unique, customized thing that doesn’t look like it came off the reject shelf at Wal-Mart.

One of my best friends (and a certifiable Pinterest addict) walks in and says “Whoa, I saw something Just. Like. That. on Pinterest last week. I actually like yours better. Where did you find instructions?”

I know that coming from her, this is THE highest form of praise.  

On countless other occasions, I’ve heard my peers refer to weddings, baby showers, and even entire homes referred to with the relatively new adjective pinteresty. “You know what I mean by that, right? Artsy and crafty and generally unique and cute?”

*groan*

The phenomenon is enough to make me want to wear one of my afghans as a superhero cape, grab my made-over floor lamp–a random hand-crocheted octopus that I designed–and the recipes that have been passed down to me by my pre-Pinterest forbearers–and hold them to myself–and to proclaim to the world that I DIDN’T EVEN NEED PINTEREST’S HELP.

If pinteresty makes it into the dictionary in the next few years, I’d like to propose a complementary addition: extrapinteresty, the prefix meaning “without; outside of.”

Dealing/ThinkingYeah, see that lamp? It’s MY brainchild. That’s an extrapinteresty project. That required no computer screen–just me, several dozen hot gluesticks, and three hours of time.

Oh, don’t you love my extrapinteresty Christmas tree? So do I. It was MY IDEA.

I haven’t yet been irritated enough to delete my Pinterest account, though the thought has occurred to me.

I would like the world to know that I use Pinterest far more as a collection of useful links and ideas than as an independent source of inspiration.

When I don’t know what to make for dinner, I go to a cookbook, not to a Pinterest board.

Most of the time. And whether you think my living room looks amazing, or like an unorganized eclectic smorgasbord complete with a totally random rope-wrapped floor lamp, you can praise (or blame) me, not a social networking site.