These are ugly. I hate them.
I've been knitting away on a toque lately, and got to the point where I needed to start decreases for the crown. Normally I avoid using stitch markers, preferring instead to eyeball where to ssk and k2tog, but for this project, I really did need them. And I got to thinking about why I hate stitch markers so much, and it turns out the answer is mostly because the ones I have are cheap and crappy.
These are ugly. I hate them.
Clearly it's time for new stitch markers. And I figured I could probably just make my own. I spent all of 30 seconds digging up a few do-da's that I picked up at a notions shop years ago, on my one and only trip to NYC (I think it was at MJ Trimmings), and a few circular do-da's that I had on hand from a bead store, and ta-da! My new stitch markers. There are only 3 of them, and they're as yet untested, but really, a major improvement. And it finally answers the question as to what to do with miniature cutlery charms.
Friday night is pizza night. Whatever the week may bring, good things will happen after work on Friday.
We've really been enjoying our Breville electric pizza oven, which was a pre-wedding gift. As you can see above, it really does a nice job on the crust. After initially being terrified it was a dangerous appliance and would burn the house down, we've since relaxed a bit and are glad of its high-temperature capabilities (600-650 F).
This week's pizza was partly a fridge clean out:
Leftover arugula pesto
Diced zucchini and red pepper
A cheese medley (we had dribs and drabs of chèvre, blue cheese, and Parmesan)
Overloading our pizzas with toppings is kind of our norm (unless we make a marguerita, and even then I have a tendency to over-do it on the cheese). It is a bad habit that I am okay with. This particular pizza ranked about average (and we think our average is pretty good). Its only shortcomings were having an oil/moisture content that was a touch high.
The key to a successful pizza, in my opinion, is salt. It's really hard to over-salt a pizza, and ample salt really amps up the flavour. Don't be afraid to put plenty of it in your dough, and to make your pesto excessively salty!
I like January. For years now, it's struck me as a mellow month, before hectic schedules resume, where I can continue hibernation post-holidays and get a few things in order. There's a fortuitous while elephant gift exchange at work this month, and I've been quite pleased at putting together a grab bag of random items that I can't unload at the thrift shop: an opened bottle of tonic water left behind by a visitor, a "vote for Hillary" button, 5 cents in Canadian Tire money... you get the idea. Other literal and figurative housekeeping has included using up random things from the freezer and pantry, looking for new soap dispensers, and reading through a few books-that-were-gifts before giving them away. These are the sorts of things that will fall by the wayside, later. A year is long, and by the end I have no recollection of what happened in the first few months, but at least I'll have used up long-forgotten frozen bread crusts.
There's also the pleasure of deciding on what to achieve in the year ahead. For 2016, my resolutions are:
For now, I'm still spending lots of time in the living room, on the couch. (This is neither my living room, nor my couch, but rather a stopping place for tea). Already though, work is gearing up and my calendar is filling up. I'm soon to be dragged unwillingly out of hibernation and swept back into the normal pace of life, but for just a bit longer, I'm going to keep prioritizing life's important activities like working on a jigsaw puzzle while listening to a podcast, sampling Belgian beers, and checking out cookbooks from the library.
We have a new addition in the front hallway, in the form of this lovely new cabinet... except that it's not exactly new, as it's made from pieces of old doors. It was a custom made order (by Rick in Surrey); I wouldn't have normally thought of custom made furniture as being feasible, but it wasn't pricier than buying a new piece of furniture, and I like that it's locally made out of salvaged material, with no shipping, no packaging, and no middle men involved. Plus it has lots of character. (I heart anything with crystal knobs on it, and the curvy feet are a nice touch too.)
It's been a memorable summer - memorable for being the busiest and most intense period of time since... I'm not sure when. By about the end of July, when it looked as though the entire summer could pass without taking advantage of the season, we made up a Summer Fun List. It had such things on it as "eat corn and blueberry pie and other summery stuff"; "ride bikes"; "read a book"; "go on a hike by Mount Baker"; "have slushy drinks"; "spend time on the deck"... We didn't cross off all the items on our list, but we did remind ourselves of what we should be doing at this time of year.
And we had one vacation, on Mayne Island. We had pounced on booking this cob house (which is clearly a hobbit house, right?) back in the spring when we saw that there happened to be a half a week during the summer when it wasn't reserved. So we went, and ate at the (really excellent) local restaurants, and hung out at the water, and napped, and visited the farmers' market, and took walks in the woods. We also found a book in the living room of our cottage about building cob houses; apparently drum circles are very important.
Now it's time to contemplate the Fall Fun List. It's time to get back into knitting, to actually read a book (didn't cross that one off the summer list), to bake with apples and butternut squash, to take walks on crisp days, and be cozy inside on rainy days. Bring it on, fall!
With no real vacation plans decided upon yet for the year, a stop-gap was in order. Truthfully, since I've been to Vancouver Island several times, I wasn't expecting a very exciting getaway, but we had lots to see and do over half a week. Perhaps Vancouver Island's slogan should "Better than you might think". The first stop was Cathedral Grove for a short woodsy walk, before continuing on to Courtenay.
This is Goose Spit Park, in adjacent Comox. Well worth checking out.
And just around the corner is the Filberg Heritage Lodge & Park. The grounds are open from dawn to dusk, so even though the house had closed for the day by the time we got there, we were able to stroll around and look at the various old-timey buildings, including this alleged root cellar. I could store a lot of potatoes in there.
Despite a rainy drive down to Victoria, a couple of stops were in order. This bold sheep was at the Little Qualicum Cheeseworks, where we sampled cheese and bought a bottle of blueberry wine.
For some time, I've been curious about the Crow and Gate pub outside of Nanaimo. A deluxe ploughman's lunch awaited; it was a rare meal that defeated me as I couldn't quite manage to finish it all. Then, while driving through the small town of Duncan, we passed by a small, temporary midway. What better activity after eating a large meal that to go on the tilt-a-whirl? It's always been my favourite ride but I hadn't been on one in years; it still lives up to my memories. Whee! After eating too much and then spinning around and around, clearly it was time for a tasting at the Merridale Ciderworks. Oof...
In Victoria, we stayed down the street from Emily Carr House. A lot of eating ensued. There was dinner at Rebar, perogies at Hungry Rooster food truck, the best meal of the trip at Stage, pizza at Fol Epi, and doughnuts at Discovery Coffee.
Aside from eating, we also took in the sights of the Royal BC Museum, wandered the grounds of the Lieutenant Governor's house, and had a self-guided tour of BC Parliament Buildings (next time we'll check out the restaurant there too). On our last day we managed to also see baby goats at the petting zoo in Beacon Hill Park, and stop for a wine tasting at Church and State. More than a successful stop-gap, it was a real vacation after all.
2 dinners in a row, 2 make-again winners in a row. First there was an Ottolenghi pasta via Orangette. The ingredient list was a little odd (equal weights Greek yogurt and peas to dry pasta?) but I trusted the Ottolenghi/Orangette pedigree. And it was fantastic. I immediately began prosthelytizing to friends. Tonight's new recipe was one that I had overlooked from Smitten Kitchen's blog, and glanced at with little interest in her cookbook. Yet, as I had tomatoes in need of using up and there was next to no prep time involved, it seemed like a good one to throw together on a Monday night. It looked pleasantly rustic on the plate. I tried it and struggled between savouring it and devouring it. Divine.
Much like Gruner deserved two back-to-back dinners, this pizza was so good, we had it twice in a row. I declared that it might be the best home-made pizza yet. And it's straightforward to make:
1. Roll out your pizza dough.
2. Spread on home-made pesto. (Don't be afraid of the salt!)
3. Add grated mozzerella.
4. Top with roasted beets, asparagus, and blobs of chevre.
5. Bake. Season with extra salt, pepper, and maybe even a few red chile flakes. Pairs well with Friday nights. Enjoy!
Spending half a week in Portland was great, but it wasn't enough time. Portland and I have unfinished business.
Our doughnut business is finished (although I could easily go for another Blue Star classic buttermilk).
Hill walks are another story, though. Out of the 24 walks in this fantastic book, I did 4. They included fancy suburbs, woodsy trails, and an aerial tram. It was unfortunate to leave the other 20 undone, but I'd go back to Portland just to do more.
And to eat alpine cuisine. Dinner at Gruner was so amazing that we went back again the following evening and ordered pretty much the same meal. Not pictured are the crispy polenta-and-raclette balls. Or the homemade pretzel. (Note the pretzel croutons in the salad.)
Ruby Jewel Scoops! Unfortunately, we also missed getting pie at Random Order and sandwiches at Grand Central Bakery and pizza at Apizza Scholls. Next time we'll try for an entire week, and in addition to hitting more restaurants and hill walks, it would be great to also make it to Sauvie Island, the Willamette Valley, Mount Hood, Timberline Lodge, Crater Lake... Oregon and I. Unfinished business.