Monday, February 27, 2006

on grits...

as a follow-up to my recent post on shrimp and grits, a bit of unsolicited advice on the subject of grits: the difference between good and bad grits is as dramatic as the difference between minute rice and sticky white japanese sushi rice--there is NO comparison! NONE!!! so, get you some good, coarse stoneground grits from a small mill. yellow or white makes no difference at all to me, but some people prefer one over the other.

i highly recommend the grits from from the old guilford mill. two of my favorite Southern restaurants are crook's corner in chapel hill, nc, whose chef and founder was the late, fabulous, bill neal (from whom came the shrimp and grits recipe i lately posted) and the hominy grill in charleston, sc, whose chef, robert stehling, was trained by bill neal. both restaurants order their grits from this mill. you can also buy grits from both restaurants, but it's all the same.

here's another note--robert stehling went directly from working under bill neal at crook's to working for david page and barbara shinn at home in new york. he apparently taught david page and barbara shinn the art of canning, which enabled them to sell their homemade ketchup, for which they are now famous. all these interconnections! home was my hands down favorite restaurant when i lived in NYC, and the cookbook they released, recipes from home, is now one of my favorite cookbooks--it contains THE chocolate pudding recipe of all time, as well as the best roasted chicken, apple pie, and pumpkin pie recipes i have ever found. i can't recommend it enough.

Friday, February 24, 2006

i am cashmere, but then--you people already knew that, right?

You are Cashmere.
You are Cashmere.
You are sophisticated and luxe. You can often be found in high-end boutiques and hobnobbing with the upper crust. You are one of the beautiful people and you don't let anyone
forget it!

What kind of yarn are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

i am not at all sure that i am buying that whole "beautiful people" bit, but i do love the idea of being something soft, luxurious, and high quality. and since i am knitting my little fingers off with some beautiful cashmere right now, it seemes appropriate. :)

shrimp and grits, part deux

i know i have talked about shrimp and grits a lot on here, and many, many people have emailed me to ask for the recipe. so--without further ado, i am just posting the thing. this is my favorite of dozens of shrimp and grits recipes floating around out there. it's mostly bill neal's, with a couple of little variations. i highly recommend making some biscuits to go with this. anyway--here you go, people (and rita):

first prepare grits--use good stone ground coarse grits--it makes all the dfference. well--that and lots of cheese. :)

1 c grits
4 c water, milk, or chicken broth
2-3 tbsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
1 c grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup grated parmesan
pinch nutmeg
pinch cayenne pepper
pinch white pepper

in a med saucepan, bring water (or milk or chicken broth or combination thereof) to a boil, stir in grits, turn heat to low, and simmer for at least 20 minutes, adding more liquid as necessary. remove grits from heat, and stir in remaining ingredients until well blended and smooth. cover and reseerve.

now for the shrimp:

1 pound fresh shrimp, cleaned, peeled, and deveined
6 slices bacon, diced
peanut oil
2 c sliced mushrooms
1 c finely sliced scallions
1 garlic clove, peeled
4 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper, to taste
hot sauce (optional)

saute bacon in a lage skillet until the edges are brown but bacon is not yet crisp. remove bacon with slotted spoon and reserve. add enough peanut oil to pan dripngs to create a 1/8-inch layer of fat and heat on med-high. when oil is very hot, add the shrimp in an even layer. as the shrimp start to color, add the mushrooms and saute for about 4 minutes. stir in scallions and then add garlic through a press and cook for about one more minute. stir in the reserved bacon. last, add the lemon juice and parsley. remove from heat, and season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce if desired.

divide the grits among 4 plates. spoon the shrimp over the grits and serve immediately.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


i accidentally bought some shoes at lunch today. it started innocently enough--i went to lunch with my friend sonya at this fabulous indian place near these outlet shops (mistake #1). and over lunch, we were talking about her wedding shoes. then after, because of traffic, we cut through the parking lot of the outlet shops (mistake #2). and since we were RIGHT THERE, we decided to run into the saks 5th avenue outlet to check for wedding shoes (mistake #3). we didn't find jack for wedding shoes, but sonya spotted these lovelies and basically forced me to buy them! ok--that last part was a lie. she DID spot them, but when i put them on my feet and they were more comfy than my new bunny slippers, and cute to boot--well--what could i do?

i'm not dead, i'm knitting

we had friends in over the weekend, and it was awesome, but left little time for blog maintenance. and as a result of the weekend frivolity, i am now WAY behind on my olympic knitting. i am head down, nose to the grindstone (or knitting pattern, if you will) until saturday at the earliest. my pesky job is of course, cutting into the knitting time. i don't even know why exactly, but it's really important to me that i finish. i think maybe it's just been a long time since i challenged myself or somehting. anyway--i am knitting. think good thoughts for me. i'll be back as soon as i can!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

sweet lies

the hippie and i have a valentine's day tradition: cheap mexican and a buck-fifty movie. it's cheap and awesome, and it was also our first date. (except that time, we also printed out some academic papers at the NCSU library--w00t!) we don't generally do a lot of gifting or anything, and that's rationally very ok with me. of course, it's also hard not to get sucked into the whole valentine's day manufactured expectations thing. and reall--who doesn't want flowers and chocolates and all that shit? i ALWAYS want that stuff. and jewelry. and shoes. but i digress... anyway, over dinner last night, the hippie asks me if our friends jenn and harry are doing anything special, and i go one to extol harry's virtues for getting jenn a spa package and for being smart enough to come to me and get advice on where to go and what to get for her. and the hippie--he looks and me very seriously and he says, "that bastard." and i am all--why is harry a bastard?--i think it's great! the hippie goes on to explain that it's a guy faux pas, that harry should have told him what he was doing so that he (the hippie) would not look bad, and that if he had known, he would have gotten me something similar so that jenn and i could go together. and i think this is funny, so i say to him, "where's MY spa package, bitch!?" which he thinks is hilarious. but of course the whole time, the joke's on me. post movie (just friends, by the way, with ryan reynolds, is totally HILARIOUS), we get home, and just as i am about to fall asleep, he hands me my spa package. he rocks.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

i hope he chews on it and drags it around with him for years, too

i talked to my friend alyce last night for about 5 minutes in the car while i was driving from place to place--the way i talk to most of my friends lately. and she gave me such a nice gift: she told me that the baby blanket i made for her baby, adam, is his favorite thing in the whole wide world. at day care, they call it his "miracle blanket" and they credit it with good naps and all around happiness in the notes they send to her about his day. she said when she gives it to him, he laughs and kicks his legs. this, my friends, is what i want for my knitted gifts. use. happiness. love. this happened to me once before with my friend aimee's first child, who loved the quilt i made for him so much that he almost loved it to death. it was almost a rag by the time they talked him into giving it up. i still keep the picture she sent me of him all rolled up in it like a burrito, sleeping. it still chokes me up. and he called me "green blanket lady" till he was 5 years old. i am ready to be adam's yellow blanket lady as long as he will have me. and hopefully the blankets i am working on now will get half as much love.

Monday, February 13, 2006

weekend knitting

so knitting in a sports bar is hard. well--let me ammend that. it wouldn't have been hard if we had been able to go to playmakers where i had planned to go. playmakers is nice and big and has great wings and very little smoke. it has HUGE TVs, and they are really nice about showing what people ask for. it's my favorite sports bar in the area. however, it was PACKED. so we shifted fire to this other place (woody's) that was darker, smokier, and where the waitress was not only rude, but it turns out that she also overcharged us--she gave herself a nice little 40% tip. grrrr. i knitted in spite of all this, but it wasn't quite the experience i was hoping for. but anyway.

started the clapotis, ripped it out again after about an hour and a half because i was doing something stupid, started it again and got about back to where i had been when i ripped it by the time we left the bar. saturday i wanted to knit all day, but there were errands and laundry and all that domestic stuff to deal with as well. it was one of those days when everything seemed to take longer than i thought it would. same with sunday. but i did get some knitting done--i am nearly through the increase rows on the clapotis, and about to move on to the straight rows where i get to start dropping stitches, which kind of scares the crap out of me. but so far, i am loving this thing! and i am loving watching the progress of the people on the team clapotis page as well--i have some major yarn envy! and man, i think i am a slow knitter, too--some of these guys are almost done with the thing!

oh, and i have to mention the bizarreness of the olympics opening ceremonies as well. i couldn't hear the sound, but i heard it as all 80s pop music, which is weird enough. but what a strange post-modern mix of stuff that thing was! what was with those flaming helmet things on those ice skaters? weird, man--totally surreal.

anyway--here's to getting through all the straight rows on this clapotis by the upcoming weekend.

Friday, February 10, 2006

ready, set, knit!

ok--i actually knitted a test swatch for my clapotis. i NEVER knit test swatches, as i hate doing that with every fiber of my being. but since i am using a different weight yarn than the pattern calls for, i figured i better test the fabric weight to make sure i chose the right needles for it. i am using my fabulous rosewood needles for the first time to make this thing (i bought them in the fall while shopping with meredith), and i am now sure of my sizing and of what variations i am going to make to the pattern--i am just antsy as hell to GET STARTED!!! but i can't cast on before 2pm--them's the rules. so tonight, i will be knitting in a sports bar while watching hockey and the olympics. should make that whole wing eating experience interesting. many friends will be coming along for the fun, but only i will be knitting. i obviously need more local knitting people.

by the way, more than 30 people have joined the knit-along i set up for this thing, and 3649 people are signed up for the knitting olympics. and since i am a total geek, i am ridiculously excited about it!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

just another day

it's actually gotten colder around here, probably to spite me for bragging about all the signs of spring the other day. but this morning, as i walked out of the house bundled up in the hippie's cashmere scarf and my big black coat, my eye was captured by these little bits of color all along the side of my front yard. (i use the word yard here very loosely, as it's actually a big dirt patch with a few sprigs of grass growing on it--but i digress...) my daffodils are about to burst open! yay! i adore daffodils and spring when my whole yard blooms. i actually made myself late for work today by stopping to take this picture, and i really think it was worth it. i even snapped a picture or two of my beautiful pansies, too.

in other news, i ordered these completely frivolous and silly bunny slippers--for ME!!! they are sold by the little company in napa valley called the oakville grocery company, and i have wanted them for about 4 years. every time i have tried to order them, and every time the hippie has tried, they have been backordered. BUT NOT TODAY! yay for silly and wonderful fuzzy bunny slippers to keep my tootsies warm! bunny slippers make me happy.

it's amazing the things that console me when i am PMS-ing like a mad fiend...

Friday, February 03, 2006

perhaps i am a tad gung-ho

i set up a new blog for all the people in the knitting olympics who are making a clapotis. i swear, i thought i was the last person on the internet to knit one of these things, but it turns out there are lots and lots of us. so why not? i even made this somewhat crappy button, but hey--it's my first button, and the only software i have installed to work with is microsoft paint--ew! if i can get around to installing photoshop, maybe i will make a better one. do i go too far??? anyway, i'm hoping this will be a great way to get to know some of these folks and expand my online community. so yay for new people! i also joined the north carolina team, but their buttons are kind of gigantor, so i'm not adding it to the sidebar yet. i'm just going to post everywhere. :)

reading: A Breath of Snow and Ashes

A Breath of Snow and Ashes, by Diana Gabaldon
diana gabaldon is one of my favorite writers of all time, although i am not one of her jamie-obsessed crazy fans*. this book is the latest installment in her outlander series. these books are enormous and meaty and fabulous, without exception, and if you have not read them, you should go buy them this minute and hop to it RIGHT NOW! normally, when i get a new book from her, all bets are off--i do nothing but read for days and days, stopping only to eat, pee, and move from the couch to the bed and then back to the couch. however, this one wasn't like that for me. i don't know if it's because of the holidays falling in the middle of my reading time or what, but this time, i didn't put aside all the other stuff i was reading to focus on the new book. all that said--it's still pretty great.

things with some of the not-claire-and-jamie characters in a breath of snow and ashes have developed to the point that this could almost be separate books. she is following so many lives, and in such great detail, that it can get a little choppy at times. it feels more like a series of short stories than one big novel. i am afraid that if i sound too critical, then you will get the impression that i didn't like the book, which is definitely NOT the case. however, i am just trying to say that it's pretty different from her earlier books. things are taking a long time to develop. the war is coming, and you can feel that. but unlike the battle of culloden, which was an explosion of activity and intrigue, the real action of the revolutionary war is creeping up on the characters. further, the characters have developed very full lives aside from preparation for upcoming events. there's a lot of attention paid to the day-to-day lives and activities of the characters as 18th century settlers in the appalacian mountains. it's fascinating! but it's facinating in a very different way than the facsination we had in her earlier books with witch trials and prisons and rape and battles and french courts and cross-atlantic journeys and treason and voodoo rituals and pirates and so forth. this book feels quieter, even with its murder and intrigue.

and while i am talking about diana gabaldon, can i just say that i wish they would choose a cover type and STICK WITH IT! they started publishing her books with these god-awful romance novel style covers, by which both she and her fans were appalled. however, there was at least a solid marketing reason behind that decision. then, when the fiery cross was published, they released the older books with these awesome, tasteful covers--just a simple solid color with a single symbolic element on it. i thought they had gotten it right! but now, a breath of snow and ashes has come out with a metallic silver cover! the snowflake on the front is all well and good, the STYLE of the thing is right, but what's with that whole metallic thing? ew, delacourte press people. ew.

* no offence intended to the fans of diana gabaldon at the ladies of lallybroch site! i love her as much as anyone, however, there are a FEW people who post things on that site who are bona fide crazy-in-love with jamie fraser, who, i am forced to point out, is a FICTIONAL CHARACTER. that's all i'm sayin'.

knitting olympics

i have joined the knitting olympics over at yarn harlot. apparently, so have over 2500 other online knitters. but how cool is this? the idea is to cast something on during the opening ceremonies of the winter olympics on february 10th. then you have to be finished with it when the olympics end on the 26th. 16 days for this working girl to knit a whole beast of a project! i am saving my clapotis for it, as are about 20 other knitters on stephanie's list, so far. my gorgeous yarn has been hand wound and is waiting patiently for me to take it up and get it onto the new rosewood needles that both the hippie and samson keep stealing. i don't know about you, but i work best with a deadline and a bit of pressure, so i am hoping that will motivate me to get the clapotis done in the middle of all the baby knitting in my queue. if i get my gold medal on the 27th, you guys will be the first to know!