Life's Little Details: Knitting, Sewing, Green Living, Frugal Living and Cooking In A Little Corner of Southern French Countryside.

Thursday, September 29, 2005


I could sit and tell you all about that Noro sweater that I actually finished last week sometime and have been happily wearing ever since (I'm waiting for pictures, but the harvesting vintner in the family (a.k.a. the camera guy) is a bit low on time). I could even give you a huge display of fun in-the-process bagel shots. But, I've got an enormous headache. Or, at least that's what I'm going to tell you, because saying that I'm just - ahem - "not in the mood" might cause a fight. And we both know we'd be sorry for the things we might say to each other. So, I'll be heading off to bed instead. Maybe I'll be "feeling better" tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hot, Fresh Bagels!

Get your hot, fresh bagels!!!! Smells so nice. You'll be getting a full photo essay post tomorrow. For now I just have to tell you about the smell. Mmmmm. And, they look so yummy. Some got cooked upside down, so the flat side's on top instead of rounded one, but it's all the same in my mouth, doncha know?

And, you'll never believe what happened. The Jewish cuisine gods were apparently smiling down on me today (and not one of those learing smirks, either, but the good kind). After I had already started preparing the bagels, I took a little trip to the grocery store. We were in need of veggies, but I thought I'd grab up the cheese that most closely resembles cream cheese while I was there. And, what did I find?! Not just something that resembles cream cheese, but the real McCoy. No kidding. It's not a brand I was familiar with (comes from Holland, instead of Philly), but it tastes right. Can you believe I actually tasted a spoonful of it immediately upon arriving home just to be sure? Maybe it turned into two spoonfuls, but I left plenty for tomorrow's breakfast (and for tonight's midnight snack - I won't eat a whole one, but who can resist them fresh out of the oven?).

Funny how easy the recipe seemed now that I'm used to making bread all the time. Didn't even seem as time-consuming as I remembered it. Like most yeast breads, you need to plan ahead a little, but it doesn't really take that much hands-on time. No worse that baking and icing a cake, really. You do it in steps that are all reasonably short, so doesn't feel like you've spent all day slaving over a hot stove.

Okay, time for the taste test... Oh... Mmmm. I'm in heaven, which coincidentally brings us around to the film I watched this evening. It was called Heaven, and it was excellent. I've long been an admirer of Giovanni Ribisi's talent. You may not recognize the name, but you'd know his face immediately. I'm so used to him playing such crazy characters that I never thought about him actually being remotely good looking. And, what do know? Stick him in an Italian civil guard uniform and make him speak Italian, and you've somehow made the man hot. Of course, I've long been teased for having a thing for European men. Maybe there's something to that, after all. Anyway, that's not the reason to watch this film. Watch it because it's beautiful. The acting is beautiful. The music is beautiful. The cinematography is beautiful. It's just a beautiful film all around. It's even got a beautifully complex plot and characters.

Well, good-night. I'm off to dream of bagels slathered with cream cheese....

A Hankerin'

I got a hankerin' ("I'm in the mood for" - for those of you not familiar with that word) for bagels. For those of you not in the US or any other place they serve these yummies, bagels are a donut-shaped bread that is one of man's tastiest delicacies. This is fact. Not just my opinion. They come in all sorts of flavors from plain to whole wheat to onion to cinammon raisin. I've even seen them with chocolate chips. Purists may call this sacrilege. I call it delicious. They are versatile, too. Split open and toasted, you can slather them with cream cheese or butter for breakfast. Or, you can sandwich all sorts of ingredients in between two halves for lunch or dinner. Fabulous food.

So, why is it the French haven't figured out their usefulness? I've only seen one place in France to get these (not to say I've done an exhaustive search, but people just don't know they exist), and it was in Paris. They weren't even great (industrial stuff shipped over from NY). Just okay, so hardly worth making a very long trip to Paris just to get them. Oh, and they were pricey, too. That, and you had to sell off a child or two just to afford the cream cheese to go with them. It was a nice treat the last time I was up that way, but I can't get a bagel fix as often as I'd like.

I'm really in a pickle, it would seem, then, with this craving of mine. Luckily, I don't shy away from many cooking chores, no matter how time-consuming they might be. I've made bagels once or twice before - from the Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook. Not the best bagels ever, but they were fresh and pretty tasty. Something I've been really wanting to try is the bagel recipe in my Bread Baker's Apprentice cookbook. Everything in there has been so tasty and so authentic tasting that I'm almost certain their recipe would bake up some really great bagels. So, I've gotten out the book and started up a batch. I'll let you know how it goes. I may even provide a photo experience of the process, which is quite involved. We all know this blog could use a few more pictures these days. Maybe we'll all get lucky and I'll think to do that.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Faulty Eggs

Ever bought a faulty carton of eggs? You'll know it when you have. Not because they stink or anything that obvious. It more because of what they refuse to do in the kitchen. Aside from the dishes and setting the table, they also turn up their little noses at chores like making a soufflé rise and other important tasks. That's their job. You'd think they'd do it flawlessly. But do they? Of course not.

I got ahold of a carton of faulty eggs, myself this week. Maybe we can blame it on the store-bought eggs. Or, perhaps it was because the home-grown eggs, in all their snobbery, didn't appreciate being mixed with the store-bought. Whatever their reason, what I know is this: these eggs just don't work. What happened? They didn't set. That's what.

Oh sure, you could make all sorts of claims about "operator error," saying that I must have mixed in too much milk. You could even attempt to soothe my suffering ego by explaining how the Spanish Potato Omelette, though one of the tastiest dishes around, like all The Greats can be a bit temperamental - it's so easy to screw up. Say what you will. I will always know that it all boils down to a faulty carton of eggs. Anything else is unthinkable.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Tricky Mommy Gets the Prize

Hubba Bubba Sweater
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
So how do you get a reluctant four-year-old to pose in her new sweater? With a smile? You tell her you're taking pictures of her for her ID photo at school - which you are, but she doesn't need to know about that close-up shot you took of the seed-stitch-ruffled cuff at her wrist.

It pays to be sneaky. All I had to tell her was that we couldn't very well take a picture of her in her pjs for school. So, I stripped her to her waist and found the closest thing around. "Why, what's that? Oh, the new sweater I made you." So, she wouldn't normally be wearing it with nothing underneath and a bare midriff, but I couldn't very well tell her to put on a t-shirt and then the sweater, could I? Even the sneaky have their limits.

Oh, and as a post script to the previous mention of Hurricane Rita and my parents...

Along with grabbing the computer, etc. please take care of yourselves. I say the same to anyone in the area. And, to anyone not already loaded down with passengers, the local authorities have already stated that there will not be enough government vehicles to evacuate everyone in affected areas, so if you've got some space, grab up your carless neighbor on your way out. Let's try not to have another Katrina.

Jealousy Breeds... Harmony?

Tuckered Out
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
I swear this picture is in no way rigged or planned. Now, normally, I wouldn't dare show up in my pjs on the internet, but the kids are fully covering me and the most that can be said of me is that I'm certainly not wearing any sexy, little teddies around the house (but I've got little ones, so what do you want?). It does, however, show perfectly what jealousy can drive a two-year-old to do.

Lambchop #1 was obviously very tired and found Mommy to be cozy. Then, Lambchop #2, as usual, came over to find a way of pushing in on the action. Apparently too exhausted to completely shove her out of the way, he settled for lying on top of her to get to Mommy. Their photo-happy parents, of course, saw a Kodak moment here.

I am talking on the phone in this shot - with my mother, which reminds me to mention something while we're here. It appears that Hurricane Rita is following in the footsteps of her older sister, except she's heading straight for the Houston area. I was glued to the tv for as long as it was working during the Katrina mess, but Rita is trying to make this one personal. See, my parents live in Houston. Actually, luckily for them, they live in the northern part of town, so they won't get the brunt of anything. They are, however, in a nice area that enjoys doing an occasional impression of swamplands.

So, Mom and Dad may soon be packing up the Great Aunt, the dogs and the cat and getting the heck out of Dodge. And, Mom, don't forget the new Mac and that handy-dandy ISight camera. That's not to sound flippant, because I know there are more important things, but I need my communication lines open. So, don't forget any necessary cables. You can just use them as dog leashes in the meantime.

Good Kitty

Precious Kitty
Originally uploaded by The Stitchin Sheep.
Yippee! The kitties are getting a little braver and will actually come out to play a bit while I'm nearby. They're sweet. This one has been dubbed "Captain" by my husband and his father because of the stripe on its right leg. I don't know if it's a male or female, but the title fits its personality (or felinality) perfectly.

This kitten is clearly the Alpha Kitty. It's always out first at the bowls and will give the other one a little whack if it tries to get into the food bowl too early (I fixed this by adding a second bowl so everyone has their own).

This kitty is actually my favorite, despite me rooting for the other one to get a little courage. Why? Well, because it's braver, and I can actually get a little closer to it. No way it'll let me near enough to actually touch, but I can at least get a little picture in return for the almost-six-bucks-a-kilo cat food they chow down on. I at least deserve that much, don't I?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

New Hobby?

Surely the lack of knitting content has made you think I've taken up a new non-photogenic hobby. Not at all. In fact, I'm starting to see that this whole organizing and cleaning thing certainly isn't all it's cracked up to be. I mean, where am I supposed to find time for knitting?

On the up side, I did organize most of the toys and set up the rule of one basket of toys being used at a time. That basket must be put away before another is gotten out. We'll see how that goes in the long run, but so far, so good. It was like Christmas around here. And, I hesitate to mention the large number of insects who found their demise in the pile of toys, papers, etc. the kids had accumulated on the livingroom floor (Did I ever mention that one motivating factor behind my desire to clean up the clutter is a suspicion that if Social Services ever dropped in for a visit, they'd confiscate the little ones?). So, the organizing thing may be worthwhile, after all. I would just really love to finish my Noro sweater before it gets any colder.

Riddle Me This

What do you get when you mix a tube of tempera paint and a toddler?

... blue poo.

Don't ask me how I know.

Monday, September 19, 2005

A Little Humor For You

Some of the searches that led people to my site...

"knitted boobie"

"the fattest lady"

That's right, folks, nothing but quality entertainment here. Step right up! Get your knitted boobies here! And, don't forget to take home the fattest lady for the hubbie to enjoy!

That perked up an otherwise very difficult day. Who says the internet is worthless?

Overwhelmingly Overwhelmed

Blogger is evil. The proof is in this empty post. I just spent half an hour explaining the post title, as well as why I haven't posted much lately. I even gave a glimpse of knitting content to come. All of this was wiped away with the stroke of a computer key. Blogger asked me to sign in (I must have timed out, somehow) before continuing. Having never had this problem before, I figured it would just proceed as normal. Not so, and we all know clicking my way back to the post would be no good. The only content still there was the post title. Evil. I'm telling ya. It's evil. If Bush wants to locate that now-famous Axis of Evil, he should start a little investigation of the Blogger team, doncha tink?

Needless to say, we won't be redoing, so you'll just have to imagine what might possibly be so overwhelming to me. Hey, for fun, you could always leave comments about what in your own life is overwhelming to you. We'll just turn this into one big group therapy hug. Whaddaya say?

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Inspiration, Anyone?

I'm taking a moment to fulfill my blogging duties while I hope for inspiration to strike me. What kind of inspiration? Dinner. We've got little in the way of veggies or meat. Come to think of it, we're even low on flour, which makes it rather hard to come up with a full/well-balanced meal for four. I'm sure it'll come. Just hang out with me for a bit while I wait for it.

Waiting... waiting... still waiting.

Well, I've got nothing, so we'll talk about knitting. I've gotten all the knitting done on Lambchop #1's pink sweater. I'm really excited about it, but not so excited about weaving in the ends. It'll still need to be blocked after that, so don't expect an insta-photo here. I am really pleased with it, though. It's probably the first time I've done a pattern from scratch (without borrowing someone else's genious) where something didn't go wrong. I got the dimensions (proportions, really) from Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitting Without Tears, but have used them for a button-up sweater knit flat instead of one knit in the round. So far, so good.

Well, I hate to cut this short, but I'll have a hungry/irritable family on my hands really soon, here, so I think I'll forget the whole inspiration thing and serve up a packet of soup mix and some paté with our last bit of bread. Ah, it's gourmet tonight, ain't it?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

More Avoidance

Miscellaneous Knitting Yarns
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
So as not to bore you too long about my avoidance issues all in one post, I'll separate them into two different posts and prolong your pleasure (or agony, as the case may be). Otherwise, you can skip down to the knitting content at the end.

So, my need to avoid the clutter in our house has apparently escalated in the wake of Katrina. I believe this to be true because my avoidance techniques of knitting and internetting are apparently no longer sufficient. Now I've come up with something that can only be considered a full-fledged avoidance scheme. All in the space of one paragraph this afternoon, I told my husband I was feeling overwhelmed and that I wanted to join the Red Cross. He laughed at me. It wasn't even an intentional laugh. It was one of those guffahs that escape before you can close your mouth on it. He couldn't help it because of the absurdity of my thoughts (or at least, that's the way he saw it). His comment was that it didn't make sense to say that I was overwhelmed but that I wanted to run off to help others.

Now, in keeping with the avoidance theme, though, can't you all see how logical this really would be? How often in life do people avoid their own troubles by helping others with theirs? It's pretty classic, really. This is, of course, why I can't do it, even if I do think I'd get a great sense of pride from giving others what I can't give myself on a daily basis. So, this will just be one more reason to add to my long list of why I need to get my life more organized. Time for helping others is really a wonderful motivator to spur me on.

Now, back to the more realistic avoidance technique of knitblogging. I've had some fun mail lately, and I'm here to share it with you. I received the Noro yarn my most-recent secret pal sent to allow me to finish my cozy new sweater. She didn't think she had the right colorway, so she added a second ball to pull the necessary colors from. Luckily for me, she was wrong. She actually did have the exact colorway in the right lot number and all. So, the extra ball will just be something fun to play with later. Pretty, ain't it?

The dark blue skein is some 100% cotton yarn (whose brand escapes me) that my sister-in-law sent me for my birthday. I guess all my complaining broke her heart. How pathetic am I? And, how sweet is she? Got a love her. She sent four skeins of it, and I'll have to figure out what to do with it now.

The other skein is some Knit Picks shimmer I won (she sent two of them) over at Zeneedle. I actually won that. Pretty cool, huh? So, thanks for the goodies, Margene. I love that yarn.

Alas, I can avoid no longer. I must head off to deal with my stuff. It's a long process, but my recent readings of organizing books (I'd laid off them a bit for a really good parenting book I'll tell you about soon) has gotten me motivated.

Avoid It Like the Plague

Hubba Bubba Barbie Sweater
Originally uploaded by Sheepish.
Avoidance. Many people like to call it procrastination. You're waiting till the last minute to do something. Really, it's avoidance. You just narrowly miss avoiding doing it all together. Then, it's procrastination.

I've got plenty of things I avoid doing these days. There's the laundry and dishes, of course. Then, there's that pesky dissertation nuisance I started a while back. There's all the clutter around here that needs to be cleared. I avoid it all. Lucky for us, though, my main avoidance technique is knitting. I get all sorts of knitting done when I should be doing other things.

I've figured out what makes knitting such an ideal avoidance technique, though. It's the fact that when I bury my head in a wad of yarn, I don't see the mess around me. I could be on a tropical beach for all I know. Reading has the same allure, but it's not as productive as knitting. I can actually claim I'm getting something done when I knit. That certainly gives the knitting some extra points.

I've been re-diving into the mess around here the last few days and reading some more tips on organizing. There's some good stuff in these books. Now, just to apply it...

Reading one of them I did realize something abouut myself. It's a pretty important thing to know, actually. See, when I walk into a room, I take in the whole space. Some people focus on a chair or a lampshade that their eye is drawn to. I see everything at once. So, when I enter a messy room in my own home, I can't focus on one particular spot I'd like to start cleaning on. The organizing picture is gets out of focus while I take the entire scene. Good to know, since there are ways of overcoming this if I'm aware of it.

This also explains the difference between me and my sister-in-law, who can whip through a room in mere seconds, leaving nothing but tidiness and a faint scent of cleaning solutions in her path. It also explains why she always wants to offer me advice on how to be more efficient her way, and why it only serves to depress me, because I know I can't. It feels like criticism, but I now understand that she is unable to see that our minds work differently where clutter is involved, and that she sees it as a lack of effort on my part. Knowing that I see things more "wholistically" (to quote the organizing book) will help me not beat myself up about my inefficiency from now on.

Anyway, why are we talking about this? Well, since I wasn't able to use one of my other avoidance techniques (the internet/blogging) for several days last week, I got lots of knitting done. And, in the photo here, you can see a 75% finished sweater for my daughter. She loves it for now. Experience tells me that could change once it's done. For now, though, she happily says it looks like something Barbie would wear (please note that to a four-year-old, that's a good thing and not a reference to a girl's promiscuity).

See it's not so bad to avoid the dishes.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

In Awe of Nature

Chelee commented that she has missed my posts. Well, me too, and it's certainly not intentional avoidance of my blogging "duties" that's kept me away. In fact, it's all because Mother Nature is a mean little bi - well, let's not provoke her anger. We've seen what she is capable of in New Orleans. Here she only ranted and raved for several days last week, causing us to lose power for several hours on Tuesday, cutting off our phone and internet for four days (actually, part of that length of time could arguably be blamed on France Telecom - part of me says I should make a crack about possibly the Bush administration and FEMA apparently heading up phone repairs in Southern France, but another part of me says I should steer clear of politicizing my blog). Anyway, they were apparently working on Saturday since that's when they hooked us back up, so I can't complain TOO much. Oh, and she killed the tv satellite and box that we are also dependent upon to keep us connected with the outside world. So, we had no news of anything for days. I actually resorted to going to three different newsstands in three different towns to finally find an American newspaper for more than a blurb about Katrina and the rescue efforts. I've never felt farther from home. But, all's good now. I've got my phone and internet back, even if the satellite is still messed up.

I have lots of things to share but not enough time to take pictures and share it all this evening. Hopefully, I'll have a moment soon. I've had several yarny things arrived in the mail and am well on my way to two finished objects. Yay! So, some pictures are definitely in order - and soon.

Then, there's the baking/cooking I've done. Of course, there's always the bread I bake a few times a week. But, today I made jam or jelly or whatever your dialect calls it - from melons. I had tasted some at a party recently and liked it. After getting some melons for about 25 cents a pound, I was off on a jelly/jam-making frenzy. It's funny stuff. Tastes a lot like pumpkin pie to me. Mmm. Imagine being able to have that everyday on your toast! Then, we baked madeleines (little French muffin-like cakes that are very buttery) today, too. It was raining just when we wanted to go out, so we used that as a family activity. And, let me just say that Lambchop #1 makes a mean madeleine.

So, pictures will come later. I swear. For now, it's dinner time, and I need to diaper the little one before he deposits gifts around the floor for me.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Mouth Wide Open

I sit in front of the tv, my mouth hanging open and my eyes filled with tears. I am in shock. Natural disasters happen. We see them every year, all over the world. But, what is currently happening in New Orleans is way beyond disaster and nowhere near natural. In a time when humans need other humans for their most basic needs, a time when people should band together and gather strength from each other, you have utter chaos instead. At a time when babies, fresh from their mothers' wombs, should be tucked snugly in a crib, and the elderly and infirm should be cared for in a sanitary environment, using the best modern medical technology available, they are crammed into a space never intended to lodge overnight guests.

Next to the newborn lies the body of the ageing grandmother whose frailty was no match for the horror it withstood in its last days. Further along sits a trembling young woman forced to endure a hurricane and a rape - A RAPE! - all in the space of 72 hours. Not only has she lost her home, but quite possibly her virginity and any sense of dignity. She is not alone. A life not fit for rabid dogs has become the daily, nightmarish reality of tens of thousands of people. Instead of the normal worries that are the aftermath of a natural disaster - homelessness, joblessness, emotional trauma - these people, though no longer fearing the wrath of the elements, are forced to live in constant fear of their fellow humans. Those predatory creatures not fit to bear the name of their own species. Those people who would rather rape, pillage and murder than extend a hand to lift a child from floodwaters or steady the shaking fingers of an elderly woman in a wheelchair.

Basically decent, terrified people, who have lost what little they ever had are being pulled down by criminals into a hell no one could ever imagine. Instead of only worrying where their next meal will come from or how they will feed their children, they must also remain alert to the threat of stray bullets and wonder if the man next to their daughter is a sexual deviant.

This kind of disaster horrifies me much more than the strong winds and rushing waters brought in by hurricane Katrina. Inclement weather, though tough to accurately predict, can at least be explained. This cannot be said of those who would take advantage of another human at the lowest, most desperate time of their life.

So, though from far away in a quiet area of Southern France, there is little I can do to help those in need of assistance, they are in my thoughts throughout the day, where they are likely to remain for a long while. We have no money to give. You've seen a bit of our financial situation in the recent posts where I've mentioned my new tightwadding ways. It can be entertaining at times, but it's really done out of necessity. These are tough times for French vintners. We certainly don't live in the lap of luxury, but we do have a roof over our heads and enough food to easily overfill our stomachs. We lack nothing that is truly important. So, I found a way to give what little money we can, anyway.

I ask you to consider you own situation, as well. Surely there is one item you would have charged to your credit card this week. Or perhaps you could deprive yourself of that daily treat you've come accustomed to and give that money to those in need of milk and diapers for their babies and food and water for themselves. Make your coffee at home this week, and skip the trip to Starbucks. Cut back on a few cigarettes to spare a few dollars at the end of the week. Drink water instead of filling yourself with sodas throughout the workday. An important lesson I've learned from my tightwadding is that there are so many unnecessary splurges we make in our lives that we can save money by eliminating. Give that money where it's really needed. At this point in the situation, any dollar you give may actually save a life. That's a low price to pay for such a valuable item.

You don't even have to be in the US to do it. The Red Cross takes credit cards online here (even foreign ones). And, leave your anti-American sentiments (if you have them) at the door. These are people. It's as simple as that. They may be from the wealthiest country in the world, but they are its poorest people. And, their country, though it has no intentions of abandoning them, was not prepared for the situation they are in.

If you truly have no money to give, but you have an extra bed, consider lodging someone who has lost everything but their own life. It can be very difficult to open your own home to a complete stranger, but if you can and are willing, you may do it here .

That is all I can think to say at the moment. No witticisms about the trials of mommyhood or life in rural France today. They lack significance when compared to the trials of others across the Atlantic.