Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Alton Brown Ruined Christmas

So, it's Christmas Eve in the Glass Needle house and plans for Christmas dinner are not yet finalized. You see, plans were up in the air as we awaited the arrival of a new bundle of joy and we wanted to be set for a Christmas Baby (Baby arrived on the 5th Day of Christmas, but that's another blog post). Finally we settled on going to my sister's house for dinner. And of course we needed some sort of food adventure, ideally one that required an empirical test. We do so love our empirical tests. Ham was decided upon. And mashed potatoes. Naturally. And what else goes with ham and mashed potatoes? Biscuits of course!

Now, you have to understand the place biscuits hold in our hearts. There were many weekend morning where we'd throw together a pan of biscuits and brew pots upon pots of coffee when sis and I lived together. I got pretty good at the biscuit making. Light, fluffy, moist, crumbly, biscuits are a wee little slice of heaven on this earth.

The second bit of background information that is very important is Alton Brown. Yes, Alton Brown of Good Eats is a veritable god in our humble opinions. Who doesn't love his show? His cook books are an education in science and food. Alton Brown's procedure for BAKING brown rice instead of hoping and praying it came out ok on the stove top changed my life. I have perfect brown rice each and every time! And OMG his brown rice salad??? Not only does it involve bacon, which we all know is awesome, it solves the problem of how do you transport dressing with your salad for a tasty lunch. Why you cook the dressing RIGHT INTO THE RICE!!! Genius! Pure genius I say!

Upon receiving Alton Brown's baking book some time ago, Sis and I vowed that we would have a Biscuit Bake Off. Biscuits are a chapter on to themselves. He writes how he perfected the biscuit procedure and finally settled upon a recipe that rivals all others. He even states that were he the kind of person who entered baking contests, he would enter these biscuits and he would win. Now that is a biscuit to behold! We must have these biscuits!!!

Well, now wouldn't Christmas be the perfect time to dive into Alton Brown's ultimate biscuit recipe?

You see, it's an edgy recipe. It's daring. It's risky. It's not your normal recipe. IT INVOLVES AN EGG! Yes, that's right. An EGG in your biscuit!!! GASP!!!!!

We decided not to go with the empirical test method. We were going to do a traditional biscuit along side Alton Brown's new crazy method. But no! We would trust the fate of our Christmas dinner to Alton Brown! He would never do us wrong!!

Oh, how wrong we were.

We painstakingly followed each and every step of his recipe. We even WEIGHED all the ingredients! We were leaving nothing to chance. Not that there would be anything to chance as Alton Brown would never ever lead us wrong. I held back the disbelief as I cracked an egg in to my biscuit dough. Yogurt was involved also. Alton Brown dedicated a full page to a crazy kneading method involved parchment paper. He tells you the dough will be very wet and sticky and shows you how to knead with the parchment paper as a dough prophylactic so that you do not end up with "Club Hand" where you fingers are encased in dough.

Well, the dough was wet and sticky as promised. So wet and sticky that kneading even with the paper was unsuccessful. Club Hand occurred anyway.
So wet and sticky was the dough that cutting with a brand new shiny biscuit cutter, bought just for this day, mind you, was impossible.

The biscuits would have to be.... gasp.... dropped. Drop biscuits! I was reduced to drop biscuits!!! Oh the horror! Oh the humanity! I had to leave the kitchen for the drop biscuit procedure as to not cry and see my little heart break. Drop biscuits, as we all know, are not proper biscuits. Drop biscuits are a biscuit failure.

The drop biscuits baked and were eaten, but sadly, they were not the highlight of Christmas dinner. Taste wise they were OK but they made my mashed potatoes sad.

Alton Brown, thanks for ruining Christmas.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Bachelorette Party - Beer as Art

BachParty - Beer as Art
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
Beer is not only delicious, its ART!
This is a tasty brew we sipped at Claire's Bachelorette Party. There were no strippers just many many tasty drinks.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Care to Knit June Hats

Care to Knit June Hats
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
Our ladies of Panera's came up with 21 hats to donate for Care to Knit!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

I did it all by my self!

I feel like a big girl because I got to cook dinner all by myself tonight. See, here's the issue, while at my folks house, I have Poppy in the kitchen which is A) awesome because he enjoys cooking and B) let's face it, food always tastes better when some one else makes it. However I do miss being in my own kitchen cooking my own meals sometime. I found a recipe for "Chicken Under a Brick" in some America's Test Kitchen cook book and have been wanting to give it a spin for quite some time.

The idea is you butterfly the chicken, sear it on the stove top under weights (classically, a brick is the perfered weight of choice, but c'mon now, who has bricks haning out in the kitchen, so I went with a pot filled with water and the bottom covered with foil because I'm lazy and would rather waste resources than wash a pot. So there.) to get a crisp skin and then finish it in the oven. It's supposed to cut down the cooking time on a roasted chicken to under an hour. It took me longer than the recipe said, but hey who's counting.

America's Test Kitchen recipies can be a bit fussy. They do a lot of partial cooking so that things don't get over cooked. Usually it does work and the dish comes out delicious. In Chicken Under a Brick, once you get the butterflied chicken browned, you take it out and dump in some potatoes to the pan and rest the chicken back on top of the potatoes with a drizzle of some oil, garlic, lemon juice and thyme. The whole things then goes in the oven. Then once the chicken is done, you let it rest on the cutting board...

... while the potatoes finish cooking and get golden brown and delicious in the oven.

Well, I'm sad to report that golden brown and delicious potatoes did not happen, even with doubled cooking time and a jacked up oven. They were edible, and not bad tasting by any means but not golden brown and delicious.

All in all it was a pretty good meal and I made it all by myself!

And yes, I enjoy eating on divider dishes so that my food groups don't touch. Yes, I am a 12-year-old apparently.

And yes, that is a ruby red dot of Sriracha sauce.

Sriracha goes with everything. Didn't you know that?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Easter Egg Handspun My so called scarf

I finally decided it was time to make some stuff with my handspun, since I'm sort of low on things to spin. I had cast on the Yarn Harlots One Row Hand spun scarf, but I really didn't like the results too much. So I fell back to the old standard of the My So Called Scarf. Its a very easy pattern and is forgiving in the slightly think-and-thin nature of this hand spun. When i got my wheel, the owner of the shop gave me a "generous" 6oz of some Ashland Bay merino/tussah blend which I spun up in a fit of awesome joy. This will probably be a gift to someone tho I'm not sure who!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sheep are dirty

Fiber washing3
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
The pile in the front is a pile of fleece BEFORE washing. The pile in the back is AFTER washing. Man, sheep are DIRTY!!

Shower favor goodies

Shower favor goodies
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
We made coffee cozies for the bridal shower! Funky fabric, funky buttons chosen by our knitting group. I filled the cups with chocolate covered espresso beans, meringue kisses, and Earl Grey Tea Cookies. We also made Whoopie Pies! YUM!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Creatively Frustrated

I have 4 projects going on right now and I feel creatively stuck. It's not that I'm unhappy with the projects and I'm not bored but I don't feel inspired.

Fearful Symmetry
Damn you TsockTsarina! What a delightful and frustrating sock. I love the pattern but it is a touch more intense than I really feel like knitting right now. I was so frustrated trying to get the toe right, and now that I'm done, perhaps I'm spent.

The Clap
Yeah, I know, I'm a sheep and am doing The Clapotis. I adore it. I adore the Wollemeise that I'm working in. But I'm three-quarters done with it and I'm no longer thrilled by the drop stitches. 

Fishes Mittens
Cute! Adorable! But I'm sort of over the excitement of the pattern. Not to mention that I just screwed up an entire pattern repeat and I'm debating if I want to rip it all out or not. Boo.

Mamajama's Pound of Fiber
I have like three feet of the Ashland Bay roving left to spin into single before I can ply. I am so over this fiber right now. A pound is an incredible amount of fiber to spin. 

I need to get my hands messy. I need to finger paint. I need to do something wacky. I need to do something inspiring. I love my projects but they're tedious right now and not fulfilling me. Knock down the walls blocking in (or out depending on your prespective) my creative mojo.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The day that changed everything

March 5, 2009. The Mamajama and Poppy surprised me with a trip to PA to buy... drum roll... a spinning wheel! And my life has not been the same. When the Ladybug came out of the box and I put my feets on her treadles, I knew I was in love. I'll take pictures of "Scarlett" in the next few days so you can see her in all her glory
Spinning is soothing, rhythmic and fascinating. You take this random bit of fluff and you tame it into YARN. You make freaking YARN. That is beyond awesome. I've gone a little nutso, enabled with much joy by the Mamajama. Seriously, there was a package of fiber arriving every day for a while. Things have calmed down a bit, but I'm still spinning like a madwoman.

Check this out: My first EVER handspun on my spinning wheel! Its a bit of mohair I had left over from some spindle spinning. Fluffly and beautiful!

This is a bit of Ashland Bay wool I got with my wheel. It reminds me of Easter. A "generous" 6 ounces that I spun up in HOURS!

And some more Ashland Bay stuff I got a Rhinebeck. The fluffier bit was wheel spun, the bottom skein was spindle spun. Both very enjoyable, but very different!

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Running of the Brides - A tale of failure and carnage

The Baby sister/Bride to Be (B2B in Bridal code) and I, the humble MOH (Maid of Honor) participated in the Running of the Brides this week.

WARNING: This story contains graphic depictions of bridal carnage. Reader discretion is advised.

This annual event pits rabid brides in an epic struggle to find a super cheap designer wedding gown. Basically, Filene's Basement clears some floor space, dumps some gowns and unleashes hoards of hopped-up brides to compete in a test of strength, will, and negotiating skills.

Brides line up in the wee hours before the 8am opening.

And of course, the media is in attendance to capture the blood sport.
Apparently, bringing a team is crucial to your success. While matching outfits are optional, colorful markings can make you easy to spot in the sea of tulle and beads.

We thought we prepared. We were hydrated, full of tasty oatmeal and we properly limbered up, flexing elbows and doing the I-WILL-fit-into-this-dress hip wiggle. But nothing, not even a viking helmet could prepare us for the hysteria and cut-throat mayhem was about to take place.
The doors open at 8am and by 8:01am there is not a single gown left on a rack. Now this is where your team comes in. Brides and their pack of followers bum-rush the floor grabbing EVERY SINGLE GOWN THEY CAN GET THE CLAWED HANDS ON. It does not matter if the gown is your size. It does not matter if you even like the gown. YOU MUST ACQUIRE A MOUNTAIN OF GOWNS. Why you ask? So you can trade. You sit atop your mountain of bridal fluff and send out your search parties who wander the floor screaming "I need a size 6 strapless white ball gown, will trade size 12 empire". Signs also come in handy here "Will trade for size 16!". "Vera Wang! Will Trade for VERA ONLY!". So the more people you bring with you, the more dresses you hoard, the better your negotiating power is.

Since the B2B and I were not the first in the door, we did not even get to touch a gown for about a half an hour. We wandered aimlessly, dressless and dejected, until the now mostly naked brides began discarding the rejects and you could snap one up if they deemed it to have no bargaining power.

We successfully acquired several promising gowns via stealth, humor and begging, and the B2B, in her power panties and strapless bra found an unoccupied corner to slither into our prizes. We found one dress that was lovely, an ivory chiffon halter top "goddess" type dress. But alas, it was not "THE one".

By about 9:30am, we decided to make a calculated retreat. I was wounded and we needed to regroup and consume more coffee.

After about a half hour, we regrouped and dived back in. The frenzy had apparently abated, and you could view, first-hand, the extent of the carnage. Discarded gowns littered the floor. Limp plastic garment bags were stuffed in the racks. Broken hangers littered the ground. It was not pretty. But by this time, battle weary employees were managing to get gowns back on the racks so us unfortunate scavengers who did not come with a sizable army could actually touch some dresses.
By 11:30am, after three and a half hours of rampaging brides, the B2B decided to raise the white flag and admit defeat. "THE Dress" was not here. Sad and dejected we left for lunch.

To sum up - Was the Running of the Brides worth it? Yes and no.

The B2B was looking for something very specific. She wanted a light flowy, not too formal dress. The majority of the dresses there were of the ball gown style - beaded bodice, big skirt, long train. Good for a big church wedding, not for a ceremony on a beach, in August. The place was full of, as the B2B put it "there was nothing at the sale except for piles of stepped on 1980’s rejects and bad Project Runway wannabes." Not that there is anything wrong with that, just not what she was looking for.

The deals were good. The gowns had price tags of $1200 and up and were selling for between $249 and $699. But they were also filthy. These gowns are the floor samples from bridal shops, so they've been tried on, sweated in, stepped on. There were makeup stains, pulls, broken zippers. There were some stunning gowns, but on the whole, I didn't feel it was worth the repair/alteration and cleaning costs.

I'm glad we went, it was a great experience, but sadly, "THE Dress" was not there.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Friday, February 6, 2009

Sockdown February - Candy Cane Bellatrix

I chose Bellatrix Sock for the February Sockdown for Sock Knitter's Anonymous. The pattern was a quick knit and kind of fun with the drop stitches but I'm not super pleased with the end result. I was spot on with my guage, EXACTLY 8 stitches to the inch measured flat and in the round. The drop stitches makes them a bit loose. Its OK, I can live with it but they're not my favorite. I however love the yarn! Candy Cane from Holiday Yarns! LOVE IT!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Reunited and it feels so good.

The ransom was paid. The fiber was retrieved and reunited with its fiber family. The Office of Fiber Land Secuirty is standing down. All is well.

Friday, January 30, 2009

the fiber napper's final communique

the fiber napper
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
Gulps. I just received this message from the fiber napper "You have until 2pm Sunday to deliver the cookies if you want to see your fiber again. Deliver the cookies to Panera's where they must then be confirmed to not contain poison. I'll be watching."

Thursday, January 29, 2009

fiber proof of life

fiber proof of life
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
The Fibernappers have moved the hostage to an undisclosed location under new guard. This photo is offered as proof of life.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fiber WMDs

Fiber WMDs
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
The crack assault team from Fiber Land Security successfully breached the terrorists' compound. There was no sign of the hostage. The team fears there is a mole in the ranks that informed the terrorists of the coming attack so the the hostage was spirited away. They did however recover the weapons of mass destruction.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Old Pictures

I found a box of pictures and I thought I'd upload a few.

In 1989 I was a Rotary Exchange Student to Fukushima Japan. I went to Sakura-no-Seibo High School. "Sakura no Seibo" means "Our Lady of the Cherry Blossoms". Yes, I realize it is a tad ironic that I went to one of the few catholic schools in the entire country, but there ya go. This was our school uniform, very prim and proper with stylish beanies.

I commuted about an hour each way to school by train and bicylce. Japan does have some stunning countryside.

As a student, I was in tons of different club activities. I took Shoji (calligraphy), Sado (tea ceremony) and Kado (flower arranging). This was one of my favorite arrangements.

fiber rescue in process

fiber rescue
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
The Office of Fiber Land Security picked up on some web chatter that a Ninja attack was eminent. They have deployed a special forces assault team to free the hostage and recover any weapons of mass destruction.

Monday, January 26, 2009

fiber guards

fiber guards
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
the fiber is well guarded. Rescue attempts will not succeed.

The Knit Kit

This is possibly the coolest knitting accessory of all time. Granted, the scissor is a bit flimsy but would do in an emergency. And the crochet hook? OMG how I have longed for a tiny crochet hook to pick up dropped stitches on the train. I must find a Knit Kit!!

Sunday, January 25, 2009


fiber ransom
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
There's trouble in the fiber world!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Candy Cane

Candy Cane
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
I have a thing for Candy Canes. I mean, who doesn't like sticks of sugary peppermint? But its not just the candy buzz. I love the color pattern. There's something about swirled red and white stripes that gets to me. It visually hits that feeling of when you come in from epic snow fights to a warm gooey cup of cocoa with marshmallows and of course, a candy cane stuck in it. It's a pure winter fun love moment.

And yes, more Wollemeise

Wollemeise Saami
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
This is Saami. Hm. I don't know about this one. Not my favorite of the bunch but I think I might have to see someone else knit it up before I make any final decisions about it. It could be one of those yarns that just looks funky in the skein but beautiful as a fabric. Hm.

Some more Wollemeise

Wollemeise Jultomte
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
This picture really does not do this yarn justice. Such a lovely shade of red.

More Wollemeise

Wollemeisa Buxkranzl
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
Here's Buxbranzl. If you scooped up a forest, this is what you'd get.

Wollemeise Wollemeise Wollemeise

Mom and I were fortunate enough to get in on the first ever Wollemeise club! We're two shipments in and I'm over the moon about them. This is "Hollerstaud'n". Its deep and rich and smokey. I'm thinking of a clapotis.

Yes, I've been lazy

Handspun Gardensoflsfahan
Originally uploaded by amynowacoski
I have been extremely lazy with taking pictures and updating my ravelry page (not to mention this blog). But I finally got inspired and snapped a few shots.

Back in oh, I don't know, like July maybe, I decided I wanted to spin and knit a shawl in 2008. I didn't quite make that deadline but I'm more than half way there!

I spun a batt called "Black Magic Woman" from Enchanted Knoll Farms. I got it super thin and did a two-ply. Its not quite lace weight, more like fingering but it works for this shawl. More on this project later!