Archive for January 2010

Spotted Dragonet

January 31, 2010

We also saw this Spotted Dragonet (Synchiropus picturatus) in the California academy of Sciences. These guys live on reefs in the Indian and western Pacific oceans where they mostly eat small invertebrates. I like the way the fish seems to look right at the camera around t=00:30
Musical Artist: Ad Libitum, Title: Liber Manualis

POTW #9: Poison Frog

January 28, 2010

focal length: 432 mm, aperture: f/3.5, shutter: 0.4 sec, distance: 0.5 meters, location: California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, CA, 16 December 2009.

Our trip to the California Academy of Sciences Museum last month yielded several weeks worth of Photo-of-the-Week posts. This tiny jungle frog is an orange morph of the Golden Poison Frog, which has the awesome latin name “Phyllobates terribilis.” The terribilis moniker comes from the fact that this frog produces the most potent poison of any vertebrate in the world. The Emberá people of northwestern Colombia collect poison from these frogs for use on their blowgun darts. Rolling the dart tip along the frog’s back produces a deadly warhead that remains potent for an entire year or longer.  Dogs have died after having contact with paper towels that these frogs have walked across. (So don’t leave any poison-frog-slimed paper towels laying around in your kitchen).

Vol-au-vent how-to

January 24, 2010

Some of my favorite things to bake are pastries that look really intricate and difficult when they are finished, but that don’t actually take much work. These Vol-au-vent are a good example, but I cheated a bit: I used pre-made, packaged pâte feuilletée. So these are kind of like making chocolate chip cookies from a tube, but they look fancy, don’t they? (more…)

POTW #8: Blue Jay eating cracked corn

January 21, 2010

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) shutter: 1/30, focal length: 432 mm, aperture: f/3.5, distance: 3 meters, location: Groton, CT

Childhood ornithology

When I was a kid, I thought, “Pointy headed birds come in two colors—red and blue.” This seemed logical. Licorice comes in red and black, but we call both of them “licorice.” Crayons also come in different colors. So I was surprised when I learned that blue jays are actually cousins of crows, while the cardinal’s family includes grosbeaks and tanagers. Crows and tanagers don’t look alike at all.

Ugly Seamless Argyle Socks

January 20, 2010

I had heard that doing intarsia in the round was difficult. However, perhaps in keeping with my usual knitting attitude, I said to myself, “what’s the big deal?” (even though I had never done any flat intarsia). Well, now that I’ve experimented, I would say that I find intarsia in the round to be difficult. (Though perhaps no more difficult than the flat case, since I still haven’t tried that…)

I had knitted some striped, elbow-length fingerless gloves as a gift for my brother last year, and I had left over yarn in several colors. One night, in a fit of hysteria, I decided that knitting bright green and golden-rod argyle socks with purple duplicate stitch X’s would be hilarious. Apparently, hand knit argyles sock legs are often knit flat and then seamed up the back.  I don’t want any seams on my socks unless I absolutely have to.

So, I cast on right away for a toe up sock, googled seamless argyles, and read about intarsia in the round while I was knitting the toe and foot. I knit these in Plymouth Galway worsted 100% wool on US#4 dpn’s.

I used the same toe-up Silver’s Sock Class method that I had used for my Red Sox Sox, again doing the toe and heel in the contrasting color (goldenrod here). Then when I got past the heel, the tubular argyle intarsia fun began.

The site I found to be most useful happened to be the first hit in my google search: this page by the Knitting Fiend. (Good job Google). She explains it very well, so I won’t replicate the description here in any great detail.

Briefly, the method is basically to knit triangles on the front and back of the sock leg by decreasing up to a point. Then one fills in the triangular valleys left on the left and right side of the sock by picking up stitches, but there are some wrapped stitches to prevent gapping at the interface between the colors. Once the valleys are filled in, one keeps going, making another set of up-pointing, mountain-like triangles in the second color. Then you can go back and fill in the new, front-and-back valleys in the first color. Repeat until you’ve got all the argyle sock leg you want.

My color interfaces are obviously not perfect, which makes it hard to motivate myself to finish the second sock, which is now more than half done, but eh, it’s a learning experience, and I learned several new techniques in this project. The socks will keep my feet warm anyway.

The most difficult parts are the points where four triangles meet.  I think they’ll look better with the overchecking duplicate stitch X’s, which I’m planning to do in purple or red. Mardi gras, or Karma Kameleon? What do you think?

Cabled Purple Wristers

January 18, 2010

Beth made herself a pair of these fingerless gloves with a matching hat last November, but sadly she lost them a few weeks later. So as a present, I secretly made her a new pair on my commuter bus and during lunch breaks the week before Christmas. She and I were doing a ton of gift knitting together in the evenings, so the commute and lunch were the only times I could get them done in secret. Thank goodness for the bus; knitting and driving do not mix. The design is a modified version of Margot Erdmann’s Wicked Easy Wristas. (Margot and her husband Rick own our LYS, Spinning Yarns, which we can almost see from our house!).


Rather than a rolled edge at the knuckle, these have a k2p2 rib.

We added a 3×3 twisted cable on the back of the hand. So the center of the back of the hand has a p1,k1,p2,cable6, p2,k1,p1 in it:

cable detail

Also to make the palm a bit more interesting, a little thicker, and to give it a bit of grippiness, Beth did the palm using a pattern from a Japanese stitch dictionary that I found at a blog called Little Purl of the Orient (nice blog, nice stitch pattern).

Palm Detail

The yarn is Berrocco Ultra Alpaca (50% alpaca, 50% peruvian wool) in the “Lobster Mix” colorway (6297). These were knit on double pointed US 5’s (3.75 mm). The wristers took almost exactly half of the 100 gram skein (I love the digital kitchen scale), leaving just enough for the matching hat:

Homemade Primanti Sandwiches

January 18, 2010

I really enjoy cooking foreign, exotic cuisine for dinner—Indian, Thai, Chinese, French,…Pittsburghese? Yes. Several foods common to the area around Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (where I grew up and went to college) are foreign in New Hampshire. Pittsburgh cuisine might even be more foreign than the other foods I enjoy cooking because making them at home is the only way to get them here (whereas I can walk to one Indian, two Thai, and three Chinese restaurants; one of the Chinese restaurants is actually good, too!).

So, I thought I’d share some notes on a few of these, in case you, dear reader, have enjoyed Pittsburghese cuisine in the past but now find yourself far from the steel city, or if you are just curious and want to try making them yourself. I’ll start with the most iconic food: the Primanti Bros. Sandwich:

As you can see, two thick slices of fluffy Italian bread embrace fresh-cut french fries, melty provolone cheese, tomatoes,  and sweet-and-sour coleslaw. What else occupies the space between the bread varies. Could be steak, corned beef, ham, tuna, blackened chicken, fried fish, fried egg, more cheese. The list goes on, but the essentials are the fries, the slaw, and the bread. Joe Primanti created these massive beasts at his sandwich cart in Pittsburgh’s strip district in the 1930’s. There are now five Primanti Bros. locations in the city and 8 in the suburbs around the city. It’s taken me a bit of experimentation, but I now have a recipe that does a pretty good job to recreate the original.

If you can’t make it to the Pittsburgh area, I  highly recommend making these yourself. They are so good, they could make you make this face:

Not many recipes get an endorsement like that! Sadly, I don’t think many readers who haven’t already tasted one of these will want to try making them. But if you would, read on… (more…)

Adventures in Cheesemaking: Paneer Butter Masala!

January 4, 2010


I was looking over my past posts and thinking it’s been a while since I’ve posted any cooking or recipe entries.  The total lack of any Indian cooking posts actually surprised me because I love cooking Indian food. (Sometimes I think I cook Indian meals enough days in a row to wear out Beth’s taste for them). So, Indian food post, your time has come.

One of my favorite dishes to cook is paneer butter masala. This dish consists of (more…)

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