Archive for May 2010

Handspun Hat

May 27, 2010

I’ve finished my first hand-spun project–a ribbed tuque. Here’s a visual tour of the evolution from wool to hat:

Here’s what the wool looked like to start with:

This is about 1oz of scoured, uncarded light grey New Zealand Romney, which we got from the R. H. Lindsay Company in Boston ($7/pound). We got a few pounds.

Here it is after hand carding, spinning and plying on the wheel:

Here’s a close-up detail:

You can see that the weight varies from around DK to somewhat more than worsted, but that seemed to make surprisingly little difference in the finished hat:

It has a “hand-spun” type of lumpiness about it, that I actually like,  although I tend not to like that kind of stuff when it’s emulated in machine spun yarn. The hat contains 1.875 oz of wool–about twice the amount of wool shown in the top picture. Total cost of material in the hat is about 82¢! This is of course neglecting the shipping costs and my valuable hours of labor. Overall, a pretty affordable hobby, though.

The tuque wearing Sullivans!

Woodchuck, or…Whistle Pig?

May 27, 2010

I wondered, are woodchucks and groundhogs the same thing? Yes. They are. They apparently are also variously known as “whistle-pigs” or “land beavers”, both of which I think are hilarious names. Wouldn’t Whistle-Pig Day sound more festive than Ground Hog Day? Or, Whistle Pig Cider, instead of Woodchuck™?

I saw this guy close to the location where the hawk vs. man attack happened yesterday. I think this ground beaver’s mass probably excludes him from becoming red tailed hawk fodder.

POTW #13: Safe

May 25, 2010

Close Encounter

May 25, 2010

I was walking from the student union building back to my office after lunch today when out of nowhere a HUGE flash of white and brown feathers passed from right to left just before my eyes. I felt something light and fast pass over my arm and chest. My friends Yi-min, Liwei and I all looked dumbfounded for a second trying to figure out what just happened.

We saw it fly into a rhododendron. In the darkness of the bush sat a red-tailed-hawk. A huge red-tailed-hawk.  Looking at it, I wondered for a second if it was an eagle–it was so big. It perched atop its kill. It had caught something in the air and had run into us with it! I think some of the prey might have hit me, too. The hawk hit me in the arm, but it actually hit Liwei in the ear. We checked out his ear and verified that it hadn’t removed any of him in the process. Then we watched it fly away, and I saw the impressive red upper side of its tail as it came out of the bush.

A few second later, some of my other co-workers who were slower leaving lunch came around the corner, and I said, “did you guys see what just happened?!” but they’d missed it. I was wishing I’d had my camera, but it happened so suddenly and was over so quickly, I doubt it would have been of any use. You can’t really capture the experience of being hit by a hawk in a picture.

Nonetheless, check out the huge talons on this juvenile red-tailed hawk (public domain photo released by Alison Philips):

POTW #12: Chipping Sparrow

May 11, 2010

Chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina), Durham, NH. 7 May 2010. 72mm, f/2.8, 1/50 sec, distance 3 meters.

Arancini di riso

May 10, 2010

A couple days ago I came home and surveyed the fridge and pantry. There was not a whole lot there, as it was almost time to go grocery shopping, but I didn’t feel like cooking one of our lazy day frozen pizzas. However, I realized I had everything I needed to make risotto alla milanese. I love it when I can cook something with a fancy sounding name using stuff that’s left around; it’s just saffron risotto. Mario Batali’s recipe is a pretty good one, and this is not a bad recipe to start with if you’ve never made risotto before. To get the most color and flavor out of your saffron, crush the threads before using, and soak them in hot water for 20-30 minutes before adding to the recipe. The uncrushed threads look nice in the finished dish, but I think they are a waste of the spice. Before I started crushing the threads and pre-soaking, I was always disappointed with the overall color and flavor of my saffron cooking.

Today, we had some risotto left. So I made arancini di riso. (I admit this was part of my original plan all along). The name means “little oranges of rice,” and that is kind of what they look like. These are breaded, fried balls of risotto, stuffed with gooey, melty mozzarella. I didn’t feel like getting out all the stuff to deep fry, so I made baked arancini, and they were almost as good as the fried ones.

The method: take two cups chilled, leftover risotto. Mix in two beaten eggs. Roll the mixture into ping pong ball sized balls, and press a 1/2 inch cube of mozarella into the center of each one, sealing up the risotto around the cheese.  Roll each ball in some seasoned bread crumbs, then place on a cookie sheet in the fridge to chill and firm up while the oven preheats to 425ºF. Lightly drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 25 minutes. Serve with marinara sauce for dipping.

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