Thursday, October 20, 2016

Think ... Write ... Thursday!

Corn Critters at The Cabin

"Ten for me," I said with the confidence of the oldest cousin.
"Eleven," proclaimed Rick.
When Jack came back with "Fourteen," all of the cousins gathered around the oilcloth-covered table knew that the challenge was on.

There were five of us cousins, my parents, my aunt and uncle, and my grandparents at The Cabin, my grandparents' place in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. They had purchased the land when we were all quite young, and after tent camping for several years, we gradually built The Cabin. G'pa and G'ma (that's what we called them) hoped it would become a gathering place for the family, and that's exactly what it was. It had a pump, but no running water; Coleman lanterns, but no electricity, and an outhouse where you had to be careful not to get trapped by a skunk or sheep (true stories!). It also had a huge wood-burning cast iron stove. My grandmother had grown up using one like it, and I marveled at her abilities to bake cakes, bread, and produce delicious meals with it. Today she was making our favorite - corn fritters. 

G'ma's were not the usual deep-fried little nuggets of corn fritters; hers were more of a thin pancake consistency. Think crepes with corn in them. Sometime over our years of growing up eating G'ma's corn fritters, we cousins had morphed the name into corn critters, which we found hilarious. My sister and I grew up in eastern Pennsylvania and my cousins lived 400 miles away in Cleveland, but whenever we were together each one of us tried to eat more corn critters than the others.

I don't remember how many corn critters I managed to eat that day, but what I do recall is how absolutely delicious they were, with crispy, perfectly-browned edges, tender morsels of fresh sweet corn in every bite, seasoned only with a little salt and butter as we had been taught by G'pa. Years later, after G'ma was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a series of strokes, my mother tried to write down the corn critter recipe. To be honest, I've never made them, partly because I don't have a wood-burning cast iron stove to cook them on, but mainly because I'm happy and deliciously content with the wonderful memories of The Best Breakfast I Ever Had.

Read other Think ... Write ... Thursday! posts here, and sign up for Carole and Kat's great idea here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Do you believe ... ?

I visited The Loopy Ewe in person and all I got was a circular needle?! It's true ... sort of. I had 20 minutes to spare on Saturday during our Fort Collins visit, so I ran in and bought some size 3 needles because I brought 4s but didn't like the Hitchhiker I had started with them.

While it was a bit sad to leave without yarn, I meant to go back on Monday or Tuesday to browse and pet yarn, but there were just too many other things to do during our short visit.

Once I was home, I found that I really like the sharpness of the HiyaHiya circular I bought, and thought it would be a good idea if I ordered a couple more sizes and cable lengths. I had a little trouble with the online cart, so I called The Loopy Ewe to place my order. Lynn was so helpful and pleasant to talk to (just like all of the Loopy Elves) that when she asked if that was it for my order, several skeins of Julie Spins MCN also fell into my cart. I'm so happy to be a Wayfarer and have No Regrets.

I'm also quite pleased to have purchased new yarn while still spending maximum time with my family. Win - Win!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Beer, a Rare Unicorn, and a Rattlesnake

I was never much of a beer drinker before Ryan moved to Colorado. Wine was my alcoholic beverage of choice, with an occasional really cold Yuengling if I mowed on a really hot day. But once I started to explore Fort Collins in 2013, things slowly began to change. The town and many of its citizens pursue beer brewing and drinking with a fervor and intensity I have never seen before. There are at least 20 craft breweries, Beer Week, Tour de Fat (because after beer, bikes matter in Fort Collins), a terrific bar with 100 beers on tap, and Colorado State University offers a B.S. in fermentation science. People in Fort Collins take their beer very seriously, but also with a ton of fun.

New Belgium is one of the breweries I'm most familiar with, mainly because they have a great tour and some wonderful beer. I've visited at least four times, but Justin had never been before, so of course we had to take him.

There are beautiful mosaics on the floor between the brewing vessels in the main brew house,

and foeders built from wood previously used by vineyards to store wine. These are where the bases (Oscar and Felix) used in New Belgium's sour beers are aged.

There is a smaller pilot brewery within the larger brewery, where they experiment and brew surprises.

There is ample opportunity to taste beer throughout the tour, and we got to taste something brand new that's not even for sale yet - Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale. It's a joint venture between New Belgium and Ben and Jerry's that is meant to raise awareness and money to fight climate change. I'll be honest; I thought it was going to taste awful, but it's delicious! Our tour guide said it would be available the third week of October in 47 states. I'm going to buy plenty to drink, and I'm already imagining making some beer bread with it. A loaf with chocolate chips and one with dried cherries ...

Justin is a great son, but he wasn't willing to sneak down into the bottling room to get me some more Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Ale.

Each tour that I've been on has been slightly different, and this time our tour guide told us about beers she called Rare Unicorns. She said that sometimes the pilot brewery produces a few barrels of something they think might be interesting. These might occasionally be released into the community to see what people think, so she encouraged us to keep our eyes open. Ryan has lived here for more than three years and has never come across one of these special concoctions, so imagine our surprise when we left New Belgium, headed to Choice City for lunch, and spied a Blueberry Oscar Sour. It was excellent, maybe partly because it's fleeting and ephemeral, but truly a delightful Rare Unicorn.

And that promised rattlesnake? While we did some hiking, no rattlesnakes were seen in the wild, but when your brother lives in Texas, you just might get one of his hand-captured and hand-tanned masterpieces for your birthday. (The hole is from where he shot it.)

Better on the wall than in the wild!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Front Range and Lagrange

Flying into Denver airport provides a lovely view of the snow-capped Front Range. Some people enjoy the beach as their happy place, but for me it's definitely the mountains. Maybe someday I'll be able to live somewhere with a daily view of "my mountains", but until then, occasional restorative visits will have to do.

Fall was just beginning to arrive in Colorado and it was glorious.

In addition to the Front Range, I also attended Ryan's Calculus II class and learned about Lagrange. Lagrange multipliers are used in mathematical optimization, "a strategy of finding the local minima and maxima of a function subject to equality constraints." Got that? I'm not sure I did, despite the excellent instructor.

In addition to mountains and math, I'll tell you about beer (and maybe even a rattlesnake) next time.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Return to Real Life

The return to real life ...

is being tempered by holding on to a bit of Colorado.

I'll blather on about my trip as soon as real life and laundry quit interfering!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Right Now - October 2016

I haven't written about current happenings since April (!) so it's clearly well past time for a Right Now post. Also, I can't seem to think of anything else for today, so this is what's going on ... Right Now.

Knitting - Dr. Who fingerless mitts for Ryan's birthday. One is done, and my self-imposed deadline for the second is tonight. I might not finish, but John said he didn't think it would happen, so now I'm entering into the challenge with fervor.

Wondering - Why visits to the car repair guys are so complicated. I had new tires put on my 2012 Subaru last week, but during that visit they found an extra $1900 worth of repairs that I allegedly needed. I'm in the process of figuring out what is necessary and what isn't, but the money and time needed for repairs are both pretty big issues right now.

Learning - What struts are, what they do, and why they might be a bigger job than John and I can do ourselves. I did learn how to install new brake pads on Saturday morning, and will also be learning where my air filter is and how to install the new one later today.

Looking forward to - A short trip to Fort Collins later this week with the whole family.

Reading - Let Me Finish, The Last Days of Night, and Born to Run. They are all good so far, but I'm going to concentrate on finishing at least one so I can start Today Will Be Different for my travel reading.

Wondering - What I should pack. Reading material is all set, but the all-important question of what knitting to take is still undecided.

Drinking - Hot tea (finally!) now that fall weather has arrived. I found a box of Tension Tamer while Konmari-ing my pantry shelves, and it really brings me joy when I add a bit of the rediscovered Rumchata.

Procrastinating - Going to the post office. The USPS and I have a tenuous relationship, as many of the packages I send seem to go missing. I've learned a few tricks (like always ask for an acceptance scan when you take the package to the post office, even if you've purchased postage online) from Bill, my insider friend and customer service genius at our local office, but I'm mailing three important things today. A safe bet will be that at least one of them doesn't get to its destination.

Watching - One of my favorite movies, The Imitation Game. It's informative, moving, sad, full of lovely knits, and I was thrilled to find it on Netflix this month.

Grateful For - A yoga teacher friend telling me to "Let It Be" since "Letting It Go" seemed to be almost impossible. With "Let It Be", I am better able to put things aside, sometimes for a short while until I can gather the resources to deal with the issue, and sometimes for a much longer time when I realize how very little control and influence I might actually have. These three little words have felt almost like magic to me.

What's going on in your world right now?

Friday, September 30, 2016

Fine Line

While I was finishing this, I was envisioning FO photos. The best one in my mind was my bright blue Hitchhiker, silhouetted and contrasted against a bright blue, gorgeously sun-lit fall sky. Mother Nature has conspired against that photo by providing gray and rainy skies here for the next five days, but that's okay.

A yoga teacher friend recently told me that if I can't seem to "let it go" then sometimes "let it be" is good enough. My first "let it be" action wasn't so hard after all!

I always say this, but I think this is my favorite Hitchhiker so far. It will go perfectly with a much-anticipated trip to Fort Collins next week. I do have an idea in my mind for my next Hitchhiker, but first I've got some unselfish knitting (birthday fingerless mitts, a hat that won't be too hot during winter in Texas, and a charity hat) lined up. There also exists the possible scenario that I'll find some yarn at The Loopy Ewe so perfect I'll have to cast on for my tenth Hitchhiker immediately, but that might just prove there really is a fine line between love and obsession!

(Ravelry details here.)