Friday, June 30, 2017

Knitting Through the Year - June

I will come out flat-footed and personally disapprove of crocheted borders on knitted cardigans, but without in any way trying to convert those who crochet expertly and with pleasure. May their paths run smooth. ~ Elizabeth Zimmermann's Knitter's Almanac, June 

I adore Elizabeth Zimmermann. She is more or less the patron saint of American knitting and in my head? We are best friends. Among other delightful books about knitting, she wrote Knitter's Almanac. The book is full of wonderful quips and knitting ideas and patterns that suit the natural pace of each month. I am going to follow along for the whole year. Yes, normally these sort of one-year resolutions happen at New Year's, but December-January is a mad, mad time and I'm usually doing well just to stay afloat, much less coming up with grand plans.

June's project is "a bevy of hats," very suitable for warm weather knitting.

From left to right: a tri-corner tam, a ganomy hat, and a Maltese fisherman's hat.

I grabbed whatever yarn was either convenient or cheap, dug up needles that would accommodate the yarn, and dove in. I paid no attention at all to the gauges recommended, and thus I have an adult large, a 6 month size, and a toddler's hat. Whoops.

The tri-corner tam, regrettably, was made from a cheap acrylic from Walmart that reinforced every prejudice I have against acrylic. Practically before it was finished it was looking fuzzy and worn. The hat isn't warm and doesn't feel great to wear. It feels like a project rather than a piece of clothing. However, my kids love the color and it is fun and dramatic to wear. I left out one round of increases, so the pattern calls for even more size and drama.

The ganomy hat is knit from good old Cascade 220, which made it turn out quite small. The pattern calls for bulkier yarn. Looking at it, it seems like an odd shape, but I tried it on my cousin's son and it's a very ergonomic shape. Elizabeth Zimmermann also has the charming idea that one could put a ping-pong ball or a handful of wool scraps into the end of the hat and wrap a piece of yarn tightly just below it, creating a fun bobble top.

The Maltese fisherman's hat came as a surprise. It is so cleverly designed, and in the picture shown in the book, you can't see how neatly the back of it fits to the back of the head. The ear flaps are wonderfully thick and warm. As I made it, it is just a touch small for my kids, which is a shame because they love it and I think it makes Mei-Mei look like a Mongolian warrior. (I know the pictures make it look like a typical toboggan hat, but it's very helmet-y.) I changed the pattern so that there were 4 ridges of garter-stitch above the forehead instead of the 2 the pattern calls for, because I like 1" borders better than 1/2" borders. I will definitely be making more before winter.

Aaaaand the modeling session ends with a wrestling match.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

I did a thing.

So, recently I did a thing. I (like 1 of every 3 women of my acquaintance) did Whole 30. The rules for Whole30 are here, but essentially they boil down to:

 - no sugar
 - no dairy
 - no grains
 - no alcohol
 - no beans
 - no chemical additives

Lots of vegetables.

You are supposed to follow these rules 100%. There is no internal discussion, no weighing of how "good" you've been all day vs. how "bad" that piece of cake is. You do not eat the cake. End of discussion. In fact, I was so fortunate as to make two birthday cakes for Mei-Mei (her birthday party was on the Saturday after her birthday but I couldn't not make a cake on the very first birthday she's ever had with us), and I ate exactly zero of either one. I did not even lick my fingers, which requires more strength of mind than I would have thought.

Here are my conclusions, with no attempt at order.

1. Eggs and avocados and tomatoes with chiles are life. Anything that is bland or uninspiring can be cheered up with the addition of one or more of those things. Fortunately while I was doing Whole30 (and now at the time of writing!) eggs at Aldi were a jaw-dropping 28 cents a dozen. I bought 6 dozen a week.

2. I know I just said it but: avocados. They are seriously the heavy lifters. Pretty much anytime you are trying to sub for dairy, avocados are what you turn to. Baked potatoes with avocados are seriously my new favorite thing, particularly with bacon and a poached egg.

3. At the very end of the 30 days, I made mayonnaise because I wanted to make chicken salad. I had always viewed people who make their own mayonnaise with a sideways squint, but it was shockingly easy to do and seriously delicious.
In a large mouthed jar or a 2 cup measure, layer:
1 cup oil (if you have no diet restrictions I would just use regular corn oil; otherwise use avocado oil or a very light-tasting olive oil)
1 room temperature egg
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place your emersion blender in the cup or jar down to the bottom, piercing the yolk of the egg. Turn your blender on and very slowly, raise and lower the blender until all the ingredients have been emulsified. It is almost instantaneous, certainly less than 1 minute from oily concoction to hey presto! mayonnaise.* It makes about a cup and a third and kept for several days in our fridge and certainly would have kept longer if I had put it into a jar with a lid instead of an open container.

*Note that since this recipe contains raw egg, you do NOT want to put it on a sandwich that is going to sit in a hot car while you're at Six Flags. Quick exit from the fridge into your mouth is best.

4. Whole30 is seriously expensive. During this month, 'Stache was making his usual cheap breakfasts and sandwiches, I would make separate breakfasts and lunches for me and the kids (Kids: Oatmeal? AGAIN?") and then a Whole30 or Whole30-friendly dinner. (For instance, I would make fajitas for 'Stache and the kids and I would just have the spiced chicken and onions and peppers.) And our grocery bill still rose by 60%. And that's with eggs at 28 cents a dozen.

5. There is nothing, but nothing, like cream for your coffee. Over the course of the month, I tried various concoctions and really, there's nothing like milk. On day 31, when I had my first sip of espresso and milk, it was very nearly a religious experience.

6. I was shocked by how much I apparently had been eating without realizing it. Melting chocolate for the kids to dip strawberries in: well of COURSE you lick the spoon while you're waiting on the microwave! Um no, you can't. 'Cause of Whole30. It took a ridiculous, embarrassing amount of willpower and focus to not break Whole30 in moments like these. It wasn't that I was particularly craving chocolate at that moment, but the habit was so deeply ingrained that breaking it was really, really hard.

7. Apparently wasting food is anathema. I discovered that a lot of my eating-without-realizing-it moments were finishing off the kids' plates. Hey, there's half a cheese sandwich left! Can't waste it! Um, you have to. Because of Whole30. Even worse was when it was something that I really liked. My very hardest moment in the whole 30 days was when at Mei-Mei's birthday party, I was cleaning up and some kids hadn't touched their cake. Three layers of Victoria sponge cake! With homemade pink vanilla icing! The WASTE of it! It was gut-wrenching, but I didn't eat a bite. I think if this fearsome trial had occurred on day 2 instead of day 17, I totally would have caved. Knowing I'd forfeit two weeks of hard work was a powerful motivator.

8. Once you start having to read labels, EVERYTHING has sugar! Or dairy, or flour, but especially sugar. Salsa has sugar. Beef broth has sugar. Dried fruits that are not labeled as "sweetened" have sugar. Sausage has sugar. Someone explain this to me.

9. One of the things that is rough about Whole30 is that you have to actually think about your food. (Of course, this is also why it works.) There are no mindless, stop-by-Chik-fil-A, pop-that-pizza-in-the-oven meals. Which mostly was fine, but occasionally ... it really bites. Particularly on grocery day when you're driving home at dinner time exhausted and there is nothing at all that is quick in your car and the internet serves up suggestions of paying actual money for salad-hold-the-raisins-salad-dressing-croutons-cheese-and-chicken-sauted-in-questionable-oil. My go-to lunch at home was potato and avocado and bacon. Which is awesome and I ate it about 100 times because I had no idea what to cook for lunch. People who are better prepared than me make large batches of things so that they can have something ready-made, but somehow this did not actually happen while I was doing Whole30. I blame the lack of caffeine.

10. It is incredibly easy to eat a low-calorie diet while on Whole30. (Well, sure, once you toss out bread, pasta, milk, butter, and sugar, no wonder!) While on Whole30 I was also using an app (Sparkpeople) to track my calories. In order to lose weight on the schedule I wanted, I was supposed to eat 1200-1500 calories a day unless I exercised. That seemed like a scary small number in the beginning, but most days I struggled to even break 1000 calories. And I was eating potatoes! And bacon!

On what planet do these words even make sense coming out of my mouth?

11. My best take-away from Whole30 was portion control. I have had a difficult time with portion control as long as I can remember. If one piece of pie is good, two pieces of pie are better. It didn't even have to be sweet: I can eat mashed potatoes and peas for DAYS. But with Whole30, the foods were good but not indulgent and I think that helped. I was able to retrain my brain: one bowl or plate of food = dinner. No seconds. The two times I overate (Can I even TELL you how remarkable it is that only overate twice in a whole month??) I could actually tell. It felt uncomfortable now, even though it was an amount that the month before, I wouldn't have blinked an eye at.

12. I lost 17 pounds. That was nice.

I posted all of my meals on Instagram, which was very helpful to keep me honest. 
To follow me on Instagram go here. 

When Mama is taking pictures of her food every day, pretty soon everybody needs pictures of their food every day.