Thursday, May 31, 2012

Kibble Round Up

Just wanted to share two links to absolutely delicious recipes that I've made the past week or so. (Well, links to the recipes and the recipes, just in case the internet eats the original pages.) Because good recipes deserve to be shared! (And life without the mac & cheese recipe would be sad.)

First off, a Potato & Egg Torta from

Potato and Egg Torta

My parents have been supplying us with some of their neighbor's chicken eggs which are truly awesome (and have almost orange yolks!) so I'm sure that contributed to this being so delicious. But still. Yum!

Potato & Egg Torta

- 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 7 eggs
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil

1. Peel potatoes and cut them into 1/2" slices.
2. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Add salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender but still firm. Drain.
3. In a large bowl, beat eggs and season with a little salt.
4. Heat olive oil in an ovenproof, non-stick skillet and add eggs and potatoes. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes. Place pan on middle rack in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes, until just set.
5. Invert onto a plate and cut into wedges. Serve immediately.
Servings: 6
I added a bit of garlic (because I add garlic to almost everything) but I think next time I'll add a little more. And maybe some cilantro. But even without those additions, this is tasty. Dan enjoyed putting a bit of hot sauce on it and I thought it was a delightful vehicle for salsa and we both had seconds.

Next up, One Pot Stove-Top Macaroni and Cheese from Sadly, I have no picture of this one because we ate it too quickly.

Now, in the comments over on the original post for this recipe, some folks say it's too gloopy. I didn't find that at all, but then I'm more of a Kraft Mac & Cheese girl than baked mac & cheese (which I've always found too dry and not cheesy enough), so that might have contributed. Also, I think if you use pre-shredded cheese, it might end up lots thicker because of the cornstarch they coat the cheese in so it won't stick. (As you can guess, I did not use pre-shredded cheese.) So yes, this is thick, but it's thick and creamy, not like eating paste or anything. And it's even good cold!

One Pot, Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese

- 2 cups elbow Macaroni, uncooked (about 1/2 lb)
- 2 cups Milk, **if more milk is needed, add an additional 1/4 cup
- 1 tablespoon Butter, or oil, if using cast iron
- 1/2 teaspoon Mustard powder
- 1/2 teaspoon Salt
- dash Nutmeg
- 1 cup Cheese, grated
- black pepper, to taste

1. Place raw elbow macaroni in colander and quickly rinse under water. Let drain.
2. In medium sauce pan (about 3.5 qt), add milk, raw elbow macaroni, salt, butter, mustard powder and nutmeg. (If using cast iron, pre-heat oil (instead of butter) first, then add other ingredients.)
3. On medium heat, slowly bring mixture to a simmer, stirring frequently. This will separate macaroni and keep them from sticking together. DO NOT LEAVE THE STOVE! The milk mixture will come to a boil very quickly and leaving it unattended will leave a big mess on your stove stop.
4. Once mixture comes to a simmer, immediately turn down heat to LOW. Macaroni will slowly cook in the milk. Having your heat too high will evaporate the milk too quickly!
5. Continue to stir the mixture frequently so that macaroni will cook evenly and absorb milk evenly. If you don't stir your mixture frequently, you will get a big clump of macaroni in the end! Stir, stir stir!
6. Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until milk has been fully absorbed.
**If macaroni is not cooked fully, add a little more milk or water to mixture ( in small amounts) until macaroni is fully cooked. This will take about another 5 minutes.
7. When milk has evaporated, stir in grated cheese of your choice. Stir the cheese evenly into the macaroni.
8. Turn off heat. Place lid on top of pan and cover for about 5 minutes. This rest period will allow macaroni to plump up and absorb any excess milk.
9. Take a final taste and add additional salt to taste. Before serving, stir one final time to mix everything together.
Servings: 4
I did add cayenne to the recipe (because apparently I'm addicted to it) and I probably put in a bit more cheese (maybe a cup and a half total?) which totally was't necessary but still good (and I dislike actually measuring shredded cheese because it gets sticky and mushes together and gets under my nails. So I eyeball. Generously.) I used Tillamook's Mild Cheddar, which was fantastic, but maybe a little saltier than I anticipated so next time I'll cut the salt a bit.

But anyway, this recipe was fantastically easy (I had geared up for something challenging) and I think the fact that I used my cast iron pan helped since it kept the heat even. I will totally be making this again. Actually, I kind of want to make it now. Breakfast anyone?

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Garden is My Daily Squee

It's so exciting out in my garden now. Things are growing! Okay, basically it is just the tomatoes, but the squash are efforting mightily so I anticipate some sort of future showing there.

First off, my 'maters.

Baby Romas

Romas! I have two more growing on another plant and another on the third Roma plant. Very exciting! And fun they are so oddly shaped. That makes me happy. (I think it has to do with always pulling for the underdog. I hope this means I won't become so attached to them that I will be sad when the time comes to eat them.)

Baby Marglobe

The baby Marglobe is getting bigger! Now it's the size of one of those large marbles. Shooters? Anyway, so far this one is the only thing to show between the two Marglobe plants I have. But that's okay because the Rutgers is doing nothing so at least the non-producing Marglobe doesn't have to feel bad about itself. Yet.

Honestly, I feel like a bit of a dork saying this, but I have no idea how long it will take before these hard green things turn into edible red things. When I asked my garden-guru parents, they started asking me things like how big the tomatoes were it would produce and what color they would be. I have no idea. So yeah, this whole tomato thing is a surprise from start to finish.

Let's look at my squash!

Squash Blossom (and Friend)

Well, squash bloom actually. No squash yet. I think all of the blooms to date have been boy flowers. Which has lead Dan and I to speculate if we perhaps purchased gay squash. Which would be problematic in that I'm pretty sure gay squash would not be able to naturally reproduce. Which means we would have pretty flowers. For a few hours every morning. And that's it.

Hopefully we will get some girl flowers in there soon. The flowers are pretty but they close up as soon as the sun gets too hot which, given this is Texas, is about 10:30am. The butterflies sure do enjoy them before them, though. This weekend I've only been out in my yard in the afternoon when it is nice and hot (we've hit over 100° already) and I've been sad because my yard has seemed so lonely and butterfly-less. This morning, though, I learned that that is not the case. The butterflies are simply morning bugs who siesta in the hot part of the day. They were out in force this morning when I went out at nine. Frisky, too. A couple tried to fly up my shorts.

And take a gander at who was on my okra cage this morning!

Okra Sentry

I've seen him before! Actually, this is about the fourth time I've seen him (her?), always near the okra. I'm growing kind of attached. At least I know I won't have to eat him.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Better Late Than Never?

Sometimes I'm not all that timely with this blog. Usually it's because I'm not on the computer for one reason or another and that's pretty much the case with this post here.

A week and a half ago was Mother's Day and Dan and I got invited to my parents' place for barbecue chicken and wine. (There were other delicious things there, but those were the two that I had the most of.) Not only was it a pretty sweet deal (my parents cooking for Mother's Day) but it was delicious and fun - and there were lots of flowers!

So naturally, I gift you with a slideshow.

Happy belated Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Oddities of Life

Why is it that packing now equates to Dan getting out a very strong homebrew for us to share? Half of one of his Absolutions is strong enough to make the room spin for me (yes, I'm a lightweight, but in my defense it is a very strong beer) yet it seems that lately, he has decided that room spinning is good preparation for me packing.

Of course, it does make me chill out a bit from my normal packing-related stress.

More Things are Growing!

Guess what I found in our garden today? A baby tomato!

Tomato in Training

Whee! It's about the size of a marble right now so it's got a ways to go before it is a real, live, edible tomato but hopefully it will get there. Theoretically it will be a Marglobe tomato (one Marglobe plant and one Roma were unmarked so I might have mixed them up while planting), which really doesn't mean anything to me currently, but hopefully it will by the end of the summer.

So cross your fingers with me that this little 'mater becomes a big, red, edible one (and that Dan and I get to eat it, not the buggies)!

In other news, the baby okra that was growing outside? Yeah, I went out the day after I posted my okra post and it had fallen off the plant. So my okra numbers are back to two. Sadness.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Evolution of Okra

My garden is growing things!

Okra Bloom

Surprisingly, the first fruits of our garden have been okra. (I thought it was more of a middle-of-the-summer thing, not late May thing, but, well, here we are.)

Growing Okra

And if it isn't exciting enough seeing the little fuzzy baby okra grow into big fuzzy edible okra, yesterday, I was able to take some as the first harvest from our garden!

Our First Okra

Sure, it was just two pods but we've got another one growing out there now so I feel pretty confident that our garden will produce at least a grand total of three okra. (I also have two blooms on my squash plant, but you know the whole thing about counting chickens... I'm pretty sure that applies to counting squash, too.)

Now, I know that I like okra. But okra fresh from the garden? OMG, so sweet! (As in, it tasted so sweet, not that it's sweet that my garden is growing okra... okay, though that is pretty cool, too.) I've never really been tempted to eat okra raw before but this stuff? Totally could. It's delicious.

But instead of eating it raw, I had promised Dan that I'd try my hand at fried okra. Of course, since I can't have cornmeal (what you dust okra in for frying), we tried brown rice flour (it worked well when I fried some catfish). It turned out pretty darn tasty!


Though it is a bit hard to tell when anything with brown rice flour is done because it doesn't exactly turn golden or anything. So I probably could have cooked it a minute longer, but hopefully I'll have lots more okra to experiment with this summer and I'll get the chance to perfect my timing.

Also, because I found this guy hanging out around the okra, I thought it would be appropriate to share his picture on my okra-related post. It's a new visitor to my garden!


Hopefully, I'll soon be able to post about the squash growing in my garden!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Non-Knitting Updates

I thought I'd add a little blog-related updating that isn't knitting related since I've been so focused on needles issues lately. So here it is!

First off, my finger.


It looks painful, yes? Yes. Well, it isn't nearly as painful as it was. I still have some movements (fully extending my finger, putting too much weight on my hand) that make me feel like the fingernail is being pulled off with pliers, but for the most part I think the cut on the nail bed has healed. So at this point, it's really about just letting the nail grow out. And use my metal mesh glove when I am cutting things!

My garden-growing is doing well, too. Sadly, I don't have a recent picture. Well, relatively recent, that is. I have a picture from last week but so many of the plants have really grown since then, it doesn't feel right to post that picture now. My butterbeans are particularly huge now. (They also seem to like raising their leaves vertically so that every so often, they look like they have their arms thrown up in surprise... Not really sure what that's all about but it makes me giggle.) Oh, and my okra plants have two 'ittle bitty okra growing on it! The peppers have even bloomed, too, so hopefully I will have some baby peppers showing up soon. My squash are happy-looking but no blooms yet, my zucchini is growing nicely (but it still small) and most of my tomatoes have put off at least one bloom.

We also have finally gotten our pool up! The weather hasn't been fully cooperative for constant pool days, but I get at least two or three days a week to get out there and get some sun roasting in. My shoulders are a bit warm as I type, in fact, because today was one of those delightfully sunny days. It's wonderful!

In addition to averaging a couple of sunny pool days a week, I'm also averaging about one butterfly rescue from the pool a day.

Butterfly Friend

There are a lot of butterfly friends around our yard and it seems that they occasionally decide to go swimming. It's not a good idea. I end up fishing them out, letting them hang out on my hand until they are dry enough (and warm enough) to be able to stick to our apple tree or pomegranate bush, then I transfer them over and let them dry their wings out. Surprisingly, all but one of the butterflies I've pull out of the pool have still been alive and all but one of those seems to have made a recovery. So yay! It's Baywatch for butterflies in my back yard.

Speaking of butterflies, Dan and I went to visit my parents for Mother's Day Sunday and they have a lot of wildflowers still blooming and even more butterflies! I took a nice handful of pictures which I need to go through and post. Hopefully, I got some pretty ones in there.

And I think that's about it right now. I'm sure there have been other things going on but nothing too exciting (not like what I have posted is actually exciting, but anyway) so I can't recall it right now. But I'm okay with an uneventful life because things are going pretty well so I can't complain!

Needle-y Goodness

Normal blog followers: this is long and will bore you. Sorry.

Recently, I posted a long entry sharing information about my search for the perfect wooden interchangeable needles. While the internet is a lovely resource for researching, there's nothing like touching something to figure out if it will be perfect. After all, information on the internet is either objective or subjective from someone else's perspective. But I need subjected from my perspective. So I decided to buy some needles.

Interchangeable Needle Face-Off
Needles from top to bottom: KA Switch (US9), HiyaHiya (US10.5), Addi Natura (US8), Colonial Needle Company Rosewood (US3), KnitPicks Harmony (US6), Knitter's Pride Dreamz (US5), Knitter's Pride Cubics (US11)
Cables from top clockwise: KA Switch, HiyaHiya, Addi Natura, Colonial Needle Company Rosewood, KnitPicks Harmony (my Knitter's Pride cable is in a project right now so it is unpictured, however it is just like the KnitPicks Harmony cable but colored liked the Colonial Needle Company Rosewood cable)

I realize this might be going overboard but I think a full set of interchangeables is a big decision so I'm okay with going overboard.

KA Switch
Pros: They feel very smooth, especially for bamboo, but they still have a nice, warm "wood" feeling about them. I'm particularly pleased with how smooth the taper seems. The cable is flexible and supple and it doesn't seem to want to curl up on me, even right out of the package. The swivel of the cable is very smooth - Dan found this particularly fun. The connector on the cable is nice and heavy and overall, these feel nicely solid and very quality made. Also, I think these are pretty - a nice, smooth-looking blonde.

Cons: I have two reservations about these which can only be addressed by knitting with them for a bit. First, the tips seem fairly blunt. However, I have read that having a longer taper and a lack of ridge between the taper and the shaft makes blunt needles knit like a pointier needle and these needles have no ridge and a slightly longer taper than, say, the pointier KnitPicks Harmony. Second, there is a slight indent where the metal connector attaches to the bamboo. One of the needles had a little bit of glue (?) here and my thread caught on it but the glue (or whatever it was) flaked off easily and I couldn't repeat the problem. So technically the join doesn't seem like it will be a problem, but I want to test them a bit more before I write off the potential for a problem.

Verdict: I really like these. They've got a good feel to them and, while I have two concerns, I think there is a good chance those concerns will end up being irrational worries. We shall see!

Pros: These have a very nice join - there is a slight indent but it isn't as pronounced as the KA join and the edges feel very smooth. The cable is thin and flexible - it is a tad thicker and not quite as supple as the KA cable but no so much that I think it would create a problem (though the cable seems to have a bit of memory, unfortunately, which might be problematic). The taper is nice and there's no ridge between the taper and shaft.

Cons: These are impregnated with resin to leave them smoother than typical bamboo and they are smoother than my Clove Takumi, but they aren't as smooth as the KA. Also, I think it is the resin, but they do look and feel a bit plastic-y. The connector sleeve is made with a light-weight metal (aluminum?) which isn't as heavy as the connector on the KAs. I suppose this could be seen as a positive as it makes the whole needle lighter but, to me, it makes it look and feel a little less quality (though I can't say if that impression is accurate - it's just my impression). Also, the swivel isn't very smooth. It does swivel fully but it feels a little rough and, particularly when I first started messing with them, the swivel would occasionally catch.

Verdict: All in all, I don't think these are bad needles but they don't feel as nice overall as the KAs (assuming the dent in the KAs doesn't cause a problem) even though they cost a tad bit more. I don't hate these but I don't love them either.

Addi Natura Click
Pros: These are just as smooth as the KA Switch needles are - in fact, the color and texture matches them almost exactly. But these have a smoother join - and no dimple - where the metal and wood connect. The point is not super pointy but it's pointier than the other bamboo needles I've picked up during this experiment (though I did get these in a US8, but the KAs are US9, so not a big difference in size but the Addis are noticeably pointier). I also like the cable quite a lot - it's flexible and supple and I think it's pretty super cool that they have the length printed on the cable. The way the cable and needle connect is pretty neat, too. It reminds me of how my stirring attachments connect to my Kitchen-Aid mixer.

Cons: Dude, these are long. The wood parts are longer than the wood sections on any other needle I have and the metal connector adds another inch to them. And that's without the cable attached. The metal connector on the cable adds another half inch, putting the total size of these needles at 5-1/2" long. That's a quarter inch longer than my long needles (KnitPicks and Knitter's Pride, which measure exactly 5-1/4"), half an inch longer than the HiyaHiya (which measure in at 5" on the dot) and over an inch longer than the KAs (which come in at just under 4-1/4"). [I know there are those out there with a preference towards longer needles but for me, I tend to go for shorter - not only does it feel a bit less awkward in my hand but the way I hold the needle means that the Harmony and Dreamz are just the right size to hit my palm to where I end up bending down the cable at the join. It's not a hard bend and doesn't damage the cable, but with the lack of swivel it can be a bit of a hassle to fight against. It is possible, though, that the extra half inch on the Addis will make them long enough where I won't have the cable bend problem occur so I'll only have to see how tired my hand gets holding them when knitting for long periods of time.] My second problem here is that the cables don't swivel.

Verdict: If they made these in a shorter size and had swiveling cables, I'd be all over these. It's possible the size thing won't be the issue I think it is since they aren't the same length as the Harmony and Dreamz needles, but that still leaves the swivel thing. I suppose if I don't bend the cable at the join, though, there might be less annoyance with fighting the cable. So I'm going to have to knit on these for a bit to see what I really think.

Lantern Moon Rosewood/Ebony
Yeah, I would love to be able to try these out (even after reports of a too-thick cable) and include them in my massive interchangeable face-off, but they don't sell these individually and I'm not going to drop $300 (and more!) just to test something. I will say, however, that their case looks super neat. They do sell that separately and I'll admit, the turquoise tempts me!

Clover Takumi
(The information here actually refers to the fixed circular I have since I assume the tips and cables are the same material, leaving only the connector to address. But since I hate these so much, I refuse to buy any more of them, even for comparison purposes.)
Pros: There is no ridge between the taper and shaft... That's all I got.

Cons: These are rough and draggy and dull. The cable is thick and stiff and constantly curls. The needles are light and feel hollow and gritty when they touch or rub each other.

Verdict: I keep these only because they are the only US11 needles I currently have. I actually have purchased another US11 and, once they arrive, I will be tossing these. Hate them. If someone actually liked these needles, though, I can't say if the interchangeables would be a good choice as I know nothing about the join (or if they are really anything like the fixed... I'm just assuming).

Colonial Needle Company Rosewood Interchangeable
Pros: These have a good, pointy point (as pointy as Harmony and Dreamz but not as sharp feeling, if that makes sense) and a nice looking taper. I really like the cable, too - it's thick, like the Clover cable, but it's flexible and supple so it feels more like a Harmony or Dreamz cable. It's kind of the best of both worlds - flexible but sturdy. The join is smooth, too, with a really interesting join for the cable. The cable has a screw tip poking out of the end of it (no other metal surrounding it) and that screw tip slides up into the metal connector jacket on the cable about a quarter of an inch or so and screws in. I find it pretty neat since it prevents the potential catch line of where the metal jacket of the cable hits the metal jacket of the needle. I do wonder, though, if it might lead to some unscrewing-while-knitting problems. I haven't ever run in to those before but I understand that it can be a common issue with interchangeables if the cable isn't tightened enough... and I'm not sure how tight this type of connection can really get. Lack of a metal sleeve on the cable also means that the needle length isn't extended when the cable is added (these measure 4-1/8") and I really like the overall size of these.

Cons: Unfortunately, it seems like there are some quality issues here. One of the needles I received was noticeably curved. It makes holding it fairly awkward and knitting can feel pretty funky because of it. I contacted Webs (the company I purchased the needle from) and their customer service was great, as always, but unfortunately they were out of stock on that size needle so wouldn't be able to replace it for a couple of weeks (until their restocking shipment came in).  I decided to just return the needle and cable for a refund instead of waiting for a replacement. This makes me a little sad because I think I could learn to like these but I don't think they are the needle choice for me, so it'll just be quicker to resolve it this way instead of waiting. (For the record, I really like Webs' customer service. Responsive and very helpful.) Theses also seem to feel a little light and have an almost acrylic-needle-like stickiness to them. I am guessing they have a required breaking in time. As for the lightness, I did get a US3, so naturally it isn't going to be the sturdiest thing, but it feels a bit lighter and less dense than even the US1 fixed Dreamz circular I have. (The Dreamz, though, feels more dangerously flexible than this one. But even with that oh-my-gosh-is-it-so-flexible-I'll-break-it feeling, the Dreamz still feels a bit more solid.)  Also, the cable doesn't swivel which makes me sad (but it seems that the thicker cable helps it not get crimped which might lead to less fighting the cable when MLing.)

Verdict: The more I think about it, the more I am a bit sad I didn't just wait for a replacement for the bent one. I think there is a lot of potential here with these once they are broken in (and thus a bit slicker) as long as the bend is the only quality control issue. I still do feel a little hesitant about how light they feel, but they feel good in my hands so I'm torn.

WEBS Interchangeable Bamboo
These can be purchased individually so I could have gotten some to test them, but honestly, I didn't want to. And since I picked up a pair of the Colonial Needle Company Rosewood needles and the pieces are apparently interchangeable, I thought that would count enough even though bamboo... rosewood... yeah, big difference but I'd rather take the chance on rosewood, so I did.

KnitPicks Harmony
Pros: I love the cable. Thin, supple, flexible and it never stays curled up. I even like the color (it's purple) more than the clear. The join is very smooth and the needles are smooth and nicely slick. I have heard that with lots of use, these can get stickier because of the laminate coating rubbing off, but I've not run into that problem, though I haven't had them very long.) These are also very pointy, which I count as a positive, but not everyone does. These are so pointy, though, that sometimes (particularly with splitty yards) they make it too easy to pick up just a partial stitch.

Cons: The main issue I have with these that most makes me not want these as my go-to needle set is that the cable doesn't swivel. I spend too much time fighting with the cable (especially when doing Magic Loop). Very annoying. My second problem with these isn't really an issue because it is more of a cosmetic (and personal taste) thing, but I think these needles are ugly. I'm cool with Dymondwood-type colored woods but I prefer the less obnoxious ones. Yuck.

Verdict: Honestly, if these cables swiveled, I probably would pick these up in an entire set. I've heard of quality issues with them (and I've had issues with KnitPicks Zephry needles) and I've had some problems with the Dreamz (which I view as basically the same needles) but KnitPicks has good customer service so the potential quality issues aren't that big of a deal to me.

ETA on 2/4/13: KnitPicks now has Sunstruck wood interchangeables, which are basically the Harmonies but in a pretty pale wood instead of the obnoxious Harmony colors.

Knitter's Pride Dreamz
Pros: Most of the things for KnitPicks Harmony above hold true for Knitter's Pride Dreamz. They're manufactured by the same company (and the pieces are interchangeable between sets) but have slight differences (colors mostly, from what I can tell) which allows them to sell the needles in the US. (The metal connector is also a little shorter on the needle of the Dreamz, but I don't think that makes a real difference between the two sets.) The cables are great because they are the same (though Dreamz cables are black) and the needles are nice and pointy (and yes, even too pointy at times). Unlike the KnitPicks, however, some sizes (US4 - US10) come in shorter needle lengths (good for making a 16" circular and good for folks like me that prefer shorter needles) and, unlike the KnitPicks, these aren't ugly!

Cons:Just like the KnitPicks, these cables don't swivel. Frustrating. Also, I've had quality issues with the brand. I've had two fixed US0 circs that snapped and I have some DPNs in US1.5 with some nicks in them. They aren't the interchangeables, but it is the same line so I worry, even if I think the issue is more with the material in that small of a needle size versus just the material alone.

Verdict: Even though I've said (over and over) how I clump KnitPicks Harmony and Knitter's Pride Dreamz together, I am slightly partial to the KnitPicks. Maybe it is their jaunty purple cable. Or the ugly obnoxious needles (I like Sharpei dogs, too). But yeah, I lean in the KnitPicks direction. Though really, because of the lack of cable swivel, I'd really prefer something else.

Knitter's Pride Cubics
Pros: Pointy, good cables, there are some shorter sizes available (but not in the US11 I picked up)... Pretty much all the same things as the Harmony and Dreamz. But these are square. They are also pretty - I like the darker tones of the wood grain and I'm a-ok with all of the needles being the same color, especially when they aren't an ugly color like the Harmony.

Cons: These still have the lack of cable swivel like the Harmony and Dreamz. And, unlike the Harmony and Dreamz, these are square.

Verdict: Okay, I knew these would be basically buying another Harmony or Dreamz needle. But I did it anyway because these are square. Holding them, they seem to feel more secure in my hand, but they are still square so I'm going to see how they knit before I can say if square or round Knitter's Pride needles are the way to go.

Knitter's Pride Symfonie Rose
I haven't tried these out as I imagine they aren't sold in individual pieces and, like Lantern Moon, I'm not going to drop a nice chunk of change (though this one is a smaller sized chunk) just to test out needles. I imagine, however, that they are just like the Dreamz, but a bit prettier.

DyakCraft Darn Pretty Needles
Since bad customer service led me to cancel my DyakCraft order, I (naturally) cannot include those needles in this comparison. Ah well.

ETA on 5/16/12: There is also another wooden interchangeable set, Plymouth Yarn's Rosewood set. Sadly, the reviews online trend towards the unhappy (mostly damaged or broken needles) and they don't sell these individually for replacement or testing. So there's another set that is out there.

ETA on 6/10/12: Thanks to a new Ravelry group dedicated to interchangeable needles, I have learned of another wooden (bamboo) needle set out there, Caron Tulip Carry C. Sadly, looks like these only come in a set so I won't be able to get a single needle pair to test them out.

So there it is, my massive wood interchangeable face-off. It's been kind of insane and honestly, I've probably spent what a full set of interchangeables would cost (depending on the set) just buying these individual pieces to test out. But I'm okay with that because I won't ever wonder if the grass is greener on, say, the HiyaHiya side of the fence. I know it isn't. Also, it means when I get my full set of interchangeables, I will already have a second set of back-up needles just in case I need more than one US6... or US8... or US7... or, well, you get the idea.

And what will that back-up set be back-up set to? What is my choice out of all these needles? Well, I've got one more test before I pick. Keep an eye out for that blog post! (Here it is!)

Other posts in my needle hunt saga:
Part I A and Part I B
The current post is Part II
Part III
Some gushing about the big winner
My KA Switch Short set review
And my Chiaogoo Spin and Twist review is here

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

That Didn't Last Long

Last night I posted about my DyakCraft woes but mentioned that I hadn't cancelled my order.

Well, that information is now outdated because this morning I requested a refund.

Even though I still don't have my ideal interchangeable set picked out, I decided to cancel for two reasons. One, if I knew then what I know now, I would not have ordered them in the first place. And two, even though I was (most likely) fairly close(-ish) to my order being fulfilled, it was likely the frustrations and wait-time issues would have continued even past getting the needles.

The more I've read, the more likely it seems that I wouldn't like the cables. There are a fair number of folks in the DyakCraft fan group on Ravelry that have hacked their cables to be more in line with what they like (something a bit more supple with no memory), but I don't really relish the thought of spending a hours to fix something I just bought. (Or, more likely, have Dan spend hours fixing something I just bought.) And even then there seem to be issues with the connectors cutting into the cables (though nothing really about connectors coming loose which seems to be a common complaint with other interchangeable sets, so I'll give them credit for that). Also, while the Diaks stand behind their product and will fix any problems with them, apparently they don't do that in a remotely timely manner either. It can take months for a replacement to be provided and even longer if you have to send your needles in for a fix. (I read of someone that sent their needles off to be polished and, four months later, have still not gotten them back. Yikes!) And given that they seem to be having a spell of issue-filled needles, I'm guessing that my chances of not having to deal with some problems is fairly low. Add this to the fact that it annoys me to give money to a company with such horrible customer service and you've got my reasons why I asked for a refund.

Of course, this is assuming that they read their email (and then ignore them, versus ignoring every email that comes in full stop) and I will get a refund. Sadly, PayPal (who I paid through) only supports disputes for 45 days (not eight months). But, if worse comes to worst, the charge went through on my Amex and they are really great about disputes.

Now, fingers crossed that the KAs or the HiyaHiyas are wonderful! (Or I can find out how to make the KnitPicks set have swivel cables, because that would be pretty nifty, too.)

Other posts in my needle hunt saga:
Part I A, This page is Part I B
Part II
Part III
Some gushing about the big winner
My KA Switch Short set review
And my Chiaogoo Spin and Twist review is here

Monday, May 7, 2012

Venting My Spleen: DyakCraft Needles & More

Notice to my regular blog followers: Chances are super-high that this post will not interest you. At all. But this is information I wish I had about eight months ago, so I'm putting it out there in hopes that someone else that needs it might find it. Feel free to ignore this post and rejoin the blog at my next random babbling.

Back in October, I decided I wanted a set of interchangeable knitting needles. I'm not a big fan of metal needles (they are too slippery for me and have a tendency to fall out of my work) or acrylic/plastic/resin (I don't like the feeling they give me when the needles touch each other), so I knew I wanted wood needles. Only thing is, there just didn't seem to be a lot of wooden sets out there.

I have used (and still use) KnitPicks Harmony needles as well as Knitter's Pride Dreamz needles (aside from the colors, the two are basically the same thing - the cables are even swappable between the brands) and they were fine but I felt there had to be a more luxe option out there. So I Googled.

One set kept coming up: DyakCraft's Darn Pretty needles. To read about them online, they sound like the second coming in needle form. Since I wasn't really finding any other options and these sounded so wonderful, I ordered some. The wait time listed on the website was up to three months. No problem. I'm getting good at that patience thing. I can wait three months for what sounds like perfection.

At about my three month mark, the DyakCraft website was updated to say they had an up to a six month wait time. Darn. Okay, not what I was anticipating but I'll wait. I mean, they are supposed to be awesome so another few months isn't a big deal.

Approaching my five month mark, I hadn't heard anything so I emailed the Diaks and asked for a ballpark of the time remaining. I didn't need an exact date, just an estimate. I received a friendly (though perhaps a bit harried) response that the order wasn't lost (as I had feared) but they couldn't estimate as to the time remaining. Alright, well, she (Linda) was nice and I've been cultivating patience since Dan and I started the Dave Ramsey budgeting a number of years ago. I could be Zen about it.

As we passed my six month mark, I started to get antsy. I started reading things online. I started hearing about burrs on the needles and crimping cables. But most people online brushed these issues off - they weren't a big deal because the Diaks were great about fixing any problems that came up so no worries, you'd get perfect needles, even if it didn't happen on the first try. Then a few dissenting voices started to pop up - the cables weren't the most wonderful things ever. People started mentioning that sure, the cables had a memory, but a nice soak in very hot water fixed that. Uh oh. Now I'm starting to worry. I detest cables so stiff that you are told to soak them in hot water. I have never been successful in getting a cable to straighten out with just hot water. So doubts started creeping in. But still, these needles were supposed to be great, right? And mine have to be ready any day now, right?

Currently, I am less than two weeks away from my order's eight month anniversary. I am still needle-less and the website still says there is a six month wait time. I have emailed the company twice and had no response. I started stalking the Diaks on Ravelry where there is a group dedicated to DyakCraft products and I recently saw a comment Linda Diak made in which she stated:
Communication - I doubt I will be able to communicate to everyone’s satisfaction in the near future, if ever. I have worked to let go of that expectation, as the subsequent stress of trying stops me in my tracks.
Wait, wait, wait. So my order is almost five months past the time I was told to expect it and almost two months after the extended time currently posted on the website but you won't respond to my emails because people expecting you to respond stresses you out?

And did I mention that I paid for my order in full back in October?

Needless to say, I am displeased. I am ready to cancel my order and get a refund. The only reason I haven't cancelled it yet is because I haven't settled on an alternative and I figure that I might as well keep the order open until I find the needle set I want to buy, just in case a miracle happens and my DyakCraft order actually gets fulfilled. Then perhaps I will get the needles and discover they truly are the second coming in knitting needle form and were worth the extended wait and horrible customer service. (If that does happen, I will be sure to post about it and link to the update in this post.) And if that doesn't happen? Well, DyakCraft offers a 100% satisfaction guarantee. (Updated 5/8: I cancelled my order.)

Because of my motivation to find an alternative needle set, I have been doing more intensive searching as to what wooden interchangeable needles there are out there. This is what I've found:

KA Switch: On paper, I'm in love with these. I have yet to touch a needle but they just sound so neat. First off, they are bamboo which, honestly, I'm not a huge fan of (I have one set of Clover circulars that I detest with a passion and it has made me biased against bamboo), but their websites says they use only "two kinds of the finest, aged bamboo, which are superior in density, flexibility, color and gloss" so I'm willing to give them a shot, especially for that "gloss" bit.

They have probably the largest variety of needles available for any interchangeable set I've seen - sizes US0 to US15 are available with three different diameter cables (the diameter depends on the needle size); they have 4" needles in US0 - US10.5, 5" needles in US4 - US15 and, get this, 2" needles in sizes US0 - US8. Yes, 2" long needles. And they have 5" long cables for them so you can make a 9" circular. Honestly, I have no idea if I would ever want or need a 9" circ, but how cool is it that I could have one? (Mind you, all of those different needles do not come in the same set. They have the short set of the 2" needles and a couple different sets of the 4" and 5" needles in various sizes and the extended set that offers most of the available sizes.) The needles also have a swivel cable and screw join (both features that were selling points for me with the DyakCraft needles).

So yeah, I love everything I hear about the KAs. I found a few places online that sell them - Pink Feather Knitting, Paradise Fibers and Kaleidoscope Yarns (full disclosure: three or four days ago I emailed Pink Feather and Paradise with a few questions about the KAs and haven't heard back from either place) - but there is nowhere nearby that I can go to test them out. So I ordered a US9 with a 19.5" cable on eBay to get my grubby little mitts on a set to try them out.

HiyaHiya Bamboo: Currently, these are my theoretical second choice. They are also bamboo but these are impregnated with resin which is supposed to make them stronger and smoother than typical bamboo needles, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt. (I'm really trying to not let my one Clover circ taint all bamboo for me.... trying is the operative word.) These come in two sets split into a 4" or 5" small set (US2 - US8) and a 5" large set (US9 - US15) and each set uses a different diameter cable.

After the excitement of finding a set that offers both 2" needles and sizes as small as a US0, HiyaHiya isn't quite as exciting to me, but I did go ahead and order a US10.5 with a 32" cable. These were my number one choice until I happened upon KA so I figure it is only right that I can have a needle face off to see which I like better (and if either are my ideal interchangeable).

Next up we have a few other options that aren't my cup of tea (or at least aren't until KA and HiyaHiya don't work out for me), but maybe they would be for someone else looking for wood interchangeables so I'll list them here.

Addi Natura Click: Addi offers these bamboo interchangeables in sizes US4 - US11. While Addis in their various incarnations seem to be the high end metal needles, the bamboo just didn't excite me, mostly because they only have 5" needles available. While I'm not thrilled that a 5" needle length means that a 24" circ is the shortest circular you can make, circ-size alone isn't a huge deal. But I do find that shorter needles fit my hands better so only having 5" length available makes me go 'meh'.

Lantern Moon: Lantern Moon actually makes two interchangeable sets, one in Ebony and one in Rosewood. I've seen pictures of them and they look lovely and quite fancy (and I adore the case). However, the reason I quickly marked these off my possible list was because of the cable - I found a Lantern Moon group on Ravelry and the most common complaint about these was the cable was so stiff, you could not magic loop. I'm not a magic-loop-or-bust kind of knitter (I probably like DPNs a little more except for when knitting two-at-a-time) but I find it helpful at times and am not willing to purchase something so massively expensive that would prevent me from using such the technique.

Clover Takumi: I detest my Clover Takumi 26" fixed circular with a passion. They are so sticky and grabby on my yarn that I feel like I'm knitting with sandpaper any time I use them and the point makes a bowling ball look sharp. So yes, I hate these and didn't even consider the interchangeable set. But it is out there and apparently some people enjoy them. From what little I've read about them, though, they are more on the value end of things and for that category of wood interchangeable, I'll just stick with the ugly but super smooth and pointy KnitPicks Harmony.

Colonial Needle Company Rosewood Interchangeable and WEBS Interchangeable Needle: I found these both on Webs but when doing a tad more searching, it looks like both sets are made by Colonial Needle Company but they are letting Webs put their name on the more 'budget' bamboo set. Anyway, I've run across these several times but quickly dismissed them. They just leave me cold. It took me a while to figure out, but I've finally put my finger on it: the sets - from the cases they come in to the black bases on the large needles to the stoppers - just look cheap. And from some of the reviews I've read on Webs, their quality is pretty cheap, too. (Though, in their defense, a fair number of people seem to adore them and have no problems.) So there are two more for the "they don't interest me but they are out there" pile.

And lastly, there is KnitPicks Harmony and Knitter's Pride Dreamz: I'm listing these together because they might as well be the same brand to me. The cables are interchangeable between the sets and, aside from wood color, I haven't been able to tell a difference between the needles. (From what I have heard, the needles are made by the same manufacturer.) Ultimately, if none of the interchangeables I've listed above work for me, I'll probably stick with these (though I imagine at some point I'll try Knitter's Pride Cubics since they are square knitting needles, which I think it pretty cool, and have 4" tips available).

The main reason why I'm not settling for these now is because I have had a few issues with these brands in general. I have some Knitter's Pride DPNs that came with small nicks and splits in some of the needles; I filed them down with a nail file and put a little nail polish on them and that has stopped them from catching the yarn so they are useable now, but that still rankles a bit. I've also had issues with some smaller fixed circulars splitting and breaking. Webs (where I bought the circs) has great customer service and replaced the broken needles promptly, but I'd really rather they not have broken in the first place.

As for KnitPicks, I haven't had any issues with their Harmony needles, but until yesterday I only owned one pair. I have, however, had massive issues with their Zephyr acrylic needles coming apart (I got their sample set - one pair each of their wood, metal and acrylic needles) which just gives me concerns about general quality control issues within their brand. Plus, perhaps it is unfair but since I mentally lump KnitPicks and Knitter's Pride together, all the issues I've had with Knitter's Pride I see as possible with KnitPicks. (Hmm, yes, looking at that in black and white, that is rather unfair.) And all that being said, I just cast on a new project with some Harmony US10 and have enjoyed the tips so far - very smooth and pointy - but I did end up fighting with the cable a few times since they don't swivel.

So there we go. A massive post about something most folks won't be interested in. But, like I said earlier, I really wish I had been able to find this information months ago so maybe this will help someone else.

Other posts in my needle hunt saga:
This page is Part I A, Part I B is here
Part II
Part III
Some gushing about the big winner
My KA Switch Short set review
And my Chiaogoo Spin and Twist review is here

Sunday, May 6, 2012

I've Been Knighted

I am now the proud owner of a chain mail glove!

Never Again!

Awesome, isn't it?

But what brought on the purchase? So glad you asked.


I put lots of gauze on my finger, thus the glove.

Okay, okay. The gauze isn't the reason. It's what is under the gauze.

Cut into the Nail Bed

Don't worry, it feels a lot worse than it looks.

Early last week, I was slicing an onion when the knife slipped and... Yeah. I ended up cutting through most of my ring finger fingernail and into the nail bed as well as to the side of my nail. There was a lot of blood. That's why the massive gauze in the first picture (taken the day after the cut happened) - it took a while for the blood to stop flowing and it oozed a lot after that so I needed to keep some fairly decent pressure on it.

In the bottom picture, taken about four days after the oops, you can see a white line across the nail right above the cuticle. That's the cut. It really doesn't look that bad, but oh my god, it does not feel good. I still can't straighten my finger all the way out without it feeling like someone is trying to rip my fingernail off. But as of today, I am able to use the finger to type - it feels uncomfortable but no longer painful - so improvement is slowly happening.

Yeah, bad cut. Thus Dan bought me a chain mail glove which will withstand knife blades, meaning I won't do this to myself again. I've use it already (when I made the butter bean curry) and it's lovely! The metal does feel a little slippery but I adjusted to that pretty quickly and it was so nice (and comforting) to use that it was pretty wonderful (because, yeah, I'll admit, I'm a little nervous when cutting things now). While I was grating the garlic and ginger was when I officially fell in love with it. I didn't have to worry about my knuckles getting grated too! It was so awesome! Seriously, if you are ever worried about knife cuts, get your own stainless steel mesh glove!

And with that, I must stop typing because my finger is complaining. By the way, I'm taking bets as to whether or not I'll lose the nail. Feel free to chime in with your vote!

Friday, May 4, 2012

My Favorite Food Made Better

I love butter beans. Or, for you non-Southerners, lima beans. Growing up, my favorite foods were cornbread and milk, Chef Boyardee Spaghetti & Meatballs and butter beans.

You heard me right. A child whose favorite food was lima beans. That was me. But y'all, they are so good. Mind you, for them to be tasty (and not just hard little nuggets of pastiness) you have to cook them a while - about half an hour if they are frozen - and get them just a wee bit mushy.

When you get good butter beans, they have an awesome creamy taste to them. And I've been lucky enough to find some really awesome butter beans (baby limas, specifically, though I've found a few other tasty varieties, too) that are sold frozen in our grocery store (by 3-B Produce, just in case you happen upon the brand). Talk about buttery, creamy aftertaste. They are fantastic. Fan. Tastic.

I seriously thought that these butter beans could not get better. But tonight I found out that they can.

I have the recipe book Curry Cuisine which has a million and a half different curry recipes in it. Some of them I won't even attempt to try, but a fair number of them don't seem too intimidating. Mind you, I don't think I've ever been able to follow any of the recipes exactly (where exactly does one get black cardamom pods?) and a few of them have turned out to desperately need salt (how can something with so many different spices in it turn out bland?) but even with the hatchet jobs I do to things, I've never had something turn out worse than just pretty good from this book (especially once salt was added). (I did, however, make the lamb in rich onion sauce from this book for Easter... it said it should serve 4 but given that it has 6 onions and 5 tomatoes (I kid you not), I think "serves 14" would have been more accurate. It was wonderful, though.)

A while back I saw the butter bean curry recipe in here and huzzah! I love butter beans! I love curry! I want to make this! At one point a while ago, I did make it (but I was out of butter beans so I used English peas. It worked and was tasty but I still felt like I didn't get an accurate taste of what the recipe was supposed to be - you know, with the main ingredient being entirely different). So tonight I thought I'd make it again (but with actual butter beans this time).

Butter Bean Curry
Please ignore that the bowl was half eaten. I didn't decided I needed a picture until we were already eating. It was that good.

Mind you, I only followed the barest hint of the recipe. Mostly the fact that I used butter beans (though not in the form the suggested and I cooked them differently) and about half of the types of spices they called for. Since I'm not sure that the authors of the book would actually recognize that my dish came from their recipe, I don't feel bad sharing it. So here it is!

Butter Bean Curry (Adapted)

- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
- 2 onions, diced
- 1¼ inch ginger root, fresh, peeled and grated
- 2 large garlic cloves, grated
- 1¼ cup crushed tomatoes
- 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- ¾ teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder
- ¾ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 2 dashes cayenne (or more)
- 1½ pounds butter beans (or baby lima beans), frozen
- 1 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
- salt, to taste

1. Put the frozen butter beans in a pot. Add water until butter beans are just covered. Add ¼ teaspoon salt to water and bring to a boil. Simmer for 25 minutes. While the butter beans are cooking, prepare the other ingredients (onions, ginger & garlic, carrots, spices, etc).
2. Heat the oil in a deep cast iron pan. Add the onions and soften over low heat for about 10 minutes. Stir in the grated ginger and garlic and continue frying until the onions are flecked golden.
3. Add the crushed tomatoes and cook until they darken slightly. Add carrots and the spices (coriander, turmeric, chili powder, cumin, garam masala & cayenne). Cook briskly for a minute before adding ⅔ cup hot water. (The butter beans should be done at this point. Set the pot aside. Don't drain it - instead, use the liquid from the pot in place of the water.) Cover the pan and simmer until the carrots are just tender (about 10 minutes).
4. Add the butter beans and another ⅔ cup hot water. Half cover the pan and simmer for 10 more minutes. Add more water if needed. (Honestly, I just dumped the rest of the pot in. Not too watery at all!)
5. Garnish with chopped cilantro and service with boiled rice.
Seriously, it's delicious! Dan even said he thought it was the best curry I've done to date (and that's saying a lot because I've done a lot of curry) and even though I'm full, I kind of want to have more. Right now.

Mmm, butter beans.