Friday, May 30, 2008

Oh, Gentle Leader

This is a magic halter: it instantly turns the rowdiest, obnoxious, teenaged-dog into the calm, sweet guy he was when we first met him. No exaggeration here. Within about three minutes of getting it onto him (the hardest part was getting the loop over that long, skinny nose after I put the collar-part around the back of his neck - you just can't bend and smoosh a nose like that through a little loop of nylon, no matter how much you want it to work), I had him sitting on command. It's called the Gentle Leader. Isn't that great? Could be the name of a dictator, or a dog-training device.

Note tail still wagging, despite the halter on his nose:

Well, there was also the inducement of treats. Some well-timed pieces of kibble, a few gentle adjustments, and he was walking like a dream beside my left leg, looking up at me as though he was posing for the Canine Good Citizen poster. And as you can see, the dog can still smile with this gizmo on. He can play ball and drink water out of the toilet and snarf down his dinner and bark, too. Maybe the next version will stop the toilet-bowl drinking? I don't know; my female dog never did that.
Here's the side view. There's a part that you can't see in the photograph that loops from under his chin to clip behind his ears, high on the back of his neck; the piece around his nose; and a small loop below his chin to attach the leash. The idea is that by controlling the nose, I mean head, you control the whole beastie, as my daughter might say. Works, too.

The real test is this evening's first obedience class with dogs in tow. There's a terrier named Patches who looks like he's planning the next big heist of Pedigree, a Lhasa Apso named Reese whom we have not met, and then Parker. I have a feeling that there will be less gentle leading and more vigorous "leave it's" and "no's." But I am saving desert for after class. I don't know about Parker, but I'll be ready for something chocolate.

And in case all you warm-climate folks were in doubt, there are things growing in Chicago. Today I planted cosmos seeds, radishes, and zinnias and then it rained. That's the way the universe is supposed to work.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Queen of Blogs

Mason-Dixon Knitting. Because reading this made me feel much better. Coffee. Friends. Beautiful things to look at. Unsweetened whipped cream with coffee. Great food.

I know, I've already mentioned the coffee. But every morning, when I drink the formerly very good coffee that we make at home, I think of the latte at La Bonne Boulangerie in Port Jefferson, Long Island. (The pictures here can't match the experience of being in the shop. Every morning, as I was waiting for my coffee, there would be at least one or two people just gazing at the cases of baked goods, trying to make a decision. Think Tiffany's, but for deserts.) As good as Dunn Brothers in St. Paul. A perfect 5-minute walk from the motel. The perfect proportion of expresso to milk. Served very hot, even if you don't order it that way. And the most amazing pear tarts and chcolate tortes and wedding cakes and cupcakes.

Two fancy-schmancy coffee places, neither a Starbuck's, just opened down the street in the little town that I live in. Maybe tomorrow I'll haul myself out the door and try one of them, in search of a great cup of coffee.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lazy Woman Pasta

AKA Cavatappi with Roasted Red Peppers and Garlic

Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Put about 1/4 cup of good quality olive oil into a rectangular, oven proof dish. Place dish in oven while you prep the vegetables.

Take two red peppers. Cut the tops off, remove the seeds, and dice into largeish pieces - about 1" by 1". Take one large onion, peel and dice that the same way. Add vegetables to dish, add some kosher salt and freshly-ground pepper and let roast for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, peel about 8 garlic cloves (or more, depending upon your taste - what you'll end up with is wonderfully sweet roasted garlic, so more is better in this case). Place the clove on a cutting board and smack it gently with the side of a large chef''s knife so that you can peel away the papery skin. You want the clove peeled but not smashed. Do this fresh - I'm very suspicious of those large jars of already-peeled cloves in the supermarket. (My guess: either underpaid labor or a chemical process.)

Bring a large pot of water to the boil.

Add garlic cloves to your roasting peppers and onions. Stir. Add a few drizzles of olive oil - you want the vegetables to be a bit shiny but not drowning in the oil. Add a bit more pepper and salt. Let roast for about 10 more minutes.

Add a tablespoon of kosher salt to the boiling water. Pour in 1/2 pound of cavatappi, or a similar small pasta with lots of twists and turns. Cook until al dente.

Drain pasta. Add roasted vegetables and 1/2 cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a few grindings of fresh pepper. Stir well. Eat!

And if you have leftovers, because you are having dinner alone or because you want something ready to go for tomorrow's lunch, let the pasta come to room temperature before eating. A glass of Proseco is very nice with this, as is a good disc from Netflix or a last-minute dinner with a neighbor. Or you could read the best novel that I've come across in ages: The Great Man by Kate Christensen.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Stash Knitting #1

The first project mined from my small stash of yarn. The plan is to knit a felted potholder, based on the Mason-Dixon nine-patch dishcloth (here's a link to the original pattern). It's time to replace the old potholders, which are so tattered that they became victims of the dog's chewing and looked not much the worse for it.

The yarn is bits of Cascade 220 left over from a scarf that my daughter was working on; some more Cascade 220 from the felted handbag that I made in 2007; and a tiny bit of Malabrigo from a pair of purple felted mittens (apparently not in my blog). Gauge is about 12 stitches and a ridiculous number of rows to four inches: I suspect that I'm not counting correctly, but I figured two rows for every ridge, and I have about 12 or 14 ridges to four inches.

Here's my first-ever mitered border, also garnered from Mason-Dixon Knitting:
My brain had me decreasing at the corners on the first try, as though I was working a mitered square. Nope, you need to increase, so that you end up with these wonderful angled edges, which will then be sewn together.
Now for a marathon viewing of Dancing with the Stars: last night's competition, and then the finale tonight. If I learn how to download pictures from my phone, I'll have a picture tomorrow of the wild turkey visiting a colleague's house by the river in Kankakee. It was the talk of the neighborhood; many phone calls fielded back and forth between neighbors about watching out for the turkey, making sure that the turkey was safe, making sure that no one's dog bothered the turkey. We were thinking that the turkey could take the dogs, and it was so healthy looking that I suspected that it was an escapee from a zoo, except that there are no zoos near Kankakee. Turkey farmers, perhaps you might want to check your pens for a wandering, two-foot tall turkey with a crazy corsage of feathers in the middle of his chest.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Transition

The one reliable factor is change. My new word for this is "transition," which is a super-helpful way to say that I've left my full-time job to focus on yoga, but it will be all right. That reassurance is as much for me as for the person I'm talking with, as in a conversation with one of my teachers, who was asking how I planned to satisfy requirements to study anatomy and physiology or turn in a literature review for my research project: "I'm in transition right now, but I plan to complete the course this summer and send you a reading list by the end of May."

I overheard one of my students chatting with another student yesterday before sutra class started, and she was telling him that she was in transition. Hmmm, does William Safire have a Sunday Times column on this word yet? And when we went around the room, introducing ourselves to the group, at least 30% of the group was in "transition." Try it: it works. It has a sound of assurance and authority with absolutely no content behind it, but no one seems to notice, especially if you look the person straight in the eyes and maintain good posture.

What this means for me is that I'm taking the next few months to concentrate on developing yoga as my work. Instead of having a day job, I'll be studying, completing requirements for some material not covered in the regular program, teaching yoga, and working on developing a practice in yoga therapy, where I'll see students on an individual basis in order to develop a practice suited to their needs. The training that I just completed, which was led by the doctor who is the director of yoga therapy at the center in India, has been fascinating; the work that they do in healing people with physical, emotional or physiological conditions is truly amazing. It gives an entirely different perspective to yoga than what we see so often in the states.

I'll be traveling to India during the winter to spend a month at the center, interning and observing the teachers there at work with students and patients. And I'll be working on a research project that examines yoga as a therapeutic tool for paraplegics - so if you or anyone you know is interested in participating and lives in the Chicago area, please let me know and I will provide more detailed information on the nature and scope of the study. (You can email me at jbwb@att.net.)

I haven't figured out how my knitting will fit into all of this. My last splurge was yarn, needles and the Norah Gaughan pattern book with Ellis in it while I was roaming Manhattan last week. My daughter worked during the morning, and I took the subway from Brooklyn into the city. The weather was gorgeous - blue skies, gentle air, just right for walking. In between Central Park, going to the Met (dang it - closed on Mondays and I wanted to see the superhero exhibit), the Jewish Museum (great Abstract Expressionist exhibit and ten minutes' visit with a friend from grad school who is in administration there), and walking through Central Park, I found a lovely yarn store.

I could have back in Illinois. Women sitting around a big work table, knitting, gabbing, eating lunch. I splurged on the pattern book, which I've been eyeing at home, as well as some Katia linen cotton and Berroco Linen Jeans. And then, I had a true New York moment. After three or four rows of swatching the Berroco yarn, I pulled it off the needle and asked if there was a ruler that I could use to measure the gauge. The woman across the table from me looked up in horror, put her head in her hands, and said "I can't watch! I always tell my students to work at least four inches before they measure, and look at her, she's measuring after a few rows!" Then she stood up, walked to the other end of the shop, and continued to mutter "I just can't watch!" I later reassured her that 1. I know that you need to work more than three rows to get gauge but that 2. I didn't like the feel of the yarn and 3. I could already tell that I was way off the called-for gauge. It's all good, I told her. But I don't think she believed me, which also seemed somewhat not mid-Western to me.

In any case, the project is stalled at the moment. I'm not even allowing myself to go into the yarn store to ask for help on adding a button band to my Snap Cardigan (no, there are no snaps on it, that's why I added the band). I'm afraid that I'll swoon at the sight of all that yarn. If you know of a good deal on Berroco Suede or Linen Jeans, which I do like after washing and drying the swatch (I ended up with a size 5 needle to get guage, after starting with a 7), pass the info along. In the meantime, I'm trying to limit my knitting to working through my stash.