Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Isla Wrap

It was all about the knitting this weekend. I put the vest on hold to knit a quick wrap, and then picked up the vest again.
Pattern: Isla Wrap by Jessica Vinson (you can find this for free on Ravelry)
Needle: US 8
Yarn: Blue Moon Fiber Arts Socks that Rock Mediumweight (Rosemary Rocks colorway)

I was running out of yarn, so I omitted two repeats of the folded neck band. I had to block this aggressively to get the length right, but am happy with how it turned out. And I love this yarn! Blue Moon Fiber Arts' colorways are consistently beautiful. 

I always feel sneaky when I knit something other than socks with sockweight yarn. :)

Here is the progress I've made with the vest. 
I'm in the middle of reading Fables: The Good Prince and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. This may sound like a weird combination of reading material, but they work surprisingly well together.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Photo Anatomy of a Saturday

Sleeping cat.
New yarn (after a three month yarn diet!)
WIP (Isla Wrap)
Second sleeping cat.
Meat-less, cheese-less taco night.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Look! Another successful knitting project. This one only took me two days to knit. It has a nice, rustic look to it, but unfortunately I don't have anything at all to wear with it, so it has to languish away in the closet for now.The girl modeling the vest in Classic Knits is wearing a cap-sleeved, flowery blouse on underneath, so that may be the route to go. I'm pretty crappy when it comes to outfit planning and accessorizing. 

Knitterly Specs:
Project: Tank Top from Erika Knight's Classic Knits
Yarn: Knit Picks Cadena
Needle: 15

The Cadena yarn is a bulky yarn, whereas the pattern calls for super bulky. Otherwise, I didn't make any changes or alterations. 

My latest project is ... another vest! This one is in a DK yarn with a much smaller gauge. I'm using Schulana Sierra yarn, which has been taunting me from my stash ever since I bought it five months ago.
My only concern is that this will be way too bright and colorful a vest for me to wear out in public. Hopefully that's not the case.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cassandra Cain and B.P.R.D.

I'm having a hard time tracking down some of Cass Cain's Batgirl titles. Most of them are out of print. My library has a few titles available, but I'm going to have to request them from different branches. I did get my eager little hands on a copy of Batgirl: Death Wish by Kelley Puckett and Chuck Dixon
I'm not in love with the art in this one, but the story remains very solid. We learn more about Cass' unsavory upbringing and the guilt she carries from her past. Oracle is still a major player  (yay!), and there is a charming mini-adventure involving Spoiler, the girl who will eventually take Cass' place as Batgirl. Cass also has a "death match" with Lady Shiva, fulfilling her promise from the last book (one death match, in exchange for Shiva's help in repairing Cass' preternatural sensory/empathic skills). Great stuff.
In addition to the Batgirl/Batfamily world, I'm starting to delve into Hellboy country. I enjoyed the Hellboy movies, and kept hearing great things about Mike Mignola's Hellboy/B.P.R.D books. To date I've read two of the B.P.R.D books, Being Human and Hell on Earth: New World.

Being Human is a stand-alone collection, so this was a good place to start. It didn't hurt that one of the stories featured Liz Sherman, a pyrokinetic agent and my favorite character from the films. After accidentally killing her family, Liz was sent to the B.P.R.D headquarters for monitoring, and the scientists/agents there eventually help her to control her powers. In "The Dead Remembered," Liz goes on her first adventure, one involving a malevolent spirit from the Salem Witch trial. She also begins to come to terms with her past, and her role in B.P.R.D.

In Hell on Earth: New World, Liz is reported as missing, and I slowly realize that the reason why there is a #1 on the spine is not because it's #1 in the B.P.R.D. adventures, but #1 in the Hell on Earth sequence of events. Which apparently means that I've skipped, oh, about 15 trade paperbacks worth of character development, missions, and plot lines. Sigh.

This is not to say that Hell on Earth: New World wasn't a compelling read. There's events of apocalyptic proportions happening all over the world, and Houston has apparently been wiped off the map. The B.P.R.D team is splintered, weary from damage control. But I'm sure it would have been a much better read if I had known which #1 to pick up first. Met all the characters properly, witnessed what caused these massive catastrophes. You know, good stuff like that.

That's my biggest complaint about the comic book world. It's so hard to figure out where to start. Hellboy and B.P.R.D. are pretty self-contained, but even then a girl can get confused if there are two #1's in the B.P.R.D books, but only one (the wrong one!) on the local comic book shelves. It gets even harder to wade through the superhero worlds of DC and Marvel. Say I really do want to read all about Barbara Gordon's adventures as Batgirl and Oracle? Where do I start? Where is the beginning? Oracle is in Birds of Prey, but she's in Cass Cain's Batgirl books too. What about Stephanie Brown's run? What about the regular Batman books? Which Batman books? They appear to be a hundred million, and there are more than one Batman. 

Wikipedia has been of some help, but even that can get confusing. Here's the entry on Barbara Gordon. See what I mean?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

And Yet More Soup

I wasn't kidding when I wrote earlier that I am in major SOUP mode. J and I have had soup for the past two nights now. Last night was celery and red potato soup.
I improvised this soup, using my go-to cream of potato soup recipe for a starting point. I halved the amount of potatoes I'd normally use, and added five stalks of celery. I think I overcooked the celery a little, but otherwise it tasted great. Oh, and I've been using rice milk lately in cream soups. I think it has a more "milky" hue than soy milk does, though I honestly can't taste a difference between the two.

J and I didn't cook anything tonight. Instead we went to Salem's Market and Grill and brought home an enormous container of lentil soup. I love Salem's. Everything I've ever tried there has been fresh and delicious, and the lentil soup is no exception. It has a lovely spicy aftertaste. Yum!
In comic book news, I have started my foray into the Batgirl universe by reading Kelley Puckett's Batgirl: A Knight Alone. According to Wikipedia, this is actually the second trade paperback in Cassandra Cain's legacy as Batgirl. I couldn't find the first book, A Silent Running, so just crossed my fingers and hoped that not knowing what the hell was going on wouldn't lessen my reading enjoyment.
It really didn't. Cassandra Cain is not much of a talker, and apparently spent most of her childhood training to be an assassin. I don't know if she was kidnapped from her family at a young age or not, but there's definitely something off about her upbringing (you know, besides the obvious). And she kicks ass so hard. Like Barbara Gordon in the new rebooted Batgirl series, Cass Cain is a teenager, but she isn't the giggling, whining sort. She definitely has a few issues to work through, but what makes her so compelling is a stoicism mixed in with fleeting moments of vulnerability.

Oh, and she's Asian! Yay for Asian superheroes! 
And for most of the book, she was staying with Oracle!!! Yes, this is my first introduction to Oracle, aka Barbara Gordon, the Barbara Gordon who existed before the New 52 reboot. She doesn't do much in this arc except express concern for Cass' wellbeing, but I still felt happy every time she appeared in the panels.

One thing I am still trying to figure out. Maybe this is an extremely naive question, but why is it so important that superheroes keep their identities secret? There is a storyline in A Knight Alone when Cass' identity is potentially compromised. It was also a major theme in the Gotham City Sirens book I read. I just don't understand why this is such a big deal. If you know, leave me a comment.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Yummy Fun!

Hello! Remember when I posted about winning a copy of Amey (from Vegan Eat & Treats)'s cookbooklette? Well, it arrived a few weeks ago. 

Isn't the cover adorable? There are cute illustrations on almost every page.

All the recipes sound scrumptious, but I decided to try the Quinoa-Corn Chowder with Limas.
This is such a great stew! I love quinoa, but I've only ever had it/served it as a side dish. Its light texture is a nice alternative from rice. Besides the lima beans and corn, there's red potatoes, plum tomatoes, and sriracha. Yes, sriracha as a main ingredient! It gave the chowder a bright, slightly spicy taste. It wasn't too spicy for J, who thought this was one of the best things I've made recently. So I'm sure this chowder will be popping up on the blog again. :)

 For dessert, J and I had the Vanilla Chia Tapioca Pudding from Kris Carr's Crazy Sexy Diet. I bought a copy of CSD at least six months ago. I've been wanting to do the 21 Adventure Cleanse, but frankly, am intimidated. You drink a lot of green juices (which I'm still not that comfortable with), an optional day of fasting, and basically 21 days of whole foods with an emphasis on raw. It's the raw part that gets me. To be honest, I prefer most vegetables cooked than raw. I don't even really like raw cauliflower or broccoli, the stuff most people happily gobble up with dip.

I think I'll try the Cleanse sometime in the near future. In the meantime, I'm trying to cozy up to the idea by trying some of the recipes included in the book. Dessert sounded like a great way to start.

Here's a picture of the chia tapioca. It's not that great of a picture, but it's delicious!! The chia seeds replace the tapioca pearls, and cinnamon, vanilla extract, and agave nectar give it a mildly sweet taste. The recipe called for hemp seed or brazil nut milk, but umm, I just used rice milk. It's so nice to have a healthful, guilt-free dessert.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Snow Days, Gray Sweaters

Remember that boring gray sweater I mentioned a few posts ago? Well, I finally finished it last night. I decided to add a stripe of variegated color (from yarn I hand-dyed) on each sleeve to break up the monotony. :) Here's all the knitterly information

Project: Go-To Pullover from Get Started Knitting. It looks like this book is out of print, but Amazon has a few used copies.
Needle Size: US 8 
Yarn: Cascade 220, colorway 880, and Cascade 220 in cream which I overdyed in variegated colors. 
This was supposed to be a turtleneck, but I decided to make it a crewneck instead. Oh, and my gauge was all whacked-out on this one. I had to frog and re-knit a smaller size, because the sweater I was originally knitting would have easily fit two of me. Maybe even three. 

J's sick, which meant we stayed in last night. Then today it snowed and the roads were unplowed and icy for most of the day, so I skipped my spinning class and decided to use my leftover sweater yarn to knit a sweater for the dog. Her first handknit sweater!

Project: Little Penny Sweater from Doggie Knits by Corinne Niessner. 
Needles: US 5 and 6 circular
Yarn: See my gray sweater info :) 
See the matching stripe? 

J couldn't resist taking a picture of both of us, wearing our matching sweaters. 
And now for a trade comic book review. Gotham City Sirens: Strange Fruit by Peter Calloway and Tony Bedard. I borrowed this from the library because it features Poison Ivy, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn living in one apartment, and fighting crime together. It seemed like a fun title about women superheroes kicking butt. Unfortunately, not so much. The arcs collected in this trade were lackluster, and the characters not very well-developed. Each of these female characters are interesting in their own right, but portrayed here, they seem like watered down versions of themselves. I won't be picking up the other trades. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Aw Yeah Tiny Titans!

I took half a day from work because of a nail-biting specialist's appointment, which luckily turned out well. I was also in and out of the doctors' office in 45 minutes -- and that's having undergone two procedures! Anyway, it was quite clear that celebration was in order, so I headed to Phantom of the Attic. None of this week's comics appealed to me except this gem: 
Tiny Titans! I heard that this children's comic book was fantastic from numerous sources, but wasn't sure if it would be too babyish of a read. Of course, I did read Chi's Sweet Home ... so yeah, that was a dumb concern. This issue is charming and cute and certain panels made me laugh out loud. Sadly, DC has announced that they're cancelling this title after #50, which is just two issues away! Sigh.

I've read the first eight trade paperbacks of Fables, but then lost interest. Honestly, I can't pinpoint a reason why. But I saw the ninth trade at the comic book store a few weeks back, and bought a copy. And it was really good! The Homelanders are preparing for war against the Fables and all of Mundy (i.e. human). Snow and Bigby's wolf-children are getting older and developing interesting personalities of their own. Oh, and the artwork is great, with a noir flair. My only complaint about this volume, and of what I've read before, is that the female characters aren't very memorable. You could argue that either Snow or Rose Red are the strongest female characters, but in this arc they are confined to supporting roles. To his credit, Bill Willingham has announced a spin-off series called Fairest, debuting in March, which will feature the women of Fables. Very exciting! 

One more graphic novel to review: Lynda Barry's lovely One Hundred Demons! God, I loved this book. It's funny, heartbreaking, insightful, and true. Each section is a "demon" Barry tackles, based on an ancient Zen  practice. These includes Barry's Filipino heritage, her painful descent into teenagehood, and quirky thoughts on hate and what it means to hate another person. The art is beautiful. I highly recommend this book!

Now onto the vegan food. J and I are just to going to have leftovers tonight, but the other day we had Tapas Night! 
This basically meant that I got really hyper and cooked a whole bunch of different dishes. From the top left hand corner: Polish Neighborhood Soup (leftover from the previous day), Warm Spinach and Mushroom Salad from Ripe From Around Here, polenta mishmash, and an adapted version of Southern Bowl: Chipotle Black-Eyed Peas (regular mashed potatoes without maple syrup, and no collard greens).

Here's a closer view:

Earlier this week, I made Pasta Puttanesca from Quick and Easy Vegan Celebrations by Alicia C. Simpson. Quick and easy are the key words here. This tasty linguine dish required the chopping of garlic, and then the ability to stir. Really. It took less than twenty minutes to make.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

It's All About the Soup

When winter rolls around, I kick into super-hyper soup mode. I make at least one soup per week. Tonight I found myself with a craving for cabbage, plus leftover red potatoes from the corn chowder last week. I looked through the cookbooks I borrowed from the library and decided on Polish Neighborhood (Cabbage Potato) Soup from Jae Steele's Ripe From Around Here
This soup has Tofurkey Beer Brats in it! I'd never tried the beer brats before, and they're really good. J described them as tasting like "real bratwurst, but without the grainy bits." Here here to no grainy bits! 

Apple cider vinegar and caraway seeds give this soup a tangy aftertaste. With a nice loaf of Italian bread, this made a hearty, warming dinner. 

 Okay ... you know how I wrote that I was committed to reading the new Batgirl series? Well, #5 came out this week. I read it as soon as I got home from the comic book store. And, well, it was kind of lacking. In just about everything. I've read other bloggers' complaints about Barbara's constant narration. It didn't bother me until this issue. At first, I thought the narration was charming because it showcased all of Barbara's insecurities. But now it seems like more of a cop-out. Instead of artwork that really shows us her anxieties about being a superheroine again, or a compelling plot line, we get what is basically a tepid voice-over.

I was thinking about putting together an official pull list (comics my local store will reserve for me on a weekly basis), and Batgirl will not be on it. I'll pick up #6 from the shelves next month, just to give it one final chance.

What will be on my impending pull list? Batwoman, Animal Man, Rachel Rising, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I'm still interested reading in Wonder Woman, Birds of Prey, and Swamp Thing. Oh, and I will pick up a copy of Dial H when it comes out. DC recently announced the cancellation of six titles, and six new ones. Dial H is one of these new titles, with China Mieville at the helm. Here's an interview with Mieville. The premise sounds pretty interesting.

Despite my excitement about Dial H, the cancellations seem a bit premature to me. As Sue from DC Women Kicking Ass points out here, several of these titles feature men of color, which is troubling. It also makes me feel guilty that I wasn't picking up issues of O.M.A.C or Static Shock.

Okay, time to eat half a gigantic piece of chocolate "cheesecake" from Good Foods Co-op. Here is the cheesecake in question. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Corn Chowder and Animal Man!

I've finally been doing some slightly innovative (i.e. not taco night, spaghetti, salad, or our weekly intake of Indian food) cooking. Corn chowder from the wonderful Skinny Bitch: Ultimate Everyday Cookbook and Southern Bowl: Chipotle Black-Eyed Peas with Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Collard Greens from Jae Steele's Get it Ripe
Mmm. Corn chowder with red potatoes. Is there anything better than red potatoes? With a little bit of celery to liven things up. All the recipes in Skinny Bitch are consistently excellent. I can't wait to try more. :)
I subbed kale for collard greens in the Southern Bowl. So good. I'm happy I finally picked up a copy of Get it Ripe. I borrowed this cookbook multiple times from the library, and found it at an amazingly low price at Half Price Books this weekend.

And now, on to..... (drum roll!)

Animal Man #1, 2, 3, and 4 by Jeff Lemire! I mentioned I picked up #1 and 2 at the Monroeville Phantom of the Attic last weekend. I liked those issues so much I swung by the Oakland PoA and got #3 and #4. #5 just came out last week, but sadly was sold out.

This is such a weird, amazing, fascinating book. Buddy Baker is Animal Man, a semi-retired superhero with a wife and two kids. His four-year daughter begins to show signs of having terrific powers of her own, starting off by re-animating all the dead pets in the neighborhood when her father tells her she can't have a dog. There is a creepily endearing scene where she's attempting to feed milk to a skeleton cat. 

Anyway. They journey off into a mystical zone called the Red, while Baker's wife and older son are fighting for their lives against a grotesque skin-stealing entity. Oh, and there's a talking cat that comes to Baker and his daughter's aid! Not the cat I mentioned earlier, this one comes from the Red and has all its furry parts.

As the cover of the first issue attests, some of the art in Animal Man is disturbing. This is actually the reason I put off buying an issue for so long. I kept staring at the covers at the comic book store and thinking to myself, Ewww. But it's a great story. Jeff Lemire's writing makes you care intensely about the fate of this family, and the implications of the Red and the Rot for the world at large. I can't wait to read #5. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Thoughts on the New 52, Plus Adventures in Vodka Infusion!

So. DC's New 52 are on their fifth issues (or will be in the next few weeks). This massive reboot was intended to draw new readers into the DC universe, making the comics accessible. I am one of those new readers -- I never picked up a DC comic book before the relaunch. It was through comic book podcasts that I became interested in the New 52, so I ended up picking quite a few of the #1 issues.

I started out with Justice League Dark, All-Star Western, Batgirl, and Batwoman. Of these original four titles, I dropped two of them after reading the third issue. Justice League Dark has a great premise behind it: apocalyptic events are occurring due to the machinations of the Enchantress, and the traditional superheroes (Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman) are unable to save the world. Enter a hodge podge of occult-based superheroes (and possibly villains?), who must assemble themselves and take charge. In this case, I feel that there just wasn't enough of an introduction to Madame Xanadu, Zatanna, and company, especially for someone with a zero superhero comic book background. There are too many characters, and while the art is nice and the plot interesting, I feel like I'd have to read some kind of back story for each member of JLD to truly understand what's going on and why it's so significant that this particular cast of characters are being put together on one team. Honestly, I don't care enough to do the extra work. I decided not to pick up the fourth issue of this one. 

All-Star Western was a title I was initially very excited about. I saw the Jonah Hex movie and thought he was interesting enough to follow in a comic book. I also liked the idea of a western set in early Gotham City. Oh yeah, and there's a Jack-the-Ripperesque serial killer on the loose. What could be better than that premise? Sadly, I didn't like this one. Jonah Hex is actually not that compelling of a character. More disturbingly, there are no memorable female characters anywhere in the first three issues. They are either prostitutes who are then immediately murdered, or timid, nameless shopgirls. I realize that this is the Old West, and women aren't running around emancipated, but surely they could have more a personality or function! At the end of the third issue, a young woman who has been abducted by a group of renegades is summarily killed in the street. This signified the end of All-Star Western for me. 

For many DC readers, the first issue of Batgirl was a source of controversy. Barbara Gordon was the second Batgirl, but was shot and paralyzed by Joker in 1988. She was then replaced by a succession of two new Batgirls, while forging ahead to create her new persona, Oracle. Oracle became a beloved superheroine and the founder of Birds of Prey. She was also the only disabled superhero in the DC universe. I found this wonderful essay on Barbara Gordon here. I didn't know any of this when I first read Batgirl #1, of course. I didn't understand how offensive it might be for DC to erase Barbara Gordon's past as Oracle (which it appears they have essentially done), opting instead for a miraculous cure that allowed her to regain use of her legs. 

So now I know. And still, it will not deter me from picking up issue 5 when it comes out. Barbara Gordon is charming in this new series, a bit awkward and unsure of herself, still traumatized by her past. Gail Simone writes Batgirl as a three-dimensional person, and I'm interested in her ongoing adventures.

At the same time, I plan on picking up the graphic novels of Barbara Gordon's previous incarnation as both Batgirl and Oracle. I'm also going to read about the other two prominent Batgirls, Cassandra Cain and Stephanie Brown. 

I cheated a little when it came to Batwoman. I heard through the podcast/blog grapevine about Batwoman: Elegy, which is the graphic novel about the events preceding the first issue of the 52. There was nothing but wonderful reviews about Elegy, so I read it before picking up #1. And indeed, it was lovely. So is this new Batwoman series. Kate Kane is an assertive, brave woman who stands up for her ideals. She is also a formidable superhero. And wow, the art in this is freaking gorgeous. I'm so excited about issue #5. 
I picked up the first two issues of Animal Man at the comic book store yesterday. I haven't had the time to read it yet, but I have a lot of respect for writer Jeff Lemire (Sweet Tooth is brilliant!), so I expect to add this to my New 52 pull list. 

I'm also hearing good things about Birds of Prey (despite the absence of Oracle), Wonder Woman, and Swamp Thing. I might wait until these come out in trades to pick them up, however. 

In non-comic book news, I'm catching up on Doctor Who, Season Six, Part Two. I love Doctor Who, and it's even more enjoyable on the new blu-ray player I got for Christmas! I'm thinking about picking up the blu-ray copies of David Tennant's run as Doctor Who, just so I see the episodes in HD. Tennant is my favorite Doctor, hands down.

I've been kind of slacking off in the kitchen, but I did manage to make a nice batch of tofu scramble this morning. J reminded me that we had flour tortillas in the fridge, so we made insanely huge breakfast burritos.

I also made a small jar of Lifesaver candy cane-infused vodka. For some reason, J got a crapload of vodka for Christmas this year. I'm not much of a drinker, but I had a tiny amount of green apple vodka over the holidays, and liked it enough to try my own experiment using Lifesaver flavored candy canes. 

Here it is, after I added the vodka to the candy canes. 
And here it is, a few hours later. Look how pretty it is! 

Friday, January 6, 2012

2012 = Gluttony?

New Year's Eve started out with truffles. I planned on making the Decadent Chocolate Truffles from The Vegan Table for Christmas, but an unexpected trip to the emergency room made that kinda impossible. So my mother and I made a batch of them for New Year's Eve instead. 
I rolled them in walnuts pieces, crushed graham crackers, and crystalline candy sprinkles. The candy sprinkled truffles were seriously sweet (really, what did I expect?), but the other two varieties were the perfect balance of salty and sweet. Here's a close-up picture:
I ended up munching on the leftovers for almost a week. Delicious, but definitely indulgent. I probably shouldn't eat any more desserts for a month and a half! 

Speaking of indulgence, my Christmas comic book/graphic novel haul was pretty impressive. 
Jeff Lemire's Sweet Tooth! I've been dying to read this for months now.
And the complete edition of Terry Moore's Echo! Love, love, love.

My brother also lent me his copy of Planetary volume one, by Warren Ellis and John Cassady, and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller. 

Oh yeah, and I'm going to the local comic book tomorrow!!!

So lots of indulgence going on in all areas except yarn. I've accumulated quite a stash over the past year, and am now trying to "knit it down." Here's the first project of 2012, made with a skein of yarn my brother gave me last Christmas. 
For all you yarnies out there, it's a lovely skein of Noro Silk Garden. And yup, so not vegan. I have a soft spot when it comes to non-vegan yarn.

I'm currently working on a slouchy gray turtleneck pullover, made with Cascade 220 yarn. The biggest challenge so far is the color. I typically knit with bright, vibrant yarn, but sometimes you really don't want to wear a bright pink or sparkling blue sweater. But gray can an be awfully boring color to knit with. 

I wanted to share my thoughts on DC's new 52, but since this is a pretty long post, I think I'll save it for next time.