I finished my gloves! I'm so glad they're done so I have them for the winter. However, making fingers is a huge pain! I don't want to make any more for a long long time...
Here's a peek at a new project--a hedgehog! Paul wanted to get a real hedgehog as a pet, but this one will have to do. I've finished the head/body and an ear so far.
I don't have a lot of knitting to show because I've been working on knitting Paul's birthday present. Shhh!
I've also started learning Italian because I'd like to go to Venice, Florence, and Rome and possibly Pompeii and Herculaneum (if I can get over my fear of Mount Vesuvius--the scientists on Secrets of the Dead said that it could very likely erupt again just as catastrophically*). I also need to start reviewing my German because I'm going to lose it. Thankfully, I'm not in danger of losing my French because Watermark Books (a local Wichita bookstore with a yummy cafe, too) has a monthly French book club (reading and discussing in French). I'm about half-way through the book for July, Marguerite Duras' L'Amant de la Chine du Nord.** I've read both and La Douleur and L'Amant by Duras and have seen Hiroshima mon amour (she wrote the screen play) but I'm still not sure that I like anything she's written and L'Amant de la Chine du Nord is not very different from L'Amant. Of course, I do like my French novels to be set in France. I wanted to study French because of Paris, not because of the language itself. To be fair, I like my English novels to be set in England as well and thankfully, being a native speaker has eliminated a desperate desire to learn the language.
Watermark Books also has a Classic Book Club that is reading War and Peace for the next three months. I happen to have a copy I've never read, so I'm going to go to that book club as well. Unfortunately, the info on the book club specifies that they will be reading the new translation, but I don't think I should be expected to run out and buy another copy of the book. Besides, the individual chapters are only 5-7 pages each, so it won't be too hard for me to figure out where everything is if the group leader will just give me a book and chapter number. There were always several editions of the same book in my French classes and we all managed just fine.
In the spirit of reading War and Peace (and because it's the only dish Paul will ever suggest) I made Beef Stroganoff (even though it's summer), which, in its present incarnation, is probably not very Russian at all. I will maintain it is the thought that counts. Besides the Martha Stewart Macaroni and Cheese recipe, Beef Stroganoff is Paul's favorite dinner and I am quite proud of it if I do say so myself. It started out as a Betty Crocker recipe, but I think I've made enough changes to call it my own.
Beef Stroganoff (serves 4, but is easily doubled)
1 lb hamburger (I use 93% lean; it's ok because there is a lot of butter in this recipe)
1 medium onion, chopped
Fresh thyme sprigs, generous amount
1/4 c butter
1t kosher salt
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 t freshly-ground pepper
4 oz. crimini mushrooms, cut in thick slices
1 can cream of mushroom soup (can use 98% fat free if you want)
Beef broth (a few tablespoons)
1 cup sour cream (you can use low-fat but not fat-free)
Cooked egg noodles
1. Melt the butter in a large skillet and then add beef, onion, and thyme leaves and cook over medium-high heat until the hamburger is no longer pink.
2. Add the flour, salt, garlic, pepper, and mushrooms and cook, stirring (almost) constantly for 5 minutes.
3. Add a few splashes of beef broth to deglaze the pan a bit.
4. Add the soup and stir while bringing to a boil.
5. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Stir in sour cream and sprinkle generously with paprika and heat through.
7. Serve over egg noodles.
I made another dish with egg noodles as well: Blanquette de veau from Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The meat alone was $45, so we're lucky that the dish turned out so well. It's like a luxe combination of Beef Stroganoff (the egg noodles mostly) and chicken and dumplings (no dumplings). Since I hadn't bargained on veal stew meat being quite that expensive (how much for the whole baby cow?) and I had already special ordered it, I was determined to stretch it as far as possible. I did succeed in getting 8 servings out of the recipe instead of the suggested 6 and everything else that is in the dish is pretty cheap (onions, carrots, white mushrooms, pearl onions, chicken stock, egg noodles, parsley and thyme that I grow myself) so I did not feel bad since we can't eat for $7 per person in a restaurant and we certainly couldn't get veal for that.
*The entire episode "Herculaneum Uncovered" is online at the Secrets of the Dead website.
**Interesting Times article about the Saigon of Marguerite Duras here.