Monthly Archives: March 2015

Am I a creative?

Once again, Erica at NWEdible.com has prodded me to think. Usually that is thinking about a cooking technique or garden facts or something, but this time, it is the art of a creative person working in the 9-5 world. By the way, who works 9-5? Every job I’ve ever had was 8-5. Or, I guess, 8-6 at Hawker. I only read the article because she is my favorite blogger, so everything she writes is worth a courtesy glance, even if it doesn’t apply to me. But guess what: I am a creative. I never knew that before.

First, read her article: 4 work problems of creative people and how to solve them

Oh my. I have never known that I am a creative. I am a math geek. A computer programmer. All left sided brain. Logic and reason control my work days.

Yet. Higher math is actually creative. Theoretical algebra, which I got a Master’s in because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet, is creative. It isn’t rote memorization, and it isn’t step by step. It is beautiful and mind expanding and it is creative in its own way. Theorems and axioms are the lincoln logs that allow you to build something entirely new, or at least follow in the footsteps of the great thinkers of the past.

Programming also is creative. Sometimes you have to just sit there and think. Let it paint a canvass in your head before you can type it out. I admit, as the only programmer in my company, and self taught, I don’t do waterfalls, I don’t check code in and out, and I could probably do a better job of planning out all the steps instead of just diving in. I can sometimes type and make really good progress for a couple hours in a row. Then, I have to take a break – usually by looking at the internet. I can’t start another project. What I have been working on has to percolate for a while. It has to bounce against all the fragments and half finished ideas and find a way to work together, and then, suddenly, I must flip back to my work screen and out the code comes pouring out again.

If I am doing something the easy way and not the right way, I start taking more and more breaks. Like a lot. I can’t get myself to type anymore. Eventually, I have to say to myself, usually in my head, but sometimes out loud “Fine.” It might mean ripping out a lot of code I have already done, but it will be right and it is the right thing to do.

I work full time coding for my employer, but only 3 days a week at the office and then 2 days a week at home. I get so much done at home. No commute, complete quite, no office jibber jabber and sometimes I’ll be coding and look up and it is 5:30 and I have worked 30 minutes past quitting time.

I am the only one in the company that they allow to do this. No other person gets to work at home consistently 2 days a week. I don’t think anyone else has even asked to do this. It “helps” that I live an hour away. That was a good introduction and sell to let me, but honestly, my work ethic and lack of wanting to do housework (ha! People ask me, don’t you get tempted to do laundry or dishes or something instead of working? Not even a little.) has made it a perfect fit. If they take it away from me, the day they tell me I have to go in all 5 days is the day I look for something else.

I have a flipbook of projects that need to be done. I have to write it down or get an email about it or something, or else I will concentrate on remembering it and won’t get anything else done.

You are right about the bank not caring that you are a creative. We farm and my husband and I are trying to buy (too much) farm ground that has been in the family for 7 generations (my son is the 7th). It is not possible for me to quit and pay the bills and make the land payment. It is barely possible with my job. Luckily I love my job and fit in well. My previous job, at a union-dominated aircraft company was hell for me. No quarter was given. I lived 3 hours away, drove down Monday morning, stayed overnight in a rented room until Thursday night and then came home. Did that for the first year of our marriage (the CIO had told me to talk to him after I got married he would work with me to set a schedule. After I got back from my honeymoon, I brought it up and he had an incredulous look on his face and said “I never said that!”). Worked 10 hour days. Everything was so scripted and regimented and people who were great coders/workers were lumped in with the dead weight and everyone was treated exactly the same. I hated it. The best thing that ever happened to me was being laid off from that awful company.

I think this might explain why either my house looks awesome (because I do my exact specified chores every night) or attains shithole status (I skipped a few days, so I might as well take 2 weeks off). I diet like a banshee, do really well for months at a time, then eat a cookie, which turns into 5, so I might as well have a couple dark beers and some popcorn, hey, how about some thick pieces of raisin bread? Ice cream? Sure. I look up a month later and I have taken great big giant steps backwards. The garden looks great but the backyard is awful. I take on projects and follow through with them, but the other things I don’t even see. I am focused on the things that are important, and if they are not important to me, I literally don’t think to do them unless they are on a list somewhere.

This article opened my eyes to something I have never seen before. I knit, I can, I garden, I sew, I read (a lot), I do a lot of things that would be considered creative, but I am a math geek. Therefore I can’t be creative, can I? I guess I can be.

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Homemade Sauerkraut

So I read Erica’s post at nwedible.com today about a braised cabbage recipe I can convert to Whole 30 by replacing the cream with chicken broth, and so I have had cabbage on the brain. And then, when I went past the grocery store by work, they had a sign out that said cabbage was on sale for $0.33 per pound. I didn’t want to stop, so I went past, vowing to grab some on Friday when I was back in town. Once past, and down the road, I realized we were out of some fruits and nuts at home, so I stopped at the grocery store in the town north of us. They had cabbages on sale for $0.25 / lb. It was a sign, I tell ya. So I picked up what ended up being about 16 lbs of cabbage. Total cost: $4.03.

Making sauerkraut is so easy. Cut/shred, salt, keep the cabbage below the liquid, wait 6 weeks until the fermentation is done. Really, that is it. I keep the air out and haven’t had to deal with any Kahm yeast since doing that, but some people don’t and they seem to do just fine scraping that yeast off. I figure, might as well let the air pressure out a few times during that 6 weeks and not have to scrape anything.

First, I cut the cores out and then started slicing them into large chunks. That’s a lot of cabbage.
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I ended up keeping one whole cabbage for tomorrow for the braised cabbage, so I’m krauting about 8 1/2 lbs. (An aside: my sister got me this kitchen scale for Christmas a few years ago, and it is so helpful! Get one.)
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I use approximately 2 tsp salt per pound of cabbage. I measured out 17 tsp of salt and put it in a white bowl. The picture was underwhelming. I’m sure you can do that without a picture. I use canning salt as it is pure salt and very fine, so it will dissolve and do its work quickly. I put a few handfuls of cabbage into the gallon jar, and then pour some of the salt in, and then squeeze the crap out of it in the jar. You are trying to draw the water out of the cabbage to make the brine needed to allow fermentation instead of rotting, so squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.
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Keep going until the jar is almost full. The fermentation process might make the brine bubble up over the top, so I try to leave a bit of space.
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I then take a plastic lid and cut along the radius.
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This allows you to fold it into a cone, and once you get it down past the lip of the jar, it will open up, and you can push the cabbage down and let the brine come up over the lid.
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Finally, put a lid on it. I can’t find my lid for the gallon jar. Either Boobock put it in his toy box or I threw it away. So, I used some plastic wrap and duct tape. I put a small canning jar in first and filled it with brine to help keep the cabbage down under the brine. And then I taped it up. I know. It’s redneck. Deal with it. After this picture, I realized that I could use a canning jar lid/ring on the half gallon jar, so I took off the tape/plastic wrap and used those. I’ll just need to burp it periodically, and to do that, just slightly unscrew the lid until the air escapes and then quickly shut it again.
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It needs to sit for at least 6 weeks. I put the end date on the front and marked that it would be 6 weeks on that day. I will try not to open it at all for those 6 weeks. If something happens, and it gets exposed to air, it is ok. I’ll just recover it. But keeping it out of the air, I think, really helps with keeping mold/kahm yeast out.

Once done, I transfer it to pint jars and put in the fridge. I have some left from when I did this in July and it is still perfect. I’ve heard it can be held in the fridge for years. I put it in pints because again, when exposed to air, it gets exposed to mold. So instead of a very large jar being opened and closed periodically with the risk of mold ruining all of it, I would rather open a small jar and eat it all in a reasonable amount of time, and keep the rest of them sealed in the fridge. DH likes to heat it and put it on hotdogs. That kills the probiotics that the fermenting produces, but it is still cabbage, still a vegetable, and still good for you. I like it raw, or on top of hamburgers or scrambled eggs (not cooked). Boobock loves it raw, as well. He’ll eat 1/2 a cup at a time if we let him, and will even request it sometimes if we don’t have it out for supper.

And so, now we wait for the new stuff. As spring starts up and we start eating more grilled food, the kraut seems to come out more. Hopefully we will finish the last of the jars in the fridge right when this stuff is done.

Edited to add, 3/12/2015: Well, the process is starting to work. I didn’t see any bubbles, but the brine spilled over the top to the counter, which means it is working.

Note to self: Put it in a casserole dish next time!

Mittens for Boobock

It took me a while, but I finally got the mittens done for Boobock. I got the first one done, put down my needles, and just stopped knitting for a while. The other day we got some snow and I couldn’t find the water proof gloves for him to wear so I pulled out one done knitted mitten and he used a cloth one on the other. Time to get down to it, Mom.

This pattern I found at Bev’s Country Cottage. I added a 3 stitch iCord to connect them. (I did the iCord first, the knitted both mittens, then connected them.)

There was a lot more going on with this pattern than with my first project…putting stitches on holder needles, increases, what “work even” means, using markers, etc. I didn’t like how when I did the increases it left big holes between the thumb and the rest of the mitten, so when I was stitching everything together, I brought that together as well. I also cut the yarn too close when I finished stitching things together, so I had to unstitch some of it tie it off and add another strand to tie the last cuff. Lessons learned.

Keeping track of stitches was difficult for me. I had to write down every step and check each row off as I was going. The paper looks a bit worse for wear, but it got me through these two mittens as least:
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I had some places where it said “work even for 14 rows”. In this case, the pattern was “knit one row, purl the next”. So, I wrote down 14 rows, so I could put a check by each one, like this:
1K
2P
3K
4P

14P

That was helpful, and I will do it again like this as I get into more difficult patterns.

2 Needle KNIT MITTENS FOR KIDS (pattern by Bev Qualheim-copyright 1998, 2014)
Sizes: 6-8 (9-10)
2 oz 4 ply yarn
2 stitch holders and sewing needle.
Knitting needles size 8
CUFF: Cast on 28 sts. Work in ribbing of k1, p1 for 12 rows.
HAND: Row 1: inc 1 st in each of first 2 sts, k across, inc 1 st in each of last 2 sts – 32 sts.
Row 2and All even rows: P
Row 3: K 15, place marker on needle, inc in each of the next 2 sts, place a marker on needle, k 15.
Row 5: K 15, sl marker, inc in next st, k2, inc in next st, sl marker, k 15. Continue to increase 1 st after first marker and before 2nd marker every k row until there are 12 sts between markers.
Row 12: P 16; sl sts to a holder, removing marker; p 10 (thumb); sl remaining 16 sts to another holder.
THUMB: Work even for 6 (8) rows. K 2 tog across next row. Break yarn; leave end for sewing. Run yarn through remaining sts, draw up tightly and fasten. Sew thumb seam.
TOP: Join yarn at beg of 2nd holder, p to end of row. Work even on 32 sts for 14 (16) rows.
SHAPE TOP: Row 1: (k 2 tog, k2) 8 times.
Row 2: P
Row 3: (k2 tog, k1) 8 times.
Row 4: P
Row 5: K 2 tog across. Break yarn; run through remaining sts and fasten.
Make a 2nd mitten in the same manner.
Sew up seams. I often use a hair brush to brush the inside of each mitten and make them softer.

And here is the result:
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Oh, wait, no, that was the mess of yarn that occurred when I tried to reroll the yarn up into a ball I could pull from the middle. After I was done with the mittens, it took DH and I about an hour to untangle that mess.

Here are the real results:
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A happy kid.

And two mittens.
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