Saturday, July 18, 2009


As a rule, I enjoy little puzzles, little challenges.

Like menu challenges - but not the kind where you have two kids, each of which will eat three things only and there is no overlap. I've lived through that one, and it wasn't even slightly fun. This evening they requested an oil fondue (you deep fry stuff) followed by a chocolate fondue for dinner, and it was varied and balanced and delicious. To me too (unlike the three-foods-per-child days, when I'd settle for anything that wasn't actually disgusting to me. I was well brought up. I can eat just about anything placed in front of me. This may explain some things which I won't go into right now).

The menu challenge I most enjoyed was a dinner where one person was off wheat, one was violently allergic to all dairy (even butter), and another would eat neither mushrooms nor curry. I wanted a harmonious menu consisting of some sort of starter, probably a salad (but that's easy), an entree with side dishes and a dessert.

The biggest challenge was the no dairy and no wheat challenge - both appetizers and desserts seem most natural containing one or preferably both ingredients: think brie en croute, cheesecake, cheese souffle, chocolate cake and on and on.

I ended up making a very tasty French onion soup (using olive oil instead of butter), that was satisfying with or without toasted sourdough and with or without cheese.

The main dish (and I confess I don't remember the side dishes) was cornish game hens stuffed with wild rice, pine nuts and (except for one) mushrooms. No curry anywhere.

For dessert I made almond milk, and made that into a cream sauce (not thickening it with wheat flour - I probably used cornstarch or potato starch or somesuch), chocolate mousse (with dairy-free semi-sweet chocolate, no cream) and berry sauce. I can't believe it didn't occur to me to buy the almond milk, as it was an annoying and messy process, but I was somehow charmed by my ingeniousness - or more accurately my ability to scour recipe collections.

It was a good meal.

So a week or so ago I was compelled (because all beading, knitting and spinning that I do is compulsion, which explains why I get tetchy when I'm unable to do any of them due to things like not being around my stuff for extended periods) to dig out my earthquake box and start a peyote rope. I've worked on it intermittently since then between real projects, and it's getting long enough (twenty or so inches) that its complete lack of purpose started bothering me.

I never get that way about spinning, by the way. That I do Just Because I Want To, although occasionally I have plans which have about a fifty percent chance of actually being executed with minimal changes.

I always have a plan with knitting, some vaguer than others, I'll admit.

But this beading thing was completely open, rapidly approaching a decision point.

I considered swirling it around a cabochon as the start of a bezel, but that would have required choosing a stone, and more importantly, fixing on a single colour. Not in the mood somehow.

I continued with the peyote.

Since the earthquake box is about an inch and a quarter deep, and very full, it's a bit awkward to use the needle to dig the next bead out (it's too steep an angle so the bead slides right off again unless you grab it with a spare finger which slows the process considerably), so I'd grab a random pinch of beads into my current Stax lid (I used to use Pringles lids until they changed the plastic they used. The old kind were a soft, matte plastic, but current Pringles lids are hard and shiny and have an annoyingly convex surface when turned upside-down, which causes the beads to congregate around the edge; not useful. The Stax lids are the right consistency and configuration, but they are unfortunately rather yellow, so your colour choices, should this be an issue, must be made before the contamination of the yellow background. I really wish they still made those old Pringles lids. I haven't seen them in years. I still look) and use the size elevens in my rope, leaving a smattering of eights and sixes, lots of fifteens, and the odd bugle, cube or fire-polished bead.

Eventually my Stax lid had more not-eleven beads than elevens, and even the next pinch didn't change the proportions much, due to all the not-elevens from previous pinches.

This required sorting.
Understand that the earthquake box reached its current replete state due to my unwillingness to do sorting, but I justified this effort by noting that I was sorting by size and shape, not colour. That makes all the difference, you know.

I do believe that beaders and knitters and weavers and crocheters and spinners and tatters and lace-makers and all the people who involve themselves in activities which are essentially repetitions of a fairly narrow set of minutely varying steps have the slightest touch of OCD, not in a bad way, more like an "isn't that funny, ha ha, not that I'm mentally ill, mind you" kind of way, since I found the sorting soothing, addictive and satisfying.

Not to mention that it set me up for my next little challenge: the earthquake necklace will have no colour scheme; however it will have shape and texture and will use nothing that is not from the earthquake box and will nonetheless be at least interesting and wearable, and preferably attractive too.

I'm pretty sure I'm up to it.

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