Friday, May 4, 2012

Fava Beans and a Move

It is fava bean season and I couldn't be happier! Luckily I am not the only person in the house who thinks the green broad-bean of our ancestors is delicious, leaving lots of room for experimenting. I wrote a post  with the recipe for this tasty little bite we had with a salad the other night, and it is here, at my new website and blog.

Yep, I'm moving, and that makes me feel weirdly sad. I still love you Google, for everything else! Please follow me over too, and click the new feed if you are one of my followers. Thanks!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Books on the Coffee Table

Books. Gorgeous when they are sitting around in piles, awesome when they are opened up in your hands.

In the library there is a leather loveseat, a coffee table to catch new books, and often a cocker spaniel between the two. Other shelves hold "to be read" books as well, which means that the books here are either going to be shelved with their mates once read, or moved over to the TBR section when other new books arrive.
They look nice there, although the table is pretty much useless for anything else. It has become a landing place for new books, but also, unfortunately, a place where books I'm reading can get buried.

Let's see...
Top to bottom, above:
Leonard Cohen, Poems and Songs Required reading, he must remain visible at all times.
A Year of Living Your Yoga Nice.
Infinite Jest I swear I'm going to finish it someday.
Wool Omnibus I read all of these on my Kindle and loved them. Wanted to support the author by buying a copy, which he signed.
Far Flung and Well Fed Food writing, TBR
Zeno's Conscience TBR, I think my son gave this to me, but maybe I just thought he would also like it?
Brain Candy TBR, I have no idea what this is.
Snowmen and History of the Snowman Would have been so fun to read through again during a snowstorm. If only we'd had one.
In Defense of Food I'll get to this soon.
The Food Matters Cookbook I was pleased to find that my husband remembered that I love Mark Bittman, and bought this for me for Christmas.
Shirtmaking I will never attain this level of achievement in sewing, and I'm okay with that.
The Kitchen Linens Book is exactly what you think it is.
Steve Jobs A friend gave it to me and I look forward to reading it.
World Vegetarian My first Madhur Jaffrey. Obviously, cookbooks do not move into the kitchen until I've read them.
Nutrition A textbook from someone's class last semester.
Blink I'm loving this book!
La Bella Lingua Ditto, although it is a reminder than I have been lax in my Italian language study.
Gandhi I flew through most of it and then it found its way to the bottom of the pile on my nightstand, and now I have a hard time whenever I try to get back into it.
New York Diaries This was a great idea for a diary anthology, look into it! It's one to pick up now and then, read a bit, and put back down.
Bigfoot: I Not Dead  We, meaning my family and a few dozen people of various ages, got a kick out of this. It's pretty brilliant sometimes.
The Anthologist Started it. Stopped.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday the 13th!

Ah, a Fiber Arts Friday with stuff to share!
First up, Dillon's Longies, which I think of as Dillongies. I made these for a neighbor who lives in these comfy wool pants, longies for winter and soakers for summer, over his cloth diapers. I was shocked to find that they took a little more than two skeins of Cascade 220, and rather longer to knit than I expected. Worth every penny of the many pennies his mother pays for them! 
I swatched this Valley Yarns cotton/microfiber from my stash for a possible cardigan, but it's not going to work. I will store the swatches with the yarn for next time, with a note that I washed the swatches and they didn't budge. 
Every now and then I make a square of sock yarn for this eventual throw. Yes, it's going to take forever, but it's not only a good use of odds and ends of yarn, it gives me something to buy when I visit a yarn shop and don't see anything else! You know how it is, you want to be supportive of the friendly shop owner but there isn't one thing calling you? I can always find a pretty sock yarn, and I can tell my husband it's a vacation souvenir and not a yarn purchase. 
It's been such a long time since I worked on this (it usually lives in the car for emergencies) that I had to search for the original pattern online to figure out how I did the increases and decreases. Right, forever until it's done. 

Summer is a good time for sock knitting, and I'm getting a few things ready. I bought these two gorgeous sock yarns at The Knitter's Edge in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. I love that shop and wish it was closer. I will be dividing these into two toe-up balls with matching starting points, because that's just how it has to be. This yarn is super soft.
My daughter-in-law brought this gorgeous skein back from Trieste, Italy. I'll be casting on a pair of socks for myself this summer, too.
I added two new patterns to my library this week:
Clara, Lori Versaci
Yoked Cardigan, Hannah Fettig, from baby to adult sizes.
Finally, I knitted and donated a dog sweater for Pottstown's Bark for Life, I sewed a few Kindle covers for my etsy shop, and got a signed copy Wool in the mail yesterday. Check this post for a review of Wool! 

I'm off to explore other Fiber Arts Friday blogs!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Knitters, Wool, and Hugh Howey

Knitters are diverse. There are girly-girl knitters, geek knitters, grandma knitters, hipster knitters, nerdy knitters, and conservative knitters. A quick run-through of knitters I know gives me pagan, pastor, teacher, seamstress, software engineer, social worker ... kind of fun. Knitting brings us all to the same table, where I've noticed at least one other commonality: we read. During a gathering, once we've checked out what everyone else is making/frogging, commiserated with this one and congratulated that one, and after acknowledging yet again that we really can't cable and talk at the same time, we talk about books.

I have yet to sit with a group of knitters without ipads, phones, and Moleskines being whipped out of knitting bags to jot down the book titles that start flying around the room. We're a literate bunch. We knit and we read, and while I'm not willing to go so far as to give the collective "we" to a genre, I've noticed that a lot of us read sci fi. 

So have you read Wool?

Wool is the first in a series of short stories - novellas? installments? - by Hugh Howey. They are not about knitting. I repeat, they are not about knitting, although there is a character who knits and there is a piece of wool. We spend a few lovely paragraphs with the knitter's thoughts as she admires her needles (wooden needles in a leather pouch, "like the delicate bones of the wrist wrapped in dried and ancient flesh.") and casts on for a sweater. The titles are the best use of knitting metaphor ever:

Proper Gauge
Casting Off
The Unraveling
The Stranded

I started to think that Howey either knits or is close to someone who does, and I was  right. I read the first book, Wool, and then immediately bought the Omnibus, with the first five stories. (God love a Kindle for instant gratification.) Go get it, paperback or Kindle.  Then you'll go to his website and discover, as I did, that there is an imminent sixth story, and that there is much more to discover about Howey, his fans, and his work.

You're welcome.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Charlottesville Rambling

I spent a few days last week visiting my oldest son and his wife in Charlottesville, Virginia. I had a wonderful time...
  1. I really like my son.
  2. I really like my daughter-in-law.
  3. She knits.
  4. Really.
  5. He doesn't mind walking long distances.
  6. He walks really fast and I'm shorter than he is.
  7. A lot shorter.
  8. They read.
  9. Charlottesville is a nice place to live.
  10. They have a cute dog.
  11. Our dogs get along. 
  12. Mostly.
  13. She invited me to her knitting group.
  14. Her knitting friends are lively and lovely.
  15. Thomas Jefferson knew how to pick a building site.
  16. He walked all over town with me on a self-guided walking tour.
  17. My son, not Thomas Jefferson.
  18. Thomas Jefferson is dead now.
  19. The Spice Diva is a nice woman.
  20. I sleep on their couch when I visit alone.
  21. It used to be my couch.
  22. Feast is an awesome place to eat and shop.
  23. I still get a little weepy when I leave. 
  24. Privately, in the car.
  25. On my day of being a tourist, I logged THIS MANY steps on my Fitbit:
  26. It was great.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Ed the Barber's Wife

I have waited to open this shoebox for a few months. It's just a box full of someone else's sewing supplies, but that someone is gone, and I have her stuff. It seemed that I needed to give the box my attention, or maybe intention, before either incorporating or donating its contents. So it was set down in my sewing room, glanced at now and then, and moved out of the way until today.

Carol was Ed the Barber's wife, and I never met her or her husband. Ed is my brother's friend, barber, and fellow business owner in a small community and yes, we refer to him as Ed the Barber. After his wife's death Ed gave my brother her sewing machines and supplies, and a machine and this box passed on to me. Carol sewed for many years and was by all accounts accomplished at her craft.

My brother and his wife kept a sewing machine in a beautiful furniture-quality cabinet. I have her 1962 Singer slant-o-matic - the Rocketeer! -  which I am in the middle of cleaning and oiling, and will share when it's ready for its close-up. It is pretty awesome.

Back to the box.

I opened it this morning, with my coffee, and discovered that Carol was a lot neater than I am. Every single loose end of trim is either secured with a pin or thread. Elastics are wound around cardboard, opened hem tape is pinned and reinserted in its original package. I am embarrassed by the contrast to my jumbled drawers of supplies: tangled black and white elastic of all lengths and widths, ends of bias tape looped around odd pieces of cord and piping.

Wide trims are secured by two pins. I am in awe.
Red is a theme in this box.
There are lots of thimbles, needles, zippers, trims, and elastics. 
This thing, I love. I wonder if it was a small part of a box or kit, because two of the sides are squared, as if it was inserted into a larger piece. The top comes off and can hold needles and thimbles; the stems will hold bobbins. Right to the sewing room.
There are no unfinished projects here to give one pause, as when I opened boxes of my grandmother's sewing and crocheting. Instead I smile at how neatly stacked the worn thimbles are, at the rainbow of zippers, and the pennies-per-yard price of the trims. I will add her supplies to mine and will know where they came from when I use them. It's a continuation. For years I'll be able to say, "Hey, the hem tape on that skirt was from Ed the Barber's wife."

Thanks, Carol.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fiber Arts Friday: Diaper Man

I've made friends with my super-cute 18 month old neighbor, who lives in his comfy cloth diapers and knitted wool soakers. The long pants version of soakers are known, appropriately, as "longies". Last week I offered to darn the knees of a pair after I noticed the thinning (one knee popped a hole the moment after I spoke!) and was intrigued by the gusset. Of course I am making a pair.
I based the measurement on an existing pair that fit him well and made a foldover waist that will have an inside drawstring. Next time (notice that, next time?) I'd like a ribbed waist with a threaded draw.
Half of the diamond-shaped gusset.
One skein of Cascade 220 was used from the waist to about two inches below the crotch, if that helps in your own planning. I have yet to adjust the join, so you might be able to pick it out on the leg. This is one of those perfect projects for movie-watching and knitting group, requiring nothing more from me than moving fingers!

Need more Fiber Arts Friday? Wisdom Begins in Wonder has got you covered.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cover for the Cover

Some things are meant to wear and show distress marks as they age, like the table in these pictures or my favorite wallet, and look beautiful the whole time. Other things, like ipods or cellphones, are meant to be eternally scratch-free and are instantly encased in high-tech protection the very moment they are opened. Or so it goes, if you are me.
My Kindle Touch cover doesn't fall into either of these categories. For one thing, it is the protective cover. It's a nice shade of green, the Kindle is tightly nestled into the wired recess with its built-in book light, and it protects the screen. All good. But. What protects the cover itself?

And this, I know, is where it gets weird. There's some kind of line one crosses when considering protecting the protective apparatus. 

My Kindle (nicknamed Star Trek Reader) is on my nightstand 95% of the time. The rest of the time it's traveling with me, in my purse or suitcase. The cover is getting a little scratched in spite of my care when transporting it. It's not the kind of leather that's going to wear and soften; it's just going to look beat up. I decided the cover needed a cover, so I made this sleeve out of one of my favorite fabrics.
Insert a triumphant "ah ha!" here.
Along the way I decided it really needed a little pocket for a mini Moleskine, to be used for jotting down books for the TBR list, and a pencil sleeve. I raided the box of vintage buttons and found this dusty black one. It is fasted with a narrow black elastic loop.
I love it.
It is lined with another of my favorite fabrics.
Pretty cozy in there, yes?
While I caught some flack from family members about my aversion to scratches and dings, I might put one on etsy for the "others" out there. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Bag, a Tag, and a Nickname

Bags like this are a labor of love, taking dozens of hours to knit, an hour or two to felt, and several more to design and sew a lining. They are the ultimate in relaxing knitting - no pattern, no rules, just create a palette and start knitting. Throw in some shaping, increase here, decrease there, change a color, and make an edging dictated by how much yarn you have left. (Don't save the i-cord handles for last. You might not have enough yarn to make the two long pieces needed. Ask me how I know that.)

I already loved this bag and wasn't aware that I could love it even more until I was asked if it could be monogrammed. Ok wait, back up. Not just any monogram, but the nickname Nanchantress. Nanchantress! How great is that for a term of endearment? Annachantress. Doesn't have the same lilt, but I could ask everyone to give it a shot.

While I have a nicely equipped sewing room, none of my machines embroider beyond the basics. My friend Eleanor, however, has a Bernina artista 640. It is a sewing machine with magical computer capabilities, allowing her to do crazy things like scan a picture/resize it/embroider it onto fabric. Hands-free, while she sips a coffee and watches it work. I'm pretty sure it vacuums up the room when she finishes. She was, as usual, willing to help. We brainstormed and came up with a plan for a luggage tag for Nanchantress.
It was fascinating to watch Eleanor and the Bernina work, so I started taking pictures with my phone to show my husband so I could start dropping hints document the process.

I will try to walk you through it with a minimum of pictures (phone-quality, sorry). Before the actual stitching she had used her software to find a luggage tag shape, decided on the font, and digitized the design. 
Eleanor sprayed some temporary adhesive to my white fabric and placed it on a hooped piece of stabilizer.  She used a grid to mark what would become the center of the design.

Bernina drew an outline box, which would later be satin-stitched, and Nanchantress emerged from the needle.
The hoop was removed from the machine and a piece of lining fabric was placed, face up, on top of the design. The original outlining box was stitched on this fabric as well as a larger outline of the tag itself. Eleanor cut along the original box, below, revealing the name.
See the outline of the luggage tag shape, before trimming?
Bernina satin stitched the small box.
At this point Eleanor trimmed along the perfect satin stitching then turned the whole thing over and affixed a piece of lining fabric on the back of the hoop, creating a sandwich of my lining fabric on both sides, and Nanchantress in the middle. Again the machine stitched the larger outlining box, and Eleanor cut away the excess in order for the machine to satin stitch the edges.

The machine stitched perfectly along the edges, then went back and created an eyelet along the edge, which I later cut to insert a swivel hook.

Front and back, the finished tag. Notice the eyelet in the picture below, on the right, with a tail still attached.

A beautiful finish to the bag; a lovely gift. I have ordered a few luggage tags for myself now, after seeing this one!

Nanchantress, enjoy!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Chickpea Deliciousness

This dish, from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, ranks as one of the most delicious stews I've ever made. Every bit of it disappeared from our bowls with unanimous approval. It was involved, but not difficult, and while I made my chickpeas from dried, canned may be used. I made a big pot of chickpeas and divided them between this recipe and a Mark Bittman bowl of chickpeas, their broth, homemade bread crumbs, garlic, and toasted almonds. Also delicious.

I didn't stray far from the original recipe so I could get a feel for the dish, and I won't next time, either. There are three parts to this dish: the stew, the Romesco sauce, and the picada. No major orchestration required as far as timing, just the usual organized prep, then proceed. 

The recipe is written to serve four. I thought I'd make it into five servings and send someone off with lunch the next day, but it turns out it really is four. At least, if it is a main dish for hungry vegetarians!

Potato and Chickpea Stew
1 pound waxy-fleshed potatoes*
3 tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
2 generous pinches saffron
2 large red bell peppers, diced
1 large yellow or red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch wide strips
1 heaping tsp sweet paprika
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 cup medium-dry sherry
2 cups crushed tomatoes with juice
2 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (or two 15-oz cans, rinsed)
3 cups chickpea broth, stock, or water
1 1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
chopped parsley for garnish

*If using fingerling potatoes, halve them lengthwise. Large round potatoes can be cut into thick rounds or quartered.

Warm the oil in a wide pot with the onion, garlic, saffron, peppers, and potatoes. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring gently every now and then, until the potatoes are tender-firm, about 25 min. Add the paprika, parsley, and red pepper flakes, and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the sherry and cook until the juices are thick and syrupy, about 12 minuntes.

Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, and broth, stock or water to cover. Season with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper; cover and cook over low heat until the potatoes are completely tender, about 20 min. If the stew is soupy and you plan to serve it right away, stir in 1/4 cup picada (or more if necessary) to thicken it. If you don’t plan to serve the stew for 1 hour or more, it may not need the bread crumbs since it will thicken as it stands. Serve in soup plates with any additional picada sprinkled over the top along with the extra parsley. Add a spoonful of the Romesco sauce to each bowl and pass the rest.

Soaked and cooked chickpeas; I also spent a quick minute rolling them between a towel to remove the skins. 
Romesco Sauce
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, and seeded
1/4 cup almonds, roasted
1/4 cup hazelnuts, roasted and peeled
1 slice country-style white bread
olive oil for frying
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tsp ground red chile or red pepper flakes
4 small plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper
1 tsp sweet paprika
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
This Catalan sauce is utterly delicious served with chickpeas, roasted potatoes, or grilled vegetables.
To roast the peppers, place them under a broiler or over a gas flame until the skins are charred. Put them in a bowl, cover with a plate, and set aside for 15 min. Peel and seed the peppers.
Roast the nuts in a 350°F oven for 7 to 10 min., or until they smell toasty. Let them cool slightly, and then rub the hazelnuts between the folds of a towel to remove loose skins. (The almonds don’t need peeling.)
Fry the bread in a little olive oil until golden and crisp. When the bread is cool, grind it with the nuts and garlic in a food processor or a mortar until fairly fine. Add everything else but the vinegar and oil and process or work with the pestle until smooth. With the machine running, or your arm working if you’re using a mortar and pestle, gradually pour in the vinegar, then the oil. Taste to make sure the sauce has enough salt and plenty of piquancy
The excitement of roasting a pepper over the stove's flame!
Deborah's picada, which I didn't use because the stew looked just the way we'd like it, is as follows:
Toast 1/4 cup peeled almonds until pale gold. Slowly fry one slice of white country-style bread in 2T olive oil until golden on both sides. Grind bread, almonds, 2 cloves of garlic, and a pinch of salt in a food processor to a crumbly paste.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Spice Cake

Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme are lovely, but why aren't there songs about spices?
With or without frosting, this is my go-to recipe for spice cake. It's quite nice to bake it in two 8 inch square pans and freeze one while the other is served simply with a powdered sugar sprinkle.  

For my husband, who loves spice cake, there must be cream cheese frosting. I bake it in a 9x13 then, as the frosting will not support a double layer.
Quite a treat!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Week Down

Well, nearly a week. But that's on top of two weeks already this month! Tricksey viruses.

One afternoon I read Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children and enjoyed the story and the creepy pictures...

I ordered these Harmony needle tips in a size 4 from KnitPicks
because they are pointy and will work well with my yarn from Wolles Yarn Creations in these beautiful colors...
and I ate lots of these...
and began knitting a pair of fingerless gloves and baby booties. Last night in a burst of ambition I spent a few hours in my sewing room, and started a cargo skirt from a length of very nice fast drying/sunblock fabric. This friend (I know, how great is she?)
Photo, Jacob Wallace
has suggested that a similar style might be nice for climbing, so I'm thinking of designing one with that in mind.

I also discovered that being sick in bed with this
is much better than being sick in bed without it.