Thursday, December 23, 2010

Subway Art

The day before Christmas Eve, I guess it's Christmas Eve Eve, is usually the frantic one. We turn into elves running around cleaning, finishing wrapping, baking cookies, framing prints, and anything else that will feed our delusions of a picture-perfect stretch of days.

I had forgotten about this, however, and although I wish I had framed it earlier I am really happy I remembered to do it today! Need a present right now? Want to hang this in a corner somewhere, as I just did in my kitchen?

Thanks to the amazing women at the eighteen25 blog you can download the jpeg here of this 16 x 20 subway art print. Then:
1. Copy it to your flash drive
2. Run over to Kinkos/Costco/the copy room of your office and print it out.
3. Stop at Joann Fabrics/Michaels/AC Moore/anywhere for a frame and voila!
You're welcome.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Different Christmas

I've made good use of this longest night by spending it in my kitchen since the sun went down many hours ago. I am having two dinners, for both sides of our family, but it's a different Christmas this year. A young man we've known a long time, just a freshman in college, lies in a coma after a car accident 10 days or so ago. My mother's sister lost a cruel battle yesterday and left us much too soon. I cannot attend her funeral, at the other end of the state, because one of my children is under a careful health watch this week. So I spent this solstice evening baking and thinking about my friend's son, and my aunt, and what to make for dinner(s), and acknowledging that we have moved into winter. 

 But mostly, I baked. DD made her favorite chewy chocolate cookies from this Martha Stewart recipe. I made peanut butter tastycakes, a family favorite (and the second batch of the season) and molasses cookies. The shortbread turned out, as always, to be something that should be locked in a vault. The dough for piparkakut, which sounded delicious in a New York Times cookie article, is resting in in the fridge until tomorrow, along with a batch of good old sugar cookies. I ground whole cardamom for the first time tonight and the scent brought people into the kitchen from all parts of the house.

This, my friends, is a purely gratuitous picture of chunks of chocolate about to be melted.

Peanut butter tastycakes. Can't beat 'em. They are the disappearing treat around here.

Everyone will be happy about the shortbread, which was just scored here, before being returned to the oven for a long bake.  Hopefully I will have another baking session in the next few days, but if not I will bake some other things next week. 

The things that are unfolding around me are way beyond my control. The sadness of a death, the uncertainty of an injury, and the concern over a puzzling illness are realities on this longest night of the year. I have prayed, and helped, and nursed, and planned, and administered, and cried, and remembered...and then I baked. I took comfort in the peace and calm of the kitchen. I would have gathered everyone into it, if I could have.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Sew many pics!

I know, I know, that was lame.

As promised, here are images of some of the items DD and I made for the sale last week at Wyndcroft. It was a fun day!

A cute watermelon-y tote

Handy little jars of clothing repair essentials
Key fobs
A big tote with a matching key fob
Super cute apron fabric with yards of binding that DD did not enjoy making.
Zippered pencil bags
Pleated handbag
Mini handbag
Lined drawstring backpack
More backpacks
Shopping bag
I have yet to clean up the gigantic mess that used to be my sewing room, but I'm looking forward to it!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Stitches East, 2010

First, some yarn highlights:

Are those colors fantastic? It is a silk/wool yarn, hand dyed, with a matching silk scarf to incorporate into the knitted one. Absolutely gorgeous. 

These olives will become a new version of my "Wrap Me Up" shawl - which, come to think of it, needs a picture here.

I know, this merino looks blue/silver but it's not. It's a grey going to black, and will make a nice (and fast) vest.

This lace weight alpaca is so  lovely, and the colors are a bit softer than what is here - in particular the red and the blue are really more of a watermelon and dusty blue. Last night DS2 patiently helped me divvy each skein into three, and then to wind the three skeins into one for an idea I have. I want to do a color-blocked scarf with three strands held together. Yep, I could have bought a heavier yarn of the same colors. Nope, didn't want to.

Stitches was great fun, as always - - traveled with two of my friends, met lots of new friends, my favorite felted bag made lots of new friends of its own, joked around with the (unknown to us at the time) mayor of Hartford about Bill Clinton and the fact that knit happens, took a super class from Leslye Solomon of Woolstock, and already can't wait until next year. 

I hate that my poor blog has sat idle for so long. Facebook is a blog killer, I think, and I have been much busier than usual. That's not over, but it will be soon!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Craft Swap

Here are some photos of my handmade items for a recent swap with some friends. I actually still have two out to finish in some form or another and send off, but let's focus on celebrating this part, shall we?

These were for my friend Norma, and she loved them. I loved them! Love love love the yarn.

For  Martha Ann, this handbag. It is from a pattern with a few modifications. I wish I'd taken a picture of the bag feet - she was surprised to discover them well after she received the bag. Love love love the fabric.

The inside, with my little label.

Ann's knitted and felted bag. This bag is GIGANTIC. It's a tote, with a commercial base that happened to fit perfectly inside the bottom of the bag, and a beautiful silk dupioni lining. Although this bag borrows a technique I learned from a commercial pattern (applied icord around the rim) I didn't use a pattern for this one. I've made so many knitted bags by now I just kind of start knitting! The colors are perfect for Ann, and I love love love the lining fabric.

The lining, with one pleated pocket.

I have a set of spherical, heavy, fabulous bag feet that I would have loved to use here, but they didn't match. I got creative and used some well-shaped buttons instead, which I think works fine.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Maysies, Part Three

Ah, CSA day. I've posted Maysies in other years, and this one has some beautiful pictures of and August harvest. At Maysies most of the food is already picked and waiting inside the barn. There is a whiteboard listing what each share is worth - how many carrots, bunches of greens, heads of cabbage, etc. - to take. (We use one family share but if you are a larger family you can buy more shares.)

The big board on the left is detailing the week's food, and there's a sign-in sheet on the table. There are two pickups per week (you choose which day you want) and enough food is picked throughout the day to account for the number of shares expected.  

Below, the board on the left is listing which herbs are available to pick and where they are - in the Hoope House, between the barn doors, at the rock pile, or in a bed. The middle board is a map of the farm with numbered/named beds. The last board has notices of relevant events or workshops at the farm or in the area.
Up first, Chinese cabbage, broccoli, lettuce, zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, and beets.
We are also able to order from a variety of local producers for items like chickens, dairy, eggs, coffee, and bread. (Of course the coffee is not grown here but sourced responsibly and roasted here. I figured I'd qualify that before someone called me on it!) Keep in mind, the word dairy, for example covers ice cream and milk, and bread can mean amazing granola, whole grain bread, or cookies. Some items must be ordered a week ahead, and others are available for impulse purchasing.
CSA's are a good idea all the way around, from supporting local industry and protecting the land to providing all of us with just-picked healthy food for our families. Yes, my family has learned to eat, or at least try, some unfamiliar vegetables but let's face it, it's a vegetable. There are differences in each CSA, they have varying levels of involvement (read: working in the beds), may or may not be organic, may have an orchard, or may partner with other farms to offer even greater variety. 

A google search will result in lots of information, but Local Harvest is a good place to start. There's a CSA search by zip and a lot of good information. If you are local, you've probably seen the pretty Buy Fresh Buy Local logo on bumper stickers and store windows. Their website lists "1555 (and counting) places to find local food" and is a good source of restaurants, farmer's markets, grocery stores, csa's,etc. If you can get your hands on a bumper sticker they really are gorgeous.

Writing this post reminds me that I have added a few good vegetable books to my cookbook shelves, and I will review them soon. In the meantime, I'll share a greens suggestion. The "green leafy vegetables" referred to everywhere actually mean big leafy greens like kale or chard, and not a salad of Iceberg lettuce. (Sorry.) Having the greens in the fridge does not guarantee their consumption, but I have found that having a container of cooked greens does. 

For this you will need:

A large skillet with a lid
Onions, garlic, olive oil (or other, as you like)
A couple of bunches of greens
  • Wash and tear as many greens as you have on hand. I combine the longer cooking ones (collards, spinach, and kale, for example) or the more tender ones (Swiss chard and beet greens) into one batch. It is a good idea to fill a large bowl or the sink with cool water, soak and swish the greens, then let everything settle before lifting them gently from the water. There's no need to spin them or blot much before cooking, just shake them over the water and make a lovely pile on a clean towel.
  • Depending on your taste, either start an onion/garlic/olive oil saute, or soften an onion/garlic mixture in a half cup of water and a splash of olive oil by simmering for a few minutes. The saute will produce a stronger taste while the simmer will take the bite out of the garlic. Try both and you may find that one method suits a bitter green, and one a milder type. 
  • Add the damp greens, a handful or two at a time, and stir. They will quickly reduce in volume, allowing you to keep adding the rest of your pile. 
  • Cover the pan and simmer for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, depending on the greens. Your goal is a forkful of tender greens. Add water to the pan as needed, and be careful to keep them from burning. 
  • When they are finished add salt and a lot of freshly ground pepper. A splash of balsamic vinegar is nice if you want to serve them right away, otherwise, store them covered in the fridge.
 Over the next several days you can use them in sandwiches, add some to eggs, toss in with pasta, top a pile of mashed potatoes or vegetables...all you have to do is remember that they are in there, waiting to be used.



Thursday, July 8, 2010

Maysies CSA, Middle

Colorful Swiss Chard; not something we pick ourselves. The folks at Maysies harvest enough of whatever is ready each week and place it in the barn for us to pick up. Most crops are picked for us, but usually there is something we can pick ourselves, in varying amounts - - beans, shelling peas, berries, flowers, herbs, and peppers come to mind, but there are many others. 

If you are picking, there had better be a  post like this one at the end of the row, or you are not picking the right vegetable!

I want to point out the pleasure, as someone who has vegetable-gardened a little bit and flower-gardened a whole lot, the guilty pleasure, actually, of harvesting something that you didn't plant, weed, or water. Nope. You didn't get out there and sweat in the sun or nurse those seedlings along, but you do get to just stroll out to the bed and harvest away. Nice.

This picture is of the row-end supports for the blackberries. Oh, the blackberries. The supports are spaced a few yards apart and the berries form tunnels, shady tunnels humming with bees. On berry days you enter with your basket or flat container and pick the ones that just jump into your hand. Yum.

 When I took the picture below I said aloud, "I'm waiting for you" and then realized what I'd done and looked to see if anyone was around. Really, if I noticed some lady crouching in the bushes with a camera and muttering vaguely creepy things, I would call 911.
When I entered the barn, compost was being sifted. I love compost. We compost at my house, and I look forward to the day when I dump the bins onto a screen and sift through what was once banana peels, eggshells, and the discarded root ends of vegetables or otherwise unusable parts. Coffee grounds, tea bags, apple cores, pistachio shells - all of it turns into a rich, moist, black, amazing addition to the soil. It's perfect. 
Next, and last, Maysies post: Actual food.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Maysies, Part One

I'm shocked to see that I haven't posted for so many weeks. I know I've been feeling a little too multi-directional but I didn't think it was enough to make time speed up. I'll fix that, dagnabit.

I've posted before about Maysies, my CSA. For a few years we "shared a share" and picked up produce every other week while our friend Keith picked up on the off weeks. This year Keith is sharing with someone else to give them a first step into the CSA, and we are using a full weekly share.

On last week's pickup day I was happy to find that my camera was in the car and it was a beautiful day. After gathering my share from the barn and picking a bag full of basil in one of the beds, I walked around for a while and took some pictures to share. 
These guys are the official greeters, and they take their work seriously. Here they are changing shifts, I guess, or comparing notes on the day's work. I usually open my car door to find a calm dog, standing a few feet away and not really making eye contact, who escorts me from the back of the barn to the front. I get the distinct impression that if I tried make a break for it and head for the house instead, the dog would have something to say about it. Once I get to close to the barn door he loses interest in me, unless I throw a tennis ball. 

 It's a beautiful farm, from the farmhouse to the barn to the fields separated by tree breaks. 

Sam Cantrell has taken this, his family's property, and in his words, chosen to "accept the challenge of establishing an agricultural operation based on sustainability, to have the farm become my career, to utilize this wonderful resource to fulfill my commitment to conservation and education."

Another dog, making sure I made it to the right place, above, and a glimpse of the house, below.
I feel lucky to be able to walk around the farm enjoying all there is - flowers, fields, woods, beds, buildings, equipment, dogs...this is so much better than the grocery store's produce section!
Next post: Green and Growing!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cute bag

I made this bag for DS2's girlfriend for her birthday. I love the fabric, purchased at Generations Quilt Shop in Pottstown, a great source for Michael Miller and Amy Butler fabrics.

 It's an Amy Butler pattern, Frenchy, just as written, without any modifications.
The recipient seemed to like it!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lupini Love

I would like to thank the first person who, thousands of years ago, decided to try soaking lupini for a really long time to see if the bitter taste would go away. It did. Dating back to the Romans, or at least spread by them, they have become a part of many Mediterranean menus.

If you tried preparing a handful of them the way you would, say, a lima or a fava, you'd be very disappointed. They must be soaked for weeks to remove the alkaloids, which are bitter and toxic, so one does wonder just how much experimenting it took to come up with something edible. (Incidentally, I have also wondered about the whoever was brave enough - or hungry enough - to first tackle an artichoke.)

My grandparents prepared lupini once or twice a year and we all loved them tossed with red wine vinegar, a little oil, and salt. (As per the standard Americanization of the Italian language, we called them "lupines" instead of "lupini" but on the other hand, contemporary Romans clip their ending vowels too.)

Here they are dried, lovely, a pale tan and roughly the size of a dime.
After a soak, boil, and simmer, the beans are soaked in water for weeks (from one to three) and the water is changed daily. I used a half gallon mason jar kept in the fridge. The soaking time varies based on the lupini; they need to be soaked and bravely tasted until they aren't bitter. When ready they have a firm bite, like edamame. Salt is added to the water when the are finished; some preparation directions call for soaking them in brine right from the start.
Now let's just stop here for a minute to recognize that these are beautiful, shall we? They are a lovely creamy yellow, now about the size of a nickle, and are just gorgeous. Okay, moving on.

The last task is to learn how to eat them - the outer covering is not eaten and is used to eject the wait, that was when I was 10. We don't shoot them at each other any more, sorry. You can squeeze one edge to release the interior right into your mouth, or develop a technique of popping one in and doing some fancy maneuvering, sight unseen, in your mouth to separate the inedible from the delicious.
Here is a plate, ready to be served. Instead of red wine vinegar I splashed a little bit of balsamic (18 year; what else would they deserve?) and a sprinkle of salt. Lupini are nutritionally sound with a half cup containing about 150 calories, 14 grams of protein, 16 grams of fiber, and a fair amount of calcium and iron. Not a bad snack or addition to an antipasto plate. 

You may find jars of ready-to-eat lupini in the Italian section of your market, but making your own will save you from the ridiculous amounts of salt they add. It is, however, an easy way to taste them.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Baby Gifts

Making things for babies is so much fun - they are small, and can have fancy elements and finishing that might be too much work on a larger item. Plus there's the smile factor of thinking about the baby who will eventually wear the clothes you are creating.

This sweater was fun to make, and admittedly, required a bit of attention while shaping and maintaining the pattern.
But let's take a closer look at those shoes!
 How cute are these? Based on a tutorial I found online, I made a few modifications in the way the shoe is laced, and I also bound the inside seam. The fabric is one of my favorites, a vintage tablecloth I found at an antique shop. It is a beautiful, quality cotton and my photographs do not do it justice. I hoard the pieces that are left and use them when inspiration demands. As it did, actually, with this hat...
 I should actually have photographed the inside - all the seams are nicely covered with a cream single-fold bias and it looks very nice. The tape was not prewashed, however, and I hope it won't pull too much once the hat is washed. 

Back to grownup knitting and sewing!