Monday, May 31, 2010

Moleskine News!

In a fun day of shopping with DD and, for part of the day, with DS2, we managed to buy a lot of birthday presents for June people.  I can't put up pictures because some of those June Birthday People read this blog, but I can, however, share the excitement of a new line of Moleskine journals - "Passions" journals. I bought a "Recipe" journal today - and it has stickers!

AND, for all you Moleskine fans, have you been to their website?? You can use templates to download and print extra pages, import your calendar and print it out to use in your Moleskine, or even...wait for your own pages - with images - and print. 

Customize your Moleskine. Print extra pages. I can hardly stand it.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Spring Minestrone

As I was flipping through Moosewood's "Daily Special" cookbook the other day, I realized that I have marked a ridiculous number of pages without trying the recipes, so I tested two of them a few days ago. French Barley Salad which is, alas, not pictured, was a delicious mix of barley, yellow bell pepper, carrot, mushroom, green beans, and walnuts tossed with a lemon vinaigrette. Lovely, and I'll make it again. The Spring Minestrone is a delicious and healthful clear soup that I will make variations of this summer.

It started with a homemade broth that included some of the trimmings from the barley salad - green beans, mushrooms - and my standard onion, garlic, celery, peppercorns, carrots, herbs, cloves, potato, and whatever else needs to be used up. Actually the soup started much earlier when I soaked a pot of white beans, which I prefer over canned if there is time.
I boiled the beans for two minutes then covered and soaked them for just over an hour. They were tender, but not done. After adding salt and pepper they probably simmered for about 30 minutes before I took them off the heat. 

While the broth simmered I prepped the soup ingredients:
 Frozen peas, salt/pepper/oregano/tarragon, zucchini, onion and garlic, celery, and kale, all waiting to go into the pot. The leeks hadn't looked good at the market, unfortunately, but they would have been nice.

The onions were sauteed for a few minutes before adding the celery and seasonings for their turn. Stock and zucchini, beans, greens and peas were added with a simmer between each. 
A splash of cider vinegar finished each bowl, with a pass of parmesan. Quite easy, light, and good for you!

Finally, it's been a while since a gratuitous picture of Rusty showed up. Here he is visiting my local yarn shop. Yes, he poses. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Look What I Found

I was digging through a basket of yarn - actually, I was dumping the basket because I wanted to use it - and I found this little baby sweater. 
 I stared at it blankly for many minutes before I remembered it at all. I started it a few years ago while recuperating from surgery, as a charity piece. (In my defense I completed several charity items during that time, and shipped them all off to their respective organizations.) This must have been the last one. I remember that my daughter went out and bought the yarn for me but I don't know which pattern I was using - luckily there isn't much left to do but finish the sleeve and continue adding trim and a button band to the front. I wonder what else is in that closet.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Next Sweater

DS1 is a sweater kind of guy, which is lucky, since I'm a sweater kind of knitter. I'm starting a new one for him in a light color - a first in his collection of dark browns, blues, greens, and charcoals. The plan for this sweater is to fit it to him along the way, so I will work on bits of it to the point where he is needed, and then wait to see him to check the fit and plan the next step.

This is the yarn, Cascade Ecological Wool,an undyed Peruvian wool that has not been chemically processed. It's a heavy worsted, very smooth yarn with a nice drape and feel. Now let me tell you, that is a huge basket and those skeins are enormous as far as skeins of yarn go - 478 yards. I bought 6 skeins, which is probably enough to clothe a giant, but I'll just return the extra.

The price of receiving a handknit sweater is helping to wind it from the skein. This used to be accomplished by children who sat for many long minutes with their arms extended, yarn draped between their hands, while I wound the yarn into balls. Being intelligent children, they quickly bought me a swift and a winder at the earliest opportunity. 
Here is the wool unbound and held in suspension on the swift. If you are lucky it takes as long to put it on the swift as it took to type this sentence. Every now and then you have a mess, a tangle of yarns that have no intention of unwinding smoothly or even in the same direction. Somewhere close to the swift you have...
...the ball winder. DS1 is the operator here, winding with one hand and keeping the other on the yarn for tension. The goal is a compact ball of yarn that will not collapse into a huge knot or be so tightly wound that the yarn is exhausted from being stretched.

We wound four of the skeins, leaving two intact in case of returns. Since this sweater is being knitted without a pattern I only have a rough idea of how much yarn I'll need, so I'll wind the other skeins if I need them. The wound balls are gorgeous, as always, and very big! There is nothing for scale in this picture but they are large, two-handed, 6-inch diameter, not-going-to-stuff-into-my-purse balls of yarn.
They also, incidentally, pull from the center. As all balls of yarn should.
Finally, here's the beginning. Worked up from the bottom, this is the ribbing at the waist with a few inches of body worked. It looks small but that's because the circular cable is shorter than the circumference of the sweater, to keep the stitches moving along. The pretty stitch marker indicates the beginning of a round of knitting. Once I reached this point in the knitting, I slipped it onto a larger cable so it could be tried on and we could confirm that it is the desired width at the bottom. 
Last night I cast on for a sleeve ribbing and knitted a cuff for DS to try on. It was a 48 stitch ribbing and just a little too loose, so I pulled it and will cast on 44 stitches for a better fit.

Now if only I could just sit down for hours and hours at a stretch and knit....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Graduation and Funeral

A blog post without pictures, for me, is unusual but I will try to be brief.

Yesterday was a study in contrasts for me, and I was constantly aware of it and mentally flipping back and forth between what I was doing with my husband and children, and what another part of my family was doing.

My stepfather, who I love dearly, lost his mother, Concetta, a few days ago. She was 89 and lived a good, healthy life that took her from a village in Italy to Philadelphia. I only saw her sporadically but enjoyed her broad smile and fantastic cooking, and she appreciated that I also cook, and do many things by hand. 

The funeral was held yesterday, which meant my mother and stepfather couldn't attend my daughter's college graduation, and we could not attend the funeral. The two events happened simultaneously and I was vividly aware that while we were assembling at the Dell on campus, my brother and parents were in church. I couldn't help reflecting on Concetta's path as on this day my daughter's feet were placed on hers in a tangible, intentional way. Everything about the ceremony I was attending - the families coming together, the prayers,the processions, the flowers, the sadness of an ending mixed with the hope for a beginning - echoed what was happening a few hours away, and the shadow of a funeral took place in my mind the entire time.

This is not to say that I was distracted by grief or focused on the funeral; I simply could not shake the feeling that I was living in a split screen movie scene. We were the actors on the stage yesterday, and I felt it most powerfully.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Gotta love a good brunch!

The Be Hungry Brunch for eight people, in honor of my Aunt Stella and Uncle Jim visiting from out of state, was a lovely way to spend a Sunday morning cooking and a few hours of the afternoon enjoying the food and guests.
Publishing the menu on my Facebook page was the final straw that brought DD home from school for the day. I think it was the chocolate croissants.
 If you've every "made" mint water, have you found it's the first pitcher to go?
A little slice of the table...
Waffles were made in the room, on the server, which was really handy. 
An interesting cook's note: For the first time, I boiled the potatoes for a few minutes before draining and preparing for roasting. They were quite good and had a very crispy exterior. I'll do that again.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Miso Happy and Knitting Too

I love the UPS man. He is always smiling and happy, and he gives me things. 

Yesterday he gave me two boxes. The first one had an order from South River Miso. While I can buy their miso locally, their website has all their current products and the ones that are, most importantly, soy free. DS2 has a soy allergy and while I have become adept at whipping up a soy-free soy sauce (say that 3 times fast) I thought we'd try their Miso Tamari, Chickpea Miso, and Azuki Miso, all of which are delicious. (The tamari is from chickpea miso.) I also ordered a sample pack including Sweet White, Dandelion Leek, and Three-Year Barley. Yep, Miso happy.

The next box was from Knit Picks, and was a combination of things for me and for DS1SO. (That cracks me up, by the way. She came up with it and it stands for, of course, Dear Son #1's Significant Other.) They make really nice quality circulars with changeable tips in different materials. She needed to replace a pair of Harmony wood tips, which are her tips of choice, and wanted some really small (0 and 1) double pointed needles. I needed extras in my favorite tips (nickel) in sizes 7, 8, and 9 as well as a few more cables. I also ordered a pair of Harmony tips for myself and a pair of acrylic Zephyr tips, just to check them out.
And this is another gratuitous picture of Rusty.