Monday, May 30, 2011

Wandering Hospital Corridors

I've walked past this room few times this morning on various errands while visiting someone here at the hospital. Past these two elderly men, roommates wearing matching hospital gowns, sharing a bathroom, a nurse, and a privacy curtain. 

One man sits on a chair at the foot of the bed, long legs crossed, hands clasped around his knees. Bedroom slippers. His back is ramrod straight and a shock of grey hair stands at attention on his head. He is elegantly attentive. He spoke, during my first pass, about a Memorial Day service he (saw on television? attended?) found beautiful and patriotic. Flags lined the walks as far as you could see.

His roommate, sitting up on the bed with legs dangling off the edge, is wearing hospital-issue booties with nonstick soles. He is bald and a little stooped, with both hands planted firmly at his sides, using the mattress for support. As I pour a coffee at the  hostess cart outside their room, he is describing how he is able to do his laundry somewhere upstairs (apartment? bathroom sink?) thus avoiding the steep stairs. He keeps things picked up and fends for himself. 

This wing is a step down from critical care, monitoring patients as they recover from serious somethings or prepare for major surgery. I am enchanted by these two, who are for the moment disregarding this and chatting with civility about everyday things, creating for themselves a few dignified minutes of normalcy and comfort.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Baby Surprise Jacket

Non-knitters, just scroll through the pictures and see the evolution of a weird rectangle into a sweater. Knitters, the details are for you! 
I've wondered for years about all the hoopla surrounding Elizabeth Zimmerman's Baby Surprise Jacket. A quick check over at Ravelry shows it as a project 14,612 times, and it is waiting in 5,451 queues. I bought the reproduced - and expanded - pattern from Schoolhouse Press some time ago and waited for opportunity and inclination to coincide. They did, in a tiny bundle of lovely girliness named Misaki, born just a few weeks ago.

Ok, the knitty gritty - sorry: In a nutshell, EZ was a brilliant woman in general, and applied a lot of her logical thinking skills to her knitting projects. She designed this baby sweater to as one piece, to be worked flat, with no seams except the shoulders, when finished. As it is knitted it resembles nothing more than a stretched-out rectangle with a few lumps here and there. Like this:
There are decreases and increases along the way, and that's the annoying part. Not the actual changes in stitch count, but the fact that they are done on either side of a moving stitch. You cannot use a stitch marker but must instead hang a marker on the stitch, and move it up as the rows proceed. I tend to fumble the marker, forget to move it up, pass up my increase/decrease point, and generally hate that method. In the end, I counted a lot. Not such big deal with a small project, and perhaps I would be able to read the knitting easier if wasn't self-patterning yarn, but this type of project should be nearly automatic knitting until my fingers reach a marker.

Here is it just after binding off.
Compare it to the picture above and it shows the same cast-on edge at the bottom, while the top edge has a row of buttonholes even spaced on either side of the center.

Now this is the thing, you see, the thing that will force me to cast on another one immediately. Because I picked up the piece you see there, with its increases, decreases, a few bound off rows, and a tiny flap, and turned it around a few times and then suddenly, delightedly, found that I had a little tiny jacket!

The bottom, cast-on row, became the sleeves and back neckline while the bound-off edge became the jacket opening and the back hemline. Does that make any sense without holding it in your hand?

 Yes of course I knew what it was going to look like. Of course I knew I was knitting something that had a neckline, two sleeves, and a front opening. I was still amazed at how it folded up, how the rows lined up and turned corners, and how anyone ever came up with it in the first place.

There are two rows of buttonholes to allow for a boy or girl button placement, which also makes it easy when sewing on the buttons, since they can just cover and close each hole.

Now to give it a soak, dry it, and gift it!

My stats, for knitters who need to know, are:
A size 4 needle, bound of with a size 6
Gauge: 6.5 stitches/inch
One skein of Italian-made Supersocke Cotton, a blend of cotton and wool, in the "Beach" color.
When buttoned, it will have a chest circumference of about 14.5 inches, a hem-to-shoulder length of 9 inches, and a sleeve length from neck-to-cuff of about 5.75 inches.
I followed the directions for 160 stitches.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Kale Chips. Trust Me.

Nobody ever believes this until they try it, then they eat the whole bowl. Kale chips are easy to make, amazingly good, and kale is the kind of dark leafy green you are supposed to eat. Every. Day.

Just trust me, trust everyone who has written the same thing, and make them!

Preheat the oven to 350.

  1. Take a head of kale - curly kale is super for this recipe but I've made them with other (flat) varieties as well. If you are new to kale, or to greens that need to have the stem removed, separate the stem by folding the leaf in half, holding the stem in one hand, and pulling the leaf away with the other. If the leaf doesn't come away in pieces, then pull into into smaller pieces. 
  2. Toss the kale pieces with olive oil. You can do this by putting about a tablespoon of oil into a bowl and tossing the kale around with your hands, or by arranging the kale in a single layer on a baking sheet (or two sheets, depending on how much you are making) and then spraying the pieces with olive oil, if you use a sprayer. Turn them over, spray again. Toss with salt and pepper - not too much on your first batch, because the kale does shrink and concentrate the seasonings.
  3. Pop the sheets in the oven and - no matter what other recipes will tell you - check them after just 10 minutes. If some of them are crispy, take them off the sheet and return it to the oven. The are done when they scatter along the sheet, are crispy but still mostly dark green rather than brown.

Serve them warm at the table with a burger, warm or cooled with a beer, packed in a container with a box lunch, whatever. These are seriously good.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mushroom Miso Omelet

I love miso, especially miso from South River (still shipping through May 25, if you can't buy locally or want more selection) and use it as a seasoning in lots of recipes. I was making a basic spinach & egg white omelet and remembered I had fresh mushrooms in the fridge. When I pulled them out the jar of Dandelion Leek miso jumped out with them, and a really tasty omelet combination was born.

4 - 6 egg whites (I use organic liquid whites if I have them, fresh if not)
pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper
a handful of baby spinach
fresh basil, if available
1/3 cup of crumbled chevre
3/4 cup sliced mushrooms
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1.5 tsp of dark miso

Begin browning the onion over medium heat in a small skillet that has been filmed with olive oil. When they are golden, add the mushrooms. Stir frequently and add small amounts of water to prevent sticking as the onions and mushrooms brown.

Prepare a second small skillet or omelet pan with cooking spray. Add salt and pepper and a splash of cold water to the egg whites. Beat until soft peaks form, preheat the skillet for just a minute, pour in the whites. Cover the pan, turn to low, and cook until the egg whites are set in the middle.

Uncover and top with crumbled cheese, spinach, and basil. Either fold the omelet in half and cover for another minute or pop it under the broiler for a minute to melt the cheese slightly and lightly wilt the spinach. Take the mushrooms off the heat and stir in the miso.

Top the omelet with the mushroom-miso mixture and serve.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Beautiful Day, Beautiful Creek

For weeks now I've wanted to remember to grab my camera on my way out the door for a walk, and today was the day. We live near the east branch of the Brandywine Creek, a beautiful and historic waterway that winds through our County and into the state of Delaware. It is worth an overview whether or not you are local. There are miles of paved trails along it, passing ruins of old mills and foundations of homesteads, and more miles of deer trails that fishermen use to reach the water. We enjoy the creek, and the trails, all year but spring brings that fantastic shade of green that only lasts a few weeks. I missed capturing the earliest - near neon - shades, but am happy with the pictures I took today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Fast Food

There were three of us home, all vegetarians, it was time for dinner, and I didn't really feel like cooking. We all did, however, need a good meal; one skipped lunch, one had a small lunch, and one had Mexican Chain Food for lunch. I gave it a few minutes thought and pulled these convenience foods together:

A tube of precooked polenta, maybe the handiest thing to have in the pantry.
A bag of Trader Joe's Balsamic Glazed Grilled Sweet Onions. Delicious.
A small freezer container of chopped collard greens from our CSA at the end of last season. A little icy, but fine.
Melissa's Fava Beans, fresh. I love fava beans, and fava beans that are already cooked and waiting in the fridge are even better.

I sliced the polenta thinly into about 18 rounds and started them on the griddle. The frozen greens and a bit of water simmered in one skillet, the frozen onions in another, and in a third I simmered the favas in olive oil with a few leaves of sage and plenty of fresh garlic.

Obviously I had a hunch it was going to taste good, since I took pictures along the way. The combination was a fantastic, fast, healthy, whole meal:
The onions and polenta are a good starting point and I will restock them. If DH had been home, a little of the (already grilled and sliced) chicken in the freezer would have completed the dish for him.