August 19, 2009

Inch by Inch, Row by Row

When Maudie was a little girl, she loved that song. We listened to it and sang along with Peter Paul and Mary. A lot. We didn't have a garden then, but at least we had middle-aged hippies to sing to us about a garden.

One of the great things about living where we do is that although we are landlocked, our area is mostly rural. If we drive for about ten minutes, we're whizzing past Amish buggies and acres and acres of farmland.

I never really had a garden before I married Timmy. He's a natural gardener, dedicated and meticulous. He builds the raised beds, makes the compost, plans and plants, and is out there every day doing the work. I'm the cook and tentative canner, and I love preparing and eating what we grow. Last night I picked some green beans, and 15 minutes later we were eating them. We call these "Moosewood Moments", in homage to the tried-and-true hippie classic. This year we doubled the size of the garden. We've got kale that I hope we'll be eating until Thanksgiving, beets, carrots, cucumbers, corn, and for the first time, blackberries.

We've also got tomatoes in all shapes and sizes -- Roma, cherry, Pink Lady, Mr. Stripey. This morning we also learned we've also got Late Blight.

Last night I was reading Erin's post about her own garden, and I showed it to Timmy. He assured me that, no, we didn't have it. This morning he came back from walking the dog and told me, that yes, we do have it. What a bummer.

As for knitting, I've been working on Ishbel, my first-ever shawl. After months of turning up my nose at shawls (and secretly feeling intimidated by the lace), I finally cast on with some gorgeous Malabrigo Sock yarn in Abril. I'm now completely hooked. I love the concentration this kind of knitting requires, how you really feel the inch by inch and row by row of it. And then, after seeing it as groups of stitches, the finished product blooms into something amazing; proof that the whole really is greater than the sum of its parts.

I leave you with some canning shots, a fun afternoon spent with Heather and my pal Peeper-lou making tasty, but not so crispy, pickles.

May 16, 2009

Five Minutes

I realize that I am perhaps the last known knit blogger to post about Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, but I am coming to terms with the fact that I am a late bloomer as well as a procrastinator. I can't say enough about this book.

The recipes are simple and elegant, and the bread is to die for. The basic recipe has four ingredients; that recipe alone is worth the price of the book. Earlier this week, I ventured into uncharted territory: enriched breads. First, plain brioche. Today: Chocolate Prune Brioche. Having just had the first slice, I can safely say that Chocolate + Prunes + Brioche = Heaven.

Knitting? Well, a little. Yesterday Heather and I spent a lovely afternoon knitting, lunching and chatting on the back porch. She's doing a fabulous springtime shawl; I'm about ready to seam the sleeves of the Top-Down Vine Lace Cardigan and pick up the collar. Yes, this sweater will be finished just in time to wear it for an hour next week in the early morning, and then pack it up for next fall.

Hmmmm. Rather than thinking of it as a sweater that never got finished for this winter, I'll think of it as early knitting for next fall.

March 25, 2009

Blocking for Dollars

I have finished Talia, but cannot show it off just yet. I thought it was blocked, but when I put it on this morning, I realized that it is not blocked enough. It grew very nicely length-wise and the lace opened beautifully. But the width. That's another story.

It goes around me, but with buttons actually buttoned, not so much. Sausage casing comes to mind. I could wear it open -- like Rhoda Morgenstern -- but this was not the look I was going for. It just dawned on me that maybe steam blocking might help with the width -- I'm keeping my fingers crossed. It also dawned on me that maybe there is something to that formula or theory that one should weight within ten pounds of one's high school graduation weight. I'm not keeping my fingers crossed for that one.

In the midst of this blocking problem, I also remembered that at Rochelle's shop, they had a finisher. You left the piece or pieces of knitting at the shop, and a week or two later you picked up the finished garment! It was sewn together, perfectly blocked, and fit like a dream! At least that's how I remember it. I never thought of the poor knitter, probably woefully underpaid and squinting under a bare bulb at her dining room table, all to do the grunt work on someone else's sweater.

The last time I asked a shop owner whether she had a finisher, she looked at me balefully and said, Well, I guess that would be me. Then there was an awkward pause. That was ten years ago. So, I've learned to sew and block, and even pick up stitches at the neckline, although it does scare me. I always imagine that having completed the bulk of the knitting, I will now somehow ruin the sweater with shoddy blocking and finishing.

Instead, I can show you two items that required zero blocking: a Tender Blankie for a friend's new baby, and a pair of red mittens for the big sister.

March 19, 2009

Oh Sherrie


It is Timmy's role, as the resident Morning Person, to wake up the entire household on school/work mornings. After much trial and error, he has come up with a winning method that 1) is efficient, and 2) does not fill the rest of us with a murderous rage. Here's how it works: at 6am the alarm goes off. He immediately leaps from bed and into the shower, leaving me about 10 minutes of peaceful languishing. He then turns on the lights in our bedroom, and in the hallway, which in turn shines through the transom windows into the kids' rooms. He then turns the radio to a local station which plays "the best of the 80s, 90s and today." This is key, because he used to turn on NPR, which often stirred up household debates -- not a good way to start the day. More often than not, the songs are cheerful, or at least pleasantly nostalgic. Today was no exception as I woke to the sounds of Steve Perry belting out "Oh Sherrie."

I'm not sure if I can convey my undying love for Steve Perry - his voice, hair and nose speak for themselves. I do know that it seemed he was the heartthrob of every girl in 80s Chicagoland. I just watched to youtube video, and even Sherrie herself, who seems like a sweet, lovable dope, can't take her eyes off him.

The downside of the wake-up method is that eventually we turn off the radio and the reverie is broken (sometimes by Phil Collins or Men at Work.) We rouse the kids from their beds, and Maudie turns on the shower radio to Hot 100. And now it's Beyonce or Lady Gaga or Kanye West. Don't get me wrong, I love Kanye, but he's no Steve Perry.

On the knitting front: Talia is finished and blocking, I've got socks for Timmy in the works and an early spring cardigan from Sweaterbabe - I love her simple, elegant designs and excellent instructions - all Raveled here.

March 5, 2009


I have no FOs to show today; I'm in a bit of a knitting lull.

However, I do have two fabulous gifts to show -- one knitted and one quilted.

First, from my sister-in-law, the quilt she made as a gift for Timmy's and my wedding. I can honestly say I've never been given anything quite like this in my life. It is heart-stoppingly gorgeous and also mind-boggling to the non-quilter. How did she do it? We originally used it on the bed, but then decided that a) it might fall victim to Snuffy's toenails, and b) it deserved to be displayed (to anyone who just happens to walk by our bedroom.) One of the great things about living in a house built in 1893 is the height of the ceilings -- the quilt seems made for the space.

Second, from my mom, the Modern Quilt Wrap, another project which I have admired from afar, but am way too chicken to attempt. I have been wearing it non-stop, and in addition to its unmitigated fabulousness, it keeps me warm in this drafty house. As a family friend once said, "One is always warm when one is wearing a scarf."

I feel lucky and blessed to have these women in my life.

January 30, 2009

Blue Person

blue person

This little guy came to Maudie from Taiwan, from her school pen pal, along with a Chinese New Year card, carefully hand-lettered in English. The girl made him, using Chinese knots and that cute little head, and aptly named him Blue Person. Isn't he nifty?

I've finished my Just Enough Ruffles and have started a baby blanket. Enjoy the weekend!

January 21, 2009

Less Knitting, More Pudding

No knitting progress of any kind. I am poised to begin the short row section of Just Enough Ruffles (ravelled here), but because I don't understand how short rows work, I'm a little afraid. I've done them before, but I can't yet do them from memory. I love what they do -- it seems like magic to watch that lovely curve take shape.

Instead, I've decided it's officially a cooking day. I was going through my recipes and found this at the bottom of the pile. As a child, I remember eating a lot of pudding - mostly chocolate and vanilla. My grandparents used to pour milk directly onto the pudding in their bowls, which seemed completely gross at the time, but now seems quaint and homey.

This pudding makes a lovely lemon custard with a cake-y top. It comes from a family friend - a knitter of beautiful afghans who I always thought was very glamorous because she wore false eyelashes, several perfumes at once, and a frosted fall.

Trudi's Lemon Pudding

2 eggs
1 C milk
4-6 T fresh lemon juice
zest of one lemon
4 T flour
1 C sugar (I use about a half cup extra)
1/4 t. salt

Separate eggs. Beat whites in a bowl to stiff peaks. In another bowl, beat all other ingredients together. Fold in egg whites.

Spray 4 ramekins with a light cooking spray and fill. Bake in a 9x13 water bath at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Makes 4-5 individual puddings.


January 15, 2009

This Knitter's Hubris

When I was growing up, my mom worked at a knit shop in HP, Granny's. Granny's was owned by a woman named Rochelle. I can't quite remember, but either her married name was also Rochelle (making her Rochelle Rochelle), or she was married to a man named Sheldon, thus making them a couple with a gimmick: Shelly and Shelly!!!

Rochelle was a great knitter, and although she was a dedicated smoker and allowed others to smoke in her shop, we will forgive her because it was the '70s. Anyway, Rochelle always said "knitting is ripping and ripping is knitting," when consoling tearful knitters faced with massive corrective frogging. As an adult, and a knitter with a more than a few years behind me, I completely understand the wisdom and up-by-the-bootstraps practicality of this statement.

I only wish that Rochelle had had a similar maxim regarding swatching, because that would really come in handy, for oh, say, every single project I ever do. The thing is, I almost never swatch. And if I do, I frequently fudge the gauge a little because I don't want to do another swatch. Bad, I know.

One way I've tried to get around this is by using the exact yarn that the pattern calls for, desperately hoping that my gauge will match that listed on the pattern. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. I also tend to use fall-back yarns, like Cascade 220, which I know I'll never ever have to swatch.

This practice, along with my attendant hubris, came into play this past week when I made the Birthday Cowl. While I have admired numerous cowls on Ravelry, I've only ever knit one other cowl. Why I don't know. It's the perfect little project -- highly portable, quickly finished, practical and wearable. Living as I do in drafty house built in 1893, I could wear a cowl all day every day from October - April. After looking at scores of beautiful Birthday Cowls, I cast on with some gorgeous Cashmere Island Heather gave me last Christmas.

I followed the pattern to the letter, blithely assuming that 1) Cashmere Island is a worsted weight yarn (since I long ago misplaced the ball band), and 2) the gauge on the size 8 needle would therefore be perfect. The pattern is genius; it's easily memorized and only two rows. Once you get just a little tired of the lace round, you get to knit one round, and then it's time for more lace. The end result with the diagonals and yarn-overs is really to die for.

Cashmere Island, as I now know, is a DK weight yarn. Hmm. I love my cowl, and I'm wearing my cowl, but my cowl is big. Not crazy big, but a little droopy, and not snug up to my neck and chin like I wanted it to be. I can't stop thinking about what would have happened if I had only used a 7 needle. If I had only swatched. I guess I could use a funky little pin to make it snug, but that isn't really the way I pictured this cowl.

Will I rip and re-knit the cowl? No, despite Rochelle's maxim. Have I resolved to "get with the program," as my dad would say, and swatch every project from now on? Probably not. Am I getting there? Maybe.

January 8, 2009

While I was gone

This is what's happened:

Collage 1
Collage 2Picnik collage 1

Both Charlie and Maudie turned 12; she started junior high. Shockingly, junior high is now considered 'fun', probably because they all have personal phones and are available by text and IM 24/7.

My mom got sick, and then she got better.

I happily reconnected with an old friend, thanks to Jane.

Snuffy went from a 38 lb. weakling to a 55 lb. stud. (Also, he got neutered.)

We drove to Chicago, to Boston and to Florida.

My cousin was ordained as a minister.

I took a quilting class. Quilting is okay; there is a lot of ironing, which is also okay. I experienced a lot of junior high home-ec class sewing machine anxiety. For me, junior high was not fun.

For Christmas, I baked cookies, knitted mittens, juiced a lot of oranges and received a new iron.

There was knitting, and planning knitting projects, although I was completely silent.

Now I'm back.

Peace to everyone in 2009!