Saturday, February 28, 2009

Neko Case fans, unite

Neko Case releases her new album, Middle Cyclone, next Tuesday, and I'm enjoying all the build-up. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was pretty much the soundtrack to 2006-07 for me (as well as countless others). - you can stream all the songs from Middle Cyclone from NPR
- Greg Kott and Jim DeRogatis talk to Neko on today's Sound Opinions (a local Chicago affair)

I'm still absorbing the new album -- a different feel from Fox Confessor, full of love songs and paeans to nature. Only "Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth" strikes me as a dud (insipid lyrics and backing vocals). Paul and I have tickets to her April 24th concert at the Chicago Theatre. Can't wait!
After a rather light-on-the-veggies January, I've been trying to get back into the habit of incorporating oodles of vegetables into our meals. Here's a recipe from last weekend that was a success.

This is one of the few recipes I really like that isn't as good leftover. Alas! But it's wonderful right when it's made, and it's easy as can be. The simplicity of the recipe showcases high-quality ingredients, so it's worth splurging on flavorful feta (not Athenos or whatever comes pre-crumbled in the regular cheese section at the supermarket) and olives.

Conchiglie with Roasted Vegetables and Feta Cheese
(adapted from Jeanne Lemlin's Main Course Vegetarian Pleasures)

Serves 6 (maybe 4 if you're serving only famished burly men who are accustomed to Olive-Garden pasta portions)

3 large bell peppers, any color combination, cut into 1-inch dice (I used red, orange, and yellow)
3 medium-large tomatoes, cored, seeded, and cut into 1-inch dice
1 medium-large onion, cut into 1-inch dice, sections separated (I used red onion)
2 celery ribs, thinly sliced on the diagonal (optional)
5 garlic cloves, pressed or chopped
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
4 T. olive oil
1 lb. conchiglie (shells)
1 C. (4.5 oz) crumbled feta cheese (use good feta for this -- the flavor is really showcased in this recipe. I used a Bulgarian sheep's milk feta from Whole Paycheck)
20 black oil-cured olives, halved and pitted (once again, it's worth buying good olives for this)
salt to taste
freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees for the veggies.

In a large bowl, combine the peppers, tomatoes, onion, celery, garlic, basil, oregano, and 2 T. of olive oil. Toss to coat the veggies thoroughly. Spread the veggies on a baking sheet (or 2) so they rest in one layer. [Lining the baking sheets with foil leads to easier clean-up, but is a bit wasteful.] Bake for 20 minutes, or until the peppers are tender. Toss with a spatula once during baking.

Once the water starts boiling, drop the pasta in and cook until tender yet chewy, about 12 minutes. Drain thoroughly in a colander and place in a large bowl. Spoon the veggies onto the pasta along with the remaining 2 T. of oil. Sprinkle on the feta cheese, olives, salt and pepper (be generous with the pepper), and toss.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

attention all Chicago Snuggie fans...

This is the event for you -- the Snuggie Pub Crawl.

Personally I'm having a hard time envisioning anything funnier than a bunch of people dressed as neo-Druids sipping vodka tonics. Especially since Snuggies are apparently backless.

On a related note...
(NB: If you can't take strong language and/or sarcasm, this is not for you)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


I think I've found the perfect scarf pattern for knitting night! Whenever I try to knit a complicated lace or cable pattern at knitting night, I invariably have to rip back a row or two after I get home. Dim lighting and good conversation just don't mix well with fancy patterns. The Opera Scarf pattern is free from Blue Sky Alpacas. There's just one pattern row that's quite easy to remember.
I'm using the Plucky Knitter's Merino/Cashmere/Nylon sportweight in "Grace Kelly - Rear Window." I cast on 29 stitches rather than 23 (multiple of 3 + 2), and I'm using US 9 needles.
Monday's mail included a lovely pay-it-forward parcel from Stacey, AKA Peaknit. The Sweetheart washcloth is so darn cute I'm almost afraid to use it! Susan B. Anderson (a Madisonian) designed this pattern, and my knitting circle is doing another one of her patterns as a KAL at our retreat next month -- Knit Chickens.
And the soap (from the Lippincott Soap Co.) smells heavenly. I love fancy, handmade soap. All the other goodies are marvelous, too. Some of the chocolate has already been consumed (yum!), and stitch markers and lip balm always come in handy. I still have one more pay-it-forward parcel to finish up myself (Melissa @ Owl & Acorn, I'm sorry I'm so slow!).

The pieces of my Ariosa cardi are all knit up, and I'm blocking them in stages. With any luck I'll seam it up this weekend!
Overall the pattern was easy to knit. The directions for how to do the decreases aren't terribly clear about how to maintain the lace rib pattern, but it wasn't hard to figure out.
sleepy Capricha and grumpy Kylie

Friday, February 20, 2009

Thursday, February 19, 2009

new additions

To the stash:
Beaverslide McTaggart's Tweed in "Wild Myrtle" (the old 2-ply, 210-yd put up), destined for the Drop Collar Cabled Jacket from the fall/winter issue of the Debbie Bliss Magazine:
There are some really cute ones out there, and it seems very wearable, especially up here in the North.

To the library:
Sweet and Natural: More than 120 Sugar-Free and Dairy-Free Desserts, Weekend Sewing, and The Gentle Art of Domesticity. I'll keep you posted how they are. Weekend Sewing is hot off the press, and I love Heather Ross's fabrics.

To the fleet:
Yeah, Paul and I have shared one car since we moved to Chicago. We made it work a long time (environmentally friendly! financially responsible!), but my carpool buddy is moving out of state this spring, so it's Jeep time for me! She's already bedecked with the snow and ice that's inevitable up here. 4WD and heated seats are going to make it a very nice winter ride.

To the study:
Over the past year we've been slowly transforming our study. It started off as a rather ramshackle space, but now it's comfy and welcoming. The area's a bit small, but I really wanted a reading chair. Now my dream chair would be a Morris chair, but I have Stickley taste on an IKEA budget. We found this on deep discount at World Market, and the wood legs and arms help cut down on the cat scratching. The wool rug, another bargain (clearance + coupon at Target's home design event last month), is the most recent addition.

This bookcase, passed down from friends who turned their home office into a nursery, now holds all my craft books and magazines.
The desk matches the bookcase, and I found the chair at World Market (once again on sale). I love the high hutch on the desk, as it divides the room into half and clevely conceals the litterbox / storage area).
Overall I'm very pleased. Despite a limited budget, we managed to transform a shabby eyesore into a cozy place to read, work, and knit.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

dreaming of spring

Mother Nature teased us with a taste of spring this week, with temps in the 50s. Everyone walked around with smiles on their faces, people chucked off layers of wool and down, and all was well in the world. I even rolled down the window of my car (yes, my 2001 Malibu still has old-fashioned crank windows -- people are flabbergasted at this and don't know what to do at first).

So anyway, in honor of spring, I cast on for a short-sleeved cardi in spring green:
It's the Ariosa Wrap Cardi, a free pattern from Classic Elite. I'm using some well-aged yarn from the stash -- Jaeger Extra Fine Merino Chunky (nice, but not as smooth and cushy as the DK version). Sknitty just finished up a gorgeous neutral version that inspired me. I even tried something new: I knit the sleeves first, both of them:
This is revolutionary, as my sweaters usually get stranded on Sleeve Island, sometimes indefinitely.

Speaking of beautiful free sweater patterns, Berroco just released one I'm dying to knit -- Remember.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Mmmmalabrigo madness

Finally, a Just Enough Ruffles scarf for me. It was hard to give the last two away, so now I have one of my very own. I love this shade of Malabrigo -- Pigeon, a very soft light grey-ish blue. It made for great comfort knitting while watching a couple "guilty pleasures" movies, Music and Lyrics and Love Actually.
My cowlneck sweater, almost a year in the making, is finally off the needles.
The horizontal stripes produced by the variegated yarn aren't very flattering, but the fit is absolutely perfect, and it's soft and cozy. Lessons learned:
1) don't use variegated yarn for sweaters
2) it's well worth the time to measure sweaters that fit me well AND to swatch carefully :-)
3) adding some extra length was a great idea

There's still finishing work to be done, then I'll post a modeled picture.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Pretty in Pink

Yeah, I'm one of the last to jump on the cowl bandwagon. I always thought they'd mess up my hair too much. But it has been a long, cold winter, so I'm willing to try just about anything that purports to keep you cozy and warm. Guess what? I love it! Like the neck gators that we used to wear skiing, but much posher and nicer. This one's a gift, but I just wound some Plucky Knitter yarn for one for me.
Pattern: Cherry Garcia, by Adrian Bizilia
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Chunky, 1.5 skeins
Needles: Clover US 10.5 bamboo circs

Great pattern, easy to knit. I might try a different cast-on more well-suited to ribbing next time.
More on the Blago front...

Second City just opened a new show: "Rod Blagojevich, Superstar," a 70s-style rock opera featuring everyone's favorite ex-governor. I'm so there. This has the potential to be even funnier than Hamlet 2. More info from NPR.
On the design front...

Target is unveiling a line of budget-conscious housewares, office storage, and clothes by Orla Kiely, one of my favorite designers. Hurray!

Monday, February 02, 2009

poetry reading for the feast of St. Brigid

Every day is poetry day for me, but in blogland Feb. 2 marks the annual silent poetry reading for the feast of St. Brigid.

The Snow Man
by Wallace Stevens

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;

And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter

Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,

Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place

For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.