Monday, June 29, 2009

puttering around

Much of today was spent puttering around my study -- listening to Neko Case, working on the log cabin blanket, *finally* discovering how awesome the "genius" playlist function is on iTunes (psst... "Girlfriend in a Coma" yielded the best results), and designing and printing invitations for a baby shower I'm hosting next month.

The design process was actually pretty fun. I was inspired by Heather Ross' post about how easy it is to make your own invitations. The only catch is that the design probably appeals to me more than the mom-to-be. Meh, too bad... I found an image I really liked, then incorporated the mom-to-be's favorite baby colors for the text. Initially I designed it using Serif Page Plus SE, a free desktop publishing program. In the end it was easier to deal with MS Word.
Capricha decided to help with the drying process. That cat! I printed out the invitations on scalloped-edge A6 flat cards I found at Target (bargain basement price of 10 for $1.99). Although the paper is not of the absolute highest quality, it is thick and works fine in my basic HP inkjet color printer. I switched the print quality to "best" and fed the invitations one at a time, with very few casualties.
I highly recommend giving this a try! I'm definitely designing and printing my own holiday cards next winter.
In the kitchen

I love quesadillas, but they're generally frightfully unhealthy. While these aren't about to top the list of healthiest foods ever, at least they feature veggies! If I lived in Santa Fe, I would definitely add green chile (yum!) into the saute pan with the veggies.

Veggie Quesadillas

~ makes 2 quesadillas
~ serves 2-4 people, depending on side dishes and heartiness of appetites

olive or canola oil
1 C. fancy mushrooms, sliced -- I used a mixture of crimini, shitake, and yellow oyster
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 C. frozen or fresh corn (roasted corn would be esp. good)
2 roasted red peppers, drained and chopped
2 or 3 handfuls of shredded cheese -- I used pepper jack and a good 2-year Wisconsin cheddar.
A more authentic cheese like chihuahua would also work, and a few dabs of fresh goat cheese would be delicious, too.

4 flour tortillas (I used red chile flavor, but whatever floats your boat)

salsa, sour cream, or guacamole, to serve

Drizzle a little olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet and heat over medium heat. Add mushrooms and garlic. Saute 1-2 minutes. Add corn and roasted red peppers; saute an additional 2 minutes or so.

Assemble quesadillas -- divide sauteed veggies and shredded cheese between two tortillas. Top each with another flour tortilla.

Drizzle a little more oil onto the skillet and heat at medium. Add quesadilla and cook 2 minutes; flip quesadilla and cook an additional 2 minutes, or until cheese is melted. Repeat with second quesadilla.

Cut into wedges and serve with plenty of salsa, perhaps even with sour cream or guacamole. None of that wussy pico de gallo! I served this with tomatillo salsa from Whole Foods that was delicious. A roasted salsa would also be quite nice.

Friday, June 26, 2009

blanket statement

The log cabin blanket is nearing the finish line. See where the blue and yellow meet? This was my first time doing even the most basic intarsia.I've enjoyed log cabin-ing, and I don't mind the miles of garter stitch, but the way this project eats yarn is horrifying. I would knit the pattern again, but I would make sure to stock plenty of yarn first. This blanket would have been done long ago if I had paid closer attention to the yardage requirements.
Since one can never knit enough lap-covering projects during a 90-degree heat spell, I cast on for another blanket last week, this time in Cascade's wonderful (and affordable) Ecological Wool, which is a lofty and springy loosely-spun 2-ply. This is yet another pattern by Ysolda Teague -- the Hap Blanket (rav). I'm done with the center square, which knits up quickly, and I'm ready to pick up stitches for the feather and fan edging.
One movie I'm definitely not seeing this summer is Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Why not, you might ask? See Roger Ebert's review. I'm gonna trust Ebert on this one. I've only recently discovered the entertainment value of Ebert's reviews -- esp. the ones of bad movies (collected in Your Movie Sucks and I Hated, Hated, Hated This Movie).
Did anyone catch the new Hercule Poirot, Mrs. McGinty's Dead, on PBS last night? I was quite taken by the cinematography (videography? not sure what you say for TV). The old Poirots always seemed like they were shot by someone's dad on a camera borrowed from the local high school. This one had some great shots, esp. of Poirot right when he arrives in Broadhinny; plus the period cars are gorgeous.

P.S. You can watch it online here until July 5.
Other exciting news on the PBS front...
David Tennant is the new host of Masterpiece Contemporary, starting in October. On a related note, am I ever itching for the next season of Dr. Who.

Monday, June 22, 2009

summertime blues

Some people like knitting socks in the summer since they're so lightweight and portable. Other people prefer lightweight summer tops. Not me -- I'm more of a lace-knitting girl once the temperature goes above 80.* I'm working on a Checkerboard Lace Scarf, a free pattern from the Purl Bee:The yarn is Malabrigo sock in Cote d'Azure. It's lovely to work with, has a gorgeous sheen, and the dark blues are very rich. I'm not sure I'd actually use it for socks.

I made good progress on this scarf while watching The Dark Knight. The best part was seeing Chicago in the film; I'm afraid that it was a bit too yucky for me. I could barely stand to look at either the Joker or Harvey Dent, and spent much of the movie with my eyes glued firmly on my knitting, waiting for Paul to tell me it was safe to look up again. The plot seemed convoluted and awfully long, too, but that may be because I kept glancing away!
Also in the works...
Paul and I are planning a trip to Portland, Oregon for the end of July. Anyone have any suggestions for Portland favorites? Microbreweries, wineries, yarn shops, gardens, hiking trails, coffeeshops...
I'm also working on a Sage Remedy Top; I do have a few qualms about this one. This may not be terribly flattering, but I love the feather and fan detail at the neckline. It's very possible it may end up looking like a maternity top. I skipped the ribbing on the bottom and worked a garter edge instead to prevent rolling. I'm using Lorna's Laces Fishermen wool in "denim," which looks much nicer (and less variegated) in real life than in the photo.
* How's that for a priamel? Here's my favorite priamel, from Sappho 16:

Some men say an army of horse and some men say an army on foot
and some men say an army of ships is the most beautiful thing
on the black earth. But I say it is
what you love.

-- Trans. Anne Carson, If Not, Winter: Fragments of Sappho

Monday, June 15, 2009

warmth from the north

The knitting gods chose me as a winner in a contest over at Warmth in the North, and Mary Catharine sent me the nicest things:Sweet Georgia Superfudge yarn with plenty of yardage for another shawlette, plus wonderful beeswax candles made in her hometown. What a treat!
Seeing the Yarn Harlot's log cabin blanket has compelled me to pick up mine all over again.
Not only is this not the stashbuster I had envisioned, I just had to buy yet more yarn for the darn thing. The Mission Falls 1824 cotton is nice, soft, and cozy, though.

Also, I turned in grades this afternoon, and now summer can officially begin! Garter stitch + a season of Gilmore Girls on ABC Family that I've never seen before = a great way to celebrate.
Knitworthy new patterns:

- Anne Hanson's Highlander cardigan (Rachael knit a gorgeous one, too)
- Kirsten Kapur's Pembroke baby vest over at the new Petite Purls online knitting magazine

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

seams to me

See that blue-violet pile in the top left corner? Blech, seaming up my Drop Collar Cabled Jacket is very slow going. Initially I tried to use the sweater yarn (Beaverslide McTaggart Tweed) to seam it up. Bad news -- the loosely twisted 2-ply yarn is too fragile and tends to break, plus the seam was very bulky. I rifled through the yarn stash and found some Imperial Stock Ranch 2-ply sock yarn in a similar color, and things are going better now.
My love for A Homemade Life and Orangette is still going strong! I made Molly's rhubarb crumble the other night. Very good -- pleasantly a bit tart and super easy to make. It's a little different from the usual crumble/crisp recipe, as it involves canola oil instead of butter (plus it's vegan-friendly). Lower cholesterol, of course, and it makes the crumble a little loose and not crisp.
I also made Baked Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce and Fresh Mozzarella, which turned out quite nicely. I cut back on the pasta a bit, as we tend to like our pasta dishes with plenty of sauce. Yum! Next time I might add a layer of sauteed mushrooms to the middle.
Ysolda will be at Nina this afternoon from 4-7. I'll be there with my copy of Whimsical Little Knits in hand.
Previews of the new Berroco pattern books are up! Booklet #228 (Blackstone Tweed) looks just fabulous -- especially Napolean, Nuss, Noisette, and Nesselrode. Too bad that the Blackstone Tweed yarn has significant mohair content. Surprisingly, Norah Gaughan #5 isn't doing much for me.
Also, the new summer Knitty is up! None of the patterns are reaching out and grabbing me. Am I getting more fickle? Just plain pickier? Or perhaps are more people just self-publishing their patterns and selling them on Ravelry rather than dealing with all the hullabaloo of meeting Knitty's submission standards and waiting to hear if they're selected? I'm not sure, but I suspect the ease of e-publishing on your own has a lot to do with it.

On the other hand, I love the profile of Jennie the Potter in this issue! Jennie's always so friendly at shows, her work is amazingly cute, AND she's from Minnesota. All the best people are from Minnesota, right? :-)
Check out the Slate on J.D. Salinger's latest lawsuit. Would Virginia Woolf have been pleased to read Michael Cunningham's The Hours? I'm not sure. Plus the piece brings back all that Catcher in the Rye teen angst:
Of course, anyone who brings to Catcher a somewhat more sophisticated sensibility than Mark David Chapman, an awareness that novelists often use unreliable narrators and, you know, ironic distancing, can see that it's a novel about the conflict between Holden's naive and narcissistic juvenile romanticism (the world is full of "phonies"—duh!) and the kind of accommodations he needs to make to its corruption to survive.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

in pieces

My excitement mounted at knitting circle last night as the second sleeve to my Drop Collar Cabled Jacket grew. Now just the finishing work is left! I've been swamped with end-of-the-quarter nuttiness lately (this is the last week of classes), but I may just have to take a break to seam it up.
See that unfamiliar lichen green in the background? We're in the midst of a living room re-do. We bid adieu to the tan microfiber sofa and shuffled some things around. Now I need to sew some throw pillows, figure out window treatments, and pick out an armchair. Well, I already picked out a chair, but it's a tad pricey, so I either need to save my pennies or compromise on something more affordable.
A Homemade Life, by Molly Wizenberg(of Orangette) is absolutely charming and heartfelt; it has been inspiring me to spend more time in the kitchen. I love how Molly intersperses stories from her life with recipes. This book is more than a love affair with food -- it explores relationships and family and growing up, all that good stuff, and (most importantly) in an intelligent and thoughtful fashion. No saccharin-sweet, chicken-soup-for-the-soul crap here.

I'm no Molly Wizenberg, but I will share one of my favorite muffin recipes - Raspberry Streusel Muffins. I first started tinkering with this recipe when I lived in a darling 1-bedroom apartment overlooking State St. in Madison about 10 years ago (gulp, that makes me feel really old). It was the one and only time I've lived alone -- and I loved it. The kitchen was tiny -- no microwave or dishwasher (of course), an old-fashioned refrigerator that I actually had to defrost, and an oven that was about half the size of a regular one. And it was at least 40 years old. And it ran hot. Really hot. The girl who lived there before me left me a note in the kitchen carefully calibrating the oven settings to thermometer readings. It was a logarithmic scale, kind of like the Richter scale. On a related note, I kept a fire extinguisher in the kitchen just in case.

That year I also discovered the joys of the Dane County Farmers' Market -- being out and about bright and early while there's still a cool nip to the air, picking out my own fresh berries, meeting the farmers, testing out all the varieties of Wisconsin cheese... This recipe highlights two specialties from those mornings -- fresh Wisconsin dairy products, and sweet-tart raspberries. The muffins themselves aren't overly sweet; the streusel topping gives it a sugary kick.
Raspberry Streusel Muffins
adapted from Cindi Flahive-Sobel's Daily Bread

makes 12-18 muffins (12 muffins with large "muffin tops"; 18 small muffins)

muffin ingredients
2 C. all-purpose flour
1/2 C. sugar
1 T. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 large egg
1/4 C. butter, melted
1/2 C. milk (skim is fine)
1/2 C. sour cream (I use light)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1.5 - 2 C. fresh raspberries

streusel ingredients
1/2 C. sugar
1/3 C. all-purpose flour
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon (I use Penzey's ceylon cinnamon for this as it's more delicate in flavor)
1/4 C. butter, softened, cut up into small chunks

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray muffin tins or line with muffin papers.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. I use a whisk to keep it light and fluffy since I don't bother to sift my flour.

In a medium-size bowl, beat the egg, then add the melted butter, milk, sour cream, and vanilla, and mix well. Add the wet ingredients to the dry, and stir with a spoon until just combined and the dry ingredients are moistened. Fold in the raspberries.

In a small bow, combine the sugar, flour, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Work in the butter with a fork until the mixture is crumbly.

Fill the muffin cups with batter -- to make 12 muffins, fill them just about to the brim; to make 18 muffins, fill about 3/4 full. Top with the streusel mixture. Bake for 18-20 minutes (for the large muffins -- a little less for the smaller ones), or until a toothpick inserted in the muffin comes out clean. Serve warm.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Dear Chicago knitters,

One of my favorite designers is visiting Chicago over the next week -- Ysolda Teague. Check out her blog and her ravelry page.

Ishbel the First
Ishbel the first

Everything Ysolda designs is super cute, and she's doing a great job of saturating the pattern market via self-publishing, Knitty, Twist Collective, etc. I've knit her Ishbel shawl (twice!) and her Liesl cardi (*well, I'm almost done -- just need to finish the sleeves*).

Ishbel the Second
Ishbel the second
Loopy Yarns - 47 W. Polk Street, Chicago
- She'll be at Loopy this Saturday (June 6th from 12 to 4) for a day of
knitting, signing books and sharing sample garments, toys and
accessories knit from her pattern collections.

I'm very bummed that I can't make it, as I'll be in Milwaukee for a
wedding. I will, however, be wearing an Ishbel shawl at the wedding!

Nana's Knitting Shop - 5144 W 95th St., Oak Lawn
- Ysolda will be at Nana's on the south side next Tuesday (June 9th at
6:30 p.m.).

Hopefully she'll add another date or two! If so, I'll keep you posted.