Archive for October, 2011

something wicked this way comes

Monday, October 31st, 2011

it’s that time of year again, when goblins big and small roam the streets

haunting us for treats as a payoff for not playing tricks

to add to the oddity of the holiday, in our city trick or treat is not on halloween, but on the sunday before (i know, don’t get me started; some years we are handing out candy six days before the holiday, grumble, grumble).

for two hours we are inundated with all manner of costumed creatures, traipsing up and down the block—we love it. the kids like our house well enough, but they love our neighbor bret’s house.

well, who wouldn’t?? it’s AWESOME.
first of all there’s bret, who stands outside all day to greet new arrivals. actually, bret spends part of every day outside talking to passersby—that’s just his way. he’s our mayor, so to speak.

every character, from the gently swaying friendly ghosts that hang at baby backpack height

to the ghoulish and gory stuff placed further down

is set there to thrill, scare, and entice the neighborhood kids.

bret’s house is where it’s at for the whole month of october—they can’t get enough of it.

and he enjoys it as much as the kids do—every year he creates a different arrangement of the previously-used stuff

and then he adds something new. this year is was a remote control rat that ran out of his curbside plantings and into the path of parents

causing them to scurry for safety while himself roared with laughter each and every time. he cracks us up that way.

my favorite new thing is this skeleton that appears to be climbing out of the climbing porch vines

but i’m also super-smitten with the decorations up on the porch itself, like this crazed bat troll that hangs from his feet over the stoop

and this hairy spider on the bench, hee-hee.

ok, now, are you ready to take a nighttime tour? i know you’ve been waiting.

night is when the scene over there comes alive, with lights everywhere and little ghosts appearing out of the dark to bob around your head

strobe lights on the porch and uplighting at lawn level are magnified by strategically placed mirrors so that the whole scene flashes and glows as if it’s being viewed form the very pit of hell.

bret doesn’t miss an opportunity to make it as real as possible—none of these items are treated like props. if you peek inside a box

or behind a tattered skirt

you’re going to see that thing you are dreading

maybe coming right up out of the ground near your feet.

if you dare to venture up the walkway, you’ll be further spooked by the presence of things you probably didn’t even notice in the daylight—like the creepy ghoul that lives in the outhouse

or the lost and wandering ohio state fan who somehow got trapped forever in bret’s halloween tableau

relegated to a fate worse than death?
hmm, maybe not—the kids, after all, love it

in the light, the spider web glitters with something sticky, while a nearby dark force hovers at the edge of those climbing vines along with the skeleton, waiting to pounce and grab

back on the front sidewalk, a last look reveals heads on stakes behind the central grouping of figures, shudder.

yes, better to back away and look at it all form a safe distance, like from the warm, bright inside of my own locked house.

happy halloween everyone!

frosting

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

when debbie wrote following my last post that her husband had just baked a scrumptious version of carrot cake for her birthday which also included beets, i was sold—since we happen to have carrots AND beets that can be dug up fresh in just a few minutes, that tipped the scales for me.

saturday dawned sunny and brilliant after weeks of dreary, rainy weather here in ohio—not for us the snows of the east coast; at least, not this weekend (though i’m sure we’re due fort our share). i took a few hours off in the morning to knit with debby and susie, then headed back to my kitchen to cook my brains out til andrea arrived in the evening.

after digging up the carrots and beets i needed and scrubbing them clean, i grated, shopped, and stirred the ingredients into a nice thick batter—which was the oddest shade of pinky-red. i’m kicking myself that i don’t have a photo; it was actually kind of off-putting, but i had it all put together now, i wasn’t going to stop there. and i trusted gary’s recipe to steer me straight.

into the oven it went and i got busy with roasting vegetables while it baked.

we’d had a light frost the night before and we were expecting more, i know it’s time to get as much in from the garden as we can—hence the focus on cooking with root vegetables right now (plus, it’s finally cold enough to let the oven run for hours at a time without blasting us out of the house).

our potted plants and trees were moved onto the porches last week and the more tender plants are now inside.

some root vegetables can stay in the ground a little while longer, but i asked david to pile them high with the straw bedding that lay unused now between the garden rows. he worked out in the yard all afternoon while i cooked; we waved to each other once in a while through the kitchen window, hee-hee.

now the carrots, rutabaga, and potatoes lie under a cozy blanket of straw and if it does snow, that will be the eiderdown on top to insulate them further. i’m keeping them this way until we use them up. otherwise, i don’t really know how i’d store them. my plan is to cook as much of them for freezer storage as i can, hopefully before the hard freeze comes.

back in the kitchen, i peeled and chopped some more, this time in chunks to be roasted. the cleanings went into the stock pot; it’s an extra step that’s so easy, it has become automatic whenever i cook in quantity. we never lack for good vegetable stock this way.

i will confess that i spent way more time in the kitchen than i’d planned—all that cleaning of produce and prep work took hours longer than i thought. i was still cooking when andrea arrived around 7:30, but thankfully, down to the final details.

i was relieved to see that the cake layers came out of the oven the normal carrot cake color—kind of orangey-brown, phew. there were traces of grated red beet, but nothing of the bad valentine frosting color that was the original batter.

by the time i had dinner in the oven, the cake layers were cooled and it was time to frost—this is the perfect kitchen job to do while chatting with a friend and drinking the fine belgian beer she brought along—ask me how i know.

i wanted to try the candied lemon zest that was recommended in the recipe so i minced my lemon peel, dusted it with 10X sugar and set it aside to dry.

then i beat up the cream cheese frosting and put it all together. at that point, i kinda wished i had a photo of the chef’s original cake; he said to use walnut halves and candied pineapple which sounded very festive, but i was talking and chopped up the nuts without thinking, so mine probably looks a little less pretty.

no worries; the taste is what matters, right?
and i was confident by now that it was going to be a good one. the cake was placed at the center of the dining table so we could admire and anticipate it while we ate dinner.

our dinner was really, really good, if i must say so myself. we had salmon with roasted root vegetables (carrots, rutabaga, leeks, onions, garlic, sweet potato) laced with herbs and good olive oil.

i don’t even think we need smellivision to translate that for us, do we?
and that isn’t yet the best part . . . we had roasted rosemary potatoes as well—also fresh dug that day.

and i’m here to tell you—until you’ve eaten this dish, well, you just haven’t lived; it’s heaven on a plate.

because i had a fellow beet lover in the house, i indulged us once again by roasting up the last of the garden beets

there was plenty of everything to eat with lots left over to freeze for a future meal. i’ll probably repeat the roasted veg dish a couple more times before thanksgiving.

it would have been really easy to go back for seconds and overeat a bit on all the goodness, except we had one more course to do that job with

(andrea is cracking up because i’m so diligent about getting blog photos at every step of the way, but i really want debbie and gary to know how much i enjoyed and appreciated their recipe)

see what a nice color it turned out? this is also a mighty BIG cake—at least six inches high. that’s the other thing i varied from the written recipe—it called for three 8-inch pans, but i baked it into two 9-inch ones. it would be even taller if i’d done three layers.

and holy moly—it was so good. it’s incredibly moist and not too sweet, with a nice complex blend of flavors. andrea and i loved it; she says it’s the best carrot cake she ever ate. david said he could still taste the beets; i guess you know how he felt about that. for me they were very faint and well, i like beets; to me they taste sweet.

in the daylight this morning, it’s even better looking i think (and yes, i do have a carrot cake plate; how very martha of me! mine has a chip though, so that keeps things real for me)

i can’t say enough about the brilliance of the candied lemon peel—so fresh and unexpected; just what the frosting needs.

speaking of which, we woke up this morning to 25-degree temperatures; when the day got light, it was apparent that the world outside had acquired its own heavy layer of sparkly frosting. i grabbed the camera and took a walk in the garden before it all disappeared

we’d had some light rain the evening before, just a smattering i think, but it was enough to gather in some places—like these pepper leaves

where it later froze in its tracks as it beaded up into drops and dripped from the edges.

the rutabaga greens had a pretty allover surface frosting as well.

and good thing the garlic graveyard we created last monday

has a nice blanket of leaves on top. that part of the garden got hit most heavily; it was stunningly pretty and eerie looking.

i love the way the celery and carrot tops took the frost

a bright white rim around every single little prong of each leaf. so precise and pretty against the dark green. it seems as if it should be more haphazard than that, doesn’t it?

brrr, it was cold, that’s all i know.

after lingering over shop talk and coffee, andrea took off for home and i set to work on some things around here. i had finished my susanna bandana shawlette; after a few last tweaks, it was finally off the needles.

i decided to block it this morning before doing anything else.

the rewritten pattern worked well, but we all ran out of yarn on the bindoff—NOT good. so i ripped back 8 rows and bound off there instead; this will provide 25 yards or so of “padding” in the yardage requirements.

i love the yarn—kollage riveting—it is nice and soft to knit with and blocks out beautifully, with a genuine denim look.

i love it in the storm blue; what a great color. i’m convinced that it will look fab on david; i hope he’ll wear it. i know he’ll at least wear it for a photo shoot, so you’ll be seeing it then.

my prototype was softer before blocking than after, so this time i soaked the piece in some unicorn fiber rinse before blocking to see if that would help the fabric retain its softness.

it’s not quite dry yet, but the surface feels nice—i’ll need to compare them side by side to know if it worked.

erica tells us that the pattern will become available on patternfish in november, after the kollage spring photo shoot is done. we’ll be sure to let you know when that happens.

i feel very satisfied with this project and i’m glad it’s now complete so i can move on to something new.

what that will be, i’m not sure of yet. i have a couple more secret projects to take care of before year’s end and i’d like to get another sweater on the needles. gift knitting season is nearly here, and i’ll need a few fun, quick-knitting patterns to be prepared.

i’ve got some ideas . . . which i need to finalize this week so i can get some projects on the needles and into travel bags before my next trip.

now to end this post, i have a very special announcement. our dear friend kat, who is one our dynamic moderators over in the fall in full color clubhouse, has just released a book on kindle.

your eight o’clock is dead is just the first in a fun-filled series of mysteries that kat has planned. i haven’t started reading it yet (i’m still hoping kat will record an audiobook; hee-hee, she has a great voice), but kim tells me it’s hilarious, so i’m looking forward to it.

i’m just so happy for her that she published it—it is, ahem, the frosting on the cake of a very excellent weekend.

and with that i’ll say good night—you know what tomorrow is, right?
stay tuned; there will be pictures . . .

good company

Friday, October 28th, 2011

mmm, pie fresh from the oven, yum, yum.
i made this on wednesday (from this recipe) because our friend andrea came to stay overnight on her way to michigan.

aside from putting in so much filling that the crust almost couldn’t contain it, it turned out very well, using frozen berries that we bought locally during high season (we have about twelve more bags in the freezer, yay).

i also cooked potato soup with everything fresh dug from the garden, a pickled beet salad (also from our garden), and i fixed with a cheese plate with my rhinebeck cheeses. we talked about yarns for our barenaked club all through dinner (beckie was there too),

and then afterward, the spinners came for class. we ate the pie with everyone there. sigh . . . now that’s a nice evening. and in the middle of the week, too. priceless.

i tried to take a photo of the cut pie for you the next morning but as i was doing that, the camera strap caught the edge of the board it was on and the remaining pie flipped into the air and then somersaulted to the floor with a crash.

it was specTACular—glass and blueberries everywhere—too bad i wasn’t filming. oh well, i’ll just have to make another.

well, maybe this weekend; she’s coming back on saturday night.
or maybe a different dessert this time—how about carrot cake with carrots from the garden, eh?? (maybe i’ll even add some grated beets. don’t tell david, ok? we’ll see if he guesses).

i did a LOT of knitting on my nona scarf while andrea was here and i think i may have doubled the length from where it was before. i’m on a mission to get this done and dusted before the knitters review retreat so that jen can sell the pattern in the spirit trail booth there. the pattern is all set to go; i just need to finish my knitting and blocking.

the fact that she’s returning bodes well for accomplishing this goal, i think.

i’m sorta trying not to start anything else til i’m done.
with just one other item on my active knitting list, this strategy may actually be working for the time being.

after andrea left on thursday morning, my susanna shawlette looked like this; i had just finished section C and was ready to begin the hem section. last night i worked on it for just a few hours (from maybe 11pm til about 2-ish??)

and look—i’ve gotten all the way through the first hem chart, about 26 rows (they are getting long now, too). this is what i was saying about the shawlettes—they really whip along. it’s a fever with me, i’m telling you.

i’m hoping david will like this one—i think this storm blue will look really great on him and the riveting cotton yarn is a good fit for the fall weather. i think he could even wear this for bike riding around town on errands (he has the best outfits; i wish my clothes were as cute as his).

i found that skein of merino/cotton that i was considering for another run of this shawlette. i bought this at rhinebeck about five years ago; it was the only remaining skein in this fiber combination. i seem to have lost the label, which really stinks; i’ve always wanted to get more. all i know is that it’s from some farm with maple in the name—good luck finding that, right?

i absolutely love it and have been saving it for something special. i might design something new for it, or i might knit little iris with it. i definitely want to make something i’ll use often. who knows, maybe i’ll even knit a hazeline with it . . . and with 500 yards in the skein, i may even have enough yarn for fingerless mitts to match.

whatever it becomes, it will be my travel project for my november trip.
i have plenty of time to think about what it will be while i get some other work out of the way this weekend.

in addition to cooking a bit on saturday, i need to do some bookkeeping, some work on the new club, and lots of knitting. i also need to lay plans for new projects to start over the next couple months.

and for that i have to visit my yarn room, which happens to be a mess at the moment. this is what i end up with when i travel a lot and have no time at home between trips—i dump stuff.

eventually, it gets to a level that makes me anxious, if not insane. it’s been at that level for some time now and i’m more than a little twitchy about it.

so this weekend, it’s time to clean that situation up. fortunately, it will coincide with organizing the new projects, which adds an element of fun and a modicum of efficiency to the process. i wish i could say that i plan things this way, but haha, not usually—it’s a coincidence.

and with that, i’ve gotta go see a man about a dog; have a nice weekend.

i’m so glad the world has wool

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

when my dear friend kim comes to visit, she’s always packing—presents are one of kim’s favorite things, whether she’s receiving them or giving them. there is almost always chocolate for somebody, and fun things from her many travels.

but this year, when she arrived in canton—starting line for our rhinebeck adventure—she brought an extra-special, straight-from-the-heart, super duper gift for me. and one that i completely treasure

a budding apple shawlette knit by her own two hands—isn’t it exquisite??
HA! if you think it looks pretty, you should feel it, mmm

i love my new shawlette—i pretty much didn’t leave the hotel without it, wearing it nearly everywhere on our trip, whenever the weather was right (which was almost every day).

and now that i’m home, it’s a fond reminder of our close friendship and the fun we have when we travel together. thank you kim!

kim knit this up in one of the recommended yarns—natural dye studio angel, an alpaca/cashmere/silk blend in fingering weight. this colorway (sorry, i don’t know the name!) is just magical—first, it’s got an unusual iridescence that i’ve rarely seen in a knitted fabric; i have no idea how the dyer does it, but it literally changes color as you move the fabric, from pink to lilac. it’s almost exactly like the evolution of hydrangea blooms.

and secondly, it’s a great color for me; it goes with my hair and almost everything i wear. i get lots of nice compliments on it wherever i wear it (so it’s likely i’ll be taking it along and wearing it a lot). it’s also super comfortable to have on; i barely know it there, except for that lovely envelope of warmth around my neck, mmm.

i also love that this gift has had some interesting travels on its journey to me. the yarn was originally purchased in the UK by our friend helen, who then gifted it to kim in one of our ravelry clubhouse swaps. kim cast on and brought it to san felipe, mexico, as a summer knitting project, while she waited for the first fall club shipment. she knit in the car, she knit at the beach, and she enjoyed herself the whole time. then she packed it in her suitcase and flew to ohio with it. then i wore it to the wool show in rhinebeck, where it could see everything from its bird-nest perch around my neck. so in a way, helen actually joined us on our adventure—anything for you helen!

speaking of shawlettes, i have once again succumbed to the bug (they are like potato chips for me; i can’t stop with them once i get started). besides the bandana print one that i showed you the other day, i knit a les abeilles in sea pearl while i was away.

i have knit so many of these that i think i could do it in my sleep, but thank goodness i didn’t; i love knitting this pattern, i wouldn’t want to miss out. i’m itching to block it now, but i’m not going to.

instead, i’m saving it to block in my class at the knitters review retreat in november, where i’m going to present “beautiful blocking”. everyone who attends is encouraged to bring items of their own to block, but for once, i’m planning ahead and setting aside a few FOs here and there to pack along.

anyway, once these two items were off the needles, i wasted no time in starting another bandana kerchief

and i’m already into section C—the insert between the body and the hem pattern. this thing is going to be done in no time. i need to plan another new one to put on the needles for the christmas season—something quick and cute and fun enough to knit two or three times, the better for gifting.

in the meantime, i’ll probably cast on for a little iris shawlette while i mull over my ideas—i realized this week that i don’t have a sample of that one and that it would be really pretty in a number of yarns i have on hand.

i’m thinking of using this skein of zen yarn garden serenity silk single that roxanne gave to me at the knitters fair in september

i love that turquoise color and the deep sheen of the yarn. and if, by chance, i get distracted and can’t start it this week, this will be a good project to travel with when i leave home in mid-november for my last teaching trip of the year.

of course, it would be equally beautiful in this tanis red label, in colorway chestnut—a single ply of merino, cashmere and silk in fingering weight

which i also received at knitter’s fair from tanis herself. they are so closely related as to be interchangeable; either one would make a lovely shawlette that is dressy, warm and entirely covetable.

yeah, shawlettes make the perfect traveler project, especially the ones that start at the hem and get smaller as you get closer to the end of the trip. they keep you on task and provide a nice present for when you get home.

i’m finally getting caught up and feeling a little less frantic this week, though i’m trying not to think about the fact that it’s almost halloween and just a few days ago it was june—the summer is a complete blur.

i can’t get over the feeling that i should be packing to go someplace this weekend, but every time i check, my calendar is blessedly free of travel for the next 2.5 weeks. i even did some cooking with food from our garden the other day. there will be more of that today, i believe . . .

there’s still plenty to catch up on—i’ve got patterns to write, edit, and knit up. and then david, beckie, and i are all working hard to organize our spring/summer neutrals club.

there is plenty more information to read and comment on in our ravelry groups—please do click over to get the information there and join in the discussion if you like; we’d love to know your thoughts. we will have a club webpage with complete information up and running by november 10, if not sooner.

i also need to get my yarn room organized again. while it seems like just last week that i spent a good deal of time clearing the clutter away and filing all the yarn from the floorspace into boxes and bins on shelves, i once again am tripping over a pile of yarn bags that sit just inside the door of that room. before i leave again, it’s got to be neatened up.

but as long as i’m talking about it, i may as well show you the stuff that came home with me from rhinebeck.

once again i made purchases form peggy hart’s booth, featuring her bedfellows blankets. peggy’s wool blankets are woven from mostly single-breed yarns (romney, corriedale, merino, etc.) on 1940s looms.

the log cabin throw (above is an example of those—the older equipment and artisanal yarn milling give these mechanically produced blankets a nice, handmade feel.

but this year, peggy also had a few handwoven blankets, the product of an experiment she will likely never repeat, she says. producing them was a lot of hard, slow work; she appreciates her mechanical looms even more now.

all she had to say was that she wouldn’t be doing those again—how could i resist? the log cabin came home with me too; i so love the herringbone napping blanket i bought last year, that i wanted one for another room in the house, mmmm.

now, as for yarn, well . . while i always try to keep my acquisitions down these days, some yarn always manages to follow me home—the better to share it with you.

and the yarn binge started a little early for us. we had patterns to deliver to three different vendors the fairgrounds on friday, so we took advantage of the opportunity to get a sneak preview of their wares and earmark some skeins we liked.

first up was the spirit trail fiberworks booth, where our lovely friend jen showed us some new yarns and allowed us to paw through peruse all her bins as her crew unpacked them.

decima is her newest yarn base: 80/20 merino/silk, but a little different. at 300-ish yards per ounce, it’s fine and lofty, but a rather firm twist gives it enough tooth and texture to keep it from slipping off the needles. that extra twist will also provide some excellent stitch definition.

i picked up the piney woods colorway and could not let it go, then took a couple of jen’s new colors—the orange harvest moon and the blue waikiki—with the idea that they will be just what we’ll be ready for in february and march.

it looks like decima is not up yet on her website, but we’ll let you know when it is . . . meanwhile, i also found some penelope in this gorgeous kismet colorway

a rich aqua/ocean of luxury. i so enjoyed knitting luciole with this yarn; i can’t wait to think up another project for it.

our terrific friends from shall we knit? in waterloo, ON not only brought me a good-sized bundle of toothbrushes (a brand i can’t get here), but another skein of their luscious willow street silk fingering yarn, this time in a rich gold. i dunno about you, but i’m thinking christmas when i look at that . . .

then at our lunchtime picnic on saturday, christine, who has started dyeing yarn to sell on her website, gifted me a generous bag of sample skeins—just look at these gorgeous colors (i’m sorry the photo is so dark christine; we’ve had awfully gloomy weather here this week).

from left to right we have journey worsted in colorway envy, cashmerino DK in magic carpet ride and siren sport in colorway crime scene.

oooh, and she’s got some gorgeous merino/silk DK that looks positively edible . . . ahem, just sayin’.

christine is one of my favorite ravelers—she’s been an active member of our groups and reader of my blog for several years, but i think she’s really hit her stride in the clubhouse group (as have many of you, hee-hee!). i’m just thrilled for her new venture and i hope it’s a grand success.

i gotta think of what i’m gonna knit with that yummy green yarn . . . it’s shouting my name.

now, no trip to rhinebeck would be complete without a complete falldown at the briar rose booth, and this year was no exception. all three of us undermined chris’s best efforts to keep the baskets stocked—it was shameless, but do we care?

i was pretty restrained during our friday pattern delivery, but chris went and drew my attention to this beautiful merino/silk combination she call kindness and i melted for the big red hank (ha! just like a four year old). the base is from mountain meadow wools, which means it contains my very favorite merino fiber from montana. they took a strand of that and wrapped it with silk which accepts the dye differently and shimmers the light.

color me a sucker, but i took it as if hypnotized. i don’t know yet what it’s going to be, but whatever it is, it should be good.

i was very, VERY good on saturday and did not even touch the briar rose yarn except to help kim and beckie spend their money, haha. but then came sunday morning and the sale at her booth.

i totally planned to stand outside and watch. heh.
when i got there, two things happened. i found a skein of the now sadly-discontinued grandma’s blessing

in these rich, rich tones of rust, brown, and red. one of my favorite pair of socks is knit from GB, which wears well for me (though not for david); i think i may have to knit a pair for myself with it.

then the real downfall came, when i thought i saw a ghost

a big basket of chris’s superwash merino worsted, which i knit up for our nephews’ christmas jackets last year. chris never put this yarn into production, because it just didn’t work out with her dye methods, but here was a whole basket of “limited edition” bundles that she was selling off.

before i knew it i had thrown down the bags i was holding and dived into the fray. i emerged with what i think are three, fairly well-matched lots of two skeins each—enough to knit each boy another sweater. maybe not for christmas this year, but you never know what crazy ideas i might get. they might need sweaters to match uncle david’s new rené.

ok, one last, very special thing and then i’m done with the yarn parade.

it was sunday afternoon, outside of building #31, when we ran into erica, who stopped us to say hello and tell us who she was. i recognized her name from the blog and from store orders—i just love meeting readers wherever i go; there’s truly nothing like it. i know some people will say afterward that they wanted to say hi, but they felt shy so they didn’t; i wish that wasn’t the case so often.

anyway, here was erica, saying hello and the next thing we knew she reached in her bag and pulled out this small bundle of finn fiber in a mysterious gray/green/gold colorway that made my hear thump

which she handed over, saying she dyed it just for me, on the off-chance she’d run into me at the fair—she came all the way from chicago. i was flabbergasted, not only at how sweet and thoughtful a gift this was, but also at how closely she must read the blog, because her guess of what i’d like was spot on. and finn, to boot!

BTW, you can find more of erica’s handpainted fiber in her etsy shop
(wow, i just looked; it’s awesome).

well if that wasn’t the perfect end to a perfectly wonderful fiber adventure, i just don’t know what is. so with that, i’m whisking myself away to work; see you next time.