Saturday, July 30, 2011

Seldom Truer Words

Now that “The Turn” is upon us as evidenced by all the mattresses strapped to vehicle roofs throughout town (July 31/August 1 when most of the rentals are turning over to a new student population), this bumper sticker has risen to my list of 10 all-time favorites:

Friday, July 22, 2011

An FO Parade

Our current state (in the midst of an intensive heat wave with no relief in sight for weeks to come) has inspired a lot of activities that could be accomplished inside in the air conditioning. The result is a making week in the extreme. Here’s the list by the numbers:

  • Three jars black raspberry preserves,

  • Two yummy new-to-me recipes, one of which was such a success that it is now on my list of top 10 favorite meals of all time (Chicken Royale* from my grandmother’s recipe box),
  • One totally awesome book read (The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender),
  • And one amazing lace tunic bound off, seamed and integrated into my “fancy dress” wardrobe.

It may be 100ยบ, but life is rockin’ around here.

Knitting detes:
Can-can is worked in Seduce by Berroco in colorway 4435. The yarn is a bee-atch to work with because it ladders down with just a sideways glance. Its fiber content makes it slippery (rayon, linen, silk, nylon), so its too slippery to safely knit on Addi turbos, etc. But the lace pattern is chock full of ssk’s and sssk’s, necessitating a pointy needle, which bamboos are not. I ultimately determined Bryspun circs to be exactly the needle required. I lengthened the front and back to give it a more flattering look for my frame.

Before knitting this, I was not a lace knitter. I’d tried a few projects in fits and starts, but a 26-row repeat was a huge challenge for me. There was lots of frogging and tinking back. In the end I probably knit this tunic three times. Yes, I could have “overlooked” some of the mistakes, but I would have known they were there. And I knew that the finished tunic, given the lace and luxurious fiber, would look high-end. That is, as long as there weren’t obvious errors in the knitting. Perseverance paid off. The finished top is a delight to wear, very light and cool. I’ll make a muslin bag with a ribbon drawstring closure to keep it in, folded in a drawer, when I’m not wearing it. That should help prevent damage from snagging. And I’m ready to tackle another lace project.

*The next time I make Chicken Royale, I’ll start it earlier and have a camera at the ready to shoot the plated dish. Essentially it is chicken breast wrapped around a bread stuffing, and smothered in a mushroom cream/sour cream sauce. Granted, not the most heart healthy dish around, but the final flavor profiles are worth the risk of arterial blockage.

Saturday, July 16, 2011


Pivot. Pivot! Pivaahhhtt!! I can’t say that word without evoking a scene from Friends where Ross tried (without success) to move an over-sized couch up the stairwell to his new apartment.

It’s pivot time in this college town of mine. Students are moving in, and while the mass migration won’t happen until the end of July, they are filtering in, checking out apartments, looking for employment.

Signs of migration:
  • Hooptie cars cutting through my neighborhood
  • A job interview on the sales floor of World Market (the two managers were taking copious notes while the job hunter described what gave her the passion and drive to study social work)
  • Cars with loud stereos
  • Sales staff at my local co-op who leave to look for something for a customer (me) and get so distracted that they never come back.
  • Larger-than-usual piles of junk outside rental properties awaiting trash pickup
  • Cars with young drivers speeding and changing lanes excessively
  • Stores merchandized with a heavy emphasis on dorm room essentials

I miss that part of summer when we had the town to ourselves. Unfortunately my household missed most of it taking care of critical out-of-town family concerns. Hopefully next summer will play out very differently.

The rise in student population isn’t the only change in these parts. Having offed my thrifted Woman’s Day cookbook, I started digging through my collection in search of new and past favorites. On deck this week is an Broiled Arctic Char with Basil Oil and Tomato dish from Gourmet Today; Chicken Royale from my grandmother’s overflowing recipe box; and Sweet Corn and Cilantro Chowder from one of my favorite soup cookbooks. The chowder is one I tried and loved last year, and given that sweet corn is in season once again and we’re in the depths of a prolonged heat warning, was a no brainer to put on the menu for this week. Arctic char wasn’t available locally, so I used the editor’s recommended substitution of wild-caught salmon. The basil is in season though, and I sourced more than necessary for this dish from the Saturday farmer’s market, along with beautiful black raspberries that will be turned into jam tomorrow.

The final pieces of Can-can are blocking right now, and if things work out schedule-wise on Sunday (between making jam and sauerkraut) I hope to have the ends woven in and the seams stitched by the end of the day. And that leaves me at another pivot point. With Can-can being such a time and energy sink—particularly since January of this year—I’m a bit at a loss as to where to turn. Do I start a new project, or return to another long-hibernating one? The prospects are truly exciting.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I know what you’re thinkin’, and you are wrong. This post isn’t about (yet-) another Can-can set-back. I have five rows to knit before I bind off on the final sleeve, thank-you-very-much. No, this is a cooking post.

I am a self-confessed cookbook hoarder. I haven’t done a proper inventory, but the fact that I have two free-standing shelving units dedicated to my collection should give you a vague sense of their numbers. I have cookbooks for many ethnicities, cookbooks with high production values (hardcover with lots of photos created by a vast editing/design team) and cookbooks that are collaborate fundraising efforts by local community groups. Some are newly minted. Some are nearly a hundred years old.

My area of interest these days are cookbooks that were published in an era when people still cooked for their families on a normal basis, while eating out was a rare treat. And that’s what I thought I was buying when I picked up the Woman’s Day Collectors Cook Book ©1973 at the local library’s book sale.

The editors describe it as a “cook book for connoisseur cooks—a new and unique collection of wonderful food adventures.” It contains over 2,700 recipes, mostly culled from the clip-out section of their magazine.

These are the recipes I have tested to-date:
  • Mandarin chicken
  • Chicken enchiladas
  • Beef pie with Sesame-seed puffs
  • Austrian beef goulash
All very different dishes, right? And yet they have a lot in common. They were finicky to prepare, ingredient heavy (ka-ching$$), resulted in average to mediocre meals, and every dish had an oddly similar sweet flavor and consistency. Seriously, the chicken enchiladas tasted a heluvalot like the beef pie. Makes no sense. And I usually prefer my protein dishes to be savory, not taste like dessert.

If this is what home cooking was all about in the early ’70s, I’m not surprised people started eating out more, or slapping a couple frozen dinners in the oven. Live and learn.

The base recipes could all be tweaked and refined, and I think ultimately elevated to deliciousness. But there are other cookbooks I own that hit it out of the park each and every time, like Gourmet Today. I think it’s time to turn my meal exploration adventures in a different direction.

As for the Woman’s Day cookbook, it is headed back to the library book sale donation bin.

Monday, July 11, 2011

R.I.C.E., R.I.C.E., Baby

Yeah, I know. Soooo dating myself. It gets worse.

Sunday, in the wrap-up of preparation for a brew day with parental guests, I had what can only be described as a cleaning accident. Mopping specifically. And while the wrenched knee I ended up with is no joy, especially when navigating stairs, it is exponentially better than the temple-bounce off the cabinetry that I was trying to avoid on my way to the floor. Mission accomplished.

Thus I am living the R.I.C.E. life: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Perfect for knitting, really. The knee will recover and is already much better than Sunday, and Can-can is progressing quite nicely. With this being sleeve #2-formerly-1, I am delighted to realize as I finish each row that I will only knit that particular row 2x more before I bind off. It takes the sting out of the psychological pain of being the new owner of a cane–black with a comfort grip.

And if you’re wondering, brew day went off without a hitch, much to the delight of my father who has never seen anyone brew beer period, and certainly not all-grain. The IPA will likely be named “Jewel’s New Boot” for an episode of Deadwood Season 1. Deadwood fans will understand just how appropriate that name truly is.

Monday, July 04, 2011

That Means We Have to Visit Kansas; or Regards from Nowhere

Stumbled across these old videos on YouTube recently - the perfect holiday viewing gift for my fellow Kansans. There are 1001 observations I could make about them, not the least of which are the (probably sadly accurate) depictions of stereotypes and gender roles of the day...

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Saturday, July 02, 2011

An Extra-Special Independence Day Holiday Weekend Celebration

Blocking has begun on Can-can’s front and back panels. Woo-HOO!

Either the second sleeve or the first (depending how everything shakes out) is officially cast on.

Friday, July 01, 2011


Have you read this report?

I haven’t read all 647 comments, but no where (in the article, or in the comments I read) did anyone address the son/future groom’s role in this drama. Did he not prep his future wife on proper behavior in the house he presumably grew up in, and therefore should know himself? Did he not intervene on behalf of his future wife? Maybe he knew there would be fireworks, and that’s exactly what he wanted...

I have other observations I could make, but the etiquette professionals and 647 commentors did a fair job of addressing them.