What is the flap, you heel?

by

I knew it was coming, the tag team. Two weeks ago Duncan was so sick and I knew there would be a brief interlude and then whammie! Angus is down for the count. The hubbalicious too. So, two sick guys, the littlest one at school and me doing the step and fetch. Reminds me of a sign I have in my kitchen:

After picking up Duncan from school, we were supposed to go grocery shopping. Well the good grocery store happens (cough) to be just near one of the yarn shops. So I asked Duncan if he wanted to go to run some errands with me and we agreed that we would go to the yarn shop and to the grocery store. You have no idea how cute it is to see an almost 3 year old little boy so excited about yarn. He named all the people he knew who needed yarn, including himself. He said as a statement, not a question: “You need more yarn Mom-mom!” He has proceeded to tell every person he has seen over the next twenty four hours “My Mom-mom is going to knit me socks. Green socks.” All this in his little almost three year old voice with the lisp. Makes my heart flutter.

So this was not to be a major outing to shop for yarn. Really I just wanted to check their stock on sock yarn. It is pretty hit and miss, I can’t tell if the owner/buyer has iffy taste in sock colorways or she just gets what she is sent. Duncan was told in very specific terms that he was to look with his eyes and not his hands. I sat him down in front of the sock yarn and told him not to move. He just sat there so sweetly and desperately wanted to hold some yarn. I let him hold it, I knew I was going to buy it anyway, so it was my loss, not the shop owners, if he wrecked it. For the record: I do not make a habit of bringing my children into a yarn shop. In my over five years of being a mom, this is the second time one of my children has been in a yarn store. And further for the record, the owner of the store was very gracious, showed Dunc behind the counter and talked to him while I shopped- without my asking. Yes, she enjoyed it as did he, and it was a great business move. She even invited him back. We bought some beautiful different sock yarns, which I’ll show you in a minute. Here is the startling realization I have come to: I have yet to turn my first heel of my first sock and I have a nice little sock stash starting. Now, it is not like Tammy or Emily (she is having a contest, go enter!) but it is a sweet and surely mighty little sock stash with some big aspirations.

Before I lay the sock stash on you, here is my very first ever heel flap (and attached sock leg)



This is the mystery yarn from my very sweet SP, you can see the skein in Saturday’s post. My SP also sent Socks Soar on 2 Circulars, and from it I am making the Simple Sock, in the woman’s size. Cat Bordhi recommends using circulars that are 24 inches, and boy is she right. I decided to get this cast on and found some 16 inches circs and it was a nightmare. I dug further in the stash and found some 40 inchers, too long but serviceable. They are working out wonderfully. They are both 3mm but one is labeled size 3 (Inox) and one is labeled size 2 (Addi). The join on the Inox is surely not as nice as the join on the Addis. The benefit of using 2 different brand but same size needles is that the cables are different colors. Very helpful as a new 2 circ sock knitter.
Okay, some of this you have seen before, the Koigu and the one ball of green Fortissima Socka but here is most but not all of the sock stash:


And last but not least, this was waiting when Dunc and I got home from the yarn store- never did make it to the grocery store…



ROCK ON INDEED!

This Sticker is so going to be seen in the pre-school parking lot.

Actual Knittng Content

by

I maybe the last person on the planet to knit this but it is a Clapotis. For some reason I had to start this about eight times. My markers kept getting in the wrong place or the boys kept interrupting. It made me even more determined, I tell you. Paper, pencil and stitch markers can really be a girl’s best friend. This yarn is a wool/alpaca mix from Three Waters Farm purchased at MSW last year. My oh my, this color is devine. How I wish I could show it to you in person. The name is “Melon” and it truly is luminous and it seems liquidy somehow. The yellow orange has wee bits of pink and it is truly beautiful.

If you enlarge the above picture, you can see the bits of pink. Funny, when I look at it my brain says yellow but my sense says pink. I love a good color conundrum.

And now drumroll please!

Thank you Secret Pal for my fantastic package! Here we have one 100g ball of Regia in a great denim and white color way, which will make beautiful socks for the boys. Also 100g of some great, vibrant variegated sock yarn. There was no label, did you dye it yourself SP? It looks delicious. And Socks Soar on Two Circular Needles by Cat Bordhi. A knitting book I don’t own, Yippee! And last but not least a book to read to my boys. The Old Man of Lochnagar written by Prince Charles. It looks so very charming, it will be a perfect read for our Sunday morning.

This package certainly does inspire me to knit socks. I can’t wait. Thank you SP for taking the time to figure out what I would really like, you were right!

Ides of March indeed

by

There is a church I drive by on the way to my local yarn shop. It is called the Church of the Holy Comforter. Every single time I see the sign I think it should be Church of the Holy Afghan. Wool on the brain. If none is on the needles, at least it is on the brain.




More block swap blocks. The yellow block is my favorite so far. It seems so alive to me.The blue one may not get submitted, it needs a bit of tweaking. The two large rectangles are not askew enough. I will fiddle with it and see what I get. It was suggested that we look at the Denyse Schmidt books for inspiration for block swap. Sunday morning I was chomping at the bit for the bookstore to open. Waiting to buy every Denyse Schmidt book they had. Odd, I made another cup of coffee, puttered around the house and somehow wasn’t excited to go buy the books. I am so pleased I never made it to the bookstore. I just began cutting, sewing, pressing, trimming and making it up as I went along. When I signed up for Block Swap I hauled out my Encyclopedia of Classic Quilt Patterns (which is a great resource) and marked 10 different blocks to make which would expand my skills. The idea was to make 10 blocks that I had never made before, using new (to me) techniques. Again, I am very happy I got caught up in doing something new. Confidence and satisfaction are the result. Funny, I was writing this post in my head and then surfed over to Yarnstorm and read Jane’s beautiful post. Her words were what I was thinking, except much more eloquent. Now If I could just get over my nervousness about paper piecing …

On a sad note: In the past two weeks, two really good men that we know have dropped dead. Sudden, immediate and so very permanent. Both were loving, funny family men and young, ages 39 and 42. Both left wives and children. So, today our hearts are heavier and life looks very different. Take a moment and do what you need to do. Now.

BlockSwapping Away

by

As you can see, LWIM has a new look. Isn’t it swank? A huge thank you to the Hubbalicious for all the hard work to move LWIM over and for all the fiddling around he had to do.

Today I made three blocks for Jessica’s BlockSwap:



After a very long night, Duncan’s temperature was normal yesterday morning.When I said he was on the mend, it was more of the power of positive thinking than fact. Then he spiked a 104.5 Now he has been fever free for almost 24 hours! We know that your kind comments and emails made all the difference.

Hot Hot Hot

by

This is just a quickie post. Duncan has had a fever since Tuesday, yes I took him to the doctor yesterday. 103.5 Yikes. We began antibiotics-one of his glands was enormous and angry red. This afternoon he spiked 105. Perhaps the only good thing about your child having that high a fever, is you get to talk to the actual doctor right away. Cold bath, which he destested and now alternating fever reducers every 3 hours. He can move his neck in all permutations, thank goodness. He will be fine. Here is a picture of him making pancakes over the weekend.

Onward!

by

The key to this chili is proportion. If you are the kind of cook who needs to measure everything out, this will drive you around the bend. This is all done by eye and what you like. The way I make it, there is a lot of meat. So, if you like a very substantial chili this is the one for you. Each time I make it, I put in much more meat than I think is a good idea and it turns out perfect. Plus, your butcher will love you. Another note about the pork roast. Buy the best you can. This dish will not save or mask sub-par meat. This time around, I bought beautiful organic boneless pork roast. 10.5 pounds of it. 4 roasts. The butcher was very happy to have the crazy lady in his shop. If you do make as much as I did (it is easily scaled up or down), you will have enough for a party as well as enough for your freezer. This chili does freeze well, just write the date in the container for safety! Also, check the spices when you have reheated it, it may need a bit of perking up, which is easy enough to do.

Roast Pork and Black Bean Chili

10.5 lbs. high quality boneless pork roast (organic if you can)

6 cups black beans rinsed, inspected and soaked over night in water.

6 large cloves garlic, 2 for cooking with the beans and 4 minced or grated for saute

4 large red onions, chopped

2 large white onions, chopped

2 28oz cans of pickled cactus (nopalitos), drained and chopped. Often cilantro and peppers accompany the nopalitos in the container, I just toss them out.

16 oz of diced green chilis (canned)

Red chili peppers of your choice, to your desired heat level. Chopped or crushed. I used 2 dried Thai Dragon chilis and 3 Cayenne chilis. This is a lot but not for this amount of chili.

Cumin (Most)

Chili powder (More)

Salt & pepper (Some)

Cinnamon (Less)

Cardamom (Even less)

Nice to have:

Rasp or fine grater for garlic. You could use a garlic press too.

Heavy duty cookie sheet, if using disposable roasting pan.

Meat thermometer

A few notes about the construction of this chili. It is very forgiving as you can add and subtract at your heart’s desire. It tastes best when started several days before you want to serve it. Saturday night? I would start soaking (or just boiling forever) the beans on Wednesday. My time line usually looks like this:

Wednesday

Rinse and inspect beans. Put the beans in 16 quart (or larger) pot with at least 6 inches of water and two large smashed cloves of garlic. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium and cook until the beans are tender. While the beans are cooking away I usually add about 2 tablespoons of Better than Bouillon , the beef base. Yes, we are cooking pork and I use beef. You may need to add more liquid as the beans cook. This liquid will become the “gravy” for your chili. Go for it!

In a large straight sided saute pan (or something similar), on medium heat, first lay down a fairly generous amount of olive oil. Once this heats up add first your garlic and crushed or chopped chili peppers and diced green chilis. I use a rasp or fine grater for the garlic to get the consistency I want, I want it to dissolve and still taste like garlic. After a minute or two I add the red and white onions. Sweat these and then when they are sufficiently soft and translucent add the chopped cactus. Lower heat and let everybody get to know each other for a while.

Then mix your spices. You want about 2 and a half cups total for all the spices combined. The rating system I used above should give you an idea about the ratios I used. Heaviest on the cumin and then less for each one listed. It is better to err on the side of caution and add less. You can always add, but never subtract.

Take about 2 cups of the spice mixture and set aside. Add the last half cup to the sauteing/sweating onion nopaltos mixture.

Close the operation down for the night. Seal it all up and you can start again tomorrow.

Thursday

Take your boneless pork roast(s), your pot of beans and your onion, cactus, and garlic mixture (which you have put into a bowl & covered the night before, no need to put such a large pan in the fridge) out of the refrigerator.

Let the pork rest come to room temperature and put your spices in a big, shallow baking pan. A 9×13 Pyrex would be ideal. Put on your gloves before handling raw meat! Pick up roasts one at a time and roll them in the spice mix, on all sides and on both ends. Rub them into the roast and repeat the rolling and the rubbing. You are after a very fragrant and highly spiced pork roast.

Turn beans on low, add onion, cactus and spice mixture and begin to bring it up to heat.

Preheat oven to 425. Take a sturdy roasting pan, or a disposable on with a heavy duty cookie sheet underneath it, and place spiced roasts in the pan, giving as wide a berth as possible to each roast. Cook until internal roast temperature is 140 degrees. The pork will not be fully cooked, so don’t eat it at this point, please. Let the pork rest about 10-15 minutes. Slice roast in half and then each half into quarters. Then slice each piece into generous bite size pieces. Put all the chopped pork roast into the bean mixture, stir to distribute. Cook on medium low for about an hour. This will fully cook the pork.

Make sure you properly clean up after handling the undercooked pork. You are done for today.

Friday

Take the really heavy pot of chili out of the fridge, and gently warm on a medium low heat. Once it has warmed up, taste it. How is it? Today is the day to add more stuff if you want. Does it need more beans? If so, cook them separately and add them ASAP. You want them to blend in and not taste like an afterthought. Do you want more onion? Chop and sweat some more, and get them in ASAP. The 3rd day of the chili (today) is the most important day. This is truly the day all the flavors marry. So adjust spices, add more onion, chili peppers, what ever you want, or not- it is your chili.

After all your adjustments are done, you are done for the day.

Saturday

Take the chili out of the refrigerator. Heat it up on medium, stirring occasionally. Once it is to temperature, you may notice some extra liquid on the top. I usually ladle most of it off. The consistency you want is stew, not soup.

You are done! Enjoy! And you may win your chili cook-off like I did last year. Or you may lose by one vote, like I did this year.

I’ve got a title to defend

by

Every year my My Uncle John has a chili cook-off. Nevermind that he, himself, actually cooks no chili. He has hosted this event for many years and after he married my Aunt Barbara, the tradition continued. She shakes her head at the whole thing and says :”Hey, I just live here.” Last year was the first year I actually attended the event as we have lived cross country from them, not the 30 minutes we do now. My invitation was received and my calendar marked. Then I forgot about it. I remembered about a week before and was non-comittal about actually making chili. Not that I couldn’t make chili, I learned at the heels of my father, a master. He used to make Chili for 300 people every Easter. I know, not traditional but hey I am from California after all. So I just was ambivalent. Then I realized that not only could I make chili, I was going to win this cook-off, by hook or by crook. It does bear mentioning that the voting in this cook-off is shady at best. There is politicking, ballot fraud, dangling chads galore and it is absolutely okay to vote for yourself many, many times. I was resolved that I would win and I would win big.

So, I thought and thought and read cookbooks. None of the recipes appealed, inventing my own was the way to go. My creation was a jewel of a concoction, if I do say so myself.

There was every kind of chili imaginable and trust me, you needed quite the imagination to consider some of the other dishes as chili. Crockpots, extension cords, paper bowls, beer, 20 particpants and 150 people crammed into the house. The prize was a hand blown glass chili, which is passed from last year’s winner, and bragging rights. Lots and lots of bragging rights. Well, lookie who won!

Roast Pork and Black Bean (Turtle Bean) Chili was my brainchild, and the others thought it was pretty darned good too. Tonight is the 2006 chili cook-off and I have a title to defend. The recipe is being made again and this time, written down. When it is done, I will share the recipe and (hopefully) the news that I have retained my title. Until then, some photo blogging…

This year I grew my own chilis. The small ones are Cayenne and the long scary looking ones are Thai Dragon. The plants were purchased at Maryland Sheep & Wool from Thorne Farm (sorry, no link to be found). They also sold beautiful organic heirloom tomato plants. I will be visiting them again this year, for sure.

Then make a huge jumble of spices for the roast pork. Remember to wear your gloves when handling raw meat. (I will spare you pictures of that)


My House

by

The very gracious and talented Emily tagged me for the house door meme. Thanks Emily! It was my very first time being tagged. House doors are a funny thing. We have a front door and nobody ever uses it really. Except Earl when he goes out in the morning. If you click the picture to enlarge it, you can actually see sweet Earl better. Photographing that dog is like photographing a pool of black ink.


If somebody uses the front door, you know that they do not know us all that well. We are not a formal people. The only use the door bell gets is Angus ringing it maniacally to drive his poor dear mother even further around the bend. Here is the view out the front door.





We love our bluebird house. We had 2 batches of baby bluebirds last year. Sorry about the picture of the pipe- this is more the side yard than the front yard. Here is a picture of the front door. Those steps need to be washed!


Soon the door will be stained black to match the fence. It drives me crazy that it doesn’t match. So, the door from the kitchen to the garage functions as our main door out of the house. Boring picture here:


When friends or family come to visit they know to come around back to the kitchen door. That poor door is practically falling off its hinges, it gets slammed by small hollering boys so often. Here is the view of the door from the kitchen table:

Hhhhmmm, whom to tag? I tag Laura (she is so multitalented) and I am also tagging kt. Yes, folks live in fear, there is more than one KT who knits. Go say hi and tell her to post more, she is a great writer! Tell her I sent ya!

More thoughts on Color

by

Color really does do different things for different people. Take my dear sweet Hubbalicious, for example. He has a fantastic eye for color and yet it doesn’t really interest him all that much. Color doesn’t matter to him. I have learned to be okay with this, though it confounds me how anybody can not care about color. Makes me gasp for air. He is extrememly creative and his medium is technology. It used to specifically be writing code and has grown into all technology. And you can go check out his gadget blog.

When we moved into our home I had most of the interior painted. Did you know that Benjamin Moore has small jars of paint, enough to paint a 2″x2″ swatch on your wall? Well, I wish I had a picture – there were about 30 2″x2″ swatches on my walls. For several months. A color was chosen and as the final choice went on the walls, I was skeptical. I let it grow on me for a few days and decided the elephant grey color I had chosen was actually lavender. Once I had seen the lavender, I could not un-see it. The color, Smoked Oyster, was lovely just not the one for me. So the next time my husband went out of town, I had it all repainted. And did not tell the hubbalicious. For over six months. He did not notice. Of course, I told everybody we knew because well, it was hysterical. He walked into my study as I was changing some furniture around…

Hubbalicious: “Hey, you have moved some things around in here. See, I notice stuff!”

Me: At which point, I could keep quiet no longer and I replied: “Oh, like you noticed how I had two thirds of the house repainted about six months ago?”

Hubbalicious: “Right, from beige to the color it is now.”

Me: “Nope, from that lavenderish color to this Stardust Grey

Hubbalicious:”You what? How much did it cost? You what? Prove it! Show me!”

Point proven. Eventually he could laugh about it, I have not stopped laughing about it.

Here is a 16 week course ALL about color. Free and online! Really, go there and read it. I have not read it all, what I have seen looks amazing. If you have any interest in just about any aspect of color, do yourself a favor and go there.

Color harmony completely fascinates me. Color theory is an area that I want to learn more about. There was a painting exercise I did a very long time ago that has stuck in my brain as the teacher pulled me aside after class and asked my why I wanted to paint. Ouch. Actually, I was being lazy and making it harder than it was all at the same time. The exercise was to pick three colors and make a painting. You could pick any three colors you wanted. I chose cadmium yellow, a violet and white. You will note, there is no cool color in the lot. That painting was the flattest thing you have ever seen. There was no Pop! And the Pop! is very important. Sometimes I do things that are all Pop! and there is no quiet place. Like this:


That is one of my favorite tricks, to color the cake batter. A great way to do this when making layer cake is to do each layer a different color. It is very effective in getting oooh and ahhs at parties because the cake looks like any other cake when it is frosted, but cut into it and Pop! These cupcakes are for the Hubbalicious when he comes back from Seattle tonight.

Othertimes, though more rare, it is all quiet and no Pop! Or very subdued Pop! Here is a quick oil sketch I did of myself (which looks nothing like me) a few (4?) years ago:

Someone who does color beautifully is Eric Fischl. Before you click some of his images are very explicit. If nudity bothers you, don’t go there. Anyhow, the way Fischl handles color makes me swoon. And his wife, April Gornik is also brilliant. And Delia Brown (More nudity! Beware, if you don’t like naked people!) really is wonderful. If you know anything about her, drop me a comment please. It is very tough for me to find stuff on her. Oh, and here is another drawing of hers. This drawing reminds me of just how much I love tone on tone. All this talk about color has me completely inspired, as do your very kind comments. Thank you. Have you seen project spectrum over at Lolly’s? Honestly, I had seen it and thought “Not for me”. Not certain why I thought that, but I did. Well, count me in. Painting is an avocation (I love that word) for me and I have not painted in almost 3 and a half years. I miss it terribly. It is the paint fumes I miss the most. Hah! For project spectrum I will do a one or a bunch of paintings and or drawings in the color of the month. I will keep you posted. Painting is someplace where I get lost, in a very good way. Sometimes in my own, and most often in other’s paintings. It is the color, the movement, the space created. We could all use a little bit more space and a quiet place to rest our eyes, couldn’t we?

Thank you again for the kind comments. Next up in the crazy color rantings…how color sneaks up on you!

Thoughts on color, energy and choosing well

by

Color. I love color. Each color has some element beauty for me. Color theory is extremely intriguing to me as are some philosophical discussions. A brief discussion of basic color principles and definitions can be found here. Color is a passion for me. It can take me up or bring me down. Color can quiet me or rev me up. We used to have a kitchen that was the exact color of my neighbors lawn, which we could see out the window, making the kitchen seem much larger than it actually was. The grass green was a very clean color to me, so even when the kitchen was a disaster it seemed cleaner than it actually was because of the Clean Green Walls.

Before there were small hollering boys in our lives, our house was a riot of color. Green kitchen, grape library, yellow family room. And it worked. It worked because they were all the same value. On another level, it did not work because they were all very vibrant and I found it difficult to relax in some of the more brightly colored rooms. If you ever want to skyrocket your productivity, paint your office or workspace red! My old home office had geranium red walls and the rest of the room was done in tones of red and pink. I got stuff d-o-n-e. Now, with the small hollering boys it would be unbearable to have all that color on the walls. There is quite enough energy here as it is, thank you. When we moved into this house Angus, who is extremely energetic to begin with, requested a firetruck red room.

As an aside, when I tell people that we have super high energy boys, most of the time I am met with: “Oh that’s how all little boys are”. After meeting them, I hear: “I thought you were exaggerating, but those boys are the most energetic I have ever met!”

Back to color…The request for the firetruck red room was denied and a compromise was reached. Robin’s egg blue walls and a red door. Thomas the Tank Engine Colors and yet oddly chic and refreshing when no trains are involved- good thing too as his old room is now my sewing room. And I find the blue invigorating and quieting all at the same time. Yes, the door is still red.

As much as I love color, sometimes it gives me fits. Rather, I give myself fits because I get lazy about color. Lazy about the process. I settle for good enough when with a bit more work it could be really striking. This really does pertain to all areas of my life, whether it be quilting, painting, knitting or what color my bathroom is. (More on this tomorrow).

Here are some fabrics I have gathered for a future quilt for Angus. This kid seriously loves red. In the past few months he has allowed that he might, just might, like blue.

So in the name of the process, I made this Courthouse Steps block to proof my ideas about how these fabrics work together. Very pleased that I did as it showed me several things I had not seen before.

I attempted to have the red based fabrics from the center go from light to dark. This was somewhat successful. The outermost red fabric and the one next to it need to switch. Looking at them alone, I thought the outermost was the darker red. That is what I love about color- how it is one color on its own and quite another depending on who its neighbor is. The white based fabrics were meant to go from the center, dark to light. The second (from the left) white based fabric, the dotted one, needs to be one position closer to the center and the floral needs to be second from the left.

To sum up about all this color talk, I wanted to publicly admire some people who I believe are masters of color and inspire me to learn and do more. Angry Chicken, Yarnstorm, Be*mused, and Six and a Half Stitches. There are many others that inspire and I will tell you about them soon, though you probably all ready know them. Thank you ladies!

1 2 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 15 16