Sunday, December 6, 2009

Mini Pies

I finally found the right jars and had some sent to my local hardware store so today I'm making mini pies! I found the tutorial here. As part of a two-person household I think its a great idea. Chris isn't a big desert eater and I really shouldn't eat an entire full-sized pie myself, so whenever I make pies we end up eating a few pieces and then the rest goes bad in the fridge. Or I eat the whole thing because I don't want to waste the food, and then feel guilty for eating so much pie! That got me thinking of other people who don't really need full sized pies. Like my grandparents or my aunt who lives alone lives without any other humans. And since they are frozen and just need to be popped into the oven they are perfect for my grandparents who don't do much cooking anymore. So guess what everyone is getting for Christmas this year?

I used this crust recipe (so simple!) for all the pies. The blueberry pies are from this recipe using frozen blueberries.

Chocolate Chess Pie
from my great aunt Kitty, as dictated to Will Bullins
3/4 stick butter, melted
4 Tblsp cocoa powder
1 cup white sugar (a little bit more)
2 "egges"
1/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Mix it all together. Pour into pie crust. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

Apple Pie
from my mother in law, Dianne Lough
I used an assortment of types of apples for the apple pie- pretty much one of everything they had at the store. Dianne recommends 3 granny smith and 4 golden delicious cut up apples and put into bowl with fresh squeezed orange juice (to prevent browning) in separate bowl, mix together 1 cup sugar, 4T flour, 1t cinnamon, 2 dashed nutmeg, dash salt, 1 tsp cold butter. Mix with apples until coated and microwave for 4min pour apple mix into crust, add top crust and brush with milk, sprinkle with sugar

Instead of the traditional top crust for the apple pie, I used a crumble made with 1 part butter: 1 part flour: 3 parts brown sugar and a handful of pecan bits

Sharing Our Gifts: Project 3

Every month the Sharing Our Gift group selects a charity in a different state to knit/crochet/sew for. The December charity is The Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation. Here is the information posted by the group:

From the OKBTF website, here is some information about the origin of the foundation:
“The Oklahoma Brain Tumor Foundation (OKBTF), was founded by Nancy Thomason after the death of her son Cade Thomason to a brain stem PNET tumor on February 17, 2000. She vowed to fight the disease in honor and memory of her son Cade.

OKBTF is dedicated to meeting the needs of Oklahoma families, caregivers and patients affected by primary brain or central nervous system tumors. We work to provide for needs through education, advocacy, research and service.”

OKBTF provides services for 227 families and approximately 908 caregivers and immediate family members of individuals with brain tumors.

For this project, we will be creating hats, scarves, or shawls to donate to the organization. As always, these can be knitted, crocheted, or sewn, and they must be handmade.

Deadline to have these items received by the project coordinator is January 5, so please allow appropriate mail time. She will be delivering to the facility on or about January 8.

Now I'm off to search through my stash and look up some patterns. I'm thinking maybe a warm, chunky shawl, perfect for snuggling. What will you be making?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cheesecake with my Friends!

My birthday is next week and I had been planning to just go out to dinner with DH and leave it at that. But then I got a craving for cheesecake. And I realized that birthdays are for celebrating with friends. So today I threw myself a birthday party at Cheesecakes by Alex. In attendance were Kelly, Tamsie, Eliza, Alli & her Peanut, my mom and Chris. The weather was amazing, especially compared with the terrible rain and wind we've had all week, so we were able to sit out on the patio. After taking a picture of the cheesecake and the beautiful flowers that Kelly brought me, I put my camera back in my bag and forgot to bring it back out. Thankfully Tamsie was much more diligent and got pictures of everyone which you can see on her blog. Even though I told everyone not to bring gifts, Tamsie gave me this beautiful yarn bowl from Dancing Pig Pots. I've been wanting a yarn bowl for years- how did she know? And whats even better- it was filled with luxury yarn. Two balls of super soft cashmere in a nice, neutral light brown and a ball of Sanguine Gryphon's sock yarn (one of my favorite dyers).

My mom also brought some presents, a couple of new tops (all which I love and fit perfectly) and my new mp3 player! I've been looking forward to it since I picked it out online a month ago. Only, its so tiny! I didn't expect it to be so small. I'll have to make it a little case or else I'm certain to lose it.

On the way home, DH and I stopped by Best Buy to pick up his present to me- new speakers! These are for my studio so that I can listen to podcasts and audiobooks while I dye yarn. I've been using my laptop but its speakers are so quiet that I can't hear some podcasts over the noises of dyeing.

And since there happened to be a Barnes & Nobles in the same shopping center we stopped in to pick up a copy (or two) of the new Yarn Forward (Thanks for letting me know its out now, Tamsie!). Usually I just buy the digital version but this month I had to have the real thing because of Laurel Coomb's gorgeous sweater pattern "Ruth's Tunic", designed for Gradiance yarns.

All in all, a great day! Now I think I'll curl up with a hot drink, my knitting and my sweet husband!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Support Testicals!

And Prostates. And mustaches. November, I mean MOvember, is the month that men everywhere grow their mustaches out to make people more aware of men's health issues, in particular prostate and testicular cancer. There is so much attention and funding given to research for breast cancer, which is great, but not as much attention or $ given to the male equivalents. The boyfriend of a friend is participating by pledging to grow his mustache for the month of November in exchange for donations. Its like a marathon, but for lazy people. You can support Michael and all men by giving a donation. Even a few bucks is fine-- it all adds up! Click the button to donate or find out more.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Workshops at Knit Picky

If you are in NC and interested in fairisle knitting, Knit Picky is hosting a couple of workshops next weekend and still have open spots! I'm taking the color palette class on Saturday morning. See you there!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This week in crafts

Reading this blog you probably get the impression that all I do is eat. I'm o tend to talk about my food a lot. But I'm also quite crafty. Often I can't talk about my projects because most of what I do is knit, and most of my knitting is "secret" until the pattern is published. But this week I've been working on lots of little things that I can talk about (plus one sewing project that I can't talk about now, but will share photos of next week). We are going to Sock Summit next week to sell yarn and this is the biggest even that we have attended so we have been crazy busy preparing. Mainly this has meant dyeing pounds and pounds and pounds of yarn, but I've also had some fun little craft projects for the booth. As if the booth wouldn't have enough color already, I decided to make our signs colorful too! I bought a bunch of those cheap plexiglass frames and heated them so that I could bend the stand parts back so that they are flat on the back and then glued ribbon to the top to hang them. I haven't done any scrap booking in ages so it was fun to have an excuse to go shopping in the scrap book aisle. As a dyer, all the colors combinations in the paper aisle are a lot of fun!

We needed something to display the shawl sticks in but they couldn't be bulky, breakable or heavy since everything has to be shipped in boxes across the country. So I grabbed a couple of Crystal Light containers out of the cabinet (sorry about the little crystal light tubs everywhere, Chris) and covered them in fabric. I just used some scraps from previous projects and glued them to the plastic cups with fabric glue- no sewing required. A very quick, easy, cheap (free, since I used materials I already had) solution!

I also used up a bunch of fabric scraps making these half aprons for Kelly and I to wear
in our booth. Its very helpful to have a calculator, pen, and receipt pad handy to check people out quickly and at our last show it seemed like we were often misplacing these things. I'm also a bit worried about leaving cash in a box under the table at a show this larger. So I made these aprons with lots of pockets in the front to hold all the "stuff" we need and a big zippered pocket to put cash in. We'll probably still have a box to put change in so that we aren't weighed down, but this way we can have our bills/checks on our bodies at all times. If you click on the picture it will get bigger and its easier to see all the pockets.

I also whipped together this crocheted swiffer cover one afternoon when Avi's hair was driving me crazy. The swiffer works really well for getting up her hair and other dirt and debris tracked in from the back yard on the kitchen floor, but I often have to use two swiffer sheets to do the whole floor. This crocheted cover has little ruffles on it so its much better at catching hair and larger debris and can hold on to more at a time. Plus I can just shake most of the hair/etc. off into the trash can and re-use it. Once it gets too dirty to keep using I'll just throw it in the wash! The pattern is free and very fast and easy. I used acrylic yarn since it seemed like it might have more static cling than a natural yarn. Plus its a great way to use up acrylic yarn in your stash that might not be nice enough for other projects!

I haven't been doing much knitting lately because I've been so busy with other things. Last night I couldn't take it anymore, though. I had to knit something. I do have a lace project on the needles but I wasn't in the mood for something requiring concentration so I made a little heart sachet with some left over Green Sheep Worsted and filled it with a mixture of cedar chips, mint leaves and essential oils known for keeping away moths and other bugs. It was very fast/easy and I think I'll be making several more to give as gifts.

This week in food

Well actually I should say the past two weeks since I didn't find time to blog last week. On July 21st (last Tuesday) our CSA box contained tomatoes, potatoes, Sun Gold cherry tomatoes, basil, a head of garlic and cantaloupe. Chris cut the cantaloupe up before I was able to get a photo! We used the basil and some of the garlic to make a pesto which we mixed with cherry tomatoes (either the ones from the box or from the garden- I can't remember) and pasta for a light, but flavorful dinner. I roasted the rest of the garlic and plan to use it and the potatos in a loaf of garlic-potato bread, once I find a spare minute or two to mix up a batch of dough. The cantaulope was sweet and refreshing, perfect as a snack or even as a desert. Its been oppressively hot and humid lately so something cool and light is just what we've needed.

Our own garden is producing mainly jalapeno peppers right now, though we are beginning to have a steady stream of tomatoes and the occasional squash. The tomatoes we'll often eat sliced with olive oil and mozerella but the peppers aren't so easy. Chris will sometimes add them to a meal but even so he was barely making a dent on the pile of peppers forming in the veggie bowl. So he decided to make pepper jelly using this recipe. He had never made jam before but I have, so it was fun to have the chance to teach him something in the kitchen for once! While we had the big pot out for boiling the jars I also canned up some of the relish that I made a few weeks ago (it had been marinating in the fridge and waiting on me to find time to can it). I'd hoped to also make a couple of jars of blackberry jam this week, but its looking like I won't have time.

Today we actually got two CSA boxes. Several weeks ago we were out of town when we would normally pick up our box so we asked them to not pack us one for that week. That gave us a "credit" that we could use to get a second box the week of our choice. Since we are planning a BBQ with friends for this Friday we decided to double up this week in case there was anything in the box we could serve with dinner. And we got lucky-- it looks like we'll be having watermelon for desert on Friday! We also got more tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and red bell peppers plus our first eggplants. I have no idea what to do with eggplant, its not something we normally eat. So I guess we'll be experimenting this week!

I'm beginning to wonder if I should make some salsa or spaghetti sauce to use up all these tomatoes...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Another BIG Thank You!

I don't know what I've done lately to deserve this, but last weekend I got another wonderful sheep-related gift, completely out of the blue! Chris's mom, Dianne, has recently been experimenting with a new (to her) medium, oil pastels, and last weekend she surprised me with this beautiful framed work of art. I love the way she incorporated the full rainbow of colors without making it look cartoonish or unnatural. I think its just exquisite and can't believe how fortunate I am to have such a talented artist in my family! I have it hanging on the while in my studio so that when I'm seated at my winder (where I spend a lot of time!) I can see it.

Wedding Season

So far I've been to three weddings since May, and will be attending my fourth (and final) tomorrow. All of them have required traveling, but its been fun to see old friends and family and to enjoy other people's weddings without the stress of having to plan one myself. The wedding I went to last weekend, July 4th, was especially fun because it was my friend Shanna's. I know Shanna through the yarn shop where I used to work, Knit Picky, and she invited a number of the gals from the weekly knit night. I haven't seen much of these friends since I moved a year ago, so it was a lot of fun to catch up with them over yummy barbecue-- Shanna hired the same caterers as we had at our wedding, Little Richards Barbecue and they did a wonderful job, again. Shanna also did a wonderful job with all the wedding details. I loved her bridesmaid's bouquets of wild flowers and the simple beauty of her flower adorned cake. And of course Shanna was a beautiful bride. I know people always say this, but she really did seem to be glowing with joy!

You might recall that Shanna is one of the people that I was making aprons for earlier this summer. I don't think I ever posted pictures from her shower, though. Shanna seemed to really like the apron, and I hope she gets some use out of it. I know that she likes to cook and she is a seamstress herself so I know she appreciates the work that went into it. The pattern is Emmaline by Sew Liberated, the fabric is by Amy Butler.

Homemade Bagels

Did you know that you can make bagels in your own kitchen? And that its really no harder than making loaf bread? I know- I too was stunned to learn this. My favorite bread book even has a recipe. You make your dough like usual, then pull it into a bunch of little balls and let it rise. Then poke a hole in the middle of each ball and they are ready to go into the boil pot. The boil pot is just sugar, water and baking soda. Next time I'd like to try adding malt to the mix since I've heard that gives the outside of the bagels a better color and texture. After a brief (1-2min each side) dip in the boil pot they bake in the oven for 20min and, ta-da, fresh homemade bagels! I also made a couple of flavors of cream cheese to go with them since the bagels themselves were plain. I just mixed your basic reduced fat cream cheese with a) chopped nuts and honey b) sundried tomatoes (pureed) and fresh basil c) chopped and smooshed fresh peach. Yum!

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Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Farmers Market

One of the greatest things about this time of year is the abundance of local produce available. My favorite of our many local farmers markets is the one held on Wednesday afternoons in Carrboro. Now that we are living in Hillsborough, I don't make it to the Wednesday market every week like I did last year when it was only a few miles away. In fact, it had been several weeks since my last visit and wow, what a change! The selection is always great but today the booths were overflowing with so many different colors, shapes and smells. Earlier in the summer only one or two crops would be plentiful at a time- for example all the booths would have leafy greens, but not much else. But today there were too many things to keep track of them all. Now that I'm home I wish I had gotten more, but my arms were loaded down with as much as I could carry by the time I was done! I managed to come away with a dozen ears of corn, a dozen peaches, okra, peach jam, ground goat meat, eggs and some kind of bean that looks like black eyed peas, but green (I forgot to write down the name, oops!).

Using these instructions the dozen ears of corn quickly turned into these bags of corn, ready to be frozen. Each baggie contains about 2 ears of corn (the missing 2 ears I saved to have corn on the cob for dinner later this week). Later this fall or winter when the fresh produce isn't as plentiful it will be so easy to just grab a baggie from the freezer and heat it up in the microwave for a fast, easy, delicious and healthy side.

Now, what should I do with all those beautiful peaches?

Pickle Relish

This week's CSA box contained tomatoes (both full size, heirloom and cherry), an onion, a purple bell pepper, black berries, cucumbers and basil. Chris used some of the cucumbers, basil and tomatoes to make a yummy salad almost as soon as we opened the box. But we still had a lot of cucumbers left over. Especially when you include the cucumbers left from last week. And they look like they won't last much longer. I knew I had to take action, so I decided to make relish!

I used this recipe, but using the amounts and ingredients that I had on hand.

1.5lb cucumbers, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 purple bell peppers, diced
1/4 cup kosher salt

1tsp each: mustard seed, turmeric, whole allspice, whole cloves
1/2 cup sugar
1.5 cup white vinegar

The mixture has to marinate for at least a day before its ready for canning (and sampling!) so I don't know yet how its going to turn out. Cross your fingers that it ends up edible-- I've never made relish (or pickles of any kind) before!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

This and That

The past couple of weeks have been a blurr and the next several promise to be more of the same. Even though this time of year is traditionally the slow season for the knitting industry (how many people really feel like knitting when its a thousand degrees out and humid?) it has been insanely busy for us. This June was our busiest month on record. We have had several big club shipments to work on, a number of surprisingly large wholesale orders (that all came in during the same week, of course!) plus a HUGE knitting festival (Sock Summit) that we are dyeing inventory for. The clubs are all done (for this month) and the wholesale orders are moving along, but the goal for Sock Summit is pretty much "as much as is humanely possible to dye before the end of July" so I imagine I'll stay pretty busy until then.

Of course none of that is terribly interesting to blog about. And in the few moments when I'm not working there is always laundry or dishes to be done. Thats even less interesting to blog about. I did finally finish my Secret Garden shawl tonight but since its a mystery KAL I can't post pictures. I'm very happy with how it turned out, though. Now I just need to get some blockng wires so I can properly block it.

Our plans for the 4th are a bit unusual- instead of picnics and fireworks we have a wedding to attend! A friend of mine, the one I made the apron for a month or so ago, is getting married so we'll be spending most of the day near Winston-Salem to celebrate with her. I'm looking forward to seeing some of my friends that I haven't spent much time with since moving a year ago. Its hard to believe that its only been one year since we got married last July- it feels like so much has been packed into this past year. And it feels like we've been married for much longer, but I suppose thats no surprise since we were married in our hearts and minds for years before the ceremony actually took place.

Chris begins his rotations in the hospital on Monday. Last week was 3rd year "orientation"-- basically a series of lectures designed to squash any remaining hope that the med students have of mantaining any joy in their lives for the next year. Lets hope that its not as bad as they made it out to be. To get him started on the right foot, I want to fix a special treat for him on Sunday. I'm trying to decide between Banana Pudding Icecream and Peanut Butter and Banana Cream Pie. I might also make some Chocolate Sugar Cookies to go with either of the above recipes, since I think that bananas and chocolate are awesome together.

Because of all the work-related business, I haven't done much sewing in the last few weeks (I haven't even done much knitting!). I'm still trying to finish some of the aprons I started so that I can give them as gifts-- I've already been using mine, even though it isn't hemmed and still needs the pockets sewn on! I did make myself a craft apron using some scraps from other projects so that I can keep my scissors and other small tools/supplies handy when I'm in the studio. I'll also use it to keep money, pens, receipt book, etc in at yarn shows. I need to make Kelly one, as well. I found another fun project for using some scraps-- a fabric dog collar! I have the plastic clip part from some old project in the past, so now all I need to do is dig up a D ring and I'll be set. When we take Avi on walks we use a harness, the collar's only real use is as a place to keep her tags, so I'm not concerned about its strength. I've always wanted to knit the dog sweaters but shes never cold, and is a bit large for that type of thing anyway. I think a fabric collar will suit her much better!

Well, I'd better get back to the laundry if we are going to have anything clean to wear to the wedding tomorrow. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend (if you are in the US) or simply a nice summer weekend if you are elsewhere!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Coffee/Tea Swap Box

Earlier this week I got my coffee/tea swap box in the mail from Danido! She sent me so many yummy treats. The coffee is a peaberry variety which I love. Peaberry coffee is so cute- it looks like baby coffee beans! And its from a lroaster that is local to her (in Las Vegas). The tea is a blend that she put together herself and it quite nice. I've already had several cups of each. She also included some coffee flavored candies that are surprisingly flavorfull- they are great for when I don't have time for a real cup of coffee and, oh yeah, they are already half gone. I might have to find a place to buy more. The light colored bars on the left are not bars of fudge, though thats what they look like in person, but bars of soap. We left town right after the box arrived so I haven't had a chance to use the soap yet, but it looks like it will be a very creamy, mild soap. Very nice. And She also sent two tubes of her handmade chapstick and I am addicted. I love this stuff. She sells both the soap and chapstick on her artfire shop, Pale Soap. The little skein of handspun red yarn has the tiniest bit of glittery stuff in it which is very fun. I've already used it to make a teacup handle sweater. I just need to find some cute little buttons to go with it. My picture doesn't show it, but the box also included an ArtFelt kit-- its hiding underneath the note card with the cute sheep drawing on it. I've wet felted, needle felted and fulled before, but ArtFelt uses a technique that seems to combine all three. The kit is for four colorful coasters and I'm looking forward to trying it.

All in all its a really cute package and I'm enjoying it tremendously. So thank you to Dani for such a great gift! I hope she enjoyed the package that I sent her, too!

Straight from the Cow

This week, Chris and I are spending some vacation time at my parent's mountain house in the NC mountains. We've both been working hard lately and can use some resting and relaxing. My parents joined us for our first day here, and this afternoon my mom took us over to the neighbor's dairy farm. The cow fields extend right up by the house and my mom takes near daily walks through the pastures. But only recently has she met the farmers and gone down the hill to the milking barn. The farmer, and his dad, are good ol' boys but real friendly and happy to have us watch through the windows of the milking barn and pet the baby calves which love to suck on fingers! And before we left they filled our jug up with fresh milk-- still slightly warm from the cows!

This year milk prices have been falling in the grocery stores due to an over-production of milk, but at the same time hay prices have been rising because of increased transportation costs. Combined with the heavy rains this spring making it hard to get anything done, small farmers are struggling to make ends meet. So if you have the opportunity to buy local dairy products-- even if its a bit more expensive-- I encourage you to do it. Not only will you be getting a better product, but you'll be helping to keep small farmers in business!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Whole Food Challenge

In one of my last posts I talked about how I want to try to eat more "whole foods". And this has nothing to do with the grocery store of the same name. The idea is to eat more foods that come to your kitchen the way they were grown- i.e. as a tomato rather than a premade and packaged sauce. At first glance this sounds pretty easy. There are lots of whole foods that we already eat. Its common to eat whole veggies or fruits, and cuts of meat count as "whole" too (even if you don't have the whole cow!). But when I sat down with a recipe for macaroni salad today I realized that this might be more difficult than I expected. My usual macaroni salad recipe calls for elbow macaroni, mayonaise, vinegar, mustard, sweet relish, carrots, peas and cheddar cheese. Only two things on that list are whole foods-- carrots and peas. I decided that I'm going to allow pasta on my whole foods diet. Yes, I CAN make pasta myself. And if I'm doing a lasagna casserole maybe I will. But I don't have the time, equipment or skills to make my own elbow macaroni for a casual pasta salad. And I read the ingredients list and its basically just a couple types of flour and egg whites with some added iron, riboflavin, thiamin and folic acid (these last things all being added nutrients). So we'll let the pasta slide. I'm not really sure what to think about the vinegar and mustard. Can those be made at home? It might be worth trying sometime. For this recipe though there were only a few tablespoons of each so I wasn't too concerned.

Other than the pasta, the other main ingredients are the mayo and the relish. I'd like to eventually make my own pickles to be used for homemade sweet relish but thats not something I'm ready to try today, so I picked a jar of sweet relish with the fewest ingredients I could find, and most importantly one without any added corn syrup. I think that the dish would be improved a lot by using homemade relish-- whether its made by me or by someone local. I think I'll see if I can find some at the farmer's market. I know we have a couple of booths that sell canned/jarred things.

The mayo was the one thing that I simply could not justify. I don't think there is anything natural about commercial mayo. Especially not the low-fat miracle whip I normally use. So I decided to try something I've never done before. I made my own mayonnaise. Maybe this is something that you have done before or that you've known of people doing but it seemed very odd to me. I've never thought about making condiments before (and of course now I want to try making my own ketchup and mustard too!). But I found an easy recipe, gathered together the few ingredients needed (I found some pasturized eggs at the grocery store thankfully-- I'm a bit nervous about raw eggs) and pluggedin my Magic Bullet. The magic bullet is one of my favorite kitchen appliances. Its basically a mini food processor/blender and I use it for everything from making butter to blending smoothies to grinding chocolate, to, well, making mayonnaise. At first I thought it was a failure. It tasted weird-- oily and eggy. But I put it in the fridge to chill and the flavors blended a bit better. And then I realized what the real problem was-- I haven't had REAL mayonnaise in years! We always buy miracle whip which, of course, tastes nothing like actual mayonnaise. I'm not sure that I'd like the stuff I made smeared on a sandwich. For one thing its much too liquidy (though longer in the fridge may have helped with that). But once I mixed it in with the rest of the ingredients it makes a great pasta salad!

I also decided to add a couple of hardboiled eggs and skip the cheddar cheese for now. I'd say this one turned out successful! Now I just need to figure out how to make my own relish, vinegar and mustard...

Laura's Macaroni Salad Recipe

  • one box (aprox 14oz) of elbow macaroni pasta (I use a multigrain pasta that is in between a regular pasta and a wholegrain pasta)
  • one recipe's worth of Homemade Mayonnaise using this recipe
  • two hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • a cup of sweet relish (more or less to taste)
  • 2 carrots
  • about 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard (to taste)
  • a couple pinches of salt (i use one big pinch in the water when I cook the pasta and another smaller pinch mixed into the salad)
  • champagne vinegar to taste- a couple of tablespoons (other types of vinegar would probably be fine, this is just what I had in the pantry)
  • I often add peas but forgot this time-- just throw a few handfulls of frozen peas in with the pasta for the last few minutes of cooking time
  • optional: cheddar cheese grated on top

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thank you!

While in West Virginia this week I got a lovely surprise from one of our family friends. Marcia has been Chris's mom's best friend since childhood and is like an aunt to Chris. Anytime we go to WV to visit family we make sure to take time to see Marcia and her husband. In addition to be a lovely person and a wonderful friend to the whole family (she takes care of Grandma like she was her own mother), Marcia is a talented craftwoman. She does all sorts of things but most recently has taken up penny rug making, a type of applique using felted wool. I wish I had taken pictures of some of the beautiful table runners and mantel covers she had in her home. And look what she made for me! I wasn't celebrating a birthday or any other special occasion, she just knew that its something I would enjoy and appreciate. And she couldn't have picked a better design. The leaping sheep are perfect! Right now I have it in the center of our kitchen table but I think I may hang it on the wall so that it doesn't get damaged and can be seen better. Thank you Marcia for such a lovely present!


Where did this last week go? The first part of the week was spent busy with work and then we spent Thursday and Friday traveling to and from West Virginia for a cousin's wedding. I got two skirts finished in time to wear on the trip, but of course haven't taken any photos yet. During the earlier part of the week I also took a brief moment to bake some cookies--the Orange Poppy Seed Sugar Biscuits I mentioned in the last blog. They turned out yummy, but since the main ingredients are butter and sugar there was little doubt that they would! As per the directions, I formed the dough into logs and refrigerated over night before slicing and baking. I wonder if I could roll the dough and slice it, or just plop it down in spoonfulls, if I didn't want to wait for it to chill. But the slice and bake method worked well and I ended up with very consistently shaped cookies. Of course, I was too busy eating them to take a picture!

I also "collected" a bunch of worm tea from the vermicompost bin. I always forget to do this and by the time I get around to it there is a LOT of liquid in the bottom of the bin. Thankfully the worms are very forgiving. Some people might find this a little gross, but the garden LOVES this stuff and its all very natural. If you do it right, vermicompost doesn't smell like rotting food, it just smells like good, rich dirt. Because, well, thats what it is! I'm going to make a longer post about vermicompost over on the 6 Kingdoms blog, so if you are interested check it out.

The trip to WV only took two days, but felt like a lot longer since we spent so much of it in the car. Thankfully we had Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food on CD to listen to and it lasted through almost the entire trip. It not only gave us something to listen to but it sparked lots of conversation. In general we agreed with Pollan and found the book very interesting. Chris is now reading one of his other books, The Omnivore's Delimma, and once he is done with it (and I have time!) I'm planning on reading it as well. After listening to this book I'm even more committed to eating local "whole" foods and avoiding processed foods. Though I still maintain that my cheerios shouldn't count as an evil processed food :). And, short of breakfast cereal, I think we do a pretty good job. A typical day consists of cereal for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch (on homemade bread and with local lettuce if its available) and then dinner depends on what came in the CSA box that week. I'm going to put more effort into making sure that the meats we buy are local and grass fed. The buffalo farmer we buy from at the Carrboro farmer's market is usually at the Wednesday market and we need to take more advantage of that. His meat is more expensive than what you can get on sale at the super market but its lower in fat, grass fed (which means the fat that is present is a better type), and much tastier! Its going to be more difficult during the winter, of course, since we will no longer be getting a CSA box and the farmer's markets won't offer as much. But we are thinking about stocking up on fresh veggies at the market during the summer and then freezing them to have during the winter. We have never tried this before so we aren't sure which veggies freeze best. I guess we have some research to do!

Speaking of food, here is this weeks CSA box. You can see that we are beginning to transition from the spring garden full of leafy greens and sweet strawberries into the summer crops of hardier vegetables. This week we have a huge head of fennel (which to me looks like it should have grown on an alien planet), a bunch of radishes, squash, zuchinni, and onion, cucumbers and spinach (hiding in the plastic bag behind the radishes). The fennel and cucumbers we have been using in salads and the squash, zuchinni and onion were chopped up and sauted together. Chris was especially excited about the radishes which he calls natures candy. I think they have a weird aftertaste, even such sweet ones as these. Unfortunately it looks like we are done with strawberries and lettuce in our box and the supermarket offerings just aren't good enough for us anymore- we have been spoiled! So we may not be eating as many salads as we did this spring. But I'm sure the box will offer us enough new things to make up for it!

Though we were only out of town for two days, it seemed like the garden exploded during that short time. When we got home we were amazed at how much everything had grown. I think all the rain we had last week probably had something to do with that. Our first squash is almost ready to pick and I can't wait to try it, even with all the squash in the CSA box. Squash is one of my favorite vegetables so I don't mind having lots!

The pepper plants have gotten huge and are covered in little baby peppers and flower buds. Pretty soon we are going to have an avalanch of peppers, particularly jalapenos, so we may have to get creative in how to use them. I think we may try making Pepper Jelly. I've made jams before from berries, but never from peppers!

The tomatos and basil are also finally starting to take off. We have quite a few little baby tomatos. Garden tomatos are one of Chris's favorites, and add so much to a salad, so I hope they are good! Unfortunately the thyme has died, and the rosemary is still hanging on but not thriving. So I think we may get another rosemary plant and put it where the thyme was. I love using rosemary for cooking, so I want to make sure we have plenty!

Friday, June 5, 2009

This week I made chocolate bread which turned out ok-- I think I need to make it a bit sweeter next time and maybe add more liquid so that the dough isn't so stiff and hard to form. I also made homemade honey butter to go with it. Yum!

I've also been working on Emma- a lace cardigan that I'm really hoping to finish soon so I can wear it this summer. I'm right at the bust line now and should be able to start the "skirt" soon. I think it will go a bit faster once I'm on the skirt because I'll be working on a more entertaining lace pattern and that always makes me knit faster

Things I want to make or try:

Knit skirt made from an old men's polo shirt,
-- I bought a t-shirt at the thrift shop but need to borrow the serger from my mom since my machine can only do a straight stitch (not good for knit fabric)

This great peg board to organize my studio. I wonder if I could find a piece of scrap peg board at Habitat ReStore...

These Orange Poppy Seed Sugar Biscuits...don't they look yummy?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Busy as a Bee

Here is a peak at what I've been up to this week.

A soft red block for a friend's group afghan. The yarn is Comfort by Berroco and the pattern is from the Great American Afghan booklet.

A simple cotton sundress. I still need to add the ties to the waist and then it will fit better.

A banana cheese cake, from this recipe. Unfortunately I think I undercooked it because its too soft. It was my first attempt at making cheesecake.

A loaf of oatmeal bread that turned out quite yummy and perfect with a bit of honey as a breakfast bread.

A sweater for my mug using handspun yarn and pattern from DaniDo's etsy shop. And I have enough yarn left over to make a second one for some of my mugs that are a bit thinner. I think that the great color and texture of the handspun yarn looks really nice with the handthrown mug!