Take Two

March 27, 2011

This yarn was just too nice.  All that Malabrigo softness — and in a colorway that’s one of my favorite ever, Solis.  (I’ve had a skein of sockweight in this color for years because I can’t think of a pattern that’s special enough for it!)  My first attempt at a cowl with this beautiful yarn just wasn’t right.  For one thing, the fabric was too dense.  Size 13 needles are too small for Rasta.  And even though my finished piece before seaming was the right size, the cowl was way too small.

So I frogged it and made another one.  This time, I think I found success.

PatternMarshmallow Fluff by Sarah Kraly

Yarn: Malabrigo Rasta in Solis, less than one skein (about 30 grams leftover)

Needles:  Size US 17 (12.75 mm)

Size Before Seaming:  6.5 inches wide by 24 inches long

The only problem I foresee is that this cowl is warm.  I mean, raging furnace warm.  Definitely it is for deep winter.  Luckily, it’s been clear and cold lately!

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In my belly! I made what might be the most delicious cookies ever today.  They’re Chocolate Fudgy Oatmeal Cookies, another recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.  Combining oatmeal, chocolate chips, cocoa in the batter, and (oh God, yes) dried cherries, they are full of happiness!  If you like cookies, go get this cookbook!  Now!

On the tube. I watched American Experience: Triangle Fire, to remember the 100th anniversary of the fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory.  This industrial disaster took the lives of over 100 workers, mostly young immigrant women, and spurred many much-needed regulations to protect workers and improve conditions in the garment industry and beyond.

Reading! I’ve really been enjoying the blog Vegansaurus.  It’s super funny, and full of great information for people who are trying to adopt a more-totally-plant-based diet like me.  I really liked their post, 11 Tips for New Vegans.  (Possibly somewhat ironically) I’ve been reading a great book — The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival by John Vaillant.  It combines natural history, ethnography, science, suspense … a really great read.  There’s something incredibly evocative to me about the word taiga alone … if you agree, you might like this book.


Slow Morning

March 8, 2011

This morning, the piano for John-John (a generous gift from my parents) is being delivered.  So — lucky me — I get a nice, unrushed start to the day.  That means I get to drink my coffee sitting down in my “knitting corner” instead of standing up in front of the bathroom sink.  I’ve taken a brief hiatus from the blanket to finish a top-down sweater I started a few weeks ago.  Spring’s coming … the birds in the yard (mostly cardinals and finches) are singing their breeding songs.  It’s nice to hear them again!

I also took the time to make the Best-Breakfast-that-Isn’t-a-Green-Smoothie.  Oatmeal is my new go-to morning meal, even when eating out.  At home, I add a spoonful of peanut butter and sliced bananas.  Reasonable people can disagree on this point, but I think PB and bananas together are heavenly.  My two most delicious discoveries of the year are avocados in smoothies (thanks, Lolly) and peanut butter in oatmeal (props to Ashley).

And, now, back to the sleeves on that sweater…


This Week’s Fascinations

March 6, 2011

It’s a trend that seems to be sweeping the corner of the Interwebs I frequent … the green smoothie.  I’ve become a little addicted to having my vegetables for breakfast.  My favorite combination is avocado, spinach or kale or both, and strawberry.  I use frozen fruit, so ice cubes aren’t really necessary.  Most recipes use juice as a base, but I think the fruit makes it sweet enough.  Today, though, I made one with carrot-ginger juice (fresh, since my sweetheart bought me a juicer!), mango, pineapple, avocado and spinach.  It was not such a lovely color, but it tasted good.

The other fascination of the week has been the Big-Ass Granny Blanket.  I picked it up again last weekend and it’s growing.  It’s about 35 inches square now.  I’d like to make it big enough to snuggle under and cover my feet on the couch.  Maybe twenty more rounds or so?  It seems to be not-exactly-square, but I’m hoping that I can block it out.  It’s made up of odd balls and scraps of worsted weight 100% wool of various brands: Cascade 220, Wool of the Andes, Patons Classic, and a little Eco-Wool and Dream in Color Classy.  If When I finish it, I will be so pleased with myself, as it will be the biggest thing I’ve ever completed!

Yesterday, I had a seriously serendipitous vintage clothing score.  I went to meet my friend Cassie in Chagrin Falls for breakfast and knitting.  Afterwards, I stopped into Stash Style, a cute housewares and jewelry store which also sells chocolates and a little yarn.  Unfortunately, they are going to be closing the store and instead having barn sales in various locations around Northeast Ohio.  As I was looking around, I noticed two small racks of (mostly vintage) clothing.  On it, I found not one, BUT TWO, coats that fit me!  One of them is 100% cashmere!  They have some spots and aren’t perfect, but I have a different standard for vintage clothes.  Together, they cost $59.  Sweet.  The cashmere one has a label from a sadly defunct local department store, which makes it especially awesome in my opinion.

The Higbee Company Cleveland, Ohio

Today, the aforementioned sweetheart and I are brewing beer!  I’ve never done made beer before, but he was a professional brewer for many years at Terminal Gravity Brewing in Enterprise, Oregon.  Right now, we are “mashing in,” which basically involves making a whole lot of hot barley cereal.  It smells so good!  In a few weeks, we’ll have our own beer.


Two Days in a Row? Crazy!

February 26, 2011

Shortly after this picture was taken, these veg became borscht.

Remember what I said about the cookies not being a big hit with the boys? Scratch that. Sam LOVED them. Thank goodness I put some in the freezer or they would all be gone.  Lunch was Roasted Beet and Potato Borscht (recipe courtesy of Everyday Food).

Long have I believed that I didn’t like beets.  Um, revising that opinion. This month, I’ve been trying to eat more colorful veggies, so I gave beets another try. Yum.  And perhaps my post yesterday was slightly misleading.  I haven’t gone completely vegan. For example, I stirred some sour cream into my soup and inhaled it like a Hoover.

I was all set this weekend to knit like the wind on a seamless, top-down raglan I started.  But instead, I worked yesterday on a giant granny blanket that’s been languishing as a WIP.  (The header photo is a close-up of it.) Unfortunately, I’ve also been reading knit blogs and browsing Ravelry and I want to start about 900 new things.  I especially am feeling the desire to knit a stripey shawl, something like this one or this one, both of which were featured on Knitted Bliss.

This house is a total disaster area, due to the Awesome Destructive Power of Small Boys. I want to sit and knit, but John’s got a piano recital and my parents are coming over afterwards and, sadly, the house doesn’t clean itself.  I think I’ll put this album on and get to work!

 


Snow Day!

February 25, 2011

A blizzard hit us this morning, so it’s an impromptu day off for me.  On the agenda: crafting and cooking and baking.  Also, much watching of Spongebob.

Might things have been different for Kurt if he had had a Heart-Shaped Muffin?

I’ve been kind of obsessed with cooking and cookbooks lately.  My diet has been changing — increasingly away from meat, and even dairy and eggs, and toward more veggies.  The elimination of whole categories of ingredients – milk, cheese, BACON – has been, perhaps paradoxically, inspiring rather than limiting.

Some of my favorite new cookbooks were written by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero of Post Punk Kitchen.  Appetite for Reduction is great, but today I delved into Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar!  Because nothing says “Snow Day” like cookies!

It is both good and bad that vegan cookie dough is safe to eat raw.

I decided to make one of the recipes from the “Wholesome” chapter, Banana Oatmeal Breakfast Cookies.  These were not a huge hit with the boys, but I heart them.  They turned out almost scone-like in texture, and contain oats, whole wheat flour, dried cranberries, and toasted pecans. Yum.

If only I had a cup of coffee, my existence as a cookie would be fulfilled.

The recipe calls for agave nectar, but I didn’t have any so I subbed in more brown rice syrup. As a result, they’re probably less sweet than they should be.  That’s OK with me.  To be honest, these are the kind of cookies that would make other moms whisper, “Poor John and Sam. Their mother is a hippie. She makes them eat lentils and VEGAN COOKIES.”  Most of the recipes in the book are decidedly not like that.  John has made me promise to make one of the recipes with chocolate chips later.  That’s what snow days are for.

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This and that…

On a related topic, another of my favorite food writers and cookbook authors is Mark Bittman.  He has published two very interesting columns recently, one on the Department of Agriculture’s new nutrition guidelines and another on McDonald’s oatmeal.  At the heart of both pieces is the simple belief that we should be eating real food. If only the government weren’t afraid to speak this wisdom!

Yesterday, I listened to a couple of great NPR podcasts from All Songs Considered.  Their latest is a 90s retrospective, which is fun, but I really liked an older one entitled “Tunes that Got You Through Your Teens.”  The stories from listeners are great and really reminded me of how important music was to me as a teenager.  As Bob Boilen said, “What a good friend music can be.”  Lots of different stuff helped get me through my teens.  The first album I thought of, though, was Ocean Rain by Echo and the Bunnymen.  I listened to it incessantly.  To me, it was the very essence of brooding romanticism, something that I think is almost universally appealing to teenagers.  For your listening pleasure, my favorite cut…


Summery

August 14, 2010

…lacy cottony socks…

…no-cook dinners…

…afternoons in the backyard…

Hope you’re enjoying these high days of summer!


Baby Steps

July 19, 2010

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the State of the Planet, and the environmental impact of my actions.  Maybe it’s all the terrible news coming from the Gulf of Mexico.  Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve taken up a hobby — birdwatching, to be precise — that involves watching wildlife and being in nature.  Whatever the reason(s), it’s been on my mind, and I’ve been trying to be a little more conscious of what I am doing and eating and buying, among other things.

Sometimes it has seemed to me that environmentalists have urged concerned people to make changes in their lives that seem at best drastic and at worst, impossible.  Sell your car!  Live a carbon-neutral lifestyle!  Turn your whole family (including the dog) to veganism!  Get off the grid!

Well, gosh, I’d LOVE to, but where do I start?  And, if I do something short of that, am I still making a difference?

One day last summer, I picked up a flyer at my local coffee shop exhorting people to adopt a vegetarian diet.  It provided amazing statistics about the environmental impact of eating meat.  And it suggested that even modest changes in one’s diet would help.  Meatless Monday is an international campaign that educates individuals about the beneficial impact of eating meatless just one day a week on both personal health and the well-being of the planet.

That got me thinking.  Maybe little changes would make a difference.   The idea of permanently swearing off bacon made me nervous, but if I could help by just reducing my meat consumption, I could definitely get behind that.

So I did, and as a result, I’ve become a most-of-the-time vegetarian.  I eat meat now and again, but I try to save it for special occasions or something really worthwhile.  From there, I started thinking about other little changes that I could make.  Instead of “living carbon-neutral” or “saving the planet,” I made this my motto and my goal:

While I am here, I want to tread more lightly upon the Earth.

Note that any change at all, however small, will advance this goal.  That allows you to feel good about every positive action you take.  And, of course, as I know from years of raising an autistic child, nothing effects positive change like creating opportunities for success.  Here are some of the small things that I am doing to tread more lightly upon the Earth

I am growing vegetables at home. There are many reasons I decided to do this. You can’t eat more locally than your own backyard.  I love the taste of real, homegrown tomatoes.  But mostly, I’d like to teach John and Sam that food does not come from grocery stores.

I quit buying paper towels. This may seem silly, but I realized that it was pretty crazy for me to be recycling junk mail and cardboard packaging, but to use and throw away so many paper towels.  I bought some microfiber cleaning cloths, and I also use handknitted dishcloths for many things.  If I’m cooking bacon or something else that needs to be drained (which doesn’t happen all that often), I use some of the million paper bags or napkins that I’m given at restaurants and stores.  At home and when packing lunches, we use cloth napkins, which adds a little graciousness to even a peanut butter sandwich!

I hang my clothes up to dry. For this change, I have Erika, my boss at the yarn store, to thank.  After the refrigerator, the clothes dryer is the second-most energy-consuming appliance in the home.  I have clothesline hung in the laundry room, and I’ve found that hanging wet clothes takes only a few extra minutes.  There is nothing like the smell of sheets that have dried in the sunshine!

I don’t buy bottled water. In fact, I’m trying to buy fewer things packaged in plastic in general, but bottled water was the very first thing to go.  Did you know that nearly eight out of ten plastic water bottles will end up in a landfill?  And most bottled water is not pristine liquid from an Alpine source or a tropical island, but rather plain old tap water?

These are just a few things I am doing — I generally don’t use air conditioning at home, and I am also trying to use public transportation when I can.  But the thing I like about these steps is that they are completely doable, practically painless ones.

Have you made any changes in your lifestyle as a result of your concern for the environment?  I want to know what they are!

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Books I’m reading now that are, more or less, on this topic: Diet for a Hot Planet by Anna Lappe (the daughter of Frances Moore Lappe, who wrote the groundbreaking Diet for a Small Planet) and The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone, which I picked up despite its being a celebrity diet book based on the enthusiastic endorsement of a very trusted friend.

And check out my friend Gretchen’s blog, (Sort of) Sustainable Summer, in which she documents her family’s efforts to eat locally in the Cleveland area this summer!