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!


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.


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!


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!

More Summer Diversions

June 20, 2010

Here’s some of what’s been going on the last few weeks…  Lots of eating of quiescently frozen delights, for starters.  This is John enjoying chocolate gelato from Presti’s, which is my very favorite Italian bakery in Cleveland.  (This is saying something, because there are a LOT of them to choose from here.)  I also had the opportunity to try Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream recently (more on my trip to Columbus below), and I was blown away.  Goat Cheese with Tart Red Cherries, I love you so.

Gardening continues.  The radishes and carrots appear to be a bust, but I am incredibly hopeful about beans, tomatoes, and bell peppers.  The best I can say for the broccoli and Swiss chard is that I am cautiously optimistic.

I am still doing lots of library visits and reading.  One of the best things I have discovered of late is Goodreads, a kind of Ravelry for book lovers.  (Thank you so much, Becky!)  My to-read list is definitely more varied and interesting now.   In particular, I’ve been shamelessly stalking Lolly and Minty for their recent reads.  If you are on Goodreads, please send me a friend request!  I am Laura Brodbeck there.  If you’re not, and you love books, sign up!  It’s great fun.

Last Monday, I got to spend one incredibly hectic half a day at the yarn market at TNNA.  It was super super fun and inspiring, but I must admit, it and the drive from Cleveland left me a little dazed.  I did get to meet up very briefly with the awesome Elinor (who had B and Baby U in tow — both totally adorable), met and chatted briefly with Ysolda Teague and tried not to make a total ass of myself, had a lovely time visiting the Kelbourne Woolens booth (Kate and Courtney were both incredibly friendly), and helpfully pointed the Boss at the Yarn Shop in the direction of the Pagewood Farm booth (yay!).  I am really excited about Ysolda’s new book, Little Red in the City, and saw a beautiful mock-up of one of the patterns.  I am telling you, she has left no stone unturned.  These patterns look to me to have thought of everything that a knitter would need to know while working them.  Also, I love Kelbourne Woolens’ new fall cardigan collection, especially Winthrop.  That would make such a great sweater for a class.

As for my own knitting, it’s all about socks!  Maybe Elinor’s contest reignited my interest.  Maybe it’s just summer and I desperately need small projects.  But this is going to be my Summer of Socks, yes, it is.


March 9, 2010

For a person whose idea of a good dinner is often cheese and crackers, I own an enormous number of cook books.  But my favorites are the ones that I am probably least likely to use.

I collect vintage cook books from the 1950s and 1960s.  These are just a few of them. I recognize that this is hardly a unique or terribly interesting thing to collect, but I really love them. And this is my blog, so indulge me, please.

The Better Homes and Gardens and Good Housekeeping cook books have found their way into the collection as well, but the Betty Crocker ones are best.  If they are spiralbound with garish photos, that’s fabulous.  The small  format is preferred.  Extra-special love is reserved for the “cooking for two” type, as they often contain helpful advice for the new bride as well.  Fun reading when you need an ironic chuckle.

The first one I actively sought out is the one on the left, Betty Crocker’s Cook Book for Boys and Girls.  This title has been updated many times, but mine is a first edition, first printing of the 1957 version.  Not long ago, the 1957 version was reprinted and I bought it as a gift for my young nieces and nephew. Growing up, we had my mother’s copy at home, and I adored poring through it.  This page held a special fascination for me.

Mmmm... cake.

For one thing, I always wanted that zoo cake.  Don’t the animals look like they were painted with semi-gloss interior paint?  I was sure that if I were truly a  good daughter, I would present  Mom with a heart-shaped cake with “Mother” spelled out in Red Hots on her birthday (which falls conveniently close to Mother’s Day).   Also, how did they get the icing on the Easter cake so shiny, I wondered?  A thin layer of Bonne Bell Lip Gloss, perhaps?  In all seriousness, one thing I love about this cook book is that the recipe for the Mother cake does not mention a heart-shaped pan.   Today’s home baker would likely procure a special pan from Martha Stewart or Target.  Back in the day, people made heart-shaped cakes with one square and one round layer pan.  Think about it.

Dad said it was keen.

I also loved reading all the quotes from the “Home Testers: The 12 boys and girls who tested all these recipes.”  In keeping with the cake theme, I love the one pictured above.  I want “keen” to come back.  (Some of the quotes are from Betty Crocker herself, such as “You’ll love this gingerbread with  a dish of icy-cold applesauce.”  I don’t care if Betty Crocker is imaginary, she’s right!  I would like that, thank you very much.)  Again, not in jest, I think it’s interesting that somebody in 1957 — if only a forward-thinking advertising executive dressed like a character from Mad Men — thought it obvious that a boy should be able to, or would want to, bake his father’s birthday cake.   Now if the cook book only mentioned boys in the “Campfire Cooking” chapter, that’s about what one would expect for the era.  But no.  This book is full of budding male pastry chefs.  Awesome.

I have bunches of these.  I recently acquired a 1963 Better Homes and Gardens cook book entitled Meals with a Foreign Flair.  It includes recipes for parties such as “Salute to the Swiss” and “Honorable Chinese Dinner.”  Irresistible.


February 26, 2010

When I was working, a friend of mine and I had our own “WTF”-type acronym to use as an all-purpose response to Baffling Company Decisions, Bizarre Statements by Ex-es, etc.  It was “RUFKMRN?!”   This stands for “Are you f&#$ing kidding me right now?!”  True, it’s not as succinct and pithy as WTF.  But my admittedly unwieldy acronym conveys a sense of deep disgust and moral outrage in a way that WTF just can’t.

I had my RUFKMRN moment this afternoon when I learned of legislation passed in Utah criminalizing certain miscarriages.  How this law could possibly be applied in any sort of fair or rational manner is unimaginable.  Will all miscarriages be investigated to determine whether they were caused intentionally or recklessly?  Really?  Note that the recklessness standard would not require the State to prove that the woman intended to cause her miscarriage.  Wow.

How this law could have been passed by a state legislature is similarly unthinkable.  Thanks, Mary-Heather, for reminding me that women must remain vigilant in protecting our rights.

In crafty news, crocheting potholders continues apace Chez Laura.  I might have bought more cotton.

Edited to add the obvious:

Pattern:  Modern Vintage Potholder by Maryse Roudier

Yarn: Tahki Cotton Classic, Color Numbers 3001 (white), 3805 (bright turquoise), 3856 (navy).

Hook: Susan Bates, size D. (I changed my mind about that Brittany Birch  hook.  The hook part isn’t deep enough, so I kept dropping the yarn.  Kind of hard to get in a rhythm.)


February 24, 2010

Today, a series of random thoughts about this and that…

The crochet craze continues at Cafe au Laine!  In addition to making potholders, I made a little scarf out of some alpaca-acrylic blend that’s been in my stash.  (Related query: why am I incapable of passing up sale yarn when I go into the Big Box Craft Store only for crayons for the Littles and the new issue of Insert-Name-of-Fiber-Mag-Here?)

That’s a Brittany Birch crochet hook, which I just picked up at the yarn shop.   I wasn’t sure about the design of the hook-y part (nota bene the highly technical terminology here), but I like it.  The wood feels nice in the hand.


If you are feeling Very Sad and Small, and things seem not so very good, the Oldies Soul Pandora station is cheering.  Bad moods shrivel and die in the presence of Sam Cooke.  Works for me.


Lending libraries are, in my opinion, one of the great innovations of the modern era.  I’ve been frequenting mine often lately.  I make liberal use of the online catalog and its “Place a Hold” button.  This is very helpful if you like mystery series, and don’t like reading them out of order.  Recommendation if you like that sort of thing: the Charles Lenox series.

On Love

September 3, 2009

“Even if I never fell in love again, once would have been enough.  Because once we have given ourselves to another, we are able to fall in love with life itself.  And that can last forever.”   

— Elizabeth Lesser, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow