Soldiers on Soldier Beans!

Navy beans probably did indeed feed sailors. Black eyed peas are named, horrifically, for their single black spot. Broad beans are large, black beans are black, and, yes. I get it. Beans have descriptive nomenclature, but I assumed soldier beans were carried by solders, or fed to soldiers, or perhaps given to soldiers by patriotic farmers during the American Revolution or something. I wasn’t prepared to really look at a soldier bean.

Because it has a soldier stamped on it. 

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A tiny little 18th century soldier. Take a closer look.

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The one you remember from your fifth grade history book, a stereotypical British Grenadier, perhaps.

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I am delighted by this discovery. There are hundreds of soldiers simmering on the stove right now, for a soup.

 

Spring Knitting

Winter knitting has come to a screeching halt.

They are lovely projects: a swingy vest, a geometric wrap, a hat I’m making up as I go, and a nearly-finished pair of socks. I decided, quite suddenly, to start knitting for spring and summer instead. I’m not good at that, knitting – or sewing – ahead of the season, so I’m rather pleased with myself for switching gears, but I’m not delusional. I know it’s all about casting on more projects.

“I’ll just browse around on Ravelry for a few minutes and see what’s what.” 

I know, right? Hours later and your winter projects are a memory, whatever you can use from stash has been measured out, pdfs have been downloaded, printed, and pulled into an app on your tablet, and you are ordering Katydid cotton ribbon from one yarn shop and Hempathy from another because hey, you gotta spread the love.

Here’s my plan:IMG_0241

A Vodka Lemonade cardigan in Longmeadow, a cotton-microfiber yarn, from my stash. It’s been there for years, bought for a sweater I started and didn’t care for, and there should be enough. Especially after I frog the unfinished pieces in the picture.

I love this Vesper pattern and have wanted to make it for a while.  A quick run to The Yarn Gallery in West Reading and I filled my sack with Elsebeth Lavold Hempathy.  This brown, with a natural trim at the hemlines, will be gorgeous. photoMore than 400 stitches cast on and some short rows later, I am trying to work quickly through to the arm divisions so it is ready for my next knitting night with friends, when it will just be miles of knitting in the round.

This Katydid It Pullover  is made from, well, Katydid, a cotton ribbon I used to make a baby gift recently. I liked it so much I wanted to use it for me me me. It’s perfect for a loose, open top for the beach. An order has been placed in a teal-ish shade from Kitschy Stitch in Rehoboth; I’ll pick it up next time I’m there. Someone on Ravelry made this without the sleeves, just letting the shoulders drop off, and I may do that, too.

Another bandana cowlTwice Tweed from Purl Soho, this time in Twice Tweed, (again Elsebeth Lavold, but I think it’s just been discontinued) a recycled blend that feels more like cotton but has a bit of wool. I think it will be great for spring biking, skiing, and dog walking. This is a fast project, and I’m going to hurry up and get this one done because Spring might be ready to spring. Maybe.

My plan has integrated time management, by the way. Vesper is a mind number, so it’s for knitting group and movie watching with my husband. The Vodka Lemonade needs slightly more attention so I’ll keep it for time by myself listening to an audio or just focusing on my thoughts. The bandanna is small and will be going on car rides and in my purse, and the pullover will be a fast project.

Now that I have publicly committed to these pieces, I’d best get to work.

 

 

Christmas Eve Galettes, Christmas Dinner Prep, and Szechuan Buttons!

Savory galettes with baguettes for the fondue.

Savory galettes, with baguettes for the fondue.

How could I have forgotten to write up all the Christmas cooking? Taking the pictures is not enough. I barely managed to snap these with the iPad, you’d think that in the dozens of times I’ve seen them there I’d have remembered to write about them.

Because we had some good food.

Christmas Eve was awesome, simply spent with my husband, three children, and midway through the evening, daughter-in-law. Many years ago we found ourselves suddenly “alone” on Christmas Eve after decades of extended family dinners, and we decided to create our own tradition of an unusual meal that we would all help plan and prepare, something great to drink, and a game or a late walk. This year we had to prep Christmas dinner as well, so dinner had to be easier and the kitchen was crazy busy. It’s not a massive kitchen but it’s a good size, and I spent many hours working with a strong designer on it. When you can easily fit four cooks in a kitchen, you did a good job planning!

My husband stays on the eating side of the room and cheers us on, but my sons and daughter, all in their 20s, are cooks, and truly carry the day for me when we have a large gathering. There was a moment when I stepped back – literally, in one of the kitchen’s doorways – and studied all of them together, aproned, laughing, bloody (two were handling large cuts of beef), floured (making pastry), my husband opening a bottle of wine – and tried to just burn them into my brain for a day when I need the memory.

The menu for Christmas Eve, short and sweet, since we had a lot to prep for the next day:

Spinach, Pear, Blue Cheese, and Rosemary Galettes made with Walnut Pastry

Cheese Fondue with Baguettes

Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake

Szechuan Buttons!

Galettes, ready for the oven.

Galettes, ready for the oven.

The galettes are a family favorite, and my daughter took over and prepared them for our Christmas Eve meal. They are delicious and quite worth making from this recipe from NPR’s Kitchen Window. We, however, make them with much more filling than they have as written, and use this recipe for Walnut Pastry Dough from eatingwell.com:

 

  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 3 tablespoons walnut oil
  • 6-7 tablespoons cold water
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  1. Spread walnuts in a pie pan and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until fragrant. Let cool.
  2. Combine the walnuts, flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; process until the walnuts are finely chopped. Add butter and process until incorporated. Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Drizzle oil over the flour mixture. Use your fingertips to rub the oil into the mixture. One tablespoon at a time, add water and mix with a fork until dough is crumbly and holds together when pressed.
  4. Divide dough into 2 pieces, 1 slightly larger than the other, and form each into a disk.

For our purposes the dough is divided into smaller pieces and rolled into circles, the amount of filling on hand is divided among the circles, and the galettes are formed. The size of the circles is dictated by how large the galettes will be when finished, which is entirely up to the cook.

The frozen gluten-free baguette from Against the Grain, here with the fondue, is a very good brand, according to GF Son. He made the cheese fondue.

The frozen gluten-free baguette from Against the Grain, here with the fondue, is a very good brand, according to GF Son. He made the cheese fondue.

I have been wanting to try the Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake since the day I bought the La Tartine Gourmande: Recipes for an Inspired Life cookbook last summer. I have made many of her recipes – multiple times, which is the real test – so it was only a matter of time that one would disappoint.

Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake, looking pretty.

Buckwheat and Almond Chocolate Cake, looking pretty.

Perhaps it was us, maybe we wanted something sweeter, maybe there were too many Godiva chocolates in the house, so try it yourself. It certainly was moist, it was beautiful, and we didn’t turn our noses up at it by any means, but it just wasn’t worth repeating.

Finally, the Szechuan Buttons. If your husband tells you to expect an overnight package and to put it directly in the fridge; worry.

Cute, aren't they?

Cute, aren’t they?

He heard a piece about these little culinary trendy things on NPR and thought it would be great fun to have them in our house for Christmas.

He was right!

They are…electric? Fizzy? Not hot, spicy, bubby, or scary. If you nibble tentatively on one and wait a few seconds, you’ll get the feeling of Pop Rocks, maybe. Have you ever quick touched your tongue to the end of a 9 volt battery to see if it still had a charge? Kinda sorta like that, but not really. It’s just hard to explain. It seems to be more of a sensation than a taste.

They are being ground up and sprinkled on salads, rimmed onto drink glasses, and steeped into alcohol by creative restaurants. My husband was delighted when they came, hid them in the back of the fridge (I was in on it by that time, nothing is hiding from me in my refrigerator) and set about for days steeping some in jars of different types of alcohol. Tasting them was fun, but watching him prepare his surprise, and torture the kids with hints, was way better.

For about a week, down to the last solitary bud, anyone who walked into the house was met with cries of “Try one of these! Here’s something for you!” with varying degrees of success, if success is measured by enjoyment. This is a love or hate sensation, it seems, but definitely fun for your next party!

In the meantime, on this evening, we prepared two huge pots of Julia Child’s Beef Bourguignon, a small vegetarian version, finished proofing the dinner rolls, made a dacquoise that I can’t wait to write about, and, of course, prepared the dining room and extra table. That is the next post.

Cozy Ribbed Scarf Pattern

20130119_113017When my knitting group had a call for “men’s scarves” for a benefit table, I started a basketweave pattern in some stash yarn from Brooks Farm, picturing a medium length piece tucked under a coat. As I worked, though, I remembered seeing the fishermen’s scarves with ribbed necks that looked as if they fitted so nicely, so I worked one in. (I worked three of them in, actually, before settling on this one.) What a great idea!

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It turns out those ribs hug your neck in a comfy, less bulky, still warm, perfect-for-under-a-dress-coat-or-for-wrapping sort of way. A gift for a man who loves scarves or one who isn’t sure he wants to wear one one at all, because it’s just that easy to wear. I am absolutely working it into the next scarf I make for myself.

20130119_112642Several people who saw the scarf wanted to make it, so I grabbed it off the table, snapped some obviously hasty pictures, and wrote up the pattern. Feel free to knit on with it!

Cozy Ribbed Scarf

  • Worsted weight yarn
  • Finished length: 45 inches. Add length to the body of the scarf by adding basketweave rows to each side, or lengthen the neck by adding ribbing rows.
  • Needles & gauge: Your standard with worsted. Go for a gauge that creates a nice basketweave without visible spacing between the knit and purl sets. 

Cast on 30 stitches

Rows 1 – 8: Knit every row

Basketweave Pattern:

Rows 1 – 8: *k5, p5* across the row

Rows 9 – 16: *p5, k5* across the row

Continue the last 16 rows as established for a total of 13 repeats, or basketweave “rows”.

Begin Ribbing:

k6, p6 ribbing across the row.

Continue for 16 inches of ribbing.

Continue Basketweave Pattern:

Rows 1 – 8: *k5, p5* across the row

Rows 9 – 16: *p5, k5* across the row

Continue the last 16 rows as established for a total of 13 repeats.

Knit 8 rows; bind off  loosely.

 

 

 

Sunday Corona Beans

The rosemary, sage, and thyme are just gangbusters in their pots on the deck, despite inches of snow weeks ago, and are no doubt loving the unseasonably warm weather. Yesterday morning  I was gazing out the window at those herb pots and thinking about spending the day in the sewing room* when I decided to soak some beans for dinner. Easy meal, fragrant herbs, quality nutrition – done.

Corona beans, aka white runner beans. These were bought in bulk from Whole Foods.

I quick-soaked a few cups of corona beans (the fast method, of bringing them to a boil, covering, and then soaking for several hours) and cooked the beans later in the day. Once they were ready I slivered several cloves of garlic, tossed them into a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large cast iron skillet, and warmed the oil. I added whole stems of rosemary and thyme to the pan, and a dozen leaves of sage, before stirring in the beans, salt, and plenty of fresh ground pepper.

Garlic, herbs, olive oil, and beans – the simplest dish.

The beans simmered, with the addition of some of the cooking water, until everything was flavorful and the rest of the meal was ready. The rest of the meal, in this case, was kale chips and a bit of this pasta.

I don’t know why I can’t ever remember the name of this particular cut of pasta.

Whenever I serve beans prepared this way, I simmer until all the liquid is gone. The herb stems are, of course, removed. A drizzle of olive oil over the top is required!

*I did spend a large percentage of the day in the sewing room, carefully fitting a princess-seamed knit tunic pattern, making all the adjustments, and working up a nice enough knit that it could have been a wearable muslin. Hated it. Hate. Ed. It. It’s easy to burn with frustration over “wasted” time, especially during December when there is so much to do, so much fun stuff to do, but ultimately, it’s all valuable, all a learning experience. At least that’s what I tell myself.

Carcassonne: Stored!

Carcassone? Love.

Carcassonne cardboard boxes? Even with illustrations of dragons and villagers and towers? Not so much.

Wooden boxes? Antique wooden boxes? Love more.

We, as in the family we, have been playing Carcassonne for a decade or more, since we picked it up because the box looked kind of cool (ironic, I know) at a game store in Newport, Rhode Island. Instantly hooked, the game has grown to several expansions and while that’s awesome, there is this tower of boxes involved every time we want to play.

Let’s stop here for an aside about Carcassonne. LOVE this game. If you already play and have an iPad, the Carcassonne app is exceptionally good, allowing for networked multiplayer games, solitaire, scoring, and table play. It’s very well done. Someone has an Android version but I can’t speak to it. If you don’t know Carcassonne, find someone who has it and check it out!

About 25 years ago, at a neighborhood garage sale, I bought this beautiful, damaged, missing-pieces, artist’s paint box. It was made by Winsor & Newton, sold by a supplier in Philadelphia (long gone) and I’m working on dating it. It has a lovely locking hinge, slots, pieces that must have held palettes or created an easel, and lots of moving parts that I can’t figure out. It’s pretty beat, but I like it, and it’s been sitting nicely in a stack of other wooden boxes, moved from house to house. Until I had the brainstorm.

How about that! Carcassonne, neatly stored! One favorite thing meets another favorite thing! It’s perfect! I’m such a nerd!

This makes me so happy.

Fiber Arts Friday: Angora to Cotton

A whole lot of Fridays have passed since my last FAF post, and I have knitted through many of them, but summer will do that to you.

Running the fiber gamut this week, including a strange mixing of Wool Ease (a color my daughter loved, wool and acrylic) and Fleece Artist Peter Rabbit (a warm angora/nylon/wool) to make a fantastic top-down Trapper Hat. My daughter will be exploring Icelandic climes this fall and needed a protective shield while she is so far from home  a hat.

Peter Rabbit is unbelievably soft and makes a nice contrast to the Wool Ease.

Stephen West’s Spectra scarf has been frogged and recast, using the same lovely cotton from Wolles. I set this aside some time ago because didn’t like the way it was turning out; after glaring at it for a while I changed to a much smaller needle and we are speaking again. It’s a nice pattern to work, and the slow change in the yarn color adds excitement. Yes, excitement.

See there, how one strand of brown changed to tan?

Here’s to fall’s approach, although it’s pretty warm & humid today. Maybe next Friday.

So Organized!

My brother gave me this fantastic vintage Norwegian sewing box, a little mildewed but otherwise in perfect condition, from his friend Ed the Barber.

It is gorgeous, no?

It accordions out to a ridiculously long length and is great for all my needles and tools. All of them. In one room. In one place.

This picture, while not particularly attractive, gives an idea of how long it is when opened.

Everything is together now, my beautiful, organized, no longer misplaced collection.

I’m so excited! I know where everything is!

We Need More Needles?*

Once upon a time I ran around the house and gathered all the yarn, had a serious talk with it, and since then it has mostly stayed in its place. Mostly. That was then, here. 

I have turned my attention to the “other” knitting things. You know. These guys:

Cute sculpture, empty Knit Picks cases, filled containers.

One pocket of one bag among many.

One of several, albeit organized and sorted, vases and containers of straights and dpns.

Basket of shame.

Tiny cabinet stuffed with stuff.

Enough? Familiar? It’s done! Wait until you see my collection neatly organized!

*This is what my husband said to me once when I told him I had to stop at the yarn shop on our way out for, of course, the right size needle. I love him, but he is not of my tribe. 

Beware the Ruffle

Last summer, on an extended vacation in the mountains of Colorado, I started a shawl. I didn’t want anything heavy or complicated, or even a pattern to tote around. A gift certificate for Elisabeth Drumm’s beautiful color changing yarn was burning a hole in my knitting bag, so I ordered a few skeins in shades of green, packed a long circular, and planned to complete the whole shawl during the month-long vacation, and the additional week of motel evenings during drive time.

Stop laughing.

I cast on about 300 stitches started knitting. Yarnover here, double wrapped loops there, knit a few rows, whatever. No fancy stitches, nothing to think about, no gauge. Indeed, the length of it will be a surprise. It’ll be fine. I’m looking forward to washing and blocking to straighten out the stitches.

The shawl was pushed aside over the winter in favor of woolly projects, and I grabbed it out of a basket a few nights ago and decided it only needed a few more rows and the width would be just right; a wrap for chilly movie theaters and summer nights. Knit a few rows, bind off, give it a wash, and go.

So easy.

Bind off.

Wash.

Go.

But I decided to add a ruffle. Just a simple one, but perhaps something relatively deep. Couldn’t leave well enough alone. I knit a row of yarnovers between each stitch and now have, of course 600 stitches.

It takes a long time to knit 600 stitches.

Long.

Time.

I’ll get back to you.