14 March 2018

Pi Day 2018

I decided to celebrate in proper style today, as I am working at home (in part because we are between snowstorms, and I'm not traveling) and I have some new tart pans to inaugurate.  On the other hand, it's our busy month, so I don't have a lot of time to fuss, even subtracting a commute.

I made a basic short pastry in my new mini food processor, using a cup of whole wheat pastry flour, and proportionate amounts of butter and water.  Rolled out and tucked into the tins:
Lid for the apple pie also rolled, and a tart's worth of extra dough.
Then I filled one with a tart apple, cut thinly and mixed with five-spice mixture, a bit of ground ginger, and splashed with (not enough, it turned out) honey: 
Of course, they have to be trimmed suitably for the day.  After adding the lid to the apple pie, I cut the steam slit.  And I pricked the other all over, to bake it blind.  In the following photo you see it filled with parchment paper and beans: 
Then a bit of baking, I took out the shell, and left the apple pie in to cook through.  How does this not violate what I've given up for Lent?  First, because my life and my rules.  Second, because it's not too sweet. And third, because it's breakfast.
 As Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry might say, you can see from the photo of the bottom that it is "a good bake".  The crust is a bit thick, since I was rushing, but the filling tasted quite nice.  You can see how well the apples cooked down, and got darker with the spice and honey cooking into it:
YUMMY!
I finally got to finish the open tart for a very late lunch.  I'd sliced up the sprouts of some onions I'd overlooked and which had decided to go into another generation.  Since this is a tiny tart, I used them as if they were miniature leeks, and sauteed them with oil, salt, and pepper:
You can see the "π" in the piercings.
   

I forgot to get a picture of the finished onion sprouts, or the pie before baking,  I was hungry!  This is the final result - I used a bit of trimming to decorate the top:
There's a sprinkle of shredded cheese, and just one egg.  It was tasty, but showed the effect of my trying to squeeze a recipe down to the tiny size.  The dark spots are all the onion bits I'd cooked down, some of which got a bit took cooked.  But I like the crispy taste that onion gets that way.

I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the death of Stephen Hawking earlier today.  As some people pointed out, other that being a few years apart, he "was born on the day Galileo died and died on the day Einstein was born."  He threw a party for time-travelers (in part to prove whether time travel exists); spoke to astronauts in space; had a wicked sense of humor; and was part of a trio of the hottest brains ever:

Time to wrap up the day with some jokes (the dark side may have cookies, but the nerd side has pi) and listening to the Fugue on Pi.

18 February 2018

Brilliant Midwinter *

We had quite a lot of snow last night, so I skipped going to a friend's show (final weekend - I thought maybe I could go on Friday, but work went very late, probably people trying to have Monday as an actual work holiday per our skimpy USA holidays schedule; I didn't want to go last night and risk driving in a snowstorm in the dark on a trip that's almost an hour in good weather; and today I have a cold) and while it looks quite pretty out there, the temperatures are well over freezing so it's melting quickly.  One of my neighbors was out with her dog trying to play with a flying disc, which the dog would let land then dig out of the snow, and run around for a while with it in her mouth until my neighbor snagged it back and skimmed it again.

Having the cold means I am not getting as much done in terms of household chores today as naps seem to attack on a semi-regular basis.  But with chicken soup, naps, a sinus-warming gel mask, and Vitamin C in quantity, I think I'm ahead of this.  I have to be well by Wednesday when we have dress rehearsal for a show we're doing on Friday and Saturday.  I have only two smallish bits, which is fine with me, but it's a fundraiser for three local organizations so it's the one time I get out from backstage.

In the meantime, I've done some work on this year's resolutions and have been meaning to post an update since the beginning of the month, but have been traveling quite a lot.  I did finish one of the three books on my list, Jay Rayner's The Man Who Ate The World, and found it interesting.  In addition to speculating about what makes a meal a true experience, and the cost-versus-value analysis, he mentioned concerns about offsetting the carbon footprint of foodstuffs flown in for some of the meals as well as his travels to experience them.

I've read some other books as well, mostly lighter things such as historically-set mysteries.  And of course magazines, newspapers, and so forth.  An interview of Scott Kelly particularly sticks in my mind.  And I'm doing another clearing-out of cookbooks and such.

I need to combine my finished items lists, which so far include a couple scarves for Knit Your Bit and two hat and mitten sets for M4A grads, into a single list of "completed items".  I also helped our assistant director knit a Valentine's gift for her girlfriend:
Who, by the way, absolutely loves them.  The AD wanted to make a scarf, and I told her it probably would not happen in three weeks, so this was what we created with the amount she achieved.  As it happens, the girlfriend is also in the show, so trying to sneak around and get this done without people wondering if we were suddenly creating a triangle was a bit of an adventure!  Once the wristers were delivered all was clear, but we had a few difficult moments!

Once these we done, we did cast on again and a scarf might be ready by Christmas.  Then I'll get the AD working on a hat to complete the set.  She chose the yarn and buttons herself and did a commendable job for learning to knit just three weeks ago.

I missed Mardi Gras because I was at a customer site in Portland, Maine, but the team lead brought in Dunkin' Donuts in lieu of paczki and I had a final red meat meal before Lent began.  This year I gave up red meat, pork, shellfish, and baked pastries and desserts.  Knowing my sweet tooth I could not give up all desserts, just knowing that I can eat something if I wish makes it easier to not eat anything most of the time.  Of course there are times I go the other way, such as during tech rehearsal when one of the actresses brought in a platter of tembleque that her mother made.  I was very glad that pudding is permitted to me and a nice wedge of it was my lunch!


* The title of this post riffs on a Christmastime poem by Christina Rossetti:
               “In the bleak midwinter
                 Frosty wind made moan,
                 Earth stood hard as iron,
                 Water like a stone;
                 Snow had fallen,
                 Snow on snow,
                 Snow on snow,
                 In the bleak midwinter,
                 Long ago. ”

01 January 2018

You say you've got a resolution..........

Back to my sadly neglected blog.  Another year, another resolution* to keep up with it.

And a resolution to record the things I have made - I started last year, then that fell away too.  I recorded some in lists of donations to charities, or in entries on KAL sites and the UFO-finishing group to which I belong, but not all in one place.  I'll see if I can do better this year.

I've finished one thing already:  A pussyhat I started while working at First Night Hartford last night, which someone commissioned after seeing one I'd made for a friend of hers.  Two of us were knitting while working at the wristband-sales station at the Bushnell Park Carousel, and it got very quiet so we had plenty of time to work.  Then I shifted to helping at the Maze Gallery, which kept me busier, and I was released once we cleaned up the venue.  Given the temperature, even with free entry at any other location, I decided to head home, where I ended the evening in a bubblebath with a dish of ice-cream.  I finished the hat this afternoon, will deliver it on Wednesday.

Other resolutions?

I read a lot, but I am going to read or re-read the following three books:


Why these?  No particular reason, except for the variety.  I have many other books I want to read, but for a resolution decided to set a very low bar so I have a chance of accomplishing it.  Maybe another resolution should be to track all the books I finish this year?  I'm sure it will be more than three, but I keep putting these off so maybe this year I'll complete reading them.

Looking back at things I wanted to accomplish last year, I wasn't good about keeping up the blog.  I did finish several UFOs, including a shawl of handspun, handdyed mohair I purchased during a class at the long-deceased Studio N111 in Hartford.  I am mostly finished with another, a shawl from a KAL with Marly Bird that I began when living in Madison a couple years ago.  I changed up the colours a bit, and so far like the result.  I've gotten to the third main stitch band, and then have the I-cord edging to finish.  I did complete this year's KAL and won one of the random prizes!  I haven't opened the box because I was on a yarn diet, and only finished one of the two shawls I was working on during the KAL, so I'll try to get the other one done this year.
This is the shawl that I finished, which is made with Red Heart Reflective stripes, so I show it with and without flash on.  In the lower photo you can see what the reflective thread does - a safety shawl!

Upcoming projects include finishing some paintings for the 6x6-4-peace project; some items for this year's Mittens for Akkol Grads project; and helping people make pussyhats (probably by sewing fleece, for speed) at MakeHartford's open house this Wednesday evening.  And of course I'll be making scarves for this year's Knit Your Bit collection at DFW Fiber Fest.  And I have a couple UFOs to finish for myself!

*Back in 1890, the Hartford Courant bemoaned that "the making of resolutions" seemed to have become an "old-time custom[ ...that] died out."  I wonder how the author of that comment would feel about the effective commerce in resolutions nowadays?

27 July 2017

Baby Sweaters - including a 40-year UFO

Once again, I've been busy and not updating the blog.  Of course, part of the reason is that I have been busy doing things - such as making or finishing three baby sweaters.  They are going to a "baby house" in FSU (not at the orphanages where I donate things through Mittens for Akkol, but another one) and I had fun with these.

First a sweater from one ball of Patons Classic Wool in "Commotion":












It was supposed to have a hood, but I didn't have enough yarn, even making the three-to-six months size, so gave it a placket and collar instead.  I had fun rummaging through my button box and debated several other options until I found the lone card with three purple "jewel" buttons.  Perfect!  Why shouldn't an orphan have special buttons?

Similarly the ones on this sweater, although they are not the only star-shaped ones I have:
 

The yarn is oddballs of (I think) Cleckheaton and a ball of Noro Kureyon, and I used all of the blue and the Kureyon but have a bit of the green left.  It's the Super-Natural Stripes Sweater in about 18 months size.  I received a lot of compliments about it, including when I was knitting while waiting for the annual Om Street to begin (you can see me at it in the background of picture #107).  The colours show up much better here - they really are bright, and one friend said quite classic:
It's almost hard to give that one away, but I have no use for it and some child will be warm.

Finally, a sweater that I had very little to do with.  You see, my mother found an old knitting bag with pieces of two sweaters in it.  She made them when my brother was an infant.  They are nicely done but were never put together.  Mom gave me permission to finish and donate them.  I had time to do only one for this shipment, since the woman going to visit the baby house is leaving earlier than we expected.  I chose the one that seemed to be more complete:

At the top is a back with two fronts attached at the shoulders.  We're not sure what the middle piece is; I guessed a hood of some sort.  And the two sleeves below.  Since there was no other yarn and of course no instructions, I decided to use my best guesses, and to unravel the hood piece for yarn to finish the sweater.

First, set in the sleeves and sew side and underarm seams:

The fronts have no buttonholes and just touch, so I wonder if they are supposed to have a zipper?  I don't have one, and I do have a lot of buttons, and I've heard that buttoned sweaters are more popular in FSU countries.  How to adapt?  I decide to knit on another six stitches in the same 1:1 ribbing, and attach it as I go.  Like this:
 
For one side, I skip attaching every so often, to create buttonholes.

Then to finish the neckline, I added a ribbed collar:

And of course once some buttons were sewn on (the backside is very much prettier than the front, although the white side would have been fine too), it's a cute little cardigan!










So decades after it was first knitted for a then-little boy, hopefully it will keep some other little child warm.  It's not the first time I've put together a decades-old UFO for my mother, and I said it's proof that dislike of sewing-together is genetic!

16 June 2017

Historical Cooking Report - The Delineator Cookbook

I need to do some catching-up on both cooking attempts and reporting.  I've found a new website about 18th Century things, including cooking, thanks to another blog I read, Savoring the Past.  So the rabbit hole of the Interwebs is working its wiles!

This month I had plans to cook with a young cook of my acquaintance, one of my honorary nieces.  She wanted to do a menu from an old cookbook of mine which I believe was created to teach new wives how to do simple cooking and manage their homes.  I have several of these, some of which are very similar and turned out to be by branches of the same company, and I chose this one because I thought the name is fun:


Research told me that The Delineator was a women's magazine of the 19th and early 20th Centuries. It originally focused only on sewing patterns and related needlework, since it was published by The Butterick Company, but expanded to include articles about home decor, recipes, and fiction by popular authors.  As was common, the company collected some of its work into books such as this one, which was published in 1929.
 
We looked through and Z chose this menu, I think because it includes baked apples, which she loves:


The original plan was to make the menu as written.  We ended up changing it around a bit for several reasons, including:

  1. Nobody in her family likes green peas, so we decided to substitute broccoli.
  2. Then her mother found zucchini at the grocery store and bought it instead.
  3. They also don't like raisins, and there was no reason to just use nuts in the apples.
  4. The temperature was in the 90s(F) on the day we were cooking.
  5. I ended up running late from a tour (see photo below) and we didn't have as much time as we'd hoped because everybody was hungry.
The cookbook doesn't tell you where to find the recipes, so we had to hunt.  There wasn't a rice croquettes recipe, so I made it up from the other recipes for croquettes.  Upon reflection, I should have used half the rice, because it wasn't stuck together well enough.  They precooked the rice, which saved quite a bit of time once I arrived.

Process:
  • Make a medium white sauce (recipe in book), mix with rice, set in refrigerator to cool.
  • Cut apples into pieces, removing cores, and put into bowls.  Instead of baking them we decided to use the microwave.  Apple pieces were sprinkled with cinnamon and a pinch of cloves.
  • Slice zucchini, layer into oiled dish, sprinkling with dried herbs.  We discussed several options, and while marjoram is my favourite, Z selected basil.  We then microwave-steamed them.  [NB: Zucchini was not mentioned at all in the cookbook.]
  • Make a thin white sauce and stir in lots of shredded cheddar cheese.
  • Form rice croquette mixture into patties and pan-fry.  It was much too hot to properly deep-fry them (form, chill again, flour-egg-breadcrumbs, fry) and since they didn't stick together well (more white sauce or less rice needed), it was sort of a crispy fried rice patty.
  • Instead of tomato soup (per recipe, heat broth - we were going to use vegetable - and stir in chopped vegetables, then heat through) we decided to just slice the tomatoes to salad.
So the final menu ended up being:
Sliced Tomatoes
Steamed Zucchini with Herbs
Pan-fried Rice Patties with Cheese Sauce
Baked Apples
Strawberries

Overall, the verdict was that the food was tasty, and suited to the heat of the day.  I'd bought strawberries at a local farmers' market and because I was leaving town the next day brought them over to share.  I didn't take photos because we were busy, and people were hungry!

Z enjoyed the experience and loved making the white sauces.  We stirred flour and butter together over low heat, and when they made a paste stirred in milk.  For the medium sauce it was two tablespoons of each to a cup of milk, and for the thin sauce we used one tablespoon of each.  When you add the milk it gets both clumpy and thin for a minute, then the paste dissolves into it and for a few minutes it seems you are just stirring warm milk and nothing happens.  You have to keep stirring so it does not scorch.  Then all of a sudden it starts to thicken and you pay attention!

We're planning another cooking event and I suggested a menu with "corn oysters" in it because they keep kosher and I thought her father would be amused.  These are really corn fritters with a funny name, and if there is fresh corn in early July, we'll do it.

The tour that delayed me was one scheduled by MakeHartford on the replicas of The Niña  and The Pinta that had anchored in Hartford for a week.  It was really interesting to be aboard and the First Mate of one ship gave us a guided tour.  If they are near you, go aboard and see what it was really like (but the modern ships are much cleaner and less smelly!) for the sailors on Columbus' voyages.
Picture I took of the ships while waiting for
all of the tour attendees to arrive.

22 May 2017

Busy, Busy Yarny Months

First, I did miss the monthly "Cooking From History" post, because while I planned to do it, I got very busy with work and deadlines and didn't take the time to cook.  So I am going to double up either this month or next, and in the meantime you can read about someone else's cooking adventure here.

I participated in both the opening reception and the meet-the-artists talks (and following potluck) for the Paper Possibilities 2017 exhibit, and really like how my entries are exhibited:
The colours of the hanging piece really pop against
the colours of the wall.
I've also been working madly on the annual Knitting for Grads at orphanages in Kazahkstan by the Mittens for Akkol knitters, adding a number of from-stash scarves and hats to the shipment in addition to what I committed to make for various graduates:
Extra grad set - a sweater I made for me but didn't wear,
added hat and scarf.  Yes, the body is entrelac.
This boy asked for red, and the "mom" making his accessories asked if I
would add a bit of blue because she added some, so I added a bit.
Closeup of the stitches - crocheted with knitted ribbing
Several people thought of doing "RAAM" from Berroco -
here's mine, in Patons Classic Wool red.  Not a great photo.

At the end, I did have one failure, when it was clear that I would not finish the final sweater.  However, I found one online that the store promised to ship by deadline, and it arrived in time, so - whew!  I saw a lot of cute sweaters but they need to be all-wool (or other animal fiber - mine include wool-alpaca or wool-mohair blends) and those are in slim supply this time of year.  I'll finish the other sweater eventually, and either a grad next year will want the colour and be about the right size, or it will be an extra.

Now I am enjoying knitting for me.  I joined a KAL (Knit A-Long) and am doing two shawls: one following the pattern except in a lighter yarn with a smaller-sized needle, partly because the finished shawl looks huge and I am not.  I am using stash yarn, of course, and happily found one by the hosting yarn company in a really pretty blue:


The other uses some yarn of theirs in three colours (the third will be in Section 4) and some from another company in a very pretty silver, and follows the pattern except for making a closed spine.  I'd envisioned using these yarns to make a shawl to wear to summer concerts in the park, with stripes of reflective yarn to add safety when I walk home from the bus at night.

The KAL is up to Section 3 of the pattern and a lot of people are knitting ahead.  I made sure to get a photo after each stage.  After this I'll get back to finishing some WIP/UFO shawls.

I'm also doing a couple of "idiot scarves" (plain garter stitch in non-plain yarns) to donate to a collection or other for shelters.  These are handy carry-around items.  I finished one this weekend - they do go fast! - and it is pretty long, almost seven feet!  I'm going to do more with the yarn and now I know I can make them wider; this one is about 5½" but thick (I used the yarn doubled) so it should be plenty warm for someone.  More using up of stash, in addition to what I am donating to charity and selling on eBay.

I do have one baby blanket to finish, but the baby isn't born yet so I have ..... about three weeks.  I guess I should get that one started, eh?

01 May 2017

Another UFO Blog Hop

A couple months ago, the UFO group I joined this year did a blog hop so that people could post about progress on their items.  Although I have not made much progress on the shawls that I announced as my UFOs for the year, I did finish two other items.

At MakeHartford we have a Paper Artist Gathering group which I am part of mostly because I was part of the original Geometric Origami Club that grew into the current group.  And somehow, I was talked into contributing to a group exhibit that opens on May 6th at the Farmington Valley Art Center.  Titled "Paper Possibilities 2017: Exploring a Modest Medium" it shows all different types of art created from paper.

When people were talking about the exhibit, I mentioned some UFOs I had from a workshop on creating altered books from the lamentably gone (the artist moved to Virginia!) from Hartford, Studio N111.  In this workshop, we took books and learned about cutting and rearranging and folding and all kinds of options to decorate them.


Although I did a little work after the workshop, this is where they were, and had been for quite a long time:


The open book at the left, "A Road to Hope", is about a couple who helped to create a home for families near a cancer treatment center.  I ended up not doing more to it this time (if it doesn't sell, and I don't expect it to, I may do more and enter V1.2 in next year's exhibit) and didn't take pictures of the little that I did do, but I did more work on the other item.

That book was a young adult paperback, rather battered.  I removed (and recycled) the cover, and began to fold the pages into the same three-fold pattern, but alternating which corner I used to start.  So the shape formed as shown.

When I went back to it to finish the piece for the exhibit, I envisioned something mostly painted white and pale yellow, with maybe a touch of pink, and some deeper blue and purple circling it at angles.  I found a crystal dangle in a shape that echoes the one that is forming, and wanted to add it to add some interest to what I thought would be an unimpressive piece, especially compared to other artworks in the exhibit.  To attach a hanging loop and the crystal, I envisioned satin cord monkey's fist knots at each end, coordinating with the blue or purple or even both.

Of course that didn't happen.  As I mentioned in yesterday's post about randomness, a friend had counseled that sometimes art takes its own direction and doesn't end up as planned.  Without a lot of time to struggle, I wasn't going to fight the art.

First, I finished folding all the pages, and I noticed that the pages that had been exposed were slightly but noticeably yellowed.  This happens with the type of cheap paper often used in paperback books, and I realized that not only would it require a lot of paint to cover to get the white background I was envisioning, but the pages were going to continue to yellow as time passes.  So I decided to make that part of the art.

I'd obtained a set of pearlescent watercolours, and used them to add tints to the piece, focusing on yellow, orange, rust, and two shades of green:
You can see very clearly the newly-folded pages below, and the sun-tinted ones above.
I did more than one pass, some more watery and others drier, to get different depth of colour.  Then I decided that the monkey's fist knots wouldn't quite work, in addition to not having any beads or balls at home large enough to act as a base, and not having time to shop for any before the piece needed to be delivered.  So I took some wool yarn that seemed to coordinate with the paper colour and two buttons scrounged from my stash (I wanted two of the ceramic one, which seemed to coordinate best without adding more colour to the piece, but only had one, and so relaxed my stress of symmetry) to create a tasseled hanger.
Sorry it's not focused.  JHB Collection on left, something artsy on the right.
The darker, thinner button went on the top with the idea that it would be less visible when the piece is hung.  I didn't fasten the cord into the paper piece; it's held by tension and the curve of the spine caused by the folding.

Here are a couple quick pictures taken when I dropped off the piece:




















Although it's not what I had envisioned, I like the end result.  The colours are much more visible to the naked eye than they photograph.  You still see that it was a book (one of the other artists wanted assurance that I would not obliterate the words, and I told her that was why I selected watercolours) but it has turned into something almost organic.  The tassel is at the top, slightly off-center from where the hanging occurs, and not visible in these photos.  I'll try to get one at the opening on Saturday and add it or link to another post.

Now that you've read the story of my UFO, check out what some of the other artists in this month's blogroll have been finishing:


Karen Williams, Baublicious
Francie Broadie,  FAB
Christine Van Dyke Altmiller, One Kiss Creations
Kim Dworak, CianciBlue
Liz Hart, Treetop Life
Amy Severino, Amy Beads
Cynthia Machata, Antiquity Travelers
Hope Smitherman, Crafty Hope
Christi Carter, Sweetpea Path
Bobbie Rafferty, Beadsong Jewelry