Thursday, July 30, 2009

New Website Launched

I just launched a new website - - The site was designed and built by The Boyfriend, and it looks darn nice if I don't say so myself.

On the site you'll find links to both of my blogs, information on a few of the workshops I offer, and my original knitting designs - a pattern store with designs for sale and free patterns available for immediate download.

The free patterns you'll find there include:

The Layla Classic Knit Tam

The Wide Rib Cowl for Him

And The Sylvia Lacy Cowl

In the pattern shop you'll find:

The Coy Felted Cloche (which is proving to be my most popular design)

The Notorious Felted Tam

And the River Rock Cowl

I've got other new patterns in the works, as well as several more workshops in the planning stage. I'll be adding to the new website on a fairly regular basis. It helps to have your own personal IT dept.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Back from Minneapolis

I've just returned from my trip North to Minneapolis. It was lovely. The weather was a welcome respite from the Texas heat, and the folks were as friendly and accommodating as ever.

I went North to teach a workshop on culinary herbs and making pesto. The workshops was hosted by the folks at Ripple River Gallery - a fabulous place to visit if your in Minnesota. You can read more about the workshop and see many photos of the gardens on In the Kitchen and the Garden.

In addition to the workshop I had an opportunity to visit with a whole plethora of creative people - weavers, knitters, gardeners, wood turners, singers, spinners, and dyers. It was a much needed shot in the arm, and I've returned with a renewed enthusiasm for fiber. I also saw family.

I had ample opportunity to experience some nature. I ran at the lake, walked the country roads, spent time in the garden. The air is clean and cool, something I miss here in Texas. The sky has billowy white clouds, something else I miss here in Texas. I saw Sand Hill Cranes - amazing. I saw a fox - with dinner in his mouth. I was buzzed by hummingbirds, and listened to the song birds.

I knit. Socks, of course. I completed the Stripey Eyelet Rib socks and started a pair of Tweedy Basket Rib Socks.

I visited the MN Textile Center, and The Fiber Studio. The Fiber Studio was new to me - the proprietor offers lots of fiber arts classes, and has a beautiful selection of roving, merino tops, some yarns, and fabric. I purchased a truly beautiful little collection of wool fibers, silk scraps, and cotton voile for nuno felting. If you are in the Minneapolis area, please make a stop at The Fiber Shop - times are tough all over, and she has wonderful selection of fiber-y goodness in a homey little shop.

It was a great trip - too short, very busy, inspiring, grounding, peaceful, lovely, and cool.

A Little Piece of Heaven in MN

I've just arrived back from my trip North to Minneapolis. It was fantastic: A welcome respite from the Texas heat, lots of socializing with creative folks, and of course, my Plethora of Pesto Workshop.

The workshop went well; the participants were enthusiastic and seemed genuinely inspired to go home and try the eight recipes they received in their materials packets. We started the workshop with a tour of the fabulous kitchen garden where the workshop was hosted (photos below). Then we retired to the porch where there was a demonstration of the basic technique for pesto making, and a tasting of the eight different pesto recipes. The conversation was very relaxed and informal, which is what I enjoy most about these kinds of events. I hope to offer this workshop again soon.

This is the garden, with the raspberry patch in the front. Raspberries were ripe while I was there - such a treat, to eat raspberries right off the vine.

The very creative use of containers to grow herbs and other edibles in a very small space. This area contained all the culinary herbs needed to make all of my recipes plus the nasturtiums.

A perennial border in the main kitchen garden. It is full of a smattering of culinary herbs, several medicinal herbs, and of course the flowers. You don't see perennials like this in Texas.

The main kitchen garden is L shaped, this is one leg. Those are blueberries under the hoops, strawberries and asparagus across the way, cucumbers are just out of frame, and tomatoes in the foreground and tomatillas in the back corner.

The other leg features lots of squash, tomatoes, peppers of many varieties, and a hedge of basil. Those are beans on the poles. There is also lots of self seeded dill and poppies.

Mr. Toad resides in the garden.

If you ever find yourself in Minnesota take the time to stop at Ripple River Gallery. In addition to the top-notch gallery, visitors are welcome to visit these lovely gardens. And the resident artists - Amy Sharpe (weaver) and Bob Carls (wood turner) are gracious hosts.

You can read about other aspects of my trip on Right Out Loud, my mostly knitting and crafting blog. And be sure to follow me on Twitter for more garden photos.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Absurdity of Some Rules

I'm flying to Minneapolis tomorrow in the early-early AM to teach a workshop next weekend. As I checked in for my flight online today I discovered that it will cost me $15 to check a bag, even just one bag. I think this is absurd, of course. It means that like myself, all of my fellow passengers will be traveling with just carry-on luggage, and since it is human nature to push the boundaries of rules, and the limits of your luggage this means there will be aisles crowded with too many people, trying to cram their over-sized carry-on bags into the over-head compartments. The last time I flew home from Minneapolis someone was so over zealous in their efforts to make their over-sized bag fit that they broke the door of the overhead compartment. This delayed our departure by 45 minutes so that a maintenance team could come on board and mend the broken door with duck tape. (That is not a lie).

I will not push the boundaries of my luggage, I will pack light. Traveling with just my carry-on isn't a big deal really, and doesn't restrict me all that much. Except where sunscreen is concerned. Which is also slightly absurd. As most of you know, you can not pack more than 3 oz. of any liquid or gel in your carry-on, and 3 oz of sunscreen just isn't enough. If I have learned anything from living in Texas it is to both fear and loathe the sun. And I wear sunscreen. Always. I know they sell sunscreen in Minneapolis, and that I can just as easily buy some when I land. But that is not the point. The point is the absurdity of the rule which allows me to board an airplane with pointy metal knitting needles and a scissors, but limits my sunscreen to 3 oz.

I'm not a rule hater on principle. In fact I am mostly a rule follower, stickler even. But I can not help but be irritated by rules that seem both silly and even a little stupid.

Packing extra extra light means I'll be traveling with sock knitting - portable, compact, and pocket-able.

In other but somewhat related news; I have finished objects to share. Having deadlines - like the one to be prepared to teach my workshop - always puts me in "finisher mode". And so yesterday I finished my Waves of Lace Shell. Finally. It took me almost a year to finish - not because it was a difficult project, mostly I just didn't work on it that consistently, it sat for long stretches at a time. In fact as lace goes, it was fairly simple; easy to memorize repeats, and a beautifully written pattern.

I also finished yet another One Skein Wonder shrug. The first one I made over a year ago was so teeny-tiny I gave it to The Boyfriend's daughter. Then I made a second one for myself that fit, for awhile, but is now too big. A good problem to have I know. So I made a third. And it fits.

For those of you keeping score at home, this means my WIPs are down to three - The Waves of Lace Scarf, and the Branching Out Scarf, and socks. The lacy scarves will be sitting this trip out, they will stay home. I'll be off to Minneapolis tomorrow with a tiny carry-on, socks in my purse and on a mission to buy sunscreen when I land.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thai Inspired Quinoa Salad

I've been in the kitchen experimenting with whole grains lately. I had cooked up a batch of quinoa and had it chilled in the fridge. When I decided to make a salad that used the quinoa, I had a real taste for something spicy. Based on what I had on hand, I created this Thai inspired salad. I fear it is probably a little high in both fat and calories, but it makes a high protein meal all by itself. It is also damn good.

The Quinoa

Quinoa is an ancient grain originating from South America. It is a staple of South American cuisine and is becoming increasingly popular here in the United States. It is similar to couscous in both its size and its flavor. It is however unique in that it is a complete protein, containing all 8 of the essential amino acids. To cook Quinoa place 1 cup of the grain in 2 cups of salted water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

Thai Inspired Quinoa Salad

The Good Stuff
1 batch of quinoa cooked and chilled
4 organic scallions chopped
1 organic carrot grated
1 organic jalapeno pepper seeded and minced
1/3 cup unsalted organic peanuts chopped

Toss together all of the good stuff.

The Dressing
1/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 very juicy organic lime
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low sodium tamari
4 cloves organic garlic pressed
1 teaspoon chili oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili paste

Whisk all of the dressing ingredients together until well blended. Pour dressing over the good stuff and gentle toss again. Garnish with fresh cilantro.

Serves 6-8


Quinoa on Foodista

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Suitcase Full of Knitting

I'll be traveling next week to teach a workshop in Northern Minnesota. I'll also be visiting family, and making time to run Lake Nokomis. I grew up in Minneapolis - on the south side, right near Lake Nokomis, and it is still my most favorite run. Traveling also means knitting. This trip especially should offer ample time to knit. That's because I'll be staying with my Dad and his wife and they have a fantastic porch, and the kind of laid-back attitude that makes it easy to spend an entire day knitting.

As I prepare for the trip - making sure the dogs will be cared for, prepping materials for my workshop, making plans with friends, and providing easy-to-prepare food for The Boyfriend to eat while I'm gone - I'm also thinking about the knitting. Or more specifically, which knitting to bring along on my travels.

I've got plenty of WIPs right now - the Waves of Lace Scarf, the Branching Out Scarf, the Eyelet Rib Socks, the Urban Hens, and the One Skein Shrug. I have the yarn to start two new sweaters - The Slinky Rib from Wendy Bernard's book Custom Knits: Unleash Your Inner Designer with Top-Down and Improvisational Techniques, and the Empress Pullover from Knit Picks. And of course there is also socks, so so many socks.

Perhaps the best solution is bring it all. I clearly wouldn't finish it all, but then I'd have choices. And besides, other than my running shoes and shorts, and a couple of changes of clothes I don't need much else. Indeed, a suitcase full of knitting...

Monday, July 6, 2009

The End of a Growing Season

The first growing season in my kitchen garden has officially come to a close. It seems almost unbelievable to the northern gardener in me that July 4th weekend brings the end of the growing season, but it has.

It is just too hot. During the month of June we saw a number of record breaking highs, and at least a dozen days with temperatures above 100 degrees, and it just doesn't cool off all that much over night. When it's hot like this the pepper's won't blossom and set fruit, and neither will the tomatoes. The basil has bolted and gone to flower. And the eggplants just stopped. It seems really wasteful to me to continue to water plants that aren't producing foodstuffs, and so the watering has stopped, and the kitchen garden has shriveled.

Looking back it was a fruitful and productive growing season. My freezer is full of pesto and baba ghanouj. I had my first foray into canning, preserving a large batch of tomatoes, and a variety of pickled hot peppers. (I learned tons from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving ). I had enough greens early on to share with friends, and enough cucumbers to give some to pretty much everyone I know. All in all I'd call it a success.

Today we have had a relatively "cool" day, with temperatures in the upper 80's and completely cloudy skies. I took advantage of this break in the weather to put the garden to bed for the rest of the summer. I took down all the bird netting, and cut down all the shriveled plants. I took down tomato cages, and stakes. And I mulched.

There are a few additional things to do until the fall growing season rolls around: I will keep the perennial herbs watered, mulched, and alive. I'll start a new compost pile, and turn the one in progress. And I'll let the soil rest during these sweltering months.

Come September I'll plant the kitchen garden again. I'm planning the fall growing season with a mind towards preserving the harvest: green beans for pickling, tomatoes for sauce making, and carrots just for fun.

Until then, I'll be in the kitchen I suppose.