Thursday, August 27, 2009

On How I Hate Change and Don't Deal Well with Uncertainity

As the tag line for this blog promises, I generally try to keep things mostly about knitting and crafting. Today is going to be an exception. I'm going to allow it to get personal. My life is filled with uncertainty just now. Three weeks ago The Boyfriend fell victim to a pretty huge lay-off, and as we are all well aware, the job market still pretty much sucks. This lay-off means a lot of economic uncertainty for our household, and it could also potentially mean a move out of Texas.

The bright-sunny way to spin this is as "an opportunity for change..." and "...exciting possibilities". I've tried that outlook on for size and sadly, it only sort of fits.

Mostly I don't deal well with change. I'm the kind of person who gets thrown completely off my game if my favorite brand of paper towels changes their packaging. I have a morning routine that happens in exactly the same order everyday. I have been drinking my morning coffee out of the same cup, and only that cup for close to 6 years. I like things to stay the same.

And I fair just as poorly with uncertainty. I'm a first-class worrier. I worry. I get it from my Dad, and I've always believed he is sorry he gave it to me.

The worrying makes it pretty darn near impossible for me to concentrate on anything for more than about 2 minutes. And this lack of concentration means not much knitting, a small pile of started but unfinished nuno felted projects, several half-sketched and half-baked design ideas, and the reading comprehension skills of a third grader.

It has also resulted (and this the bright side again) in a really really clean house, lots of random cooking and food preparation, and many loads of laundry.

I'd be a big fat liar if I tried to tell you or myself that I can shake the lack of concentration entirely and get on with the creative, thinking-required tasks at hand. I know that I can't. But a creative soul can not survive on laundry alone, and so today I have struggled and fought and spent the last 90 minutes wrestling these words together and this post into existence. It's a start, and it has at least kept me in one spot for better than an hour, and it feels productive in its own way. It's what I've got for now, but I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Here's a really simple grow-your-own project with super fast, super delicious results. It's the perfect project for those long gray months of winter, or where I live the long hot months of summer, when you can't get outside in the garden, but crave something fresh and green that you grew yourself. With just the barest of ingredients and the simplest equipment, you can garden in your kitchen.

I encourage you to either follow the directions that come with the sprouting seeds, and do a little internet search for specific instructions and tips. But the basic idea is this: Find a clean old canning jar and a piece of cheesecloth. Add up to a 1/4 of cup of whatever organic seeds or dry legumes you have handy in the pantry. I've listed several options below. Add enough water to cover the seeds and soak them overnight. In the morning place the cheesecloth under the ring of the jar to act as a screen. Drain off the water, and shake lightly to loosen seeds. Keep your sprouting jar handy to the sink, so you can rinse and drain your sprouts 3-4 times per day, but out of direct sunlight. You should see your sprouts start to germinate in a day or two, and they will be ready to eat anywhere from three to fourteen days depending on what you've chosen to sprout. It's like a miniature garden in a jar.

Once they're fully sprouted expose them to a little more sunlight so they will green. Finally, remove them from the jar, rinse them thoroughly one final time in a colander, and let them dry a on a clean tea towel. Store the sprouts in an airtight container in the fridge, they'll stay fresh for several days.

Here's a list of just some of the seeds and legumes you can sprout. Legumes: Chickpeas, Lentils, Mung Beans. Seeds: Radish, Garlic, Chives, Broccoli, Alfalfa, Cress, Sunflowers, Fenugreek. Personally I love mung beans, and broccoli sprouts, and have never had much luck with cress.

I've seen fancy "sprouting kits" that involve several trays at the kitchen supply store and at my local organic gardening center. I also found the Sprout People online. They sell kits, supplies, and organic seeds, grains, and nuts for sprouting. They also have lots and lots of how-to info on their site. The kits seem like they might be fun to try and the variety of seeds is appealing, but a simple jar and what you have on-hand in the pantry could also be gratifying for its simplicity and ease.

Sprouts are good food! Experiment with the different flavors and textures to find the ones you like best. Radish and broccoli sprouts are a touch spicy, while fenugreek is slightly bitter. The sturdier varieties, like the lentils and chickpeas can be added to stir fries at the last minute. Add the more delicate, leafy seed sprouts raw to your salads, your sandwiches, and even your dog's kibble. Most of dogs love bean sprouts, and the fresh food is as good for them as it is for us.


Monday, August 24, 2009

New Pattern - Ligneous Cable Knit Hat

This hat was designed to have an all-over cable pattern that would continue all the way through the decreases, rather than stop at the crown. Mathematically, this was a bit of a challenge, and just like my days in algebra class I can not show my work, I just got the right answer. I'm pretty sure my algebra teacher thought I was cheating - always the right answer, but some crazy nonsense where I was suppose to be showing my work. But no worries for the knitter, I did the math, and it all worked out just fine. The result is Ligneous.

Ligneous features a truly unique all-over cable texture, reminiscent of a deep barked tree. This texture is subtly supported by the slight variegation of the kettle-dyed yarn, Malabrigo in this case. This super soft merino wool makes this hat warm, lush, and sumptuous.

I owe a handful of gratitude to my friend Tracey, of Yarn Unravelled, for modeling the hat despite the 103 degree temperatures. She was a real trooper. I'm also grateful to several test knitters, recruited from Ravelry, who tested the pattern and offered their feedback.

The pattern is probably best suited to the intermediate knitter - someone comfortable with knitting in the round, decreases, and at least a little cable experience. The pattern calls for US size 9 needles, less than 200 yards of worsted weight wool, and offers yarn alternatives, clear instructions, and an explanantion of all abbreviations.

For Ravelry memebers the pattern is available as a PDF here. And it is also available as either a PDF or printed and mailed on my website.

Enjoy! and Happy Knitting!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Roasted Pepper Salsa

This salsa is a little labor intensive because you will be roasting a pile of peppers and the onion. It is also a cooked salsa. But the effort is well worth it. The roasted peppers and onions impart a rich, smoky flavor that can't be beat. The recipe as I have it here makes a very hot salsa - triple X (XXX) hot! That's how I like it. If you want to cool it off a touch leave out the Serrano. To cool it off even further leave out the Serrano and one of the jalapenos. But keep in mind that peppers vary greatly in their spiciness - sometimes the Serranos are hot, sometimes not as much.

Roasted Pepper Salsa
2 tablespoons of your everyday olive oil
1 medium yellow onion sliced and roasted (see instructions below)
4 cloves garlic put through a press
1 red bell pepper halved, seeded, and roasted (see instructions below for all the peppers)
1 poblano pepper whole and roasted
2 jalapeno peppers whole and roasted
1 Serrano pepper whole and roasted
2 tablespoons mild dried chile flakes
4 slicing tomatoes chopped
1 cup of vegetable broth
1 teaspoon kosher salt

To roast and prepare the peppers: Preheat your broiler to 525 degrees. Place all of the peppers in a roasting pan, or on a broiler rack and roast for about 8 minutes until the meat of the peppers in tender and the skin is blistered and slightly charred. Place them in a plastic bag and allow them to cool. Once they have cooled enough to be handled remove their skin - it should peel off easily. The exception is the Serranos, they are often too tender to peel, just leave them as they as are. Rough chop all of the peppers.

To prepare the onion: Once you have removed the peppers from the broiler, and while they are cooling, you can proceed with the onion. Spread your sliced onion on the same pan or rack and place them in the broiler for about 5 minutes until they are just starting to get tender and charred.

To make the salsa: In a medium saucepan heat the oil, roasted peppers, the onion, and the garlic. Add the tomatoes and heat until they start to break down, about 10 minutes. Add the broth and the chili flakes and bring to a simmer on medium-high heat. Cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the salt, and let the salsa cool a bit. Once it has cooled puree in a blender until smooth.

Makes 4.5 cups

I use all organic ingredients, as always, and as much produce as I can from my own garden. I have a giant bag of dried chili flakes that I picked up at a little stand in Chimayo, New Mexico for next to nothing. They are really very mild, I include them in this recipe not for the heat, but for their deep chili flavor. I highly recommend you seek out the finest quality New Mexican chilies you can find. The flavor is worth the extra cost and effort.


Salsa on Foodista

Friday, August 7, 2009

Workshops - Taking Some and Teaching Some

A few weekends back I took an all day workshop at the LYS with Cookie A. The class was based on her fabulous new book Sock Innovation: Knitting Techniques & Patterns for One-of-a-Kind Socks and the focus was to design your own pair of socks, based on a stitch from a stitch dictionary and custom fit to your measurements. We did a lot of math and a lot of knitting. The result is a great new sock design in progress. I'm working with a simple lace pattern and a bamboo and silk yarn that has just the slightest sheen. I'll be finishing the pair, making changes if necessary, and perhaps publishing the pattern in the near future.

This week I started the first of three classes at The Stitch Lab here in Austin - Artistic Embroidery with Kat McTee of Artcloth. I've been hand stitching on my felted pieces for some time, but my technique has always been a bit rogue. Now I've learned the proper way to execute the stitches, but without the tyranny of "the embroidery police". The next sessions of this class we will be using various transfer techniques - photo transfer, ink jet printable fabric, and iron on - to give ourselves a custom pattern for stitching. I've selected images, and planned a project that involves maps and photos from New Mexico and Minneapolis. I'll be sharing my progress and some photos soon.

And finally I'll be teaching a few workshops. I've scheduled some dates in September for both my "Get Your Knit On!" class and my "Knit This and Felt It!" class. "Get Your Knit On!" is designed for the true beginner, I'll be teaching all the basics from casting on to binding off, the knit and the purl stitch, simple increases and decreases, and knitting in the round. Students will complete two projects, and leave the third class ready to start a third project of their choosing.

In "Knit This and Felt It!" participants will knit, felt and embellish with needle felting either my Althea Bag or the Notorious Tam. The choice is theirs.