Tag Archives: crochet

Moms… and Madness

I honestly don’t know what I would do without my mother.

When I tell her I need a larger container for my fabric dyeing, she shows up at Hamersley’s Bistro with a large, red, horse feeding bucket.

 

At our impromptu family dinner the other night, she gave my sisters and I the type of gift that only a mother could give.

 Her style is a bit more elegant and, frankly, subtle than mine, but she knows my taste well enough to buy me fun and funky accessories like this multi-colored cuff:

 

She keeps me well-stocked with fresh chicken eggs:

 

And delicious little surprises like stinky cheese. This  Roquefort made my usual salad-and-sandwich lunches so much more interesting this week:

 

 She gave me a bottle of Vitamin D for Christmas, and a few weeks later sent me an email about the dangers of taking vitamins due to their high folic acid content.

 

She makes me part of a larger history. I’ve inherited so much from my mom, including the majority of these threads and a lovely packet of crochet hooks which I’m finally putting to good use these days!

 

I can’t even begin to photograph all of the pots, pans, and kitchen accessories that she has passed down (not to mention bed sheets, table cloths, furniture…). I’ll take her hand-me-downs and all their memories over new goods any day.

Whenever there’s some sort of mishap or crisis, she sends out an email with the ‘victim’s’ name in the subject line. My most recent example: an email titled “Z” about my little sister’s car crash. I wonder how many “Pippa” emails she’s sent out over the years…

She has an incredible garden, full of fresh fruit, veggies, flowers, and even chickens—and requested a Mother’s Day dinner rather than brunch so she could spend the day tending to it. She also requested our help, so in addition to my usual crafting endeavors and an abundance of long-neglected chores, I’ll be spending my Sunday in a sunshiney garden.

On that note… Happy Mother’s Day!

Meanwhile, is it possible that I’m  a crochet convert? Granny Puffy squares are just so full of possibility…

 

Just as crazy—did I actually make a rough sketch of my next quilting project instead of taking my usual, improvisational approach?

 

Craziest of all: could it be that I met my chocolate cake match last night at Prezza and wasn’t able to finish every last drop of this incredibly rich, succulent, flourless beauty? OK, so I only left a couple bites, but still…

What is the world coming to?

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Freak Flags and Fads

I like to crochet in unusual places. For instance, in my car when I’m stuck in bad traffic:

 

If I’m stuck at a really long red light, I’ll even weave in and trim the loose ends, thus my cup holder is actually full of scraps of yarn:

 

Last night, I knit in Noir bar while enjoying an LA Confidential (stoli peach, cointreau, peach nectar & champagne) and waiting for my dinner companion. Yes, I have no pride shame. But hey, we all have our freak flags­—it’s just that some of us wave them a little higher than others.

Fortunately, Welton arrived soon enough and we enjoyed a delicious dinner (not to mention inexpensive: Noir has to have the best happy hour deal in town with $5 flatbreads, $4 sandwiches, $3 salads, $2 snacks, $1 sweets, and free nuts!)

 

That glorious looking goo would be gruyere, spinach, and bacon dip. There are no words—and there wasn’t any left by the time we were through, either. I love eating with Welton because, like me, he has a hearty appetite. The only alarming thing about our dining together, however, is the mound of perfectly polished-off plates at the end of the meal.

For some reason, I was in the something uncharacteristically simple as my main course: a three-cheese pizza with spicy tomato sauce and caramelized onions. Of course, I dipped this baby in the gruyere goodness so it wasn’t really all that simple in the end:

 

It tasted just as good as it looks, and reminded me that I haven’t made my own pizza in quite some time…

Actually, I’m having a bit of a dilemma these days. I’ve been meaning to watch Food, Inc. for a while, but I’ve also been skeptical about this film since, like many young women, I’ve gotten caught up in diet fads in the past and it did me no good—I now try to avoid all that food hysteria and eat everything in moderation (most of the time…).

Anyway, on Wednesday night I took the plunge and squeezed in the first 15 minutes of this film before making dinner for some friends. So far, I’m sensing that the gist is this: be very careful about where your meat comes from. I respect that message, I really do. And I hope I can become a bit more conscious of it. I’m also really trying to be slightly vegetarian, especially when eating at home…but it’s hard! Gosh, I even contemplated buying turkey bacon for Wednesday night’s meal, but that lasted a whole two and a half seconds. Who am I kidding. What’s pasta carbonara without real, fatty, crispy bacon?

 

Some things you just can’t substitute. This was one good pasta, if I do say so myself, and I credit that to the fact that the sauce contained a good dollop of bacon fat (and plenty of butter). That being said, I’m an animal lover—believe it or not, I dream of the day when my house is full of giant pet bunnies and teacup pigs. I’ll never be a full-on vegetarian, but I’m going to suck it up, finish Food, Inc., and hopefully approach my meat consumption with a bit more awareness.

Meanwhile, bacon was actually buy one get one free at the grocery store so I have a whole lot in my fridge—I also happen to have plenty of cheese and a bag of spinach. Dare I attempt to make my own cheese-spinach-bacon dip?

My lovely dinner left me feeling rather energized so I went home, put on some elastic-wasted pants, and filled my sink with warm water and laundry detergent. My hand-dyed fabrics are now washed and hanging to dry, ready for my patchworking pleasure. Let’s admire them one last time (and ignore the blurry shot), shall we?

 

Other weekend plans include an Owl City concert and bike ride to Concord Center.

Sigh, life is good. This morning’s sing-along of choice: Cat Stevens. I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul.

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Filed under cooking, crochet, fabric, Pasta

My Sewcial Saturday

Look what I made on Saturday:

 

Look what else I made:

 

In case you’re a little slow on the uptake, these are one and the same thing. Yes, I made a quillow. It was  rainy, dreary day and all I wanted to do was stay inside and sew. So, I whipped out a packet of sample squares from Deb Strain’s Saltbox Harvest line by Moda (as I’ve mentioned before, free fabric is another one of the many perks of working at a quilting magazine) and…I sewed. All day long. It was exactly what I needed.

I actually had no idea what a quillow was until Friday morning when I stumbled upon the term in an evening course catalogue that I was flipping through. I signed up for the upholstery class instead, since a quillow sounded like something I could figure out on my own; it is, quite simply, a quilt that folds up into a pillow. Furthermore, when unfolded, the pillow pocket can function as a foot warmer. Brilliant. I kept this super simple–straightforward patchwork, a pillowcase binding technique, and ties instead of quilting stitches, because my main goal was to figure out how to make this marvelous hybrid fabric creation.

But that’s not all, folks. I also squeezed in some hand stitching, and completed four of my Kandinsky quilt squares:

 

And began two more:

 

I warned you: Saturday was a very anti-social, but sewcial, kind of day.

Actually, my little hibernation began the night before. Kyle, who is working for Charlie Baker’s gubernatorial campaign, had a work-related even to attend to, but I just wanted in a going out mood. Instead, I came home and got all decked out in my Friday night best:

 

I made myself one of my favorite dinners, one that has gone through much trial and error but which I finally have down: sweet potato gnocchi with creamy tomato sauce.

 

I realize they look like dog kibble but, trust me, they’re delicious. It took me some time to find the perfect potato-to-flour (whole wheat, naturally) ratio and to become truly adept at rolling and cutting the individual gnocchi, but I now have a system that works quite well and doesn’t take absurd amounts of time. I’ll get the recipe up here some day soon.

I also couldn’t resist trying out another soufflé. This time, I went with chocolate.

 

It was exquisite, if I do say so myself. Moist, warm, fluffy… It even rivaled my beloved warm chocolate truffle cake from EVOO! This is good news for my bank account but for my waistline? Not so much.

Thank goodness I enjoy working out, and started off my Saturday with a run in the rain. This is surprisingly pleasant and kind of invigorating—and definitely better than the treadmill—but it does call for a nice warm recovery breakfast. So, inspired by last weekend’s brunch, I made my own homemade granola:

 

The best thing about making your own granola, aside from getting to choose exactly what goes in it (in my case: oats, walnuts, almonds, peanuts, raisins, and dates), but eating it fresh out of the oven and still warm. Heavenly.

By mid-morning, I was sufficiently warmed up so decided to take my first stab at homemade ice cream in my cuisinart ice cream maker. My flavor of choice: chocolate banana. As I’ve said, I’ll eat ice cream in any weather, but I don’t normally have it at 11 in the morning. Well, I decided to treat myself to a pre-lunch mini cone since homemade ice cream calls for some rule breaking:

 

But this is where my successes in the kitchen ended. Remember that teff flour that  had been fermenting in preparation for injera? Epic fail. I’m not sure why—though I suspect it may have been that our apartment has been unusually cold these days and may have killed the yeast—but my Ethiopian bread-making attempt quite simply did not work. It fell apart, tasted sour, and looked more like concrete than bread. Let’s just say I was rather  disappointed. I’ll give it another go at some point, but at the time I wasn’t in the mood to troubleshoot so Z and I came up with a quick plan b and went to Sagra where I had…more gnocchi (this one in a lovely duck ragu).

 

Z also gave me a batch of her delicious mini chocolate chip banana muffins. Naturally, this paired quite perfectly with the chocolate banana ice cream.

 

Clearly, my Saturday night quickly recovered. Hey, you can’t win them all—and the failed bread was probably a sign that I needed to get out of the apartment at this point anyway.

Speaking of not winning them all, my Sunday morning yoga class was randomly brutal. I’m not a yogic master by any means, but I’ve been going to Baptiste for a while now and have many classes where I’m happily shooting up into crow or headstand (even the occasional handstand), effortlessly flowing through my sun salutations, feeling strong and balanced—this was not one of those classes. It was quite possibly the longest 90 minutes of my life. Even tree pose felt like an enormous amount of effort. Thankfully, yoga is usually a lot more pleasant, but I have to admit it’s good to have the occasional, humbling class. I slept and ate well the night before, I hydrated, and I did everything ‘right.’ But there’s only so much you can control: your body is going to tell you what it is and is not up for, and you really need to listen to it.

Nothing that a nice big omelet at the Cheesecake Factory, where I went with my Welton for brunch, couldn’t fix:

Is it just me, or is this post dragging on? I’ll end it here, and leave you with one last colorful picture that will hopefully brighten up your Monday:

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The Good, The Bad, and The Puffy

Let’s start with some bad. Kyle was supposed to attend his younger sister’s wedding in Kosovo this weekend (yes, you read that correctly), but due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland, his flight has been canceled. Actually, this is more bizarre than bad (a volcanic eruption? What are the chances) and, of course, I selfishly feel like it’s good news since I was nervous about him traveling and now he’s going to be safe at home.

Then again, in anticipation of his absence, I had made lots of fabulous plans with someone very special: me, myself, and I. Yes, aside from having Saturday dinner and Sunday brunch with other human beings (you know who you are and you know you’re special ;)), I’m really ready for a couple days of being more sewcial than social.  

I had planned on kicking off my me-time last night by finally making an individual soufflé in my new Mario Batali 2 cup pan. Fortunately, Kyle had massive amounts of cheeseburger and chili fries left over from a previous meal, so I went ahead and executed this plan anyway. And I’m very pleased to report that I had quite the soufflé success! (But Kyle also liked it, even though it was meat free, so next time I have to make two.)

I’ve been taking a very minimalist approach to grocery shopping these days since I’ve been pouring a fair amount of money into thread, fabric, yarn, etc., and I rather enjoy making do with what’s on hand in the kitchen (for the record, one of the best ways to economize your food budget is to ride your bike to the grocery store—you simply can’t overbuy). However, there are a couple of things that I always have on hand, and one of them is sweet potatoes (and, of course, eggs from my mother’s chickens). So, as is my usual approach, I did some scouting around online, flipped through a couple cookbooks and came up with a modified recipe that suited my current supplies. This one is worth sharing because it really was delicious—and, unlike my last soufflé, it rose beautifully; the perfect combination of puffy, moist, and creamy.

Sweet Potato & Cheese Soufflé

 

Ingredients

  • 1 small sweet potato
  • 2 tbsp butter, divided
  • 1 ½ tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tbsp flour
  • ¼ cup whole milk
  • ¼ cup grated cheese (I used a lovely yellow cheese that my mom gave me, but any hard cheese will do)
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • salt
  • thyme

Use 1 tbsp of the butter to the grease the inside of a 2 cup  pan and coat it with parmesan cheese.  

Wrap the sweet potato in foil and cook in the oven at 400 degrees F for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, until it is very soft. Remove the skin and mash the sweet potatoes in a bowl, adding salt and thyme to taste. Lower the oven heat to 375 degrees F.

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the remaining tbsp of butter and add the garlic, stirring for about a minute. Add the flour and 1 tsp of salt. Whisk consistently for about 30 seconds. Add the milk and continue whisking for 3 minutes; the sauce will begin to thicken. Add the sweet potato mixture and cook for about 1 minute. Pour in the cheese, stir until it has melted, and remove from heat.

Add about half of this sweet potato mixture to the egg yolks, then return the egg yolks to the rest of the sweet potato mixture and stir to combine.

Whisk the egg whites on high speed until stiff peaks begin to form. Mix 1/3 of the whites into the sweet potato mixture, then fold in the remaining whites.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and cook for about 20 minutes at 375 degrees F.

Soufflés are without a doubt going to be a new dinner staple for me. I fell asleep imagining other soufflé possibilities. I want to try adding tuna, bacon, spinach, broccoli, leeks…I could go on and on. And don’t even get me started on the prospect of a chocolate soufflé.

The forecast for the rest of my weekend? Well, a little bit of bad: it’s supposed to rain/snow (really Boston? really?) which means minimal bike riding. The good: on Wednesday afternoon, I biked to Whole Foods. I save my trips to Hole Wallet for very special groceries. In this case:

 

Guess what teff flour is used for? To make injera, aka Ethiopian bread. Oh yes, I have not forgotten that miraculous spongy delight from last weekend, and as is the case with most delicious breads, I can’t resist making my own. I’ve already combined  1½ cups of the flour flour with 2 cups of water and it is currently fermenting in a large bowl on my kitchen counter. It smells a bit funky and it’s nicely puffed—believed it or not, this is a good thing. At this rate, it will be ready for Saturday night when my sister and I are making a homemade Ethiopian dinner, complete with honey wine!

I also have a new infatuation that will undoubtedly occupy me a great deal this weekend. For some reason, I decided to do something a bit different with my recent batch of dyed yarns:

 

I know, I know, crocheting instead of knitting isn’t exactly revolutionary—but doing something fresh with my fingers feels really, really good. It took me a little while to find my flow, but now the yarn is looping around my crochet hook in a fluid, rhythmic, and addictive way. I’ve tried crochet in the past and it never really clicked, but for some reason, this time is different and I’m completely, utterly hooked (get it?)

I love these little squares, but I feel like calling them ‘granny’ squares doesn’t do much for crocheting’s reputation, and it certainly doesn’t capture how lovely and fun they are. I’m calling mine puffy squares instead, and I adore them.

Kyle’s assessment: “I like these. They’re like mini knitting,” but I think I’m so fond of them because they’re very conducive to the bite-sized approach that I’m drawn to these days. Each little square is a mini-project in and of itself, but they will come together to create a larger, beautiful whole. How perfectly patchwork.

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Love

I’ve had this post saved up for a little while now.  I recently inherited another remarkable family heirloom, but felt that its ‘debut’ deserved a special day. Then it occured to me, what better day than Valentine’s, the day of love? Not just romantic love, but love of family, friends- even crafting!

The item is a crochet bedspread that my grandmother sent me. Now, I don’t do too much crochet (though I’ve mastered granny squares in the past) but I know enough to realize that this blanket is the product of remarkable skill. And while I tend toward color, I love the simple elegance of all-white yarn which shows off the delicate and alternating stitches:

blog-pics-001

This photo doesn’t at all capture the size: it’s actually quite large- but you can get a sense of the hexagonal pattern. It’s so lovely and, like the yo yo quilt, so full of family history- not to mention family love. There’s a remarkable story behind it, which my grandmother explained to me in an email. It was made by her Grandmother Dahlberg (my great-great-grandmother) for my grandmother when she married my grandfather in January 1951, just after he got out of Marines boot camp. To tell the rest of the story, I’m reprinting my grandmother’s words since I couldn’t possibly capture it better myself:

 Grandma and Grandpa Dahlberg lived all their lives in the suburbs of St. Louis.  Their greatest dream was to retire to a farm.  So they found a place and bought it several years before he could retire.  However, the day the moving van left with all their furniture, Grandpa didn’t feel well.  They felt they had to drive out to the farm in order to be there for the truck, so my brother, Paul, went with them to help out.  The next day grandpa had a massive heart attack, and the country doctor declared him deceased.  Grandma wanted to get back to St. Louis to family to have him buried there, so Paul and the doctor put grandpa in the back seat of their big old Plymouth.  Paul, who was 17 at the time, drove Grandma and Grandpa back to St. Louis.  They drove to J.B. Smith Funeral Home in Maplewood so arrangements could be made.
Grandma tried to stick it out on the farm, but it was lonely and the only income she had was a very small social security check.  She would stay with various family members several weeks at a time.  When she stayed with my mother, she and I shared a bedroom, and between our beds was a sunny window on the second floor with a cedar chest under it.  Grandma would take her small check and buy a ball of yarn the first of the month and crochet one of these squares, which is her own pattern.  I still can see her sitting in the sunny window with her fingers flashing away while I worked on homework at my desk.  She made one of these bedspreads for each of her grandchildren. 

So this bedspread has a sad but love-filled story behind it. Personally, I love how these items store up their own histories and I love imagining the creative women from whom I descend. Though I may not have known them, we are bound by the love of family and our common love of handcraft.

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