Monthly Archives: March 2013

Big news!

Things have been a bit quiet on the blog lately. But trust me, I have a really good excuse. I’ve been working on this new, big project and it’s taking a lot of my energy right now. I know you’re probably thinking “another big project?! Don’t you have a book you’re supposed to be writing?” but don’t worry. The book should be off to the editors before October, when this next big thing is due to arrive. And besides, they say I should be starting to get my energy back any moment now.

internet announcement

Because the tiredness is (supposed to) really be worst during the first trimester, right? At least until the baby starts keeping me up at night…

In the mean time I just need to balance knitting baby sweaters and book projects from now until October.

Say thanks

I got the nicest email this morning from a knitter who just wanted to say how much she liked one of my sweater patterns. That moment of thoughtfulness has made my whole day better. So I decided to pass it along. I sent a quick email to a designer I admire to say thanks for her inspiring patterns. And that felt really good too!

That got me thinking about how easy it is to share the joy. So now I’m encouraging all of you to thank a designer. Whether you send a happy little email or a quick ravelry note it’ll only take a minute. Pick the designer who helped you create your favorite sweater. Or the person who offers that free pattern you’ve always liked. Maybe you can think of a designer who inspires you with something complex you hope to knit someday.

Whoever you think of first: I’m CERTAIN they’d appreciate a thank-you note, so don’t be shy!

Equinox

It’s winter here in the north country.
Snow’s so high it’s up past my knees.

snows past my knees

Car won’t start and the wood pile’s low,

wood piles low

everything moves so slow.
And it’s so cold,
maybe I’m just getting old.

So I’ll hunker down for another night,
eat my supper by candle light.

supper by candlelight

And it won’t
be long
’till summer’s here again…

Lyrics from Won’t Be Long by Susannah Clifford Blachly

Moxy hat

Apparently all my writing skills are going into the book right now. I didn’t realize this until I sat down just now to write a blog post – and nothing came.

So I’ll leave you with a quick note. If you checked in about test-knitting: THANK YOU! I believe I’m all set for the moment. I believe I have gotten back in touch with everyone. And if you’re just now thinking test-knitting sounds like fun drop me a note. I’ll have more patterns needing testing in a few months (ha, assuming I get through the writing of them and the editing of these alive)

And secondly, look! Jake is wearing Moxy-cat as a hat.
moxy hat
Yeah, they love each other.

(See? Pets as blog content. Works every time.)

Grand View Farm

Everybody loves a sale right? My friend Kim, over at Grand View Farm, has one you’ll probably like.

She’s offering some percentage discounts and some gift certificates for folks who want to visit the Bed and Breakfast. Her place is gorgeous, her classes are wonderful, and the workshop is amazing (it makes me want to weave, just standing there surrounded by the looms)

Grand View in winter

Grand View B&B

Pretty much if you read my blog you’d love a visit to Grand View. She’s got the animals, the local foods, gardening, chickens, fiber arts… What’s not to love about a vacation like that?

Potato Leek Soup

Here’s another soup I’m kinda shocked hasn’t already happened. Potato leek soup is a classic for winter right? Well it is TIME to use up the potatoes around here

potato leek soup

Last October I bought 100lbs of organic potatoes from the farm down the street. Well, it turns out if you store your potatoes at a (relatively toasty) 60F they’ll decide it’s sprouting time in March. They’re still tasty*, just a little bit wrinkly…

Combined with leeks, this is a very simple soup, but the depth of flavor would never give that away

potato leek soup prep

Ingredients
6 small-medium yukon gold potatoes
2 large leeks
4C chicken stock
1C milk
2T olive oil
2T butter
bay leaf, savory, rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper

In your big soup pot melt the olive oil and butter together. Cut off the leek leaves, slice the root in half and then cut into slivers. Throw this in the hot fat with a dash of salt and pepper and leave over medium heat for 8-10 minutes.
While the leeks are cooking peel and chop the potatoes. Throw them in with the leeks, add the chicken stock, and the herbs and spices. I think I used somewhere between 1/2tsp and 1tsp of each…
Bring the mix up to a boil, turn it down to a simmer, and leave it be until the potatoes are tender.
Remove the pot from the heat, and puree about half the mixture. I used an immersion blender here. You can use whatever you have on hand (blender, food mill, food processor, etc…) You can puree more or less, depending on how chunky you want your soup.
Put the pot back over low heat, add the milk, and adjust the spices to taste. If you pureed most of the potatoes you might need to add a little more liquid to get the right consistency.

potato leek soup time

Potato leek soup is delicious, but it’s hard to photograph… The leek greens helped the picture (I think). This is a thick soup, so we ate it with salad, instead of bread.

*years past Neil and I have had the experience of eating the last wrinkly potatoes in march, buying some nice looking organic spuds at the grocery store, and then being HUGELY disappointed that the new-looking ones were still less flavorful than the ugly ones we’d finally used up…

Not a moment too soon

I’ve been steadily working through the winter book designs*. In fact, the designs have been done for awhile, but it’s tricky to get nice photo shoots in the winter time. The light available is so short, and often so cloudy. Snow is pretty, but you don’t really want to be shooting in a blinding snowstorm, I mean I had to photoshop flakes OUT of the Currant shoot. And I wouldn’t have taken an expensive DSLR out in that weather…

But putting a winter shoot off until March is risky. March can be our snowiest month, but with a little twist of fate it’s just as easily our muddiest month, and MUD isn’t very photogenic at all.

So it was with great relief that I got the final (outdoor) winter shoot scheduled for last Saturday. I headed out to the Northeast Kingdom – they always have the best snow. For this photo shoot, specifically for a ski inspired sweater:

nordic outtake
(ah, the blurry outtake – sorry that’s all I can give you for now!)

The shoot went perfectly. But it’s our timing that amazes me. Saturday we did the shoot, Sunday was nice, and the rain started monday evening. It’s been RAINING for 24 hours now. I don’t know what the kingdom looks like but I’m guessing it’s not so pretty anymore. I can tell you the 18-24″ of snowpack in my front yard is GONE. We’ve got a soggy few inches of slush, with peaks of mud and last year’s plants sticking through.

I’m glad we got that skiing shoot done last weekend. Because next weekend it’s gonna be mud season.

*In fact, I’m up to the fun bits now. I’m looking for a few more test knitters. I have three women’s sweaters, three different yarn weights, three different styles. Do you have a sweater sized hole in your knitting right now? Leave me a note!

project bags!

Yesterday my project bags went into the mail. I made 1 box bag and 1 pyramid bag. The box bag went exactly like this tutorial shows:

box bag zipper box bag corners box bag hand stitching

zipper first, then corners, a little hand stitching and…

finished box bag

Box Bag!

For the pyramid bag I started with this tutorial. But I made a few changes. I cut my fabric in a 10×20″ rectangle, this gives a more symmetrical pyramid. I like symmetricalality (quiet, that’s totally a word)

I was working from stash, so I quilted* two pieces of fabric together with a bit of cotton batting in the middle. But I stopped about 1″ from the zipper edge. That way I could fold those edges in, stick the zipper between the two layers, and sew it all together. Voila! Lined pyramid bag.

pyramid bag finished

I used some sweet little french seams at the top and bottom to keep those nicely finished as well.

pyramid bag lined

Final details: pyramid bag is ~8″ tall, box bag is ~7″ long. Both are made with scraps of quilters cotton I had lying around, lined with quilters cotton AND layered with cotton batting (I never use the iron on interfacing. I have no good reason, I just don’t) So they’re 100% cotton, machine washable, and each should hold a sock or a small shawl project. Wheee!

project bags

These two little beauties went in the mail, off to their new homes. I can’t wait to see what comes back in exchange!

*if by “quilted” you understand I mean I ran some diagonal stitching across the fabric. Nothing fancy.

my grandmother’s scissors

These would be more accurately titled my great grandmother’s pinking shears, but my grandmother’s scissors sounds nicer, you know?

I’ve been going down to my parent’s house to help mom declutter for awhile now. They have the old yankee “don’t throw that away, it might be useful” thing going on and sometimes this means quite a bit that just needs to be thrown away.

grandmothers scissors

And sometimes we unearth AWESOME things. And I get to help declutter her house by bringing things home to my house. Along with the shears I’ve rescued some thread scissors for my craft room. My kitchen got some lovely biscuit and cookie cutters (with HANDLES! You don’t see cutters with nice wooden handles anymore) a whole collection of custard cups, and several wire bale jars.

I won’t use the wire bale jars for canning, but I love to use them to store the open bits of pasta, rice, barley, etc… They’re great for keeping out mealy moths (or keeping them in, since sometimes the eggs come with your purchase – yippie?) Not to mention my whole pantry looks pretty with everything in jars.

barley, oats, and more

Tonight’s soup and bread combo really pulled together into a delicious meal. Something about the oats in the bread and the barley in the soup complemented each other so nicely.

I made a mushroom barley soup combining both fresh portabellas and some dried mushrooms from a blend:

mushroom soup

The dried mushrooms had to be re-hydrated first. I was worried about them being mushy. But in the final soup they were more firm than the fresh mushrooms! I cooked the barley separately first so that I didn’t over-cook the mushrooms and in retrospect I think that was unnecessary… Anyway, cooked barley, sauteed mushrooms (stems first, then add the caps later), carrots, and onions went into the soup pot with beef broth and spices. Basic and tasty, just like so many other soups.

The milk & honey bread I made is so good you can be certain I’ll be doing this one again! I used my little half-loaf pan and I’m going to wish that I had more, I can tell already. I’m listing the ingredients for a regular 4×9″ pan though, so you don’t need to do any math.

Ingredients
1.5C flour
1C oats
2tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1/4tsp salt
1 large egg
1/2C honey
1/4C sugar
1/4C veggie oil
2/3C milk

mushroom soup and bread

Preheat the oven to 350F and grease your bread loaf pan.
Whisk together the flour, oats, levening, and salt.
In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, honey, sugar, and oil.
Now fold the liquid ingredients and the milk into the flour mix just until everything is mixed.
Pour the batter into the pan and bake for 40-50 minutes. I baked the little loaf for 35, I don’t think you’ll need too much more time than what I’ve listed for a full sized one.

The bread darkens significantly because of the honey. The light oaty sweetness of it contrasts with the dark, rich flavor of the mushroom and barley soup just perfectly for a late winter night.