Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Simple Stripes.

Years ago, Boston had something called the “Women’s Educational and Industrial Union.” To fund it partly, they had a gift shop and a tea room, if I remember correctly. On the upper level of the shop, there was a little needlework boutique. I don’t remember their having many knitting supplies; seemed as though it was mainly geared towards embroidery and needlepoint.

At about the start of their decline, they phased out the needlework section. Had absolutely no use for it, but ended up buying something like six skeins of a fine Persian wool (from Paterna / Paternayan, I think) more suited to crewel or cross stitch than knitting. The ridiculously low price and a little improvised knitted pattern convinced me.

This yarn has sat in my stash for something like 20 years - the longest of anything.

From just the blue and the gray, made a Morehouse inspired triangle, all garter stitch. It's served me well, but is currently residing across the ocean. Decided to use the leftovers, along with the lovely lily pad green for another of the prime-number stripey / Scandinavian-inspired shawls.

Good, peaceful, mindlessly mindful knitting.

Monday, June 30, 2014

First World Problems.

I'm really bummed that all my nice Summer clothes are on the other side of the ocean. Over there, I have four skirts (two are sportswear ones - for hiking and such), two wonderful pairs of dressy/sensible sandals, a pair of seersucker pants, a marine striped hoodie in light cotton and my lovely, lovely paper hat from the milliner near the Old Port in Marseilles.
Since surface mail is no longer an option, sending this stuff back to me makes absolutely no sense, as the fees would cost more than the clothes are worth. What I have in Boston that fits is largely threadbare, knockaround stuff.
Am thankful to have my sewing machine and a good supply of fabric. I'm also thankful to be living in close proximity to a couple good thrift stores, as well as a Target. For my most immediate needs, have been hacking up tee shirts and giving them the Wobi-Sobi treatment. (Have two skirts in the works; just cut up one of the Frenchie's one euro tee shirts into a nightie.) Also turned a couple pairs of pants with frayed cuffs into pants.
With a little bit of time, I'll lose the spare tire and acquire the good quality basics I need. I'd really like my pair of Born sandals back, though. Miss them desperately.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Keeping Cool.

For as long as I can remember, the transition from Cool weather to Hot in my part of New England has never been a gentle one.  One day, you're wrapping yourself in shawls and donning the fingerless gloves to enjoy the morning coffee.  The next, you're struggling to get the air conditioning unit into the window and seeing how few clothes you can get away with wearing without being considered 'indecent.'

This season, my hair's in an unwieldy transitional phase and the layers are all curling in the wrong directions. Since it's too thick to be properly restrained by barrettes, figured I'd try knitting a headband to keep things out of my face.  This one's a simple pattern knit in my favorite classic lace:  the Gull Lace pattern found in Elizabeth Zimmerman's "Knitter's Almanac."  I chose a worsted weight cotton, Lily's "Sugar n Cream," because it knits up quickly, is soft, absorbent and easy to care for.  Honestly:  not only do I love knitting with this yarn (even in Summer), I like to see it used in things beyond the usual dish cloths and market bags.

Enjoy the beautiful weather, and keep cool!

Gull Lace Headband  (Pattern Available Here.)                 

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Spring Blossoms.

Spring is more than making up for her late arrival this year.  All of the below (in no particular order) started making their appearance in the neighborhood over the past week:

American Dogwood 
Sugar / Red Maple
Cherry (on the south side of the hill; haven't seen any trees on the north side blooming yet.)
Norway Maple
Bradford Pear.  (Possibly my favorite.)

Next up will be the cherries and lilacs on the north side of Spring Hill, apples, Japanese dogwood...

Better Late Than Never.

Started the squash seedlings; prepped up a 'test' to see if my tomato seeds are still viable.

Pulled norway seedlings and other undesirables out of the containers on the back porch. Planted peas, cukes, curly-leafed lettuce and a new (to me), hopefully bitter green: mustard spinach.
If the weather holds up, will turn the soil over out back and sow some wildflower seeds.

Am wondering if, instead of flowers in the front boxes, I might want to plant herbs. Cilantro, parsley, catnip and sage might all work out nicely in those long, shallow, rectangular containers. Might have to sow the dill elsewhere, though.

Am very pleasantly surprised that the kale planted 3-4 years ago continues to reseed itself.  Found in one of my containers a lush start to a lovely salad / stirfry season.  The plant with the saw-toothed leaves that is sharing space with my lovely kale is a dandelion, of course.  Those do NOT get pulled; they're one of my favorite potherbs.

Thursday, May 01, 2014

May Bells.

This is the first time in memory that the May Bells hadn't bloomed in time for the First of May.

For those who celebrate, I offer you a bouquet of stems and leaves.  Have a peaceful, restful day.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Something that I really love but can't handle like I used to is milk. Could still manage yogurt and cheese, but in fairly limited quantities. Going out for an ice cream cone is done after a cost/benefit analysis on my part*.

Last Fall, all hell seemed to break loose stomach-wise; became too frightened to eat. First thing folks worried about, of course, was appendicitis. That ruled out, allergies were looked into - mainly celiac and soy. The Celiac was easy to determine; all it took was a blood test. A few days later, the doctor called me to let me know that I was okay in that regard. She then suggested that I lay off of all dairy and soy of all things.

Now, the dairy part I'd been dealing with for some time, so that wasn't a problem. Soy however: how to live without that? Soymilk's what I'd drink instead of regular milk. Miso's like peanut butter to me; soy sauce like ketchup. For crying out loud, Tofu was my staff of life. I could serve it for all three meals and have it for dessert. This was going to be tough**. Then I discovered almond milk, particularly the Diamond Brand stuff. What I like best is the unsweetened, low-fat, fortified with calcium kind; taken neat, it's got a nice, subtle, nutty flavor. Also seems to be a good, neutral taste for most recipes, sweet or savory.

Interestingly enough, had a hard time finding the same quality of almond milk when I returned to France. Everything I'd found was a.) more expensive b.) shot up with sugar c.) with nut : water proportions considerably inferior to what I'd gotten used to here. Found oat milk (of all things - labeling in the EU is not so clear as here, so it took a while to figure out where this came from. Thought the brand was Italian; turns out the contents are Swedish.). It's a pretty acceptable drink, but am not crazy about cooking results.

Back to the States again, found that my lovely almond milk nearly doubled in price.*** Since I ain't made of money, am trying to work this out. I consume about 1/2 as much of the almond milk as I'd like and have been trying to spoon a bit of regular yogurt or buttermilk on things from time to time. It's not been too bad. Still haven't touched the soy, and I really don't plan to. A visit to an emergency room last Winter in France (same pains, just worse) showed something interesting though not completely related to the GI and which could be influenced by the soy. We'll see; have to hit the doctor again soon.


* Is it good enough to make it worth the pain afterwards? There are relatively few places where this ends up being the case: Christina's in Inman, Dairy Queen because of its rarity here - love the soft serve dipped in their nuclear red flavored coating, a stand in Fort Mahon that still is allowed to serve treats from unpasteurized cream. Normally I'd be a bit iffy about that, but they're very clean and am sure that at the first case of Resort Town Diptheria, they'd close. Anyway, my favorite there is sea-salt caramel. The Frenchie likes mint.

** Particularly, too, because I found that if I got a good bit of soy in me in the weeks before my (ahem) time of the month, the PMS symptoms - migraines, cramps, a chest that felt like there were two Ridley Scott aliens just waiting to burst forth - would be vastly reduced. Even the depression symptoms went from, "just give up, Be" to, "sigh, and this too shall pass."

*** Not surprising, given the general rise in commodity prices, not to mention transport.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Pancake Day.

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed today; knew that the only thing that'd help was bacon.  It being a Friday in Lent, that wasn't an option.  Decided that the second best solution would be something that I'd been craving a lot lately, but rarely indulge in:  Pancakes.

Took a look in the largely paleo-prejudiced larder to see what I could scrounge up to make something more cakey than omelette - y.  Adopted, Adapted, and, if I do say so myself, seriously Improved upon the classic Joy-Of standby:

1/4 c spelt flour
1/2 c almond meal
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1Tbs honey
2 eggs
1/2 c butter milk

Combine spelt, almond meal, salt, baking powder.  In a small bowl, beat together eggs, milk, honey.
Add liquids to dry ingredients and mix together until smooth.  (You'll note that the batter is pretty liquid; this is okay).

Spoon the batter in your desired pancake-sized dollops onto a greased skillet.  When you see bubbles formed all over the cakes, flip carefully, then continue cooking until the down side is lightly browned.

These turned out thin like crepes, but more substantial.  The combination of spelt, almond, honey and buttermilk was wonderfully tasty.  Though I could have eaten them plain, knew that the the day was going to require some serious lily-gilding.  Ended up with butter, some of last Summer's peach jam, a handful of blueberries and a dollop of sour cream.

This was a pretty hefty portion for one.  Downed it all and called it Brunch.  Would make a good, lighter meal for two, with the inclusion of something like bacon and more fruit.