Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Happy Bright Lights this dark time of the year. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

I’m kind of hooked on buying sweaters at thrift stores and unraveling them; currently, have three in the works and just finished two others a couple weeks back.

Anyway, sometimes I’ll find something that, in its original state, I’d never wear and the Frenchie (who still doesn’t quite get the appeal of unraveling stuff when you can buy perfectly good, new yarn) tells me I’m wasting my money on. In this case, it was a nuclear lavender mohair-blend sweater at the semi-annual “vide grenier” (community-wide yard sale) for about $4.00:

 I did feel kind of bad pulling this one apart, as someone did put a lot of effort into creating it. Still, really wanted that yarn in all its glow in the dark, fuzzy glory.

This just doesn't do justice to the color. You should be seeing waves like gaussing on an old computer screen while looking at it.

Since we’re not in what you’d call Kool Aid territory, headed over to my local African market to see what they had food dye wise. As usual, they delivered:

Red, blue, yellow, green; just like McCormick's. Espig is a food-industry supply house around Marseille, where all sorts of really Cool Stuff seems to come from. Indications on the bottles say, "for pastries, desserts and ice creams. Not to be consumed in present state." (Woudn't have considered that last one if they'd not have mentioned. Now am thinking of downing a bottle of green to see what happens.)

Did what I normally do with the yarn (skeins of about 200 m with 40 drops of color, 1/2 a cup of vinegar and water to cover. Microwave until water turns clear) - found that, for the blue, I was always going to have color remaining, and a lot of it. It cost more than the other colors, so must be much, much more concentrated. The red acted like Kool Aid or Mc Cormick red - meaning, after a few minutes, the water was clear. Let stuff cool, rinsed, then soaked in salt water for a while. Rinsed again, then set out to dry:

There goes the neighborhood. 

Ended up with something like 1600 m of a beautiful morning-fog like blue and about 300 m of a nice raspberry color. Both seem fast and am amazed at the depth and variation of color in both. (Apparently, there was a bit of acrylic).  Am currently working on a classic doily pattern with some of the blue (pictures forthcoming.  I'm not quite done with it yet) and have the rest kind of earmarked for a circular shawl or two.

Heavens, can’t imagine what the yarn would have cost if I were to have bought it pre wound, pre dyed, packaged-up.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Relatively Sweet Fruits of Failure.

After having tried to learn to use a drop spindle for some time, I’ve come to some conclusions:
-I’m not very good at it (really - I’ve been attempting for a couple years now; bought books, watched videos, even paid for private lessons.  Practiced like crazy.).

-I don’t think I enjoy the process.

This is okay; we all can’t love everything we do, nor can we be good at all we set out to learn. If I can’t get beyond my current park-and-draft limping into lopi, so be it. The thing is, what to do with the leftover, half spun stuff (aside from using it raw in projects or giving it away) that’s been accumulating?

Set to work by using means that I do enjoy and in which I have a bit of competency:

First thing I did was to drop my attempts into dye baths that I thought might work out. Let stuff dry, and was kind of amazed with the results - not only from the color standpoint, but from the wool-quality one.  The Bit of Red felted itself into a dred worthy of maybe being sold to a trustafarian somewhere (Boston not being a College Town, am not sure where). Got a lay of the land gauge-wise then just started iCording my way into a solution.

Don’t think it turned out too terribly badly. Kind of aht-sy, even.  Would wear it if it weren't destined to be given away.  Heck:  might even consider making another.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Don't know if it was due to the weather, hormones, or just general malaise, but just could *not* get anything right today.  Since am feeling like I have a foot permanently stuffed in the mouth, will keep the words to a minimum and let the pictures do the talking. 

(I think they're saying in warm and soothing tones, "Keep it simple.  Persevere.")

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Recently, I've been getting into fermenting stuff - maybe because of my own recent episodes with antibiotics, maybe due to that biological clock thing.   Who knows? All's I knows is that I'm feeling the need to nurture something that might possibly nurture me back someday.  Anyway, here're some of the Somerville Test Kitchen's subjects of the moment:


I guess that this is coming back into style, as I've now seen stuff from both Martha Stewart Living and Lifehacker. Made a couple batches for the Frenchie, and his feedback has been good.

Kosher Salt
Distilled or Filtered Water
Caraway Seeds or Juniper Fruits if you're into that sort of thing

Shred your cabbage thin. In a crock, large mason jar, pickle jar, whatever you've got - put down a layer of cabbage, then tamp it with a wooden spoon as much as you can. You're going to want to both release juices and get rid of air bubbles. Sprinkle this layer with some kosher salt (about a tablespoon or so; the more the better, as this is what helps keep the cabbage crisp) as well as with a bit of spice, if you want it. Repeat the cabbage/salt layer thing until you get to about an inch from the top of your vessel of choice, ending with salt. Cover with water. Cover loosely, and let sit in a cool, dark place, checking daily to see that everything's still covered with water. (If it isn't, add more.) Should be ready to eat in about a week, but you can keep it fermenting for longer. To prepare for eating - just rinse and eat raw, or rinse and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Is great with a pork chop, a sausage...a potato or an apple, maybe.


Am following this recipe to the word. At this point, all I can say is that my balloon's started to inflate. Will keep folks posted.   


Eventually, I'd like to get a yogurt maker, as the temperature regulation is so much easier than without one.  Until I do finally go out and find one I like (one with one large pot as opposed to seven or eight little ones), this recipe works very nicely.  Have to say, though, that, since we keep the house kind of chilly, it takes a fair bit more time (like 2-3x) than what's noted in the recipe for the yogurt to set.  Even then (and this doesn't bother me at all), it's more like kefir or a very thick buttermilk.


Okay, technically this isn't anything fermented; it's a decoction.  Still, really wanted to share, as it's just such a lovely thing.

During the Summer, had my first taste of Salers, a sort of sweet aperitif liquor with gentian root at its base.  Wondered if I could make something similar to it myself, only without the sugar.  Here's what I came up with:

750 ml neutral spirits (I used a mid priced vodka, like Smirnoff.)
1/2 oz dried gentian root
the peel of one orange, grated

Put ingredients in a 1 qt container, like a mason jar, for example.  Shake up, then set aside in a cool dry place for a minimum of one week, shaking daily.  Mine's been sitting now for just under three weeks, and it smells absolutely wonderful.  Might try a thimbleful one of these days.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Columbus Day.

In honor of the day, headed out west to visit "a special place designated by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs because it exemplifies the unique qualities of the Commonwealth."

Drunk in a fair bit of vitamin D along with the view.  Is it me, or does it seem that the leaves are changing awfully early this year?

Such a glorious day.  Am hoping for at least a few more like it.
Breakfast of Champions.

 Brunch at the Spring Hill Cafe.  Today it's pretty calm.  Sometimes it's like Sound Bites in Ball Square on a weekend morning during the school year.

One of the things I've been doing lately (and I'll get into that later) is try to eat differently (and, hopefully, better).  This has led me to cutting out all grain products, as much sugar as possible, caffeine, alcohol...essentially a sort of liver cure/metabolism helper sort of deal. 

My normal breakfast of an egg or two, some meat and a salad is normally pretty good.  It does get monotonous sometimes, though.  Today, just couldn't stand another egg and really wanted something creamy and dessert-y.  Came up with this adaptation of a lovely, luscious shake from my favorite Vietnamese restaurant (which normally uses sweetened condensed milk, more cream and comes topped with whipped cream and a maraschino cherry).  Am so happy with how it turned out:

Avocado Smoothie

1 ripe Haas avocado
1/2 c kefir or buttermilk or a  mixture of 5-6 yogurt and 2-3 T water
4 ice cubes
1T coconut oil (if you have it)
a splash of cream or half and half
sweetener of choice to taste, if desired

Peel, pit and cut avocado into 4-6 pieces.  Put in blender with all other ingredients and whizz away until smooth.  Drink down immediately. 

Serves 1.

Optional - if you'd like a bit of extra protein and this doesn't give you the heebie jeebies, toss in a raw egg.  You can buy them pasteurized nowadays, or, if you can't find them that way - just dunk in boiling water for 30-60 seconds.  (I have found that about 40 seconds works for me.  Beyond that, I usually end up with a semi-poached egg.)

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Frenchie was telling me that there should be some sort of astral pyrotechnics - meteor showers?  comets? - over Europe the next few nights.  Nothing so spectacular here right now; the Perseids were the last big thing around these parts I think.  Still, condensation trails reflecting the red of the setting sun isn't too shabby.

After a fair period of wet, the weather's turned absolutely glorious.  The past few days, we've had spectacular sunrises, a warm and intense daylight, lovely pastel-ey sunsets.  Folks have been calling it "Indian Summer," but I think it's too early for that; haven't had a frost yet.

Moved indoor operations outdoors as much as I could so as to drink in that wonderful, free vitamin D.  Noted that a lot of the Spring plantings bloomed again, possibly (sadly) for the last time this year.  Picked three small melons that tasted like cucumbers from a withered vine, watered the amazingly fast-growing lettuce, planted the late kale. 

On the one hand, I would be very happy if things would stay the way they are.  On the other, perhaps I'm seeing it as so beautiful precisely because it won't last.  Warm, soft and golden will be replaced by bare branches and crystal - a bit harder, with sharper edges, but not without their own charms.