Monday, December 21, 2009

More kitchen work, less handwork

It's been noticed that I haven't posted about handwork in ages, and my project pages on Ravelry haven't been updated in forever--it's because my hand spends a lot of time healing in this brace. It's just a sprain, and it's healing, and I think it looks a lot worse than it is when you see it all braced up! It's just in an inconvenient location: MY HAND!

Timson has been wonderfully supportive, as usual. He won't knit in front of me, even though I told him I don't mind in the slightest. I can still bake and cook (with my devoted helper) so do keep up with some of my hobbies. And I'm draconian about my healing regimen.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Crab ravioli

I was surprised at how delicious these are. We came up with the recipe out of thin air, because our darling goddaughter, when discussing Christmas dinner possibilities, said, "Ravioli," and "I like crab--how about crab ravioli?"

Out of the mouths of babes. Or, nine-year-olds:

Crab ravioli (ravioli di granchio, would that be?)

Grind together in a meat grinder:
1/2 lb. onion
1/2 lb. crab (or, "crab"--we use imitation crab because Paul can't eat real crab)

Stir in:
1 egg
1/2 c. breadcrumbs (plain--not with any spices or herbs)
1 tbsp. melted butter
1/4 c. ricotta cheese
dash of white pepper

6 sheets of fresh pasta (our pasta shop, Phoenix, has sheets that are about 10" x 13")

I got our ravioli mold from Sur La Table to assemble them, and fill each rav with 1-2 tsp. of filling--about 1-1/2 tsp. of filling is perfect. (Be sure to wet the areas of the pasta that will be the edges of the ravs for a good seal!) This recipe made about 70 ravs, enough for a main course for 3 people.

We put them on wax-paper lined cookie sheets to freeze them, and when they were frozen hard, put them into containers, and ate them a week later. We did this test, because when making them for a large group, we wanted to know if they'd do well made ahead of time and frozen--they did!

When cooking them frozen, we boiled them for ca. 10 min.--it may take 11 min., depending on how hot your water is, and how long it takes to return to a rapid boil after adding the frozen ravs. (Of course, if cooking them fresh, it will just take a few minutes.) To see if they're done, I always just take one out, blow on it a bit, and eat it to see of the pasta is cooked all the way.

We ate them with a plain tomato sauce (2 onions sauteed in about 1 tbsp. organic canola oil until lightly browned, 2 large cans organic diced tomatoes, then added 6 cloves chopped organic garlic, 2 fresh tomatoes 'cause we had them, 1 bunch fresh organic basil, 1 tsp. dried thyme, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/4 tsp. white pepper). We added freshly grated parmesan on top (also from Phoenix) and a Cline Ancient Vines Carignane (although they'd be delicious with white--we just adore reds, and have a serious devotion to the always outstanding Cline wines).

We'll be making dozens of these for Christmas dinner! Can't wait!

Saturday, December 5, 2009


Pumpkin, apple, and cherry.

And Cedric had a wonderful time at Franklin Canyon, part of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The hikes are delightful--we saw a woodpecker, black walnuts, and wild cucumber seed pods--and the visitors' center has this amazing stuffed mountain lion that you can see very, very closely.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Apple Brown Betty

We often have leftover homemade bread at the end of the week, and I make a lot of bread pudding, but was looking for something a little different when I ran across a recipe for an "Apple Brown Betty" in the Fanny Farmer cookbook. I'd never had one--never even seen one in person.

It's delicious! I cut the sweetener & used agave syrup (1/2 c. agave syrup) and did use the lemon--it came out with this amazing lemony apple cinnamon buttery flavor.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Sweet Potato Pie

The November pie challenge in the Ravelry pie challenge group is family recipes. Lacking any handed-down family recipes for pies, I looked in a family cookbook, for a pie that could have been made--my mother-in-law Pauline's copy of the Prudence Penny Binding of the American Woman's Cookbook. Every family I knew had this cookbook--this edition's 1950s color illustrations are amazing.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Nimbus Fish Hatchery

We had so much fun at the Nimbus Fish Hatchery! You can get fish food for a nickel, and we used lots of nickels to feed the baby trout. Paul took this photo of Cedric from his favorite vantage point--the water and all the hungry fish made him a little nervous.

There were tons of huge salmon at the gate, some brilliant red and others pink or black. They'll be opening the gates the morning of November 9--go visit!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

When Cedric hides

Cedric was with me during this lunchtime walk, when we spotted the hawk on the light pole. I think it was a red-tailed hawk, but Cedric wouldn't come out to give his opinion. All he'd say was, "Polly wants fresh meat!"

I don't blame him. I think all of Cedric is smaller than this hawk's head.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Cedric's lunchtime walk

Cedric has been joining me on my lunchtime walks along the Marina Green promenade. When the weather is sunny, we find the wind bracing if we walk at a good clip. It wasn't his first view of the Golden Gate, but this is still the closest he's been. (Someday I'll take him to Fort Point.)

Of course, Timson wishes for a hot chocolate after such a brisk walk in the wind, but we have work to do, and can't risk spilling chocolate on the books. We have to wait until we get home for that.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Crunchy granola

I've begun making King Arthur Flour's crunchy granola every week. The photo above is from the first batch, using whatever we had in the house--walnuts, raisins, dates, and dried apricots.

We modified the recipe somewhat:
1/3 c. oil (instead of 1/2 c.)
1 c. nuts (instead of 3 c.)
1/4 tsp. salt (instead of 1/2 tsp.)
rice syrup (instead of maple syrup, because it has no sucrose)
2 c. dried fruit (instead of 5 c., to cut down on the fruit sugars)

It's fantastic. It came out exactly as the recipe said; here it is baked up, before the fruit is added (I didn't mess around with parchment paper--just greased the baking sheets):

We figured out that our recipe comes out to $6.08/lb. (King Arthur says on their blog entry that their recipe is $6.70/lb.) That's .38/oz. It sounds expensive, but the cheapest granola that we can get at our grocery store without added sugar is .50/oz., so we're coming out ahead--and that's even with the fancy, organic walnuts! With farmers' market dried fruit and nuts, in a different mix every week for variety, it's even cheaper--and more delicious.

(And in case you're wondering, our version is 225 calories per cup.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009


The September challenge for Ravelry's Pie Challenge group (requires free account to log in) is the, "Take-Along Pie challenge. Mini-pies for the lunch box, turnovers, empanadas, baby quiches, things that are easy to carry with you as life gets busier again."

An excuse for pasties!

As usual, the filling was a combination of what was in the fridge needing to be used up (some aging green onions, yellow onion, and a bit of red bell pepper) and what looked good at the market (crimini mushrooms, sweet potato, turnip), combined with some sort of grain--I was out of barley, much to my surprise, and didn't want to make another trip to the store, so this time I used rice--and the usual herbs (bit of leftover fresh basil) and spices (I never remember what I toss in--it's different depending on the veggies used):

I have to admit, the combination of red bell pepper and, well, everything else, was less than successful--that flavor really dominates. Live and learn!

(Photos by Paul.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Scarf Mania by Chris Lanier

This is a cartoon written and animated by Chris Lanier, and although I've known Chris for a while, I saw the cartoon for the first time tonight and loved it--I think knitters & crocheters might like it, too. Although it really has nothing to do with knitting or crocheting, I find it interesting for making me think about how comfortable one can be--or not--in one's garments, and the influence of fashion.

And I think Romanov is adorable.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ginger pigs

Ever since my father-in-law told us how much he loved ginger cookies that were made in the shape of pigs, we've made ginger pigs rather than ginger men (or any other of the shapes in our farm cookie cutter set).

The recipe is from the Fanny Farmer cookbook, "Gingerbread Men," rolled very, very thin, and baked until golden and crisp. We also substitute rice syrup for the molasses, and agave syrup for the sugar.

Photo by Paul, pigs by Paul and I.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Better cornmeal scones

These are the best cornmeal scones ever--forget the ones I already posted about. These surpass those in every way.

I came across the recipe, "Crisp Cornmeal Scones," in the April 2009 issue of Better Homes & Gardens, picked up on a whim from my public library's magazine exchange. (You can get the recipe for free from their site, I believe, if you register.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

If Hamlet were a knitter, or, A WIPs Sililoquy

I wrote this for my Ravelry team, Team Middle Earth, for WWM09 (WIPs WrestleMania 2009), and offer it here with great apologies to The Bard, for the enjoyment of all who are trying to deal with their unfinished "Works in Progress:"

To finish, or not to finish–-that is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of gorgeous designs
Or to lift hands against a sea of projects
And by opposing, frog them. To finish– to stitch
No more; and by finish, to say we end
The heartache, and the thousands of stitches
That WIPs demand. ‘Tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To finish, to bind-off,
To bind-off, perchance to block; ay, there’s the rub!
For in that project’s blocking what fit may come
When we have bound off this garment’s stitches
Must give us pause. There’s the respect
That makes calamity of such long stitching.
For who would bear the WIPs and scorns of time,
Th’ project’s photos, the proud fiber’s spinning,
The pangs of despis’d gauge, the needle’s breaking,
The insolence of charts, and the abbreviations
That patient merit of th’ beginner’s deciphering,
When he himself might his design make
With a bare bodkin? Who would these project bags bear,
To grunt and sweat under a bulky wool,
But that the dread of something after WIPs–
The undiscover’d project, from whose casting-on
No Raveler resists–puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those WIPs we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Cedric and coral

Cedric loved his visit to the Birch Aquarium at Scripps. Besides the seahorses, the coral reefs were his favorite--he's long been a fan of the IFF's crochet coral reef, so he loved the opportunity to see the real thing.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Morro Bay

Vacation was terrific. We loved Morro Bay--a wonderful town, beautiful beaches, surrounded by gorgeous parklands. Many times we caught sunrise and sunset, chasing light. Paul found the thin, wool sweater just the thing on chilly mornings.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Slightly wheat bread

A warm day, the Fanny Farmer Cookbook (edited by Marion Cunningham) recipe for white bread with 1 c. of wheat flour substituted for 1 c. of white flour, and Ratatouille.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The best blueberry pie we ever made

I came up with the recipe for the filling--I was inspired by the article in the July/Aug. 2008 issue of Cook's Illustrated to add a grated apple to take advantage of the apple's pectin for thickening the filling. So I modified my usual recipe to incorporate the grated apple, and it's the best blueberry pie we've ever had! Not only does the apple enhance the texture, but it adds a fantastic tartness behind the sweet blueberries. I also made the crust, and Paul did all the rolling, assembling (and photography).

Blueberry pie

Pastry for double crust

For filling, mix all together:
6 c. frozen blueberries
3/4 c. agave syrup (or honey, or rice syrup, or sugar)
1 granny smith apple, peeled and grated on the large holes of a grater
Grated zest of one lemon (1/2 to 1 tsp. or so)
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tbsp. instant tapioca
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (or nutmeg)
Dash of salt

Bake at 400F for ca. 50 min., until crust is golden and filling bubbly.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

It's not the perfect needle, and that's OK

I started my Hexacomb Cardigan, and I wanted, desperately, to knit this on wooden straights. I don't enjoy circulars. They're always attached--always moving against each other--there's no independence of motion!

But it was just too much cotton yarn on too small a needle, and I couldn't find a longer straight needle--the cotton just wouldn't scrunch up small enough on the straights.

And I wanted to get going, so when I couldn't find a wooden circular of the right size at either local yarn store, and I did find a metal pair at the second, I bought that pair--so slippery! The yarn's just slipping all over! But that's ok. I get to knit now.

And, sure, I could have mail ordered a wooden circular, but then I wouldn't have given some money to a LYS--in this economy, I want every dollar staying in my community. If I want an LYS, I have to spend money at an LYS--so I bought the metal circulars. Maybe someday if I have more spare money than I do now, I'll buy a wooden pair.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Repaired laundry basket

The handles broke on the laundry basket--all the handles--a long, long time ago. Duct tape had served--served it best--but that wasn't good enough. We didn't want to put such a huge hunk of plastic into the trash. There had to be a way.

So Paul cut the broken top of the basket off, and drilled three holes every place it was solid, as you see in the photo above.

Then I made some "tshirt yarn" according to Polka Dot Pineapple's excellent tutorial on how to make a ball of "yarn" out of worn out tshirts.

Then I started crocheting:
(I'm sitting on our bed, and the cover, by the way, was crocheted by my grandmother. Yes. I'm sitting on it. We use our things.)

After a row of single-crochet (the American term) around the top with a size J hook, I then started another sc round, making a chain where each handle used to be. Then, I did another row of sc over that. It took two tshirts:
The basket lost a little structural integrity (it squishes a bit easier), but it works really well. The handles are comfortable and stretchy, yet strong. And the loss of stiffness isn't really a problem--the new, crocheted top of the basket is very soft, so the basket with the laundry can be squished under one arm.

(All photos by Paul. Thank you, Paul!)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Purse body

It's huge! And I have very little yarn left, so I'm not sure what I'll do about handles. Timson thinks it's very cozy.

The current plan is to felt it a little, to make it smaller & denser, but not too much--I don't want to lose all the cable detail. Then I'll sew a liner in, and sew the sides together. And then figure out what to do about handles. Oh, and a zipper. And maybe some pockets in the liner.

Here it is all folded up--there's a button hole on the front flap:
I'll need a button!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Birthday presents

From Paul! I originally wanted the bulky, purple yarn for a bolero, the Carie Cropped Flare-Sleeve Cardigan (Spencer Jacket) by Stefanie Japel (in Fitted Knits), but I couldn't get the gauge to come right.

So plan B is the Aran Pocketbook by Edie Eckman (in Bags, a Knitter's dozen), which I'll try to felt--the ruler is 12"/30cm, near the bottom of the purse, and I'm now working on the back:

Thursday, April 30, 2009


Aqua Duckie and Red-Bottomed Duckie adore Cedric's tales of travel. They long to explore the open road. Where will their travels take them?

Friday, April 24, 2009

It's true: Wee Timson cannot swim

With thanks to JohnK:

Ten Top Trivia Tips about Wee Timson!

  1. Wee Timson can sleep with one eye open.
  2. California is the biggest exporter of Wee Timson in the world.
  3. Early thermometers were filled with Wee Timson instead of mercury.
  4. It's bad luck for a flag to touch Wee Timson.
  5. If you break Wee Timson, you will get seven years of bad luck.
  6. Wee Timson cannot swim.
  7. Baskin Robbins once made Wee Timson flavoured ice cream!
  8. Wee Timsonolatry is the mindless worship of Wee Timson!
  9. Duelling is legal in Paraguay as long as both parties are Wee Timson!
  10. If your ear itches, this means that someone is talking about Wee Timson.
I am interested in - do tell me about

From the Mechanical Contrivium.

Friday, April 17, 2009


Green Duckie would like to introduce Kewpie. He loves Kewpie very much--as a friend. They're just very good friends. They don't know what the future holds--Green Duckie is so young, just a few minutes old, and needs to be open to what the future brings.

Kewpie understands. Kewpie, after all, is over forty.

They know they'll always remember Berkeley.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Flash your stash day

That's all there is--one basket--not counting about ten balls of crochet thread that I'm slowly crocheting into curtains. The big, gray ball is Meridian Jacobs 2-ply, and I have half of a cone in addition to that, which I'm currently knitting into a spiral, round rug. I should have plenty leftover! And the brown is left over from Paul's sweater, and there may be enough of that for another sweater, too!

Below that are odds and ends, mostly, for which I have no firm plans. Fun!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Getting up early

The Rancho Guadalupe Dunes County Park, at the Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, the road leading to the beach. When you paid very close attention, and were very, very quiet, you could watch the plovers and terns--you could hear them throughout the reserve until you went down to the water and the sound of the surf at the beach took over. There, little sanderlings were running all around in the waves.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Varnish quest

Occasionally I have a day at work when I can't believe I'm getting paid--when I wonder how I ended up lucky enough to have this job. (There are other days, but we won't discuss them now!) I have a reference question that sounds simple: what varnish did Hilaire Hiler use on the murals on the walls of the Maritime Museum? (Also known as the Aquatic Park Bathhouse.)

I found a clue. The Archives of American Art at the Smithsonian are kind enough to lend microfilm reels via interlibrary loan, and on a reel I borrowed I found a manuscript of his that mentions using stearates. I had no idea how useful this could be to our conservator; if Hiler used zinc stearates, then they have a wealth of information at their disposal to address problems in the murals like this:
See the tiny, white splashy spots? They're not the result of someone spraying soda pop from a shaken can--they may be the result of zinc stearates in the varnish.

The conservators working on the murals were kind enough to take time out to show me exactly where the information I've provided them is helpful, and to explain many of the technical aspects of the information they need.

I still haven't found out which exact varnish Hiler used, but I did find out the composition of the paint: from the Ed Biberman Oral History at the wonderful Archives of American Art, he says:

But I had a friend, the very capable artist and technician Hilarie [sic] Hiler, who has written a book on art techniques. For the WPA Project he did a very beautiful mural in the Marina-is it the Marina Park in San Francisco? I believe it's just called "The Marina." I'd seen it there and was intrigued with its beautiful eggshell surface quality, the "sheen" that it had, and asked him what he had used. He told me that he had made a preparation of oil of spike, which is a very wonderful aromatic vehicle, with wax and oil colors. And being a very gracious man he gave me the formula for this little stew and I used it for the three murals that I painted. It is a very fine solution to one of the problems of having to paint a mural in oil.

--Oral history interview with Edward Biberman, 1964 Apr. 15, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

There's a photo of the dramatic difference between the cleaned and uncleaned portions of a section of mural that I put up on Flickr, during that wonderful visit with the conservators at the Museum.

And if anyone knows what varnish Hiler used, do let me know!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sourdough sandwich bread

Our starter, Puss, has indeed grown to become Sourpuss. We've enjoyed sourdough waffles, sourdough pancakes, and, finally, a really good sourdough sandwich bread. These loaves are my third try, and the best by far. The recipe is from The Joy of Cooking, with the eggs omitted, and 2 tbsp. peanut oil as the fat. (Besides brushing the loaves with melted butter.) I also knead the dough in my Kitchenaid for at least ten minutes.

I'm still on a quest to improve them, though--I want them more sour, and taller.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Hat and scarf

This is the first hat I improvised, and I'm delighted with how it turned out. I wanted to echo the moss stitch used in the center of the scarf, which I knit with a cable pattern from Barbara Walker's Fourth Treasury of Knitting Patterns, "Cable no. 8."

The yarn is wonderful, Fiber Creations Dyed Wool, from sheep raised within an hour of where I live. I bought at Meridian Jacobs Meet the Sheep 2008, which was absolutely delightful. And the hat and scarf are so warm.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A starter's born

We've recovered from the demise of our last starter, who became known as "Nasty." This one is from the same recipe, using rye flour, water, and wee bit of molasses.

We've named it Puss.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Copy holder for chart patterns

Do you need a copy holder for your chart patterns, yet you're on a budge because the economy's in the toilet?

Simple: get a piece of metal, for example, a tray, two refrigerator magnets (these are delightfully in the shape of chocolates), and a colored piece of paper. Added bonus: a magnet in the shape of a Danish boy from Andersen's Pea Soup that is the perfect cable needle holder.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Bike helmet ear warmers

I know that compared to a lot of places, the San Francisco Bay Area does not really have winter. But some mornings, before dawn, riding to work on the waterfront, the wind coming off the saltwater takes the temperature down below freezing. On those mornings, uncovered ears lead to dizzy spells, it gets so cold.

Before I made these earwarmers, everything else I tried interfered with how my helmet fit on my head--balaclavas, scarves, headbands--these fit right on the helmet's straps, below where the helmet hugs my head, so they pop on easily for the coldest mornings, and pop off when they're not needed, without any helmet adjustments required!

And they're so warm!

Details on my Ravelry project page; the pattern's available for free in MenKnit issue one. And be sure to see the comments on the Ravelry pattern page for this pattern for an explanation of a possible typos in the pattern as published.

Monday, January 19, 2009


It's finished! It only took 17 months. It came out great--very soft, fits as it should, and best of all--I had so much fun making it.

Details: 6.58 skeins of Louet Gems Fingering weight. Color, "Ginger."

Yes, fingering weight. It's a sweater out of yarn the size of sock yarn--but so worth it. It's so soft, and the ribbing looks so good in the fine gauge knit. (If I do say so myself.)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


They were so delicious! (This is about half of them.) We roasted turkey, then ground it with plenty of onion, hardboiled eggs, herbs, spices, s&p--and wrapped it all up in a sweet dough made with eggs, real butter, and milk. The dough took all day to rise, this time of year, but it was worth the wait!

They went down easily with this year's Christmas ale from Anchor.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Daily Sweater

I really like the look of the Daily Sweater in Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines, but according to the Ravelry page for this pattern (requires login), extra-small is for a 38 inch bust.

I just don't live in a universe where a 38" bust is extra-small. In my universe, where I buy all my clothes, extra-small ranges from about 32" to 35" and anyone with a 38" bust would be shopping several racks away from extra-small.

So although the sweater looks really cute, the pattern was apparently written to be made in a universe far, far away from the one in which I live.