Monday, July 28, 2008

I love my cardi wrap

I love my cardi wrap. I got the idea after seeing a few others online, and wanted something similar, but different. Each knitted cardi I saw was either too blocky looking, too un-glamorous,too long, or too lacey. I wanted colorful, sort of substantial for warmth, sexy and fun. …And glitz. …At least a little. So, free range knitting it was, and irregular, sleek and body friendly, and beads that drip off the edges seductively. I made sleeves for it, but I liked the look without them, so much so, that I haven’t yet attached them. I will need to attach them in such away as to be able to detach, and re-attach, whenever the whim takes me. It hugs me without bulk, and the colors and yarns worked out so well. They reminded me of our South Carolina peach orchards, and thus it got a name: The Peach Orchard Cardi Wrap.
Writing up the pattern for the cardi wrap was a bear of a job. It took longer than it did to knit. Much longer! I am such a perfectionist that I wrote down everything I could think of to write, and the cardi wrap pattern is a full 13 pages long. The dressmaker came out, and I did illustrations for cutting strippons. Yes, that is a made up name. Jane Thornley dubbed my using fabric strips that on one occasion, and the name stuck. Strippons are thin strips of fabric that I like to tie together, creating little flags of fabric, into a long yarn. You can see them quite clearly in the photo to the right. Its the peachy part of the cardi wrap. I love texture! ...Love to see it and touch it.  You will find the pattern here:  Peach Orchard Cardi Wrap
I finished the wrap just in time to wear to my oldest son's wedding at the end of March, but even then the weather was a little too warm.

Now, it is way too warm to wear it, as our summers are long, hot, and humid.
Come Fall though, it will be out in all its splendor, even though the peach trees will be bare.
For a lot of information on free range knitting, and some free patterns to explore using this style, visit my friend Jane's website.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Down With Dirt

I just got a new vacuum cleaner a week ago. Call it house-cleaning madness, but I love my new vacuum cleaner. Now I have been totally indulgent about not finding the time to clean house, and I have been using the excuse for years that my vacuum was never worth pushing around, carrying up and down stairs (and it wasn’t!) or using on a bare floor. …It was annoying to see lint and dirt sitting on the carpet, and no matter how many times I pushed that vacuum back and forth over it, the evasive dirt just sat there brazenly provoking me. HA! No more! I have conquered dirt! I got a shiny new Dyson! Wow, does that thing suck. I had just vacuumed my living room the day before, and after pushing the Dyson around the room (22’ x 14’) there was two cups of dirt in the cup. It’s just too bad it won’t do kitchen grease too.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Green Knitting

…about the tunicIt came about for want of something other than worn camisoles to wear under a sort-of-a T that I made in a free knitalong on Jane Thornley’s website. When I found two sleeveless cotton sweater tops on closeout at TJMaxx for only $2.00 each, I got to thinking that there was a lot of yarn here and it might just be worth buying them just for the yarn. It took a little effort, but it was worth it. The yarn was a little grungy, in that it had almost no twist, and consisted of three strands. Some were broken along the way. However, Perfect quality yarn wasn’t exactly what I was concerned about here. The total look is something I might dub "artsy grunge," which is closely related to "shabby chic." There was a lot of yarn, and there is still have a considerable amount left over to use in another project.I really didn’t follow a pattern; and just made it up as I knit. In deciding to share it with others, I caution that anyone trying this should approach it with a few thoughts about making some adjustments here and there.

For instance, I...
  • wanted it to be as long as the T that I would wear it with, or a little longer.Therefore it is almost a dress.It could be if the side slits were not so high.
  • like my jeans pockets, so I wanted high side slits.
  • wanted a very airy and open knit because it gets very warm here, and the T is of a heavier yarn. Wearing the two together is designed for spring and fall, as I usually wear the T with a long sleeve pullover in the winter.
  • didn’t want the neckline to show or compete with the T’s neckline, and I also wanted it to be deep enough to show off a nice necklace
  • didn’t want the armholes to be too deep, so I could wear it on its own, without having something under it.
So, I just cast on, and kept measuring as the knitting progressed. I will be working out the basic pattern to share with those of you who have shown an interest.Helpful Links:
Recycling yarn

The Ocean NotaPoncho

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Happy Birthday Mom!

Yesterday was my mother’s birthday. She is now 93 years young! She has it going on too! She walks an hour every day, and I do mean walk. She has never cared much for walking with anyone else, because she is just too fast, and doesn’t want to slow her roll for a meandering friend. She reads voraciously, and loves biographies of famous people. Have you ever noticed that famous people lead cool lives? Some are quite controversial and even exotic. If you found those hours spent reading for history classes dull, you will be happy to know that there was a whole other side of it that was left unprinted! It would keep students alert if history was kept real. I will have to mention that to a friend who teaches history at the college level. I once taught one of her classes for her when her students were covering China. I have been twice, and loved it! (…but, that’s another blog.) Afterwards, she told me that was the first time in all her years of teaching that no-one was sleeping in the class. Isn’t that sad?

This is my Mom, we are standing in front of a shop in Sausilito, CA.
…Just three goddesses hanging out.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

A Family Cookbook

Last night, the family came over for dinner. ...Three grown sons, with families of their own now. Dinner was simple, but it was literally devoured! Two of my daughters-in-law openly admit that they can’t cook unless it comes straight out of a can or box. The other is said to be a very good cook. My sons, who were raised on home cooking, have taken up the slack. One of their good friends, who adopted our family and often sat at our table, has also become “The Chef” in his own home.

When my oldest son married, I wanted to send something of my self along, and slowly and carefully put together a collection of our favorite recipes. We have lived all over the United States, and have experienced a culturally rich diet. Our favorite meals have come from our Mexican American friends, after living for many years in California, and Arizona. The first cookbook took months to put together, because it wasn’t easy to find color photos in magazines, for each recipe. Now, with the computer and internet, it only takes a few clicks of the mouse.

Here is what I have done, as anyone can to put together a cherished collection of family recipes:

  1. Write up your recipes in Word.…It’s the most widely available format, and saving them is a necessity!As computers advance, you will be able to keep the recipes current.Make it fun and you can even include a story about where it came from, whose favorite it is, etc.Try to keep each recipe on one page.
  2. Scrounge the Internet with Google searches for images of your recipe. You can find one perfect image that appeals to your taste buds and fits your personality. If not, get out the digital camera, and take your own photos. You can even have the family eating! Add a photo to your recipe. I use the text box a lot to save space.
  3. Keep a separate file folder for each grouping of recipes (i.e.: appetizers, beverages, meats, salads, soups, etc.). I learned the hard way, and mine were all hodge-podge in one cumbersome folder.
  4. Scrounge the Internet for fun clipart to use for a page image for your food sections, and add a WordArt title. For instance, I have a funny childish pictures of stick figures, one offering the other a cupcake. I have this as the section page for desserts. There are wonderful cartoons to use too.
  5. I print out and place pages in sheet protectors, back to back. This keeps them safe from spills, and keeps them from tearing out.
  6. Arrange all your pages into a 3-ring folder that has the pockets for photos on the front. Create a cover of your own with a family photo, or you in an apron, or, …get back on Google and find an image that feels good to you. I chose one that is an art poster and expresses the personality of my recipe book as I see it: a gift, a blessing, a loving and nurturing extension of a mother’s love. My “adopted son” (you know, the neighborhood kid who just slips into the family one day) told me his eyes glazed over when he got his, and my bio-sons tell me he raves about how great it is.
  7. I add to these books each year at Christmas. I continually discover old recipes that were someone’s favorite, and new ones that will be.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


A few times a year, my husband and I travel to the San Francisco Bay area on business. We always allow a few extra days to get in some pleasure, and there is so much to be found there. Besides all the wonderful things to do and see, there are a seemingly endless number of excellent restaurants, and we do make the rounds. We discovered Gordon Birsch several years ago.
Gordon B is a microbrewery, and has tasty brews, but they also have absolutely mouth-watering food in great quantity. One of our favorites is their garlic fries. If you love garlic, these are to die for! An enormous amount of fresh, finely minced garlic scattered all over lovely golden-crisp fries, (and Teriaki wings) with a smidgen of (?) fresh parsley flakes to make it beautiful as well as help the odious after-breath. Of course, if you have enough of the micro brews, you could care less. One mug is plenty for me, so I go armed with Clorets, and even then, it takes a few to take the garlic mouth out. Most of all though, I love sour sourdough bread!
I love San Franciscan sourdough so much that I am secretly beginning to plan our eating excursions around it. Its crunchy outer layer appeals to my senses, and then the inner spongy core melts in my mouth, releasing that indescribable flavor that is reserved for real sourdough lovers. Now, sourdough breads are not all alike. Made from a “starter,” its flavor depends on this living yeasty entity. The longer a starter is left to grow in the air, the sourer it becomes. So, you are very likely to find these more sour versions where sourdough has been appreciated for generations. It is something of a honor to have a starter that has been around for longer than most people. On the East Coast, where I live, sourdough bread is very tame, and tastes like a regular yeast bread. It pales in comparison. So what is a sourdough junkie to do? …Make your own! So, after much Googling, and talking to myself to bolster my confidence, I determined to create my own starterr.
Making your own starter is very easy, and really just takes patience. Mixing flour and de-chlorinated water in equal parts, it is just a matter of dividing the starter, and adding more of each every day for about a week. Suddenly, it takes off and you have a yeasty-beasty starter, and every day after that it gets more tantalizing in aroma and flavor. My grandson and I started this together. He was a little disappointed that it didn’t bubble and foam right away. (We tried one started with yeast last summer, and it foamed out of the bowl, which positively delighted him.) It tried both our patience, but one morning I was surprised to find it had come to life vigorously. This photo was taken just before I went upstairs to get my shower. I heard a crash and ran back down and found that the two plastic containers had quickly bulged upward, throwing the top bowl off. I found it upside down on the cutting board. Nothing was lost because of its thickness and the plastic wrap, but DG didn’t get to see it in all its bubbling glory when he arrived 30 minutes later.

I think I will name it Bubba. It is a living thing after all. ….Just like a pet.

We made a pizza with the starter later that afternoon, and it was gooooooooood! …And now, the first loaf of sourdough bread…

It was a little tough crust-wise. In fact, the next morning, I stepped on a tiny piece that had found it’s way to the carpet, and thought it was a large thorn. Well, for first try with no-yeast bread, I thought it was great. Nice rising, the texture was a little more like cake, not airy like yeast breads. The flavor was unmistakably sourdough!
Here is a link to help anyone wanting to start their own sourdough: starter: