Friday, October 29, 2010

Rustic Elegance

I have been participating in a challenge on Ravelry – craft 10 shawls during the year. I have completed six so far, each crocheted from other designers’ patterns. I am truly thrilled that number seven is my own design. My very first. I am, admittedly, just a little bit proud of it. I might not design another this year for the challenge, but no matter.

One skein of Blue Moon SilkMo in the Cloudy with a Chance of colorway
a portion of one honking skein of 100% Estonian laceweight wool (a gift from a swap - yeah!)
a size M crochet hook 

= my Rustic Elegance Textured Stole!

A back view - it's really warm, and I love the smell of the wool.

The matte bronze-covered buttons continue the rustic feel.
Some #3 Japanese silver-lined gray beads along the upper edge of the  stole
add a touch of elegance, without being out of place.

And, finally, a close-up of the fabric - post stitches and fans.

If someone at the beginning of the year would have told me I would complete 10 shawls, let alone design one of them, I'd have laughed out loud. It happily continues to be an amazingly creative year. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mini yarn crawl ... and those little green balls of death

One minute there's Deb underneath
one of the Pike Place Market signs ...
A Ravelry acquaintance, Deb, recently traveled to the PNW, mainly to conduct a class at the Crochet Liberation Front's crochet retreat on Camano Island. However, the visit provided a nifty excuse to go yarn crawling and sightseeing. Love that!

So, on a beautifully sunny fall day, we met up - by recognizing our hand-made crocheted wear. (Ok – so we’re just a little hand-made geeky.) I started the tour at Bad Woman Yarn. This small-ish, just-north-of-downtown shop has been very crochet friendly – and continued to be so during our visit. The shop even had a lovely crocheted scarf on display right in the front of the store – always a good sign.

After petting the yarn, and Deb’s purchase of some locally-made buttons, we hopped on a Metro bus (yeah!) and made our way downtown to So Much Yarn. While Deb was looking for local fiber, she wound up purchasing a ball of Noro Kirameki - it’s a colorful wool blend laceweight yarn that I’m certain will become a lovely shawl. I found buttons that will be perfect for my next shawl (which, as I write this, is about 80% complete).

... and then the next
minute she's been swallowed
up by the crowd.

 Everyone was out at Pike Place Market (as you can see from the photo to the right) – which was our next destination. The Market is all about eyeing the great local flowers, produce and other crafts, as well checking out the flying fishmonger – which we, of course, did. In between traversing the market, we sat down for a much-needed and enjoyable lunch at Lowell's Restaurant and Bar. Man, there is nothing like a good tuna melt, and it’s even better watching the boats come and go from Seattle’s very busy port, all visible from Lowell's strategic market location.

I need to digress for a moment to comment on a certain stall’s brussels sprouts. When did they become something to fear? A little olive oil, crispy bacon, and seasonings are all that’s needed to tame these round bundles of ruffy-goodness. I should note they were right beside the “cute little eggplants.” Really. The stall needs a new copy writer.

After lunch, and a stop at Market Spice Tea (oh, love the smell of cinnamon, orange and clove), we made a quick swing to Fran's to sample the cadillac of chocolates. Don’t get me started on the dark chocolate caramels with sea salt. Just one person’s opinion.

Finally, we made our way up to the Elliott Bay Book Company – in their new location. Of course, we eventually made it to the crafty book section to check out their crochet book selection (not too bad, and a few that I hadn’t yet seen). We ended in the café for a final cappuccino while Deb waited for her chariot to whisk her away for dinner (being made by her husband – excellent).

A sightseeing and yarny good time! 
More fresh Market flowers - what color

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Sicilian Slice

There are some writers who have a gift for capturing place – and Robert Camuto, in his most recent book Palmento, elegantly does just that.

Picking up in Sicily where he left off in the French countryside in Corkscrewed (his first book dealing with up-and-coming French winemakers), Camuto delves, ever so delicately, into present-day Sicily through its viticultural personalities (both lesser and well-known), as well as its geography and food. From the first chapter, in which he describes an unbelievable dinner, through his many visits with grape growers, the reader is given a front-row seat to wine, food, and place that are each a unique mix of tradition and modernity.

Rest assured you need know nothing about wine to become hooked – Camuto is, first and foremost, a writer. With his perceptive yet compassionate pen, Camuto brings to life Sicily’s past and present through the toils of the characters that are Sicily’s current wine growers. He masterfully weaves in grape and wine category information. Not only will you look at wine labels differently the next time you are at the wine store, but you will want to travel to Camuto’s Sicily. I know I do.

I should note that I read his first book, Corkscrewed, while doing some wine studying. The book (as well as Camuto personally) directly led to my 2009 vendage participation at Domaine Rouge-Bleu. (Note: I also did a little writing while at the farm in Provence, and you can read that here.) I am indebted to Camuto not only for the introduction, but for what can only be described as an unexpected, incredibly soulful, French experience.

Given the above, what sticks with me most about Palmento is my identification of, what I suspect, is Camuto’s own soulful experience. The book is written from the perspective of someone returning to a vaguely familiar, yet unexplored, place.

Va bene, Robert. Va bene.   

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Need some light?

There is nothing like the cool wind of fall to energize one’s efforts with an increased sense of urgency. As leaves change color and trees shed their summer greenery, it is time to get busy: in the kitchen, at the desk, in the craft room. We yearn for savory and sweet gourd goodness. Orange, green and gold become the colors du jour.  We want to wrap up in warm woolen textures, thick and inviting.

At the same time, we also know that once we see the other side of Halloween, the energy shift will be in full swing, as we are enveloped in earth’s dark night. Daylight is scarce, fleeting. We, slightly disconcerted, search for light sources. We cozy up to rich, red sparseness.
Some of us, perhaps in a need to feel grounded, also take stock. Have we appropriately exercised our sense of accomplishment? That measurement ultimately is personal, no matter the cultural yardsticks twirling around us.

Here’s to embracing fall’s energy. May the light you find be exactly enough.

Monday, October 11, 2010

O, Columbus

Upper left-hand corner from Diego Gutiérrez, cartographer,
and Hieronymus Cock, engraver, Americae sive qvartae orbis
partis nova et exactissima descriptio / avtore Diego Gvtiero
Philippi Regis Hisp. etc. Cosmographo ; Hiero. Cock excvde 1562;
Hieronymus Cock excude cum gratia et priuilegio 1562. Antwerp,
1562. 1 map; 83 x 86 cm., on sheet 100 x 102 cm.
Library of Congress Geography and Map Division.

There can be few historical figures that capture the American imagination quite as much as Christopher Columbus. The United States has, this past Monday, finished celebrating his discovery of America with a national holiday. Every second Monday in October, Americans attend parades and celebrations; many government workers have the day off. It is intriguing that an explorer of limited money and questionable navigation skills (although, to be fair, he was in uncharted waters), who never set foot in the United States, gets a national holiday for discovering it.

Of course, the folklore starts early – grade school, to be exact. Every grade school student knows the importance of the year 1492. Every student knows about those infamous three boats. Some might even remember Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand (although the fact that they were Spanish patrons does tend to get lost in the historical sauce). Not many remember Amerigo Vespucci. None get to read Columbus’ journals or letters. That would be un-American.

College is the first opportunity many students have of gaining a little depth and perspective on Columbus. In history courses?  Hopefully. However, it might very well come from a place one least expects – in the English composition or rhetoric classroom. Rhetoric and composition textbooks regularly use excerpts of Columbus’ ship logs (or, more accurately, the scrivener Frey Bartolomé de la Casas’ version of events) as a prime example of the “informal” voice, as well as a deft rhetorical tool. Of the latter there can be no denial; the former, well, one is not so sure.

Good fiction, I argue, is one of the best places to get a sense of any person, and Columbus is no exception. One of the most provocative pieces is the Salman Rushdie short story “Christopher Columbus and Queen Isabella of Spain Consummate Their Relationship (Santa Fé, AD 1492).” Contained in East, West, it is a mystical, yet harshly modern tour de force, in which the “search for money and patronage … is not so different from the quest for love.” No grade-school history book I’ve ever read put forth that hypothesis. 

En garde, Señor Quixote.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

On the Bounty of Food and Fiber

Canadians are about to celebrate their annual Thanksgiving holiday with a long weekend in most provinces. Some intriguing facts surrounding Jour de l'Action de grâce:

Okanagan Grapes - 2007

     -  While it is a federal statutory holiday, not all provinces actually   celebrate (those that don’t are in the Canadian Maritimes);
     -  The first Thanksgiving celebration dates back to the 16th century, but it wasn’t officially recognized as a federal holiday in Canada until 1957;
     -   Canadians actually celebrate the bounty of the harvest, whereas Americans focus on Pilgrim folklore;
     -    Like Americans, Canadians generally like to feast on pumpkin, potatoes and turkey.
Since Thanksgiving is my favorite American holiday of the year, and I am already hankering for the third Thursday in November, it’s nice to celebrate vicariously through others. I have had preliminary pumpkin and sweet potato discussions (can anyone say pumpkin cheesecake?); I am plotting how I will brine this year’s turkey, and I have new ideas for fresh cranberry sauce
ingredients. I never miss the kitschy Macy’s Day Parade, and I have discovered a new viewing tradition – the National Dog Show. Because of last year’s show, I am officially in love with the medium-sized schipperke. I was audibly rooting for it to take best in show while I was fixing dressing last year. No offense, George Bailey.
 I have an additional reason to celebrate the bounty of the season – the fiber bounty, that is. When I returned from OFFF, I was expecting one laceweight cake from one of my favorite indie dyers -
EKF lacweight cake (center)

Enchanted Knoll Farm. That came a few days later; what was waiting for me in my mailbox were five skeins (!) of Hairball Yarn fingering weight yarn and very cute cat stitch markers. Hairball Yarn had sponsored a yarn giveaway on Ravelry during this year’s Tour de France. I was a lucky recipient, and expected to receive one, maybe two, skeins of yarn. Five was amazingly generous, and as you can see from the photo, also scrumptiously dyed. Dreams of projects are currently dancing in my head -
move over, fresh cranberries.

Hurrah for fiber!

Fiber from OFFF

Joyeux de Jour de l'Action de grace!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Charitably giving? Caveat emptor.

My recent visit to Canby, OR for the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival (you can check out the photos here) coincided with Share Our Strength's annual Great American Dine Out. For those who may not be familiar with the Great American Dine Out, during one week each year, participating restaurants donate a portion of their proceeds to Share Our Strength. It is one prong of a five-pronged approach Share Our Strength utilizes in raising funds to help end American childhood hunger. I have participated in the past through a different prong – I’ve hosted a Great American Bake Sale.

So, before I left for Canby, I checked online and found a participating local restaurant, the Rivershore Bar and Grill in nearby Oregon City, and was excited to help the cause this year in this way. When I got to the restaurant, I ordered a small house salad (surprisingly fresh greens!), a burger (ho-hum), and a glass of house merlot (nothing memorable).

I decided to ask my waitress about the Rivershore’s participation in the Great American Dine Out. After initially not recognizing the event (which was my first tip the conversation would not go well), she let me know that the only way one could get the restaurant to make a donation (of $1 per glass) was through a patron’s purchase of wine from a particular winery – Jacob’s Creek. Ok, so I tried to order an additional glass of red because, hey, I was dining in the Willamette Valley – one America’s best known pinot noir-producing areas. But, no. The restaurant only had Jacob’s Creek chardonnay available. In the heart of pinot noir country. For a non-profit donation promotion of $1 per glass that would last one week. Needless to say, I was sorely disappointed with the Great American Dine Out.

I have corresponded with the director of the Great American Dine Out, and while I appreciate the quick, personal response, the anemic quality of the defense of the event left me rather cold. While I cannot know with any certainty, I expect that my humble, one-day bake sale last year (which took in about $300) raised more money for Share Our Strength than did the Rivershore Bar and Grill in an entire week.

In a time when charitable giving is down, I choose to focus my time and dollars on giving that is targeted and transparent. Any benefit the restaurant may have garnered because of its association with Share Our Strength may be short-lived. Additionally, Share Our Strength has lost some goodwill. In future, I’ll stick to my own baking efforts.

If you have any Share Our Strength stories I’d appreciate hearing them, so please leave a comment and let’s compare charitable notes, alright?

Friday, October 1, 2010


October 1st. It always heralds my favorite time of year – fall. I love everything about fall – the colors, the textures, that nip in the air, a stray flower displaying its final bloom. I also welcome the tastes of fall, and love farmers’ markets at this time of year. This is when the real farm bounty is on display.

Best memories of fall: definitely leaf peeping. I have managed to live in places where fall puts on a great show. The orange, red, green and gold of it never fails to please.

Other great memories: good food! There can be no better time of year than fall to sneak one, last meal

en plein air. One might need to bundle up in a sweater (and, hopefully, one that’s handmade!), but there is no other time that meals taste heartier, wine more complex, and conversations more animated and friendly than in the twilight of an outdoor fall evening.

If one can be lucky enough to combine all of this – in a harvest dinner like the one I attended last year (shown in the photo) – well, it just doesn’t get much better.

How do you celebrate fall? Leaf peeping? Apple picking? Drinking wine with friends? Getting together to start fall textile projects? I’d love to hear – so feel free to leave a comment, and let’s compare celebratory notes, shall we?