Friday, August 30, 2013

The Friday Hodgepodge

The backs are just as
pretty as the fronts 
Sigh, it's the last weekend of summer here in the U.S. The Labor Day holiday always signals the end of all that summertime fun - bbq'ing, hitting the beach, and long, lazy, light-filled evenings during which one can craft away.

Well I, in fact, can't say I bbq'ed or hit the beach. However, I've been working furiously behind the scenes on designs for fall, which I'll be able to reveal in just a little bit.

In the meantime, I'm starting a new September JAL in my Ravelry group for my Tunisian Meets Tartan Bag, and I'll be using the following Cascade colorways to work on my own bag right along with the JALers:

Cascade 220 in Heather, Lichen, Camel and Banana
Cream, with George Bailey as accent 
This is a great way to solidify your tunisian simple stitch skills, so I hope to see some of you there.

Additionally, I thought I'd share photos of my most recent America's Test Kitchen recipe test - it's massaman chicken curry:

It came together fairly quickly - I charbroiled the aromatics and chilies in the oven, put all that in the blender with a hefty amount of ginger (like, 3 oz worth!), some liquid and blended to make the curry paste. Then, I toasted the paste in a little oil to bring out the flavors, added appropriate seasoning, browned chicken, diced potatoes, and more onion, and then let simmer. This curry is incredibly flavorful but not hot at all - I used anaheim chilies which register at, like, zero on the chili heat scale. It will, however, ward off most colds and Dracula - the amounts of garlic, onions and ginger are off the charts.

Finally, I leave you with the flowering sights of a late summer walk here in the Pacific Northwest - we are indeed lucky to live in a climate that allows for blooming flowers throughout the entirety of the summer months.

Have a happy, restful holiday weekend (everyone in the U.S.) - and get ready for back-to-school (if it already hasn't happened). And don't forget to check in with Andrea over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder and see what everyone else is working on this end-of-summer weekend.

P.S. - Andrea, the shawl is almost done. :)

Friday, August 23, 2013

An Ode to Handspun

Happy Friday, everyone. While I’ve been busy working on behind-the-scenes stuff, I’ve also been reading and working on one of my latest Le Bateau versions, using Andrea’s handspun. It’s coming along.

I am almost done with the body of the shawl. I am thoroughly enjoying working with this latest installment of Andrea’s handspun (I’ve worked on two other projects using her handspun).
Andrea isn’t the only person who has generously provided me with handspun yarn, and I’m finding that I pay more attention to the yarn qualities when I’m using handspun – it’s a small insight into the person behind the spinning. The ebb and flow of each minute of each day gets reflected in a handspinners’ yarn: unplanned thick and thin qualities can be a reflection of weariness or distraction; uneven plying perhaps indicating precious, fleeting minutes at the wheel; perfect, smooth handspun one measure of persistence, practice, or just a lot of spare time.  Each handspinners’ end result has a unique personality, and that absolutely gets reflected in the finished project. It is definitely not cookie cutter, and in that lies handspun yarn’s greatest benefit.
I’ve made some rather simple adjustments as I’ve progressed on this Le Bateau as a result of the yarn, in order to highlight its best qualities. These simple adjustments have been on the fly, in response to how the yarn revealed itself to me. I also am definitely more mindful as it slips through my fingers, knowing that there’s a unique story to this yarn.
I mentioned that I’ve been reading. Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft has dovetailed nicely with my Le Bateau project. Crawford briefly historically traces how we’ve separated the thinking from the doing in the workplace. While I don’t really consider Andrea’s shawl project work per se, it is on a continuum of activities from which I derive a certain portion of my livelihood. It is easy to take materials for granted, especially yarn that is now predominantly mass produced. Yet remaining mindful of materials can uniquely inform the process of a project. It can also increase my design and technical skills, as long as I’m open to it.
All that from handspun and a book. Thanks Andrea and Michael.
As I encourage you to head on over to Wisdom Begins in Wonder and check out what other gifts the fiberistas have on offer this Friday, I leave you with my latest design, published in the fall special edition of Crochet! Magazine. It's the Les Lignes Area Rug, and I'm mighty pleased with how it turned out:
It works up rather easily in two pieces, then seamed and edged. It's quite warm, and the texture of the design really feels good underfoot.
And there you have it this Friday from my little corner of the blogosphere.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Fiber Arts Friday ... on Saturday

And this week, that's just the way it goes.

I'm about to start a Le Bateau Shawl for Andrea over at Wisdom Begins in Wonder. She sent me some super yummy handspun she worked up during Tour de Fleece that, combined with a wonderfully fall-colored skein of commercially manufactured cashmere she had, will work up into a beautiful shawl. Here's the handspun, with my swatch for the body of the shawl at the top:

This handspun alpaca has tons of personality! It's also incredibly soft and is going to drape really well after blocking. Alpaca remains one of my absolute favorite fibers, and when it's handspun ... all I can say is it will be a joy and a pleasure to work up this shawl.
I'm still working on my holiday gift Le Bateau (and isn't it a good thing I started so early), and am still enjoying the Fyberspates - oh the bling! However, Andrea's alpaca version is slightly heavier weight yarn (substantial fingering vs. Fyberspates laceweight), so I expect to whip it up rather quickly. The color is also easier on the eyes (natural vs. that deep, royal blue).

I thought I'd leave you with a really easy recipe for a meatless main dish that is now in my permanent cooking repertoire. I have been watching repeats from Season 1 of Pati's Mexican Table (I do love the Create channel -yes, yes I do). She did a show on quesadillas and it inspired me to come up with my own approach - it's quick, hearty, flavorful, can be easily divided into two separate meals, and customized with just about anything you'd like:

Black Bean and Cheese Quesadillas w/Avocado and Salsa Verde Sour Cream
(makes 2 large quesadillas)
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tbsp. vegetable or olive oil
1 14 1/2 ounce can black beans, loosely drained (but do not rinse beans)
1 lime
1 c. monterey jack cheese
4 flour tortillas, at room temperature
1 ripe avocado, pitted and cut into slices (may also be mashed if desired)
1/2 c. salsa verde (use heat index of choice)
1/2 c. sour cream
In a non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft and turning translucent, 3-4 minutes.
Meanwhile, take drained black beans (and there will be some residual liquid, which is fine) and pour them on a large plate. Squeeze the juice from the lime onto the black beans and, with a hand potato masher, mash beans until paste-like (it will be lumpy).

Add cooked red onion to the beans and mix.

Take two flour tortillas and spread half of the black bean mixture evenly onto each tortilla. Top each with 1/2 c. cheese. Then, top each with one of the remaining two tortillas, sandwich-style.

Re-heat same non-stick skillet until medium warm. Place one quesadilla in skillet and cook until brown (about 2-3 minutes). Turn over and repeat on other side - both tortillas should be golden brown and you should be able to see the cheese bubbling out along the tortilla edges. Remove from skilled and keep warm while repeating with second quesadilla.

Meanwhile, mix sour cream and salsa verde. (Optional: if you mash the avocado, you can mix it into the sour cream and salsa verde).

To serve, cut each quesadilla into quarters and top with sliced avocado and sour cream mixture.

Friday, August 2, 2013

The End of the JAL ...

A beautiful purple play

... and the finished pieces are great. I cannot tell you how pleased I am with these wonderful interpretations of two of my designs from Fleurs et L'eau.

Initially, here's the first completed non-test Le Bateau project (although there are others in process, including another one from yours truly):

Isn't the color just gorgeous?
Of course, I'm a sucker for purple, so I love, love, love how this project turned out. The body of the shawl is Rowan Fine Lace and the edging is worked in KnitPick's Shimmer Hand-dyed Lace. As you can see from the initial photo above, the edging variegation speaks well with the purple in the body of the shawl. (And I do note that all photos are used with the respective owners' kind permission.)
Additionally, there were several Climbing Vines Cowls completed:

Take 1: In Wollmeise 100% merino superwash in a great tonal rose colorway named "Babe;" and

Take 2: Again, in Wollmeise 100% merino superwash, this time in the "Pfefferminz Prinz" colorway. Gotta love those colorway names.
And last, but by no means least, one participant worked the pattern as a stole using two different colors of KnitPick's Aloft, and then gifted it on the occasion of her mom's 93rd birthday:
 Didn't that turn out spectacularly?

A hearty thank you to each of my JAL participants. The thread will be there for anyone who might want to look at process photos or see if any questions were asked that might be helpful (and really, only Le Bateau questions were asked; no one seemed to need any explanation for Climbing Vines). Additionally, I'll be working on some of my works-in-progress, as well as a few fall versions of the Fleurs et L'eau cardigans here, so if anyone is interested, do feel free to join in. I seemed to have stalled after I completed the body of my own One if By Hook cardi (and, although Vivian at Bits and Pieces indicated she looked for the much-sought-after cone of yarn, without success, prior to her vacation with Henry, I have no idea if that means she no longer has it, or whether she needs to look again, and/or whether I need to go searching for more yarn), but I've also had other, more pressing projects, on my plate.
Don't forget to check in at Wisdom Begins in Wonder to see how everyone is faring post-Tour de Fleece.