Shedding light on crochet.

Typically disorganized, I was unable to locate a crochet hook of the right size, so I did what all good crafters do, I went and bought another one. Faced with a $2.25-price difference between an ordinary Clover bamboo hook and a Clover Crochet Lite hook, I thought I’d be insane to buy another ordinary hook, especially when I knew that I already have so many loitering around somewhere at home. Besides, I thought it was my duty to buy one and try it out so that I could report back to you, my readers, just what I think of Crochet Lite. Now I only needed it for a crochet cast-on (i.e., using one knitting needle and one hook), so I didn’t exactly crochet something, but I liked it very much. Crochet Lite really does illuminate! I recall how hard it was to crochet my little black amigurumi cat two years ago, and if I’d had a Crochet Lite then, the whole thing would have gone much more smoothly. I also see this hook coming in handy on car trips and airplane flights, when the cabin lights are dimmed, but you have a project that you brought along. Crochet Lite is lightweight and has the same nice ergonomic shaping as the Clover Soft Touch crochet hooks, which I really like. The down side is that since it’s made of plastic, I could see it getting broken pretty easily, and it probably costs about $10.00 to replace the three button-type batteries, although the first ones are included. If all else fails it could double as a flashlight. Phinney is on my lap; poor baby lies in wait all day for me to sit and knit so that she can get some warmth and some love.

What do you think this is? You’d never guess…

No, it’s not Boston Cream Pie. It’s not a dessert at all. It’s called okonomiyaki, which roughly translates to “as you like it pancake”, and that’s what’s for dinner tonight. It’s a pan fried Japanese dish, and it has very little sweet in it. Rather, it has cabbage, bacon, ginger, taro (similar to potato), flour, and egg, to name some of the key ingredients. What looks like chocolate on top is a thick sauce similar to Worcestershire sauce and the white is mayonnaise. I first read about this dish in Untangling My Chopsticks: A Culinary Sojourn in Kyoto, and I have yet to find a place in the Seattle area that serves it, but I haven’t let that stop me. It’s definite good eats.

You probably heard the skid of the tires when I spotted the latest addition to cupcake places, “Honey, stop the car! It’s cupcakes…in Renton!” We bought these two lovelies at Common Ground Coffee & Cupcakes located at 900 South 3rd in downtown Renton (phone 425.235.1717). Common Ground is a nice little spot with window seating so you can eat your cupcakes and watch people drool as they pass by, wishing they too had the time to stop. The cupcakes are made fresh daily.

Finally, this picture is in honor of Earth Day, which I neglected to mention last week. It was Sunday, April 22.

Italian via London

Dinner tonight courtesy of the cookbook, Italian Two Easy: Simple Recipes from the London River Cafe by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers: pappardelle, tomato, and pancetta. I spotted this book in Anthropologie and the simplicity of its recipes appealed to me, so I procured a copy during a recent visit to the library. Having not tried the other recipes I can’t say anything about them, but this one was good. Maybe I’ll try another one or two before I have to return the book, but no promises; that’s how everything goes around here these days.

For dessert, we had a trio of delights from Essential Baking Company:

The desserts from this place are so good, I sometimes dream about them, and that’s unusual because despite what it looks like, I am not a dessert person. In fact, when I eat out, I rarely order dessert because I find them such a disappointment: unimaginative, overly dense, ridiculously oversized, overdone (as in trying to be too unique), cloyingly sweet, and pastry crust too thick and too dry. But Essential Baking Company is one of those places where you can add calories to your waistline confident in the knowledge that it will be worth a few more laps on the tredmill later. My personal favorite is the Vanilla Mouse: fluffy vanilla bean mouse surrounded by a thin light cake (with brown spots on it), topped with a yummy raspberry syrup. Also pictured are Rustic Apple Tart (on the right) and Raspberry Tart (in the background).

What can I say?

Ballband wants to be done already. It’s almost done, but I have too many projects to do, and too little time!

Twist and Lace
scarf is coming along, despite a rough start that involved frogging it twice due to some confusion with the pattern on my part. I am enjoying Twist and Lace as an alternative to the slow pace of the Bird’s Eye shawl:

Bird’s Eye might be slow, but it’s a pleasure to knit and it’s so light and delicate. I look forward to the final shawl, in about 2 years from now.

Husband returned home from a brief trip (without me, again) to Las Vegas for a conference yesterday bearing gifts: I have become a fan of Acca Kappa’s lip balm and I’ve only found it in the Acca Kappa store in the Grand Canal Shoppes in The Venetian in Las Vegas.

And, of course, the soaps and shampoos from Gilchrist & Soames for Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, are nice extras to have.

By the way, the brass monkey in the photos is how I look in the morning, according to my husband. You’d look like that too, if your best night’s sleep involved wearing 30-decible ear plugs to block-out your bed-mate’s snoring. 😉

Stop the presses!

The yarn from Tiennie arrived today and it’s wonderful! The picture doesn’t quite do justice to the fullness of the color. Now I just have to decide which project would best suit it; tough decision (no, not really).

In anticipation of the arrival of the yarn and feeling celebratory, I had to make a miniature batch of chocolate chip cookies last night.

That’s about a dozen, but I probably ate 2 cookies-worth before they were baked. Although I could make a full batch of dough and freeze it ahead of time, I like to make it fresh these days using the recipe in the book, Small-Batch Baking by Debby Maugans Nakos.  I used to make these every Friday night while we watched Battlestar Gallactica, that is, until they changed the night of broadcast to Sunday nights (odd choice) and ended for the season. This show is really good, and I’m not a huge science fiction fan, I’m just married to one. It is really the only current-running TV show we watch, although we do consider Ugly Betty rather entertaining and a nice change from all the usual Hollywood junk. Unfortunately, now that BG is done for the season and doesn’t air again until 2008 (that hurts), we’re on BG withdrawal, and now chocolate chip cookie withdrawal, too. We could both stand to loose a few calories, anyway.


I am looking forward to the yarn I won for being the 1000th commenter on Tiennie Knits’ blog!  Tiennie ended-up giving yarn to three commenters, why? Because she’s simply nice! You can see the beautiful yarn I’m getting here.

Meanwhile, what do you get when you cross groceries with an empty baby car seat? You get an handy way of safely transporting a carton of eggs:

It was a moment of inspiration yesterday when I wanted all my groceries to fit into one re-usable cloth bag, but the eggs didn’t quite fit. Taking into account the way I drive sometimes (it’s a suburban jungle out there), I didn’t want to risk the carton sliding around on the floor of the car, so I came up with this idea.

Day Trip: Edmonds

Edmonds was calling me the other day, so I went. Edmonds is a sweet waterfront town north of Seattle, that I just don’t get to often enough. I wish more communities around here were more like this place: balancing growth with a respect for its history, yet staying in touch with its geographic locale. While there I sought the local yarn store, Spin a Yarn, in its new location, an historic house built in 1895 across the street from Rick Steves’ Europe Through the Back Door headquarters. Shortly after arriving in the store I was given a tour of the entire place, during which I learned that there’s a room for rug hooking, one for needlepoint, and three for knitting and crocheting. Despite many temptations, I left without any yarn, although I did buy the latest issue of Knitter’s Magazine! Whew!

Easter Greetings!

What a weekend!

It kicked-off with the rare event of dinner guests on Friday; we had lamb curry followed by pavlova for dessert. I’d never made pavlova before, but it was quite easy, much to my relief.

Dinner guests and pavlova and all the preparation was not enough to deter me from also trying another first: marshmallows.

The marshmallows also turned-out well; I’d tried it a few times over the years and mysteriously failed, mysterious since they’re so easy to make. Yum! Now that I’ve accomplished marshmallows, there’s probably no going back to the ones from the grocery store.

Saturday, we went to a birthday party at an ice rink.

Later that day was Family Dinner #1 at a Kokiri Korean Restaurant in Federal Way; very good.

Sunday, I dyed Easter eggs for the first time in about 20 years, followed by Family Dinner #2 at Mom’s house.

In preparation for Easter and recently re-surfaced after too many years in hiding, my crocheted bunny and duck. The patterns for these two I think appeared in an old issue of Family Circle magazine and I made them when I was about 14-years old. At the time, having never made crocheted animals before, I didn’t quite know what I was doing, so my technique wasn’t the best, but the end result worked. In my crafting lifetime, I can say that these patterns were the probably the first projects that jumped-out at me, urging me to run out and gather the supplies to make them. There is another animal from the same issue of Family Circle, a baby duck in a decorated crocheted egg, but I can’t find it and can’t I find the patterns, either. Also among the missing is a teddy bear I created based-on these patterns. I’ve spent weeks looking for the two missing animals, and I will have to surrender to the fact that they’ll probably show up when I’m looking for Christmas ornaments later this year.

A couple of years ago, I was hit with a similar urge while looking at a book of crocheted cats written in Japanese: Amineko no iru Seikatsu, ISBN 4391130122.

This is a sweet book, most of it consisting of fun color pictures of crocheted (amigurumi) cats in different real-life scenarios, like sleeping and eating.

Here are two amigurumi cats I’ve made from this book:

Dough to go.

The domestic quotient is running high these days with baking and dinner guests; very rare for me.

I was volunteered for the Easter bread baking job this year, and it’s a sacrifice for me, I mean, how can I knit if I’m baking during my knitting time? That’s okay, it’s a gift to be able to send the freshly baked bread to people who don’t know how to make it and who will enjoy eating it. I’ve sent three loaves of Armenian Easter bread to family in the northeastern U.S; it cost $40 to send the three loaves via 2nd day air. Ouch. I’ve baked a total of 8 loaves (2½” high x 4″ wide x 20″ long) total, well sort of: I ended-up splitting some of the loaves into half-loaves for those who want just a little, but it all evens out to 8 big loaves. Aside from the 3 loaves to family back East, we’ll keep a couple, and the remainder go to family and friends here.

Armenian Easter bread is rather unlike any other bread I’ve come across, mainly because of two key ingredients: nigella seeds and ground mahleb. Without these ingredients, it would just be some sort of sweet bread. It also has a nice meaty density to it that I’ve yet to find in any other bread, and it’s great warm with some butter melted on a slice and topped with a thin slice of feta cheese and maybe a few Greek olives on the side. The trick is to get fresh mahleb, and around here, that’s a tall order. What usually happens is I’ll go to a store that claims to sell fresh mahleb, only to bring it home and find it stale, and the one place that probably sells it fresh also usually sells out of it before I can get there. So far, I’ve had excellent luck buying it online from The Spice House. [Update: The loaves pictured have nigella and white sesame seeds on top, as well as the nigella seeds in them. Nigella has a bitter flavor that nicely off-sets the light sweetness of the bread.]

As for knitting, I’ve just received the pattern for Brenda Patipa’s Twist & Lace scarf from Lisa Souza Knitwear and Dyeworks, and I’ve just started the stitch gauge using my recently acquired Koigu. Meanwhile, I’m definitely “in the groove” with Bird’s Eye shawl and enjoying it very much. I’ve found the repetition of the pattern rather instructive, giving me the opportunity to get more familiar with lace construction than ever before.

Are you hip?

Husband spent a few lovely nights this week at The Island Hotel in Newport Beach, California for business, WITHOUT me, I might add, so upon his return home I was sent to downtown Seattle for a couple of nights. Among my activities, I wandered around downtown, deliberately avoiding the nearest yarn store (part of my on-again/off-again yarn diet), missing it by three blocks. Eventually I went to mix with the throngs of tourists at Pike Place Market, grabbed a baguette sandwich of pâté, cornichon, and lettuce from Le Panier and sat in a nearby park overlooking Elliott Bay to admire the view.

On the crafting side (sort of) I stopped by Daiso and found this cool scissor-less paper cutter that uses opposing wheels.

No more slanting cuts of wrapping paper.

Husband caught-up with me and we had breakfast at Lola, one pearl in the fine necklace of eateries owned by local chef and radio show host Tom Douglas and his wife Jackie Cross. Located at Fourth Avenue and Virginia Street, Lola is adjacent and connected to the sleekly designed lobby of Hotel Ändra (complete with bidet in the women’s restroom near the lobby, now that’s hip—probably a first for a public restroom in the entire State of Washington). Due to Lola’s popularity, I was initially put-off by the politely projected 20-30 minute wait, but Lola makes the wait well worth it. Tastefully designed for maximum seating in a tight space, Lola sports walls of brown hues and beautiful glass lamps suspended from the coffee-brown ceiling (sorry for the cell phone pictures throughout the Lola review):

Once seated we ordered the popular made-to-order doughnuts:

The doughnuts, what can I say about the doughnuts? They arrive at the table warm in a white paper bag, and are then kindly released from the bag by the waitperson and poured onto a dish before you. But there’s more to it than that: these six light and fluffy 2-inch cubed doughnuts are then lovingly doused with a generous heaping of sugar mixed with cinnamon, and served with a side of jam (we had huckleberry) and vanilla marscarpone. To say they were good wouldn’t be fair, to say they were…oh, I can’t find the best descriptor, let me just say that they were so good we could’ve had another 6 each, easily.

Our main orders were quite worth the calories as well, my green egg scramble oozed (pictured below, via cell phone) with fontina cheese, accented with dill, scallions and cilantro, and accompanied by bacon and garlic fried potatoes. I’m not a big fan of cilantro, but the overall effect was well-balanced in flavor. Delicious!

Husband’s Greek omelette was equally delicious, not too much feta, but just enough, and again a well-balance dish, also accompanied by bacon and potatoes. See breakfast menu for more enticing food.

If we didn’t have enough calories at Lola, we had to visit Tom Douglas’ Dahlia Bakery across the street to bring more calories home with us in the form of:

Pictured: (clockwise from the upper right) fig bar, peppermint patty (there is a thin layer of peppermint filling between the chocolate cookies), maple éclair (filled with vanilla bean infused cream—mmm), and a petite moist chocolate cupcake donned with a flower of frosting.