They’re coming and going around here…

We finally bit the bullet and bought a real stove and ditched our GE Profile gas stove. The old one was okay, if you didn’t mind pretending to cook with gas, because it’s performance was slightly better than electric. It all came about with watching last season’s Dancing With The Stars (which starts Season 10 tonight). Somehow my husband found out that Debi Mazar from last season and her husband Gabriele Corcos have a blog and video blog (available through TiVo), Under The Tuscan Gun, about cooking food from Corcos’ homeland of Tuscany. The videos are pretty good for a homemade production (literally filmed in their home) and the recipes look delicious, but what caught my eye was the stove, a Blue Star range. My husband was right on it, and in fact, it turned out he’d had his heart set on a Blue Star years before I knew it existed. Wouldn’t you know that a local dealer was having a sale on Blue Star ranges and, long story short, out with the old and in with the new.

It’s been one of those, “pinch me, I must be dreaming” things for me because I never thought I would ever have a restaurant-grade range to cook on. The difference between the standard stove in your average U.S. home and this stove is vast, and it’s really like driving a Maserati after you’ve been driving a 1960 VW Bug. Really. It’s been a whole different cooking experience with the Blue Star, and we’re still getting the hang of it, but stir fry is restaurant caliber, as is anything sauteed. And, wait, rather than taking 30 minutes to boil a huge pot of water for a pound of pasta, in now takes less than 15 minutes. Microwave a cup of water? Why bother? It’s done almost as fast on the Blue Star. Everything cooks so much faster. I. Am. Happy.

And then our Jura Capresso espresso machine got jealous that it was no longer the star of our kitchen and went crazy on us and kept tripping the outlet, luckily that’s in a box on the living room floor and will be heading-off for some warranty work tomorrow. So I dug out the old Bialetti stovetop espresso pot and we’re getting by with that for now (our first time using it since staying in the rental home, courtesy of Barilla Pasta, in Montecatini-Terme).

I have two scarves in the works. One is one made with yarn that I bought at Tokyu Hands in Tokyo when we visited there before adopting our son in Seoul, exactly 5 years ago this week.

I’ve been wanting to make something with this fuzzy deep pink stuff, and finally settled on another Wisp.

The other is Lacy Serpentine Scarf using Claudia Hand Painted Yarns Fingering.

Lacy Serpentine is rather surprisingly easy once you get it down, but I am not loving the yarn because two rows of it and my hands are so blue I look like I’ve been picking blueberries, and I am rather annoyed that it does this.  I know it’s hand painted, but do you think a little warning is in order that the yarn needs to be washed before you knit with it?

And now, for something completely different…

It’s a finished object! Vine Lace Cardigan went amazingly fast, so fast that while working on the body, I was surprised to find that I had come to the bind-off. Of course, that was while I was at the Seattle Knitters Guild meeting listening to Jared Flood talk about his knitting and photography.

The beauty of Vince Lace is that not only is the pattern written so that it can be knit in one piece and from the top down, but it also calls for chunky yarn and therefore an equally chunky stitch gauge. This, I figured, this is the project for time-crunched me, and it was. After ripping-out the first 10 rows a few times because I kept misreading the instructions, the whole thing went along quite well. Before I knew it, it was done. I finished within in my projected time frame of 3-4 weeks, in fact, I was just one day over 3 weeks.

After all the knitting was done, it was tenderly steamed, buttered—oops, that was dinner—it was tenderly steamed and I tried it on. I couldn’t believe my eyes in seeing that one sleeve was about 1/2″ shorter than the other. I don’t know how that happened, but, oh well, I figured, No problem, since it was knit top-down, I’d just undo the offending sleeve’s bind-off and add a few more rows. Yet when I laid the two sleeves side-by-side one more time to see if my eyes were playing tricks on me, I saw that not only was the same sleeve a bit short, it was also vastly too narrow! No idea how that happened. I’m glad it was the same sleeve so that I wouldn’t have to re-do both. It was easy to do, and to be on the safe side as far as stitch count went, I took it all the way out, down to one row short of where the underarm was stitched to the body. That turned out to be a good move, because it was then in line with Row 41 of the instructions for the sleeves and a perfect re-starting point. Anyhow, the error was easily fixed and soon I was wearing the sweater.

Pattern: #77 Vine Lace Top Down Cardigan by SweaterBabe (Ravelry link here)
Yarn: Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky
Needles: US 11 (8.0 mm)

I think if I were to knit it again I would make a few changes. I would omit the waistline ribbing, because I think only the skinniest of women would look good with something that makes you look thicker in the middle, and I believe that omitting the ribbing will give it a more timeless classic look. I would also use a yarn that sheds less.  I have some old skeins of Lamb’s Pride Bulky from a few years ago, and they shed no where near as much as this stuff does; it’s like wearing a cat all day, and I shed wherever I go and on anyone I come into close contact with. The car now has mohair fuzz in it, and all around the house there are these mohair fuzz balls I keep picking up in addition to the usual cat fur, and my children go about the day sporting mohair on their clothes. Despite this, I still like the cardigan very much and thoroughly enjoy it.  It’s wonderfully comfortable and warm enough to be worn on it’s own when temps are moderately cool.

Before I dash off, here are pictures from our Thanksgiving dinner:

Wine-basted turkey---Yum!

Pecan Pie

Have a great rest of the weekend!

I’ve been busy….

When all else fails, start another project…. Vine Lace Cardigan (from in Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride Bulky, Sable colorway.

Originally, I used my $30 Knit Picks gift certificate from Christmas for this project, and ordered Cadena in Thyme colorway for it.  To my dismay, Cadena was all in hanks instead of the skeins Wool of the Andes was in when I made Cabled Coat last year.  Despite that, I made a swatch of one skein and found that Cadena really wasn’t right for the project anyway and returned it.  In technical terms, Cadena didn’t have enough fluff to it, and when knit up to achieve the proper gauge, the resulting fabric was loose, holey and lacking character.

It’s nice yarn though, and is a pleasure to knit with on a project better suited for it.  The color was perfect: not quite deep olive green, not quite light brown, and somewhere in-between, but I’m also quite pleased with my color choice of Lamb’s Pride Bulky.

I’ve also started Shoulder Cozy from Wrap Style.

Actually, I started that sometime in September, swatching and swatching, trying to find the right gauge, but by the time I cast on for it, it was mid-October. I’m using stash yarn for this, which is Reynolds Smile in a green-yellow-teal multi colorway. Smile was supposed to be for crocheted slippers that never made it to the hook.

Meanwhile, I haven’t given up on Shawl Neck Cardigan, but it’s become my on-the-go project to carry in my purse. I’ve passed the halfway point on it, but it will probably be finished in January.

What else?  Here’s my order from Frenchy Bee:  a bottle of almond (orgeat) syrup for my coffee, chestnut paste as a topping for ice cream, 4 tins of Anis de Flavigny violet flavored drops or mints (not minty, but tastes like violets—an old favorite of mine).

Then, I needed to re-stock on my Vegemite, and tired of having to find a local place that carries it because supply is unpredictable, I boldly ordered a 400-gram jar of it from a vendor on  Normally, I get a 150-gram jar but my kids have taken a liking to it, and even though they get just a scant amount on their toast every now and then, we’ve been going through my little jar quickly and since it lasts forever, I went for the big jar.

I shocked my family the other day, and made a full, real meal, the prime focus of which were these delicious split Rock Cornish Game Hens, broiled with a vinegar and broth sauce from How To Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, Smashed Red Potatoes from, and roasted broccolini from The Gastrokid Cookbook by Hugh Garvey and Matthew Yeomans.  The silence at the table was deafening as they feasted.

I’ve been going through stuff to get rid of, and one thing I came across was this helpful book that my dad gave to me a long, long time ago; I guess he was concerned that I wasn’t married yet.

That book always irks me.  Still.  Time to get rid of it.

Then there are the bags and bags of clothes for my daughter that have been passed on to us, and have been waiting for me to sort through.  The best item I found, which I find bewildering in so many ways:  a pink 100% cashmere sweater.  Cashmere.  In a 2-year old size.  Barely worn (I can imagine why).  Cashmere for a 2-year old?  Cashmere sweater given away.  We’ll take it.

We’re back into the rainy season.  I find it rather soothing to hear it on our roof, even though it makes for blurry views from the windows and dim lighting inside.

Whew! Back to school.

Heavenly trio: marocchino, Perrier, and croissant

I popped into French Bakery in Kirkland today for a quick bite to eat and a marocchino (an espresso drink), which Ms. Adventure’s in Italy so aptly called “Heaven in a Cup”. My son YM started preschool this week, and although I’ll miss him, it is a relief to me that he will be someplace to expend all that almost 5-year old energy in a safe, loving and supportive environment and under the guiding, patient and capable hands of his teachers, each of whom are my rock. You know, I think I learn more from his preschool teachers than he does.  So I took my daughter MR shopping at Sur La Table for a wedding gift for a friend: a Bialetti Moka Express.

Of course, the reason I went to French Bakery was to get a package of pre-ground Attibassi coffee to add to the wedding gift…or maybe that was the excuse to go there and have a croissant and a marocchino…okay, that’s the real reason I went. It was a lovely break, with YM in school and MR asleep in the Ergo carrier, it was 2:00 and I still hadn’t eaten lunch so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to take a rest during a busy day.  To the gift package I added a copy of the cookbook Pasta Harvest, by Janet Fletcher, which I bought gently used (really never used) through a seller on (I guess it’s out-of-print, because new books aren’t available).  As some of you may be familiar, I have used my copy a few times, and I am sure that the foodie groom and his bride will enjoy this book too.

The day ended well with Alex and I leaving the babysitter with MR and YM crying as we made our escape to a parent orientation meeting for preschool.  While there I was able to put in a few more rows on Shawl Neck Cardigan.

I don’t know, this thing is taking too long for me. My fingers are getting itchy to move onto something else. You know, something I can see finished before next summer. Maybe some gloves or a sweater in something truly satisfying like a nice bulky wool.

[Sorry for the cell phone pictures, but sometimes you have to make due.]


Lili’s Nantucket Jacket is nearing conclusion and I look forward to adding it to my wardrobe.  While green tweed is not a colorway I might have selected for the project if I’d bought the yarn today, being close at hand from my stash it was the ideal candidate, and the tweed is subtle enough that it’s barely noticeable.  It turns out that I love this yarn. Knitaly (Ravelry link) by Lane Borgosesia has a durable feel to it and a wonderful softness at the same time.  So why was it discontinued? Beats me.

Dinner last night was risotto with prosciutto and peas, which is always a big hit with my son, but not so hot with his visiting playmate.

I used the recipe, Simple Risotto with Prosciutto and Peas from Real Simple magazine, the September 2006 issue, in which there was section on 6 basic recipes with enough changes to get 30 different meals out of. This risotto recipe is fantastic and amazingly easy. It never comes out soupy, dry, or mushy, but al dente as it should be.

The mandarinquats are in!

What?  You ask.  I came across these in Trader Joe’s last February and thought I’d try something different.  I bought one package of the fig-sized fruit, fell in love, went back for more only to find they were gone for the season. Lately I’ve been scanning the produce section of the local Trader Joe’s and today I was rewarded with my long-lost loves; I came home with 5 packages.  If you’re not into a highly tangy and citrusy flavor, then they aren’t for you, but I find them addictive and with my current sugar-free diet, I need something to satisfy my taste-buds.  They’re just beautiful too, and highly photogenic, I think.  I guess photogenic wouldn’t apply to inanimate objects, but you get the idea.

Can you tell how juicy they are?

Others have waxed poetic of mandarinquats, and it’s all true; they are worthy of their aficionados.  I want to candy them like Muffin Top has, but wouldn’t that be torture to candy them and then be told that I can never eat sugar again and have them all sitting there in my kitchen staring at me because they could’ve been eaten un-candied?  The horror.

We’re very homey, these days.

We’ve been feeling very homey and never made it off the front porch yesterday, so we made spritz cookies from the cookie cookbook of my childhood:  Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book, 1963 edition.  Feeling particularly festive, we frosted them with royal icing.

Next, I hope to make either World Peace Cookies, which I have Mariko to thank for bringing these to my attention, or Homemade Oreos or the quickest cookie to make that I know of and that doesn’t require baking, Oreo Rum Balls (no link for this).

We have snow drifts around our house. The only place I’ve ever seen snow drifts around here before is in the mountains. Meanwhile, the two hummingbirds that winter-over actually drew blood over the hummingbird feeder yesterday (I go out and defrost it every few hours); there were little splatters of blood all over the snow underneath it on the front porch. Despite avian drama at the hummingbird feeder, it’s just plain breathtaking around here, and in contrast to the adult in me that says it’s all a hassle, the kid in me is rejoicing over the snow I’d often wished for so that I wouldn’t have to go to school and could go sledding instead.

Snow-covered bush at dawn.

My Japanese sweet-making class for today is canceled (sniff). I canceled the babysitter who was going to cover while I went to the class (sniff), since she couldn’t make it here and I have no place to go until our driveway melts. Now if I can’t get my to haircut in downtown Seattle tomorrow, well, there’ll be hell to pay: if I can’t get to the competent hands of my stylist this week, I’ll have to lock myself up in the house until the next available appointment in mid-January.

I finished Esme. It’s a quick and easy knit, probably took me 6-8 hours total, and I recommend it. I should note that the pattern is sized for adults, and even though my son is wearing the hat, it’s for me and it fits perfectly.

Pattern: Esme, by Amy Pickard
Yarn: Manos del Uruguay in Cornflower (from my stash collection)
Needles: US 7/4.5 mm, circular (magic loop method)

Blocking with a dinner plate.

Introducing my very own model!

I threw in the picture below because over the weekend we unearthed the second hat I made 23 years ago.  It was from a kit I bought while attending the University of Wisconsin at Madison at the time. I’m told the yarn store is long gone, but I enjoyed these hat kits, because I loved the lanolin smell of the wool yarn and the earthy feel of the handspun yarn in my hands, the pattern was fun and it was the first time I made something using colors that actually worked out and I remember the delight I felt as I saw the pattern develop. I’d made this one for my dad, but I remember he said it was too warm and I guess he never wore it, so after he died some years ago and I was sorting through all of his stuff, I found it and reclaimed it. My son wore it when we went sledding this morning; he really appreciates things I’ve knitted, and I’m considering making him a cardigan.

It's not easy to get him to sit still while wearing two scratchy wool hats.