Monday, December 31, 2007

Mom's Recipe Box


I clip recipes. I buy cookbooks. I read cookbooks. I print recipes from the internet. I scribble recipes while watching The Food Network. I love new recipes. But, come Christmas, I don't want anything new. I want to open up Mom's old recipe box and pull out all the cards in the "cookie" section: Tea Time Tassies, Surprise Meringues, Can-Do Sugar Cookies, Peanut Blossoms, Russian Tea Cakes, Thumbprint Cookies, Apricot Oatmeal Bars, Molasses Crinkles, Snickerdoodles, Old-Fashioned Shortbread Cookies, Orange Cookies, Coconut Diamonds, Devilsfood Drop Cookies. I love just saying the words; a litany of memories, Christmas baking, and a legacy of my mother's love.

I don't make every one, but I linger over the recipes. Some are in my mother's handwriting, some typewritten by her, and others written by me from her recipes. They are all gathered in the recipe box I took from her kitchen after she died, where they've been joined by recipes from sisters, friends, former roommates, and others who have shared the fun of cooking with me.

Part of my ritual of Christmas baking, of course, is that I do it with my daughters. They know where to find the recipes.

Here's one that Mom made every year:
Tea Time Tassies
Cheese Pastry:
1 3-0z. pkg cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
1 cup flour

Let cream cheese & butter soften at room temp. Blend. Stir in flour. Chill slightly--about 1 hr. Shape in 2 doz. 1 in. balls; place in tiny ungreased 1 3/4 in. muffin cups. Press dough on bottom & sides of cups.

Pecan Filling:
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 T. soft butter
1 t. vanilla
1 egg
dash salt
2/3 cup coarsely broken pecans

Beat together egg, sugar, 1 T. butter, vanilla & salt just until smooth. Divide half the pecans among pastry-lined cups; add egg mixture & top with remaining pecans.

Bake at 325 for 25 minutes, or until filling is set. Cool. Remove from pans.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Storm Water Shawl Update

After a slow start (numerous frogs and start overs), I've finally gotten the feel for this pattern, Storm Water Shawl, knit in Handmaiden Sea Silk. The colorway is Rose Garden. I think I'm at least half way done and to the point that I'm enjoying the knitting.


A two-day professional conference a couple of weeks ago was a real boon to Storm Water; now that the Boston Red Sox are in the World Series, I've become a baseball-watcher (very fair weather fan!) so look forward to more hours this weekend on the shawl. I'm really liking it and trying to finish in time to wear to an event in mid-November. It is a lovely pattern and a stunning yarn.


My advice to anyone who wants to try this project is: wind the yarn onto a cardboard tube to decrease the chance it will tangle, use stitch markers between patterns (every 8 stitches, changing every 8 rows) to keep track of the count, label the 2 balls of yarn, and use a lifeline. I have not followed my last piece of advice, but everytime I start feeling confident, I end up in trouble and sure wish I had a lifeline!

The last piece of wish-I'd-have-thought-of-it-sooner advice is to use needle tips. I can't remember what they're really called, but it's the little rubber tips that keep the stitches from sliding off the needles when you put the project down. On not one, but two, successive Sundays, I diligently worked the first few rows, put the work down, and picked it up later to find a puddle of stitches on one side. That accounts for two of my early frogs. Slippery yarn, metal needles, foolish knitter. Now I use the rubber tips.

Monday, October 1, 2007

New Sundara Yarn Club!

Am I the only one? Tee-hee-hee! I've been haunting the Sundara Yarn site, checking it most everyday in hopes of getting in on her next sock club. I enrolled in her e-mail list and looked forward to something happening, as promised, in October. So, this morning it is officially October and I checked again as soon as I got on the computer----VOILA! There it was! And, even better than a sock club, it is a yarn club, with 6 months of yarn for a variety of uses! I nearly fell over my keys, as I typed in the enrollment (= payment) info with shaking hands. And, I'm in!

It's called "Seasons" Yarn Club, and the only drawback is that I had to choose only 1 of 4 possible "seasons" of luscious yarn colors. I chose Autumn, but was quite taken with Spring as well. I had already decided not to re-enroll in the Rockin' Sock Club. After 2 years of membership, I'm ready for some yarns with a new look. Also, there gets to be a time in a woman's life when even a sock lovin' woman says: "I wonder when I'll wear all these socks....."

Still no e-mail notification of availability. Maybe I'm the first one :-)

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sea Silk Rose Garden on the Way......

I got it! Almost. For several months, I've been trying to find some Handmaiden Sea Silk. I pored over colors, dreaming about a drapey shawl. Most of the time I zoomed in on Rose Garden as my preferred colorway. But, that stuff has been tough to find in stock! I searched and googled and checked out yarn stores whenever I'd venture outside my usual commuting range. No luck--till now! The magic shop and its oh-so-helpful proprietor are at One Planet Yarn & Fiber . They have a nice fresh shipment of Sea Silk, all ready to go to new homes.

I'll post a photo next week when it arrives. I plan to use the Storm Water Shawl pattern---I've read that it is easy and perhaps even "boring" but I think we all deserve some "boring" beauty in our knitting bags!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Out the Door! Bye-bye Blues!

A day of passenger-ing in the car allowed me to finish these gift socks on Sunday, just one day too late to send them to Sister Boo via Sister Emjay. So, these garter stitch ribs in Cascade Fixation will travel to their new home in style, via the US mail.

No second sock syndrome for these babies! From just below the ribbing all the way to the toes, in 5 or 6 hours of enforced work time the second sock was done. After worrying with myself about what pattern would work with this yarn, I'm satisfied with the result. The garter stitch rib was easy to do and and I did not feel like the gentle ribs were arguing with the stripes in the yarn about who would be most notable.

As I had been knitting these socks the past week or two, I was feeling tired of socks---10 or 12 pairs in the past 15 months, mostly to the exclusion of other knitting has left my drawer filled with socks (I gave a few pair away as gifts, but mostly I save these beloved and belabored objects for the person who will most appreciate them--moi). I was looking forward to something new, a headscarf, and was itching to get going on it. But I would not allow myself to pick up new needles until this project was finished.

So, what did I do when I finished these socks? In the car, with only one other project in my knitting bag? You guessed it---started a gauge swatch for another pair of socks! But these are a bamboo blend (the Crystal Palace Panda Cotton I had tried originally to turn into gift socks for Boo), perfect for summer....... I have gauge (9 st/in, on size 0 Knitpics) and I really like the resulting fabric. And, I started the headband the next day! More to come.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

(sob...) Frog It!




Sometimes a couple, a yarn and a pattern, are just not a good match. Their pairing begins with a knitter's hope, her vision of an FO to be proud of. Cast on, gauge, cast on again---she does her magic to bind yarn and pattern into Something Wonderful. Sometimes yes, but sometimes no. Doubts begin; "Do I like this?" But hope persists, hope that with a few more rows, the pairing will reveal itself as a creative combo.

Not this time. The more of Flame Wave in Fixation that emerges from my needles, the more clear it becomes to me that this pairing is a mistake, that these are Ugly Socks. The pattern is lovely, the socks are not. At 6 inches into the first cuff I say, "Frog it!"

Herstory repeats itself. This is the same project that was expected to couple Panda Cotton with Flame Wave. Will Boos Blues ever be? I have until next week to find just the right match, and then to bring that match into being.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wishful Knitting

Yesterday I received the sad news that the son of a dear friend had died suddenly. I remember the day he was born, taking care of him occasionally when he was little, enjoying his delightful questions, curiosities and passions throughout his childhood, recalling his presence at our wedding (1 of 7 guests!), and hearing about his struggles and successes through the adolescent and young adult years. My heart aches for my friend and her husband, and the only way I could begin to comfort myself was to think about what I can knit for her---I saw a pattern for a "comfort shawl" and wondered if she would truly find it a "comfort" or just a reminder of unspeakable sorrows. I don't know what, or if, I will make her something but I do feel this very strong urge to KNIT for her, to try to make her feel a little bit better. As if my knitting could help her. It might make me feel better, but I don't think it could touch her sorrow.

Meanwhile, no actual knitting for me today. At all. Had to travel a couple of hours down the coast (and back) to visit my specialist doctor---positive report and a reprieve: next appointment is not until November!

My energies are now directed at preparing to teach my friend's class for her tomorrow evening---it's not my specific area, but I should be able to give the students something. But first, I have to do the readings and pre-view the video. I think there will be no knitting tomorrow either. Maybe I can convey to her my wishes for her healing more via not knitting than via knitting.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Boo's Blues Blues


To frog or not to frog, that is a question. Nothing wrong with this sock, it's just not what what I was dreaming of. Last year, in the throes of my initial sock knitting, I made a pair of socks for my Sister Emjay, who loved them so much she vowed to wear them only at home. Because she did not want wool, I used Cascade Fixation, a stretchy cotton yarn that has the added advantage of working up quickly. I used a basketweave pattern for the cuffs of a standard sock---they fit well, looked cool, and felt nice and cushy. So, Sister Boo asked me to knit her a pair of socks and I agreed. I've been thinking and thinking of what to make her--something to show my love for her and my increased sock-making skills. She asked for no wool, and I eventually fell upon Panda Cotton at The Loopy Ewe --perfect! Bamboo, cotton, and elastic---soft, stretchy, and available in a lovely Blueberry Grape colorway, recalling a blueberry picking expedition years ago. I sprang for it, even paying for shipping!

I thought the yarn would work well in Ann Budd's Flame Wave Socks (from Favorite Socks) but the
evil Gauge Goddess said "NOT!" I tried and tried but that yarn just did not want to be the 6 st/in that the pattern called for (despite the ball band itself claiming it as a 6 st/in kind of yarn!). Darn! It was at that point that I realized---duh!---the pattern suggested Cascade Fixation. Hmmmmm.... In my first sock yarn buying frenzy at Webs last year, I'd bought a bunch of that very yarn. Dig through the stash and Voila! Soft yarn, quick knit, easy gauge, easy to care for---go for it!

But, now I'm having doubts: do I like the stripey yarn in this pattern? do I like these colors? more importantly, will Boo like these colors? do the stripes just mask the gentle waves of the pattern? I confess that I'm starting to agree with people who wonder about the wisdom of using self-striping yarn for socks with a definitive pattern. Despite my 1 1/2 years of STR club socks, mostly self striping yarns combined with complex patterns, I'm starting to see that one should do one OR the others----do a simple stockinette stitch to show off the lovely hand-dyed (or self-striping) yarn, OR select a mono-tone yarn to highlight a complex stitch.

Meanwhile, the Fixation socks continue to grow (the cuff on the first sock is almost finished), even as I stew. Obsess. Obsess. Obsess.



Monday, July 9, 2007

Ravelry Rocks!

I've been enjoying exploring the Beta version of Ravelry for the past couple of weeks---looking at what other people are doing, checking out patterns, starting to put up my own projects and stash. But, today I really got to experience the community aspect of Ravelry. It's awesome! I noted the completion of the Bella Blouse on Ravelry. Within a couple of hours, I'd received 3 messages commenting on Bella, all from people I don't know! It brings a smile to my face :-) Made me realize how few are the folks with whom I can share my knitting details and joys.


Bella, Bella, Bella.......







Finished the lovely Bella Blouse a few days ago and am quite pleased with it---the fabric has a wonderful drape, and it fits! I am a largely self-taught knitter (all right, I was taught by Dodie, as I talked about earlier on this blog, but she did not live nearby so I ended up just figuring out how to make a garment on my own) and fit has often been a matter of luck--mostly bad--for me. During the knitting surge of the 1980's, I knit many sweaters but at least half of them did not fit--usually way too big. Sometimes I used a yarn from my stash but often I used the yarn in the pattern. Whatever I used, size was a surprise element. Its only been through listening to podcasts over the past year that I have realized--duh!--the true importance of GAUGE! Yes, 21 years of school, decades of knitting experience, and I still used stretching, squishing, and hope to make a gauge swatch work.

A year of successful sock knitting (and, yes, gauging) helped me feel ready to take on a sweater again. Careful work with gauge earned me the reward of a sweater that I like and can wear! I even blocked it, and I'm embarrassed to admit that this is a first for this old knitter!

The details: the pattern is by Norah Gaughan and is available online and free from Interweave
Knits (Summer 2007). I used Berocco Cotton Twist (Sensai colorway) for the lace elements and Berocco Touche (Nectar colorway) for the body. I fell in love with it when I first saw it, and was particularly delighted that it gave me a chance to try a Norah Gaughan pattern. I used the colors called for in the pattern (though they look different than they did in the pattern photo), and made only a couple of changes: shortened the body to make it a "petite"; added a row of single crochet at the underarms to give them a more finished appearance; and fiddled with the YO in the lace when it appeared at the beginning of a wrong side row (I YO'ed from over and behind to make the loop tighter).

Sunday, January 28, 2007

(nearly) Fetching ...


Since Ann Hood was doing a reading and book signing of her novel The Knitting Circle yesterday (see earlier post for my thoughts on this book), it was a wonderful two-fer: books and yarn. Despite my yarn resolve for the new year, I succumbed to the sale price of Debbie Bliss Cashmerino. I recalled it was the yarn used in Knitty’s Fetching fingerless glove pattern, and bought several colors. At one pair of gloves/skein and $6/skein, I was happily planning the gift gloves I’d be making between now and next Christmas. I smiled to myself as I imagined how very cool my nieces would think me when I presented them with these gloves. All was well until I went home and checked the pattern: it calls for Aran weight and my sale yarn is dk weight. I’m knitting up a pair, to see if one skein will be enough to complete a set, while I tell myself that my version will be Lightweight Fetching, primarily for indoor use. Then again, I recall that they had the aran weight on sale as well. I suspect I’ll be back at the store onTuesday, digging through the aran weight basket for neat colors…….as I think about it, I don’t need to wait until Christmas, for those gloves would make a perfect small gift for lots of people right now. Hmmm…..the friend who is feeling a bit blue, my daughter who spends so many hours in her cold room doing homework, and on and on and on….

Friday, January 26, 2007

Dodie's Gift


Dodie and my mother were best friends from the time they were 3 or 4 years old. As two only children, each girl could see the other’s back yard from an upstairs window. Two skinny little girls, they grew up together. They played jacks, shared books and Dodie’s dog, and later grew old enough to walk to the local park where they swam and played tennis. At the end of World War II, they each married, and the couples became friends. Each gave birth to her first child, a son, in 1948. More children came along for both; my mother ended up with 7 and Dodie with 6.

I remember our families vacationing together, 4 adults, 6 little kids, all in a big white house with a lawn that sloped down to Lake Chautauqua. As the families continued to grow, we had separate vacations. Their husbands worked in different fields, they lived in different towns, and traveled in different social circles. But I recall adult dinners out, shared family celebrations, and weekly phone calls in which they exchanged details of their lives.

Dodie was my godmother and I always felt a special excitement when she was coming to visit. She lived in The City, played golf and tennis, and had help at home so she was able to go out during the day. My mother didn’t drive for much of my childhood, did not have time for sports, and rarely went out shopping. Dodie did not have a daughter until later on, and she seemed to enjoy having me and my sister to fuss over. She would bring dresses she had found during her shopping, dresses for us to try on to see if our mother would like to buy them for us. It was Dodie who brought in my first pair of “heels,” as well as some of my fancier dresses.

Dodie was a knitter. She busied herself during her sons’ swim meets knitting aran sweaters in all sizes. She could knit as fast as she could talk, and I can picture her knitting during visits with my mother. It was during one of those visits, when I was perhaps 12, that she offered to teach me to knit. My mother sewed and later did crochet but, for some reason, she never knit. I enthusiastically accepted Dodie’s offer. She got me started, continental no less, and left me with an instruction book. It was several weeks before I saw her again and I’d spent many hours with the yarn and that book, puzzling over how continental knitting was similar to and different from the “regular” knitting shown in the book. It turns out that I was doing something backwards, but Dodie got me turned around at that first check-in visit. I kept going, on my own for many years, and I still check in with that book occasionally.

The story of my knitting in the 45 years since then is really a series of stories of knitting together with wonderful networks of women. But none of that would have been possible without that gift from Dodie. I’m glad I had the chance during my adult years to thank her for what she gave me.

My mother died in 1992 and Dodie died just about a year ago. She remained connected with our family, attending celebrations and funerals, having dinner occasionally with my father after her husband died, and being present with us at my father’s funeral. She was always a reminder to me of my mother as a girl, a teenager, a young wife, a young mother, and as a person who could laugh and talk about things other than kids. When I knit I think about Dodie and about my mother as well, remembering those 2 skinny little girls who passed on so much—-stories, connections, love, and knitting. Thank you, Dodie.