Monday, December 31, 2012

Finished – Advent Stockings

Pretty socks all in a row.

Detail swatches.

Finished just as 2012 closes.

Happy New Year everyone!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Kiffles or something like them...

This year part of Christmas gifting included baking an assortment of cookies.  Most of them were prepared in anticipation of various holiday festivities: dinners, work parties, family gatherings, etc.  One batch though was the gift intended for my dad.  He always requests that we buy him nothing, and we never comply.  But I'm on a three or four year run of gifting him books and/or a good bottle of spirits and decided this year we'd mix it up.


We have a family friend, who is a contemporary of my grandmother.  Her name is Cecilia.  She worked at my elementary school when I was a student there and has since retired and still lives in my hometown.  She and my grandparents were/are friends, and my dad would go over to help her prepare her house for winter just prior to Christmas.  In exchange she would always give him a box of home-made cookies, kiffles.  These cookies never went out onto the trays that we put out for guests.  In fact, they were mostly forgotten by everyone except dad, who tucked them away in the deep freeze.  He would ration them out slowly, and usually to himself, and they would last well past the holidays.  

Ready for rolling...

Well Cecilia had some improvements made to her home and she no longer needs help winterizing the place.  So dad's been in a bit of a kiffle drought.  But I remedied that this year.  He received (nearly) an entire batch for himself as a gift.  

Raspberry filling

I'm going to share the recipe here with you, as Cecilia shared it with me.  It does deviate from most online recipes that I've found, in some significant ways (like the absence of cream cheese or active ingredients in the dough), but I assure you that they are delicious and worth the effort.

Headed for the oven.

(Makes 10 dozen)

4 cups flour
1 lb. firm butter
10 egg yolks
4 tbsp heavy whipping cream
1 tsp vanilla
Granulated sugar
Filling of your choice*
Powdered sugar

Combine the flour and butter until thoroughly blended as you would for pie dough.
In a separate bowl, mix together the egg yolks, lightly beaten with the whipping cream and vanilla. Add this egg mixture to the flour mixture and blend well until the dough is smooth.
Divide the dough into four balls and wrap each in waxed paper. Refrigerate at least 6 hours.
Next slice the dough and form into large marbles. The total dough should yield about 120 balls. Cover and refrigerate the dough again in "marble" form for another six hours.
Take out about ten balls at a time and roll each gently in granulated sugar. (Be conservative with the sugar, if you mix in too much the kiffles will rupture when you bake them.) Place a small amount of filling in the rolled out circle of dough and roll the dough closed, and form into a crescent shape. Work in a cool kitchen or dough will stick to the board.
Bake at 250°F fist and gradually increase to 300°, and bake until golden brown. (I found it worked to bake at 250° for 20 minutes and then increase to 300° for an additional 15 minutes or so.) Remove immediately – place on a cooling rack and sprinkle powdered sugar on top when completely cool.

* Fillings:  I made one filling from scratch, the other I cheated and used a can of Solo Raspberry pastry filling.  Both turned out really well.  I think nut fillings or poppyseed would work well too.

The home-made filling was apricot.  I used one package of dried apricots and added just enough water to cover them and brought them to a boil.  Cook them until they are tender.  Drain the water and mash them (or put into a food processor), add a bit of sugar and lemon juice to taste.  Refrigerate until you are ready to use.

Happy eating.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Boxing Day 2012

There were cookies made...

and there are fewer now than there were originally.

My favorite Christmas star...

An end to a great day with tea... and of course,
 an Advent stocking in work (number seventeen).

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Here's to hoping that your homes are full of light and love.  Merry Christmas friends.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Retrospective - Christmas Stockings

These were the first socks that I ever knit.

First three socks ever.
I modeled them after some beautiful fine gauge Christmas stockings that were in the Garnet Hill catalog years ago.  I think I knit them the first year that we were in our house.  They are knit out of cotton yarn, which is funny now, because I definitely wouldn't choose that fiber type today.  But I like the reminder of my novice-knitter self and remember my focus at the time on color choice, not fiber type.  It's been a slow evolution to the fiber snob that I am today.  You can find them on ravelry here... although not in much detail, they also predate my ravelry-ing, so the finer points (and ball bands) had escaped me by the time I added them to my projects.

...hung by the chimney with care.

Soon they'll be filled with goodies.  I hope your stockings will be laden too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Advent Stockings

Sometimes I launch off into projects with an understanding that the ideal completion schedule is completely unreasonable.  This is one of those cases. And although I'm already behind the curve, I did make some fair progress.

Fourteen tiny stockings.

I decided that it would be a great idea to knit a twenty-four stocking advent calendar for the small fry (on ravelry here).  (This isn't actually an epiphany of 2012.  I thought it was a good idea last year and managed to knit one stocking.  heh.)  So this year, I was determined to make a bigger impact... and so far I have, but I'm already behind. I have managed to knit a total of fourteen socks; today is December 18... ahem.  We are now re-purposing stockings from the beginning of the order and I'm the only one that has noticed, as far as I can tell.

Leftover baby cashmerino, I think.

Some of the details of this project are: I'm using only waste yarn from prior projects... so it's a random selection of bits and bobs. It feels good to make something out of this little odd lot but it does make for a somewhat wonky color scheme. I'm knitting these tiny guys all from the top down and usually somewhere between 32 to 48 stitches cast on.  All of them employ a short row heel and the classic paired decrease toe.  Most of these were knit on size two needles as most of the  yarn was fingering weight.

So far, I think this one is my favorite.

Number fourteen and my fave so far.

And the most fun part is giving our girl a tiny present each night after dinner:  a bit of candy, or miniature something for her doll house or some bit of creative fodder for her "school box".  It's been fun, and a great way to get her to clean her plate.  (I'm starting to wonder what I'll do on December 26th about that... but oh well.)

Happy Knitting.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Fish, friends and family

This weekend we took a breather from the normally scheduled work and holiday prep to spend the day at the farm.  It wasn't a holiday event, or one that helped in any way prepare for the holiday plans in the coming weeks and so I was a little worried that I had committed an entire day that I couldn't afford to spend doing "nothing."

And it turned out to be just the thing that we all needed.  My better half got to spend some quality time with some of his friends in the great outdoor spaces that we aren't afforded in the city.  And our girl was the only kiddo in residence so she got to enjoy a little time in the limelight. And we all got a little breather on the cusp of the holiday craze.

We were collectively a motley "family" of neighbors, colleagues, college friends and family. We fried fish that the neighbor caught over the summer, told stories of our weeks work, ate brownies, discussed the coming holiday plans, drank strong coffee to ward off the chilly weather, retold some old family stories, told a few new ones and basically enjoyed a relaxed afternoon in good company.

"Here, fishy, fishy."

I have a lovely friend who wrote recently about how important it is to spend time with people who satisfy that basic, human need for companionship, camaraderie and love.  What was so compelling was her reminder that how you are bound to people isn't the important part - be it family or colleague, old college room mate or neighbor. It's recognizing who those people are and making time to spend with them. Saturday served as a good reminder of how fortunate we are to have each other.

So my lessons for the weekend were (1) take time out from the insane holiday prep schedule to enjoy something or better yet, nothing at all, (2) time spent with good people is never wasted and (3) filet the  fish super thin... it makes the best fried fish in the world.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Holiday in the making...

Holiday preparation is going on full swing here.  We've pulled out all our exterior decor and adorned the house in the usual garlands and lights. Christmas cards are ordered and my hand is already cramping thinking about all the addressing (thank goodness there is no stamp licking any more... yuck!)

And the making of Christmas gifts is being squeezed into all the spare moments.  Here are the first couple completed projects...

A happy, tiny elephant stocking stuffer for my happy, tiny nephew.
One miniature handsome Pachyderm – Check.

Two dozen bean bags and a pair of steel pails for our girl and her bestie cousin...

Bean bag toss.

Fun way to use up bits of remnant material...
It's back to the grind stone for me tomorrow, just two weeks until the holiday and although I'm not "ready", I can't wait for it to get here.  Stay warm friends.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Finished – Cuff au Lait

Love these mitts.
These fingerless mitts turned out really well.  And the cuff on these is what makes them special. I'm also really enamored of this neutral smoky grey yarn.  It's not as blue as it appears in these photos.

The pattern was easy to follow, the only part that was a little vague was the placement of the second thumb.  I think you could follow the pattern literally, twice without error; but I think your thumb might end up being a little off kilter from the cuff join on one hand.  I wanted them to be a bit more symmetrical and so I fudged the placement of the second thumb so that the second mitt would be the mirror image of the first.

Hard to take a photo of both mitts when it's a self portrait.

The chart was very clear and easy to follow and if you aren't a great lover of charts, there were written instructions also included.  The only other modification that I made was to switch to the smaller needles shortly after I joined the mitt in the round.  I wanted the glove part to fit more snugly. I didn't add any additional stitches, just followed the pattern as written (small) and it turned out to be a really nice fit.

Matchy-matchy fingernails.

I thought initially about giving these away as a Christmas gift, but I like them so much and have worn them often enough now that they are mine to keep. If I plan on gifting these for the holidays, I'll just have to knit some more. (And now I must paint the nails on my other hand... ha.)

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Thorn – or a study in why I might not be suited to knit a sweater on size 2 needles

This might just be the first post of several about what is likely a retirement knitting project.

Progress photo from January of 2012, off and running...

I will preface this post by saying that I really, really love small gauge knits, and the fine fabrics that are the result.  I like the way they fit, especially when the garment has some shaping and I love the fact that they are harder to identify as "home made" to the naked eye.

I am smitten by Kim Hargreaves patterns and have been for the last several years and I have actually cast on two other sweaters which I have also yet to finish.  For the record, not finishing these is about me, not her. (Both are small gauge knits, and the resultant garment is bound to be fantastic, if only I could re-commit.) I think I cast on for this in December/January this last year.  In my minds eye, I would have this all beautifully finished and assembled to be worn this fall (like now...) with grey/black skirt, shirt, tights and boots combo.  I thought this Granny Smith green would work really well with slate grey and black. (Things are always so much neater and timelier in my mind.)

Enter reality.  I'm beginning to think that I don't really possess the attention span to knit myself a fine gauge sweater.  Which is so sad.  But here is some proof.  In 11 months, I've only completed about 30% of the knitting.  I've finished the back and just cast on the left front.  And it really is a pleasant thing to knit, but it's taking me FOREVER.  The pattern for whatever reason - although not terribly complicated - is just detailed enough that I cannot seem to switch into cruise control. 

I also have this "oh-look-something-shiny" reaction to new knitting/sewing/anything creative projects. Kind of like the squirrel in Over the Hedge. (I just checked in Ravelry and there are at least 8 projects that I have started and finished since I cast on this sweater... looking more and more like ADD.)

The other wrinkle in the works for this sweater is my knitting mistake... which is not so terrible that it means the sweater will be the wrong size or shape, but is the type of mistake that is repeated about 1,639 times over.  It turns out that I don't knit eyelets correctly.  I make tiny, twisted eyelets, which don't really look like eyelets at all.  This lovely vertical zigzag pattern that you see running up the back, front and sleeves of the sweater, is created with eyelets.  Ugh.

Artfully placed leaves and acorn
(probably means I think too much
about these blog photos)

But I'm marshaling on.  And I've made the executive decision to not rip out the entire back of the sweater and start over because that would mean that I would have to wait another five years to see this finished instead of the additional two (assuming that I continue knitting this at the same rate).  Who knows maybe I'll be struck by a wave of productiveness and focus and I'll motor through the rest of this.

Hope springs eternal.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Soak Mitts – Cuff au Lait

Once I had the opportunity to take a class from Fiona Ellis.  She's lovely and incredibly talented and a funny and engaging teacher.  In that class she spoke to us about an upcoming project that she was working on with Lorna's Laces (yarn company) and Soak (wool wash experts).

It turns out that Fiona likes to match her knitted accessories to her nail polish. She then brought out four pattern samples of fingerless mitts that she had designed.  The plan was for Soak and Lorna's Laces and Fiona to design and package a "Soak Box" pattern, yarn and scented soak product with a nail polish that matched the yarn.  I'm not usually drawn in by nail polish, since I only ever wear it on my toes, but because I got to try these mitts on, I was hooked.

Cuff half finished

The pattern and color that I've started here is the Cuff au Lait.  It looks like a pot of smoky grey mixed with coffee with cream and then net result is one of the loveliest and unique neutral colors.  The pattern is really special too.  It features a fold over cuff that you actually knit half of, join in the round and the turn inside-out to continue down the hand.  It's really clever.

What I remember about the other patterns is that they all had some really unique feature as well.  The magenta mitts have a cabled pattern and the thumb hole come right out of a crossed cable intersection.  The pale pink mitts have that cable transition to i-cord that is one of those brilliant Fiona signature design elements.  And the turquoise lace mitts have an eyelet line that ends up bordering the thumb gusset.  I'm a sucker for perfect details, and these mitts have those in spades.

It's been a fun and quick project and I hope to have them finished and blocked for you to see soon.  I might actually paint my nails for the photo shoot.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thanksgiving Dress

Months ago I purchased a new dress pattern for the small fry.  It is the School Photo Dress by Oliver + S.  At the same time I bought my first ever Liberty of London print with this pattern in mind.  I cut the pieces out right away and they sat waiting patiently for me to actually start sewing them together.

Patiently waiting...
I had to actually commit to finishing this dress for our girl in time for Thanksgiving to force myself to make time for it.  And it turned out so, so well. All the credit goes to the genius behind the pattern writing at Oliver + S.  I cannot say enough good things about the way the patterns are written and the little pointers that they provide to enable a novice-ish seamstress to create a nicely finished product.

Nearly finished

A few of the dress details are particularly nice. The inset kangaroo pocket in the front is so fun, and although the print hides it, it is a really neat little detail.  It will be perfect for collecting acorns or little toys.  The other thing I love about the dress is this little funnel neck, or stand up collar.  It feels like an adult garment's tailored detail and it adds charm to the whole piece.  (For those thinking about making this, check the pattern out on the link above.  This is one view of the dress, the other option has a ruffled neck and ruched sleeves.)

Pockets for friends, or rocks, or acorns, or...

The fabric is lovely too. I have a personal penchant for navy blue and I am smitten by the little splashes of turquoise, pink, green and red in this print.  It washed and pressed really well and I hope that it will wear well too. All that being said, I think if I were to make this again, I might choose a solid color. There are some nice details in this pattern that are well camouflaged by this busy print.  The yoke is a nice detail.  The sleeves have a bias cut cuff and the pocket without the animals sticking out is almost indiscernible. And they would definitely be more evident in a lighter color or a solid.

I wish I had time to knit up a quick little sweater to go over this, but that might be a bit ambitious in two weeks time.  In the meantime, I'll try to find some red Mary Janes for her to wear and some tights to keep those little legs warm.  And I need to sew in the hook at the zipper and a button on the back of the collar.  Hope your Thanksgiving day plans are coming together too.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Grand Central in Chicago

Those lovely girls I met in New Hampshire this summer, the ones who inspired me to start this blog... met me in Chicago last weekend.  We decided after leaving New Hampshire that we didn't want to wait a whole twelve months before being together again.  So we gathered in the windy city for a long weekend that happened to coincide with a Vogue Knitting event.

And here's what I learned.  Chicago still remains a fantastic city.  It falls a little short as a "retreat" destination when compared to the peace and seclusion of Squam Lake, but it was wonderful in the way that Chicago always is – the "L", State Street bustle, Millennium Park, Lake Michigan and Garrett's popcorn.  But the best part of the trip was truly the people. We had a great time and picked up right where we left off.  (We missed the few of the original crew who couldn't join us...)

While we were there, we decided to do our own little knit along.

We're knitting darling-Natalie Selles' Grand Central cowl.  And most of us are using some amazing Jill Draper yarn.  Fantastic combination of pretty and easy to remember pattern (well written too) with perfectly plied and gorgeously dyed super wash wool.  They were also our Squam connection at the Vogue event, as they were together in a booth at marketplace in all their creative glory.
Grand Central Cowl

Perfect Caramel Color

I finished this gem in less than a week.  And I think you should start one too.  And it's just decided to be chilly fall here in the "Lou"... perfect timing.

Fake smile for the knit picture – cheesy

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


All aglow on Halloween eve.

Last night we carved up the pumpkins that my parents grew.  And we came up with some happy jack-o-lantern faces.  There's something nostalgic about slimy pumpkin guts, toasted seeds and the aroma of candle smoke and pumpkin flesh.  It makes me want to eat candy corn and drink apple cider.  I hope your trick or treating excursions are successful. Happy Halloween friends.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Last month I had the opportunity to run away for a weekend with my sister.  She's the kind of family that you'd pick if you got to pick your family - I just love her.  And I'm fortunate to have such a good friend in her. We flew to New York city for the weekend and had an amazing time.

New York is a place like no other.  I don't think I really appreciated that until this visit.  (The only other time I had been there was as a penniless college student, so that was a different experience entirely.)  The energy created by that many people – different kinds of people – in one place creates an atmosphere that is wonderful.  I loved it.

We spent a great amount of time just enjoying each others company, without kids or husbands in tow. We ate amazing meals, gawked at a few celebrities, shopped a little, biked central park (succeeded in making it from the bike rental place to the park without becoming Manhattan road kill – bonus!), and went to a Broadway play.

The play is what I want to tell you about.  It was phenomenal, and I cannot get it out of my head.  We saw Once. We didn't do tons of homework and we bought half price tickets two hours before the show in Times Square. And what a happy accident it was that we saw this show.

The play started in the most organic way – as a bar on stage serving cocktails to audience members with what looked like pickup musicians playing stringed instruments.  And then slowly as the audience returned to their seats with drinks in hand, and the musicians assembled a little more cohesively and before you knew it, the play had started.  I was swept off my feet before the first line was delivered.

The music itself filled the theater and I felt completely immersed in it. All the actors played instruments. Set in Dublin, the story was lively and lighthearted at times and melancholy and heartbreaking at other moments.  The music and actors had me completely engrossed.  There was humor that kept things light, but at the core, the story was about love.  Once was a glimpse of the intersecting paths of two people... you'll have to go watch to find out more.

So if you have plans to visit NYC anytime soon, do try and fit this into your schedule. (And don't be afraid so save a few dollars on "partial view" seats.  It turns out the partial view is from the far side of row two.)  If you can't get to the play, look for a copy of the movie.  I watched when I got home, thanks to my friend Laura and it was also wonderful.  I'm a new fan now of Glen Hansard. 

Soon I promise to be back with things that I have actually made... since that was the original point of this blog.  But I just had to tell you about Once.  XO

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Things to remember...

Today I want to share ten simple lessons.

1. If you've lost your glasses, check the top of your head.
2. Keep your elbows off the dinner table.
3. Don't shake an uncapped bottle of salad dressing over new carpet.
4. Do your best to master your native language. Grammar counts.
5. Love your pets, and only let the outdoor pets in the house when dad's not home.
6. Keep learning, it doesn't matter what, just pursue whatever intrigues you.
7. Read good books.
8. See as much of the world as you can.
9. Sing loudly and with conviction just to see your teenage daughters cringe in embarrassment, they'll laugh and love the memory later.
10. Be unfailing in your willingness to love and support the people who mean the most to you (even when they are wrong and hard to love).

Happy birthday mom. I love you.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Apples and Pumpkins

Summer is officially over here.  The leaves are turning, the mornings are decidedly cool and dark and we broke down last week and had to kick the heat on for a few especially cold nights.  And now we are making plans for halloween and thinking about the coming holiday season and shuffling summer clothes into storage and digging out the winter garb.

Halloween is going to be fun this year.  The small fry is two and she is infinitely more interested in carving pumpkins, dressing up and (last, but certainly not least) candy.

It's fun too see the whole family get enthusiastic about holidays again with these little people to share them with.  This summer my mom planted half  a dozen pumpkin seeds in her herb garden.  In short order it became a pumpkin garden.  We spent a weekend at the farm a bit ago and the kiddos spent some time scouting ripe pumpkins and ordering my dad to cut and pass them out into the lawn. They are perfect, just waiting for funky faces to be carved into them.  We brought home seven of them and I think the total crop will yield around 30.  And all from a little envelope with half a dozen seeds in it.  How fun!

Halloween, here we come.

We're going to wait a week or so to cut into these beauties.  Their shelf life is seriously shortened once their carved.  And I've been successful to date from keeping our voracious city squirrels from chewing holes in them.

In the meantime, I have done a little fall baking and  I wanted to share the recipe.  It's got to be the world's most simple and unpretentious cake recipe and it's perfect for fall.  It was given to me by a friend, and I don't know the original source, but it's probably one of those tried and true recipe that is eons old.  I hope you enjoy it.

Fresh Apple Cake

4 cups apples, peeled, cored and diced
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup oil

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Spread (the fairly thick) batter evenly into an ungreased 13" x 9" pan.  Bake at 350° for 45-55 minutes.

Happy fall, friends.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Retrospective - Vertical Garter Jacket

I'm going back in time a bit with this project.  I knit this little sweater in 2010. 

Finished knitting just waiting for a wearer...

I was a brand new mom at the time.  Our girl arrived on the scene early - not just a little early - and we spent a considerable amount of time as a fledgling family in the NICU.  While she slept and grew and learned to breathe, I watched and hoped and worried and knit. It turns out there is isn't a lot to "do" when you are in that spot, so I kept my hands and mind a little preoccupied to keep my imagination from running to it's darkest corners.

And in the end this sweater and few others were turned out.  The small fry turned out too; more importantly.  She's worn and outgrown most of them... but this one just fits this fall.

Busy rearranging the doll house

It's a very nice little jacket.  It is knit out of fingering weight yarn (Louet Gems) and the resulting fabric is relatively fine.  The garter stitch creates a little more weight and give than stockinette would have which makes it warmer and free moving.  And although at the time I thought that the sleeves were going to be too long, it turned out that they are perfect.  It did take what seemed like forever to finish, and I remember wishing that I was a faster knitter, but it was worth it in the end.

The only modification I made was post-knitting.  I added two rows of tiny elastic around the neck.  The neckline kept growing and growing and the small fry is a little too young to pull off the exposed shoulder look.  It's worn fairly well.  The only thing that I have noticed is a little damage on the hems.  The ends of the knitted rows seem to be a bit more fragile than the edge of a cast-on or bound-off hem. So I see that there might be a little mending in my future.  It could also be that my girl is a little harder on her hand-mades than she used to be.  But that's all as it should be when you're enjoying year two.

Cozy trifecta - fireplace, furry friend, and hand knits.

It feels strangely therapeutic to write now about where this sweater began.  I might just post about the others here too someday.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Half-hatched idea

I've been toying around with some two color stranded knitting and finally devoted some time to knitting a sample of this pattern that I've sketched.  This is my swatch. The chart and pattern are admittedly not for the faint of heart. It is a 46 row, 60 stitch repeat.  This swatch is a 2 x 2 repeat of that chart.

Art Deco Stranding
My inspiration was an art deco piece of architectural ornament... I can't find the original photo... I think it was wallpaper or a plaster relief.  Either way I loved it, and although I had to do some heavy editing to keep the stranded color work from "floating" for too many stitches across the back, I think I've managed to maintain it's fidelity.

I'm thinking it might grow up to be a cowl... what are your thoughts?

Note about the yarn: this was knit with some remnant KnitPicks Palette yarn in Sky and Bark on US3 needles in the round.  (Thanks Ravelry for keeping track of my knitting, without you I would never have remembered that.) I later cut the steek and blocked it.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Forest Park Prototype

This little prototype has come to life.  And I believe that it might actually make it into pattern form - I'm thinking of calling it Forest Park.  I'm never quite sure how something in my mind and on graph paper will translate to actual garment, but I this is leaning toward the more successful end of the spectrum. And it will be perfect for ambling around the best green space in St. Louis - Forest Park.

A little "Forest Park"
My favorite thing about this little garment is that it is knit all in one piece.  This is certainly not an original idea, but one I wanted to incorporate into the design.  Some of my all time favorite baby garments feature this type of construction and I knew I wanted to take a stab at designing this way. (See some Elizabeth Zimmermann and Debbie Bliss examples of this type of construction.)  I'm also really fond of the staggering of the cables and think that the increased stitch count underneath the last cable row of each column of cables creates a really nice peplum effect.

Cable and Peplum Closeup
Now that I think I have a good prototype, I must begin the math, charting and pattern grading. Then a little photo shoot will be in order... cross your fingers for the perfect intersection of the right light, weather and willing participation of my model, the small fry.  (They all seem equally unpredictable lately... ha)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Le Trout

I promise not to turn this into a food blog, but I had to share this.  Our dinner the other night was so pretty I felt compelled to photograph it (and post it here). Most of the inspiration was thanks to fresh ingredients from our local co-op.

Ready for wrapping up.
We joined a co-op that sources everything they distribute from local growers and producers.  They are Fair Shares, if you are an interested St. Louis-an. And I have to say they do a phenomenal job.  They are not only friendly and welcoming proprietors, but also well organized and knowledgeable.

Our dinner was Trout in Parchment (or "en Papillote" for those of you fluent in French).  90% of this came from our co-op share or our tiny herb garden.  Here's a quick description of the process.  Cut two generous sheets of parchment and lay one on top of the other on a rimmed baking sheet.  Lightly butter or oil the inside layer where the food will sit.  Lay thinly sliced zucchini in a slightly overlapping layer on the parchment in an area a bit larger than the fish. Scatter a handful of cherry tomatoes on top if you have them.  Salt and pepper this layer.  Place rinsed and dried trout fillets, skin side down on the vegetables.  Salt and pepper the fish.  Decorate with chives, parsley and thyme. Surround fish with lemon slices (over, under, around... I love lemon with fish).  Dot with butter or sprinkle with olive oil.  Pour about 1/2 a cup of white wine over the whole mess.

Seal up the parchment paper, keeping some "head room" for the fish (just don't make it snug). And then repeat with the second sheet of parchment so that you have a nearly air tight envelope of parchment enclosing the whole dish.  I read several recipes about how best to do this and it seems a brushing with egg white works well on folded parchment, but I took the lowbrow route and folded the parchment and stapled it.  (Classy, I know... probably not the Julia Child method, but it worked really well.)

Piping hot and smelling wonderful.

Once sealed, transfer the baking sheet into a 400-degree oven and bake for 30 minutes.  The rest is up to you.  We found it to be a really healthy and easy way to prepare a beautiful fish fillet.  And it was pretty to boot!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Miniature Rehab and Why I Should Listen to My Mother

A few weeks ago, our girl visited  The Magic House for the first time.  It's a wonderful place, full of fun, interactive and secretly educational exhibits.  If you are ever in St. Louis with kiddos in tow, you should check it out.

While wheeling around the masses of children and parents, the small fry was drawn repeatedly to this big wooden doll house they had.  And now we enter the part of the story in which I must admit that my mom was right - again.  (This is a recurring theme in my life.) 

When I was middle school age, I was also mildly obsessed with doll houses... not so much the playing with dolls, more the making miniature things and decorating tiny rooms.  I think it began with the Thorne miniature rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago, which was one of my favorite parts of our summer pilgrimage to Chicago.  And so one fall, my mom and I ran across a fairly nice doll house at an antique store and my parents bought it for me as a Christmas present.  I spent hours removing full scale wallpaper, carpet and glue that was stuck to the balsa wood walls and floor.  My parents bought me a kit to make some furniture and I loved the tiny tedious job of building benches and chests and sewing pillows the size of quarters.

House painting complements of my
eleven-year-old self

Rehab about 30-percent done

I outgrew that doll house, like teenagers do.  And I pressed my mom to get rid of it, fully convinced that I would never have another use for it.  So you can imagine that I was less than thrilled when several months ago, she arrived at my house with it.  (This is a classic move on her part, arriving with long forgotten possessions and then driving off towards her now-more-clutter-free-home, cackling like some gleeful and benevolent antagonist.)

So we moved the house down from the attic and dusted it off (Thanks for keeping it Mom.) and started a small scale remodeling project.  Working room by room, we're making things a little cleaner and prettier. All those gorgeous choices of scrap booking paper make for good wallpaper.  And sheets of foam make good mock carpet (it's stiff enough to keep those little people from toppling over).  And we've moved in the Playmobil family and some of their furniture and the fun has begun again for this little house.

Cutting "wallpaper" for tiny dormers... a little challenging.

Cork floors in the kitchen.

Just a few more rooms to rehab, and hours and hours of play ahead for the small fry and her little plastic friends.  All due to the foresight of my mom.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Magnetic North

Last week my parents celebrated an anniversary.  It's always fun – not only is it nice to commemorate the beginning of our nuclear family, but it is also an occasion to honor the two people who have so faithfully served as "magnetic north" on the compass that is my life.

In our little clan food is love.
And so we eat. Mangia!

Pork, garlic, rosemary, olive oil, lemon zest.

Ready, set... should have ironed the table cloth.

Black forest ham and Havarti crepes

The not-nearly as good as Noni's pork roast

Pecan sandwich cookies

The Menu:
Pimm's Cup cocktails
Classic deviled eggs*
Ham and cheese crepes**

Mixed greens with roasted beets and blue cheese*

Pork roast
White lasagna with mushrooms and proscuitto*
Sauted summer squash

Pecan cookies***

Recipes from *Good food to share; **Adapted from the Silver Spoon and *** The Sweet Life.