I did something yesterday that I’ve never done before. Something that made me want to crawl under a table and hide until it was over. Something that continues to scare me every time I think about it.
I bought a new car. A brand new car. By myself. At the dealership.
Let me list the reasons this makes my heart pound out of my chest:
1. Money. So much money.
2. What if I break it? Crash it? What if it’s stolen? I don’t own it yet. Not even close.
3. I don’t like to drive. Driving is a huge source of anxiety for me. I was incredibly comfortable in my old car, and changing cars is incredibly uncomfortable for me.
Those are the things that still scare me about buying a new car. Going into the buying process I had to really talk myself into going into the dealership. I had been pre-approved for financing. I transferred the money for my down payment at lunch. I knew what I wanted and about how much it was going to cost. But I was scared. Scared of the obligation. Scared that I might choose the wrong car. Scared that I might get pressured into buying something I really didn’t want.
None of that happened. I walked into the Subaru dealership in downtown Spokane and was treated very kindly. The salesman was patient. Not pushy. Informative (his name is Ethen.)
And this is the best thing: I did it. By myself. To quote Carrie Fisher “Stay afraid. But do it anyway.”
It seems like this sweater flew off my needles. Seriously. This was quite possibly the easiest, least complicated sweater I have ever knit. It’s a raglan knit from the bottom up. You knit the body up to the point where the sleeves need to be attached, then you knit the sleeves, join them to the body, and knit up from there. The only modification I made was knitting the sleeves in the round, two at a time, while magic looping. I did that because knitting sleeves one at a time makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a knitting needle, especially if the two sleeves then turn out to be two different lengths. And yes, that has happened to me more than once. At least when I make a mistake while knitting two at a time, it’s generally the same mistake in the same place.
The cable pattern was simple and easy to memorize. I did use a lot of stitch markers to mark my place in the pattern though. That made it much easier to remember where the cable sections began ended.
And I love this yarn. It’s Malabrigo Twist in Manzanilla Olive. It’s soft. It gives great stitch definition. And the color is a beautiful semi-solid. The yarn practically glows in the light.
Knitting this sweater made me really want to knit another sweater, immediately.
Pattern: Glasgow Sweater from Interweave Knits, Winter 2016
Yarn: Malabrigo Twist, in Manzanilla Olive
Size: I made the smallest size, knit the pattern almost exactly as written, and used just under 7 skeins
Needles: size 9 and 10
I’ve knit ruffles. And bobbles. And worked picot edgings. But I’ve never really fallen in love with them. Until now.
Maybe it’s the yarn– leftover Drops Alpaca (the white) and Alpaca with a Twist Baby Twist (the orange). Both soft as butter with a subtle halo. Or it could be the weight and glint of the glass beads. Or the drape of the piece. Whatever it is I am completely enchanted by these cuffs. The pattern is Mrs. Beeton. I’ve known about this pattern since it first came out in, but never could find a person to knit them for. They seemed too fussy. Too impractical. Too purely decorative.
And then I found myself wracking my brain trying to find a gift for my good friend Lynn and I realized that these were perfect for her. Lynn is the kind of person that Dresses. If choosing between looking good and being comfortable, looking good wins each time. She comes from a generation that didn’t wear jeans. Women didn’t wear pants. She loves to dress well and she is a master at it. I knew she would like and appreciate these cuffs. I knew she would actually wear them. And I knew that I had the yarn for them in my stash.
As I set out to knit them I was worried that the pattern might be hopelessly fiddly. And it is fiddly. But in a completely worth it type of way. Not a fling the project across the room type of way.
Getting started was the hardest part. The pattern calls for size 11 seed beads on the bottom bell cuff to be threaded on fingering weight yarn. This was impossible. I could not find a beading needle that was small enough to pass through the head but with a large enough eye to thread the yarn through. After trying 4 or 5 different combinations and methods I gave up and threaded the size 8 beads on instead. Once worked the cast in and started on the ruffle I was surprised at how easy the pattern was. This pattern provides a lot of interest for a relatively small effort– it’s not hard, it doesn’t take very much yarn and the hardest part is getting started.
This time of year I tend to go a little crazy baking everything I can. The holidays are a wonderful excuse to try new recipes. Something I’ve had my eye on, usually. Something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Last night it was homemade marshmallows.
I’ve had handmade marshmallows a few times at restaurants (like Sante here in Spokane) and always enjoyed their delicacy. I like the idea of being able to choose my own flavorings and adjust the sugar level to my liking. So, when I came across a recipe for marshmallows in a past issue of Bon Appetit magazine I decided now was the time to try it.
It turned out to be really simple. I made a layered marshmallow, lemon flavor on the bottom, and coconut on the top. For each you simmer the flavorings (lemon juice and coconut milk, respectively) with sugar and corn syrup until it reaches 230 degrees– at a point where the mixture is bubbling up and foaming, then add them to gelatin dissolved in water and beat them on high speed in a stand mixer until soft peaks form. Then you pour the fluff into a pan lined with parchment paper and let it cool. I made the lemon layer first, let it cool, then added the coconut layer. It didn’t take more than a few minutes to cool because the mixture is mostly cool when you pour it into the pan. I was surprised at how vigorously the mixture had to be beaten to get to the right consistency though. I don’t think my hand mixture could have done the job. This is one of the times when my stand mixer was absolutely indispensable.
And then the coconut layer
Once the marshmallows cooled I lifted the parchment paper out of the pan and placed them, topside down, onto the butcher block that I had sprinkled and then smeared with powdered sugar. I was glad I didn’t skip that step. The marshmallows were cool but very sticky. Once I carefully pulled the parchment paper off, I smeared the top with powdered sugar too and then cut the marshmallows into 1″x1″ squares. Then I set about rolling any unpowdered edges in powdered sugar and put them in a container. I placed wax paper between the layers since the sticky factor was still pretty high.
When I was done my butcher block was covered in powdered sugar and bits of stuck on marshmallow.
Recipe for Blood Orange and Coconut Marshmallows is at epicurious.com
Yesterday was another day when I questioned why I was out in the slush. My feet sunk and then slipped backward a little with each step: sink, slide, push, step, sink, slide, push, step. Several times I had to readjust my balance midstride to avoid falling in the wet, cold, granules. When I started my run I had planned on running a little over 3 miles but by the time I crossed the Post Street bridge I thought, “well, I can do 4. Maybe 5.” As I climbed the hill under the Monroe Street bridge I knew that the next mile was going to be slushy. I knew it was going to be a challenge for my hips and my back. But I also knew that I would feel better for having made it.
So I pressed on. It was eerily empty once I got past the new business district at Kendall Yards. I kept a close eye on the river side of the trail as I ran. My second biggest fear while running is being surprised by someone. Normally there are other walkers on the trail but not this week– not with the arctic chill, followed by epic slush right before Christmas.
By the time I made it back to the Y I was satisfied with my run and sore in other than usual places (low back, hips and left knee.) Yesterday was much like many other days in my running life– there is no why. To quote Scott Jurek– sometimes you just do things.
These were a last minute “I want to make something for Lori but what will I make her, oh yeah, I have that purple Cascade 128 and I could make mittens and, oh look! Those are pretty!” Type of project. I decided that I would make this gift easy by just knitting to the pattern and not worrying about sizing or modifying. I didn’t even knit a gauge swatch. I knit all the way through the first mitten.
Then I knit the second. And that’s where I ran into two problems: one, I ran out of yarn. I knew that I would probably run out so I had a plan in mind, and two, I had knit the two mittens differently. I had screwed up on one or both. When I scrutinized both mittens I can to the conclusion that I had knit them both wrong, in different way.
So I unraveled both down to the third row and reknit them. It was, at that point that I realized that I hadn’t originally knit the first mitten wrong. When I reknit both mittens I accidentally skipped the first 6 rounds of the cuff. But, by that time I did not have the heart to frog the mittens. In addition they were both now knit the same way and by making the cuffs shorter, my yarn went farther. So, I left them.
The rest of the knitting went pretty smoothly. The pattern is very well written. It’s clear and even gives you clear guidelines on where to place the embroidery. And they really are lovely.
Yarn: Cascade 128, Italian plum, about 70 yards that were leftover from my Bryan Mawr skirt (ravelry id: tiltedwhirled); about 120 yards of Cascade 220 Quattro that I have had in my stash for years
Needles: size 9 dpn’s
Pattern: Olla Mittens from knitty.com, medium
One last note: I am not sure if the designer intended for me to work each leaf motif separately or to use the same length of yarn for one whole cuff. If she intended the latter, then I used about 4 times as much yarn for the embroidery section as the pattern indicates. Either way, I found that I had much fewer ends to weave in by measuring out enough yarn for 2 embroidery sections at once, rather than working each section separately. When I tried to measure out enough yarn for 3 sections it was too long and too unwieldy to work with.
Sometimes the best meals are filling, familiar and fast. I feel that way about spaghetti and meatballs. It takes only a few ingredients (especially if you buy the sauce) and about 30 minutes from start to finish.
- 2 c marinara sauce
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 c onion, chopped fine
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
- 1/4 c scallions, minced
- 1/4 c parsley or cilantro or a mix of both, sliced fine
- 1 1/4 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
- 8 oz. pasta
Place all of the ingredients in a medium sized bowl and mix thoroughly. Then take a ping pong ball sized chunk of the mixture and roll it into a ball. Repeat until you have no more ground beef left. Turn a large pan with a rim on to medium. Cook meatballs, turning occasionally, until they are browned on all sides. Then add the sauce and cook briefly, stirring to make sure all the meatballs are coated with sauce. When the sauce is warm and the meatballs are cooked through take them off the heat.
While the meatballs cook, heat the pasta water to a boil and cook the pasta to the desired doneness.
Homemade Marinara, if you have the time:
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- I 1 tbl dried oregano or 1/4 c chopped, fresh oregano
- 2 cans diced tomatoes or 1 can diced tomatoes and 1 c. of chopped fresh tomatoes
Brown the onions in a pan on medium heat, add the carrots and Cooke for 2-3 minutes. Then add celery and allow to cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add garlic and oregano and cook briefly. Then add the tomatoes and salt and pepper. Actually, I usually salt things a little bit with each addition but if you haven’t yet, add the salt now. Stir, then turn down the sauce so that it maintains a simmer. Summer for 30 minutes or so. If the sauce get dry, add a little stock or water. At the end you can either serve it as is or, if you have a kid like mine who doesn’t like chunks in his sauce, you can use an immersion blender to blend the sauce until smooth.
Serve the meatballs over pasta.
I am a maker of things. I have been so for most of my life. One of my earliest memories is of my mother, sitting on the couch in the dark living room of our trailer, embroidering tea towels. Her sewing basket piled full of DMC cotton thread sat beside her as she pulled the needle through the fabric, stitching over the faint blue lines of the pre-stamped pattern. I would have been 3 because my mom was pregnant with my sister. A few years later I remember my first attempt at sewing– picking pink thread even though my mom assured me that it didn’t matter what color thread I used. Pulling the needle, clumsily, slowly, through the fabric. Then in and out again with the needle.
Being a maker of things has also made me a giver of things. I have given away countless handknits, embroidery, books and jewelry over the years as well as decoupage boxes, handmade paper cards and hand sewn needle cases. The experience of giving away things is like giving away a little of myself each time. Each piece represents an idea that I had, and the time that I spent making it, the joy, and the frustration, of creating something that I believe will please someone that I care about. Each carries with it the work of my fingers and heart and mind. I care deeply about the objects that I create because within them is a piece of me. And if I’ve given you something it means that I care enough about you to share a small piece of myself with you.
In the act of giving away small pieces of myself I have also learned how to give freely. And by that I mean that when I give away something I have made I give it without expectation. I hope that it pleases the recipient because that is my intention but I have learned to accept that I do not have control over whether they like what I have given them or treat those items with respect. And that is what I mean when I say that give freely. I do it because the act of creating the object and giving it away gives me joy. I recognize that if the gift isn’t appreciated that I must let any hurt that I feel slide off my shoulders like rain running down a gutter. To do anything else would extinguish the happiness I derive from the process.
Is always the hardest one. Especially this time of year. I’m always cold but when it’s well below freezing? It takes a real mental feat to convince myself to step outside and subject myself to the kinds of temperatures that make your face go numb and hurt. That cause my feet to go numb for the first mile or 2 until the pounding on the pavement forces my body to pump blood to my toes. So cold that sometimes I can’t feel my hands for the first half hour. So cold I can feel the wind through 3 layers of fleece, drying and cooling the sweat on my chest and arms. So cold it’s hard to take a deep breath.
But then there is the beauty of it. The still quiet of snow. The softening of my footsteps beneath me. The absence of other walkers, runners, people. And the cold itself. Hard. Sharp. Like a concrete barrier at its worst. On the cold days I feel like I am most inside myself. Enveloped in my own world of forward motion — step, step, step, step, step. And on and on. Thousands of times. The only thing I have to do is take that first step out the door.
I was scrolling through my facebook feed the other night and a recipe popped up for eggs baked in phyllo dough. The stuff you use when you make baklava. And I thought, what a great idea! So I set off to make my own version. Except I only had 2 of the ingredients that the recipe called for (the eggs and the phyllo dough) and I was committed to the idea of not going to the grocery store again until Thursday (and it was only Monday.) so I did what I always do when faced with the dilemma of what to make for dinner with the stuff I have on hand. I treat it like a puzzle: what do I have and how does it fit together? Currently on hand this time: scallions, half a red onion, celery, one carrot, 2 zucchini, a bag of cilantro, ginger, garlic, salsa, various sauces and dressings and one container of sour cream that is technically past its date, but has no visible mold, cheddar, feta that is probably moldy, and cotija cheese (I have a hard time throwing away food.) Based on this list, and my desire to use the cotija and the sour cream before either one goes truly, definitively, bad, I decided on the following:
Baked Egg Cups
- 6 sheets of phyllo dough
- 1 tbl. butter, melted
- 4 eggs
- 4 tbl. cotija cheese
- 1/4 c. scallions, chopped fine
- 1/4 c. cilantro, minced
- Sour cream
Note: I baked these in 4 small, oven safe ramekins but you could adapt this recipe to a casserole pan pretty easily, I would think. Or you could use a muffin tin instead.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pull up a sheet of phyllo dough and rip it in half. Place in the ramekin so that some hangs over the side. Brush with melted butter. Add another layer of phyllo crosswise over the first. Brush with butter. Add a third layer of phyllo on top of the first two and brush with butter. Repeat the process with the remaining ramekins.
In a mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, cotija, scallions, cilantro, salt and pepper. Go easy on the salt since the cheese is salty. Once everything is well mixed, pour the filling into the individual ramekins, then fold any overhanging dough onto the top of the filling. Place in the oven (I put mine right on the oven rack) and bake for 15-18 minutes. Once the eggs are set and the phyllo is browned remove from the oven and pop the little egg filled pdoufh cups out of the ramekins. Top with sour cream and salsa and eat.
The great thing about this recipe is it’s easy, fast and endlessly variable. You could do goat cheese and leeks. Bacon and blue cheese. Cheddar and sausage. And the best part? My son ate it and liked it.