Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Over the river and through the woods

Thanksgiving preparations are moving right along.

I got everything on my list, even wine and port and Calvados, diced and dried the bread for dressing, and made the cranberry polenta tart (recipe from the New York Times, November 14, 2007).

Tonight is vegetable prep. The turkey breast is thawed and in the fridge, and I still need to see to the linens and silver and crystal, but as it's just the two of us for dinner that won't take very long.

The Hope sweater is still moving along. Slow-but-steady. I am Turtle Knits.

Tomorrow I'm still getting up close to my usual time (5:00...might push it back to 6:00) so that I can go running before I launch myself into dinner workings.

I also have a confession to make:

I listened to Christmas music last night. (And two productions of the Lux Radio Theater...Miracle on 34th Street and Holiday Affair.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Austen and Sayers and Wodehouse

Oh, my.

I've been reading a lot of P.G. Wodehouse lately. I've also been dipping into books about him, and in so doing, I noticed that he appeared to have borrowed a few names from Miss Austen. Bingley and D'Arcy (Darcy), no less.

His style influenced so many people and writers, too. That is, the knuts and others whom Wodehouse kept alive in his time live on now because of his brilliant way of turning a stereotype into a character that fascinates.

Dorothy L. Sayers was a scholar, in every way. But she loved humor, and it shows in the Lord Peter Wimsey books. (Wimsey, for heaven's sake, as a surname.) For the most part she keeps it subtle, barring the opening of the first book, but she can't resist letting a character describe Lord Peter in Murder Must Advertise as "Bertie Wooster in horn-rims". He's in disguise, thus the glasses.

One of the slackers hanging out in the secretaries' offices is reading Wodehouse, too. Even immediately after Peter is at his most serious some of Bertie's mannerisms will creep in; I love that.

I think it's time to re-read the Wimsey canon chronologically again.

In even more frivolous news, I present you with a sample of my contribution to the ornament exchange:

Monday, November 24, 2008

Blogstalking: Favorite Breakfast/What gets me going in the mornings?

1. What is my favorite breakfast?

Favorite breakfast? I could be listing favorite breakfasts for the next several pages....but here's a top contender:

Grits and grillades, plus buttered rye toast or cream biscuits and champagne cocktails.

The above is a Southern dish I got hooked on when I lived in Virginia.

To make it I pan saute medium thick pork chops til brown & let them rest in a slow oven. Next: I caramelize one medium yellow onion for each pork chop. Deglaze the pan with beef stock and boil until it's syrupy.

Serve the onions and sauce over the pork chops, with cheese grits and biscuits or toast on the side.

...I have this every couple of years; it's very rich. It's wonderful for Christmas breakfast.

2. What gets me going in the morning?

It takes a few things. Three are important.

1. Stretching (combination of yoga, Pilates and what-have-you for 20 minutes to an hour).

2. Good coffee. French roast, beans just ground, made by French filter drip method.

3. Time. Time to sit and relax with my breakfast, a book or the paper, my knitting, and/or the cats.

Friday, November 21, 2008


The Hope sweater is coming along. I've taken to bringing it as my travel knitting. That way I can get one or two rows in at lunch or in the car. (The stole is my Mindless Knitting. I work on that at home, the cats burrowed underneath as I knit.)

I've just finished row 37 on the front of the sweater. Some fudging, as the pattern is a pixilization of a poster. Arty, definately. Not precise as Fair Isle would be.

Normally I don't fudge colorwork or pattern stitches; it makes me crazy. But (apologies to the designer) it isn't as necessary here to be strict. The overall effect is the thing, and it's still good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Holiday Menus: Thanksgiving

Wait! (Knitting content: I'm at row 32 on the sweater, and did another pattern repeat on the stole. There.)

Yes, I'm food-obsessed; all the more so now that I have my own kitchen to use as a prep space.

For the first time since our marriage, DH and I will be dining at home for Thanksgiving. It's been fun going out to historic inns in New England for the dinner, listening to OTR as we drive. And we'll do it again, but this year I get to cook!

It will be just the two of us (and two begging Siamese), and I've got a good idea of the menu now.

Turkey breast
Turkey gravy
Mashed garlic potatoes
Dressing (as it's on the side and not in the bird)
Green beans
Julienned carrots & baby corn
*either* Cauliflower in cheese sauce OR Mushrooms gratinée
German coleslaw
Sourdough dinner rolls (from Seven Stars bakery, in Providence)
Cranberry bread

We'll drink a chardonnay, and I am still trying to decide what to make for dessert. I want pumpkin and hazelnut cheesecake or cranberry polenta tart or apple whiskey crumble pie.

I'd love to make all three, but as we'll still have leftovers from DH's birthday cake it's time to pick and choose.

For me a holiday dinner at home also means polishing the silver, getting out the Limoges and washing the crystal. Not to mention being sure that the linens are spot-free and properly ironed...all of those details mean a lot to me.

I like the ceremony of it all.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Home Cooking

One of the most comforting things a house can hold is good smells. I have a keen sense of smell, and a scent can take me back years in only seconds. Carnations will always make me think of St. Patrick's Day, because when I was 7 years old my mother and grandmother decided to order some (green, of course) to celebrate the great day.

Tonight for the first time in our new house I'll be coming home to pot roast. I started it last night and it's been cooking since then.

Pot Roast

1 pot roast (rump, for example)
1 small yellow onion for every few pounds of meat
crimini mushrooms (optional)
1-3 bay leaves
beef stock almost to cover
3 or 4 black peppercorns
2-3 cloves garlic
red wine
olive oil


Brown the roast well on all sides, preferably in an iron skillet. Place in dutch oven or crock pot.

Add a glaze of olive oil and the onion(s), thinly sliced to the skillet. When very dark brown, add to the roast.

If using the mushrooms, add to the same pan, with a bit more oil if needed. (If not, deglaze the pan now with red wine, boil down, and add to the roast.)

Sautée the mushrooms until they've begun to brown and add to the pot. Now deglaze the pan and add the reduced liquid to the rest. Put in a few pieces of raw onion, if you like.

Pour enough stock over the contents to come up 2/3 or more.

Add several bruised cloves of garlic, the peppercorns, and the bay leaf or leaves.

Simmer 6 hours or more at a low temperature. Add peeled carrots and potatoes two to three hours before your end time.(Can be prepared ahead up to this point; if so, cool and remove any congealed fat from the surface before continuing.)

Remove the roast and vegetables and strain the liquid. Reduce the liquid over high heat until it's to your taste. It will be thickened but not syrupy.

Season if necessary, with black pepper, freshly cracked, and sea salt.

Dish out the meat (falling apart at this point) and vegetables and serve some sauce over, the rest on the side if you like.

Leftovers are wonderful. Make beef pot pie, fillings for turnovers, soup, or casseroles. Or use the meat for sandwiches.

Monday, November 17, 2008

S-L-O-W Going

I hate intarsia.

Have I mentioned this?

(It bears repeating: I. Hate. Intarsia.)

But I want the damn sweater, so I will Persist. Urk. There's already been a short frogging session, but things are going a bit better.

I have an odd problem with it. Most people knit too tightly when doing color work. I overcompensate, and end up with spots a semi could get through. Yes, blocking it will definitely improve matters, but it's not a miracle worker.

At this point I am on row...27 or 28, I think. Out of over 100 or so on the chart, not counting the ribbing and the last of the neck shaping.

Rather than whipping through, the way I do with one color, I'm using rather more deliberation that I need with a new lace pattern. Why is it that good lace technique sticks with me, while I almost have to re-learn color work every time I tackle a new project?

It's to keep me humble, no doubt. It's working.

Maybe I should make my deadline January 19th!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Kitten!

It's November 14, which means it's my little sister's birthday.

Of course, she's got two kids of her own, Patrick (11) and Sean (7). I won't say how old she is, but she's still younger than me!

I wish I could see you today, kid, and take you out for a celebration.

We'll have that sisters-only vacation someday...right?

In spite of the wrangling when we were kids, and the differences, I know I can always count on you to get it, and you know you can count on me. I'm very happy that you're my sister.

Have a splendid day.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stocking the freezer

Today we got something I have wanted my entire life: a chest freezer.

Our near neighbors when I was growing up, the Carnrights, had one. To me it was magical. Mrs. C. froze lots of things, but what struck me most was her stock of flash-frozen fruit.

We don't have the red currant bushes yet, but I plan to stock the freezer with lots of other wonderful things. Baked goods! I have a lovely excuse, with the holidays coming up.

I'll be making desserts for Thanksgiving, corn bread, biscuits, and Christmas cookies.

When good meats are on sale I'll re-package them into two servings each, or save roasts. Leftovers, too.

And I'll be able to make stock ahead, and freeze it in ice cube trays so I can take out just a little at a time.

Not to mention French onion soup. Stews. Chili (without the beans; I'll put those in after it's thawed). Marinara sauce. Individual stuffed shells....I will have a ball.

It's been so long since I've even had a decent freezer as part of a fridge...four and a half years, in fact, that this is a real gift! (It's also a great way to quarantine suspect yarn; bag it, put in for a couple of days. Take it out for a day or two; put it in again for a couple of days to catch anything hatching, and you're safe.)

In knitting news, I did cast on for the front yesterday. The intarsia is slow going, especially with two cats completing for lap space and occasionally forgetting good manners to bat at the three or four working yarns tangling around their faces. I've already had to tink back once, but it's something I caught in the next row. It could have been much worse.

Tonight I will bake the ornament cookies. The dough is chilling now. They need to dry for a couple of days before I decorate .

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day

Or, if you're in the UK, Armistice Day, I believe. In other places, Remembrance Day.

In any case, it is the 11th day of the 11th month and hearkens back to the armistace of the Great War (WWI).

Thank you to all the veterans out there, past and present.

Specifically, I would like to thank my father, my husband, my father-in-law, my great uncle, my ex-husband and his father, and all those whom I know personally for serving in the U.S. miliary services. (Happy birthday, too, Nathan.)

If you are interested or curious in the history of this day, and about other veterans, go to this website:

Excuse the lack of a proper link; Blogger, for some reason, is making them invisible when the code is added.

Just copy and paste it into your browser window.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Flying off the needles

Knitting mojo is BACK. And about time.

The Obama Hope sweater is racing along. The back is done, and I will finish the sleeves today. Perhaps I'll even be able to cast on for the front (see, I tricked myself...when the front is finished, the sleeves will be all set).

I should take the time to make my ornaments for the exchange in Michigan, though. I will be making non-edible "gingerbread cookies". I want to use my reindeer cookie cutter, and fabric paint, with red beads for the nose, black for the eye, and tiny bells for the harness strap.

The organizer sent a link to some of the works in progress, and they're wonderful. No kitschy uglies in this exchange!

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Back to knitting

The "Hope" sweater is underway.

I picked up the yarn yesterday; I'm using Lion Brand Wool in navy, the rest is Patons, I think.

It is so wonderful to be able to find inexpensive wool yarn in the stores! I have nothing against boutique yarns, especially silk (!), but being a bargain hunter at heart, I love finding the "real" thing for less than the GNP.

I cast on last night for the back. It's looking good, gauge and tension both, and I am already nearly 15 rows into the stockinette. This weekend will, I hope, leave me lots of knitting time.

Some time next week I'll post some pictures. WIP! (The other goal for this weekend is re-organization and clean-up of the work room. Somehow all of the junk landed in there while we were tidying up for our party. DH also found more yarn when he was putting away his clothes.)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes, we did!

And to celebrate President-Elect Obama's election and elegant, heartfelt and dignified speech, I will be knitting this:

It's from a book about to come out [Picture Perfect Knits], but I am using the free pattern. I am not usually an intarsia fan, but this, I think, is worth the struggle.

I'll even be spending...for this sweater I need yarn that's not in the stash. I won't use the acrylic, though. Ugh. Lion Brand has wool—REAL wool—yarn now, though, and I will, I hope, be using that.

Yes, we can.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Love _____ Because ______

Hello, Blogstalkers!

I love vintage because it was built to last.

The era I love best is the one that produced Art Deco (20s and 30s in round reckoning). "Planned obsolescence" was a thing of the future.

In our home we have vintage chairs, tables, lamps, fabrics, clothing, appliances, even magazines. (I admit the magazines crumble occasionally. But they were meant to last until the next paper drive or fire in the fireplace.)

My ca. 1938 Glenwood stove is a wonder. The heat is even. The construction is sturdy. It's pleasant to look at, and it gives me extra workspace; I can pull down a cover over unused burners. If we had the space in the kitchen I could also use the heater (but it's too close to the wall).

I love my 1933 GE Monitor Top fridge. It is the best. Everything stays icy cold. Nothing goes bad in two days (I've had several modern fridges that made a habit of that).

My vintage clothing is flattering and well-made. It fits me the way that modern clothing does not (the dress I'm wearing in my post-Halloween post is from the early-to-mid 1930s).

As for old movies...well, they were the very best in escapist entertainment, not to mention elegant design.

Not all of it was grand. Segregation. Lack of antibiotics. Not everyone could afford that fridge or stove. Let's not forget the Depression. Still, I love vintage for all of the above reasons and more.


PLEASE, cast your ballot today.

Yes, I know who I'm voting for:

Senator Obama.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Post Party Mortem

Yes, I had time to carve the Jack O'Lantern.

It was a lovely party, and all of our guests had a good time. They were even good sports about being made to read a radio play from "The Shadow". We had just enough actors for all the parts.

Here is a link to the album:

There are post-Halloween photos of the kitchen, too.