Thursday, March 13, 2014


So, Life has whooooooshed by again, and in doing so, Stitches West 2014 passed in grand style.

Stitches West?  Only part of the Knitting Universe--the hugest fiber arts confab in the Western Hemisphere, dontchaknow.  For five days every February, thousands of knitters descend upon the Santa Clara Convention Center and commit the dirtiest most breathtaking feats of retail consumption imaginable.

In addition, tons of classes by awesome, famous knitters are offered. The Lily Chin Bust Darts Class Incident of 2013, in which a certain correspondent, after spending a frustrated hour and a half attempting to suss the physics of knitting into thin air, suddenly exclaimed in revelation, "Bust Darts are Heel Flaps for Boobs!" shall live in infamy.

There is also drinking.

In quantity.

This correspondent also moonlights occasionally on The Knitmore Girls and Knit Knit Cafe Podcasts and as such played Sherpa and Sidekick for the weekend.  Over the preceding months, several podcasts, including Throwdown initiators The Knotty Girls Knitcast competed in collecting hats for the fabulous charity Halos of Hope, an organization which distributes hats to cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.  It may have become a bit competitive.  We may also have collected several hundred hats at the Stitches Meet 'n' Greet in the Purlescence Yarns booth alone.  Knitters are awesome.

Know who else is awesome?  Sponsors. They liven up a charity contest like nobody's business. Several cool companies sent prizes to the podcasts for their listeners (see podcaster's show notes for details), and one special sponsor did a little something for us.

Meet Namaste:

They create absolutely beautiful, purposefully vegan, fantabulous bags, accessories and knitting paraphernalia.  Their bags are so thoughtfully designed and gorgeous that I already own five of them, plus a couple of accessories, knitting project snap-top bags and a needle case. The one I just received in the mail, (full disclosure) as a gift, is the Harlow.  I already own one in Pumpkin Spice, it is my favorite of the entire line, and I will SHOW you why:

I carry a lot of stuff.  You all do, and we all know why.

And this is how it all fits in a beautiful cross-body bag:

Yep, that's everything, cleared and zipped.  I haven't even filled the two sides or the back zipper pocket.  Those two side pockets you spy there, left and right, will hold an additional TWO regular size water bottles.  This thing is so elegantly designed I actually sigh when I look at it. Yes, this one was provided, but I am a long-standing Namastarian, and when I am stopped in shops and parking lots (yes, it really happens), I will actually disgorge my bag and show people just how cool it is. Check them out at and commence squealing and toe-tingling.
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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hogmanayummy: Pork and Beans

When last we parted, it was New Year's Day, I made Apple Crisp and zoomed up the road to my parents' house for dinner.

New Year's Dinner is Blacked Eyed Peas and Corn Bread.  

It's fairly traditional, all you southern folks know the good fortunes of ushering in a new year with the heavenly unctuousness of hog jowls. GingerMan enjoys it as our own sort of Hogmanay celebration. Pork, it's Good Luck and Good Sense for a Good Year.

All I remember is partaking of this venerated concoction on the First of January after we became a family nearly 35 years ago.  As we sat down to dinner this year, my father casually mentioned that my mother only learned the dish to make me feel at home because another branch of the family used to make it.  I have almost no memory of that family, and certainly no memory of this tradition, but my mom had apparently interrogated my dad about past holiday observances and devised a plan. A hammy, delicious plan.  Served with sweet cornbread and honey butter, ooooohhhhh yah.

There are many versions, this is another Certified Mom Recipe. The best runner-up looks to be Mark Bittman's from How To Cook Everything. He includes a discussion of the Bean Debate, one worth having.  We are always told beans should be soaked overnight, and since I had overnight to play with, I did it.  

But  his arguments for not soaking are compelling--no longer shall we be slaves to burdensome timing edicts! According to several sources, the unsoaked beans should just be added to the pot one half-hour earlier than the recipe states. Next time I will declare my freedom, trying Bittman's slightly different version, and adding the beans earlier in the process, without soaking, to see if this method, well, pans out.

So, behold, the Southerner's Delight, another dish from the back of a brain now writ somewhat large, according to this year's theme, Write It Down. May it bring you Good Luck and Good Eatin'!

New Year's Day Black Eyed Peas and Ham Hocks

2 Meaty Ham Hocks--Have your butcher "crack" or slice them in half so more of the marrow and gelatin renders, also it's easier to remove the meat from the bones.

Two Hocks, "Cracked"

32oz Black Eyed Peas *Soaked Overnight for this recipe
3 Medium Carrots
3 Stalks Celery
1 Medium Onion--Red is quite good here
8 Cups Water
2 tsp Dried Mustard Powder
2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1. Place Ham Hocks, Carrots, Celery, Onion, Spices and Water into pot, raise to boil, then Simmer on Low-Medium for 1hr 15min

2. Add Peas, Simmer 1hr (or 1hr 45min for unsoaked)

3. Leaving Peas on Simmer, Remove Hocks to bowl. 
4. When cool to touch, remove meat from bones and add back to pot.

5. Simmer Peas and Ham until sauce is a thick, soup-like consistency.  How thick depends on how you will serve.  If you prefer to serve over cornbread, leave it a bit thinner.  If, like me, you like your cornbread on the side, by all means simmer it down a bit more to chowder-style  thickness. Keep in mind:  All the wonderful stuff which renders from the ham bones is also a wonderful thickener, so by tomorrow, if there is any left over, it will be well firmed up--do not reduce your peas down too much today! If you find it a bit dense after an overnight stay in the fridge, begin to warm it first, then add small amounts of water to restore the desired viscosity.  Small. Amounts.  The heat will also relax it, so let them work together.  This is a powerful lesson in gelling agents which will serve you any time you avail yourself of leftover bone-y goodness (beef, chicken, pork) for stocks, broths and soups--reduce carefully and reconstitute wisely!

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Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Last Words, First Words...

Last Words for a Long Year:

Seen on Facebook on New Years Eve:

Really funny story, this is sort of how GingerMan and I actually first met.  I was managing a local WaldenBooks and had just stocked a trade paperback copy of Ender's Game. Trade paperbacks are the soft-back editions closer in size to hard backs, so it was a mistake that the company sent us this one, and I was grumbling about it to my cohort, Bern, (yes, the progenitor of my Inner Grumpy Old Man).  A guy walks in, asks for Ender's Game, and I explain this is the only copy I have in stock.  He had just moved to the country and needed something.  So he took it.  Two years later, when we were moving in together, I found the book.

Me: "Huh, a TP of Ender's Game, that's unusual!"
GM: "Yah, I bought that at Walden's when I first got here."
Me: "I sold you that book!"
GM: "You were cute."
Me:  "Right Answer."

New Words for a Squeaky New Year:

Write. It. Down.

As I'm writing this, a double-double batch of Apple-Cranberry Crisp is baking in the oven.  It's hobbled together from my memories and recipes from America's Test Kitchen and The Joy of Cooking.  Crisp  was the first thing I cooked from instinct, over the holiday break when I was 14 or 15 years old.  It was Apple-Raisin and I completely made it up out of reverse-engineered memory.  I remember so clearly the semi-dark kitchen of a relative's house in the Northern California countryside--a house made entirely from one redwood tree harvested from the Hoover estate--a tiny kitchen with a wood-burning stove over in the living room we could proof bread on top of.  

I did it on the sly, at first just mooching around the place, looking for something to do, then spying some stray apples.  What do you do with apples?  I can't make pie, I know nothing about pie.  What was that thing with the crumbly stuff on top? What did that taste like? I wonder what was in it? I wonder...

So I started slicing apples and adding spices and a little OJ and, of course, butter.  Then the topping, which was a fiddly affair involving guesswork about flour and brown sugar and oats and pinching a lot of butter into the mix.

And the smell was the smell I smell right now.  But I forgot to write it down.  Then and now.  

I was going to write you a very lovely treatise on why you should watch three versions of A Christmas Carol (the Disney animated version with Jim Carrey, the Muppets version and the Patrick Stewart one), and I didn't write it down when I expounded upon the subject at a Christmas party.  Therefore, I ran out of time.  Suddenly it's 01-01-14, not 12-13-13. As in cooking, math counts as well as words.

I need to start writing down things small and large, some sort of actual diary, a line or two, even if, as last year's did, almost every line goes all Eeyore-y.  Because some will go sweet, and I want to share them, like finding out I sold The Love of My Life his first book in America.  He was very cute, too.

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