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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Monday, November 18, 2013


“You seem more your ‘Technicolor’ self lately.” says Jedi Jasmin.

And it’s true, for which I’m thankful.

It’s also true that now I must begin digging out of a Pit of Many Messes created by Not Coping for six months.  It’s nearly as daunting as the flat wasteland I have, until recently, inhabited. Physical and psychic piles of undone things which seem so menacing they might eat me alive.  I have no idea how to solve some them, adding embarrassment and bewilderment to the Mess, which will eventually require awkward, purple-faced conversations with people I will, ultimately, grossly disappoint.

In the meantime, I am also thankful for many things, even in the midst of the morass and funk (btw, excellent band name)...

1. GingerMan

2. Food, House, Cars, Essentials

3. Family Dinners and Holidays

4. Dessert

5. Coffee

6. Parents and Friends

7. Knitting

8. Bed

9. Technology, Movies and Music

10. Health and Insurance

11. Our rockin’ Hair Guy, Eric Ringo

Never in exactly that order at all times, but as needs arise.  GingerMan is always at the top. 

I am very grateful that we have enough food, clean water, toilet paper, heating and and live in a safe house

l love my family: My Parents; Our closest friends with whom we share Family Dinner and Games Night; My Knitting family (who saved my ever-lovin’ mind when we all met five years ago); and our hair dood, Eric--that rare creature, a rad stylist and one of the most open-hearted, optimistic, warm, compassionate people I’ve known.

I’m thankful for nights out at fab restaurants, dessert any time I want BECAUSE I’M A GROWN-UP, and COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE COFFEE. 

I’m thankful for technology that keeps us connected with family back in Northern Ireland.  And friends in England, Portland, Philadelphia, Southern California, sometimes Thailand, really anywhere.  As Louis C.K. says, it’s a frikkin’ miracle and you’re holding it right there in your hand.  Also good for communicating with moms trapped under sleeping toddlers.  A frikkin’ miracle.

I’m thankful for my Tempurpedic bed and pillow.  And my Prius which gets about 44MPG.  I’m thankful we have things that work and we don’t have to worry so much about stuff. Or Stuff.  (See also: Clean Water and Toilet Paper--Section Heading: Major Anxieties.) 

I am so, so thankful that despite this year’s minor debacle, aside from some dental work , we are completely healthy, and every day we have that I am grateful for.  I am thankful for great health, dental and vision insurance, and our truly awesome team of doctors who have cared for us for most of the last 12 years.

I am grateful for Holiday Dinners and Knitting Days.  For Music and Movies and Fun.  For every single thing I’m able to snatch back from the grasping darkness--to laugh and feel Technicolor again. 

If you are reading this, I am thankful you have come on this journey--here’s our Thanksgiving Menu so you can Nom-Along! Please chime in to share YOUR menu’s favorites!

Main:  Barbecued Beef Short Ribs and Pork Baby Back Ribs

Sides:  Rachel Ray’s Bourbon-Pecan Smashed Sweet Potatoes (go Google them suckahs, they will change your life)
America’s Test Kitchen Barbecue Baked Beans
Gigi’s Brussels Sprouts with Bacon
Mom’s Green Beans
Corn Bread
Colleen’s Pasta Salad

Dessert: Pie, Pie, Pie.  Mine will be the Cooking Light Pecan Date Pie, which I also just discovered can be found on Teh Interwebs.  I know, Dates. Buy whole pitted, chop them up tiny, and they melt right in. HOWEVER: Use real crust.  It is Fab. U. Lush.  I make it every year, it kills me every time, and I prefer it to regular pecan pie.  

If you happen to show up round the end of the evening, feel free to bring a sweetie of some sort or you will be denied admission unless I reeeaaaallllly love you.

But I love you all, in all our Technicolor glory.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013


I was once frivolous with persimmons. Injudicious with their use.  Didn’t use ‘em fast enough? Oh well, Grandma had a tree, there were PLENTY.  Want a REAL fruit cake?  Here’s persimmon cake--juicy, moist but firm, full of complimentary golden raisins or currants.   OH!!!! And the COOKIES!!!  I would scatter these to the masses without heed to the coming apocalypse. 


Our county has fungus. It killed Grandma’s 30+ year-old persimmon tree, and with it, a piece of my heart.  Persimmon salad and baked goods are some of the first memories I have of my Mom and Grandmother’s cooking, the first times we baked together.  Poor, dead tree, it couldn’t have known how rash my youth had truly been.

So now I am older, greedier, and have to buy the sweet, precious beauties like the rest of you suckers.  Except for one looooovely woman, Purple Kathy, a fellow knitter and gustatorial maven.  Also, Kathy the Persimmon Tree Owner.  You heard me.  

She pinged the other night and asked if anyone in the area might just want some persimmons. She doesn’t live far away, I’m surprised she didn’t hear me howling from home.  She also delivered to my doorstep, an extra service atop an honor to which my past persimmon indiscretions leave me undeserving.  There are two major types of persimmon, Fuyu and Hachiya.  Hachiya are terrible until they are super-ultra ripe and hard to work with.  I know a few devotees, but the most widely available are the squat, round Fuyu persimmons--sweet and crisp like an apple and can be eaten out of hand if you just can’t wait.


I have now agonized over the best use of my bag of persimmons, once again risking rot in the face of indecision, so I started with salad. 


For dressing persimmons I really do prefer citrus, and the CUMIN IS ESSENTIAL.  This is a Magic Mom Product (TM).  When I was a kid, Cumin smelled like...persperation.  Then it went into dressing and onto this fruit and became a smokey, lemony, savory counterpoint to the sweet, crisp fruit that I have never forgotten and never fails to make me actually drool the moment I set eyes on even a photo of a persimmon.  It’s that good.  I added sweet curry powder for an extra trill of savory counterpoint to the fruit and always use stronger, slightly bitter greens such as mixed field greens, lighter baby kale or spinach because underneath it all, persimmon is firm with a good snap when it’s fresh. Keep it all nice and toothsome.

If you are a persimmon aficionado, you will have a preference for skins on or off. If you are an eager novice, I find them kinda chewy, so I peel them, quarter, remove any disagreeable centers and slice.  Then dress with this vinaigrette based on a standard 4-serving recipe--just use the 3:1 Oil-to-Acid ratio then math it up or down according to need. 


3 TB GOOD SALAD OIL: Favorites include Walnut, Olive, Avocado.
OPTIONAL: 1/8 tsp SWEET CURRY POWDER (I used Penzey’s Balti Curry blend)
FEW GRINDS Fresh Black Pepper

Add the nuts to the greens, dress and toss well, then TELL NO-ONE IT’S READY-- 


There are times when snorking it up yourownself is the wisest resource management policy.  

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Monday, October 21, 2013


Think this will be some heartwarming tale of culinary salvation?  
Some like it Hot, Some like it Cold, I liked it in the Trash, One Day Old.

Yup, I did it.  I trashed a whole pot of soup.

There are no post-apocalypse photos, this is the only record of the aftermath.

I used America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook’s recipe for Split Pea and Ham Soup [pg104], carefully doing the maths for a 1.5x recipe.  I procured ham hocks from my grocery’s very reliable, high-quality butcher.  The suckers were hu-uge.


But no worries, I thought they were roughly the same amount as 1.5 times the recipe (original: 3).  I followed all the directions, except for the salt.  I added the smaller, original recipe amount (1tsp) to the pot and let it go according to scripture.  


After one hour I added the carrots, etc.  


Crucially, I did not taste at this point!  Correction or abandonment could have occurred here, the hocks pulled and a re-set achieved the next day.  Nope, not me!

One half hour later I extinguished the flame, yanked the hog shanks to cool before returning the meat to the pot, and added the extra diced ham, giving the whole thing a whirl for luck.  Then I tasted.  

Salt Lake City, baby.  Bonneville Salt Flats.  Down the Ol’ Salt Mine.

This is the point where I swoop in with great advice--scientific or homespun-- such as adding a potato to remove saltiness to save dinner.  

Well, GingerMan’s lightning search of the internet proved the number one solution is, indeed, adding potato to your soup to reduce salinity.  I’m not sure how many potatoes this case would have required, but it quite possibly would have created another famine in the homeland, and--sit down for this--Irish Girl had no potatoes.  Zero inventory at 10.20pm on a Friday night.  We’ve been cutting down.  Our bloodwork looks normal, but our spud situation was dismal.

The next two suggestions were Cider Vinegar and Honey or Sugar.  I had every other sort of vinegar, and the recipe had already called for lemon, so the acidity was high.  So I went for the honey.  Did nothing for the saltiness, but I will be adding 2TB honey to the next batch because it reaaaalllly enriched the smokey flavor from the ham hocks.  

GingerMan and I stood over the pot, gazing woefully into the murky green depths and decided to give it a night.  I took it out the next day and all the marrow-y, gelatin-y, smokey ham goodness added to the earthy peas and underlying sweetness of the honey and thyme was simply divine...

Then our mouths sucked dry like a Bugs Bunny cartoon as we ate a bowlful each.

Peas Porridge in the Bin One Day Old.

Sometimes you will be brilliant.  A lot of the time you will be pretty good if you follow all the directions and learn from a few mis-steps.

Every once in a while, you gotta mis-step all the way to the trash with whatever burnt, charred, slimy, runny, salty mess you’ve concocted, make a lot of notes and try again.

Saturday 19 October:

Pease Porridge Hot...
Yesterday was Pea Soup Day again. I doubled the recipe but used two hocks due to their buxom, salty nature.  I had added extra peas to the first batch as a salt-reducing measure, to no avail, but the contrast in textures was quite nice so this go-around I added a portion of the peas later, with the carrots. I omitted all salt until having tasted at the very end, potatoes were on-hand, and both were entirely unneeded.  

Pease Porridge Cold...
The soup was fridged for the night. Let it relax, give the ham bone essence and split peas time to meld. Today's early tasting was ZOMGYUM! Rich, super-thick, smooth but chewy, just enough carrot and wicked smokey-hammy. I'm learning!

Pease Porridge in My Pot, Wiser and Older.
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Saturday, October 12, 2013


The Downstairs needs decorating...

So if the Kitchen and Living Room need painting, a Girl needs paint colors.

...If a Girl needs paint colors, she needs ideas.

...If a Girls needs ideas, she needs yarn.
And if a Girl needs to go yarn shopping, she needs to go with friends.

So if a Girl goes yarn shopping with friends for color inspiration....

She HAS to go to Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Portland!


My beloved friends Abby (KnitKnitCafe podcast) and Mary Kay Carol may have applied gentle influence and offered hostelry to seduce me into going up.  Because Portland is completely repellent all on it’s very own. (I’d drive up there again tomorrow.)

I brought the worst weather they’d seen all year.  (Sorry.)

For the Official Record, we ate at:

Pine State Biscuits, partaking of the Reggie Deluxe--A fine biscuit, a piece of fried chicken, cheese, sausage gravy, bacon and, because it's me, an egg on top:


Bread and Ink Cafe, featuring an unbelievable cinnamon roll, Lox Benedict and a Liege waffle with fruit:


Carol and I also tried the much-vaunted Dar Essalam in Wilsonville, which everyone in the whole wide world recommended.  We went for lunch, which meant we missed the Tagine they’re famous for, but reveled in the Casablanca, a dessert of a perfect phyllo pillow filled with gorgeous fruit that absolutely curled our toes:


The requisite Piggy-Girl’s Logbook being done, we did actually attend the festival as well!  

Friday I took Mary Scott Huff’s Knitting Behind the (Color) Wheel class.  If you are unfamiliar with her work, she is an unparalleled fiber artist and all-around Sassy-Ass Cat.  I would have paid just to hug her.  We started a modular envelope bag incorporating what we learned about color and coordination earlier in the morning, then in the afternoon, applied i-cord (as in ideal-cord, inspired-cord, and intelligent-cord) and a Dorset Button.  


This may have been where I fell down on my lack of sewing skills, but all around it was six sacks of fun and I had lunch with a great veteran spinner and knitter, Betty, who gave me a ride to the MiniChef where we ate, surprise, some pretty mean biscuits.

Is this all starting to swirl together?

As the heavens continued to sheet down rain, Abby and I visited my all-time favorite yarn shop, Twisted, where I scored the Perfect Kitchen Yarn. It was shortly after we fell down at Pine State and then ran the hell home to watch Big Bang Theory and knit.  

Saturday, we visited the festival market, spread through several buildings and out on the lawn, an unfortunate circumstance in the typhoon conditions.  Highlights included Huckleberry Knits, Abstract Fiber and the winners, scratching my current  Self-Striping Itch:


It's Fly Design's Monarch (Purple and Black) and Shoe Fly Sock (Rainbow) super wash, self-striping yarns that made me tap-dance like an elf in the crowded corner booth.

I also FINALLY procured a beautiful, full-size noste-pinne (yes, I immediately lost the tag):


We met up with lots of local yarn gals, including Kristine (Kadyellebee Designs),  of whose sultry voice I will never tire, and KnitCents Rachel came all the way down from Olympia for the afternoon.  Mary Kay Carol brought Wonder-College-TeenK down from school for the day so we walked and shopped and lunched and generally went a bit nuts with the weather and all.  Fiber Festivals are always a little wild and wooly...


Looted up, we headed home, where Abby made the best tomato soup ever:


 ...and we snuggled up to watch Bridesmaids. Siiiiighhhhh Chris O'Dowd is one of my favorite actors ever, as being at turns hysterical and heart-rending is the Irish Gift. And he’s Cute.  And Irish.  A distant second to GingerMan, but an entirely similar sensibility and a hilarious movie.  I now feel really terrible that I avoided it for so long and grateful to Abby for making me watch it!

We met up with Carol on Sunday after brekkie at Bread & Ink and went to Happy Knits where I scored with Sherlock.

No, Really:


This is intended for the Bandwidth Hat from Stephen West’s Book Two, which I reviewed the very first time I ever appeared on Knitmore Girls as “That Squirrel Girl They Know On Too Much Coffee”.  It’s one of my favorite of his designs and I’ve been looking for the perfect yarn for, what, two years?  Local dyer Black Trillium's beautiful swirly-coffee yarn will be the cabled headband with the gorgeous olive for the patterned crown.

Monday I met Carol’s knitting group at Beyond Art, a lovely yarn and bead shop in Aurora, Oregon.  They’re a spirited group of knitters and spinners who also volunteer in the local and state spinning guilds, often in period costume. That’s their super-power, and their secret identities involve a bevy of cheek, naughtiness, and some very sound knitting advice. 

Tuesday I was deposited at the airport in cold, wet, darkest gloom and after waiting extra time in security while the TSA dude literally took a jeweler’s loupe under ultra-violet light to the license of the man in front of me, I hoofed it to my “gate”.

Or “gate-lette”.  To find my plane.

Or “plane-lette”.

I boarded the tiny prop plane, texting my dad, so as not to have a nervous breakdown in full voice... i can’tstayonthisplaneigottagetoffthisplaneisTINY

He talked me down sufficiently that I did not disembark, weep openly, or throw up.  Thus we climbed through the cloud cover and I saw the sun for the first time in five days.  It was the smoothest flight I’d had in ages.

So the yarn and I made it home safely. 

Now the Girl has yarn in her favorite colors.


And paint can be bought.

The Downstairs can be decorated.

... And if the Upstairs needs to be painted and decorated, a Girl might need more yarn. 

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