Sunday, February 25, 2007

monster weekend

Lots of friends came to our house this weekend:


j, snakey's designer


And this guy...


...who as of yet has no name.

It was fun to make some sock monsters this weekend. I haven't made any in a while, but on Friday night Sis came over to sew and help me polish off a bottle of Santa Cristina Toscana Sangiovese (which by the way, I recommend highly - yum!). Instead of following her good example and sewing pretty curtains...


...I made this gobliney kitty sockmonster. What should I call it? J suggested "Tail Cat," but somehow that doesn't have quite the monster ring to it.

see ya
a good lumpy hiney is key with monsters

Saturday J came over and spent the night at our house. We had lots of time for fun stuff like reading books, sewing monsters and making play-doh X-wing fighters. It was great to take a break from grown-up silliness and get down to some serious crafty fun. Why can't weekends last just a little longer?

Friday, February 23, 2007

signs of spring

Today it smells like spring. The sky is an indecisive whirl of dazzling blue, fast-moving, heavy gray coulds, and then dazzling blue again. The wind is powerful, but the bite in it is gone. Everywhere outside it smells like wet ground, and it is a warm smell. Spring is almost here.

little sprout

This little guy peeped his head out in the garden this week. It must be a teensy lettuce plant. We have peas, radishes, carrots and lettuce in the ground already, just waiting for the soil temperature to get high enough to start them growing, and we seem to be close to that magic number. Soon we'll put in broccoli - I can't wait! Broccoli out of the garden is a whole different animal from broccoli from the grocery store. I actually believed for years that I hated broccoli, and then one glorious Saturday after a trip to the farmer's market, I discovered how utterly, foolishly wrong I had been. Broccoli is tender and sweet and wonderful. But I don't need to tell you that!

Despite the vegetable garden, we are signing up for a farm share again this year. If you have been thinking about it - now is the time! CSA's fill up quickly in the late winter, so if you're thinking about it check out the links at Local Harvest and get yourself signed up for one. Many boxes of just-picked organic vegetables are waiting for you.

This warming weather put the fear-of-god into me about my sweater project. So what if the sleeves need to be knit on DPN's!!?? I have a sweater to finish before it turns ninety degrees here (which it tends to do in North Carolina about three days after you realize it's spring). I really appreciated everyone's suggestions about ways to ditch the DPN's (Magic Loop, two circulars, etc) but after much gnashing-of-teeth over size differences between Clovers and Addi Turbos (alas!) in the end I bit the bullet and just knit the other one on the DPN's. I had some conference calls this week, which always help to move the knitting forward.

So the sleeves are done. No tears or anything. I hope to find the time this weekend to push closer to the finish line (dare I hope to cross it??). It would be so lovely to wear this sweater on these blustery, indecisive days between not-quite-winter and not-quite-spring.

Monday, February 19, 2007


One toe of one sock is all I got knitted over the weekend. Somehow I thought that I'd be sitting & knitting all through the weekend meeting I had to go to, but I was so, so wrong. This was a very active meeting.

chowan view
view of edenton's waterfront on the chowan river

We met in Edenton, a beautiful little town in North Carolina's northeast corner, the seat of NC's first colonial capitol. Edenton is also the site of the first known women's political organizing in the colonies, called the Edenton Tea Party, back in 1774. On the one hand, I am proud of the colonial women for organizing against the monarchy, but on the other hand did they have to boycott tea of all things? All the colonial boycotting of British tea was so influential that we here in America still can't get a decent cuppa today.

Edenton has a lot going for it, but perhaps the most amazing thing about this rural small town is how well the progressive local government has fought off sprawl development. Edenton is part of North Carolina's Inner Banks, the sound-side of our coastline coming under intense development pressure now that the Outer Banks are completely and hideously engulfed in pavement and luxury beach houses. Ick. I can't say ick strongly enough. Ick!

Outer Banks development has run off the historic population by driving property values through the roof, particularly in the "quaint" fishing villages where commercial fishermen and -women used to live. Inner Banks development is already beginning to drive farmers off their land, and the water demands have put such pressure on coastal aquifers that salt water is invading them, as well as the land that used to be suitable for farming.

Edenton is holding off that tide of development with strong local ordinances that have kept big-box stores and gated communities out, and maintained a thriving downtown with stores where local folks can actually buy groceries, clothing, even a new stove. How many rural downtowns can say that - if they are alive at all? The really amazing thing is, this is a town of only about 5,000 residents. These folks have fought Wal-Mart, big developers, even the state legislature, and won. They must know something about organizing there. I think the Tea Party must have been a good training ground.

In other news, I got a pretty new book over the weekend:

It's so dreamy, I have to keep mopping up the little puddle of drool (I hope it doesn't warp the pages). I can't say these are the most wearable designs I've ever seen, but they are quite moving.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

sleeve break

Since my mom's birthday is coming up, I took the opportunity to get a little break from that annoying sleeve I was knitting to make some socks. Here is my progress on the first one:


Now when I saw this yarn on the ball, I had no idea how much I would love it once I knit it up. LOVE IT. The cool/warm fall color bands - be still my beating heart! I can't give these to my mother - she'd appreciate the socks but wear them in spite of the color palette. Whereas I would wear them every single day until they became tatty bits of yarn hanging from my ankles, because they match everything I own! Well, okay, they'd match everything that isn't black and red, which is about half my closet - so really, they'd match half my wardrobe, but the good half!

As my sister said, we can get mom some flowers. These socks are for me.

I was planning to take the annoying sleeve (sleeve 2 of Pullover Flair) to a meeting I need to attend this weekend, but you know, I could totally finish up the socks if I brought them, and socks are so much more meeting-friendly.

I hope I get this sweater done before summer gets here.

P.S. Did you get a sneak-peek at Sauniell-the-cover-girl's designs??? That woman is so talented, I don't feel worthy to sit in the same little metal chairs as her at Stitch & Bitch. I keep hoping some of the talent will rub off on me...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

what's cookin?

One of my little fantasies is a backyard cookout to which everyone will bring dishes made from Church-lady cookbooks. There will be three or four Jello molds, at least one noodle casserole, and everything will be covered in either crumbled potato chips or Chinese noodles, and will contain a can of cream of mushroom soup.


This is my little collection of Church-lady cookbooks. I usually buy them at library book sales. I guess they used to be a popular fundraiser for church and other ladies' groups (like the Alaska Crippled Children's Association, beneficiaries of Cooking from Alaska's Kitchens, in which bear chunks are paired with cream of mushroom soup for a new kind of American taste sensation).

Last night we were having a good guffaw over some of the recipes while HWWLLB baked up an "Impossible Pie" from What's Cookin' at Annunciation. I have no idea where Annunciation is located, but I'm sure this book dates to the 1960's and was published in the South, because it contains many fine southern turns of phrase such as "I reckon" and "if you fancy...". The ladies who contributed these recipes clearly belonged to two distinct generations; the older church ladies who apparently have no first names of their own, such as "Mrs. George Ketchum," and the younger, more liberated married ladies who use their own first names, such as "Maureen Burket."

So the Impossible Pie... the way it works is, you take a bunch of pie ingredients (flour, sugar, milk, eggs, coconut, etc), throw them in the blender and mix them all up. Then you pour it all into a pie pan and bake. Three levels basically fall out, with floury stuff on the bottom, eggy stuff in the middle and coconut on top - a coconut custard pie! (more or less). We had it for breakfast this morning - it couldn't touch my mother's coconut custard pie, but it wasn't bad.

My most favorite recipe comes from Cooking with Christians in Brevard, NC. Brevard is where HWWLLB's parents live, and this book contains a recipe from my childhood that I just can't wait to make for the cookout. Here it is:
Strawberry Salad (Barbara Johnson)

First layer:
2 2/3 cup broken pretzels (sticks) mush up
3 Tablespoons sugar
3/4 cup margarine

Cream sugar and margarine together. Spread pretzels with layer in 9 x 13 pan and with sugar on top. Cover and bake 350 degrees five minutes and stir and bake five minutes more. Cool.

Second layer:
8 oz. soft cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 9oz. Cool Whip
Cream sugar and cream cheese together. Fold in Cool Whip, spread over first layer.

Third layer:
1 1/2 Cup boiling water
6 oz. strawberry jello
2 10oz. frozen strawberries

Mix jello and boiling water, chill partially; fold and chill partially again. Spread over second layer and refrigerate.

(I do believe that we were supposed to include those frozen strawberries in layer three - Ed.).

Imagine this three-layer Jello mold in the shape of a big red bundt cake, with salty, crunchy pretzels on the bottom, sweet cheese in the middle and sickeningly sweet strawberry jello on top. Heavenly! My Aunt Cindy used to make this for every family gathering, and I always took an extra-big slice. I will definitely be making this for the fantasy cookout - I hope you all can come!

I'll leave you with this bit of wisdom from Cooking with Christians:

"Joy is love making its own sunshine, even in times of gloom."

Friday, February 09, 2007


For those of you who live in North Carolina, I know I will be seeing you tomorrow at the Vagina Monologues show in Raleigh. If you haven't bought your tickets yet, the late show at Kings is SOLD OUT because this show is not to be missed, but there are still seats for the matinee at the Rialto, so go get yours while they last!

So everyone has been to see the Vagina Monologues, right? (If not, it's an incredibly powerful play by Eve Ensler that uses personal monologues from all kinds of women to de-dirtify the vagina's image and get into the love, anger, joy, abuse, courage, shame and transformation that we live as women). The play is usually performed on or around Valentine's Day, so there are performances happening all over the country right now (find one near you!). A group of Raleigh women are performing it tomorrow as a benefit for Planned Parenthood - this is their second year performing the show and they are fabulous.

Apparently some Floridians will be performing the show this weekend too, but the publicity has been a little harder for them. Yesterday's most-watched video on CNN was a news story about the theater in Florida where the show is being performed. The theater had to take the word "vagina" off their marquee because of local complaints. Their solution? The "Hooha Monologues."

How very mature.

They had heard from people who were offended after driving by and had to explain to their little daughters what a vagina is. Personally, I'd consider that a public service.

Raleigh Vagina Monologues 2007

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

sleeves and soup


sleeve 1

I must have acquired a case of the deadly Second Sleeve Syndrome. The last four inches of this sleeve seemed to take weeks, they were like pulling teeth. It took many alternating rounds of caffeine, alcohol and lemon sherbet (not all at the same time) to power though them. I just don't see how the other sleeve is going to get knitted without another long airplane ride someplace. Paris? Rome?

The first section of the sleeve is easy, because you can knit it on circular needles, and after the first three inches you get to do a decrease row, which is exciting. But then, horror of horrors, you have to switch to double-pointed needles for the rest of the way up. That's another 13 inches of rather dull K4 P1 ribbing on 5 pointy little sticks.

But let's put that out of our minds for now, I have a soup recipe for you. This nippy weather has me craving soup, so I made up some black bean soup the other night and it was lovely. It's also very, very easy. Bon ap├ętit!
one-sleeved black bean soup

1 medium-sized onion
1 carrot
4 cloves garlic
2 cans black beans, rinsed & drained
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp dried ancho pepper
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 cups water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste

Cut up the onion and carrot and put them into the food processor with the garlic. Chop them very fine. Heat up the oil in a large saucepan, and then stick the processed veggies in there. Saute until the onions are translucent and beginning to turn golden, about 5-6 minutes. Add the cumin and ancho (if you don't have ancho, just use chili powder), and some salt and pepper. Saute another minute or two.

Now add the beans and about half the water/stock to the saucepan. Bring to a boil and then turn down the heat. Let the beans simmer and soften for about 10 minutes.

Use a heat-proof container to scoop out about 2 cups of your nascent soup, dump it into the food processor and puree. Then pour the puree back into the saucepan. Add the rest of the water/stock and stir well. You will have a nice, smooth soup with some chunky whole beans in it. If you like the whole thing smooth, then puree the whole mess before you add the rest of the water/stock to the pan.

Simmer your soup for as long as you can stand it (try to get 15 minutes in there at least), then shake in some hot sauce and eat dinner. This soup is great with a dollop of sour cream on top, served with salad and crusty bread. But it's also perfectly nice all by itself.

Monday, February 05, 2007

fresh out of the oven

So... notice anything different?

Yes, I got a haircut. And also, how do you like this new banner thingy across the top of the page? I am so into it.

Actually, I designed it about 6 months ago but couldn't figure out how to get it up there. But Amisha kindly pointed me to these simple-yet-genius directions from Brenda, and suddenly months of hitting my head against the wall seemed so... stupid. Because there is always somebody out there who knows how to do what you want to do, it's just a matter of finding them.

Someone told me this on Saturday about the region we live in here in NC, called the Triangle. We have everything here, he said, you just have to find someone who knows where it is. So the Triangle is a lot like html that way, I guess.

Thank you Amisha!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

snow day

It snowed! It snowed!

When it snows here in North Carolina, generally we are in for a panic. This time The Powers That Be were wise and had announced the night before that school would be cancelled today, heading off some of the typical southern craziness that might otherwise ensue.

I worked from home today, which is so amazingly productive compared with being at the office, that sometimes I wonder why I ever go to the office at all. Even with the distraction of snow, I got quite a lot done.


By afternoon the snow had turned to rain, and everything became cold slush. Our microcosm veered from beautiful to sludgy in a matter of minutes.

In the evening we stopped in at a local brewpub, for a neighborhood get-together, and I was deee-lighted to find that the brewery had put a limited-edition, cask-conditioned version of their IPA on special. It sold out in a matter of minutes. It was divine. It was the essence of beer. All those steel-tinged, fizzy, funky-aftertaste side-effects that we have come to expect with our libations were absent, leaving behind only malty, crisp brewing art. It was heavenly.

The gathering there had been called via our neighborhood listserv, and happy-hour get-togethers are now planned for the first Thursday of every month. HWWLLB and I were really pleased to meet some of the extremely cool people who live in our new neighborhood. I hope the brewery does some more cask conditioning for our future neighborhood happy hours!

Now HWWLLB is fixing dinner and I am waiting for my turn at the stove so that I can bake some chocolate chip cookies. Winter is so delightful! I wish it would snow every day. (Until spring, I mean).