Sunday, November 30, 2008


my sister made this adorable gingerbread house last year

It's time to go get my favorite Christmas shopping done. I know, I'm not usually one for store-bought gifts, but these are important.

A few years ago, in the pursuit of meaningful and useful gifts for family members, I decided to try giving them gifts to other people. So for each person, I picked a child's name from the Angel Tree at the mall, and bought a coat, some clothes and a toy for a needy child. I wrote about the process last year on Sew Green.

This year I have five children to buy gifts for (ages 2, 5, 8 and 9). I hope they like their presents!

Friday, November 28, 2008

thankful, and a recipe

the little squirrels are made of painted shells and lentils

I am grateful for a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends yesterday. This was the 6th year we've had a potluck at our house for anyone in town whose family is far away. It's always so much fun -- a huge feast with board games that go well into the night.

This year I got a chance to use my new little placecards - aren't they cute? They were a gift from a lovely older lady at a church auction in the spring. We don't have enough space at our table to ever use real placecards, but they were perfect for labeling everyone's potluck contributions, especially because we had both vegan and gluten-free guests this year, and the little code V's and G's made it easier for everyone.

I was too busy cooking and eating and having fun to remember to take pictures, but I did want to share a recipe with you. Making Thanksgiving dishes that everyone could enjoy was a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the vegan & gluten-free challenge so much this year. I was really happy with the mashed potatoes, and they are such a cold-weather staple, I know we'll be making them again. So here's the recipe, to enjoy at your winter feasts:

garlic mashed potatoes
vegan and gluten-free

3 lbs red-skinned potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and cut into large cubes
1 head of garlic
1/2 cup vegetable broth
olive oil

Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 350.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. While you're waiting for that, place about 6-10 cloves of peeled garlic into a very small baking dish, with enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the dish and the garlic (you can use more or less garlic, depending on how garlicky you like your potatoes). Put the garlic in the oven to roast while you're doing the rest. It should take about ten minutes, so keep an eye on the garlic to make sure it doesn't burn while you're busy with other things.

Cook the potatoes for about 5-10 minutes in the big pot, until nice and tender. Drain.

Place the potatoes in a big sturdy mixing bowl and add about half of the veggie broth. When the garlic is nicely golden, pour the garlic and its oil over the potatoes. Add salt and pepper liberally.

Get out your masher and start smashing the garlic and potatoes. If it needs more liquid, drizzle in small amounts of veggie broth - don't overdo it. Taste the potatoes and see if they need a bit more olive oil - another tablespoon or three won't hurt. Keep mashing and adding veggie broth (if needed) until your potatoes are at the consistency that you like. You can also use a hand mixer if you prefer your potatoes whipped.

Serve right away, or keep warm in the oven in a baking dish until the rest of your feast is ready.

Monday, November 24, 2008



I couldn't stick to my sweater-knitting pledge - not when I had big balls of batting waiting to be needle-felted into a pony!


Just look at those sweet eyes - who could resist?

I really enjoyed making this pony, though it was fairly time-consuming. It came from a great kit from Peace Fleece. I don't usually make things from kits, but I'm so glad I ordered this one. For one, I love Peace Fleece and their mission of promoting peace through trade in traditional arts. But this was also a technique that I'd never heard about for toy-making.

First, you make a frame of paper and wire, then wrap it in the batting, and then poke-poke-poke with the felting needles. It creates a really good structure, which I've often wanted to be able to do better with softies. And I love needle-felting for its sculptural and decorative qualities -- I could have gone on detailing this thing forever (which is partly why it took me so long to make).

This was the first of two horses that come in the kit. This one's for my mom, who is a horse-nut. I haven't decided yet whether I'll make the second one some time soon (like when I have half a weekend to kill -- ha ha!), or save it for a fun between-knits project next year. This really was a perfect break from knitting projects. And now I can get back on the sweater-knitting horse and try to make some progress...


Friday, November 21, 2008



I have been feeling so uncreative lately. My biggest creative act each day seems to be coming up with a new hot beverage to drink (this one is hot spiced cider).

During our staff meeting yesterday, we all shared our dream hot beverage ideas - if we could have an endless tap in the office dispensing our dream hot beverages all day.

J: Hot spiced cider, but not as sweet as regular cider, with some caffeine - perhaps a bit of black tea mixed in.

A: Glug -- a hot mulled wine and brandy concoction.

me: Home-made chai with just a little honey for sweetener, and a tiny shot of vanilla syrup.

B: Mulled cider!

Can you tell we're adapting happily to the cooler weather? It's been a bit colder than normal for us this November. This morning I woke up early and went outside to enjoy the sunrise through snow flurries. They're still falling as I write this. I love how they look against a dark background of pine trees, with no sun yet to reflect from them.

But on the uncreativeness thing... it seems to be a serious condition. I can't seem to knit for more than a few minutes. Whenever I want to bake something, I can't decide what and wind up ditching the project. This is very problematic with the holidays approaching!

The bright side is, I've had lots more time for reading, so I'm devouring books. One that I just read is A River Sutra, by Gita Mehta. She is one of my favorite writers of non-fiction essays, but this book of interwoven stories was just wonderful. I love books that take you away to another time and place, full of interesting smells, tastes and people. It was a heavenly read.

I just finished Atonement, by Ian McEwan. I know, I am so behind the times. But this is why I never go to the movies -- I really will read the book one day. I can't imagine the movie could have been anywhere near as good as the book. It was absolutely riveting. I couldn't put it down, and read the whole thing in about two evenings. When I did put it down, I couldn't sleep, and had to get up again to keep reading. I was fascinated by the narrative technique, which I won't spoil by giving it away, but it was just wonderful. I had trouble picking up a new book to read, because I was not ready to be done with this one and leave its world behind. I can't imagine anything else being as good.

I had to wait a few days, but I just started an Andrea Barrett book, the Forms of Water. Hopefully it will distract me from missing the characters in Atonement.

What are you reading (or creating) these days?

Monday, November 10, 2008

sweaters vs. everything else

alpaca yarn

Holiday knitting time is so full of choices.

Do I work on the obligatory sweater every waking minute, which it will almost certainly require to be done before Christmas, or do I work on all the other little projects which could actually be completed one by one in the same span of time?

So far, I'm shooting for both.

The lovely sport-weight alpaca yarn shown above is Touch of Twist Peruvian Alpaca, which I bought at Maryland Sheep & Wool for the express purpose of knitting a special Christmas gift for someone who is now in the habit of receiving a sweater every year... if I had any sense, I would not be knitting a man's large sweater on size 3 needles on a deadline. Or I would have started a little earlier.

As for all the little projects... they are all so charming and giftey. And since none of the intended recipients will read this blog, I can show you what they are: Boo the Bat from Mochimochiland, some Peace Fleece Felted Horses, a handy-dandy lunch bag, Brooklyntweed's Druid Mittens, and maybe even some fancy Komet socks if I can squeeze them in.

Aren't all of those projects so much more appealing than 7,438 rows of stockinette stitch on size 3 needles? And yet... tradition is tradition. So I joined NaSweKniMo for inspiration (yes, this is Knit-a-whole-sweater-in-a-month month - thank you, sadistic aspiring novelists). I'm going to do my damndest to finish this thing in the month of November... but come December 1st, it's knitted bats and felted ponies for me!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

a new day

"...There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who won't agree with every decision or policy I make as president. And we know the government can't solve every problem.

But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation, the only way it's been done in America for 221 years -- block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began 21 months ago in the depths of winter cannot end on this autumn night.

This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were.

It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism, of responsibility, where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves but each other.

Let us remember that, if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers.

In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let's resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long.

Let's remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House, a party founded on the values of self-reliance and individual liberty and national unity.

Those are values that we all share. And while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress.

As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection.

And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand."

Read the full text of Barack Obama's acceptance speech here.