I’m excited to be hosting a good old fashioned bee at The Barn at Todd Farm this coming January 18, 2015. If you’re local, grab a project and swing on by!
My kitchen table is named Earnestine. I bought her when I was a teenager, this beautiful Victorian claw foot, ornately carved piece covered in no fewer than a dozen layers of paint. I spent hours in the garage scraping away at her with dental picks, listening to the Oldies station. We had plenty of time to get to know one another. And she’s stayed with me through thick and thin. From my first apartment to my first house to the home Dave and I now share together. I really can’t remember what the context of the conversation was back in our early couplehood, but somehow the question came up about what we would do if we had a fire. Dave replied, “I grab Earnestine and we get the hell out.” I think that may have been when I decided to marry him.
A few years ago we redid our kitchen and Earnestine became the focal point. She has served every purpose for me in our many years together from desk to end table and now breakfast table. Tucked against a south facing window overlooking a small pond, Dave and I spend a tremendous amount of time snuggled into the pair of upholstered chairs that flank her. Seated with my long-time friend, innumerable designs have been sketched out on napkins over lunch, knitting paterns get teased out of unruly skeins of yarn while dinner simmers nearby, or like now, the Christmas cake bakes in the oven as I write a post for our blog.
We’ve had a tremendously busy holiday season. Fantastic shows and a myriad of new venues have proferred new opportunities and spurred creative visions. The last packages have shipped and the studios have been sorted and restored to some semblance of order. All’s been done for our holiday customers that can be done. So I sit back at Earnestine again, leggings and thick socks, hot cocoa and glowing fire. I doodle over the Christmas menu, remember to check the cake, and settle in for winter’s peaceful slumber all the time dreaming and sheming for the new year to come.
On the surface, Thanksgiving seemed a bust. The success of our much anticipated, long awaited holiday getaway was swooning on shaky legs. We were overworked, exhausted, grouchy from the toll of caring for our declining senior pup. There was much to celebrate, though– the impetus of this whole outing– the business is growing, we are growing, and we are having FUN. But even fun can use a respite from time to time. Overworked hands and wrists need time to ward off tendinitis. Overactive design imaginations benefit from the sustenance the novel that someone else’s active imagination provides. We needed some down time; some time to be together as a family rather than as coworkers and business partners.
Over the hill and through the woods we retreated, intent on a holiday of our making. Then we were introduced to Mother Nature and a wee bit of modern day miscommunication. An unexpected storm left us without power or water for two days over and including Thanksgiving. A misunderstood propane order for the gas heating stove left us with rationed warmth until after the holiday. Technology saved us some: in the dark I read my book on my iPad— White Oleander — and I still had a charge. I was swaddled in three coats and an antique quilt I should have deemed too fragile for use, but decided instead that it and its maker would be better honored by allowing it to provide comfort and warmth to the end. Our dogs pressed in around me. My husband sat near the meager fire, resolute in his puzzle progress by the light of four candles. Our Thanksgiving dinner was the simple warming of leftovers I could manage over a gas fireplace not designed for the purpose. And we were together, a magical winter wonderland softly whispering us into a cozy restorative slumber.
It’s impossible to say how much fun we had if only because we are so tired it is difficult to see straight. But these are exciting times, and we are barreling towards our next adventure! To stay on point, though, this past weekend at The Vintage Bazaar’s Holiday Jubilee was like none other. We were thrilled with the results of our labors in our booth layout, the crowds were fantastic, and the VB crew and our fellow vendors are SUCH a delight to work with. Creativity, generosity, and kindness converge for one heck of a feel good atmosphere.
Fiber folks in general have a hard enough time managing stash as it is, but if you are a hooker, the problem is tenfold. Every minute scrap of yarn or shred of wool has the potential to be invaluable to some future rug hooking project: a highlight here, a shadow there. Nothing— and I mean nothing— can be thrown away. It’s a problem. As one friend puts it, it’s a mental illness even. Well, that may be, and for me the problem overflows in to the rest of life; the kitchen, most of all. Nothing can go to waste.
The other night I made a pork shoulder roast. The kind that needs ample hours in the oven, a stupendous knitting project to occupy your hands, and a good book or podcast to listen to while deeply breathing the heady aromas. If that wasn’t perfect enough (I did get to eat the roast after all, too), I woke the next morning to my cast iron pot of one ham bone and it’s drippings. Well, you know I wasn’t going to just be discarding any of that. And I like cooking more than I like cleaning, so pot and bone and drippings were destined to be my next soup.
6-8 cloves of garlic
curry, coriander, hot pepper, turmeric
spot of coconut oil
12 cups water
leftover tomato soup from lunch
To serve: fresh chopped spinach, tomato, and corn
Add the coconut oil and bone to a very large soup pot. To the pot you cooked the bone in, add all the spices, garlic, and leeks to the drippings and and saute slowly. Deglaze the pot if you need to and add it to the soup pot.
Now for the soupy bit: add the water and simmer for hours. You can’t overdue it, so sit down with a good knit and make yourself comfy. About an hour before you are ready to serve, taste the stock. Depending on how much flavor you were able to extract form the bone, you may want to add 2-3 bouillon cubes to taste. Remove the bone.
Add the eggplant and mushrooms and simmer until cooked. I also added some leftover tomato soup (and roasted red pepper, to be exact) because it was a pretty color and I was decluttering the fridge. When all that is cooked, lightly scramble the eggs and drizzle them into the pot while stirring.
Serve with fresh chopped veg.
Knitting in bed has become my favorite decadent pastime. You may have heard about this. And it really just keeps getting better and better. As summer has faded into fall, nippy mornings snuggled amongst the pillows with a chunky knit project has won the heart of my morning hours. A steaming cup of coffee is on the night stand. The patter of the rain on the roof. Perfection.
I’ve started an intriguing new habit lately. I know you are all shocked to hear that I spend a great deal of time knitting, but a whole new ritual has taken shape. I wake 5:30 or so, stumble to my coffee, and totter back to bed. Then the knitting comes out. Not the buntings on order, mind you. These precious morning knitting sessions are reserved for the projects on tiny needles requiring time and patience and the solitude of either early morning mists or slowly waking rays of rosy sun. The birds wake to the steady click, click, click of my needles and while the sun rises, my knitting slowly but surely descends from my needles.
We are on the fast track to fall around here and while I’m rushing to finish the sweater I’ve been designing all summer, the weather is seeming appropriate for a pot of soup simmering in the background. What I love about making soup is it’s delightful imprecision; the exact opposite of painstakingly detailing the notes of my knitting patterns. Note the almost complete lack a of guidance in this recipe. It’s like cooking without training wheels.
2 yellow onions
Several garlic cloves
Fresh chopped Tarragon and thyme
Good dollop of bacon grease
Half dozen fingerling potatoes
1 enormous overripe heirloom tomato that may have fallen out the grocery bag earlier in the day
White button mushrooms
An ear of corn
Veggie buillion cubes
1 pound each whitefish, scallops, shrimp
1 pint of raw cream so thick you can stand a spoon in it
In a very large pot, add your bacon grease. To that, toss in chopped and/or minced (per your liking) garlic, onions, leeks, shallots and herbs. Cube your potatoes and add them, too. Cook over low heat until the onions are translucent. You’ll be able to get a healthy dose of knitting done while this happens. Just don’t forget your cooking!!
Use a spot of sherry to deglaze the pan and stir in a few large spoonfuls of flour.
Add the broth and some water to your desired quantity and buillion cubes to taste. Slice or chop the mushrooms and add them to the concoction along with the injured tomato, now thoroughly crushed by knife and hand.
Let that all simmer until the potatoes are tender and the mushrooms are cooked through. Continue to knit lazily while all that takes shape.
Shell the shrimp (save them to make more shrimp broth later!) and chop all the seafood into bite size pieces. Throw it in the mix. When the seafood is cooked, stir in the cream and corn.
Family gatherings are always festive, and with my in-laws I’m never quite sure what activities will ensue. At a recent get-together haircutting became the theme of the night and the warm familial bonds and smiles were captured on film. I’ve been determined to translate one snapshot into a hooked rug design, complete with a barbershop stripe border. The scissors are obscured from view in this rendition and I haven’t decided how to correct that yet. If only drawing came naturally to me. Sigh.
Truly, I can’t believe we are well into August. The summer seems to be speeding by me. Already, I smell the whiff of fall in the early morning air. Not a complaint really. I’ve been quite productive. I’d much rather work out the details of a six foot stole in a cool breeze than bind a four foot rug in 80 degree humidity.
Like summer produce, everything all ready at once, the studio has finally completed two big projects just in this past week. (Fanfare, please!) The Amsterdam Rug, inspired by a photograph we took in the fields of Holland last year has finally been hooked, bound, and installed. We are both thrilled with it, and I encourage any of you hookers out there to transform your own favorite photograph into a treasured fiber memory.
Second, I’ve finally pulled together the pattern for my favorite stole. I love this thing and use it for everything from chilly summer mornings to dinner outings. The pattern is in full color with two different types of written directions to match your knitting style and lots of pictures.