Friday, March 29, 2013

Rites of Spring

With a late spring and an early Easter, this year we have a holiday weekend that doesn't have much holiday feel to it. Everything is closed for Good Friday and most things are closed for Easter Monday, but I'm still having to remind myself that technically, spring has begun. I usually like the pause of this weekend; it's a forced reminder to slow down, take stock, and enjoy the little things, and this year (in spite of the weather) is no exception, especially after our relatively (for us) hectic week of travel to Ottawa and then to Belleville. We decided to take the scenic route to the latter, via the Glenora ferry and Picton.
It's moving week for geese in this part of North America. There were thousands flying north overhead, but I didn't manage to get any decent photos. At the Bay of Quinte, the ice was breaking up.

There's something fascinating about watching this annual event. It can happen remarkably quickly. In a matter of hours the ice can disappear with nothing but open water to be seen. Here's the view from the ferry,

where I couldn't resist this photo of the only colourful thing (the Ontario flag) in the landscape.

In Picton, we stopped at the Rose Haven Farm Store. I located this little treasure in the basement.

Am I crazy to think about spinning sock yarn?

I also found some Opal in one of the Van Gogh colourways. This will be fun to knit up when I'm in the mood for some mindless, but entertaining knitting.

Belleville was a bit of a nightmare, maybe because I was tired and hungry, and it was rush hour. It felt chaotic. Bill had his briefing on malaria medications, and his yellow fever booster, and full of dire warnings of the importance of fending off disease-carrying insects, we headed back to Kingston.
As we walked back from parking the car-share vehicle (I'll tell you about that another time), through Queen's campus, we paused to watch yet another ritual of spring--young men in shorts playing rugby with snow still melting on the sidelines.

With Easter looming in two days, here's a recipe for those of you who might be vegan or who might be going to entertain someone vegan over the weekend. Always good to know there's a better choice out there than Tofurkey!

Potato and Mushroom Pie
This is my adaptation of a recipe from Rose Elliot’s 1988 book “The Complete Vegetarian Cuisine”.  The original was for turnovers with shortcrust pastry. Round out the meal with a lentil soup, a green salad, and fresh fruit for dessert. The filling can also be served alone for those who are going gluten free.

1  recipe for pastry for 9” pie

1 large onion, chopped
1 large potato, peeled and cut into 1/4" dice
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz cremini mushrooms, chopped
1 tbsp Italian parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Sauté the onion in the oil until translucent, then add the potato and garlic. Cover and cook on low for about 10 min. Add the mushrooms, and cook, uncovered, for about 5 min or until the vegetables are tender. Season with parsley, salt, and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 400F and while the filling is cooling, make the pastry. Fill a 9” pie plate with the bottom crust, pour in the filling, and top with the remaining pastry. Roll the edges inward and shape them with thumb and fingers to seal and decorate the edges. Prick the top crust with a fork to create air vents. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Cool slightly before serving. 
Meanwhile, the Perth Cardi in alpaca/merino/cashmere continues to grow in its effortless way.

This is knitting at its most soothing--light, soft, and utterly simple.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013


My blog has been "missing in action" for a few days. Actually, it's a sign of good things to come--several designs to be published--just nothing I can show right now. It's been a crazy week what with finishing up the taxes (the Canadian edition, at least), driving to Ottawa to pick up Isabel's U.S. passport, and organizing a trip to Belleville tomorrow so that Bill can visit the public health unit there for his pre-Rwanda shots and medication (the Kingston unit is booked for the next month and a half and heaven forbid that Bill should have planned far enough ahead to get it done here!) While in Ottawa, and recovering from the humiliation of emptying my pockets of used tissues at the American Embassy security clearance station, I popped across the street to gawk at Kaliyana. OK, I might even have tried on a few things there. Same in Westport on the way home, where I purchased a Cut Loose oversized linen shirt in the same moss green as my eyes.

Sorry for the odd-angled photo, looking down at the new shirt worn over Buttonbox.
Strange how I haven't knitted anything in this colour for eons. Must change that.
In addition to the "working" knitting, I've got a relatively mindless project on the go.

It's that time of year when I'm daydreaming of pale colours and sun-washed beaches. This is a new Perth cardi in loosely knitted fingering weight alpaca/merino/cashmere.

Elann has a sale on it right now, in case you feel like stocking up. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Random Friday (with Recipe)

Here's a roundup of what's happening in this neck of the woods.

1. I have mastered the early Victorian fireplace in our new old house (built 1842). I now know how to open the damper (placed at the TOP of the chiminey and worked by a chain), how to remove the fake brick in the floor that allows ventilation from UNDERNEATH, and how to deal with the modern chimney balloon (see earlier post). We have had our first fire. Yay!

2. Good thing we have the fireplace going, 'cause winter's still here.

This is the "Cartwright" house at the intersection of my street and King St. See the snow lining the road? Yuck!

3. In spite of above snow, there are PURPLE THINGS sprouting from the soil at the base of our limestone foundation at the sunny front of the house. Their appearance is giving me hope.

4. I spent a productive half hour this morning trying out the demo for StitchMastery charting software. I've tried other charting software before and wasn't impressed. Not so with this stuff. It's EXCELLENT. Expensive, but worth it for someone like me. Believe me, making charts by hand is a colossal pain.

5. Swatched with some rich, heathery turquoise Cascade Eco+. You've got to love this yarn--inexpensive, beautiful to look at, soft to wear, and gorgeous to knit. 

As usual, the computer doesn't do justice to the colour, which is #2433 in case you're wondering. Four stitches to the inch on a 5.5 mm. Ignore the gauge on the ball band. It's wrong.

6. Remember my recipe for pastry? It's here. Finally, I'm getting around to giving you something to make with it.

Double Crust Fruit Pie Formula (Does Not Apply to Rhubarb and Other Very Tart Fruits)

This is a general formula for making fruit pies. I learned this from my father and have never used a written recipe.

enough peeled, sliced fruit or berries to mound in the centre of a 9” pie plate
½ c sugar
pinch of cinnamon for apple pie
2 tbsp flour (use ¼ c for very runny fruits like frozen blueberries)
1 recipe for oil pastry
¼ tsp salt (optional)

Mix the sugar and flour together in a large bowl. Add the chopped fruit and mix well to coat it. Let the mixture sit while you make the pastry. The fruit will begin to release its juices. Line the pie plate with half the pastry. Stir the fruit again, and dump it into the crust. Arrange the fruit evenly. Cover with the top crust. Roll the edges of the crust, which are hanging over the rim of the plate, inward to form a border and crimp it with your thumb and fingers to seal and decorate the edge. Prick holes in the top crust to create air vents. Bake at 400F for about 40 min or until golden brown. Allow to cool for about an hour before cutting.

I'll write about rhubarb pie (and other rhubarb things) when we get to rhubarb season (June?) Fruit galettes are a variation I'll touch on another time.

I don't use cornstarch as a pie thickener; I don't like the gelatinous quality it gives.

6. The comments for yesterday's post were great. While I was reading them, I accidentally hit something with the edge of my hand and somehow they all disappeared. I'm pretty sure I can figure out how to get them back. In the meantime, thanks for your encouragement.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Buttonbox Errata

Until such time as Knitty gets around to revising its version of Buttonbox, here is a summary of the errata:
The dotted squares should be purled on the RS and knitted on the WS.

Lower body:
Row 4: Knit all sts. This is Row 1 of Chart A.
Row 5: P2, k1, p5, cont with Chart A as set, ending k1, p2.

Pocket Insertion:
Remove pocket markers as you work across next row.
Work in patt to 1 st before pocket marker, SSK next st tog with first st of pocket lining, sl next 19(19, 19, 19, 25, 25) body sts to waste yarn, k7(7, 7, 7, 10, 10) sts from pocket lining, work Row 1 of Chart B over next 5 sts, k7(7, 7, 7, 10, 10), knit next st tog with next body st, work in patt to side marker, sl side marker, work 12(18,18, 24, 30, 30) sts, work Row 1 of Chart B over next 5 sts, work 43(43, 55, 55, 55, 67) sts, work Row 1 of Chart B over next 5 sts, work 12( 18, 18, 24, 30, 30) sts, sl side marker, work to 1 st before pocket marker, SSK next st tog with 1st st of pocket lining, sl next 19(19, 19, 19, 25, 25) body sts to waste yarn, k7(7, 7, 7, 10, 10) sts from pocket lining, work Row 1 of Chart B over next 5 sts, k7(7, 7, 7, 10, 10), knit next st tog with next st of body, work to end. 147( 171, 195, 219, 243, 267) sts. 8 sts decreased.

Right Front
At the end of Row 5, the patt should say that only 1 st has been decreased.
Left Front
Same remarks as for Right Front.

Thank you knitters for your patience and enthusiasm.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Knowing When to Quit

The predicted snow arrived overnight, temporarily giving an impression (false) of freshness and cleanliness to our March world.

By early afternoon, the temperature was above freezing, the sun came out, everything glistened and melted and we were all in a (somewhat) happy frame of mind. I thought it would be nice to light our first fire in the living room fireplace and went so far as to remove the chimney balloon, only to realize that I needed to consult with a fireplace expert regarding what might once have been an ash removal vent at the base of the floor. I figured out how to re-insert the balloon, and considered washing my mouth out with soap after inflating it left a distinct taste of something unpleasant barbequed. While the dinner was cooking, I coaxed Isabel outside in the late afternoon sunshine for some photos. As if on cue, after a couple of test shots, the sun went out and gale-force winds blew off the lake, dropping the temperature to somewhere that had my fingers turning numb in seconds.

Needless to say, it's tricky to get your model to do much other than hunch over and grimace under such conditions. This is all I could get today.

 I know when to quit!

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Worst Season

It's the worst season of the year--tax filing season. It makes me grumpy, and I'm even grumpier this year because I have to file for Isabel in TWO countries. Yes, my American readers, you probably don't realize that the U.S. is just about the only developed country to tax on the basis of citizenship, not residency, and so about one million Canadians, many with tenuous ties to the U.S. (i.e. birth there, nothing else) must file or face very serious and expensive penalties for failure to file, even if nothing is owing. To make matters worse, the U.S./Canada tax treaty has not been kept up to date and currently fails to take into account various recent tax-deferral vehicles such as TFSAs and RESPs. Isabel, who is about to embark on a 3-day all expenses paid trip to a major U.S. tech giant on the west coast, is not at a point in her life where she might want to consider renouncing her American citizenship (she spent the first 15 years of her life in the DC area and still considers it home for one thing), but those considering such a step should do so before acquiring any substantial assets since the IRS will impose a 50% tax on everything owned, including bank accounts, investments, and real estate. There, now I'm even grumpier! (Can you tell that I'm married to a pubic finance economist?)
Meanwhile, on the knitting front, I've sewn the buttons on the double wave cable cardigan/jacket and am awaiting a break in Isabel's schedule for photographs. If you follow this blog you may have observed that I'm a wee bit button-obsessed. I like buttons that echo the design in some way. So, here are the buttons I've chosen to go with this swirly-cabled pattern.

Buttons don't have to be expensive to be just right. I found these just a couple of blocks from my front door at Gwin Gryffon. Susan, the owner, seems to be on the same wave length as I am when it comes to buttons.
I love the way these have exactly the same feel as the cable.

I see that snow is predicted for the next few days here. Honestly, I feel as though we're trapped in the land of the White Witch (even at age 55, I'm still stuck with Narnia imagery!) WILL SPRING EVER COME?

Friday, March 15, 2013

Friday Recipe: Brokerage Salad

The double wave cardigan/jacket is finished, apart from the sewing on of buttons, and is blocking on a towel in our library. Note the wide-plank pine floors in this new old house. The garment has a new name, courtesy of Isabel, which will be revealed when I publish the pattern. That will be quickly, I hope, given that it is really an iteration of Wakefield with some minor changes--assuming I manage to figure out how to use charting software.

I finished up the second sleeve thanks to, C.S. Harris's new novel, "What Darkness Brings", and the magical voice of Davina Porter. Sometimes I wonder if I'm listening so that I can knit, or knitting so I can listen.
When you're trying to get a lot done, nothing helps simplify your day like not having to think about what to make for lunch. Right now, I have a favourite noonday meal. Here it is.

Brokerage Salad

Back in the late ‘80s, before we were married, my husband and I would often meet for lunch in Ottawa at “The Brokerage”, a restaurant overlooking the Sparks Street Mall. The Mall was in its hay day, chock full of interesting boutiques, and the food was inexpensive, healthy, and delicious. This salad isn’t actually a recipe from the restaurant, but it’s inspired by its fruit and nut salad, which was originally topped with a yogourt dressing.

one crunchy apple, unpeeled and chopped
½ c chopped celery
½ c coarsely grated carrot
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp lemon juice
¼ c walnuts or toasted almonds

Toss the fruits and vegetables with the olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle the nuts on top.
Note—for best flavour, buy natural, raw almonds and toast them in a toaster oven at 300F for about 12 minutes. It travels well, especially when you're on a yarn crawl.