Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Picture a cobalt blue ceramic bowl* filled with fragrant lemons. In summertime, you'll use them mostly in your iced tea, but you might make some lemon tea-cookies or a batch of lemon bars if you're feeling ambitious and it's not terribly humid. In autumn, you'll want to make a lemon meringue pie or sip warm ginger tea with honey and lemon. In wintertime, you'll want to make a rich, old-fashioned lemon curd to serve over gingerbread, or, if you're feeling sick avgolemono soup is much faster and just as soothing as chicken noodle. In springtime, lemon bundt cake with lemon glaze fits the bill. I made this one to share at a family Easter gathering, but we ended up staying home with a sick baby so I was worried that it'd go to waste. I sent two generous slices over to my parents with the big kids, and, now that the cake has been devoured, I almost wish I hadn't shared at all. I'd forgotten how satisfying this cake is, served on my willow-ware plates with a cup of tea (cream, no sugar) after a rich supper of sweet peppers and Italian sausage sauce over campanelle pasta.

Finished objects coming up include: knitted, felted, embroidered cuffs, cotton raglan with placket, more bibs, and possibly a turtle stuffy. I won't promise anything for the next entry, because I didn't follow through the last time I made promises. But I'll be posting some pretties in the next few weeks. Unless the children get sick again, in which case I'll probably run away to 'darkest Peru'. Source?

*The bowl, alas, is but a memory. My heedless husband broke it one day and I don't even have a picture of it filled with lemons to soothe my wounded spirit. Now I keep my lemons in a sea-green bowl and the effect is really rather pretty. But I want another cobalt blue bowl all the same.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring is sulking here in Baltimore, but the children and I managed a mad dash through the drizzle to get to the library, and then an even madder dash through pouring rain to get home. What could be snugger than to have a new pile of books, a tidy(ish) house, and a sleeping baby? I could make an argument for a snowy day in which the children are frolicking with their dad and I am curled up with my knitting and a coffee, whilst soup simmers on the stove. But that is best in, say, January or February. March is here, and a rainy day with books is just about perfect.

Last week, Spring made a slightly premature but most welcome entrance, and we took full advantage. Just over a mile south of our house is Herring Run Park. It's a small park with a playground, a few athletic fields, a little wooded trail, and a stream. No herring (the water is heavily polluted) and the park has had some isolated muggings as well as stray 'pit-bull'* sightings from time to time, but it's a pretty place and usually peaceful. We went several times last week, and finally got around to exploring an abandoned picnic pavilion set a little back in the trees behind the playground. Those two light-colored blotches in the dark window above are holes in the roof, and the structure is surrounded by empty liquor bottles** and a few blankets presumably left by homeless folks, and the insides are thoroughly covered in graffiti, but the children were enchanted. I remember a putatively haunted house in Victory Villa that my friends and I explored frequently until the fire department came and burned it down, so I understand. I suppose most of us take great pleasure in derelict buildings and old, abandoned things. Anyway, here they are, sitting in that very window, playing at being orphans or some such:

On our way out, we saw a very nasty creature indeed:

This was nearly 2" long! The children wanted to capture it and bring it home to identify and observe, but we didn't have and couldn't find a suitable container. I forbade them to pick up any of the empties littering the park and snapped a few pictures instead. I have collected spiders with fat, hairy abdomens, countless ferocious looking caterpillars (with bristles! and brightly-colored markings that clearly indicate danger!) and even centipedes all in the name of scientific exploration. But I drew the line at this creature. The devil himself would assume just such a shape, if the devil were real and into assuming the shape of creepy-crawlies. Which I suppose he would do, wouldn't he?

But I don't want to end my account of our Happy Spring Outing on such a macabre note, so here is a picture of Finch (quite another kind of devil) inspecting our leeks for sand:

Leek Potato soup is a lovely meal for an almost-Spring supper, when the day was beautifully warm but the night turned altogether chilly. With oatmeal cookies for desert!

* 'pit bull' in quotes because lots of folks, including me, call it so if it's aggressive and looks something like a pit bull. Trouble is, lots of dogs look pit-bullish so likely a lot of these aggressive strays are mutts with or without pit-bull in them.

**I don't mind the empty liquor bottles as much considering the prevalence of used needles and condoms in and around our fair city!

**eta: I've tentatively id'ed the Demon-Bug of Herring Run Park as a relatively harmless, but scary-sounding 'blister beetle' of which there are many varieties. Evidently, these fearsome looking creatures secrete a substance that causes blistering on human skin on contact. The blistering is 'uncomfortable, but not painful.' I still say they look awfully damn nefarious, but I'm just glad they're not the sort of bug you'd find say, on a dead body or something.

dinner tonight: good question! possibly fried tilapia and spicy black beans, but also perhaps whatever carry-out I can persuade Justin to fetch!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

I finished Robin's Cable Sweater of Doom just past midnight, 5 March 2008. I finished it in between Finch's bouts of puking, which was fitting since the entire sweater would have been finished well over a year ago had Finch not been such a demanding laddie from birth onward. But, it's done, and I'm pretty well pleased with it overall. I stopped at Spinster Yarns and Fibers today partly to ask Andrea about my kids' knitting classes, but mostly to fish shamelessly for compliments on my latest f.o. I also stopped up at Red Canoe, only my excuse in this case was their delicious coffee, which I really did need because Finch kept me up until well past 3am with his nasty little virus.

Now, could the sweater be improved? Absolutely. The original plan had the cables integrated nicely with the raglan shaping, but I had to lower and widen the neckline so they end abruptly. Even with tweaking, the neckline isn't as close to perfect as I'd like it to be. I crossed a few cables incorrectly along the way and although I corrected them all (I hope!) I repaired them in situ, so to speak, rather than ripping back. This method is faster and provides good experience 'reading' the knitting, but I had a hard time making them nice and tidy. Overall, I was working slightly above my skill level. I used the EZ formula for a seamless raglan knit from the bottom up, with modifications based on Jacqueline Fee's Sweater Workshop. I plan to knit a few plainer sweaters using this blueprint before I attempt another cabled sweater. I'm also planning a few top-down sweaters, since I'm not as familiar with this method.

Up next, however, is Wren's cardigan. I need to seam it and knit up the button band. I used to hate seaming sweaters and even vowed that Wren's sweater, knit on request, would be the last seamed sweater ever, but now that I'm learning to sew I have a new appreciation for this kind of work. Seamless sweaters will always be my favorite, but I plan to hone my finishing skills on some seamed sweaters somewhere down the line.

Dinner tonight: Lentil stew with celeriac and walnut oil