Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The art of being slow

I'm a terrible cook and seem to be getting worse every year. There was a time in my late 20's when I knew how to cook well enough to get by, but my tastes have changed since then (hot dogs for lunch don't cut it anymore). Enter my new favorite book:

Cooking Basics for Dummies! This book is great because it is really basic. If the recipe tells you to thinly slice an onion, you can turn to an illustrated page that shows you how to slice an onion. Really basic.

Last night I made a simple dinner of a salad and an entree using recipes from the book. It was one of the best meals I've cooked in recent memory. Nothing got burned and it wasn't too salty or oily. But it took a looooong time to make it.

I wanted to follow the recipe exactly because I have a tendency to miss important steps like adding essential ingredients or reducing the oven temperature. So I chopped and sliced at a snail's pace, reading and re-reading every word, without wandering off to watch television or play with the cats while my food cooked in the oven. At first I felt ridiculous taking so much time to make a simple meal and told myself repeatedly that I should be able to do it faster. But eventually I relaxed and let myself enjoy the process of cooking a careful meal for myself, and that might have contributed to it tasting so good.

Isn't it funny how we value speed? I'm beginning to think it's highly overrated. I am constantly trying to figure out how to knit more quickly, but maybe the trick is to learn to enjoy doing it slowly, to savor each stitch, each row, each little chunk of time dedicated to creating something with your hands. The instructor who taught my first sock class told us that whether we knit tight or loose, we should make adjustments to the pattern rather than trying to change the way we knit. I thought that was great advice for life in general. Acceptance. Not trying to change yourself. Being present to who you are and how you do things and not judging whether you should be faster or slower or tighter or looser.

Tonight I'm going to attempt to cook another meal, so I'll see if I can put that in to practice.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wonderful holiday and a few new projects

How was your Thanksgiving? We had a potluck-style family gathering at my place that was pretty wonderful. After a delicious dinner we watched Disney's Beauty & the Beast. I hadn't seen it since the original release in 1991. What a sweet movie.

A small Thanksgiving joy that I rediscovered is fresh flowers on the table. I stopped bringing home bouquets several years ago when the cats came to live with me because I figured they'd eat them or knock them over, but it's been three days now and the flowers are still intact. If I make a new year resolution, it will be to have fresh flowers in my home more often.

Last weekend I unexpectedly began knitting a sock. You might remember I took classes earlier this year, but never finished a whole pair. I didn't think I would ever attempt to knit them again, but out of the blue I found myself pulling this Fiesta Baby Boom sock yarn out of my stash along with my Addi needles. Must be the cold weather.

I have quite a bit of this Misti Alpaca Pima Silk in my closet. It occurred to me that the colors would look good in this woven stitch, so I started a scarf. The first year I learned to knit, I tried knitting this stitch countless times and was never successful, so it was particularly satisfying to accomplish these few inches.

Hope you enjoy your long Thanksgiving weekend. My sister Hil and I are headed for Santa Cruz to do a little holiday shopping. Normally I avoid Black Friday like the plague, but this year I have shopping fever.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Crafty Christmas Trees

Did you enjoy your weekend? We had cold temps and showers both days, as well as crazy thunder and lightening. The ground is thick with wet yellow leaves. You all know how much I love rain, so I won't go on and on about how I love having an excuse to stay home all weekend, reading and crafting and watching movies. (Oops :o)

It's amazing how fast weekend days fly by. I planned to start crafting first thing this morning, but time slipped by (probably due to my spontaneous decision to cut my own hair, which is a story for another day) and I didn't get started on these Christmas tree ornaments until 1pm. Before I knew it, it was time for dinner.

The ornaments are from the book Pretty Little Felts and made with pages from antique books, felt, glitter, and vintage lace. For this first one I followed the instructions in the book fairly closely to get the hang of it and learn some new techniques. I spent a good part of Saturday knitting a sock, with about three inches of toe to show for it, so today I really wanted to make something I could actually finish in an afternoon.

On the second one I did my own thing with gold wire, buttons, and gems. I plan to use mine to decorate gifts instead of as ornaments, but they'd be great as garlands, too. Normally I'm glitter-challenged, but I recently started using Martha Stewart's glitter with good results (i.e. the cats, television, and carpet aren't covered with it).

Now it's cuddle time. Charlie and I are on the couch with a wool blanket watching one of my favorite Christmas movies, Elf.

Have a good week. For those of us in the states, it's a short one. Hurray!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Busy hands

Now that it's getting dark early I'm knitting more than usual, learning new knitting techniques and also going back to the old ones.

In order to knit the Mochimochi Land bats, I had to learn to knit in the round on double pointed needles. It's been a few years since I have attempted to do that because the last time was a major disaster. But I found that the sock classes I took earlier this year helped me master it (and I use the word 'master' very, very loosely) even though we used two circular needles for the socks. I haven't gotten very far with the bats because it took several attempts just to knit a few inches, but it feels great to have learned a skill that I didn't think I could do.

There is something about the colors of this cotton yarn that I love-- it reminds me of a 1950's kitchen. I was going to make dish towels, but decided to knit a scarf for a friend instead because I think she will look great in these colors, which are much prettier in real life than they are in the pic. For the first time in a very, very long time I'm knitting a plain old garter stitch scarf. It's nice not having to worry about making a mistake or wonder how it is going to turn out.

It was unusually warm in San Francisco last Sunday. We had a delicious lunch at Yank Sing. It was my first time trying dim sum and now I am a big fan. If you ever go to San Francisco, I must insist that you have lunch there. Dim sum is small individual portions of food that are extremely tasty, like pot stickers, dumplings, steamed buns, and spring rolls. Instead of ordering off a menu, you make selections off little carts that they wheel around. It's easy to go overboard.

Inside the building is a fountain that makes it seem like it is raining inside with the water staying inside this big round "puddle" so no one gets wet. That little face peeking out on the right is my sister Hil.

One of the wonderful things about San Francisco is that you never know what you are going to see. While walking down a busy street with office buildings and restaurants, we came across a tiny park with huge, whimsical monster sculptures.

These signs for the San Francisco Zoo were everywhere, and I was intrigued by the owl because that's not something you traditionally go to a zoo to see. I checked out their website and discovered they are having a twilight tour next week that is all about owls. Yay! I'm hoping to go if the tour hasn't filled up.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


I'm having a lazy Saturday today. It's sunny but a bit cool, and my plan is to do some knitting, stop by the craft store, and take a bag of books to Recycle Bookshop. Tomorrow my family and I are going to San Francisco to have lunch at my sister's favorite dim sum restaurant and go shopping at the Ferry Building Marketplace.

The trees are still fairly green around here, so when you come across colors like these while out walking you really notice it. I've been giving thought to the metaphors associated with autumn like transformation, letting go, and accepting change, and for the first time in many years felt moved to write a poem.


The stand of winsome autumn trees
Surrender to the inevitable.
With a gentle bow,
Red and gold offerings
Placed at your feet.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

After the rain

On Sunday it rained all day, bringing an unexpected benefit. When I stepped outside Monday morning I was greeted with this lovely scene-- the sun hitting the damp creek bank, causing swirly mist to rise. It was a nice way to start the week.

The wet weather made for a perfect afternoon of knitting. I finished this Modern Cabled Baby Bib (Ravelry pattern) knit in a cable and seed stitch combination. The yarn is Jil Eaton Cotton Tail that I found at my local yarn shop. It is a deeper shade of green than I was able to capture in the photo. I liked the yarn so much I want to knit a few more bibs in different colors.

On a different subject, it was interesting reading about your experiences with bats. So many of you have had bats in your backyard and in your home that it really surprised me. As the weather is growing colder here the bats are getting more and more active in the evening. I can enjoy their presence since they aren't roosting in my attic or patio umbrella!

I hope you are enjoying your week. It's hard to believe Thanksgiving is just around the corner.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Collaborative Art

Last year, Cory and I decided to do a collaborative art project. We each painted a canvas and then traded with the intent of finishing each other's work and exchanging them again. I, um, had a little trouble.

This is the original canvas that Cory painted. I started by adding words with a black pen. That didn't look great, so I covered up the words with splotches of white paint. That made it look even worse, so I layered thin pieces of tissue paper on it. With each attempt to fix it, the piece looked more and more awful. Frustrated and unsure what to do, I considered calling Cory and telling her I just couldn't do it.

I ended up hanging in there and eventually it started to take shape. I used gel medium to attach small pieces of paper layered with dried leaves and flowers, and then added two flowers using the handmade paper I made at Cory's house in Grass Valley last summer. Before we exchanged our artwork I sent her an email explaining that I messed up her canvas so badly that it lost the original look. She was gracious about it, but I felt really bad.

Cory assured me she likes it and posed for a picture on my patio. Check out her blog, Pink Dogwood Blossom, to see the gorgeous collage she made for me.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Going batty (and a knitting pattern)

Halloween is over, but I'm still going batty. As most of you know, I love all types of wildlife. I've been hoping to catch glimpses of critters around my new place because it's so woodsy, but I didn't expect to see bats! They live in the trees that grow along the creek and emerge at dusk. I've been a bat fan for many years, so I'm loving it! I read today that their presence is a sign of a healthy eco-system.
These bats are going straight to the top of my knitting queue. The Boo Pattern is available from Mochimochi Land (and the picture is from there, too).

I've been wanting to show you this scarf I've been working on for a while now. It's challenging to photograph because it's so dark, so I decided to just model it for you. It's knit with Malabrigo kettle dyed pure merino wool. When I showed it to my sister she commented that it looks like something our grandmother would have made, so I'm calling the pattern "Grandma's Easiest Lace Scarf Ever."

To knit the scarf:

-Using size 15 needles, cast on 16 stitches.
-Row one: *K2, YO, slip one stitch purlwise, K1, pass slipped stitch over* Repeat to end of row.

That's it! Just do row one over and over until the scarf is the length you want. If you want to experiment with different types of yarn and needle size, just keep in mind the pattern is a four stitch repeat.

Enjoy your weekend! We are supposed to get rain, and I sure hope it happens.