Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Day Four of the Woolympics

 Yesterday, I took a brief respite from the hard work of the Woolympics, not only because it was my birthday, but because I suffered a major setback.  Now, we see that all the time, athletes "baubling" landings, tripping over an imaginary stone on the track, letting that unknown swimmer from the Czech Republic sneak up on them.
  These things happen, even to we seasoned knitters.  I was peacefully knitting around the edge of the angora shawl, watching an Italian beat the U.S. archer, when I noticed that the eyelets weren't lining up.  In fact, they were very, very askew.  So, following my coach's advice--shown here looking disinterested, but feeling the pressure intensely, I assure you--I frogged the whole edge and started over.
  It was a bit much to handle.  So I went outside and mowed, pulled weeds and weed-whacked.
  It helped, I can tell you.  I woke up this morning, ready to tackle that edge again, this time getting it right.  I have come to believe that, in knitting lace, although one needn't knit a swatch for gauge, one had darn well better knit a swatch to become familiar with the pattern. It might look straightforward on the chart, but it rarely is in real-life knitting situations!
 Here are the two shawls, side by side.  I'm saving the orange silk shawl for next week, to make sure it lasts through the games, but the white shawl's edge will occupy my time until then.  I've gotten 1 1/2 rounds done, roughly 800 stitches each round.  The chart is at the right side of the page, small but deceptively tricky.  I'm shooting for finishing it by tomorrow night, washing and blocking the shawl, to have it ready by my next days off, Sunday and Monday.  I wish there would be a sudden drop in temperature, so I could wear it to Sunday's GULP brunch (making doughnuts at home!  very excited!), or at least that our hosts will have the air conditioning very cool.
  Check in tomorrow for a progress report!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Woolympics, Day 2

Today dawned bright and lovely, with the gray wool shawl in progress while the Bicycle Road Race was on.  Was it that the race was so boring, or was the pattern too complicated?  It could have been that the yarn is too scratchy for a soft, drapey shawl!
  I don't consider it a defeat; I consider it similar to a swimmer or runner competing in different events, like Michael Phelps in the  400 meter and 1500 meter.  I'm a diversely talented knitter, and maybe German wool and lots of nupps just aren't my best event right now!

So, I switched.  I picked the hand spun silk from Nepal, even though I'm pretty sure I'll finish before the Olympics do.  In fact, at the rate I knitted today, I will probably finish before I go back to work on Wednesday!
  I chose a sort of complicated pattern, because there had to be a challenge somewhere.  I used a pattern from Traditional Lace Shawls by Martha Waterman, a semi-circular shawl with lots of pattern changes.  I've already finished the first ball of yarn, about 150 yards, and have done the major pattern repeat 2 times, gaining on the third.  I will have to quit when I run out of yarn, since it was a closeout, but then I can always screw up my courage and put the border on the white angora stole!  Won't count for the Olympics, but it will make me happy.

So, with tea cup filled, t.v. on and knitting ready to go, I begin another game-filled night of Olympics.  Go Team USA!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympic Trials

You may recall my poor showing in last Olympic's knitting event, a pink chenille scarf that lacked finishing by inches, modeled by my faithful dog/trainer.  This year, I've decided to go for the gold with just minutes to go before the opening ceremonies.  Here are the possible yarns, from left to right:
  1. 60% kid mohair/40% silk, from Shibui.  Luscious, soft, yarn of my dreams, but will be hard to un-knit in the event of an error.
  2. Hand spun silk scraps from Nepal, by Mango Moon.  Lumpy, fun and colorful, but probably too simple.  I don't want to finish it this weekend!
  3. Fine merino that I found in a box.  No details.  Will make a lovely shawl, but could be a little boring, simply because it's white
  4. 100% merino, hand spun and hand dyed by Abuelita yarns in Uruguay.  Eh!  It's kind of hard spun; it'll make a lovely shawl and might be the perfect choice.  But I don't know...
  5. 100% merino from Germany.  I can't read the label, but if I read it as if I'm reading English, it's very funny.  This yarn has a lovely hand, and I bought it Nashville last week, thinking of making a shawl for Mom.  I'm leaning toward it.
Well, it's time to order a pizza, make a yarn selection, choose a pattern, find some needles and prepare to cast on.  Technically, the opening ceremonies have already started, but they won't be televised here until 7:30.  If you're joining in Ravelry's Olympics, or just doing it on your, own, let me know!  We can cheer each other on!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Impersonating a Bread Baker

Here I sit on a lovely Saturday morning, listening to NPR and thinking how lucky I am to have this un-rainy day off with no plans!  But It wasn't always like this.  Mom and I had planned to drive to Athens to go to R & M Yarns, but neither felt like it this morning.  Neither of us needs more yarn, and I surely do not feel like driving.  Seven days in a row driving to Walland and back, one full day driving to, around and from Nashville on Wednesday, two more trips to Walland... I think Ruby Subaru can have a day off.

On my trip to Walland on Thursday, I was the bread baker, for the first time in over a year, and I was nervous.  Nervous that I wouldn't wake up in time to be there by five--I was ten minutes early, without  a key to get in-- and nervous I would mess up the bread I needed to make.  The olive-semolina bread was easy, beautiful and delicious, but I didn't take a picture of it.  I only documented my shortcomings.  My pretzel bites look like seared scallops!  They taste delicious, I must say, but they are a trifle inconsistent.  The multi-grain batards, well, look like their name implies.  A Batard in French is a person of dubious parentage, named so because they're not a baguette, not a loaf, but something to use up leftover dough.  Mine have, um, character.
  Tomorrow, I have to be at the farm at four in the morning, to train a new a.m. baker to do the brunch desserts, and oh, how excited I am, but at least I won't have the anxiety of having no idea what I'm doing!
  And speaking of knowing what I'm doing, I present the angora shawl, with the center block finished!  I am now having anxiety about the edge, whether to pick up stitches and knit around, or knit the edging in strips and attach it.  The pick up method is the "modern" way to do it, according to author Nancy Bush, who made the Lily of the Valley pattern I followed.  She also wrote Knitted Lace of Estonia, which I was reading one night while enjoying a dark beer.  I knocked over the beer, onto the shawl which was in my lap, the book in my hands and the other book, Traditional Knitted Lace Shawls, by Martha Waterman, sitting nearby in the splash pattern.  The beer will probably come out of the shawl, but the books are warped and funky.  Usable, but definitely beery!  
  While I contemplate the edging dilemma, I have started a new shawl, using the blue tencel I had so much trouble using for the original Lily of the Valley shawl.  I made three false starts, but am in cruise control now, using a pattern from the Estonian book, Lilac Leaf.  The whole pattern is kind of ugly, but the leaf is pretty, easy and fun to do, as mindless as knitting lace can be.  So I edited out the edges Nancy Bush used, am using the leaf pattern alone for the center block and will choose something snazzy and complex from the Traditional book.  It's really a "make your own pattern" kind of book, with very few real shawl patterns, so more of a reference guide.  It's something I'll use more when I'm more comfortable knitting lace.
   And while I was in Nashville, I bought some new lace yarn, very fine undyed merino.  It waits on my swift to be wound into balls.  I think it needs something complex and interesting from one of my new books.  It's soft and luscious.  It'll make a lovely shawl, maybe a gift for someone lucky.
  Housework awaits!  And then, I'll assume the knitting position on the couch, with a good movie.  Happy Saturday!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Seasonal Sweet Stuff

 I love summer, and all the fruit it brings!  Not crazy about the heat, but without it, the fruit wouldn't be here, now would it?
  Wild blackberries grow on the farm, on the hill just above the garden.  So do ticks, wasps, poison ivy and oak, as well as many other unpleasant things.  While I was picking some last week, a critter scrambled around inside the bushes.  That's when I got in the golf cart and picked from there!
  That time, I only picked what I needed to try the recipe for cornmeal pudding cake.  On its debut, it had raspberries with rhubarb, but both are long gone, due to the heat, while the blackberries are going crazy.  I made lemon verbena gel-oh, caramel corn ice cream and caramel Cope's corn to set the ice cream on.  The rest is blackberry puree and domesticated blackberries.  It's a bit more than I normally have on a plate, but I couldn't edit anything out, having a fondness for all.

Yesterday, faced with 100 people and too much ice cream on the proposed menu, I made a Nectarine-Vanilla Bombe, just ice cream ingredients rearranged to make something that doesn't freeze as hard as plain ice cream.  There's a nectarine glace center in a vanilla chibouste dome.  Glace is just Italian meringue, fruit puree and gelatin; Chibouste is pastry cream, Italian meringue and gelatin.  Underneath is crumbled vanilla wafers, and on the plate is nectarine sauce and flowers, what we call PLF's, pretty little flowers.  Folks from the kitchen make daily pilgrimages to the garden for PLF's.
  With all the corn appearing in the farmer's market, you should try the caramel corn ice cream.


4 oz. white chocolate chips
2 ears fresh corn
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 quart whole milk, preferably Cruze Farm's

Place the white chocolate on a sheet pan and place in a 350 degree oven.  Bake for about 5-8 minutes, or until evenly golden brown.  Shuck the corn and cut the kernels off the cob.  Pour the milk into a large saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Remove from heat and stir in the browned white chocolate, the corn and the cobs.  Let steep for about 20-30 minutes.  Stir well, then strain out the debris.
In a large stainless bowl, whisk together the yolks and the sugar.  Bring the milk back to a simmer and slowly stir into the yolk mixture.  Place the bowl over a pan of boiling water, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.  Whisk constantly, until the mixture is thickened slightly and reaches about 170-175 degrees F.  Place immediately over a bowl of ice water to cool, stirring occasionally.  Cool to about 60 degrees F before freezing in an ice cream maker.