Tuesday, August 30, 2005

The first day went well

"Mom! I have my own desk where I can sit and put all my stuff and no one can touch any of it!" Wee bit protective about the stuff, my boy is. He also loves the classroom rules: "keep your arms, legs, and butts to yourself!" This is naturally said with a huge grin and a giggle. I'm pretty sure the word "butt" is his own six year old interpretation. Smart rule, though.

So far, the last two afternoons have been really hard. Last year it took about a month for him to get used to Kindergarten and the new structure and become more calm. Hoping it takes less time this year. In the meantime, I'm working on filling the afternoons with activities so there isn't a lot of time to fall apart. If we can all just hang in there for a little while, everything will be better soon.

My heart and head keep going back to New Orleans and the tragedy unfolding there. Suddenly everything going on in my life seems trifling by comparison. We have a home, we have all of our pictures and favorite books and stuffed animals, we are all safe, and we know where we will sleep tonight. All great blessings that I wish for those hit by Katrina.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Very little knitting

There has been so much to do to get my oldest ready for school that very little knitting or really crafting of any kind has happened lately. We've had some huge legal issues with the district as well, so life has been a bit more stressful than usual. Today started 1st grade for my oldest and I'm really hoping he adjusts to a new teacher, new classroom, and new classmates better than he did last year. Change is so very hard for him, and this is a lot of change all at once. His teacher seems very sweet, almost grandmotherly, so hopefully that will help. I'm expecting the first few weeks to be rocky, but soon he should have routines down and be more familiar with everything. It just makes my heart ache to see things be so hard for him. We're doing all we can, but it seems so small in the face of all that he needs.

While I haven't been knitting, I *have* been recruiting ;-). Met up with a friend of mine this last weekend, plopped down a pair of needles and a ball of yarn, and taught her how to knit. Her 7 year old son attends a Waldorf school where all the children are taught to knit as part of the curriculum, so he was stunned when he ran over on a break from playing. "Mom, are you knitting?" Darn tooting she is! Actually, she did really well right from the start - even stitches, good tension, only one dropped stitch.

Buahahaaaa....another one pulled over to the dark side. Soon they will all knit! Everyone!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Local produce, part III

Today's haul from the Pomona Farmer's Market. This time, I'll list what I'm doing with everything (clockwise, starting at the top):

*sandwich rolls - base for grilled vegetable sandwiches and again to make Grinders later in the week (OK, it's not produce and I'm sure the ingredients aren't local, but it was prepared close by)
*cauliflower - roasted with turmeric, garlic, and mustard seeds
* red cabbage - shredded for use in salads, base for a Asian-style slaw with peanut sauce
* carrots - snacking, shredded to go in salads
* celery - snacking
* radishes - sliced for salads, enjoyed with some sweet butter and a bit of sea salt
* red onion - part of roasted vegetable sandwich later in the week
*tomatoes - sliced and placed in Grinder sandwiches
* broccoli - steamed and served with salt, pepper, and a bit of butter
* red seedless grapes - popped in the mouth, sweet bite by bite
* eggplant - another part of the roasted vegetable sandwich
* red bell peppers - also roasted and used in above sandwich (which is pure heaven)
* leaf lettuce - salads and sandwiches through the week

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Local produce, part II

Today was much easier than last week. I knew just where to go in order to get (hopefully) all the produce we'll need for the week. Pomona farmer's market it was. This morning wasn't as brutally hot as last weekend, so there was little wilting among the plant life or the shoppers. Dropped by a French Bakery stand and grabbed a pan au chocolat to share with the boys when I got home, then went looking for fajita fixings, things to munch on, and likely vegetables for dinners later this week. Lettuce was abundant and looked really good this week (lower temperatures helped, I'm sure), so I got a huge head of leaf lettuce for salads. I found long beans which I just love and snatched them up with glee. Summer squash also looked delicious - not sure what I'll do with that yet. There were also farm fresh eggs for $2.50 a dozen. Not cheap, but not that bad, either.

The boys asked me if someone had painted the eggs, then got excited and pointed out that these eggs were just the same as the ones in Two Eggs, Please. They quickly pointed out that the insides would look just the same as eggs that were white on the outside. It's such a sweet little book - characters come into a diner one by one, each ordering two eggs cooked in a different way. Then cut to the chef, who holds up one white egg and one brown egg: "different." Then he cracks the eggs into a bowl, and we can see: "the same." All the diners sit down to eat, noting that their orders are "different, but the same." Good lesson for anyone to learn - that we are all different, but the same in many ways as well. The world would be a better place if everyone learned that lesson.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Someday I'll learn, right?

Handpainted yarn, cables, moss stitch? Sure they'll all go together! This was my thinking as I started Robbyn's beautiful Peony Purse. With each row I questioned myself more and more....was this really going to work? The colors aren't fighting with the pattern, are they? No, not at all. Really. Honest. This delusional thinking went on until I'd finished the first cable repeat, and then reality was staring me in the face: patterned yarn and texture don't get along well. No matter how much I wish this wasn't the case, it's true. Someday I'll get that fact through my thick head - either that, or I'll keep bashing my head against the wall so much that perhaps I'll associate that pain with the futility of trying this combination again.

Much frogging later, I stared at my beautiful Voodoo yarn, trying to think of something tiny and special to showcase the colors and glorious silkiness. A purse of some sort seemed ideal, but something with a simple design so the colorway wouldn't fight it. Searched online, flipped through all of my patterns, wracked my brain for an idea to expand on and design myself. Nothing. Then I remembered: there's a silk purse pattern in Mindful Knitting. Ran to the bookshelf, opened it up, and there it was - the perfect, simple purse shape. I cast on and started knitting away, only to find another problem. The dreaded pooling. Nooooo! Not the pooling! I know many embrace the vagaries of handpainted yarn, loving the zigs and zags that the colors form when left to themselves. Not me. I admit to being a control freak extraordinaire. I want those colors to balance well across whatever I'm knitting, and I will make that happen come hell or high water, dammit! Frogged again. Started over.

Much better.

I also finished up a super fast gift. Arden's favorite preschool teacher is moving on to another job and today was her last day. Didn't find out she was leaving until Monday, so this needed to be a something quick. Slippers sounded good...and didn't I have a skein of Patons Bohemian lying around? Why yes! Bought it last year on a whim, mainly because the yarn is so unbelievably soft. Perfect for slippers. Knit them up in the blink of an eye - would you believe I cast on a total of sixteen stitches? Now that's some bulky yarn. They came out nicely - so soft and cuddly. Arden's teacher loved them and was last seen petting them as I walked out of the classroom.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

B is for broccoli

I usually have this as a quick, easy dinner when broccoli looks good and I feel like something comforting.

Pasta with Broccoli
Serves 4 as a main dish

2 lbs broccoli
1 lb penne or other tubular pasta
2 Tbs butter
2 Tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup parmesan or asiago cheese, grated

Cut broccoli into small florets, then peel stems and cut into 1/4 inch rounds (you can skip the stems, but they are so delicious - please try them!).

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta to the water and cook until just tender. About 3 minutes before pasta is done, add broccoli to the pot. Drain both in colander.

Meanwhile, in small pan heat butter and oil (or just oil) over medium low heat, then add garlic. Cook for a minute or two, then add pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.

Toss pasta, broccoli, and garlic-oil mixture together (I usually use the same pot I boiled the pasta in). Top with cheese and serve.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Local produce, part I

Here is today's haul, courtesy of two different farmer's markets (along with my younger son's hand - he was "helping"). The whole family jumped in the car, ready to go to our usual market in Diamond Bar, only to find it closed due to construction in the area. Well, shoot. On to plan B. Luckily I had a list from here and found another one about 10 miles away. Off to Pomona we went, in search of plant life for sale. Now this was more like it! There were more produce stands and greater variety than I've ever seen at our local market, and better prices to boot. As we walked around, the boys got hungry and wanted a snack so we headed off towards the back, where all the baked and prepared stuff was. Younger son chose a poppyseed muffin, while older son was desperate for a hot dog and soda and proceeded to melt down completely when we said no to the soda (we had water and were only getting snacks). Dan took him out to the car to cool off while son#2 and I wandered around. Found some incredible looking bread, which was quickly purchased. Tried some toffee sunflower seeds which I loved, smaller son did not. Ah well, more for me. Then I started noticing that booths were closing up. Huh? It wasn't even lunch time yet. Turns out this market closes at 11:30, not 2:00 like I was used to. Back to the car to drive home. Dropped Dan and the boys off and headed out to the next closest market in West Covina, held in the parking lot of a strip mall. Smaller selection of produce, more lunch items, crafts, kettle corn and the like. I managed to find the rest of what I wanted, aside from lettuce (none available), and headed for home.

Had to get a close up of this carrot. Not something you'd usually find in an orange plastic bag 'o carrots from the store, is it? I like a carrot with character, with presence. Note younger son in the background, holding a green bean. Evidently, the green bean was very hungry and decided to start eating all of the other fruits and vegetables one by one, causing great distress and mayhem (and giggles). Not only are vegetables good for you, they double as action figures. Who knew?

Tomorrow we are off to pick raspberries. We'll see how many actually make it back home.

Friday, August 05, 2005


I've been a bit lax in collecting mail this week. The mailbox is waaaaay down at the end of a long walkway, and it's been so freakishly hot that all I want to do is cower in air conditioned slpendor with a tall glass of cool water in hand. Besides, who needs more bills and junk mail, right?

Well lookee here - what's this?

Knit and crochet patterns (there's a quick pattern for wee mouse slippers that may well need to be made immediately) and a moose in a party hat. The moose completely cracked me up. Party on, Canada! Hope your 138th birthday truly rocks.

....but wait....there's more! With every moose postcard you also recieve, completely free of charge, not one, not two, not five, but eight handmade stitch markers! As a special bonus, if you call now you will also get a stitch holder absolutely free of charge! This is a one time only special offer brought to you by random acts of kindness and the lovely Canadian Sandra (aka wyldeyez).

This completely made my day. And there's a quick pattern for animal slippers that may well need to be made immediately.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


I can remember years ago when they used to have cross cultural fairs in the grassy circle in the middle of my college. All the clubs would have something to offer: the Greek club had something with feta cheese, the French club had crusty bread, and the Indian club had samosas. The first time I tried one I remember following this delicious smell to a stand adorned with these odd pastry triangles. I bought one, dipped it in the sauce when prodded to do so, and immediately fell in love. I turned to the group and asked what was in this heavenly thing? Could I (pleaseohplease) have a recipe? I got a puzzled, somewhat bored look, followed by, "my mom makes these - I think she uses potatoes and peas and some spices." Thanks. That definitely helped. A lot.

Thus began my love affair with Indian food of all kinds. I began branching out, trying curries, naan, masala tea, kheer, dal, biryani, and loving every bite. I started collecting cookbooks by Madhur Jaffrey, Neelam Batra, and Julie Sahni. I bought cardamom, fenugreek, coriander, fennel, cinnamon sticks, and huge lots of cumin. Dal became a dinner staple, and I even made my own naan that wasn't half bad. But the holy grail was always to make an incredible samosa, one that would bring me back to that very first taste of Indian food. I kept fiddling and changing things here and there, never really satisfied. And then, one day, came a batch that I couldn't find fault with. The one I now make in bulk and take anywhere I think people might like them (and honestly, who wouldn't love a really good samosa?).

This is very loosely based on a Madhur Jaffrey recipe, though I've made a lot of changes over the years. I usually make up the filling, toss it in the refrigerator for a while, then roll out the pastry and fill them on another day. They can be frozen after baking - just defrost and warm in the oven for a few minutes. I skip the homemade pastry and deep frying bit and use puff pastry sheets rolled out thin. Much, much easier (and less cleaning do to afterwards). These may not be the prettiest specimens out there, but the taste more than makes up for appearances.

Makes either 64 small or 36 large

4 medium potatoes
3 Tbs vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped fine
1 cup frozen peas
1 Tb ginger root, peeled and minced
1/2 serrano pepper, minced
3 Tbs cilantro, chopped fine
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground roasted cumin seeds (plain ground cumin is also fine here)
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tb lemon juice
1 Tb amchur (dried, ground unripe mango - substitute 1 additional Tb. lemon juice)
2 packages frozen puff pastry sheets, thawed

1. Peel the potatoes, cut into several large pieces, then boil until cooked through. Mash a bit - just enough so there aren't any bits of potato larger than the size of a pea. Let cool. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a skilled over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until medium brown, stirring as needed.

2. Add the peas, ginger, chili, cilantro, and 3 tablespoons of water. Cover, lower the heat and simmer very gently until peas are cooked. This should only take a few minutes.

3. Add the potatoes, salt, coriander, garam masala, cumin, cayenne pepper, lemon juice and amchur (if using). Keep heat on low and mix the spices with the potatoes. Continue cooking gently, stirring frequently, for 3 to 4 minutes. Check salt and lemon juice. Turn off heat and leave potato mixture to cool.

4. While mixture is cooling, start to prepare the pastry sheets. Sprinkle liberally with flour, then roll out until rather thin, but thick enough to hold together around the filling. The sheets will almost double in size once rolled, and should end up roughly square. Separate sheets with waxed paper and cover with a damp cloth.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lay out a pastry sheet, then brush with water or beaten egg. Cut into 9 or 16 equal squares, depending on how large you want to make them. Spoon filling onto the center of each square, then fold two corners together to make a triangle. Seal the edges well, then tuck the two ends of the triangle underneath the filling and press down a bit to center everything. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or so, or until pastry is a golden brown.

6. These freeze very well, and can be briefly reheated in a warm oven before serving.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Knitting, yarn, and book signing goodness

Last night was the Los Angeles leg of the Yarn Harlot book signing tour. I packed up my book, my Kiri to work on while there, samosas for the table of munchies at the back, and a knitting bag I made up for the sock (well, Stephanie as well, but that sock looked like it might be needing creature comforts). I had never been to the Knit Cafe, so I left early in hopes of beating rush hour traffic. It only took an hour to get there (in what universe is this a positive thing? Oh, right, this is Los Angeles, after all. Sigh) so I got there close to the start of the signing. Dropped off the samosas and grabbed a chair in front so as not to disturb too many people.

Stephanie did some reading from the book, then talked about knitting in general and the things she has seen on tour so far. She was funny, witty, and real and put the whole room at ease. We all laughed at the things all knitters seem to have in common, including less than appreciative partners. It seemed like everyone in the room was knitting something interesting, and there were a lot of sideways glances to check out whatever was in the lap of someone down the row or in back. Then on to book signing for those of us who hadn't gotten there earlier. I brought up the knitting bag, and the sock took to it immediately:

Got my book signed, handed Stephanie a plate of samosas that were passed on from the back of the room, then went to look at yarn and grab some chips from the table. So much yarn! And so many really great people. I met Mary-Heather and she's just the nicest person. Then off to look at yarn again. I didn't get a chance to look at the Kidsilk Haze (still haven't seen it in person, which is probably just as well for my checkbook), but I did find this:

That's Petite Voodoo by Twisted Sisters. Half wool, half silk. Oh, my, is it ever soft. Not sure I'll even knit anything out of it - I may just keep it in my knitting bag and fondle it from time to time. Lovely, lovely stuff.

There's a picture of me with Stephanie, but somehow the lighting ended up doing odd things and right now you can't tell there are actually people in it. I'll add it in if I can fix it later. I was very glad to meet Stephanie in person and hopefully didn't seem like too much of a crazy stalker person, what with the bag and baked goods. All in all, it was wonderful to get away from the boys for a night and do things that I really enjoyed - meeting new people and playing with yarn. Well worth the drive.

Picture fixed! Stephanie is holding one of the samosas. Note that even without the dress sandals, she's still taller than I am.