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Episode 25

This episode includes the following segments: A Little Bit of Learning, The Back Porch, and Double Happiness.

oatsA Little Bit of Learning

In February, oats are in the spotlight for our bulk bins cook along.  Little is known about the uses or cultivation of oats prior to the time of Christ.  What we do know is that, because of their bland flavor and susceptibility to spoilage, oats were not highly prized or widely consumed by people.  The Greeks and Romans considered oats to be diseased wheat.  Gradually, oats came to be cultivated in Scotland, Ireland, German and many Scandanavian countries — they prefer a cool, moist climate.  Oats were introduced to North America by Scottish settlers in the early 1600’s, and were first grown off the coast of Massachusetts.  George Washington sowed nearly 600 acres with oats in the late 1700’s.  Cultivation shifted to the midwest, and has declined; much of the acreage once used for oats has been re-assigned to soybeans, which are a more financially lucrative crop.  A resurgence in oat consumption began in the 1980’s, upon publication of studies which have shown oats and oatmeal to be effective in lowering cholesterol and improving heart health.

steelcutoatsThere are many varieties of oats available, so home cooks can expand their skill set by experimenting with different types:

  • steel-cut oats — kernels cut through with a steel blade, resulting in a dense and chewy texture (see photo)
  • old-fashioned — steamed and then rolled flat
  • quick-cooking — steamed and cut finely before rolling
  • instant — partially cooked, then rolled thin and dried, often combined with sweeteners, powdered milk, and flavors
  • oat bran — the outer layer of the grain, found just under the hull (most kinds of oats will contain oat bran, but you can also buy it in concentrated form)
  • oat flour
  • oat groats — unflattened oat kernels

clocheThe Back Porch

This week I completed the Fellowes Cloche by Amy Herzog.  I felt challenged by the w&t (wrap and turn) directions in the pattern, and wish that I had been familiar with the ease and versatility of the dbl-st (double stitch) and the technique of using German short rows when I was working on the brim.  However, I’m very pleased with the densely-textured look of linen stitch knitted in a single-ply yarn of alpaca, wool and silk.  The hat’s band is tacked on and hides some of the sloppy stitches.  I think this would be a good pattern choice for chunky handspun singles.

ladyalminaDouble Happiness

Have you been watching Downton Abbey this season? Can’t get enough, right?  I’m sure many knitters received a copy of  The Unofficial Downton Abbey Knits as a holiday gift.  I’ve also seen and heard several reviews of the patterns in the issue.  This week, I’ve been enjoying the articles.  If you suspect you’re likely to enter DA withdrawal when the season is over, I recommend having this book on hand. The Eighth Countess of Carnarvon, Fiona Herbert, has researched the life of her predecessor, Lady Almina.  This book is an enjoyable read and contains many photographs of Highclere Castle, where DA is filmed.

consueloOn page eight of The Unofficial Downton Abbey knits, there’s a portrait of the Duchess of Marlborough, Consuelo Vanderbilt. The article, “For Richer, Not Poorer,” provides a brief overview of the Gilded Age custom, of wealthy American heiresses marrying English lords.  This summer, when I visited Marble House in Newport, RI, I saw many, many portraits and photographs of Consuelo.  Reported to be a great beauty, she often looks perfectly miserable in her frilly dresses and constricting corsets — maybe she had a premonition of her future.  Although she championed women’s suffrage,  Alva Vanderbilt was determined to land a titled husband for her daughter, who was worth about $20 million when she had her debut in 1895.  Unlike Cora and Lord Grantham of DA, Consuelo was miserable with the Duke, and eventually ended their marriage.

Oats, as defined in Samuel Johnson’s dictionary: Eaten by the people of Scotland, but fit only for horses in England.

Scotsman’s retort: That’s why England has such good horses, and Scotland such fine men!

Episode 24

This week’s episode features the following segments: Yarn Lover at Large, Double Happiness, and The Front Porch. 

swingYarn Lover at Large

On Saturday, I took a class with Tricia Weatherston.  The class, held at my LYS, Mountain Knits & Pearls in East Stroudsburg, was devoted to the concept of swing knitting.  The technique was named and developed by Heidi Liegmann, who offers a series of workshops to help knitters learn the methods and make a variety of projects.  Swing knitting is distinguished by numerous segments of German short rows, made using the double stitch, as opposed to the typical “wraps and turns” method. While Liegmann uses musical vocabulary (stanza and melody) to describe the technique, our class at MKP used a pattern by Brigitte Elliot, who employs agricultural terminology (field and furrow) and a much less wordy, more technical set of instructions.  If you’re interested in swing knitting — beware!  You must be able to clear your life of distractions in order to work on these patterns.  They are not difficult, but they do require your full attention.

valentinoDouble Happiness

There’s nothing like the pleasure of starting a new braid of fiber on my wheel.  This week, I’m fortunate to begin the gift of some fiber from Fat Cat Knits in the Valentino color way. This is PERFECT for the season — bright pops of pink and other candy colors, balanced by a luscious chocolate brown.  The fiber was a gift and my first time spinning Ginny’s wares.  It’s a pleasure to spin.  Did I mention that I love the colors?  I hope to have at least 4 ounces complete by Valentine’s Day.

fullmoonThe Front Porch

In Episode 23, I mentioned that I did make a purchase at Vogue Knitting Live.  I met the beautiful, engaging Laura Watson at her booth, which was bursting with Full Moon Farm‘s Fabulous Fiber.  Since one of my goals for 2014 is to purchase yarn from new-to-me purveyors, and since the farm’s location in nearby Gardiner, NY makes the yarn local, I decided to buy enough yarn for a project I’ve had in my queue for awhile.  The Aggregate shawl by Jimenez Joseph of JimiKnits is the perfect showcase for the vibrant colors of Laura’s yarn.  I’m really enjoying this pattern and the yarn, a 2-ply of Merino-Corriedale cross fiber.

bulkbinsBulk Bins Cook-along

The spotlight on lentils thread on Ravelry will remain open, but on January 31, I will be choosing a winner from among those who have posted to win a pattern of $7 value or less.   Next month’s spotlight is on oats.  The Ravelry thread for discussion, recipe sharing and photos will open on February 1.

No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn.    — Hal Borland

Episode 23

This week’s episode features the following segments: A Little Bit of Learning, Ever-Expanding Skill Set, Yarn Lover at Large, The Back Porch, and The Front Porch.


A Little Bit of Learning

One of the things I forgot to mention when I discussed the nutritional properties and cultivation of lentils in the last episode was the tradition of eating lentils at the new year as a symbolic gesture.  It is customary in some cultures to eat lentils on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day because lentils, resembling tiny coins when they’re cooked, are an auspicious symbol of wealth and prosperity and are said to bring luck.  I think that auspicious eating for the entire month of January is in order. For some great recipe ideas and more suggestions of lucky foods for the new year, visit the Whole Foods Market website.  If you’re cooking along with the bulk bins cook along, you can enter into the monthly drawing for a pattern prize on Ravelry by posting your comments, recipe ideas, links, and photographs in the Bulk Bins CAL thread. You can also join in the fun by using #bulkbinscal on Twitter.

Ever-expanding Skill Set

Oh, my, were these barbecue lentils good.  I’m talking stick-to-your-ribs, incredibly tasty.  I served these over baked potatoes.  Yum.  I began with  a recipe suggested by a listener and adjusted it based on the contents of my pantry and the fact that I don’t have a crock pot.

This recipe is adapted from Karen’s crock pot version, with turkey stock and leftover turkey from my Thanksgiving bird. I used my Le Creuset cookware so that I could cook on the stovetop and in the oven using the same pot. Also, I’ve employed two techniques I’ve learned through my research on cooking with lentils: 1) salt slows the cooking process, so it’s best to add salt once lentils have reached the desired level of doneness 2) lentils are easier to digest if you add them to already boiling liquid.


2 tblsp. olive oil or butter
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 c. turkey stock
2 c. French lentils, soaked overnight and drained
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. organic catsup
1/4 c. brown sugar
3 tblsp. maple syrup
3 tblsp. balsamic vinegar
1 c. diced turkey breast / thigh

In a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, sauté onions for 3 minutes. Add carrot, celery and garlic, continue to sauté another 3 minutes. Do NOT add salt. Reduce heat to low and cover; “sweat” for 7 minutes. Pour in stock and bring to a full boil before adding lentils. Stir, then reduce heat to low and cover; simmer for 12-15 minutes or until nearly all of the liquid has been absorbed. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into a casserole dish and bake in 350 oven until bubbly.

I didn’t have any bacon on hand, but if I had, I’d prefer to dice 2-3 slices of bacon and render, using bacon fat to replace oil/butter. Then, I would reserve the crispy bacon and sprinkle on the top before serving.

parkesYarn Lover at Large

On Saturday, I took the train to NYC to spend a little time at Vogue Knitting Live.  Specifically, I wanted to attend a lecture by Clara Parkes, whose memoir, The Yarn Whisperer, I had recently read. I was late to the game in learning about her Great White Bale project, but I wanted to learn more.  Clara purchased a bale of Saxon-merino fiber (that’s 676 pounds), then set about the task of working with mills and dyers in the US to turn that fiber into yarn for a the enterprising folks who purchased exclusive access to the products and Clara’s story about her journey.  During her lecture, Clara showed photographs and video, and discussed the triumphs and the many, many challenges of her journey.  In closing, she implored members of the audience to think carefully about the people, products, and industry practices you are supporting when you purchase each skein.  If you’re interested in the state of the US textile industry, you may enjoy “Fruits of the Loom,” an article and photo essay that appeared recently in The New York Times.

blalockThere were many, many artists with work featured at VKL, and that was one of the highlights for me in visiting the conference.  One artist, who was sitting inside a magnificent work titled Keeping up Appearances, was Ashley V. Blalock.  This is a stunning and thought-provoking piece that invites conversation about contemporary attitudes towards domestic arts.  The structure of the display is reminiscent of doilies — intricate patterns of delicate crochet work. However, delicacy is contradicted by the large scale and bold use of color, which suggest raw emotion,  perhaps even violence.  It was a pleasure to speak with the artist about her incredibly provocative installation.

figyarn2The Back Porch

This weekend, I finally finished the plying of some fiber I’ve had on the wheel for a few weeks.  Falkland refers to the wool of sheep from the Falkland Islands, rather than a particular breed of sheep.  The wool has a relatively long staple length, is strong but not too course, and is recommended for beginning spinners.  The braid I spun, from Patricia of Beesybee Fibers, was 4 ounces.  I was able to get 405 yards of a 2-ply yarn in fingering weight.  The color is sour fig; I used a fractal spinning technique, dividing the fiber in such a way as to maximize barber-poling (the effect of two different color plies twisted together throughout the yarn.)

lentils.The Front Porch

This week I was given the gift of a lentil-inspired pattern by Andrea Delhey.  It’s called Indian Lentils and it’s perfect because I’ve been thinking lately that I need to get back to some crochet projects. I’m using some Noro Taiyo sock yarn for this scarf.  The pattern is very easy to memorize and its long, long rows give make it a good one for working on while I’m chatting or watching a podcast.

I started the journey [of The Great White Bale] wanting to explore how yarn was made in this country.  But during the journey I became more interested in who and why.    — from Clara Parkes’ lecture at Vogue Knitting Live, NYC 1.18.14

Episode 22

This week’s episode features the following segments: Ever-expanding Skill Set, A Little Bit of Learning, The Back Porch and The Front Porch.

Ever-expanding Skill Set

Thank you, everyone, for the enthusiastic comments and posts about the Bulk Bins Cook Along. I’m thrilled that you are as excited about the idea as I am.  Contribute your recipes, tips, and photos to the BULK BINS CAL thread on Ravelry.  There is already a great conversation and recipe exchange going on in this thread. Each month, one post will be selected at random to win a Ravelry pattern valued at $7 or less.  After announcing the idea in the last podcast episode, I spent a frigid Sunday afternoon cooking with French lentils for the first time.  This soup recipe from Carrie Vitt of Deliciously Organic was my inspiration.  I used pork kielbasa from Applegate Farms and some frozen turkey stock from my Thanksgiving bird. I also replaced the tomato products with 1/2 cup of finely diced sun-dried tomato.   Just before serving, I squeezed the juice from half a lemon into the pot and shaved some parmigiano-reggiano over each bowl.

A Little Bit of Learning

This week, I’m sharing some nutritional facts and culinary lore about lentils on the podcast.  I have found excellent information on The World’s Healthiest Foods website.

foliageThe Back Porch

This week, I completed several projects.  Here you see the Spring Foliage mitts by Alana Dakos.  I knit them in Berroco Ultra Alpaca Lite in peat to coordinate with my Batad. These mitts are beautifully patterned and wonderfully stretchy at the cuff.  Alana’s patterns are written so well that I end up taking on much greater challenges than I think I am capable.  For example, cables.  And working with dpns (double-pointed needles).  Whatever, the challenge, I feel confident that if I follow Alana’s pattern carefully, I will come out with a beautiful garment.

I also completed a fringed scarf (pictured at the top of the post) made entirely of scrap yarn in sport, DK, and worsted weight.  Changing yarns every four rows and using linen stitch creates a lot of visual interest in this scarf.  What a plus that you don’t have to weave in ends — you simply knot the ends of yarn together as you change colors and leave them hanging for a fun fringe on the side.  Ingenious.  I highly recommend this pattern, called Flickerl, from Simone Eich of WOLLWERK.

fellowesThe Front Porch

During the month of January, I’ll be working on some additional hat donations for Click for Babies.  I’ve completed three hats so far.

I’ve also begun working on my first-ever Amy Herzog pattern.  This is my entry in a knitalong for SSK retreat members.  That’s right, in July, I’ll be traveling to Nashville for the Super Summer Knitogether sponsored by theknitgirllls.   The pattern I chose for the Amy Herzog KAL is the Fellowes cloche.  It looks to me like something Lady Edith would wear when she leaves Downton Abbey for a few days in London.  I know, I know.  Lady Mary gets all the attention, but I really enjoying Lady Edith’s wardrobe — especially in this season of DA.  Edith’s character is more fashion-forward and less traditional, so she has some exciting pieces and playful colors in her wardrobe.  This pattern is a challenging one, featuring linen stitch and wraps and turns.

Dress shabbily and they remember the dress; dress impeccably and they remember the woman.” — Coco Chanel

Episode 21

Happy New Year!  This episode includes segments titled The Back Porch, Double Happiness, The Front Porch, and Ever-expanding Skill Set.  Listen to the podcast episode for the Little Things contest prize winner.

daybreakThe Back Porch

Since spinning the honey to fig gradient from FiberOptic, I’ve been eager to get started on making something with the extraordinary merino-silk that took an age to spin and chain-ply.  I did not get enough yardage to knit the Clawed shawl featured in Ply magazine’s COLOR issue, so I decided to knit a Daybreak shawl by Stephen West.  This required dividing the yarn into two separate balls.  After a lot of number crunching and second-guessing, I made the cut.  It turns out that my instincts were pretty good.  I was able to keep complementary colors playing against each other throughout, and ended with a border of dark hues.

clickAnother completed project is the Bitsy Baby Beanie by Ellen Silva of the Twinset Designs podcast.  The pattern is great for beginning knitters and the perfect size and difficulty for charity work.  Each January, I try to make several contributions to a charity.  This year, I’ve decided to knit hats for the Click for Babies initiative, which seeks to educate parents about the period of “purple” crying and the significance of shaken baby syndrome.  Hats for this charity should be in newborn / infant sizes and must be at least 50% purple.  I’ve searched through my stash for purple yarn and I intend to knit several hats for the cause.

gifts2013Double Happiness

This holiday season, my suspicions about my knit-worthy family were confirmed.  Everyone on my gift list received my handiwork with a smile and a thank you.  It was fun to knit for them, and even more fun to see them wear the things I made.  I’m already planning some projects for gift-giving next year.  I’m also delighted by the thoughtful gifts I received–gifts for a knitter!  Four of my favorites: a vintage adjustable dress form on a heavy stand (her name is Gertrude); a glass head for modeling hats; The Fleece & Fiber sourcebook; a needle case by Crippenworks, and a set of awesome headphones.

The Front Porch

After a quick search on Ravelry, I located my list of goals for 2013.

1) Learn to knit socks.
2) Get the basics of changing colors to make stripes in a pattern.
3) Attend the knit nights at my LYS and get to know some local knitters.
4) Go to Rhinebeck.
5) Continue to drum up interest in the String Theory knit/crochet club I’ve volunteered to advise at the school where I work.
6) Knit something for my husband’s 2013 Xmas. I’m thinking some cashmere yarn and a masculine scarf pattern.

Even though I did not spend the year thinking about and crossing off items on this list, I managed to accomplish all of them.  I suppose the act of committing to your goals in writing is a kind of affirmation that you will strive to work toward them.  With that in mind, I’ve constructed a list of goals for 2014:

  1. knit a sweater
  2. try a felting project
  3. purchase yarn & fiber from new-to-me purveyors
  4. record 45 podcast episodes by August
  5. host a knit along
  6. attend a knitting retreat

bulkbinsEver-expanding Skill Set

This year, in order to expand my culinary skills, I’ve decided to experiment with products from the bulk bins at my local health food store.  In the past, I’ve turned to the bins for inexpensive alternatives to packaged items at the supermarket.  But there are so many products I’ve never tried.  By focusing on one ingredient each month, I can really expand my repertoire of recipes and cooking techniques.  I hope you’ll join me for a year-long cook-along.  In January, the spotlight will be on lentils.  Share recipes, links and photographs of your dishes on the Ravelry thread.  The more often you share, the greater your chances of winning a prize in the monthly drawing!  Get started with Monastery-style Lentil Soup, found on my friend Kristy’s blog, Creative Wisdom Wellness.

“Throw your dream out in front of you and walk into the dream.”  — Carl Jung

Episode 20

solsticeThis episode includes segments titled: The Back Porch, The Front Porch, Off the Shelf, Ever-expanding Skill Set, and Double Happiness.  One of my discoveries this week is the Danish word hyyge (hYOO-guh).  Although the rough translation to English is “cozy,” that term does not begin to address the concept of well-being and happiness embraced by Danes, and especially during the holiday season.  Cultivating a warm and inviting atmosphere in my home during the holidays is one skill that I continue to improve.  Decorating, organizing, building a fire, and cooking up tasty new recipes are just some of the ways I practice the art of hygge during the Christmas season.

advent16The Back Porch

Soon to be finished is my advent scarf.  I’ve been working on this scarf since December 1, but haven’t managed to complete the ideal one-chart-per-day.  Most of the charts are 15 rows, plus a 3-row divider section.  The gorgeous snowflakes are 27 rows, and take several days for me to complete.  The other complication is that I’m using a bit more yarn than I anticipated.  So, I think I’ll end up with 20 designs in my advent scarf, and I’ll add a ribbed band to each end of the scarf.  The pattern is by Tricia Weatherston (zemy on Ravelry). This should be finished in time to give to my mother on Christmas day.

tagThe Front Porch

On of my unanticipated purchases at Rhinebeck was a set of 100 sew-on labels from It’s Mine.  These arrived shortly before Thanksgiving.  I really like the simple styling. Now, I need to sew these onto each of my knitted gifts before giving.  Sewing the labels is more time-consuming than I anticipated, but I think I’m getting better with each try.

Off the Shelf

Knitting Yarns: Writers on Knitting edited by Ann Hood

Mastering the Art of Soviet Cooking: A Memoir of Food and Longing by Anya von Bremzen



I first enjoyed avocado toast at Cafe Gitane in New York City. Simple and delicious, this toast looks festive enough to serve for Christmas breakfast or brunch.  Mash together a ripe avocado, add salt and lemon juice, then spread over a piece of hearty whole-grain bread.  Drizzle with a high-quality olive oil and sprinkle with roughly-cracked pink peppercorns. Serve with freshly-brewed espresso and watch the birds flying busily about the feeders on a lazy winter morning.