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Episode 19

fig“Food comes first, then morals.”  

Bertold Brecht (Threepenny Opera II.iii)

This episode includes the following segments: Ever-expanding Skill Set, A Little Bit of Learning, The Back Porch, The Front Porch, and Off the Shelf.

Ever-expanding Skill Set

jam1This autumn marked my second making and canning drunken fig jam from my colleague Guy’s luscious white figs.  I start with this recipe and alter it according to my tastes. Specifically, I omit the salt, reduce the amount of sugar, replace the lemon rind with orange rind and the cognac with grand marnier. For a luscious product, I let the mixture cook down until it is incredibly dense.  To maximize my yield, I can the jam in the smallest jars I can find.  The possibilities for using fig jam are as many as your imagination runs wild.   My favorite way to enjoy it is water cracker -> goat cheese -> jam.  Yum!  It is one of the ways to bring the warmth of the summer sun to my Christmas table.   Another way to enjoy dense, fruity jams and chutneys is to use as a glaze for grilled meats. One of the best-known preparations for figs is figgy pudding, popularized by the Christmas carol; however, the boozy pudding has fallen out of favor in England over the years.  Dorie Greenspand and Michele Norris attempt to bring it back in this feature from All Things Considered.

sandwichA Little Bit of Learning

Paired with some tart sliced apple, fig jam elevates a grilled cheese sandwich to an elegant dish.  The fig has always impressed me as exotic and enticing.  On the rare occasions we had them when I was growing up, my mother served them oven-roasted, just until they became a little runny, and topped them with a dollop of ricotta and a drizzle of honey.  Technically not a fruit, the fig is an inverted flower that grows best in Mediterranean climates.  Since it requires less water than many other crops, and is most often shipped dried, the fig is often touted as one of the more sustainable and sensible crops of California.  The US is #3 in the world in the production of dried figs, and the majority of those are grown in California.  Much of the research included in this episode comes from the website of the California Fig Advisory Board.

fig1The Back Porch

Since purchasing the Honey to Fig Gradient from FiberOptic at Rhinebeck, I’ve been working on this spinning project.  The four ounce braid of 80 percent merino / 20 percent silk spun so thin that it has taken me a very long time to complete the spinning and to chain-ply it to preserve the color transitions.  I couldn’t be more pleased with the finished yarn — 433 yards of silky soft yarn, from pale yellow through orange and burnt red to a deep and sparkly plum color.  There are two potential projects I have in mind for this yarn, both by Stephen West.  One is the small version of the Daybreak Shawl; the other is the Clawed Shawl, featured in the color issue of Ply magazine.

figfiberThe Front Porch

Next on my wheel will be Sour Fig, four ounces of Falkland from Beesybee Fibers.  The colors of this fiber are closer to the white figs I used to make the jam.  My technique for spinning this will be to divide the braid and spin onto two bobbins, working to get as much barber poling as possible.  This might work well for another Batad, or an as-yet-unimagined project.

lotionLittle Things Contest

Low temperatures, nasty weather, less sunlight, holiday stress … December can be tough on us. Let’s look to the little things as a way to keep smiles on our faces.  This giveaway is generously sponsored by Spinner’s End Farm. Sherry will put together a little collection of goodies to pamper and nourish your skin: goat’s milk soap, lotion bars, lip balm — a selection of handmade products to delight your senses and calm your holiday-wearied nerves. To enter, post a reply to the contest thread by January 4th.  One winner will be randomly selected from the contest entries.  If you can’t wait to find out whether or not you’re the winner, head on over to the Etsy shop and pick out your stocking stuffers now!

Off the Shelf

I consulted several sources for this episode.

Aphrodite: A Memoir of the Senses by Isabel Allende

Intercourses: An Aphrodisiac Cookbook by Martha Hopkins and Randall Lockridge

Interview: Figs–An Ancient Fruit that Is Truly Sustainable with June Stoyer and Karla Stockli

Episode 18

capucine3This episode features the following segments: Double Happiness, The Front Porch, The Back Porch,  A Little Bit of Learning, and Gratitude Journal.






Little Things Contest

Low temperatures, nasty weather, less sunlight, holiday stress … December can be tough on us. Let’s look to the little things as a way to keep smiles on our faces.  This giveaway is generously sponsored by Spinner’s End Farm. Sherry will put together a little collection of goodies to pamper and nourish your skin: goat’s milk soap, lotion bars, lip balm — a selection of handmade products to delight your senses and calm your holiday-wearied nerves. To enter, post a reply to the contest thread by January 4th.  One winner will be randomly selected from the contest entries.  If you can’t wait to find out whether or not you’re the winner, head on over to the Etsy shop and pick out your stocking stuffers now!

Double Happiness

There’s nothing like the double happiness of Thanksgiving leftovers.  No matter how big the turkey, and how voluminous the amount of stuffing and mashed potatoes, there never seem to be enough leftovers to accomplish all of the ideas I have for enjoying them.  One of my favorite ways to stretch the yield of Thanksgiving’s bounty is to make stock from the turkey carcass.  Since I grill my turkey on our Big Green Egg, the bones and skin are wonderfully smoky.  I can’t wait to make some mushroom risotto with the turkey stock.

capucine2The Back Porch

I completed my top secret gift hat, but couldn’t stop there.  This week, I made two more hats from Adela Illichmanova’s Capucine pattern.  Wonderfully versatile and quick to knit, this hat can look very different depending on the yarn you use.  There are three distict sections of the hat: a ribbed border, a garter stitch middle, and a stockinette peak, not to mention pompoms and tassles.  It seemed logical to use a different yarn for each section.  I used up three colors of Plymouth Yarn Baby Alpaca for a hat with an enormous pompom.  Won’t Renee be surprised when the same yarn she purchased for me on her vacation is returned to her in the form of this crazy hat!  I liked it so much that I made one for myself, using some leftover yarn and some purchases from Mountain Knits and Pearls’ Black Friday sale.

advent2The Front Porch

This month, I’ll be working on my advent scarf.  A portion of the pattern is delivered into my mailbox each night by a little elf.  It’s the first thing I look for when I open my email in the morning.  Then, I daydream about it all day and rush home to continue working the pattern.  This is stranded knitting, in three colors.  I’ve selected some Harrisville Designs Shetland for this pattern, and I’m using the suggested US size 2 needles.  It’s so much fun to think of folks from all around the world sitting down each evening to work on the same pattern.  Thank you, zemy, for taking the time to create this pattern, send it out each day, patiently respond to everyone’s question, and cheer us all on as we post photos of our progress.

adventA Little Bit of Learning

Working on the advent scarf reminded me of the advent calendars my sisters and I were given as children.  Most of them were glittery pictures of winter scenes, featuring 24 little doors to open each morning.  Sometimes there would be a picture inside, sometimes a Bible verse, and once there were German chocolates.  When I searched for images of advent calendars, I think I recognized some of them as the ones we had in the 1970’s and 80’s. The concept of an advent calendar originated with German Lutherans in the early 19th century, although the practice of counting down days in the advent season, with a wreath or by lighting candles, has been popular since the 17th century.

The snow falls on no two trees alike, but the forms it assumes are as various as those of the twigs and leaves which receive it.  They are, as it were, predetermined by the genius of the tree.  So one divine spirit descends alike on all, but bears a particular fruit in each. The divinity subsides on all men, as the snowflakes settle on the fields and ledges and takes the form of the various clefts and surfaces on which it lodges.                                                                 — Thoreau

Episode 17

posterThis week’s episode includes segments titled: The Back Porch, The Front Porch, On the Screen Off the Shelf, and Ever-expanding Skill Set.  I wish everyone a productive week.  If your home is like mine, there will be an exhausting amount of cleaning, baking, and cooking.  I’ll be trying to keep perspective and spend some time relaxing and knitting each day.  I also pledge to remember that laughing with family and friends is more important than anything else.  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Back Porch / Front Porch

This week, I completed another Urban Lace Infinity Scarf and I’ve begun a third.  This is a great pattern for gift giving.  My first completed scarf was a long version.  The next two will be smaller cowls using one skein each of Lion Brand Amazing in the Arcadia color.  I also completed some top secret knitting for Samuel.  Hopefully he’s too busy with upcoming Bovine Social Club gigs to hunt for clues about his Christmas gifts!  On the front porch are preparations for the Advent Scarf mystery KAL from zemy.  I have yardage and needle requirements so that I can get ready for casting on in early December.

katnissOn the Screen

My friend Ashley alerted me to the stunning knitwear in Catching Fire, the second film in the Hunger Games Trilogy.  Jennifer Lawrence (Katniss) wears an armor-inspired short tunic over a vintage leather jacket. Can you say post-apocalyptic chic?  A little bit of research led me to Sarah Hurwitz’ Knit York City blog, where I learned the designer’s name, Maria Dora.  I also learned that the piece featured in the film is not knit.  However, that didn’t stop Lollyknits from designing a Katniss Cowl and offering it free for Ravelry members.  Ashley and I are exploring yarn choices right now.  I hope to cast on soon.

Off the Shelf

This week, I’ll read an excerpt from “Knitting as Creation Story” by Barbara Kingsolver, one of my favorite authors.  The piece is featured this month in Orion Magazine.  Make a cup of tea, put your feet up, and read it one chilly evening this week when you need something restorative.

pumpkinbreadEver-expanding Skill Set

This marks the last evidence of my pumpkin fixation. Until next year.  This morning I opened some organic canned pumpkin and made two recipes.  Well, variations of two recipes:  pumpkin mac & cheese and pumpkin bread.  When I feel inspired, I don’t let the fact that I don’t have the complete list of ingredients on hand stop me.  That’s one of the benefits of being an improvisational cook.  So, I substituted cream cheese and ricotta for some of the cheeses called for in the mac & cheese recipe.  I also used ricotta in place of the sour cream in the pumpkin bread.

“White fleeces shaken free of second cuts, rolled and bundled and stacked, ready for spinning, look for all the world like loaves of bread on a bakery shelf, or sheaves of grain or any other money in the bank. The universal currency of a planet where people grow cold.” — Barbara Kingsolver

Episode 16

julietteThis episode contains segments titled: The Back Porch, The Front Porch, and Gratitude Journal.






oaktrailThe Back Porch

I completed a second Oak Trail, a cloche design by Alana Dakos, found in her collection, Botanical Knits.  This hat has interesting construction, is stylish without being complicated, and would make a great gift.  I selected Berroco Vintage yarn, which is easy care.  As usual, I blocked the hat using one of the decorative lamps on our porch.

The Front Porch

I’m headed to Boston for the National Writing Project Annual Meeting.  With some down time there (though I’m not expecting much) I plan to knit on a few simple projects.  I still need to decide what those will be.

I’m also looking forward to learning the identity of my pen pal.  Dr. Kelly of the Ewe University podcast is hosting a Pen Pal Pair-up Project.   The deadline to fill out the questionnaire and acquire a correspondent is November 22.  So head on over to the Ewe University group page on Ravelry and sign up!

Gratitude Journal

This week, I’m feeling grateful for the Yarns at Yin Hoo podcast audience.  On the show, I answer a few questions from listeners and identify some goals I have for the podcast this year.

Nothing can match the treasure of common memories, of trials endured together, of quarrels and reconciliations and generous emotions. It is idle, having planted an acorn in the morning, to expect that afternoon to sit in the shade of the oak.          

— Antoine de Saint-Exupery                 


Episode 15

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

The Back Porch


This week, I completed the Ikarus shawl, by Simone Eich of WOLLWERK.  It’s an asymmetrical shawl, an enjoyable knit, and has a lot of cool features.  I’m learning to pair yarn and pattern, and the Schoppel-wolle Gradient is a good match for the design.   Simone asked to feature photographs of the finished project on her Ravelry project page.  What an honor.  I’ll be on the lookout for more WOLLWERK to knit in the future.

The Front Porch

mittensI’ve been in search of an idea for holiday greeting cards.  I like to make my own cards for close family and friends.  In recent years, I’ve been attaching a crocheted ornament to the front of the card, and enclosing a hook to give recipients the hint that they should remove the ornament and hang it on the tree.  The Holiday 2011 issue of Knit Simple has a darling pattern for knitted mittens by Loretta Dachman and I think one knitted mitten with a little loop is just the thing for this year’s greeting lotioncards. I have some Red Heart Heart & Sole in festive Christmas colors, which should work very nicely and use up stash. Speaking of holiday gifts, luxury lotion bars from Spinner’s End Farm are the perfect stocking stuffer.  They smell wonderful, and leave your hands soft and smooth after a marathon session of spinning, knitting, or baking.

Ever-Expanding Skill Set

breadpuddingWhen I cleaned out freezer this week, I found a package of sad-looking whole wheat hot dog buns.  There won’t be any hot dogs on the grill for awhile, so I decided to be inventive and use them for an impromptu bread pudding — great for dessert or breakfast!  Listen to the episode for some historical notes on bread pudding and few recipe notes from the 1800’s.

Bread Pudding with Apples

(makes 3-4 servings)

3 whole wheat buns, toasted and cubed

1 diced apple (preferably with thin skin, like Ginger Gold)

1 c. milk, light cream, or half and half

2 eggs

2 tblsp. honey or turbinado sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract

dash cinnamon & nutmeg

In a large bowl, whisk together last five ingredients. Add bread and apple; toss to coat.  Refrigerate 1 – 12 hours. If the bread looks dry prior to baking, add some additional milk or cream.  Pour into a shallow, buttered baking dish, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar, and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.  Serve hot or room temperature.

“Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which needs to be done; the dictation of the materials.”  — Anni Albers from Weaving in College, quoted on Sally Schneider’s Improvised Life blog.

Episode 14

This episode includes: The Back Porch, The Front Porch, On the Screen, and Prize & Contest Announcements.

pompomThe Back Porch

I’ve completed several projects, including two Pom Pom It! hats by Stephen West.  This is a great project for using small amounts of worsted yarn.  The pom pom topper pulls the whole hat together and makes it look wintery.  I experimented with different yarns in the pompoms.


clouds1I also blocked the 22 Little Clouds shawlette by Martina Behm.  Before blocking, this shawl didn’t look like anything much. I took it off the needles and it rolled up like a tube. Gasp!  But blocking worked wonders.  The colors of Frolicking Feet DK are soft and lovely without belonging to the pastel family.

ikarus1The Front Porch

I’m really enjoying the knitting on Ikarus by Simone Eich of Wollwerk designs.  It’s an asymmetrical shawl with a garter stitch center section and two stockinette sections with two different borders. The shawl reaches out to one side, which gives it the appearance of a wing. Schoppel-wolle gradient is a single-ply yarn that’s a pleasure to work with.

Prize & Contest Announcements

Congratulations to Sherry McKinnon and SallyfromIdaho, who were selected as winners in the Teacher Tribute Challenge.  And thank you to everyone who participated in Yarns at Yin Hoo’s first contest.

cactusbloomOur November contest is called Side Dish.  This contest will take place on the Yarns at Yin Hoo discussion board on Ravelry.  Please join the group in order to participate.  Tell me about your favorite side dish for the harvest table.  Recipes and links to recipes are welcome!  This contest will run for the month of November.  The randomly-selected winner will receive a skein of yarn from Beesybee Fibers in the Cactus Bloom colorway.