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.



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

a podcast about the fiber arts and other post apocalyptic skills