Thursday, May 28, 2015

I work this weekend but have the next 2 off and lucky for me because my niece Kris is having a baby shower.  Her last name is Knutson which means her husband is a godt Nordman and she is adopting his ways.  They gave us an electric krumkake iron for a wedding gift so I need to reciprocate and do some nice baby knitting for them.  I sewed a pair of viking baby moccasins for them and knit this Modern Cabled Baby Bib for them.  I will round out the gift with a Target gift card and a knit pair of baby booties.  More on those later when I finish them!  I finished this bib with a Paddington button I've had forever and it will go in my theoretical baby stash.  I finished another one for my niece and will use the pictured blue fish button for hers.

Other than my Lopi dog and my husband, this plant is my pride and joy!  It is an umbrella tree and I bought it last spring when it was just a seedling.  Look what it has become!  It will soon be a bona fide TREE!  I have watered it and encouraged it in our downstairs window seat and expanded it's pot as appropriate.  Now it lives in our front door landing and I smile at it everytime I climb the steps. 

I loved having my sister and her kids here two weeks ago but I was amazed at how they literally get into everything and find the tiniest and most obscure things to monkey with.  I was on high alert the entire time.  And that is not in any way speaking ill of my sister's parenting skills or her children.  Children are children.  Lisa even made a point of saying how this house is not child-proof and mentioned the changes in her own home before she had kids.  My sister has always kept a beautiful home but she pointed out that many of her nic nacs had disappeared into storage and that she "used" to have plants.  She did indeed have plants at one time and always teased me that my apartment was a critical care ward for plants because they were alive but only just!  Now that we have our house, I do take great pride in my house plants.  And with all the home improvement projects I have in mind, I have to remind myself to bring things down a peg or two because children tend to destroy things so there is no great rush!
And finally on a culinary note, I read a dieting article the other day and heard about "Eggs In Purgatory".  I'd never heard of such a thing before and read the lovely Nigella Lawson's recipe.  I made a double batch of the recipe because the closest I had was an 800 gram can of crushed tomatoes.  It was delicious but next time I will use half the called for red pepper flakes.  I happened to have half a loaf of home baked french loaf for the toasts.  The next time I see my dad I am going to make this for him!

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Thank you Cheryl!

 When I still worked cardiac step-down in Iowa, one of my favorite people to work with was Cheryl Conner.  She was a kindred spirit as far as cooking because she actually cooked and made things from scratch.  She went so far as to eat organic, which I haven't managed to do yet, and was also a gardener and continues to be one of my inspirations for our own home garden. 
Like every home gardener, she had an abundance of cherry tomatoes one summer and brought appetizer tomatoes of her own creation to a work potluck.  She described how she made them and wrote down the recipe for me but alas, I lost it.  I have been enjoying some lovely on the vine "cocktail tomatoes" from Aldi lately and decided I would wing it from memory and try making some.  We had my husband's parents over for supper and cards last night and I wanted to serve them.  My in-laws are fabulous gardeners so I knew they would appreciate them.

Also of note, pictured is the beautiful olive dish I bought in Greece when I backpacked in 2001.  I saw it in the window of a shop I walked past every day while in Athens and thought it was just beautiful.  I bought it, packed it carefully with plastic shopping bags I'd accumulated and saved along the way, held my breath and shipped it.  Thankfully it arrived home intact and I've treasured it ever since.  Last night was the first night I'd ever used it so I was quite tickled.  It had also been stored, packed carefully in a box, since I bought it until we got the china cabinet last year.  I love being able to see it displayed in the hutch every day.
Here it is holding some of those delicious tomatoes.  Like I said, I winged the recipe and they were delicious.  My mother in law asked to take home a few of the leftovers which made my day.  Slice off the top of the tomatoes and use a melon baller to hollow out the fruit.  Salt the insides of the tomato "cups".  In a bowl, mash together some softened cream cheese, cooked crumbled bacon, shredded cheddar cheese, garlic powder, minced chives, and a dash of sour cream to thin the mixture.  Spoon into the tomato cups and garnish with more chives.  Dee-LISH!  The only no-no is to not refrigerate them if possible because tomato flesh becomes grainy when chilled.  My advice is to make up the filling ahead of time and scoop and fill them at the last minute.  Also, they taste much better when served on a delightful dish!  ;)  As usual, the men were more interested in the meat, but my mother in law raved about them.  Not only are they gardeners, but tomatoes are their specialty and I know she will be making these herself!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Bit of blue

 So here is the Fiddlehead Pullover I was finishing up this week.  I have to say I wasn't overwhelmed by this project in part because of the yarn.  It is a lovely tweedy/slubby fingering weight yarn but I'm not convinced it was the best choice for this particular pattern.
 The sweater is decorated with mock cables which kind of get lost in the yarn.  I wouldn't mind knitting this again but next time I'll use something with better stitch definition.  I had 3 skeins (about 570 meters) and knit the smaller sized sweater and even then I thought I was cutting it a bit fine but I have a full skein and a bit left over!  Still I can't complain because it was free fair yarn.  I can knit quite a few pairs of baby boy booties and hats with the leftovers.
 I love how it is designed and pieced like a fisherman's gansey.  Here are the button closures at the back.
 I had to take pictures of the stash I got at the fiber festival!  That small pouch is made from fish skin leather from Fiskurs Leather.  I am going to use it either in my knitting bag or to hold rosary beads.  That particular pouch was salmon skin and you can tell the species by the size and shape of the scales.  The 2 tweedy skeins were from E2's Emu Ranch and were lovely shades of blues and greens.  The yarn itself is quite coarse but I want to make a cozy for my French coffee press so it will hold up well.  I just love the colors to go in my kitchen.  I got 2 bags of rovings from my sister's aunt-in-law's booth-Diamond D Sheep.  One is an Icelandic wool and the other is Shetland.  Such beautiful fiber and an awesome price for it.  Of course I have NO IDEA what I'm going to use it for yet!  And finally I bought a skein of sock yarn from The Cyborg's Craft Room.  They had all kinds of yarns with glitz or metallics in them but I opted for the plain sock yarn in those fabulous shades of blue.
And Joy of Joys...I am about to embark on a new project using up some major stash.  I've had this quantity of Patons Silk Bamboo for some time.  Honestly I did have a project in mind for it when I bought it, but I was encouraged to buy it in quantity because I got a free bag when you bought so many.  I've said it before, I'll do anything for a free gift.  I think I've made it abundantly clear that blue is my favorite color!

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Scrap Knitting

 Here is some more of the on call knitting I did this week.  These booties are from the Aran baby suit I knitted earlier this year and used up the last of the same yarn.  They were pretty flabby once knitted so I blocked them using some dominoes to shape them up.
This is a lace baby bonnet I plan to take to the fair.  I am really pleased with how this turned out and I even learned how to do some crochet scalloped edging.  The ribbon is some of the Sajou I got at Liberty's in London last time I was there.  Once again I can use the entire length of it without cutting it.  I can have my cake and eat it too!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

My thoughts exactly!

I took an on call last night and got to stay home all evening.  I took advantage of the free time and got some knitting done!  I don't think I'd knit for a week because I'd been busy around the house.  I finally finished up this little baby sweater and sewed it together.  I hate piecing sweaters and had to laugh when I noticed my mug on the table.  Melissa gave me this for Christmas and I have been using the heck out of it drinking tea.

This is fingering yarn knit on size 2 needles so it took forever.  This was free yarn after I won a gift certificate as part of my fair prize last summer.  It is a beautiful slubby/tweedy yarn but my mock cables got kind of lost in it.  I'll post a decent picture later because it is on the blocking board as we speak.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Fiber Festival

My sister and her kids stayed with us so we could all attend the Shepherd's Harvest Festival this weekend.  I happened to be reading through my blog list last week and realized the festival was coming.  I've known about it for 3 years but we were always in Reno when it was going on.
 The festival is held at the wonderful Washington County Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo every year.  All three exhibit buildings were full of vendors, demonstrators and competitions.  There was food vending and picnic areas and hands-on activities in the different barns.
 The place was packed.  I couldn't believe how busy it was.  There were plenty of things for the kids to look at and touch and see but we had to keep the pace up to avoid meltdowns.  We whipped through the buildings which is fine because it kept my spending in check, but I wouldn't mind going to this alone next year!
 We watched a stock dog demonstration which was one of my favorite things.  They explained the different whistle and verbal commands and I laughed out loud when he said that the call off command or stop command is, "That'll do."  :)
 Saw all kinds of fiber animals up close including these llamas in varying haircuts.
 Angora rabbits.
And of course lots of sheep!  We visited with Lisa's aunt-in-law and my sister-in-law's neighbors who were both vendors.  We had such a good time and I hope we can go again next year!

That evening, Dave and John put up the ceiling fan in the dining room.  I luuuurrrvvveee it!  It was kind of  a production to get it up on that vaulted ceiling but it looks (and feels!) great.
My favorite part was putting these Polish pottery beads on the ends of the pull chains!  Mom and I went to Menard's and got some plants so I got the garden in before the storms and she helped me install an under the cupboard radio/cd player/bluetooth so now I can listen to NPR in my kitchen!

Family Weekend

 My mother came to stay this weekend to attend the fiber festival.  By Friday suppertime my brother had joined us after drill and my sister and her kids arrived from Rochester.  Friday morning, Mom and I took a little field trip to SR Harris and I drove!  The Brooklyn Park location is not very far from here.  We used the Garmin of course and laughed when we arrived because Garmin called it "Senior Harris"!
 It was the least busy I'd ever seen the place so I shamelessly took some pictures to post.  This is leather in a rainbow of colors hung over the doorway.
 Trims!  Cord!  Gimp!  Fringe!  Tassels!  Piping!  Appliques!  Lace!
 The place is piled high with specialty fabrics.  You can grab someone and tell them you want such and such up there and they'll get a ladder and dig it out for you.
 This is one of the many aisles in this fabric WAREHOUSE and I can't stress that enough.  It is huge.  My mom was once sewing a specialty period costume and ended up not having quite enough of her particular fabric.  She called and the guy told her to mail him a sample of it and they FOUND it and charged her card and mailed it to her.  Amazing.
 They have barrels of zippers, buttons, pillow forms, remnants, appliques, shoelaces, etc. throughout the store.  I bought a bunch of fabulous linen this day.
You cut your own fabric here too unless it is over 5 yards.  I don't have any pictures of Brenda on here so here she is cutting fabric the last time she was up here and we all went!
After all that shopping we were hungry and I had kumla in mind.  When I was a young warthog in Luther League, the confirmands helped make the kumla every spring for our Lutheran church's kumla supper.  We'd all come the night before with our vegetable peelers and peel scores of pounds of potatoes and leave them in big tubs of water overnight.  The following morning we'd grind the potatoes and mix the dough.  The leaders would simmer the dumplings all afternoon and we'd come back and wait the tables for the actual supper.

On Friday we started by bringing 2 big pots of water and ham hocks to a boil to get our broth ready.  I'd been waiting to use this meat for kumla!
 At church we'd always use a clamp-on-the-counter cast iron meat grinder to grind up the potatoes.  You don't really want to grate the potatoes because then they get too wet.  I used my Saladmaster to grate the potatoes because they don't get wet as with a box grater.
 I don't have an official recipe because you use the dump method for this.  You add a couple tablespoons of salt, a sprinkling of baking powder and enough flour until it is almost like a bread dough.  It is a sticky mess but well worth it.  You can use whole wheat flour and some people put oatmeal in it.  Wet your hands and form them into tennis sized balls and drop them into the simmering broth.  Some people press a piece of bacon or ham or salt pork into the center.
 Poke around in the pot with a wooden spoon to prevent them from sticking to the bottom and burning.  After a few minutes they will begin to float.  Simmer them for at least an hour before serving.  The house smelled like the Lutheran church basement!  Pick the ham hocks and serve the meat.  We always have applesauce with kumla. 
Serve with butter and salt and pepper.  My nephew and nieces are going through a very picky eating phase and don't like potatoes so we told them they were pizza balls and they ate them!

Sunday, May 03, 2015

El Paso 2015

Dave and I went to El Paso mid April for the national bowling tournament.  I have never been to Mexico and normally would have been thrilled to bring my passport along to walk across the border.  However, El Paso borders Juarez and due to the recent drug cartel activity, violence and travel warnings, we steered clear of all that.  We restricted our driving to I-10 which was insane and awful to navigate but even further south was the border highway where you had to pay tolls.
 I did my homework before we left and wanted to go to The Saddleblanket.  It's a 2 acre souvenir store off I-10.  There are one way service roads on either side of I-10 that lead to the businesses there and God help you if you miss your turn because you have to get back on I-10 to turn around and when you try to ease back into the traffic on these service roads, you hold your breath and punch it because there are no traffic lights.  We are used to the spread out midwest where we have clover leafs and wide turn around areas.  Every time we were out driving, it was always busy.  Always.
 We walked through the entire two acres and I got this woven basket/bowl for $16.  They had beautiful and colorful Mexican pottery but I knew I'd never get it home in one piece and I bought Polish pottery last year and didn't need any more.  This shop does ship anywhere though.  They had all manner of southwest decor and items.  Dave passed on a rattlesnake skin wallet. 
 Another place off I-10 was the Ranch Market chain of grocery stores.  It was a Mexican import grocery and I'd called ahead asking if they had Mexican vanilla.  The woman I spoke to assured me that they did in aisle 6 but when we got there, they had only Molina brand which I can get here in town at Cub. 
 It was interesting walking around in there and looking at everything.  They had a whole bar of agua frescas which are flavored waters ladled out to order.
They had a whole area of fresh authentic border/Mexican food as well as seating to eat it.
One of my favorite things was visiting Wyler Aerial Tramway for a view of the Franklin Mountain Range.  $8 buys you a round trip ticket up and down the mountain via gondola car where you can look into Juarez and New Mexico.  You can see a quarry in the background of this photo where components for asphalt are excavated.

There is a one way ticket option for $4 for those who want to hike up and ride down or ride up and hike down.  I was amazed there weren't people laying on the mountainside with broken ankles because the "trail" looked absolutely treacherous!  One of the biggest disappointments was the Rio Grande.  I thought it would be a thunderous river like the Mississippi but it is in fact a stream!  You can literally step over it!  There were telescopes up on the mountain and we were sure we'd see it from up there but friends of ours took a tour around the city and area and reported this disappointing news to us.
Clint Eastwood starred in a movie called Blood Work featuring a scene filmed at the tramway site.  You can see the autographed red movie poster in the background of this photo.  The tramway boasts the highest altitude gift shop in all the southwest.  I bought a compulsory patch here.
 They also had the highest altitude toilet!
We stayed at the La Quinta on Mesa street which was ideal to drive up the street to see what businesses El Paso had to offer and also the University of Texas El Paso campus.  We visted Belle Sucre Bakery and scored some macaroons!  They were delicious (better than Cossetta's) and very local and unique.  The cinnamon dusted white one on the left was a horchata macaroon which is based on a rice pudding drink that is common in Mexico.  The magenta one was a jamaica flower or hibiscus flavored one, the yellow a mango-lime (which was my favorite) and the green was pistachio.  Dee-LISH. 
 Speaking of the La Quinta, we stayed there because it was cheap, clean and quiet and they also had free breakfast every morning.  Not only did they have free breakfast, but they had a Belgian waffle iron in the shape of the state of Texas!  If that doesn't make you want to stay there, I don't know what will!  I had one every morning for breakfast!
This is one of the lamp post banners in the downtown area made to look like Mexican cut paper decorations.  The bowling stadium was set up in the Civic Center and if you walk across the street and down El Paso Street, you will enter the "shopping district" of El Paso.  To me, the term "shopping district" evokes brand names and specialty stores.  That was not the case in El Paso.
 The shopping district instead consisted of a few blocks of packed stores of mainly made-in-China household items, seconds and expired foodstuffs.  Lots of Mexicans cross the border to frequent these shops.  We saw lots of lingerie, household goods, licensed sporting goods, jeans, etc.  Most shops were so closely packed that you had to walk sideways.
 Here is the interior of a typical shop.
 I did get a clear vinyl tablecloth ($3) for my IKEA table and a mock vinyl crocheted lace tablecloth ($5) to put over top of it.  I have to say it looks quite stunning even if it is fake vinyl crochet.  A friend of ours traveling with us used to run a store and said she used to sell those same tablecloths for $30 so I think I got a deal.
At the very end of the street is the border area.  To the left is the walking bridge to cross and you can see Mexicans coming across to shop.  To the right of the administration building was a huge parking lot.  We walked a little further and were stopped by security.  They said we could safely walk a little further without crossing the border but not to take any more pictures.  We turned around and went back.  Never did get to see the Rio Grande. 
I asked a park ranger at the tramway about Mexican imports and he recommended El Loco to us.  We found it on Sunday but it was closed as were many businesses we noticed. 
They had authentic Mexican pottery-like you see when you watch Rick Bayless-for a song.  I bought a small pitcher for $2.50 and a platter for $5.  I also got a rosary with the Virgin of Guadalupe for $1.25 and the beads were the color of the Mexican flag.
They had all manner of Mexican candy but I never took Spanish in high school and couldn't read what they were.  I did get several teas and bought some of this peanut candy.
I spent $10 on a cast iron made-in-Mexico tortilla press which incidentally put me over our suitcase weight with Southwest.  I hate Southwest, I won't lie.  I've been spoiled by Delta, Northwest, Icelandic Air, KLM and heck, even SAS when they were up and running.  The worst they ever did to me was put the shameful "heavy" tag on my bag.  Southwest was going to charge me $75 for the suitcase being over 50 lbs unless I could remove items.  I rifled through my suitcase at the check-in desk and stuffed Dave's bowling shoes and the table cloths into my carry-on.  I could have taken the tortilla press out but I was worried security would have a problem with that in my carry-on.  This store only carried Molina vanilla too and just as well because if I'd bought jugs of Mexican vanilla, I wouldn't have been able to get it home.
We visted the Magoffin House which was a treasure trove of local history.  We were the only ones on our hourly guided tour and learned all kinds of history of the area.  It was right smack downtown between the jail and the courthouse and bail bonds businesses and retirement homes.  God bless the historians that saw the value of preserving and saving what they could of this significant property.  $4 for adult admission but we got a 2 for one admission because of Dave's bowling coupon book.  Well worth the visit.
Speaking of bowling, of COURSE there was plenty of bowling on this trip.  We saw these huge bowling pin pinatas everywhere, even at Magoffin House.  I overheard some poor airport employee exclaim, "I am so tired of bowling balls!" 
 I did find it amazing that they'd BROUGHT a bowling stadium to El Paso.  The entire set up, including the same vendors, was the same as in Reno.  How do they haul all that and replicate it?
 Here is a picture of my El Paso knitting.  I am working on a Zick Zack scarf from the Katia yarn I bought in Poland.  It is a lovely mindless scarf but I had to place markers between all my repeats or I lose track of where I am.  Really liking this knitting.
And on the subject of knitting, if Dave gets to bowl in a tournament that requires air travel, then Katie certainly deserves to visit the local yarn shop!
 In this case it was THE local yarn shop because this was the only one I found in El Paso.  I can't imagine they wear a lot of sweaters in Texas! We went to Mayaluna Yarns and it was very close to our hotel and well worth the trip.
Fabulous selection of yarns so I tried to find something I couldn't get at my own LYS.  Pictured is the wonderfully helpful Bethany who assisted me.  We were there on a Friday shortly after opening because Dave had team practice that afternoon and the next days the shop was open, we were busy with his bowling.  She also showed us the gorgeous crochet project she was working on.
 I came away with 6 skeins of Araucania sock weight and 4 skeins of some Louisa Harding.  The latter I have in mind for another Zick Zack scarf and the former is for a cardigan I've been eyeing.

Dave and I have been PAINTING for the last 2 weekends!  I took some before pictures of our upstairs bathroom but forgot to take pictures of everything else.  We also painted our downstairs entryway, hallway, bathroom and living room.  My parents were up visiting the first weekend we were home and my mother showed me how to spackle, remove and replace caulking, paint and hang items using anchors.  Now that I've had Mother's Bob Villa Home Course In Decorating, I'm ready to tackle the rest of the house bit by bit.

My brother and his family are moving to Duluth next month and gave us their sectional sofa for our upstairs living room and I can't tell you the difference it makes!  Now Dave has his little man cave sports area downstairs with the big TV and I have a sofa to recline on upstairs to watch PBS.  Our house is truly starting to look like a house.
We came home to this mystery bush in our front garden blooming.  We missed it the first summer we were in the house and I forgot to take pictures of it last year.  Dad did a bunch of garden work for us in the front yard when they were here.  He trimmed back our rose bush, planted a peony bush he brought from Iowa, and planted a bunch of pansies. 
My sister in law and nieces also visited us that weekend with their beagles and I just love this picture of my niece eating a beef stick with 3 dogs intently watching her.  Spring has certainly sprung here and after today, maybe summer is here too!