Sunday, December 16, 2007

Take a break from the ice and snow

Yes, it's been my plan all along to save these lovely summer photos for the darkest, if not yet coldest, time of year.

These were taken in August at Schnormeier Gardens, a gorgeous private garden just outside the town of Gambier in central Ohio. I visited them with a group from the Granville Garden Club.

Now that gardening is over for the season, save the planning and my cold compost pile, all I can do is think about all those bulbs I planted this fall. I hope they're sending out good roots.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Still life with knitting

Yes, things have been busy! And the computer means work to me these days, so it's hard to bring myself back to it in my downtime. That means fewer posts, but I've got lots of good things stored up to share sometime soon.

Now that the cool weather is here, I'm drawn back into knitting (rather than blogging or gardening) when I have a little free time. The thing is about our cute new house, it's cold! Coming from the north I'm used to lots of insulation to keep the cold out and the warm in, but I noticed one day as I stood at the top of the basement stairs that I could hear outdoor sounds as if they were indoor sounds. Hmm, why is that lawn mower so darn loud? Did I leave the window open? Nope, there's that unfinished spot in plaster where the upper stairs meet the wall where I can see the outside siding from the inside. Huh, that's funny, shouldn't there be something in the space between the plaster and the siding? Like, uh, fluffy warm stuff?

I suppose it's a good thing, considering what you read these days about indoor air pollution. No indoor air problems here! Cuz our indoor air is just like the outdoor air!

So, instead of turning up the global warming with the furnace, I've decided to knit my way through our stay in this house. First things first, I gotta keep my hands warm. I don't know about you, but my hands get so cold when I type even when the rest of me is warm. My lovely husband (I'm pleased to introduce would tell me to put on a hat. I just might do that. But first, I'll treat the immediate symptoms with "Fetching," these lovely fingerless gloves, pattern by Cheryl Niamath and available at

Love them I do. The first one I knit was huge, the second one I knit was more reasonably sized, and so I undid the first and remade it and it's the best of the three. Part of me was tempted to "revise" the second one too but I couldn't face it. Besides, my hands were cold! Not wanting to repeat my earlier mistake with the capelet, I bought two 50g balls of Classic Yarns Cashsoft Aran (57% merino, 33% microfiber, 10% cashmere). I used just over 1 ball (although I might have been able to make it with only one if I'd knit a bit tighter from the get go). No worries, I've got a plan for the left overs (although it's not a hat, maybe I should make a matching little set for working at home on the computer...).

See, didn't I tell you the house was cute? I forgive it for being so cold since it's so cute and since it drives me to knit. What's the bad here, really?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Knitting in the Park

After our two moves (yes, two!!) this spring and summer I'm still catching up on my life, hence the lack of recent posts.

Here I am enjoying two of my favorite things: knitting and gardens. For garden info see:

For info on my scarf, check out Knitty my favorite place for knitting patterns:

More new garden photos to follow soon!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Bugs and Berries

Summer in Wisconsin is about brats, cheese curds, and beer, but it's also about eating fresh foods right from the fields.

We went strawberry picking on Sunday at a farm just west of Janesville. The picking was amazing: two people, a combined 20 feet of a row of berry plants, and 30 minutes = about 16 pounds of beautiful, delicious berries.

The other reason we went to Janesville was to see the cicadas. I've grown up hearing about the 17-year periodical cicadas in northern Illinois and didn't want to miss seeing some for myself. I've never really been a bug person, despite my young fascination with those movies of the insides of giant termite colonies, so I didn't really want to see the crazy "sweep them out of your path with a broom" masses of cicadas. But I didn't want to miss them entirely.

There weren't any cicadas in evidence at the farm where we picked the berries but just a few miles east at the Cook Arboretum we got out of the car and could hear the cicadas right away! I'd post video if I were savvy enough to figure out how to do that but photos will have to be enough for now. The sound was thrilling though. I'd heard that the sounds of these masses of cicadas were enough to drown out a conversation and that the Chicago Symphony's Ravinia schedule has been altered this year because the sound of the insects would actually interfere with the sounds of concerts.

Since we didn't have the masses of cicadas in Janesville that are present in some areas of Chicagoland (indeed it took us awhile to actually spot any bugs at all) the loud volume of the sound from the few cicadas in the arboretum was impressive. You could hear two layers in the sound: one dry, scratchy sound and then the constant pitched drone.

The cicadas themselves are pretty cute, especially their eyes. See what I mean? But the most amazing thing about these insects comes when you start to think of the scale of their lives, emerging from the ground to do their thing in seventeen-year cycles: 2007, 1990, 1973, 1956, 1939, 1922, 1905... The next time I'll get to see them will be in 2021. Wow.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Farmers' Market

As I prepare to move away from my dearly-beloved city of Madison I am trying to cram as much Madison as I can into my last few weeks here. Hence my lack of recent posting - too much to do (paint the deck, work in the garden, pack boxes, eat asparagus) and so little time!

It doesn't get much more Madison than a Saturday morning at Farmers' Market on the square (where does that possessive apostrophe go anyway? There are multiple farmers at the market, so I'm putting it there).

To top off last Saturday's Farmers' Market it was also "Cows on the Concourse." Does it get any better than this? I don't think so. Fresh cheese curds, a cool morning, content cows, the crowded counter-clockwise shuffle, and bags of produce to take home.

Here's a recipe for my favorite spring market soup from the May 4, 2002 Harmony Valley Farm CSA newsletter:

"Simple Green Soup"
2 T. butter or veg oil
1 small, diced onion
1 lb. peeled and diced sunchokes (also known as a "jerusalem artichoke" thru some awkward and historic pronunciation language gap between Italian and English. You could use other root veggies like potatoes but I strongly recommend getting sunchokes if you can since their flavor is superior)
4 cups water or broth
1 bunch nettles (or you can use sorrel or watercress, but I absolutely prefer the nettles - just wash them well to get rid of the sting)

Saute your onions in the butter until translucent. Add sunchokes and broth. Bring to boil and simmer 15 min or until sunchokes are soft enough to yield to pressure from a fork or knife. Add the nettles and the heat of the broth should wilt them. Puree until smooth with an immersion stick blender or use a food processor (but go in small batches, trust me).

Option: add some cream or half 'n' half at the end for a creamy soup. And/or add a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper for a little extra warmth.

Serve with fresh bread and fresh cheese curds on the side and you've got a lovely spring market meal. So good.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

the more we change...

the more we stay the same.

I finally broke down and purchased the weighty tome that is Martha Stewart's Homekeeping Handbook: The Essential Guide to Caring for Everything in Your Home.

I don't know why I feel so compelled by these all-in-one domestic management manuals. Perhaps it's the bibliophile in me - all the answers to your most obscure and your basic mundane questions: "How to care for cloisonne" and "How to get the most out of your dishwasher," it's all there!!

Maybe it's because I actually kind of like keeping things tidy, cooking, sewing, and knitting. One the one hand I did receive the home economics award at my eighth-grade graduation, a fact both embarrassed and enraged me even at 13. Why didn't I get the geography award or the English award? I did well in those classes too! Even in high school I did fine in my classes but got an award in economics, a class I cared little for that taught skills I prefer not to actually implement in my current life because they make me think about how little money I actually make... Maybe they just drew names from a hat for those school award ceremonies, I'd like to think so.

And on the other hand, maybe it's just because these books are so darn useful. After all, I would like to get the most out of my dishwasher, wouldn't you?

I think at the root of my recent purchase is my desire for a book long out of print and now found only in libraries and archives: Catherine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe's The New Housekeeper's Manual, published in 1873. How I would love to own a copy of my very own. While I was preparing a class on American women in the nineteenth century I was able to browse a copy in the Cairns Special Collection at the University of Wisconsin. It had really great stuff in there, like how to make your own potting soil with old composted manure from your cows, how to set up a house for proper ventilation, how to make dried pea soup. You know, useful stuff.

Here's Catherine Beecher's recipe for Dried Pea Soup (paraphrased from my notes):

Soak a quart of dried peas in water overnight
Rinse them in the morning
Add the peas to four quarts of water
Add 1 t. sugar, two chopped carrots, two chopped small onions, one chopped stalk celery
Boil three hours
In another pot boil 1 pound salt pork for one hour
Remove the skin from the boiled salt pork and add the pork to the pea soup
Boil one more hour

I also copied the recipes for spongecake and potato soup. I'm a little nervous about the spongecake, given the fact that we're baking in two completely different kinds of ovens (open hearth vs. gas?), but I aim to try it one of these days. This also gets at my fascination with historical cookbooks and recipes. But that's a story for another day.

How do I reconcile this compulsion for housekeeping books with my own third-wave feminist-ness? Well, they published a domestic manual, but the Beecher sisters were no wallflowers. Since I can't have the Beecher sisters' book, I guess I'll just have to settle for Martha's. At least she talks about composting. Martha may not be an abolitionist but she's feisty. I can live with that.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Where my thoughts are today...

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The BBC World Service conducted this interview with Daniel Vice of the Brady Campaign:

BBC: (on passing "common sense" gun laws) …In fact, the laws are getting less strict not more strict.

Vice: Sadly at the federal level, we have had some success at the state level, for example, after the Columbine shootings Colorado passed a law requiring background checks at gun shows. But in Virginia you can go to a gun show and buy a semi-automatic military-style assault rifle – no background check, not even a record of sale (BBC commentator: "Oh my…), you don't have to tell them your name.

BBC: Why is that the case?

Vice: Partly I think it's the myth of the power of the gun lobby. The National Rifle Association has a lot of money, which they give freely to our elected officials and very few are willing to stand up and say no. But we've seen that when they do, and there are some who do, that they are supported by the American public. People support common sense gun laws and we're hopeful that our leaders will finally stand up and say enough is enough and protect our children.

BBC: When tougher laws were introduced in Colorado after the Columbine shootings, what was the public response there?

Vice: The public was supportive of that and we've seen that gun laws work. For example, in other countries that have passed tough gun laws there's no where near the level of gun violence that we have. And at the federal level we're working to change that, where we can't succeed there we'll go at the state level, and if we have to change our leadership that will come too.


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Idle hands are the devil's work, but busy hands are the dissertator's bane

Oh dear knitting, how I've missed you.

I thought I could be a studious worker on my dissertation during this semester of enforced solitude but then I started looking at knitting blogs and websites and now I'm hopelessly distracted. Here's my latest project: an Anthropologie capelet that just about everybody who's knitting and blogging has been making. It's super easy, which was good for lapsed knitters like me who forget how to do yarn-overs and other simple stitches (not that I got the yarn-over right at all in this shrug, don't look too closely!).

Here's the link (I have yet to figure out hypertext):

I used three full 50g balls of Rowan Starlight (because everyone loves a little sparkle). I only bought two when I started but had to go back to Knit a Round for another when it was clear that two was going to make a very, very short little capelet. I should know better than to wander around a yarn shop unsupervised, but my favorite part of my little capelet is the LOVELY shell pin I found while browsing. It's from

Now I'm working on a lovely spring shawl from, my new favorite site for cool and free knitting patterns. And, yes, I have since figured out the yarn-over. Now if only the weather would warm up again so I can wear short sleeves!

Monday, April 9, 2007

Not your average catnip mouse

Gehrig and Max were especially pleased with the contents of their package from their Kitty Grandparents in Minnesota.

Note: we should have included some common everyday object for a sense of scale (a ruler, a quarter, a Volkswagen Beetle). It's not a "Honey, I Shrunk the Cats" scenario, although that could be cute in itself, but rather this is the largest catnip mouse you've ever seen. I guarantee.

As ever, "Value Village," my favorite thrift store in the entire Twin Cities, is responsible for being the source of this fantastic find. That's the fabulous thing about thrift and consignment stores, you find the most amazing things you never thought you needed but just have to have because you know you'll never find something like this again.

Max and Gehrig send their thanks and best wishes for a tuna-filled Easter Monday.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Monday, April 2, 2007

spring in Ann Arbor

I went for a walk last Thursday because the sky was so blue.

When we moved here in January everything was dark and bleak, so it's nice to see the city in color and sunshine. It's amazing how quickly the transformation takes place from mud and slush to green grass and blooming flowers.

These photos trace my walk from Glen, through Kerrytown, and then back on Depot.

I took the same walk again today to get some ingredients for the Rajma I'm making tonight and as I was buying some cilantro at Sparrow Market I got a British penny in my change! At first I thought it was a Canadian cent (because of the Queen, of course, and also since we were just in Ontario yesterday it seemed more possible than usual to be receiving Canadian money) but it's a nice shiny "Penny" (it even says so). Lucky me! I checked the current exchange rate (for those of you not following the currency markets as of today 1.97 GBP = 1 USD) and, little did they know it, it's as if Sparrow gave me 2 cents instead of one. Now I just need to get over there to England to spend it...

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Save as you go or lose data at your own peril...

So last time I was here I worked really hard to craft an eloquent and detailed post and then my browser quit unexpectedly. Too frustrated to return for at least a week, I've finally gotten over it and I'm finally back.

What I wanted to say was this: as a nation we pretty much deserve an "F" in on our report card in "Plays Well With Others." Haven't we been taught to share?

Here's what I wrote to the Ann Arbor News back in February:

Health care have-nots resent the haves

The issue of domestic partner benefits has been the subject of much debate in the Letters section. On Feb. 21, Ada T. Gardiner wrote to express her sympathy to Pam Gordon, but also reminded us that many people are not able to provide health coverage for others in their family.

Gardiner concluded her letter stating that Gordon's choices were her own responsibility and that she (Gardiner) should not be made to pay for Gordon's lifestyle choices.

Unfortunately, Gardiner's letter reveals the sad truth about how this issue has really divided us: We have become resentful of those who have health coverage or who have better health coverage than we do. In addition to complaining about our own lack of fair health coverage, many of us are also speaking out against those who have fair coverage, trying to pull them down instead of trying to pull everyone else up.

Instead of undermining each other, we should be standing by those with fair coverage and demanding that we, too, be given access to a system that lets us get coverage for our entire families, regardless of age, dependency status or sexual orientation.

Anna E. Nekola, Ann Arbor

To see the letter on their website go to:

I'm particularly concerned about what's going on here in Michigan with the termination of domestic partner benefits for state employees. Read more about the recent ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals here:

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

SCMS in Chicago

Here's a shot from SCMS this past weekend.

It was such a beautiful day on Saturday that the skyline looks photoshopped. Even better than the real thing.

Monday, March 12, 2007

good eats

I'm hungry, where do you want to go get some dinner?

Oh, I don't know. It's been a long time since we've been to Chicken.

That's a great idea! I love Chicken.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Thinking of my brother...

Inspired by placelog I now join the conversation. The first photo is a wanna-be placelog photo, it's Pittsburgh after all.

And this is me. With Silver Clouds.