Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Fue Una Comida Buena

Hopefully the title means "it was a good meal"!

Yesterday's attempt at cooking a Mexican meal from the Dos Caminos Mexican Street Food recipe book was a success.  I went to the local Mexican grocery store and got the ingredient that I was missing:  chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.  There was enough in the can for about 5 meals so I froze the remainder into small portions.

There was no picture with the recipe but it was pretty obvious what the meal would look like.   There were a lot of small, spicy meatballs covered with a sauce, topped with cheese and a few sprigs of parsley.  

I made a couple of changes.  The recipe called for 1 lb. each of ground beef, veal and pork.  I used ground beef only.  There were a lot of liquids that went into the meatball mix which made it difficult to roll, let alone browning the meatballs.  Instead, I rolled them as best as I could and put them into a baking pan, then into the oven to brown.  Once they were browned I drained off the excess grease, poured the salsa over it all and then baked the meatballs for about half an hour.  They turned out just fine and I'm betting that the flavor was the same as the original recipe.

The salsa was really flavorful and I would make a double or triple batch next time, freezing the extra for other recipes such as baked chicken.  The meal was a little spicy hot and I'm a big time wimp but I had the sour cream nearby - for medicinal purposes, you understand.

I made this meal for my daughter and son-in-law and they loved it, saying that I could experiment with new recipes on them anytime!  I'm undecided as to what I'll make next time but there are a couple of breakfast recipes that are tempting me.

After all that cooking I think it's time to relax and knit.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

My Mexican Cooking Adventure Begins

Today is the start of a new adventure.  Before I moved to Denver in the late 90s I hadn't eaten very much Mexican food.  What I'd had amounted to boxed taco dinners from the grocery store, for example.  I learned to love real Mexican and Southwest food.  When I knew that I'd be moving to Calgary I was afraid that I might not find too many Mexican food options, so I bought a few cookbooks and my plan was to learn to be a good cook.  My friends jokingly (I think!) said that I should open up a food truck.

This is the latest cookbook that I have and I'm going to start my adventure with a recipe from it.  The book is "Dos Caminos Mexican Street Food" by Ivy Stark with Joanna Pruess.  I was a little surprised when I started leafing through the pages.  I was expecting easy recipes with only a few ingredients but what I found were authentic recipes that require time and preparation.  Well, since I'm not making anything to sell out of a truck, and I am cooking at home, I'm up for the challenge!

The next challenge was to choose a recipe that I was fairly sure that I could get all the ingredients.  What I decided on was Meatballs in Chipotle Sauce, page 176 (Albondigas en salsa de chipotle).  I only got stuck on one ingredient for the salsa, "2 canned chipotles en adobo".  I'm not sure what that is.  I found out that there is a Mexican grocery store here in Calgary so I'm going to see if they can help me choose the right thing. 

Aside from the fact that I'm not sure about some of the ingredients for the recipes in the book, I'm very much looking forward to trying out several of the offerings.  There are breakfast foods, salsas, drinks, desserts as well as many main course meals.  I think that part of my problem is that I'm a newbie to Mexican cooking and learning about the ingredients, what they are, how to prepare them, will be part of my education. 

This book will certainly help to educate me.  There are lovely pictures, a Chile Glossary that explains all the different chiles, as well as sections on equipment and techniques. 

Okay, I'm off to Salsita.  I'll let you know how the meal turned out.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Savannah - Part 4

The finale - yarn!

I've mentioned in a number of previous blog posts about my Travel Afghan.  To recap:  whenever I go somewhere I buy a skein or ball of yarn that will specifically remind me of the trip.  It might be the color of the yarn (e.g. the southwest), the name of the yarn or the yarn may be from a local dyer. 

The pattern I'm using for the afghan is Rambling Rows, a particular favorite of mine.  It's a garter stitch, mitered square afghan and the beauty of it is that there is no seaming.  When one block is finished you pick up the stitches to start the next.  This is great for my Travel Afghan as  I can see the trips adding up to make a lovely memory blanket.  I don't just have a pile of squares waiting to be assembled.  I keep a chart to remind me of the details of the trip and the yarn I chose.

When I decided to go to Savannah I turned to Ravelry to learn about knitting and shops and an ad popped up for a local dyer, The Copper Corgi.  Immediately I saw the ideal yarn, a worsted weight skein in a beautiful shade of peach, and the name was "Peach State".  What could be better?  It is the color that I associate with Georgia, the name was perfect and the dyer was local. 

I wrote to the dyer and she said that I could pick up the yarn at a local shop, Wild Fibre.  Unfortunately there was some issue with the shop and it was closed when I was there.  Sarah, owner of The Copper Corgi sent me an email while I was in Savannah to let me know and, instead, we met at Goose Feathers.  It was wonderful to meet the dyer in person and we got on very well.  I'm always thankful for the friendliness of the knitting community.  You can go almost anywhere in the world and meet a knitter and there are rarely any awkward silences.

I can't wait to get my Travel Afghan out of storage and knit in this latest block.  If you're ever looking for some beautifully-dyed, quality yarn and great friendly service, I can highly recommend The Copper Corgi.  As a matter of fact, since returning home I ordered a skein of sock yarn from her.  I'm hoping that, should I find myself in Georgia again (Stitches South, perhaps?) that I'll get a chance to meet with Sarah again and hear about her yarns.  And Sarah, if you're reading this, Hi and Thanks!!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Savannah - Part 3

Perhaps it's a good thing that I was only in Savannah for a few days as the food was so good.  Every meal was a winner.  The cafe, Goose Feathers, has very good bagels and we ate there twice.  I was tempted to take a dozen home with me.  Maybe I'll bring a bigger suitcase and do it next time.

We had dinner on the first day at a Italian restaurant with the whimsical name, Vinnie Van Go Go.  We had calzones and they didn't skimp on the ingredients, especially the mozzarella cheese.  Wonderful tomato sauce, too.  It was definitely a winner.  If you ever go there, bring cash, as they don't take checks or credit cards.

How can you go to Savannah without eating at Paula Deen's restaurant, The Lady & Sons?  They don't usually accept reservations for groups of less than 8 people but made an exception since I was coming such a long distance.  The food is delicious and mostly bad-for-you.  That's probably why I liked it so much.  There was classic southern food on the buffet:  fried chicken, mac and cheese, collard greens, ribs, and much more.  Oh yeah, there was a salad bar, too.  I never did get around to sampling the salads - too healthy!  Dessert was a double chocolate concoction that was a pudding/cake type of thing and a peach cobbler. 

Beside the restaurant is the Paula Deen Store.  I couldn't resist picking up one of her cookbooks, which was signed, and this week I'm going to attempt to make her mac and cheese.  This picture only shows about half of the shop.

For the final dinner in Savannah we went to a wonderful restaurant that looked out over the river.  It was nice to watch the people strolling along the cobblestone street and seeing the huge ships, tugboats and paddle wheelers on the water.  The menu at Huey's On The River is New Orleans southern cooking.  There are a lot of seafood offerings as well as other items such as the pesto ravioli that I had:

It was delicious and the portion was very generous.  The ranch salad dressing on the salad (yes, I had salad on this night) is the best I've ever had.  If (when!) I go back to Savannah some day I'd love to go back to Huey's again. 

Next time I'll wrap up the travelog and I'll tell you about the yarn.  You knew that there would be yarn involved, didn't you? 

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Not So Subtle Socks

I thought I'd better take a break from the Savannah travelog in order to report on a finished pair of socks before I finish my next pair.  The finished pair are bright and colorful - not at all subtle, which I like.


Pattern:  Generic:  Cast on 60 stitches, knit top down, 2x2 ribbing, stocking stitch legs and feet, short row heels.  I knit the leg of one sock then went to another set of needles and knit the leg of the second sock.  Then, I knit one heel, moved to the second sock and knit the second heel, and so on.  I like to do this whenever possible as it's easier for matching up the stripes.  I also find that there is no temptation to set the first sock aside and start a different pair, thus avoiding any chance of "second sock syndrome".

  Lady's Medium

Needles: 2.0 mm / US #0
Knit on Knitter's Pride double-pointed needles, my favorites.

Yarn:  Regia 4-ply Jacquard Color #5242
75% new wool, 25%Polyamide

I have now finished 3 pairs of socks this year and hoping to finish 12 pairs before the end of the year.  I'm ahead of schedule and I like that.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Savannah - Part 2

No trip to Savannah would be complete without a trip to the coast to see the Atlantic Ocean.  First up we went to Tybee Island and walked along the mostly-deserted beach.  The weather was perfect.

If I had to describe the town I would use words like:  eclectic, funky, colorful, relaxed.  It appears to be a fun place.  There were many beautiful homes, with decks to view the ocean on the roofs.  However, there were other places that were quite unique, such as the homes in the top and middle photo, and the business in the bottom picture:

I liked the personality of Tybee Island.  Hilton Head, South Carolina isn't far from Savannah so we went over the bridge to see this place that I've heard about.

Hilton Head could not be more different than Tybee Island.  From what I saw, the only similarity is that they are both oceanside communities.  Hilton Head is beautiful, no doubt about it.  It's obviously an area for the wealthy.  The homes and businesses are all about the same color: shades of beige, light gray, moss green, and they are nestled in among the trees.  The result is a very uniform appearance.  The local McDonald's looks the same as a municipal building which looks the same as all the other buildings.  The residents and businesses must have a lot of rules to follow.  I didn't think to take any pictures and I preferred Tybee Island, but that's just me.

Next up:  Part 3 - The Food (yum!)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Savannah - Part 1

I'm finally getting a chance to write a blog post again.  Savannah completely exceeded my expectations.  The scenery was more beautiful than I thought, the people were nicer, the culture and history were richer, the weather was warmer.  I loved the trip, with the exception of the fact that I was sick the entire time (ear, throat and chest infections that came together to make me feel like I was dying, or wishing I was).  Thankfully, I'm now on the mend, slowly but surely.

So, let's start with some of the scenery and culture.  With limited time, the best way to see the city is to take one of the on-and-off trolly tours.  The trolly takes you around the city and the driver tells you what you're seeing and why it's of interest.  You can get off the trolly and explore on your own, getting on again later on and continuing.  We had barely begun the route when a man came running up the street, waving his arms and got on the trolly.  He was looking for a particular location and it turned out that he was already exactly where he needed to be. 

When he noticed that the trolly was full of people he waved and said hi and told us that his name was "Forrest, Forrest Gump".  Before he got off the trolly he said that he would have shared his box of chocolates (which were under his arm), but he ate them all.  Charming man, he was!  Lovely accent.

The tour took us through the Historic District, past the 22 Squares, each with its own story, past the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), the First African Baptist Church and Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Juliette Gordon Low's birthplace (founder of the Girl Scouts), numerous parks, statues and fountains, along the waterfront, shopping and tourist areas and restaurants.  It was a good way to get a feel for the city and I highly recommend it.  We also saw the Mercer-Williams House.  If you saw the movie, "Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil", it's the house where the murder took place.  The movie was based on a true story.

After the tour we went to visit the Wormsloe Historic Site, about 15 miles out of Savannah.  I was first drawn to it when I saw the cover of Gregg Allman's newest CD, Low Country Blues.

I thought the road on the cover to be incredibly beautiful and I had to see it for myself.  It was more stunning than any picture can show.  It's a special feeling to be under all those huge old oak trees, dripping with Spanish moss, that hang over the road and go on and on. 

Click to enlarge this, and all, pictures. Use your Back button to return here.
This barely scratches the surface of the sights in Savannah.  Next time... I'll be travelling to the coast:  Tybee Island, Georgia and Hilton Head, South Carolina, y'all!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


If all is going as planned I'm now in Savannah, the weather is beautiful and the scenery stunning.  I'm actually writing this blog post before I leave since I didn't bring along my laptop and won't be posting while I'm away.  Tonight I'm going to be having dinner at The Lady & Sons restaurant which is Paula Deen's place.  I understand that it buffet-style so I'll be able to indulge in all kinds of Southern cooking, especially the stuff that's bad for you!

Have a good day, y'all.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Heading Down South

Life has been a bit extra busy in the last week or two and I haven't had time to blog much.  So, tomorrow I'm taking a small break and heading to Savannah, GA for a few days.

I've almost finished packing, including a new sock project.  This time I'll be knitting with Opal Van Gogh sock yarn in the "Starry Night" colorway. 

If you look on the label you can a little picture of Van Gogh's Starry Night painting and how well the yarn matches the colors he used.  Normally I would knit back and forth, first one sock and then the other:  leg/leg, heel/heel, foot/foot, toe/toe, but not this time.  I'm too lazy to split out the ball of yarn so I'll just do one complete sock and then the other.

I admit that I have other socks on the needles but they are approaching the toes and will be finished soon.  I'll complete them when I get back.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Yarn U App - Review

Recently I was asked if I would download and review the Yarn U app for the iPhone.  I've been playing with it for the past several days and overall I like it.

The app supplies you with all you need to know about thousands of yarns:  pictures, manufacturer, weight, fiber content, suggested needle size, yardage, free patterns or suggested patterns available as well as the pros and cons of each yarn.

There is the option to make comments about the yarn or to contact the app designer, Mary Beth Klatt, and yes, she does reply - a very good thing.

I have one complaint.  When I first opened the app I was asked if my location could be used and I said 'yes'.  There are maps to show you the closest place to find the yarn.  I couldn't find a location for any yarn that was closer than 420 miles, that being Sweet Georgia Yarns in Vancouver, B.C.  I know there are yarn stores right here in Calgary that carries some of the yarns listed in the app. 

I did a search for Cascade 220, a good, basic worsted, but nothing came up (unless it's operator error!).  A further search with different key words did turn up some Cascade yarns:  superwash or sport types, but not the basic 220.  I'd like to see more yarns added, especially basic ones.  For the superwash I see that the closest yarn store is 850 miles away in Reno, NV, at Jimmy Beans (often referred to) but I have seen it in a shop in Calgary.

All in all it's a good start and expect that there will be further updates in the future.  I understand that updates are free.  The app costs $2.99 from the iTunes store, more than I usually spend on an app for my iPhone. 

What I didn't check out is if there are discontinued yarns included in the database, which I would like, especially the older Rowan yarns. It would be helpful when trying to follow an old pattern and substituting yarns that are now in the market.

I'm happy to have it and it will be well-used.  It's a good database of the yarns available today, an excellent start.  It's easy to use and fun to scroll through all the pictures - lots of temptations.

Thank you to Mary Beth for the app and the opportunity to review your app.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

National Sweater Day

Tomorrow, February 9th, is National Sweater Day here in Canada.  Getting a knitter to wear a sweater is easy.  Trying to decide which one to wear is a little harder.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Knitting With A Crochet Hook

I was asked to try out a product called a Knook from Leisure Arts, something that was new to me.  I had never heard of it and was willing to trying it out. 

The idea is that you can knit with a crochet hook. Intriguing.  There are three hooks in the beginner's kit, each a different size, as well as three lengths of shiny, smooth yarn, each a different color.  These are a necessary part of the technique.  Also, there is a booklet that guides you step by step, with pictures, to knit with your right or left hand.

The hooks are not your usual crochet hooks.  One end is the same but the other end is straight and has a small hole on the end.  One of the colored.  Click here to see how it's done.

I gave it a try and it worked.  I was a bit clumsy at first but caught on fairly quickly.  It's not a difficult way to knit or purl.

If I had one criticism to make it's that the crochet hooks are not sharp enough for my liking.  I would have preferred more of a point to make inserting the hook into the stitches easier.  I've been knitting for a very long time and I'm quite set in my ways so I'll probably stick to my favorite set of straight needles, knitting British style with yarn on the right, but it's nice to know that there are options out there.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Mind Travel - For Now

What do you do while you're knitting?  Do you turn everything off and relax with your stitches?  Do you listen to a book on tape?  Something else?

For me, I'm usually listening to music or watching TV, normally something that doesn't take a lot of concentration, nothing too intense.  I like travel shows, especially Rick Steves' Europe, and my mind will virtually visit places that I want to see. 

I've been lucky enough to live in Germany and I long to go back to my home-away-from-home, Lahr, Baden-Württemberg.  I do plan to go back someday but the hard part is trying to decide what time of year would be the best time to visit:  in the late winter for Fasching or springtime for Easter, the beautiful weather in summer, the various festivals in the fall or maybe in December for the Christmas markets?  It's difficult to decide on just one time of year. 

Of course, I'd have to visit a yarn shop, or perhaps I could see where Opal yarn is dyed (another link here).  According to the yarn label it's in Hechingen and a check of the map tells me that it's about 1.5 hours from Lahr. 

Click on the map to enlarge it.

My mind has taken me to some wonderful places this evening as I sit and knit my latest sock but now it's time to call it a night.

Bis zum nächsten mal und gute nacht.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Admitting Defeat

If you happened to look in on my blog earlier this morning you may have seen a post about a baby bonnet that I was starting to test knit for Lucy Neatby.  Well, I've decided to bail on the project.  First, let me say that the pattern is excellent.  Lucy went into great deal on how to work in the double-knitting technique, complete with diagrams.  The problem wasn't with the pattern, it was with me.  I was hating knitting every stitch. 

I'd first tried double knitting, a method of creating a double thick, fully reversible fabric, about 30 years ago.  I tried it and gave up on it but I'd since forgotten why.  Now I remember.  I just didn't like doing it, to put it mildly.  Another technique that falls into the same category for me is entrelac.  Don't like it.  Won't do it. 

I think that most of us have techniques that are favorites and some we don't like.  I have my favorites:  intarsia particularly, color knitting, textures, sock knitting and working with fingering-weight yarns among them.

I did learn something new from starting the pattern, something I've never done before and that's the tubular cast on.  I like the edge that it gives a garment and will use it one day.

So, with apologies to Lucy, I'm moving on to other projects.  Fortunately Lucy has many test knitters and I'll be glad to knit something for her in the future, but for this project, I'm done.