Sunday, December 26, 2010

Images of Christmas

A very happy day for one and all. There was also good food, but we were too exhausted from cooking to take any pictures!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Seafood Chowder for Christmas Eve

When I was in Maine in October, I had delicious Seafood Stew at the Red Barn in Augusta, and I've been thinking about it ever since. Would it be possible to re-create something like it at home? Then I saw a tv show about the custom of the Feast of Seven Fishes in Italy as Christmas Eve food, and I decided to give it a try.

I found a frozen cooked lobster at Marukai Pacific, and the game was on! I added a package of sea scallops and some Pacific Red Snapper fish.

I adapted a recipe I found online for Lobster Stew, and the results were wonderful! Papa loved it, and we all enjoyed it with some Spoon House French bread and more butter!

The Recipe

1 cooked lobster

6 large sea scallops

1/2 lb. white fish

4 Tbsp. butter

3 cups whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 Tbsp. white wine

white pepper


Hungarian paprika

Melt butter gently in pan. Slowly cook scallops and fish, add cooked lobster. Slowly add milk and cream. Season to taste with wine, salt, pepper and paprika. (I also simmered the lobster shell in the stew for a while to impart more lobster flavor, then removed it before eating of course! The lobster had roe in it, so that added a nice touch to the stew.) Serve with good bread and butter. Yum!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Feeling Festive

Yesterday I came across a blog called GingerCake, and this pattern, and right away, I got to work. I used 2 felted sweaters and an old skirt for their bodies. Instead of muslin and interfacing, I used a piece of felt for the faces. When I made the first one (the hot pink) I completed and stuffed the doll first and then stitched on the face and buttons, but for the other two, I embroidered the face and sewed on the buttons before stitching them together.

What charmed and amazed me most about these dolls is that the body consists of three identical pieces, shaped like the front of the doll. I imagine that you could also make something like the old topsy-turvy dolls, with a different face on each side. I think they look a lot like Japanese kokeshi dolls and Russian matryoshka dolls. It would be cute to make a series of smaller and smaller ones, and to embroider fancy designs on each.

Thanks to Virginia Lindsay of Gingercake for this great free pattern!

I am also working on my Gold Dust shawl. The pattern is actually called Feather Duster, since it uses the Ostrich Feather stitch pattern.

It's a very simple lace pattern, with not only purl resting rows but also alternate rows on the front side are all stockinette as well. The yarn is gorgeous cashmere and silk that I bought at the Weaving and Fiber Festival in Torrance in November. It is produced by Red Fish Dye Works, and it is a total pleasure to work with.

Today, I mail out my Christmas cards and put up the Christmas tree. After that, Christmas can come!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Something Old, Something New

I had a case of camnesia yesterday and forgot to take any pictures of any of us and our food. But I want to make a record of a couple of new dishes we tried that were a big success.

For several years I have been cooking my turkeys breast-side-down, on the theory that it makes the juices run into the breast meat and keeps it more moist. But it's kind of ugly that way, and I read this year that it doesn't really matter, so I returned to the more traditional method. But I continued my family method of wrapping the turkey with bacon, and that does work to create a lovely moist turkey, and a delicious appetizer of bacon for the cooks!

What we did that was new was to make home-made cranberry sauce of the first time. It is so simple and it came out delicious, and it looks really beautiful too. 1 pound of cranberries, a cup of sugar and a cup of water. Cook the water and sugar, then add the cranberries and stir and cook till they are soft.

We also tried a new recipe for green beans which was simple and delicious. Pre-cook a pound of green beans in boiling salted water till crisp tender. Drain and set aside at room temperature. When ready to eat, heat a frying pan and add a handful of walnuts to the dry pan and stir to toast. When the walnuts begin to brown, add a Tbsp. or so of butter and the green beans and stir to re-heat the beans and coat everything with butter. This tasted really good and the walnuts also went nicely with the wild rice we were eating. Wild rice is a family favorite for Thanksgiving. If I have extra left over, I will make wild rice cream soup later on.

We also had baked sweet potatoes, which were delicious. They taste especially good right next to the cranberry sauce. I only got 2, since Sam doesn't like them, and we had a lot of other food. I choose smallish sweet potatoes, the kind with reddish skin and bright orange interiors. Wrap each sweet potato firmly in foil. Place them on the oven rack for about an hour as the turkey roasts. When they are completely soft, they are done. They give off juice which will burn and make a mess in the oven, so it's important to have them well-wrapped in foil. To serve, remove the foil, cut in half, lightly mash the flesh with a fork, add a pat of butter and a grind of salt. Mmm, delicious.

With the green beans, the cranberries and the sweet potato, the plate was colorful; in the past, I have noticed that a Thanksgiving plate tends to be all shades of brown and beige!

All in all, a totally successful meal and a wonderful day. It was such a help top have Kristen in the kitchen. She carved the entire turkey while I made the gravy and the mashed potatoes. My gravy, in which I take great pride, was once again really delicious. It didn't seem to want to absorb as much stock as I had prepared, but we saved some of the fat, so I can make another batch tomorrow, if we still have turkey left and no more gravy.

Today, we are going to make cold turkey sandwiches on white bread with butter and take them with us when we go out. Kristen was noshing on bits of turkey last night and commented, "Why do people say Quit cold turkey, like cold turkey was a bad thing?" I like the way she thinks! :-)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


I am pre-thankful that Kristen is coming home tomorrow.

And I am pre-thankful that the shawl/blanket I have been working on for 3 weeks is off the needles and blocking. I enjoyed every stitch of this blanket, and then at the end, I had a near disaster. I discovered that I was short of yarn, which i totally didn't expect, since I had 1000 yards, so I ended off the pattern and started the bind-off after 18 rounds rather than 25, and after binding off over 400 stitches, I had 30-something stitches left and not another inch of yarn!

Rather than botch the whole thing by undoing hundreds of stitches of bind-off, I decided that only God is perfect and that I could live with a little imperfection. I happened to have a near-match of gray alpaca, so i tied that on and finished the bind off.

Pattern: Brooklyn Tweed's Tweed Baby Blanket.

Yarn: Natural Baby Alpaca bought at the Torrance fiber festival in early November.

Is this a baby blanket? Not necessarily. I don't have a baby anywhere on the horizon. Folded in half, it is a shawl. Opened out, it is a lap blanket.

I can't wait for it to dry so I can try it. Mismatched bind-off be damned!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Swatch This

Since I made these 5 squares, I might as well save my notes here in case I decide to knit any of these stitch patterns in the future.

Th first one below is called Double Broken Rib. It is different on front and back and has a deep waffled texture. It is on page 12 of Barbara Walker's first Treasury. 4-row repeat. Would work for a scarf or wash cloth.

The second one is Raised Moss Stitch Rib. It is very similar to the Farrow Rib pattern used in the Allegan Cardigan from The Book of Wool, but the knits and purls vary slightly. It doesn't curl but it does pull in. I got this from Simply Knitting, I put the pattern in the Book of Wool.

The next one is also from Simply Knitting. It is 4 over 4 cables, with stitches on the RS worked through the back loop. I had to add croceht to the sides because it pulled in a great deal. I also tried to steam-kill it because it wasn't lying flat enough. The effect is pretty, but a bit troublesome to work with.

The one below is a classic Basketweave, found on page 16-17 of the first Treasury. Very satisfying appearance, easy to work but needs more attention that you would think.
The last one is perhaps my favorite. It is a single Diamond Brocade, from page 30 of the first Treasury. It lies perfectly flat and smooth and seemed to grow in width (though perhaps not. I cast on 33 stitches, more than the others.) I had to frog several times before I got all the lines lining up correctly, but the end result is very pleasing.

All of these were done with size 7 needle and Bernat Berella 4 "afghan yarn" (worsted weight), which I found surprisingly unpleasant to work with. I might go up a needle size, since my gauge is pretty firm. I had less than a yard of yarn left at the end. Th se can all be stretched to 7" x 7", and all had between 30-33 stitches cast on, but the finished dimensions vary much more than you might expect.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Picture Dump

I have a lot more pictures of the beauty of Maine in the fall, which I might as well upload here. These were all taken in Hartland.

A stranger's clothes on the line. I liked the colors.

"He is all pine and I am apple orchard."

Grandma's window box.
A grape vine twined itself into this maple tree in the back yard, and not until the tree turned red could you really see what was vine and what was tree.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Family and Food

I'm home now, but last Sunday, the Elwells and the Allens gathered at Grandma and Grandpa's to tell funny stories and eat. Above, Joanne and Emily.

Caleb, Hannah and Abby.

Yes, Lydia is taller than Grandma. Everyone is taller than Grandma.

Molly's new beau Nathan had to be warned repeatedly about low-hanging appliances.

Yes, he's taller than Molly....

but in this picture, taken with both parties standing their full height on level ground, you can see his height advantage over Grandma!

Caleb, Lydia and Abby.

Ben, Caleb and Lydia.


The Elwell name depends on these two fine young men plus Zach and Keith. (not present)

Grandpa was only drinking ginger ale.

Joanne and Grandma chatting through the window.

Sorry, Hannah, you closed your eyes!

Emily's eyes were not actually glowing red.

Bailey's eyes may have glowed red, however.

And did I mention that food was involved?

Karen was also there, as was I, but no photographic proof exists. A good time was had by all! Thanks for gathering, everyone!

Good picture of Grandpa!