Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Colorful Cotton Calling

I have a growing collection of cotton yarn in beautiful colors. It calls to me whenever I go into my studio. I even think about it when I'm not in there. I've been waiting for months for just the right inspiration and project to use it for. I keep going back to the African Flower Hexagon pattern and admiring the gorgeous projects people have made with it.

Last week, I decided to just go for it and try the African Flowers. Two of the colors I have are this pretty pink and green. I thought they would look great together...

I was wrong! In person, the green glows and looks really bad in this flower.

I made another one without the green and it looked much better. I also made one with orange and another with red.

However, I'm not sold on this project. The motifs are much larger (5") and open than I thought and I'm just not thrilled with them. I tried a couple different sizes of hooks but "G" worked the best. Smaller hook sizes made it hard to work with this thickness of yarn. I think I'll send all my cotton yarns back to the stash until I find something better for them. It was fun trying though. :-)

Cozy Cowl

We went on a week long camping vacation a few weeks ago. And, as usual, I packed lots of knitting and crochet projects. I don't know why, but whenever I go somewhere I pack tons yarny if I was going to be able to knit or crochet at speeds way beyond what I could normally do. It never seems to happen but it's fun to dream. And, it's nice to have lots of options while I'm gone.

On this vacation, I made progress on my Maia Shawl. It's slow but the detail and beauty of it is amazing. I still have a long way to go on that one. I also worked on a sock that seems to be going slower than any sock ever has. I remember them always going fast. I'm not sure what's up with this one. Ugh! And, I finished a project that's been traveling in my bag for months that I've worked on here and there, when I wanted to do a little mindless knitting. It's a cozy cowl made with some TLC Amore yarn I had in my stash for a years, just waiting for inspiration and the perfect project.

The yarn is loopy and reminds me of terry cloth and the colors are so pretty! It's sooo soft.

It's always fun to finish a project. And, this one is done in plenty of time for the upcoming winter.

I used size 7, circular needles, cast on 80 stitches, did a 2x2 rib for about 8 rows, knitted until I felt it was long enough, ended it with 8 more rows of ribbing and bound off loosely. The finished size is about 9" x 12".

I'm excited to wear it. The fit, color and softness are wonderful!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Tuscan Salad

Over the weekend, I made a salad that was so delicious I just have share it. It started out with some inspiration from the "Everyday Italian" cooking show, Giada De Laurentiis, and the "Artichoke and Tomato Panzanella" that she made. It looked so delicious and fun that I had to make something like it.

I rarely follow a recipe. If I do, it's often a jumping off point of inspiration and I end up doing my own thing. That's pretty much what I did with this. Her version has olives which I don't like and I'm allergic to. Also, there were some things I wanted to incorporate into the salad that she didn't use. Here's my version...

1 pound of fresh mushrooms (I used half Crimini and half White Button)
1 bag of frozen, sliced artichoke hearts from Trader Joe's
1 Eggplant
1 container of tiny, multi-colored tomatoes from Trader Joe's (red, purple, orange and yellow but cherry or any other type of tomato would work fine)
1 package of Prosciutto from Trader Joe's
5 slices of Tuscan Pane bread from Trader Joe's or a hearty sourdough, French or other artisanal bread
6-8 Fresh Basil Leaves (use more or less depending on your taste)
Olive Oil
Red Wine Vinegar (or white wine vinegar...I used what I had)
Kosher Salt
Ground Black Pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Thaw the artichoke hearts ahead of time. Or, rinse and drain frozen ones and place them in a baking dish. Cover them and thaw but don't heat or cook them in the microwave. Remove the lid and drizzle them with olive oil, toss and sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Slice mushrooms into quarters or sixths (depending on how large they are) and place them in a baking dish large enough to spread them in a single layer on the bottom. Drizzle with olive oil, toss and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Peel and cut eggplant into slices about 1/2 inch thick and then cut the slices into cubes. Place them into a cake pan, baking dish or onto a cookie sheet that is large enough to spread them evenly in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil, toss, sprinkle with salt and set them aside.

Place the three dishes/pans of eggplant, mushrooms and artichokes into a preheated, 400 degree oven and set the timer for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, check the veggies and toss with a spoon to turn them. Remove them when they are roasted and tender but not mushy. They will likely finish at different times. Just keep setting the timer and checking them in 5-10 minute intervals. It shouldn't take much longer than 30 minutes, total.

Meanwhile, cut the bread into cubes, drizzle with olive oil and grill them in a large non-stick skillet or griddle, turning as needed, until they are golden and lightly crispy. Set them aside.

While the vegetables are roasting in the oven, rinse, drain, and slice the tiny tomatoes in halves and place them in a large bowl. Stack at least 6-8 average sized basil leaves (more or less depending on how much you like basil), roll them tightly and cut across the roll to create ribbons. This is a great way to cut up a variety of different herbs and it has a fun name, chiffonade. Sprinkle the basil ribbons over the sliced tomatoes. Set aside.

Tear prosciutto into bite sized pieces and set aside.

Whisk together approximately 1/3-1/2 cup olive oil and about 1/4 cup of vinegar, seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper.

Transfer all of the roasted vegetables and bread into the bowl with the tomatoes and basil and toss the ingredients together. Drizzle some of the dressing, toss and repeat until the salad is coated with the amount of dressing that you prefer.

Serve salad in bowls with a small pile of prosciutto on the top of each one. Enjoy!

"Tuscan Salad" seems like the perfect name for this. It reminds me of food that I've seen from that area. And, after a little research, I found that it matches descriptions of that type of food perfectly...bread is the pillar of their diet; meat, like prosciutto is popular; and, they love using fresh vegetables like mushrooms, artichokes, squash, tomatoes, and herbs.

My family loved it! It's full of flavor with the different vegetables, herbs and dressing. It's has wonderful textures with the juicy tomatoes, firm and juicy mushrooms, crispy bread, and creamy prosciutto. And, it's gorgeous with the beautiful colors of the many colors of tomatoes and the pops of bright green basil. It was perfect with a glass of wine. Mmmmm!

I can't wait to eat this again! And, I'm already thinking of ways to change it up by adding things like roasted garlic; replacing the frozen artichoke hearts with the delicious marinated ones you can get at Costco; and using a heartier bread. Let me know if you try this, how you like it, and any changes you try. Buon Appetito!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Clever FO

Way back in April I started knitting "Carol's Clever Little Shawl". It's adorable and the pattern is pretty easy. In fact, it got a little boring. That's probably why it took me so long to finish it. It's done in short rows back and forth, from top to bottom. So, the rows are quick. But, it's a lot of the same thing and lots of mindless garter stitch knitting...which definitely has it's in group/social knitting situations. When I finally finished it in July, I got so busy that I didn't get around to blocking it until now. No hurry since I may not be able to wear it for a's 104 degrees out today!

It would look much nicer on a person...with arms...but it's kind of hot to be modeling it. So, here it is on my dress form. I think I'm really going to enjoy how it connects in the front. It should stay on nicely.

The points are a nice touch and blocked out nicely.

I used filatura Lanarota Puno, alpaca yarn that I had. I think it took four skeins (less than 400 yards). For needles, I used size 7 for the points and body of the shawl and size 5 for the ribbed pockets that the points slide through.

Here's the shape of it. This is before blocking.

Here's another picture of it before blocking. The points were a bit curly.

My mom recently finished one with an acrylic yarn from the craft store and it looks beautiful! I'd love to make more of these because they're so cute and clever. But, I'll have to wait until I'm ready to start another mindless project.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My New Bike

I finally did it! I bought the bike I've been dreaming of for years. It's an Electra Gypsy and it's ohhh soooo cute!

I first saw one in Grand Junction, Colorado years ago. It was parked outside of a little cafe. It was love at first sight and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind ever since. I would look at it every time I went to a bike shop. I talked about wanting least once a week. And, I dreamt of riding it around. My dream came true. Isn't it pretty?!

The graphics are so cute!

And the colors too...

I love the little basket and it's adorable fabric lining. It's so much fun to throw my stuff in the basket and go for a ride.

The bell is big, shiney and it sounds like a door bell. So fun!

The look, the colors, the design of this bike is sooo me!

Even the seat is cute!

I can't believe I have a Gypsy bike of my very own! I still love my mountain bike and plan to continue riding it but it's so much fun to just throw my stuff in the basket, hop on, and go for a ride without having to gather up all my riding gear (bike shorts, jersey, water pack, special shoes, helmet, etc.). And, being able to sit upright to look around and just cruise is oh so fun! It has only three gears but it seems to be working out perfect for riding around town. I've even been enjoying it at night, when the summer heat calms down and the roads are quiet. :-)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Balboa Park - Part III

Our recent visit to San Diego's Balboa Park was surprising. There were more buildings and museums than I had ever imagined and they were incredibly ornate. Here's a sampling of what I saw...

We entered the park from the East side, near the science center. It was great to see all the people enjoying themselves in and around one of the fountains.

Even doggies were enjoying it...

This is one of the first really ornate buildings we saw. The street was so narrow and the building so big that I wasn't able to get it all in one picture...

The fine details at the top of this one are amazing!...

The top of this one has faces and nude women holding up the roof (click on the picture to enlarge it)...

Here's a larger view of the building. I think this is the building that we ate lunch in. It was a nice surprise to find really good and affordable food at a touristy place.

One of the things I was anxious to see is the famous organ pavillion. I've heard so much about it. It has one of the largest pipe organs in the world and has been in use since about 1917. It has over 4,500 pipes and it's really loud! They have free concerts during the summer and we were able experience one.

The details on this were just as amazing as other buildings in the park.

While enjoying the concert, I noticed that there are lights built into the ornamentation. You can click on the picture to enlarge it. Notice the lights in the twisty arch sections and along the straight part at the bottom of the photo. There are tiny faces hidden in the details as well...

The organ pavillion was a lot larger than I had expected.

There are covered walkways on each side of the main section. The end of each walkway has a beautiful gazebo type structure. Here's the one on the right...

This one was on the left. Visitors enjoyed listening to the concert in the shade of the gazebo and walkways. There was even a doggy enjoying the show...

Many of the buildings in the park are museums. The Museum of Man has one of the most ornate and fascinating facades...

It's very tall and hard to see the details in one photo. Here's a close up of one side, looking up...

As we stood and looked at it, we noticed more and more faces. This one has a hole in the mouth and I'm wondering if it might be a drain for the roof...

Here's another one...

These were on the huge front doors...

There were several towers in the park and at least one dome...

I think this one was on or next to the Museum of Man...

This dome was behind the Museum of Man and near another concert area...

This bridge was on the west side of the park. The road that goes through it goes over a huge and beautiful bridge that crosses the 163 freeway...

This is a view from the center of the park, looking west toward the dome and at another fountain...

Balboa Park is so large and we didn't see the whole park that day. We hope to go back soon to see more, ride our bikes on the trails and paths, and take more photos. What an incredible treasure!

Balboa Park - Part II

Our recent visit to Balboa Park in San Diego was full of surprises. The park is huge, the flowers and gardens are beautiful, and the architecture is amazing. One thing I was excited to see was the arboretum. There are ponds of water lilies leading up to it. It's open to the outside with graceful arches to enter...

The roof is magnificent, tall and open to the outside air with slits between the wood. This is looking up at the center from the inside...

It's filled with tropical plants and some sections are like a mini jungle...

There's a section with plants that catch bugs like this pitcher plant...

This plant would be hard to miss. The color is incredible!

I love the swirls in this one...

These flowers are so tiny that they were hard to photograph. When I had my camera in manual mode, I had a hard time seeing if it was focused well. In auto mode, my camera couldn't figure out where to focus. They're so cute!

I'm not sure what kind of plant this was before it was cut down but the pattern in it was interesting...

More tiny flowers. So pretty...

There were a lot of different kinds of orchids. I'm constantly surprised at stores and at this arboretum by varieties I've never seen. I wonder how many varieties there are? It's pretty incredible. Here's a sampling of what I saw that day...

There were little surprises tucked in here and there among the plants like this stringy, orange puff ball flower...

These leaves look like they were splattered with bleech...

There were lots of ferns. I thought this one was especially pretty with two colors of green...

There were a bunch of plants hanging on the walls at one end of the arboretum.
This one was HUGE! I thought it was called an Elk's Head Bromeliad but I just Googled that and I think I had it wrong. Oh well. It's pretty cool to see...

They had a coffee plant! I had to get a picture of that!

Then, it was back outside to the lovely ponds and lilies.

And, more beautiful flowers.

I love this one!

Thanks for stopping by! My next post will be a sampling of the amazing architecture at Balboa Park. I hope you'll come back. :-)