Good tomatoes. Most of the year they might be cherry tomatoes or they might be the expensive, imported-from-Holland kind. For a few short months --- weeks, really -- they can be locally grown. (In the Midwest, Bushel Boy™ are pretty good in the off-season. They were developed to grow in greenhouses and have decent tomato flavor.)
Fresh mushrooms, sliced.
Feta cheese, cubed.
A couple paper-thin slices of onions, cut in half and separated into half-rings.
Kalamata olives, preferably pitted. If pitted kalamatas are not available, go for kalamatas with pits and warn the diners to watch out. Do not substitute some other, lesser olive. You have been warned.
What you have above is my standard salad, the one that #1 Son refers to as The Mom Salad . Dress it either with creamy caesar dressing or balsamic vinaigrettes; my preferred brand is Cardini's.
Other possible additions:
Pecan halves. Never walnuts. Walnuts are bitter; pecans are rich and slightly sweet.
Sprinkling of dill weed. Odd, but good.
Sprinkling of Kraft parmesan (if there is no feta in the house).
There you have it: The Kat™''s recipe for tossed salad. To make the salad a meal, add tuna, diced cooked chicken, or julienned strips of salami, ham, turkey, or beef. Bon appetit!
We are gearing up to leave in a couple weeks for another month in the mini-mini-motorhome this summer, three weeks in the Big Horns of Wyoming and a week in the Black Hills. #2 Son and GF will be joining us for a few days in the Hills. They asked if they could vacation with us -- is that awesome or what?
I did not post much about last year's vacation, so I thought I would show you something memorable. Something that very nearly gave me a heart attack in Glacier National Park.
The Going To The Sun Highway in Glacier has spectacular views. There is mountain on one side of the road... and a precipice on the other side. I was fine as long as we were on the mountain side of the road, but when the precipice was next to my window I FREAKED! It surprised Smokey as much as it surprised me; I have never had any particular fear of heights.
I found that it was easier to breathe if I didn't look out the windows. It was even easier if I turned sideways in my seat and looked at the floor. Remembering Elizabeth Zimmerman's famous aphorism, Knit on with courage through all obstacles, I pulled out my knitting and got busy/distracted.
My view was this:
instead of this:
because if I looked at that, I would also see this:
His page may not get any bigger, though. He is no longer the assistant colorist, having been promoted to being the engineer for the firm. Now he is the guy responsible for making sure the million-dollar machines work properly, plus being the all-around computer guy. He loves this, and it suits his talents and temperment better. Win-win.
Why, yes, all the men in my life have beards. Doesn't everyone?
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Yesterday was the first day I sat on the deck and knitted. It was glorious.
It was actually a brilliant sunny day, but I waited until the sun went behind a cloud to take a photo. Otherwise my iPod camera would have shown you washed-out sunny areas and blacked-out shade. I was way too lazy and lace-obsessed to go into the house and get a proper camera.
The shawl for GF is no larger than the last time I showed it to you but not for lack of knitting. I have knat the last inch of it at least five times, maybe more. Yesterday, however, for the first time I felt like I was beginning to be able to read my knitting. That column of stitches that runs up through the center of the lace/pine cone motif? It should continue through the solid stockinette and become the center column of the subsequent lace/pine cone motif! Hallelujah and praise jeebus! If it doesn't (as happened on the right-hand half of the shawl) there is something wrong.* When I take my coffee and knitting out to the deck today** I hope to be able to break through the barrier that seems to hover around row 42.
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I finished a scarf and two pairs of socks since I last caught you up on my knitting, but they all remain to be photographed. You will have to wait with bated breath for another post on those.
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Smokey got himself a new watch.
Okay, now, all you former hippies: what is that watch face a replica of?
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Did I ever show you this?
* My eternal thanks to the commenter who suggested putting a marker between pattern repeats. That tip is the one that enabled the knit-reading.
** Or not. Today is 60˚ and cloudy. I may be knitting in the porch instead.::le sigh:: It's a tough life...
Not only do they have lots of yummy yarn, they give great bag.
In my bag were the following delights:
Two skeins of Koigu KPPPM in the imaginatively named 720, destined to become a Baktus for me. When I did a pattern search for Baktus, though, I found that there are a number of scarves that would be fun to make with this. Stay tuned.
One skein, 700 yards of Schaeffer Audrey laceweight, 50/50 merino/silk, in the rather more imaginatively named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. This stuff is to die for and will become some sort of scarfy-shawly thing for me.
But not in New York. On Friday we met up with Andrew when he got off work.
Andrew is eating pizza we brought him, left over from our own snack. He actually looks vaguely like a doctor.
Mt. Sinai stands right across Fifth Avenue from Central Park. The green area behind the wall, Andrew told us, used to be called The Sandpit because that is essentially what it was. Earlier this year, or maybe last year, the city landscaped the area and re-sodded it and now it is a lovely place.
Friday night, Ramblin' Jack Elliot at the Rubin Museum, a museum of Himalayan art. Yeah, now there's a connection. No photos, not allowed. Concert was a little shy of 1.5 hours; he sang six songs and talked a lot. Jack is 79 years old and has 79 years worth of stories to tell. That's why he is called Ramblin' Jack. A little online research before the concert informed us that, although he is a folk/western/country singer, he is a surgeon's son from Brooklyn who ran away from home at 15 to join the rodeo.
On Saturday we saw where Andrew lives.
No photos of the interior or his apartment. Imagine a 15'x18' kitchen/living room/dining room with two tiny bedrooms and a bath on either side. Now imagine that there are always four 20-something males living there and that none of them has a minute to spare on domesticity because they are either studying or working about 26 hours a day. Not squalor but not neatnik heaven, either.
We trucked on down to Chinatown to do a little touristy sight-seeing with one stop along the way. Andrew wanted to show us something but wouldn't tell us what it was.
I may have mentioned my favorite movie here once or twice. This shop is in the Village about a block south of Washington Square.
I got myself a t-shirt, which I cannot show you because it is in the wash. But you can see it here.
While in Chinatown we got a little hungry and found a likely spot to refresh ourselves.
Happily, they also had English menus.
LIke his parents, Andrew is an adventurous eater and likes to order something he has never had before. On this occasion he ordered an appetizer of jellyfish and pigs' knuckles. The waiter, a tiny Chinese man, looked at him sternly and waggled his hands in a "No, no!" gesture. Jellyfish no good, he said. Andrew had fried won tons instead.
Saturday night we ate dinner in an Italian restaurant with six of Andrew's friends from medical school. I suffered a tragic case of camnesia so that event must remain unrecorded.
The topic for this Tuesday is Ten Favorite Mail Order Catalogs. Once again, I must quibble: who actually uses catalogs any more? Not I. Twelve or fifteen years ago I decided that the only catalogs I would order from were Land's End and L.L. Bean, no others. I was receiving way more catalogs than I had time to look at or had need of. The two I kept offered great products, great service, and low shipping cost.
That cut down on the catalog overload... a bit.
Then along came the internet and internet shopping. Hello, Amazon and ContactsOnline.com! I pretty much stopped ordering from catalogs entirely. More recently I have used Catalog Choice to opt out of as many catalogs as possible. Certain vendors -- I'm looking at you, KnitPicks -- don't seem to have gotten the message, but overall the incoming flood has slowed to a trickle. Fewer trees being cut down, less paper to recycle. Win-win.
Therefore, instead of giving you a list of my favorite mail order catalogs, I shall give you my ten favorite places to shop online.
kmkat™'s Ten Favorite Shopping Sites
Amazon. Isn't this everyone's favorite site?
Knit PIcks. Ditto, again.
The Loopy Ewe. Again with the ditto.
My library's online catalog. Better than any shopping site; it is free ;-)
Ravelry. *Shopping* for ideas counts, right?
Clearly, I don't do enough shopping -- I ran out of sites!
The rose-breasted grosbeak was one of my favorites back in my coloring book days. Such fun to color that bright pink triangle on the white breast!
I forgot this one because we don't see them around here, even though we are smack in the midst of their range (right). I suppose this one is transiting to greener forest farther north. Too bad, I'd love to have him and his mate -- wherever and whoever she is -- hang around our feeders. We have the right habitat, too:
HABITAT: Open woodlands near water, thick brush, large trees near open areas, marsh borders, overgrown pastures, dense growth of small trees, woodland edges, gardens, parks.
"Open woodland near water"? That's our front yard!
This guy was really, really, really persistent, too. I first noticed him as he attempted to perch on top of that thermometer attached to the window. He seemed to be trying to come into my office -- maybe he needed to check his email.
When he couldn't get into my office he tried getting into the porch.
(Photo taken through screened window, obviously. Sorry)
He was completely unafraid of the person (me) moving around in my office, getting out my camera, walking around trying to get good shots. He hung around for probably five minutes.
(Another screen-ed shot. As unafraid as he was, I doubt he would have hung around while I rattled the screen out of the window frame.)
Perhaps it was the attraction of the feeder, or perhaps he is into interspecies homosexual relationships and was enamored of this male goldfinch.
Sylvia's Soul Food Restaurant, 126th and Lenox Avenue, Harlem.
For the record, I had the catfish, eggs, and grits breakfast, including a mimosa; Smokey and Andrew had barbecued ribs with sides of macaroni and cheese (both of them), garlic mashed potatoes (Andrew) and pickled beets (Smokey). Food and service were very good, no complaints.
A better photo of the painting in the background:
Andrew said Obama had a $1,000 a plate fund-raiser there earler this year. There was also a large photo on the wall above our table of Bill Clinton with Sylvia herself. Lest you think the place was not busy -- it was VERY busy -- that empty table was part of a set-up for a party of 40-50 people that was seated shortly after us.
Going to visit #1 Son. Lucy The Wonder Dog will stay with #2 Son and Best Girlfriend. Flying into JFK Thursday afternoon on Mesaba Airlines (yes, you read that right), coming home Monday. Staying at a brand-new fancy-schmancy hotel a block from the Apollo Theatre (Smokey got a deal). Gonna see Ramblin' Jack Elliot at the RubinMuseum of Art on Friday night, gonna go to the Union Square Greenmarket on Saturday afternoon to look for the yarn that Clara Parkes talked about and showed us at Yarnover, gonna go out to dinner Saturday night with #1 Son and some of his friends from med school, and gonna kick back on Sunday. Might fit in a trip to MoMA or the Guggenheim somewhere in there. I've got a NYC transit app on my iPod and I'm ready to go. Except I haven't packed my suitcase yet.
Wool sweaters are too warm for me except in the depths of winter, and even then I am often too warm when I wear one out somewhere; our house is quite cool, but most places are not. After much pondering I decided I needed to explore yarns that were not 100% wool. To that end I ordered one skein each of five different yarns from Webs and knit some swatches.
I already had a skein of Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece (80% cotton/20% wool). Left half knit on US#6, right half on US#7.
Color is most accurate in the first photo, although IRL the color is rather less saturated.
I swatched Classic Elite Verde Collection Chesapeake in Tokyo Rose, which is not rose at all but instead a deep, rich, ruby red -- not the brown/orange red in the photo; we all know how difficult it is to photograph red. Left end on US#4, middle section on US#5, right end on US#6.
As you might guess from the swatches, I am currently obsessed with cables. I loved the way they looked in the Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece but fear that an entire sweater would be uncomfortably heavy and would probably sag. The Classic Elite Chesapeake is a close second. If I do make such a sweater this might be the yarn.
Then tax season ended and I had more time -- and brain cells -- to knit, and I moved on to other things. Still have three more yarns to swatch:
The Louisa Harding looks to me like it was made in the same factory as the Classic Elite Chesapeake. Same fiber content, same feel, same look, right down to having one ply that is a slightly darker/lighter tone than the rest of the strand. The Elsebeth Lavold Cool Wool looks and feels the most like wool even though it is the same content as several others -- 50/50 cotton/wool. The Tahki Coast seems to be a very loose yarn, one that might not wear well. Cool stuff, though -- just looking at it makes me think of a knock-around sweater, one that I might wear for years and years until it fell apart (or I kicked, whichever came first).
This whole experiment was perfect for the months of March and April, when I was too brain-dead at the end of the day even to knit. All these were knit on my Sundays off.
Plus, it was educational: I learned to cable without a cable needle! Easy peasy, once I got the hang of it. I figure if I can do it on cotton, I can do it on anything, although if a cable involved more than 6 stitches I think I'd go back to the cable needle. Not sure I could hold more than 3 three stitches securely.
What happened, you ask? What about my phobia against lace?
I offered to knit something like a shrug for #2 Son's girlfriend and sent her a link to a search for shrugs on Ravelry. She came back with this. I gulped and immediately emailed back, Okay, now let's figure out the yarn. And we were on.
Happily, this pattern is fairly easy lace (I think; I am nothing if not inexperienced in lace). Yarnovers, k2tog, ssk, and an occasional double decrease -- all things I can do, no problem. It's the counting and paying attention that has always screwed me up in the past. But so far, so good. I never had to rip the whole thing out and start again, and I never had to tink back more than half a row. That last is because the shawl is exactly the same on both halves; the chart is for one half, and the knitter just repeats the chart on the second half of each right-side row, after the center stitch.
I find it intimidating every time I start a right-side row and immensely rewarding when I get to the end of the chart row and discover I have the right number of stitches. It will get a bit more difficult in a few rows, where I use just part of the chart and repeat it across the row. Might need to purchase some of that magic knitter's tape to help keep my place. So far, a couple large Post-its have been sufficient.
This opens up a whole new realm of knitting...(and I got to add a couple new categories on Typepad)
The loon. There has been a nesting pair on this lake as long as we have been here, since 1991, and every spring we -- and everyone else on the lake -- watches and waits with anticipation for them to return. Some years they raise their chick(s) to maturity, some years the nest gets flooded out, some years the chick(s) perish in a storm, some years the chicks just disappear, probably dinner for some turtle or fish. They will not always come here; we are at the southern edge of their breeding range, civilization is encroaching, and global warming will eventually lower the level of the lake and shrink it too much for them. (Loons need a l-o-n-g runway to take off.) I hope that doesn't happen for a long, long time. That first haunting call heard every spring is magical.
The chickadee. I love their cheerful song (Chick-a-dee-dee-DEE!) and their lovely two-note whistle. When I was very young my mother would whistle up the stairs to wake my father for breakfast; she did that in hopes of not waking me -- unsuccessfully, as it turned out. Her whistle was the chickadee's.
The cardinal. Who can resist that gorgeous red plumage on the male? I learned their whistle/call when we were camping in the Florida Keys and one perched above the microbus, whistling its little heart out and waking me every morning. Years later I would hear that same whistle on frosty but sunny February and March mornings in Minneapolis while I waited for the bus.
Woodpeckers -- red-headed (1, below), red-bellied (2), downy (3) and hairy (4) (the downy and hairy look so much alike I can only tell them apart by size -- downies are the size of a robin and hairies the size of blue jay), and we have even seen a pileated (5) a couple times here. So pretty, so busy. I love them even though they sometimes mistake our cedar siding for a very wide, very flat tree.
Goldfinches. I have a thistle feeder hanging on our deck railing, and have seen up to eleven of the bright little birds gathered around it to gorge themselves on seeds. Some spend the winter here, and their plumage is dull olive during that time. Come spring, they brighten to the beautiful yellow.
Hummingbirds. East of the Rockies there is only the ruby-throated hummer, but that just makes us appreciate them more. There is a constant stream of hummers to and from our feeder hanging from the eave during the summer. They are aggressive little buggers, though: you have not known intimidation until a hummingbird has hovered ten inches in front of your face and you have faced that needle-sharp beak, wishing you were wearing glasses.
The bluebird. They do not, as a rule, like the habitat here at this house -- too many trees, not enough open grass. But one of the first summers we were here, a bluebird pair made their nest in the martin house in the middle of the front yard. This was also against their usual nesting behavior -- the martin house was 15 feet in the air, they prefer to nest 6 to 8 feet above ground. But they did it, and when we sat quietly on the deck one afternoon we could hear the babies peeping and watch the parents come and go, bringing bugs to feed their babies. Another year they nested in a bluebird house nailed to a tree where I could see it from my kitchen window. But one night a predator -- raccoon, weasel, skunk, cat -- raided the nest, and we have never had bluebirds since, although I do see them flying across meadows from time to time when I drive into town.
Bald eagle. Have you seen the eagle cam*? The baby eagles are nearing fledgling stage, I think, but it has been fun to watch them grow. We have had eagles here, too, since early March. There was a significant fish kill in the lake, so there are a lot of dead fish on the shore. (Lucy has enjoyed rolling in them every time we let her go for a runaround. Ewww.) The eagles have been gorging themselves for two months. (Once again, ewww.) Once I was floating on an air mattress in the lake shortly after sundown, and a bald eagle flew low over me. It was so close that the way I first realized its presence was by the sound of its wings.
Barred owl. The special thing about the barred owl is that they live in the woods around here. Their call is not the Whooo! of storybooks, but rather more like the sound of a dog barking far away. Very rarely we might see one swoop across the road when we are driving home through the woods. At times like that I am always glad I am not a small scurrying mammal.
The flicker. This one became a favorite back in my coloring book days -- I loved the bright red stripe on the back of its head. They are in the woodpecker family, although I have mostly seen them pecking for ants in a humungous ant hill in a little rock garden on a hillside here. That ant hill was quite annoying every spring when I would plant flowers in the garde; it was destroyed when we put in the new septic system. Poor flickers had to find another place to feed.
* I caught both the parents on the nest yesterday.
My one comment on the royal wedding: did anyone else but me think that Kate needed a hand-knit cashmere/silk shawl around her shoulders during that open carriage ride? Every other female at the wedding (except that one granddaughter who sat next to Beatrice's unfortunate hat) had on a coat or jacket of some kind, the men were in wool uniforms and suits, and there She was in sheer lace and silk. The poor thing must have been freezing.
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Thought(s) for the day:
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There is the tiniest hint of spring in the woods. Taken last weekend:
Can you see them? Here, let me help you:
Round-lobed hepaticas, always the first to bloom. They range from white to deep purple and are a welcome sight every year.