craftiness


It’s official. I’m in love with chickpea flour. The stuff is awesome. Also called Besan, or Gram flour, I get mine from the wonderful nuts.com. (Haven’t heard of Nuts.com? GO THERE NOW. Seriously, if I got some kind of kickback for everyone I refereed there, and who subsequently got just as addicted to their site as I have, I’d be rocking right now. I don’t get anything. I just LOVE them. Try their spicy black bean sticks. Or one of their many trail mix blends. The dried strawberries! The unsulphered, less sugar pineapple! I could go on for ages….)

I originally bought my chickpea flour to make an Indian flatbread. I never got to it. Instead I made some chickpea cookies to use up the flour. They were… odd. An interesting texture, but hard to tell when they were done and a little bland. I wasn’t sold on the magic of chickpea flour yet. I still had flour left though, and came across a recipe for chickpea flour pancakes on Oh She Glows. It sounded amazing. But I couldn’t get it to work. No matter what, the pancakes I made ended up a combination of not fully cooked with crispy and stuck to the pan. I couldn’t get a single one to flip properly. The parts that I salvaged? They were great. I looked up other recipes, tried different pans… nothing worked. UNTIL NOW! I recently picked up the cook book Teff Love. I was looking for some info on the author and came across her website- and a whole section devoted to Pudla! (Plus a great tip I’d never tried to use an onion to help season a cast iron pan.) The Pudla was thicker than my previous attempts. I was patient and let it sit long enough to cook. It flipped beautifully. At last! Crisp crunchy outside, savory inside. Alas, I have no photos, I inhaled the thing super fast and didn’t even think to take one.

Butecha

Butecha from Teff Love

Chickpea flour doesn’t just make amazing savory breakfasts though. While at our favorite drinking spot getting to know the locals, Chris and I ended up chatting with Rob, a chef/owner of a few local restaurants. We talked about being vegetarian in a very meat-heavy neighborhood, and he asked if we’d ever tried Burmese Tofu. What now? THIS STUFF IS MADE FROM CHICKPEAS! Soy free ‘tofu’? Sign me up. With my huge bag of flour taunting me in the pantry, it was only a matter of time till I tried to make some myself. I had a few recipes bookmarked, but sort of forgot about it for a while. Then my Teff Love cookbook showed up in the mail… included inside, a recipe not only for a quick chickpea tofu, but also some suggestions of what to do with the stuff. I bookmarked the Butecha and grabbed my chickpea flour. Making the stuff was fascinating. Stirring over a low heat, the watery powdery mixture of chickpea flour, water and spices hits a point where it just solidifies, like a custard.  I may have overcooked mine before spreading it out in a pan to solidify, it wasn’t ‘light and pillowy’ like some of the recipes suggest, but it sure was interesting. Solid and bright yellow. I diced it up and stirred in a mixture of oil, onion, salt, garlic, jalapeno and lemon. I’M SOLD. Mashed up on some toast? Delicious. In a wrap with diced cucumber, tomato, pickle and sirracha? Yum. (Ok, the pickle may have been overkill, but whatever, it was delicious.)

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Please ignore darkness and mess in the background

My Icelandic Sweater is finally finished! I made it with wool bought in Vik, Iceland, and combined various patterns from the book “Knitting with Icelandic Wool.’ I cast on the Regla pattern, made the bottom and cuffs with the design from Bára and finished off with the yoke from æði.

Lopi

I just want to say, knitting with Lopi s a dream. Sure, it sheds a bit, but the stuff sticks together really nicely and the weight I had knit in a flash. So fast, in fact, that when I decided to rip out a whole bunch of my knitting to nearly start over (I went back to the bottom ribbing and re-did the pattern with a more even hand) I didn’t even really mind the re-knitting time. I added some shaping to the pattern- waist shaping on the sides and a few rows of a short-row bust increase just below the yoke. In hind sight I probably didn’t need to add those, since the sweater blocked out kind of bulky, but I’m still glad I experimented with it. I don’t understand some people’s resistance to short row shaping. Its really not that tough! And adds shape in specific spots instead of in the sweater overall, which is nice.

The sleeves probably took me the longest, because I knew as soon as I finished them it was time to decide what yoke pattern to use. Eventually I settled on the æði, copied the page and stuck it in to my bag of knitting. Which of course I didn’t check when I went to my Mom’s over Christmas, and ended up stalled with no more white Lopi, and a fresh new skein of it mocking me at hope. Alas. Probably would have blasted through the whole thing over the holiday!

Almost finished….

Got home, dug out the rest of my yarn and knit away. I thought I’d have tons of time what with the holidays, but turns out freelance work picks up when the end of the year is near! Curled up and finished over the weekend with one important step left- the dreaded STEEK! For those unaware, steeking is when you knit something in the round (often patterns that would be frustrating to purl) and then cut it apart to add button bands or sleeves or a neck hole. So yeah. You cut into your knitting- a very definite point-of-no-return. I don’t like those. I’ve had projects that were ‘finished’ that I frogged and re-made…. and this wool was from Iceland! I can’t exactly pop over to my LYS and get some more to fix it. So I fretted. I googled steeking for reassurance. I slightly freaked out because everthing I found mentioned a 5-stitch pattern to contain the steek. I had one purl stitch. I tried a line of sewing to reinforce, as most of the sites I found suggested. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really tell where my purl stitch was on the wrong side because of the floats from my pattern, and ended up sewing a terribly wonky line. Some care with a seam ripper and I was back to square one- freaking out. Honestly I would have even left it as a pull over, but that one line of purl stitches would have driven me crazy. Eventually I found the delightful Ragga’s video over on Craftsy. Icelandic wool! And one purl stitch!

The Dreaded Steek

No mention of what to do about my floats though. So I did the crochet reinforcement she showed. Perhaps I should have used a smaller hook, it was a bit bulky, but I was impatient and couldn’t find a better size. Not content to have the reinforcement, I followed Kate Davies’ instructions for the “Steek Sandwich” as far as I could before cutting. Then freaked out some more. Finally took a pair of shears to my dear knitting. They say once you steek you realize how easy it is. I don’t know that I had quite that reaction. I diligently finished the button bands and did a nice I-cord bind off/button hole. And then… tired it on and felt like I was going to be ill. The whole thing fit so nicely before I cut it and added the extra width the button band! Wanted to cry, babbled a lot to Chris and then dumped it in a bowl of water to block. Those damn button bands took AGES to dry but once they did I tried it on again. The sweater had settled into itself nicely! Still kinda bulky, but not in a bad way. Wearing it is like wearing a nice warm blanket. The buttons are a bit oddly spaced, but oh well. Finally finished!!!

I ain’t ‘fraid of no ghosts!

So, I dressed up for our trick-or-treaters this year, re-using an old Ghostbuster’s costume. The costume is pretty simple, just a jumpsuit with a patch. The best part is my photon pack- its a little kid backpack spray painted black with a larger patch, great for a costume cause it works to store the jumpsuit and doubles as a bag to hold your wallet and halloween candy when you’re in costume. I’ve also got a water gun spray painted black with some sash cord looped into the pack. I wasn’t expecting a ton of kids, I think they mostly flock over to the nicer side of Broad. But we usually get a few, some of the kids on our block anyway. I rushed home, got changes as soon as I got in the door…. and waited. I don’t know if it was because of the hurricane or just because we have less trick-or-treat age kids, but we didn’t get a single knock on the door. I even turned on the pumpkin lights I had strung up in the window as a sign of festivity. When Chris got home he just laughed. Then he put on a cowboy outfit and suggested we head out to the local bar. Even the bar wasn’t very festive. Oh well. At least some guys in a car yelled out “Who you gonna call??” as we walked home. Glad someone was in the Halloween spirit!

Romanesco. And yes, it really is that color.

I have discovered the most amazing vegetable. It is called Romanesco and it looks like it belongs in a sci-fi move. Seriously weird. What an example of fractals in nature! Its like you’re eating a science experiment. I asked the lady what it was, and she described it as a mix between broccoli and cauliflower. I just couldn’t resist. It was so bright and so magical looking. The only downside? Its quite pungent. The whole car smelled like something had gotten out of the bag and been left in the sun. We’re storing it in a tightly sealed ziplock to prevent it from fumigating the fridge. But the taste? YUM! It has the solid texture of cauliflower but the taste of broccoli. We made some beans, couscous, baked tofu and a veggie stir-fry… and so good. I’ll definitely pick up more of this amazing beautiful vegetable.

stir-fried and delicious

Wednesday I got to spend the day with one of my favorite people in the world, the lovely Ann. I can’t even believe it had been over two years since we saw each other last. Ann is one of those great people that when you get together, two years feels like two weeks. Of course, many things have happened in both our lives since we saw each other last, but we slipped easily into meandering conversations and it was just wonderful.

Giant bird nest at the Morris Arboretum

Ann is talented in many ways, but plants are definitely one of her passions. It was so nice to see the grounds at her house. Of course, as the master of the garden Ann saw the needs-to-be-done parts, but as a visitor I just saw the lush and lovely garden beds and calming forest that she has created.

We chatted for a while at her home (absolutely beautiful and inspiring, by the way. What great artwork! What fabulous personality! Something magical tucked into every nook and cranny.) and then headed over to the Morris Arboretum. I’ve been there before, for a friends wedding ages ago and then again with Chris back in 2010. Going with someone who knows about plants is a completely different experience though. Ann was a fantastic guide, and I learned more than I can remember. Ann and I both love the fernery, so despite the heat we spent some time in there, watching the fish and enjoying the lushness of it. I think it was half under construction when I saw it last- looks lovely now.

The fernery

The whole arboretum is pretty amazing. I think my second favorite area to the fernery was the Japanese hill and water garden by the swan pond. I think I must have completely missed it last time I was there. Walking up to it isn’t too impressive, but once you’ve wound your way inside, the slight mounding and statues tucked away transport you to another place. Would have been even lovelier if the caretakers hadn’t been mowing around the swan pond, but I suppose the constant care is why the arboretum looks so good!

My walk with Ann in the heat has reminded me that while working at home and freelancing, I need to make sure to take advantage of the time I have to just Get Outside. It is hard when you’re so used to being locked in an edit room, staring at a computer all day. I find myself doing the same thing now, and getting a little stir-crazy during the day. Perhaps it would be different if I lived in a house with windows overlooking green expanses- South Philly sidewalks and concrete yards aren’t nearly as enticing. Ah, but the greenery isn’t that far away and despite the muggy awfulness that has descended on Philadelphia these last few weeks, if I’m not on site at a job I need to be spending more time in the sun.

Trumpety flowers that belong on Mars

Knitting lopi

Ok, so maybe I’m crazy. Hanging out with Chris’s sister for the day swinging by yarn stores got me itching to throw some new projects on the needles. Of course, we were in the middle of a heat wave. Why not knit with some super warm Lopi? I’ve been debating non-stop about what to make with the yarn I brought back from Iceland. Even though I’ve started the project I still haven’t completely decided on what the final piece will look like. I’m loosely following a pattern from my “Knitting with Icelandic Wool” book. I plan on adding some waist shaping, and I’m terrified of steeking it… but at least I’ve started. I cast on in line with the Regla pattern, but used the bottom pattern from the Bára pattern.

I can’t decide what to do for the yoke, though. My sweater is going to be grey, white and black. The main body is grey, the details in white and black. I like the bottom so far, but I’m not sure that my stitches have equal tension. I’m debating whether to rip the whole thing out and try again or if blocking it will help smooth everything out.

The prospect of steeking is completely freaking me out. Mostly because I’m unsure about the fit, and once I steek, its a done deal. EEEEP! As far as yoke, I’m leaning towards the upper left version. I’d love to add a hood too, but I don’t think I’ll have enough yarn. We’ll see. Onward!!

various yoke options

Turkish vest back patch

I’ve been meaning to make more patches for a while. I made the original one pretty easily. I wanted the letters to be green, so used the inside part of the stencils. I’m pretty happy with how it came out. So were the rest of the girls. Cue- more patch requests! Its been on my to-do list, and the theme of this week is cross-off, cross-off. After some website coding this morning (sent out some cover letters with a link that changed when I updated my site… OOPS!) and some work emailing, off to make patches. Hours later… still making patches. So here’s the thing. The first patch was done with fresh stencils that lay quite nicely against the fabric. Not so much the second time around. I did two rounds of not-so-great results before I decided to cut the letters out of tape. Yup, cause I use my skills in the best way possible. Let me tell you, cutting some packing tape with kitchen scissors is probably not the most clever way to do this project. Perhaps contact paper? Or laminate stencils with some spray glue? Lately I’m all about using what is on hand, though, and I wanted to bring the patches with me to practice tonight.

An absurd amount of patches

So, stencils done, and I have at least one good patch for each girl, plus a few dodgy extras. Now, off to pick up some extra lamp oil before practice and to the b-ball courts I go!

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