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Some snapshots of the Thanksgiving dinner I had in San Diego. Nearly everyone was vegetarian, and even those that weren’t were ardent turkey-haters, or pumpkin-neutral. So the idea was to make it a healthy meal, which we did.
Some Potatoes au gratin absolutely dripping with cheese:
Baked zucchini, with lots of cheese to neutralize any benefits of the vegetable:
Black bean soup, where the celery by no means dominated:
More beans (yes, these were appallingly low fat, inspite of all the olive oil they were drenched in):
Pear Crisp with whipped cream:
and a Banana Cream Pie with more whipped cream:
But the most important servings were large dollops of giggles, reminiscences and the warmth of college and grad school friendships with two beloved old roommates:
And, finally, stiff cosmos, good cheer and the promise of many more such healthy gatherings in years to come:
Hope everyone celebrating had a happy thanksgiving weekend! Thank you all for the generous comments on my Ogee Tunic! I think I replied to everyone, but in case I missed anyone, thanks again. I got a lot of knitting done these past few days too, so stay tuned for some significant progress pictures on my WIPs…
After many false starts, gauge woes and visits to the frog pond, I finally present to you the delightful Ogee Tunic from Norah Gaughan’s Knitting Nature book:
I have much to say about this pattern, but before I do any of that, just look at the central motif – Gaughan adapted the Ogee fractal in ever increasing sizes from the centre bottom to the top shoulders. Quite apart from the ingenuity of the cables and openwork, which move almost snake-like across the fabric, I also like it because the motif resembles so many kurta yokes in Indian clothing. I feel like I knit myself a woollen kurti!
Source: Knitting Nature by Norah Gaughan, I made the 3rd size, 40 inches.
Yarn: Elann Highland Silk in Raspberry, just over 10 skeins, so approx. 1250-1300 yards?
Needles: Size 3 Susan Bates metal throughout.
Gauge: Spot on with the pattern, 23 stitches and 32 rows to 4 inches.
1. I added extra waist shaping. The pattern is designed as an A-line tunic, with graduated decreases from the billowy bottom to the bust. I sped up the decreases to the waist, added a couple extra, then knit straight for two inches and increased back those extra stitches towards the bust.
2. I made the sleeves shorter. I wanted to make them 3/4 to make it more like a dressy top, but I think they grew a bit in the wash, and I might have made them unintentionally a bit longer than I’d wanted.
Additional Pattern Notes: The pattern is ingenious, but oddly worded. I don’t know if I’m the only one who misread some of it and ended up frogging a couple of times. But if you’re planning on making this, some of the following notes might be helpful.
1) Directions are given first for the back, but it recommends that you may want to knit the motif-heavy front first, to make sure the back length matches it. I did so, but it keeps referring to “work as for back” while detailing the front instructions, so you have to keep going back and forth. Writing out the exact instructions separately for the front might help, especially about the waist shaping, and the final length of the piece up to the armhole, and that of the armhole itself.
2) The reason for this is that the chart of the front motif does not indicate where you should stop for each size. It gives the exact start positions for each size, but not what the final row ought to be – you have to figure that out by looking at the inches measurement, which is given only in the instructions for the back. I did the front by doing the motif all the way to the last row of the chart, and then the back, thereby making the piece at least two inches too deep in the armhole. I figured this out only while setting in the sleeves (more on this below), and realised, that rather like yogurt in winter, the sleeves weren’t going to set. I frogged a couple of inches off both the front and back, reknit the shoulders and neck, and then all was fine.
3) The finishing instructions ask you to pick up and knit stitches for the neckband beginning at the “left shoulder seam”. That can’t be right, because the normal way to pick up and knit is to go clockwise – if that makes sense – and this means you have to begin at the right neck edge.
4) Setting in sleeves is a right royal pain in the ass – it is the knitting equivalent of grading. You spend a wonderful semester teaching and end up with the grief that is bluebooks; so it is that you knit these lovely pieces that you have to seam, and the trauma of getting a non-puckering, elegant seam at the sleeves is the most nerve-wracking. Do you think I managed, finally?
Oh, and finally, a yarn review for Elann Highland Silk. I have to resort to a teaching simile for this too, because this yarn is like a lot of students: lots of promise, good early performance, you know they have it in them to take the pressure, but the final paper and overall grade leaves, um, lots of room for improvement.
- Stitch detail, check. Beware the split stitch, it will show!
- Price, ($4 for 122 yards), sweet. Even makes you overlook the obligatory knot in each and every skein.
- Range of colours, yeah! Lovely shades, actually.
- Softness, wait a minute. If many yarns improve after washing, this one is a rebel. Frogging and some rough handling make it angry and resentful.
- Silk blends shine, you say? This one gleams, a bit too much in photos, actually, but also tends to leave a fuzz on the fabric that is not entirely pleasing.
- Long term prognosis? Good, but could be much better. A final grade of B (but as all my evaluations say, I *am* a tough grader). The pattern, however, is top-notch. I might even consider an A for it!
Two years ago on this day, I took the plunge into blogging. I gave myself three months, then six, and then a year to see if I was really going to stick with it. I had picked the name randomly for a knitting forum login and just went with it. My first anniversary didn’t even register. In between periodic bouts of angst about ‘Why Am I Photographing This’ and ‘Who Is Reading This Anyway’, doing a roughly weekly post over the past two years has validated my tag-line about keeping me (almost) sane more than I realised. I have learned so much about new techniques, adapting patterns, and am much more disciplined (in a good way) about my knitting now. (This is clearly not the time to ponder how obsessed I am with it). The best part has been making blog-friends from all over the world and being part of a wonderful circle of creativity that has taught me so much about the craft. Thank you all! I know there are many who read regularly without commenting, but if you can, do stop today to say hi.
I had hoped to have an FO post by today on the Ogee Tunic, but it has to wait a few more days – definitely by this weekend. Instead, am sharing with all of you a plate of my Diwali faraal.
Clockwise from top –
1) chiwdaa, which is spiced, flattened rice, available in Indian stores as ‘thin poha’. Basically you roast it and make it crumbly and crisp, then mix it up with a bunch of spices. An excellent recipe for this snack is here.
2) karanji, a deep-fried crescent filled with a mix of fresh grated coconut, brown sugar, powdered cardamom and crushed almonds. The dough is a mix of all-purpose flour and semolina. I made myself sick in childhood once by eating too many of these. This was my first attempt at making them from scratch, and they didn’t disappoint! If anyone wants to try them, the recipe I followed broadly is here.
3) chirote, a kind of south-Indian beignet, if you will – layers and layers of a deep-friend pastry dusted with powdered sugar. As my friend Spud said recently, this combination is a *very good thing* and she is quite right! Here is a good recipe for it.
And now, I think I must celebrate my second blog anniversary by going to the gym!
It’s Diwali: the annual festival of lights, spread over these four days from now until Sunday. Diwali wishes to all! May the new year bring good cheer and happiness, renewal and fulfillment all around.
This is the one festival that my family celebrates with abandon, and the one festival I can never be home for, given the dratted semester system. To be sure, there are religious ceremonies, and a mythical tale of good triumphing over evil that ensures renewal and prosperity – but what is Diwali without new clothes, fireworks, and food? The centrepiece is a snacks package called faraal in Marathi – about twenty different types of eats are made specially in each family, depending on their resources, taste and enthusiasm. Everyone exchanges faraal over the Diwali weeks and you give yourself over entirely to fried dough, powdered sugar and clarified butter. It is a good time. I am attempting an ambitious faraal myself this time, but more about that in the next post – cross your fingers that I manage to get it all together.
My festivities began spectacularly today. I had a very intense, exhilarating graduate seminar class, and came back home to open a package from Finland, containing this:
Silja sent me the most gorgeous sock ever in the whole wide world, encased in a wonderful little bag, along with a spare skein of Regia silk for me to knit the second one in the pair.
I love the colour, the fit, the pattern – thank you, thank you, thank you single sock partner! You chose everything just right, and this is just the perfect, timely festival gift. I cannot wait to knit its pair. I have been wearing the lone sock all over the flat already. That Cookie A. is a genius designer, just look at the twisted flower stitches:
Finally, this evening concluded on a pleasant note with this finished object:
Although not mine, I am proudly featuring it on the blog, as the first FO of my friend who learnt how to knit not two weeks ago! Isn’t it gorgeous? Just look at the elegant shape. She switched to DPNs in our neighbourhood Chinese restaurant this evening over dinner, and we walked home to cast off and photograph the hat amidst much squealing and glee. I am amazed at how smoothly she transitioned from circulars to DPNs, and from ribbing to stockinette to decreases. Definitely a natural at the craft! I think I have some idea of what evangelists feel like, finally. She left the house muttering, “cabling without a cabling needle…” even without my broad hints about knittinghelp.com, Ravelry, Zimmermann, etc….. I think we might have a convert!
It’s not for nothing that all the photos in this post have a warm glow, eh?
Last week, one of my wear-at-home slippers gave way, and I realised I needed a new pair. Not a big deal, except I have had this pair for nineteen years. I bought them in 1988, the summer before I went away to junior college in Pune, amidst much excitement about life on my own in a hostel. These slippers have been with me through college, grad school, relationships, jobs, cities and countries. It was only after one of them tore that I realised how long it had been – do you blame me for mourning their passing?
I will have the torn slipper resewed (you can see it in the picture above), but in the meantime I needed a new pair. Rather than the boring option of buying a pair from the store, I first tried to get one by writing soulful poetry (come on, bad limericks can be soulful, you just need the right attitude!) for a contest on Ruth’s blog. Alas, she preferred a more prosaic (and, alright, deserving) entry, so there ended that.
So, I made a pair of the quick and ever-popular Felted Clogs (by Bev Galeskas/Fiber Trends) myself. Inspired by Ruth, I used the opportunity to mop up some loose skeins in my stash. Amazingly enough, the multicoloured clogs did not result in an ugly, mismatched pair (as I’d almost hoped!).
*The tannish body is 3 skeins of Indiecita Alpaca in shades of beige, brown and browner (Boy is this alpaca hairy after felting!).
*The blue inner soles are Cascade 220.
*The reddish cuffs and one of the outer soles are Elann Peruvian Sierra Aran and Elann Highland Chunky.
*All on size 11 needles.
Am delighted to say that nearly all of these skeins (roughly 100 yards each, give or take), were used up. I can use the remaining bits as lifelines, stitch holders, markers, etc.
I never stop wondering at the magic of felting. All yarns, surprisingly, felted relatively equally too. The slippers took me two rounds of a hot wash in the top loader at the laundromat, with periodic dunking in some cold water. Now, trimmed and dry, they are snug on my feet. They’re not really a replacement for my old slippers, but I think they will do nicely. I do need to get some bottoms for them, though, because they are a little, well, slippery on the wood floor.
I’ve been eating very poorly of late, with very little impetus to do any cooking or housework in general. But today the kitchen was in a crisis situation, so I cleaned, took stock of the fridge and swore not to buy veggies from the market just so they can decompose merrily in my crisper. On one such zombie-like trip to the market a while ago, I had brought back two leek stalks, a sweet potato and a bunch of asparagus, with very little idea about what to do with them. This evening, back from the gym,* I took the sorry veggies out and looked at them. They were on their last legs, and had to go.
They went into an unvented soup with some desi twists, and it has hit just the spot on this suddenly chilly night. I thought I’d share the recipe. It’s rough and ready, mind you, so feel free to improvise.
Asparagus Soup with Yam and Leeks
A bunch of asparagus stalks – chop the tips off and keep aside, and chop the rest into into one-inch bits
A smallish yam/sweet potato – chopped
Two leek stalks, chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 large bay leaf
1 tsp sambar powder (or curry powder, or madras powder or whatever the commercial stuff is called in English)
2 tbsps fat free milk (optional)
2 cups water (or stock, if you have it – I didn’t)
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a stockpot and add the bay leaf and cumin seeds. When seeds sizzle and leaf is browned, add the chopped vegetables (except for the asparagus tips). Saute everything for a couple of minutes. Then add the water (just enough to cover everything), and add the sambar powder. (If you don’t have a premade curry powder, you can dry-roast some cumin, black pepper, cardamom and cinnamon, and some coriander seeds if you have them, and grind the whole mixture together, and add it. The roasting brings out the fragrance and flavour of the spices.)
Mix, reduce heat to medium and cook till everything is soft. About 15-20 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Then take the pot off the flame and let it cool a bit. I added the milk partly to cool it down a bit, but water will do nicely. Puree the whole thing in a food processor. The soup turned out quite thick, so you can choose how much water depending on what consistency you prefer.
Throw the asparagus tips into some boiling water, (with a pinch of salt and a drop of olive oil – I confess I added the much richer ghee you see in the picture above), and cook for 3-4 minutes. Drain.
Pour into bowls, and garnish with asparagus tips. Enjoy!
The spices balance the sweetness of the yam really well, somehow. The alternative combo suggested above will, I think, give the same kick and balance to the soup. I didn’t think it would taste this good, but it turned out to be a fine one-bowl dinner.
*(y’all! After years of knee pain and bitching about it on the couch, the word pronation, followed by a trip to a specialty shoe store a few weeks back, has resulted in me running over a couple of miles on the soft and forgiving treadmill. Like I said last time, this is admittedly nothing for many people, but for me it has literally been leaps and bounds!)