Friday, October 31, 2008

Saturday, October 25, 2008

This week in pictures

I voted! This is my first time living in a state where the majority will likely be voting against me [not counting my brief flirtation with the green party...] That made my early vote all the more satisfying! I hope all of you who are eligible will be voting this year.

I officially decided that Karina's Kitchen is my favorite food blog of the moment, and Whole Foods agreed! Her sweet potato black bean enchiladas won the Whole Foods budget recipe challenge. I couldn't resist trying the recipe myself, and let me tell you, this is definitely my favorite from recent memory. There is such a wonderful and complex combination of flavors--sweet potatoes, tangy lime, green chili, black beans...yum! Next time I plan to make more of the green chili sauce--I always seem to end up without enough enchilada sauce.

I spied some changes around the neighborhood. There are even more birds hanging out on the wires above my street--an unbelievable number! Also, my garden is still in bloom. I'm not used to nice weather at this time of year--I can see how people get used to this!

I went to a wool festival at a local farm. There was some beautiful handspun yarn available--a bit too rich for my blood, but it was great to see what the local artisans are up to. We also got to see a wonderful variety of goats, sheep, llama, and alpaca! The regal llama above was probably my favorite of the day--though some dreadlocked goats came in a close second.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Experiment in progress

I'm pretty sure that the last thing I need right now is yet another hobby...

But I didn't let that stop me from staying up and trying some experimental quilting with scrap fabric. I've been thinking about learning to quilt for at least ten years now. I think I might have finally wrapped my head around the idea. I'm torn between really old traditional patterns, and more contemporary free-form quilts. This weekend I stopped by the local used book store and picked up a great book from the 1970s:

American quilts and how to make them features some beautiful images of quilts from the early 1800s, as well as outlines of the pattern pieces needed to make them. They remind me a lot of some of the quilts at the Winterthur Museum, where I spent a fair amount of time in the past two years. I really love some of the applique quilts--they look like gorgeous wallpaper. I've also been very interested in the quilts from Gee's Bend for the past several years. I particularly love these free-form takes on the traditional log cabin pattern:

(Image from Gee's Bend CD)

(I'm not sure if the above one is from Gee's Bend, I can't figure out where I found this image--apologies!)

As I obsessively combed the internet for quilt inspiration, I also happened upon some gorgeous Hawaiian quilts. I don't think I've ever seen these before, but apparently there is a very strong, unique quilting tradition in Hawaii.

Not only are the shapes and colors amazing, but take a close look at the quilting--I just love the way those contour lines look.

Above: contemporary Hawaiian quilt made by Deborah Kakalia, courtesy of the Bishop Museum.

Click here to see another amazing Hawaiian quilt [it's mustard yellow and white!] and to find some free quilt patterns. I'd love to try one of these out, though I'm fairly certain that those large appliques would be very difficult to cut out, and even more difficult to sew down without crazy puckering everywhere. Perhaps I'll work my way up to these one day.

Do you have any favorite quilts or quilt patterns? I'd love to see them.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Weekend productivity

I finally broke out the sewing machine. I celebrated the occasion by using some stash fabric to make my second version of the ever popular built by wendy simplicity dress. I made a combination of the long dress (sleeves and length) and the top (elastic neckline, lack of darts and pockets). It couldn't have been easier--I didn't even have to mark anything! I'm moderately pleased with the results, though I think I'm much more into fitted garments these days--or at least volume and shapelessness in an artful way. This dress doesn't quite fit that bill, but for what it is, it's not bad. I ended up inserting a side zipper to insure that it would fit over my head. Despite the fact that I have inserted quite a few zippers, I find that mine still look like train wrecks. Has anyone come across a fool-proof zipper tutorial?

I also [finally] finished my basket from Australia! This started out as a mat, then became a shallow bowl, and now turned out to be a deeper bowl. I'm pretty happy with it--it's a bit wonky, but I think that just adds a lot more personality. The colors are slightly more vibrant in person. Very earthy.

And finally, my most delicious creations this week: arancini and pumpkin cookies. I loosely followed the recipe on Shawnee's blog, but instead of stuffing these yummy rice balls with fresh mozzarella, I mixed up some shredded spinach, chives, feta, and egg for the stuffing mixture. To make the arancini, I used an ice cream scoop to shape half the rice mixture, put in the stuffing, then formed the other side of the rice. They turned out really crispy and yummy. I ate them with a simple homemade herbed tomato sauce.

For a potluck I made these great pumpkin cookies from a friend's recipe. The pumpkin puree makes these cookies nicely moist and almost cake-like. They're really addictive!

Pumpkin Cookies

1/2 c. butter
1 c. sugar
1 c pumpkin
1 egg, beaten
2 c. flour
1 t cinnamon
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
1 t vanilla

Cream butter, sugar, and pumpkin. Add egg, then dry ingredients and vanilla. Drop by spoonful onto ungrease cookie sheet (though I prefer using a silicone mat). Bake at 375 F for 10 minutes. Frost with powdered sugar icing, if desired.

Bon appetit!

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Sunday food and culture

Mmm, another delicious Sunday dinner courtesy of Karina. This week I found myself tempted by fall flavors: mashed potatoes with hearty stewed veggies in the form of Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie. I grew up eating a fair amount of Scottish cuisine. Although we never technically ate shepherd's pie, we did have mince & totties (minced meat with mashed potatoes) on a fairly regular basis. I attempted a different version of veggie shepherd's pie a few years ago, but it didn't turn out very well. Karina's recipe is a definite winner. I followed it fairly closely, but with my own improvisations, as always. This will make a great fall and winter staple.

This weekend I attended a fantastic local food and culture festival: Tucson Meet Yourself. Having grown up in a large city, I really wasn't expecting this small festival to be as diverse and interesting as it proved to be. There was food from all over the globe: from Hungary to Laos to Native American fry bread tacos. Not to mention performances from well over twenty countries, and craft demonstrations from around the world. I snapped a few photos today of some of the artists at work. Above is a Turkish man painting underglazes on a ceramic plate.

A mini pig pinata and paper cut-out banners from Mexico.

Navajo rug weaving.

And just to show that there was a little something for everyone--some tricked out cars to demonstrate Tucson street culture.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Continuing on a theme

Sometimes I get briefly obsessed with a particular food idea. This week it seems to be variations on the poached egg and tomato sauce theme. Tonight I tried a new recipe from a great blog: Karina's Kitchen. The recipe is Eggs Diablo on Soft Polenta. I did a few things slightly differently: using crushed tomatoes rather than tomato sauce, and adding chipotle peppers in adobo sauce for a bit of heat. It turned out pretty yummy! I will certainly make this again.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Vintage inspired Joy

[click any image to enlarge]

I finally finished sewing up my Joy cardigan, from Vintage Knits. It turned out pretty well for the most part. I really like the way the stitch pattern changes at the waist--I think that makes it a flattering fit. I also like the subtlety of the chevron pattern. However, the fit around the arms is a bit funny on this sweater. I might suggest that it has to do with my yarn substitution, but I think I've noticed similar fit issues on other knitters who have made this pattern.

Overall, not too shabby, and I could use a few more lightweight cardigans in my wardrobe.

I found some cute little square shell buttons for this one. [Ravelry link]

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunday night dinner

I brought out an old favorite for dinner tonight: a vegetarian version of Moroccan Kefta aux Oeufs, or meatballs with eggs. I fell in love with North African food while spending the summer of my 18th year in Paris. I had the most delicious and simple vegetable stew with cous cous at a restaurant in the Quartier Latin. There was just something so pleasing about the slow cooked veggies in sauce.

A few years later, I picked up one of my first vegetarian cookbooks: Kitty Morse's The Vegetarian Table: North Africa. It's a really nice book with a wide variety of good North African recipes adapted for vegetarians.

This kefta recipe became a quick favorite. It combines the most interesting flavors--a cinnamon infused tomato sauce, breadcrumb and egg 'meatballs' with cumin, mint, and herbs, and eggs that poach amidst the rest of the dish. It would look particularly impressive when cooked in a traditional Moroccan tajine, but I seem to have abandoned mine two moves ago. I like to credit this recipe with having won me a fellowship several years back. I don't think I've mentioned this here before, but I spent the year after college traveling the world to study spices. It was made possible by the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. For my application interview, I was allowed to make a brief presentation, so I thought I would do best to prepare some food that demonstrates my interest in spices and innovative flavor combinations. Apparently it worked! I did end up spending a couple months in Morocco that year, where I sampled the authentic kefta as well as many other delicious dishes.

More finds.

One of my favorite treats: red bean cakes with sticky rice and sesame. I picked this up at a great international market nearby.

tg: consider this your engraved invitation for a visit. No security guards this time, I promise.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


I stopped by the going-out-of-business sale for a local weaving store today. The looms were a little too large and expensive for my traveling student existence, and the yarn was not really knitting appropriate, but I did come away with two great stitch dictionaries for a few dollars. I had been eyeing Barbara Walker's A Treasury of Knitting Patterns series for a few years now, but am reluctant to accumulate too many large books. Today, I found this condensed version of lace patterns from the first two Treasury books, The Craft of Lace Knitting, which I guess is out of print. It's a nice, slim book with a ton of great patterns that could be used lace, sweaters, and a myriad of other things.

I also picked up a fantastic Japanese stitch pattern book that looks to be from the 1960s. It is called 2000 Patterns of Design and Figure-Knitting and was edited by Y. Miyashita. Apparently this is a fairly rare book--I just did a quick internet search and didn't turn up a single one for sale currently! The book opens with a nice intro to the pattern chart symbols. I wonder if these are the same symbols used in modern Japanese knitting books?

The rest of the book has photographs and charts of each stitch pattern, and these great little illustrations of Japanese women with 60s updos. Each illustrated sweater looks so cute--very vintage, yet something I could easily see on the shelves of Anthropologie. Between these two books, I should have enough design inspiration to last years.