31 October 2008

The Scariest Thing Of All*

just your everday twinkies gone horribly wrong

We are 15 zombie twinkies.
We are bad to the fluff.

*Because, really. What's scarier than a twinkie?

30 October 2008

October Is For Strawberries

That title was as unsettling to write as it is to read, I assure you. But it is a rather unexpected consequence of the 80 degree weather that has lingered freakishly long into fall: a second bumper crop of strawberries. And not just at an anomalous one or two stands at the farmer’s market, but six. Six!

Secretly, though, Rick and I were thrilled. You see, we missed the chance to partake in the strawberry freezer jam sensation that swept the internets early in the summer. And now, Mother Nature has very graciously granted us a mulligan. Rad!

Rick be nimble, Rick be quick

So last night we sat on the porch slicing and mashing three baskets worth of strawberries. A little bit of sugar. Wham! A little bit of pectin. Pow! A little bit of stirring, and – Whiz! Bang! – freezer jam.

Actually, it really was that easy. Start to finish, this freezer jam took about an hour to make, and a rather leisurely hour at that. Far, far less time than I would have imagined for anything with ‘jam’ in the title.

Also, we were lucky enough to find a variety of pectin (at our local Co-op) that promises to set with any amount of sugar. So one cup was all we used. Our mashed strawberries jelled beautifully, and we avoided manufacting a glucose tolerance test. Win. Win.

(this does not constitute an official endorsement from Dean & Deluca)

The results of the taste test? Well, we don’t know yet. That will have to wait for a weekend in our near future and a batch of fresh-from-the-oven buttermilk biscuits. But the process of making was so satisfying that, even without sampling the finished product, we are already plotting our next attack: pears.

29 October 2008

In Which She Tries Spooky For Size

Poe's imagined landscape?

Though I acknowledge it's sort of a half-assed attempt, all on its own like that.

It needs a reading from the big book of Poe. It requires the ominous shadow of a flashlight held under the chin. It calls out for a spine-chilling, Vincent Price-esque "Nevermore."

Or -- I don't know -- maybe that would be overkill.

...Then again, maybe not.

28 October 2008

Back To The Ordinary

I always feel a little sheepish coming back to this space after I’ve vented a bit. A little worried that I might have said something I’ll regret later. And just a little gunshy.

Which is silly, really. But still, I feel I should start out with some sort of apology. Even though I realize it’s not needed. So maybe instead I’ll say: everything’s ok over here. If a little overfull of stuff. But, you know, normal.

The leaves are still turning. The world is still turning. And everything is just fine.

And so, to smooth over frayed edges, I give you poetry. Not my own, of course, but one by Pat Schneider. One Rick sent to me today to my work address. A little virtual hug, and a little moment of quiet. (thanks!)
The Patience of Ordinary Things

It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they're supposed to be.
I've been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
And, an addition from Rick: Complex times call for simple replies.

*sigh* I'm feeling better already.

27 October 2008

Finnegan Begin Again

My new mantra.

24 October 2008

Wishing, A Short Melodrama


Heart (to herself, wistfully): Hello, sweet northwest. I am dreaming especially of you. I am picturing the two of us together, drinking tea and laughing over old times. Me in my cute skirts of patchworked quilter’s cotton and brightly-colored tights. Together, we will devour books, think in poetry, learn to belly dance. You will teach me how to tend a garden. And be very, very patient with me while I fumble around at becoming an artist. And we won't mind so much that we don't make very much money working for the greengrocer, because we will be thoroughly, happily content. Everything will be beautiful, and nothing will hurt.

Won't you be like that for me? If I come back to you? Despsite our rocky first try?

Unseen Narrator: Heart and Head are in the middle of a geographic tug-of-war. Heart is feeling emotionally overwrought, but here's what Head thinks:

Head (with calm assurance): Moving will not spit you out on the other side, completely transformed. Besides, everything you want is already here. But you have to do more than just dream. And you have to do more than say yes.

You have to actually make it happen.

Unseen Narrator: Be the change? I don't know. It seems predictable somehow. And deceptively simple. Will Heart succumb to Head's prosaic plea?

Stay tuned to find out.

23 October 2008

Highlight Reel, Part 2

In which it becomes apparent that I did quite a bit more study breaking than actual, um, studying...



(Oh, and this last shot? Inspired by these lovlies.)

22 October 2008

Study Breaks, The Highlight Reel

Essay submitted. Essay exam completed.


I am fresh out of words now. I have used them all up.

Pictures, though -- pictures I've got.

and have i mentioned i love angel's trumpets?


bright spot


21 October 2008

Using Nouns In Place Of Adjectives

are all good words to describe my 'process' as I write a paper.

Sometimes they overtake me in phases. Sometimes they come on all at once.

(Turns out I heart procrastination. Maybe even more than I heart writing.)

20 October 2008

Bucking Up, Detention Style

I will not be afraid of colorwork.
I will not be intimidated by colorwork.
I will not be pushed around by colorwork.
I will not be outsmarted by colorwork.
I will not give up on colorwork.
I will not surrender to the fussy demands of colorwork.
I will not stop knitting colorwork.

Pardon me, as I try to make colorwork submit to my will.

It will submit eventually, won't it? Or will I always have to rely on blocking to smooth out all my missteps?

19 October 2008

I'm Dreaming Of A White Fetish

If I could pin a webpage to my inspiration board, it would be this.

Also: I wish I could live in a house with white walls. They seem so calm, so grounded -- even warm -- in photographs. But I just...can't.

My imagined house has white walls and honey-toned hardwood floors. But in my real life, the white never feels quite right.

18 October 2008

A Brief Declaration of Love

Day 62

Aimless, bicycling Saturdays are the best days of the week.

17 October 2008

Make This Cake

I know. The title is a demand. And while I would normally avoid this sort of thing, I’m compelled this time. By the extraordinariness that is this cake. Bake it, and you will understand.

“Well, alright,” you think, agreeing to suspend disbelief for a while. “But what is it?”

Chocolate zucchini cake. (And I can’t even think of it without my mouth watering.)

“Zucchini?!” I hear out there, from some of you.

Or maybe not.

The combination of chocolate and zucchini as a concept is nothing new, of course. The blog has paved the way for chocolate-zucchini love nicely. But, if left to rely on my own ingenuity, it seems doubtful to me that I would ever have thought to combine the two in anything I am supposed to put in my mouth. Particularly cake.

Thank goodness for the two zucchini threatening to wither in my refrigerator. Thank goodness I don't have a favorite recipe for zucchini bread already on hand.

cocoa and spice and all things nice

Thank goodness especially for the serendipity of internet searches. Because it just so happened that I had a jar full of Mayan cocoa loitering in my spice drawer, marking off the days until I became suddenly inspired by a recipe that matches its potential. I'm proud to say this recipe does it full justice.

And this cake well deserves to be every bit as popular as the blog. It is chocolate. It is spice. It is vaguely orangey. It is super-moist. It is everything autumn. And it is heaven.

I tried it out at one of the Sunday, family dinners we host over here, and dad helped himself to an astounding three slices. It is that good.

I add only one small note of caution: the recipe recommends adding nuts – pecans or walnuts, as your preference dictates. I opted for pecans this time, but, to be honest, I’m not sure I will again. I can’t say they added much to the overall experience. Though it could also be that I got my hands on some rather uninspiring pecans. Walnuts, I think, will steal the show next time. Or perhaps I will get very brave and go with no nuts at all. This is cake, after all – not quickbread. And I don’t think the nut-free variation will suffer one bit.

I’m reprinting the entire recipe here, but this is for convenience only. I've done no improvising or rewriting here. So all your laudatory, I-can’t-believe-I-ever-lived-a-complete-life-without-this-cake emails should be directed to the good folks over at Simply Recipes, not me.

While I'm on that: thank you, Simply Recipes. Thank you over and over again.

chocolate and zucchini, the cake

The Ridiculously Luxurious Chocolate Zucchini Cake

One quick word about the Mayan cocoa powder cited above. It is wonderful. And I harbor a strong suspicion that it made the cake the not-to-be-missed culinary feat it is. But note that it already has some cinnamon in it. So if you use it in your cake, I'd reduce the cinnamon you add here – maybe even by half.

2 1/2 cups regular all-purpose flour, unsifted
1/2 cup cocoa
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 cup soft butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons grated orange peel
2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt and cinnamon, and set aside.

Beat together the butter and the sugar until they are smooth. There is not enough butter here to get 'creamy,' but, you know, mix until well blended. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, beating well after each addition. With your trusty rubber spatula, fold in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini. Alternate the dry ingredients and the milk into the zucchini mixture. If you choose to include nuts, add them to the batter now.

Pour into a greased and flour-dusted bundt pan (not an easy feat, might I add, flour-dusting a bundt pan; invite your lovely assistant to help – bribe them with batter-covered spatulas if you must). Bake in the oven for about 50 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Be careful not to overbake. Or underbake (heh heh); both are easy to do in a bundt pan.

Cool the cake in the pan for 15 minutes. Then turn out onto wire rack to cool completely.

Oh – and now for the glaze! The glaze is made with 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla, mixed all together until smooth. It is lovely this way, but I can't help but wonder what 1 teaspoon of Frangelico would do in place of the vanilla. If you try this (or any other spirited alternative), please let me know how it is.

Serve. And be prepared to dish out seconds.

16 October 2008

Smelling Roses

A couple of shots from my commute home:



So, no; I don't really mind the traffic too much. It slows me down just enough to catch Fall, happening all around me.

14 October 2008

Wish List

wish list
Someday, yes.
Yes, I would.

13 October 2008

For Rick

(How could I not think of you when I see this?)

12 October 2008

Simple Stars, A Pattern


I submit for your crocheting pleasure my super-easy, super-quick simple star recipe.

And just how -- you may wonder -- am I so certain about the super-easy part? Well, because I am a novice with the crochet hook. And even I can make them.

Which reminds me...

To all the experienced crocheters out there: my apologies. In advance. I am new to this game. And, to make things worse, I am more of a knitter to boot. But I have tried not to commit (too many) sins against the laws of crochet. And, if you find any, I hope will you smile fondly in the direction of the newbie. Also, I hope that you will email me. So that I will know. So that I may correct.

Alright. Now that all disclaimers are stated, I hope the making of these stars offers up something pleasant for all of you -- at every skill level.


* * *

yarn: Malabrigo worsted (beige)
crochet hook: G7 (4.5 mm)

I eked 25 stars out of one skein (216 yards), so a little yarn will go a very long way here. This would be a great project for scraps!

gauge: Whichever makes you happy. This is one of the beautiful things about projects no one is going to wear. My finished stars measure 4 inches tall and 3.5-4 inches across, and for my purposes they are the perfect size.

Note: I have written the turning chains into the pattern, so no extra chaining at the start of rounds is necessary.

round 1: chain 3, slip stitch into first chain to join in round.

round 2: (chain 1), single crochet 4 times through center, slip stitch into (chain 1) to join round -- 5 stitches.

round 3: (chain 1), 1 single crochet in 1st stitch, *2 single crochet in next stitch*, rep instructions between * and * 3 more times, slip stitch into (chain 1) to join round -- 10 stitches.

round 4: chain 5, single crochet into 2nd stitch, chain 5, single crochet into 4th stitch. Repeat in pattern, making the single crochet into the 6th, 8th, and 10th stitches.

round 5: *chain 2, make 3 double crochet through the loop, chain 3, make 4 double crochet through the loop, slip stitch into single crochet from round below*. Repeat instructions between * and * 4 more times.

Finishing (See that! I didn't lie about the super-quick part either.): Weave in ends. Block lightly, if desired. Festoon house, cards, packages, and possibly even your person (earrings? pasties?).

* * *

p.s. Sometime this week I will post the PDF for easy printing. Look for the link to appear in the sidebar (and maybe even on Ravelry) soon.

10 October 2008

More Things About October I Have Forgotten

Chief among them: I miss Seattle. In a heart-aching sort of way that seems to grip me precisely this time of year. Maybe the onset of fall sets off a yearning in my bones for rain. Maybe at heart I am a sea turtle, driven by instinct to make the long journey home every year. Because the consistency of this urge is striking.

It was in October exactly six years ago that Rick and I made our first journey north. It must have been a certain kind of crazy that overwhelmed us. There is no other explanation I can offer for packing up -- with $700 in hand, no jobs, and no place to stay -- and running off to a city whose economy was just beginning to slow, right at the start of the most dismal time of year, weather-wise. (I know. I know. Where do you sign, right?)

But we loaded up our Volkswagen bus and off we went. We had planned to camp (in the bus, of course) in the hills of Issaquah until we found something more permanent in the city. Which would have worked out well enough, I suppose, if there was only rain to contend with. But it turned out that October 2002 was the coldest October Seattle had seen in a very long time. And what I remember is the two of us, wearing absolutely every article of clothing we packed all at once, huddled together, sharing a beer, and listening to the far-off strains of the San Francisco Giants losing the World Series on the radio.

It was magical, really. (Despite the unfortunate outcome of the World Series, I mean.) One of my absolute, most-favorite moments of being married.

And it calls out to my heart every year.

09 October 2008

Exactly As It Says

Do you remember this storybook album?

It must have made quite an impression on me.
I think of it whenever the weather warrants.

[ETA: Here is Winnie the Pooh himself singing the Blustery Day song. Ah! The wonder that is Mixwit! So good...]

MixwitMixwit make a mixtapeMixwit mixtapes

08 October 2008

Sort Of Like An Apple, But Really A Berry.

a berry wrapped in an apple shrouded in a mystery

Pomegranates: almost completely dispelled from my memory, but here they are again, waiting at the farmer’s market for me to rediscover them.

It’s like being snapped awake out of a dream, seeing pomegranates here, bursting apart with their ruby jewel-like seeds. And suddenly I am back to grandma’s house and plucking seeds from pulp so very gingerly. Particularly since I’ve decided I am way too grown up to wear a bib as I eat. (This thought will make Rick laugh. I am the messiest diner there is.) Suddenly I am back in elementary school, listening with rapt attention to the story of Persephone. And feeling how unfortunate it was that she ate those six pomegranate seeds in hell. Damn that fruit and all its seductive power. And I worried: could I ever fall victim to a ruse like that?

There is a preciousness and mystery about pomegranates that totally captures my imagination. And a quick Wikipedia search reveals there is much, it turns out, that I don’t know about them. Such as:

The fruit of the pomegranate is actually a berry.

Also, pomegranate juice has antibacterial properties that may help defend against dental plaque. (I wonder if it’s enough to retire my floss?)

Its classical Latin designation is malum (for any of the apple-like fruits -- which is an entirely other, interesting, Garden of Eden-ish line of inquiry) granatum. The granatum part is of particular note. Apparently, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word grenade (yep, the weapon) descends from the French for pomegranate: la grenade. (We don't call it that anymore, by the way. Now the pomegranate operates under this moniker: pomum (apple) granatus (seeded) -- just in case anyone's keeping score.)

Other cultural contributions? Well, in Jewish tradition, the pomegranate’s calyx (the flowery end) is said to be the original “design” for the proper crown.

Which gets to what what I think is most interesting about the pomegranate: every major religion seems to have a connection to it -- in art and rituals and lore. The legend I find most romantic comes from the Qur'an, which states that pomegranates grow in the gardens of paradise. And so tradition mandates that every seed of the fruit must be eaten, because you can never be sure which of those seeds came directly from paradise.

But here’s the part of the pomegranate's story that really sets my synapses firing:

In Georgia, and Armenia to the east of the Black Sea, there are wild pomegranate groves outside of ancient abandoned settlements.

Can’t you see yourself, Frances Mayes-ing a far-away and long-ago villa, and discovering an ancient, wild pomegranate grove in your backyard? Could anything be more perfect, more fairy tale than that? To be suddenly connected to such lushness, such legacy...

And off goes my inner history geek in a gallop. Is it too much to admit that I am tickled to learn pomegranates were introduced to North America by British colonists? That pomegranates were seen as part exotic, part medicinal, and part housewarming? Enough so to warrant transport across the Atlantic and agricultural fussing over? That I am thrilled to know that Thomas Jefferson planted a pomegranate grove at Monticello? Yes? Overboard?

Okay, obviously I am all tangled up in a web of awe and adoration over here. There is so much more to go on about as far as the pomegranate is concerned, of course, but maybe only this much more is best:

"About the pomegranate I must say nothing," whispered the traveler Pausanias in the 2nd century, "for its story is something of a mystery."

06 October 2008

Oh My Stars! Or, A Crochet Evolution.

I have a confession to make: I am already thinking about Christmas.

It pains me to admit it, because I am always the first to feel amazed and disgusted that Christmas-themed anything (everything) is already appearing in stores in October. What about Halloween! I protest. And Thanksgiving too! I cry. But this year, I guess, I’m on the wagon (sleigh?) too. Because the making of Christmas cards is looming large in my brain.

bokeh star

Which brings me to stars. It occurred to me that little crochet stars tied to tag-like postcards (an ornament AND a Christmas card! rad!) would be cute – perhaps even superlatively so. Plus, it was an idea that would provide an opportunity to make tons of those sweet little stars I saw once on Ravelry – how perfect!

Only it turns out that the sweet little star pattern I remember is published in Finnish (in Ulla, which is a bit like a Finnish Knitty).

I don’t speak a whit of Finnish. But was I feeling deflated? Deterred? Nosiree.

Now, there is an Ulla knits group on Ravelry, and certain members of this group have even very kindly offered translation assistance, and I suppose that if I were smart I would have availed myself of these resources. But once I get an idea lodged firmly in my head I am far too impatient to accommodate things like time zones and busy working lives. No. I was going to make stars. And I was going to make them right now.

not quite right

My poor Ulla star. You are nothing like you are supposed to be.

So, I made my own attempts at translation, thanks in large part to the amazing resource that is this knitter’s guide to Finnish. And though I would describe these efforts as valiant (though obstinate and preposterous are also good words for it), in practice, my translation was found wanting. And my stars? Well, they turned out…not quite right.

I’m sure some of this is due to the fact that my gauge is considerably larger than intended (I assume). I think the other part of it is that I completely made up the last two rows of the pattern. And my result was too large, too finicky, and too time consuming to make for 35 or so Christmas cards.

star tower

But this (mis)adventure was not a total loss. Rather, it was a crash course in star-making. And after a bit of fiddling, I came up with my own pattern. Which was so easy, satisfying and quick that within a weekend I’d crafted my own milky way.

In fact, I had so much fun with these sweet Malabrigo stars that – even without prompting – I plan to write up the pattern and share it. I hope to have it ready for you by the end of the week. Saturday, let's say. Does Saturday work for everyone?

05 October 2008

First Glimpse

It's happening...

I'm sure you all are riveted as I prattle on about the minutiae of the season change in every single post. But I can't help myself. I'm too excited.

04 October 2008

Friday Night Lights

My idea of a hot Friday-night date?


(Um, really.)

But it's not so bad, if you think about it. In this nighttime, sparsely populated version of Ikea there is plenty of space to look into each other's eyes and dream of future versions of you:

Are we the sort of couple who has a teal leather sectional and a black and white striped carpet? Or are we rather two roll-arm chairs with loose slipcovers and an oak stained entertainment cabinet? Oh -- or side-to-side chaises and wall-to-wall bookcases?


And if there were ever a little one, I should think pink and orange cubbies would be cute.

It's playing house for grown-ups. In the nicest of ways.

Oh, alright. There is also a little bit of:

Do you remember when we were the black leather sofa? Or when we were the studio? Ah, we had no idea what to do then. It would be so different now...

Also, Friday-night Ikea is a good place to practice snapping pictures.

(I'm just saying is all.)

03 October 2008

Tiniest Tomato Harvest

Here they are, the sum of our proud, homegrown summer fruit:

Ta! Da!

Ok, so it's not much. Even including the few green tomatoes clinging to the vine threatening to ripen, it's not much.

But not much is actually more than we were expecting, so we're thrilled over here.

And the taste? Like of all summer's blaze and sunlight condensed into one sweet-hot burst.

In other words: perfect.

02 October 2008

The Latent Talents of Mr. Rick

-----Original Message -----
From: Rick
To: Erin
Subject: Baking is, um...

...not my thing.

Who follows directions, anyway? Fascists, that's who!!


Which is worrisome.

And I pictured him with flour on his nose. And dough stuck in the hair on his arms. And a soup of fruit and cornstarch marinating in vain.

And I imagined him sighing. And swearing.

And I was certain I'd come home to some lopsided, endearing mess of a pie.

But here's what greeted me instead:

A last-of-the-season peach pie. That is as heavenly to eat as it was a struggle to make.

Or maybe more heaven and less struggle. I don’t know.

He’s not telling.

01 October 2008

Yes To October


And yes to crisp afternoons. Yes to bicycles and leaf piles to ride through. Yes to flying south. Yes to scarves and mittens and hats, and sometimes all at once. And to my favorite brown hoodie: yes to you too. Yes to underclothes warmed by the dryer. And a big, fat yes-sy-yes to tweed.

Yes to reddening leaves and wisps of chimney smoke. Yes to golden sunlight. Yes to harvest moons. Yes to hot apple cider, and pumpkin carving, and curling up under blankets. Yes to cardamom and clove and cheesecake. Yes to hot toddies. Yes to hitting the snooze button one or two times extra. Yes to superthick down comforters.

Yes to kittens, of course. But yes always to them.

Yes to cardigans and orange tights and boots. Yes to orange, period. Yes to trick-or-treaters and to pillowcases. Yes to 'smell my feet.' Yes to candy corn too, even though it is god awful. Yes to capes and tiaras and dress up. Yes to masks and crepe paper and candlelight.

Yes to brisk air. Yes to cozy rooms. Yes to snuggles.

I am ready for you, delights of October. I am ready for you all.